Well, here we are after 13 games. A long season is still upon us. We die-hards will continue to watch every night if we can, and those of us who do can notice some trends along the way. Obviously, 13 games is a very small sample size based on a 162 game schedule. However, it’s worth noting a few things. As I write, the Royals hold a 2-run lead through 8 innings, which I can only surmise will be saved by Wade Davis and his magical right arm. With that being said, result not-withstanding, here are a few observations from the season thus far.
1. The team has been remarkably healthy.
Once again, it’s an observation after 13 games, but to see Jarrod Dyson back in the lineup and batting in a run makes one think about the injuries other teams have absorbed already. The lineup is fully healthy again, facilitating the under-performing Raymond Fuentes’ move back to AAA. He was truly a back-up in every sense of the word. It made me think about David Lough and his status as a quadruple-A player. With Dyson back, manager Ned Yost can make some strategic moves with the RF spot based on matchups.
The formula that the Royals have employed over the last three seasons seems to remain a winner thus far. Hit the ball into play, don’t strike out, hope your pitchers get through 100 pitches without utter disaster, and let your bullpen and ability to capitalize on opportunity be your guide. So far, this has been the case. The offense hasn’t exactly been dynamic, and there have been mistakes thus far, but the formula and gameplan is still working. There still has yet to be a franchise in the last 5 years that can duplicate such a model.
3. It’s not all perfect…
There are two huge holes on the team that haven’t been patched up. Both belong in the pitching staff, unfortunately. Let’s start with… well, the starter. Chris Young has been a revelation for the Royals, garnering a 3.06 ERA last year as a swingman. He has started and been the long-man for the Royals in the past. Here’s the thing… that’s his role. This year, Ned Yost and the brass has determined that Young belongs in the rotation full-time. It is flawed logic to think so. So far this year, he has mightily struggled, posted a 7.08 ERA, and hasn’t been the same wily veteran he had been previously. The difference? Last year, his pitch count was about 85-90, and he was filling a purpose, knowing full-well that his role was not to carry 200 innings, but just get the Royals through about 12 starts. Now, he’s being relied on, which is changing his mechanics, and he’s not as effective. The good news is, Dillon Gee and Chien Ming-Wang are waiting in the wings, and it seems that they’re both being stretched out in hopes of taking over that spot.
The Second hole seems to be the 8th inning spot with a lead. The Royals signed Joakim Soria after he had departed to Texas and Pittsburgh. He’s being paid $8+ million a season to pitch one inning a game. The issue is, he’s not nearly as good as he used to be. To me, that money could’ve been used on a RF with some power, or a 5th starter. Luke Hochevar easily could’ve resumed his 7th inning role, with Kelvin Herrara holding down the 8th and Davis the 9th. It seems like a huge waste of money so far, as he’s been nothing but awful, with a 6.75 ERA, and seemingly a lack of confidence. He’s leaving his patented 2-seamer right over the middle, his velocity is lacking, and he doesn’t belong in the role. If Yost can swallow the collective pride of him and Dayton Moore, and move these two pitchers into the roles they belong in, the ship might right itself.
With all of this negativity on my part, the Royals are still winning games. My fear is this: for every great piece of hitting, for every great start by Kris Medlen and Ian Kennedy, for every clutch defensive play, there are games being sacrificed in the name of being proven right. If pride can be swallowed, the Royals could be on the cusp on a truly historic season. If not, the poor decisions of the first two weeks might come back to bite the team in the behind.