Even though baseball is an insignificant, dying sport patronized by fools and those without panache (according to my esteemed editor), it’s still a thing that happens for six months of the year so I figure we might as well talk about it.
And seeing as how we’re halfway through this ridiculous grind, I figured we’d do that ubiquitous “Midpoint Awards” thing that every other hack sportswriter trots out to kill inches between the fever that accompanies Spring Training, the realization that your team probably isn’t going to be in contention and the start of NFL training camps.
When you’re covering the Royals, God love ‘em, sometimes you’ve gotta dig.
But I say that half-heartedly. To write this season off as a waste is a terrible mistake. Despite some recent slippage, they’re still within (a somewhat) respectable distance of .500, something that hasn’t happened since 2003. Most of the position players we’re seeing on a daily basis are foundational blocks for the teams that are supposed to be winning championships down the line.
If you’re into growth and development, and watching kids—yes, kids—play with energy and cock-eyed optimism, is this ever the team for you.
But I digress. The reason we’re really here today is to hand out meaningless “awards” that the recipients will never see. So without further ado, I present you with the “
First Annual Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence” Royals Midway Awards. First up, the Most Pleasant Surprise Award.
At first glance, I thought this one would be a lock. I figured, “there’s only one young dude on this team crushing the ball with such ferocity that I’m convinced he’s actually a 30 year old, roided up Polish weightlifter and not a 23 year old ‘brah from the West Coast with a vicious brow that confirms his Greek heritage… that’s right, REX FUCKING HUDLER. No wait—I mean Mike Moustakas.” Turns out, however, that Alcides Escobar isn’t taking this award lying down. See, Escobar is having a fairly remarkable season in his own right; he’s hitting above his means by a good margin, playing that sterling defense that we’ve come to expect and is evening the odds on the Zack Greinke deal with each passing day (especially when Greinke is ejected after four pitches as he was in his last start because he spiked the ball on the mound. He was "mad at (myself)," he could be seen mumbling).
But Mikey… OH, Mikey. This kid is just something special.
We KNEW Moustakas would be good. That was a given. I just don’t know that anyone thought it would happen this quickly, especially given last year’s struggles at the Major League level. But that’s why we don’t judge a career off of one half of a season, folks (Hosmer’s looking at you, Glaze).
The Moose is loose this year, and boy is that an exciting thing. He’s second on the team in homeruns, doubles and RBI, and leads the team in slugging percentage.
All while hitting around .275.
And flashing more leather than Harley at Buddies.
So unless Escobar discovers the cure for cancer (not saying it’s not impossible—just seems unlikely), Moustakas will likely take this award at year’s end as well. You know… if it were a real thing, or whatever.
This one is tough, too, though not AS tough. Because only one of these individuals was brought into anchor a rotation that desperately needed a hero. One of these individuals pitched a no-hitter, struck out 11 in a post-season effort and has a World Series ring from a past-life.
And one of these is just a happy-go-luckster with a cannon arm, a pleasant demeanor and a penchant for buying fans beer.
Expectations for Jeff Francoeur’s 2012 season were tempered, at best. Oh sure, we were all encouraged by his inaugural campaign with the Royals and hoping for a repeat performance, chock full of laser beam throws from right field and timely homeruns, but the more realistic among us were prepared for a little regression, at least. Maybe not to THIS extent, but still.
Jonathan Sanchez, meanwhile, came over from the Giants with a pocketful of promise and (unreasonable, in hindsight) lofty expectations. He was a strikeout machine, a fiery competitor who’d won at the highest level. Though he probably wouldn’t be an ace anywhere else in the MLB, he could be an ace here, goddamnit.
And then he showed up, and he sucked. And he got injured, and missed some time, and then came back and picked up sucking right where he’d left off. Sucking to the tune of: 1 win, 5 losses. A 6.75 ERA. A WHIP (walks hits per inning pitched) of 1.94.
Do you get how ATROCIOUS that is? That means, in the simplest terms, that Jonathan Sanchez allows almost TWO BASERUNNERS in every inning that he steps on the mound. That is inexcusable. He has walked 43 batters while striking out only 34. He is the ONLY Royals pitcher with an inverse strikeout to walk ratio.
I can’t believe he’s still here, frankly. I understand the investment, and the pride that does along with admitting that your primary offseason acquisition was a colossal failure, but HE HAS TO GO. YESTERDAY.
Slightly Cy Young:
Boy howdy, is this a fucking tough one. It’s not going to a starter, that’s for sure. This starting rotation is worse than Hitler beating a baby seal to death with your grandmother’s prosthetic leg.
The decent, promising guys are done for the year, Bruce Chen is your ace with 5.22 ERA and a record of 7-8, we’ve talked about Sanchez, and Vin Mazzaro is always a threat to start.
And even though the bullpen has been a bright-spot for the most part, I swear to God I saw a dude named Francisley Bueno pitching back in the St. Louis Cardinals series. I’m pretty sure that was all some elaborate prank perpetrated by Francoeur, actually. "Francisley Bueno" can’t be real, can he?
That said, Jonathan Broxton—he of the high-wire save—has been solid. A shaky, quivering mass of gelatin at times, but solid. Tim Collins, too.
And though Collins’ ERA is more than a full run higher that Broxton’s, he’s third on the team with 59 strikeouts. As a reliever. In 42 innings pitched. He’s also holding opponents to a .184 average, whereas Big Daddy Brox is sitting at a voluptuous .259.
So even though it may sound strange, I think Tim Collins, the elfin, savagely bearded reliever is your Cy Young. Sad, true.
This one’s easy-peasy-one-two-threesy. Nobody has been more valuable to this team than young Master Willie Ray Butler. I’ve discussed his season at length in previous pieces as of late, so I won’t repeat myself. The bottom line is that he’s having a career year, and his numbers speak for themselves. At the midway point, he’s got 16 HR, 52 RBI, a .290 AVG and an OPS of .848. There’s a reason that he was a lock to represent KC in the All-Star Game and he’s having the best offensive season since Carlos Beltran in 2003.
So there it is: some obvious, and some not so obvious selections for our award winners at the midway point.
Tune in for part two when we can (hopefully) celebrate the first Royals player to hit 30 homeruns in a season since Jermaine Dye did it back in 2000! (now I’m going to go throw up a little)