Last year, I wrote a monthly recap piece about the Royals. They usually went like this: “ROYALS DO REAL BAD IN MONTH. Billy Butler hit homeruns and Country Breakfast! Pitching stupid and awful except for bullpen, where Tim Collins look like a leprechaun and blah blah blah, ROYALS IN 4TH PLACE.”
I mean, there really wasn’t much going on. It was an acknowledged “building for the future!” kind of year, just like the year before, and the year before that, all the way back to a time when Hearne had a real job wheeling and dealing stocks, bonds and commodities, cocaine flowed like Rubik’s Cubes and a certain comedy club impresario had at least a few remaining strands of real hair.
Point being, the Royals have been bad for a long, long time.
But out at the beautiful little park in the middle of nowhere, just a shade south of the major interstate, the tides are turning. The Kings of Comeback are a goddamned blast to watch, and, due to timely offense and an improved starting pitching staff, they’ve ended April in first place, a foreign territory usually reserved for the Detroit Tigers, or in years past, anyone other than the Royals.
I wouldn’t suggest saving for playoff tickets just yet—it’s early, still—but if you’ve been a casual observer for the past couple of decades, feel free to get on the bandwagon now. Oh, sure—I’LL mock you for pretending to be a hardcore fan, but I’ll do it behind your back out of courtesy. If you bandwagon correctly—learn a few facts about the lean years, say, or maybe namedrop someone like Shawn Sedlacek—your friends might not even know you’re a fraud.
And really, isn’t that what we all want out of life?
But back to the program. This first place April finish hasn’t been without its fair share of bumps. As previously mentioned, an astounding number of the wins came in late innings, which means that the offense can’t seem to come out of the gate swinging. Who’ve been the biggest offenders?
Mike Moustakas. He has all the potential in the world, and I’m still someone who thinks he’ll have a better career than Eric Hosmer. For a good majority of April, however, he flat out sucked, both in the field and at the plate. He ended the month hitting .195 with a .276 OBP. Even more perplexing—and perhaps troubling—have been the defensive miscues, a couple of which have cost the team wins. He’s on pace to commit 30 errors, which would double his previous career high. Now, while this isn’t likely to happen, it’s still discouraging.
A week ago, fans were clamoring for him to head back down to Omaha for a little retooling. He responded by going 7-for-18 with a HR and 5 RBI, staving off the executioner for a spell. It’s something you keep an eye on, though, as he’s not out of the woods yet. I think you monitor him over the NEXT week, and make a decision accordingly.
Wade Davis. An integral piece of the controversial Wil Myers trade, a lot of people believed that it was Davis and NOT James Shields who’d be the deciding factor in whether or not the move would ultimately be considered a success. If you’re of that mindset, and prone to overreactions based off of small sample size, then you’ve gotta believe that the trade isn’t working out in KC’s favor, at least not yet. Davis has been pretty bad so far.
In a young season that has seen a marked improvement in innings pitched by starters, Davis has been the notable exception. He’s averaging less than 5 innings per start. He’s allowing almost two base runners per inning. His ERA is 5.55. Opponents are hitting .369 against him. THREE-SIXTY-NINE. In five starts, it has become very clear why Tampa Bay relegated him to the bullpen. He seems to be suffering from Luke Hochevar Syndrome, an affliction characterized by brilliant stuff, but a complete inability to harness it. The thing is, the Royals already HAVE someone with LHS—their eponymous former number one pick.
But enough playing Debbie Downer. There’s been more than enough good to go around.
Alex Gordon: Take Gordon, for example. Considered by some to be on the verge of irrelevance for years, all this guy does now is play. He can hit lead-off, he can come up big in clutch situations and his propensity for understanding HOW to hit—either by moving runners or capitalizing with runners in scoring position—is almost unparalleled. Oh, and then there’s that whole “defensive wizardry” thing. Until someone can come along and usurp his crown, he could very easily end up with a mantle full of Gold Glove trophies. He took home KC’s “Offensive Player of the Month” honor for April, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he was at least in contention for every month going forward. FUN WITH STATS: Gordon is on pace to drive in 100+ RBI, score 100+ runs and capture 200+ hits. The last time this happened in KC? Mike Sweeney in 2000.
Lorenzo Cain: LoCain, as he is affectionately known (which I’ll admit, I first rejected but have since come to embrace), is integral to the success of this team—whether you (or he) knows it, or not. I said that in my preseason preview piece, and stressed the need for him to stay healthy. So far, so good. And it’s remarkable what he can do when he’s at 100%. His speed and range in CF are underrated to national folks, but if you’ve watched more than a handful of games, you’ve probably been spoiled with how routine he can make difficult plays look. The thing is, his defense was never questionable. What WAS a little more suspect, however, is what kind of offensive potential he had.
This year, he has looked ultra-professional at the plate. Much like Gordon, his approach is that of someone with far more experience. He fouls off borderline pitches. He fights in the count. He rarely looks overmatched. And on more than one occasion last month, he played the role of sole-catalyst at the plate. For a week or so—most predominately in the Boston series—LoCain was winning games almost by himself. While he almost assuredly won’t finish the season batting .330, if he can stay healthy, he figures to be a determining factor in just what kind of season the Royals can expect.
Go crazy, Royals fans, go crazy.
And finally, a new monthly recap feature I like to call, “Checking Up on Hud,” a segment where I attempt to answer the following question:
Does Rex Hudler Still Suck? Yes. Yes he does.
As Evidenced by? His obnoxious, REPEATED referral to Billy Butler’s April 21st homerun against Boston as a “Billy bomb with barbecue sauce!” Knock it the fuck off, Hud. Seriously.
Let’s talk Royals on Twitter. Find me @StanfordWhistle