So the Royals are above .500 again, and all of the nut-jobs that were predicting a World Series victory (or at the very least, a WS appearance) are back from the ledge…
This is good, as I hate to see people off themselves over under-developed sports standings.
I didn’t expect the Royals to win the World Series this year—or even get to the playoffs—and so far, an 8-7 record feels just about right. I don’t know that I would have had this exact record on the books, necessarily, but I figured they’d be up-and-down, pretty frustrating and occasionally fun to watch.
In my preseason piece, I made a couple of salient points. I suggested that:
1) The bullpen would regress.
2) The rotation would regress.
3) The offense would improve, mostly due to the additions of OF Nori Aoki and 2B Omar Infante.
4) Eric Hosmer would be huge offensively, Mike Moustakas would finally have his cherry-busting, “break-out” season and elder statesman Bill Butler would have a big bounce back, power-wise.
5) Lorenzo Cain would need to stay healthy to make this team a contender. (But I also suggested that he wouldn’t.)
I was wrong on some things, right on others, but mostly, the cake I baked has been contentedly edible.
The bullpen started out awful. (BUT THEN IT BOUNCED BACK!) That said, I think we’ve seen what this season will be when it comes to relief pitching. It’s not going to be last year’s pen. That was an almost-certainty. Thankfully, I think Greg Holland got his oopsies out of the way early, and he’ll be solid. Everything leading UP to Holland, however, is a bit of a mixed bag. With any luck, it’ll be mostly chocolate covered raisins and malted milk balls, and not those weird ass chocolate covered nuts that your grandfather enjoyed.
The rotation has been much, MUCH better than I anticipated. Jason Vargas—whose signing I roundly ridiculed—has spat in my stupid face with his unbelievable 1.24 ERA. And no, we know he won’t win an ERA title this season, but goddamn I didn’t expect this, either. About this, I could not be happier. (He’s striking out half-a-batter per inning, though, and man, that doesn’t bode well.)
I figured Yordano Ventura would be an almost immediate impact-piece, and Lord yes, he has been. Ventura is bigger than Jesus, and unless the actual Christ rises from the dead this coming Sunday, I know who to worship.
James Shields already has an awful start under his belt, which is great because he doesn’t do that too many times per year. He’s largely been James Shields though, which is outstanding.
I’m feeling good about this rotation.
The offense has mostly been a whole lot of shit, BUT: Aoki and Infante have been pretty great. I thought they might. Hallelujah.
Point three was a big one. It was a given that KC’s success hinged on the results provided by the three cornerstone pieces of this team: Hosmer, Moose and Butler.
So far, the results have been mixed (unfavorably, for the most part), but this is the part where I save my ass by suggesting WE’RE ONE/ELEVENTH OF THE WAY THROUGH THE SEASON, RIGHT?
Hosmer has been good, but not special, Moustakas has only recently pulled his plane out of its tailspin (prior to his two homeruns in three games, he’d gone almost three weeks WITHOUT HITTING A SINGLE LINE DRIVE), and Butler has been a very disturbing disappointment.
If the Royals really want to win, this ship must be righted, and sooner, rather than later.
Finally, Lorenzo Cain is hurt. (Does anyone know if Crayola makes a color called “Color Me Fucking Shocked”?) Sadly, Cain is one of those snake-bitten/star-crossed/snake-crossed players who will never stay healthy. Ever. I am now fully officially convinced of this fact. And that’s a damn shame, because he adds a TON to this team, whether most fans realize it or not. But it’s clear that he’s not a long-term solution. He’s entirely too fragile, and the sooner the Royals focus on finding a permanent centerfielder, the better.
And so here we are. Midway through April and looking slightly better than average. All things considered, I’ll take it. Vargas won’t pitch like this forever, Bruce Chen will eventually become a liability and Infante isn’t going to win the Silver Slugger for second basemen. Promise.
If the bullpen settles down, however, and the Big Three (I’m excluding Alex Gordon, because Alex Fucking Gordon will go down in history as the best left-fielder in KC history) can get their collective shit together—and hold it together, more importantly—this team will be just fine.
You know, 85-77. Like I said before.