Evaluating the Royals after a month

By Steve Sell
May 01, 2014

That’s one month of the major league baseball season into the books, so what have we learned about the Kansas City Royals?

For sure, when they score four runs in a game they win. It’s a fact, look it up. They are 14-0 in games they have hit that magic number.

In games where they’ve scored three runs or less, they are 0-12. 

Those may be two of the most bizarre baseball statistics in recent memory.

My belief is the Royals should feel blessed they finished April with a winning record. They came nowhere near to playing their best baseball.

The additions of Omar Infante and Nori Aoki have been a Godsend, along with the revitalized offensive production of last year’s automatic out, Alcides Escobar.

 How many teams are led in RBIs by their second baseman? Infante drove in 19 runs for the month, swelled by a six-RBI game in Baltimore.

Aoki leads the team in runs, is a good table-setter and plays a solid right field. No complaints about him, except that he struggles on the road and is lights-out at home.

Escobar has returned to his 2012 form when he played near All-Star status. Hopefully he’s not just having his hot stretch at the start and plummet as the season drags on.

Another strength is the starting pitching. James Shields, Jason Vargas and Yordano Ventura have been exceptional. They are among the league leaders in ERA and Shields has been a streak-stopper. He’s probably in his last year with the team, especially since he’s putting up numbers that won’t allow the Royals to afford him as he’s a free agent in the offseason. Vargas probably has exceeded his potential so far, as he’s considered a .500, innings-eater type who hopefully finishes a game or two over .500. Ventura offers the Royals hope, an electric presence who if he continues his current pace will fill Kauffman Stadium once the weather obliges.

It’s actually a testament to the Royals they have a winning record with so many expected offensive cogs struggling.

• Mike Moustakas’ spring explosion turned out to be Fool’s Gold. He is hitting all of .149, though he has been fortunate enough to get his bat on the ball to hit a team-high four homers, which represents 36 percent of the team’s total.

• Billy Butler isn’t hitting his weight. He’s at .224, has killed numerous rallies by rolling into double plays and hasn’t hit a homer — mind-boggling for a cleanup hitter. His track record says he’ll hit, but he’s never gone through a stretch like this. His body language also has been terrible and he plays with a defeated look.

• Eric Hosmer has a nice average (.292), but like Butler hasn’t gone yard. He’s probably the only No. 3 hitter in baseball without a homer. He looks terribly off-balanced at the plate with his long swing. He also swings way too hard and just needs to relax. He also could use a refresher course on how to run the bases as he’s piled up some gaffes early on.

• Alex Gordon is at an OK .270, but again it’s a light .270. One homer from the No. 5 batter in the order just doesn’t cut it.

• Salvy Perez looked like the second coming of Ivan Rodriguez early on, but has dipped markedly. He’s also gotten a bit careless behind the plate, perhaps counting on his remarkable athleticism too much and not paying attention to the basic mechanics. This is a guy who should be an All-Star for the next 10 years, but has been streaky so far.

The Royals also should be thankful to be winning since their bullpen, sans Greg Holland, has been disastrous. Never have numbers been so skewed.

Aaron Crow has an 0.00 ERA, but he continually allows inherited runners to score. Kelvin Herrera is a thrill a minute, as his pitches are fast and straight, just as hitters like them. Tim Collins is hurt, but when healthy was wild and getting battered.  The common thread of all the relievers is their inability to throw strikes, led by important eighth-inning bridge man Wade Davis and the suddenly Rick Ankiel-like Danny Duffy. If the bullpen was in last year’s form, the Royals would be comfortably leading the AL Central. Half of the 12 losses have been charged to the pen.

All in all, the Royals know if they play to their potential they can win the division. Detroit still has great pitching, but its hitting isn’t close to past standards. Cleveland, Minnesota and Chicago are clones of each other, teams with more weaknesses than strengths. The division is there to be had. The Royals just have to grab it.