Friday, August 10, 2007

If We Can Only Avoid Playing the Yankees

On Tuesday, May 8th, the Kansas City Royals lost to the Oakland Athletics by a score of 6-1. Jorge de la Rosa took the loss, giving up 10 hits in just over four innings of work, and the Royals season was already over with the team sporting a 10-23 record, on pace for 100 losses yet again.

The Royals managed to eek out a 3-2 victory the next day, but dropped the series finale in style, giving up 17 runs to the A’s while Luke Hudson, the team’s best pitcher in 2006, took a beating in his only outing of the year before heading back to the disabled list.

A few more losses to the White Sox followed, but that May 8th game signaled a turning point in the season. From that point forward, the Royals have put up a win for every loss. In their last 80 games the team stands on even ground at 40-40.

A .500 record won’t win you any medals in the American League, but for this Kansas City team, it shows real progress over an extended period of time. For half a season, the Kansas City Royals have been a respectable ball club.

Is it the Offense?
The Royals have scored 4.96 runs a game during this stretch, against a league-average of 4.90.

Joey Gathright has been getting on base at a .415 clip since his first call-up on June 6th. Here are the team leaders in this category:
Gathrgt 415
German 373
DeJesus 365
Teahen 360
Grudz 345
Butler 342

The people who are supposed to be getting on base are, and the people who are supposed to be driving them in? Here are the team leaders in slugging:
Buck   494
Gload 467
Grudz 445
Butler 439

John Buck has come crashing down after his hot start, putting up a 218/283/400 line in July, but Ross Gload has filled in the sink hole that was Ryan Shealy by posting a 320/330/490 line since coming off the disabled list in mid-July.

Young Billy Butler has been swinging a big stick since his return from the minors, going 309/365/.478 since his second call-up.

Is it the Pitching?
The team has been giving up 4.86 runs a game, against an American League average of 4.79.

Brian Bannister leads the starters with a 3.32 ERA, followed by Million Dollar Gil at 3.96. New pick up Kyle Davies looked like a world beater in shutting down the Twins on Thursday, but the good money says he’s probably somewhere between that outing and the gas can he was for the Yankees last Saturday.

The relief corps continues to be outstanding. A quick look at the ERA leaders:
Soria  2.22
Riske 2.34
Gobble 3.13
Peralta 3.72

Odalis Perez (5.87), Jorge de la Rosa (5.46) and the rotation of random fifth starters has been the biggest culprit in keeping this team from being a winner.

The deal for Davies is one of many in which general manager Dayton Moore has brought young arms into the Kansas City system. Every player on these leader lists will be with the team next season, and most of them are under obligation for much longer than that.

A strong finish to this season will speak volumes about how stable the foundation of this team is. The push for a title begins in earnest in ’08.

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