Huge win yesterday against Verlander and the Tigers! Although we didn’t technically slay the giant we still got the win while he was on the hill. Now it’s time to get off to a nice start during this 7 game homestand against the two AL East giants (New York and Boston). Following is a list of the Royals goals during this homestand along with some wishful thinking of what could have been if we didn’t start the year 0-10 at home.
Damn that 0-10 start at home (paired with the 12 game losing streak) still sings. Had we just scratched out 3 measly wins during that time period we would be sitting at 10-13 and only a couple games out of first place.
The good news is we are amazingly only 5.5 back of the Indians, the only team in the AL Central having a record better than .500. This division isn’t strong and because of that our boys in blue are going to have a chance to hang around for the long run, maybe even making a push toward the top of the standings at some point during the year.
It’s going to be a long climb out of the cellar but I really do believe we still have a shot at this thing. Here are the goals of this homestand as well as some snippets about what needs to be done the rest of the year to stay competitive:
1. Win a game at home! We are a month into the season and the Royals are the lone team in MLB that still has a goose egg on their home record. This is priority number one. Tonight we should have a decent chance with Duffy (assuming he’s healthy) going up against a guy (Phelps) making his first major league start. We need to get after the Yankee’s starting pitcher early and often. I don’t want to see another performance like we put up against Milone when he was making one of his first MLB starts in Oakland.
2. Get back to fundamental baseball. The game yesterday in Detroit was played very sound. One of the few of the year when we put everything together and it paid dividends by resulting in a win against one of the best pitchers in baseball. If we have any shot at competing for the entire year this team has to execute the basics of baseball day in and day out.
3. End this 7 game homestand with a winning record. This will be no small task considering the opponents. The Yankees have just killed the Royals for years and Boston is hot right now but the Royals are playing pretty well themselves. We have won 4 of our last 6 after dropping 12 straight and guys are hitting the ball. I would consider a 4-3 record over the next seven as a very nice accomplishment.
4. Ride our big hitters to success. Butler, Hosmer, Gordon, Frenchy and Moose have to produce for this team to win. Frenchy is turning the corner (he must have read my previous entries), Moose is looking great in the field and at the plate, Hosmer is hitting the ball about as hard as possible and the hits will eventually start to drop, Butler is consistent as ever and Gordon finally seems to be breaking out of his early season slump. These guys are key to our offense and need to deliver consistently to give us a chance to win.
5. Figure out who the real starters are in this rotation. Chen is a lock. He is going to put up the occasional starts like he did Tuesday against Detroit but in reality he’s a 5th starter so those occasional debacles are acceptable. Duffy is a lock as well. I’m very concerned about his elbow though. Hopefully for the sake of the Royals it truly isn’t anything serious. If he comes out tonight after a couple innings pitched I’ll be fearing the worst (i.e. Tommy John surgery). Whether you like Sanchez or not he is also going to be part of this rotation. We gave up too much for him to shift to the pen and he actually looked like the pitcher we all though we were acquiring during his outing yesterday. He only went five but that had to do with him being sick the week leading up to his start. Hochevar is on his last life. The guy has to turn the corner or I could see him being traded before the year is out. I’m losing patience with Hoch and I would guess the Royals probably are as well. Mendoza was a joke…..I’m glad he isn’t in this rotation any longer and honestly I wish he was back in AAA instead of the bullpen. Paulino will slide into his spot in the rotation and I although he isn’t a vast improvement, he should fair better than his counterpart. If Paulino and Hoch both struggle then it’s time to give someone down on the farm a shot to pitch on the big league club.
6. Save the bullpen. This goes hand in hand with the information above regarding the starters. We have to get some guys in the rotation going deeper into games. We can’t be using 4 and 5 guys out of the pen on a daily basis or they will all be toast by the time August roles around. The starters have to start working deeper into games to protect our pen. I still see the bullpen as an asset of this team but only if they aren’t over-worked like they have been to this point in the season.
7. Build confidence among our young core players. The only way this is going to happen is if we can win games. Stringing together some winning series along with some 4 or 5 game winning streaks will go a long way in helping the young guys along. Remember that most the players on our roster are accustomed to winning at every level in which they’ve played. We can’t have them come to the big leagues and then wade around in failure. That will destroy the culture of the team and lead to long periods without success.
As crazy as it sounds, I still think the Royals have a chance to win this division. I would put their chances around 30%. A lot will have to come together (see above) in order for this to happen but we still have 139 games to play. That’s basically 86% of the season still left to play. Soooooo much can happen during the next 5 months and if this team can get hot, get the starting pitching figured out and play strong fundamental baseball there is no reason to think they can’t make a push for the division.
Everybody in the AL Central is going to lose a minimum of 70 games. The only team I’m afraid of is Detroit. They started slow last year and then went on to crush the American League but I still think they will be hard pressed to win 80 more games the way they are going right now. By my estimation, 87-90 wins could take the AL Central. That means our Royals would have to step up and win at least 80 more to have a chance. Is it unlikely, yes. Is it impossible, not at all. This is a crazy game and once our young team gels and starts to figure things out the rest of the division better watch out.
Keep the faith, don’t go on long losing streaks and have fun playing the game. This could be a recipe for success for our young club. Only time will tell.