It’s pretty easy to go back and point to April’s terrible start and the 12 game losing streak as the catalyst for the Royal’s under-achieving season. However, the team actually played pretty well after that bad start until we hit July. Let’s take a look at the Royal’s season month-by-month and see where things went wrong and whether or not there is any reason to be optimistic about the remaining 2 months and into next year.
April Record: 6-15
As stated above, the 12 game losing streak was just killer to this young team right out of the gates. The overall pitching performance (starter’s and the bullpen) were largely to blame but the offense came out of the gates extremely slow and that didn’t help matters. A lot of those games during the 12 game slid could have gone our way and had a couple extra wins been picked up maybe things would look differently right now. Grade for April would be a D -.
May Record: 15-13
The Royal’s bounced back in a big way during the month of May. It was very encouraging to see our young team fight back as opposed to letting the slow start get into their heads and end the season before it ever got started. Starting pitching remained a real problem but the bats started to heat up a little bit and the fundamentals looked good which resulted in a winning May for the first time in ages. Grade for May would be an A -.
June Record: 14-13
Back-to-back winning months is something we haven’t seen in Kansas City in a very long time. June was probably the “feel good moment” of this year for our young team. People in KC were excited, the team was in contention and they looked determined to stay there. At one point we climbed within 4.5 games of first place and only 5 under .500. Too bad it was all a giant hoax as the wheels were getting ready to come off once the calendar flipped to July. I can say with confidence that the turning point of this season was the double-header the last day of June in Minnesota. The Royals were on a 4 game winning streak after sweeping Tampa Bay at home and taking the first of four against Minnesota. Then, Yost, in his infinite wisdom started Sanchez in game one of the double-header. Obviously the Dirty Sanchez sucked it up and the Twins took both games of the double-header and then the final game of the series the next day. I still think Hochevar should have started that first game and this entire season might be different right now. Grade for June would be a C+.
July Record: 7-19
I’ll have to admit that it got tough even for me to watch this team play in July. The pitching was as atrocious as it had been all year, the hitting was anemic, base-running was baffling, defense was shoddy and management seemed to be indifferent to the events unfolding in front of them on the field. Losing 7 of 8 from the lowly Mariners almost had me swear off the Royals for the rest of the season. The sad part about July was that we were supposed to be getting BETTER with the return of guys like Perez, Cain and Getz. Shipping Broxton to Cincinnati for some “wait and see” prospects was a move I can live with and the trade of Sanchez for Guthrie (even though everyone bashed it), I perceived as a solid move by GMDM. Even if Guthrie sucked it up I was ecstatic to get the cancer of Jonathan Sanchez out of the clubhouse. Player moves aside, this is the month that really killed any chances of success for the Royals season. We narrowly escaped posting the worst July record in our club’s history by winning the last game of the month. Grade for July would easily be an F.
August Record (to date): 8-5
There are still 16 games to play in the month of August so the Royals have plenty of time to mess things up but we are back to playing better baseball. The rotation has somewhat stabilized, the bullpen is back in form and the offense has come back to life winning some close games. If the prior months of the season are any indication then we should hopefully finish both August and September with a winning record to help balance out that awful July. Grade for August so far would be a solid B.
Rest of the Season Prediction: 23-24
As the season winds down and some September prospects get their first big league call-ups the Royals won’t be playing for much of anything except next year (again). If history can be used as an example we will finish strong in September when playing games that don’t matter except to our opponents. This will suck the fans back in and get us excited for what could be next year. Looking at the season today I doubt too many around baseball are surprised by the Royals current 50 and 65 record. This is probably where many people around MLB figured the Royals would sit. I had lofty expectations but with the pitching problems we’ve had it’s no real surprise where are current record stands.
Positives and Negatives:
Some of the positives this year have been career years by Billy Butler and Alicdes Escobar. Butler has jacked 24 homeruns, drove in 74 and has an .881 OPS. Butler is a professional hitter if I’ve ever seen one. Escobar has flashed the glove (as always) but really come alive at the plate. His .300 batting average is tied with Butler for the team lead and his 24 doubles trail only Gordon and Moose. Speaking of Moose, he has settled in nicely at third base and once he can start hitting for a little higher average should develop into one of the better third baseman in the American League.
I’m glad Cain made it back for the second half as he continues to audition for the everyday CF job. He needs to cut down on his strikeout numbers but I think he has the tools to develop into a really nice everyday guy. The last positive I would like to point out is Alex Gordon. He is quietly having another solid year. This makes two straight years for a guy many in this city gave up on after his first 4 years in the big leagues. He leads the team in hits (136), walks (55), doubles (38), OBP (.370) and games played (114). He is finally developing into the player everyone envisioned when he was our first round pick out of Nebraska. Funny he’s done it as a lead-off guy and Yost better not screw with that next year. Gordon should be hitting lead-off from day one when next season rolls around.
The negatives are everywhere so I won’t touch on too many of those but obviously Hosmer and his sophomore slump has been very disappointing. He’s going to need to bounce back in a big way next year so he doesn’t become screwed mentally. He still has a chance to hit 20 + doubles, around 15 homeruns and knock in 50-55 runs. Not terrible, but way below expectations. The one player I feel has really just killed this team is Jeff Francoeur. Not only is he blocking a spot for potential talent (Myers), he has played just horrible baseball. The dude has 33 RBI this year, a terrible .285 OBP and 81 strikeouts. The other giant negative has been the starting rotation. Developing pitching within the organization has been the downfall of this club since the 1990′s and the only true way to address this problem is to open up the checkbook and sign some proven free agent starters for 2013.
Goal for the rest of the season:
In my eyes the Royals have two very simple and realistic goal for the rest of the 2012 campaign…….finish in third place and loss less than 90 games. With the win last night against the A’s -fun stat: all of our wins this year against Oakland have been shutouts – the Royals climbed out of the cellar and sit a half game above Minnesota. We are only 3 back of Cleveland and there are still almost two full months of ball left to play. It isn’t too difficult to envision a third place finish as Cleveland has fallen apart and Minnesota is just as bad as we are. My above “rest of the season prediction” would equate to a 73 and 89 record to end the year. This would actually be a two game improvement over last year and any improvement after the rough patches we’ve gone through would be a major bonus.
Another major accomplishment would be if the Royals can finish both August and September with winning records. I would probably add this to my list of goals. Winning records in 4 of 6 months would be an indication to me that this team is ready to compete next year. A club can make the playoff’s winning 4 of 6 months but we must learn to eliminate 19 game losing months like July of this year in order to do so. Overall, it’s been a disappointing year but there are still some silver linings to be found in this cloud of a 2012 season. As always, I won’t lose faith in this team until they no longer reside in this city and I don’t think any of you should either. GO ROYALS!