Morning Coffee: Riding the Royalcoaster
If you’re a fan of arbitrary endpoints (and who isn’t?), this Royals season as been quite a ride. Hence the extremely clever name of “the Royalcoaster.” You may recall that after 27 games, the Royals were at the top of the ride, sitting at 17-10. Articles were written about how much potential this team had and how they could make some serious noise of the next five months and maybe finally knock down that door to the playoffs.Then they lost a game and then another game and another game. After that, they went 1-3 including a three game sweep at the hands of the Yankees. They were 1-6 over their previous seven games and faced a bit of a crossroads. Then they went to Anaheim and took two of three, scoring 22 runs in the series and it looked like those seven games might have been a blip. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.
People talk about the 4-19 stretch over those 23 games and I do too for the sake of this article, but I see it as a 1-6 stretch followed by a 2-1 stretch and then¬†that point is where the wheels fell off. The Royals went to Oakland and were in every game, but just couldn’t score enough to win, which would become a recurring theme. They were still at .500 at the end of that series, but it sure didn’t feel that way. They went to Houston and won one game against one of the worst teams in baseball. That win was somewhat fluky, too. The loss in game three of that series started what felt like just a soul crushing eight game losing streak. That streak included all six games of the next home stand. It was bad, folks. The Royals could give up a run and you truly felt like they couldn’t come back.
Throughout this stretch that just looked hopeless, the Royals did nothing. Players were struggling, but no signs of demotions or anything. Then, the Royals finally made a change, and it was one that was met with skepticism regarding the true intentions of the team. I, like many others, believed (and I still do believe) that the move to replace Jack Maloof and Andre Davis dwith Pedro Grifol and some other guy was a complete PR move. That other guy who happens to be number five on the Hall of Fame building at Kauffman Stadium had his work cut out for him, and typically great players don’t make such great coaches. Obviously, the jury is still out on Brett as hitting coach. Ten games isn’t enough to make a judgment. Truthfully, 50 games wasn’t enough to make a judgment on Maloof and David either, but that’s another story entirely.
Since making that change, the Royals have gone 7-3 and climbed their way out of the verge of irrelevance and back into a situation where we, as fans, have some semblance of hope again. A lot of people look at 6-22 as the stretch, but they were 2-3 before starting their current five game winning streak, so I call it 4-19 and then this 7-3 stretch. It’s all semantics. This is a 28-32 team right now. As many said after the Royals ¬†fell to their lowest point of the year at 22-31, they aren’t as bad as they were playing at that moment, and they aren’t as good as they were at the start of the season (or right now).
I think what happened during that 4-19 stretch was a little bit fluky, but more highlighted many of the weaknesses of this organization and this team. What seemed to be a bit of a fluke was that¬†everybody was slumping with the exception of Alex Gordon who has started slumping when some of the rest of the offense has finally woken up. It just seems odd that everybody would slump. Where it wasn’t a fluke was that this lineup just doesn’t have very many good hitters in it. There’s a lot of potential in the lineup, but look across the board and you really have three guys I think you can count on in Gordon, Butler and Perez. When Perez was out and Butler was still slumping, that’s pretty difficult to overcome. Sure Hosmer, Moustakas, Cain and Escobar have the kind of potential to make the Royals lineup lethal, but they’re not there yet. I just hope they get there eventually.
And now you look back at this 7-3 stretch and that includes a really weird win against the Cardinals, a win against the Rangers, which is good and then five wins against the Twins and Astros, two of the worst teams in the American League. Let’s get this out of the way. A win is a win and the Royals were not beating teams like the Twins and Astros in the month of May. In fact, they didn’t beat the Astros, losing two of three to them. So I don’t mean to scoff at their winning ways because you can only play the teams up next on their schedule, but I’m reserving the return of my optimism until I see what they do against some better teams and better pitching staffs. The Detroit Tigers come to town next, and that will provide a test to the Royals and also could be a great opportunity to get back in the race in the American League Central.
I was thinking about this over the last day or two and it was brought up vaguely on Twitter yesterday when I said that the Royals would need to be three games over .500 on August 1 for me to buy back in and bring back the optimism from the first 27 games of the season. Technically that’s impossible because they’ll be at 104 games at that point, so we’ll call it four games over. How they get there is largely irrelevant to me, but they need to go 26-18 in their next 44 games. Are they capable of that? I honestly don’t know. I can tell you with complete certainty that they are able to win some games over shorter stretches. Of course getting to 54-50 would require a 33-21 stretch over 54 games, one third of the season.
To make a long story short, this team has had stretches of 17-10, 4-19 and then 7-3 and that’s how they’ve gotten to where they are today. I think this is an offense that will look dormant at times and may even look explosive and, dare I say it, good at times. Ultimately, I think this is a team with bigger holes offensively than anyone expected before the season (and many expected holes), but has some better pitching than had been expected. If they can find a way to keep up the solid offensive approach we see at times, then all bets are off for what this team is capable of, but if they continue to have stretches like they did against Lucas Harrell yesterday, then the Royalcoaster will be a wild ride all season long.
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