Time to freak out about the Royals? Of course not. But...
The Kansas City Star
The line of appropriate Royals reaction is thin and vague at the moment. The natural thing is to come down heavy, because all we have are two games, both losses, the Royals’ next lead will be their first of the season, Ervin Santana is continuing a dizzying pace of giving up home runs, and the Royals’ offense — we’ve talked many times about how the pitching staff upgrades don’t mean much if the offense doesn’t progress — has two runs, two extra-base hits, 16 strikeouts, 12 hits … basically it’s like Tony Pena Jr. is constantly at the plate.
On the other hand, it’s only two games. At some point this season, the Royals will win or lose two games in a row and you won’t even notice. You’ll be at the lake, or out of town, or taking your kids somewhere, at a wedding, busy, whatever. Two games is 1.2 percent of the season, and 1.2 percent of anything isn’t much.
My current level is “concern,” which I suppose would be just to the heavy side of the middle here. The Royals, either recently or historically, haven’t earned the benefit of the doubt. Last year, you remember, “just two games” turned into “12-game turd.”
We’ve been saying for a while that wins and losses are what matter now; this is no longer about development or learning. Nobody is expecting the Royals to win the division, but another clunker of a season and the franchise will have earned every piece of criticism it gets.
We’re not there yet, of course. But we are two games closer than we were at the beginning of the week.
Anyway, in no particular order, the specific areas of concern:
The offense sucks. I said there was no particular order here, but if there was, this would be first. The Royals were third-to-last in the American League in runs last year, and essentially did nothing to improve the offense. Now, I and most people I respect think that’s the right call — the Royals have more breakout candidates than anybody in the league, and the position players are so young we should see significant improvement — but we need to start seeing results.
Specifically, the offense is still sucking at getting into good counts. The Royals have had 70 plate appearances. Only 19 of them have ended with the Royals hitter ahead in the count (putting the ball in play on a 2-1 pitch, for instance).
Two extra-base hits is a painfully low number. The Royals have gotten unlucky a few times. Sal Perez banged a ball to left in the opener that was simply hit too hard to be a double. Gordon Beckham has made a few spectacular plays. Also, the Royals have faced two of the American League’s best pitchers. But it’s also true that this is the big leagues. You’re going to face good pitching and good defense.
Ervin Santana faced 24 batters and three of them hit home runs. US Cellular Field is like a big league ballpark that somebody put in the dryer too long and shrunk, but the players said the ball wasn’t carrying particularly well and Adam Dunn’s homer in particular would’ve been out of any park short of Yellow Stone. We talked a lot in the offseason about the danger of just assuming Santana will be really good again. His seasons have essentially been good or bad based on his home run rate, so this isn’t a good start.
Meet the new Luke Hochevar, same as the old Luke Hochevar. He really didn’t get anybody out yesterday. A sacrifice, baserunning mistake, and a hard hit ball that found a glove. I still think he can be good as a reliever, but this isn’t a good start.
Look, we’re still a ways from appropriate freak out. Jeremy Guthrie dominated the White Sox last year. The Royals’ athleticism and talent has to play out this season. One of the home runs Santana gave up glanced off Alex Gordon’s glove, and if Gordon could’ve somehow made what would’ve been a SPECTACULAR catch, yesterday’s game would’ve dramatically changed. The Royals still have what should be a terrific bullpen, and also Sal Perez.
It’s too early to freak out, in other words. But this is a team that needs to show significant progress in the standings. A fan base has come by its skepticism honestly.