Happy 4th of July weekend to all of our readers out there in the blogosphere! We hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable holiday. With the exit of The United States in The World Cup earlier in the week, we can turn our attention once again to our boys in blue. With 85 games in the books, The Kansas City Royals are a respectable 45-40, in second place 4 games behind The Detroit Tigers. The first half of the 2014 season has been one wild rollercoaster ride, complete with some really good, some really bad and some outright ugly performances. Here is a quick look back on the first half of the season as The Royals pull into The All Star Break with their sights set on a playoff spot.
Let’s begin with the good.
The 2014 Kansas City Royals starting pitching has been outstanding in the first half of the season posting a team ERA of 3.64, third best in The American League. James Shields, the staff ace who has struggled as of late, is 8-3 and has the highest ERA among the starting five at 3.96. While his ERA may be a little high, he is leading The Royals in strike outs with 92.
Jason Vargas has been a pleasant surprise this year with a record of 8-4 and an ERA of 3.32 through 119.1 innings. Jeremy Guthrie has been solid at 5-6 but leads the team with home runs allowed at 16. The last two pitchers in the starting rotation, Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy, should give every Royals fan a reason to believe. Both youngsters have been outstanding going 6-7 and 5-7 respectively. The back end of the bullpen has also been outstanding. Both Wade Davis and Greg Holland have been almost unhittable and both deserve All-Star nods.
The defense has been as good, if not better than the starting pitching. Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez continue to show why they’ve won gold gloves. Alcides Escobar is forcing the league to take notice of his abilities and range. Yost, throughout the season, has been using a mix of players in center and left field. Lorenzo Cain (who leads The Royals with a .313 batting average), Nori Aoki, Jarrod Dyson and the recently acquired Raul Ibanez, have all taken turns patrolling these two positions. Mike Moustakas (who will appear later) has been great at third and Omar Infante has played second base extremely well. Through the first 85 games, The Royals collectively have committed 49 errors, ninth in the league.
Let’s explore the bad.
While the bats have yet to stay hot for an extended period of time, it seems that they are at least getting warmer. This was not the case in the beginning of the season. The only thing more unpredictable than The Royals bats was the weather.
Three of the coldest bats this season so far have been Hosmer, Butler and Moustakas. These three have a combined batting average of .237 far below their and The Royals expectations. Moustakas is currently batting a very unhealthy .192 with 42 hits in 219 at bats. His abbreviated stent in triple A didn’t seem to do much good. With any luck, he can raise his average up .200, or the Bob Uecker line, by The All Star Break. Moustakas isn’t the only Royal that needs to be taken to task; Nori Aoki has had his share of struggles as well. He has taken some interesting/questionable routes in the outfield. He has also taken some interesting/questionable hacks at pitches resulting in him on the ground. Hopefully this is just a result of him getting used to playing in The American League.
Now for the ugly, and when I say ugly, I mean this one is historically ugly. In Toronto on the 31st of May, Aaron Brooks was picked to start while Yordano Ventura was being evaluated and pitched only 2/3’s of the first inning. In the shellacking, Brooks gave up five hits and seven earned runs. He walked three batters and hit two. To say he couldn’t locate the strike zone would be an understatement. With two outs (the third out is always the hardest to get) Brooks was relieved by Michael Mariot who didn’t do much better. At the end of the first inning, The Blue Jays already had 7 runs, more than enough for the win. I’m sure there have been worse starts in baseball history, but off the top of my head, I can’t think of any this bad.
There are 77 games remaining in the 2014 season. The Royals are very much in contention in The American League Central. There is no reason to not believe in this team. Sure, there have been some hiccups. The Aaron Brooks start may have been an aberration, but The 2014 Kansas City Royals are for real.