Can you hear that? If you listen real close you can hear the slightest series of muffled thumps. Hold your ear to the ground. Hear it? That is the sound of the Royals heartbeat and playoff hopes. It may be faint, but it’s still there. After a dismal 7 win July, this team had all the signs of being dead and buried. But due to resiliency, a little luck and some great starting pitching, the team had a red-hot August getting themselves back in wild card contention.
As much as things went right for the Royals the last two seasons in terms of acquisitions overachieving, staying healthy and good luck on the field, it’s all evening out this year. Marred with injuries from the beginning, off-season signings being busts and brutal offensive stretches have left a bitter taste this season. Through all that, however, this team has shown its grit. It’s pretty remarkable really to be back in the race. A dozen years ago when we were immersed in 100 loss seasons and suffering through the circus show baseball, all we could hope for was to play meaningful games in September. And for the fourth consecutive season, we will.
If the Royals don’t make the playoffs this year, it’ll be easy for fans to speculate and blame. For example, if they would have had a better July, if the bats wouldn’t have had so many prolonged dry spells or if Joakim Soria didn’t blow so many games. All would definitely be contributing factors, but allow me to offer another offender. Ned Yost. His blind loyalty to his players may be a strength at times but it seems to have cost the team big this year. His refusal to move Alcides Escobar out of the leadoff spot for so long played a part in some of the horrific offensive stretches. If your leadoff hitter bats .242 with a .269 OBP, any team would be challenged to score with that production. In the 8th spot in the order, Esky is batting .324 with a .378 OBP. His stats are limited, batting 8th, but still, it’s not rocket science.
Yost’s use of Joakim Soria, especially in high leverage situations, has also been a head scratcher. I know I defended Soria early in the year but by the end of May it was pretty clear that he could not be trusted in close games. Yet Ned continually sends him out there. According to Fangraphs.com, Soria has given up 20 earned runs in 18 innings in “high leverage” situations. He’s also given up the lead 11 times in which he’s entered the game with the Royals tied or leading. It’s obvious to everyone, but Ned apparently, that Soria is NOT the same pitcher he was. He’s a broken shell of his former self, which is sad. What’s worse is he’s under contract for 2017 and 2018 too. Ooof! Let that sink in.
It’s maddening when Ned keeps running Soria out there during the most pivotal part of the season. Especially when guys like rookie sensation Matt Strahm are available. Even Brian Flynn or veteran Peter Moylan would be far better options right now. Is Ned solely to blame, of course not. There’s plenty of blame to go around, but he’s definitely not helping.
The good news is the remaining schedule, besides a bad Oakland team, are against divisional opponents. The Royals are 17 games over 500 against the division, of course nearly most of that is because of Minnesota and Chicago. The bad news is we will have to play better than 700 ball to even have a chance at the wild card. If the past few years are any indicator though, you can never write off this team. Let’s go Roy-als.
My apologies for the long hiatus from blogging. It seems that lake life, crazy as it sounds, agrees with me. Perhaps a little too much. Between enjoying our new community, working around the house, hosting several friends and family outings, time got away from me. Hell, even golf has taken a major hit this summer.