We are the champions, my friends. And we’ll keep on fighting to the end.
We are the champions, and here is the Royals week in review.
WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS.
These words rang throughout Kansas City’s Power and Light district on the eve of November 1st, 2015. A night that will scarcely be forgotten by the city’s residents or fans of the Royals. So why is it that a mere six months after the fact, demands for lineup change and calls of the Royals being #Yosted time and time again are so prevalent?
A week during which the team could only muster one win against five losses certainly incites some panic. It is not unprecedented for fan bases of really good teams to expect the worst following a slump. There are few who don’t remember Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers advising fans to “R-E-L-A-X” on the way to winning the second MVP of his career and leading his team to the NFC championship game.
The 2016 Royals (13-11) have started a bit slower than their 2015 counterparts (15-7), which is fair to expect. In April of 2015, the Royals were emotionally charged and playing to destroy their opposition. Being fueled by the ninety feet left uncovered in the 2014 World Series, opposing pitchers catching more of the Royals than the plate at times, and some nasty slides by some polarizing third basemen probably led to more energy last April.
The largest difference is that the 2015 Royals never endured a five-game losing streak, and they were never close to going under .500. The 2016 Royals failed to score for twenty-five consecutive innings this week, something that hadn’t happened since April of 2008.
If you’ve been following the Royals long enough, you’ll remember that the AL West road trip almost always ended the season. So let’s take a look back at the best and worst of how our defending champions performed on their West Coast road trip to visit the Los Angeles Angels and Seattle Mariners (with their Baltimore victory included).
- Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas
You wouldn’t think that 7/9ths of a major league lineup playing like total garbage at the same time was possible, but here we are. Fortunately, the cornerstones of the outfield in Hosmer and Moustakas decided to stay hot throughout what was the worst week of the season so far. Hosmer, in twenty-two at-bats, posted a .409/.458/.727 line that saw him drive his hitting streak up to a career-high nineteen games before it ended Saturday night against the Mariners. Hosmer is now sporting a .326/.368/.506 line heading into May and is clearly the best hitter on the team thus far.
What more is there to say about Mike Moustakas? The Royals third baseman continues to punish baseballs and spray the ball to all fields almost at will. While he is pulling the ball at his career 48% rate, this is largely in part due to the lack of the severe shifts that opposing teams used in the past. Moose added another big fly to his 2016 ledger, while also posting a .273/.360/.455 line which, if he can maintain through the season, would place him in the MVP discussion. A fun thing to note about Moose this season is that he is absolutely demolishing left handed pitching, with a .375/.375/.688 line with no walks.
There really wasn’t a whole lot of good this week, as is the case when the offense goes ice cold for twenty-five innings and loses five games in a row.
- Has anyone seen Lorenzo Cain?
The new season has not been kind to the Royals most valuable player of 2015, and that would be putting it lightly. Lorenzo Cain has dubbed his .220/.297/.293 slump the “worst of his career”, it would be hard to disagree. It’s difficult to really say if Cain has changed his approach since last season, but he does look a bit bulkier. Some believe Cain has added weight to sell out some speed for power following his career-high eighteen home runs in 2015. The problem is, outside of connecting for two mammoth shots early in the month, Cain did not log any other type of base hit.
The Royals are going to need their number three hitter to stop hitting like their leadoff hitter soon, or else the drought of runs will continue to rear its ugly head. Cain had a modest week, posting a slash line of .250/.250/.250.
- Omar Infante is actively hurting this team.
Light the torches, grab your pitchforks: the Royals have the worst second-baseman in baseball. It’s no longer a matter of what Omar brings to the table as a veteran with experience as an everyday major-leaguer, or what his glove used to be. In 2016, Omar Infante has singlehandedly been the biggest headscratcher of a starter. The reasoning behind the preference for Infante over Christian Colon was the experience and the defense, but after twenty-four games Infante has flashed an arm that Chad Pennington would mock, has made bad decisions with the baseball (see the fielder’s choice, or lack thereof, Saturday night), and continues to post a negative WAR at second. The Royals do miss Ben Zobrist, but Raul Mondesi has clubbed five home runs in AA ball this season. Expect his arrival possibly before the All-Star break if this keeps up
The Royals begin a three-game interleague series against the red hot Washington Nationals at home on Monday, after ending the five-game losing streak by salvaging a win against Seattle. They will then head to Cleveland, followed by the Bronx for a match-up with the Yankees. April contained a monster schedule for the defending champions, and they came out of it at 13-11 and in 3rd place. In a much improved and wide-open American League, that isn’t the worst thing in the world.
So, is it time to panic? Not yet. The team is still in a very good position and should contend to repeat as the best team in the American League as the year goes on.