Something’s Cooking in KC: Are the Royals More Than Smoke and Mirrors?

When Sidney Ponson is part of your rotation, the good times can't last for long.

When Sidney Ponson is part of your rotation the good times can't last for long.

Unheralded coming into the season by most baseball pundits, the Kansas City Royals have roared out of the gate to post an 18-14 record and grab an early lead in the AL Central. Can a team whose key offseason acquisitions included Willy Bloomquist and Sidney Ponson really compete for a shot in the playoffs? Survey says….NO. Here’s why:

Kansas City’s pitching has been lights out so far, posting a 3.49 ERA as a team. Led by Zack Grienke (who owns 1/3 of the team’s wins himself) the Royals have been shutting down opponents on a nightly basis, helping to make up for some sub-par showings from the offense. However, after Grienke, the only other reliable starter for KC is Gil Meche (shocker, another ex-Mariner who discovered his talent once he left Seattle). The rest of the rotation is made up of has-beens (Brian Bannister), never-weres (Kyle Davies), and the majors only native Aruban (Sidney Ponson). Although Bannister has been solid so far, his low strikeout and high walk total signal impeding armageddon…or at least a significant rise in ERA. Ponson (5.91 ERA) and Davies (5.22 ERA) have been terrible in the early going, and there is no reason to believe that will change anytime soon. Grienke has been phenomenal thus far, but expecting him to continue pitching at his current rate is completely unrealistic. Once he returns to earth, the Royals will be in a world of hurt.

Will Alberto Callaspo hit .340 all season? Probably not.

Will Alberto Callaspo hit .340 all season? Probably not.

Kansas City’s offense has been able to escape scrutiny the first month and a half of the season (the team is second to last in the AL in runs scored) because of a dominating pitching staff. However, the lineup has some serious holes and only the surprising Alberto Callaspo (.340 BA) and resurgent Mark Teahan (.302-4 HR-13 RBI) have kept the team afloat. The offense is significantly lacking in power outside of Jose Guillen and Mike Jacobs, who is on pace for an Adam Dunn-esque 170 Ks. First baseman Billy “the Backside” Butler will hit for average, but a corner infielder who only slugs 15 HRs doesn’t really put the fear of God in many opposing pitchers (outside of Carlos Silva) and leaves the Royals as a station-to-station squad. Last season’s leadoff man David Dejesus is struggling with back issues which have lead to his .224 BA and 0 SBs. Coco Crisp and Willy Bloomquist are the only players with any speed in the lineup, and when you’re counting on key plays from those two, it goes without saying that it’ll be a long season. The Royals have an underwhelming lineup and once the pitching fades, and it will, the offense won’t be able to supply enough firepower for very many wins. Is Barry Bonds still available?

While the Cleveland Indians have likely already played themselves out of the postseason the rest of the teams in the AL Central are all capable of capturing the division title. Minnesota’s young pitchers have struggled but if they can put things together, they have more than enough talent to overtake the Royals. The White Sox have been inconsistent early on but a potent offense and fiery manager Ozzie Guillen should keep them in the hunt all season long. The greatest threat to KC in the early going, the Detroit Tigers, have shaken off the disappointment from last year and with Miguel Cabrera and Curtis Granderson anchoring the lineup as well as a revitalized Justin Verlander toeing the rubber, will probably be the favorite to take the division from here on out.

So enjoy this magical run while it lasts Kansas City fans; it won’t be long before the rest of the league discovers that this hot start is nothing more than an illusion, and your beloved Royals return to mediocrity.

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2 Responses

  1. I know the Royals have been the laughing stock of the league for quite a while, and no one in KC is rushing out to buy playoff tickets yet. But I am keeping my fingers crossed for them to be competive and hopefully, they make you eat your words.

  2. Classy work. I appreciate that you’ve taken a pretty broad look at the league – it’s not PNW-centric.

    Looks like the M’s were pulling a similar stunt as the Royals…but I’d love it if they’d make me eat my words.

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