Picking On the Royals

What follows is NOT a newsflash: The Kansas City Royals suck. See? Nothing new there, huh? The reason it bears mentioning is because prior the recent 8-game losing streak, they were just one game below .500 and you might have started think they weren’t too bad. They are building a nice foundation, I won’t deny that, but they remain a doormat for at least this season. Zach Greinke is paying the dividends expected of him prior to his mental health breakdown that put his career in doubt a couple years ago. However, the next best ERA by a qualifying starter is over two runs higher. The only time that isn’t a problem is if Greinke is holding a sub-2.00 ERA. He’s not. Greinke’s 2.82 looks great, but Brian Bannister’s 4.94 does not. That said, the pitching hasn’t really been the primary issue for the Royals this season due in large part to the fact that they have a solid bullpen anchored by the electric Joakim Soria.

Rather the problem has been their complete inability to place bat to ball. Alex Gordon, the team’s franchise player, is starting to back up some of those ridiculously lofty expectations bestowed upon him last year, but he doesn’t even have an .800 OPS. In fact, none of the Royals regulars do at this point (Gordon’s .799 is the closest… obviously). Scarier still is that Miguel Olivo has been their best offensive player per at-bat this season. He only has 96 at-bats, but has posted a strong .911 OPS. The team’s .671 OPS is an American League worst and tied for second-worst with the San Diego Padres among the entire league (Washington, .664). In the nine games since Jon Lester’s no-hitter last Monday, six of the starting pitchers facing them have gone seven or more innings with an incredible amount of success:

That is pretty pathetic. And it’s not like we’re talking about a group of front-line starters here. Halladay is the only one that fits that bill. The rest aren’t exactly Steve Trachsel and Jeff Weaver, but the Royals are doing a great job making them look like Johan Santana and Jake Peavy. I have even more bad news, Royals fans. It doesn’t get easier anytime soon.

As I’m writing this, they have tied it up against Joe Nathan in the bottom of the ninth as the Twins and Royals play extras in KC, so they might pull this one out. If they do, tomorrow is their best chance at a two game winning streak as they throw Greinke against Livan Hernandez. It’s far from a given as Hernandez hasn’t been too shabby. From there they get control specialist Kevin Slowey to close out the Minnesota series and then the staff with the league’s 5th-best ERA strolls into town in the form of the Cleveland Indians. The opener features the resurgent Cliff Lee, then C.C. Sabathia and finally Paul Byrd. *cue TV infomercial* But wait! There’s more!! Then they pack up and head to Chicago to face the Sox, owners of the league’s SECOND-best ERA!

The Royals enjoyed a fairly nice start and they are beginning to put down some legitimate pieces in the future’s foundation, but the 2008 season will likely be another cellar-dwelling one that might not result in many more wins than their 69 from a season ago. Finally, I realize it goes without saying, but I will just to cover my bases: start any and all starting pitchers against them for your fantasy team. I don’t care if you have Jarrod Washburn and Boof Bonser on your roster and you’re thinking about cutting them for some middle relievers. If they play KC the week you’re thinking of making the move, WAIT!

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