Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas (8) Salvador Perez (13) Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
One measly week into a six-month season, and there are plenty of trends to be concerned with for the Kansas City Royals.
Even with his new found “fitness,” the thin ice that Mike Moustakas was walking on after a pitiful 2013, is beginning to crack. Sure, we’re only a week in to a new season, but it was week where Moustakas was hitless and was never close to a hit.
And yes, he’s seen more pitches per at bat in his four games so far this season than last, but what difference does that make when he can’t put a good swing on the ball?
The left side of the infield was without a hit until Alcides Escobar‘s 8th inning single Sunday against the White Sox. With Escobar, it’s somewhat expected. He was the game’s worst hitter in 2013. With Moustakas, as dumb as it sounds, we held out hope that his new batting stance and the slimmed down body would change things.
A week in, and his slash line reads .000/.154/.154.
It’s still too early to abandon ship with Moustakas. Yet, its a boat that is taking on water at a rapid pace. Patience is wearing thin, not only with the fans but with the front office as well.
The off-season trade for Danny Valencia, however innocent as Dayton Moore and Ned Yost want to make it sound, was done with a purpose. It was a challenge that Moose appeared to accept and prospered with in spring training.
The Royals won Saturday’s because Robin Ventura inexplicably decided to pitch to Salvador Perez with the go-ahead run on second, rather than issuing the intentional walk and facing Moustakas. Perez’s start to the year is all the more impressive when you realize what Moustakas has done to protect him in the order.
Moustakas was drafted to hit for power, and he’s had moderate success albeit briefly, during his career, hitting the ball over the wall, with 20 home runs in 2012. And he hasn’t been much better defensively in four games this year, already committing two costly errors.
While the bigger issue is that the Royals are the last team in the majors without a home run, Moustakas has yet to even hit a ball hard. It’s not like he’s had bad luck, he’s just been bad. He’s a big part of the reason the Royals have scored the fewest runs in the American League, with only 16 runs scored in five games.
With Valencia ripping a meaningless single in the ninth inning Sunday, against a right handed pitcher no less, the leash has to be getting shorter on Moustakas. It’s too soon to move to a total platoon situation, but Ned Yost shouldn’t wait long.
Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Wade Davis (17) Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Perhaps the more concerning trend is what has happened in the bullpen.
Naively, we all just assumed the bullpen would repeat the dominance we witnessed in 2013. Five games in, and the loss of Luke Hochevar is much more painful than any of us could have imagined. The Wade Davis as the setup man experiment needs to be a short one. Tim Collins has an ERA of 36.00, and Francisley Bueno just isn’t very good.
The first move that needs to be made is giving Kelvin Herrera a shot at the setup role. I can’t be the only one that gets a sinking feeling when Davis trots in from the bullpen with a lead in the 8th inning. His body language just doesn’t gleam with confidence. Herrera was awful to start 2013. Truly terrible. He couldn’t keep the ball in the park. In his first 19 appearances last year, he gave up eight home runs.
He then made a couple of trips back and forth to Omaha, and it seemed to help. Yet he’s never seemed to regain the trust of Yost. The time is now because when Herrera is good, he is unhittable.
In his last 44 appearances, dating back to May 22, 2013, he’s thrown 40.1 innings, with a 54/14 strikeout to walk ratio and he’s only allowed one home run. He’s throwing his curveball in higher leverage situations, getting Adam Eaton to strikeout on a nasty one Sunday.
The 2-3 record isn’t terrible, but the start could be better. The starting rotation, one time through, has been outstanding. Better than we expected. But the two black holes in the lineup at third base and shortstop, and the early bullpen issues have held the Royals back in week one. The bullpen issue might be shored up when Coleman returns but offensively, they need to find some pop.
This team is far from perfect, but it’s also not as bad as its looked offensively in the first week. I know Yost likes to protect his players, but he also needs to look at the big picture. If it makes the team better, Moustakas needs to sit against lefites.
If Davis continues to limp through eighth inning appearances, Herrera needs to get a shot. It’s early, but these games count just as much as the games in August and September. It’s time to win now.