We are now less than a week from the Kansas City Royals opening up their championship defense. I know we all love baseball and will watch the season unfold, but there’s no need. I’ve taken a look into my crystal ball to determine what will happen during the 2016 season. I won’t give you the full results, but I think you’re going to be pretty pleased with how the year turns out. As always, on the off chance this turns out to be horribly inaccurate, just remember that I was hacked.
What a weird start to the season with a game to start the year followed by an off day followed by game two followed by two off days. But that’s okay because the Royals really took advantage by getting at least three appearances from Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera and Joakim Soria in the first five days. After sweeping the Mets and taking two of three from the Twins, the Royals traveled to Houston for a four-game set that we all knew would be tough. They split the series, and got five combined home runs from Eric Hosmer and Kendrys Morales. They did end up taking two of three from the A’s to end the road trip.
April ended on a pretty workmanlike note by splitting six game against the Tigers and Orioles. Worth noting in this set of games was a complete game gem thrown by Ian Kennedy that would the first of seven straight starts in which he went at least seven innings. The Royals then hit the road to take two of three from the Angels in Anaheim and split the final two games of April in Seattle. Big months from Hosmer, Morales, Kennedy and Yordano Ventura helped the Royals go 14-9 in the season’s first month.
While they won the World Series last year, ghosts of May past still haunt the Royals, so there’s always a little trepidation heading into the second month of the season. The Royals dropped the finale against the Mariners before rebounding to take two of three from the Nationals. Then the haunting looked like it might be starting as the Royals went 2-5 against the Indians and Yankees on a road trip to fall to 18-16 and third place in the division. Alex Gordon did enjoy his time in New York at least, hitting three homers, but the pitching staff got lit up all road trip.
They bounced back quickly, though, winning five of six on a homestand against the Braves and Red Sox. The Braves series was highlighted with no-hit bids from both Edinson Volquez and Ventura. Volquez’s ended in the sixth while Ventura’s stretched all the way into the eighth inning. The next road trip to Chicago and Minnesota brought a split of six games before the Royals ended the month by taking three of four from the White Sox and splitting the first two games of the series against the Rays.
The Royals dropped the series finale against the Rays before leaving town for their longest road trip of the year, 10 games. They handled their business, splitting four games with the Indians and taking two of three in their series against the Orioles and the White Sox. The Royals 36-27 record boosted them into first place. They’d lose the division lead again, but don’t worry. They went 4-3 on a homestand against the Indians and Tigers. Nothing in particular happened other than Omar Infante officially lost his job. The Royals ate the contract and released him, which started the Christian Colon era at second base for the team. Whit Merrifield was called up to take Infante’s place.
The Royals split the back half of their home-and-home with the Mets before returning home for a quick five-game stretch at home against the Astros and Cardinals. They dropped two of three from the Astros, but won both games from the Cardinals. During this stretch, the Indians reclaimed first place for a few days. The Royals finished the month by winning one and losing one in St. Louis.
After leaving St. Louis, they headed to Philadelphia and took care of business by sweeping them. The pitching staff got roughed up a little bit, but scoring 29 runs in three games will cover up a lot of issues. Mike Moustakas finally worked his way out of a slow start by going 8 for 13 in the series with two homers and two doubles to bump his numbers to .268/.331/.437. They did lose two of three in Toronto, but they also won when it mattered. The Royals finished the first half by winning three of four against the Mariners in a series that vaulted them into first place to stay. They went into the break at 52-37 with a two-game lead in the division.
At the break, the Royals made a couple moves. First, they released Dillon Gee, who had struggled mightily and moved Chris Young to the bullpen. To replace Young in the rotation, they called up Kyle Zimmer to make his big league debut and become the next big piece of the Royals rotation.
You’re probably wondering how the All-Star game turned out for the Royals this year. The answer is that it was pretty similar to last year. Royals fans voted in five players – Salvador Perez, Hosmer, Alcides Escobar, Gordon and Lorenzo Cain – and had three more players as reserves – Davis, Ventura and Morales. Oh and they couldn’t just stop at eight. Edinson Volquez won the final vote.
After the break, the Royals were a little sluggish, dropping two of three to the Tigers before going 5-4 on their longest homestand of the season against the Indians, Rangers and Angels. Hosmer did come out of the break on fire, hitting seven doubles in the first 12 games. They wrapped up the month by splitting four games in Texas.
On the trade front, the Royals were rumored to be in on a lot of moves, but only made one. They reacquired Jeff Francoeur to work as a right-handed bat off the bench and platoon partner for Jarrod Dyson. One of the biggest rumors was a deal to bring back James Shields that just never reached fruition.
This month proved to be the toughest of the season. They just couldn’t get anything going, but what helped make them so great is that they didn’t deal with any long losing spells either. They split four games to start the month and then split six games on the first homestand and the next road trip. After splitting four games with the Twins, they lost four of six against the Marlins and the Red Sox to fall to 12-14 for the month. They did take two of three against the Yankees to salvage the month at 14-15, but the Indians were hanging close.
Last season, the Royals struggled a bit in September, but they weren’t running away from the division in 2016 and they kept their foot on the gas. They won two of three from Detroit to start the month in a series that was mostly not noteworthy. I say mostly because Christian Colon suffered a season-ending ankle injury that led to the Royals calling up Raul Mondesi to play second base. He hit .282/.321/.397 the rest of the way to show he belonged, so that’s definitely a big plus from the season.
They went on the road and took two of three from both the Twins and the White Sox before returning home to win three of four from the A’s and two of three from the White Sox. In the final game against the White Sox, both Morales and Hosmer broke the 20-home run barrier. In their final road trip of the season, the Royals dropped two of three from the Indians and then two of three from the Tigers. That gave the Indians hope that they could mount a comeback in the final week, but the Royals weren’t having any of that. They took two of three from the Twins and Indians both and sealed the division with a 91-71 record.
Even the guy who broke out his crystal ball for the entire 2016 season isn’t foolish enough to know what happened during the playoffs. But I will tell you this: If and when the Royals make the playoffs, I would like to meet the person who bets against these Royals.
Noteworthy Player Stats
Eric Hosmer: .314/.378/.505, 23 HR, 107 RBI, .312 TAv
Alex Gordon: .292/.381/.480, 22 HR, 81 RBI, .294 TAv
Lorenzo Cain: .312/.365/.489, .311 TAv
Yordano Ventura: 17-7, 2.92 ERA, 219 IP, 214 K, 81 BB
Edinson Volquez: 13-10, 3.73 ERA, 193 IP, 144 K, 68 BB
Wade Davis: 4-0, 1.14 ERA, 71 IP, 96 K, 21 BB, 47 SV
Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer both finished in the top six of AL MVP voting while Yordano Ventura finished fifth for the Cy Young. Wade Davis also finished eighth in a down season (I mean come on, nine earned runs?).
All in all, another very successful season for the Royals that ends with them in the postseason. I think most people in Kansas City are starting to get used to baseball in October, but I don’t think anyone is tired of it. The good news is that 2016 isn’t the year we’ll find out if Royals fans have had enough.