Life is good for the Royals at the moment. Five wins in their first seven games. First place in the Central. Joakim Soria survived the eighth inning on Tuesday. Yes, things are going well.
Here are three things that have caught my attention as the Royals are continuing on their first road trip of the year. Your mileage may vary.
— The Royals are hitting .176/.250/.235 with runners in scoring position. Ouch. That’s the second-worst rate in the league, ahead of only the Minnesota Twins. Yet the Royals are 5-2. The Twins are 0-7. What gives?
To start, in the small sample size of a week-plus, the numbers with runners in scoring position are down across the league. Last year, batters hit .260/.338/.415 with runners in scoring position. This year, the league is hitting .232/.294/.382. Again, we’re talking a sample of a week of games against a full slate of 162. The numbers from a single week aren’t going to jive with a full year of data. It’s early to panic over the Royals depressed offense to begin with, but in perspective of the stats being down overall it makes even less sense to fret.
It’s simply that the Royals are Royaling to get their wins. They are stringing together just enough hits to push just enough runs across the plate. Take Tuesday for example. Back to back singles to open the game followed by a cheap Minute Maid home run. Then…27 outs. And it was still enough to win. They’ve played seven games and four of them have been decided by one run.
Which brings us to other factor that has helped the Royals along the first week of the season: The pitching. The starters have been lights out for the most part in the young season. The bullpen has been the bullpen. The relief corps has surrendered just seven earned runs in 25 innings of work. That’s a 2.52 ERA. Meanwhile, the starters are checking in with a 3.32 ERA.
Aren’t small sample sizes all kinds of fun?
— Omar Infante had another hit on Tuesday, but is hitting just .286/.273/.381 through his first six games. On Sunday, Rustin Dodd noted the Royals would seek to give Infante regular rest this season. Rafael Belliard, who was a coach with the Tigers during Infante’s most recent spell with the team, spoke to Ned Yost and relayed Detroit purposefully kept the second baseman rested. Rest for an aging – and injury prone – player isn’t something that should need to be suggested. It just seems like common sense.
Let’s be honest here. Rest probably wouldn’t have salvaged the offensive disasters that have been Infante’s two seasons with the Royals. Sure, it may have helped some. Some. But injuries and age have conspired to keep his offense below league average. At this point, it’s far from a certainty a rested Infante equals a productive Infante.
Did you see the throw Infante made on a double play pivot on Tuesday? I watched the play like it was the Zapruder film, convinced there was something wrong with his lead foot to where he got absolutely nothing on the throw. It wasn’t there. It was basically a throw like Johnny Damon would’ve made. You know, a twelve-hopper to the cutoff man. From Infante, this was one of those throws where he tried to get everything he could behind it…and there wasn’t anything there.
The bet here is that Infante is on borrowed time. At some point, he’s going to break down. Again. Until then, you just hope he doesn’t cost the Royals a game or two.
— Jarrod Dyson has played three games in Triple-A on a rehab assignment and has collected a couple of walks and a pair of steals. He looks like he playing at full speed and full health. This is good news. The purpose of his time in Omaha at this point feels like getting some of the reps he missed in spring training.
With Dyson set to return in about a week, the latest roster question is who will the Royals send out once Dyson rejoins the team? The smart money would seem to be on Terrance Gore. Of course, Gore seemingly single-handedly won the game on Sunday, disrupting the flow enough to draw an errant pickoff throw before scampering home with the deciding run on a wild pitch. He’s the current darling of the team. The guy with one tool who can change the game.
It’s always difficult to predict how the Royals will move, but keeping Dyson and Gore on the roster is a bit like having a Porche and Ferrari in your garage. One is enough. Two is overcompensation.
On 29 major league teams, Gore on the roster makes zero sense. With Yost in charge, it’s understandable. If Yost really needs to pinch run and Dyson is already in the game, why not Reymond Fuentes? He swiped 37 bags last year in the minors. No, he doesn’t have the “game changing” speed of Gore, but he has enough he can get to second and then score on a single.
But Fuentes, like Dyson, is a left-handed bat. The platoon would still be the planned pairing of Dyson with Paulo Orlando, leaving Fuentes scraping for time. While it makes sense to use Gore solely as a pinch runner, to utilize Fuentes in a similar manner isn’t wise. If he’s not getting some reps in the majors, he should be dropped to Triple-A, so he can stay sharp.
It will be interesting to see the direction the Royals go with this.