That’s a strange thing to say, coming from a Royals blog, the genesis of which came over 10 years ago during a season in which the team lost more than 100 games. But they do.
We know there are going to be wins and there are going to be losses. That’s baseball. Lately, I’ve heard it say that every team will win 50, lose 50 and the difference between the good and the bad teams is what you do in the other 62. Honestly, I think it’s closer to winning 60 and losing 60, making a slimmer margin, but you get the point.
As Uncle Hud likes to proclaim about a hot player “driving the bus,” right now the whole team is on board the Struggle Bus. It’s not fun and has resulted in some brutal baseball. As great as Tuesday’s rally against the Nationals, Wednesday bludgeoning was just as bad. They could have invoked the mercy rule. For the children.
But that’s baseball. In those 60 losses, every team is going to play like garbage and get blown out a few times. Last year, (a year the team won the World Championship I’ll remind you) the Royals had what Baseball Reference defines as a “blowout loss” 17 times. That’s losing by five or more runs. One of those losses was by 13 runs to the Yankees early in the season. Three times they lost by 11, just like they did on Wednesday.
In the young season, the Royals have suffered six blowout losses. Aha! This can be used as proof this isn’t the same team that won the World Series! But wait a moment. Three of those losses were by the minimum standard of five runs. In two losses, the margin was six. Those blowout losses can be pinned on the offense generally scuffling to plate runs. As we’ve noted plenty of times over the last couple of weeks (mainly for our own sanity) slumps happen.
If you wander your eyes over to the sidebar on the right, you’ll notice the Royals have scored 3.38 runs per game, while allowing 3.46 R/G. That the team has a record above .500 is a minor miracle. Their 3rd Order Winning Percentage has their record at 12-14. They’re outperforming their Pythag by almost two full wins.
That’s just a statistical way of saying this team is fortunate to be in their current position, especially given the lack of production from the offense. Remember from a few paragraphs ago about the 42 or so games that are up for grabs for each team? The Royals may have stolen a couple in the early going. Just like anything in life, there are two ways to look at this. One, the Royals have been lucky to win 14, and that luck is going to run out soon. The other way to see these first 27 games is the Royals have been fortunate to win 14 of them. If they can just continue to hold on, they’ll soon get hot enough to roll off a nice stretch of wins.
I’m not here to tell you how to be a fan. But I will tell you, after all these years and all this bandwidth spent writing about this franchise, that I fall on the optimistic side. The Royals simply aren’t this bad. The offense is going to click. The bullpen is still nails. And what do you know, but defense can slump, too. They’ll come out of it. Right now, this isn’t a team that doesn’t care, or isn’t trying, or is only going through the motions. This is a team that’s having to scratch and claw for every run.
There’s no guarantee this team will play better. There’s no guarantee they will continue to struggle, or god forbid, play even worse. That’s the beauty of baseball. We just don’t know what lies ahead. That’s why we’ll watch. We’ll live a little with the wins and die a little with the losses. And at the end, we hope it’s enough to qualify for October.
In the meantime, we have almost five months of the season ahead. Too early to panic, but not too early to worry just a little bit. Can Alex Gordon hit the ball with authority? What’s wrong with Lorenzo Cain? Do they have anyone who can fill the fourth or fifth starter role in the rotation? These are just a few of the legitimate questions surrounding this team. Asking questions doesn’t mean it’s panic time. It’s simply a way of discovering what’s going on with the team and how it could get better.
This is still a good team, capable of going on a tear. I won’t say they can win 15 out of 20 (that’s gotten me into some hot water in the past), but they are certainly good enough to rip off five or six wins in a week. If something like that happens on the upcoming road trip, perspectives will spin so fast you’ll get dizzy.
Nobody said it was going to be easy. As they say on Twitter, hold on to your butts. We’re just getting started.