The Royals are on the verge of averaging four runs per game for the season. If you round up, they are averaging four per game. After that brutal April, I knew there was obviously a chance they’d turn things around and be able to score some runs, but I didn’t think they’d be approaching that threshold this quickly considering how bad they were when they averaged just 2.7 R/G through April. Those games weren’t very much fun to watch. It’s much better now knowing that when the Royals give up one run, the game isn’t over. This team still has flaws, but I definitely don’t dread sitting through a game anymore. This is definitely preferable.
- Prior to the season, I was adamant that I believed Matt Strahm was a starter long term but I wasn’t sure he was quite ready for that this season. Maybe he could be stretched out later, but I was good with him in the bullpen to start the season. You all know how that went for him early in the season, getting demoted to Omaha because of his brutal first few appearances. Well, he came back to the big leagues and he’d been pretty good, but with some control issues. With that in mind, I wasn’t sure what to expect when he made his first major league start Thursday because I was worried he’d walk the yard. He definitely did not. He went five innings and gave up just one unearned run that was unearned because of an error by Alex Gordon. No, that’s not a typo. Alex Gordon actually made an error. Strahm held his velocity the whole outing and he seemed to be getting better as the game went on. This was one of those games that if it wasn’t his first start, you’d be looking at him going seven or eight to save the bullpen. We see guys all the time have a great first start and then falter, so there’s some cautious optimism to be used here, but Strahm is also a guy who has had plenty of big league success early in his career, so it’s a little different. His next start will be against the Red Sox, so the test is a little greater than the Angels, but it’s hard to be anything but very positive about his first start.
- I know Clint Scoles is the guy to talk about the draft around these parts, but I noticed something interesting from what the Royals did this week. Out of the 40 players they selected, 24 of them were from four-year colleges and five more were from junior colleges (if you like math, that’s 11 high school players). The average age of the Royals draft picks was a little older than 20 years old. Why is that significant? To me, it goes back to what I talked about a couple weeks ago when I discussed a reload vs. a rebuild for this team beyond 2017. I mentioned then that the payroll constraints on the 2018 Royals were probably a little too great to undertake a true rebuild. Maybe I’m reading too much into this draft, but I think it signifies something as well. Having a fair amount of players who have already had a good chunk of their development handled elsewhere means they can both start higher up in the farm system and can theoretically move quicker. That, of course, isn’t always the case, but it’s way more often the case for college guys than high schoolers. Sure, the top two picks might take some time, but the Royals added plenty of organizational depth that might be able to contribute a little sooner than we’d typically expect from draft picks.
- How about the power display from Lorenzo Cain lately? After another home run last night, he now has eight for the season (now fifth on the team and one more than Eric Hosmer), which is one off his total last season and is already the third most he’s hit in his career. What makes it even more impressive is that we were all wondering where exactly his power was early in the season. Through the month of April, when the whole lineup was asleep, he had just five extra base hits and a .358 slugging percentage. You might recall he was walking a ton and had a .385 OBP, so I think he got a little bit of a pass because he was one of the few producing something. Since then, he has 16 extra base hits including seven of his home runs. His walk rate is back to pretty typical Cain levels, but this version of Cain, at least in the spot in the lineup he’s hitting in, is probably more valuable to the lineup. Maybe it’s no coincidence that the Royals offense has picked up now that Cain is actually driving the ball.
- Can the Royals actually make the playoffs this season? Sure, of course they can. They’re just two games out of the second Wild Card spot and they’re only four games behind the Twins for first in the AL Central. So yeah, it’s definitely possible. And if they maintain their pace since May 1, they’d finish the year with 86 wins and that might be enough. All that is great, but they have some work to do and I’m not ready to be completely in just yet. For one thing, they’re still 31-34. It’s great that they’ve been playing so much better but they’re still a sub-.500 team. The first step is getting back to .500 and then we can certainly talk. And we’ve discussed the need to take care of business on this road trip, which they’ve done so far, but that’s because things get much more difficult when they return home. They play the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Tigers, Twins, Mariners and Dodgers before the break. That’s not to say they can’t beat those teams because this team can play with anybody (and get beat by anybody), but it’s not going to be easy. With 23 games left before the break and 15 of them against teams currently .500 or better, I think getting to the break at 44-44 would give them a shot to make some noise down the stretch.