No team is ever as good as they look when they’re in the middle of a long winning streak and no team is ever as bad as they look when they’re in the middle of a long losing streak. Okay, maybe that’s not true. The Dodgers might be every bit as good as they look during their season-long winning streak, but it’s true for most. The Royals are no exception. But, man, to follow up that nine-game winning streak by losing 10 of 13? That’s some bad news. The cushion they provided themselves and the sky high hope they had are both now gone. The good news is that there’s both time and not a lot of distance to make up. It could be far worse.
- The Royals were committed to giving Alex Gordon some time on the bench to “reboot” as Ned Yost puts it. Of course, he started Thursday, so it’s hard to say they’re actually committed to it, but let’s pretend like it was just that they wanted to get him in there against a guy he’d had success against in the past. I’ll say this first: It’s 100 percent the right move. I’ll say this second: It blows. I know there are plenty who have never been a fan of Gordon, a stance I will never understand, but it’s out there. But for me, I’ve always loved Gordon and was thrilled when they gave him the largest contract in team history. Now, it looks like a disaster. The question is what they can do next. The answer nobody wants to hear is that they can hope that this season can be put behind him and he can be a productive player again in 2018 and 2019 because he’s not going anywhere, not right now anyway. Is there a way they can help him to get back to being a productive hitter? I can’t give you an answer for certain, but my method would be to find someone to work with him this winter. We know he’s a hard worker and will put in the time. Spend whatever it takes on that person who can bring out the productive Alex Gordon, even if it’s just a portion of what he once was. The defense is still outstanding, so if he can get to being a .240/.330/.390 hitter, he still probably gives you some No, it’s not what the contract pays him, but he’d at least be a valuable piece of the team. But yeah, it’s mostly just the closing your eyes and hoping, which is a miserable position to be in.
- I don’t know how much longer Salvador Perez is going to be out, and I don’t think the Royals really know either, even if they are trying to speculate a return date. They at least need to be looking around the league for an upgrade from Drew Butera/Cam Gallagher in case this either lasts longer, or recurs and he has to sit down again after he returns. The timing of this all is such a mess because if he went on the disabled list a week earlier, they could have easily acquired Jonathan Lucroy from the Rangers, who went for a PTBNL from the Rockies (and admittedly hasn’t been much to write home about anyway). But it was after the trade deadline, so now it’s time to hit the waiver wire. It’s hard to speculate who has cleared, who got claimed and pulled back and all that, but I would say guys to look at would be Kurt Suzuki, Nick Hundley, AJ Ellis or maybe Cameron Rupp. You’re not going to find any great names on this list, but all have their positive attributes that I think can exceed those of what the Royals currently have on their roster. It’s not the easiest thing for a deal to come together after August starts, but it’s also more than possible.
- When the Royals made their trade with the Padres, I really liked it because I thought Trevor Cahill would be a solid starter in the middle of the rotation while Ryan Buchter would provide a really good left-handed arm to pair with Scott Alexander and Mike Minor. I also liked acquiring the potential of Brandon Maurer and wondered if there might be a mechanical adjustment that could be made to help him actually pitch as well as it looks like he should. So far, my thoughts on the trade aren’t holding up very well. Cahill hasn’t looked comfortable yet and is sporting an 8.18 ERA in three starts, spanning just 11 innings. He’s also walked three more than he’s struck out. Basically he’s been early season Travis Wood, which the Royals already had. And now he’s hurt and on the disabled list, so that’s just great. Buchter has looked okay enough at times, so I’m willing to chalk his issues up to small sample, but Maurer looks absolutely out of control. His fastball appears to be straight as an arrow and he is making every right-handed hitter look like a better version of Mike Trout. It’s bad. I have no suggestion. Maybe he could try throwing his changeup to right-handed batters? They’re hitting .857 with a 1.714 SLG on his fastball as a Royal, and no, that’s not a typo, though the sample is small. He hasn’t gotten a single swing and miss on a fastball from a righty out of 40 thrown with the Royals and only has 13 out of 221 this whole season. Lefties are struggling to make good contact on his fastball, and maybe it’s because the changeup gives them enough reason to worry. I honestly don’t know, but anything is worth a try at this point. I guess the good thing is that we won’t hear many cries for Maurer to take over the eighth inning from Joakim Soria.
- Obviously the recent struggles have made things much more difficult for the Royals. Not only have they lost a ton of games lately, but that’s allowed other teams to get into what looked like it might only be a two or three team race for that final playoff spot. But like I said at the top, there is still good news to be had. With 48 games still remaining, including more than 20 percent of them against the Indians, the Royals have a chance to make up ground. One thing about this team is that we know they are capable of going on a run. A few weeks ago, they were down in the bottom of the ninth after blowing a lead and on their way to their eighth loss in nine games when they made a crazy comeback to win that game and then the next eight after that. Of course, then they started this stretch. Basically, they’re going to need to find a way to pull their collective heads out of their you-know-whats and get going. They head to Chicago and Oakland to face two teams that have thrown in the towel on this season. If they don’t go at least 3-3, I’ll personally throw in the towel on the Royals. Even if they go 3-3, I’m going to be skeptical, but at least they’ll be treading water before starting a tough stretch.