We’ve all been there, flying along at 30,000 feet, sipping on a drink, headphones on, doing your best to ignore all of your fellow passengers and then there’s bump. Then maybe another one, little bigger than before. A little clear air turbulence: no big deal. The seat belt sign flashes on. If you’ve flown at all, you probably only marginally notice. No big deal.
Sometimes, however, it gets to be a bit more than that. Real bumps and a bunch of them. Maybe even enough to spill your drink. Even for those of us who have flown a ton, there comes a point where if it goes on long enough you start wondering if this is really just routine rough air or has the tail ripped off and you are about to plunge to earth in a sub-optimal fashion.
You know the feeling, kind of like how you feel about the Kansas City Royals right now.
Not long ago, the Royals left Boston seven games over .500, just two games behind division leading Cleveland and holding a two and one-half game lead for the second wild card spot. It’s all gone now, kids. Losers of 9 of 11, Kansas City is four games back in the Central, a game out of the wild-card with three teams in between them a post-season berth and they have six more games on the road before returning home to face, gulp, Cleveland and Colorado.
This team has allowed six or more runs in 7 of its last eleven games. It has scored three runs or less three runs six times and managed to lose three of the five games in which it scored five runs or more. The Royals’ are playing without their starting catcher and benched (however temporarily) their highest paid player. In six of the last eleven games, their starting pitcher has not recorded an out in the sixth inning. Trevor Cahill, Brandon Maurer and Ryan Buchter, acquired to bolster the pitching staff, have combined to allow 20 runs in 24 innings. Melky Cabrera has hit .326/.362/.581 since becoming a Royal and it just doesn’t seem to matter.
You want something to really keep you up at night? Over the last eleven games, the Kansas City bullpen has made 36 appearances. They have allowed a run in TWENTY (20) of those appearances. Sure, we all knew the glory days of HDH were gone long ago, but did anyone expect the bullpen to revert to the days of Sisco and Burgos? Mike Minor has allowed a run in five of his last six outings. Runs have scored in three straight Peter Moylan outings and in three of Joakim Soria’s last five appearances. Scott Alexander has allowed runs in his last five games. Hey, you can bring me all the advanced numbers and discussions of bad luck and weak exit velocities you want, but don’t tell me you don’t fidget in your seat a bit when the bullpen gate opens these days.
Having watched the last couple of weeks (as much as my constitution will tolerate anyway), I find myself wondering what the way out of this mess might be and struggle to find an answer. One can pray for a quick recovery by Salvador Perez and look for Danny Duffy to have a dominant ‘get-on-my-back’ outing. Alex Gordon had a hit and a walk last night, you want to dream that is the start of a his return to his old (i.e. young) self? Hey, go ahead, more power to you.
A sweep at the hands of Baltimore on the back end of a nine game road trip – those things happen to everyone, but nine out of eleven is more than just a little turbulence. Particularly when you look at the roster and the options and have a hard time coming up with anything new. More Bonifacio and less Gordon or Moss? Maybe. Another Jake Junis start? Sure, do it. Want to believe the bullpen is better than it showed (I sure as hell do, I want to believe!), you can make a case that is true. How confident are you about all that?
Are you sure an engine didn’t just fall off?