Were Those Four Kansas City Royals Wins Just Another Cruel Tease?

Josh DugganCorrespondent IJune 17, 2009

KANSAS CITY - JUNE 12: Starting pitcher Luke Hochevar #44 of the Kansas City Royals pitches during the game against the Cincinnati Reds on June 12, 2009 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

With the Royals having bludgeoned my hope nearly to death with that abysmal 6 - 23 stretch (or whatever it was—the prospect of actually looking that up is simply too depressing), it was becoming hard to motivate myself to write about the Royals.

Over that span of games, the Royals played embarrassingly bad on seemingly every front. Defensively, the Royals were throwing the ball all over the field, allowing runners to advance on ill-advised throws that were variously deemed errors or otherwise. The offense scuffled to put anything together. The bullpen imploded early and often.

Of course, there was management. Luis Hernandez pinch-hit for Tony Peña, Jr. despite the fact that Mark Teahen and Mike Jacobs sat on the bench at his avail. And TPJ had managed to get a hit earlier in that ballgame.

The rationale for this seems to be that Trey Hillman will only replace someone in the lineup with another batter that can instantly take up that position out of fear that a multipositional player cannot handle switching spots on the field mid-game.

Regardless, with a chance to start a rally, Trey turned, looked down his bench, sized up the situation, and let Luis Hernandez lead off the ninth in a tie game.

On multiple occasions, John Bale has proven that despite his apparent ability to pitch, his defense is atrocious. Since he often comes in during high-leverage situations to face lefties, this is worrisome as many of the balls put in play while he is in the game come to the right side of the infield meaning he finds himself in the middle of these plays.

Then interleague started and the Royals got to win a few games. Morale was on the rise. Everything was coming up Milhouse—er, Royals.

Gil Meche has caught what Zack Greinke had in April and May.

Luke Hochevar threw a shocking 80 pitch complete game.

The Royals draft went very well, netting Aaron Crow, Wil Myers, and Chris Dwyer with their first, third and fourth round picks. Crow was not expected to slip to the Royals, Myers was almost universally regarded a first-round talent, and Dwyer is a player teams shied away from for signability concerns.

Respectively, they were the seventh, 31st, and 55th ranked players on the Baseball America list of Top 100 draft prospects for the '09 draft. I am by no means a prospecting guru (gold or otherwise), but it seems to me that on the surface these three picks are outstanding.

Zack Greinke was coming in to extend the winning streak to five games tonight.

The sun was shining down on Kansas City.

Then the Royals' defense got in the way.

Jose Guillen (a card-carrying member of The Extremely Limited Range Club) just barely failed to get to a fly ball in right, allowing Chris Young to advance from first to third on the Miguel Montero double. Young scored on a sacrifice fly on the ensuing at-bat, which would have been the third out of the inning were a fleet-footed man playing in right.

In the three-run fourth, Jose Guillen decided to hurl it towards home while off-balance, missing the plate by at least 15 feet. On the next play, down 2 -1 at this point, Miguel Olivo was unable to corral a Mark Teahen throw to the plate, and both Chris Young and Miguel Montero scored on the fielding error.

With suitable defense, one of those four runs score.

Sure, the Royals offense was MIA once a runner got aboard tonight, but the fact remains that this defense does nothing but dig holes for an offensively challenged ballclub to try to claw out of.

Further exacerbating things is the fact that this suspect defense is costing the starting pitchers outs. How many times in the past weeks has Alberto Callaspo failed to turn the double play because he was unable to get the ball out of his glove? How many singles turn into doubles and triples when they're hit into right?

With seemingly everyone in the bullpen deadset on implosion, the starting pitchers need to go as long as possible. Giving the opponents extra bases, outs, etc., how can one reasonably expect that to happen?

On a side note: Luis Hernandez pinch-hit again tonight.

On an unrelated good news note(s): John Sickels seems to be pretty impressed with Jordan Parraz, the player netted in the Tyler Lumsden dump. Sickels also seemed fairly impressed by the Royals draft. As there may not be a writer out there I trust more on the prospects front, it is nice to see Sickels giving Piccolo & Co. props.