With the first week of the 2010 season in the books, the Kansas City Royals find themselves in a familiar position...last place.
New additions Rick Ankiel and Scott Podsednik have been the team's most effective offensive players.
After an 0-for-7 beginning to his career as a Royal, Ankiel went nine for his next 16 with a homer, three doubles, five RBI, and his first career four-hit game. Perhaps most importantly, two of his three doubles drove in the game-winning runs in each of the Royals' two victories.
Meanwhile, many wondered if Podsednik could repeat his offensive output from last year, but he is hitting .364 and leads the team in steals with four.
The starting pitching
Perhaps the most disturbing statistic from the first week is the fact that none of the Royals' starters, despite pitching well in five of the team's six games, was able to post a win.
Royals ace Zack Greinke failed to notch a victory in either of his two starts, posting an 0-1 record in two quality starts with a 3.55 ERA and nine Ks in 12.2 innings.
Undoubtedly the most impressive outing of the week was by former first-round pick Luke Hochevar, who threw 7.2 scoreless innings in the team's 3-2 victory over the Tigers. Hochevar consistently kept Tigers hitters off balance, and despite striking out just two, he induced 16 of the 27 batters he faced to ground out.
After a 2009 in which he was plagued by injuries, Meche entered Sunday's game hoping to complement a series of starts by Royals pitchers that fans hadn't seen for quite some time.
Royals starters through Saturday posted a 2.51 ERA and had averaged more than six innings per start. After Meche's start on Sunday, the ERA for the starters jumped to 4.04, and Meche was only able to make it through 3.1 innings.
Trey Hillman's questionable coaching decisions
Beginning with his call to have Podsednik sacrifice in the team's second at-bat of the season, Hillman has already made a few moves that have left fans scratching their heads, including his handling of his bullpen.
Beginning with Opening Day's debacle in which Roman Colon and Robinson Tejeda combined to ruin Greinke's stellar debut, the bullpen has been horrendous.
While GM Dayton Moore's offseason acquisitions of Ankiel, Podsednik, Jason Kendall, and Chris Getz appear to be paying off, his last move before the season to add reliever Luis Mendoza is likely the worst trade he's ever made.
While I'm not sure what the Royals gave the Rangers for Mendoza, anything more than a bag of used batting practice balls is too much. In 2.1 innings this season, Mendoza has an ERA of 30.86 and has given up a team-high three home runs.
Tejeda, who finished 2009 with six solid starts for the Royals, has struggled with his control and appears to need another trip to Omaha before he can prove an effective reliever for the Royals.
The team's most effective reliever has been journeyman left-hander John Parrish, who didn't even pitch in 2009. The 32-year-old has yet to allow a hit or issue a walk in 1.1 innings.
Hillman needs to figure out what he's going to do with his bullpen. Whether he simply works to better define the roles of his current group of relievers or chooses to dump guys like Colon and Mendoza in favor of providing youngsters like Aaron Crow with some major league seasoning, Hillman needs to do something.
The other question: "How much longer will Hillman opt for the light-hitting Yuniesky Betancourt over 2008 Royals Player of the Year Mike Aviles at shortstop?"
Aviles proved in the spring that he's regained the stroke that produced his .325 average in 2008, but Betancourt has started all six games so far this season and is hitting just .150 in his first 20 at-bats.