Kicking Them When They’re Down

Clark FoslerCorrespondent ISeptember 24, 2008

The last time I made some kind of joke reference to the battle for fourth place, the Royals sunk into a tailspin that lasted about a month.  So, I’ve refrained from bringing it up.

But now that the Royals are actually in fourth place, it’s time to mention that the Royals have recovered nicely from a disastrous August where they went 7-20 to turn it around with a 15-7 September.

Of course, it helps when you play teams who have already packed it in for the season.  Four against the Mariners followed by three against the Tigers kind of help pads the win column.  Let’s be honest.  Those two teams expected to be in a battle for the post season at this point.  But when you load your roster with overpriced veterans, things can kind of go south rather quickly.

The funny thing is, the Royals have already surpassed their last season win total and are closing in on the 75 wins I figured them for at the beginning of the season.  Their final series of the year is at Minnesota, and the Twins are playing for their lives but it’s entirely possible the Royals win two of their four remaining games.  That would put them at 74 wins and a probable fourth place finish.


If you had asked me a month ago, I would have said there was no way this team could accomplish either feat.  And now, here they are.

Which brings me to my question:  Is this really progress?

There have been times this season when the Royals have looked like the Royals of 2004 - simply awful.  And there have been times, especially lately, where they have looked like a competitive team capable of getting a win every time they step on the field.

In a few years (or even a few months) we’ll look back on this season and see more wins and a (possible) higher finish in the standings and won’t remember the competition at the end of September.  Put in perspective of recent seasons, 2008 will look like continued progress.

Wins since ’04:

2004:  58
2005:  56
2006:  62
2007:  69
2008:  72 (so far)

They’re not going to be six or seven wins better like they have been over the last couple of year, but they’re going in the right direction.

I don’t care who the wins come against.  I’ll take them.

– Zack Greinke was brilliant once again.  In September, he’s made five starts and posted a 2.18 ERA with 32 strikeouts in 33 innings.  Simply awesome.

But again, we have to keep his last two starts in perspective.  Yes, it’s impressive he’s thrown 14 scoreless innings in those starts, but they come with an asterisk because of the opposition.   I really don’t want to discount Greinke because we all know he has the ability to dominate.  It just goes to show that hitters need to bring their “A” game when facing Greinke, because if you don’t, he’s going to eat you alive.

He’s due to start the season finale in Minnesota.  If the Twins are still in contention, that could be must-see TV.

–  Three home runs always helps, even if they only account for four runs.  And three walks!  The Royals are slowly seeing their Walk to History slip away.  While it would  certainly be disappointing to see the Royals miss out on a chance to set a record (however dubious it may be) but if they’re going to improve on their win total and finish in fourth, I don’t want them to set these kind of records anyway.

They are currently at 30 games without a walk this season, the second highest total of the Retrosheet era, one game behind the ’64 Mets.

But don’t forget, the Royals don’t walk against the Twins.  In 15 games against the Twins, the Royals have failed to draw a single walk eight times.