Kansas City Royals a Surprise In First Place, but Still Some Concerns

Justin HackneyContributor IApril 15, 2009

CHICAGO - APRIL 09:  John Buck #14 of the Kansas City Roayls bats against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on April 9, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois.The Royals won 2-1.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Looking back over the past 20 years of Royals history, good season starts are few and far between.  So with a 5-3 record after the first week and a half, I, as a Royals fan, should be very happy.  Well, I am happy with the record and the many surprises, but there are also several things that are worrying me so far. 

First I'll talk about the pleasant surprises.  The bullpen, which I was worried about entering the season, has been lights out.  Other than a blown save by Kyle Farnsworth on Opening Day, the Royals bullpen has only given up three runs in sevengames.  Robinson Tejada, Juan Cruz, and Farnsworth have been throwing straight smoke and Joakim Soria has had nasty stuff that has led to three saves. 

Another surprise has been the dominance by the top three starters: Gil Meche, Zack Greinke, and Kyle Davies.  I knew the top three would be good, but so far they have been great.  Through six starts they have only given up eight runs and have compiled a 3-0 record. 

Greinke has been the most dominant as evident by his 2-0 record with a spotless 0.00 ERA in 11 innings.  I think the top three of the Royals rotation will be the teams constant the entire season. 

John Buck's torrid hitting has been another surprise.  He is continuing where he left off in spring training where he hit over .400 in Arizona.  So far he leads the club in homers, average, and RBI, and is really the only one hitting so far. 

Another surprise has been the stellar defense.  The Royals have been making highlight-reel plays every day helping keep the team in the game.  Coco Crisp and David DeJesus have been running down everything in the outfield.

Now to the concerns.  The offense, which hammered Cactus League pitching all Spring, has been almost non-existent.  If not for the dominant pitching and John Buck's hitting, the team would probably be in last place instead of first. 

The majority of Royals hitters have averages below the Mendoza line, and although it's very early in the season, this has me worried.  The new players, including Willie Bloomquist, Mike Jacobs, and Crisp have mostly struggled so far. 

Jacobs is starting to heat up and Crisp has had a few good offensive games, but Bloomquist has so far shown the offensive ability of a player who had one extra base hit all last season.  Most of the veteran Royals have been struggling mightily on offense too.  Hopefully they will get out of their funk soon and start hitting like I expect them to.

The four and five starters have me worried as well.  In their first starts, Sidney Ponson and Horacio Ramirez were nowhere near as dominant as the top three of the rotation.  Ponson gave up four runs and Ramirez gave up six runs, both in losses.  If they don't improve, I definitely think the club should recall Luke Hochevar from Omaha, who should have made the opening day roster over those two anyway.

So the Royals are in first place and although the season has just begun, I believe that if their dominant pitching continues and their hitters wake up from their comatose state, they can battle for first all season long.  I'm ready for the next six months of excitement and who knows, if they play well enough, it may become seven months. 


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