OK, Maybe We Should Get a Little Concerned

Unknown Royals FanContributor IMay 16, 2009

KANSAS CITY, MO - MAY 14:  David DeJesus #9 of the Kansas City Royals makes a catch in foul territory during the game against the Baltimore Orioles on May 14, 2009 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

I’ve remained fairly calm as the three-game skid became a four-game streak. Even five didn’t have me out of sorts. But now, the Royals have a six-game losing streak going, and I think there are legitimate causes for concern. This is starting to look a little too much like the last few years, and division-winning teams can’t have more than one bad spell like this in a season. 

Last night’s loss combined a mediocre outing by Gil Meche with ineffective hitting and some truly Berroa-like defense. In short, our boys sucked last night. What our boys need more than anything is to score a win where everything works; i.e. pitching, defense, and hitting. A nice 5-1 or 5-2 win over Baltimore tonight would do the trick.

That said, if you’re looking for things to start worrying about, we’re over 1/5 of the way into the season and it’s pretty easy to put together a list. In no particular order:

Aviles’ Sophomore Slump- This is a huge turn. Last year’s offensive player of the year is putting up a sophomore slump not seen in Kansas City since Bob Hamelin’s career collapsed. Aviles goes into tonight’s game hitting a big .194/.221/.269. 

If the Royals had anyone pushing him at SS, there’s a chance that Aviles would be back at Omaha by now—but there really isn’t. Aviles has been a great story because he was never expected to be a major leaguer, but those expectations are a double edged sword. 

There are a growing number of people who believe that Aviles is simply now performing as the player he REALLY is—and the team is less likely to make continued investments given those expectations.

There have been rumors that Aviles is less than coachable, and if that’s true, he needs to let go of that now—Kevin Seitzer might be able to help. One way or another, Mike must turn it around, and quickly. Luis Hernandez also has low expectations, but if Aviles stays around the Mendyoza line, it’s easier to lose his playing time.

David DeJesus-  I might be overreacting here; DeJesus has always been a slow starter, and his power is at a reasonable level (a 143-point difference between BA and SLG is indicative of power, as are his three homers, one triple, and seven doubles), but coming off his best season ever last year, most had higher expectations. 

DeJesus’ walk rate is also worryingly down (eight walks in 134 PA, which roughly projects to about 35 over the course of the year, well down from his normal 40-50). DeJesus seems to be swinging much earlier in the count and much more indiscriminately, and I don’t think it’s any accident that his BA hovers around .230 right now.  If the Royals are to contend, they need the DeJesus of 2008.

Gil’s Achin’ Back- Gil Meche can claim that he’s just fine—but his short outing last night speaks otherwise. Over his Royal history, Meche has been nothing if not durable, and tiring in the 5th last night is concerning. Still wonder why the Royals hang onto Sidney Ponson?

Guillen’s legs- Sam Mellinger recently referred to Jose Guillen’s pace as “glacial” on the bases. That might be unfair to some glaciers. If you watch closely, there’s no question about Guillen’s effort in running, but the legs are just not cooperating.

Jose’s walk rate is something of a good news/bad news scenario; his .378 OBP is excellent, but that puts a very slow runner on base ahead of numerous slow runners.  My worry is less about Guillen’s speed than his longevity; how much longer do those legs have in them?

Defense- The manager in Bull Durham said, “This is a simple game. You hit the ball, you catch the ball, you throw the ball.” The Royals, for all the talk about defensive fundamentals, are struggling with catching the ball.  Mark Teahen, in particular, has seemed pretty iron-gloved lately at third. 

The good news is that this is uncharacteristic of him. The bad news is that it’s not uncharacteristic of Aviles and Callaspo, and we don’t need the entire infield stinking it up with the glove. Too, the Royals have had some “you take it—I don’t want it” episodes in the outfield reminiscent of recent years. This needs to be shored up and fast; it’s a communication issue, not a physical one.

Stealing on Slow John- Well, it seems that managers are finally catching on to the fact that John Buck is incapable of throwing out any runner who is not hit by lightning between first and second base.

As I noted recently, Buck is pacing to give up 40 more bases than he did last year, and as his futility continues, that rate may increase. Seriously, I have no idea why any manager wouldn’t green light any player faster than Guillen on first base against Buck. 

His SB-CS is now 15-1. Figure in the higher percentage of scoring potential of runners on second rather than first, and Buck is costing us runs behind the plate. If teams do get more and more aggressive in running, Trey Hillman really should reevaluate Buck’s position on the team. 

His hitting stats are now regressing to the mean (.232/.299/.478 this year against .234/.298./.401 career), and he’s now officially a defensive liability.  The good news is that we ended up keeping Brayan Pena; maybe it’s time to get him back up for a better trial.

To succeed, the Royals must get beyond this losing streak and not post another like it.  The next six-game loser will take us out of contention, perhaps for good.

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