Friday, June 24, 2011

The KC Derailment: 2009 and 2011 editions

For Royals fans, this is not 2009. No, that was a debacle of historical proportions with an old, dull, uninspired lineup, broken up only every five days with a ray of sunshine in the form of a Zack Greinke start. This year, the team has plenty of bright spots, with the first wave of talented young players already in the majors (Crow! Hosmer! Moustakas!) They might not pan out, in fact their each dealing with some form of the normal rookie struggles, but their mere potential makes this a far more enjoyable team to watch than the 2009 version that slogged to 97 losses.

All that being said, it's beginning to look a lot like 2009 in terms of wins and losses. In 2009, the Royals started 18-11, were in first place, and looked like a competitive team. Then, they simply went into one of the great prolonged slumps a big league baseball team has ever had. They got bad in a hurry, losing 22 of 28 games between May 8 and June 9.

From May 8 through August 5, 78 games, the Royals went 23-55 (.295). To put it another way, they played at the rate of a 48-114 team for almost half of an entire season.

From May 8 through September 6, 107 games, the Royals went 33-74 (.308). To put it another way, they played at the rate of a 50-112 team for right about two-thirds of a season.

And remember, that was with the Cy Young-winning pitcher starting for them every fifth game. Astounding. They lost 10 straight in July. They were pretty much awful at every aspect of the game, prompting Joe Posnanski, an authority on bad Royals teams, to call the 2009 edition the worst Royals team he'd ever seen.

Naturally, and keeping with the bitterly disappointing nature of that season, the Royals somehow heated up in September, playing their way "up" to the fourth pick in a draft that pretty much everyone said had three players that were clearly the best.

Now, this year. The Royals started 10-4, prompting me to go on and on about how they were more competitive. Nope, still not yet. Maybe they do certain things better, but they still have the worst record in the AL (second-worst overall). They have gone 21-41 (.339) since then, well worst than a 100-loss pace for this ample chunk of the season (38 percent).

Also, after an inspiring series win in New York in May, the Royals have outdone themselves, going 11-28 (.282). That batting-average win percentage, accumulated over about a fourth of a season, would be a 46-116 record if played for an entire season.

(Royals fans scramble off in search of football preview magazines.)

Even as the Royals hot offensive starts pretty much all cool off, the issue is pitching, and it points to a large, more relevant, more frightening problem: the organization's best pitching prospects are struggling, almost across the board.

Now hopefully they'll get on track (the league that the Royals' AA team plays in is offense-heavy), but it's clear the above losing trends will continue without some starting pitching. Good starters turn things around. They bust losing streaks. This Royals pitching staff has no streak-busters. Maybe Danny Duffy will be one some day, but today is certainly not that day.

So, I'll of course focus on the rookies and prospects as I watch, actually real prospects with real potential this go around. But after KC kicked away a game Friday night that the Cubs were earnestly trying to kick away on the basepaths, I'll put no limits on how many games this team will lose. Friday's loss was the team's sixth in a row, and they have way more road games left than home games. For now, never say the Royals won't lose 100 games until they pick up win No. 63.

No comments:

Post a Comment