Jeff Herr, a finalist in the 2011 Big Gig Contest on 610 Sports Radio, was born and raised in Kansas City. Following the Chiefs, Royals, and Jayhawks all his life has led him to blog about all three extensively at the-jeff-report.blogspot.com. He has also spent time covering the Royals for the blog site kingsofkauffman.com as well as serving for a period as the lead editor of throughthephog.com a blog covering the Kansas Jayhawks. When not writing about the local sports scene, he pays the bills by serving as an accountant.
Jeff Herr: Keeping up with the Royals
by Jeff Herr,posted Aug 22 2012 7:11PM
With Chiefs season inching ever closer by the second, the Royals seem to get more distant from the collective Kansas City sports consciousness. Part of this is the Royals dismal July and poor record overall, the other part is the excitement around a very intriguing Chiefs team. Yet, as the NFL slowly begins to take over the sports world there are a few things that should be keeping your attention on the diamond through the end of September.
Balboni Watch – This is quite possibly my favorite storyline of the season not involving the All-Star break, even though it does involve the ASG indirectly. The seemingly unbeatable record set by Steve Balboni in 1985 is that of home runs by a Royals player. Balboni whacked 36 dingers that year in helping the Royals to a World Series title, not realizing that that year would live on immortally beyond just the World Championship.
Of all the dubious records the Royals may have, losingest franchise over the last 10 years, 19 losses in a row, 27 years and no playoffs, the worst might be that they are the only team to NEVER have someone hit 40 homeruns in a single season. If there is a greater mark of offensive futility, I do not know thee.
As of right now after 124 games (8/22) Billy Butler has 25 homeruns on the season. At the same point, Balboni had 27. Butler has fallen to two off the pace, but the record is still in play. With 38 games left in the season and 12 homeruns needed, Butler needs to hit a HR roughly once every three games. As if being the Royals lone all-star when the game was in their city wasn’t enough, breaking Balboni’s record would make him the crown prince of Kansas City forever.
Johnny Giavotella – Ever since Mark Grudzielanek finished his run with the Royals in 2008 the second base position has been in complete flux. Many have tried, none have stuck at that position. After putting up with 4 months of futility from Yuniesky Betancourt he was finally kicked to the curb in favor of Chris Getz. After a season ending injury to Getz, the young AAA slugger Johnny Giavotella was brought up to see if he can finally get his footing at the major league level.
The importance of this move has been underrated by some. The success of Gio will go a long ways towards solidifying this roster for ascension in 2013. While this was supposed to happen last year, this is a golden opportunity for Gio to take the reins and truly cement himself as the Royals 2B of the future.
Wil Myers – As September inches closer the most exciting aspect might be the advent of roster expansion allowing major league clubs to bring up some young prospects, which would most assuredly include Myers. As a player Myers has a great chance at winning minor league player of the year and could very well show himself to be a huge part of the future of this franchise. For his year in the minors through 35 games in AA and 87 games in AAA he has a line of .312/.389/603 with 34 homeruns and 99 RBI’s.
He has definitely proved his mettle in the lower levels of the major league baseball and many will say he probably should have been brought up sooner. Conventional wisdom says he has been blocked by the more veteran and “more proven,” Jeff Franoeur. Even if all Frenchy has proven is that he is a below average player, albeit with a few redeeming qualities. How Myers performs when up will likely have a large role in whether or not he starts 2013 with the team or finds his way back to Omaha to start. He may be in AAA either way, but it would be even harder to keep him down if he had a solid last month of the season.
The strikeout rate will be the thing to pay most attention to. Typically young hitters will strike out more than they did in the minors and Myers has been hovering around 25% strikeout rate for most of the season. That’s not particularly good and is a little worrisome. However, he’s still getting on base at a .379 clip in AAA which is very good and has kept his walk rate above 10%. This suggests he has a solid approach, and his BABIP of .351 would lead us to conclude that when he makes contact it’s usually for a hit, even if he might struggle to make contact at times. Regardless of any peccadillo’s one might find, Myers is an elite prospect and should make this team better.
Jake Odorizzi – A year and a half ago this team has more pitching talent then they could handle. There were five pitchers alone who were in Baseball America’s top 100 list of prospects in 2011. That has now dwindled down to just Odorizzi.
The player acquired in the Zack Greinke trade has gotten better every stop along the way. After struggling a bit in AA last year putting up a 4.72 ERA in 12 starts, he lit up the Texas League this year with a 3.32 ERA and striking out 11 batters per nine innings and walking less than three. He moved up to AAA from there and hit a few bumps in the road, but righted the ship and is now at a solid 2.80 ERA and still showing solid command.
Lots of hopes of the Royals future are depending on how Odorizzi fares. The 3-5 starts he will get in September should give us a good clue of whether or not he can be successful. Now, plenty of pitchers have come up in September and bombed and had great careers, but this September should show us just how close he might be.
Despite his outstanding numbers, his peripherals haven’t been quite as good. The amount of men he puts on base and hits/walks he gives up indicate his overall numbers should be a bit higher. However, he has displayed a lot of the skills that make successful MLB pitchers and should largely factor in to the 2013 rotation.
Pitching staff – This is the nebulous one that I won’t even bother making much of a prediction on. The performances of Luke Hochevar, Luis Mendoza, and Bruce Chen down the stretch will go a long way towards trying to solidify spots in the rotation in 2013. How Jeremy Guthrie performs will go towards whether or not the Royals offer him a contract for 2013, and if his past three performances are any indication, if the Royals can even afford to bring him back.
2012 was a largely disappointing season by just about any standard. The mantra of “next season” always brings hope. As well as the Royals have done filling out this roster, there is still a lot up in the air, and especially when it comes to the starting rotation. So while the Chiefs try to rekindle the magic of 2010 keep an eye across the parking lot as the beginnings of some very interesting storylines for 2013 will be unfolding.