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: Super 2, Jake Odorizzi, and the Playoffs
by Jeff Herr,posted Jun 18 2012 2:45PM
Well, it’s June 18th and the Royals are still, technically, in the hunt. The team stands at 29-35, which is five games behind the first place Chicago White Sox (35-31). After the same amount of games in 2011 this team was 28-36. Generally, one game in baseball amounts to nothing more than the confluence of random luck. Yet, this seems quite a bit different.
After 17 games last year the Royals stood near the tops of their division at 11-6. They rode that momentum to a 20-20 record after 40 games and that marked the last time they saw .500 for the season. In 2012’s iteration this team has battled back from a 12 game losing streak and 3-14 start to be one game better than they were last year.
In their charge back from their poor beginning with a stretch of 26-21, this team has been looking different ever since they ended that terrible streak. There are a lot of factors that have contributed to this, some that point to an even better future, and some that could be harbingers of doom for this team later in the season.
First, we can talk about what’s made the change possible for this team offensively. Eric Hosmer has apparently woken up from his quarter-season long slumber. As of today, in the month of June Hosmer has hit .268/.354/.446/.800 (AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS). This is not Earth shattering by itself, but considering where he started the season it’s fair to say he’s a much more of a contributing member of the team now, than he was in the early goings.
Alex Gordon finds himself improving in the same manner and has had an even better June with a line of .316/.451/.491/.942 (!). A lot of that is probably fueled by his five walks yesterday, but still impressive nonetheless. Like Hosmer, he too can claim to be helping this team after a slow start.
Billy Butler and Mike Moustakas continue to have solid seasons. Moustakas has contributed defensively at third base more than our collective imaginings would have thought. Butler is finally stepping up with his power (on pace for 30+HRs) while keeping pace with his average as well (currently hitting .300 on the season).
Possibly the biggest reason why the Royals have kept their head above water could also be what end up predicating their slide back to well below average baseball: the bullpen. As it currently stands the Royals are 20th in the major leagues with a team ERA of 4.05. Their bullpen ranks 6th in all of baseball with a 2.87 ERA, while the starters rank 28th with a 4.98 ERA.
While the dominance of the bullpen is definitely encouraging and what this team was built for, it also raises some flags. Besides ERA, the Royals bullpen currently leads the majors in innings pitched. In 2011 they finished eighth overall in bullpen innings, and their relievers tired out down the stretch. The bullpen’s peak last season was in June (with a 2.70 ERA, 5th in all of baseball), started to decline in July (3.54 ERA, 14th in MLB) and then fell out by August (4.35 ERA, 26th in MLB). This was part of the reason for the teams poor 10-19 showing in August that made certain of another disappointing season.
As the bullpen continues to pick this team up it’s important to remember that they will need a lot more help down the line if this team is to take their small amount of momentum and build on it for a late season run. This is where it pays off to have one of the best minor league systems in all of baseball. Help is always on the way.
To ensure that offensive production continues and even gets better (as it most assuredly will need to) there is a bonafide star-in-the-making with Wil Myers just waiting for his call up as he dominates AAA pitching. Major league success for Myers is in no way guaranteed, but all the signs are there. He is hitting at a clip that is reminiscent of how Hosmer and Moustakas both dominated minor league pitching. At this point, the only mystery is when we will see him.
Often the term ‘Super 2’ is thrown out there in regards to when a team will call up a player. We heard about it all last year with Hosmer and Moustakas and it’s again a consideration for Myers. The nuts and bolts of the ‘Super 2’ designation is that if Myers is called up too early, then he could reach arbitration sooner, which would mean the Royals might have to pay him millions more than they would have and sooner than they planned.
The reality of the Royals situation is that they are a small market team and that means they have to consider these things. Myers is doing what he needs to in order to force their hand, just as Hosmer did a year ago. However, with the Royals still on the outside of the pennant race, they don’t need to make a “win now” move that could hamper them later.
All of this means that one of the greatest pieces of the puzzle could be Jake Odorizzi. As much as Myers is dominating offensively, Odorizzi is dominating as a pitcher. He has a 2.41 ERA for the Omaha Storm Chasers and has looked dominant. He has struck batters out at a clip of 9.09 K/9 and kept his walks low allowing only 2.67 per nine innings.
Odorizzi still has some things to prove in AAA to show he can handle major league hitters day in and day out, but all signs are good to this point. If he continues this for an extended period of time, then doubts will be erased.
If the Royals are to somehow hold it together until August a late call up from Jake Odorizzi could be just what the doctor ordered. With a possibly laboring bullpen and a starting rotation that will most likely be inconsistent the rest of the season Odorizzi could have a huge impact. A young pitcher who can come in and give this team six to seven innings of solid pitching every five days could be invaluable. Just as with Myers, his success is no guarantee, but if the Royals are to have a chance this is how things must unfold.
The Royals have done well to battle back to respectability. If things fall in their favor they can make a run at the division with some key injured players coming back and possibly other key players coming up. Then again, this is the Royals and hoping for luck to be on their side is hoping for an awful lot.
Jeff Herr: Super 2, Jake Odorizzi, and the Playoffs
Please Enter Your Comments Below
Jeff-What's to expect from the Royals with the trade deadline coming up?
Any teams showing interest in Betancourt? You think we play him to the All-Star break to draw some interest and grab a six-seven inning starting pithcer?
Are you seriously thinking a team would give even a #5 back of the rotation guy for Uni B ? Rose colored glasses. Uni has more value right where he is. He has legit pop in his bat for a middle infielder, reference the St. Louis series.