Great Lakes Royals

April 15, 2010 12:59 AM

Lost in the Frenzy of the Royals Leading the AL in Batting Average: Zack Greinke pitches on Friday!

Yes, what a horrible problem to have.

With only about five MLB quality players on the offensive end (this includes Chris Getz and Scott Podsednik, but excludes Jose Guillen), the Royals have managed to post a team batting average of .307 through 9 games, and are currently 2nd in the AL in runs scored, behind only the Tampa Bay Rays, who have the good fortune of not being able to afford the quality of relief pitcher that are conspiring keeping the Royals below .500.

If you've managed to stumble on this blog without a care in the world for how the Kansas City Royals perform, let me explain to you that having an offense that can masquerade as a real offense for even a ten game stretch can make you feel like the team that has won only 4 of it's first 9 games is only hindered from its first world series appearance in 25 years by those pesky six months that follow this "hot" start.  Reality may be a bitch, but it's got nothing on three consecutive years of scoring fewer than 4.5 runs per game.  So, in case you were wondering, scoring 5.8 runs per game through the first 9 is a big deal.

So, no, this good fortune isn't going to last forever, and probably won't even make it until the end of the road trip.  Jason Kendall isn't going to be chasing Joe DiMaggio for too much longer (I think he makes it to 11 games).  But the relative offensive explosion has helped shift the focus to where I believe it should have been all along: the defensive end.

The Royals have had a difficult time preventing runs this year.  Some of the reasons are just as fluky as the reasons that the offense is producing so many runs: high BABIPs, runs scored off of Zack Greinke, high % of hits with runners in scoring position.  Stuff like that happens from time to time.  The real reason that the Royals are giving up runs at a preposterous rate is because the bullpen is tanking as soon as the starters are out of the game.  It's telling that the Royals are are second to last in the AL in runs allowed, and the only three non-quality starts thrown by the staff in 9 games have been thrown (one each) by Gil Meche, Luke Hochevar, and Zack Greinke.  They really should be doing a lot better, unfortunately, quality relievers are few and far between.

Joakim Soria is one Miguel Cabrera chip shot off the foul pole from perfection this year, lefty specialist-turned-fireman John Parrish has yet to allow a run, and Kyle Farnsworth has managed to jump to 1-0 behind a good strikeout-walk ratio and some run support from his offense in the 11th inning of Game 2 vs. Detroit.  As far as relievers who the Royals can throw out there and expect anything but a poor result, that's it.  Kyle Farnsworth is being paid way more than just to be a slightly above average long man, which is what he has been.  Soria is Soria.  Parrish is just a 32 year old journeyman -- the kind that the Royals have enjoyed success with, but still: this is the least offensive of the Royals bullpen options in it's entirety.

Lefty Dusty Hughes might have some future value, but he's struggling right now.  Juan Cruz might once again look like a dominant pitcher someday, but he is also struggling.  The rest of the Royals bullpen -- Luis Mendoza, Roman Colon, and Robinson Tejada -- simply isn't major league caliber.  It's a design flaw that all of these players were brought in to comprise something resembling a bullpen, because it's embarrassing that anyone ever thought this would be a good course of action.

Trey Hillman gets a relative pass from me, for now, for using is worst relievers for the most innings.  That has to change, but what needs to change first is the composition of the bullpen.  The results to this point have been predictable, which means the personnel is inadequate.

After all of this, it's uplifting to point out that Zack Greinke will pitch at Target Field on Friday against the Twins, where the Royals will be able to push their record back to .500.  Signs of minor improvement: Just a year ago, Greinke starts were all the Royals had.  This one, in particular, comes on the heels of one of the MLB's best offensive performances through 10 games, and the fact that Greinke might finally be getting some run support is causing me to be more excited about this next start more than any of his prior Cy-Young winning thirty.

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