Thursday, July 15, 2004

Second Half Begins

Tonight, the Royals resume their season after the All Star Break. The first half has been a disaster, and the Royals hope to salvage their season over the next 2 and a half months.

The story for the Royals this year has been injuries. The Royals currently have 10 players on the DL. A good indication of how snake-bitten this team has been is the strange nature of the injuries. Mike MacDougal had a stomach virus in Spring Training and was weakened so much that he's been ineffective. Aaron Guiel had mysterious blurriness in his left eye. Angel Berroa was out 3 weeks after receiving a spinal tap for headaches. 3 pitchers (Ascencio, Snyder, Hernandez) never even contributed in Spring Training before getting hurt. All 3 are out for the season.

But the Royals cannot use the injuries as an excuse. Forget the injuries. The players have simply not performed. Sweeney has been a disappointment. In the last series before the break, he started to show life at the plate, but until then he wasn't the Sweeney of old. Harvey had a good first half - good enough to earn an All Star berth - but has been slumping since June. Beltran looked greated, when he was here.

Everybody else has been awful. The starting rotation has gotten rocked, and the offense is terrible. In one recent series, the Royals went 3 straigt games without scoring a run.

Here is the lineup the Royals used for their final game of the first half:

Relaford - .196
Graffanino - .261
Sweeney - .279
Stairs - .266
Harvey - .305
Brown - .281
Berroa - .239
DeJesus - .164
Buck - .189

When three of your starting nine are hitting below .200, you can't feel too good about your chances. To compare, the Orioles' lineup on the same date featured 4 players batting above .300.

The only bright spot has been Zack Greinke. The rookie phenom made his debut on May 22. Lack of run support explains his 1-6 record, but his ERA is a very respectable 3.86.

What is baffling is the way the Royals have handled Greinke. He didn't make the team out of Spring Training because GM Allard Baird said he wasn't ready "off the field" yet, though he was ready to perform on the big league level. So instead, the Royals began the season with an all-lefty rotation.

Then, on May 1, injuries forced the Royals to make a callup to make a start in Yankee Stadium. Inexplicably, they Royals chose to call up an unknown pitcher, Eduardo Villacis, from class AA Wichita to make the start. Villacis didn't participate with the big league club in Spring Training. Typically, if a player is a prospect of any kind he participates with the big league club. Of all the pitchers, why would they select Villacis to make a start in Yankeee Stadium? Nobody had ever heard of him. In AAA Omaha, they had Kris Wilson (who's pitched in the big leagues), Jamie Wright (who's pitched in the big leauges), and Zack Grienke. But, Grienke wasn't ready "off the field." The Royals were shelled in that game as Villacis only lasted 3.1 innings. 22 days later, Grienke was called up.

What did Grienke learn in those 22 days that he couldn't have been called up for that Yankees game? The move made it look like the team was giving up. Villacis was subsequently released and is now pitching in the White Sox organization.

Look for the Royals to try to solidify their rotation for next season. Greinke, Wood, and Gobble will get pleny of starts to get experience under their belt. Also look for more trades (Randa, Stairs) as the Royals try to bolster their inventory of prospects.

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