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Royals need to make a change

At baseball’s Winter Meetings last December, manager Ned Yost dismissed the idea of the Royals playing .500 ball this season -- because it was too small of an improvement for a team that won 71 games a year ago.

Imagine if someone told Yost then that the Royals would be on the cusp of the worst July record in franchise history. At 6-19, the Royals are one loss away from matching the 2004 team for the most losses in July. But that team won seven games.

This has to be rock bottom for Royals fans, right? The Mariners’ four-game sweep of the Royals means that 18 percent of Seattle’s home wins this season came in that series.

Forget .500 for the season. The Royals have to play around .500 ball to get back to last year’s record (30-31). After this weekend, 100 losses (which would come with a 21-40 finish) doesn’t seem so outlandish.

The Royals marketing department has caught a lot of heat for the “Our Time” promotion, but Yost fueled that fire with his remarks at the Winter Meetings. “Playing .500 has never entered my mind,” he said. “I think we’re going to play much better than .500. But who knows? These kids all have to perform. They all have to continue to develop and grow, but I think we’re at a stage in our development as an organization that these kids are ready for (increased expectations).

“I think they believe they can win, and it’s time to really start focusing on doing whatever it takes, each and every single day, to win a baseball game.”

It’s clear that not only are the Royals losing, but they are not developing as planned. You can blame that on injuries to catcher Salvy Perez, outfielder Lorenzo Cain, starter Felipe Paulino and closer Joakim Soria. Or on the starting rotation, which has been a mess from the outset, thanks in large part to Jonathan Sanchez’s poor performance.

But injuries and lackluster pitching hamper most teams. The Royals just haven’t been good in any facet of the game.

They are the only team in the division with a losing record in one-run games (14-15), and the offense has drawn an AL-low 253 walks. Additionally, the Royals entered Sunday tied for having made the most outs on base in the American League (42) and had a league-worst WHIP (1.445).

That’s bad plate discipline, base running and pitching. And the Royals are losing the close ones.

Here’s a closer look at how five of the young guys have performed compared with last year with numbers from Fan Graphs:

Mike Moustakas

This year: .262 average/.317 on-base percentage/.461 slugging percentage with a 3.1 WAR

Last year: .263/.309/.367 with a 0.7 WAR

Eric Hosmer

This year: .229/.299/.361 with a negative 0.5 WAR

Last year: .293/.334/.465 with a 1.6 WAR

Alcides Escobar

This year: .304/.343/.420 with a 1.1 WAR

Last year: .254/.290/.343 with a 0.8 WAR

Aaron Crow

This year: 8.37 K/9, 3.14 BB/9, 3.77 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 0.9 WAR

Last year: 9.44 K/9, 4.50 BB/9, 2.76 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 0.3 WAR

Greg Holland

This year: 12.80 K/9, 5.12 BB/9, 3.72 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 1.2 WAR

Last year: 11.10 K/9, 2.85 BB/9, 1.80 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 2.0 WAR

There is some good in there (particularly Moustakas), but the development of the young players is taking longer than anyone expected.

Is that Yost’s fault? That’s up for discussion.

But if I’m general manager Dayton Moore, I can’t maintain the status quo. The Royals post-All-Star break have been simply awful. A 4-13 record since the Midsummer Classic has seen the Royals sink like a stone to the bottom of the AL Central in a year full of expectations.

It’s never an easy to decision to fire a manager, but Yost can’t feel comfortable. Maybe Moore will try and shake things by unexpectedly trade one of the young kids for a pitcher.

Something has to change or else the Royals will have to be content taking a back seat in football -- both the Chiefs and the college game -- for the next two months.

| Pete Grathoff,

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