The optimism of last week has faded. After a 10-game winning streak, the Royals have dropped six of their last seven. With the trade deadline approaching, there is plenty of intrigue – and plenty of questions.
Let’s answer some.
Because too many people complained on Twitter about Tim Collins and Donnie Joseph when they should have been enjoying thrashing the Tigers.
I kid, I kid.
I don’t buy it. To me, within the course of the 162-game season, the idea of "pressure" is a false construct. The team went into Comerica Park, the home of the division leaders, and brutalized a pair of Cy Young award winners on back-to-back nights. That sort of assignment seems more intense than a series at home against the Seattle Mariners.
I don’t think the Royals are unable to "respond under pressure." It’s more likely they are an above-average team who will likely hover a few games above .500 for much of the season. If they can achieve a few more peaks like they did earlier this month, and avoid the subsequent valleys, they’ll have a chance to surpass Detroit. Otherwise, they’ll spend October at home.
You could make the case that Salvador Perez, who ranks second on the team in OPS and third among catchers in the majors in wOBA, should bat higher than Butler. Perez is on a tear lately.
But Butler hasn’t been that bad. He is hitting .333/.375/.457 in June, good for an .832 OPS, which is solid. The bigger issue is, has been and shall remain Eric Hosmer receiving more at-bats than Alex Gordon. But we’ve covered this terrain.
As for the trades: An upgrade in right field feels vital. If the Royals can improve their bench and add a more competent hitter in right, the front office will have done its part in assembling a playoff-caliber roster.
A caveat: Ned Yost said earlier this week he expects Aoki to reclaim his starting role upon his return from the disabled list.
But there’s a strong argument to be made that he should spend most of his time on the bench, at least until Jarrod Dyson cools down. Dyson has never been an every-day player in the major leagues, and he probably isn’t one. But if the team can’t find an upgrade in the outfield through a trade, he appears to be their best option – at least against right-handed pitchers.
Aoki has been brutal, for the most part, but he continues to hit lefties. He has a reverse split right now. Aoki likes the baseball away, where southpaws tend to pitch him, so he’s posted an .851 OPS against them. Pair that with Dyson’s .736 OPS against righties, and you’ve got a decent platoon.
Also: You can only read into this so much, but defense metrics adore Dyson. He is currently worth 2.3 wins above replacement, according to Baseball-Reference. The majority of that total derives from his play in center field. And it’s fair to say their defensive alignment, with Dyson in center and Cain in right, is stronger than the regular alignment of Cain in center in Aoki in right.
It doesn’t matter what I think. Most American League clubs have decided to utilize that spot for versatility, rather than installing a hitter who struggles in the field. Players like Butler, David Ortiz, Adam Dunn and Victor Martinez are the outliers now.
If the Royals don’t pick up Butler’s option this winter, and that looks like the most likely maneuver, they’ll probably go in a similar direction and look to make the roster more flexible.
"You win the trade," Dayton Moore has said on numerous occasions, "if you acquire the players you want." He is not the only general manager to express this sentiment – the general thought is if you spend all your time worrying about what you’re giving up, you’ll freeze up and never make a deal.
That said: Mellinger delved into this at length earlier this month. In the short-term, the deal has been good for the Kansas City Royals, even with James Shields taking a step back in 2014. In the long term, the deal could be good for the Rays, who are currently floundering. Part of the reason they’re floundering? Wil Myers has regressed this season (90 OPS+) and is on the disabled list right now. But, remember: The Rays made this deal with the long road in mind. The Royals were motivated to win in the present.
Shields. Deal with it.
It could go either way. If a team has an opening on its 40-man roster, and a hankering for a left-handed reliever who doesn’t throw many strikes, Joseph is there to be had. But I would expect he clears waivers.
The WWE sure thinks so. I don’t like big guys who can’t really sell, and he lost me with his horrific sell-job when Seth Rollins turned. He reminded me of Giant Gonzalez when he crumples, in slow motion, to the mat.
But, of course, Vince McMahon probably understands the business of professional wrestling better than me.
All time? So many choices. I have a soft spot for The Sandman’s ECW entrances. Bloc Party should cover Jake Roberts’ theme song, much like Wale rapped over Razor Ramon’s song. Hard to top Chris Jericho’s debut. His run in the WWF was sad, mostly, but Tazz’s debut was great, too. On the indies: Bryan Danielson using "The Final Countdown," and El Generico using The Bouncing Souls.
But the best belongs to Steve Austin. It’s everything you’d want. The glass shattering awakens the viewer, and elicits the corresponding pop. The riffs fit the man. And the song can be played on loop without serving as a distraction, which is critical when you want to pop a few cans of Steveweiser and celebrate a victory.