If you’re a Royals fan and you’re wondering what the heck has happened to your favorite team, I’ve got an old baseball saying that might help you through this time of woe.
“You’re never as good as you think you are, and you’re never as bad as you think you are.”
People are people, and people get emotional (which might never be a slogan on a T-shirt but is still worth remembering). So when the world champion Royals started the 2016 season 8-2, it might have seemed like they were going to have an easy cruise right back to the World Series.
But the Royals were never going to win 80 percent of their games. Remember – you’re never as good as you think you are.
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And now that the Royals have lost five in a row and seemingly haven’t scored since the Truman administration, some fans are in despair. But remember – you’re never as bad as you think you are.
The truth is somewhere in between.
So when fans start to panic (I had one email in which a guy called the Royals “disgusting,” and another fan tweeted that he wasn’t going to continue watching this “crap”), try not to join in. Baseball players need to keep an even keel, and so do baseball fans. Do not let the highs get too high; do not let the lows get too low.
Because you’re never as good as you think you are, and you’re never as bad as you think you are.
OK, assuming I just talked you in off a high ledge, it’s now time to talk about what the disgusting Royals have to do to fix this crap.
(BTW: That’s supposed to be a joke.)
As of Sunday morning, the Royals are fifth in the American League when it comes to team batting average, which doesn’t sound so bad. But the Royals are also up to their old tricks: They’re tied for last in walks and 13th in home runs.
Don’t despair. In 2015, your World Series champs were last in walks and second-to-last in home runs, and yet they’re all wearing rings that would choke Joey “Jaws” Chestnut. (Sorry if that joke was lost on you; Joey’s a competitive eater who once consumed 66 hot dogs in 12 minutes… and we wonder why starving people in the third world hate us.)
Anyway, some teams can make big things happen with one swing; the Royals, on the other hand, need to “keep the line moving.” They do that by getting the ball in play (only one AL team has been harder to strike out) and trying not to do too much; just do your part at the plate and don’t break the chain.
And one way to keep the line moving is hitting the ball to the opposite field. Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer are a couple of bright spots in the Royals’ lineup, and they’ve both been using the opposite field extensively. Hitting the ball the other way allows you to wait longer and improves pitch selection.
Lorenzo Cain got a couple of days off, and since coming back he’s been hitting the ball the other way, too, so maybe he’s about to come out of his funk. (Royals fans should pay attention and see if Cain keeps it up and what kind of results he gets, but also be aware that a hitter looking to go the other way can still pull his hands in and get to an inside pitch – particularly if that pitch is something off-speed.)
One more thing before we leave the subject of the Royals’ offense: In this five-game losing streak, the Royals have lined out 13 times (by my count), and if some of those hard-hit balls start falling, things will look a little different.
Before I got to spend time talking to big-league pitchers, I didn’t understand how often they used the walk to their advantage; if a pitcher got in a spot where he didn’t want to throw a dangerous hitter a strike, he’d just put that hitter on base.
(Some fans used to get excited by Billy Butler’s on-base percentage, but Butler couldn’t run a lick, so if pitchers didn’t want to deal with him, they’d walk him knowing he’d clog the bases. Butler on first base was still three singles away from scoring; after a Country Breakfast, it might have been four.)
But right now, Royals pitchers are not using the walk to their advantage; the walks are making everything worse.
Saturday night, the Royals’ pitching staff walked eight batters, and four of them scored.
If I counted right, during this five-game losing streak, the Royals have walked 28 batters. So far this season, in fact, have walked more batters than any other team in the AL: 95. They have also hit nine more batters.
Give your opponents 104 free base runners in 23 games and bad stuff tends to happen.
Sometimes I write something and think: “That might be right.” But I’ve been doing this long enough to never be totally sure of myself – I’ve been wrong too many times.
So what I’m about to say might be right:
These are pretty much the same guys who generated enough offense to win a World Series in 2015, and hot and cold streaks get overblown when they come at the beginning of a season. So I’m guessing the offense will be better than what we’ve seen lately.
But KC’s pitchers need to stop walking guys and making things even tougher than they need to be.