As the Diamondbacks continue to underperform and tempers in the fanbase begin to rise, it is important to occasionally take a step back and remember just how lucky we all are as fans. Since 1998, D-Back fans have seen five NL West champions, four playoff series victories, and, of course, one world championship. We've seen six Cy Young awards and two no-hitters, including a perfect game thrown by one of the best pitchers to ever play the game, who we coincidentally got to watch in the prime of his career.
Even with this team, we don't have much to complain about in the grand scheme of things. We have a oft-dominant, homegrown right fielder who is signed to an affordable contract through 2015, we have a solid rotation that features only one guy over the age of 30 (Saunders), and three top pitching prospects just waiting to replace him. Obviously, this team still has plenty of issues to address, and none of this is to suggest that Diamondback fans haven't suffered at times over the years. I just wanted everyone to appreciate all the good things in their baseball-watching lives, since the team is traveling to the home of MLB's less-fortunate, the Kansas City Royals.
One winning season since 1993. That's the only thing separating the Royals from Pittsburgh Pirates territory. The 2003 Royals fluked their way to an 83-79 season, where they finished third. Their best pitcher that year was probably Darrell May, who had a career ERA of 5.16 even counting that year. This is the best Royals team in the last twenty years. And you people have the audacity to complain about Justin Upton's batting average?
Though the Royals were tabbed as a rising team to watch in the AL Central, 2012 has been more of the same so far. The Royals are 15-22, and they've already managed to have a 12 game losing streak this year.
What the Stats Say (According to Fangraphs):
The Royals' pitching has decent peripherals, which is reflected in that FIP being about average. This suggests that the pitching production should improve at some point. But for right now, the Royals have the third-highest ERA in the AL, at 4.37. This isn't really a surprise, as their best pitcher going into the season was probably Bruce Chen. Weird things happen when your best pitcher is Bruce Chen.
Starting Lineups (Now with 100% more DH!)
Kansas City Royals
Points with bullets!
- So I was super jazzed for interleague play this year for some reason. Mostly just for the novelty of seeing players and teams I'm not as familiar with. Then I looked at "Jarrod Dyson," the first player in the Royals' lineup, and realized I had utterly nothing to say about him. Stupid American League.
- By the way, Jarrod Dyson is in his first full season as a starter after bouncing between the minors and the Royals' bench for the last two years. He hasn't hit for power at any level, with five home runs in his entire professional career, but he's shown the ability to take a walk so far, with an OBP of .375 so far.
- Hosmer and Moustakas were billed as a dynamic duo of corner infielders who would represent a new era of Royals success. Last year, Moustakas looked lost at the plate while Hosmer put together a very good rookie campaign. This year, on the other hand, Moustakas has taken a step forward, sporting the highest OPS on the team at .883. But it has come at the expense of Hosmer, who has a line of .174/.237/.319. There can only be one.
- The 2005 amateur baseball draft, often cited as the best in history, began with two players, an otherworldly-but-unpolished high school phenom named Justin Upton, and a talented collegiate third baseman by the name of Alex Gordon who had drawn comparisons to George Brett. I was going to mention that this series would act as a view of the other side, allowing each team to see what would have been if the two picks had been switched. But really, both sides are probably just going to bond over not picking Jeff Clement.
- I've often wondered what it must be like for players who are expected to replace team legends. What it must feel like for guys like David Robertson in New York, who can play as well as he humanly can, but still never measure up to his predecessor in the eyes of fans. The flipside of this phenomenon is Alcides Escobar, who has posted an OPS of .655 since coming to KC. Yet he's still adored, just for not being Yuniesky Betancourt.
Insightful Commentary: So Saunders has had better weeks than last week. You know, when he allowed 13 runs in 8.1 innings. Nobody expects him to keep up his pace from before the last two games, when he was leading the league in ERA, but the Diamondbacks desperately need pitchers to keep their team in the game while their offense finds its rhythm, and it sure would be nice if Joe did better on that front than he has in his last two starts.
Luis Mendoza is not this guy. Believe me, I'm as mad as you are. Instead, Mendoza has been a journeyman who has been around since 2007, but has never made more than 25 appearances in a season. He might get a chance to this year though, finding a niche as the Royals' long reliever who has ascended back into the rotation following an injury to Danny Duffy. Fangraphs has all of his pitches as below-average, so he's really just here to eat innings until the Royals can give the ball to someone more interesting. Y'know, like Bruce Chen or Jonathan Sanchez.
Saturday: Ian Kennedy (3-3, 3.81) vs. Bruce Chen (2-4, 4.34)
Insightful Commentary: In a season full of disappointments, Kennedy really doesn't deserve to be lumped in with the rest of the underperformers. He's been solid, and he was realistically due for a bit of regression after last year. Still, it all just looks more difficult for Ian this year. His BABIP is up a bit, despite a drop in his LD%, which means he has to pitch out of more jams than last year, and his strikeouts are down just a tick. He's still the same guy he was last year, but he really hasn't had one of those starts yet where he has all of his pitches working and takes his game to another level like last year.
Sort of improbably, Bruce Chen was the Royals' best pitcher last year. Unfortunately, this says more about the pitching of the 2011 Royals than it says about Bruce Chen, since he still only produced 1.7 fWAR. On a team that has sunk their future into drafting and developing young pitchers under GM Dayton Moore, 35-year-old Bruce Chen is still throwing meaningful innings at the top of the rotation. It would be sad if it weren't such a cool story that Chen has found success at age 35.
Sunday: Wade Miley (4-1, 2.52) vs. TBA
Insightful Commentary: Luke Hochevar hurt his ankle in his last start and is listed as day-to-day, making him questionable for this start. If he can't go, the Royals will start someone who is lower on the depth chart than Luis Mendoza, which is weird to think about.
Before Miley's last start, I wrote that he had been pitching very well, but would probably start allowing a few more home runs. And then, boom! He allowed a home run but still pitched well! it's not often that I actually get to look good in this job, so thanks to Miley for making that happen, even if it was only by accident.
Final Verdict: We can't tell this for sure yet, but the AL is probably the better league yet again, so these interleague series always make me nervous. The Diamondbacks should be better than the Royals, even accounting for the discrepancy in the leagues, but the Royals are at home, and have enough talent to make me wary. Still I'll say Diamondbacks two games to one. Ever the optimist, in spite of evidence to the contrary.
Head over to Royals Review to see what they're saying about the Royals.
(Stats from Fangraphs, Baseball-Reference, and Brooks Baseball)