The Second Season
Whether you count the All-Star break as the halfway point or you’re technical about it and measure the year in 81 game halves, the season is past its halfway point.
The Royals have 96 games in the bag. Tonight is 97 and the start of a short three game trip to Chicago. Trey Hillman said it yesterday when he noted that we have a tough stretch ahead.
General Manager Dayton Moore and manager Trey Hillman addressed the media yesterday before the team’s workout at Kauffman. The biggest thing they stressed is more consistency from the bats and the arms. To get started off right, Zack Greinke will get the ball tonight. Greinke earned the No. 1 slot with consistent pitching. They want him pitching to both divisional foes, throwing tonight in Chicago and again on Wednesday in the last game of the series against Detroit.
He’s been nasty to hitters, striking out 104 so far this season and becoming the first K.C. pitcher to record 100+ punch outs before the All-Star break since 1997. Greinke also holds a .188 batting average against when there are men in scoring position, which is second in the A.L.
Trey said that pitching coach Bob McClure and the starters worked throughout the All-Star break at the Stadium. Trey cited a reason for the streaks the team has rattled off – both good and bad – has been because of the pitching, specifically the starting rotation which holds a 31-39 record. Last season the starters were 28-39 through 96 games.
Consistency is the motto and there is improvement. The biggest difference between 2007 and 2008, however is that seven pitchers have started games this year. 13 pitchers started at least one game last season.
The state of the position players was also addressed by General Manager Dayton Moore. He said the organization is looking for Billy Butler to continue to improve, Alex Gordon to become more consistent and Mark Teahen to build upon the improvements he’s shown over the last month. Moore also mentioned David DeJesus and acknowledged the outfielder’s continuing success.
DeJesus is among the elite in the game right now. He entered the break with a .460 batting average with men in scoring position, which leads the Majors and is 41 points higher than Rangers’ All-Star Ian Kinsler who is second. In fact DeJesus’ mark is the eighth best entering the All-Star break since 1974 when RISP became a stat. Among those higher than DeJesus at the Midsummer Classic, Tony Gwyn’s .500 in 1997, Barry Bonds’ .500 in 1990 and Rod Carew’s .467 in 1975. Needless to say, DeJesus established a Royals record, topping Mike Sweeney’s .438 in 2000 and Hal McRae’s .427 in 1982.
It should be noted that John Buck is 10th in the Majors with a .361 RISP average, the highest catcher in the Majors.
And as we wrap position players, Jose Guillen has to be mentioned. He’s had an outstanding season at the plate. So far: he’s tied a single game RBI record with seven in June 7, eclipsed last year’s RBI season high with 65 this year (tied for fourth in the A.L.), belted 13 homers (seven of which have given the Royals the lead) and he’s ranked in several other offensive categories.
As a team, the Royals have four players at 10 or more home runs with another sitting on nine. In 2007, only two players hit 10 or more and four hit 10 or more in 2006.
Dayton Moore mentioned that the team is always looking to improve itself through trades or signings but does not want to compromise the current core of young players for a few months of service time or even a year of service unless the team felt it absolutely necessary…The team hired Sports Psychologist Andrew Jacobs, who was introduced to the team before yesterday’s workout…Leo Nunez was moved to Double-A Northwest Arkansas for rehab, because of Triple-A Omaha’s All-Star break. He pitched two innings of relief last night, recording a pair of strikeouts.
The Royals return home for seven games on Monday. Plenty of promotions are in the works for the home stand including Frank White powder blue T-shirts Dan Quisenberry bobbleheads an Emerson Drive concert and the return of Girl’s Night Out.
Tonight marks the first of 28 straight games against opponents with winning records, 16 of which are at Kauffman. The combined record for the seven teams is 368-297 for a .553 winning percentage.
The Royals are working on a number of things for Military Appreciation Day, which is August 2. Around the Horn would like to request some help from our faithful here at mlblogs.com. If you have pictures of loved ones overseas wearing Royals gear, you can send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we might be able to use them for a presentation during that day’s events. If not, Around the Horn is also working on a special post for that day and may post some of these photos right here. Please include the name of the person, hometown, where they are stationed and what branch they are in.
Thanks for your help.
Here’s today’s Official Game Notes.