Sunday, September 21, 2008

Part III: If I Could Only Turn Back The Clock when God and her were born.
(From "Shelter From The Storm," Blood On The Tracks)

We continue our month-by-month recap of the 2008 Royals with a look at their best month, June. It was an especially fun month because it came on the heels of a horrific May that left KC with a 22-34 record and in last place.

Two important events happened to the Royals in June: the interleague schedule gave them a chance to play some teams more their level, and Mike Aviles forced his way into the lineup, boosting the lineup from pathetic to simply below-average (actually, the Royals scored 140 runs in 27 June games, which translates to 840 for a full season, which would be good for second in all of baseball right now).

Of course, this blog also started in June. So for a while there, it looked like a good luck charm of sorts...

Recap: KC struggled the first half of June, getting swept in Chicago, splitting a 4-game series in Yankee Stadium and losing a home series to Texas. After a 1-0 loss at Arizona on June 13, the Royals were 4-8 in the month. Then came the turnaround, as KC scored 20 runs in the next two games in Arizona, swept the Cardinals in St. Louis, won a home series against San Francisco, swept the Rockies and split the last four games. A 16-11 record (that's a 96-win pace)--not too shabby. And this month managed to pull the Royals out of last place.

Highlight: When KC rolled into St. Louis for a 3-game series with their instate rival, the Cardinals were hot on the Cubs' tail in the NL Central, 3.5 games back. Three well-pitched games later, the Cardinals were still 3.5 back, but they had lost a chance to gain ground. Kyle Davies, Brian Bannister, Zack Greinke and Joakim Soria took turns shutting down the Cardinal lineup (it did help that Albert Pujols was injured), while the offense did just enough to win. It was the first time KC swept the Cardinals since 2001.

Lowlight: Being swept by the White Sox in early June. Although the games were close (one went 15 innings), it was still unpleasant.

MVP: With such a good performance by the whole offense, there are plenty of candidates. David DeJesus put up a 1.039 OPS in 26 games. Mike Aviles, once he got in the lineup, hit like crazy (.910 OPS). Mark Teahen and Alex Gordon each socked five homers. But this was the month when the Royals' big offseason acquisition, Jose Guillen, looked like the player Dayton Moore was willing to pay $12 million a year. Guillen followed up his "babies" rant in late May with a sizzling June. A .345 batting average, seven home runs, nine doubles and 25 RBI in the middle of the lineup. On the downside, he only walked twice the whole month, which is a little hard to believe. But this was still an excellent performance, and it made the Royals lineup...dare we say, fearsome.

Cy Young: Gil Meche had a solid month, but I would give this to the three-headed bullpen monster: Ron Mahay, Ramon Ramirez and Joakim Soria. In 40 combined appearances, these three were 3-1 with 10 saves. They struck out 37 and walked 16. Their combined WHIP was an even 1.00. Basically, when the offense got a lead, the Royals got a win thanks to these three.

LVP: Joey Gathright did not have an especially good month at the plate. He hit only .203 in 26 games. His 14 hits were all singles. His on-base percentage was a robust .276. It tells you just how hot the rest of the lineup was that they could put up runs at a pennant-contending pace with a hitter like this getting regular playing time.

Cy Yuk: The guys who put up the worst numbers didn't pitch much, so I suppose this goes to Zack Greinke, even though he wasn't horrible. Looking back, this must be what it's like to root for a good team--when you are casting about to find awful performances, the ones you find aren't too bad. Greinke was 2-2 in six games; his WHIP was rather high at 1.42 and his ERA was an untidy 5.25. But he still struck out 36 batters in 36 innings while only walking 15. So perhaps he was a bit unlucky this month.

Reasons we should see an awesome summer ahead: No matter if the National League competition was not as tough as some of the AL teams who had been beating up on the Royals, a 16-11 record is still a contender's pace.

Reasons we should have seen last place coming: No more National League teams on the schedule.

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