Sunday, October 26, 2008

Part VI: If I Could Only Turn Back The Clock

...to when God and her were born.
(from "Shelter From The Storm," Blood On The Tracks)

Recap: The Royals woke up on the morning of Sept. 1 with a 57-79 record. They were 20 games out of first place and had just suffered through a 7-20 August, a pace that would make them 42-120 for a full season; yes, that is 1962 Mets territory. No one could have imagined that this same team would put together the franchise's best month since the glory days of April 2003. Yes, the Royals would go 18-8 in September, the best record in the majors for the month. That pace would get them somewhere around 110 wins for a full season. The hot September allowed the Royals to avoid a fifth straight last place finish. KC ended up 75-87, in fourth place, 13 games out of first.

Highlight: So many to choose from...two doubleheader sweeps, seven-game and five-game winning streaks, six wins by five or more runs...but the highlight might very well be a single game in Detroit on Sept. 24. After winning the first two games of the series, the Royals went for the sweep. Even better, a win in this game would put KC ahead of the Tigers and their $137 million payroll with three games left in the season. The much-maligned Brian Bannister got the start and pretty much mowed down the offense that was supposed to score 1,000 runs this year. Banny finished his year on a high note, scattering seven hits and only walking one in six innings. The Royals exploded for seven runs in the fifth inning and cruised to a 10-4 win. With wins in the next two games, the Royals wrapped up fourth place.

Lowlight: Um...the Royals lost three in a row from Sept. 7-10. That's about it.

MVP: David DeJesus had an outstanding month, hitting .388/.443/.565. His 1.008 OPS was only the second time this season a Royal regular (more than 50 AB) had an OPS over 1.000 for a month. The other? David DeJesus in June with a 1.039.

Cy Young: You could argue that Zack Greinke, Joakim Soria, Ramon Ramirez and even John Bale had slightly better months, but I am giving this to Kyle Davies. In one of the most promising developments of the whole month, Davies appeared to be a completely different pitcher than the one who scuffled through his previous major league stints. Davies went 4-1 in his five starts, with a 2.27 ERA. He struck out 24 while only walking seven; his prior K/BB ratio for 2008 was 47/36. On Sept. 15, he tied a career high with eight strikeouts, then tied it again two starts later. One of the most intriguing questions the Royals will have in spring training next year is whether Davies finally figured out how to pitch, or if he just had a good stretch. If it is the former, the Royals' rotation suddenly looks, dare I say, formidable.

LVP: Probably Miguel Olivo. Splitting time at catcher with John Buck (each played 13 games), Olivo only hit .231/.231./.346. Yes, his on-base percentage and batting average were the same. That's because he struck out 15 times and did not walk once. Heck, even Tony Pena Jr. managed to draw one walk in September. While Buck did not post outstanding numbers either, he clearly outplayed Olivo. Of course, the Royals could still stand an upgrade here, although there probably isn't any available in the free agent market.

Cy Yuk: Probably Brian Bannister, who finished a disappointing season with an up-and-down month. He was 2-2 in five starts, but his ERA was 5.86. Basically, he had three decent starts and two lousy ones. But the rest of the rotation was doing such a good job, Banny kind of stood out.

Reason to be excited for 2009: Such a solid effort, coming off such a terrible August when it would have been easy to pack it in for the year, is promising. Even though an 18-8 pace isn't really sustainable for a whole season for any team, it is something you wouldn't expect from a bad team. The best part is that the month was built on the success of guys like Davies and Ryan Shealy, not just the usual players who had success this season. For the Royals to advance and develop into a contender, they need more than Greinke/Soria/Aviles/Gordon; they will need Shealy and Davies and Luke Hochevar and, a little further down the road, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer to become good players.

Reason we should have been worried about last place: Well, a good portion of the roster is still filled with dead weight like Tony Pena and Ross Gload, Kip Wells and Yasuhiko Yabuta. With a limited payroll, the Royals need everyone on the roster to be a contributor if they are going to have sustained success.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

Good job on the review! I like September, let's clone it & do it all next season!