"Hey, everybody! Fountain Shots is back! Must be because the Royals are in a tailspin! Just not enough to complain about when the Royals are winning..."
Actually, it's what happens when your job involves a heavy amount of writing. When work gets busy, the available energy to spend on side-writing projects shrinks.
Anyway, the Royals are indeed in one of their patented May nosedives, and find themselves at .500 with a critical series against division-leading Detroit kicking off this afternoon.
So what's going wrong? And can it be fixed?
#1: Defense. With the Jose Guillen's Hamstrings Memorial Statue playing right field, Coco "Limp Noodle" Crisp in center field, David "Dizzy" DeJesus in left field, Mike "Thruster" Aviles at short, and Alberto "Callapso" Callaspo at 2B, the Royals have been throwing a defense out there that would be sub-par in most city softball leagues.
Unfortunately, most of this has been necessitated by Alex Gordon's latest DL stint. When he returns, the Royals could do the following to shore up defense all around the field:
* Gordon resumes 3B, moving Teahen to RF and providing a huge upgrade there.
* Swap DeJesus and Crisp to CF and LF, respectively. Yes, Crisp has more speed, but DeJesus has not looked comfortable in LF at all and other teams have been moving first to second on fly balls to Crisp on account of his nonexistent throwing arm, which is completely unacceptable.
* Platoon Guillen and Jacobs at DH. Guillen should not play the field again until his legs heal. It will hurt to not have his bat in the lineup every night, but right now his defensive inability is costing the Royals more runs than he's making up with his bat. Once Guillen's legs improve, you can move him into the LF and RF rotation.
* This still leaves you with questions up the middle. Bloomquist may be able to help stabilize at SS, but his bat is due to level off here pretty soon. If Aviles is able to regain the hitting ability he showed last season, you could move him to 2B, which would upgrade that position. The Royals seem to want to keep Callaspo's bat in the lineup, but because Callaspo has no power, he's going to continue being a streaky singles hitter, which just isn't that important to keep in the lineup. If the Royals manage to stay int he division race into the summer, SS may be a position they could target in the trade market.
#2: No lineup speed. This is going to be tougher to fix. Because the Royals have below-average speed at many spots in the lineup, they're not scoring as many runs as they otherwise would on singles and doubles. There's really not much they can do about it at this point, but a middle of the lineup consisting of Butler, Jacobs, and Guillen just isn't going to produce that many runs outside of the long ball.
#3: Being stupid. Stupid on the basepaths, stupid on throwing decisions, stupid in bullpen management, stupid in defensive substitutions. One would think that this is an area where improvement would be possible, but we haven't seen too many signs yet. Stupidity alone has probably cost the Royals about 5 games so far this year.
Conclusion: If the Royals get Gordon back and are able to shift defensively, and if they start playing smarter baseball, then they should be able to stay int he race for the Central most of the summer. However, with Detroit's resurgence and sudden abundance of pitching options, it is unlikely that the Royals will be able to keep up with the Tigers into September.