Monday, April 25, 2005

Ugly Weekend

OK, OK, I’ll take the heat. Only one day after officially anointing Andy Sisco the favorite Royal of Warning Track Power, he can’t close out the eighth allowing the tying and the eventual winning run to score. And I’ll let you in on a little secret. I started Thursday’s entry about Sisco’s first major league win just before Mike MacDougal blew it for him. With friends like me, who needs enemies?

So it was another day, another loss for the boys in blue.

Joe McEwing had a solid day at the plate going 2-5, leading off in place of the injured David DeJesus (who bruised his foot Saturday, but is expected to be back in the lineup on Tuesday.) Matt Stairs drew three walks and homered, but the rest of the linup could only muster two hits.

John Buck was especially disappointing Sunday, striking out with a runner on second and one out in the second, striking out with a runner on third and one out in the fourth, and flying out with the bases loaded and two down in the fifth.

White Sox starter El Duque was hardly sharp. His five innings of work seemed to take a lifetime. Not once was he able to retire the Royals in order, allowing four hits and, get this…SIX WALKS! He battled his command all day, but the punchless Royals were not able to make anything happen.

The Royals have now lost five in a row. But here’s where I don’t know to be encouraged or discouraged. Only in Friday night’s 8-2 loss were the Royals completely out of the game. Four of those games were winnable. Each was lost by one run. In two of the games, the opposition’s winning run scored in the eighth. In the other two, the winning run scored in the tenth.

The starters, including Brian Anderson even though he gave up eight runs in three innings, are keeping the Royals in the games. The rough spot seems to be the first inning. Royal starters have allowed seven runs in the first inning during this losing streak. In the four close games, those runs have ultimately been the difference.

But the real difference maker in all these games has been the bullpen. The culprits? Mike MacDougal, Shawn Camp and Jaime Cerda. During the five game losing streak they have combined for seven appearances. Here is their line:

0-4 4.2 11 6 5 7 11.56

Basically, these three are having a difficult time getting anyone out. And the linescore above doesn’t show the errors, balks and wild pitches that haven’t helped. These three have struggled all season, but the last week it’s been costing this team wins.

So here is where I get back to my question. Should I be encouraged or discouraged? Right now, I’ll fall on the encouraged side. No the Royals haven’t always looked sharp, and a loss is a loss, but they have been in a position to win. I think that’s key to the development of a young team. We can’t expect them to win all the close games. Hell, we can’t even expect them to win half the close games. But what we can expect is for them to improve over time. This season is going to be a learning experience for the core group of young guys. We knew that coming in and we need to give them time. If the Royals suffer through a streak like this in August or September…Then I’ll be discouraged.

Plus, Allard Baird has been surprisingly impatient with players who haven’t met expectations. Unproductive Calvin Pickering and Nate Field have made way for Matt Diaz and Ambroix Burgos. I’d still like to see a pitcher go to Omaha (one of the three mentioned above) when Mark Teahen comes off the DL next week. Then whenever Jeremy Affeldt comes off the DL, send down another of the three. That way we will be down to one serious bullpen liability and will be better positioned to win those close games.

It’s rough, but I still feel it’s going to get better.


At 12:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the real issue is if the team becomes sufficiently discouraged that they stop performing. With this group of kids and scrubs, a slow start could snowball really quickly.

At 5:02 PM, Anonymous Dakota said...

With young starters (Greinke, Bautista, and Hernandez), one of which is coming off of an 18 month lay off, there has to be some worry about any extended losing streak, especially one marked by an exacerbating inability to close out games. When you pitch seven strong innings and watch the bullpen destroy all your work it becomes quickly disheartening. Greinke doesn't seem like this is much of a consideration (my man crush grows daily), but Bautista and Hernandez need to build their confidence and a healthy win-loss record never hurt. Anderson and Lima, well who cares, they're just suppose to eat innings and cash their check until we can unload them.

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