Goose’s Tuesday Take: Willingham, SungWoo and FIRST PLACE!

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Fans of the Kansas City Royals find themselves waking up to a completely new feeling for August. The Royals now reside in sole possession of first place in the American League Central Division.

Behind strong pitching, timely hitting and an absolute lock-down bullpen, the Royals have shown that when they are playing well, they are hard to beat. With the last 4 wins being against teams who have serious playoff hopes, KC is no longer simply beating the bad teams. With 45 games yet to play, there are sure to be some ups and downs, but if they can manage to keep the low points to a minimum, this team has a chance to do something special.

Detroit is flailing at the moment, with a pitching staff in absolute ruins, they now also have to worry about Verlander being possibly hurt. Cleveland sits 5 and a half games behind the Royals currently and show no signs of being an immediate threat (but let us not forget, it was not so long ago we were 6.5 back).

Point being, now is a great time to be excited about this baseball team. With the phenomenal story of SungWoo growing greater by the minute and the Royals unwillingness to lose, its as good a time as any to simply stop worrying about the “what they aints” and enjoy the “what they ARE”, a team good enough to be in a playoff position this late in the season.

To help make a push for….well…a push for KEEPING first place, the Royals went out and traded AAA relief arm Jason Adam for 2 months of Josh Willingham. This was a FANTASTIC trade by Dayton Moore, as Willingham becomes our second best hitter in terms of OPS+ (110) and third best hitter in terms of OPS (behind Gordon and Cain).  He is 2 years removed from a fantastic 2012 campaign that saw him hit 35 home runs and post an .890 OPS, though given his age (35) it would seem he is in the downward slide of his career.

Even still,  while his average is meager at .210, his ability to get on base and threat of power provide him with a .747 OPS that instantly upgrades a Royals offense which had been using the likes of Nori Aoki and Eric Kratz for DH. The addition of Willingham also seems to take over the spot that Raul Ibanez was never able to fully grab.

Willingham has primarily played left field defensively throughout his career, but that spot  seems fairly locked down currently with Gold Glover Alex Gordon. He could probably be used in right field if needed, but at this time, seems to be a plug for the right handed DH hole primarily.

Dayton, and the rest of the front office all too often seem to make too much of the veteran aspects of trades, but in this particular case, he has actually managed to acquire an experienced veteran WHO CAN PLAY. His defensive abilities are not something the Royals will be looking to utilize, but with a glut of defensive talent on this team, he provides an upgrade to the one aspect sorely lacking…offense.

Speaking of offense, Billy Butler seems to enjoy playing first base. Since Eric Hosmer went down with a broken hand, Butler has not only provided more than adequate defense at 1b, but also earned himself AL Player of the Week honors in response to his offensive resurrection. In the month of August, he is hitting .342/.359/.632 and for the year has pushed his OPS+ to a respectable 95. Billy has long been one of the keys to the Royals success, and if the team hopes to continue on a playoff run, then his ability to keep playing well is paramount. He has been on an upward trend for quite some time, and even looking as far back as May 1st has hit with a .763 OPS since. While not lighting the world on fire, it is acceptable production that a team lacking on offense can ill afford to do without.

It has been the better part of 3 decades since fans have experienced the post season. Is this team the one to change all of that? The Magic Number of Games counter stands at 45. Buckle up…its going to be a bumpy ride!

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Author: lukegoosen

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