As The Royals continue their four game set against The Cleveland Indians, there are many in Kansas City trying to make sense of their recent poor play. The Royals are 3-7 in their past ten games and the starting pitching, for the most part, has been abysmal. That starting pitching, along with superb defense have been the corner stone of this team. It has propelled them to a record of 85-59 with the third best record in all of baseball. It is these qualities the have afforded The Royals a 10 game lead of The Minnesota Twins, the largest lead in all of baseball. And now, down the home stretch,
The Royals seem to be on the precipice of a complete meltdown. How, after five months of very solid baseball, could this be happening? Has Ned Yost lost control of his crew? Is there anything that can be done to fix what ails The Royals in September? The follow are a couple theories. Please note, these are only theories, I have nothing concrete to back these ideas up.
Issue one-Johnny Cueto
By signing Johnny Cueto, The Kansas City Royals did something they had previously never done before; sign a rent-a-player. Cueto was having a good season with The Cincinnati Reds before donning royal blue. His first two starts were impressive and it was The Royals offense that let him down. His last 5 starts however, have been abhorrent. His ERA has ballooned to 9.57 and he hasn’t had a quality start since his second.
I think the first question that comes to everyone’s mind is, is he hurt? He claims not to be and Ned Yost has backed this up. OK, so he’s not hurt, then what? His mechanics are off. His shoulder is flying open causing his pitches to flatten out. He doesn’t have good command of his breaking pitches. These topics have been addressed by pitching coach Dave Eiland and no doubt Salvador Perez has said something to Cueto during his visits to the mound. Is Cueto listing? I’m sure he is. But is body language is betraying him as someone who isn’t. I think it’s more likely a combination of things that are plaguing Cueto. He is pitching in a new league with new opponents that he’s not yet familiar with. He plays in new stadiums with new teammates.
After pitching for The Reds for so long, the transition to The American League must be very difficult. There is also the little issue with knowing he’s got the weight of The Royals success on his shoulders, with a rabid fan base that expects nothing less than a World Series win in 2015. This will likely right itself very soon. After all, we didn’t get Johnny Cueto for the remainder of the regular season; we got him for his starts in the post season, but most assuredly, all eyes will be on his next start this coming Friday.
Issue two– Team chemistry
When The Royals acquired Kendrys Morales and Edinson Volquez in the off season and Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist at the trade deadline, the chemistry in the clubhouse must have changed. And this change may not be for the best. The core group of Royals player: Moose, Gordon, Perez, Hosmer and Cain have been playing together for several years now.
These additions may have altered the synergy The Royals have enjoyed for the past several years. One must remember that this core group of players learned not only how to win as a team, but how to lose. The additions may have affected the group dynamic in some unknown to the public sort of way. None of the aforementioned players seem to have the “club house cancer” tag attached to them. No player is going to come out say anything against the club, but something seems different. Of course, it could come down to fatigue. The baseball season is a brutally long one and these guys have been grinding it out for 5 months and have been in first place for much of the season.
It certainly must be difficult to get yourself up for every game when you almost have the division wrapped up, and Yost has been resting players much more regularly than last year. It could also be a mental issue. Maybe they’re just ready to get to the post season. Whatever is going on, Yost needs to do his best to get their heads back in the game because Toronto is lurking right behind The Royals and home field advantage throughout the playoffs is the prize.
Issue three– Ned Yost
Yost hasn’t changed his managing style much from last season and I’m not sure why he would. I mean, it got him to the seventh game of The World Series! But, there are somethings that stand out. Most obvious is the running game, or the seemingly lack of the running game. It has been hinted at that The Royals will increase this in the post season but when they were going through the most recent slump, I thought for sure, The Royals would be off to the races trying to manufacture runs.
The other issue is the use of Greg Holland. He has been a shell of his dominant self and his use may be the cause. Holland is not getting regular work. At first glance, it may appear as a good thing, The Royals haven’t had a lot of close games this season, hence, not a lot of chances to bring Holland into the game. But, at closer examination, this might be the reason everyone holds their breath when he comes in. Down the final stretch, Holland needs to be run out there more often, even if it’s a blowout. Otherwise, the playoffs are going to cause a million ulcers.
There are, no doubt, many more issues at play here that the public will never likely ever know about. I have heard rumors about other issues, but that’s all they are for now, rumors. I have no doubt that these issues will be fixed prior to the start of the post season. There is too much on the line, not just for The Royals, but for city, for them not to be. Besides, who want to even spend a second thinking of a Royal-less World Series? Not this writer.