The Cleveland Indians return home as conquering heros Tuesday night after an incredibly successful 7-2 road trip. They’ll look to keep their hot streak rolling at Progressive Field this week against the same team that got this started: the Kansas City Royals.
The Royals have gotten off to a terrible start, and after a miserable series with the Blue Jays this weekend they’re mired in a 11-game losing streak. After spoiling their home opening series two weeks ago the Indians will be hoping to sweep the Royals yet again, and the way Kansas City is playing—at 3-13, they have the worst record in baseball—that just might happen.
As we get ready for action at Progressive Field, I talked to Kings of Kauffman Senior Editor Michael Engel about Ned Yost‘s job security, Billy Butler‘s breakout potential, and the general ineffectiveness with which the Royals have played. Here’s what he had to say:
WAHOO’S ON FIRST: It’s been only 16 games, but Royals have the worst record in baseball. Is it just a slow start or are they really this bad?
MICHAEL ENGEL: After winning two at the Angels and getting into position to beat Oakland and come back to KC at 4-2, things just fell apart. Jonathan Broxton hit two batters with the bases loaded to tie and then lose the getaway game and the Royals lost their first nine at home.
Part of that is awful play like the last series against the Indians where the Royals averaged over six runs a game and still weren’t close to winning the series. Part of that is facing good pitching against Detroit and Toronto and part of it is a really slow start by a lot of players. Eric Hosmer is hitting everything hard, but it’s right at people. Alex Gordon‘s had similar bad luck.
That doesn’t take away from the fact that the Royals have also played some bad baseball. Lots of caught stealing and GIDPs aren’t fun to watch, and they ruin any rally the Royals have come up with.
WAHOO’S ON FIRST: Seems like a lot of Kansas City fans are frustrated with Ned Yost’s lineup decisions and in-game strategy. Is his job secure? More importantly, should it be?
MICHAEL ENGEL: I think he’s safe. I know the first inclination is to make a change, but this is an organization that’s been less than stable, even under Dayton Moore. Changing managers right now is a panic decision. I don’t know that Ned Yost is the guy who’ll manage the Royals when they win their next playoff series, but I think he’s the guy who’ll get them prepared to win that series, if that makes sense.
His decisions have been odd. He’s hyper-aggressive on the basepaths, and teams are figuring that out and using it against the team. He’s been a micromanager lately too, changing the lineup over and over and doing a lot of in game tactics that haven’t worked. Just like a player, a manager can press and I think that’s what he’s doing. He’s trying to make too much happen too quickly.
WAHOO’S ON FIRST: Billy Butler is slugging .517. Is this the year he finally puts it all together?
MICHAEL ENGEL: I really think so. His series against the Blue Jays cooled him off a bit, but I think he’ll hit for more power (i.e., home runs) than he has before. As for putting it all together, I think he’s already done that in his career. nobody since the start of 2009 has more doubles in baseball than Butler. He just doesn’t get recognized for the hitter he is because the homers aren’t there. I’d pencil him in for .300 with 40+ doubles and 20 homers about any year he’s healthy all season.
WAHOO’S ON FIRST: With Joakim Soria on the shelf, is Jonathan Broxton the right man for the closer’s role?
MICHAEL ENGEL: I figure Broxton is best suited for a one inning stint when he pitches, which fits nicely into a closer’s role. He’s been successful there, he doesn’t have the same injury issues he had in the last year and a half with the Dodgers, and the velocity is back.
He might not be the best pitcher for that role, but he’s got it now. The bullpen hasn’t been very consistent early on, so the alternatives don’t look good on paper. The other options I’d see would be Greg Holland, who just went on the disabled list, and Kelvin Herrera, who started last year in High-A.
WAHOO’S ON FIRST: Who’s pitching for the Royals this week, and what should Indians fans look for from them?
The first time around, Cleveland saw Sanchez and, after some scuffling and bean ball exchanges, ended up knocking him out of the game early. Hochevar opened the homestand by giving up 7 runs, but gutted out four innings, getting knocked out by a sharp shot to the ankle. I’d expect Hochevar to be better, but Sanchez has always been a tough guy to predict. When he’s on he can be good, but if he’s not, he’s got no control.
Luis Mendoza was absent in the first series, and his last two starts have been rough. He’s not a guy who can summon an out pitch when he needs one, so he has to rely on the defense to get him out of jams. He has just average control but below average strikeout ability, so if he can induce weak contact, he might be fine. If not, he’ll have his third bad start as hitters whack the ball all over the place.
WAHOO’S ON FIRST: What’s your prediction for the series?
MICHAEL ENGEL: At this point, I have no idea. I want to be optimistic and say the Royals will win it, but I’m not confident in either Sanchez or Mendoza to make that happen. I’ll say Kansas City takes one out of three. They’re just not playing well right now at all.