Still, I'm not complaining. Break-even is a good place for this team. Are there warning signs that this is a mirage? You bet. Take away one 11-run outburst and the offense is averaging less than three runs per game. Jeremy Affeldt and Joe Mays make us long for Mark Redman and Runelvys Hernandez, a depressing thought. Andy Sisco seems to be struggling. David DeJesus is hurt again. The team has been outscored 27-19, and at that pace they can be expected to finish with a winning percentage of .345, which would give them exactly the same terrible 56-106 record that they had last year.
But there are just as many reasons for optimism. The other half of the rotation, Scott Elarton and Denny Bautista, have combined for and ERA of 2.31, and an acceptable WHIP of 1.37. If Bautista can get his command under control, he can be a star. At least three members of the bullpen - Ambiorix Burgos, Elmer Dessens, and Luke Hudson - look to be outstanding. Angel Berroa seems to have found his way at the plate (though he has yet to draw a walk). John Buck hit a couple of pitches for RBI doubles that he would have fanned on last year. The defense is clearly better (minus Emil Brown's continued shenanigans).
All of these observations are based on really small sample sizes, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the team can hang around .500 for a while. Do I expect it? No. But I'm sure going to enjoy it while it lasts.
Other Royals Notes:
- Retaining Jimmy Gobble and Steve Stemle in the bullpen looks like it's going to cost the Royals both on the field and in terms of compensation as well. Gobble and Stemle were equally terrible in their only appearances, combing for an ERA of 22.50, while Joel Peralta pitched a 1-2-3 inning for a save in Omaha's opener. Now we hear that the team is trying to swing a deal that will allow them to retain the rights to Steve Andrade as well. As a Rule 5 selection, the team has to offer Andrade back to Toronto now that he has cleared waivers, but the Royals like him enough that they'd like to give the Blue Jays something to keep him, probably a prospect. If he'd simply been retained on the roster, the Royals wouldn't have to give up anything, and Stemle or Gobble would be in Omaha, where they belong. It's a pretty slick move when you weaken your big league roster and your minor league system at the same time.
- Wichita is 0-3, but no one can blame the bats. As expected, the Wranglers have no pitching, so they've surrendered 25 runs thus far. But the bats have performed as advertised, averaging over 6 runs per game. Alex Gordon has posted an OPS of 1.221 in his first three games of his professional career. No doubt, this is going to be a fun bunch to watch this summer, if only they can stay interested as their pitchers allow the opposition to post nine runs each game.