The Royals had a pretty bad first half, although it could have been much worse. Before Allard was fired, the team looked like it would certainly challenge the 1962 Mets' record for losses in a single season. Firing Allard seemed to give the team new life and just about everyone has performed much better after the "changes" Glass promised arrived. The Royals' offense improved considerably during the month of June. The return of David DeJesus to the top of the lineup gave the Royals' offense a catalyst. Mark Teahen and John Buck also began to hit well and are finally starting to look like they belong in the major leagues.
While the offense is starting to produce, the pitching staff continues to be absolutely horrible. The Royals' team ERA is 5.79, a half point worse than any other team. The Royals' pitching staff has struck out only 436 hitters, dead last by a mile. The Royals also have the third most walks in the majors. That's a potent combination that results in horrible pitching.
Now, onto the individual player grades, which are based on the expectations at the beginning of the season for each player:Catcher:
John Buck: Buck had a great month of June, hitting 5 HRs and putting up a .953 OPS. Of course, as quickly as Buck gets hot, he goes right back into a slump. Buck has a .182/.182/.333 line so far in July. Buck has been a very streaky hitter and is awful when he isn't hitting well. Buck has struggled against righties, putting up a .228/.273/.379 line against them. Against lefties, Buck is hitting .274/.361/.500. That's a huge differential and might be enough to keep Buck from being more than a half-time player unless he can improve his numbers against righties. His defense behind the plate is pretty good and he's done alright at throwing out baserunners (11 CS in 33 attempts, spot on his career average).
Grade: C-, his plate discipline has shown some improvement (better K/BB ratio), but he needs to contribute more consistently, especially against righties.
Paul Bako: There is no evidence that this guy contributes anything to this team. Buddy Bell uses him against righties, but even Buck's .652 OPS against righties is far better. Hopefully, the Royals can dispose of Bako and give Phillips or Tupman a chance to give Buck some competition.
Grade: F, raised to a D if he voluntary retiresFirst Basemen/DH
Doug Mientkiewicz: Mientkiewicz has played well for the Royals. His defense has been outstanding, contrary to his -6 FRAA. FWIW, Emil Brown is +4 FRAA, so that statistic seems to have some issues. Mientkiewicz has been out of place as the No. 3 hitter, but he's hit as well as expected. Mientkiewicz has a .783 OPS, which is below-average but serviceable for a first basemen.
Grade: B, solid offensive performance and great defense
Matt Stairs: Stairs has hit pretty well in a platoon role so far. Stairs has a .828 OPS and 8 HRs so far in 165 ABs. He's a nice hitter to have in a limited role, but hopefully he retires after this season and the Royals can give Justin Huber an everyday position.
Grade: B, good job and not being overused
Tony Graffanino: Graffanino is a nice utility infielder, but apparently Bell didn't get the message because he's playing everyday. Graffanino has been pretty average for an infielder at the plate, with a .272/.330/.405 line. I'm not really sure why the Royals brought him back since all he does is take away playing time from Esteban German, who has the second-highest OPS on the team.
Grade: C, he's doing his job, it's Bell's use of him that's the problemSecond Basemen:
Mark Grudzielanek: Grudzielanek has pretty much met expectations. His main job was stabilizing the #2 spot in the lineup and improving the infield defense. Grudzielanek is nearly on pace to score 100 runs, which is rather amazing considering the hitters in the middle of the lineup. He's a solid veteran and a good leader.
Grade: B, done everything he's been asked
Esteban German: German has been a pleasant surprise for the Royals. When Buddy lets him play, he's done a great job of getting on-base. He has a good track record of getting on-base and stealing bases in the minors and it appears those attributes have translated to the majors. The Royals haven't used his speed much, but he's 3 for 4 on stolen base attempts. The only downside to German's play has been his defense. However, he hasn't seen much time at 2nd base, his main position. So, it's hard to tell if he could be a regular 2nd basemen after Grudzielanek leaves.
Grade: B+, nice surpriseShortstop:
Angel Berroa: Berroa is a talented, toolsy guy. The Berroa who almost put up a 20-20 season his rookie year has vanished because everyone knows he'll swing at bad pitches. His horrible plate discipline and inconsistent fielding drive every Royals' fan crazy. Hopefully, the Royals can get rid of him to a team intrigued by his tools or just cut their losses.
Grade: FThird Basemen
Mark Teahen: Before being sent down much to Allard's dismay, Teahen was hitting .195/.241/.351. Teahen tore up AAA pitching and returned a much improved hitter. His approach is much better and he seems much more comfortable at the plate. Teahen is starting to use the entire field and is pulling the ball for power. In spite of a slow start, Teahen now has a respectable .767 OPS and appears to be becoming a solid third basemen.
Grade: C+, nice to see the power starting to comeOutfielders:
Emil Brown: Emil Brown has regressed somewhat this year, not displaying as much power as last year. His slugging percentage is down to .418 from .455 last season. His defense is still not very good, but he's cut back on the errors (just 1 so far after committing 12 last year). Overall, he's pretty much done what expected.
Joey Gathright: The Royals acquired Gathright to add speed and improve the outfield defense. He's certainly added speed and I noticed it making a difference in the Toronto game I went to this past week. If he can get on-base at a good rate, then he can be a valuable asset. Otherwise, his singles stick won't supply enough offense to warrant keeping DeJesus at a corner outfield spot. His great speed will help make up for his weak arm, making him an above-average defender.
Grade: Incomplete, not enough time to evaluate him
David DeJesus: David DeJesus has played a major role in the Royals' turnaround in June. It's not a coincidence that the offense has been immensely better since DeJesus returns, as he's become a very good hitter. DeJesus does a great job of getting on-base (.404 OBP) and has the second-best sluggling percentage (.477). Put those two stats together and he has one of the best OPS among centerfielders. DeJesus has become an above-average centerfielder and should be a solid contributor at the top of the lineup as long as he stays healthy.
Grade: A, he's everything Berroa isn't, getting the most out of his talent and pleasing the fans
Reggie Sanders: When Sanders signed a 2-year, $10 million, I was pretty skeptical that the 38-year-old would be worth a two-year deal. I figured he'd bring decent power (9 HRs isn't awful), but his increasing age and poor plate discipline were worrisome. His streakiness and frequent strikeouts make it difficult to rely on him as a cleanup hitter. He's a tolerable option for this season, but I don't think the Royals can rely on him next year.
I think I graded a bit too easy, but I was grading on how well the player's met expectations and it seems most of them did. Hence, all of the B's and C's. The pitching staff, however, is a completely different story. I will cover the Royals' pitching staff tomorrow as well as the team's management and ownership.