The Kansas City Royals are off to one of their best starts since their 2015 World Series championship season. All be it that it is still really early, starting a few games above .500 should be praised. So the most important question at hand is whether the AL Central-leading Royals are pretenders or contenders. Let’s discuss, shall we?
THE ROYALS ARE PRETENDERS
Despite the fast start to the season, in the recent homestand, the Royals had double-digit errors through the ten games at home. Kansas City went an average 6-4 over that span allowing 49 runs to cross the plate in which the Royals allowed 14 runs in a game to Tampa on Tuesday. Starting pitching has been an issue for most of the season so far and has been the ultimate reason behind some of the Kansas City losses.
Not only has the starting pitching not been fully up to par, but the bats have also cooled off for most of the lineup minus a few names. Guys like Salvador Perez and Carlos Santana have kept the Royals in games as of recent but that can’t be enough going forward.
The beauty of baseball is that any team can win games at any time if they put it together. The Royals have done “enough” so far to stay above .500 but honestly, it is not enough. To make an impact, they will need to get their struggling starting pitchers in line and get the whole batting card going as well to compete. With over 20 games against division opponents coming up, the Royals will have plenty of opportunities to show if they are contenders, but until then, keep the Royals on the back burner for yet another year.
THE ROYALS ARE CONTENDERS
As I mentioned before, this is one of the best starts to a season since the Royals won the title in 2015. While not every piece of the puzzle is perfectly placed, it is enough to compete in the American League. Yes, the whole American League. The batting lineup for Kansas City has been dynamic, especially when it comes to Salvador Perez and Carlos Santana.
Both guys sported the first and second-best batting average on the team during the recent homestand. It is also important to note that the Royals have a dynamic bullpen. With four to five solid relievers and two to three closing options, the bullpen can win games easily for Kansas City. If there were building blocks for baseball, a solid bullpen is one of them, and Kansas City has one.
Going forward, the Royals just need to continue to stretch the strike zone and get guys on base for the hot bats to score. While the starters have a few things to fix, some more than others, that solid bullpen waiting out in the right field can support them better than most supporting pitching casts can. The Royals have won 54 straight games when leading after seven innings, the longest streak in baseball. I don’t know about you, but if that stat doesn’t jump off the page now that the Royals seem to have a grasp on competing again, well start believing. The Royals are a team to watch and are contenders this season despite it being very early.
Despite listing off reasons for both why the Royals could or could not compete in baseball this year, I have one and only one final verdict: it is way too early to determine if the Royals are back or not and that’s the bottom line. I personally waited to decide a verdict until after the Tampa series, which is the first series loss for Kansas City this year. I waited to see if the Royals could compete with the defending AL champs, and honestly, I did not see enough to decide.
The Royals are not even 20 games into the 162 game season; honestly, hit the brakes on deciding if they are back or not. The reason I see no true result to this question references back to the Washington Nationals in 2019. They were a below .500 team in the first half but stormed back and won the World Series, thus you can never count a team out.
On the other hand, you can never put all your cards into a team’s basket this early into a season. Yes, the Royals are winning games and series much faster than recent seasons, but let’s talk again in early September or even late July and see where Kansas City is then to decide if they are the real deal or not.
Final Verdict: Too early to tell, wait a bit longer.
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Stats from espn.com and Fox 4 sports