Friday, April 04, 2008

Royals Series Preview

Twins 1-3 (2.06 runs scored per game/4.25 runs surrendered per game) | Royals 3-0 (4.03 runs scored per game/1.66 runs surrendered per game)

Up until today, the last time the Twins faced a Royals team with a winning record was August 23rd, 2003. On that day, the Twins found themselves in third place, a half behind the surprising Royals. Johan Santana dominated a line-up that still contained Carlos Beltran, striking out 10 in six innings. The Twins won that game, the final of a three game series at the Dome, and continued a second-half climb that culmenated in the second of four division championships. While the Twins went 46-23 during that stretch on the way to a 90-72 record, the Royals failed to sustain the level of play at the beginning of the season, finishing 32-38 in the second half dropping back to third in the AL Central.

(Perhaps the reversal of fortune could be attributed to career back-up catcher Tom Prince. In 2003, the Twins used the 38-year-old catcher in the first-half of the season and were 44-49 at the all-star break and were 7.5 games behind the Royals. On July 13th, the Twins released the aging catcher and several days later the Royals signed him. Up to the break, the Royals were 51-41, when they picked up Prince, they finished a 32-38, 7 games behind the Twins. Then again, Prince only played 8 games for the Royals which was hardly enough opportunity to appropriately sabotage a baseball team.)

Nearly five years worth of games have been played against Kansas City and they have all been against a sub-.500 opponent. Now, the only players that remains on either roster now is Juan Rincon, Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer for the Twins and just David Dejesus for the Royals. Naturally, the season is only four games old, but these Royals have shown signs that they are not quite the doormat that everybody thought they would have been. Sweeping a three game series from the Tigers at Comerica would have been a daunting task on paper before the season started. Detroit was a bit of a shall, lacking Curtis Granderson and having Miguel Cabrera scratched during one game, but the starting pitching, not to mention the bullpen, helped the Royals start undefeated. Zack Greinke and Brian Bannister combined to limit the potentially most potent line-up to only one run in the past two games. Furthermore, the once worthless Royals bullpen that could be counted on to hand over a lead on a moment's notice threw 4 innings of scoreless ball and only walked one batter.

While Kansas city Star's Sam Mellinger outlined plenty of reasons not to get too caught up in this fast start, there seems to be just as many reasons to think that this could be sustainable. Though three games are difficult to mount total optimism, this squad does have the parts to be competitive. After all, players like Alex Gordon, Mark Teahen and Billy Butler are all dangerous hitters - that's not even mentioning what Jose Guillen could conceivably contribute. The bullpen with Joakim Soria and Leo Nunez has legitimate talent that was lacking the previous seasons.