Five observations on the current state of the Royals …
FRENCHY AND THE BRETT EFFECT
The majority of the Royals’ fan base seems bent on pushing Jeff Francoeur to the street the minute Jarrod Dyson is ready to return from his rehab stint at Triple-A Omaha (and that should be any day).
I get that, believe me. Francoeur, offensively, has been painful to watch for well over a year. He has been so undisciplined at the plate that he seemingly swings at anything and everything –- throws to first, planes overhead, you name it.
But it may be worth giving Francoeur one last try because, let’s face it, the Royals are desperate for power, and Frenchy is capable of reaching the seats, as he did Sunday.
The other reason to give Francoeur a little more time is George Brett. Francoeur and Brett have been working daily over the last two weeks on revamping his approach and his swing.
Brett has been focusing on getting Francoeur to load his back side, then pull the bat through the zone with his bottom hand while releasing the top hand. This top-hand release is a major principle to the Charley Lau hitting philosophy.
“He’s been on my ass trying to get me to release that top hand,” Francoeur told me recently.
Admittedly, Francoeur has looked awkward at times doing so. But the goal is to get a flatter-plane swing with more bat speed. And the results are starting to trickle in, starting with his homer Sunday.
I would like to see a larger sample size, which would mean sending David Lough, who has options, back to Omaha, at least until we find out more about the “new” Francoeur.
THE NEW EJ
If you don’t think Brett already is having an impact with the hitters, check out Elliot Johnson as Exhibit A. Johnson has indicated that Brett suggested a slight alteration to Johnson’s swing –- again, as is the case with Francoeur, the change is more top-hand release.
Johnson is pulling the bat through the zone with his lead arm instead of pushing with his chest and trail arm, and the result is a much quicker bat. Johnson is 7 for his last 16 with a homer, double and triple.
Even Eric Hosmer is trying it, and you may have noticed Hoz is finally pulling the ball in the last week or so.
There’s nothing like having an offense capable of scoring runs that gives fans hope. Admit it: Unlike the feeling in April and May, you now feel like the Royals can score at any time.
The Royals have won 10 of 12 and are averaging nearly five runs (4.7) per game in that stretch. With the league’s No. 1 pitching staff, that runs-per-game average is plenty, and it could make the Royals pretty formidable the rest of the season if they can continue to improve at the plate.
Here’s further reason for hope: The team’s two best hitters, Billy Butler and Alex Gordon, aren’t exactly scorching it. Butler is just 9 for his last 37, and Gordon is just 8 for his last 44.
Wait until those two join the party.
OK, I admit I love this statistic: James Shields and Ervin Santana are the only two pitchers in baseball who have thrown at least six innings in each of their starts this season (minimum 11 starts).
Shields goes for his 15th straight start of six-plus innings this season tonight, and his 29th overall. Justin Verlander holds the major league record of 63.
Santana has a streak of 13, and is 22 for his last 23 of going six-plus.
As you probably know, Wil Myers has been called up by Tampa Bay and should get a long look. Some Royals fans and observers may be secretly rooting against Myers, reasoning that if he fails, it makes the Shields-Wade Davis-Johnson trade look good for the home team.
But in reality, Myers’ success is independent of the value of the trade for the Royals. The Royals got what they desperately needed –- an ace who has performed brilliantly, become a leader of the staff and who has installed a winner’s mentality in the clubhouse. Davis has been functional as a No. 4 starter, and still may have a nice upside. Johnson, the throw-in to the deal, may have won the second base job.
And if Myers performs well for the Rays, then it’s a win-win trade for both teams – which is what good trades should be.
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter @jflanagankc or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.