Royals must improve offense to compete in AL

BY foxsports • April 13, 2012

Friday's Royals opener obviously was lost early when center
fielder Jarrod Dyson misplayed a fly ball with two outs, allowing the Indians
to eventually come up with four additional runs during a seven-run,
punch-in-the-gut first inning.

But here's the thing: If the Royals are going to hang around in the American
League Central throughout this summer, they are going to have show a little
more offense, at least more than the three runs they managed Friday and much
more than what they've shown through seven games.

Coming into Friday's opener, no team in the American League had scored fewer
runs than the Royals, who were averaging less than three a game.

While it is still too early to be making any pronouncements, the lack of
offense is significant because much of the talk about the 2012 Royals has
centered around their two biggest strengths — the bullpen and the offense.

I certainly see the case for seeing the bullpen as a strength. I'm not sure I
feel comfortable referring to their offense as a strength. Not yet.

No doubt, Royals hitters will have their days, and they will probably hit for a
decent average, as they did last year (.275).

But the only real statistic that matters is runs scored, and the Royals were
bunched in the middle of the pack last year and likely will be there again
unless several players make big strides when it comes to timely hitting.

No one is suggesting the offense is to blame for the Royals' 8-3 loss on
Friday. This one got away early, first on a checked-swing RBI bloop single from
Shelley Duncan, and then, as mentioned, on the wind-driven misplay by Dyson.

Yet the offense could have made it interesting with a clutch hit here and
there. That has been the trend of this Royals crop since last spring — a lot of
hits, inconsistent production.

The Royals scored three runs, but peppered the Indians with 12 hits, and
actually outhit the Indians by one.

But one of the reasons the Royals lost 91 games last year was an inability to
deliver the clutch hit. Most of the Oakland series and the first game against
Cleveland featured more of the same.

"We're not quite there yet," first baseman Eric Hosmer said.
"We've had chances but we haven't really caught fire. I know we can, offensively.
It's just not there yet."

In the first inning, down 7-0, the Royals stormed back with three consecutive singles
to get on the board. But any big inning was thwarted when Billy Butler rolled
into a double play.

A one-out single in the fifth was wasted when Dyson rolled into a rare double

In the sixth inning, Mike Moustakas flied out to right with two on and two out.
Hosmer had two on and two out in the seventh, but grounded out to first.

And, in the eighth, Moustakas came up with two on and one out — he promptly
tapped into an inning-ending double play.

"We certainly had our chances to chip away," manager Ned Yost said.
"We hit some balls hard, like in that first inning when Billy hit into a
double play. It's just one of those days."

To be truthful, though, this is kind of who the Royals are. They do not have
big boppers who can consistently deliver the three-run homer. When the Royals
are good, they win with singles and doubles and stolen bases.

Kansas City fans, starved for good hitters to admire, rightfully have warmed up
to Butler, Hosmer, Moustakas, Alex Gordon and Jeff Francoeur.

But five good hitters in an American League lineup is not exactly Murderer's
Row. In this league, the big boys in New York, Boston, Texas and Detroit can
hurt you one through nine.

The Royals have a solid foundation to claim a dangerous offense down the line,
and someday may be a threat one through nine. But without Salvador Perez and
Johnny Giavotella, and with hitters such as Yuni Betancourt, Humberto Quintero
and Chris Getz, the Royals aren't going to scare many opposing pitchers night
in and night out.

That's not to say the Royals won't be effective offensively. They may have only
five potentially dangerous hitters, but those five can do some damage when
they're in a groove.

The key to the offense, and maybe their season, will be how the Royals produce
with their up-the-middle foursome — catcher, second base, shortstop and center

Hosmer, despite the so-so start, isn't concerned.

"We're a confident group at the plate," Hosmer said. "I think we
all believe we can put up some numbers. It hasn't happened yet, but we're
confident it will. We will start coming up with the big hit and the timely hit.
It will happen."

It needs to.

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