Thar She Bl-O’s!!

Missouri is known for a lot of things. The expression “I‘m from Missouri–show me,” the St. Louis Cardinals and tornadoes.

Speaking of things that suck and blow …

The Kansas City Royals are bad. How bad? Jerry Lewis is thinking of adopting them and holding a telethon. Rumors are circulating around the Kansas City Star that Joe Posnanski will be replaced in covering the Royals by Ted Fujita. It’s been overheard that the next “Survivor” series will be held at Ewing Kauffman Stadium and the participants will be season ticket holders. The concessions are starting to stock Gravol and cyanide. Jack Kevorkian has been put in charge of the P.R. department. Fathers who take their sons to Royals games are going to be designated unfit and family services will take them away.

It’s that bad.

How bad?

Remember the 1988 Orioles? They opened the season 0-21 and were never headed up. Like the behavior the weather in Missouri inspires, the Orioles ran straight for the basement and refused to come out until the sucking stopped.

Well, as bad as the Orioles were to open 1988, the Royals are worse.

Last night, I was on the air at KRMS 1150 AM with Brendan Mathew on his excellent show “Sports Fix” and we were discussing the 2005 Royals and how they stack up against the 1988 Orioles.

The results weren’t pretty. Suffice it to say, Brendan is grateful to be a Cardinals fan. Here are some quick and dirty comparisons between the two clubs during their respective spirals. As of this writing, the Royals losing streak sits at 18 games. You may wish to sit down and send your children out of the room.

   Team      AVG/ OBP/ SLG           AL AVG/OBP/SLG
‘05 Royals  .227/.278/.350          .269/.334/.427
‘88 Orioles .223/.289/.311          .259/.323/.391

Crunching the numbers, the Royals are slightly worse than the Orioles when compared with league averages. A quick caveat: all the AL averages are for the full seasons/season to date that year … not what they were during the respective streaks.

Let’s look at the pitching end of things:

   Team        ERA     AL ERA
‘05 Royals    7.92      4.39
‘88 Orioles   5.94      3.97

The Orioles pitching was 33% worse than the AL as a whole, the Royals are 45% worse than the league average. One big difference between the two clubs is that the Orioles got some pretty decent bullpen work whereas both the Royals rotation and bullpen have been rancid. Let’s compare the starting pitching:

   Team        ERA     avg. IP
‘05 Royals    7.56      5.2
‘88 Orioles   6.79      5+

Over their current 18-game losing streak, the Royals got just five quality starts and one complete game from their rotation; over their 21-game streak the Orioles got just six quality starts and two complete games. To state the blindingly obvious, this taxes the bullpen in a large way. So how did each team’s relief corps fare?

   Team        ERA     avg. IP
‘05 Royals    8.49      3.1
‘88 Orioles   4.63      3.1

The Royals bullpen appeared in 17 of the 18 games during the streak and only once (Aug. 11 against the Tribe) did they fail to surrender any runs. Despite the ERA of the Orioles’ bullpen over their streak, they actually put in some good work. On Opening Day after Mike Boddicker left the game with one out in the sixth, relievers Oswaldo Peraza and Dave Schmidt coughed up seven runs against the Brewers in their two innings of work. In Boddicker’s next start, the fourth game of the season, he didn’t get out of the second inning and Mark Williamson and Jose Bautista surrendered seven runs in their 4.1 innings of work. After that rocky beginning, the O’s bullpen had a 3.39 ERA over the final 17 games of their losing streak and three times over that stretch they held the opposition scoreless.

One bright spot anyway.

Taking a Halladay

Just four games back of the wild card, the Toronto Blue Jays are on the periphery of the playoff hunt. Frankly I’m thrilled. When ace Roy Halladay went down on July 8, the Blue Jays were in the hunt at 45-42. Losing your big stud at that juncture seemed to be a death blow for the Blue Jays’ chances–I certainly thought so. After the injury, the Jays lost five of their next six, dropping them to 46-47 and looked most likely done for the season. To my surprise, the Jays stiffened and have won 17 of their last 27 to improve to a solid 63-57.

How have Toronto’s pitching corps fared during Halladay’s absence? Overall, in their 33 Halladay-less games the Jays’ staff ERA is 3.98–right about where it was when Halladay went down. Minus his contributions it would be assumed that their overall ERA would rise but the staff overall has stepped it up and plugged the hole. Just to break the numbers down further, the starters have averaged 5.2 IP with an ERA of 4.27 while the bullpen have averaged 3.1 innings of work with a tidy ERA of 3.46.

The Jays have done well in not rushing Halladay back because returning too soon after a leg injury can have disastrous consequences, since generally it will cause a pitcher to alter his mechanics which can result in nasty shoulder or elbow injuries.

Toronto is not out of it yet and if Halladay returns healthy and general manager J.P. Ricciardi can pick up an extra bat then who knows? Regardless, the Jays have showed some real grit in hanging tough after losing their ace and even if they fall short in 2005, 2006 looks like it might have some real promise.

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