Still six months to go in baseball’s regular season, Royals fans. I know time is crawling. You want it to be over with now and to see your team in the playoffs for the first time in nearly three decades.
But the next 40 games or so have to be played. Sorry, there is no shortcut.
There is a question I want to bring up to Royals fans, though. Who, so far, is the team’s MVP for 2014. I have five candidates, who I’ll list in order. I’m curious as to whether you agree. Let’s go from 5-1 to build suspense. What do you say?
5. Salvador Perez, catcher - You can’t over-emphsize the importance of the young Perez to the team’s improved pitching over the past couple of seasons. Perez might be the best young catcher to come into the game since Yadier Molina, although Cincinnati slugger Devin Mesoraco is in that mix, too. Perez is outstanding defensively and has contributed 15 homers, 51 RBI and a .266 batting average this season. The only concern is that the Royals have come to depend on Perez so much that finding days for him to rest is an issue. Kansas City needs him on the field.
4. Wade Davis, relief pitcher - You could make a case for Davis ranking higher on this list. He’s been a plesant surprise as Kansas City’s eight-inning reliever after struggling mightily as a starter last season. Davis has a power arm that is suited for a short spurt and he’s been as lock down as any reliever in baseball with a 0.84 ERA covering 53.1 innings and 51 games. Davis has struck out 82 and allowed only 28 hits. He’s been dominant.
3. Alex Gordon, left fielder - After some tough early going, Gordon has been on fire since the All-Star break, batting .337. That has lifted his overall mark to .284. Gordon is probably the best defensive left fielder in the American League and has been able to hit all over the batting order for the Royals. His value can’t be explained just by his offensive numbers. He’s the glue to the lineup, one that has started to heat up and is as responsible as the pitching and defense for the team’s ongoing hot streak.
2. James Shields, starting pitcher - The concern I had about Shields when the Royals traded Wil Myers for him in a multi-player deal with Tampa Bay in 2012 was that he would ultimately break down. Arguably the most durable pitcher in the game, Shields has given KC 172 innings so far this season and shows no sign of wearing out. He’s been everything the Royals wanted - a top of the roation ace who never misses a start and gives Kansas City a chance to win in almost every game he pitches. Shields is 11-6 with a 3.29 ERA and his leadership has helped the younger pitchers develop faster than they otherwise would have.
1. Greg Holland, closer - The ninth inning can be a tight-wire act for a lot of teams. Not so with Kansas City because it’s where the dependable Holland, armed with of the nastiest stuff in the game, resides. He leads the American League with 37 saves after piling up 47 in 2013. In the past four seasons, Holland has pitched 242.1 innings, allowed only 169 hits and struck out 330. He’s dominant and goes through very few slumps. Reliability is the name of the game in the ninth inning and Holland has been the most reliable closer in the American League for a while now.