When the Yankees last played Kansas City, the Royals were a historically bad ballclub. When the team bus pulled up at Yankee Stadium back in late May, the Royals had a .222 winning percentage. Had they kept up that pace, the Royals would have surpassed the 1916 Philadelphia Althetics as the worst team since the arrival of the twentieth century.
Of course, they weren't really that bad. Their Pythagorean record at the time was .261 and by June 15 they had indeed pulled their actual record up to .262, which would merely have been sixth worst since 1901. Since then, however, Royal baseball has been a whole new ballgame, as the team has played at a comparatively world-beating .466 clip.
So what changed? Well, most obviously, they fired general manager Allard Baird and replaced him with former Atlanta Braves assistant GM Dayton Moore at the end of May. Not that Moore can really be said to have been responsible for having turned the team around on his own. During his first month on the job, Moore reinstated Mark Teahen at third base, acquired Joey Gathright from the Devil Rays, claimed Todd Wellemeyer of waivers from the Marlins, bought Brandon Duckworth from the Pirates, and restored tonight's starter Luke Hudson to the rotation.
Teahen has been a revelation, hitting .318/.390/.568 with 16 homers, 58 RBIs while being a perfect 8 for 8 on the bases and playing outstanding defense, but the other moves have had minimal impact. Gathright has hit just .234/.319/.291 and been caught in five of his eleven steal attempts. Wellemeyer leads the Royals pen with a 3.98 ERA (ouch), but has walked more than he's struck out. Duckworth posted a 6.11 ERA before landing on the DL. In fact, the 29-year-old Hudson has been the second most successful of Moore's initial fixes, going 7-2 since his recall despite a 5.01 ERA.
But then, it's not fair to judge Moore on his short-term results. The Royals are such a bankrupt organization that there's very little anyone could have done with them mid-season. Rather, Moore has been the early beneficiary of a few lucky breaks, such as the 24-year-old Teahen exceeding the expectations he'd previously failed to live up to, and David DeJesus and Mike Sweeney getting healthy. That said, he does deserve credit for bringing in first baseman Ryan Shealy from the Rockies, who has since hit .312/.363/.456. With Shealy and DeJesus replacing injured underperforming vets Doug Mientkiewicz and Reggie Sanders, Sweeney replacing the underutilized Matt Stairs, and Teahen replacing miscast utility man Tony Graffanino, the Royals have shown signs of life on the field, sweeping the Red Sox in early August and going 4-2 over their last six games against Wild Card contenders Chicago and Minnesota. In Kansas City such signs of life are a major accomplishment.