It’s a pretty good thing the Kansas City Royals are steaming towards the American League Central title. Otherwise, there would be a lot more worry about the Royals’ pitching staff.

The concerns have been mumbled about Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy all season. Other grumblings have been focused on which Royal woul claim the No. 5 starter position — Jeremy Guthrie, Chris Young and lately Kris Medlen — almost by default.

But the biggest concerns are now revolving around one of a handful of players who are supposed to lead the franchise back to the World Series this fall.

Johnny Cueto had his fourth straight ghastly outing today: 3 IP, 5 earned runs allowed, 7 hits. It’s his shortest outing in a Royals’ uniform, but the three prior starts weren’t much better:

6 IP, 13 hits, 6 ER

5 IP, 8 hits, 6 ER

6 IP, 9 hits, 4 ER

What gives?

If you listen to the Royals’ coaches, it’s nothing more than the pitching equivalent of a hitter’s slump. I get that. But if that’s the case, you would look for different results. Hitters go from getting under fastballs and popping them up to trying unsuccessfully to pull breaking pitches away to being ahead to being late — all in a 20-at-bat slide.

Cueto’s problem has been consistent. He has missed up and out over the plate. Seriously, if you look at where his pitches have been hammered the hardest, Cueto did better teeing up his offerings than he could have done with an actual tee.

The Royals may be unpleasantly surprised this offseason by their rotation and the resulting impact on their bullpen. It would be unfortunate if the team’s signature acquisition for this stretch drive would be be one of the disappointing reasons the Royals fail to reach the World Series.