Mother’s Day, 2016. The Kansas City Royals wrap up their series in Cleveland against the Indians, losing the rubber game and losing their fourth straight series in a row. The Royals now sit at 15-15 as they head to New York to take on the Yankees. To say there is concern for Royals fans would be an understatement; a few weeks into the new season and Kansas City does not look like the defending World Champions. But should you be concerned? Nope. Or should I say, “at least not yet”.
I say not yet because just going by the numbers, this Royals team is not too far off from where they were last year within the American League. Let’s look at offense first, since there has been a lot of concern with the Royals producing with the bats as of late. The Royals right now are on par with where they were last year with numbers you would expect; top of the league in steals, near the top in BABIP, near the bottom in walks and pretty much all power statistics, which is fairly normal for the Royals the last few years. Even their strikeout percentage is the 5th lowest in the American League, which I’m sure is surprising to some. There has been a lot of talk so far this year on how guys like Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain have struck out more than normal, but the numbers say as a team they are about where they normally are. Where things differentiate is runs and RBI’s. Last year, the Royals drove in a healthy amount of runs and were in the upper portion of the league at year’s end. This year they are dead last and a lot of that can be pointed toward their inability to score runners in scoring position. The Royals have the third highest rate in the American League (3.55) of stranding runners in scoring position, with only Boston and Houston stranding more this year. To go along with this, Kansas City is just not creating runs, as evident by their being tied for last in wRC+ with 87. So offensively, this team is just not creating runs and being clutch, which are two main cogs of the Royals offense during these last two seasons.
So what about the pitching? For the most part the Royals are putting up about the same numbers here as well. Going down the line, the stats match up with 2015; HR/9, BABIP, LOB% and GB% are all fairly close to what the Royals finished at last year. One area that has seen a slight bump is the walks per 9, which have jumped up from 3.03 last year to 3. 98 so far in 2016. It’s very believable at this stage in the season to see where a few extra base runners could cause a few more runs for the Royals, even despite the percentage of runners being stranded by the pitching staff on level with last year. The Royals hard hit percentage is also up a tad(29.4 last year, 32.1 so far in 2016) which is mildly concerning, but something the pitching staff can flip around, partially by improving their pitch location. Just taking a glance at the numbers, it shows that Kansas City’s pitchers have a few areas they can improve on, but nothing that can’t be adjusted for a quick fix.
So just basing how the season has progressed by the numbers, Kansas City isn’t too far away from climbing their way back to the top of the American League Central. It’s easy to see a scenario where the hitters starting hitting better in tight situations and the pitchers start toning down the walks and not allowing as many pitches in the middle of the plate(and a little more good luck). The White Sox have a six game lead right now over the Royals, which is very attainable. Just as the Royals won’t play this way all season, the White Sox won’t dominate all season. Strap in folks; we are one hot streak away from the Royals blowing past .500 baseball.