The following is trying to look at the Royals’ team stats to see if there is anything unusual going on and if there is anything more we should be paying attention to. Mostly I am just trying to figure out how much to believe in this team. I used Fangraphs, like usual, but you can go get these sortable team stats in a lot of places. The right column is the rank out of 30 MLB teams (K%, BB/9, HR/9, and ERA go from lowest to highest so that 1st place is given to the lowest (best) rather than the highest like the others).
Team batting has gone somewhat as expected in my opinion. They are right in the middle of the pack in runs and the main concern is the lack of home runs and walks. The usual pattern of recent years where they rank very well in average and significantly worse in OBP is still there, once again due to really low walk rates, but this year OBP is slightly higher than normal due mostly to avoiding strike outs.
There is a very good sign that should not be ignored here. Only two players have been good enough that I don’t think their rates are sustainable, Alex Gordon and Chris Getz. If some of the struggling bats can start hitting a bit, mostly Alcides Escobar and Mike Moustakas but almost everyone else can do more too, then these ranks might be a little low come seasons end. Both runs rank and WAR rank show a nice average offense, so growth would be welcome. On to pitching:
That is beautiful, and not something we have seen as Royals fans in a long time. Very high K rates and low walk rates are a very good way to be successful as a pitching staff. The middle of the road home run rate has kept this from being a stellar beginning. ERA is nearing top-5 status and the FIP and XFIP numbers back up the ERA so far. My preseason belief once they set the rotation was that this was a slightly above average starting rotation and a fantastic bullpen. This is a sustainable start from a rankings perspective. I doubt Ervin Santana can keep being as good as he has been, but I also believe Wade Davis and Luis Mendoza can be quite a bit better.
The combined WAR total of pitching and hitting ranks 12th in the majors, and that puts them right on the edge of contention with 10 teams making the playoffs. Most of this does not look like unsustainable luck like 2003 was, so I am really starting to get excited about a long summer of meaningful baseball games. It’s still far from a done deal that this team will contend, but the early returns are not hurting the preseason optimism.