The Royals batting order is currently suffering from the worst sports related power outage since the Super Bowl. They sit at 8-6 after winning behind the starting pitching in Atlanta, but as of Thursday morning’s team stats (according to Baseball Reference), the Royals have the fourth worst SLG and fifth worst OPS in the American League.
What we’ve confirmed after 14 games is that starting pitching does indeed make a world of difference. For a team who is dead last in home runs in the AL with a whopping 5 (the Braves hit that many against KC in game 1)…pitching has made all the difference in the world. With a little extra pop, the Royals might sit at 10-4 (or at least 9-5) right now. Not a huge difference, I know, but for a team that can’t afford to give away victories, those games we “could’ve” or “should’ve” won will add up.
So…where’s all the power?
Well, so far, Billy Butler (not surprisingly) leads the team with 2 homers…and we have 1 each from Jeff Francoeur, Alcides Escobar, and Chris Getz (who just hit his first ever home run in a Royals uniform). The problem here is…Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and Salvador Perez have zero. All middle of the order bats, all young guys Dayton Moore is counting on step up in a big way this year…and so far…zilch. And Moustakas doesn’t look remotely good at the plate right now.
What’s the plan moving forward then? Ned Yost has shuffled the lineup around a bit, partly due to some interleague games, partly due to cold (or hot) hitting by certain players. But do we want another season of 4 different lineups every week? Shuffling the hot hitters into key spots and moving the slumping batters down (like the ice-cold Moose, who hit seventh in the second game at Atlanta)? Ideally…no. In a perfect world, we’d have a pretty set lineup – at least with guys we know will produce from leadoff down through the sixth spot in the order.
Here’s what we know: Alex Gordon, Alcides Escobar, and Billy Butler all look like guys we can count on to play their respective roles. Lorenzo Cain (I hesitate to praise him, due to cursing him last year) has looked great so far and has moved into the fifth spot in the lineup. Salvador Perez looks like he will hit…but is he a real cleanup hitter? Probably not…at least not yet.
And then we have Moose and Hosmer. The corner infielders who, in a perfect world would at least combine for 50 homers. Moose, though, has yet to pull out of a tailspin that began midway through the 2012 season, and Hosmer…he looks like he’s got the right approach…but where’s the power? I’m not saying Hos won’t develop into a 25+ home run threat, but when will it happen? This year? Next year? Three years from now? Remember how long Gordon struggled before figuring it out?
How long can this team stay above .500 relying on pitching and defense…squeaking out 1-0 or 3-2 games? There have been flashes of an explosive offense this year…but if the offense can’t pick up the slack, and doesn’t have at least a couple of guys other pitchers are afraid can change the game in one swing…this time might be dealing with the opposite of what has dragged it down in the past. It used to be the pitching stunk and put too much pressure on the offense…now the offense might be so bad the pitching suffers from those side effects.
Hopefully a couple of these guys figure it out, and fast. Until then…I think Yost should consider going outside the box a bit with the lineup and follow the blueprint laid out in The Book (that I mentioned back in February). It would probably come out pretty unorthodox, at least for the time being, but man, for a team coming up woefully short on their plan to hit more homers…something’s gotta give.