May was rough. Really rough. They finished the month 8-20 and three of those wins were in the first three games of the month.
The primary issue has been scoring runs. Kansas City scored 3.6 runs all month. Last month, they scored 4.3. In April, they hit 15 homers as a team in 24 games. In May? Just 14 in 28 games. And worst, after May 15, they hit just three homers.
We know that Kauffman Stadium generally suppresses home runs (though that doesn’t necessarily make it a pitcher’s park), and five of the Royals nine homers in May came at home. Six came in a three game series at Baltimore.
Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas both hit three homers to lead the team for the month. Gordon’s all came in each game at Baltimore, while Moustakas hit homers in the last two games of the Orioles series, then hit one back home against the Yankees.
Of the Royals 14 homers, nine came over a stretch of five days from May 7 to May 11. The Royals lost four of those five games, as it turns out. Overall, they hit a home run in ten games. They were 3-7 in games in which they hit a homer, generating a total of 21 runs from homers or, in other words, they only had seven runners on base when hitting a homer.
The longest homer of the month came off the bat of Billy Butler, a 427-foot shot off Andy Pettite on a 3-0 pitch that Butler drilled to left-center on May 11. The shortest homer was a 350-foot shot to right field by Gordon in Baltimore, but it was a no doubter given the stadium. The most surprising homer has to go to Jarrod Dyson, who had one career dinger coming into this season. Then, on May 10, he drilled a three-run homer to right at Kauffman Stadium off Phil Hughes.
Here’s an interesting fact: the Royals first home run of May was hit by a switch-hitter (Elliot Johnson on May 1). Their next eight were hit by left-handers (Gordon, Moustakas, Dyson, and Eric Hosmer). The final five were all hit by righties (Butler, Miguel Tejada, and Jeff Francoeur). I don’t think that really means much, though the lefties did their damage in Baltimore and the righties hit theirs in three different parks.
It was an awful month that saw the end of the short Jack Maloof/Andre David era as hitting coaches. They inherited a team coming off a 12th place finish in runs scored in 2012 and right now there doesn’t seem to be improvement by anybody in the lineup. The team’s approach is hardly different, as the team still won’t try to work a walk or be patient at the plate. And the result is that they have to string together hits to get runs. When it happens, good the Royals look pretty good, like they did in Los Angeles, winning two games after 11 and 9 run outbursts.
But comments by Maloof seem to suggest that that’s their expectation, even hope for the offense. String together hits and don’t worry about homers. And that can work, but only if you have players who can work the count to get on base. Otherwise, you’re waiting on going station to station with a bunch of singles to get your runs. Mix in some walks and you’re not as dependent on hitting the pitcher to get on base.
The Royals are 12th in batting average, 20th in on base percentage, and 28th in slugging percentage as we start the month of June. They’re second to last in isolated power.
Maloof said something about how the Royals can’t and shouldn’t try to hit homers at the K, then tried to offer a convoluted explanation as to why other teams can come in and hit homers at Kauffman (opponents hit 22 homers in 14 games at Kauffman Stadium in May and have hit 32 in 24 games all year in Kansas City).
Is it possible that if other teams can hit homers in Kansas City that the Royals could also hit them? Maloof addressed that suggesting that teams are more likely to have home run swings already from hitting in their own park. He did not address how the Royals might be able to develop home run swings.
George Brett took over for him and one comment he made in his press conference was that “home runs can kill rallies”. Out of context, that seems silly. The thought is that a pitcher is on the ropes and the homer clears the bases for him and makes everyone field back in their default positions. I suppose that would make sense to me except that if I’m looking for two runs, a bloop and a blast is much more efficient if you have the bats to do it. Otherwise, even if you’re getting doubles it would take three batters hitting doubles and driving in the baserunner to get to two runs, and if the ball’s in play, there’s potential for an out to be made. If it’s over the fence, the play’s over.
The Royals will need to hit some more homers. Even if it’s a solo shot here and there just to chip in and get a number on the scoreboard, it would help. The Royals are 7-12 in one run games, and in more than a couple of spots, they could have used an extra run from a solo shot to extend a lead or tie the game.
They have the guys to do it. Butler hit 29 homers last year. Gordon hit 23 in 2011. Hosmer had 19 that year as well as a rookie. Moustakas hit 20 last season. Lorenzo Cain had seven in 61 games last year. Salvador Perez hit 11 in 76 games last year. Jeff Francoeur had 16 last year and 20 in 2011. The potential for double digit or even 20 homer seasons exists in this lineup in seven spots. Somewhere in last season and through this point, the Royals lost it.
This year, their team leader is on pace for 18 homers and the team is on pace for 90 all year.
That just won’t do.
Here’s some perspective – the Royals hit 14 homers in May, just two more than Miguel Cabrera and Domonick Brown did individually in the month. Hopefully, they’ll start hitting the ball harder and won’t have to outpace individuals in June.