The early season discussion surrounding this team was the terrible offense. This lead to a lot of interest in George Brett showing up with Pedro Grifol, and then Brett stepping down. It seems like these moves worked, but I wanted to see if there was any way to show it well. What I am seeing is a team reaching a new, and better, level offensively.
Game to game run scoring variation is part of the game, so what I did was build some rolling average charts. If you take the entire season of runs scored game by game and then build 10 and 20 game rolling averages these charts are what you get for the Royals so far. If you are unfamiliar with rolling averages, the ten game chart’s first bar will be the average runs scored for games 1 through 10, the second will be the average of games 2 through 11, etc.
You can clearly see the drop-off, and extended slump in May. There is a stagnant spot while the transition of hitting coaches happened, and then an up, another drop-off, much shorter than the first, and steadily uphill from there. Prior to the Brett/Grifol arrival, there were 3 stretches of 10 games with an average above 5 runs. The team has managed to have two long stretches of this since, with 6 consecutive such 10 game averages in late June and 6 of the last 7 ten game stretches. Also, the drop in July did not drop nearly as far and was not sustained with a sharp upward trend right after.
The 20 game chart, by mathematical nature, is a smoother version of the same thing. It shows the two lows on a clear cut-off though, so that helps to illustrate the point. In May there was a long stretch with 20 game averages below 3 runs per game. The low point in July never got below 3 runs per game, or even all that close with 3.25 being the lowest.
Really I just wanted to see if the perception that the offense was doing better lined up with reality. These charts seem to indicate that it does. If you think of the range of outcomes possible for this team, the average seems to be higher with a similar or reduced variance than what it was before June. That is, the offense is more consistent, and has better output overall. Let’s look at the players responsible.
Eric Hosmer is the easiest to spot among the improved performances. He has put up OPSes of .889 in June, .847 in July, and .882 so far in August (his rookie year it was only .799). Nine first baseman in baseball for 2013 are above the .800 OPS threshold, so he is finally heading toward the upper echelon like we all expected prior to last year.
Mike Moustakas is following Hosmer’s lead, it just took until July for him to turn it around. In July he posted an .831 OPS, though in August he is below .700 again. Even this lower level so far in August is above his first two months though, and his fly ball tendencies make him a bit streaky.
Billy Butler as a consequence of all of this seems to be getting his groove back. He has been an on-base machine all year, but finally in August he is slugging above .500 like we were hoping he would for the whole season. It would still be nice if he could homer more, but maybe that is the next part of his resurgence.
David Lough, though he has faded each month since his monster June, is not Jeff Francoeur. That is pretty much all it took to get more out of right field.
Alex Gordon was in a huge slump in June, and I think July was looked upon as bad for him as well. Really his June average was bad at .226, but he was still getting on base and hitting for a bit of power. It wasn’t his best month, but he was still an above average hitter. Now that August has started he is back to his first couple months of All-Star level production.
Miguel Tejada, somewhat like Lough, did not have a very high level to get above to outperform the starters before him. His time as a regular through the end of July up until the injury a couple nights ago had him as a slightly below league average hitter. The power he had in his youth just isn’t there anymore, but slightly below league average is better than Chris Getz.
The losses of Lorenzo Cain and Tejada may make a new strain on this offense, but Justin Maxwell’s ability to crush lefties along with Jarrod Dyson and Lough means the outfield will likely remain about the same offensively (though there will likely be a defensive drop-off since Cain has been amazing in center). Also, since Tejada was only being okay, this team can probably live with a bit less out of second base as long as the big guys above continue to rake. Salvador Perez or Alcides Escobar hitting a bit better would be helpful as well, and Escobar is showing some signs of life.
For the year, the team is now averaging 4.07 runs/game, just a touch below last year’s 4.17. They are 18th in the majors in runs scored (11th in the AL). That is disappointing, but their last month or so has been above that, and the last couple weeks have been much better. Considering they were averaging 3.86 runs per game as late as June 22nd, a lot of ground has been made up toward being an above average offense this year. It is nice to see this team attaining this new level, and they are going to need to maintain it if there is to be any chance of playoffs a month from now.