The Kansas City Royals have struggled offensively during the first week and a half of the season. In their eight games, they have scored a total of 27 runs, 14 of which came in two games. Despite ranking ninth in on base percentage, the Royals are 26th in runs scored and 24th in OPS. They have only one home run, hit by Alex Gordon during yesterday’s game. The Royals have been able to get runners on base, but have struggled to bring them home with a .242 batting average with runners in scoring position, a number that was inflated due to their 2-5 performance yesterday.
The struggles have not ended with the Royals inability to consistently score runs. Mike Moustakas is beginning to show signs that he is Mr. March, as he is 1-26 after his second consecutive excellent Spring Training. Billy Butler is hitting .214 without an extra base hit. Danny Valencia has had to play second base due to Omar Infante being out of the lineup after getting hit in the jaw with a pitch, an experiment that had predictably awful results. The Royals bullpen, which was expected to continue it’s dominant ways from last season, ranks 26th in the majors with a 5.79 ERA. Just looking at the statistics, the Royals would seemingly be expected to have found themselves in a hole early in the season.
However, despite playing both the Detroit Tigers and the Tampa Bay Rays, two teams expected to contend for the playoffs this season, the Royals find themselves at .500 heading into today’s off day. In fact, with a bit of luck, the Royals record could have been even better, since they are 1-3 in one run games, with all three of those losses coming in the ninth inning or later.
How is that possible? For all the struggles that the offense and the bullpen have had, the Royals starting rotation has stepped up. Expected to take a step back with the loss of Ervin Santana, the Royals rotation has a 2.03 ERA and a .202 batting average against. Having faced off against several top starters already, the Royals rotation has done its best to keep the team within striking distance.
As improbable as it would be for the Royals rotation to continue to perform at this level, the rest of their struggles are not likely to persist either. The talent in the bullpen is enough where they should get back to their accustomed level of performance. Butler is not going to bat at a .214/.303/.214 rate all season. The hits, which have been coming when no one is on base, will begin to fall when runners are in scoring position. Moustakas will eventually see his batting average get past the Mendoza Line. The Royals will get better.
With the Minnesota Twins and the Houston Astros next on the schedule, this could be the time for the Royals bats to further the momentum from their seven run outburst yesterday. This may be the time where the bullpen rights itself and get back to being that dominant force that they were expected to be.
The Royals may have struggled in a number of ways in the early part of the season, but they still find themselves at .500. As bad as some things may seem, it could be a lot worse.
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