May 20, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals designated hitter Billy Butler (16) is congratulated by second baseman Pedro Ciriaco (37) after scoring in the second inning against the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

KC Royals Offense 2013 VS 2014 Optimism And Concerns

Offense output for the Royals has been disappointing in the early going just like last season, but this year defense and pitching have kept the team afloat rather than going on a long losing streak like last May.  That means we still have hope, but if this team wants to separate from the .500 performance it is going to need more from the bats.

If you compare the offense through 46 games last year and this year this is what it looks like:


The game to game scoring is hard to tell much from, but the best fit lines are telling.  The 2013 Royals had plateaued already by game 46 and were averaging 4.13 runs per game which by the end of the season would be an even 4 per game.  The slightly declining best fit line shows that trend with a slope of -.0224 at this point of last season.  This year’s team has been worse so far at 3.93 runs per game, but seem to be trending in the right direction with an upward sloping trend over time.  Hopefully this means that the offense is starting to click.

This offense was expected to be better than last season’s, but under performance has been a major issue.  Six of the nine regulars have a wRC+ below there preseason projections so far with only Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain being any better than expected and Omar Infante matching expectations.  So the chart is hopefully pointing to a team about ready to head on up to its expected level since it is unlikely that two thirds of the team is going to be bad relative to their previous level for an entire season.

One of the six positions that have not held up their part might already be taken care of, or at least have a band aid until a trade can be made once a few teams fall out of contention.  The other five should be of varying levels of concern.

Salvador Perez -

Perez is only a hair below his expectations and has shown possible signs of growth.  He is walking at a 7.8% clip, which is nearly double last year’s rate, and his .275 BABIP might be what to look at as he has made more contact out of the strike zone so far that have lead to more infield popups that will only hurt you.  He should be fine.

Eric Hosmer -

Home runs are the only thing holding Eric back as his average of .285 is fine, but the slugging below .400 just won’t do for a first baseman.  Last year at this point he also had only one homer but his other stats were worse, so he is ahead of last year at this point but may be starting a reputation as a slow starter.  If he ends the year like his 2013 campaign we have a lot to look forward to.  Again, I think he will be fine.

Billy Butler -

Billy’s average is steadily climbing from .224 at the end of April to .255 and he looks more like his old self.  The power is still not there and after the drop of 90 points of slugging from 2012 to 2013 I am starting to worry it never will, but a .300 average the rest of the way with moderate pop would help out immensely.  The worry level here should be dropping, but there is still definite concern.

Norichika Aoki -

Aoki is striking out at double the rate he did last season and is on pace for only 30 or so extra base hits for the full season.  That is not acceptable for a lead-off hitter especially with on OBP of .326 a full 30 points below last season.  The Royals

May 21, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon (4) breaks his bat in the seventh inning against the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

may not be able to afford to leave him at the top of the lineup if this continues.  He is putting the ball on the ground a lot and not converting infield hits, and that is not a good combination.  Hopefully he can get back on track, but a lineup overhaul may be in order.  I am concerned, not a whole lot, but in a few more weeks that will change.

Alex Gordon -

Gordon is not striking out much this year at 12.6% of PAs versus a career mark of 20.4%, so you would think things would go well, but he is not hitting line drives and is putting the ball on the ground at a career high rate.  He is swinging at more pitches than he has since his rookie campaign in 2007, though they are strikes at least, and he has a higher contact rate.  That leads to fewer strike outs, but has not lead to good outcomes.  This might deserve some more investigation, but for his career Gordon has been best hitting 1st or 2nd in the order.  I know Ned wants him to be an RBI bat, but if it means Gordon is more aggressive at the plate it might be time to reconsider.  Aoki might benefit from being moved down a bit and Gordon from a move up, so I could see this working out pretty well.  I am concerned about Gordon also because he peaked in 2011 and has steadily declined each year since, so this is not a new trend.  He is the one I would worry about most right now from a deviation from expectation stand point, but I think being back at the top of the order might be a way to help him get back on track.

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  • jimfetterolf

    In other words there isn’t a real problem here, just some guys under performing a bit. We basically traded a terrible Esky and Moose for a terrible Moose and seemingly adequate Valencia, so now a matter of the muscle guys getting some loft in their swings and getting productive. I would note that for all his flaws, Aoki leads the team in runs scored. Still don’t like the trade, but he isn’t hurting the team and should progress going through the league a second time.

    If there was a systemic problem, what would it perhaps be? We’ve looked at this in other threads and I think critique is fine but solutions are better.

    • Bear Brinkman

      New batting coach?

      • jimfetterolf

        What would a new one teach differently? I’m probably just being cranky, but I date back to a time when baseball writers could look at swings and tell what the problem was. Even the Star’s beat reporters can’t do that, so the whole media market gripes and wants to fire some or all of the team’s management, then bring in some magical messiah who will do… what?

        If I were King of the Forest, not queen, not duke, not earl, I would buy every position player in the system Ted Williams’ “The Science of Hitting” and have pop quizzes.

        • moretrouble

          I think they’ve probably already read it. It’s an important book, but it’s more interesting from a historical perspective. I like Ted’s analysis of hitters … and Charlie Lau’s as well. The most interesting part of Lau’s book (“The Art of Hitting .300″) is his hitting analysis of players.

          There is a video series … and I can’t remember what it’s called … of Ted interviewing hitters, Tony Gwynn and Wade Boggs among them. Ted’s conversations get more into the finer points of hitting than his book.

    • Brian Henry

      Nothing looks systemic. That is a lot of the frustration I think, just simply that the players aren’t playing.

      • jimfetterolf

        Possible, but when common traits are ground balls and pop ups from power hitters, I’ld look at a cause and see if it relates to a hitting philosophy. Last week we got a look at what happens with uppercuts and getting in front of a pitch, so we know the strength is there if Gio and Esky can reach the cheap seats. Home runs are fairly simple, start the swing early and jack the inside pitch. But that does come at a cost named Jeff Francoeur. Modern pitches move a lot in the last twenty feet, so early swings hit mostly air.

  • moretrouble

    One thing that hurts this club is the absence of Infante. I never realized what a good hitter he is until he began playing in KC. Nori Aoki is still getting adjusted to the league; I think he’ll get better as the season progresses. Butler seems to feel he’s back on track; that will be a plus. If Cain keeps hitting well in the 8 hole, that’s a plus, also. But, once they get Infante back, plus Valencia hitting every day, I think we’ll see the team hit far better than what we’ve seen so far.