This is not an article about WAR, or sabermetrics, home and away batting vs. day or night pitching. This is about what I hear, and what I see when I listen to the radio or watch this Kansas City Royals team. It’s a team I’ve listened to, watched, scoured the box scores for and spent hard-earned money and devotion on since 1969. Some folks like to analyze stats from Kansas City to Wilmington and back to prove their opinion. That’s fine.
Me? I just listen and watch. My conclusion? This is not a playoff team. Add all the shine and bluster you want, and God bless you for holding out hope. This team was built to be competitive. But this version of the Kansas City Royals just wasn’t built to make the playoffs.
I was listening to Wednesday’s game against the Houston Astros on the radio. I love listening to baseball on the radio, and even half-way enjoy it when I’m enduring Steve Physioc and his forced bravado. Ever notice that he rarely uses contractions when he speaks? It’s not natural.
I digress. The score was 5-0 Astros over our hapless Royals, and the Astros had a runner on third. Danny Duffy, “dead arm” and all, was still on the mound and Physioc let out a doozy, speaking of the game situation: “Danny is in danger of getting blown out of this game.”
He wasn’t kidding.
Not that he kids around much anyway. Who, these days, would take the notion seriously that the Royals could come back from a 5-0 deficit? As soon as Astros rookie George Springer hit the 2-run dinger in the first, that game was over.
Someone who comments on these posts recently challenged me to explain what is wrong with the Royals’ hitting. The commenter told me he had cited several expert sources that have tackled this subject, and wanted my expert opinion. Problem is, unlike Physioc, I can’t fake “expert.”
Ah, but if only I knew. If only these so-called “experts” knew. If only Ned knew! Then we all could tell the players and then the Royals would be playoff bound in no time at all.
If they were to ask me what is the issue with hitting, I would say, simply, our boys are not hitting. That’s it. They make way too many outs and don’t get nearly enough hits. And the the hits they do get are mostly singles. That’s about as “expert” as anyone can get who doesn’t wear the uniform.
Is anyone accountable for this? There are 25 players, and few have been punished for poor hitting. There’s a Chinese Fire Drill at the hitting coach position. Dale Sveum is the latest to get the open seat. There’s only one manager, and he’s still allowed to fill out the line up every day. And there’s only one general manger, and he still has the keys to the stadium.
So, no wonder Steve Physioc was still expecting a Royals comeback, even when the boys in blue had dug themselves into a 5-0 hole. All the right pieces are in place as far as the organization is concerned. Any day now, the switch will flip – all by itself – and hits will fly.
Let’s be certain about this team and its expectations. The Royals are getting exactly what they wanted when they assembled their team in the offseason. They wanted more singles. They wanted to have to get at least 3 hits in an inning to score a run.
The top offensive acquisitions, Nori Aoki and Omar Infante, were signed as table-setters. No need for Nelson Cruz and his .310 batting average supporting 19 home runs. No need for a bomber in the middle of the lineup. The Royals moved Alex Gordon down in the lineup. Bombs would somehow materialize with that move.
Except, the players currently manning the corner infield positions, plus the designated hitter have as many home runs apiece as the back up catcher: one. And the outfield has four home runs – collectively!
If you took the hitting totals to-date, and divided them by nine (for each offensive position), the profile of the average Royals player would have 49 hits, 10 doubles, one triple, two home runs and 20 RBIs with a batting average of .251. If we were to give that “average” Royal a name, his name would be “Jeff Franceour,” and Moore would probably sign this prototypical Royal to another two years with a hefty raise!
This is the type of offense Kansas City has come to expect. And this is the offense that Moore assembled this winter.
There is an unwritten rule among Moore and his staff that says: “No one can hit home runs in Kauffman Stadium, so sign Punch-and-Judy players.” Yet, opposing teams come in and spray balls into the fountains like you and I used to hit wiffle balls into the neighbor’s yard as kids.
With these low power expectations, it’s understandable then that our second baseman and shortstop have one-fifth of the teams’ home runs. It’s the stadium, stupid!
And, it’s perfectly fine that we could suit up nine Jeff Franceours and pretty much get the same thing we’re getting now.
But, please, please don’t insult us and have your radio lackey try to create some mid-game melodrama by telling us that the outcome of the game is sitting on the precipice of victory or defeat when the Royals are down 5-0.
As fans, we’ve been tuned to this station for decades, and that song stopped playing when this roster was put together.