Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Royals Offense Stepping Up While Facing Fastballs

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Back in the middle of May, when the Royals were far from the odds-on favorites to win the American League Central, I wrote an article discussing the team’s offensive struggles with the fastball. In said article, I noted that the Royals’ offense had the second-worst run value against fastballs in all of baseball. They improved slightly in the following month and a half, as they climbed all the way up to 24th by the end of the first half. Slight progress is still progress, I suppose.

Since the All Star break, you may have noticed the Royals have been playing pretty well. They’ve gone 24-10, and the offense has definitely improved. They’re still not all that great (97 wRC+), but they have gotten better.

That improvement is most evident in their production against those pesky fastballs. Before the break, their run value against fastballs was 6.3 runs below average. Since the break, that number is 9.2 runs above average, ranking second in baseball behind only the Nationals.

When an offense is able to produce against the most frequently thrown pitch, that offense should score enough runs to be successful. Breathtaking analysis, I know.

There were a handful of Royals who held their own against the hard stuff in the first half, led by Salvador Perez, Alex Gordon, and Lorenzo Cain, among others. But on the other end of the spectrum, Eric Hosmer, Omar Infante, and Mike Moustakas were completely overmatched. Moose was, by far, the worst of the bunch, as he created 9.7 runs below average against fastballs all by himself. Moustakas’ average against fastballs was .091, and his slugging percentage was .156. That’s slightly less than acceptable.

To his credit, Moustakas has been significantly better in the second half. He’s hit .250 with a .472 slugging percentage against fastballs, and posted a run value of 0.9 runs below average. Ok, so he’s still not completely fixed, but the improvement is drastic.

Moose isn’t the only one who’s been better, either. Jarrod Dyson is hitting .421 with 3 extra-base hits against fastballs in a limited sample. Raul Ibanez hasn’t played often, but he’s produced against fastballs, as has Erik Kratz and Christian Colon. Billy Butler did just fine against fastballs in the first half (.321 AVG, .420 SLG), but he’s taken it to another level in the second half (.349 AVG, .744 SLG). Likewise, Gordon has picked it up considerably since mid-July (.319 AVG, .553 SLG) after a strong showing in the first half (.248 AVG, .505 SLG).

Granted, it’s not all roses and sunshine. Infante has still struggled (-3.6 run value) and Perez has fallen off a cliff, figuratively speaking. Before the All Star break, Perez hit .333 with a .542 slugging percentage against fastballs. Since then, though, he’s hit just .196, albeit with a .435 slugging percentage. Overall, his production against fastballs has been much worse. Luckily for Perez, and for the Royals, the rest of the lineup has picked up the slack.

The Royals have been winning quite a few baseball games recently, and at least part of the credit has to go to the offense. They’ve started to hit fastballs more proficiently, and that has had a significant impact on the team’s run production. That increased run production has led to a terrific second half so far, and the Royals have put themselves in a nice position for the final month of the season.

 

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