KC Royals designated hitter Kendrys Morales is off to a disappointing start in 2016. Getting him going is critical to turning around the Kansas City Royals offensive malaise.
In an earlier article (KC Royals: Numbers Behind The Struggling Offense) , we examined some reasons why the KC Royals offense has been sputtering recently. In this article we look at the Kansas City Royals Kendrys Morales.
A few weeks ago, the KC Royals Kendrys Morales received his Silver Slugger award for being the best DH in 2015. The 2015 season for Morales was a comeback season of sorts as he had struggled the previous four years to recover from a gruesome broken leg he suffered jumping on home plate back in 2010.
During Morales’ Silver Slugger campaign, the Royals DH hit .290 with a .362 OBP, 22 homers, and 106 RBI’s. The Royals Morales was a critical component in the teams World Championship and he was on the short list for comeback player of the year.
Morales has hit the ball hard more often this year than he did in 2015
However, success the Kansas City Royals DH had in 2015 has not yet carried over into the 2016 season. Following the 7-0 win vs. the Indians on Saturday May 7th, Morales is hitting .213 with a minuscule .256 OBP, 3 home runs, and 12 RBI’s.
Part of Morales’s issues appears to be his strikeout rate which is up to 21.4% in 2016 from 16.1% in 2015. But that doesn’t appear to be the whole story. In 2015 the KC Royals DH had a batted balls in play average BABIP of .319 but according to fangraphs.com, his BABIP is down to .235. In other words, balls in play by Morales aren’t resulting in hits nearly as often.
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So why isn’t Morales getting as many hits on balls in play? Well, it doesn’t appear to be his ability to square up the ball. Advanced metrics from fangraphs.com shows the Kansas City Royals DH has a medium and hard contact percentage of 43.2% and 39.5% respectively. Morales’s medium and hard contact percentages in 2015 were 50.4% and 35.3% so in fact, Morales has hit the ball hard more often this year than he did in 2015.
However, the Royals DH’s line drive percentage is down 6.2% from 2015 and his fly ball percentage is up almost 9%. Morales is also pulling the ball about 3% more this season than last season and since he is often shifted against, that stat could have some, albeit small, effect.
For the most part, all the factors listed above wouldn’t explain such a big difference in batting average, and low BABIP from 2015-2016. In the end, it does appear that the Kansas City Royals DH is just simply having some bad luck and the averages will eventually revert to where he should be. Hopefully, his performance against the Indians on Saturday is a sign things are starting to head that direction.