Coming out of the gate, the KC Royals bats haven’t been great. The pitching has been a pleasant surprise. The bullpen has been disappointing. This has all added up to a lackluster 9-17 start. But will these things be a trend the rest of the way? Let’s break it down with XStats.
If you don’t know what “XStats” is, let me catch you up. XStats was a wonderful idea put together by Rotographs writer Andrew Perpetua. After Statcast data was released, he figured he could use it to calculate an estimated amount of what players stats should be. What it does is basically factor out luckiness and unluckiness. He has certain detailed statistics on every player, including every KC Royals player. In this piece, I’ll dive into some notable things I found.
As bad as Alcides Escobar has been, he’s still lucky
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Yes, you heard that correctly. Alcides Escobar, with the .496 OPS has been lucky. XStats actually tabs him at .459 OPS. I pointed out his struggles in a previous article and came to the conclusion that it was due to hitting too many flyballs.
His actual BABIP is .250. Even that is lucky, as XStats tabs him at a xBABIP off .205. This probably attributes to his team high poor hit percentage (PH%) of 38.8.
Brandon Moss continues his trend of being unlucky
The new DH isn’t off to the best start with his new team. Hitting for a putrid line of .167/.254/.348, Moss hasn’t been blessed with the best of luck. But this isn’t a new trend. Take last year for example. Posting a lowly .225 batting average, Moss also recorded a low .259 BABIP.
The trend has continued so far in 2017. Moss has actually posted a very high xBABIP, .346, good for the 2nd highest mark on the team
Mike Moustakas is hitting the ball hard
As Shaun Newkirk at Royals Review pointed out, Mike Moustakas has joined the flyball revolution. This could very well correlate with the better contact he is making.
According to XStats, Moustakas is hitting Value Hits in 8.4% of his plate appearances. Value Hits are batted balls measured as goo contact. For example, 85% of home runs are value hits. Moustakas actually measure in the top 15% of baseball in this category.
And with all this good contact, XStats pegs him at a .285 xBABIP. Moustakas currently sports a .268 BABIP. You might expect his batting average to trickle up a bit.
Nate Karns pitching well
Possibly pitching his best game in a KC Royals uniform in his last start, XStats is a fan of Nate Karns.
Karns is inducing a high number of poorly hit balls. His PH% is at a staff high of 33.9%.
His estimated opponent’s OPS is .671, with his actual OPS is .734.
There is one concerning thing though. His high walk rate. Add that into his batted ball data and you get an expected FIP of 4.51.
If he can command his fastball (26.9 Strike%, below his career rate), he could be a very nice pickup from the front office.
Jason Vargas has been outstanding
Jason “CY” Vargas has been the ace of the KC Royals staff so far in 2017. It’s quite the unexpected surprise too, coming of a rough string of injuries since 2015.
Vargas has been able to induce a very high amount of groundballs. He’s been able to do this with pinpoint control (BB/9 of 1.4) and an ability to work his terrific changeup (best changeup value in majors, according to Fangraphs).
With working the zone well, Vargas has been getting tons and tons of weak contacts. He is getting the most poor contact and the least amount of hard contact on the staff.
As a matter of fact, his Value Hit percentage of 1.0 is third lowest in the majors.
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If Vargas can continue to locate his pitches, he should still get plenty of weak contact. This streak by Jason Vargas could be for real.