The plain truth is there for all to see, ugly, undeniable, and inescapable. There is no hiding the ineptitude of the offense that currently drags down the KC Royals.
The club’s 4-1 loss to Seattle Friday night stands as just the latest example of how bad the bats are. The Royals left seven on base, never seriously threatened the Mariners, and have scored a run or less in a third of their 12 games.
They average 2.67 runs per contest. Their team batting average is .210, not the worst in the majors or even the American League, but a shameful mark nonetheless.
The same goes for the Royals’ collective .260 OBP. Runs are hard to score when the runners who score them aren’t plentiful.
Whether it’s the composition, the order, or the fact so many of his players are slumping, manager Mike Matheny’s lineups aren’t working. He made minor adjustments Wednesday, chief among them replacing longtime leadoff man Whit Merrifield with Nicky Lopez, moving Merrifield to the second spot, and dropping Bobby Witt Jr. from second to seventh.
It didn’t work—Kansas City scored two runs Wednesday, none Thursday and one Friday.
Matheny’s answer? This:
It is, to be blunt, a dud in the making, a disaster waiting to happen.
The trouble with tonight’s KC Royals lineup starts near the very top.
Batting Merrifield close to the leadoff spot epitomizes the mistake of doing the same futile thing over and over. Merrifield will probably break out of his season-long funk at some point, but in his present form shouldn’t occupy such a key spot.
Or perhaps none at all without at least a short break. Slashing a grotesque .125/.160/.146, numbers so unlike him that they’re hard to believe, Merrifield needs a break, a game or two on the bench to refresh and recharge.
Merrifield has one hit in his last six games. He needs to sit for a bit, not bat second.
Carlos Santana is good in the field but bad at the plate for the KC Royals.
The main problem with Carlos Santana isn’t that he’s batting fifth (although that is a problem considering he’s driven in just one run this year); instead, it’s that he’s in the lineup at all. Santana’s good glove at first doesn’t outweigh the anchor that is his bat—indeed, Santana has the worst average (.063) of any of the majors’ qualified hitters, and shows no signs of getting any better in the near future.
Compounding the Santana problem is that Nick Pratto, the heir-apparent to his position, is struggling at Triple-A Omaha. Pratto went 2-for-4 Friday night, but was hitting .218 and striking out far too often going into this afternoon’s game.
Matheny has the option of benching Santana and replacing him with Hunter Dozier, but Dozier is succeeding at, and seems comfortable with, DH. (Dozier is in right field for the second straight time tonight, but more on that in a moment). Designated hitter is a bit of a revolving door anyway, so the move makes sense but, at least for the time being, will take a back seat to what seems to be the team’s quest to play Santana in hopes he’ll establish some kind of reasonable trade market for himself.
Mike Matheny is using Ryan O’Hearn at DH for the Royals tonight, but shouldn’t be.
Keeping Merrifield in the lineup and moving him to center creates perhaps the most glaring flaw in tonight’s lineup.
Ryan O’Hearn will DH so Dozier can again play right. (Merrifield DH’s last night).
Yes, the same Ryan O’Hearn who hit .195 in 2019 and again in 2020, and .225 last season, but somehow manages to stay on the big league roster. He hasn’t played for a week, doesn’t have a hit this year, and has appeared in only three games.
It’s a move that once again thrusts the Edward Olivares question back to the forefront—why is Olivares, who scorched Cactus League pitching with a .500/.526/.971 slash line and 1.497 OPS, not in right field tonight, which would allow Dozier stay at DH? Why has Matheny seen fit to give Olivares only three at-bats so far?
Only Matheny can answer those questions. And the queries destined to arise from these mystifying Saturday lineup choices.
Maybe we’ll be surprised tonight.
But don’t count on it.
Manager Mike Matheny’s curious lineup gets tested against Seattle tonight. Game time is 8:10 p.m. CDT at T-Mobile Park.