Fluke? What the Numbers Say About the Royals

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Fluky things can happen in April. Now, it’s we’re passed Memorial Day and one series until June and it’s a safe time to take a look at the standings and the league leaders and really get a serious feel about things. While, I think there are a couple American League teams – the Houston Astros (30-18) and Minnesota Twins (28-18), who oh by the way are tied for first in the AL Central, now – that are still playing above their heads and will ultimately fall off, it’s pretty easy to see who is good and who really isn’t.

After a franchise-best 42-game start (28-14), the Royals were on pace for 108 wins, which would easily surpass the best-record in franchise history (102-60, 1977). A four-game losing streak (outscored 29-5, including 23-4 in a three-game sweep by the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, the first such since 2007) – the Royals first losing streak since four straight August 28-31 (including swept at home by the Indians) – they’re still on pace for a 99-63 season, plenty good enough to win the AL Central. 95, maybe as few as 90, would likely be good enough.

But, at the lowered pace, it’s going to be a battle in the Central. The Twins, continuing to surprise, have won of 8 of 10 to join the Royals atop the standings and the Tigers (28-21) are still right there, 1.5 games back. Any Royals fan is foolish to think this is going to be as easy.

The Royals recent losing skid, as dreadful as it has been, isn’t anything to freak out about. It’s simply the ebs and flows of baseball. Happens to the best teams each year. All of them. It was bound to happen at some point this season. The 1912 Pittsburgh Pirates were the last team to not lose three in a row in a season. More than ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO. But, the Royals (28-18) need to snap out of it this weekend. The Royals lost four in a row five times last year, but they didn’t endure any LONG losing streaks.

The Royals rotation carried a 1.77 ERA over eight starts into Sunday’s 6-1 loss to the Cardinals. The stretch included three shutouts (only three of the season) in a five-game quality start stretch. Along the way, a franchise record 24 consecutive scoreless innings streak was matched and the starters tossed 27 straight scoreless.

Up to that point, they had produced 12 quality starts all season. But, the offense had picked up the slack, continuing with the role reversal from a year ago when the offense was dead last in HR, walks, OPS and near-bottom in OBP, while the pitching drove the bus. Though the recent offensive slump has dropped the Royals offensive rankings, they’re still getting it done:

 

  • Lead MLB in hitting (.281)
  • Second in AL and fourth in MLB in slugging (.422)
  • Second in AL and MLB in scoring (4.67), and triples (14)
  • Third in AL in doubles (92) and OBP (.330)
  • Third in AL and fourth in MLB in OPS (.752)
  • Fifth in the AL and tied for eighth in MLB in total bases (666)

 

 

But, they’re even better with two outs, leading MLB in hitting (.301) and runs scored, with 41% of their scoring this season coming with two outs. They’re HR pace has slowed, falling near the bottom at 26th (34), but with all the extra base hits, they’re still slugging the ball at a high rate and well ahead of last year’s 95.

They’re still swinging at everything with MLB’s fewest strikeouts (259) and walks (93) – the only team below 100 in walks and with fewer than 300 strikeouts. They’ve stolen the most bases in baseball the last two years, but not running as much because they haven’t had to, but still rank 14th with 27. And, let’s not forget about the league-best two-out RBI.

The bullpen is still = the B-BOAT (best bullpen of all time). They had thrown 11 innings in the first two games of the Yankees series before Chris Young’s six innings, suffering his first loss, 4-2. The Yankees entered the series losers in 10 of 11 games and they’re last four wins are all against the Royals, winning the season series 4-2. It was the Royals first series loss since April 23-26 at Minnesota. Their series record is 10-3-2 and the Royals 69 wins since July 22, 2014 are the most in MLB.

 

Despite Jeremy Guthrie’s historically bad start on Monday (11 runs (all earned), 9 hits, 1 K, 3 walks, allowing more HR (4) batters retired (3)), the bullpen’s innings had been reduced over the last couple weeks. Through 23 games, they had thrown the most bullpen innings in baseball. Today, they’re at 152, the eighth most. As a team, they’re still posting a 3.52 ERA – good for third sixth in baseball – thanks mostly to the bullpen who is holding opponents to a .192/.263/.289 slashline, has a 1.84 ERA (best in baseball) and a 1.02 WHIP (second best to Houston).

Teams are hitting .257/.327/.405 against the starters, which is not terrible, ranking in the middle of the pack, but the 254 2/3 innings from the starting rotation is second worst in all of baseball, with a 4.52 ERA that is coming in at No. 24 of 30. The rotation has to continue to improve, and if they don’t the bullpen will continue to get taxed, but with six go-to guys out there, it hasn’t been a huge burden to bare, yet. The quality starts is tied for second to last in MLB and the only complete game was a six-inning, rain shortened one. But, hey, it counts!

Collectively, the pitching staff has held opponents to a .234 batting average (No. 3 in MLB) and a seventh-best OBP (.304) and WHIP (1.22), sixth best SLUG (.364), fifth best OPS (.668) and fourth best WHIP (1.11).

One last thing, the Royals are third in the AL in attendance, averaging 32,000 and will have a sold out weekend. They’re on pace to draw the most since ’89 and Royals broadcasts are the highest rated in baseball. And, the initial All-Star voting initial All-Star voting. Where they look to sweep the All Star Game if all things go well!

Yeah, fans are excited about the Kansas City Royals.

Tomorrow we’ll take an in-depth look at the players and their paces compared to projections.

#ForeverRoyal

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