This is the continuation of a weekly stats column to examine how this year’s Royals compare to the 2015 World Series champions. All numbers through Tuesday’s game.
Kendrys Morales? In right field?
Yes, that’s happening in Wednesday night’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Morales last played outfield in 2008, logging 12 games and 60 innings there with the 2008 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He also played 12 innings of right field in 2007.
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It’s obviously a small sample — and from a time that was two years before iPads were released — but Morales, as you might guess, wasn’t the best outfielder then. Though his outfield fielding percentage is 1.000, his poor range and arm made him worth minus-1 defensive run saved in 2007 and minus-3 DRS in 2008. That’s a poor number considering how little he played there.
And keep in mind, that was eight years ago when Morales was in his age 25 season (he’s now 33).
As colleague Sam Mellinger mentioned, Busch Stadium has a spacious outfield, with the fifth-most fair territory of any major-league ballpark according to a 2014 Business Insider article. This decision might make more sense if KC was playing at Fenway Park and decided to stick Morales in front of the Green Monster. As it is, he will have lots of ground to cover in right field without the benefit of recent experience there.
So no, this experiment probably won’t go well defensively. Morales likely will have to hit so well that it overcompensates for his range, which should be among the worst outfielders in the game.
It still should be entertaining to see how he does.
Let’s take a look at this week’s team numbers.
2015 — .269/.322/.412 (Batting average/On-base percentage/Slugging percentage)
2016 — .278/.325/.415
Last 7 games — .327/.358/.488
Looking for a reason the Royals haven’t kept the same winning pace from last season? You officially can’t blame the offense, which is better across the board than it was a year ago. The emergence of the Royals two worst hitters this week has certainly helped, as Morales (.526/.550/.895) and Alcides Escobar (.423/.423/.538) were KC’s two most productive offensive players.
Hitting with runners in scoring position
2015 — .282/.347/.426
2016 — .279/.333/.397
The Royals went 19-for-66 with RISP this past week (.288), which is basically in line with their season totals. KC has lost a tick off its “clutch” on-base and slugging percentages from last season but is trending about the same when it comes to batting average.
2015 — 4.34 ERA, 16.8 K%, 7.6 BB%
2016 — 5.07, 20.7, 9.1
Last 7 games — 9.85, 24.8, 11.3
Since we first checked two weeks ago, the Royals starting pitchers have moved into the No. 1 spot for having the most homer-happy staff in major league history. Royals starters have surrendered 1.70 home runs per nine innings, which is well above the 1987 Angels staff, which surrendered 1.60 HR/9. Behind those two teams are 2,833 other MLB starting staffs. The race for history is on.
2015 — 2.72, 22.9, 8.7
2016 — 2.73, 23.0, 8.1
Last 7 games — 2.92, 19.6, 7.8
It’s hard to get closer numbers from year to year than what’s above. Though it seemed unlikely coming into the season — especially considering the loss of Ryan Madson and Danny Duffy’s recent move to the rotation— KC’s bullpen hasn’t regressed while remaining as one of the team’s greatest strengths.
2015 — 51 defensive runs saved (.315 per game, 2nd in MLB)
2016 — 30 defensive runs saved (.395 per game, fourth in MLB)
KC’s defensive runs saved has surged in the last two weeks, as the team has almost doubled its total from 16 to 30. Jarrod Dyson (12 DRS), Lorenzo Cain (nine) and Whit Merrifield (eight) have ranked highest in Baseball Reference’s version of the stat.
Top 5 in Fangraphs WAR
2015 — Cain 6.6, Moustakas 3.8, Hosmer 3.5, Gordon 2.8, Ventura 2.7
2016 — Perez 2.4, Cain 1.9, Merrifield 1.2, Herrera 1.2, Volquez 1.1
Losing Lorenzo Cain to the DL is a significant blow, as he’s safely been the team’s second-best according to Fangraphs’ version of the stat. The good news for KC is that it has a capable backup in Dyson, who brings enough value as a defender and baserunner to make himself an asset despite being a below-average hitter.
Bottom 5 in Fangraphs WAR
2015 — Infante -0.9, Guthrie -0.9, Almonte -0.4, Gomes -0.3, Coleman -0.2
2016 — Young -1.1, Escobar -0.6, Morales -0.3, Gee -0.2, Fuentes -0.1
Credit to the Royals for sticking by Morales through his struggles, which was not an obvious decision. Over the last two weeks, he’s accrued 0.9 WAR, which is 15th in baseball and tops among designated hitters. Even with that, he hasn’t been able to climb above replacement level … which lets you know just how much he struggled over the season’s first two months.