Opinion

Royals stat check: How close is the offensive production to last season?

Kansas City Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain was congratulated by Whit Merrifield after both scored on Cain’s two-run homer in Tuesday’s game.
Kansas City Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain was congratulated by Whit Merrifield after both scored on Cain’s two-run homer in Tuesday’s game. jsleezer@kcstar.com

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.

Hitting

2015 — .269/.322/.412 (Batting average/On-base percentage/Slugging percentage)

2016 — .272/.322/.409

Last 7 games — .355/.409/.512

Thanks to a red-hot week offensively (KC’s average and on-base percentages were best in MLB over the last week, while its slugging percentage was fourth), the Royals have almost the exact same offensive output as the 2015 season. How far have the Royals come? Since this column started two and a half weeks ago, the Royals have improved their average 17 points, their on-base percentage 14 points and their slugging percentage 19 points.

Eric Hosmer discusses the Royals' 10-5 win against the Tampa Bay Rays, which was soured by an injury to Brett Eibner.

Hitting with runners in scoring position

2015 — .282/.347/.426

2016 — .277/.331/.413

Two and a half weeks ago, KC was hitting .242 with runners in scoring position. With some help from a 27-for-76 week (.355), that number is now up to .277. The Royals still aren’t quite as “clutch” as last season (a high standard), but they are once again showing an ability to hit well when it matters most.

Starting pitching

2015 — 4.34 ERA, 16.8 K%, 7.6 BB%

2016 — 4.75, 19.8, 9.9

Last 7 games — 6.21, 22.2, 5.4

It was a weird week for Royals starters, who performed well in underlying numbers (increasing strikeouts while reducing walks) while still seeing an ERA spike. Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura stand out most, as they combined for nine strikeouts and no walks in 12  1/3 innings while still allowing 11 earned runs. Both were hurt by home runs, as each allowed two in their respective starts. Ventura’s first no-walk outing of the season — he leads the AL in walk percentage at 13.1 percent — still has to be considered a positive considering how much he’s struggled with control this season.

Relief pitching

2015 — 2.72, 22.9, 8.7

2016 — 2.43, 25.0, 8.2

Last 7 games — 1.83, 30.9, 7.4

Even if the Royals starters have been worse this season, that’s been balanced a bit by the fact that the bullpen — somehow — has gotten better. The Royals’ 2.43 bullpen ERA is best in baseball, and Kelvin Herrera (25 innings, 32 strikeouts, 3 walks, 1.08 ERA) ranks as the MLB’s top reliever in Fangraphs WAR.

Defense

2015 — 51 defensive runs saved (.315 per game, 2nd in MLB)

2016 — 3 defensive runs saved (.059 per game, 14th in MLB)

This number continues to slip, which perhaps isn’t a surprise given the recent changes to the Royals roster. Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon are all considered elite defenders at their positions, so when they are forced to sit out with injuries, it only makes sense that the Royals defense might suffer.

Top 5 in Fangraphs WAR

2015 — Cain 6.6, Moustakas 3.8, Hosmer 3.5, Gordon 2.8, Ventura 2.7

2016 — Perez 1.5, Cain 1.5, Herrera 1.1, Volquez 1.0, Hosmer 1.0

Hosmer moves into the top five thanks to a superhuman week. In his last seven games, he has posted a .538/.538/.923 line with two home runs and 14 RBIs.

Bottom 5 in Fangraphs WAR

2015 — Infante -0.9, Guthrie -0.9, Almonte -0.4, Gomes -0.3, Coleman -0.2

2016 — Morales -0.9, Young -0.5, Fuentes -0.2, Ventura -0.1, Mills 0.0

It was a good week for Kendrys Morales. After recovering from a sprained middle finger, Morales has shown increased patience at the plate, coaxing three walks in his last three games after drawing just two in his previous 10 contests. Morales, who hit .300/.462/.600 last week, has been cited in a couple recent articles as a player who has hit into bad luck with a batted-ball profile that is likely to bring better production moving forward. Perhaps this is the start of him re-emerging as a threat in the Royals’ lineup.

Jesse Newell: 816-234-4759, @jessenewell

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