This Royals team is seven games old now, still a baby, so small-sample-size disclaimers apply but reasonable minds can agree that the biggest problem (by far) has been the offense. The Royals are last in runs (20), and last in runs per game (2.86), slightly worse than the awful Astros (2.88).
Two interesting points before we get started: this may be a statistical anomaly, but the Royals have been in 3-0 counts more often than any team in the American League. Once they get there, though, they’re hitless (0-for-7 with 12 walks). As a team, they’re cutting down on strikeouts and increasing their walks, but the power isn’t there. At all.
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Also, the Royals have been rotten with runners in scoring position — .230/.347/.279. If you’re like me and believe this to be largely a form of luck, that should improve.
Anyway, here are the five biggest problems with the offense so far:
5. Alex Gordon. He had an underwhelming (for him) season in 2013, and is starting slow again — .231/.276/.308. Some of this is bad luck (he’s about 50 points below league average on balls in play) but he’s not driving the ball like he’s capable. He’s in good company there.
4. Double plays. Just by themselves, Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler have hit into more double plays than more than half the American League. Add in their teammates, and only the Red Sox have hit into more. There is never a good time to hit into a double play, but the Royals’ have come at especially bad moments, like Hosmer’s last night in the third inning with the bases loaded.
3. Billy Butler. Just like Gordon, Butler’s 2013 was below the standard he’s set for himself, and just like Gordon, his 2014 has been slow. Butler did have the Royals’ only hit with runners in scoring position last night, but the rules are different when you’re the $8 million DH. Most concerning is that he doesn’t have an extra-base hit. Butler is only two seasons removed from slugging .510 with 29 home runs. They can’t have a relapse into Ichi-Billy.
, but an interesting subplot here is that if Butler doesn’t have a big year the Royals probably aren’t picking up his option for 2015.
2. Mike Moustakas. Like Rex Hudler said last night on the broadcast, Moose finally has a batting average after getting his first hit of the season. That batting average is .045. I keep hearing people inside the Royals say they’re not concerned, that Moose will hit like Moose, but the fact is that Moose is a .241/.294/.379 guy in 1,518 career plate appearances. They need Moose to be better than Moose, and at 25 and in his fourth big league season, it’s past time.
1. No power. One hundred and thirty six players have hit home runs this year, including Dee Gordon and Scott Van Slyke and Ryan Hanigan. None of them play for the Royals. It’s not just home runs, either. Only the A’s and Tigers have fewer doubles. Add it together, and the Royals have seven fewer extra-base hits than any team in the American League. It shouldn’t be this way. The Royals don’t have a slugger, not a real one, but between Butler, Gordon, Hosmer, and Perez, they do have enough guys who can drive gaps that they shouldn’t be in this position.