Judging the Royals

The Kansas City Royals 2016 season: what happened?

The Royals struck out 251 times more than they did last season.
The Royals struck out 251 times more than they did last season. jsleezer@kcstar.com

So now we know; if the Royals had won 90 games, they’d be in the playoffs. That’s the deal with baseball; you don’t know precisely how many games it will take to get you to the postseason, so you just play as hard as you can for as long as you can and hope it’s enough.

The 2016 Royals went 81-81 and fell nine wins short of the postseason.

So what went wrong in 2016?

Injuries

When you think about the 2016 season, you think about injuries. The Royals were fairly lucky in 2014 and 2015, but in 2016 things caught up with them.

When Ned Yost was asked if the last two extra-long seasons had anything to do with the injuries the Royals had suffered in 2016, Ned said not all of them — playing an extra month of baseball didn’t make Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas run into each other — but losing three months of rest and conditioning over the last two seasons didn’t help.

It’s one of the reasons it’s hard to win back-to-back championships; you get less rest than anybody else.

Pitching

Let’s do a comparison between last year’s World Series champions and this year’s .500 team.

▪  In 2015, the entire Royals pitching staff was ranked third in the American League when it came to collective ERA; in 2016, they were ninth.

▪  In 2015, the Royals starting pitchers were 12th in the American League in collective ERA with a 4.34; in 2016, the Royals starting pitchers were once again 12th in the AL, but with a collective ERA of 4.67.

▪  In 2015, the Royals bullpen was the best in the AL in ERA; in 2016, the Royals bullpen was ranked third.

▪  In 2015, the Royals starters had 71 quality starts; in 2016, it was 68.

▪  In 2015, the Royals pitchers allowed 601 earned runs; in 2016, it was 674.

Offense

▪  In 2015, the Royals offense scored 724 runs; in 2016, it was 675 runs.

▪  The 2015 team batted .269 with an on-base percentage of .322 and a slugging percentage of .412; the numbers for 2016 were .261/.312/.400.

▪  The 2015 Royals struck out 973 times; the 2016 Royals struck 1,224 times.

The line between winning and losing

Obviously this is not a comprehensive look at the Royals 2016 statistics, but we’ve looked at enough numbers to see the pattern; in some important categories the Royals numbers fell off in 2016. In some cases the decline wasn’t much; in some cases the decline was more dramatic. But being even a little worse in a whole lot of categories can add up over a 162-game season.

The line between winning and losing is very thin.

The 2016 Royals fell nine wins short of the playoffs, so if they’d won just 1.5 more games per month, they’d still be playing.

That can be maddening if you think of all the missed opportunities or mental mistakes that cost you nine wins, but it’s also an opportunity; if the Royals find a way to win just 1.5 more games per month in 2017 there’s a very good chance they’re going back to the playoffs.

Acknowledgments

On Sunday, I completed my seventh year of “Judging the Royals.” Nobody is more surprised than I am. I wanted to write about baseball from the player’s point of view, but you can’t do that if the player’s won’t participate, so I owe a thank you to every player and coach who gave me some of their time.

When someone compliments me on something I’ve written I always say it wasn’t me; they were actually hearing from people like Rusty Kuntz, Wade Davis, Jason Kendall, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Drew Butera, Mike Jirschele, Jarrod Dyson, Chris Young or Don Wakamatsu. Turns out those guys want the fans to understand why they do what they do and without their participation, this column wouldn’t be possible.

Royals media wranglers Mike Swanson and Mike Cummings have answered a hundred questions and made my job easier.

I also need to thank my colleagues: people like Jeff Rosen, Chris Fickett, Rustin Dodd, Pete Grathoff, Josh Vernier, Jeffrey Flanagan and even that pain in the neck Brad Fanning.

Last — and certainly not least — I want to thank the readers who give me their time and want to learn more about the game from the people who play it.

OK, that’s about it.

Keep checking the blog because, whenever I see something of interest, I plan on writing during the playoffs and offseason.

Talk to you soon.

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