Judging the Royals

The Royals lose four in a row—again

The Royals have now lost four games in a row and some negative comments are starting to show up about the team and how they played in New York. Losing four in a row is not good, but it happens; even to good teams. Case in point: in 2014 the Royals had a pretty decent year—did they ever lose four in a row?

Yup. In fact, they lost five in a row at the beginning of May and another four in a row toward the end of that month. They lost four in a row in July and another four in a row in August. They also lost three in a row on a several occasions. So what does all that mean?

Heck, I don’t know; I’m really bad at predicting the future and have problems understanding the past. But it does seem that if you’re going to lose around 70 games no matter what, losing four in a row is not good, but it also doesn’t mean the end of the world—which is just about the way the players sounded when they got interviewed after Wednesday’s loss. Even if they lose on Friday that would make five in a row and the Royals did that last year and still made it to the World Series.

But if the Royals lose six in a row you have my permission to start worrying.

Speaking of predictions…

The Royals loss and a Twins victory have them tied for first place. Who the heck predicted that? There’s a long way to go and the bottom might still fall out for either team, but Kansas City and Minnesota were popular picks for finishing fourth and fifth in the AL Central. Maybe Kansas City and Minnesota will finish fourth and fifth, but here’s the thing: I don’t know that and neither does anyone else. And yet we keep making predictions.

Here are a few predictions I found on Grantland, which is actually one of my favorite websites:

Worst Offseason Move: With their payroll significantly increasing for the fourth straight season, Kansas City’s ownership deserves credit for spending money; it’s just that GM Dayton Moore took the cash that might’ve gone to Shields and instead invested it in a pair of 2014 replacement-level players, Kendrys Morales and Alex Rios, and Edinson Volquez, whose subpar peripheral numbers belie last year’s luck- and defense-aided 3.04 ERA.

There’s still time for this prediction to come true, but as of right now Edinson Volquez has an ERA of 2.77, Kendrys Morales is hitting .306/.364/.489 and Alex Rios was hurt early in the season, but was off to a very good start.

Greatest Team Weakness: The lack of walks and the lack of homers. Continuing a storied tradition of hacking away at the plate, the Royals ranked last in the majors with a 6.3 percent walk rate. Not satisfied with one degree of ineptitude, they also finished last with just 95 home runs. How did they produce any offense last year? By striking out less often than any other team (16.3 percent) and bucking the leaguewide trend of rising whiff rates, the Royals were able to scratch out enough runs with their combination of contact hitting and speed. Even though they did so in 2014, it’s pretty tough to keep winning games when your opponents are consistently out-walking and out-homering you.

Kansas City is currently 26th in home runs, last in walks and first in the American League Central.

Throw in the teamwide inability to draw walks plus the natural regression that comes after any extreme event, like when a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in three decades suddenly rolls to the World Series, and I’m skeptical about the Royals this year.

Being skeptical about any team seems like a reasonable position, but so far much of what was said about the Royals in the off-season has been incorrect. Maybe by the end of this season all these predictions will come true, I don’t know.

It’s OK to unable to predict the future, but maybe we should stop pretending we can.