Royals Offense Allergic to Scoring Runs
Maybe they just really didn't want to walk by Eric Haase again. Did you ever think of that?
The Royals put on quite an offensive display last night against the Tigers. Eight of nine players in their lineup had at least one hit. All nine hitters reached base at least once. The top four hitters in the lineup went a combined 9 for 17 with three walks and two doubles. In all, the team put up 14 hits with four walks. That’s a lot of base runners.
The problem is that the Royals put up a truly offensive display of situational hitting. They ended up leaving 13 men on base. They were 1 for 14 with runners in scoring position and are now 2 for their last 38 in those situations. Here’s a crazy stat. It’s so crazy that I’m going to put it on its own line and I’m going to bold it.
Last night, the Royals tied their franchise futility record for the fewest runs in a game in which they had at least 14 hits and walked at least four times. It’s the seventh time they’ve scored three runs with those stats. It’s the third time they’ve done it with four or more extra base hits.
In all, it’s the 412th time they’ve had at least 14 hits and four walks in a game. They’ve won 353 of them. Of the 58 losses with those parameters, they’ve lost by seven or more just four times now. The point here is…well I’m not entirely sure…other than that it’s hard to lose that game, especially by as much as they did.
Perception really is everything. If the team had been chugging along and alternating wins and losses, this game might seem like the potential start of something because eventually, the hits seem likely to come in these situations.
But they aren’t alternating wins and losses. Instead, they’ve lost seven of nine. They also lost their most consistent bat over the last few weeks when Andrew Benintendi went on the IL with a broken rib. So you look at this team and it just looks like another failure. Why does it seem like the Royals offense does this so often?
There are three main reasons.
It’s Bad Luck
I’m going to start with this reason because the reality is that it is bad luck to some extent. For the season, the Royals are actually better with runners in scoring position than with the bases empty. So to go through this stretch is one of those things that sometimes just happens for an offense. When an offense puts up 14 hits and puts up hits up and down the lineup, there is some semblance of bad luck that only one of them came with runners in scoring position. Even yesterday, they had an xBA of about .150 with runners in scoring position which should have resulted in one more hit. It’s not much, but even one more hit may have changed things in the middle of the game.
Some of the bad luck is created from within. The top four hitters were on base pretty much all game, but with both Adalberto Mondesi and Benintendi out of the lineup and Hunter Dozier having an absolutely brutal season, the lineup pretty much stalls after the four-hitter. While everyone reached base and everyone but Dozier had a hit, they were still just 5 for 22 in the game. It’s not bad luck that the good hitters in a lineup did well while the bad hitters did poorly. That’s an issue and will be until the team can finally get healthy again, if they ever do.
There isn’t really a lot to quantify here, but you can just see it. Salvador Perez came up in the third against Joe Jimenez after Matthew Boyd and did what he does. He swung at everything.
It really just felt like he was doing everything he could to get a hit and a bad pitcher exploited it. The very next hitter was Jorge Soler, who I’ll get to here in a minute and he took a pitch that he could and probably should absolutely maul and popped it up.
These are just two at bats in these situations, but the players are aware of how long it’s been that they’ve been struggling. They’re human beings and they’re absolutely pressing.
Put these three things together in whatever order you want to, and it’s easy to see why they’re struggling so badly. The bad luck will turn. When the bad luck turns, the pressing will likely stop. The problem is the middle point. Until this lineup gets healthy, they will continue to be bad, which might negate the rest, but at least we aren’t likely to see 1 for 14 again any time soon.
Is Soler Back?
This is a question I thought was answered back in April when I put about 45 gifs in one article showing how hard he was hitting the ball and it culminating in a long home run against the Rays. So, sure, I’m risking something here putting this in writing again, but I’d mentioned before that he’d shown some good signs since coming back from his groin injury that gave him a couple much needed days off.
Including last night, he’s hit .250/.400/.500 with two doubles, two homers, six walks and just five strikeouts. He’s also thrown in two instances of catcher interference as well for good measure. I don’t know if he’s fully back or on his way back, but there were some great signs last night. The first was his 107.7 MPH rocket double off the wall in right field.
The second was something that maybe impressed me more than the double or even the walk he worked with the bases loaded in the sixth. He took a pitch on a 2-0 count in that at bat that was a strike. It was basically a perfect pitch. It’s the sort of pitch that the best Soler could do would be dump it into right field, but more likely would be the third out. And while Soler thought about it. He took it. I don’t think he takes that pitch two weeks ago. It is interesting that it’s in basically the same spot his double was, but even so, the situation dictated a take there, and I thought it showed something.
And then, of course, his 113.3 MPH single in the ninth off Daniel Morris on a pitch just off the plate that he just rocketed into center field.
Maybe he’ll strike out four times tonight and look totally lost, but he has looked much more locked in over the last couple weeks. That’s huge. With the Royals falling farther out of the race, they are likely to at least be in a position to sell. Unfortunately, I’m not sure they can get much for Soler because he’s a DH only and the American League teams in the race don’t really need a DH other than maybe the Blue Jays. But the big problem is that the Twins are also out of the race and they have a better rental DH available in Nelson Cruz. So I’m not sure there’s a taker, but at least if Soler hits, the option is there.
I mentioned Benintendi’s injury, and that’s a huge issue for the lineup. We all know about Mondesi and what his absence means for this lineup. With guys like Merrifield and Carlos Santana struggling (though they may have started to potentially break out a little last night), the Royals just can’t afford to be without these two.
I’m very curious to see what Edward Olivares can do if he gets regular time and I’m pleasantly surprised he was called up over the red hot Ryan O’Hearn, but they need their guys back. If Soler is indeed working his way back to the world of the living, adding Mondesi and Benintendi to a lineup that’s only four deep at least gives them something.
We’re still waiting to hear what is next for Danny Duffy on the pitching side, but there was good news yesterday as all seemed to be good after throwing live batting practice of about 25 pitches. I was wondering if he might go on a rehab assignment early this week, but obviously that hasn’t happened yet. Duffy last pitched May 12, so he’s going to need at least two rehab starts once he goes out.
I think the Royals have two options with him. They can fully build him up to get to 90-100 pitches. That likely will take three rehab starts. Or they can get him back quickly, knowing that he’ll still need to build up in the big leagues. If he can get to 70-75 pitches, he could probably come back after two starts in the minors and help stabilize the pitching staff. If he can pitch in the minors this weekend, that could mean he could be back to pitch in Boston at the end of this month or they could wait to get him back to face the Reds and then the Indians before the break. With their pitching issues, I would not be surprised to see them go the shorter route and hope to get four innings out of him in his return, but we’ll see.
Appreciate the reasonable analysis. I look forward to this in my inbox in the morning. Thanks, David.
With Tyler Glasnow going down in Tampa, if I'm GM I am on the phone with the Rays right now finding out what bats I can get for any of our starters, namely Brad Keller. Do you think this is something Moore would actually pursue?