The Royals won on Tuesday, 2-1 over the scuffling Texas Rangers. The Tigers won as well, rallying in the ninth over the Cleveland Indians. As such, the Royals were able to maintain their 0.5 game lead over Detroit in the race of the AL Central.
For all that has gone right for the Royals since the All-Star Break, the storm clouds have been hovering. Some may accuse me of ignoring those clouds. I haven’t because they’ve been impossible to ignore. Nobody want to hear that when the good times are rolling. Yet here’s the truth: This offense isn’t that good. Over their last 13 games, the Royals are 6-7. They are hitting .240/.297/.360 in those games. They are scoring 3.1 runs per game.
They are barely hanging on. The bubble has burst.
I’m not telling you something you don’t already know.
Since the All-Star Break, the Royals have won 28 games against 16 losses. An incredible streak that has them 12 games over .500 in that span.
Some sobering numbers accumulated since the All-Star Break that were obscured by the recent hot streak:
— The Royals are dead last in the majors in walk percentage at 5.8 percent.
— Their wRC+ – which is a measure of weighted runs created, which is a measure of total team production – is 94. The metric is set to where 100 is league average.
— Only three everyday players have a wRC+ over 100. Alex Gordon is at 146. Billy Butler is at 115. And Aoki is at 103.
(A quick aside. As good as Gordon has been, his wRC+ is tied for the 19th best in baseball since the break. He’s
This is where we are at this point of the season. The Royals had their run. They had their hot streak. It was marvelous. It netted 24 wins in 30 games, a remarkable stretch no matter what happens from here on out. But regression was always just around the corner. The Royals now throw their lot behind the pitching staff, hopeful James Shields, Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy, Jason Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie can hold things together for a minimum of six innings. Then, hope turns to a bullpen that figures to be worked to the bone down the stretch. At least the big three of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland.
We saw the formula at work on Tuesday. The Royals scored one run in the third on a pair of doubles by Alcides Escobar and Nori Aoki. Overall, the Royals clubbed six doubles. Four times one of those doubles started an inning. The Royals scored a total of two runs. Guthrie pitched deep into the game, allowing a single run before turning the ball over to the bullpen. Yost’s “B” bullpen of Bueno, Frasor and Crow shut down the meek Rangers offense to preserve the win. But the offense…
Six doubles. Two runs.
For perspective, before Tuesday, no team had hit more than six doubles in a game and scored fewer than four runs. The Royals scored two. Such is the depths of the Royals offensive ineptitude. Every night is an adventure. Every night has the potential to reach new lows. This is the Royals offense.
This post isn’t about negativity. It’s about honesty. The Royals rode a hot streak to the top of the AL Central. Now they are tasked with hanging on to their lead, no matter how narrow. The pitching is good. The bullpen is taxed and tired, but on most nights, it’s good, too. The defense is good. The base running is generally good as well. Yet the next 24 games are going to be nerve-wracking and that’s thanks to the offense.
This is why every lineup Ned Yost rolls out going forward is absolutely critical. He must find the way to put his best bats at the top and minimize the damage caused by the free swingers and hackers that populate the majority of the offense. That means sitting Eric Hosmer in favor of Billy Butler in the field so they can get Josh Willingham in the game. That means moving Perez down in the order. That means moving Omar Infante out of the second spot in the order for crying out loud. It’s September. October is on the line and everything is magnified. Every move has the potential to impact the Royals post season chances.
With runs at a premium for this team and with time running out on a season, we are about to see if Yost truly did learn from the last time he was in a pennant race. It will be the difference between success and failure in this, the most important month in the franchise since October 1985.