An offense without patience or power cannot survive in the American League, in 2007. That became something of a clarion this evening in Kansas City, as the Royals struggled to score runs for the third straight night against the Blue Jays. Back in May we started noticing something striking about this team: for long stretches of play, the problem has been scoring runs, not preventing them.
Wholly Farcical: KC Stats & AL Ranks
-Batting Average: .265 (10th)
-On-Base Average: .326 (12th)
-Slugging Percentage: .395 (13th)
That comes out to a triple slash line of .265/.326/.395, markedly below even the AL average of .270/.337/.421. The recent are troubles are actually what we've seen all season, in August the Royals have hit .279/.313/.393, although it seems much worse. With that in mind, its fairly remarkable that the Royals have managed to score 527 runs, good enough for 10th best in the AL. In part, this may be because the Royals have been a tick more productive than you might expect in the clutch, in numerous categories in the "scoring position, 2 out" filter the Royals are middle of the pack: 8th in BA, 9th in OBP, 7th in SLG.
Still, overwhelmingly, night after night the Royal lineup leaves one with the same kind of impression one gets from, say, an airport Chili's (or a "Chili's Too", if you prefer), its interesting enough in theory, but upon closer inspection everything is too trimmed down at the margins: the seats are too small, the tables too close together, the service too slow, the menu too limited, etc. The Royals, at the moment, are sexier in theory than they are in reality -- I'll hold off on the tortured analogy for that one -- playing out this 2007 string with most portions of whatever success we may have not quite there yet. Our "power guys" actually aren't that powerful and our "contributors" don't actually contribute. The players worth liking are in nearly all cases still short of actually being assets, while we're still wasting our time watches out-machines shorten the game with more assiduity than any Seligean rule changes might. Worse still, many of these sinkholes have been either in the middle of the order, or occupying premium offensive positions, or both.
Cabbage Cloth: Royals Below Replacement Level
VORP/% of Team PAs
-Emil Brown: -9.0/ 6.6%
-Ryan Shealy: -8.6/ 4.3%
-Shane Costa: -7.9/ 1.5%
-Jason LaRue: -7.7/ 3.3%
-Tony Pena: -2.9/ 9.4%
-Angel Berroa: -2.8/ 0.3%
-Paul Phillips: -0.4/ 0.3%
-Jason Smith: -0.1/ 0.6%
All told, the Royals wasted 26.3% of their plate appearances this season on players who are hitting below replacement-level, a simply devastating percentage. Remarkably enough, even when you add in another few percentage points for the inevitably horrible pitcher PAs, this is still an improvement over last season's negative VORP % of 31.9%. On the other hand, Mike Sweeney just avoided being below replacement-level by virtue of grandly being right at it, he's at a 0.2 VORP, with a 5.1% share of the team's PAs. Gordon's not far ahead, with a 1.9% VORP in 9.8% of the team's PAs.
Of course, like most bad news, none of this is anything that we don't know. As Larkin said, for some this means nothing, for others it leaves, nothing to be said.