The Royals improved defense

USA TODAY Sports

It's real and sometimes spectacular.

After another stellar Lorenzo Cain defensive play in the second inning on Monday, I began thinking about the Royals and their team defense. The last couple of seasons when Dayton Moore and the rest of the Royals Brain Trust have touted improved team defense, it was laughable. Yet the Royals are truly turning into one of the best defensive teams in the game.

We've known about Alcides Escobar and Alex Gordon for a couple of seasons. They've been joined by Salvador Perez and this season by Lorenzo Cain full time. Plus, since the Royals cut the dead weight known as Jeff Francoeur and replaced him more or less with David Lough in right, the Royals are fielding one of the top outfield defenses in the game.

Knowing who is playing good defense is all about the fabled eye test. I know what I see when watching a game. And this year, I really like what I see.

Flaws about defensive metrics aside, I thought it would be interesting to see how two of the more well known metrics handle the Royals defense. For starters, here's a table with the Royals sorted by position with their Runs Saved from The Fielding Bible. I added their rank among their major league peers to give a feel as how they stack up against the rest of the league.

Name

Pos

Runs Saved

Rank

Salvador Perez

C

8

3

Eric Hosmer

1B

6

6

Chris Getz

2B

2

17

Mike Moustakas

3B

-2

22

Alcides Escobar

SS

4

11

Alex Gordon

LF

3

11

Lorenzo Cain

CF

14

2

David Lough

RF

5

12

Now here's the same chart but instead of Runs Saved, I ranked them by UZR from Fangraphs.

Name

Pos

UZR

Rank

Salvador Perez

C

NR

--

Eric Hosmer

1B

3.2

7

Chris Getz

2B

3.1

6*

Mike Moustakas

3B

1.3

13

Alcides Escobar

SS

4.1

10

Alex Gordon

LF

4.3

6

Lorenzo Cain

CF

10.3

3

David Lough

RF

5.3

6*

The UZR leaderboards rank the defenders who have "qualified." Getz and Lough (with the asterisk) haven't played enough to be on the leaderboards. Their position is where they would rank if they qualified. Also, they don't give catchers a UZR.

A few of things to takeaway from the above tables (if I may combine them with the eye test):

-- Cain is having a Gold Glove caliber season in center. Milwaukee's Carlos Gomez and Arizona's A.J. Pollock are the others in the top three both in Runs Saved and UZR.

-- Alex Gordon continues to be The Man when it comes to assists. Eight on the year has him tied for first among left fielders with Michael Brantley. However, when it comes to the above metrics, he's been passed by Andy Dirkes and David Murphy in the AL.

-- Remember how UZR hated Eric Hosmer? His improved range (which is most likely a byproduct of better positioning) has bumped him up the charts. He's top of the AL in Runs Saved and second best behind Mike Napoli in UZR.

-- Is Mike Moustakas taking his hitting problems with him to the hot corner? It's looked like it for a long time and both UZR and Runs Saved are down on his defense this year. His error in the top of the first on Monday on a potential double play ball was extremely costly as it led to two runs being scored. (Wade Davis was pitching, so it was only a matter of time, but still.) Stop me if you've heard this before: Moustakas needs to go to the minors.

-- Overall, Alcides Escobar is solid at short. I know he's leading the world in ESPN's Web Gems, but he frustrates me when I watch him on defense. I see a fielder prone to defensive lapses on the routine plays while his concentration level is set to "high" on the tough ones. It makes for some highlight reel opportunities, but it also means some of the easy ones are booted. Frustrating.

Overall, I'd say this team is well above average defensively with a couple of true defensive standouts. By the end of the year, it's possible we will be arguing Gordon, Cain and Perez all deserve Gold Gloves. We may be able to throw Hosmer into that mix.

Not too shabby.

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