The Kansas City Royals offensive issues popped up over the past three days as the team only scored five runs while getting swept by the last-place Chicago White Sox.
The series was extremely disappointing, likely marking the end of any real playoff dreams this team still had. The Royals are now 64-62, closer to falling below .500 than they are sneaking into a Wild Card spot.
The offense has been the biggest issue throughout the entire year. The Royals have only scored 495 runs, the third-lowest mark in the AL, only leading the White Sox and the Houston Astros. The team also has the third-lowest wOBA in the AL at .301, and is tied with the Astros for the second-lowest wRC+ at 86.
Fans have every right to feel frustrated by the lack of production coming from the offense, and to voice their frustrations about the team. It needs to be understood, however, that the complete lack of offense is a teamwide issue, and that no player can be singled out as the "cause" of the Royals struggles.
People like scapegoats, and their are plenty to go around in Kansas City. There are 14 Royals hitters who have received 100 plate appearances with the team, and only three of them entered Friday hitting above-average:
Alex Gordon is right at league-average for the season despite an extended slump*. David Lough is also slightly-below league-average, but everyone besides Billy Butler, Eric Hosmer and George Kottaras(!) has been below-average at best.
*David Lesky of Pine Tar Press wrote an interesting piece on Gordon's struggles possibly relating his head injury that I suggest you peruse.
When you have a lineup this bad, looking for one or two people to blame is impossible. If only Gordon had hit as well as he has the previous two seasons! That would be nice, but that still leaves 10 below-average hitters receiving over 100 plate appearances.
If only Lorenzo Cain and Miguel Tejada didn't get hurt! Both players were hitting around 11% below-league average for the year, and had struggled in the second half of the season. Neither Tejada nor Cain's presence in the lineup was going to make a big difference offensively in the final weeks of the year.
If only Billy Butler grumble grumble grumble! I'm not really sure why a vocal minority continues to complain about Butler's production when he has been the most consistent hitter on the team this year. Anyone who argues that he doesn't produce in the "clutch" is just ignoring reality, as Joel Wagler of KC Kingdom will nicely remind you.
My what if scenario for the season would involve four players who have all hit 40% below-league average not receiving a combined 1102 plate appearances and acting as a collective anchor on the offense, but what do I know.
There's enough blame for Royals struggles to be shared. Gordon's slump, Salvador Perez and Mike Moustakas not meeting the front office's expectations, Alcides Escobar falling off a cliff and poor roster construction leading to too many below-average players have all contributed to the disaster that has been the Royals hitting this season.
The scary part moving forward is that barring any major changes, the 2014 lineup will likely look very similar to the 2013 lineup. While some of the younger hitters will (hopefully) perform better, simply sending out the same lineup next season will likely yield similar results. I can only speak for myself, but I'd be more than happy not to see the Royals average below-four runs a game ever again.