One of the most difficult things about being a baseball fan is not jumping to conclusions quickly. We wait all offseason for baseball to begin, but then have to wait some more while actual baseball is being played to make firm conclusions about how the players on our favorite team will perform.
If you only look at this season's statistics, you might think Jason Vargas is easily the best pitcher on the Royals and that it's about time for Ned Yost to hit Alcides Escobar leadoff. 18 games of data simply does not tell us very much, no matter if it's at the beginning of the year or in the middle of August.
I went out and found three stats that are completely unsustainable, but have had a big impact on how the Royals have performed this season. There isn't a whole lot of meaning to this exercise; I just found these statistics kind of amusing and wanted to write a bit about them.
Jason Vargas - 100% LOB%
Vargas' traditional pitching stats look shiny after four starts; the southpaw sports a 2-0 record with a 1.24 ERA. There's no reason to assume that he developed into an ace overnight. His 14.7% K% is slightly below his career average, but not too far off from what we can expect from him moving forward. His .214 BABIP, however, will definitely regress significantly closer to his career average.
Vargas has only allowed runners to score on home runs this season, which is why he has surrendered runs but still has a 100% LOB%. That will clearly change soon, and teams will start driving in more of the runners that reach base against the veteran.
It's been nice to see Vargas pitch well to start the year, but his peripherals look mostly unchanged. We should still expect Vargas to finish the season with an ERA near 4.00.
Royals #4 Hitters - .119/.176/.134
The cleanup spot has been a disaster for Kansas City this season; the team has received production that you would expect from a pitcher in one of the most important positions in the lineup. Most of the production issues can be traced to Billy Butler's slump to start the season, but Salvador Perez also struggled hitting cleanup.
Having a nearly automatic out come up to the plate quite often with runners on base is definitely contributing to the Royals offensive problems early in the season. Butler, assuming he stays in the #4 spot, will start hitting better moving forward, which will help the team score more runs. His BABIP is .84 points lower than his career numbers, while his .ISO is .143 points lower, neither of which will stay that low.
Yost could probably help the Royals cleanup woes in the short term by moving Alex Gordon up one position in the lineup. But it might be illegal to have two lefties hitting in a row, I'm not quite sure.
Salvador Perez - 100% GS at C
Saint Salvador has started every game for the Royals at catcher this season. At some point, you would think, Yost will decide that Perez needs a day off and pencil in Brett Hayes for a game. I would guess that Perez's game off will come tonight, but I've long given up attempting to predict Yost's decision making.
Perez jumped out to a quick start but has since fallen into a slump of his own, batting .227/.311/.333 after 74 plate appearances. The narrative that has quickly developed is that Perez is tired and needs a day off; once he rests, he will definitely start hitting again. I think there is some truth to the idea that Perez's hitting issues are at least partially related to being tired, but his fast start was just as unsustainable as his current slump.