The Royals have played five games, two series, against a pretty good team (the Mets) and a potentially pretty terrible one (the Twins). We have a huge amount of baseball to watch, and analysis at this point is only preliminary. If you're into analogies, think about it this way: if the current baseball season was a football game, we'd only be almost two minutes through the first quarter.
But enough with it! You want to evaluate some baseball! Hold on there, tiger, we have you covered. Here are three storylines to watch that we can glean from these first few games.
The Black Holes of the Lineup
The Kansas City Royals possess a very balanced lineup, but some of the lineup is...not so good. Yes yes, Alcides Escobar leadoff magic, etc., and forsooth, yada yada, but there are a collection of players in this current lineup that are, ah, less than stellar.
Consider this: over the first five games, Escobar, Omar Infante, Reymond Fuentes, Christian Colon, and Paulo Orlando have a combined on base percentage of .254. That's an awful lot of outs. To put that in perspective, only twice since the 1994 baseball strike has a player qualified for the batting title and posted that low of an OBP. Twice, in a combined 3177 individual seasons.
Now, some of that should be mitigated when Jarrod Dyson shows up again. Dyson is a better baserunner, defender, and batter than all of those previously mentioned names. But Dyson won't solve the fact that none of those hitters have any respectable power stroke. This season, keep an eye on those names. If Infante and Escobar bounce back, that would be huge. If not, get used to an 8-9-1 in the order where outs will be given away like candy.
Salvador Perez: The Bat is Back?
Perez has played roughly 1,293,038,101,018.1738 games over the past two years, give or take a million, and it seems like that's taken a toll on him. His offense has declined every year he's played in Kansas City, even as his games played rises over 9,000.
Last year saw him flail at lots of things, some of them not even baseballs, and he tied his career low for batting average. He doesn't walk much, so hits are how he gets on base, and if he's not getting hits, he's making a lot of outs.
But one good thing we saw last year out of Perez was increased power. He hit 21 home runs, a great number for a guy who just didn't get many hits at all. His ISO was a solid .166. It isn't uncommon for players to add power as they age into their late 20s, and if Perez were to become a 25 or 30 HR guy, that would be fantastic. In five games, Perez has also showed an return to form as far as average goes. If both of those things happen, we could be seeing a special year from him.
So this rotation--can it be counted on?
Over the first week of the season, Edinson Volquez has been terrific, with 15 strikeouts in only 11.2 innings pitched. His ERA is a Cyborg-ian 1.54. Last year was his first year in which he posted over 200 innings in a single season; for what it's worth, he's not quite on pace for that this year. Likewise, Ian Kennedy impressed, tossing seven strikeouts in his first 6.2 innings and refusing to allow even a single run.
On the other hand, Yordano Ventura and Chris Young have been somewhat underwhelming. Ventura walked six batters in his first five-inning start, and Young was not particularly sharp and could also only go five innings. The Johnny Cueto/Zack Greinke/James Shields 'ace', however you want to define that, will not be there this year barring a midseason trade. It's imperative for the other guys to step up.
We have only seen most of these guys once, and we haven't even seen Kris Medlen yet, so let's not go crazy with judging them. But how good the rotation ends up will be very, very important. Though the bullpen gets lots of love, last year's run doesn't happen without a few excellent starts by Cueto and some very good ones by Ventura, Volquez, and Young.
There's a lot of season left to go, folks, so don't get too worked up. But it's fun to take a look at what's happened over the last two series, because for the longest time this winter there was only thinking about baseball, and no baseball to consume. That has been addressed, and we're in full swing now.