The Royals have been a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde team all year. They follow up hot stretches with eight-game losing streaks, then continue on their roller coaster season with another hot streak. Much of the streakiness is explained by their home/road splits. The Royals are 25-8 at home, the best record in baseball, even better than the amazing Cubs. On the road, it is a completely different story, with the Royals going 13-25 away from Kauffman, the third-worst record in baseball.
A poor road record would be understandable if the Royals were terrible. The 2006 Royals lost 100 games overall, and they had a road winning percentage of just .348. This year's Royals are in a pennant race, and have a road winning percentage of .342. The road woes are completely mystifying for a team this good.
Worst road teams to make the playoffs:— Brandon H. (@BHIndepMO) June 22, 2016
1987 Twins: 29-52
2015 Astros: 33-48
2006 Cardinals: 34-47
2016 Royals on pace for 28-53 on the road
Let's breakdown the home and road numbers. First, the offense is averaging 5.00 runs per game at home, and just 3.18 runs per game on the road, an enormous split.
We know Kauffman Stadium is not much of a home run park, but it does help other offensive aspects of the game, likely because of the large batter's eye in centerfield and the deep alleys in the outfield producing many doubles and triples. The Royals are an above-average team offensively at Kauffman Stadium.
However on the road, their numbers drop off considerably. The Royals are far less patient on the road, and strike out much more. Despite moving away from spacious Kauffman Stadium, their home run rate is nearly the same on the road as it is at home, about 2.3%. Simply slapping at the ball at putting it in play - their modus operandi in Kauffman Stadium - doesn't seem to play as well on the road.
Are there some culprits to point to? Here are the home and road splits for the current roster, with the last column showing the difference between the home OPS and road OPS.
Most Royals players hit worse on the road, with only Alex Gordon, Cheslor Cuthbert, and Lorenzo Cain among the regulars to hit better on the road. Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon, and Whit Merrifield are the only players to have a better walk rate on the road. Kendrys Morales, Salvador Perez, Alcides Escobar, Paulo Orlando, and Whit Merrifield all have steep drop-offs on the road, hitting 25% worse, by OPS, away from Kauffman Stadium.
What about the pitching? The Royals are allowing 3.73 runs per game at home, allowing 4.38 per game on the road.
Royals pitchers are giving up an astonishing number of home runs on the road - 57 so far, nine more than any other American League team. This should not be too surprising considering that the team built the pitching staff around Kauffman Stadium, acquiring flyball pitchers like Ian Kennedy and Chris Young. The problem with building a team around a spacious ballpark is that half of your games will be away from that ballpark. And as we have seen, many of those flyballs turn into easy home runs on the road.
The Royals also have the second-highest walk-rate on the road. However, as far as runs allowed, they have actually been about average. The average American League team is giving up 4.53 runs per game on the road, higher than what the Royals have done. If anything, Royals pitchers have been a bit lucky, outperforming their Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP).
Here is how the current starting rotation has fared.
Ian Kennedy and Chris Young are dealing with super-high home run rates, while Edinson Volquez and Yordano Ventura can't find the strike zone on the road. Danny Duffy has been excellent away from home, although those numbers include some of his time in the bullpen as well.
The Royals were praised last year for having a team tailor-made for Kauffman Stadium. This year, it seems as if that the team built for Kauffman Stadium has had difficulty playing elsewhere. Perhaps the team has been built too custom-made for its home park, or perhaps this is just a small slump the team needs to get past with a few good road trips. In any case, having a record this poor on the road seems unsustainable for a team with post-season hopes.