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What is the offense doing differently this year?

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Not scoring runs, for one.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Royals bats have been silent lately, with the team hitting just .149 over its last four games, with a total of three runs over that time. While that is just a small sample size reflecting a slump, overall the Royals offense is down from where it was last year when they won 95 games and a championship. Last year's Royals averaged 4.46 runs per game, good for sixth in the league. This year, the boys in blue are averaging just 3.91 runs per game, the third-worst offense in the American League.

The Royals maintained much of the core of their team that was so successful last year, losing just disappointing right fielder Alex Rios and infielder Ben Zobrist, who did not join the team until August. However they did lose Alex Gordon, out since May 23 with a wrist injury, and Mike Moustakas, who missed two weeks with a thumb injury and is now expected to miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.

Let's take a comparison of last year's offensive numbers with this year's numbers thus far.

Year Runs 2B 3B HR SB BB SO BB % K % BA OBP SLG
2015 4.47 1.85 0.26 0.86 0.64 2.36 6.01 6.3 15.9 .269 .322 .412
2016 3.91 1.70 0.14 0.82 0.72 2.32 7.05 6.3 19.1 .267 .316 .398
Difference -12.5% -8.1% -45.9% -3.9% 12.0% -2.0% 17.4% 0.0% 20.1% -0.7% -1.9% -3.4%

Courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com

Triples are way down, likely because of Paulo Orlando's fluky triples last season. The Royals were not exactly a home run-hitting club last year, finishing second-to-last in the category last year, but they have gotten even weaker in the power department this year. What really stands out is the strikeouts however. Strikeouts are up around baseball, but the Royals have gone from having the fewest whiffs in the league to just the fourth-fewest, with a significant spike in strikeout rate.

What about sequencing? The Royals seemed to be amazing last year in their ability to get clutch hits with runners on.  They hit .281 with runners in scoring position, the second-highest average in the AL.

AVG OBA SLG
2015 .281 .347 .420
2016 .268 .320 .392
Difference -4.6% -7.8% -6.7%

Courtesy of Fangraphs

What is also interesting is the Royals are getting fewer opportunities with runners in scoring position. Last year they averaged 9.5 plate appearances per game with runners in scoring position. This year it is just 9.14. The decline in on-base percentage and decline in doubles would have a lot to do with that.

What about batted-ball data?

Pull Cent Opp Soft Med Hard
2015 39.0 35.8 25.2 18.6 53.4 28.0
2016 37.4 34.6 28.0 20.9 51.1 28.0
-4.1% -3.4% 11.1% 12.4% -4.3% 0.0%

Courtesy of Fangraphs

Not a lot to parse here. The Royals are hitting more soft-hit balls and aren't pulling the ball as much. Alcides Escobar has seen a big spike in soft-hit balls, which is not surprising considering his slugging percentage hovers around .300. Whit Merrifield has the lowest percentage of soft-hit balls at 10%, which is probably why he has been so successful thus far.

Let's look at plate discipline.

O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone% F-Strike% SwStr%
2015 32.5 66.5 47.7 68.6 89.9 81.9 44.5 60.8 8.6
2016 30.4 67.8 47.9 61.8 88.4 79.5 46.9 59.0 9.8
Difference -6.5% 2.0% 0.4% -9.9% -1.7% -2.9% 5.4% -3.0% 14.0%

Courtesy of Fangraphs

You can see a glossary of terms here. Basically the Royals are swinging and missing much more than last year. Not surprisingly, Alex Gordon has been one of the biggest offenders, but unexpectedly Paulo Orlando has swung and missed at a higher rate than even Gordo, whiffing on 13.5% of pitches he sees.

Let's look at the lineup configuration.

2015 BA OBP SLG OPS 2016 BA OBP SLG OPS OPS Difference
Batting 1st .250 .295 .320 .615 Batting 1st .253 .280 .302 .582 -5.4%
Batting 2nd .297 .362 .451 .813 Batting 2nd .287 .331 .489 .820 0.9%
Batting 3rd .297 .356 .450 .806 Batting 3rd .290 .364 .467 .831 3.1%
Batting 4th .302 .365 .484 .849 Batting 4th .262 .308 .421 .729 -14.1%
Batting 5th .283 .347 .465 .812 Batting 5th .214 .279 .343 .622 -23.4%
Batting 6th .266 .336 .478 .814 Batting 6th .244 .310 .354 .664 -18.4%
Batting 7th .232 .274 .355 .629 Batting 7th .283 .327 .429 .757 20.3%
Batting 8th .254 .277 .371 .648 Batting 8th .275 .305 .355 .660 1.9%
Batting 9th .230 .265 .330 .595 Batting 9th .293 .346 .424 .770 29.4%

Courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com

I wonder how many teams have their #9 hitter hitting nearly 200 OPS points higher than their leadoff hitter. As bad as Alcides Escobar has been leading off, he is pretty much doing what he did last year. The big drop off has come from the middle of the order, due largely to Alex Gordon and Kendrys Morales.

Let's look by position.

2015 BA OBP SLG OPS 2016 BA OBP SLG OPS OPS Difference
as C .251 .277 .405 .681 as C .274 .309 .500 .809 18.8%
as 1B .295 .363 .456 .818 as 1B .318 .374 .521 .895 9.4%
as 2B .235 .269 .348 .617 as 2B .259 .305 .343 .648 5.0%
as 3B .280 .342 .456 .798 as 3B .250 .288 .420 .708 -11.3%
as SS .260 .297 .324 .621 as SS .253 .280 .302 .582 -6.3%
as LF .269 .361 .456 .817 as LF .245 .344 .344 .688 -15.8%
as CF .303 .357 .475 .832 as CF .288 .346 .432 .778 -6.5%
as RF .244 .279 .338 .617 as RF .300 .329 .374 .703 13.9%
as DH .287 .353 .477 .830 as DH .203 .266 .335 .601 -27.6%

Courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com

Again, Alex Gordon and Kendrys Morales, as well as the loss of Mike Moustakas, have dramatically hurt this club offensively. On the plus side, we were expecting a drop off in right field, and instead have found it is pretty easy to outpace the production of Alex Rios.

This isn't really groundbreaking stuff, but this team is fairly similar to the team it was last year, although not quite as successful with runners in scoring position with slumps by two players (Morales and Gordon) and injuries to two players (Gordon and Moustakas) hurting them badly. Unfortunately, last year's team did not have much room for error, and while the Royals may have some depth in Omaha, the players have not made up the difference. The Royals will need Alex Gordon to return and hit like he did before, and figure out what to do with the designated hitter position.