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The Royals could really use Mike Moustakas right now

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The Royals' struggles versus right-handed pitching would look a lot better with Moose in the lineup.

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Last month when the Kansas City Royals were scuffling and considering selling at the deadline, one of the big refrains for why this was happening was the 'i' word - injuries. Injuries are always the terror in the night, and can ruin any club in any sport at any time regardless of talent. You do not want to make Mr. Injury angry. Mr. Injury will break out a crowbar and turn your knees into mush, and feel good doing it.

Unfortunately for the Royals, that reasoning just doesn't hold up. Yes, Kris Medlen, one of the supposed starters in the rotation, has more or less been out for the year. Yes, Mike Moustakas and Alex Gordon's collision cost months of time to two All-Stars. Yes, Lorenzo Cain, Wade Davis, Mike Minor, and Kyle Zimmer have all gone on disabled list stints.

But the data - as it often does - squashes the notion that the Royals have been particularly injury-prone this year. Take a look at this list courtesy of Spotrac, which shows each team, their amount of players who went on the disabled list, and the amount of days lost to the disabled list.

TEAM
PLAYERS
DAYS
Los Angeles Dodgers 27 1,718
Oakland Athletics 20 1,514
San Diego Padres 18 1,384
Atlanta Braves 20 1,264
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 17 1,226
Chicago Cubs 21 1,221
Cincinnati Reds 15 1,136
Boston Red Sox 18 1,073
New York Yankees 14 1,056
Seattle Mariners 18 1,055
St. Louis Cardinals 16 1,050
Texas Rangers 16 1,012
Colorado Rockies 23 959

Kansas City Royals

12

856

Milwaukee Brewers 11 844
Philadelphia Phillies 13 784
San Francisco Giants 16 766
Chicago White Sox 13 757
Tampa Bay Rays 13 728
New York Mets 15 710
Arizona Diamondbacks 10 667
Minnesota Twins 12 643
Toronto Blue Jays 14 634
Detroit Tigers 16 612
Baltimore Orioles 14 549
Washington Nationals 10 472
Cleveland Indians 11 446
Pittsburgh Pirates 9 440
Miami Marlins 12 436
Houston Astros 7 199
Total 451 26,211
Average 15 874

While not below the median, the Royals are below the league average in both players and days lost to the DL.

An important thing to consider here is that teams can still succeed if they get injured. Yes, some of the healthiest teams are doing very well--including the Cleveland Indians, Washington Nationals, and Houston Astros. But look at the Boston Red Sox, the Chicago Cubs, and definitely the Los Angeles Dodgers. They've all lost hundreds more days to injury, and yet they all have a better record than the Royals.

So no, injuries are not the biggest problem, and plenty of teams are in the same boat as the Royals.

Really, there's only one problem with this team. It's not the bullpen - the Royals have the best bullpen ERA in all of baseball. It's not the rotation - the Royals' rotation, though not flashy and not a team strength, has an ERA sitting at 17th of 30 teams. It's not defense - the Royals' defense once again is top three in MLB in both Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating.

It is the offense. The Royals are dead last in the American League in runs per game, and are 27th overall.  They are bottom four in baseball in walk rate, isolated slugging percentage, and home runs.

It's even worse when you look at the stats. Here's a list of all Royals players with at least 10 plate appearances and their stats coming into this week:

Name G PA HR RBI BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG OPS wRC+ WAR
Mike Moustakas 27 113 7 13 8.00% 11.50% .260 .214 .240 .301 .500 .801 109 0.7
Cheslor Cuthbert 97 394 10 40 5.30% 19.80% .151 .345 .292 .328 .443 .771 104 1.1
Eric Hosmer 128 538 18 76 8.40% 19.30% .162 .314 .274 .335 .436 .771 104 -0.1
Drew Butera 42 99 3 12 6.10% 24.20% .198 .328 .264 .309 .462 .771 102 0.5
Paulo Orlando 99 367 4 27 2.70% 21.80% .103 .391 .309 .335 .413 .748 98 1.7
Lorenzo Cain 99 415 9 53 6.50% 19.80% .123 .342 .288 .335 .411 .746 97 2.4
Salvador Perez 113 443 19 57 3.60% 22.80% .205 .295 .257 .291 .462 .753 95 2.2
Kendrys Morales 121 479 20 58 8.40% 20.50% .181 .269 .244 .313 .425 .738 94 -0.4
Alex Gordon 97 385 14 28 10.60% 28.10% .170 .290 .227 .325 .397 .722 93 1.4
Reymond Fuentes 13 44 0 5 6.80% 18.20% .024 .394 .317 .364 .341 .705 93 -0.2
Brett Eibner 26 85 3 10 7.10% 27.10% .192 .288 .231 .286 .423 .709 82 0.5
Whit Merrifield 53 220 2 17 4.50% 22.70% .110 .348 .271 .305 .381 .686 81 1.1
Jarrod Dyson 83 239 1 17 9.20% 13.00% .100 .275 .239 .316 .340 .656 74 1.5
Alcides Escobar 129 559 3 38 4.10% 12.70% .071 .299 .265 .295 .336 .631 65 0.3
Christian Colon 46 136 0 10 7.40% 18.40% .041 .296 .236 .304 .276 .580 58 0.0
Omar Infante 39 149 0 11 6.00% 15.40% .082 .278 .239 .279 .321 .600 56 0.0
Raul Mondesi 28 97 1 7 4.10% 30.90% .092 .268 .184 .228 .276 .504 29 -0.2

There are 217 players in Major League Baseball that are league average (by wRC+) or better. The Royals have four of them. That's a lot of (very sad) data, so here are some quick hits:

  • There are 135 players in Major League Baseball with an OPS of at least .800. The Royals have zero of them on their active roster.
  • Of the 100 worst batters by OPS in Major League Baseball with at least 100 plate appearances, the Royals have used five of them.

It is very simple: the Royals have not had any great hitters this year at the same time as they have used some really bad ones. That is how you don't score points.

But, specifically, the Royals are floundering in one type of area: hitting right-handed pitching.

Look at last year's split vs. right and left-handed pitching:

  • vs. RHP: .737 OPS
  • vs. LHP: .728 OPS
A nine-point OPS difference between the two means that their results were pretty much identical depending on which arm the pitcher hurled the ball with. It makes sense; Kansas City carred two very good switch-hitters in Morales and Ben Zobrist, and the rest of their lineup was balanced with lefty (Moose, Hosmer, Gordon) and righty (Cain, Perez) power.

Here is the 2016 split:
  • vs. RHP: .694
  • vs. LHP: .761
Look at that number against southpaws! The reason for that is pretty clear; a lot of the right hand bats have been having big years against lefties, particularly Orlando, Cain, Eibner, Merrifield, and Cuthbert, whose OPS difference between lefties and righties are all 150 points or more.

You are probably not left-handed, as the vast majority of humans are right-handed. For that reason, there aren't that many left-handed pitchers relative to the whole in Major League Baseball, even though they are overrepresented compared to the general population. In fact, the number of lefty pitchers has been going down. Just four seasons ago in 2012, left-handed pitchers made up 32% of the whole, almost one in three. In 2016, that number is down to 25.5%, almost one in four.

So, yeah, crushing left-handed pitching is great--25.5% is not nothing. But it is also not 74.5%. Preferably, your whole team consists of Ben Zobrists, and your switch-hitting, slick-fielding hilarious behemoth would win 100 games with an average pitching staff. But unless you have a cloning device, that's not going to happen (and even then, cloning might fall under the substance abuse program, so don't bother trying).

This is where Mike Moustakas would come in perfectly. Moustakas is a lefty who has traditionally been better against right-handed pitchers than left-handed ones. It would afford the Royals' lineup more balance, as its current iteration features five right-handers who all struggle with same-handed pitching, two lefties having disappointing seasons, a collection of underwhelming second basemen, and the creaking husk of an aging designated hitter.

And that's not even taking into account that Moose is a legitimately very good defensive third baseman, and Cuthbert is - depending on what stat or set of eyes you value - somewhere between genuinely terrible and average. Moose trails Cuthbert by only 0.4 WAR, and Moose has only played 27 games. Don't kid yourself into thinking Cuthbert is a perfect replacement for Moose. He's done well enough, sure, and I'm happy for him, but he is what he is. Going forward, Moose makes this team better.

The most frustrating thing is that somebody like Moose is exactly what the Royals need. They need a lefty with power, preferably one who can also play the field. While injuries haven't sunk the Royals' boat like the narrative would suggest, that doesn't mean that individual injuries don't matter. Moustakas walking to the plate against a righty with men on base and the score knotted up in a pennant race would bring joy to all Royals hearts everywhere, and he would shore up the Royals' biggest weakness. It isn't Moose's fault that Hosmer and Gordon, the two players who could calm the loss of a breakout lefty bat, have been extremely disappointing.

But the difference between playoffs and no playoffs might just be Mike Moustakas, and though the stats say that every team has their injured version of Moose, it still hurts.