The Royals have been a historically light-hitting team. Every single flag flying on top of the Hall of Fame was produced by pitching, speed, and/or defense, with the 1985 championship team scoring just 687 runs on the season (70 runs fewer than the 2006, 100-loss team) yet hitting more home runs than the 2015 championship team.
Steve Balboni holds the single-season home run record. We can probably just get rid of that last paragraph.
Either way, last year was no exception. The 2015 team capitalized on career years from multiple players and nearly perfect health, alongside a perfectly constructed and executed formula to finish 6th in the AL in runs and even 3rd in doubles. The 2016 team saw setbacks and injuries while reverting back to the 2014 offensive model, finishing 13th, 11th, 15th, and 15th in the AL in runs, doubles, home runs, and walks, respectively.
Headed into 2017, the optimism surrounding the Royals was simple: Get your players back healthy, recover from set backs, and win like the 2015 team. However, I think Dayton Moore has a different plan.
Following a very slow beginning of the winter, Moore traded Wade Davis for Jorge Soler, dealt Jarrod Dyson, and signed Brandon Moss. Take Dyson out, input Soler and Moss, and what do you have?
A healthy Royals lineup that might hit some baseballs out of the ballpark(?).
It’s a little bit weird.
I first had this epiphany (if you want to call it that) when Rustin Dodd tweeted out his first potential 2017 Royals lineup.
Way-too-early guess at an opening day lineup: Escobar 6 (I know), Moustakas 5, Cain 8, Hosmer 3, Perez 2, Gordon 7, Soler 9, Moss DH, X 2B— Rustin Dodd (@rustindodd) January 29, 2017
Outside of Escobar and [insert second baseman here], every hitter in that lineup has the capability of going deep at a decent rate. We would probably be ignorant to assume this change in philosophy has nothing to do with the Royals adjusting roster. Greg Holland is gone. Wade Davis is gone. The bullpen will not be driving the Royals to another title run. Jarrod Dyson is also gone, and given Alcides Escobar’s aging legs, the Royals probably won’t be stealing as many bases this season. The Royals won two pennants, largely centered around speed, defense, and a strong bullpen. Two of those factors have largely regressed since those flag-flying seasons.
Which leaves us with the sudden change in philosophy. The addition of Soler, and even Moss - whose value is more dependent on his home run power and on-base skills than his fellow DH Kendrys Morales - shows the Royals’ hand. Moss calls the Royals’ bluff more than Soler because the Royals have historically stayed away from the bomb-or-bust guys who walk a ton.
Although many (most) of us don’t care, PECOTA doesn’t buy into this new philosophy. In their 2017 projections, the system not only projects the royals to lose 93 games, but projects them to hit for less power. Last season, the Royals slashed .261/.312/.400 as a team, while PECOTA predicts a .255/.309/.397 slash for 2017. They project Jorge Soler to lead the team in home runs with 21, with Salvador Perez, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and Brandon Moss chipping in 18, 18, 17, and 17, respectively.
Either way, if the Royals plan on winning in 2017, it will likely look different than it did in 2014 and 2015. Their success might just be predicated on their ability to hit baseballs over the fence.
Which is very weird, if I have to say so myself.