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Royals Ups and Downs: Esky Magic Edition

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The Royals are winning again!

El Mago makes his triumphant return!
Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

The Royals offense woke up again in Tampa Bay when Alcides Escobar was moved back into the leadoff spot out of desperation by Ned Yost. Of course, the true Esky Magic is in how much better the pitching does. But even so, the Royals offense has suddenly kicked into gear and - Chris Young spot starts aside - the starting pitching has not yet appeared diminished in any way. As long as those two things continue to be true the Royals will continue to be unstoppable juggernauts.

In the mean time, a much improved offense means there are plenty more happy things to talk about in today’s ups and downs!

*Stats are from 4/18 - 5/13

The Good

C Salvador Perez - Key Stats: 8 XBH, 111 wRC+, 6.6% BB%

Salvy has had an interesting month. Since April 18th he has had seven games with a wRC+ of -100. During the same period he has had six games with a wRC+ of more than 200. Now wRC+ doesn’t mean a whole lot on a game-by-game basis but it’s still more of both extremes combined than anyone else on the team has. The streaks also seem to go by series, he was terrible in Texas and Chicago, but terrific in Tampa Bay and against Minnesota. He remains very much an all or nothing guy, but he’s walking at nearly double his career norms, which can only be a good thing.

1B Eric Hosmer - Key Stats: .390 BABIP, 133 wRC+, 51.3% GB%, .352 AVG

You already know Eric Hosmer has gotten hot since the last time we did this. That hot streak means he leads the team in wRC+ over the time period despite not actually getting hot until a week into it. Just in case you’re curious, of course his hot streak has coincided with a decrease in groundballs. He’s still hitting them more than half the time, but even ~10% less is worth something, apparently. One incredibly odd thing is that his soft contact percentage has actually stolen a little bit from his medium and hard contact. He’s actually hitting the ball weaker during the hot stretch. It really is all about the ground balls with him.

2B Whit Merrifield - Key Stats: 3 HR, .224 BABIP, 35.5% Hard%

Whit isn’t here because he’s doing amazingly, he’s not. He’s doing about what was probably expected of him. He’s actually striking out a tiny bit less and walking a tiny bit more. His ISO is also much higher than last year and he’s already set a new career mark for home runs in a season in a quarter of the games. If his BABIP was unsustainably high last season, it’s almost certainly unsustainably low so far this season given his speed and predilection for hitting the ball hard. Look for him to improve even more.

CF Lorenzo Cain - Key Stats: 6 SB, 9.5% BB%, 8 XBH

Cain is still walking a ton and still stealing bases. Unfortunately his BABIP has gone down quite a bit and dragged his batting average down with it. To cover for that loss he’s found a little bit more power and has double the ISO he had two weeks into the season. He’s also hitting the ball much harder; he’s added to both his Hard% and Med% taking solely from the Soft%, so you’d have to think the BABIP will rebound a little bit. He’s tied for the AL lead in stolen bases with Jose Altuve, too. He’s doing everything, again and that’s a big part of the sudden hot streak.

OF Jorge Bonifacio - Key Stats: 2 HR, 9.2% BB%, .241 AVG

Bonifacio came up and seemed like an offensive revelation for the hitting-starved Royals. And, compared to most of the team, he is. The fact remains that, according to FanGraphs, he’s actually been a negative so far as a hitter and especially as a defender which adds up to a negative fWAR. Baseball reference is willing to allow that his offense is barely above replacement level but they think his defense is even worse which gives him a -0.4 bWAR - even worse than the -0.2 FanGraphs awards him. He’s been a lot better than Paulo Orlando, but he’s not the savior of this team. Not yet, at least. The positives for him are the 2 home runs, hitting above the Mendoza Line, and a decent BB% - at least for this team.

The Bad

3B Mike Moustakas - Key Stats: 2.2% BB%, .156 ISO

Mike Moustakas has quietly been not very good over the last month. He’s still producing plenty of power - he is second on the team in ISO over the given span, but he’s not walking at all. Combine that with the fact that he’s not getting a lot of hits period and that brings his offensive value down; his season numbers are still riding on that hot start and waiting for a new hot streak to start. He did look much better against Baltimore, so maybe it’s time for that hot streak to start.

SS Alcides Escobar - Key Stats: 8 wRC+, .197 BABIP, 2.1% BB%

Alcides Escobar is the Royals new leadoff hitter and they’ve been dominant since making that switch. The cold, hard truth is that he’s actually been even worse over the last month than he was in the first two weeks. He has been slightly better since taking over as the leadoff hitter. He has a 23 wRC+ in the six games covered by this stretch.

3B Cheslor Cuthbert - Key Stats: -19 wRC+, 33 PA, .063 ISO

Cheslor wins the ‘crown’ of worst wRC+ over the given period. He’s been absolutely terrible. He isn’t hitting, he isn’t walking, he isn’t even hitting for power. With Moss and Moose seemingly heating up, he may be riding the pine for the foreseeable future.

DH Brandon Moss - Key Stats: 37.1% K%, 4.8% BB%, .220 ISO

Moss is striking out way too much to be useful without a much higher success rate when he gets wood on the ball than is reasonable. He was buoying his failure a bit by taking lots of walks in the first couple weeks. He’s stopped that. At least he’s still got a good attitude about it all? Honestly the strikeouts are what’s killing him. He doesn’t have an unreasonable BABIP for his hitting profile and he’s got the team leading ISO. If he can cut back on the strike outs he might find his way into some success. Like Moose, he finally had a good series against Baltimore so maybe he’s due for some near-future success.

OF Alex Gordon - Key Stats: 11.5% BB%, .182 BABIP, 34.6% Hard%

So let’s talk about Alex Gordon. Here’s the thing. The results are not there, you’re absolutely right. But the process is coming through, if not earlier definitely now. You’re worried that he’s pulling everything? In the last month he’s only pulled 36.4% of the balls he’s put in play. You’re worried that he’s not seeing the ball well? His walk percentage is back up, his strike out percentage is down. You’re worried that he’s not hitting the ball hard enough? He’s hitting it hard more than a third of the time. You’re worried he’s hitting in on the ground, too much? He’s dropped that about 15% since the last time we did this.

That BABIP up there is not consistent with these other stats. The fact of the matter is, for the last month or so, Alex has been very unlucky. He is definitely due for a hot streak at any time.

The Incomplete

C Drew Butera - Key Stats: 143 wRC+

Drew Butera has the highest wRC+ on the team if you don’t set a minimum number of at-bats and you exclude the scorching hot Eric Hosmer. He continues to hit in his limited opportunities; he’s been doing so since the start of last season and it’s about time to wonder if he and Dale Sveum have unlocked some heretofore unknown potential inside of him.

RF Jorge Soler - Key Stats: 13.8% BB%, 31.6% Soft%

Soler is finally playing! He is at least walking a lot in his small sample size. That soft contact is way too high for him, it won’t stay up there. In fact on Sunday - not included in this set of stats, remember - he hit one of the hardest and deepest home runs seen in baseball this season.

Is he going to instantly turn into a monster? Maybe not, but there’s definitely some potential there and if literally everyone else in the lineup is hitting - which almost seems to be the case - the Royals can afford to wait for him to come around.

UT Christian Colon - Key Stats: 5 games played.

Christian Colon played in five whole games the last month. Five. Cinco. Fünf. Whatever language you use, even Drew Butera got more action than that. The Royals decided that Raul Mondesi could not continue to be on the big league roster and Colon still couldn’t get on the field. His time in KC isn’t yet officially up, but it’s pretty clear now that they’re just completely disinterested in giving him anything like a real opportunity to play baseball. Hopefully they trade him or they give him his release and he can find a team that will give him a shot. Even if not, he probably will never have to buy his own drink in KC for his post-season heroics in ‘14 and ‘15.

So that’s it for this week. Now you know what the Royals offense has done, but what’s going to happen next? Who is going to go ice cold for the next month? Who will catch on fire? Will Esky Magic be enough to keep the team winning long enough for anyone to care?