On July 19, 2013, former Royals Review overlord Craig Brown called for the firing of Kansas City Royals General Manager Dayton Moore. The Royals had wandered into the All-Star break at 43-49 despite a squad teeming with Moore’s own draft picks and hand-picked players. At that point, no Moore squad had accrued a winning record, let alone a playoff spot. It was dark times.
Of course, we know what happened. The Royals won their July 19, 2013 game against the Detroit Tigers. The sports world blinked, yawned, and checked Twitter, and suddenly on August 12 the Royals stood 62-54 and within striking distance of a playoff spot. Though they didn’t get the playoff spot that year, they would in 2014 and then won the division in 2015.
Along the way, they developed a reputation as being a ‘second-half team,’ meaning they kick it into another gear come the break. Just last year after the All-Star break, Max Rieper previewed the rest of the year, pointing out that the Royals had a .593 winning percentage after the break in the previous three seasons.
Narratives are usually based in truth at some point, but sometimes narratives take a life of their own and continue driving themselves. We are at that point in the second half narrative. There’s just no evidence that it’s a thing anymore.
We’ll start using data at 2013, because that’s when the Royals squad made the leap to being contenders. The obvious thing to do is look at winning percentage between the two halves (denoted as FIRST-HALF PERCENTAGE / SECOND HALF-PERCENTAGE):
- 2013: .467 / .614
- 2014: .511 / .603
- 2015: .605 / .566
- 2016: .511 / .486
The 2013 and 2014 Royals were significantly better in the second half as opposed to the first half, almost comically so. But the 2015 and 2016 squads didn’t match that. Over the last two seasons, the Royals have faltered in the second half of the season.
Another way to look at second-half production is by the numbers of individuals. Kansas City boasts a ‘big four’ of position players: Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, and Salvador Perez. Of those four, only Hosmer has performed better in the second half than in the first half, and Perez is considerably worse after the All-Star break (number listed is CAREER FIRST-HALF OPS / CAREER SECOND-HALF OPS):
- Moustakas: .739 / .704
- Hosmer: .766 / .782
- Cain: .768 / .742
- Perez: .784 / .703
While the Royals don’t really have a ‘big four’ of pitchers, we can take a look at the career production of some of their most used ones; namely their two most reliable starters this year, Ian Kennedy and Jason Vargas, and the eighth and ninth inning guys in the bullpen, Joakim Soria and Kelvin Herrera (number listed is CAREER FIRST-HALF ERA / CAREER SECOND-HALF ERA).
Kennedy: 4.34 / 3.45
Vargas: 3.74 / 4.58
Soria: 2.60 / 3.03
Herrera: 2.95 / 2.58
It’s all over the board here. Soria and Herrera don’t have big splits, but they are in opposite directions, and while Kennedy and Vargas do have big splits, they are also in opposite directions.
Look: this is not meant to be a tremendous in-depth analysis of first and second-half numbers. Rather, it’s more of a reminder that things aren’t always so simple. The Royals aren’t second-half titans, so relying on them to automatically be so is likely not a good bet.
They could be this year! You never know when Kansas City will rattle off 15 of 20 again, and if they do so, they’ll be in a great spot in the playoff race. But it’s just not a given. Moore will need to upgrade his squad if they want to compete, which is reportedly exactly what he’s trying to do.