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Royals Ups and Downs: Slumping edition

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It is, perhaps, not the offense’s fault

Kansas City Royals v Chicago White Sox
Welcome back to the Ups and Downs, Melky!
Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

The Royals’ offense has been very weird over the recent losing stretch. They were actually averaging four runs-per-game during the streak which isn’t amazing, but it’s a far cry from the less than three-per-game they were scoring in April.

During the period in question they scored five or more runs six times while scoring three or fewer seven times. Given those numbers it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect the Royals to go 6-7 over that 13-game stretch but the Royals went 3-10 instead - largely because the defense and pitching allowed opponents to score an average of slightly more than 6 runs per game.

These ups and downs include play from July 16 - August 12. That period doesn’t just include the losing streak it also includes the nine-game winning streak the pitchers benefited from last time and combined with the not terrible offense during the losing streak contributes to a lot of people showing up in the “Good” category this time around.

Good

1B Eric Hosmer - Key Stats: 56.3 GB%, 33.3 Pull%, 7 HR

Those first two key stats are the highest we’ve seen them since the beginning of the year and the contributed to the terrible week he had in the middle of this stretch against Baltimore and Seattle. Fortunately he found his way out of that slump much faster than normal and he’s back to tearing the cover off of the ball.

CF Lorenzo Cain - Key Stats: .337 AVG, 6 SB

Lorenzo Cain has told people that he far prefers batting second to batting third and his line shows it. Over the the last 28 days he has a 118 wRC+, which is very good. But since he moved into the two-hole he’s at a super star-level 148 wRC+. He has stolen five stolen bases in that two-week spamn. The biggest question is why Ned has batted him third for the past three years when he always made more sense a place up and apparently would have been happier there.

DH Brandon Moss - Key Stats: 12.2 BB%, .278 ISO

With Brandon Moss, as always, if he’s walking and hitting for power he’s producing in your lineup. For about a month now he has been hitting for power and taking his bases on balls.

2B Whit Merrifield - Key Stats: .314 AVG, .869 OPS, 6 HR

Last time we met here Whit had to count half of a terrible June and the first half of a blistering hot July. This time he gets to count the second half of that same July but adds in a very nice first couple of weeks in August to go with it. He may be benefiting from a juiced ball but he’s still got more home runs than any Royal but Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer over the given time span.

3B Mike Moustakas - Key Stats: 9 HR, 12.0 K%, .327 AVG

Moose has been hitting for power all year so that’s no surprise, but since the all-star break he’s been nails and hitting for a high batting average as well. In the AL only Joey Gallo and Nelson Cruz have more home runs than Moose over the last 30 days. Moose has one-half to one-third the strikeouts of these powerful contemporaries along with a significantly better batting average. He rates as a better defender than any of them, too.

OF Melky Cabrera - Key Stats: .391 wOBA, 13 RBI in 13 games

Weight On-Base Average is another aggregate offensive statistic, I won’t go into all the boring details here but you read it like an OBP - if a wOBA looks like a good OBP then that means the player has been good offensively overall. Melky’s wOBA looks like a stunningly attractive OBP.

However much of a failure was the San Diego trade acquiring Melky has done a lot to slump-proof the Royals’ lineup. Yes, he and Jorge Bonifacio had remarkably similar offensive number lines when the trade was made but Melky is a proven veteran who has been doing this for a long time while Boni kind of came out of nowhere to produce more than most prospect gurus really expected from him and there is real reason to question if he can keep it up. It does give them an opportunity to use Gordon less, as well, since Boni still deserves some at-bats by any reasoning. Now if only they had gotten another shortstop...

Bad

SS Alcides Escobar - Key Stats: .589 OPS. 52 wRC+

Escobar continues to be worse on offense than Alex Gordon overall this season, and after riding a hot-streak to the “Good” side of this segment 2 months running his luck finally ran out and he has gone back to being terrible. If there is good news for him it’s that he’s started a hitting streak on this road trip which has had him hitting .438 with 3 extra-base hits through Saturday’s action. If Esky is getting hot again Moose and Moss might have enough protection in the lineup to really go to town against their opponents.

OF Alex Gordon - Key Stats: .588 OPS, 58 wRC+

Alex was benched with a lot of pomp and circumstance early last week allegedly to allow him to work more with hitting coach Dale Sveum on figuring out his hitting woes. He promptly didn’t miss even one game, pinch-hitting for two games and the resuming his starting role. Meanwhile the much more offensive block hole in Escobar has been allowed to continue batting.

In any case Gordon has adjusted his batting stance which resulted in a three-game hitting streak, but they’re all groundball singles through the shift on the right side. He lost it Sunday when he came in as a reserve player to rest Cain’s legs in the blowout. In case you’re curious how Gordon can be short Escobar’s OPS by a single point but have a higher Weighted Runs Created Plus stat it is because they’ve both been caught stealing once but Gordon has successfully stolen four bases in the last month to Esky’s two.

C Salvador Perez - Key Stats: 1 SB, 3 HR

That one stolen base doesn’t really matter in the long run, it’s just funny. The three home runs are a lot fewer than we’ve seen from Sal this year and a big part of why he’s here in the bad section, today. Another big reason is that he went 1-for-23 in his last five games before hitting the DL.

C Drew Butera - Key Stats: 13.3 BB%, 103 wRC+, .393 BABIP

Drew has actually out-performed Sal by wRC+ over the last pair of fortnights though he has only a lonely double in his extra-base hits count. This is largely because he’s inexplicably benefited from a large number of walks. That’s just not enough to counter what the eye-test says about his defense since he took over starting duties from the injured Perez.

OF Jorge Bonifacio - Key Stats 33.3 K%, 23.4 Hard%, .681 OPS

Jorge is the one who has seen his playing time evaporate the most since the Melky Cabrera acquisition much to the dismay of many fans. Some have argued that he’s been bad recently only because of reduced playing time but he’s been trending down for a bit. Over the last four weeks he has managed only three extra base hits, all home runs, and struck out at least once in 16 of 24 games. Whether he’s wearing out or the league is catching up to him, it’s probably not a significantly worse idea to give him time off than it is Gordon.

Incomplete

IF Ramon Torres - Key Stats: .167 AVG, 0 XBH, 0 BB, 18 PA

Ramon Torres didn’t play much and was demoted to allow Cheslor Cuthbert to be recalled for two reasons: Mike Moustakas is still suffering from a bruise he received when he was beaned by Bruce Rondon and because Ramon Torres stopped hitting. He spent the last handful of games he played looking completely overmatched.

C Cam Gallagher - Key Stats: 2 GP, -0.1 fWAR

Beware small sample sizes but Cam has negative numbers in both FanGraphs’ Offense Runs Above Average and Defense Runs Above Average stats which try to aggregate those two areas of a position player’s contributions.

OF Terrance Gore - Key Stats: 1 CS

Gore was recalled because of his one skill. The one opportunity he received he was caught. He was demoted to make room for Melky Cabrera after being caught stealing.

OF Billy Burns - Key Stats: 1 CS, .250 AVG

Billy managed to find his way into four different games. He was supposed a more versatile version of Terrance Gore in that he could play defense. In addition to being 6 years younger than Jarrod Dyson and a switch hitter. He only managed to match Gore’s accomplishments on the bases, though. He was demoted for Gore after being caught stealing.

3B Cheslor Cuthbert - Key Stats: 3 H, 1 BB, 8 PA

Cheslor came back from his injury and has been one of the more productive hitters since his return in an extremely small sample size. He may be fighting for more DH time even after Moose heals up.

All stats courtesy of FanGraphs for the Royals offense from July 16 - August 12.