We’ve seen some bad offensive starts in the past 20 years. In 2008 through the month of April, Tony Pena put up a .383 OPS. More recently in 2017, Alcides Escobar put up a 4.8 wRC+ in the same time period. Both of those starts are in the 30 worst starts since 2002. With that in mind, let’s take a moment to really appreciate what Adalberto Mondesi has done at the shortstop position.
It sure seems like the 2019 offense is humming and I wanted to see how it stacked up with the March/Aprils of Royals offenses past. For this project, I used Fangraphs whose advanced metrics for the time period that I wanted only went back to 2002, so I got 18 seasons of offensive numbers. It was a fun and heartbreaking trip down memory lane to say the least, but I found some pretty surprising things.
First, this offense has been hitting for power. They hit 34 home runs in March/April, which is the most out of those 18 seasons. Not surprisingly, their ISO (.181) was also ranked first. Both of those numbers barely beat out the 2003 offense that came out hot and were 17-7 at the end of April.
This team is also very fast. They had hit 15 triples and stole 29 bases in this time frame which was good for the most and second-most respectively over that time. If that pace was kept, they’d hit 81 triples and steal 157 bags. That would be very healthy. No team since 2002 has hit more than 58 triples in a year and 157 stolen bases would be the 10th most in that time. I doubt they keep that pace, but it’d be very exciting if they did. The only Royals group that had more stolen bases was the 2011 group, who was 14-13 on April 30.
The 2019 offense is drawing walks for once. As a team, they drew 101 walks (most out of this group) in March/April and walked at a 9.2% rate (second-most). They seem to be taking pitches and extending at-bats as a whole, which is a good sign for an offense. The only Royals offense with a better BB% at this point was in 2009, and that group was 12-10 at the end of April.
Finally, the offense is getting runs. They scored 132 runs by the end of April, averaging 4.55 runs-per-game. That’s good for 5th out of the 18 seasons. The 2015 team scored the most runs-per-game through April with 5.41 runs-per-game and led to them going 15-7. And out of the four offenses that produced more runs-per-game than the 2019 group, only one team was sub .500 when May began (2004).
Well this team is not hitting for average. Their collective batting average is .241, which places them as the fourth-lowest batting average in this group. Two-thirds of the teams above this group finished the season losing 100+ games and the lone outlier was 2017, who went 80-82. Not hitting for average doesn’t result in winning seasons.
Speaking of that 2017 squad, they had the lowest BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) of this exercise at .244. That group only got out to a 7-16 start. The wild part of that is that it consisted largely of the same players that were in the 2015 World Champions team that posted a .346 BABIP in March/April. The 2019 group (.286) has the sixth-worst BABIP in this exercise.
The Royals strike out. A lot. Some of you might have seen this coming. I noticed that they were striking out a lot, namely a certain power hitter and a certain utility player in particular. But I didn’t really expect it to be this bad. The 2019 squad has a 22.6% K%, which is the worst rate of this project. They struck out 249 times, which is good for 8.59 strike outs PER GAME.
The one stat that DID surprise me is that this group has been caught stealing 12 times, which also the most times. This is large in part to the fact that they’re running more than ever, and they should be. They made it perfectly clear prior to the season that they were headed that direction. Their SB% was at 70.7% for this time period, which isn’t terrible, but considering they have Whit, Mondesi, Hamilton, and Gore on this roster and that group makes up 9 of those 12 is unacceptable.
Where does that leave us?
Well, to put it shortly it leaves them at 9-20 when the calendar turned over to May. But it also shows that this team is profiling more as a power hitting team that can also run fast. Personally, I’m fine with that. Judging by the past teams’ records in the times where they were plating run, they should have a much better record than they currently have. Baseball Reference had their pythWL at the end of April as 12-17, and I think they should be even better than that all things considered. With the rotation being inconsistent and the bullpen currently picking themselves off the ground, the offense needs to put up numbers to remain competitive like they want to be.
Personally, I like watching teams hit dingers and cause chaos on the base paths more than I like watching pitching duels. If this is the direction that Terry Bradshaw and company are trying to take us, I’m here for it. I’d just like to start seeing it lead to wins.