They say it’s bad form to lead with the numbers. What the hell, though....let’s throw conventional wisdom out the window.
The Royals have played 38 games this year. They have won 13 of them. They have lost 25, including Wednesday night’s shellacking at the hands of the Houston Astros. They have a .342 winning percentage. Extrapolate that for a full season and the Royals are on pace for 107 losses. Last year, they lost 104.
Yet it kind of feels different, doesn’t it?
After losing by nine runs on Wednesday, the Royals run differential on the year stands at -12, which is an amazing total for a team that’s 22 games under .500 in early May. According to Baseball Prospectus’ 3rd Order Winning Percentage, the Royals should currently have a record of 19-20. That would be good for second in the division. (Their actual 3rd Order Winning Percentage totals are 18.5 wins and 19.5 losses. Rounding up adds an additional game played to the Royals’ team total.)
There are a couple of takeaways to glean from this. First, we can legitimately make the case the Royals are aren’t as bad as their record indicates. As noted earlier this week, the bullpen has sunk many a potential win. Second, as also previously noted in this space, the offense is solid, capable of the spectacular. Two grand slams in a 12-run outburst on Tuesday was just one game out of 162, but it does showcase the potential the bats have.
On the TV broadcast Wednesday, the talk shifted to “what’s good about the Royals” which apparently comes via some sort of switch that is thrown when the Royals are getting blown out. In this edition, Rex Hudler and Ryan Lefebvre were relaying that Astro manager AJ Hinch was speaking prior to the game that the top of the Royals batting order is the most difficult the Astros have had to navigate this year. That’s not hard to believe. A quick glance at the FanGraphs fWAR leaderboard shows the Royals have four of the top 27 players… the four who just happen to regularly feature as the top four hitters in Ned Yost’s lineup. The only other team with that many on the FanGraphs fWAR leaderboard? The Astros. They’ve won 22 games.
When the Royals win, they’re blowing out opponents. Especially recently. For the year, their average margin of victory is 4.8 runs. The team result infogram from Baseball Reference seems like a good way to illustrate the margins around the wins and the losses.
There’s too much red and not near enough green, but the margins of victory... If the offense continues hitting the way they have through the first quarter of the season, it won’t be long before the narrative shifts and we begin to lament the lost opportunity thanks to subpar pitching.
But regardless of the record, you’re probably finding yourself turning on the game every night, wondering what you’ll see from the offense. In a good way, not in the old “Oh my god, Alcides Escobar is leading off again!” kind of way. That’s something. Sure, you can turn it off early on a night like Wednesday where the starting pitching can’t locate and the bats can’t make anything happen. But you’ll still tune in to see what’s happening. At least you should be.
Think back to the lead of this column. Where the Royals are on pace for 107 losses but how this year feels different. Thank the offense for (usually) keeping the team in games. When the team is struggling and you’re looking for any positive to give you a faint flicker of hope, the top half of the Royals lineup gives you a reason to keep following.
Bad and boring is no way to go through a baseball season. Bad and interesting isn’t much better. Given the state of the pitching, that’s about all we can ask for in 2019.