In the offseason, much had been made about the Royals really trying to compete. A short season, expanded playoffs—the stage was set for the Royals to at least make an attempt for a competitive season.
Fortunately for the Royals, though, the true success of the season rested on their improvement. Coming off back-to-back 100-loss seasons, the bar was low. And, thankfully, they were so bad at everything between 2018-2019 that nearly every facet of baseball was ripe for improvement.
Unfortunately for the Royals, we are now 10 games into the 2020 season and the team isn’t good at any aspect of baseball.
Is this too harsh an assessment? In short: not. The stats simply reflect it. Granted, there is a small sample size alert—this is only 10 games, and even the World Series winning 2015 Royals went on a 3-7 run in September; any given 10-game stretch will have quirks in the data. However, the entire 2020 season is an exercise in small sample size. We only have the data that we have.
So just how bad have the Royals been through ten? Let’s see.
- Team ERA and MLB Rank: 6.10, 27th
- Team FIP and MLB Rank: 5.81, 25th
The Royals had their starters rather decimated by Covid and other injuries, forcing them into a situation in which Brady Singer and Kris Bubic have already made the rotation. But the Royals’ openers have not been the answer. Ronald Bolanos and Mike Montgomery combined for three starts and combined to give up 12 runs—eight earned—in 5.2 innings. Combine that with Duffy’s late-inning struggles and Mike Matheny’s quick hooks and it has not been pretty.
- Team ERA and MLB Rank: 3.48, 11th
- Team FIP and MLB Rank: 4.58, 17th
- Team xFIP and MLB Rank: 4.66, 23rd
By pure ERA, the Royals bullpen hasn’t been bad. They’ve relied on the bullpen quite a bit thanks to the dearth of starters, and at first glance it seems that they have been not bad.
But a deeper look into the numbers reveals some serious cracks. By FIP and xFIP, the Royals bullpen looks to be in the bottom third of the league in effectiveness. Why? It’s simple: they’ve gotten lucky on fly balls, and they rank 22nd in strikeout rate and 19th in walk rate. In practice, the Royals have been a Jekyll and Hyde team in the bullpen: Kyle Zimmer, Scott Barlow, Trevor Rosenthal, and Josh Staumont have been largely reliable while Tyler Zuber, Glenn Sparkman, Gabe Speier, and Jorge Lopez have...not.
- Runs Per Game and MLB Rank: 4.0, 18th
- wRC+ and MLB Rank: 93, 20th
- OBP and MLB Rank: .284, 25th
The Royals have not really had any problem with power—they’re in the top half of the league in both home runs and isolated slugging percentage—but they’ve been so bad at getting on base that it simply doesn’t matter. Among all Royals with at least 10 plate appearances, only four have an OBP over .300. That’s pretty awful.
The offense will get better when Hunter Dozier gets plate appearances that would otherwise be given to Bubba Starling, Brett Phillips, Franchy Cordero, and Nicky Lopez. But it won’t be good.
- Team DRS and MLB Rank: -8, 30th
- Team UZR/150 and MLB Rank: -10.4, 28th
- Team Errors and MLB Rank: 12, 30th
You could generally count on the Royals to be a good fielding team even when they were bad otherwise—from 2018 to 2019, they were a good, if not great, defensive team. But that is not true this year. The Royals have been, rather definitely, the worst defensive team in Major League Baseball.
This has primarily to do with errors. The Royals lead MLB with 14 errors, which is an obscenely high amount of errors. There’s no real excuse for this, as even good defenders like Adalberto Mondesi have been making errors like it’s going out of style.
But even beyond errors, the Royals have a lot of raw athletic talent without a lot of defensive skill. Gone are the days of Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, and Eric Hosmer.
Again: ten games isn’t a lot of time. Nearly every team, even good teams, have stretches where they struggle. Still, the season is what it is, and the Royals simply haven’t been good. If the Royals want to win games, there’s a lot of ways to get better. But there are a lot of things that need to be better.