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The second half will be better than the first

Everyone will improve!

Kansas City Royals v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

The season was not supposed to play out like this. Four seasons of terrible baseball was supposed to lead to an improvement this season to offer hope for the near future. Before the season, Dayton Moore expected progress.

“It’s time for a lot of our guys to start taking some steps forward,” Moore said. “… Of course, we want to play in October. That’s the mindset of [Matheny] and the coaching staff, and this group of players. For that to take place, we are going to need a lot of our players to step up and become more consistent, and do some of the little things that you have to do to win Major League Baseball games.”

Instead, a lot of players regressed. Old players got older. Young players were inconsistent. Going into the All-Star break, these Royals have tied for the eighth-worst record in club history. That doesn’t seem like enough progress for a team that has the third-most losses in baseball since 2018.

But the second half will be better than the first. For one, you can expect good ol’ regression to the mean. Of the seven Royals teams that were as bad as or worse than this one in the first half, all but one improved in the second half - only Tony Pena’s 2004 Royals did worse.

Worst first half record, Royals history

Year W/L PCT Second half PCT
Year W/L PCT Second half PCT
2018 27-68 .284 31-36 .463
2019 30-61 .330 29-42 .408
2005 30-57 .345 26-49 .347
2006 31-56 .356 31-44 .413
2004 31-54 .365 27-50 .351
2002 33-52 .388 29-48 .377
1970 33-52 .388 32-45 .416
2001 34-53 .391 31-44 .413
2022 36-56 .391 ? ?

But beyond a dead cat bounce, we can expect better play from the Royals in the last two and a half months. Already we’ve seen the team right the ship a bit, going 16-15 over their last 31 games. It has been a team effort with both the hitting and pitching improving over that time.

Royals before/after June 15

Royals Until June 14 After June 14
Royals Until June 14 After June 14
Runs/Game 3.82 4.06
Batting Average .239 .253
On-Base Percentage .302 .318
Slugging Percentage .368 .398
Strikeout Rate 20.1% 21.4%
Walk Rate 7.5% 8.1%
Runs Allowed/Game 5.36 4.58
Pitcher Strikeout Rate 17.90% 20.5%
Pitcher Walk Rate 10.40% 9.0%

After a slow start, Bobby Witt Jr. has made his mark in the big leagues, hitting .265/.313/.489 since the start of May and on pace for a 20 HR/20 SB season. MJ Melendez has cooled off a bit, but has been league average and is second among all rookies with at least 200 plate appearances in walk rate with nine home runs, 12th-most among all catchers in baseball. Vinnie Pasquantino has hit just .208, but has been lacing hard-hit balls. His expected wOBA is 18th-best in baseball and he has the fourth-best average exit velocity in the game. Those laser beams will find holes soon.

And there could be more young hitters on the way. Royals fans got a glimpse over the weekend when infielder Michael Massey, first baseman Nick Pratto, and outfielder Nathan Eaton made their debut and held their own. The Royals will have to make room for them and there are many indications the team will finally be more aggressive at the trade deadline and move not just Andrew Benintendi but possibly Whit Merrifield, Michael A. Taylor, Hunter Dozier, Zack Greinke, and Scott Barlow.

This could make for a much younger, much more exciting lineup in the second half. By August 3, we could see this lineup:

C MJ Melendez

SS Bobby Witt Jr.

DH Vinnie Pasquantino

RF Edward Olivares

1B Nick Pratto

3B Emmanuel Rivera

LF Kyle Isbel

2B Michael Massey

CF Drew Waters

And the mid-season trades could supplement that lineup even more. Sure, that’s not a championship lineup, but it’s a younger, hungrier lineup, a lineup that can give Royals fans hope for the future.

The pitching has made strides as well - starters have a 3.99 ERA since June 15. Brad Keller has been fantastic - opponents have hit just .194/.275/.278 against him in his last five starts, and he’s posted a 2.15 ERA over that time, which could make him a more attractive trade candidate as well. But the younger pitchers have seemingly turned a corner as well with Brady Singer, Daniel Lynch, and Kris Bubic all posting an ERA under four since mid-June.

Even the bullpen looks better. Taylor Clarke has allowed just two runs in his last 16 23 innings. Jose Cuas has turned into a dependable mid-game option. Joel Payamps and Dylan Coleman have had some inconsistencies, but show flashes of solid work. Josh Staumont and Scott Barlow continue to be outstanding late inning options.

That’s not to say there aren’t still problems with this organization. The clubhouse may need some clearing of the air after Whit Merrifield’s comments about getting vaccinated for a contender and a general weird vibe that has hung around much of the year. Trading vets and letting young players play may take care of some of that. There are still questions about the leadership of Mike Matheny and the decisions of the front office.

But the second half has a chance to be much more exciting for Royals fans than the first. Time will only tell if it is the same kind of ”flip the switch” moment as 2011.

Poll

How many games will the Royals ultimately end up winning this year?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    More than 80
    (35 votes)
  • 9%
    75-79
    (108 votes)
  • 33%
    70-74
    (376 votes)
  • 40%
    65-69
    (454 votes)
  • 14%
    Less than 65
    (162 votes)
1135 votes total Vote Now