Opening Day was ultimately a dud for the Royals as they fell to the Twins 2-0. The pitchers looked good, but the lineup struggled to piece it all together and couldn’t get on the board. Twins ace Pablo López finished his day with 5.1 innings pitched and allowed just two hits and zero runs. The Royals struck out eight times against him.
It wasn’t all bad for the Royals, however. They’ll score a run eventually in 2023 and probably won’t finish the year 0-162. Here are some numbers that mattered in the loss:
The number of Captains in Royals franchise history after Opening Day. Before Thursday’s game, Salvador Perez was named the fourth captain in Royals history. The last time a captain was named was 20 years ago, to open the 2003 season. At that time, it was Mike Sweeney receiving the honor and he was present on Thursday to help award the honor to the Royals star backstop.
With him were George Brett and Frank White — the only other players to receive the honor in Kansas City.
“It’s an honor to be the captain of the Kansas City Royals,” Perez said. “I know we lost, but it’s a special day. George Brett, Frank White, Mike Sweeney, the way they played the game, the way they taught us to play the game, have passion for the game, it’s something I want to follow.”
Now entering his 12th season in the Major Leagues, there is little question that Perez has shown the leadership and passion displayed by those captains that came before him. He stands alone as the only hitter in team history to be awarded World Series MVP, earning the award following the Royals’ 2015 Championship. He ranks second in franchise history in home runs as well as top ten in hits and RBIs. There’s little question that the honor was long overdue and well deserved.
Bobby Witt Jr.’s chase rate in game one. Last season, the league average chase rate was 29.2% and Witt finished well north of that mark at 34.7%. Entering 2023, the difference between the solid big leaguer we saw last season and a step forward will depend — at least in part — on his ability to chase fewer pitches.
It’s just one game, but the young shortstop was able to accomplish that yesterday and it paid off at the plate. Despite finishing the game without a hit, he was on base twice thanks to two walks. If he is going to be the team’s leadoff hitter for a substantial part of this season, then the offense needs him to chase fewer pitches and walk more often.
Michael Massey’s swing rate. Last season, Michael Massey swung 54.5% of the time. That was much higher than the league average mark of 47.9%. His aggressive approach at the plate didn’t pay dividends for his stat line, as he finished his debut campaign with a .243/.307/.376 slash line. He walked just 4.6% of the time, well below his 7.4% walk rate in the minor leagues.
In fact, his walk rate in Omaha before his promotion last season was 9.1%. That patience at the plate helped Massey get on base more often and attract better pitches — ultimately helping his power output as well. Entering this season, Massey’s approach will be something to watch. Can he have a breakout season? Can he even cement himself as a regular Major League option? The answer lies in how he critiques his approach at the plate. So far, not so good.
Zack Greinke’s strikeout rate. Will Zack have another successful season in 2023? He looked good in his first start of the season, finishing his day with 5.1 IP and allowing six hits and two runs. He walked one batter and struck out four. Both runs surrendered came in the sixth inning for Minnesota. Sadly for Greinke, those two runs were the difference in the game and handed him the loss as Kansas City’s offense didn’t show up.
For Greinke, there were some signs of decline in 2022 despite a strong 3.68 ERA. His xBA was the highest of his career, at .284 and his K% was the lowest of his career at just 12.5%. That wasn’t the case Thursday for the future Hall of Famer. His strikeout rate in game one was 17.4%, much closer to his 2021 mark of 17.2% than where he finished last season. Despite giving up six hits, his xBA was just .239. If those trends continue as the season progresses, it's a great sign for Greinke to continue to be effective on the mound.
Runs scored by the Royals offense. Entering the season, the overall consensus looked like the Royals' offense would be a strength of the team with many more questions surrounding their pitching staff. Instead, the pitching staff showed up on Opening Day while the offense faltered. It's just game one in a season that spans six months, so it certainly isn’t time to sound the alarm.
It’s not uncommon for pitching to own the advantage early in the season as the weather remains cold. Regardless, Matt Quatraro needs more from his young lineup. Thursday marked the fifth time in franchise history that the Royals were shut out on Opening Day, joining 2020, 2013, 2012, and 1976. The 1976 Royals team won the American League West, eventually falling to the Yankees in the American League Championship Series. The 2013 Royals finished the season with 83 wins.
Clearly, one game isn’t the end of the season. It would be nice to score some runs. But even with just two hits, the Royals’ hitters were on base seven times thanks to five walks. Kyle Isbel and Edward Olivares hit the ball hard. Bobby Witt Jr. and Vinnie Pasquantino added some solid plate appearances, combining for three of the team’s five walks. The Royals have an off day on Friday before game two Saturday afternoon. Maybe we should give it a week or two before we overreact too much to these 2023 Royals.