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Game LXXXI: Royals v. Guardians

The season is half over and not much good has happened, but Bob is on his way

MLB: Cleveland Guardians at Kansas City Royals William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

As the Royals take the field this afternoon looking to avoid their 9th sweep of the season, they will finish the 81st game of the season. We have reached the exact halfway point in the season.

What do they have to show for it? The worst 81-game start in franchise history. No matter what happens today. That includes the 1992 team that started 1-16, the 2004 team that finished with a club-record 104 losses, and the 2005 team that one-upped them with 106 losses.

2023 compared to other terrible 81-game starts

Year Wins Losses Win Percentage
Year Wins Losses Win Percentage
2004 29 52 0.358
2005 26 55 0.321
2018 25 56 0.309
2019 28 53 0.346
2023 (with win today) 23 58 0.284
2023 (with loss today) 22 59 0.272

It’s actually worse. This isn’t just a bad Royals start. It’s a historically bad start.

What is redeeming about this team halfway through the year? We have Salvador Perez, who is still hitting dingers, despite having a miserable June. We get Zack Greinke. We love Zack Greinke, even if he has lost his effectiveness.

Aside from that, you have to squint hard. But there are a few.

Maikel Garcia has exceeded expectations. His 1.4 fWAR is the second-best mark on the team and his 10 Outs Above Averages trails only Dansby Swanson for the best in baseball. Nick Pratto has hit reasonably well, despite his current slump. Daniel Lynch has pitched well in his limited sample this season. And Jordan Lyles has a win!

But the best redeeming factor on this team has been Bobby Witt Jr. His offensive numbers are actually down from last year, despite being on pace to hit more home runs and steal more bases.

But he’s completely flipped on defense, going from one of the worst defenders in baseball to one of the better shortstops in the game. His 6 Outs Above Average is the 5th best among shortstops.

And his offense is a total mirage, according to all the advanced numbers, especially in the last month.

Bad luck isn’t a sustainable excuse. I wrote about MJ Melendez’s bad luck (which was absolutely true and MJ is still hitting the ball hard in the 95th percentile) but his misfortune is balanced out by a whiff% in the 4th percentile.

But Bob’s is a bit more legitimate. Despite hitting the ball hard, MJ’s expected wOBA, BA, and SLG% are in the 39th, 19th, and 45th percentile respectively. Bob’s are some of the highest in baseball.

Compare all these numbers to last season and you’ll see a lot more red.

There are only three hitters in baseball with a larger gap between their actual wOBA and their expected wOBA than Bob. He’s hitting the ball well. So hopefully we’ll see more results in the 2nd half and we can have some fun.

With that said, there is a baseball game today. Kyle Isbel starts his second game since returning from the IL and Zack Greinke is on the mound. The Royals look to avoid the sweep. Here are your lineups.