Going into 2023 I believed that the Royals offense could be in the upper half of baseball, but then they got off to an atrocious start. By start, I mean about 100 games. It took a very long time for the offense to find some consistency. In the second half however, they found their bats in a way that convinces me that next year will be different. Remind me of that when I am disappointed at the end of next April.
My first thought when I started to get optimistic about this offense was that the offense was better in the second half last year too. Most teams are better in the summer heat than they are in April and May. Looking at this in a couple of different ways, the 2023 second half performance was way better than the 2022 second half. First the raw numbers:
Royals runs by half
|Runs per game||2022||2023|
|Runs per game||2022||2023|
|First 81 games||3.9||3.7|
|Last 81 games||4.0||4.5|
The team was better in the second half last year, but barely. This year’s team was slightly worse in the first half, but the second half production was a lot better. An improvement of 0.8 runs per game is 129 runs over the course of year, so 10 to 13 extra wins. That is a significant change. Since the All-Star break they have been almost a full run per game better and the 13th highest runs scored in all of baseball. They have been producing in the top half of MLB for the past 2+ months. Their 317 runs is better than Boston or Toronto since the break, and many of the teams behind the Royals have played one or two extra games in that time.
I also looked at it using 10-game rolling average runs per game. After about game 90, the 2023 Royals diverge from last year’s team and remain above 5 runs per game with the exception of one downturn of 10ish games or so from game 128 to 139 as the end point of the rolling average. Before the break the Royals were above 4 runs per 10-game average 24.7% of the time and after the break 61% of the time. If you bump that to 5 runs it is 9.9% and 41.6% respectively. That is so much more consistent, scoring 4 runs on average more than double the frequency and 5 runs on average with over four times the frequency. The rolling averages smooth things out where they can’t be a series of anomalies. This offense is a lot better than the 2022 offense, of that I have no doubt, but how?
They stopped giving at bats to bad hitters (mostly). Jackie Bradley Jr., Hunter Dozier, Franmil Reyes, and Nate Eaton all disappeared from the lineup because they weren’t producing. Dozier hasn’t been producing for a long time, but this front office is finally willing to say enough is enough. If you are negative run producer, you are gone. The worst player hitter to get 100 plate appearances since the All-Star break is Maikel Garcia at a wRC+ of 74. There were five players at that level or below to get 100 plate appearances before the break. Raising the floor in four or five spots, plus Bobby, MJ, and Massey hitting better means that the production from almost every spot in the lineup has improved. Garcia might not be amazing, but he is better than Dozier. Having Nelson Velázquez and Drew Waters in the outfield instead of JBJ and Franmil makes a big difference.
I’m starting to get a little excited about the next couple of years for this offense. Hopefully, Pasquantino comes back healthy and we have a 2, 3, 4 like Witt, Pasquantino, and Velazquez putting up numbers all season. It is still not a top of the league lineup, but having no black holes is a pretty nice change of pace since every year it seems like there is one or two of those in the starting nine. In 2022 it was Nicky Lopez with a 56 wRC+ over 480 PAs. In 2021 it was Ryan O’Hearn, Kelvin Gutierrez, and Jarrod Dyson. And so on, I won’t rehash every year. Bringing up the floor is the first step, and the easiest, but if it can get them to around league average in runs scored next year, it will be a lot more fun watching games in 2024. Now the question is if they can fix the many holes on the pitching side.