We’re 87 games in and have 75 to go in the long, long baseball season. It seems like it’s been about four seasons for the Royals already, but there’s still plenty more to come. Somehow, someway, the Royals find themselves in the thick of the pennant race, just three games out of first and 1.5 games out of both Wild Card spots. There are worse ways to enter the season’s second half, I suppose. Things start off with a 10-game homestand against three teams currently under .500. Now is the time to make some noise as they only play one team currently above .500 between now and the start of their series with the Indians on August 18.
- I wrote this week about trade targets. You can read about starting pitchers, position players and relievers if you haven’t already. For me, if they’re only going to make one move, it needs to be for starting pitching. It’s looking like Nate Karns is out for the year with the increasingly common thoracic outlet syndrome. While all four of Jason Vargas, Danny Duffy, Jason Hammel and Ian Kennedy have had some good games, they need two things to happen. One, Duffy needs to step up and be the guy he was most of the year last year. And two, they need another starting pitcher. They simply can’t get by with Travis Wood starting every fifth day, no matter how effective he was in his start against the Twins before the break. As I mentioned in the article, I don’t really see them getting one of the frontline guys, though that would be fun, but that’s the move I think they have to make if they’re serious about making the playoffs this season. Yes, they could use another bat and the bullpen could use some reinforcing, but I think the offense hitting .262/.311/.440 with 4.7 runs per game since May 1 shows that they can sustain good offensive performances and the bullpen has enough arms and potential minor league reinforcements that they don’t need a move. They need a starter.
- In Salvador Perez’s career, he’s hit .283/.313/.471 before the break and .263/.293/.410 after. We’ve talked in the past about how he’s gotten extra rest, and that’s great, but this is still a trend I’m a little bit worried about. It’s gotten even more pronounced the last three seasons, going from .276/.308/.462 in the first half to .223/.257/.359 in the second half. His walk rate drops from 3.9 percent to 2.7 percent and his strikeout rate rises from 16.2 percent to 17.6 percent (though it dropped last year). It’s pretty natural for a guy who catches that many games to fall off in the second half, especially for a guy who has that little plate discipline. That doesn’t change the fact that the Royals likely can’t afford that drop this season. While there are actually quite a few contributors on this year’s team as opposed to last year, he’s still right in the middle of things with no real replacement for him in that five spot in sight. Sure, Jorge Soler could really get going or the Royals could get a number two hitter to drop Jorge Bonifacio to that spot, but they’re going to need Perez to not have the dropoff he has over the last three seasons after the break. Hopefully getting more rest in the season’s first half will help, but this is maybe the biggest offensive story to watch to see if the Royals can hang around.
- Before the season, we talked about how many guys could potentially hit 20 home runs on this team. We mentioned Perez, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Jorge Soler, Brandon Moss and Alex Gordon as the guys likely to do it. Well, we know Moose has already gotten there with a ridiculous (for the Royals) 25 before the break. Salvy is at 18, so he’s a couple mistake sliders away from there, and it looks like the Royals have a real shot to actually have five or six guys get to 20 or more home runs. What’s funny is Lorenzo Cain looks like he might do it and the same for Jorge Bonifacio. Brandon Moss is also currently sitting on 10 home runs, but I’m not sure how much playing time he’ll receive in the season’s second half. So as it turns out, the thought about the Royals having a lot of guys with some legitimate 20-home run power was real. We were just likely on some of the wrong guys. Now, the question of whether or not it’s that impressive to hit 20 anymore is a good one and one that we also won’t dive into at this point. Though I think it’s worth pointing out that the Royals are on pace for 199 team home runs, which would absolutely shatter the previous record of 168. The 107 home runs they’ve hit this year is already more than 14 different seasons the team has played in its history. Only two of those were strike shortened, so it’s been a pretty impressive display.
- Since we have a lull in the baseball action, let’s take a look at some of the Statcast numbers on the Royals before the games start up again tonight. Danny Duffy has the team’s highest average exit velocity on his one batted ball. But if we move past him, Eric Hosmer leads the team with an average of 90.4 mph. He’s followed by Salvador Perez (89.4) and Jorge Soler (89.0). Bringing up the rear is Raul Mondesi at 77.3 mph and Alcides Escobar among regulars at 83.2 mph. Perez has the highest launch angle on the team at 21° with Soler second (20.4) and Paulo Orlando third (18.5). The lowest? Raul Mondesi at -0.2°. Eric Hosmer’s currently sits at 3.2°, so there’s that. Perez hits the ball the farthest at an average of 221 feet, but the guys in second and third might surprise you. They’re Drew Butera (210) and Whit Merrifield (205). Eric Hosmer has the shortest average batted ball distance among regulars at 162 feet. Just a reminder that ground balls don’t go very far. And finally, the best bat speed on the team belongs to Eric Hosmer with an average estimated swing speed of 62.2 mph. Perez (61.9) and Bonifacio (60.9) are the next highest. The lowest there? I know this’ll shock you, but it’s Escobar at 56 mph. It’s worth noting that since making some adjustments, Alex Gordon’s estimated swing speed is at 59.2 mph. That’s a full mph higher than it was when we talked about him back in late May, so that’s a good trend.