I think I underestimated just how bad the bottom of the roster would be for the Royals this season, and while it’s really difficult to lose 100 games, it’s remarkably easier when you start off with three times as many losses as wins in the first 20+ games. The Royals sit at 5-18 right now, which means that in order to not lose 100, they’ll have to finish 58-81. That’s just a 68-win pace over the course of the rest of the season and I think they’ll get better once they cut some of the dead weight, but even this early in the season, the century mark in the bad way is definitely in sight and a real possibility. Still, like I said earlier this week and many others have mentioned, they may be losing, but so far, the season is actually going pretty well with some of the prospects excelling and many of the trade chips playing quite well.
- One player I’ve been really disappointed in is Jon Jay. I say that even though he’s posted a typically solid on base percentage at the top of the lineup. I knew he lacked power, but I didn’t think it would be this glaring. There seems to be just zero thump in his bat that I’ve seen. Heading into action last night, he had an average exit velocity of 85.3 MPH and an average distance of just 140 feet. He’s hit just seven balls at 100 MPH or higher. Cheslor Cuthbert had more than that on the last road trip alone. The good news is two of the seven balls over 100 MPH came on Wednesday night, so maybe he’s coming around. Still, it’s a bit concerning. And his arm has been a real problem for this team as opponents have no issues with running against him in the outfield. I think back to the days of Coco Crisp in center field and every medium depth fly ball to Jay is an opportunity for the runner to tag up. We saw it on Wednesday night against the Brewers with men on first and third and a fly ball to center moved both runners up, even with Jay throwing to second base after the catch. He’s not especially fast either, with a sprint speed of just 25.8 feet per second, which ranks eighth on the team behind noted speedsters like Cuthbert and Jorge Soler. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate what Jay brings to the lineup because a guy who will take pitches and work a count is nice to see. I just expected more from the rest of his game.
- Another of the late editions to the team in spring training has put up some subpar numbers to date, but I think he’s been hurt a bit by some bad luck. Lucas Duda isn’t exactly tearing it up with a .226/.286/.351 line, but Statcast might tell us that better times are ahead for him. Heading into Thursday, Duda’s .233 batting average was a full 70 points lower than his expected batting average. His .370 slugging percentage was a whopping 193 points below his expected slugging percentage and his .288 wOBA was 105 points below his expected wOBA. If you’re wondering how the expected numbers are calculated, it’s based on removing both defense and ballpark from the equation to show the skill shown at the moment of contact, according to Baseball Savant. It takes into account the launch angle and exit velocity of the batted ball to figure a hit probability, so it tells the story of a player’s batted ball quality rather than the outcome. I know that scares some of the old school baseball people, but you have a pretty good idea that if a guy is hitting the ball hard as much as Duda is that he’s probably going to start finding some more hits soon enough.
- The Royals offensive profile is very interesting to me. Heading into yesterday’s action, they were hitting fly balls at a rate only bested by Cleveland. It stands to reason that with that in mind, they’re hitting a lower percentage of ground balls than almost every team (they rank fifth in lowest ground ball percentage). And they’re hitting a decent number of line drives, ranking 12th in that category by percentage. Knowing all that, it sure seems like they hit into way too many double plays. And they do. They rank seventh in baseball in number of double play opportunities turned into double plays. The optimistic side of that will say that hitting more balls in the air will turn into more home runs and the double plays are somewhat flukish given their batted ball tendencies. The pessimistic side wonders if they simply don’t get enough extra base hits with their fly balls and line drives and have too little speed in the lineup and too many holes to avoid double plays. I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this other than that this Royals team does seem to hit the ball differently than past Royals teams. And if you’re looking for home runs, this team has started to hit them a little bit since they got out of the frigid weather for the most part, so that’s at least encouraging in some ways.
- This team is such an embarrassment on the field right now, but like I said before, it’s probably a good thing there was no false hope from a start even as mediocre as 11-12 or something like that. The Royals are unequivocally as bad as you think they are and as bad as pretty much anyone thought they could be. With that in mind, the time is now to be shopping their trade chips. I know teams aren’t looking to acquire just yet in all likelihood but if a team is in need, the sooner they trade for them, the longer they get to have the benefit of them. I’m thinking specifically of Kelvin Herrera who threw another scoreless inning last night. It’s probably not realistic to trade him today or anything but I hope the Royals are actively telling teams they’ll take offers at any time. No sense in risking him losing value.