Jul 3, 2018; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals designated hitter Lucas Duda (21) doubles during the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken/USA TODAY Sports

The bleak reality of the Royals offense

Last month at the mothership, Rob Mains published a pair of articles comparing three of the more accepted advanced offensive metrics. TAv is what we use here at Baseball Prospectus. OPS+ is found on Baseball Reference. And wRC+ is located at Fangraphs. Mains ran the numbers and found that, despite some fundamental differences in how the outcomes are weighted in the formulas, all three correlate quite nicely.

His findings were basically there is no wrong answer when it comes to which one you prefer. There were some outliers who didn’t correlate so well when comparing the three, based on some freakish offensive performances (think Barry Bonds), but for the most part, the advanced metrics are generally in agreement. It’s nothing Earth-shattering, but interesting nonetheless.

So how do the numbers stack up when looking at the 2018 version of the Royals offense?

The Royals don’t walk and they don’t hit home runs. The numbers don’t lie. Their walk rate of seven percent is 28th in baseball. (But third in the Central. My goodness, this division is abjectly awful.) They’re dead last in home runs, with 81 through the weekend. Although they are lurking behind the Marlins and Tigers at 83 and 82 dingers, respectively. By this fact, the Royals should fare worse in OPS+, which places more weight behind the free pass and the dinger, than your other favorite composite offensive metric.

TAv has factored situational hitting into the sauce. That means things the Royals really seem to be good at, like those productive outs, carry a little more weight. But, hold on a moment. Situational hitting is also things such as bringing home runners from third with fewer than two outs and avoiding double plays. Those are two things the Royals aren’t so good at. The Royals have a 12.5 percent double play rate, which is the third highest in baseball. They’ve scored just 45 percent of runners on third with fewer than two outs. That’s the fourth-worst rate in the majors.

So why not take a look at how the 2018 Royals do when it comes to all three offensive metrics? We know it’s not going to be pretty. They’re at or near the bottom in nearly every key offensive statistic you can dream up. Individually, there haven’t been any standout performances. This is a dreadful offense. Still, we are a Royals site. We soldier on.

The following table is sorted by plate appearances.

Hitter TAv  wRC+ OPS+
Whit Merrifield .286 119 120
Mike Moustakas .274 105 109
Alcides Escobar .203 44 49
Salvador Perez .231 75 79
Alex Gordon .244 82 84
Jorge Soler .294 125 125
Lucas Duda .259 97 99
Hunter Dozier .212 60 63
Drew Butera .198 35 38
Rosell Herrera .231 70 75
Paulo Orlando .160 5 13
Adalberto Mondesi .252 90 93
Jorge Bonifacio .292 108 108

There are a couple of things we can immediately glean from this table. For starters, it’s a very good thing Whit Merrifield is leading off these days. He’s the best hitter on the team who isn’t on the disabled list (we see you, Jorge Soler) and it obviously makes sense the top offensive performer should get the most chances. We can say the same about Mike Moustakas, although the bat has cooled. The Phillies had another scout in attendance on Monday, but Moustakas sat. Still, the trade winds are blowing hard. The wager here is he will be removed from this table sometime this week.

Alas, beyond the top two names, the good offensive news stops abruptly. The Royals continue to insist that Alcides Escobar is a capable everyday player, but that’s just not the case anymore. There’s no amount of defense that can justify giving that many plate appearances to a batter that abjectly awful in the batter’s box. 

Had we run these numbers at the end of June, things would have looked a little more grim in the case of Salvador Perez. And boy do the Royals need to get Jorge Soler back. Although it sounds like his return isn’t pending anytime soon.

The numbers, as you should expect given the linear regression relationship, are fairly consistent across the board. There isn’t an individual on this club who does anything in the extreme. (Although you could argue that Escobar makes a ton of outs. This would be accurate.)  Take someone like Lucas Duda as an example as he’s the most pedestrian of the current Royals roster. Sure, he walks a little less than league average and strikes out a little more often, but by and large, he’s a league-average player in every facet of his offensive game.

Lucas Duda .246 .314 .411 .725 .164
League .247 .318 .408 .726 .160

Duda’s traditional numbers are in line with his more advanced metrics. A point off the average TAv and a couple points below league average when it comes to wRC+ and OPS+. He did well against a left-handed starter on Monday. He was never signed to this team to play the entire season. We’ll see if someone will pay for a platoon advantage when he hits against the righties and an overall league average player. 

The big outlier is in the lineup is Bonifacio. His TAv outpaces his wRC+ and OPS+ by quite a bit. Some of that certainly comes down to sample size. He has just 70 plate appearances on the year through Sunday. 

This little exercise doesn’t necessarily prove anything; it basically confirms what we already know about the Royals offense. It’s grim. Things look to change in the next week with the addition of Brian Goodwin and the probable subtraction of Moustakas. The return of Adalberto Mondesi from family leave should reduce the playing time of Escobar. There may be more lineup alterations forthcoming. However, the changes aren’t any kind of panacea. In fact, things look to get worse before they get better.

Still, given the suboptimal pieces there’s an optimal lineup to be constructed. It does still exist. Good luck figuring that out.

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