Why the Kansas City Royals Are on Fire
Yep, we all saw this coming from the Kansas City Royals, right?
After beating the Detroit Tigers and their "ace" Justin Verlander to a bloody pulp on Monday night, the Royals have now won eight games in a row and now sit just one-half game behind Detroit in the American League Central. In fact, the Royals, at 37-32, have one more win than the 36-30 Tigers. And the Royals now own the best run differential (+11) in the AL Central.
So what's going on here? What has changed?
Most of the improvement has come from the bats.
|Last 7 Days||.382 (1)||.180 (2)||.326 (1)||7 (T-3)|
|Last 14 Days||.341 (3)||.159 (4)||.284 (2)||11 (7)|
|Season||.301 (14)||.109 (15)||.258 (7)||35 (15)|
Over the last seven days, the Royals' weighted on-base average (wOBA), isolated power (ISO), batting average (BA) and home runs (HR) have all jumped from their season-long statistics, and over the last 14 days, all four categories have seen drastic improvements as well.
Mike Moustakas has been particularly hot, hitting .412/.500/.824 with a .558 wOBA and .412 ISO over the last seven days. Salvador Perez (.350/.409/.600), Billy Butler (.444/.500/.667), Eric Hosmer (.350/.417/.700) and Alcides Escobar (.412/.450/.529) have all been blistering over the last week as well.
The turnaround has been particularly nice for Butler, who is still hitting just .263/.316/.342 with an fWAR of -0.5 and a nERD of -0.76 despite the recent offensive output, meaning a lineup full of Billy Butlers would score 0.76 runs less than a lineup of league average hitters during the course of a 27-out game. Hosmer has also had a rough go of it this year, hitting .263/.305/.381 with an fWAR of -0.4 and a nERD of -0.51. His additional output has been most welcome.
Pitching-wise, the rotation, which has been very good this season, has been even better over the last two weeks.
|Last 7 Days||2.24 (1)||7.83 (4)||1.17 (8)||2.43 (3)|
|Last 14 Days||3.06 (3)||6.17 (12)||1.25 (7)||2.91 (2)|
|Season||4.11 (5)||6.68 (14)||1.28 (5)||3.79 (6)|
For the season, the starters have a respectable 3.79 ERA, sixth best in the American League. But over the last seven days they've been even better, with a 2.43 ERA, third best in the AL. And over the last two weeks, their ERA is 2.91, second best in the American League. Their Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) numbers show they haven't been fluky either.
All in all, though, the pitching has remained consistent and is obviously the team's strength. It is the hitting that has helped set the Royals on fire.
So can the Royals keep this up, or is this just a two-week blitzkrieg that will quickly fade away?
Given their pitching staff, it's possible the Royals are a legitimate threat to the AL Central, or at the very least a wild card spot. Their arms, led by a rotation of James Shields, Jason Vargas, Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy, and a bullpen full of bat-missers, are among the best in the American League, and should keep the Royals in most games.
In order to make this two-week blitz a season-long trend, however, talented key players like Hosmer and Moustakas must continue to pound the ball in ways they have not during most of their careers. And the Royals are going to have to find a power game offensively that they hadn't shown in the season's first two months. Even with this two-week hot streak, their ISO of .109 is dead last in the American League, their slugging percentage of .367 is just .001 better than Seattle's and Tampa's, and their team-wide 35 home runs is 11 less than the next-closest AL team, the Rangers, who have 46.
They'll struggle to stay at .500 if the bats go back to sleep.
And it's also likely Detroit and their all-world rotation and lineup will overwhelm the rest of the AL Central and start to pull away at some point. Our power rankings have the Royals at number 23, and we give them an 11% chance of reaching the playoffs. Conversely, Detroit is at ranked seventh, with an 84.5% chance of reaching the postseason.
The bats aren't going to stay this hot. That being said, a solid pitching staff backed by even a moderate improvement from the offense should enable the Royals to stay in the wild card conversation through September.