COMMENTARY | It is pretty darn frustrating to be a Kansas City Royals fan these days. The team has been toiling in something that only the most generous could call mediocrity for well over a decade and many thought this would be the year that the team finally competed for an AL Central title. There were even some who thought that the Royals could make some noise once they got into the playoffs, thanks to a revamped pitching staff and a lineup full of young offensive talent.
The pitching staff has been doing its part all season long. With James Shields leading the way, the Royals' rotation has been tops in the American League and the pitching staff has been one of the best in all of baseball. The problem with this particular Royals team has been a lack of run support. This problem is really nothing new. There haven't been a ton of offensive stars in KC for quite a few years. The stars they do have are good all-around players like Alex Gordon. It's been a long time since Danny Tartabull, Bo Jackson and George Brett were sending pitches out of the ballpark on a regular basis.
Last year, the Royals finished 12th in the American League in runs scored. This year, the Royals are ranked 12th in the American League in runs scored. In 2012, the Royals finished tied for last in the American League in home runs. This year, the Royals are dead last (24 homers behind the next lowest ranked team) in home runs.
The lack of offense is nothing new, but it is a bit unexpected. Young guns like Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas, Billy Butler and Lorenzo Cain were supposed to lead a resurgent offense that would be able to compliment that much improved pitching staff quite nicely. The power outage from these four has been quite impressive. Some of that should have been expected. None of the four have ever hit as many as 30 homers. Still, the fact that the team leader has a grand total of eight home runs is a bit of a problem for a team looking to compete.
To really put the lack of offense into perspective, keep in mind that even if you combine the home run totals of Gordon, Butler, Moustakas and Hosmer, the quartet still falls a homer shy of league-leader Chris Davis. The top four power hitters for the Royals have less homers combined than Davis has by himself, and their total is equal to Miguel Cabrera who is second in the AL.
Can the offense come around? It seems like an improved offense could, in fact, mean the difference between being another also-ran and actually being a competitor. On May 30, one of the all-time greatest Royals became the team's interim hitting coach. It's a safe bet that at least some people are crediting his arrival as the reason that the Royals have returned to competitor status after a May slide that saw them lose 20 of 28 games.
The problem is that, as far as runs go, the Royals are really not much better now than they were before his arrival. In 29 games since Brett became one of the new hitting coaches, the Royals have averaged 3.97 runs per game. In the 51 games the team played without his tutelage, it scored 3.98 runs per game.
The front office has been plenty active in trying to figure out a combination of players that could turn the offense into one that can lead a consistent charge to the top of the standings. Jeff Francoeur and Chris Getz, two guys who have been regular Royals for years, have both been given the boot. Their replacements have been fairly good so far and there seems to be a renewed sense in the clubhouse that the team could make a run and challenge for a playoff spot. The real question is whether or not the team can overcome what appears to be a lack of thump in the lineup and really make some noise as the summer rolls on.
Oliver VanDervoort has been a Kansas City Royals follower since the Frank White, Bret Saberhagen and Mark Gubicza days. Over his four year career as a writer he has covered all things sports including the Big 12, the Big 10, the WAC and various NFL and MLB teams.
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