Change Is Good
An off day following a successful 4-2 road trip calls for a little more analysis of the Royals resurgent offense.
The improvement over the last month of the season has been nothing short of amazing:
|First 33 Games||.232||.290||.372||8-25|
|Last 29 Games||.290||.356||.436||13-16|
When Tony Pena quit on this team, something changed. Something other than the tangible statistical improvement noted above. The team changed it’s approach to the game. Gone were the days of “working the count” where hitters would look at a great pitch for strike one and spend the rest of the at bat battling from behind in the count.
When the Royals dismissed hitting coach Jeff Pentland in late May, they were acknowledging a total shift in approach that had begun under interm manager Bob Schaefer was necessary to prevent this team from sliding into the depths of a 120 loss season. It’s too early to tell what impact new batting instructor Andre David will bring, but it seems safe to say his instruction will fit the new organizational philosophy of “selective aggressiveness.”
For the Royals, the current success lies in this new approach. Plate discipline doesn’t mean looking at two strikes and then deciding to swing the bat. Plate discipline is about waiting for a good pitch…your pitch, and then putting the ball in play.
The results of this new approach at the plate are becoming clear. Numbers are up almost across the board. As a team, the Royals have gone from scoring 3.5 R/G to almost 4.5 R/G. Even though they are swinging at more pitches, they are drawing more walks, while putting more balls into play.
And most importantly, it’s translating into wins. The Royals won eight games the first month and a half of the season. They’ve won that many in the last two weeks.
Yes, things are looking up in K.C. Let’s go down the batting order to see exactly how the Royals are doing it:
|4/4 - 5/10||.230||.271||.341|
|5/11 - 6/13||.266||.305||.395|
Berroa is one of the few Royals who have only seen modest improvement over the last month.
Currently, Berroa is horribly miscast as a leadoff man, a point documented on this website. If you break the numbers down even further, in the 12 games since Buddy Bell took over this team at the first of the month, the only Royal getting on base less than Angel Berroa is Mike Sweeney.
Getting Berroa out of the leadoff spot is becoming the WTP cause celebre for the last month of the season.
|4/4 - 5/10||.262||.323||.377|
|5/11 - 6/13||.309||.387||.433|
David is not Carlos Beltran. It seems the Royals have finally gotten the message.
Immediately slotted into the number two spot in the lineup after Pena quit, DeJesus is quietly regaining the flashes of brilliance he displayed his rookie season when he went .287/.360/.402. It is much to the relief of WTP that DeJesus has finally stopped being asked to steal bases. He might have above average speed, but his base stealing instincts are terrible. He’s only attempted one steal since May 11 (he was thrown out of course.)
But the time is right to move him back into the leadoff spot. He has the ability to get on base and seems to have rediscovered what it took for him to be so successful in 2004. That and he's a much better option than Berroa.
|4/4 - 5/10||.333||.380||.628|
|5/11 - 6/13||.241||.259||.304|
The only Royal regular to have regressed over the last month. Is it coincidence that this is the exact time when he began missing games due to injury? He’s missed 10 of the last 29 ballgames with the mysterious “strained oblique” that was apparently reinjured while taking extra batting practice in San Francisco. I’m not buying that. I hope I'm wrong, but I don’t think he was fully recovered from when he initially hurt himself in mid-May.
It is somewhat comforting to know the Royals’ best stretches of baseball have come with their captain sidelined. If he’s ever healthy enough where the Royals are able to flip him for a couple of prospects, you would get no argument here.
|4/4 - 5/10||.208||.305||.361|
|5/11 - 6/13||.330||.392||.557|
Given the everyday job in RF, Brown’s turnaround is nothing short of stunning. Comparisons are being drawn to another Allard Baird reclamation project: Raul Ibanez. While we caution jumping the gun a bit with any kind of exuberant comparison, it is a pleasant sight to see a corner outfielder produce these types of numbers.
Speaking of corner outfielders…
|4/4 - 5/10||.200||.236||.306|
|5/11 - 6/13||.329||.373||.447|
If he continues playing like this the Royals might actually be able to get something of value for him at the trading deadline.
|4/4 - 5/10||.247||.345||.466|
|5/11 - 6/13||.290||.476||.532|
The man we will give credit to for starting the Royals offensive renaissance. He went on a base on balls tear immediately after Pena quit, walking 12 times in six games, scoring nine runs in the process.
Stairs led by example, and his teammates took notice. Since May 10th the Royals have bumped their walk rate from 2.5 BB/G to 2.9 BB/G. It’s not a coincidence that the Royals have been scoring more runs since that time.
|4/4 - 5/10||.163||.209||.256|
|5/11 - 6/13||.319||.368||.507|
Another amazing turnaround. These slow starts are killing him.
The fact that he’s an above average defensive catcher helps his cause tremendously. The guy is a leader, who you can tell has the respect of his teammates, most importantly the pitching staff.
|4/4 - 5/10||.250||.325||.361|
|5/11 - 6/13||.265||.294||.388|
Teahen is included here as part of the lineup, but due to an injury the first month of the season, gets an incomplete.
He’s started to come alive since Bell took over as manager, posting a .326/.356/.395 line over the last 12 games. Teahen has been very solid defensively while looking more and more comfortable at the plate. Expect him to continue to improve as the season progresses.
|4/4 - 5/10||.200||.235||.289|
|5/11 - 6/13||.315||.407||.534|
Gotay, who is supposed to be better with the bat than with the glove was roundly awful in all aspects of the game the first month and a half of the season. Despite his improvement, he’s still in and out of the lineup too much to get totally comfortable. Much of that has to do with the fact no Royal is getting on base more than Tony Graffanino (.438/.471/.547) over the last month. It’s difficult to sit a guy who’s playing like that, but Graff is the ultimate utility guy. If Sweeney is still hurt when the Royals return home, look for him and Stairs to trade off between 1B and DH.
If you made it this far, thank you. The point is not to bore with statistics, but to illustrate how almost every player on this team has improved since Pena quit. In this case the numbers don’t lie. The Royals are a better team today than they were a month ago.
We are seeing the tangible results from a change in philosophy. Batters have gone to the plate with an aggressive, not a reckless, attitude. That means more runs, which means more wins.
Are the Royals as good as their numbers over the last 29 games indicate? No.
Are the Royals as bad as their numbers over the first 33 games indicate? No.
The answer to that question probably lies somewhere in between. But this last month has been a helluva ride for Royals fans. WTP is going to enjoy it while it lasts.