After I wrapped up the fall sports preview section design duties mid-day Monday afternoon, I went to lunch and pulled up my phone to check the latest news around the world of sports.
Then, as a punishment to myself, I clicked on MLB and then standings to see where the Royals are sitting. Sometimes it is still hard for me to believe a team with actually a handful of decent big leaguers are so bad overall.
But there is hope on the horizon in a few ways. There are a bunch of top pitching prospects at Double-A Northwest Arkansas but in the short term the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers visit the K over the next seven days. That, of course, comes after what will be a tough four-game series against the Oakland A’s — a poster child when it comes to being competitive and having a low payroll.
After seeing the Royals haven’t hit 50 wins yet, it is good to know the two worst teams in baseball are next up. Last year about this time the Royals played Baltimore in what was essentially a battle for the No. 1 pick in baseball. The Orioles got the No. 1 pick, while the Royals got the second pick.
Right now, the Royals are the third worst team but hey, they are only two games from passing the Miami Marlins for being the fourth worst heading into Tuesday’s games.
Why are the Royals so bad? I’m sure I have given a few ideas in recent columns, but let’s do a quick run down. The bullpen is bad, like historically bad. Starting pitching is bad too. Will that cost pitching coach Cal Eldred his job after the season?
The team is built for speed when every other team is built for hitting home runs. Granted, Jorge Soler will break the team record for home runs in a few days but when the ball is juiced like it is, heck, he could break it again next year.
After the All-Star Game break about a month ago, the Royals were the hottest team in the American League. They won 9 of the first 12 out of the break and even though it is a lost season, three of the top 10 largest crowds of the season filed in to watch this team play.
The Royals then went 5-15 over the next 20 and the spiral has continued.
Here are a few more numbers that I haven’t brought up that show why the team struggles so badly.
There is the woeful record in ‘rubber’ games in the series. The Royals are 1-11 when it comes to the deciding game after splitting the first two. Dating back to last year, the Royals are 1-25 in rubber series.
The last time the Royals won a rubber series was a ‘home’ game in Omaha in June against Detroit, the worst team in MLB. Not ideal.
Let’s look at a few more numbers real fast. After Brad Keller was forced to exit in the second inning against Oakland on Monday, the Royals are now 15-51 when the starting pitcher fails to go six innings or more. But hey, we got to see Alex Gordon and Humberto Arteaga pitch in that game too, so a win, right?
In terms of a team that can rally late, this year’s bunch isn’t one of those. Gone are the days of the 2014-15 ‘mega’ teams that easily overcame one or two runs deficits. Heck, I even saw the Royals rally from five down in the ninth against the White Sox a couple years ago.
This year’s team, when losing in the sixth inning is 3-63; after seven innings, the Royals are 3-71 and down after eight innings, Kansas City is 1-73 following Monday’s 19-4 loss.
Two last things to point out came from @royalreview on Twitter. The Royals spent nearly $10 million dollars this year to pay for Chris Owings, Martin Maldonado, Brad Boxberger and Wily Peralta, all former players now. That quartet all had less than memorable tenures in Kansas City. But when your payroll is $100M, one of the lowest in the game, you can’t miss on 10 percent of your payroll on players that don’t really contribute much.
If you go a little bit deeper, add in $2.25 million to Jake Diekman, $1.25M to Lucas Duda and $800,000 for Brian Flynn, even more players not with the team anymore, that is almost $15 million of a payroll that didn’t get much return.
The same Twitter account also listed the five worst players in terms of on-base-plus slugging percentage in the MLB with a minimum of 300 at-bats. The worst? Billy Hamilton, an ex-Royal. No. 2 is Nicky Lopez, the starting shortstop and No. 5 is Maldonado, another former Royal. So three of the five worst hitters in MLB were often in the same lineup up until a month ago.