In the midst of one of the longest playoff droughts in the MLB, the Kansas City Royals are searching for a competitive playoff birth for the first time since 1985. As their roster is one of the youngest in the Majors, it would appear that these playoff hopes may end after this season due to the fact that they do not have the budget to sustain the contracts of their young talent. With James Shields, Mike Moustakas, and Eric Hosmer. Shields holds down the starting rotation, posting a 13-9 record this past time. Moustakas and Hosmer pin down the corners of the infield and each posted batting averages of .233 and .302 respectively. As mentioned, this may be the last time this assemblage of lords take the field in the same manner for Kansas City due to payroll difficulties.
Last season, the Royals finished 3rd in the AL Central with a record of 86-76. They missed a playoff berth by 12.5 games and finished above average in the context of the MLB, yet they still missed out on the postseason. Although they still have some moving pieces in their lineup, this season looks promising for the Royals with nearly all of their impact players returning for the 2014 season.
Here is a look at a statistical breakdown of the Royals’ top 3 players for last season. Notice the high batting average for Hosmer along with the decent RBI numbers. Moustakas has average numbers for last season but is still young in his career and will look to break out of his slump for this season and define himself as a player. Shields posted impressive strikeout numbers and had one of the league leading ERA columns in the Majors this past season, as evidenced by his high Wins above Replacement (WAR).
Another thing to note is Moustakas has a very high slugging percentage in relation to his batting average. This is evinced through his knack for cracking doubles in the gap since nearly a quarter of his hits were doubles last season. Shields also posted an impressive K/BB number of 2.88, which ranks among the league’s best for the year.
One thing that these players need to work on is pushing across runs and, in Shield’s case, prevent the other team from doing the same. While Hosmer and Moustakas posted quality numbers last season, they have pretty low RBI numbers for the amount of hits they produced. They need to be more productive with runners in scoring position than they have been in the past in order to make a quality run for the playoffs.
While Shields had a quality season, his numbers in the win column were rather lackluster. While much of this appears to be from a lack of run support, he needs to be a little better in close games in order to take Kansas City to the next level. He could accomplish this by pitching to contact rather than the strike out. This way, he will go deeper in games and rely less on the bullpen to finish out games.
Regardless of how this season ends with the realignment of players, the Royals are in a desperate need for making the playoffs. Approaching 30 years without a playoff appearance is not a good sign for an MLB franchise. If this lack of success is sustained, it is quite possible that they will be shipped off to a different part of the country, just like the Expos were in 2004. Despite all of this, I am definitely wishing the best for the franchise as I always love a good underdog story.