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Way-Too-Early Royals Evaluation: Contact is There, Pitching is Serviceable, What Gives?

Tonight, the Royals play their 5th game of the season against the Toronto Blue Jays, and through 4 games, the Royals are a concerning(ish) 1-3. That first win though, against the aforementioned Jays, came in dominant fashion. The Royals' offense exploded for 9 runs off 10 hits, Brady Singer didn't allow a run until the 5th inning, field play was exceptional, and the relievers were...serviceable. Still a bit of work to be done there, but Cal Eldred is gone so we can expect progress to be made. They looked like a team that could be more than competitive, they looked like a team that could make a ton of noise. The first 3 games did not go like this offensively, which is why the Royals sit where they are now.

Let's further dissect that though. First, let's look at a matrix showing the trajectory of batted balls for each MLB team through the Spring and regular season thus far:

(via r/KCRoyals, u/newbie_2022Foxy)

As you can see, the Royals rank high in contact and have a solid balance of balls hit on the ground and in the air. They're right up there with some of the best teams in baseball right now in that second quadrant. They're getting bats on balls, but not the runs, so what gives? Well, that could be a host of things, a lot of it can be boiled down to each batter's individual stats. For example, Bobby Witt, Jr. currently has a .154 AVG, but has batted in 2 runners off two total hits so far this regular season. Salvador Perez, however, has .364 AVG, but has not batted in any runs so far. Both are seen as offensive powerhouses on this team but have two very different paths of production thus far. Obviously, it is still very early, and baseball players' production ebbs and flows throughout the year but basing this off of the first few games and the first patterns developing, we can make this assumption: The main issue in the Royals offense right now, is that management is still trying to figure out a good lineup for maximum offensive production. Matt Quatraro and his managerial staff are made up of a lot of guys in their first year of being in the position that they're in and it is still quite early, so things like the batting order and organizing that will need ironing out. This unit will improve and will improve quick if Quatraro can put the right people in the right spots, I firmly believe this offense can be extremely productive if Quatraro makes the right moves. No reason to panic yet, folks, the Royals have excellent bats on their team, it's just a matter of putting those bats in the right spot where they will produce the most runs. It's progressing upward game by game so far, which is a good sign.

Now let's talk about every Royals' fan's favorite subject: Pitching. The pitching, for all intents and purposes, has made big strides since Cal Eldred saw his way out. There is still work to do, sure, but there's potential for improvement now. The starting pitching has looked outstanding so far and needs that offensive production and relief pitching to back them up. Since we've already talked about the offense, we'll hedge more on the relievers in this part. The relievers are made up of guys that perhaps suffered the most throughout the Cal Eldred era. There's arm talent there, but it's incredibly raw and inconsistent, Eldred did next to nothing to help remedy that. With a new pitching coach in Brian Sweeney, that may still be an issue, at least for a bit. There's a lot of young guys that could benefit mightily from good coaching, and I believe Sweeney has the ability to be that guy. The pitchers have shown they can hold down the fort when they are on, Aroldis Chapman is showing flashes of his former self throwing scorching fastballs, Brady Singer has shown his potential more often than not this season, Brad Keller showed out in the Spring (Though he did have a dud in game 3 of the series vs. the Twins, so did all the pitchers though) and Jose Cuas has been lights out as a closer so far. If this pitching staff can keep opposing runs below I'd say 3, and the offense can finally find their consistent lineup that scores, this Royals team could prove to be a problem (In a good way, for those not familiar with today's lingo)

In the end, the Royals are once again a "Wait and See" team. This is a first-year management group with a young core of players, there's going to be adjustments that need to be made and there's going to be a learning curve. There's certainly room for optimism, though, and a lot of the negativity thrown around about this team has its roots in the apathy developed over the years regarding the Royals. A lot of the fanbase wants the Royals to be good right off the bat (see what I did there?), which is simply not feasible. Could they be good during this year? Absolutely, if they find their groove in pitching and find their lineup that hits people home and lowers that "Left on Base" number, they could easily make a case in this weak AL Central. If they don't right away though, we cannot be discouraged. This is the first move towards improvement the Royals have made really since the World Series run in 2015, and in order to get to the major victories, you have to embrace the small ones first. Otherwise, you won't get to those big victories. I know it's painful, but if a certified Royals doomer last year can have hope and recognize these things take time this year, you can too. Now, if only the Royals would make an effort to be on TV that everybody has access to and is quality, and not be associated with a bankrupt company that would rather spend their money on casino projects than improving their TV product...

Burn Notice: 8/10 I believe the Royals are subscribing to the "Watched pot never boils" philosophy, which is why they're making sure no one can watch their games.

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