Expert MLB Handicapping: How Bad are the Royals?
The Kansas City Royals are bad. Really bad. They have sold off or lost most of their top talent in recent years, and they are in a bitter fight with the Orioles for the crown of being the worst team in the league. They are a mess. Typically, when I am breaking down a team I look at individual players, the strength and weaknesses of the team, and so on. For a team like this, though, the story is simple - there are very few strengths, and they could lose 120 games without too much of a struggle. So, instead of looking at the truly bad aspects of this team, let's look at six different storylines that will tell us more about this team. Spoiler alert - what we learn isn't positive.
The formula: You don't have to be an analytics savant to understand what is going wrong with this team. They have scored the fewest runs in all of baseball. They have allowed the most runs in all of baseball. They obviously have the biggest negative run differential in all of baseball at -153. They have played 79 games, so they are being outscored by an average of 1.9 runs per game. And that is how you lose almost 70 percent of your games.
Trade time: When a team's season has essentially been over since May and the calendar is about to turn to July, thoughts have to be towards the trade deadline. Teams that are already a mess can sacrifice more of their short-term success and talent in order to get more pieces to build for the future. The Royals have already traded away a lot over the last couple of years, but they still have some things to work with. They got an early start, sending stud closer Kelvin Herrera to the Nationals. The price was decent, but not spectacular, which could have an impact on the market going forward. The next most attractive piece is Mike Moustakas. The third baseman is playing well right now and is more attractive since Josh Donaldson, the presumed star of the third base market at the deadline, has had a disastrous season and won't be a prime acquisition. Moustakas is on a surprisingly cheap deal this year with a tiny option. He'll bring back a return. And beyond that things are pretty slim. Alcides Escobar isn't hitting, so he won't have much value. Starters Jason Hammel, Danny Duffy and Ian Kennedy have been lousy this year and won't return much unless the market really goes crazy. And Lucas Duda could have value if he can get healthy, but he's just coming off the DL right now, so we don't know what kind of shape he is going to be in.
Division: The AL Central is truly pathetic - by far the worst in baseball this year. And the Royals should be thankful for that, because if they were in a different division they would perhaps be even worse. They are an almost acceptable 12-14 against their own division. On the other hand, they are a pathetic 7-23 against the AL West, 3-12 against the AL East, and 2-6 against the NL.
Right is wrong for this team: If the team could only face left-handed starters they would still be bad, but just middle of the pack bad. They have gone 12-14 in games started by opposing southpaws. Against righties, though, they have posted a pathetic 12-41 record. That's a .226 winning percentage, which would translate to just 37 wins and 125 losses on a full season. Ouch.
Ned Yost: Yost is a good manager. You don't win more than 1100 games by accident. But I have to wonder how long it makes sense to keep him in charge in K.C. He turns 64 in August, and he doesn't embrace Sabermetrics or other new techniques. I'm saying he's a bit of a dinosaur. And while he has taken this team to the World Series twice, and won it once, he still has only a .488 win percentage with the Royals. His contract only goes through this year, and I can't imagine that he or the team will be interested in an extension. At the very least I hope that the team is actively thinking about what they want next. And if Yost was interested in an early retirement, I wouldn't try to change his mind.
Betting performance: The Royals have cost bettors more money than every team in the league except for the Orioles, who are the only squad perhaps even more pathetic than the Royals. They are the worst betting team at home, too, which again is no surprise because their 11-29 home record is the worst in the league. They are also tops in runline losses, which is a result of the run differential woes. The only somewhat bright spot is on the total. They have gone "under" the total 44 times in 77 games, so there are some slight profits to be had there.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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