One week into the season, and we’re seeing a Royals team we never could have imagined. They are 7-0, have sole possession of first place in the AL Central, lead the league in runs, and rank in the top 5 of nearly every offensive statistic.
Yes, it’s a small sample size, but it’s certainly unexpected considering that this same team ranked dead last in the league in home runs last year, and have hit 10 in their first 7 games this year. They are on pace to hit over 200 home runs, and while they most likely aren’t going to keep up that pace, the increased production is promising.
Lorenzo Cain is on fire out of the #3 spot, and Kendrys Morales and Alex Rios have impressed thus far. I’d like to think that the outcome of this season is going to depend a lot on their performance, but in reality it isn’t. The outcome of this season is going to depend on the performance of the Royals cornerstone pieces–Hosmer, Moustakas, and Perez.
Assuming that Gordon isn’t back next year–a very good possibility–then the Royals begin to rely heavily on the young core that they put so much stock into. Hosmer and Moustakas made a big surge in September and October, something we all hope can continue. We know that Perez has potential to be a .300+ hitter, but only if Ned Yost gives him the rest he needs.
It may only be the first week of the season, but we are beginning to see the Royals shape a new identity. Whereas last year they were a “small ball” team that relied on singles and stolen bases, we’re watching them morph into that traditional AL team we all wanted to see last year. Perez leads the team in home runs, and Morales and Rios are providing that boost to the offense we all hoped they would.
The Royals have scored over 50 runs in their first 7 games. It took them almost an entire month to get to the same point last season, a real sign of maturation. I don’t know what Dale Sveum did during the spring, but these guys have improved their plate discipline drastically. They rank only 12th in walks, but they are simply seeing the ball better and waiting on the pitches they can hit.
I don’t think this offensive surge is an aberration, either. We saw glimpses of it during the playoffs as they scored 69 runs, good enough for second among all playoff teams. They scored 9 against the Athletics in the wild card game, and manhandled both the Angels and Orioles in the division and championship series. This team is more than capable of scoring runs, and they are going to score a lot of them this year.
Now, this isn’t to say that the Royals should completely turn away from the formula they implored last year to make a deep run in October. Their defense is still just as stellar, as we saw from Lorenzo Cain this past week. The rotation might have lost James Shields, but Yordano Ventura is just as good, and maybe even better. They need to continue to put pressure on opposing pitchers while on the base baths, as well.
They may be shaping a new identity, but it won’t be completely new. They will still have that shutdown bullpen, stellar defense and speedy base running, but now they have that “X-Factor” they might have been missing last year. If they can continue to pound teams with this high powered offense they’ve found, we should be in good shape.
Yes, I know the last time the Royals started 7-0 was 2003, but this isn’t 2003. I’d like to say I remember 2003 and what kind of team that was, but I can’t because I don’t. Here is what I do know: the Royals are coming off of a World Series appearance, and have all the more reason to be excited and optimistic about 2015. They are no longer chasing a post-season appearance, but instead are showing teams how you get back to the post-season.
If the Royals can maintain this new identity, they are going to have one heck of a season. Based on Detroit’s hot start, it’s going to be a tight race in the division, so every win counts this early in the season.
So far, I like the 2015 Royals.