The Monday Rant: A Familiar Pace

Apr 29, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Royals manager Mike Matheny (22) argues with umpire Manny Gonzalez (79) during the second inning against the New York Yankees at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals closed out the fourth weekend of the season finding themselves in familiar (losing) territory. Including today’s loss to the Cardinals, they have a .333 winning percentage, a 54-108 pace, which would be the worst record of the Dayton Moore era. Three of the five worst seasons in franchise history will have happened while Moore stood watch as the general manager, and now President of Baseball Operations, of the organization.

There’s a wave of prospects about to make their debuts in the big leagues, but fans and the media need to be asking if this front office deserves to see yet another group of young players make their way to Kansas City, when this leadership has overseen far, far more losing than they have winning in 15 seasons.

How long does the joy of a World Series outweigh the frustrations of being one of the worst teams in baseball?

How long does losing get excused away and brushed aside by using the small market to prop up a fledgling franchise? The Rays don’t have an issue with it. The A’s don’t have an issue with it. The Guardians and the Twins in the Royals very division, don’t have an issue with it.

Going back to 1990, the Twins have had 8, 90-win seasons, the Guardians have had 13. The Royals have had one.

Going back to 1990, the Twins have had 10, 90-loss seasons, the Guardians have had 5. The Royals have had 15.

Going back to 1990, both the Twins and Guardians have had only 1, 100-loss season. The Royals have had six.

The evidence, within the Royals own division, proves that bottoming out doesn’t need to be as frequent and as dramatic as the Royals make it seem. Rebuilds don’t take eight years.

But if you had watched only Royals baseball since the start of 2007, you’d think 8 years of “one of the worst teams in baseball” drive-time talk would be required in order to achieve a simple .500 record.

The Royals under Moore have finished with 90-losses more times – five – than they’ve finished above .500 – three. Should the pace they’re currently on this season continue, the Royals will have lost 100-games in a season as many times under Moore’s leadership as they have finished above .500.

Soon the names in the lineup will begin to rotate out the older veteran players that haven’t performed for the better part of the last two seasons. Soon top prospects will turn into everyday regulars, and again there will be hope and patience being preached that it will take time for this wave of names to get settled into who they’re going to be at the big league level.

We just need time to rebuild a barren organization.

We just need time for the prospects to develop.

We just need time for these prospects to get used to playing in the big leagues.

These prospects won a World Series!

We just need time to rebuild an organization left bare after winning the World Series (from three whole trades)

We just need time to develop the prospects we’re accumulating, but we’re still trying to win.

We just need time for this next wave of prospects to come up.

We just need time for this wave of prospects to get used to playing in the big leagues.

Same song, different verse. And it’s getting overplayed.

The Royals have scored 3 runs or fewer 13 times in 21 games; one run or fewer six times. This collection of names in the lineup isn’t working and it’s so glaringly obvious. It hasn’t worked for multiple seasons now. New names are needed. New names are warranted. A new wave a prospects couldn’t come at a better time.

Is it impossible for the 2022 to turn around? No. But it isn’t going to happen without a significant change to how at-bats are allocated or change in players on the roster. Let’s hope the new names in the lineup provide the spark that is so sorely needed. New names like…

The Good

MJ Melendez is now a big leaguer. That’s a good thing for the direction of the franchise both in terms of what it means to the development department, but also, hopefully, what it means for an offense that’s been woefully lacking in walks and homeruns since Trust The Process began as a slogan and not as a term used to mock all decisions that go poorly.

Melendez had a solid if unspectacular age-19 season in 2018 while playing for class A Lexington. Well, maybe that’s grading too much on a curve because a .251/.322/.492 is more than just solid for a catcher and the 19 homeruns showed the promise of a power bat the organization is in short supply.

His 2019 season was a rough one that’s been well documented. Wilmington is where offensive prospects go to die and 2019 both he and Nick Pratto took a significant step back in terms of numbers production, OPSing .571 and .588 respectively. 2021 saw Melendez take The Leap hitting .288/.386/.625 with a 14% walk rate across two levels.

He’s got a short, powerful swing that, even though it can look at bit awkward at times, has great feel for the barrel and has legit power to all fields. As president of the MJ Melendez fan club, it’s swings like this one that make you dream; he should produce of fair amount of “how did he hit that pitch out to that part of the park” giggles.

Or this one, which doesn’t look like he gets at all, but pulls it out to right center.

Even though Melendez is off to a rough start to this season (.167/.286/.295) there’s no reason to temper the excitement of seeing a player like this earn a call-up. His defense alone is a reason to watch as he’s lighter on his feet and more athletic behind the plate than Salvador Perez, with an arm and aggressiveness that reminds of a younger Perez.

And should the Royals embrace a more positional flexibility approach to their lineup like seemingly every other team in baseball, Melendez has the athletic traits and a strong arm that should allow him to at least hold his own at multiple non-catcher spots on defense.

We’ve now seen Bobby Witt Jr, owner of a 10-game hitting streak, will hopefully see MJ Melendez make his debut tomorrow night, and maybe the two of them can provide a jolt to the offense. A jolt that’s needed because…

The Bad

This continues to be one of the worst offenses in all of baseball, and keeps compiling stats of futility that make you wonder if they’re actively trying to field one of the worst offenses in all of baseball.

Over the past 10 games the Royals are 13 for 81 (.160 batting average) with runners in scoring position, and have managed just 4 homeruns during that span. To make matters worse, during the three game series against a White Sox team with half their roster on the IL, they exploded for 23 walks but still only managed 14 runs.

The lack of power is, once again, staggering. For all the excuses beat writers and the broadcast will make about the weather, or whatever other nonsense that’s provided, you can’t ignore that this is simply the exact type of offense they have always had. There are two choices as to why this is the case: dumb luck or a simply the result of bad design.

The hope of course is that Bobby Witt Jr. translates his incredible tools, MJ Melendez graduates to the majors and brings his power and walks with him, and the minors hottest bat Vinnie Pasquantino is up soon to do the same.

For now there’s going to be more of the same.

When Adalberto Mondesi got injured the Royals caught a break. That’s not the greatest sentiment, I know, but there needed to be something to force the teams’ hand in trying something different with a lineup that hasn’t performed for a number of years now.

For the last five seasons the Royals have been getting below league average production from the majority of their lineups.

YearPercentage of Team PAs < 100 OPS+

To make these numbers even worse is that a large percentage of these plate appearances are coming from the same names.

Year + PlayersPercentage of Team PAs Still In The LineupMLB Rank In Runs ScoredPercentage of 2022 PAs
2018: Mondesi, Perez, Merrifield, O’Hearn, Dozier35%25th42%
2019: Mondesi, Dozier, Merrifield, O’Hearn, Gallagher, Lopez, 44%26th43%
2020: Mondesi, Perez, Merrifield, Dozier, Olivares, Lopez, O’Hearn, Gallagher, 65%24th57%
2021: Perez, Isbel, Benintendi, Lopez, Merrifield, Mondesi, Olivares, Dozier, Taylor, Santana, Gallagher, O’Hearn82%24th89%

The Royals haven’t finished higher than 24th in runs scored in the last five seasons, yet their lineup hasn’t changed that much since then. 42% of the plate appearances this season have gone to players that were in the 2018 lineup. 57% of the pandemic shortened 2020 season’s lineup are still getting at bats today, and they’re a big reason this year’s offense is so bad:

OPS+Percentage of Team PAs

Until the names in the lineup change it’s hard to imagine there will be any change in production. Until the names change, the Royals are on a familiar pace both on offense and in the standings.

The most important question that needs to be answered now is: will it take a change in all the organizations names in order for the offense and the standings to change?