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Where are the holes in the Kansas City Royals lineup?

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Batting order is a popular topic in baseball. Who should bat where, what is the role of a player in a certain slot, should x player be moved down or up and so on. In general, I think that the batting order is over-rated and when I asked Ned Yost about it he agreed. However, there is some merit to the idea of looking closely at the lineup and evaluating it.

So far in this young season, there seems to be a very large split amongst the different portions of the Kansas City Royals lineup. The heart of the order has been hitting well with guys like Alex Gordon, and Billy Butler hitting well. The bottom of the order has been hitting poorly with guys like Alcides Escobar, Matt Treanor and now Kila Ka'aihue struggling.

There are no teams in baseball that have a great hitter at every slot in the lineup, so I imagine there are people gnashing their teeth all over the country at the "black holes" in their own lineups. I wanted to see just how the Royals lineup fared when compared with the rest of the American League. I looked up the offensive numbers for the Royals by lineup position and then subtracted the offensive output of what the entire AL did at that lineup spot and came up with this chart:

I was a bit surprised at how poorly the Royals lead-off hitter compared to the rest of the league. This is the guy who theoretically should be getting on base to setup the hitters below him. However the Royals lead-off guy is getting on base less often than major league average.

As expected, the heart of the lineup is out performing their peers and a very good rate and the bottom of the lineup is under-performing. The real hole in the lineup is the 8th slot, which in general is sound managerial practice. Personally, I like the 9th batter being better than the 8th batter because ideally the good hitters are coming up after him in every inning other than the 1st.

All-in-all, the lower part of the order isn't as bad as I thought it was going to be, but there needs to be improvement out of the 8th spot. My takeaway is that the Royals need someone different to lead-off and setup the Alex Gordon and others to drive in more runs.

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Nick Scott is a contributor to Royals Authority and is the host of the Broken Bat Single Royals podcast, you can follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

Comments

Steve Jacob 3 years, 7 months ago

Let's name names. Ka'ailhue needs to be benched, Escobar and Treanor have just been bad, but not sure what replacements the Royals have at catcher or shortstop. The 2-5 hitters have been outstanding (Cabrera-Gordon-Butler-Francoeur).

Nick Scott 3 years, 7 months ago

I disagree that Kila needs to be benched. His past performance indicates he can be something better than he has been. Getz just can't handle the bat and treanor has been pretty bad. Alcides gets a pass due to his defensive ability. I wouldn't go so far as to say that melky has been outstanding.

There really are no options right now at catcher and nothing really worth trying at SS.

merg311 3 years, 7 months ago

How long will they give Kila to get over the Mendoza line? It hasn't been pretty and Clint Robinson deserves a shot, even if it means putting Butler back at 1B. If Robinson wasn't performing in AAA, then by all means, give Kila time...but that's not the case at all.

If Escobar can even bat .240 I'd be thrilled. His glove makes his offensive skills an afterthought.

Personally, I'd love to see more Bryan Pena behind the plate. I'd say he's better offensively than Treanor, and probably average defensively. Of course all that may not matter if/when Kendall returns (not looking forward to that).

Nick Scott 3 years, 7 months ago

I'd let kila get as close to 1,000 career PA as possible. Clint may deserve a shot, but I don't think he's getting one.

I'd like to see more pena too, but I believe the royals over-value defense at catcher.

Steve Jacob 3 years, 7 months ago

You just have a love affair with Kila. He would strike out 300+ times with 1K AB's with maybe 40-50 HR's, while a guy is hitting .380 in Omaha? Granted Hosmer is not hitting with power, but still .380!

Nick Scott 3 years, 7 months ago

Kila hit better at omaha for over 400 PA in 2010 than hosmer has been doing this year.

Steve Jacob 3 years, 7 months ago

...as a 26 year old. You better be killing triple-A pitching at 26.

parrothead8 3 years, 7 months ago

He SHOULD kill AA pitching at 24 and 25, and he should kill AAA pitching at 26. Most guys who are going to be good major league players are in the majors at that point, and reach their peaks around ages 27-28. I'm not sure where you're getting this "past performance" that indicates he'll be better, because his past performance in the majors does not indicate this.

And letting him get to 1000 PAs is insane. He's at a little over 300 for his career now, so you're talking about playing him every day for the rest of this season, and then letting him play every day for about the first two months of next season before pulling the plug. Even if they were a last place team, there's no good logic behind keeping a below .200 hitter in your lineup every day for over a year.

Caveats about small sample sizes apply here, but Kila's numbers are scary. His strikeout and ground ball rates have skyrocketed, and his fly ball rates have drastically declined. He's swinging at fewer pitches, and when he does swing he's making contact far less than he ever has before. Those are not numbers you want to see from a power hitter.

Nick Scott 3 years, 7 months ago

sorry, I meant he killed AAA at 24 and 25, not AA. He killed AA when he was younger.

You basically want to replace KIla with a barely younger and worse defending version of himself.

parrothead8 3 years, 7 months ago

No...I don't want Robinson. That guy can't play in the field at all. He's a DH, and that's it. We've got a good one of those. If they bring anyone up, it should be Hosmer. In fact, I say two months into the season, they should bring up Hosmer, Moustakas, and two of either Montgomery, Lamb, Dwyer, or Duffy.

Nick Scott 3 years, 7 months ago

what's the rush to get hosmer up here?

kcgregory 3 years, 7 months ago

i'm with Nick on Kila, but I don't think he'll get anywhere near 1000 PA unless he starts to come around. everyone has to remember how early it still is. prior to yesterday Kila was getting on base at a better clip than everyone's beloved Melky. Melky went 3 for 4 and his OBP jumped 25 points. a similar day from kila will go a long ways and hopefully get him on the right track.

emceelean 3 years, 7 months ago

Let's take a more nuanced look at the numbers you pulled from baseball-reference.

The Royals 3-6 hitters are considerably above league average in batting, on-base, and slugging.

As we can all agree, the heart of the lineup needs to hit for power. So, the best way to gauge these batters' performance is to look at their Isolated Power (slugging - average).

IsoP/American League rank:

3) .172/5th -- Gordon is hitting for good power and average, no bone to pick here. But it is worth pointing out that Seattle and Chicago get more isolated power from their three-man despite low batting averages.

4) .154/7th -- Butler is a doubles machine, but he does not hit enough fly balls to tally big HR numbers. This is a concern.

5) .161/6th -- Here's where slugging alone can be misleading. KC ranks 9th in the AL in SLG% but leap frogs Boston, Minnesota, and Toronto in IsoP.

6) .125/5th -- Again, a decent average inflates other numbers. Royals drop two spots from 3rd to 5th in SLG% and IsoP respectively. And, considering how feeble the bottom third of the Royals' lineup can be, I think it's really important for the 5 & 6 hitters to bring some pop to the plate.

Nick Scott 3 years, 7 months ago

Excellent points emcee...nice work. I'd be interested in seeing park adjusted ISO though to see if the K has any influence there.

I'm not concerned abuot butlers power. I've always been of the belief that he isn't going to hit for a lot of power, however his offensive ability is fine just as it is. Would I like more power, of course, but I think that if he hits for more power his overall offensive output will decrease since he will strike out more. It's just a guess, but that's my feeling.

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