Royals haven't quite reached their power potential
MAY 05, 2014 2:49p ET
Okay, so it’s only Apr—er, I mean May. Early May. Still way too soon to panic (unless you’re the Diamondbacks, in which case go ahead and panic because Grit Factor’s going to have to wait for another October).
At this point in the season, it’s still usually both appropriate and accurate to write off freaky statistics as fluky statistics. Fun, even!
Unless you’re a Royals fan ...
In 30 games, the Royals have hit 12 home runs. Same as Jose Abreu.
Granted, the Royals are perennially power-starved. Last year one of their hitting instructors said, “There is just no reward here to try and hit home runs.” And so they didn’t hit home runs, finishing last in the league with 112. They were also tied for last in 2012, 11th in ’11, 12th in ’10, 13th in ’09, 13th in ’08, last in ’07, last in ’06, last in ’05, and ... well, I’m sure you got the idea about six years ago.
Anyway, whilst the Royals have been ridiculously power-starved for about as long as anyone not drawing Social Security can remember, this season they’re setting some sort of new, ridiculously ridiculous standard. With their dozen homers in 30 games, the Royals are on track for 65 home runs.
Well, actually 64.8 homers. I rounded up because they’re my hometown team.
Oh, and also because of course the Royals aren’t this bad; they can’t be this bad. Billy Butler and Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer are all big strong fellows who combined for 52 homers last season ... and have totaled two this season. Two!
Bill James just published a fascinating, mind-altering, life-changing piece about potential -- sorry, it’s subscriber-only, but really that alone is worth the money -- which relates to the Royals’ power paucity only in the way that air and food relate to human existence. If I’ve got the chops, I’ll go into some depth later, but today’s lesson is that the Royals obviously have a fair amount of power potential. Billy Butler once hit 29 home runs in one season. Alex Gordon was once considered the single greatest amateur baseball player in America. As a 21-year-old rookie just three years ago, Eric Hosmer hit 19 homers in 128 games.
The Royals’ single-season record for home runs is 36. Steve Balboni set that record nearly 30 years ago, before baseball players began to look like cartoon characters. It’s been 14 years since a Royal has managed even 30 home runs.
In part, the Royals haven’t hit home runs because they’ve not employed home-run hitters. They haven’t signed them, they haven’t traded for them, and when they’ve drafted them, they haven’t developed them. And no, the ballpark hasn’t helped, either.
There was a lot of optimism about the Royals before this season. They won 86 games last season. They lost Ervin Santana, but they gained Nori Aoki and Omar Infante. Still, the Royals weren’t going to challenge the Tigers this season unless a significant number of hitters reached a significant percentage of their potential.
Instead, they have two hitters who are doing that: Infante, and Alcides Escobar. Most of the Royals are nowhere near their potentials. Young Mike Moustakas does lead the Royals with four home runs. He’s also hitting .151, with five singles in 27 games. Hosmer and Moustakas were supposed to be the Royals’ Hitters of the Future, and instead one of them can’t hit home runs and the other just plumb can’t hit.
So far, anyway. The good news is that it really is early, and we know that Butler and Gordon and Hosmer will hit more than two homers in May, and June, and July, and August, and September, too.
October, though? Potentially, anything’s possible.