Yost waits and wonders when Royals will find last season’s mojo
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Royals manager Ned Yost remembers the moment his team turned the season around in 2013. He just can’t explain how or why it suddenly happened.
I asked him after Wednesday’s game what he thought snapped his 2013 team out of the same funk that is strangling his troops right now.
"Good question. I don’t know," Yost said. "We just snapped out of it. There was nothing that was said, nothing that was done. We just came back from the All-Star break and snapped out of it. We came back from a four-day break and we were a different team.
"We were the same team, but we were a different team. Something clicked. And that’s what happens. Something clicks. We came back from the break and we were six games under .500 and Ervin Santana threw a 1-0 shutout. And we just took off and had the best record in the American League from that point on."
Indeed, the Royals were languishing at 43-49 prior to the All-Star break. They had lost five straight, including a three-game sweep at the hands of Cleveland.
But that 1-0 win by Santana triggered a surge that produced 19 wins in 24 games.
If Yost knew the magic formula, he already would have applied it to this group.
"It can happen here again," he said. "We’ve got a team that is underperforming offensively. When they start to perform to their level, that’s when we will start to produce wins and get on a bit of a run. You just keep working hard."
Tossing food trays, ranting at players and holding daily clubhouse meetings isn’t the answer, Yost said.
"Screaming and yelling … it doesn’t work," he said. "You just identify what the issues are in each individual swing and continue to work hard and get more consistent at the plate each day."
The issue is an offense with multiple sins. The Royals are last in the American League in scoring (3.79 runs per game). And the reason for that lack of scoring is quite simple — Royals hitters have no patience (14th in the league in walks) and no power (last in the major leagues with 21 homers).
It is a team with a selfish offensive approach that is dragging down all the other compartments needed to win.
"Our whole team revolves around the offense," Yost said. "When our starting pitchers go out and know they have the leeway to go out and give up a run or two and know it’s not going to kill them, they’re going to pitch better. It’s the same with the bullpen. And the defense, too — when we’re hitting well we play better defense because everyone feels better about what we’re doing offensively.
"So, the whole team revolves around the offense. Once that gets going, it affects everything in a positive manner."
How to fix the problem is the mystery. The Royals have gone through five hitting coaches in the past three years, and dumping batting coach Pedro Grifol now might even make matters worse, if that’s even possible. Royals hitters likely are still sorting through the messages from all those coaches, and adding yet another new philosophy could compound the problem.
Then again, standing by idly and waiting for the offense to change could be dangerous as well.
"My patience wears thin — it wore thin (Tuesday night after his ejection)," Yost said. "But I’ve got to fight that. I’ve got to stay calm and stay patient. I have to look for answers and solutions to expedite the process."
And the clock is ticking. The Royals embark on a four-game road series with Toronto tonight, part of a 12-game gauntlet that includes the Cardinals and Yankees.
"We’re going to have to get this figured out quick," Yost said, "or we’re going to be in trouble."
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.