KANSAS CITY, MO – The virtual consensus among Royals fans and observers is that for the Royals to be a true playoff contender in 2013, they somehow will have to fix their starting rotation.
No one can really dispute that, despite the rotation’s improvement since jettisoning Jonathan Sanchez.
But very few fingers have been pointed at the Royals’ offense this year, despite the fact that in the most important offensive statistic there is – runs scored – the Royals are absolutely woeful.
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The Royals, entering Friday night’s game, had scored 538 runs this season – only two teams, the Indians and the Mariners – have scored fewer. In fact, the Royals have only a six-run lead over the Indians for 12th place.
Yet when you ask most fans or when you listen to sports radio, you’d think the only issue with the 2012 Royals was starting pitching.
Royals hitting coach Kevin Seitzer knows there is work to be done, and he knows the statistics by heart.
“I know what we do well and what we don’t do well,” Seitzer said. “We are good at getting a lot of hits (fourth in the league) and we’re actually fifth in the league with runners in scoring position (.273).”
So how come the Royals don’t score more?
“I guess lack of opportunities,” Seitzer said. “We get a lot of two-out hits and we don’t hit home runs, not in this ballpark.”
True, the Royals are last in the league in home runs with just 106. But they are third in doubles (239) and second in triples (29).
“We just don’t get a lot of instant offense that other teams get,” Seitzer said. “We have to work hard.”
But, he added, that’s about to change.
Seitzer, as well as manager Ned Yost, believes the Royals could turn into one of the league’s top offenses in the next year or two.
The difference, Seitzer said, will simply come in the form of experience.
“You look up and down our batting order right now,” he said. “There are guys that are 22 and 23 and 24 years old, from Eric Hosmer to Mike Moustakas to Sal Perez to Lorenzo Cain to Johnny Giavotella and so on. They are talented guys, everyone of them. But they just don’t have the experience yet.
“It’s not only a matter of maturing as a hitter, it’s a matter of the knowledge you gain as you get older. These guys don’t have that knowledge yet.”
Designated hitter Billy Butler, the veteran at age 26, believes that with knowledge comes a sense of relaxation at the plate.
“It took me two or three years to feel comfortable at the plate,” Butler said. “You start seeing pitchers for the second or third time and you have an understanding for it. You feel like you can have more patience up there.
“The guys here are too young to understand that. They will, but it takes time.”
Seitzer said he and Butler have shared those sentiments.
“Look how it is when we face a new pitcher for the first time,” Seitzer said. “We usually struggle. And Billy struggles. He hates it when there’s a new guy coming in because he doesn’t have a book on that guy.
“Billy is very effective against guys he knows. There are very few surprises and he can wait for his pitch and then deliver. But if you have no knowledge on a new pitcher, you don’t know what to expect and you lose patience.
“The point is, almost everyone in our lineup is facing guys for the first time. They’re all new to our guys or were new to our guys. Now, by the second half of the season, they’re starting to at least have a history of six or seven or eight at bats against some pitchers. That’s why you’ve seen us hit better here in the second half.”
Yost also believes with that extra experience will come added power to the lineup.
“This team has the talent to hit home runs,” Yost said. “I strongly believe that. This ballpark is big but it’s not too big. Other teams come in here and hit home runs. So can we.
“Our guys are big enough and strong enough. When they get enough experience, they will learn which pitches they can really drive. Then the home runs come. Then the offense picks. up.”
Seitzer believes all of that will happen fairly quickly.
“I really can’t wait for next year,” he said. “These guys are gaining that knowledge pretty quickly every day. And by next year, you’re going to see it in terms of production.
“This is going to be a very good offensive team. We’ll have speed and power and the ability to get on base. It’s going to be fun.”