...you ain't seen nothing like me yet.
(From "Make You Feel My Love," Time Out Of Mind)
OK, it's probably not a sign of real change, but it is nice to write about a Royals' blowout win for once. Last night's 9-1 win over the White Sox is only the seventh time this year KC has won by more than five runs. In contrast, the Royals have been blown out 14 times. This is surely no surprise to anyone familiar with the Royals' offensive struggles this year; KC simply does not have the offense to win many games by large margins.
I feel personally, and sense this from most other fans I talk to, that the Royals are having a better year this year than last year. I did hear a local radio person wonder why people would feel that way. There is a point there; through 98 games last year, KC was 43-55. This year, they are 44-54. Run differential is a good way to measure a team. Through those 98 games last year, the Royals were outscored 487-455 (-32); this year, the run differential is 468-411 (-57). So, even though the runs allowed are down slightly, the runs scored are down. So yes, why does it seem like this year is better than 2007?
First, the Royals got off to a much better start this year. Before the 12-game losing streak in late May, KC was 21-22. Through 43 games last year, they were 16-27. That sense that things were better this year has carried through the season.
Second, that 12-game streak has been the exception this year, not the rule. Since that streak ended, the Royals have not lost more than three in a row. Last year, Royals fans suffered through a pair of 7-gamers, a 6-gamer and a pair of 4-gamers. I think most fans feel that if you could just remove that 12-game streak, or change a few of those to wins, you would have a team right around .500.
Third, I think that those run differential numbers above are skewed by KC's poor offense. In blowouts this year, KC has been outscored 141-87 (-54). That is most of the overall -57 this year, and one more sign that fixing the offense should be the top offseason priority. It's also a sign that the pitching still needs some work, although I suspect, based on Trey Hillman's normal bullpen usage, that most of the damage in those blowouts was done by guys like Yasuhiko Yabuta, Hideo Nomo, Jimmy Gobble, Joel Peralta, and the other pitchers who have made up the unreliable part of the bullpen. The good news is those guys are easily replaceable, much like the Royals came up with Ramon Ramirez, Horacio Ramirez, Ron Mahay and even Joakim Soria for very little in return.
The interesting thing about last year is that the Royals were actually an OK team, based on run differential. They scored 706 runs and gave up 778; that should have given them a 74-88 record, based on pythagorean winning percentage. Of course, they ended up 69-93. This year, the Royals have an expected record of 43-55, so they are actually one game better. Not underachieving also makes this season seem better.
Does this season seem like an improvement to you? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.