by John Viril—
After the Kansas City Royals lost 19 of 23 games during the month of May, including an 8-game losing streak, the season looked done. At 21-29, statistical projections gave them less than a 5% chance of making the playoffs. More importantly, management seemed out of answers about how to pull out of the slump. The low point came May 23 when general manager Dayton Moore told the Kansas City Star, “we’re going to expect to get better. That’s what we’re going to do.”
Not only were the Royals getting their brains beat in on the field, no one in the front office had any idea how to fix it.
After losing six more games, franchise icon George Brett had enough. He accepted Dayton Moore’s offer to take over as hitting coach after having turned down the job multiple times since his retirement in 1993. The Royals announced the new hire Thursday afternoon, May 30. That night, they broke an 8-game losing streak with a 4-2 victory over the Cardinals.
However, Brett’s return didn’t immediately fix the team. Kansas City lost 3 of their next four games.
At that point, old school manager Ned Yost broke down and used a batting order devised by his statistical analysis team. Kansas City not only won that night, but the offense also scored 4 and 7 runs in consecutive games. In the dugout, the players started passing around a bottle of “Billy” barbecue sauce—a brand created by DH Billy Butler—during rallies. Kansas City has now won six consecutive games, including tonight’s 3-2 victory over division-leader Detroit.
The team now stands 29-32 and tied with Cleveland for 2nd place. With two more home games against the Tigers in their current series, the Royals can pull within 3 1/2 games of the Central Division lead if they can continue their winning ways. The season is by no means over.
The Royals 8-3 record since Brett joined the coaching staff isn’t based on an offensive resurgence. The Royals have scored 27 runs in 6 games since the lineup change (4.5 runs per game). While that has been an improvement over their season average of 3.83 runs per game, it’s hardly an offensive outburst. Meanwhile, the team is only hitting .245/.314/.333 since the beginning of June.
Instead, pitching and defense has carried the team. Over the 11-game span, the Royals have surrendered a mere 2.36 runs per game (while scoring 3.45).
Whatever the true reason for the rebound, don’t expect anything to change in the near future. Yost isn’t going to mess with a batting order that’s working. Similarly, expect the players to keep passing around Billy’s barbecue sauce as long as the wins keep piling up. And, if the Royals pull into contention at the beginning of July, expect George Brett’s “temporary” hitting coach designation to become permanent no matter what the team batting average and OPS happen to be.
Everyone loves a winner.