We asked our resident Giants and Royals fans to walk us through their respective 2014 seasons, from spring training to the 7-game World Series. In part 3 of the week-long series, Brandon Schlotfeld looks back at KC’s first half. (Previously: Part 2 – SF’s preseason)
We all know by now that every team that makes the postseason doesn’t always start off strong. The 1985 World Champion Royals, the last Kansas City team to make the postseason prior to 2014, were a .500 team at the All Star Break that year. The 2014 Royals were nearly the same, claiming a 48-46 record at the break – six and a half games behind division nemesis Detroit.
Through the first half, Kansas City bolstered a top ten pitching staff with an fWAR of 9.2, and the best defense in the league with a UZR/150 of 10.9. As most expected going into the season, the offense just couldn’t catch up to the sensational fielding and pitching being displayed on the field. With a team wOBA of .307 and wRC+ of 94, you’re simply not going to be able to get within arms reach of a division title when the team in front of you, the Detroit Tigers, are scoring more runs, reaching base more, and nearly topping the league in isolated power.
To make matters worse, Omar Infante was placed on the disabled list with back issues on May 13, and the Royals finally demoted Mike Moustakas on May 22 after slashing a horrendous .192/.257/.371. Moustakas’ replacement, Danny Valencia, was deemed an upgrade by default. Out of the 11 Royals who had at least 100 PAs in the first half, only three had an above average wOBA, and outfielder Lorenzo Cain’s was mostly due to a highly inflated BABIP of .393. If you haven’t gotten the message yet, the Royals could not hit the ball.
While there were certainly factors holding the Royals back from truly being a contender, bright spots still existed in a murky first half. The Royals won ten straight games between June 7 and 19, and finished the amazing straight with 13 wins in 15 games while taking first place in the division this late in the season for the first time in over ten years. Their time in first place only lasted three days, but the excitement of the team realizing their full potential rang out across their fanbase even through a rough July.
All eyes were on Dayton Moore going into the second half. With a struggling offense, a move was needed in order to create more runs in the Royals’ defense. The team had enough pitching depth in the bullpen and minor leagues to be able to make such a move, and those inside and outside of baseball’s inside circle expected a move to be made as well. Despite being six and a half games out of the division lead, Kansas City sat only two and half away from Seattle in the wild card race. Expectations were high, and the end result stemming from seven years of “The Process” was rapidly approaching
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