The Royals lost last night to their cross-state rival, the Cardinals, 8-4, splitting the first two games of the home and away 4-game series. Yordano Ventura gave up 7 runs in 5.1 innings, thanks to Brian Flynn allowing both of Yo’s runners to score after he entered the game. The Royals also had bases loaded and one out on two different occasions and didn’t score either time, including the bottom of the ninth.
The Royals have now lost three of their last five at home after winning 12 of the previous 13 (and 15 of 17). Despite the 2-3 homestand, the Royals have won 16 of the last 21 and 20 of the last 24. Their 27-11 home record is the best in all of baseball, one game better than the Cubs (25-11).
But, for as good as they are at home, they’re that bad on the road. At 13-25, there’s only two teams with worse record in MLB – AL Central foe Minnesota Twins (10-26) and the Reds (11-25). They’ve lost 11 of their last 13 on the road, averaging fewer than two runs per game. On a positive note, the Royals are 6-3 against the Twins and White Sox on the road, winning all three series against them, but their just 1-6 at Cleveland, making 7-9 on the road within the division (21-11 overall, thanks to the 14-2 home mark).
It’s a night and day difference for the Royals the K and away from it. Their .737 win percentage at home would pace for a 119-win season, or one game better that the best season in MLB history (Seattle Mariners, ). The .342 winning percentage on the road is a 55-win pace is one-game worse than the Royals worst record of all-time (56-106).
The Royals (40-36) have played 38 games both home and away, so let’s take a look at the night and day difference home-road splits.
- Overall: .277/.324/.414
- Home: .292/.343/.444
- Away: .262/.306/.384
- Overall: 132 (11th)
- Home: 75 (5)
- Away: 57 (26)
- Overall: 11 (19)
- Home: 9 (10)
- Away: 2 (27)
- Overall: 68 (27)
- Home: 35 (24)
- Away: 33 (25)
- Overall: 550 (5th best)
- Home: 248 (3rd best)
- Away: 302 (8th best)
- Overall: 170 (30)
- Home: 92 (28)
- Away: 77 (30)
- Overall: 47 (11)
- Home: 24 (12)
- Away: 23 (9)
- Overall: 4.1 (21)
- Home: 5.0 (7)
- Away: 3.2 (29)
- Overall: -0.2
- Home: +0.8
- Away: -1.6
As you can see, the offensive numbers at home and away are much different. The Royals have the third best batting average in baseball at the home, and their home OBP and SLUG are both ranked as eighth best in MLB. The only things that appear to not be affected by location are the running game and strikeout and walk rates – both which are low, no matter what. The Royals road average is 30 points below their home marks, their OBP 37 points less and slugging 60 points less. Their road average still ranks as the 10th best in baseball, but their OBP (21st) and SLUG (27th) are not good. Another issue – much like their offensive woes back in April – are linked to hitting with runners in scoring position. Overall, they rank seventh in baseball, but they’re still atrocious away from home. Everything else ranks in the top third at home, but the lower third on the road.
Individually, almost every Royal is worse offensively on the road than at the home, which is not much of a revelation, based on the obvious home-road splits. Only Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon and Cheslor Cuthbert are better away from the K than they are there.
Unlike the offense, there isn’t a bunch of evidence that pitching is much worse on the road than it is at home, however, one thing that stands out are the long balls. And, a lot of ‘em. The park factor does matter, as the spacious Kauffman Stadium is not known as a park great for allowing the homer. That said, the Royals staff has given up 100 gopher balls and only five teams have allowed more. On the road, the Royals have allowed 14 more HR, and the 57 ranks as second worst in MLB. The long balls also has a direct result on opposing slashlines, where’s its .249/.297/.389 at the K compared to .261/.333/.455 on the road.
Overall, the pitching is a bit better at home than away, which is not shocking based on the record differential and the size of the parks, but the discrepancies are not nearly as noticeable as it is with the offense. For instance, the WHIP is a slight 9-point better at home (1.28) compared to the road (1.37), but it still ranks 14th overall, on the road and at home. The walk rate is worse on the road than at home, but the strikeout rate is also higher.
The noticeable splits difference here is with the starting rotation and the bullpen. The bullpen is not to B-BOAT (best bullpen of all time), but it still ranks near the top across the board – fifth in wins (14), WHIP (1.17) and HR allowed (23), third in opposing SLUG and No. 1 in losses (5) and ERA (2.73). Meanwhile, the rotation has been dreadful, whether it home or away. Their ERA (5.08), WHIP (1.42) and quality starts all rank third worst in MLB, and their 77 HR allowed is dead last. Not good.
As for some of the pitchers themselves, there’s some alarming home/road splits. The bullpen has been good, no matter where the game is played, but the story is not the same for some of the starters. Ian Kennedy (6-6, 3.96 ERA) is 3-1 with a 2.11 ERA in six starts at home, but a woeful 3-5 with a woeful 5.36 ERA, mostly due to homers allowed – only 4 at the K and 15 on the road. Edinson Volquez (7-7, 5.15 ERA) saw his ERA increase 103 points thanks to his historic 12 runs (11 earned), pitching into the second inning, but not recording an out. Including that start, Volquez has still been MUCH BETTER at home (5-3, 4.22 ERA in 10 starts) than on the road (2-4, 6.82 ERA in 6 starts). Volquez’s pitch counts have been concerns on the road, thanks to a terrible walk rate, where he’s putting an extra three batters on over nine innings than he is at home. Before getting bombed by the Astros, Steady Eddie’s ERA at home was more than four runs better. Chris Young, like the two before him, also owns a drastic home-road splits, and much like Kennedy, owns a terrible HR rate, allowing 13 HR in just 21 innings, as opposed to 8 in 32 at home. Homers have plagued him all year, where his 21 allowed ranks last in MLB, despite pitching just 53.2 innings. His ERA away from the K is 9.70, and he is winless in five starts with an eye-popping .340 average against. Wow. At 2-7 overall with a 6.54 ERA, like Volquez, he had still been really good at home before a terrible outing (2.1 IP, 7 ER). Now owning a 4.45 ERA at home, with a .500 record (2-2), he did have a 2.70 ERA and a 10.20 K/9.
It’s no surprise that one of the best road pitchers, Kris Medlen has been better on the road (1-1, 3.86 ERA in 4 starts) as opposed to home (0-2, 20.65 ERA in just 5.2 IP in two starts). Danny Duffy (3-1. 3.24 ERA) has been better than league average, whether home or away, but he has been really, really good on the road, in four starts (1-1, 2.03 ERA, .214 batting average against). Ventura (6-5, 5.00 ERA), however, has not really been very good anywhere, although he is 4-1 at home, despite his 4.79 ERA, thanks to a reduced walk rate and friendly run support.
With the stark difference home and away, the Royals (40-36) are on a current 85-77 pace, which likely wont be good enough for the playoffs. In 2013, the Royals won 86 games and missed the playoffs. The following year they won 87, and then went all the way to the World Series. They’re currently on a 27-54 pace on the road. No team has ever been that bad on the road and made the postseason. Three teams have had the worst road record and still made the playoffs: 1987 Minnesota Twins went (29-52), the ASStros last year (33-48) and the 2006 Cardinals (34-47). If the Royals can get improve, even a little bit – maybe 7-8 games – and maintain as the best, or one of the best teams at the friendly confines, they’ll inch closer to a 90-win pace and improve their playoff chances greatly. It starts with scoring on the road, where the 3.18 runs per game is an enormous split compared to 5.0 at home. In fact, at home, the Royals are above league average in nearly every offensive category, minus walks, whereas on the road, they’re below league average in nearly everything, sans batting average (.262) and strikeout rates. Pitching wise, the problems are not as noticeable, but it’s there. Despite getting destroyed in two games by the Astros (19 ER in 3.1 IP from Young and Volquez) and 7 ER in 5.1 IP from Ventura last night – adding nearly a run onto the team ERA, the Royals (3.92) are still better than league average (3.98), but on the road, other than the terrible HR rate and walk rates (second worst), the Royals runs allowed is still better than league average.
It could simply be an anomaly, but, with the equal amount of games played both home and away and almost to the halfway point of the season, there’s certainly enough there for it to be a trend. If the Royals can improve their scoring on the road, and cut down on the long ball and walk rates, they’ll slowly improve their record on the road.
But, will it be too late?
Follow us on Twitter: @KCSportsNation