What’s Behind the Kansas City Royals Impressive Turnaround?

We're taking a deep dive into the Kansas City Royals impressive turnaround to start the 2024 season and ask: are they good?

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - APRIL 9: Bobby Witt Jr. #7 of the Kansas City Royals is congratulated by teammates after scoring a run during the fifth inning against the Houston Astros at Kauffman Stadium on April 9, 2024 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images)

The Kansas City Royals are winning baseball games.

They’re currently in second place in the American League Central, only 1.5 behind the first-place Cleveland Guardians.

The Royals have won 17 out of their first 27 games, a winning mark they only reached on May 29 of last year. This has made them one of the early feel-good stories at the start of the 2024 campaign.

While winning at a .630 clip might not be sustainable all year, the Royals have plenty to be optimistic about with their club. Bobby Witt Jr. is establishing himself as a legitimate superstar, 2017’s 52nd overall pick MJ Melendez seems poised to breakout, and the ageless Salvador Perez is leading the team in home runs, RBIs, and hits.

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To start the season, their pitching, defense, and bullpen have been good. So it begs the question: Are the Royals good?

What’s the Difference Between This Year’s Royals and Teams Past?

Surprisingly, the Royals are currently tied for fifth in all of baseball with 29 home runs and fifth in the American League for runs scored.

The team is hovering around the middle of the pack in the AL in batting average (8th place at .237) and second in the league with 27 steals.

The biggest difference between the 2024 Royals and years past revolves around a young core that is forming around Witt Jr. (obviously).

First baseman Vinnie Pasquantino (4 HR, 11 RBIs, .815 OPS) is a breakout candidate and stalwart leader Salvador Perez (7 HR, 25 RBIs, 1.036 OPS) is having a resurgent season at the plate, offering much-needed support for the squad’s budding superstar, Witt Jr.

Melendez is third on the team with 12 RBIs and Maikel Garcia has also emerged as a legitimate third baseman, adding more speed at the top of the lineup. (He’s second on the team in stolen bases behind Witt Jr.)

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Fortified by several key offseason additions—including Seth Lugo (3-1, 2.03 ERA)— the Royals’ pitching staff has been as good as it’s been in years.

Their starting rotation is third in the Majors with a team ERA of 3.01 and is tied with the Seattle Mariners with 12 quality starts.

Brady Singer, the 18th overall pick of the 2018 draft, is enjoying a nice start to the season, to the tune of a 2-1 record with a 2.76 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 29.1 innings.

Free agent signing and 12-year vet Michael Wacha (1-2, 3.81 ERA) has fortified the back-end of the starting rotation, and reliever John Schreiber has been really good. Schreiber (2-0) leads the pitching staff in games—appearing in 13 of the team’s 27 games— with a minuscule 0.75 ERA, giving up only one run in 12 innings.

The Royals have been playing good defense to kick off the year, as well. According to FanGraphs, the team is second in the American League in Defensive Runs Saved with 17, behind the Texas Rangers.

Are the Royals Good? Can They Keep it Up?

One thing to note about the Royals hot start: they won six out of seven games against the Chicago White Sox, who are the MLB’s worst team at 3-22.

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Before you start placing bets on the Royals as underdogs to win the World Series, the next couple of weeks will be a crucial test for KC to cement them as contenders or pretenders.

The Royals just navigated a tough part of their schedule, hosting the Orioles and Blue Jays in back-to-back series. After taking their first game against the Orioles, the Royals lost their three-game set to Baltimore, and dropped their first game against the Blue Jays as well.

Kansas City could have experienced a real skid from that point, but found a way to battle Toronto for two consecutive 3-2 victories, taking the series and moving to 16-10 ahead of a road trip that begins with a matchup against their division rival, the Detroit Tigers.

In Game 1 last night, the Royals beat the Tigers by a score of 8-0. Lugo pitched another gem giving the Royals seven strong innings with nine strikeouts. While Lugo’s final line looks fantastic, credit goes to Adam Frazier for making a brilliant home run robbery that kept two off the board early.

A sacrifice fly by Witt in the third inning gave the Royals a 1-0 lead that held up until the top of the 9th inning. In their last time up, the Royals exploded for a seven-run rally that broke the game wide-open. The rally was capped by a three-run triple from Witt, who would scored on a sac fly by Vinnie Pasquantino.

After a great victory in Game 1, the Royals will look to put their rival away to take another series before heading north of the border for another matchup with Toronto. They will then return home to face two strong offenses with the Texas Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers..

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As KC navigates through a critical test early in the season, they have a chance to silence any doubts and validate their early-season success.

Rather than prematurely dismissing them as merely a feel-good story, it’s important to withhold judgment until they’ve had a chance to showcase their true potential over the next two weeks.

Only time will tell whether the Royals are poised for sustained success or if their early-season surge was merely a flash in the pan.

Until then, fans and pundits alike can eagerly await the outcome of these pivotal matchups, which will undoubtedly shape the narrative of the Royals’ season moving forward.