Fresh off a crushing extra-innings defeat on Monday night, Royals manager Dayton Moore preached the necessity of accountability with his wayward club.
But do not expect sweeping changes in the wake of a five-game losing streak.
Instead, Moore stressed in a telephone conversation Tuesday afternoon, the team remains committed to their current crop of players and coaching staff.
Moore has placed his faith – and staked his reputation – on the ability of the on-field personnel to adjust their approach in the face of adversity.
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“As a team, our players, our coaching staff and our front office have all shared a level of frustration with a 14-17 start,” Moore said. “We know we’re capable of being much better. We understand where our deficiencies are. And we’re working through them.”
From his seat, Moore believes their chief deficiency is obvious. He cited a lack of production and a spate of over-aggression when batting with runners in scoring position. Night after night, the players struggle to capitalize in these spots, he said.
“The truth of the matter is we are where we are because we have failed to have quality at-bats in RBI situations,” Moore said.
The Royals rank 24th in the majors with a .648 on-base plus slugging percentage with runners in scoring position. They are also one of baseball’s least effective clubs at putting runners there. The team ranks 22nd in on-base percentage (.307) and 25th in slugging percentage (.364).
The lack of offensive production is a chronic, continual issue for this club. It was also the source of their decline in 2013, when an 8-20 record in May sunk the team’s playoff hopes. The Royals are now 0-5 this May.
Moore indicated he had no intention of making changes to the coaching staff, and stressed his confidence in manager Ned Yost and hitting coach Pedro Grifol.
Yost received a two-year extension after 2013. Moore also said there was no plan to expand the role of George Brett, who joined the staff as a temporary hitting coach last May and still serves as an advisor.
“George is involved,” Moore said. “He may not be in the dugout or on the field, but George is in constant communication with Pedro, myself, whoever. When George is at the game, we sit up there and we look at video and we talk about hitters. He’s back and forth with Pedro.”
The changes are expected to be more subtle. Moore seeks more patience from his hitters. He expects the team’s core of Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler and Alex Gordon to produce in RBI situations. He is frustrated with their lack of results when swinging at 3-0 pitches, but does not want the organization to place restrictions on players.
“You don’t want to have your hitters go up there and have everything scripted out on what they can and can’t do,” Moore said. “They’re major-league hitters. They have to have a certain level of freedom and ownership of their at-bat. It’s their at-bat. It belongs to them. And they’re accountable to the team.”
He added, “I know how Ned manages. He’s given guys a little more freedom right now. If it doesn’t turn around . . .”
There are few tweaks available to the roster. The farm system is bereft of top-flight talent at the upper levels. The Royals lack the funds necessary to pursue the two premier remaining free agents, infielder Stephen Drew and first baseman Kendrys Morales, according to people familiar with the situation. And it is too early in the season for serious trade discussions.
Thus, for the immediate future, the composition of the 2014 Royals will not change.
“We believed in this team in November of 2013,” Moore said. “We made some adjustments to this baseball team, we made some additions that we felt good about prior to spring training. When we left spring training, we felt positive about this team. And after 31 games, there’s no reason not to remain very positive about the 2014 season.”