Just about three weeks ago, the Kansas City Royals were stuck in mediocrity. With a record of 25-28, they sat in third place in the AL Central, 6.5 games behind the division-leading Detroit Tigers. They had a middling offense, scoring only 205 runs, the least in the AL and eighth worst in the majors. The Royals were in need of a shakeup, and it came in the form of third-base coach Dale Sveum.
Sveum was inserted as the Royals’ new hitting coach, replacing Pedro Grifolo, who took over as hitting coach last season and will now work with the catchers. Sveum had a tall task to turn around an offense that lacked much of a punch, not only struggling to score runs, but ranking last in the majors in home runs at the time he took over with only 21. They were on pace to match the 1976 Royals for fewest home runs in a non-strike-shortened season, but Sveum had a different idea.
Since getting promoted, the Royals have turned things around drastically. Tuesday night’s victory over the Tigers ran the Royals’ winning streak to nine games, far and away a season high. Their overall record since he took over is 13-4, making the Royals the hottest team currently in baseball.
They have had a huge turnaround at the plate, going from -14 run differential after play on May 29 to +18 through Thursday. They have also sky rocketed up the runs-scored list, now ranking ninth in the AL in runs scored and 16th in the majors.
A big reason for the turnaround is the long ball, as the Royals have knocked 17 balls out of the park in 17 games after having only 21 through 53 games prior. Alex Gordon has led the way with five home runs over that span, while Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer have added three each. Salvador Perez also has multiple homers over that 17-game stretch.
Sveum has plenty of experience leading power-hitting offenses, as the Milwaukee Brewers finished in the top three of the NL in home runs each of his three seasons with the team. While the Royals may not move into the top-three of the AL this season in homers, they are definitely producing more since the move was made.
With the Royals’ offense finally producing alongside their pitching staff, they have taken over the lead in the AL Central over the Tigers, a seven-game turnaround since May 29. The Royals will have a chance to stretch that lead out to as many as 2.5 games as the two teams will finish their four-game series Wednesday and Thursday. While the Royals may need to add another bat before the trade deadline to continue this new-found success, Sveum needs to be given credit for getting the most of the players he has at his disposal currently who underachieved during the first third of the season.