"The Royals outfield defense did experience an improvement during the 2013 season. Their sharp fly balls (balls in the air between 2.5 and 4 seconds) Out% in 2012 was 46%. Over the first two months of the 2013 season it was similar with a 47.4% value. Then strong-armed, but slow-footed Jeff Francoeur was released in the middle of June. From July on, the Royals sharp fly ball value jumped to 52.7%." - Royal Review (Article can be read here.)I don't think it was any coincidence that while Francoeur was on the roster, the Royals were 37-41 and following his release, the Royals went 49-35 the rest of the way. Last offseason, the Royals brought in fly ball pitchers. A strategy that makes sense given the spaciousness of the outfield at Kauffman Stadium. However, this is only half the equation. Without a sterling defense to chase down those balls, the combination of a spacious outfield and a subpar outfield defense is a death sentence.
This is a huge reason for why I am so excited about the addition of Norichika Aoki, who like Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, and Jarrod Dyson, can cover some ground in the outfield. Entering the offseason, I was afraid that in the Royals perpetual quest for power, they would discount this particular advantage and bring in another slow-footed bopper to play right field.
One of the beauties of baseball is that every team plays their home games in a unique park. Obviously, some parks are more haphazard than others, but teams that can take advantage of their home parks can also reap the benefits. By taking this route, I hope that the Royals have finally come to the realization of the type of team it takes to win at Kauffman Stadium. I also hope that not only can the Royals continue to take advantage of this factor, but that they can expand upon it in 2014.
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