A couple of the quickest things to normalize for hitters are their strikeout and walk rates. We're one week into the season and as a team the Royals have logged 185 plate appearances. It is still early, but there are good indications that the 2014 Royals approach could be much better than the 2013 version.
Last season, Royals hitters walked in just 6.7% of their plate appearances. A mark which ranked 27th in all of baseball. In fact, six of the top nine Royals in walk percentage from a season ago are no longer with the team (George Kottaras, Johnny Giavotella, Emilio Bonifacio, Jamey Carroll, Adam Moore, and Chris Getz). So far this season, the Royals are walking in 9.7% of their plate appearances, which is good for 6th in baseball. Last year's league leader walked 9.4% of the time.
On the strikeout side, after ranking second in the league last season, we knew that the Royals would be even better when they brought in Nori Aoki (struck out just 5.9% of the time in 2013) and Omar Infante (9.2% in 2013). So far this season, the Royals are leading the league in strikeout percentage at just 13.5%. Surprisingly, Aoki is has struck out in 15.8% of his plate appearances, while Infante has 13.6% of the time.
Obviously, we are just one week into the season, but this a team that does an excellent job of keeping the ball in play. The Royals have ranked in the top 3 in strikeout percentage in each of the last four seasons with 2010, being their best mark at just 14.6%. If they can keep the percentage under 14% over the entire season it will be the first time a team has done it since the Twins, Dodgers, and Mariners did it in 2007. If they can keep it at 13.5%, it will rank as the lowest number for a team since the Athletics only struck out 13.1% of the time in 2005.
Of course, if we mention the Royals start in the K% and BB% we should also make a point about the lack of power displayed in the first week of the season. Currently, the Royals rank last in baseball in isolated power at 0.61 and 28th in slugging percentage at .305. Oh and by the way, the Royals are the only team in baseball that has yet to hit a home run in 2014. The Giants already have 11.
Follow me on Twitter @Landon_Adams!