Has anyone noticed that the Royals are over .500 since Ned Yost took over as manager? Yup, that's right, the Royals are 27-23 under Yost since he took over the club and have won ten of their last thirteen. Probably just as few have noticed that the Royals actually lead the American League in batting average this season. Who would have predicted that?
Whether it is a coincidence or Yost's influence, Zack Greinke is back to his old self the last couple of starts, Bruce Chen is 5-2 with a 3.51 ERA and the much maligned pitching staff has really held its own in the last fifteen games. In those fifteen games, the Royals have held their opponent to four runs or fewer twelve times. The pitching staff still has stats that put them near the bottom in the league in most categories, but there is no denying they are doing much better right now.
Another thing that Yost has done is given specific and defined roles to members in the bullpen and the trio of Tejada, Farnsworth and Soria have responded and get the job done more often than not. Victor Marte has also come into the bullpen and is doing a nice job. The bullpen getting squared away has allowed the starters to settle down and just pitch their games without having to worry about what happens after their six or seven innings are over.
The offense has been carried by two stars in Billy Butler and David DeJesus, both of whom have over one hundred hits at the half way point in the season. They also have a 140 and 136 OPS+ respectively. The nice thing about those two hitters is that they do not strike out much and walk almost as much as they strikeout. In fact the whole team doesn't strike out that often except for Jose Guillen, who despite his 72 strikeouts is having a fine season with 14 homers and 52 runs batted in.
The rest of the line up is weak. Betancourt at shortstop is really bad with a 77 OPS+ which mirrors his .285 OBP. That may have been one of the worst trades in history. Jason Kendall joins Betancourt with a 79 OPS+ but at least Kendall is posting his best OBP in many recent seasons but still with absolutely no pop (.313 SLG). And the over all team defense is still poor.
But still, the team is responding much better to Yost than they did to Trey Hillman and it is again fun to watch Royals' baseball.