KC offense may hinge upon ‘swing decisions’

The mental makeup of Kansas City's hitters, especially those returning from a dreadful 2023 season, will be pivotal to the Royals' chances for success in 2024.



February 27, 2024 - 1:45 PM

Carter Jensen of the Kansas City Royals hits an RBI double against the Chicago Cubs during the second inning of a spring training game at Surprise Stadium on Feb. 26, 2024, in Surprise, Arizona. Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images/TNS

SURPRISE, Ariz. — A night before the Royals’ spring training opener, Vinnie Pasquantino had a conversation with his roommate about how his first game in nine months might unfold.

He figured he’d strike out a few times, surmised that excitement might get the best of him and predicted one thing with a bit more certainty:

“I’m definitely swinging at the first pitch,” he said.

Come Friday, after Pasquantino stepped into the box, Rangers right-hander Dane Dunning painted the corner on his first offering.

A pitcher’s pitch.

But the hitter didn’t budge. His prediction? Wrong.

Everything else about that sequence? Precisely right. In fact, from inside the Royals dugout, hitting coach Alec Zumwalt, a guy who describes himself as someone who values “takes,” made a note of the decision not to swing.

“That’s Vinnie,” he said. “That’s when he’s at his best.”

It’s when anyone is, which is part of what I’ll get at here, because it’s part of what Zumwalt has been getting at for years now.

The Royals players and coaches parted ways for the offseason last October, bruised and beaten to the tune of 106 losses. The players left with game plans individualized for each of them.

Some of those were prefaced with hard conversations, said Zumwalt, who described it as “all coming down to self-reflecting with honesty. You can’t lie to yourself.” That’s illustrative of where the Royals are in this process.

BUT NO matter the specific blueprint, there was a common thread through the players’ reports.

“Are we making really good decisions?” Zumwalt said.

Swing decisions. That’s the phrase you’ve heard before. The phrase you’ve heard it a lot in Kansas City — or Surprise, Arizona for the moment— over the past couple of years especially.

But it carries a place of specific importance quite soon, in late February and then early and mid-March, when the games don’t really count.