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Is There Something to the Royals Baby Boom?

Certain Royals players have exhibited some interestingly timed hot streaks in 2010. On May 22, David DeJesus was hitting .272. Just over a month later, he peaked at .332. On August 4, Yuniesky Betancourt‘s batting average sat at .257 and he had just hit his eighth homerun. Today, he’s batting .267 and has added three more homers to his total.

It doesn’t stop there. In the period from July 20 to August 7, Mitch Maier raised his production from a .251/.325/.363/.688 line to .272/.348/.395/.743. Even new Royal Gregor Blanco has gone 4-4 in stolen bases since August 12.

You may recognize the trend here among all four of the above players. On May 25, David DeJesus Jr. was born. Betancourt welcomed his first child on August 8. Mitch Maier and his wife celebrated the birth of their daughter on July 18 and Gregor Blanco‘s brief absence on August 10 and 11 was for – you guessed it – the birth a child.

Now, for all but DeJesus, the sample sizes are far too small to attribute any significance to those streaks, yet they’re the kinds of things you’ll hear about in broadcasts from time to time. When there’s a change in production like in Betancourt’s case or in DeJesus’s wicked hot series in Boston after his son was born, it does beg the questions of what had changed. In these cases, it was the birth of a child, but it would be silly to say that having a baby equals sudden hot streak. It’s also not unexplainable; a player gets a couple of days off, returns elated, refreshed and with renewed focus. Suddenly, for Betancourt and DeJesus, their confidence is high and the ball starts picking up a little bit more speed off the bat. It’s not far-fetched to say that they picked up their game as a result of their first-borns, but statistically, it’s not a claim you can back up, because, again, the sample size is just too small. From May 27 to July 22, the time after David Jr., DeJesus made 197 plate appearances, the largest sample size of the four players involved, and that’s still not enough to make a strong claim that he improved in any way because of the baby.

Such a statistical surge would be coincidental. It’s too soon to determine if Betancourt’s power surge will continue at this pace if at all. He’s already set a career high for homeruns, so he’s in new territory for slugging numbers and we just don’t know if it’s a new approach or endorphins. Given his profile, I wouldn’t expect it to continue.

Even with a hot streak, there’s always a regression to the norm waiting. Maier’s numbers after August 7 have been poor and he’s back to the same level of numbers he was at before the new arrival. DeJesus’s highest average of the year was the .332 in June, but when he was placed on the DL, his average had fallen to .318. Still very solid, but he’d clearly cooled off from the torrid pace that got him to that level in the first place.

Regardless, it is still interesting to look at.

A player can go through a number of large events during the season, and any of them could spur a jump in performance. You’ll see a player go on a hot streak after being traded to a new team. Or a team changes managers and goes on a seven game winning streak. Or there are the instances where a player makes a nice diving catch in the gap to end the inning and leads off the next half with a big hit, prompting the broadcasters to say “Well how often do you see that? He makes the play in the top of the inning, and then hits it out in the bottom. What a game, I tell ya.”

That all being said, Betancourt is hitting the ball like crazy, just like DeJesus did in late May. That alone is good to see, whether he’s just seeing the ball well or if he’s more driven with a little one at home.

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Tags: AL Central Baseball David DeJesus Gregor Blanco Kansas City Royals KC Mitch Maier MLB Royals Yuniesky Betancourt

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