This should be simple and quick. The Royals suck at baserunning. This is strictly observational, but I feel like I have a lot of anecdotal evidence to back me up early in the year. If you’ve been watching the games so far this season, you should have noticed. But I’m going to look at the latest Royals let down as evidence of how baserunning is actually stealing wins from the Royals.
Surely you watched the Royals make their roaring come back against the Indians tonight on the back of an energy boost from an intentional beaning and some hot bats. It was great watching players come up with big hits in key moments. For a few innings, the Royals showed people what they can be as opposed to what they are too often–good as opposed to bad.
One such terrific moment came in the bottom of the sixth when, with two outs, Mike Moustakas hit a line drive to deep right field. The ball sat in Shin Soo Choo’s glove for a moment before he slammed into the wall jarring the ball lose. Choo was forced to get up off the ground, find the ball, and throw it back in. On base were Billy Butler and Yuniesky Betancourt. Of course, Butler scored. But despite the fact that Choo essentially performed a vaudeville act with the ball in right field, Betancourt couldn’t find it in his power to score from first on a double … with two outs … and the team down by three. I’m no major league baserunning coach, but I do remember one rule of baserunning: with two outs run hard on contact and don’t stop until someone tells you to. There is no reason on earth, including a slow moving Butler in front of him, why Betancourt should not have scored on that play. Playing the what if game, if he scores, the Royals lead by one at the end of regulation and win the game.
Surprisingly no one on the television broadcast raised a question about why Betancourt didn’t score. They didn’t show him on camera, but I would have loved to see what he was doing during that double. Last game, they showed Jarrod Dyson losing track of the number of outs and not running hard with two outs. Was that the issue? I’m not sure, but whatever the reason, that’s bad baserunning. That’s leaving runs on the field because Betancourt didn’t execute the most basic understanding of how to run the bases.
Betancourt did pitch in a homer to try to make up for his mistake, but I still don’t forgive him. Eventually, the Royals tied it up and were in great shape to win it in the bottom of the ninth. Shockingly, Dyson reached on a walk to lead off the bottom of the ninth. I’m sure many Royals fans were thinking Steal second Dyson. All I was thinking was Don’t even fantasize about stealing. The pitcher had a good move and was quick to the plate, and the Royals had their 2, 3, and 4 hitters coming up. Predictably, Dyson ran and was thrown out. Good base stealers should know situations. The risk in that situation was not worth the reward in that spot in the lineup. Jeff Francoeur struck out before Dyson attempted to steal, but Eric Hosmer and Butler would have both come up if Dyson hadn’t been thrown out. Instead, just Hosmer came to the plate, he struck out. Essentially, Dyson took the opportunity out of Butler’s hand by getting thrown out. Assuming Hosmer strikes out no matter what, it comes down to what is more likely. Is it more likely that Dyson successfully steals second base AND Butler hits a single. Or, is it more likely that Butler hits a double. I don’t have the stats in front of me, but I’m going to say the double is more likely.
Right now the Royals are three of eight in stolen bases. They have the worst stolen base percentage in the league on the young season, and that’s not a huge deal except that their terrible baserunning may have cost them two games now. Remember the Oakland game when Hosmer and Francoeur were thrown out stealing third and second respectively in the same inning?
I know the Royals’ motto on the bases is “be aggressive.” But since when does aggressive equal stupid? The areas of their greatest mistakes are simple matters of paying attention to what is happening in the game. To show you their state of mind, Butler attempted to swipe a bag the other day. Why? Who the hell knows. He was out by a mile, and once again the Royals did their opponent a favor.
I’m fine with aggression on the base paths. But aggression is sending runners from third against guys with suspect arms when you wouldn’t normally. Aggression is encouraging runners to make early reads on balls hit to the outfield in order to take an extra base. Aggression is not stealing at inopportune times and forgetting how many outs their are. That’s stupidity. That’s amateur hour.
*This post was written with plenty of anger after the failed come back loss to the Indians.