Hits To Runs
By Marcus Meade
Jul 20, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals designated hitter Billy Butler (16) at bat during the game against the Detroit Tigers at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals won 6-5. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
You know what kills me? When the Royals turn in what I consider a typically “Royals” game offensively. Ten hits, two runs, nine singles, one double, and no walks. That’s a Royals game. It’s horrifically frustrating, especially when you’re sitting in the stands in the 95 degree heat as I was last Sunday when the Royals Royaled pretty Royally.
It gave me the motivation to look into something that’s been bugging me about the Royals: how many hits it takes them to score even one run. Last Sunday, it took them seven hits to score one run. Obviously, not all those hits came in the same inning, but still, they had seven hits and only scored a single run.
My methodology was simple. I put together a hit to run ratio. It’s not elegant. It’s the statistical equivalent of dining on Hot Pockets, but it answered the questions I was asking myself.
I imagined the Royals would be dead last in hit to run ratio because what team could need as many painstaking singles as the Royals do to score? I was surprised to find that the Royals are roughly middle-of-the-road with a hit to run ratio of 2.09. This means for every 2.09 hits, they score a run. League average is 2.07, median is roughly the same.
That said, the data does show that teams with good hit to run ratios (that is low hit to run ratios) tend to have better offensive numbers. Of the top-10 teams in runs scored, seven are in the top-10 in hit to run ratio with Tampa Bay—sixth in runs scored—sitting at eleventh in hit to run ratio. Oakland and Colorado are the outliers with Colorado at fifteenth and Oakland at twentieth. I’m not sure if park factors have something to do with that. Common sense would say that Oakland should be near the top in hit to run ratio since they walk more than any other team and are top-10 in runs. They don’t hit that many singles either so with Oakland they may just be a statistical anomaly about to bust out for more run production.
The teams in the top-10 in hit to run ratio have many similarities. Well, mostly two similarities. They walk and/or hit homeruns. Seven of the top-10 in hit to run ratio are top-10 in walk percentage, homeruns, or both. Teams that are top-10 in hit to run ratio but not top-10 in either homeruns or walk percentage are either really close in both (Angels), having a historical year hitting with runners in scoring position (Cardinals), or the Brewers, who are leading all of baseball in stolen bases (not sure that explains why they’re scoring though).
How do the Royals fit into all this? Well, they’re 25th in walk percentage and 28th in homeruns. Their rank in hit to run ratio is as high as it is because they’re hitting .268 with runners in scoring position, which is seventh in baseball. It is also not something a wise team chooses to rely on.
And that’s the crux of this issue, baseball philosophy. A question: what should a team rely on to score runs? Truly, there is no one answer. Every team relies to varying degrees on every aspect of the game. The key is the varying degrees. The Royals rely heavily on putting the ball in play and no one catching it. Teams like Cleveland, Boston, Texas, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Detroit, and Toronto rely on balls falling in play also but much more on what can be beneficial other than balls that drop—walks and homeruns. Those teams score more than the Royals do … a lot more. Why? Because walks and homeruns are actually more reliable than hits.
To me, this is the most compelling argument for regime change with the Royals. There is a foundational flaw in the house that Dayton Moore has built. I don’t dislike Moore. I even like some of the decisions he’s made. I think he did a pretty good job restocking the farm system, and he and his staff are good evaluators of talent. But his philosophy is archaic. He’s not getting as much as he can out of hitters like Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer because organizationally they do not emphasize elements of the game that are more reliable.