Where Have The Royals’ Stolen Bases Gone?
By Brian Henry
Oct 1, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals shortstopAlcides Escobar
(2) steals second base as the ball gets past Detroit Tigers second basemanOmar Infante
(4) in the first inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
The 2013 Royals stole 153 bases to lead the major leagues, and really only the Rangers and Brewers were near them. Even more than that, the Royals were only caught stealing 32 times to compile a success rate of 82.7% and second in the majors behind only the Red Sox. So far this has not carried over to 2014 where the Royals are 9 for 15 (60%), and just adds to the list of offensive woes.
The players that racked double digit SBs in KC last year included Jarrod Dyson (34), Alcides Escobar (22), Emilio Bonifacio (16), Chris Getz (16), Lorenzo Cain (14), Elliot Johnson (14), Eric Hosmer (11), and Alex Gordon (11). You can see right away that Bonifacio, Getz, and Johnson are no longer on the team. I only miss Bonifacio of the three, so jettisoning some of the speed is great considering how much better Omar Infante is than Getz even if it means less speed on the base paths.
With the current set of players there is still reason to believe 110 SBs would be possible with the success rate of last year, and that would put them in or near the top third of the MLB. Instead they are only ahead of a handful of teams. Of course, the team OBP of .308 is probably not helping. Also, Jarrod Dyson is playing very little and Alcides Escobar is in the 9th spot of the lineup and seeing reduced plate appearances.
On the bright side, stolen bases are not worth a lot. The best seasons of stealing bases by a player are typically worth about 5 runs, and the worst only cost a team 2 or 3 runs. If the team needs to be less aggressive on the base paths this year, then it will not likely cost very much. This should lead to more selective running than we have seen so for though, because that 60% success rate to this point is not a good thing. The break even points where stealing a base actually pays off are fairly high. For typical situations they need to be above 70% for sure.
On the down side, the Royals wSB (run value from stolen bases) last year led the league at 13.2, which is a lot better than teams like the Tigers who were -6.5. A 20 run differential could lead to a couple of wins breaking in favor of KC, which could have a lot to do with how the division ends up if it is a tight race as I expect. The low success rate this year has so far led to negative results from stealing in 2014, even more negative than the Tigers who still haven’t been particularly successful on the base paths.
It’s early; I know we are all tired of hearing this already, but it really is. There is no reason that this and many other stats can’t turn around as the weather warms up. I honestly don’t expect the offensive woes to continue over the entirety of the season. This team needs every advantage right now when it comes to scoring runs, and the stolen base was a tool that was used well last year to gain an advantage. So far this year it has been another drag on an already ailing offense. Let’s hope they can get this turned around along with just about everything else offensively.