The Royals Self Fulfilling Home Run Prophesy
By David Hill
Home runs and Kauffman Stadium mix approximately as well as the Montagues and the Capulets did in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” At least, that is how the narrative goes when it comes to explaining away the Royals historical inability to hit home runs. This is, after all, the only franchise to never have a player hit forty or more home runs, and still lists the immortal Steve Balboni as the single season leader when it comes to the longball.
After failing in their attempts to lure Carlos Beltran back to Kauffman Stadium this offseason, the Royals took the stance that a power hitter was unnecessary in their lineup. The hope was that the incumbents, specifically Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler and Mike Moustakas, would develop enough power where the middle of the lineup could become formidable. Meanwhile, the acquisitions that the Royals made were brought in with the offensive plan that they would put the ball into play and put pressure on the defense. Should the power develop from the younger players, as hoped, those moves would have been perfect.
Instead, the myth that home run hitters cannot thrive in Kauffman Stadium has become a self-fulfilling prophesy, at least amongst the Royals. While no one in the lineup, with the exception of the struggling Moustakas, is likely to be confused with a fearsome slugger, the Royals still should not be a team that is on pace to hit only 72 home runs in total this year. Should this pace continue, the Royals would become the first team since the 1995 Philadelphia Phillies to hit fewer than 100 home runs in a season, and would have the lowest total in a season since the 1991 St. Louis Cardinals. Oh, and let us not forget that Barry Bonds himself would have out homered the Royals as a team during his 2001 season.
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Yet, watching the opposition play at Kauffman Stadium, the expansive ballpark does not appear to be as much of a factor as it is for the Royals. The distance seems to be in the heads of the Royals hitters, as they have typically been swinging down through the ball, focusing more on trying to hit line drives and groundballs. When they do put a bit of an uppercut in the swing, in an attempt to actually lift the ball in the air, the swing typically results in a weak popup.
Meanwhile, opposing hitters are seemingly refusing to let Kauffman Stadium be an intimidating presence. Instead of adjusting their swings to the ballpark, they are seemingly swinging as usual, and letting the results happen. Perhaps not coincidentally, the opposition has out homered the Royals at Kauffman this season, by a 14 to 9 margin.
While Kauffman Stadium does hold down power numbers, it may be that their home park is in their heads. The Royals power issues may be entirely a product of their own making, a byproduct of their paranoia concerning power hitters being unable to perform in such an expansive ballpark. The Royals lack of power may be nothing more than a self fulfilling prophesy.