Royals Failing to Come Through in Scoring Situations


Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier in the season, the Royals were having difficulties scoring runs. One of the reasons for those problems, as suggested by Dayton Moore and others within the organization, was that plenty of guys were reaching base, but they were not doing well enough with runners in scoring position. At the time, it was something of a foolish statement, because the team’s numbers with men on were nearly identical to their numbers with no one on base. They did need to do better with runners in scoring position, but the more pressing issue was actually getting more runners on in the first place.

If Moore were to come forward today and repeat those comments, he likely wouldn’t receive quite as much criticism.

Last night’s loss was the Royals’ 7th in their last 12 games (I’m including the suspended game to highlight the problem), and nearly every loss was impacted by a poor performance with runners in scoring position. Obviously it wold have been better if they could have gotten even more men on base, but they certainly had plenty of opportunities to scratch runs across, and simply failed to come through. Below  are the dates of those 7 games, along with a few of the relevant numbers from each one.

9/9: 1-10 RISP, 11 LOB
9/8: 2-5 RISP, 4 LOB
9/6: 1-6 RISP, 4 LOB
8/31: 0-4 RISP, 4 LOB
8/30: 2-18 RISP, 16 LOB
8/29: 1-6 RISP, 12 LOB
8/28: 4-12 RISP, 11 LOB
Total: 11-61, .180 AVG, 62 LOB

Yikes. And remember that those left-on-base numbers only include runners left on at the end of an inning. There have been numerous instances of the Royals getting runners on with less than 2 outs, only to have multiple batters flail away and waste the opportunity.

I’m sure you’ll notice that August 30 game has some absurd numbers, and with a small sample size, it may be skewing the overall results. But if you remove that game, they still only hit .209 with men in scoring position, while leaving 46 runners on base. That’s an average of nearly 8 men left per game, and again, not counting the times several batters couldn’t come through in a single inning.

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Against Max Scherzer last night, the Royals loaded the bases with one out, but Salvador Perez lined out and Eric Hosmer struck out (on what was a truly filthy pitch, for what it’s worth) to end the threat. It’s not often you’ll see Scherzer put himself in the danger zone, so when an offense gets him there, they have to take advantage. The Royals did not do so. In the 9th inning, two men reached base before Joe Nathan could record an out, but a pair of strikeouts and an absolutely dreadful TOOTBLAN ruined the opportunity.

Some of this is a bit of regression from an August in which the Royals did quite well with runners in scoring position, but the pendulum seems to have swung violently in the other direction, and at the worst time possible. The team still has solid numbers with runners in scoring position overall (.270/.332/.398) so it’s not an issue that has plagued them for the entire season. But with so few games remaining, and their division lead now completely vanished, the Royals have to find a way to bounce back to their average level of production in those clutch situations.

This isn’t to suggest the offense couldn’t use a few more baserunners, nor is it meant to imply the Royals can’t handle the pressure of high leverage situations in September. They simply haven’t been performing up to their abilities recently, particularly with runners in scoring position. If they hope to reclaim sole possession of first place, they’ll need to take advantage of those scoring opportunities.

They don’t need to turn into the 1927 Yankees to do so, but they can’t turn into the 2014 Padres, either. They can improve their offensive performance just be getting back to their season average. That shouldn’t be too much to ask, but it remains to be seen if the Royals can get back to that level before it’s too late.