KC Royals: Could Running Game Boost Struggling Offense?
By Bryon Parman
The KC Royals are tied with the Minnesota Twins at 24th in runs scored, as of April 29. Can the running game jump-start a sluggish offense?
It has been a testament to the pitching and team defense that despite an anemic offense, the Kansas City Royals find themselves three games over .500. In fact, the KC Royals are ranked 8th overall in team ERA at 3.47, and are currently ranked 3rd in defensive runs saved at 10.7.
However, the lack of scoring isn’t doesn’t appear to be because the Kansas City Royals aren’t putting the ball in play.
While not stellar, according to fangraphs.com the KC Royals rank tenth in team batting average at .258, which is exactly the same as the Tigers team batting average. Yet the Tigers have scored 19 more runs than Kansas City. Also, while OBP (on base percentage) has never been a Royals strength, their OBP is a respectable .313 or about league average.
The statistic that appears to best explain the anemic run production is the Kansas City Royals hitting with runners in scoring position. As of April 29, ESPN splits have the Royals hitting .214 with runners in scoring position. Only four other teams in baseball are struggling more at driving in runners when they have the opportunity. Worse yet, the Royals are one of only two teams slugging below .300 with runners in scoring position (the Twins are the other team). What this essentially means is that the KC Royals are struggling to hit the ball when it matters most, and when they do, it usually isn’t for extra bases which may not be enough to drive runners in from second base.
Kansas City Royals
One tactic the Kansas City Royals might employ to help jump start the run production could be dusting off the running game. Those of us who have followed the Royals closely know what kind of problems a successful and aggressive running game can have. Not only does swiping bases regularly mean that walks and singles can turn into doubles. It also can be a big distraction for pitchers leading to more fastballs and mistake pitches.
So far, the KC Royals have successfully stolen 14 bases on 17 attempts over the course of 21 games. So that equates to a successful stolen base rate of about 0.67 per game or a pace of about 108 successful stolen bases this season. In 2014, the Royals aggressive base running nabbed 153 bases during the regular season on 189 attempts. This was necessary as the 2014 Kansas City Royals offense needed to manufacture many of their 651 runs.
The 2015 version of the Royals was far less reliant on the running game, at least from the stand point of the stolen base, where the stolen base total was down to only 104. However the 2015 offense ranked 7th in runs scored with 724, in large part because the 2015 KC Royals hit .281 and slugged .426 with runners in scoring position.
Eventually, the 2016 Kansas City Royals will start hitting. However with the Royals offense off to a slow start, an aggressive running game may be just what they need. As mentioned above, the stress of an aggressive running game can lead to more fastballs, and more pitching mistakes helping improve the team batting average. It can also just simply create more opportunities to hit with runners in scoring position so that it isn’t necessary to come through as frequently.
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The running game can be dialed back later on once the offense begins to hit its stride. But for now, the KC Royals can’t afford to wait around for someone come through.