We delved into three Kansas City Royals’ whose numbers could reflect a drop in offensive statistics next year due to hitting into better luck than their peers.
Two non-traditional stats that can help determine the future performance of the Kansas City Royals’ hitters is the Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) and hard-hit rate (percent).
As the formula states, BABIP reviews the outcome of an at-bat when a hitter puts a ball in play. The higher the average compared to the league could show that the player might be due for regression the next year if his BABIP comes back down to the median. For a player whose BABIP was lower, it could reveal he was probably was the victim of bad luck and an uptick in his production the following season is possible.
Hard-hit percentage reflects how often a batter makes solid contact when he strikes the ball. Obviously the more times that happens the greater the chance he will reach base or put a ball over the fence. For 2019, the average BABIP for all non-pitchers was .299 and the hard-hit rate was 38.4 percent. As a team, the Kansas City Royals had a BABIP and hard-hit rate of .301 and 37.0 percent, respectively. Not including any other factors, this could be a warning sign for next season.
It is possible that the team regresses on batting average and they are not making solid contact as often as other teams. Player development and instructional changes need to be considered as well before automatically drawing a conclusion for 2020.
A few numbers for potential concern come from Adalberto Mondesi, Whit Merrifield, and Hunter Dozier. They all had BABIP’s well above league average at .357, .350, and .339 respectively. So are they due for drops in production next year? Let’s look at each player.
There are no major concerns for Merrifield if you look at his full body of work. His BABIP since becoming a big leaguer are .361, .308, .352, and .350, respectively. Whit just finds holes. His hard-hit rate has increased from 30.6 percent to 36.9 percent to 38.4 percent over the last three seasons. He made hard contact at the league average in 2019 but the uptick recently reveals he could be on his way to bigger stats in 2020.
If you review Mondesi’s prior two seasons when he had significant at-bats (one in Omaha, one in Kansas City), they indicate that being above league average is not unusual. For the Storm Chasers in 2017, his BABIP was .373 and last year in the majors, it was .335. The good news is that often when he puts a ball in play it can result in a hit at a higher rate than the normal player. The 2019 numbers were 24 points higher than in ’18 so it would not be surprising to see that come down a bit.
Mondesi’s hard-hit rate, however, did take a dive from the previous year dropping from 43.1 percent to 37.8 percent. Interestingly, his line drive percentage (LD%) increased by 5.6 percent. The shoulder dislocation could be a factor in the hard-hit balls being less frequent due to rehabbing and readjusting to pitching after a month-long absence. He will be 24 years-old in 2020 and hopefully, another year of MLB service and maturity will help him but the potential is there for regression.
Dozier’s prediction could be difficult with only one prior season on the Kansas City Royals to review. Prior to that, he did have a BABIP of .358 in Omaha in 2016 and in his rookie years with KC in ’18, it was .296. It would appear that he could experience a drop in average but the good news is in both big league seasons he makes hard contact at a high rate. It was recorded at 44.9 percent in ’18 and in ’19, it ticked up a bit to 45.3 percent. That puts him roughly making solid contact 7 percent of the time more than the average batter.
Much could change between the now and the start of the 2020 season but a deeper look into the numbers can be beneficial when evaluating other Sabermetric performances. Next, we will focus on those whose BABIP was lower than the league average and what that potentially indicates for next season.