Kansas City Royals: Bad luck and good luck hitting in 2019, Part 2

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Today we review two Kansas City Royals hitters whose BABIP were below league average and explore to see if they can have an uptick in performance next year.

The rise in Sabermetrics the last couple of decades has given us tools to dig deeper into a batter’s statistics other than the traditional home runs, batting average and runs batted in. We have focused on the BABIP and hard-hit percentage (explanations on these terms linked here) and how we can use those and other measuring sticks to see what kind of production we might get out of two Kansas City Royals hitters next season.

Jorge Soler was not too far below the league BABIP average of .301, registering a .294 number. 2018 was a smaller sample size and he put up a .340 which was his highest since his breakout year with the Chicago Cubs in 2015 (.361). With roughly the same amount of at-bats in 2017 as he had in 2019, his BABIP was .276 and for Omaha in ’17 he checked in at .293. This would show that ’15 and ’18 are outliers and league average could be what to expect.

Despite the BABIP dropping by 56 points from ’18 to ’19, his batting average was the same interestingly enough but his slugging percentage shot up 103 points. Unsurprisingly, Soler’s hard hard-hit rate led the Royals at 46.8 percent, just a 1.5 percent above Hunter Dozier and was 12th overall in MLB. Almost 50 percent of the time that Soler made contact, it was drilled somewhere and only 13 percent of his contact was considered soft.

Last season, Soler produced hard-hit balls 42.9 percent of the time so this would not seem to be a fluke although his first four seasons with major league experience were met with percentages at 36.3 percent or less three of those four years. Combining his ability to have a BABIP at .340 to .360 and continued increases in hard-hit percentage, the 2020 season could even better than this year.

One player who hit into either a lot of bad luck or opposing teams played the shift against him very well is Ryan O’Hearn. He was near the bottom of all Kansas City hitters with a .230 BABIP.
Throughout his minor league career, save for one season, O’Hearn’s BABIP was over .300 and in his rookie year in the majors, it sat at .293.

O’Hearn’s hard-hit rate was almost the same as his rookie year, so why the dramatic drop in production? One answer could be the ground ball percentage rate that shot up almost 12 points from ’18 to ’19. With a pull rate of 41.6 percent, it is safe to say many of those ground balls found their way to the second baseman or whatever fielder happened to be playing in short right field.

The good news for O’Hearn is that the last month of the season he began to use more parts of the field and had a ton of success. His BABIP for September was .294 and his hard-hit rate was an unbelievable 63.2 percent. While his pull rate remained the same, he did increase balls hit to the opposite field by roughly 5 percent and cut down on ground balls by 6 percent. If he can carry this trend into 2020, he should be in for a drastic improvement over this year.

dark. Next. Bad Luck and Good Luck Hitting, Part 1

The number of statistics available can be overwhelming but if you take your time and try not to inhale them all at once, you will find some interesting nuggets that can help you review a player’s season and whether or not the numbers were a mirage or the real deal.