This past Saturday in Detroit, the Kansas City lost a big game by one run, 6-5, on a 9th inning walk-off home run to Miguel Cabrera. One of the keys to the loss was the fact Kansas City missed out on numerous opportunities to score more runs. In fact, the Royals were a mere 4-20 in that night with runners in scoring position, and 10 base runners were stranded in scoring position in that game.
This biggest culprits on that night were Billy Butler, who left 7 base runners stranded, and Alex Gordon, 5, from the 3rd and 4th spots in the line-up. While watching games, it often seems as if these guys are not getting clutch hits on a regular basis. This perception led to some research into how Royals do with runners in scoring position.
The following numbers display how Royals batters perform with runners in scoring position:
From these numbers, it is obvious Butler and Gordon are not the problem when it comes to clutch hitting. In fact, only Mike Moustakas, whose performances with runners in scoring position are horrifically bad, Eric Hosmer and Chris Getz are under the .287 mark in these clutch situations. It was surprising to see how successful Salvador Perez and Alcides Escobar have been in these key situations, as well.
These 8 players combine for a .276 average, 261 RBI, 86 walks, and 111 strikeouts with RISP. Throw out Moustakas’ abysmal numbers and this group is hitting .296 with RISP. As a team, for the whole season, the Royals are hitting .267 with RISP, which is 5th in the American League.
The Royals, for the most part, are not a poor hitting team with runners in scoring position. Billy Butler and Alex Gordon specifically are not bad hitters in those situations either, despite how it seems at times. In this instance, perception is wrong, as these numbers clearly indicate.
So why does it seem like the Royals can’t score runs when the opportunities present themselves? The problem may lie in another direction. It isn’t that the Royals are not coming through with clutch hits, because as a team, they are above average in batting average with runners in scoring position. The problem may stem from what kind of hits are being produced.
In the American League, Kansas City ranks 5th in BA with RISP, but they ranked 14th in Slugging Percentage with runners in scoring position, coming in with a .373 SLG%. By being single heavy, which is what this number indicates, there are probably several times when a single doesn’t score a runner from second base.
The Cleveland Indians, who are just behind the Royals in BA with RISP at .265, have a .425 SLG% in those clutch situations. The Royals have just 13 home runs on the season, as a team, with base runners at second or third, dead last in the AL. Cleveland has 32. The Royals have 49 doubles in those instances, 10th in the league. Cleveland has 65. The Royals do lead the league with 10 triples in these situations.
The fact is, the Royals only have 72 extra base hits total with runners in scoring position. Cleveland has 102. Detroit has 108. Minnesota, 76. In the AL Central, only the White Sox have fewer, and even then, just 1 fewer at 71. And they have 35 home runs with runners in scoring position! The Royals are getting hits with runners on, just not many hits with any thunder behind them.
As frustrating as it seems when hitters do not come through, it is still baseball, and success is relative. The Royals are above average in hitting situations with base runners at second and third. Billy Butler and Alex Gordon certainly do not deserve derision from fans. They, along with Salvador Perez, are well above league average in key situations.
If there is to be criticism to be levied, aim it at the lack of power in general on this team, not the clutch hitting itself. When a team is struggling to put runs on the board, sometimes it helps to take a step back and look at the big picture. Butler, Gordon, Perez and even Escobar have been productive with runners in scoring position.
Maybe the Royals just need more base runners, and more power to drive them in.