August 13, 2003
Ducks on the pond
So, I had my big job interview yesterday afternoon. I applied for a "Sports Staff Writer" position at the Minnesota Daily (the largest entirely student-run newspaper in the country). I met with Brian, the Sports Editor, and I think the interview went quite well.
Brian informed me that, after I gave him the web address of this blog on my application earlier this month, he has been stopping by here to read my daily entries. That's got to be a good thing, right? I mean, that the guy I want to hire me reads my blog frequently? Anyway, Brian, if you are reading this, I enjoyed meeting you and I look forward to hearing from you.
Also, thanks to everyone who emailed me words of encouragement for the interview, I appreciate it.
Okay, enough about me and my quest for a job. Back to baseball...
I watched the Royals smack 11 doubles (and zero homers or triples) on their way to scoring 12 runs against the Yankees on Monday night and, immediately after the game, I headed over to ESPN.com to check out some of Kansas City's offensive numbers this season.
The Royals currently rank 5th in the American League in runs scored, with 623. They also rank 6th in batting average (.274), 5th in on-base percentage (.339) and 7th in slugging percentage (.427). Those are some pretty impressive numbers from a team that has been without their two best players (Mike Sweeney and Carlos Beltran) for extended stretches during the season.
The numbers are a little less impressive than they initially appear however, because Kauffman Stadium is a very good ballpark for hitters. In fact, according to Baseball Prospectus' "park factors," Kauffman Stadium increases run-scoring more than any major league ballpark besides Coors Field.
After adjusting for their home ballpark, the Royals drop from having the 5th-best offense in the AL to the 10th-best offense in the AL. That's a fairly significant drop-off. What it also means is that Kansas City's pitching-staff, which has the 11th-best ERA in the AL, is a whole lot better than it appears.
Here are the home/road splits for the Royals this season:
That's pretty interesting. The Royals have allowed 43% more runs per game at home and have scored 12% more runs per game at home.
What is amazing about their home and road splits is that the Royals actually have a winning record at home (33-28), despite having been outscored by a total of 36 runs (or 0.59 runs per game) at Kauffman this season. Meanwhile, they have scored 40 more runs than their opponent on the road, and their record is an almost identical 31-27 away from Kauffman.
While snooping around ESPN.com's team stats page, I came across another interesting thing about Kansas City's offense...
AVG OBP SLG
Kansas City Royals .274 .339 .427
Minnesota Twins .274 .336 .426
Those numbers are essentially identical, right? The team batting averages, on-base percentages and slugging percentages are all within a couple of points, an extremely small differential.
Yet, look what happens when add in a couple more stats to the table:
AVG OBP SLG RS RS/G
Kansas City Royals .274 .339 .427 623 5.24
Minnesota Twins .274 .336 .426 568 4.73
Despite nearly identical team batting averages, on-base percentages and slugging percentages, the Royals have scored 55 more runs than the Twins this season, or about 11% more runs per game.
How exactly have the Royals managed to score that many more runs than the Twins while hitting at almost exactly the same level, across-the-board? Well, here are two big reasons:
Runners on Base Runners in Scoring Position
AVG OBP SLG AVG OBP SLG
Royals .302 .363 .461 Royals .306 .377 .465
Twins .267 .331 .408 Twins .258 .329 .394
I guess it's pretty simple really. Overall, the Twins and Royals are equals in hitting. But, when it really counts, when there are runners on the bases and there are runs to be scored, the Royals are significant better than the Twins.
With runners on base, the Royals have 35, 32 and 53 point advantages in AVG, OBP and SLG. With runners in scoring position, it's even bigger, with the Royals holding 48, 48 and 71 point edges in AVG, OBP and SLG.
Among the 14 American League teams, the Royals have the 3rd-best team OPS (on-base % + slugging %) with runners in scoring position, while the Twins rank 12th.
Just to put the team-wide differences into individual terms, here is something to chew on:
The Royals have 13 different hitters who have had at least 25 at bats with runners in scoring position this season, while the Twins have had 14 hitters who have done the same.
Of Kansas City's 13...
11 of them are hitting .280+ with RISP
8 of them are hitting .300+ with RISP
4 of them are hitting .350+ with RISP
Of Minnesota's 14...
6 of them are hitting .280+ with RISP
3 of them are hitting .300+ with RISP
1 of them is hitting .350+ with RISP
Basically, almost every guy who has stepped to the plate with a runner in scoring position for the Royals this year is batting at least .280, and the majority of them are hitting over .300. The same can obviously not be said for the Twins, who have more guys hitting below .230 with RISP than hitting above .280.
The main culprit for the Twins is Torii Hunter. Torii has totaled 151 at bats with RISP so far this season, more than anyone else on the Twins or the Royals, and is hitting .225/.287/.411 in those situations.
In fact, Hunter's 151 at bats with RISP is the 2nd-highest total of any player in all of baseball, behind only Preston Wilson's 162 at bats. Of the 30 hitters with the most at bats with RISP this season, Hunter has the 2nd-worst batting average (.222) and 2nd-worst on-base percentage (.287), better than only Jose Hernandez's putrid .175 AVG and .262 OBP in 126 ABs.
The next time someone tries to use a hitter's RBI-total to convince you of something, just think of Torii Hunter. The guy has been absolutely dreadful with runners in scoring position, but he is on pace to knock in over 100 runs, simply because he is getting more chances to do so than anyone in baseball, other than Preston Wilson. Wilson, by the way, is hitting .333/.416/.660 with RISP and is on pace to drive in 150 runs (although much of that is Coors-aided, of course).
Oh, one final point about the misguided nature of looking at RBIs to judge a player...
Barry Bonds has a total of 65 at bats with runners in scoring position all year. He is hitting .354 with a .615 slugging percentage in those situations. He has also been walked a league-leading 57 times with RISP. Not coincidentally, Bonds is on pace to drive in "only" 106 runs this season.
In fact, Bonds has just 131 at bats with runners on base, scoring position or otherwise, the entire year. He is hitting .351 with a .679 slugging percentage in those situations. He also has 76 walks with men on base. His 131 ABs with runners on base rank 182nd among major league hitters. Yes, 182nd.
When you are so good that pitchers simply refuse to pitch to you in anything resembling an important situation, are RBIs really the best way to determine how good you are? I know I am probably preaching to the choir here, but maybe Joe Morgan will pick today to start reading blogs...
Simply because I haven't written about him for a little while, here is what Johan Santana has done in his last two starts:
For the year, Santana has now made 10 starts and is 5-2 with a 2.52 ERA. He also sports a beautiful 59/14 strikeout/walk ratio and is holding opponents to a .176 batting average.
Just remember, you heard it here first!
Link of the Day:
Tony Pierce - "Nothing in here is true"
Houston (Fernandez) +150 over Chicago (Clement)
Cleveland (Anderson) +155 over Minnesota (Radke)
Boston (Wakefield) -100 over Oakland (Lilly)
Toronto (Escobar) +130 over Seattle (Meche)
Total to date: + 1,455
W/L record: 202-205 (1-1 yesterday for +80.)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****