Submitted for your consideration
|Royals w/ Bases Empty||0.305||0.350||0.496|
|Royals w/ Runners On||0.227||0.346||0.364|
An offense which is one of the best in the American League with the bases empty through their first six games, but which turns into a below average offense when runners are on-base? Over the first week of the season, the American League OPS is better with runners on base than with the bases empty.
Obviously this team will not carry a 136 OPS gap through the rest of the season. Last year, the Royals OPSed 35 points better with men on base (.750 men on, .715 empty). The gap was 44 points in favor of men on base in 2009. The gap was 58 points in 2008. I'm suspecting all 3 of those years featured organizational talks of "moving runners" and "we're working to move runners".
So, who's carried the weight and who didn't in the first 6 games of this two-faced Royals offense?Excelling with men on base
Butler's performance with men on seems to be an acknowledgment that Butler is the best hitter on the team. Or a lot more feared than Kila Ka'aihue. Treanor and Getz are good bets to plummet towards Earth soon. Gordon could go either way but his OPS is boosted by a double.
And who isn't doing very well with Men on Base?
Mike Aviles seems to be trying his hardest to prove to that he can't have nice things with his triple crown of bad hitting, bad fielding and bad baserunning (if he gets on base, of course). Aviles could try to smash up a lockerroom with his bat to vent his frustration but I doubt he could do much damage with his bat. Escobar is not known for his bat. While Melky and Francoeur are having their offensive numbers boosted by their numbers with the bases empty. In the first week, Jeff Francoeur isn't just a leader of men, he's a leader in making outs with men on base and leaving men on base.
For reference, Betemit's OPS with men on is .775, Kila's OPS in that situation is .710 and Brayan Pena got his first 3 PAs with men on today and had one hit.
So, who's kicking ass with the bases empty?
Butler is excelling with the bases empty to this degree is a wonder of the early season. His OPS is over a hundred points higher with men on base. Gordon's OPS with men on and bases empty is the same, which you'd think isn't the case considering people who'd insist Gordon can't get the big hits. Francoeur and Melky being the best with the bases empty and worse with the bases occupied seems to have parallel meanings. Whenever Kila or Butler doesn't deliver, Francoeur will deliver and try to inspire Alcides Escobar to drive him home. Whenever Gordon, Butler, or Kila get on-base, Francoeur pretty much does nothing. As for Melky, when Mike Aviles or Chris Getz don't get on, Melky got on base. If either of them defied expectation and got on, Melky displays the power of a #2 guy by not moving runners.
Frenchy Fact: Has a career line of 288/326/476 leading off an inning
Frenchy Fact 2: Batting Jeff Francoeur lead off is like dividing by zero, you do it at the risk of destroying the universe. Francoeur has never hit leadoff in the majors. Nor has he hit second. It's not a sign of good roster construction if you could argue for Francoeur at leadoff/#2 on this 25 man roster. Jeff Francoeur is still a better #2 hitter than Jason Kendall. Jeff Francis is a better #2 hitter than Jason Kendall.
Frenchy Fact 3: Francoeur is surprisingly fast
How about the dudes who can't give us satisfaction with the bases empty?
Kila's line is unique since his only hit with a man on base was a walkoff home run. If you think Kila's hitting hasn't been good in the last week, it might be due to seeing him with the bases empty. Not sure if Dr. Seitzer would just call it a case of "pressingitis" (aka "make something happen-itis"). Chris Getz is paid for some reason not involving hitting a thrown baseball. Alcides Escobar was never billed as a hitter due to truth in advertising laws, but he'll probably wind up heating up soon (Alcides batting 7th seems unusually high, since he's pretty much the same general kind of hitter as Getz, and Pena would be more useful if you wanted to move a baserunner.
As for Pena, he's 4 for 10 with the bases empty. Mike Aviles is 3 for 15 with the bases empty with a double, triple, and home run, providing one of the more interesting week-long runs for a leadoff hitter. And Matt Treanor is 0 for 8 with the bases empty, because all he does is get hits with men on base.
But isn't it early? Yes it is. So this team should fire up the singles train real soon and reverse these numbers like they have in previous years. Although a few of these guys will see their bases empty numbers drop faster than the rise of their runners-on numbers.
What does this mean? That this team's offense was good overall in the first six games (top five in the AL!) but that it's built on lots of bases empty hitting. Which meant that the team scored runs but also left players on base and saw some new acquisitions not quite step up in critical situations. So obviously if this team can knock in runners, they will be surprisingly good. If this team fails repeatedly in crucial situations, then they will quickly revert to their usual form.
So far, this team has survived thanks to the superb relieving of pitchers who have minimal major league experience, and they can't hold every lead and wait for the offense to show up. We'll see what happens first, a decline in pitching or an offense that hits better with men on base.