Walk This Way

I can recall the halcyon days when a newly appointed General Manager arrived and discussed on base percentage as a stat he used when he evaluated players. Good times were ahead.

The immediate results weren't encouraging.

But in the previous two seasons, the Royals enjoyed a bounce in OBP. It was a needed change and one that brought the Royals some offensive success. The club hasn't been as successful this season, and OBP has taken a tumble. We are again in the lower regions of the league when it comes to reaching base.

Of course, one way to elevate on-base percentage is to take a walk. (It's not the only way, but it's one way.) However, the Royals have always seemed to struggle in this category. And their on-base percentage has suffered.

We are now six years into the tenure of Dayton Moore. (#Year6!) It seems like a good time to check the progress. What follows is a look at the evolution of the Royals walk rate and how it relates to on-base percentage. The players Moore acquired and the success they have had in reaching base.

Join me on our adventure...


Esteban German 405 14.8% 10.6% 71%
David DeJesus* 703 11.8% 9.1% 74%
Mark Teahen* 608 20.9% 9.1% 68%
John Buck 399 23.1% 9.0% 61%
League Average 16.8% 8.5% 71%
Billy Butler 360 15.3% 7.5% 74%
Alex Gordon* 601 22.8% 6.8% 65%
Emil Brown 397 17.9% 6.1% 74%
Mark Grudzielanek 486 12.4% 4.7% 80%
Ross Gload* 346 11.3% 4.6% 82%
Tony Pena 536 14.6% 1.9% 81%
Team Total 6140 17.4% 7.0% 72%

The Royals had a plethora of players who qualified and had four who finished over league average. The notables from this season are both Billy Butler and Alex Gordon who finished below league average as a tandem. That's the only time that will happen over the next six seasons. Also of note is every one of those players is an Allard Baird acquisition. Except for the bottom two: Ross Gload and Tony Pena, Jr. Pena's 1.7 percent walk rate is among the lowest in Royals history.

The Royals team OBP was .322. The second worst in the AL.


Age PA SO% BB% IP%
Alex Gordon* 24 571 21.0% 11.6% 63%
John Buck 27 418 23.0% 9.1% 64%
League Average 17.0% 8.6% 70%
David DeJesus* 28 577 12.3% 8.0% 76%
Mark Teahen* 26 623 21.0% 7.4% 69%
Billy Butler 22 478 11.9% 6.9% 79%
Ross Gload* 32 418 9.3% 5.5% 83%
Mark Grudzielanek 38 360 11.4% 5.3% 80%
Mike Aviles 27 441 13.2% 4.1% 80%
Jose Guillen 32 633 16.8% 3.6% 75%
Team Total 28.0 6118 16.4% 6.4% 74%

Mostly the same crew from the previous year, but Gordon shows some plate discipline and moves to the head of the pack. Hidden because he didn't get the required plate appearances is Alberto Callaspo who was acquired by Moore for Billy Buckner. He finished with an 8.1 percent walk rate, just a shade below league average. Dayton Moore signee Jose Guillen didn't make his millions by looking at pitches. He did it the old fashioned way: Suspicious packages and a desperate GM. Two seasons in, a limited number of Moore players and two last place finishes in walk rate. I smell a trend.

The Royals shed two hundredths of a point off their collective OBP. Their team .320 OBP was third worst in the league.


Age PA SO% BB% IP%
Mitch Maier* 27 397 19.1% 10.8% 67%
League Average 17.3% 8.7% 70%
Billy Butler 23 672 15.3% 8.6% 73%
Mike Jacobs* 28 478 27.6% 8.6% 59%
Alberto Callaspo# 26 634 8.0% 8.2% 82%
David DeJesus* 29 627 13.9% 8.1% 74%
Mark Teahen* 27 571 21.5% 6.5% 68%
Willie Bloomquist 31 468 15.6% 5.8% 77%
Miguel Olivo 30 416 30.3% 4.6% 58%
Team Total 27.8 6103 17.9% 7.5% 71%

Moore signee Coco Crisp was doing good work at the leadoff spot with a 13.5 percent walk rate before hitting the DL. Gordon was in the process of being injured and getting jerked around despite his 11.1 percent walk rate. So that left only Mitch Maier with enough plate appearances to qualify for this list as an above average walker.

This is the first season Moore started turning over the lineup to what we be a majority of his guys. They contributed like Willie Bloomquist and Miguel Olivo who swung early and often. Bloomquist was more of an Alcides Escobar type who was able to get the bat on his pitch more often than not. His 77 percent in play rate (a plate appearance that resulted in a ball picked up by a fielder) was second best on the club behind the contact artist that was Callaspo. Olivo was just awful. I'm surprised that Mike Jacobs was barely below league average.

It's not surprising that the Royals lost another couple of points off their OBP, falling to .318. Second worst in the league.


Age PA SO% BB% IP%
Billy Butler 24 678 11.5% 10.2% 75%
Mitch Maier* 28 421 16.2% 9.7% 72%
David DeJesus* 30 394 11.9% 8.6% 76%
League Average 17.7% 8.5% 70%
Jason Kendall 36 490 9.2% 7.6% 81%
Scott Podsednik* 34 435 13.1% 6.7% 77%
Jose Guillen 34 438 19.2% 6.2% 69%
Alberto Callaspo# 27 373 7.8% 5.1% 85%
Mike Aviles 29 448 10.9% 4.5% 83%
Yuniesky Betancourt 28 588 10.9% 3.9% 82%
Team Total 28.8 6209 14.6% 7.6% 75%

This is striking to me. Nine guys accumulated enough plate appearances. Five of them were picked up by Moore. All five of them finished with below average walk rates. Meanwhile, three of the four Baird holdovers finished with an above average walk rate.

To be fair, Moore acquisitions Wilson Betemit and Gregor Blanco were finished with above average rates. If he hadn't spent part of the season on the DL and in the minors learning to play left, Gordon would have led the team at 12.1 percent.

Despite this, the Royals team OBP explodes to .331. That was the eighth best mark in the league and above average for the first time since Moore took charge. But not much of that had to do with walks. Their collective walk rate rose just a tenth of a percent from 2009 to 2010 (from 7.5 percent to 7.6 percent.) The improvement came in the form of batting average. Their .274 team average was second highest in the AL.


Age PA SO% BB% IP%
Billy Butler 25 673 14.1% 9.8% 73%
Alex Gordon* 27 690 20.1% 9.7% 66%
League Average 18.2% 8.1% 70%
Chris Getz* 27 429 10.5% 7.0% 79%
Eric Hosmer* 21 563 14.6% 6.0% 76%
Mike Moustakas* 22 365 14.0% 6.0% 78%
Jeff Francoeur 27 656 18.8% 5.6% 71%
Melky Cabrera# 26 706 13.3% 5.0% 78%
Alcides Escobar 24 598 12.2% 4.2% 79%
Team Total 25.8 6267 16.1% 7.1% 73%

Oh noes... Baird guys on one side. Moore guys on the other.

To be fair, I believe that plate discipline is a skill that can be learned. The 2011 team was the youngest in the league, and it was reflected in the walk rate. But on the positive side, this group made some serious contact. Their 73 percent in play rate was the best in baseball. Read that again: They were the best team at making contact and putting the ball in play in 2011. Impressive.

Team OBP takes a slight hit, down to .329, but with offense down across the league, it's the fifth best mark in the AL.


Age PA SO% BB% IP%
Alex Gordon* 28 613 19.3% 9.8% 69%
Eric Hosmer* 22 526 15.8% 9.1% 72%
Jarrod Dyson* 27 301 16.0% 8.6% 74%
Billy Butler 26 569 16.2% 8.3% 70%
League Average 19.2% 7.9% 69%
Jeff Francoeur 28 505 19.6% 6.1% 71%
Mike Moustakas* 23 521 19.4% 6.1% 70%
Alcides Escobar 25 549 15.1% 4.4% 77%
Team Total 26.2 5163 16.6% 6.6% 74%

My hypothesis of young players learning the intricacies of the strike zone looks good (although incomplete) with improvements by Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar. Yes, however slight, there has been improvement. That's the good news. Now for the bad: The team walk rate of 6.6 percent is on pace to be the second lowest since Moore arrived in Kansas City, rivaling only the 6.4 percent his team posted in 2008. Yet, their team in play rate has gone up. It's currently at 74 percent. That's the best in baseball again. Second place belongs to the Twins at 71 percent. A huge margin.

But team OBP is down to .319 as their batting average has tumbled.

Let's sum this up with one more table. One that illustrates how walk rate, batting average, on base percentage and in play rate have evolved on GMDM's watch.

2007 .261 .322 7.0% 72%
2008 .269 .320 6.4% 74%
2009 .259 .318 7.5% 71%
2010 .274 .331 7.6% 75%
2011 .275 .329 7.1% 73%
2012 .267 .319 6.6% 74%

So does Moore value OBP? I'm sure he understands it's importance. Yet he (more likely the organization) is going about it the wrong way. They look to be emphasizing contact at the expense of working the count. The result is the Royals OBP is highly reliant on batting average which we know tends to fluctuate on a number of factors that are out of the batter's control. A below average walk rate translates to a below average on base percentage when those balls in play don't fall between a fielder.

One stat that caught my eye... For the last three seasons, the Royals have led the majors in the rate of putting the ball in play. That's what happens when a team can't hit home runs and refuses to take a walk.

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