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Kansas City Royals Baserunning Under Dayton Moore: Generally Bad

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The Royals have not been a good baserunning team under Dayton Moore's leadership. Granted, they haven't been a good hitting, pitching, or fielding team either.

Baseball Prospectus keeps a pretty good overall baserunning stat called EQBRR. EQBRR keeps track of all the various ways runners can advance (steals, on balls in play, etc) and compares a player or team to the league average. Here's how the Royals rank in MLB the last four seasons:

EQBRR Rank
2010 -18.3 30th
2009 -8.8 23rd
2008 -3.7 16th
2007 -2.4 18th

 

As you can see, there's been a noticeable decline in the team's baserunning ability. I don't think this is because Moore is a bad evaluator of baserunning skill or anything like that. At least not directly. As we know, over the last four or five years, we've seen the Royals go through a couple mini-rebuilding attempts, while also kinda sorta "going for it" at some level. Generally speaking, the Royals, offensively, have also gotten older. Their weighted age this season was 28.9, up from 27.6 in 2009 and 28.0 in 2008.

While steals are only a part of the baserunning picture, the Royals haven't been very good at stealing bases:

Steals AL Rank Caught Steals Success %
2010 115 6th 50 69.6%
2009 88 9th 29 75%
2008 79 11th 38 67.5%
2007 78 11th 44 64%

 

Thanks to the addition of Scotty Pods, the Royals certainly upped their steals total in 2010. However, the team also got caught stealing quite a bit, so the overall impact was muted.

Another issue here is the league environment. As more and more teams embrace a "speed & defense" philosophy in response to a perceived New Era in baseball (which is a self-fulfilling prophesy, but anyway...) the team's relative standing is harder to improve.

With regards to 2010, who is to blame for the team's horrific baserunning performance?

The bottom five are: Alex Gordon (-5.3), Mitch Maier (-3.50 [NOOOOOOOOOO]), Billy Butler (-3.4), Alberto Callaspo (-3.1) and Wilson Betemit (-2.6). (And yes, Guillen is right around the corner here.)

The larger problem for the Royals, potentially, was likely the fact that the team truly lacked many good baserunners. The team only had a handful of players post positive numbers. Getz led the team with a 2.2 number, followed by Yuni (1.1) and Jai Miller at 0.8. That's about it, followed by a huge chunk of guys who are right around zero. In that situation, there's no one really making up for the bad baserunners on the team.

The wider question remains why the Royals have typically been bad under Moore. I think there might be a philosophical or vision issue at play. I'm sure, for example, that Moore thinks that Scotty Pods is a great baserunner, when the numbers suggests he's average. There have also been multiple instances of Moore attempting to bring in power bats (Jacobs, Ankiel, Olivo, etc) wherein Moore is clearly sacrificing speed in pursuit of something else. I also think that part of the blame lies with previous managers and coaches, who have often encouraged and preached aggressiveness on the basepaths. The early days of Hillman, we remember, were fraught with inopportune attempts to fashion a Japanese style approach onto a roster that couldn't play that way.

It is important to point out that baserunning is only a small component of a team's offensive profile. The team's horrible performance in 2010, according to EQBRR, cost the Royals 18 runs. That's lame, but it's 18 runs. If the Royals ever get good, those 18 runs could be very important, but in 2010, they really weren't.