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Royals Running in Place

So much that we do in life ends up being for naught. Despite our efforts, be they focused or distracted, dedicated or done lazily, there's an overriding pointlessness to so much of our actions. This isn't necessarily bad, as having every single action or decision we take be incredibly meaningful would be an awful way to live. Nevertheless, it is depressing to think of all the actions, all the work, that really added up to nothing, changed nothing, improved nothing.

And saying so to some means nothing...

Sorta like the Royals on the basepaths this season. All that work, all that energy, all that hustle has generated nothing. According to Fangraphs baserunning numbers, the Royals are essentially at dead zero (0.1) in terms of value added. In this case, the issue isn't so much futility as it is the real downsides to aggression.

As you likely hear every time you watch the Royals play, they lead the American League in stolen bases. (Although actually, this isn't entirely the case, as they are currently tied with the Yankees.) The Royals have 124 steals this season, well above the AL average of 90.

Our Royals have a success rate of 72% on the bases, which isn't fantastic, but is good enough that the overall impact is positive. [Sound of record scratching]

Only, that isn't quite the entire story, as Royal baserunners have also been picked off 29 times. It's interesting that Mike Aviles was remembered as a horrible baserunner for being picked off 5 times, but that beloved speed merchant Chris Getz found the same fate five times as well. While in some cases a pickoff may be just a random event that is unrelated to the runner attempting to initiate the stolen base process, I think that it's insane that they aren't included in CS totals.

When you toss in those 29 pickoffs, the team's stolen base success rate drops down to 62%. Not really helpful. The general rule of thumb is that you need to be successful 66% of the time to gain a positive impact, and there is some argument that in a lower run environment, baserunners are actually more valuable (because they are more scarce) so that break-even point is closer to 70%. The Royals simply aren't helping themselves. (More data after the jump)


Steals Steals %
April 33 89%
May 18 67%
June 29 73%
July 25 66%
August 18 64%


The monthly totals give a nice satellite view of what happened once the rest of the American League found out the Royals were running all the time. When you factor in the pickoffs, you can also see the Royals dipping into counter-productive territory.

Of course, there's more to baserunning than steals, which is also reflected in the Royals 0.1 baserunning total at FG. The lesson, as always, is that outs matter. Of course, this is the organization's long standing blindspot, a lack of appreciation for the impact of outs on offense.

Aggression is good, steals are fun, advancing on random events is cool, but in the end, the outs matter. Make too many outs and the payoff isn't large. Or, in this case, effectual.