The Royals open their 2017 home schedule today against the Athletics, a welcome sight for fans that have waited all winter to see their boys in blue. Not only have fans showered the Royals with love at the K, the Royals have returned the favor with a terrific record at home over the last three seasons.
Over the last four years, the Royals have won 56.8% of their games at home. The Orioles, Blue Jays, and Indians are the only American League teams to win more home games in that span, with the average MLB team winning just 53% of the time at home.
The Royals have especially fed off large crowds at the K, as they should expect starting with the home opener today. There was once a narrative the Royals couldn’t handle the pressure of winning in front of large crowds at Kauffman Stadium. When playing at home in front of crowds over 30,000, the Royals went just 8-18 between 2013 and 2014 during the regular season.
In the fall of 2014, however, something seemed to click. The Royals went on an amazing run in which they won six of eight games at home in front of raucous sellout crowds at Kauffman Stadium. The next season, when the Royals set a franchise attendance record, the Royals went 34-26 in front of home crowds over 30,000, a .567 winning percentage, then winning seven of eight at home in the post-season. In 2016, they did even better, winning 62% of such games, going 33-20.
Who has benefited most from home cooking? Here are all of the Royals players with at least 200 plate appearances from 2013-2016. The first column is the improvement (or decline) between the player's home and road OPS. For example Alcides Escobar hits 6% better at home than on the road. The next three columns are the percentage of home runs, walks, and strikeouts that player has at home.
|Player||OPS Home Diff||Home HR%||Home BB%||Home K%|
Two players with very different skillsets seem to be tailor made for Kauffman Stadium. Billy Butler took advantage of Kauffman Stadium with its deep alleys to hit loads of doubles. "Country Breakfast" hit 36 of his 59 doubles as a Royal over that time in the confines of Kauffman Stadium. Paulo Orlando, a much different player, also took advantage of the deep alleys by stretching hits into his trademark triple. Seven of his ten career triples have come at home.
You might expect the Royals to have more of a home run split, considering how much they have talked about how Kauffman suppresses their home runs. The only hitters that would have a big beef with Kauffman Stadium would be the third basemen - Mike Moustakas and Cheslor Cuthbert. For all the talk of how Eric Hosmer "could" hit many more home runs in an another stadium, he has only hit slightly more home runs on the road than in Kansas City.
Next, let's look at the pitchers with at leat 100 innings pitched from 2013-2016 for the Royals. The first column is the difference in ERA between the home and road (the lower the better, so -10% would mean the pitcher is 10% better at home). The second column is how much better the opponent's OPS is at Kauffman Stadium for that pitcher, and the third is the difference in home run rate (again, a negative number indicates the pitcher is better at home). The final column is the difference in strikeout rate, with a higher number meaning the pitcher gets more strikeouts at home (so 10% would mean the pitcher is 10% better at home).
|Player||ERA Diff||OPS Diff||HR Diff||K Diff|
Kauffman Stadium does seem to suppress home runs for Royals pitchers. As a team, they have given up just 45% of their home runs in Kansas City over 2013-2016. Kauffman was especially friendly for Yordano Ventura, Dillon Gee, and Luke Hochevar. Although some pitchers may have enjoyed slightly better strikeout rates, overall Royals pitchers had nearly identical home and road strikeout and walk numbers over the last four seasons.
The Royals have recently given their fans enough memories to last a lifetime. But the good times at home don't have to end quite yet. With Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, and Salvador Perez still in the lineup, Royals fans can come out and enjoy more good times at the K this year.