On Wednesday night, the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Royals 4-2 and swept their three-game series — a series that took place in Toronto, Canada. The Royals have now played 84 games. On the road their record is 16-30 (a .348 winning percentage), at home their record is 27-11 (a .710 winning percentage).
Not too long ago I wrote a column comparing the Royals home and road records and tried to explain why the Royals are so much better when playing at home. The post centered on the difference in ballpark dimensions and I said it was pretty obvious that the Royals are better when playing in the stadium they were designed to play in.
So far, so good and I still believe ballpark dimensions have a lot to do with the Royals record, but I left out one factor — you.
The game will wear you down
If you’re a baseball fan, you might have already heard that baseball is a grind; 162 games over half a year is a lot of baseball and even professional players get worn down.
Last season, right before the All-Star break, Rusty Kuntz warned me that I was about to see some bad baseball and some players get hurt; that night Alex Gordon was injured and was taken off the field on a cart.
Players get tired and some of them really need those four days off during the All-Star break to rest and get ready for the second half of the season; if they’ve been to the All-Star Game before, some players will find a reason to avoid going — that’s how tired they are.
I’ve witnessed the All-Star Game up close and personal, and the players participating don’t get any rest. Their schedule is loaded with media appearances and they have friends and family who want to be with them, so the whole thing turns into a circus … a very tiring circus.
By the end of the season, smart players will switch to lighter bats and ease up on their workout schedule; they’ve got to find a way to get through those 162 games without getting hurt or playing poorly because they’re exhausted.
And if you’re skeptical, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you’ve never played 162 games in a season.
And what if you play more than 162 games?
For the last two seasons, the Royals have gone to the postseason and made it to the World Series. That means an extra month of baseball just when a player is dealing with an empty tank. Heck, I don’t do anything but watch baseball and I’m pretty ragged when October rolls around.
So how do the players do it?
Players feed off the fans’ energy
Last year I asked some of the Royals players how they were finding the energy to make it through the postseason and they all said the same thing: they were feeding off the fans’ energy. When you play in front of a packed house and the fans are living and dying with every pitch, you forget you’re tired.
And it works the same way during the regular season.
The first time I heard it I was doubtful, but too many players have told me they feed off the crowd’s energy to totally dismiss the idea. Players and coaches will tell you a team playing at home in front of a big, supportive crowd will have a lot more energy than a team playing on the road.
All the other differences between home and road games still matter — park dimensions, travel, time-zone changes — but according to the players, the home-town crowd also makes a difference.
The Kansas City Royals play better at home and one of the reasons is you.