Judging the Royals

What’s happened to the Royals’ running game?

The Royals’ Lorenzo Cain (right) slid into a tag by Seattle Mariners second baseman while attempting to steal second in the seventh inning May 8 in Seattle.
The Royals’ Lorenzo Cain (right) slid into a tag by Seattle Mariners second baseman while attempting to steal second in the seventh inning May 8 in Seattle. The Associated Press

Last season, the Royals stole 153 bases. This season, after 36 games, they have stolen 23. So why haven’t the Royals been running as much?

When you lead the league in steals, people take notice and do what they have to do stop you. They deliver the ball to home plate more quickly, they attempt more pickoffs, they hold the ball in the set position and when they finally throw the ball to home plate, they tend to throw more fastballs.

But everything a pitcher does to stop a runner from stealing a base helps the guy at the plate. The Royals no longer lead the league in stolen bases, but now they lead the league in batting average and they’re second in runs scored. Distracted pitchers, throwing fastballs, are giving Royals hitters pitches to hit.

So while the Royals might be stealing fewer bases, the threat of the stolen base is still helping their offense.

And that offense has changed

In Eric Hosmer’s first season he stole 11 bases, in his second it was 16 and in his third season it was once again 11. But in his fourth season, 2014, his stolen base total was four. So what happened?

The Royals want power out of Hosmer and to hit with power a hitter needs his legs underneath him. That translates into fewer stolen base attempts and so far this season Hosmer has two.

As the Royals have become a better hitting team, they need to steal bases less often. When the first five guys in your lineup are hitting over .300 and the first seven guys in your lineup are over .280, you take fewer chances in the bases.

And the guys in the lineup have changed: Nori Aoki is gone and if Jarrod Dyson isn’t in the starting lineup, you have two pure base stealers left, Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain. There are other guys who can steal a bag in the right circumstances, but if the pitcher delivers the ball in 1.3 second or less — and tonight’s starter, C.C. Sabathia, does — you don’t have a lot of guys who can run successfully.

Plus if you have Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Kendrys Morales, Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez coming to the plate, you feel less need to try.

And if the pitchers around the league decide to quit worrying about the Kansas City runners and focus their attention on the Kansas City batters, don’t be surprised if the Royals start stealing more bases again.

Mike Jirschele’s postseason haircut

Now here’s a World Series story you may not have heard before: The day after the Series ended, Royals third-base coach Mike Jirschele went to get a haircut. And while he was getting that haircut, the young woman doing the cutting asked Jirschele whether he had seen game seven of the World Series. Mike said he had watched it.

The stylist then said that the Royals third-base coach should have sent Alex Gordon.

Jirschele told her Gordon would have been out by 30 feet.

When asked whether Jirschele told the young woman who he was, he said no. And if a woman was cutting my hair with sharp implements and complaining about a decision I had made, I don’t think I would have admitted who I was, either.