May 11, 2014, 10:47 AM EDT
The Kansas City Royals have hit 14 home runs in their first 36 games this year. That is not just the worst home run rate in baseball by far in 2014, it’s among the worst in recent baseball history. Here, over the last 25 years, are the fewest home runs hit by teams in the first 36 games:
2012 Padres, 13 homers
– Padres finished 14th in the National League with 121 home runs and went 76-82.
2014 Royals, 14 homers
– The Royals did not hit a home run in their first seven games. They have not hit one in their last four games either.
1992 Red Sox, 14 homers
– Red Sox went 73-89 and hit just 84 home runs all year, their lowest total INCLUDING STRIKE SEASONS since 1946.
1991 Cardinals, 15 homers
– Cardinals were a speed team for Joe Torre and went 84-78. But they hit 68 homers all year, far and a way the lowest total in baseball. Todd Zeile led the team with 11 home runs. As in ELEVEN home runs.
1991 Astros, 15 homers
– Houston lost 97 games that year and hit just 79 homers, led by a young Jeff Bagwell, who hit 15. The Astros were playing in that home-run crushing Astrodome.
1989 Cardinals, 16 homers
– Whitey Herzog’s Cardinals were always near or at the bottom of the league in home runs, but they found ways to win by getting-on-base and using speed. They hit 73 this season but won 86 games.
1994 Pirates, 16 homers
– Strike season Pirates went 53-61. Brian Hunter led the Pirates with 11 home runs in that same year the Ken Griffey and Matt Williams were on pace to challenge Roger Maris’ home run record.
1993 Marlins, 16 homers
– Expansion Marlins lost 98 games and hit league-worst 98 homers, led by Orestes Destrade with 20.
1989 Dodgers, 16 homers
– Defending World Champions had been power-challenged even in their championship season but they hit just 89 homers in 1989, 10 fewer than year before, and went 77-83.
This is not to say that home runs are everything in offense or even close to everything. You can win without hitting a lot of home runs. Just one of many examples: The Giants won the World Series in 2012 despite hitting the fewest home runs in baseball. But that Giants team found other ways to score runs — they were fourth in the league in on-base percentage, first in triples, third in hits — and they had five starters who made 30-plus starts.
The Royals show little sign so far of being able to make up for their near-historic lack of power. They have an everyday third baseman hitting .147, none of their regulars has even a .360 on-base percentage, and while they are getting some good pitching — especially from 23-year-old phenomenon Yordano Ventura — there just isn’t enough pitching in all the world to make up for that little offense.
A friend of mine, Lee Judge, writes a column for the Kansas City Star called “Judging the Royals.” In his latest installment, he goes into some detail about the importance of productive outs — the headline is “How making outs can help you win.” With all due respect to Lee, who has a great love and appreciation of the game, I have been straining all morning to think of a theme I disagree with more — maybe if he had written, “More intentional walks, please!” or “Why I want clutch hitters instead of good hitters.”
Making outs cannot help you win. Ever. If you make 27 first-class outs in a game — the kind that would score runners from third or move runners over — you have just become history as the 24th team to be on the wrong end of the perfect game. The only possible way you can score a run is by NOT making an out. This is so fundamental and yet some teams — and I’ve seen this with the Royals in particular for a long time — seem to utterly miss this point. They seem to think that they can score enough runs to win by maximizing the value of their outs, by doing little things that don’t show up in the box score (or only show up in the “sacrifice” part of the box score), by being smarter and hitting to the right side of the infield and lifting fly balls with a man on third.
No. You cannot score enough runs just doing that stuff. You have to actually get runners on base. You have to string together non-outs. And as crude as it may sound, you have to actually hit the ball out of the ballpark now and again. On a basic level, the Royals must understand this, but you never quite feel sure that they do. They always give the impression that if only they could play a little bit smarter … but all the smarts at MIT, NASA and the collected wisdom of Casey Stengel combined cannot change the basic formula of scoring runs: Get on base. Get around the bases.
Eric Hosmer, the Royals large and powerful first baseman, has one home run this year. Alex Gordon, the Royals best player for a while now, has a .300 on-base percentage and one home run this season. Billy Butler, the Royals designated hitter for the last six years, has a .298 on-base percentage and one home run this season. You can’t find enough good outs to make up for that.
I like to think of good outs as items you sell at below cost. If you own a store, it might not be a terrible thing to sell a couple of things below cost — say, the new Coldplay CD and charcoal — in order to get people into your store. Productive outs are better than unproductive ones. But if you sell too many things below cost, you lose money and go out of business, no matter how many people come to your store. The Royals get 27 outs just like every other team. Giving away too many of those outs and hitting many fewer home runs than any other team is a pretty good formula for another doomed season.
Aug 20, 2014, 8:43 PM EDT
The Angels just got dealt a potentially-major blow. Garrett Richards — who has suddenly developed into an ace this season at age 26 — was taken off on a stretcher Wednesday evening at Boston’s Fenway Park after suffering what looked to be a very serious right knee injury in the bottom of the second inning of his start against the host Red Sox.
Aug 20, 2014, 8:15 PM EDT
Watch as Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton pulls off a sensational double play Wednesday in St. Louis …
Aug 20, 2014, 7:39 PM EDT
A sudden torrential downpour Tuesday night in Chicago — and complications with applying the tarp — left Wrigley Field unplayable even after four hours of maintenance by the grounds crew, so the Cubs were awarded a 2-0 victory over the visiting Giants because that was the score when was play was halted after the top of the fifth inning. The Giants protested, and it actually worked …
Aug 20, 2014, 7:14 PM EDT
Padres center fielder Cameron Maybin has officially been reinstated from his 25-game amphetamine suspension.
Aug 20, 2014, 6:21 PM EDT
Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka was diagnosed in early July with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow — the injury that almost always leads to Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery — but he’s trying the rest and rehab route first and it’s actually going pretty smoothly so far.
Aug 20, 2014, 5:17 PM EDT
Wil Myers is off the disabled list after missing nearly three months with a fractured right wrist and the reigning Rookie of the Year winner is back in the Rays’ lineup.
Aug 20, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT
Over the weekend Carlos Beltran was cleared to play the outfield for the first time since May, but now his season-long elbow problems have returned and the 37-year-old has been scratched from the Yankees’ lineup.
Aug 20, 2014, 4:20 PM EDT
Swisher turns 34 years old in November and has two seasons remaining on his contract, at $15 million per year.
Aug 20, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
He’s going to have his pick of landing spots, and Boston is just one of a zillion teams who would like him.
Aug 20, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT
Gerrit Cole’s lengthy minor-league rehab assignment is over and the Pirates have activated the former No. 1 overall pick from the disabled list for tonight’s start against the Braves.
Aug 20, 2014, 2:58 PM EDT
Joe Posnanski says the Royals’ plan is finally falling into place and has their fans believing they can get back to the glory days of the 1970s.
Aug 20, 2014, 2:50 PM EDT
Derek Holland’s minor-league rehab assignment has been a mixed bag, but after allowing four runs in his latest outing the Rangers left-hander proclaimed himself ready to rejoin the rotation.
Aug 20, 2014, 2:44 PM EDT
A nice gesture and some good customer service by the Cubs.
Aug 20, 2014, 1:31 PM EDT
Jenna and I talk about the tarp problem at Wrigley Field last night
Aug 20, 2014, 1:03 PM EDT
A long and rich tradition of giving up expensive things for a jersey number continues.
Aug 20, 2014, 12:48 PM EDT
No biggie, just two 42-year-old should-be Hall of Famers with a combined 20 All-Star game appearances and 1,023 career homers running into each other in the Des Moines, Iowa airport.
Aug 20, 2014, 12:16 PM EDT
When the Rockies declined their $4.25 million option on Rafael Betancourt and re-signed him to a minor-league deal the assumption was that he wouldn’t be a factor this season following Tommy John elbow surgery last August.
Aug 20, 2014, 11:51 AM EDT
Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez underwent season-ending knee surgery Monday and now there’s some doubt whether he’ll be fully recovered for the beginning of spring training.
Aug 20, 2014, 11:19 AM EDT
Sanchez’s rehab assignment was previously put on hold when he took a foul ball off the mask two weeks ago and that same thing happened Saturday at Triple-A.
Aug 20, 2014, 10:47 AM EDT
Milwaukee had already shut down Jim Henderson for the season with shoulder problems and now the Brewers announced that the 31-year-old reliever will undergo a “clean up” surgery on his labrum and rotator cuff.
- Garrett Richards suffers ugly left knee injury 4
- Giants win protest, will complete rain-halted game at Wrigley Field on Thursday afternoon 12
- Royals might actually know what they are doing 23
- Curt Schilling reveals that he was diagnosed with mouth cancer, blames smokeless tobacco 70
- Clown shoes in Chicago: the Cubs grounds crew couldn’t get the tarp on the field 58
- And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights 69
- Tony La Russa denies that Kirk Gibson’s job is safe 22
- Pirates activate Andrew McCutchen from the disabled list 2
- Mike Matheny addresses turmoil in Ferguson: “It’s a sad situation. It’s a tough situation for our city” (127)
- Here’s today’s dose of barfy Derek Jeter sentiment (82)
- Let’s speed up the pace of play. But let’s not be gimmicky about it. Let’s just enforce the rules. (74)
- Curt Schilling reveals that he was diagnosed with mouth cancer, blames smokeless tobacco (70)
- And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights (69)