Skip to content

The Royals still aren’t hitting home runs

May 11, 2014, 10:47 AM EDT

eric hosmer getty Getty Images

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Indians keeping Danny Salazar in starting rotation, moving Zach McAllister to bullpen

    Apr 18, 2015, 10:45 AM EDT

    Danny Salazar AP

    Danny Salazar was optioned to Triple-A after struggling during spring training, but he’ll now get an extended opportunity in Cleveland’s rotation.

  2. Josh Collmenter threw the first shutout of the 2015 MLB season last night

    Apr 18, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT

    Josh Collmenter AP

    It’s safe to say that nobody would have guessed this one.

  3. Settling the Score: Friday’s results

    Apr 18, 2015, 8:51 AM EDT

    Bartolo Colon AP

    A quick recap of a busy Friday around MLB, including the exploits of Mets right-hander Bartolo Colon.

  4. Josh Hamilton’s teammates say he’s in great shape and ready to play

    Apr 18, 2015, 7:17 AM EDT

    Josh Hamilton Josh Hamilton

    There are, increasingly, two Angels camps when it comes to the Josh Hamilton matter: Arte Moreno and everybody else.

  5. Josh Hamilton’s California house is for sale

    Apr 18, 2015, 6:49 AM EDT

    Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 6.46.17 AM

    When Angels owner Arte Moreno was asked if Josh Hamilton would ever play for the Angels again, he said “I will not say that.” With this listing, perhaps Hamilton is saying so himself.

  6. Ruben Amaro on Andy Oliver’s decision to elect free agency: “I think it was a very foolish move on his part, but that’s OK.”

    Apr 17, 2015, 11:30 PM EDT

    Andy Oliver Andy Oliver

    Ruben Amaro seems a little upset that Andy Oliver didn’t want to start the season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

  7. Mets will bring back Rafael Montero as a starting pitcher near the end of April

    Apr 17, 2015, 10:50 PM EDT

    Rafael Montero Rafael Montero

    The Mets will be stretching out Rafael Montero as a starter at Triple-A Las Vegas before bringing him back to the majors for a spot start against the Marlins.

  8. Mike Trout hit his 100th career home run to become the youngest member of the 100 HR/100 SB club

    Apr 17, 2015, 9:58 PM EDT

    Mike Trout Mike Trout

    Mike Trout became the youngest to join the 100/100 club with a two-run home run on Friday night.

  9. Make that two: Alex Rodriguez hits second homer of the night, giving him 658 for his career

    Apr 17, 2015, 9:17 PM EDT

    Alex Rodriguez Alex Rodriguez

    Alex Rodriguez has two home runs on Friday night, leaving him two round-trippers shy of tying Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time home run leaderboard.

  10. Video: Matt Carpenter leaps over Brayan Pena to score on a sacrifice fly

    Apr 17, 2015, 9:11 PM EDT

    Matt Carpenter Matt Carpenter

    Matt Carpenter made a cool maneuver to score the tying run in the bottom of the first against the Reds on Friday night.

  11. Ubaldo Jimenez was ejected, wrongfully, for hitting Pablo Sandoval with a pitch

    Apr 17, 2015, 8:45 PM EDT

    Ubaldo Jimenez Getty Images

    Neither side was warned, but Ubaldo Jimenez was ejected for hitting Pablo Sandoval with a pitch on Friday evening.

  12. Alex Rodriguez hit his 657th career home run

    Apr 17, 2015, 7:50 PM EDT

    a-rod reuters yankees Reuters

    A-Rod is now three home runs away from tying Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time home run leaderboard.

  13. The Tigers are 9-1. Does that mean anything?

    Apr 17, 2015, 7:15 PM EDT

    Jose Iglesias, Nick Castellanos, Ian Kinsler, Andrew Romine Jose Iglesias, Nick Castellanos, Ian Kinsler, Andrew Romine

    Since 2000, how often have teams that started 9-1 went on to have playoff success?

  14. Mark Buehrle is considering retiring after the 2015 season

    Apr 17, 2015, 6:20 PM EDT

    Mark Buehrle Mark Buehrle

    Mark Buehrle, baseball’s timeless left-hander, is reportedly considering retiring after the season.

  15. Mike Scioscia is concerned that Josh Hamilton is not “getting the help he needs”

    Apr 17, 2015, 5:28 PM EDT

    josh hamilton angels getty Getty Images

    Well, he’s certainly not getting the support of the Los Angeles Angels.

  16. Twins put Brian Duensing on disabled list, call up Caleb Thielbar

    Apr 17, 2015, 4:16 PM EDT

    Brian Duensing Getty Getty Images

    Duensing had an ugly outing Thursday in which he turned a blowout into a save situation for closer Glen Perkins.

  17. Jose Reyes has a cracked rib, will try to avoid disabled list

    Apr 17, 2015, 3:41 PM EDT

    jose reyes getty Getty Images

    Ryan Goins, who was called up from Triple-A, is expected to be Reyes’ primary fill-in at shortstop.

  18. Mets demote Rafael Montero to Triple-A

    Apr 17, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT

    Rafael Montero AP

    And call up infielder Danny Muno.

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. D. Span (3241)
  2. D. Salazar (3208)
  3. B. Gardner (3184)
  4. D. Mesoraco (3133)
  5. C. Gomez (3037)