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. It’s official: Brandon Finnegan the first to play in two World Series in one year

    Oct 24, 2014, 11:02 PM EDT

    Brandon Finnegan Brandon Finnegan

    Brandon Finnegan achieved a rather rare feat with his first appearance of the World Series in Game 3 on Friday night against the Giants.

  2. Cole Hamels updating his 20-team no-trade list

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:55 PM EDT

    Cole Hamels Cole Hamels

    Cole Hamels is updating his 20-team no-trade list, which will dictate if and how the Phillies shop him over the off-season.

  3. Giants strike back with two runs, trail 3-2 going into the seventh

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:22 PM EDT

    Michael Morse Michael Morse

    The Giants fought back in the bottom of the sixth inning with two runs, making it a one-run game again. The Royals lead 3-2 heading into the seventh inning.

  4. Royals add on, lead Giants 3-0 going into the bottom of the sixth inning

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT

    Alex Gordon Alex Gordon

    The Royals extended their lead over the Giants to 3-0 thanks to an Alex Gordon RBI double and an Eric Hosmer RBI single in the top of the sixth inning of Game 3 of the World Series.

  5. Twins expected to contact Joe Maddon about managerial vacancy

    Oct 24, 2014, 9:50 PM EDT

    Joe Maddon Joe Maddon

    The Twins are expected to consider free agent manager Joe Maddon for their managerial vacancy.

  6. Through three innings of World Series Game 3, Royals lead Giants 1-0

    Oct 24, 2014, 9:08 PM EDT

    Jeremy Guthrie Jeremy Guthrie

    The Royals have a narrow lead through the first three innings of Game 3 of the World Series against the Giants.

  7. Victor Martinez expected to pursue a four-year deal

    Oct 24, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT

    Victor Martinez Victor Martinez

    Victor Martinez is going to use his monster 2014 season to attempt to get a four-year deal over the off-season.

  8. Bruce Bochy, Dave Righetti have discussed using Madison Bumgarner on short rest if Giants lose Game 3

    Oct 24, 2014, 8:05 PM EDT

    Madison Bumgarner Madison Bumgarner

    The Giants have kicked around the idea of using Madison Bumgarner on short rest if they lose Game 3 of the World Series against the Royals.

  9. Kevin Towers expected to join Reds after being fired as Diamondbacks GM

    Oct 24, 2014, 7:43 PM EDT

    Kevin Towers AP

    No word yet on the exact role Towers would fill in Cincinnati.

  10. Paul Konerko, Jimmy Rollins named co-winners of the Roberto Clemente Award

    Oct 24, 2014, 7:20 PM EDT

    Paul Konerko Getty Images

    Paul Konerko and Jimmy Rollins are your co-winners of the Roberto Clemente Award.

  11. The greatest trick this Royals bullpen ever pulled …

    Oct 24, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT

    Greg Holland Greg Holland

    The Royals bullpen is really good. So good, in fact, that you can’t really use it incorrectly, Joe Posnanski writes.

  12. Royals claim Moises Sierra off waivers from White Sox

    Oct 24, 2014, 6:37 PM EDT

    Moises Sierra White Sox Getty Images

    Being in the World Series hasn’t stopped the Royals from tweaking the margins of their 40-man roster.

  13. Report: Joe Maddon seeking a five-year deal in the $25 million range

    Oct 24, 2014, 6:05 PM EDT

    Joe Maddon Joe Maddon

    Joe Maddon is looking to become at least the second-highest paid manager in baseball.

  14. Taylor Jordan had surgery to remove bone chips from elbow

    Oct 24, 2014, 5:40 PM EDT

    Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves Getty Images

    Jordan pitched well in nine starts for the Nationals as a 24-year-old rookie last season, but then went 0-3 with a 5.61 ERA in five starts this year before being shut down in June.

  15. It’s possible that some are overstating the impact of Joe Maddon opting out

    Oct 24, 2014, 5:03 PM EDT

    joe maddon rays pointing

    Joe Maddon is a good manager. But he’s just a manager.

  16. Adam Wainwright underwent elbow surgery to “trim” cartilage

    Oct 24, 2014, 4:23 PM EDT

    adam wainwright getty Getty Images

    Earlier this week the Cardinals insisted there was nothing wrong with Adam Wainwright’s elbow and he wouldn’t require surgery.

  17. Ranking every baseball team’s “victory song”

    Oct 24, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 3.47.04 PM

    Needs more Pixies. I have no idea which song, but any list needs more Pixies.

  18. World Series, Game 3: Royals vs. Giants lineups

    Oct 24, 2014, 3:17 PM EDT

    Jeremy Guthrie AP

    Jeremy Guthrie vs. Tim Hudson.

  19. Friedman: Mattingly will manage the Dodgers in 2015

    Oct 24, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    Joe Maddon Getty Getty Images

    Way to spoil all of our silly speculation, dude.

Featured video

When home-field advantage isn't so
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. T. Lincecum (3202)
  2. M. Bumgarner (2978)
  3. J. Shields (2515)
  4. M. Morse (2437)
  5. Y. Cespedes (2094)
  1. T. Ishikawa (1795)
  2. U. Jimenez (1596)
  3. L. Cain (1580)
  4. B. Roberts (1535)
  5. H. Pence (1524)