Building A Better Offense
The Royals have played eleven games since Tony Pena quit. And if you ask those who follow the team closely, they will agree that this team has been playing better baseball since their skipper walked out on them in Toronto.
But why is that?
Since the Royals have an off day, I thought I’d run some numbers comparing the recently departed Pena with interm manager Bob Schaefer to see if I could find some tangible reasons for the improvement.
What I have done is take Schaefer’s entire tenure this season (11 games) and held them up to the final 11 games of the Pena regime.
Let’s get to the results:
Patience at the Plate
We’ve heard from both Schaefer and his players that they are being more aggressive at the plate. The numbers bear this out. Under Pena, the Royals were averaging about 3.67 pitches per at bat. With Schaefer, Royal batters are seeing about 3.54 pitches per at bat. That would lead us to believe that the Royals are indeed going up to the plate and swinging the bat.
But the interesting thing is the Royals are now taking more walks. In the last 11 games, they have drawn 33 free passes (an average of three walks per game.) In the final 11 games of Pena’s tenure the Royals had only 21 walks (an average of 1.9 walks per game.) That is a huge difference.
What all this means is the Royals hitters are being what I would call “selectively aggressive.” It’s about finding the right balance. They are going up to the plate swinging, but for the most part they are swinging at strikes. That results in more real opportunities to get on base either via the walk or the base hit. And that results in more opportunities to score runs.
Outs on the Bases
One of my major complaints against Pena as a manager was in his quest to manufacture runs, he would just give away too many outs. To look at the differences, I looked at stolen bases, caught stealing and sacrifices. So this isn’t going to account for missed attempts like when Angel Berroa fouled off two sacrifice bunt attempts and then swung at a ball out of the zone for strike three (5/8 vs. Baltimore), which I would classify as giving away an out.
Schaefer seems to be slow to call for the sacrifice bunt. The Royals have executed only three sac bunts in the last 11 games. And Pena’s apparent love of the bunt didn’t come through in his final 11 games…His team only got down two sacrifices during that time. But over the last season, Pena called for a sacrifice roughly once every three games. Schaefer is looking to sacrifice less…About once every four games.
And the Royals are still awful on the bases. In the last 11 games the Royals have been successful on four of 8 stolen base attempts. In Pena’s final 11 games, the Royals had only one stolen base in five attempts. But for the entire season with Pena, the Royals were successful under 50% of the time. (13/27 – 48%)
Although conventional wisdom will claim that the team isn’t making as many outs on the bases, from this limited sample size it’s really too close to call. The difference between Pena and Schaefer isn’t enough to claim with absolute certainty that the Royals are better on the bases under the current manager. The trend does appear favorable, but the evidence just isn’t there.
What does it all mean?
The bottom line is wins and in that area the Royals have obviously improved. Schaefer has led this team to five wins in his 11 games in charge. Pena didn’t have a stretch of 11 games where he won at least five of them all year. We’re currently in the middle of the most successful time of this short season.
The big difference is in runs scored. Under Schaefer, the Royals are scoring a little over six runs a game. That’s a good stretch for any team. Also, you have to remember that for six games in this stretch the Royals were without Mike Sweeney, who is by far their best hitter. Even without their captain, they’re scoring almost double the average number of runs they scored with Pena at the controls.
Through their “selectively aggressive” approach at the plate, the Royals are getting on base more and that leads to more runs which leads to more wins.
It’s funny how simple this game can be sometimes.