We have chronicled this at some length here, but what the Royals are doing at home is something special. They just wrapped up a 6-1 homestand. They have 25 wins in 33 games at The K. That’s a .758 winning percentage at home. The last time the Royals lost back to back games at home? You have to jump in the Wayback Machine and travel to September, 2015. That’s nuts.
Hunter Samuels did a deep dive into the home and road action of the Royals starting pitching. Today, let’s shine the light on the offense.
First, the raw numbers:
The math is easy. When playing at The K, the Royals have a batting average 23 points higher. Their OBP is 30 points better. And their slugging percentage is a whopping 47 points more at home.
The Royals are scoring 5 runs per game at home. They are scoring 3.25 runs per game on the road.
We’ve reached the point where this is an official talking point. It’s all over the broadcasts and the writers covering the team on a daily basis are mentioning it with frequency. It’s built on narrative, of course, but is there something to it?
They are built for their ballpark.
On the surface, it seems silly to dispute this. Kauffman Stadium has a spacious outfield. The myth is the yard favors pitchers, but it’s a truly friendly place for hitters. Just not home runs. Thus, the Royals are built around pitching, defense and speed. It’s a formula that has obviously worked.
But take a closer look at those numbers. Their power is playing at The K this year. The Royals home run rate is largely the same at home and on the road. They hit more doubles and triples at home, which is to be expected because The K is always more welcoming to that blend of extra base hits. But that difference in slugging percentage… They’re definitely making better contact at home.
But the thing I can’t quite overcome is the fact that speed and defense play everywhere. It doesn’t matter where you play, you have to catch the ball and you have to run the bases. It’s easy to understand if say, a team like the Yankees is centered around left-handed power to take advantage of that right field jet stream comes to a place like Kauffman and struggles to hit the ball out of the park. Yet the Royals shouldn’t have difficulty scoring runs on the road if their offense is built around doubles and taking the extra base. Maybe those opportunities are less frequent in smaller ballparks. It can’t explain the Royals offensive discrepancy on the road versus at home.
They dig the home cooking.
Remember a couple of years ago when it became a thing to mention how the Royals crapped their pants every time a crowd of more than 25,000 showed up to watch them play baseball? There was some sort of insane stat that supported this hokum that the team was something like 1-10 when playing in front of what we would consider to be a large crowd. (I really can’t be bothered to look this up, but trust me when I tell you it was a thing.)
Narratives are a funny thing. They can change in a single moment. Suddenly, this franchise has gone from freaking out every time people fill the stadium to winning postseason games to thumping opponents on the regular. Naturally, attendance is up. That happens when you win games. Everyone loves a winner. So does the crowd feed the offensive frenzy? Perhaps. There’s obviously no way to measure this, but the players certainly seem to think this happens. The mind is a crazy and wonderful thing, especially in a sport geared to frequent failure like baseball.
There’s a reason splits are discarded or given a simple cursory glance when sabermetricians are doing serious research. Things happen in baseball that can’t always be explained. That doesn’t necessarily mean we should surrender and stop trying to find an underlying cause. Maybe something is there we can identify. This post isn’t a deep dive into the reasons the Royals struggle on the road and play like champions at home, it’s simply a look at the narrative.
And sometimes the narrative is okay. Sometimes, it’s good to sit back in wonder and enjoy what’s happening on the field. The good times at home could come to an end, but this team is playing with a comfort level and belief that The K is theirs. No one should be able to enter and come out with a victory. This run of good play at home could end on the next homestand and regression could kick in at any moment. Maybe a trend will evolve that will help us understand why the Royals play so well at home. Or maybe, this will continue to be the story of the season. Maybe this team can ride their home success all the way back to October.
Baseball can be a funny game sometimes.