Salvador Perez

How To Kill a Rally, Two Outs At a Time

Another day, another loss. And two times where Royals batters grounded into double plays.

This is brutal.

The Royals hitters rank 13th among AL teams in B-WAR at 2.9. (Let’s not talk about the pitching. OK, we’ll digress for a moment. The Royals rank dead last in B-WAR for pitchers at -1.0. ) There are a variety of ways to illustrate the ineptitude of the Royals offense. Perhaps none is as damaging as their propensity to ground into double plays.

We saw it again on Monday. In the third inning, the Royals hit back to back singles (including one from Ian Kennedy!) to open the inning. Then Jorge Soler grounded into a double play. An inning later, Whit Merrifield was hit by a pitch with one out. Then Hunter Dozier grounded into a double play.

Two outs for the price of one, there’s nothing like a twin killing to snuff out a potential rally. And when a team is as thin offensively as the Royals, double plays are particularly painful.

The Royals current OBP is .318, which actually isn’t that bad. In fact, it’s right at the league average rate. Yet those baserunners aren’t translating into runs. After Monday’s shutout, the Royals are scoring just 3.87 runs per game, the second worst average in the AL and well below the major league average of 4.42 runs scored per game. 

There are a lot of reasons the Royals aren’t bringing those runners around the bases to score. Their propensity to ground into double plays is certainly one. This year, the average team is grounding into a double play 10 percent of the time they have a runner on first and fewer than two outs. The Royals lead the majors in double play rate at a hefty 14 percent. 

Team PH/HR/Situ Hitting* Table
Tm R/G Opp DP %
KCR 3.87 361 51 14%
LAA 4.66 315 44 14%
CHW 3.82 283 38 13%
MIL 4.04 307 40 13%
TBR 4.38 335 45 13%
HOU 4.60 371 41 11%
MIA 3.40 337 38 11%
OAK 4.72 343 37 11%
PHI 4.64 342 38 11%
SDP 3.82 336 37 11%
ATL 5.28 315 30 10%
CIN 3.98 384 40 10%
COL 4.02 324 32 10%
LAD 4.30 345 36 10%
NYM 4.19 298 31 10%
STL 4.49 330 32 10%
TEX 4.04 308 32 10%
LgAvg 4.42 329 33 10%
4.42 9870 1000 10%
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 5/22/2018.

What’s particularly mind-blowing about their double play rate is the fact the Royals have had the fourth most “chances” in the majors. Chances merely reflect the fact the Royals are getting runners on base with less than two outs. In other words, they are sewing the seeds of a rally, just like we saw in the third inning on Monday. And then they’re sabotaging any opportunity for a big inning. Just like was saw on Monday.

Team PH/HR/Situ Hitting*
Name Opp DP %
Salvador Perez 22 8 36%
Cheslor Cuthbert (10-day dl) 20 5 25%
Abraham Almonte# 17 3 18%
Hunter Dozier 6 1 17%
Alcides Escobar 41 6 15%
Jon Jay* 28 4 14%
Whit Merrifield 42 6 14%
Drew Butera 9 1 11%
Lucas Duda (10-day dl)* 28 3 11%
Paulo Orlando (40-man) 19 2 11%
Mike Moustakas* 48 5 10%
Jorge Soler 39 4 10%
League Average 10%
Ryan Goins* 13 1 8%
Alex Gordon* 24 2 8%
Cam Gallagher (40-man) 5 0 0%
Team Total 361 51 14%
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 5/22/2018.

Salvador Perez has been stinging the baseball since his return from the DL, but damn if he isn’t making up for lost time when it comes to killing potential rallies. This is actually very impressive, given his current 33 percent ground ball rate. Perez is a guy who puts the ball in the air, except, it appears, when there is a runner on first and less than two outs. Almonte and Cuthbert have been impressive given they haven’t exactly had regular playing time. Escobar can’t do anything well with the bat, but I’m beginning to think that any time he’s up with a runner on and less than two outs, he needs to be squaring to bunt. Jon Jay puts the ball on the ground almost 60 percent of the time and isn’t exactly fleet of foot, so it’s not surprising he’s above league average. It is surprising to see Whit Merrifield right there with him.

This Royals offensive profile is kind of familiar. They have a high batting average, a league average OBP and next to no power. They don’t walk, nor do they strikeout. They put the ball in play and put pressure on the defense. That was a formula that worked for them in the recent past, but with a thinner lineup – especially in the bottom half – conspires to disrupt the plan. The double plays certainly don’t help, but as you can see from the Angels position just below the Royals in the first table, it doesn’t have to completely undermine an offense. A balanced lineup can overcome a high GIDP rate. The Royals don’t have a balanced lineup. Those double plays are particularly painful.

Can they change? Can they work to bring down their double play rate? That’s not something I would expect to happen. Their GIDP% last year was 14 percent. In 2016 it was 13 percent. This is a team that has been above league average in GIDP% every season going back to 2012. The gap has widened since the World Championship season, but this is simply a hallmark of this team, much like the fact they don’t take walks.

The difference this year, as mentioned previously, is the fact this lineup lacks the firepower that was present over the previous five seasons. This trend probably isn’t going to abate and it will continue to sabotage chances for the Royals to post the proverbial big inning.

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