Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Royals, Twins Walk Separate Paths

As a longtime Kansas City baseball fan, I can safely say I've seen just about anything and everything you could ever dream of seeing happen on a baseball diamond.

That is except, of course, winning baseball.

In this stupor that is the last two decades of losing baseball the Royals have subjected us to, as fans, we've kind of lost touch on what's really going on. That, and we're not really sure why we're still watching.*

*Every time I DVR a Royals game, two thoughts come to mind:
  1. I hope we win tonight.
  2. We're not going to win tonight.
Still, this team has become something like a phenomenon. Coming into every season, we seem to already know the Royals have no chance to compete for a pennant. Prospects and free agents always find a way to flop. Managers come and go, few of them with answers.

And the losses pile on - it's like this team has been losing forever - without any explanation.

It's time we explored one possible explanation: The walks.

I think it's only fair that we use the Minnesota Twins as a comparison. The Twins have been winning for a full decade now, and their rise from almost being contracted to model small-market franchise is something the Royals would love to replicate.

Also, it's important to note why the Twins are a relevant comparison. It's been said there is no other one thing that has more emphasis put on it in Minnesota than the importance of their pitchers throwing strikes. From day one in development all the way to the major league level, it's something their coaches preach. Walks are like sin in the organization, and their pitchers either catch on or hit the road.

So let's start with 2010. As you might expect, as of Tuesday, the Twins are first in the majors having only given up 146 bases on balls. What's more telling is the second place team has walked 31 more hitters. The Royals, of course, are in the bottom third of the league at 23rd, with 256 BBs. That's a mere 110 more, or 1.5 more per game, than Minnesota.*

*While looking at that stat I noticed the Royals and Twins have virtually the same innings pitched and batting avg. against this season, yet KC has given up a whopping 77 more earned runs so far. Ouch.

Since 2001, when the Twins began their dominance of the A.L. Central, the team has never finished worst than fourth in least walks allowed. In that same time frame, the Royals' average ranking is 20th, and they never finished higher than ninth.

What's most staggering is since 2003, the Twins have been best in the league in walks allowed three times, and either finished first or second every season in that time period.

Now, none of all this matters unless it equates to victories, and it surely does. From '01 on, the Twins have had only one losing season, and have won the division five times. And that includes some absolute dominance of our boys in blue that most of us would like to forget.

On the other hand, our walk-happy Royals club has had one winning season and four-100 loss seasons in the last decade to show for their ignorance to this obvious deficiency. It's embarrasing.

We know this isn't the only reason the Royals have been losing. It's certainly not the only reason the Twins are winning. They have a couple of young hitters named Mauer and Morneau that have played a pretty big role in the team's recent success.

Still, it's one thing the Royals have been bad at for awhile now. It's something they'll have to drastically improve upon as they try to progress and eventually become a winning team. And certainly it's something we can all think about come October, when the Twins are still playing baseball and the Royals are not.


1 comment:

  1. I respect the Twins immensely. Their scouting Dept is amazing, the top brass go out of their way to accomodate the fans, and they provide a model for what small-market baseball could (and should) be. It is frustrating as a Royals fan to witness the abysmal efforts of our own team's scouts, and even more frustrating to see highly-anticipated free agents flop as they do; Our clubhouse and our management seem to accept nonchalance and the losses that come with it.

    Your reserach on walk-ratio is interesting... Yet another Royals statistic that I can mull over and shake my head to.