I’m going to let you in on a little blogger secret: as I’m writing this post about the Royals, the Royals are actively playing the White Sox, on Thursday night. I usually try to shy away from writing about someone or something as they’re playing, because something might conceivably change, and then I could have to re-work my thesis if not abandon the article entirely. But I’m going to stick with this and cross my fingers. In fact, I can even use this to my advantage.
So, here’s a neat thing. Thursday, the Royals are facing Chris Sale! Which means for you, the reader, on Thursday, the Royals faced Chris Sale. At this writing, Sale has two strikeouts through three innings, having faced 14 batters. For Sale, it’s not his greatest outing, especially given the two runs he’s allowed. But about the whiffs: through these three innings, the Royals’ team strikeout rate has gone up.
That’s a little perspective. The Royals have been red-hot, and the Royals’ offense has been red-hot. This is a rather distinct change from the editions of the Royals we’ve seen over the past few years. We knew the team would be able to defend, and we knew the team would have a lockdown bullpen; we didn’t know the offense could do something like this. At FanGraphs, we track a stat called wRC+, which is like OPS+, but better. As I look at the team leaderboard, the Royals are second in baseball, between the Dodgers and Padres. As always, plenty of factors go into making an offense good. You can never discount the variable of good luck. But something that’s driven the Royals to this point: they simply haven’t been striking out. Their contact has been absurd.
It’s not only that the Royals have the lowest team strikeout rate in baseball. A year ago, they had the lowest team strikeout rate in baseball. The year before, they had the second-lowest. The Royals have been a contact-oriented team. What’s most notable is the magnitude of the Royals’ advantage over everyone else. Here are the lowest team rates, through some of Thursday, but not all of Thursday:
Read the rest on Just a Bit Outside.