When the Royals made the World Series last year, I (and many others) dismissed it as a fluke, and didn’t think their brand of baseball was sustainable. It wasn’t their pitching approach. I loved that, and would probably build a team the same way: super deep bullpen, and starters just good enough to get to the 6th inning. The defense wasn’t the issue either. I really liked that, and enjoyed watching them out there.
The problem to me was the contact heavy offense. They ignored walks entirely, and went up there hacking. I thought this was foolish, given that a little patience not only got batters better pitches, but wore out opposing pitchers.
And to clarify, I don’t mean power type contact. I mean singles and doubles.
Well after two straight world series trips and a title this year, it seems I’m the outdated one now.
They used that same approach this year (though to be fair, one of their key acquisitions, Ben Zobrist can be pretty patient. He has a career .354 OBP, and had a .364 OBP after being acquired by the Royals) other than Zobrist, though they went up there looking to swing. This was exemplified best by lead off man Alcides Escobar, who had a .293 OBP during the season. Everything thing I’ve learned over the years tells me that a lead off hitter should have a high OBP so he can be on base to be driven in by the #2, #3 and #4 hitters in the order. Escobar defied that.
Yet it worked. the Royals were the #2 seed in the AL, beat the #1 seed Blue Jays in the ALCS, then took care of the Mets and their staff of young aces in 5 games.
So where does this lead us? Will more GM’s go contact heavy with their teams, following the Royals example? It’s certainly possible, though one thing to keep in mind is that the Royals are built for their park with is very pitcher friendly and needs good defenders, especially in the outfield.
As a result, I think it’ll lead, if anything, to teams building more for their parks (if they aren’t doing so already) though they may not reject low OBP types out of hand like they may have in the past, as long as they hit for a decent average and have some speed. We’ll see.
Just something to think about.
As always, thanks for reading.