Are the Royals’ steals really doing them much good?


The Kansas City Star’s Bob Dutton thinks so.  His article today is mostly about how the Royals’ big steal total — they’re tied for first in the AL at 124 — has been a factor in this year’s offensive improvement.  He’s a bit intellectually dishonest, though, when he goes here:

The Royals, because they lack the power potential of many teams, identified the  need to improve base-running as a way to generate more runs — and it’s worked.  They currently rank sixth among AL teams in runs despite ranking 11th in homers.

That’s true.  However, sixth is exactly where one would expect the Royals to rank given that they are:

Fifth in the league in average
Fifth in the league in OBP
Eighth in the league in slugging
Sixth in the league in OPS

As a matter of fact, the Royals’ .725 OPS exactly matches the AL’s average as a whole.  However, despite that, the Royals are slightly below the league average in runs per game (4.38 to 4.33).  If they were such a good baserunning team, one would think they’d rate higher in runs than their raw OPS would suggest.

I don’t want to be too hard on Dutton here.  The headline (Stolen bases key factor in improved run production) was almost certainly written by someone else, and the one highlighted paragraph is the only one that’s really worth taking issue with.  The story as a whole is more about how the Royals have improved as basestealers and baserunners, not how their basestealing has improved the team.   And with a success rate of 72 percent, the Royals have been a good basestealing team.  I’m just not seeing much of a payoff from it.

Pitch clock cut minor league games by 25 minutes to 2:38

Rich Schultz/Getty Images

NEW YORK — Use of pitch clocks cut the average time of minor league games by 25 minutes this year, a reduction Major League Baseball hopes is replicated when the devices are installed in the big leagues next season.

The average time of minor league games dropped to 2 hours, 38 minutes in the season that ended Wednesday, according to the commissioner’s office. That was down from 3:03 during the 2021 season.

Clocks at Triple-A were set at 14 seconds with no runners on base and 19 with runners. At lower levels, the clocks were at 18 seconds with runners.

Big league nine-inning games are averaging 3:04 this season.

MLB announced on Sept. 9 that clocks will be introduced in the major leagues next year at 15 seconds with no runners and 20 seconds with runners, a decision opposed by the players’ association.

Pitchers are penalized a ball for violating the clock. In the minors, violations decreased from an average of 1.73 per game in the second week to 0.41 in week 24.

There will be a limit of two pickoff attempts or stepoffs per plate appearance, a rule that also was part of the minor league experiment this season. A third pickoff throw that is not successful would result in a balk.

Stolen bases increased to an average of 2.81 per game from 2.23 in the minors this year and the success rate rose to 78% from 68%.

Many offensive measurements were relatively stable: runs per team per game increased to 5.13 from 5.11 and batting average to .249 from .247.

Plate appearances resulting in home runs dropped to 2.7% from 2.8%, strikeouts declined to 24.4% from 25.4% and walks rose to 10.5% from 10.2%. Hit batters remained at 1.6%.