Are the Royals’ steals really doing them much good?

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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.