Usually, AL Central teams are running away from the Royals. This year’s aggressiveness, though, has teams chasing them instead.
Before last night's 3-1 loss in the Bronx, the Royals led the majors with 42 stolen bases and posted the same amount of runs (170) as the Yankees despite 26 fewer home runs. It’s a huge part of why Kansas City sits in second place in its division.
“I’ve never been a huge proponent of base running, but when we got to spring training the first day we’re on the back field doing all this base running,” ex-Met and current Kansas City outfielder Jeff Francoeur said. “For me coming from Atlanta and New York, a little more veteran teams, I wasn’t used to that in spring training. The first couple of days I was like, “this sucks,” but they preach aggressiveness and it has helped.”
The Yankees could take a page out of the Royals’ playbook. The aging Bombers rank 25th with just 16 steals this season. Of course, they know just how much speed kills after the Rangers swiped nine bags in last year’s AL Championship Series.
“We’ve taken first to third so many times,” Francouer said. “We’ve stretched out doubles, we’ve been aggressive. We’re going to make some mistakes, we’re going to get caught sometimes but at the same time we’re not the type of team who is going to go out there and slug a bunch of home runs in a game.”
They've slugged plenty of other extra-base hits. Kansas City led the AL with 78 doubles and 10 triples. Also helping is the third-highest on-base percentage in the AL (.334) and the second-best batting average (.267)
“We’ve got to make things happen,” Francouer said. “That’s the best thing you see guys get on first and the first thought it we’re going first to third. I’ve never been on a team that has done thought that much about base running and that’s another reason we’re at where we’re at.”
Francouer’s early performance is also among the reasons as his .302 batting average is 34 points than his career average through last season. His .345 on-base percentage is also helping and should that continue would be a career-high.
“We went back and watched a lot of film of 2006 and 2007 and kind of where my hands were, kind of wrapped them again so I can get a straighter path to the ball and not be so long,” said of the approach that he resulted in eight home runs and 24 RBIs. “If anything, it’s helping me stay on the ball longer. I’m able to see pitches longer so I’m not getting out there or guessing.”