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Royal Pains In So Many Ways

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It was a dark and stormy night, mostly because stories never begin with "It was a fairly well lit and partly cloudy mid-afternoon..." Suddenly, a cry rang out. "Waaaaaaah!!!!!!!!! You can't throw pitches near us!!!! We do that!!!! You don't do that!!!!! That was scary and I didn't like it!!!! Waaaaaahhhhhh!!!!!!!" Oh, Alcides. That kettle sure is the darkest shade of black I've seen yet.

OK, so the Royals' attitude, personality, and concept of manlihood clearly need some work. You don't want to see your team emulate the Royals, unless you aren't familiar with the word "emulate" and think it means "tie them up, cover them with snakes, and take your lunch break".

The question is whether the Royals' offensive approach has some elements worth cultivating. Now before you beat me to the punch, I think we can all agree that good hitters are simply better than bad hitters. There are good patient hitters and there is Daric Barton are bad ones, good aggressive sluggers and bad ones, fast guys who run the bases well and fast guys who...don't.

Certainly buoyed by talented batters and swift runners, the Royals' approach to offense, it seems to me, centers a lot around three philosophies that have worked well for them both in the regular season and especially in the post-season. Are they teachable skills, or just skills some guys have that you can covet or not as you wish? That is going to be the question today.

The first one is that the Royals hitters go up looking to swing at every good pitch to hit. Be it on the first pitch, pitch counts be damned, or on a 3-0 pitch, OBP be darned, if you throw a really good pitch to hit to a Royals' batter, they are probably going to "grip it and rip it" whether they are sluggers or leadoff hitters.

Even Ben Zobrist, noted for his patience, plate discipline, good eye and long at bats, has repeatedly ambushed a very hittable first pitch for a key hit -- and then around that has also had a truckload of long at bats.

The second notable characteristic up and down the Kansas City lineup is that the Royals hitters foul off a ton of pitches and are extremely hard to strike out. Pitchers who miss bats like I miss Josh Donaldson (too soon?) have been unable to put away KC batters. As a result, many of the Royals' at bats end on one pitch or on ten pitches, often with not much in between.

I don't know if the Royals' seemingly constant luck on batted balls in play ("There's a broken bat bloop just over David Wright's head landing on the line...three inches fair!!!!") is a real thing or whether perhaps it's a product of the fact that they just put so many balls in play. But the Royals make a lot of contact, fair and foul.

The third piece to the Royals' recipe is their uncanny ability to go 1B to 3B on base hits. It is reminiscent of Mike Scioscia's Angels teams of the early-to-mid 2000s and what has become really apparent this post-season is how much going 1B to 3B can impact a game.

1B and 2B with one out is a strong budding rally, but 1B and 3B with one out changes the dynamic entirely. And with the Royals it's not just Jarrod Dyson and Alcides Escobar who are doing it, it's Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, often on well hit balls you would not expect to allow an average runner to get all the way to 3B.

As I was watching this, I invented a metric that I will share with you: "base-running slugging". You know how slugging percentage measures how many bases the hits garner? Essentially, how often a single has an "ISO" of .100 is another way to look, be it individually or as a team, at suggesting that not all singles are equal.

And yes, against the Blue Jays Lorenzo Cain had a base-running slugging percentage of 3.000 on that decisive single that scored him from 1B.

Put these three ingredients together -- ambush every hittable pitch on any count, foul off a ton of pitches and rarely swing and miss, and take extra bases like it's going out of style -- and you have the recipe for an awful lot of success. The question many of these skills can be taught to the players you have and how many of them can only be enjoyed by going and seeking out those players who already possess these skills? Is Dale Sveum doing something right as a hitting coach or is he simply blessed with the right batters?

Discuss. And then throw at Alcides Escobar's chin because it's fun.