Royals pushing for record powerlessness

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Ned Yost's cunning plan fails to produce the revolution in hitting he had hoped for.

At their current pace, the Royals would finish the season with 108 home runs. It would be the fourth-lowest total for an American League team this century. If they can just slow it down a little, they have a shot at the 2010 Mariners, who hit 101 for the low mark of the millennium. That team's leading home-run hitter was Russell Branyan, who swatted 15 home runs in 205 at-bats after coming over from the Indians in a June trade. Franklin Gutierrez led the full-season Mariners with 12; only two other players hit as many as 10. The Mariners finished the year 61-101.

Eric Hosmer leads the Royals with 14 home runs; Alex Gordon has 13, Billy Butler 12, and Mike Moustakas 10. It is entirely possible that no Royal will hit as many as 20 home runs this year; Hosmer's second-half surge makes him the most likely candidate to get there.

The 2007 Royals, limited to only 102 round-trippers, were the previous record-holders for least-robust attack. That 69-93 team's leading power hitter was current Mets catcher John Buck, who hit 18 in 347 at-bats. Alex Gordon was runner-up with 15 in 543 at-bats. No other player hit more than seven.

No AL team has hit fewer than 100 home runs in a non-strike season since 1992, when four teams failed to get there. It's hard to imagine given the existence of the Green Monster, but the Red Sox were among them in a down year -- a young Mo Vaughn hit just 13 in 355 at-bats, while an old Tom Brunansky led the club with 15. The team that finished last was, naturally enough, the 72-90 Royals with just 75. The Royals had players who could hit, Wally Joyner, Gregg Jefferies, Kevin McReynolds, Jim Eisenreich, and future Hall of Famer George Brett among them, but none of them put together a big year. Catcher Mike Macfarlane led the team with 17 homers.

If you're more concerned with overall power, never mind the home runs, the Royals' league-low .116 isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average) would be the fourth-lowest of the century, with the aforementioned 2010 Mariners clocking in with the low mark at .104 -- between their difficult park and their weak roster, they not only didn't hit any home runs, but also tended to eschew the double and triple as well. The Royals don't have that same excuse -- Kauffman Stadium isn't one of the league's most generous home-run parks, but it's far more friendly than Safeco.

Kauffman Stadium (Jamie Squire)

Teams have won with little power, though they're the outliers. Whitey Herzog's three St. Louis pennant-winners (1982, 1985, and 1987) hit 67, 87, and 94 home runs, respectively, but of course they were among the fastest teams of all time, stealing 200 to 300 bases a season. The Royals haven't stolen 200 bases in almost 35 years (you need fast players who can get on base to do that), but then no team really does anymore -- the speed game died with the power explosion of the post-strike years. It's probably due for a revival.

Last December, Ned Yost claimed that the 2013 Royals would be a power-hitting team due to secret telepathic mind-powers. The plan rightly provoked skepticism. While thinking your way to home runs has the advantage of being a novel strategy, it's far easier to get them by employing actual, y'know, hitters. Gee, that Wil Myers kid looks pretty good. He has only nine home runs in 205 major-league at-bats, but that's as many as Royals right fielders have hit all year.

Change is necessary in Kansas City from the owner's box down to the dugout, but we knew that. The league-low home-run total is just the latest bullet point in the brief. Maybe the post-Dayton Moore/Ned Yost braintrust will have something more to offer than the baseball equivalent of bending spoons, but don't count on it.

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