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Five Figures: Trends emerging from numbers

Five Figures: Trends emerging from numbers

Five Figures: Trends emerging from numbers
Sometimes a number merits discussion but doesn't require an entire story. Sometimes a trend is worth keeping an eye on before it turns into an avalanche. Sometimes it's just fun to break down stats. Welcome to Five Figures, a recurring feature on MLB.com where we'll look at a few interesting stats from around baseball.

The Royals' RISPing, and hidden outs
From the "numbers that don't add up" category, we bring you the Royals' offense. Kansas City ranks seventh in the Majors in batting average, 13th in on-base percentage, ninth in slugging ... and 17th in runs per game.

That's largely because once the Royals get runners in scoring position, they don't bring them home. Their perfectly respectable .260/.316/.415 overall line plummets when there are runners in scoring position. In those situations, Royals hitters sported a cumulative .246/.298/.336 line entering Tuesday night. The good news is that timing hits isn't really a skill, and a decent offense should be decent in all situations. The RISP line should correct as the season goes on.

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The other part is what might be referred to as hidden outs. Kansas City has the fifth-highest caught-stealing total in the Majors and has hit into the fourth-most double plays. Those are numbers that don't show up in the AVG/OBP/SLG line, but they're still outs, and they're still holding down the Royals' run-scoring potential.

Mat Latos, Joe Saunders and the running game
When it comes to things that a pitcher can control, it appears that Mat Latos and Joe Saunders are faring pretty similarly. According to Fangraphs.com, the two pitchers rate very similarly in FIP and xFIP, a couple of measures of what a pitcher's ERA should be, independent of defense.

FIP considers a pitcher's strikeout, walk and home-run rates, while xFIP replaces home-run rate with fly-ball rate and what an average home-run-to-fly-ball ratio should be. And by both measures, Latos and Saunders are having similar years. Yet Saunders' ERA is nearly 2 1/2 runs lower than Latos'.

Some of that is the defense behind them. Some of it is luck. And some of it is one other thing that a pitcher can help control: the running game. Saunders has done a great job at it; Latos has not.

Latos has allowed nine stolen bases this year, with only one caught stealing. That's two more than any other pitcher in the Majors. It's also more than every other Reds pitcher combined, which makes it clear that it's not just Cincinnati's catchers who aren't holding down the fort. That's nine extra bases in six starts, a significant boost for opposing offenses.

Saunders, meanwhile, has completely shut down the running game, with help from stud catcher Miguel Montero. Opponents have successfully stolen twice against Saunders, but they've been caught five times -- twice by Saunders, three times by the catcher.

The Braves' lineup depth
It's no huge shock that Atlanta is in the mix in the National League East. But as for the way the Braves are doing it, that's definitely a surprise. Atlanta ranks 25th in the Majors in runs allowed, and first in runs scored. That's very, very out of character for an organization that was the standard-bearer for run prevention for the better part of two decades.

What's particularly curious is that no one facet of Atlanta's offense stands out. It's not a lineup hitting for tremendous power, or drawing a ton of walks, or hitting for a high average. The Braves are doing all of those things well, but none of them spectacularly. No, what stands out about the Braves' offense is depth. Everybody is pitching in. Everybody.

Entering Tuesday's games, six of Atlanta's eight regulars had an OPS+ of 100 or greater, which is to say hitting at a league-average level or better. The two lowest OPS+ scores among their regulars were Brian McCann at 97 and Tyler Pastornicky at 89, meaning that nobody getting regular playing time is dragging the lineup down. The worst spot is a bit worse than average.

It even extends to the bench. The Braves' top three reserves -- Juan Francisco, Matt Diaz and Eric Hinske -- each have an OPS+ of 110 or better. In total, the Braves have 10 players with at least 26 plate appearances and an OPS+ of 105 or better. That's a really good way to score runs.

Jose Altuve's BABIP
Houston's young second baseman has been one of baseball's best stories this year, spraying base hits all over the place with an aggressive approach and a high-contact hitting style. He might actually keep it up.

Altuve is hitting a lofty .398 on balls in play, which is to say when he doesn't walk, strike out, or hit home runs. Given Altuve's offensive game, that's the majority of the time. That number ranks eighth in the NL. While some of the players ahead of him, like Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Bryan LaHair, are likely to fall off, Altuve's BABIP isn't that far out of line from what should be expected.

His career mark in the Minors was .351 -- that's not quite the pushing-.400 that he has now, but it's pretty good. Altuve may fall to earth somewhat, but he's not a fluke.

Emilio Bonifacio's P/PA
Patience, as a general rule, is a good thing. But when patience gives way to passivity, even table-setting hitters can get into trouble.

Bonifacio is taking patience to an extreme this year, and it's not working out for him. He's seen 4.65 pitches per plate appearance, the third-highest rate in the Major Leagues. That puts him in a category with take-and-rake types like Mark Reynolds and Adam Dunn, and it doesn't seem to be a good fit for Bonifacio. He's said that he wants to be more patient this year, and if that were leading to walks and hits, it would be great. It's not.

The speedster's walk rate is, in fact, up. But his strikeout rate is up as well, his batting average is down, and most critically, his on-base percentage is down. Instead of getting into hitter's counts, he's falling behind. Bonifacio has seen 50 1-2 counts, as opposed to 37 2-1 counts. When he gets ahead, he's raking, but it's not happening often enough.

Matthew Leach is a writer for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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