The Numbers Don't Lie: Bobby Witt Jr.'s Remarkable Impact on the Royals

Witt Jr. is making a name for himself in his third season with Kansas City, emerging as a true star that's turning heads across the league.
Jun 1, 2024; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. (7) throws to first base after forcing out San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado (13) during the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.
Jun 1, 2024; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. (7) throws to first base after forcing out San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado (13) during the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium. / © Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Not every player is born with the same level of talent, and Bobby Witt Jr., the 23-year-old Royals shortstop, is proof that some are born with something truly extraordinary.

Under Witt Jr.'s leadership in 2024, the Kansas City Royals have undergone a transformation, evolving from a struggling team into a formidable force in the league. After finishing last in the AL Central with a 56-106 record last season, the Royals have experienced a resurgence, currently boasting a 39-29 record and firmly holding the second wild card spot. Witt Jr.'s contributions to the team's success have been monumental, and his on-field performance has captured the attention of the entire league.

In just 274 at-bats, Witt Jr. has crafted an impressive stat line, accumulating 88 hits (ranking him 2nd in MLB), including 18 doubles, seven triples, and 11 home runs. His batting average of .321 stands as the best in the American League. His gaudy on-base percentage (OBP) of .371 and slugging percentage (SLG) of .558 illustrate his ability to both get on base and hit for power at a level that few major leaguers can match. What truly distinguishes Witt Jr. is not only his offensive output but also his disciplined approach at the plate. Demonstrating improved understanding of the strike zone, he has drawn 22 walks while striking out 52 times.

His advanced metrics are equally impressive, placing him among the top performers in Major League Baseball. Witt Jr.'s .392 wOBA (Weighted On-Base Average) ranks in the top 5% in MLB. Additionally, his .429 xwOBA (Expected Weighted On-Base Average) is in the top 8% in MLB, indicating that his success is not just luck but a result of consistently making solid contact with the ball.

Witt Jr. has shown veteran-like plate discipline, having seen 1,136 pitches and batted 222 of them. His ability to make contact with quality pitches is reflected in his 16.2% barrel percentage, which ranks in the top 5% in MLB. A barrel is a batted ball with the optimal combination of exit velocity and launch angle, typically resulting in extra-base hits. Witt Jr.'s 51.6% hard-hit percentage also places him in the top 8% in MLB, highlighting his ability to consistently make solid contact at an elite level.

When we look at Witt Jr.'s expected statistics, which take into account the quality of contact he makes, the numbers are even more impressive. His .333 xBA (Expected Batting Average) and .640 xSLG (Expected Slugging Percentage) both rank in the top 1% in MLB. If that wasn't enough, his .506 xwOBAcon ranks in the top 2% in MLB, further proving his dominance at the plate.

Witt Jr.'s speed is also exceptional, clocking in at a sprint speed of 30.4 feet per second, ranking him second in MLB. Recently, he made history as the first MLB player since Barry Bonds in 1992 to reach at least 100 total bases, 30 RBIs, and 15 stolen bases in his first 50 games of a season. His total of 19 stolen bases currently places him fourth in all of baseball.

Defensively, Witt Jr. has been stout. His fielding range OAA of 10 is tied for first in MLB, making him a reliable presence at shortstop. This two-way excellence has made him an easy candidate for both the 2024 AL MVP award and an All-Star selection, likely vying with the Orioles' Gunnar Henderson for a starting spot.

Witt Jr.'s started his career at Colleyville Heritage High School (TX), where he was a standout player and Perfect Game All-American. In 2019, he was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year, boasting a .515 batting average with 15 home runs, 54 RBIs, and 17 stolen bases. His performance in high school caught the eye of scouts, leading to his selection as the No. 2 pick by the Royals in the 2019 MLB Draft.

Baseball runs in Witt Jr.'s family, as his father, Bobby Witt, had a successful MLB career as a pitcher. Bobby Witt Sr. pitched for 16 seasons in the MLB and was known for his electric fastball and curveball. He even pitched a no-hitter in 1994 for the Texas Rangers against the Royals.

Fellow players have also taken notice of Witt Jr.'s talent and potential, including Twins shortstop Carlos Correa.

“Bobby’s one of the great players in this game," Correa said in May. "Ever since he was a rookie, I knew he was going to be one of the greats. And his career is still young, but you can tell he’s a great player and a future Hall of Famer, so I’m glad to share the field with him.”

Last season, Witt Jr. made history by becoming the first player in the Royals' franchise to join the 30-30 club. In recognition of his exceptional talent, Witt Jr. inked the team's largest contract extension in history this past February, agreeing to an 11-year, $288 million deal with the Royals.

Witt Jr. has not only lived up to the high expectations set for him but has surpassed them, becoming a team cornerstone and cultural icon in Kansas City. As he continues to develop and excel, Witt Jr. is poised to become one of the most influential players of his generation, hoping to carry the Royals on a path to sustained success.

Published |Modified
Mathey Gibson