Let’s take a look at who will be turning double plays on the daily this year, once again using the official 40-man roster as our guide, which can be found here. Note: All posts will follow this general format: Player Name (linking to the player page on Baseball-Reference.com) 2013 “Slash” line (Batting Average/On-Base Percentage/Slugging Average) 2013 […]
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1 Norichika Aoki 3.40
2 Omar Infante 2.50
3 Eric Hosmer 2.25
4 Billy Butler 1.95
5 Alex Gordon 3.60
6 Salvador Perez 4.15
7 Mike Moustakas 2.40
8 Lorenzo Cain 3.00
9 Alcides Escobar 1.20
That pencils out to 24.45 WAR from the regulars, which is a roughly four-win improvement over the lineup in 2013. (please don't ask me to show my work)
The starting rotation pencils out to another 10.10 WAR:
1 James Shields 3.70
2 Jason Vargas 1.90
3 Jeremy Guthrie 1.40
4 Danny Duffy 1.20
5 Wade Davis 1.90
Here is where the team gives back some of the gains from the offensive side of the ball. This would be about 1.5 fewer wins than last year's starters, with most of the loss coming from Ervin Santana's departure.
I won't go through the relief corps, but one can hope they will be good and yet realistically expect some regression off last year's awesome showing. Let's call it half a win and credit Dayton Moore for improving the team by two wins at this point in the offseason. This leaves us with many questions as Spring Training appears on the horizon.
Does 88-74 get you into the playoffs in 2014? I doubt it.
Does throwing $100 Million at Santana or Tanaka get you over 90 wins and in the hunt? Maybe.
Do a handful of games in Venezuela mean Moose is ready for a breakout year? Is Yordano Ventura ready to go all Pedro Martinez on the league? Will Butler and Gordon stave off the age curve? Will Escobar not suck so much? Does Bonifacio play everywhere and kick in a few wins with his legs and his defense? Anything is possible.
Will Jarrod Dyson steal home to win a one-game playoff with Tampa Bay after a Wil Myers error puts him on third base in the ninth? One can dream, can't they?
So, the World Series is over and the boys in blue didn't make it. I will say, this was one of the more enjoyable seasons to follow the Royals, and it will be great if they can ever get through a season sometime soon without a gut-punch of a month that drags the whole year down.
Think about it: if Kansas City managed to play .500 baseball in May, they would have been in the wild card game, and anything could have happened.
Of course, that didn't work out so hot for Cleveland, but I digress.
Looking ahead to 2014, there are some clear issues that need to be addressed if KC is going to get those six more wins they desperately missed. On the pitching side, there is the matter of replacing Ervin Santana, who accounted for 2.8 WAR on his own. Losing his contributions alone makes it nine wins the Royals will need to add to the roster in order to dream of the post season in 2014.
It takes a certain level of optimism to think the Royals can repeat their performance as the best run-preventing team in the American League, but I'm going to look at that later. For now, let's talk runs and what Kansas City can do to score more of them.
Most of the discussion is focusing on two positions: Right Field and Second Base. There's good reason for this, as both spots would have been enormous sinkholes if David Lough hadn't proven to be a decent major leaguer and Miguel Tejada didn't have the attention span of a toddler.
The bad news is Miggy isn't coming back and Lough is probably more like the player he was in July/August (266/288/351) than when he came up in May/June (314/336\471).
Time for some bad math.
Here is a look at some key players currently under club control in 2014. (Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference)
I've included Escobar and Moustakas because I think the Royals should look beyond a fix at second base, if the opportunity arises.
Both players saw large drop-offs in productivity this year from last, and while they are too young to jettison completely, I would think a little competition going into the Spring couldn't hurt.
Maxwell did well for the Royals after they brought him over, and a platoon between him and Lough might maximize their potential in Right Field. They certainly can't be much worse than Jeff Francouer was last season.
All in, using these (admittedly) rough calculations and expecting repeat performances from the rest of the team (a fool's dream, to be sure), I project the Royals still falling about 6 wins short of the playoffs. Even resigning Santana and getting a repeat performance will leave them on the outside looking in unless the league regresses next year.
The most prominent name out there for a quick upgrade has been Howie Kendrick of the Angels. Plugging Kendrick's 3.3 WAR from 2013 in place of the 1.27 we might realistically expect from Bonifacio helps the cause, but it doesn't quite guarantee champagne showers in October.
Would it be nice if the Royals dropped $30 million on Robinson Cano and his 5-6 WAR of the last few years? Ha!
A look at the other available free agents is less than appealing. (Yuni at 3rd base? Put down the phone, Dayton. Put it down now!)
Fleeting thoughts about #cheercano aside, there is no way the Royals are going to be able to responsibly spend their way into the playoffs this off season. Getting creative with trades, lucky with some lower tier signings and praying that the coaches in Venezuela can put Moose back on track are going to be the best we can hope for.
Over the last 10 games, the Kansas City Royals have gone 9-1, which would be awesome, except the two teams in front of them in the American League Central, Detroit and Cleveland, have also gone 9-1.
If you are unfamiliar with the term Pythagorean Record, then I suggest you click here before admiring my awesome chart-making skills below.
This beauty represents the games over or under the expected number of wins for each of the three teams vying for supremacy in the AL Central.
Now, after you are done marveling at the fact Detroit has gone on a 9-1 tear and is STILL five games BELOW their expected number of wins, let's focus on the Indians from Ohio, since they are also in possession of the coveted Second Wild Card Spot. (Am I capitalizing that correctly?)
The Indians have played 3 more games than the Royals and are currently one game over their heads according to the math gods that actually run baseball.
At the same time, the Royals are 4.5 games behind Cleveland in the standings.
So, (big finish), if the Indians fall back to earth that one game, and KC can keep on the gas to make up the other three, then we're talking about a fighting chance for the possibility of playing in a one-game playoff to get into a one-game playoff to play some actual post-season baseball.
If you've been a Royals fan for the last 20 years or so, you gotta like those odds.
Another brutal loss by the Royals tonight. Even after the pitching staff took things into their own hands (Kansas City starter Luis Mendoza hit an RBI single after the two batters before him failed to get a man on third home with no outs), the bullpen blew it in the eighth.
This makes eight losses in a row by the once-promising Royals. Thoughts of contention are far off and most fans would be happy if we could get back to the .500 mark by the end of the year, which was probably the realistic expectation at the beginning.
I for one am going to hold out hope for the Plexiglas Principle to take effect mid-season, because it's only now the end of May and I have nothing else to hang onto.
I'm going to use some dubious math skills and a couple of really fancy charts* to point out what is so blatantly obvious about the Kansas City Royals struggles the past few weeks: they have no power.
"No power" isn't some hyperbolic term here, either. Since May 15, the team has hit exactly two home runs. Before we get to that, though, how about a look at their runs scored and runs allowed over a rolling ten games for the season so far.
I like to use numbers from a rolling ten games so you can even out some of the outliers. In this case, a very bad trend presents itself over the last ten games. The Royals pitching, while not as good as in the beginning of the year, is not nearly as bad as the offense has been recently.
A closer look at the offensive numbers gives a little insight into where the problem lies.
As you can see, walks and hits have ebbed and flowed so far, but the power has taken a massive dump since the middle of may, causing the overall drop in run production.
So, who's to blame? Well, pretty much everybody. Here is a look at the most common hitters for the Royals and their Home Run percentage this year compared to their career averages and the league as a whole.
The lineup is ordered by career Home Run Percentage, so we can see who should be expected to provide the most pop this season. I have highlighted a few areas.
Green goes to the overachievers. Unfortunately, the two guys who are hitting more homers than they normally do are the two guys you care least about hitting for power.
Yellow goes to Mr. Consistency, Billy Butler. He's off his pace a bit this year, but not terribly so, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him near his career averages soon enough. The same can be said for Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas, though Moose has many other failings this season, while A1 is sadly wasting his prime for another Royals team that appears to be headed nowhere.
Finally, we come to the problem children: Frenchy, Hosmer and Sal.
The thing with Jeff Francoeur is that everybody knows he can't hit anymore. But, still, you'd expect him to get a hold of one every now and then. He hasn't even been able to manage that this season.
Salvador Perez is hitting for a nice average so far and plays stellar defense behind the plate, so you cut him a little slack when the power numbers are down. But, even he needs to step it up and get back on track.
Finally, there's Eric Hosmer. He is looking like another can't miss prospect that the Royals whiffed on just by having the audacity to bring him up to the major leagues.
I don't know what the answer is for Kansas City. At this point, praying for regression to the mean is about the only hope left.
Editor's Note: The following begins a series of cross-posts with a new blog my friend Michael Clifford started, Cool, Dense Air. I will be posting other, non-Royals thoughts over there in addition to the sporadic KC content the few of you who stop by have come to love. Please be sure to check it out.
In the last week, the Kansas City Royals have spent almost as many days not playing baseball as they have actually going to a ballpark and getting some dirt in their cleats.
One day was lost because of the Boston lock down on Friday, but before that, there was an odd juxtaposition of off-days surrounding a two-game series with the Atlanta Braves.
Monday was another off-day for travel from Boston to Detroit, giving the Royals four days off and four days on since they beat the Blue Jays on April 12.
Momentum is a difficult thing to gauge in baseball, and the adage is probably true that it has more to due with who is taking the mound the next day than anything else, but I think rhythm is something to be considered.
The Royals have lost every game after an off-day so far this year. That's four of their seven defeats. Several young players (I'm looking at you, Moose and Hos) are having a hard time finding their groove after raking in Spring Training, and Ned Yost may want to put them on the bench for a game or two to clear their heads, but how can he when they've had plenty of time to think between ballgames as it is.
In fact, that may be the problem. A lot of off-days in April helps stretch out the pitching staff, but it also breaks the routine of the everyday guys.
Coming off of two great wins against the Red Sox, I don't think anybody wants to spend a day relaxing in Detroit. (Though, I'm sure the urban decay is splendid in the spring.)
Kansas City starts a stretch of 13 games without an open date today against the Tigers. If the offense can get on track and the pitching stays strong, it will go a long way towards keeping this team in contention throughout the summer.
The first real day without baseball was quite depressing. (I don't count the off day after opening day, as the transition from Spring Training to real baseball is jarring enough)
Whether the Royals are in the midst of an epic losing streak or have just finished sweeping a division opponent, I feel an emptiness on the days during the season when there isn't baseball. For the next six months, I will mark my days by the baseball clock.
There has been a lot of local baseball flavor today due to the premier in Kansas City of the new Jackie Robinson biopic, 42. I'm happy for the Negro Leagues Museum to get such a big event, and I'm glad to see a lot of the team coming out in support.
42 is one of the movies I am most-excited to see this year, along with the new Gatsby flick (don't judge me... I re-read the book to my newborn daughter last year, so it's found a special place in my heart).
But, I'm excited for baseball to resume tomorrow. The Blue Jays made some big moves in the off-season and will be a much stronger test of where the Royals stand than the Twins were.