Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Who's on Third? A look at the '07 Royals lineup

Now that Dayton Moore has satisfied fan lust for more minor-league depth at shortstop by signing Alex Gonzalez, the Kansas City Royals offensive unit is pretty much set.

One could reasonably expect the following players to take the field on April 2nd, 2007:
DeJesus  CF
Grudz 2B
Teahen 3B
Sweeney DH
Shealy 1B
Brown LF
Sanders RF
Berroa SS
Buck C

By taking the average on-base and slugging percentages from two of the better freely-available projection systems on the net (ZIPS and CHONE) and plugging them into David Pinto’s very cool lineup analysis tool, we find that this lineup should produce about 4.70 runs a game.

More info on these calculations can be found through Pinto’s site.

Last year, the Royals scored 4.67 runs a game, so the above projection seems reasonable given the modest offensive activity this offseason.

This isn’t to say that Buddy Bell doesn’t have options.

Simply sitting Angel Berroa and plugging Esteban German in at shortstop would boost the production to 4.91 runs a game.

Also, as has been discussed before, there are reinforcements coming from the minors.

If Alex Gordon makes his case this spring and Mark Teahen moves to the outfield, pushing Reggie Sanders to the bench, then the lineup puts up 5.03 runs a game.

In an ideal world, the Royals will put their best foot forward with the following fellows:
Player   Pos  Age
Gordon 3B 23
Sweeney DH 33
Teahen LF 25
Gload RF 31
Shealy 1B 27
DeJesus CF 27
German SS 29
Buck C 26
Grudz 2B 37

This lineup should score 5.11 runs a game.

So, what’s the big difference between 5.11 and 4.70 runs a game?

Pitcher projections are much less accurate, so let’s take a leap of faith and assume that Moore’s many pitching moves this off season have given the Royals staff a chance at mediocrity.

Rather than giving up a league-leading 5.99 runs a game like last year, let’s say the staff regresses to the mean and only allows five runs a game. (The American League average in 2006 was 4.87, so this shouldn’t be too much to ask.)

Now, using the pythagorean method to predict a final record, here is how the team would net out over the course of the season:
R/G   RS   RA   W   L
4.70 762 810 76 86
4.91 796 810 80 82
5.03 814 810 81 81
5.11 827 810 83 79

Unfortunately, even a team that is capable of winning 83 games needs a lot of luck, some shrewd moves during the season and the National League West as it’s home to have a chance at the playoffs.

However, even sniffing .500 would be a major improvement for the Kansas City Royals in 2007. This team is capable of putting a legitimate major league batting order together, featuring only a few players past their prime, and that hasn’t been the case for quite a few years.

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