Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Once upon a time a man named Ted Turner purchased a small Atlanta television station called UHF. The station at the time was in financial disarray and boasted the lowest ratings of the six primary Atlanta stations. But Turner decided that with a bit of innovation he could salvage the station and turn it into a money maker.

Turner began by renaming the station WTCG, which obviously was an acronym for Watch This Channel Grow. But really, that is what it stood for. But the name wasn't the reason for the station's turnaround. The reason for the station's turnaround was a concept that Turner employed called counterprogramming. Basically what this meant was that WTCG would show the exact opposite of what was being aired on the top Atlanta stations at the same time slot.

If you didn't feel like watching the six o'clock news, don't worry just tune into WTCG and watch reruns of homesteader Lucas McCain and Johnny Crawford defend their ranch in the New Mexico territory. If you are the churchy type don't fret, instead of watching worship services on Sunday mornings you could flip over to channel 17 and watch Academy Award Theatre. But most importantly if you weren't the type that got caught up in the primetime sitcom lineups, WTCG offered a different type of lineup that you could watch, a lineup that included nine major league hitters.

Of course this is where Turner really made headway on the station's turnaround from worst to first. (A trend that his Atlanta Braves would become famous for in the 1991 season.) Turner put the Braves on every night in front of a massive television audience, because of this Turner's television station ascended to SuperStation status.

So what does all of this have to do with the Kansas City Royals or even professional baseball? Well, bare with me here but I would like to suggest a radical idea that if executed properly could add numerous wins to the final total of the 2011 Kansas City Royals. Are you ready for it?

I suggest that the Kansas City Royals counterprogram their 2011 rotation. Meaning that I believe the Royals should take a proactive approach at their rotation by pairing their top starters against their opponents lesser starters. This also would mean sacrificing the games in which they face other team’s top starters by starting their own back end guys.

Now before you press the X in the upper right corner of your browser, bare with me. As of today the Royals rotation is as follows (era projection per Bill James):

Luke Hochevar (4.65)
Vin Mazzaro (4.05)
Jeff Francis (4.45) Sub in your veteran of choice.
Kyle Davies (4.89)
Sean O'Sullivan (4.88)

Basically with this rotation the Royals have five guys who are middle to back end of the rotation starters at best. So if Kansas City goes with the traditional order with the top guys at the front, then in every game the Royals will enter the contest with the lesser of the two starters taking the mound.

If the Royals take a proactive approach they can at least have a favorable matchup occasionally, perhaps even twice every five games if a couple of our starters pitch well this season. Think of it this way if Hochevar is paired up against another team's ace in every start, the Royals are going to lose a vast majority of those games. However, if Hochevar faces another team's number 4 or 5 starter then that is a matchup that could very well favor the Royals the majority of the time.

Let's look at the first four games of the season against the Angels. Traditionally these are the matchups that we could expect:

Game 1: Hochevar (4.65) vs Weaver (3.45)
Game 2: Mazzaro (4.05) vs Haren (3.52)
Game 3: Veteran Free Agent Signing/Francis (4.45) vs Santana (4.14)
Game 4: Davies (4.89) vs Piniero (4.06)

Looking at these matchups every single one favors the Los Angeles Angels. The smallest difference in ERA between the two starters is .31 in Game 3 and then .53 in Game 2. While in Games 1 and 4 it appears that the matchups aren't even close.

However, if the Royals swap Hochevar and Davies in these matchups, they all of the sudden have turned one of these matchups into just a .59 difference in projected era. This makes the match up a more favorable one from a Royals perspective.

If the Royals were to get even more bold they could turn to Mazzaro in Game 3. Move Hochevar to game 2, Francis to game 4, and Davies to game 1.

With this game 1 continues to be extremely favorable to the Angels, but a loss is a loss so why not just let this one be as lopsided as necessary to create better matchups in the future? In Game 2 you continue to have an unfavorable matchup, however it isn't quite as unfavorable as the traditional lineup of Hochevar facing Weaver. In Game 3, the Royals even have the edge in one of the matchups with Davis being .09 better than Santanta. Finally in game 4 you also have a fairly balanced matchup of Francis just being .40 worse than Piniero.

With a rotation as bad as the Royals 2011 projects to be, the matchups aren't all of the sudden going to scream out in the Royals favor even if you employ this tactic that I have deemed as "counterprogramming." However, it seems a bit dumb to lineup and march straight at the British lines. "That Gates is a damned fool." The Patriot reference? Anyone?

Basically what I am saying is the Royals can line up the pitchers in a traditional way and let themselves be put into an unfavorable matchup night in and night out. Or they can manipulate their rotation in a way that hasn't been done before, by sacrificing certain matchups as lost causes and choosing to fight the battles that have the greater opportunity of success.


  1. It is an interesting topic, especially with a rotation that is void of top pitching talent like the Royals. But how long into the season will these matchups last, as off days, differences in schedules and injuries will change rotations and matchups constantly.

  2. There are obstacles that would have to be overcome. Do I really think that the Royals should employ this strategy? I don't know. I myself be too traditional to put up with a Sean O'Sullivan or Kyle Davies start on opening day.

    In order for something like this to even achieve a desired effect the Royals would have to plan out very carefully which pitcher started which game and would have to abandon a strict order when it comes to the rotation.

  3. I have a much better idea.....

    Essentially have zero starters. Roster 14 pitchers with as close to an even lefty/righty split as possible. Train/instruct/tell the Davies', Hochevar's, Tejada's that they are expected to throw as hard as they can for 2 innings or one time through the lineup. Then start the match-up game based on lefty vs. lefty, right vs. right , batter vs. pitcher splits and history.

    Each reliever would pitch +/- 1 inning based on the above mentioned match-ups.

    The Royals would have to add some versatility to the bench. Gotta have a DH that can play multiple positions as well as catcher that can do so as well.

    Would also need some 4A versatile players at Omaha with an express train to KC for even minor injuries.

    Clearly this will never happen but it would be interesting to see how this would turn out.

  4. Yeah, it isn't as though I expect the Royals to actually try the idea. However, when it is a forgone conclusion that a team is going to finish at the bottom of the standings why not try something different?

  5. I think they should try something new and different. Why not? It is time they get outside the box and do something "cutting edge" borderline crazy. It might just work?

  6. Yeah, if you are going to attempt something innovative this is the year to do it. However, the people in Kansas City's front office are probably the last in line that would attempt to counteract traditional thought.

  7. Why not be more innovative and go with a 14 man rotation and pitch guys 2-3 innings, then bring in the next guy. Hoch usually has trouble the 2nd and 3rd time through the rotation, Davies too. Just have him pitch to the batting order once, and then bring in the next guy. And then guys are ready to go in three day to pitch two or three more innings. And other teams will have no idea who's going to pitch each day. I guarantee it can't produce worse results than what those four guys are going to do.

  8. @KMartin: Thanks! I appreciate you taking time out of your day to visit.

    @Anonymous: I agree with you and I'm sure that I can come up with criticisms but I thought about discussing the same sort of thing when I wrote the post.

  9. I once read that Bill James thinks that a time like the Royals should get creative and decide to do something like only signing pitchers that throw under 80. Kind of extreme but the same concept.

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