Tuesday, April 24, 2012

SI's WAR Power Rankings

Before you read this post, please take a look at these power rankings from Sports Illustrated. When I opened the post this morning, I immediately scrolled to the bottom and worked my way up looking for the Kansas City Royals. In fact, when I got into the low teens I actually started my search over thinking that I surely had overlooked the Royals. Instead, I eventually found Kansas City ranked 7th and it was then that I decided it was time to read how the rankings were compiled.

The rankings were compiled by translating each teams fangraphs' Wins Above Replacement into a team winning percentage. Based off this winning percentage the Royals are the 7th best team in the Major Leagues and the top team in the American League Central. According to this power ranking the Royals should be playing at .544 clip.

I'm not really sure what to make of this. I do would agree that based on the Royals should have several more wins to show for their performance than three. In fact, without the poor batting average on balls in play from Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer I truly believe that this is a team that would be right around .500.

Clearly a team that has just lost 11 in a row isn't the 7th best team in baseball. However, if you look at the list there really aren't many anomalies. The Royals are actually the only team in the top 10 playing sub .500 baseball. In the top 15 there are only three teams currently playing sub .500 baseball and the other two are the Los Angeles Angels and Philadelphia Phillies, two teams that clearly belong in the top half of the power rankings despite their sub .500 starts.

My point is this, it is easy to scoff at a power ranking that puts Kansas City at 7th. I'm right there with you. However, I do think the ranking is somewhat reflective of the Royals current state. The talent is there, the games have been close, but every night the team just can't quite get the job done.

The Royals WAR record is 9-7. The Royals Pythagorean record is 5-11. The Royals record is 3-13. The horrid start may have doomed this team from ever contending. However, luck has a tendency to even out, just look at the Royals injuries from 2011 to 2012. Maybe, just maybe, the pendulum is about to swing the other way for Kansas City and the talent of this team will be apparent in the wins it accumulates.


  1. They will have to be exceptional just to cover up the 1940's style managerial thinking. Bunting, getting caught or picked off in idiotic situations means you have to be really better than you are to overcome that thinking. My fear is that they actually start playing better which will mask the fact they could be even better than that because Yost will just think he is doing the right thing. At some point we have to embrace the fact you don't give outs away and you value OBP, especially from hitters that can't slug.

  2. The swing of a pendulum is the opposite of random. Luck doesn't even out retroactively. Past bad luck doesn't portend good luck.

  3. Correct. A bad luck streak doesn't mean for sure that a good luck streak is imminent. However, the larger the sample the greater the likelihood that regression to the mean will occur.

    Of course the scary argument would be that the study actually shows the Royals have been playing over their head and still lost 12 in a row, and that the regression to the mean will only occur in production and even if the luck evens out the team will perform worse.