By taking the last three years worth of team fWAR totals, wins, and expected wins I was able to determine that fWAR has a predictive value of approximately .876 for a team's total win count. This number is somewhat lower than the predictive value of expected wins, which over the last three years was .946. Nonetheless, I had a linear formula created for converting Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement to wins. Here is what excel came up with: Wins = (fWAR*0.9069) + 50.772.
In 2013, it took 92 wins to reach baseball's postseason. Working backward, that would mean a team should need to accumulate roughly 45.5 fWAR to reach that threshold. A season ago, the Royals were able to net 42.4 fWAR. This would mean that from 2013 to 2014, Kansas City needs to bring in an additional 3.1 fWAR to close the gap.
Thus far this off-season and throughout 2013, the Royals have already bid farewell to George Kottaras (0.7 fWAR), Adam Moore (0.1), Miguel Tejada (0.4), Chris Getz (-0.1), Carlos Pena (-0.2), Elliot Johnson (-0.2), Jamey Carroll (-0.5), Jeff Francoeur (-0.9), Ervin Santana (3.0), Will Smith (0.5), Bruce Chen (1.4), and Luis Mendoza (0.4). Add this all together and you have 4.6 fWAR to replace just to hold even.
Fortunately, the Royals thus far haven't set on their hands this winter. They've already added Jason Vargas to the rotation (1.5) and Norichika Aoki to the outfield (1.7). In total the Royals are 4.5 fWAR away from that magic 45.5 fWAR mark and 92 wins according to that formula. Where can the Royals pick up these wins?
At this point, there are a few places left that the Royals could pick up a few fWAR:
- Player Progression - the easiest way to pick up fWAR is for the current crop of players to simply play better than they did last year. Unfortunately, you can't expect an entire roster to progress. As often as players progress, they will regress which typically means the treading of water for a team. The good news for the Royals is that the vast majority of their roster is in a good spot on the aging curve, making progression more likely than regression.
- Redistribution of IP and PA - Obviously, with players leaving there will be a redistribution of playing time. For example, Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura were worth 0.6 fWAR in 40 innings pitched last season. If they can keep that pace and throw 360 innings, this would create an additional 4.8 in fWAR. Of course, the same can go the other way. With Aoki in the fold David Lough and his 2.4 fWAR figure to factor in less in 2014.
- Second Base - Given that eight spots in the lineup appear to be set, this is the last spot that could really see an upgrade in 2014. Omar Infante was worth 3.1 fWAR in 2013. Mark Ellis was worth 1.8. Howie Kendrick worth 2.7. Second base won't close the whole gap, but at this point it is the Royals most surefire way to inch closer to 45.5 fWAR in 2014.
- Bench - The final spot for the Royals to continue to upgrade is their bench. Last season the Royals had an excellent bench in terms of fWAR. That bench has already been weakened at back up catcher. The Royals look to have a good group of back up outfielders, and with Emilio Bonifacio pushed to a super utility role throughout the season it could provide just a slight bump in the bench's season long fWAR total.
- Starting Pitcher - The Royals already have brought in Jason Vargas, and they already have a few in house options to fill the final two rotation spots. However, if the Royals brought in a starter with decent value to replace the innings provided by Bruce Chen and Wade Davis in the four spot, the Royals could net another easy positive gain.
As you have probably realized right now, Kansas City is at a point on the win curve in which each little piece of marginal value is critical. This is why the Kottaras decision was so infuriating. It simply created an additional half win that Kansas City would need to find.
At this point, second base is the key spot moving forward. The Royals need to find an answer here. If they can do that they'll really close the gap heading into camp. It is much more realistic to need your lineup to pick up an extra 1.5 wins in progression than it is to ask them to pick up 3.5 wins in progression. I'll be severely disappointed if Emilio Bonifacio heads to Surprise with a starting job to lose.
Follow me on Twitter @Landon_Adams
Follow me on Twitter @Landon_Adams