Tuesday, December 16, 2014

An Ode to Mr. Zoombiya

The Royals entered the offseason with three positions to fill. Fans and the front office agreed the team needed to find a right fielder (to replace the departing Nori Aoki), a designated hitter (to replace the departing Billy Butler), and a starting pitcher (to replace the departing James Shields). It was generally accepted that the voids would need to be filled with individuals outside the organization and thus far Kansas City has checked two of the items off their list.

I'm not going to spend time in this post analyzing the Alex Rios or Kendrys Morales additions, but instead I am going to ask a simple question. Why couldn't the team have filled right field with an in-house option? No, I'm not talking about Carlos Peguero. I'm talking about Jarrod Dyson.

Unlike Peguero there has been absolutely zero buzz about the possibility of breaking camp with Jarrod Dyson starting in the outfield. Why not?

The simple answer is that Dyson looks like a fourth outfielder. He is an excellent defensive replacement and an enormous weapon off the bench as a pinch runner. The former 50th round pick is so good in the fourth outfielder role that narrative dictates that is all he is. Never mind the fact that despite only receiving 290 plate appearances and playing in just 120 games, Dyson ranked 36th among outfielders in fWAR in 2014 and 5th on the team.

At this point many people tend to point out that Dyson's numbers were inflated due to the fact that he faced predominately right handed pitching last season. This is true. In 2014, Dyson faced right handed pitching in 81% of his plate appearances. Given that the typical regular sees right handed pitching approximately 70% of the time, we should adjust our expectations to reflect that number.

In order to get a more accurate feel on what Dyson's production would be over the course of the season, I broke out The Spitter. If you are unfamiliar with The Spitter or new to this blog, it is a projection system that weights batted ball data and is able to "spit" out a projection. The Spitter can then take these numbers and provide a wOBA and a WAR total for the player. I've added 2014 park factors to the Spitter, so the numbers are even more accurate now than they have been in the past. Like any projection system, The Spitter occasionally whiffs, but a vast majority of last season's projections were extremely accurate.

Since we aren't actually creating a projection for Dyson, I have adjusted The Spitter to give us full season results had Dyson maintained his contact rates against lefties and faced them in 30% of 600 plate appearances, as well as maintaining his contact rates against righties in the same plate appearance size.

Enough with the technical mumbo-jumbo. Had our hero been able to keep up his performance over a 600 plate appearance sample his season line should have ended up looking like this:

Jarrod Dyson 2014: .270/.329/.330, .297 wOBA and 1.34 WAR.

This might not seem like a very impressive player, but this fails to consider Dyson's defense. When we plug in a positional adjustment and factor in Dyson's UZR from 2014, The Spitter increases Dyson's WAR  to 5.23. This tally would have ranked 22nd in baseball among all players and 10th among outfielders. Again, those results are not fudged. They are simply an extrapolation of the numbers that Dyson posted in 2014.

By the way, we still haven't accounted for baserunning. According to Fangraphs, Dyson was worth approximately 4.5 runs on the bases in 2014. When you consider that he would be on the bases 196 times in our extrapolated sample, compared to just 92 in reality, all of the sudden Dyson's legs add in another 9.6 runs in value. This would increase Dyson's WAR to approximately 6.28, ranking him as the 6th most valuable outfielder in baseball.

At this point, things are starting to get a little crazy. How could Mr. Zoombiya really be worth nearly 6.3 wins above replacement? It just doesn't make sense. Blatantly, this thought doesn't fit the narrative. Dyson is a fourth outfielder. He is a former 50th round pick that has scraped out a career with his legs to earn a few seasons in the Show. He sure as hell doesn't look like a 6 win player.

What we have to realize is that Dyson doesn't look like a starting player, because his value comes in things that are more difficult to see. He isn't bopping home runs. He isn't hitting .320. He isn't posting 100 RBI seasons. He is a world class runner, He does get on base at a decent clip. He did post the highest UZR/150 out of all players with over 600 innings in the field.

For those of you that know me, you know that I have long been a Jarrod Dyson fan. I've defended him when few others would and I would loudly proclaim that his arm was vastly underrated until finally it wasn't. But do I think that Jarrod Dyson is a top ten outfielder in the Major Leagues? No. I do not.

I do think that given a full time job, it would be safe to project Dyson as a 3.5 win player in 2015.  He might have a skill set that will cause his value to drop off quicker than the average outfielder, but he isn't going to become an average runner between now and April 6.

The Royals just paid Alex Rios $11 million hoping that he will turn back into the 3 win player that he was in 2013. Jarrod Dyson will make a fraction of that cost as a first time arbitration eligible player this year and he was worth 3 Wins Above Replacement in a part time role last season. Not to mention, Dyson won't be eligible for free agency until after the 2017 season.

For guys like Jarrod Dyson sometimes it is impossible to overcome the narrative and get the shot they deserve. Regardless, I'll be in Kansas City on Opening Day sitting in section 118, wearing my Mr.Zoombiya jersey. If you can find me, we'll get a drink and and dream about what Dyson could be have been as the Royals' everyday centerfielder.

Follow me on Twitter @Landon_Adams!

Monday, November 10, 2014

In the Cross Hairs: Scott Van Slyke

You might have noticed on Twitter a few days ago that I brought up Scott Van Slyke as a potential solution to the Royals right field search for 2015. Scott, who is the son of former Cardinals first round pick Andy Van Slyke, currently is stuck in the midst of a glut of outfielders with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers currently have one of the most crowded outfields in professional baseball and as a result will be pressed to make a move this offseason. Given the Royals strength at the back end of the bullpen and the Dodgers need of late inning help, it bares to reason that the two organizations could match up in a trade this winter.

Obviously, when it comes to the Dodgers, I would love if the Royals could get their hands on the Pacific Coast League MVP Joc Pederson, or the dynamic Yasiel Puig. However, I don't think the Royals are pulling back one of the aforementioned players, even if they are moving one of the HDH triumvirate. So another player who is catching my eye is Van Slyke.

First, off Van Slyke makes sense because he is right handed. This allows him to slide in nicely as a platoon partner with Royal Jarrod Dyson. Here is a look at what each of the outfielders did in 2014 against opposite side pitching:

Van Slyke vs L: .315/.415/.630 in 130 plate appearances
Dyson vs R: .274/.326/.337 in 233 plate appearances

The combination of the two would allow both players to be put into excellent situations to succeed. As you can see, with Van Slyke in the lineup the Royals would receive a nice boost offensively. When Dyson is roaming the outfield the team would get a bump in the speed and defense department. The two players offer quite differing skill sets which would mesh extremely well on the roster.

Unlike many of the free agent options, Van Slyke is a strong defensive outfielder. For his career he has posted a 13.7 UZR/150. Not only does he have solid range, but his arm is rated average by the metrics.

The final pro with a Scott Van Slyke acquisition is the cost. Van Slyke will only be owed the league minimum in 2015 and will not be eligible for arbitration until following the season. In fact, Van Slyke wouldn't even be eligible for free agency until after the 2019 season. This means that the Royals could control the outfielder for five seasons. Granted the Missouri native is already 28 years old, but there is good reason to believe he would mesh well with the roster the Royals already have in place.

If the Royals were to acquire Van Slyke in a trade involving Greg Holland, they would immediately gain approximately $9 million more dollars in payroll flexibility for next season. Would a trade of Van Slyke plus a prospect for Holland be enough to get the Royals to pull the trigger? Most Royals fans would say no. They would argue that one of the top closers in the game should fetch more than a platoon player and prospect. I wouldn't necessarily disagree, but what fans should realize is that the Royals would also gain a huge amount of additional funds to put toward a starting pitcher and designated hitter.

One negative to note is Van Slyke's .394 BABIP from 2014. He also had an unsustainable HR/FB rate. However, he did square up the ball in over 20% of his at bats and walk 11.4% of the time. While a part of Van Slyke's success in 2014 was definitely BABIP driven, he still garnered the Dodgers 2.8 fWAR. Greg Holland, despite all of his hype in the postseason, earned the Royals 2.3 fWAR.

It is going to be hard to pull the trigger on a trade for any of the big three at the back of the bullpen. Is Van Slyke enough to get it done? Not in my opinion. First, I would ask for Pederson. When that doesn't happen, I'd turn my attention to a package that includes Van Slyke and one or two more prospects or pieces. Relievers are volatile and I think the Royals are well equipped to deal  with a loss of Holland.

Follow me on Twitter @Landon_Adams!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

In The Cross Hairs: Melky Cabrera

Let's travel back in time.  Say...four years ago.  I know you don't want to, but it'll be a quick stop.  The Royals of 2010 were a team to forget.  The lineup was abysmal, but honestly, any lineup with Yuniesky Betancourt as the starting shortstop and Jose Guillen sitting in the designated hitter spot hacking away at pitches like a lumberjack will be anything but pretty to watch.  Our future cyborg in left field, Alex Gordon, spent over half the year in Omaha learning the new position he now dominates.  Our shortstop was Yuniesky Betancourt.  Our then Ace, Zack Grienke, had an off year after coming off a dazzling Cy Young Award season in 2009.  Gil Meche, or known to Royal Revival members as the "GILamonster", spent most of the season on the DL with back and shoulder issues.  We had guys in the rotation like Kyle Davies, Sean O'Sullivan, Bryan Bullington, and Anthony Lerew (the guy with the Elvis Presley chops) making starts.  Oh, did I mention Yuniesky Betancourt was our stinking shortstop?

Along with that seemingly endless list of problems, there was the occupancy of center field.  The CF position saw not one, not two, but seven players receive playing time for the Royals.  Those seven: Rick Ankiel (yes, Rick Ankiel), Gregor Blanco (sad face), Willie Bloomquist (Ol' droopy), David DeJesus, Jarrod Dyson (Zoombiya), Mitch Maier (player/coach for NW Arkansas Naturals in 2014), and Scott Podsednik.  Woof.  To top it off, the 2010 Royals employed two managers.  Trey Hillman, who was let go after starting the year 12-23, managed in Kansas City the prior 2 seasons and finished off his tenure with a combined W-L record of 152-207.  Then, Jeff Foxworthy's best friend, Edgar Frederick a.k.a. Ned Yost, steps in to take the reigns.  I can still remember him getting a standing ovation that night when his name was first announced by the legendary Voice of the Royals, Mike McCartney.  Simply put: the 2010 season was poop.

2011 wasn't all that much better, considering the Royals finished fourth in the division with a 71-91 record, but the lineup was shaping into what got Kansas City to the World Series for the first time since we beat the Cardinals in '85.  Alex Gordon played 151 games in his new home of left field that earned him his first of many gold gloves, while hitting .303 with 23 HR.  Newly acquired Jeff Francoeur played right field, hitting .285 with 20 HR and 22 SB.  Our future corner infielders and starting catcher, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Sal Perez, made their debuts that got everyone excited about the future.  Even Lorenzo Cain received a September call-up to give the Royal Nation a brief glimpse into 2012.

One of the key components to 2011 was the signing of free agent CF Melky Cabrera.  The Royals managed to sign Cabrera, 26 years old at the time, to a 1 year $1.25 million deal, mostly because of a disappointing campaign with the Atlanta Braves the year before.  With the Braves, Cabrera hit .255/.317/.354 with just 4 HR and 42 RBI.  What a steal this signing would turn out to be.  Melky, hands down, had the best season of his young career as a Royal.  During his stint in KC, he set career highs in batting average, HR, RBI, R, and SB.  He finished fourth in the American League in hits with 201, which made him just the 6th Royal in franchise history to collect 200 hits in a season.

Photo courtesy of cjonline.com

During the offseason, the Royals needed to trade Cabrera for pitching and to clear the CF spot for Lorenzo Cain to take over.  Kansas City sent Cabrera to San Francisco for pitchers Ryan Verdugo and, excuse me.. I just threw up in my mouth, Jonathon Sanchez.  I'll stop there as far as the trade is concerned.  While in The City by the Bay, Cabrera continued where he left off.  The Melkman earned himself a spot in the starting lineup for the National League in the All-Star game in Kansas City.  He collected two hits, including a 2-run HR, earning him the All-Star MVP award.  His stellar year ended abruptly when MLB slapped him with a 50 game suspension for PED use.  Since then, Melky has been playing for the Toronto Blue Jays.  Last season, he was on his way to another solid year, but was stopped unexpectedly from getting hit by a pitch, fracturing his pinkie.  He ended 2014 with a .301/.351/.458 line with 16 HR and 73 RBI.

Cabrera was one of several free agents who received a Qualifying Offer of a 1 year $15.3 million deal from their respective teams.  According to SportsNet's Shi Davidi, Cabrera and the Blue Jays are "far apart" in contract discussions.  The now 30 year old will likely test the waters of free agency.  If Melky signs elsewhere, the Blue Jays will receive a compensatory draft pick in exchange, so there is a plus to the situation for Toronto. 

A Melkman reunion in Kansas City isn't really seen by many for 2015.  MLB Trade Rumors has predicted a 5 year $70 million deal in the works for the 30 year old switch hitter.  If by happenstance the Royals were to look into Cabrera's services for a second go-around, there may be a very slight issue.  There's no worry about Cabrera having trouble playing the outfield.  Last season, all but three of his 139 games were in the OF.  For most of his career, however, he has certainly avoided RF, but not completely.  If the Royals happen to part ways with DH Billy Butler, which most definitely would be a sad day, Melky could in fact fill Butler's position.  I would not be opposed if he were to see some time in RF, assuming the Royals do not re-sign Nori Aoki.

Follow Daniel Ware and Royal Revival on Twitter: 

Monday, November 3, 2014

In The Cross Hairs: Brandon McCarthy

What a year.  What an unbelievably, amazing season  from our Boys in Blue.  Right off the bat, I want to thank the Royals for giving all of us memories we will cherish forever.  Sure we had some bad spells, I can even recall a game we attended in May against the Astros.  Nothing was going our way that series.  For kicks, I said to fellow Royal Revival members Landon and Paden, "Watch this..Chris Carter. Left Field bullpen. Dinger."  Sure enough.  Things weren't going our way, but the boys ignored the doubters and eventually made the World Series for the first time in my young life.  I look forward to talking to my children about this season, but I also look forward to the future and how bright it certainly looks!

Onward we go.  This winter should be a busy one for Dayton Moore and Company.  Three key positions need to be answered in the coming months.  As you know, the Royals announced they had declined Billy Butler's $12.5 million option, which should have been no surprise to anyone.  Billy wants to stay, which is great to hear, but a cheap and mutual agreement between Butler and the Royals will be needed.  While discussing this with fellow R.R. members, we believe a 1 year $6 million deal could do it, or possibly a 2 year $12 million contract.  However, if another suitor comes along with a 2 year $14 million deal on the table, I think Butler takes it.  He's repeatedly said he wants to #BeRoyal, but baseball is a business.  We'll have to wait and see what he decides.  Life without Billy just doesn't seem right.

To the main topic of this post.  Our rotation was revamped two years ago when the Royals traded top prospect Wil Myers for James Shields and Wade Davis.  I think it's safe to say, we won the trade.  Now that 2014 has come to a close, 'Big Game' James is a free agent and is seeking big money in free agency. Will the Royals extend a Qualifying Offer of 1 year $15.3 million to the soon-to-be 33 year old?  Sure.  Will James take the deal?  He will probably test the waters of the market before discussing anything with the Royals.  One place I can see him land is Chicago.  No, not with the White Sox, but reuniting with his former manager Joe Maddon and dawning a Cubs uniform.  The Cubs have a great core of young talent and something they could use again is an ace for their rotation.  I don't want Shields to go away any more than I do Billy, but with the Royals current situation, Butler seems to be the top priority for the time being.

So, let's talk in terms of 2015 without James Shields.  He undeniably helped the Royals get to where they are today, but Dayton and his colleagues need to think of a possible replacement.  One idea could be to sign 31 year old Brandon McCarthy.  There's no question that he wasn't superb in Arizona to begin the 2014 season.  In 18 starts for the D-Backs, he was 3-10 with a 5.01 ERA.  Those numbers helped the Yankees lure him in from Arizona by exchanging Vidal Nuno.  McCarthy stepped up in a big way for his final 14 starts, going 7-5 with a 2.89 ERA with 82 Ks and 13 BBs in 90.1 innings.  This was definitely a nice acquisition considering the injuries to C.C. Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka.
Photo by Bill Kostroun, NYPost.com

2014 was definitely a breath of fresh air for Brandon.  For Arizona and NY combined, he logged 200 innings for the first time in his career, and the most since his 2011 campaign with Oakland when he threw 170 innings.  For most of his career, McCarthy has been inconsistent, except for his two year stint in Oakland, which he enjoyed very much.  In 281.2 innings, he had a combined ERA of 3.29 with 196 Ks and 49 BBs.  He has good command of his fastball, which averaged 93 mph this season, he features a nice cutter that the Yankees encouraged him to through again, which could be part of his success in the pinstripes.  He'll also put some sink on his fastball and throws a curveball around 80 mph and a changeup, but the off-speed pitch was almost non-existent as he threw it only 0.7% of the time.

McCarthy would definitely be a gamble.  He made $10.25 million in 2014, while making a combined $15.5 million the last two seasons.  I've seen possible offers for the righty at around $30 million in total for 3 years.  That's quite a bit for the Royals to take on, considering McCarthy has been anything but consistent throughout his career.  Here's a plus: his groundball and flyball numbers have flipped since the beginning of his career in 2005.  According to FanGraphs, his GB% the past 2 seasons: 48.2% and 52.6%, respectively.  FB% the past 2 seasons: 27.1% and 24.7%.  Compared to Shields, McCarthy would be a cheaper replacement, but is it worth the risk on the unpredictable 31 year old?

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Experience was Everything

What an incredible run? I don't even know where to begin. I guess to start let me just say how blessed I am to have gotten to witness such an improbable story about a team that simply refused to quit. For Kansas City the last few weeks have represented so much more than W's on a baseball scorecard. For the city it represented rebirth.

Once upon a time, the city of Kansas City was betrayed by the team they loved. Shortly after the exodus, Ewing Kauffman brought baseball back to the city which adored it. Through shrewd moves and a dedication to developing talent from within the Royals developed into the model franchise of professional baseball. This was not only the case on the field, but in a time when cookie cutter parks were the norm, only Kauffman Stadium and Dodger Stadium continue to represent the beauty of their era.

Expressing their love for the team, the fans came in droves. For 18 straight seasons the Royals posted attendance totals above the American League average. This stretch peaked in 1989, when the team averaged over 30,000 fans per game for the only time in the franchise's history. Will this magical season push the Royals past that mark again in 2015?

In 2014, the team averaged 24,154 per game. It isn't unreasonable to expect a jump of about 3-4,000 per game next season. A jump of 3,000 per game would give the Royals nearly 2.2 million fans on the season and would be their highest total since the 1990 season. Even if the Royals could just average 537 more fans per game next season they will top the 2 million mark since the first time since 1991.

What do you think Royals fans? Can we collectively push this team over the 30,000 per game mark for just the second time in team history? It is undoubtedly a tall order, but this city has fallen in love with this team.

For me the October magic brought back memories. I was reminded of school nights when I was supposed to be tucked sound in my bed, but instead would sneak into the living room to watch the game with my dad. It reminded me of the time I got home from school and my dad was parked in the drive way and said to get in, we are going to go watch the Royals take on Ken Griffey Jr. and the Mariners.

These are the things that the Royals postseason has reminded us of. Sports aren't just about winning or losing. If they were then why would so many people choose a hobby in which every night, half of the participants wind up disappointed?

What this postseason run has reminded me of is the beauty of the game. It reminds me of how integral of a role that it has played in the relationships of my life. While I consider myself to be an extremely analytical fan, over the last year and a half I have wondered if this approach somehow detracts from my enjoyment of watching the game that I love. Expected win percentages and projected records. If we can pinpoint these things so distinctly then why do we even watch? We watch because even if there is an 87% chance that the Royals win between 79-86 games, there is still a 13% chance that they don't. Somewhere in those odds is the opportunity for something incredible to be witnessed. This season the Royals have reminded me of that.

In 20 years, when we look back on the 2014 season, we won't explain that the Royals playoff odds were set at 23% at the start of the season. We won't talk about how at one point during Game Four their series win expectancy stood at 83%. We will talk about the moments that defined the season. We will talk about how this team overcame two deficits of more than 7 games in the division. We will talk about Lorenzo Cain's diving catches, Jarrod Dyson's stolen bases, Alex Gordon's throws, and the two young stud pitchers who shoved it.

More importantly than that we will talk about our personal highlights. The moment in the Wild Card game when the man beside you started sobbing after Hosmer dove in to first to beat out a throw in the top of the tenth. Or the night spent with your dad and brothers in the upper deck during the ALCS. Or the time you were so happy that the Royals came back on Jon Lester that you kissed your friend on the cheek. These are the moments that sports are all about.

The Royals were just the third team in baseball history to lose Game Seven with the tying run on third base when the final out was made. The Royals are also the winningiest team from a single postseason to not earn World Series rings. By all accounts all Royals fans should be heart broken today. But I'm not heart broken. In fact, I feel more love for this team and these fans than I have felt in my entire life and I know one thing for certain.... Just wait until next year.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Naming Rights for "The K"

This morning Front Row Analytics posted a very interesting tweet regarding the naming rights of Kauffman Stadium. As you can see above the company estimates that a sponsor could have generated approximately $28.1 million in advertising value from having its name plastered on Kauffman throughout the postseason.

Some of you might recall past rumors about the naming rights to Kauffman Stadium. In 2011, Yahoo reported that the team had sold the rights  for $3-6 million annually over the next 21 years. Later it was reported that a deal had fallen through with US Bank to acquire the naming rights to the stadium known affectionately by Royals fans as "The K."

I come from a background in sports marketing and sales and so I realize as well as anyone that everything has a price. This is especially true when it comes to sports marketing and promotion. However, I couldn't get myself to be accepting of selling the Kauffman name for just $3-6 million per season. Roughly enough to add a utility player or middle reliever to the roster. 

What Front Row Analytics illustrates though is how quality performance can boost revenue across the board. Not only will the Royals sell more seats in 2015 than they have for twenty years, but they will also see an increase in advertising and sponsorship revenue as a result. More butts in the seats means more eyes on the field, eyes on the screens, and ears next to radios. These things equate to dollars. 

I'm not sure what it would take for me to be happy to hear that the Royals have sold the naming rights to Kauffman Stadium. Would $6-10 million be enough to get the job done? Would $10-15 million per year make it worth it? Obviously, that sort of money could be a huge boon to the payroll of the franchise and more important to me than the name of the stadium is the product on the field.

For many fans, there is no number that could make such an action acceptable. What we must remember is that no matter the name scripted on to the facade of the building it will always be "The K" for us. 


Wow! Where do I even begin? As many of you know this blog has been eerily quiet over the past four months. After posting a record number of times and receiving a record number of page views all throughout the Spring (thank you all for taking the time to read our ramblings), this blog slipped into near non-existence throughout the summer months.

First, let me explain why that was the case. You see when a man loves a woman...

Let's try this again. First let me explain myself.

This last summer, I was busy planning a wedding, honeymoon, and beginning the process of remodeling a house. The wedding was completed on October 11 and my loving wife allowed the ALDS to be played during the reception. The honeymoon was finished on Sunday, October 26. Again my wonderful wife allowed us to watch each of the games while we were in Vancouver and Seattle. Finally, my home is should to be finished this afternoon. On top of all of this I have also been pursuing an MBA and working a full time job.

I do not believe that I am necessarily any busier than the rest of you, but when it came to time management, unfortunately, posting to this site was the first sacrifice. Hopefully, we can get back to writing as usual as we move forward!

As for the rest of the blog team, Dan Ware is engaged and planning a wedding/honeymoon for next summer. He is also searching for schools to continue his post graduate learning. Paden Bennett was married this summer, a wedding that myself and Dan were fortunate to be a part of. Joe Cox moved twice and has started a new job. Finally, Nathan Bramwell finished up his MBA a couple of months ago and has transitioned to a new home and job back in our hometown of Joplin, Missouri. Nick Allen may stop in from time to time, but you can also find his excellent work on Fly War Eagle and TripSided.

What I am saying is that for our blog team it has been the perfect storm, but we have stayed as active as possible on Twitter and have simply enjoyed the ride that we are on.

We'll be with you tonight Royals nation as our Boys in Blue seek to cap off what has been one of the most incredible runs in sports history. Regardless of the outcome, consider the Royals Revived!

You can find our team on Twitter at the following handles:

Landon Adams - @Landon_Adams
Nicholas Allen - @NicholasIAllen
Paden Bennett - @PadenBennett22
Nathan Bramwell - @tipof_arrowhead
Daniel Ware - @Daniel_L_Ware

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Revisiting the Wil Myers Trade

First off, I want to apologize for my absence over the past six weeks. As many of you have read here before, I've never been one to analyze individual games or do weekly updates. Quite frankly, I haven't been writing for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, I haven't had the free time necessary to maintain this blog. I am getting married in October and in the process of a home remodel. Also, my brother was married last night, as well as fellow Royal Revival writer Paden. In addition to these items, I am currently pursuing a Master's degree and have the responsibilities of a full time job. If the posts here are few and far between over the next few months, I hope you can bare with me.

The major reason for this post today is yesterday's blockbuster trade between the Athletics and Cubs. My initial reaction to the trade was 'man, is the Cubs system stacked.' My second thought, I hope this gets Billy Beane a ring.

Despite the lack of pitching prospects in the Cubs system it seems possible that the lovable losers could push for the title of Best Farm System ever. Theo Epstein, who has stated that he wants to build a farm system like the one the Royals had is on the cusp of accomplishing just that. (On a side note, I wonder how many baseball executives looked lustily upon the Royals system and thought to themselves, "oh if only I could be the one to take them to the next level.")

Since the trade there have been many who have comped this deal to the trade that sent Wil Myers to Tampa Bay. Let me be perfectly clear, this comparison is lazy. Yes, both the Royals and A's sent a top ten prospect plus to another team for pitching talent in an attempt to win now. No, that doesn't make the trades equal. This mentality that one is approved because it is Billy Beane and the other is rejected because it is Dayton Moore is unfair to the fans smart enough to evaluate moves on a much deeper level.

The Royals made the trade to get to the periphery of playoff contention. The Athletics made the trade to win a world series title. If you equate these two items as being of the same value, then you can click the X found in the upper right hand corner of the browser. A team's placement on the win curve is essential in determining what they should be willing to pay for each additional win. This is rudimentary stuff, but somehow seems to be forgotten by those stating these trades are one in the same.

Another point that should be made is that the Royals trade occurred in the off-season, a time in which talent can be acquired without sacrificing talent already in hand. Quite simply, if the A's wanted to improve their rotation in July, they had no choice but to move talent from their organization. In the off-season, the Royals could in theory acquire talent, while also hanging on to the talent at hand. This represents an enormous difference in the trades.

Finally, Addison Russell, while he is an outstanding prospect is not ready to contribute at the Major League level. He has played 16 games in the upper levels of the Minor Leagues. Best case is that he is called up midway through next season. Meaning the A's were not going to get a return on him for basically an entire season. Wil Myers on the other hand was Major League ready and returns on him would begin the same time as the returns of the asset. This is a key point that I haven't seen mentioned, but should not be ignored.

Of course, all of this pushed me to revisit the Myers trade. Since the Royals seemingly made the decision to go for it in 2013 and 2014, it would make sense that they would have returned much more value in the short term than the Rays. In order to see if the Royals have come out ahead in the Myers-Shields trade, I decided to compare the post trade WAR totals for the Royals with the WAR total from the Royals in an alternate universe in which they stayed the course and held on to Wil Myers. Also, since the Royals would have had a solution in right field, I have included the Smith brothers, Justin Maxwell, and Nori Aoki in this evaluation.

bWAR 2013 2014   fWAR 2013 2014
w/out trade $1.00 $1.50   w/out trade $1.00 $1.50
Patrick Leonard A A+   Patrick Leonard A A+
Mike Montgomery AAA AAA   Mike Montgomery AAA AAA
Jake Odorizzi 0.3 0.9   Jake Odorizzi 0.3 1.5
Wil Myers 1.9 -0.6   Wil Myers 2.4 0.4
Will Smith   1.3   Will Smith   0.6
Kyle Smith A+ AA   Kyle Smith A+ AA
  2.2 1.6     2.7 2.5
w/trade $11.80 $20.25   w/trade $11.80 $20.25
James Shields 4.1 -0.1   James Shields 4.5 1.4
Wade Davis -2.1 1.8   Wade Davis 1.7 1.5
Nori Aoki   -0.5   Nori Aoki   0.9
Justin Maxwell 0.6 -1.2   Justin Maxwell 0.7 -1.1
  2.6 0     6.9 2.7

The left hand column utilized the WAR from Baseball Reference, while the right side uses Fangraphs' version. As you can see, the Royals clearly came out ahead in 2013, but depending on which WAR you prefer it was either just 0.4 wins or 4.2 wins ahead. Let's split the difference and say the Royals were 2.3 wins better because of the trade. In 2014, we find that according to bWAR the Royals are actually 1.6 WAR worse because of the trade, while fWAR says they are 0.2 wins better. Again let's split the difference and say they are 1.4 wins worse because of the trade. 

Really based off the above totals, no matter how you slice it, it is hard to argue that the Royals were much better off over the past two seasons due to the acquiring of James Shields and Wade Davis. In fact, based off of our midway points, the Royals actually were just 0.9 wins better over the last year and a half, thanks to the trade. I doubt this is what Royals officials had in mind when they pulled the trigger on the trade that would send their top prospect to Tampa Bay.

Unfortunately for Royals fans it gets worse. As you can see in the above tables, there is also a dollar figure included. This represents in millions how much the Royals paid for the players. In 2013, the Royals spent $10.8 million more for the bottom group and in 2014 the total jumped to $18.75 million more. My guess is that this difference could have been spent on the free agent market to acquire an additional win over the last year and a half, which would have made the top grouping better even in the short run. 

Fortunately, there is a way that we can consider the monetary implications in our evaluation. In 2013, Fangraphs valued each win at approximately $5 million. If we multiply that by the WAR total for each set and add in the difference in money to the alternate universe scenario, the Myers led Royals squad boasts an average over $23.05 million in value between Baseball Reference and Fangraphs to $23.75 million for the Shields version (approximately 0.1 win). This obviously is a slight edge to the Shields led Royals. However, the 2014 averages favor the Myers led squad $54.1 million to $26.65 million (roughly 4.6 wins).

Clearly, the Royals were willing to sacrifice the long term to push the envelope in the short term. Unfortunately, based off these numbers the Royals have lost tremendously in the short run as well. Even if we discount each year following 2013, the numbers are going to be staggeringly one sided when this set of trades is evaluated. To close, let me just give you an update on the other guys the Royals gave up that have yet to contribute at the Major League level. 

Patrick Leonard: Hitting .298/.386/.521 in 76 games with Tampa Bay's High A team. His 12 homers would be tied for third most in the Royals organization. He is 21 years old.

Mike Montgomery: 3.28 ERA in 85 innings with Triple A Durham (most hitter friendly park in league). He leads the International League in FIP and SIERA. Still just 24 years old. 

Kyle Smith: Has pitched 78.1 innings between the Astros High-A and Double A teams. Currently has a 3.56 ERA, is striking out 10.23 per 9 innings and walking just 2.64. He is also 21 years old.

Follow me on Twitter @Landon_Adams!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Royals Offense is as Bad as it Seems

The Royals offense obviously has been disappointing yet again in 2014. Most of us would make the case that this is mainly because of the Royals inability to drive the baseball. We'd all likely also admit that this team does a pretty good job of making contact, albeit very weak contact. 

Given the amount of contact that the Royals make, it is likely that the success of this offense will fluctuate more than that of offenses that rely on walks and the long ball. This is simply because as a statistic batting average on balls in play can fluctuate a great deal. This thought process has led us in the past to make excuses for the offense and specifically individual players. 

This season for instance the Royals offense currently ranks 18th in baseball in batting average on balls in play. How much difference would our opinion of the offense be, if for instance, instead of posting a .293 BABIP, they were above the .300 mark? Specifically, we might look at individual players and point out guys who are likely to improve. 

Sure, Moustakas has been bad, but damn the luck his BABIP is just .132!

Unfortunately, what we must remember is that there also exist methods to calculate expected BABIP. These methods can vary, but Jeff Zimmerman has found good reason to believe that Hard Hit% plays a crucial role in the xBABIP formula. Either way, the days of assuming that players should fall in around the .300 mark in batting average on balls in play are behind. It is clear that players have an enormous say in how the many of their balls are converted into outs. 

Here's a look at the Royals current hitters. The first number is their current BABIP and the second number is their xBABIP supplied by Zimmerman. (You can view the numbers for yourself here.)
  • Nori Aoki: .337/.266
  • Omar Infante: .286/.305
  • Eric Hosmer: .344/.263
  • Billy Butler: .275/.262
  • Alex Gordon: .306/.240
  • Salvador Perez: .269/.265
  • Mike Moustakas: .132/.239
  • Lorenzo Cain: .412/.238
  • Alcides Escobar: .343/.273
  • Jarrod Dyson: .429/.240
  • Justin Maxwell: .364/.252
  • Brett Hayes: .000/.158
  • Danny Valencia: .300/.275
As you see, the Royals have actually been quite fortunate when it comes to their batting average on balls in play. On average, each starting Royals is overachieving by about 39 points. This would indicate that instead of being near the middle of the pack in BABIP, the Royals should actually be ranking near the bottom of the league. 

For Royals fans this is a scary notion. Is it really possible that an offense averaging 3.9 runs per game has actually outperformed itself? It's a tall order, but let's hope the Royals realize that being a good hitter isn't just about putting the ball in play.

Follow me on Twitter @Landon_Adams!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Billy Butler and Future Production

As a whole,  the Royals offense is again off to an incredibly disappointing start in 2014. Of course, there are some players that deserve the blame more than others and there are some players who receive more of the blame than others. Over the past few years, no player has teetered this line more often than designated hitter Billy Butler.

A portion of the fan base complains that Butler is fat, too slow, doesn't hit for enough power, and can't deliver in clutch situations. Another portion of the fan base points out that Butler is a career .313/.394/.460 hitter with runners in scoring position and that he gets on base at a career clip of .362. It seems as though this debate has gotten so divisive that there is no grey area in regards to Billy Butler.

Obviously, there is a segment of fans that view baseball much differently than myself. They beat their chest to stats like RBI and they prefer to keep math away from their evaluation of players. Obviously, many of these individuals greatly undervalue the strengths of Butler. More surprising to me are the analytics on the other side of the fence that are unable to see flaws in Butler's game as well as some of his concerning trends.

In regards to last season, it is true that Butler was valuable to the offense. His 116 RC+  was the second best among everyday hitters in the lineup. At the same time, it is not unfair to expect more from Butler. In 2013, he was coming off a 138 RC+ and the Royals were pushing the chips into the center of the table. Despite this there were reports of him coming to camp overweight, and then in season his average flyball distance dropped from 297 to 276 feet. As a result his HR/FB% nose dived, his home run total dipped, and his slugging percentage fell all the way to .412.

Yes, if all things were created equal, Butler was not the problem with last season's offense. However, Butler wasn't expected to simply be one of the best hitters in the lineup. He was expected to be one of the best hitters in the American League. After a season which saw him bop a career high 29 home runs, Butler seemed poised to be one of the most dangerous hitters in the American League in his age 27 season.

What most of us have seemed to underestimate though is just how much more harsh the aging curve is for heavy players than it is for average sized individuals. Here is a look at the aging curves of the two body types, with Butler's OPS numbers overlayed:

As you can see, the curve of heavier players dips much earlier in the player's career than it does for average sized individuals. For Butler's own sake, I haven't even included this year's numbers in the illustration of how his own aging curve is playing out. If you are a defendant of Billy Butler and you like to cite advanced statistics to back up your argument, you have to recognize that there is an analytical reasoning behind the notion that Butler's skillset could regress much more quickly than the average player.

Butler appears to be heating up. In his last 9 games (yay! selective end points), he is hitting .343/.368/.514. However, not only has Butler's ground ball percentage increased in four consecutive seasons, but his average fly ball distance has also decreased. Even when he is getting the ball into the air he isn't driving it as far.

Do I expect Butler to finish the year with a sub .700 OPS? Absolutely not. But I also wouldn't bet on him getting back into the .850+ OPS range. Based off the aging curves of heavier players in the past, Butler should have two or three more seasons with an OPS around .800. However, after that it could be a pretty quick fall for the Royals former first round pick. Hopefully, Butler can prove me wrong and can stay hot throughout the rest of 2014. We all know the offense needs the lift.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Minor League Update - Lexington Legends

The mustachioed Legends of Lexington have started 9-10 to start the 2014 season. The club currently sits sixth in the seven-team South Atlantic League’s Southern Division, trailing first place Savannah (SF) by 2.5 games.

As a team, the Legends are hitting .249/.299/.350 with a league low 36 walks. The pitching staff has recorded a solid 3.31 ERA, ranking in the top half of the league. The staff has a league-high two shutouts this season.

Individual Hitting
MiLB.com/lexingtonlegends.com (Mary Lay)
Who’s Hot:

Outfielder and Missouri native Fred Ford leads the South Atlantic League with 17 RBI and ranks second with seven doubles. The 22-year old, who has also spent some time at first base is hitting .283/.338/.500 across 64 plate appearances in 18 games.

He and third baseman Michael Antonio each have two of the club’s eight total home runs. Antonio and outfielder Dominique Taylor have nine RBI, trailing only Ford on the Lexington roster.

Who’s Not:

Prospect Elier Hernandez is off to a slow start, hitting .206/.242/.222 in 16 games with only one RBI to this point.

Shortstop Humberto Arteaga may be turning the corner with seven hits in his last four ballgames, but his line is less than stellar at .239/.239/.254 – which of course means he has yet to draw a walk in 67 plate appearances out of the two-hole. Arteaga has collected hits in 13 of 16 games, but has scored only twice and driven in only two runs.

Individual Pitching

Who’s Hot:

Andrew Edwards ranks second in the league among qualified starters with a 1.06 ERA over 17 innings. Teammate Andrew Matt Tenuta falls just behind him with a 1.09 ERA in 24.2 innings and has allowed only 24 base runners thus far.

Luis Santos is 1-0 with a save as a tandem starter. In 14.1 innings, the right hander has allowed 13 hits and only one walk. He has struck out 13.

Who’s Not:

Andrew Fairchild was dominant in his first start of the season, tossing six no-hit innings April 8. He walked three and struck out seven in the outing and allowed one unearned run. However, in his next start, the 20-year old lefty surrendered nine earned runs in just 1.1 innings. He walked six and allowed two hits. To this point, Fairchild is 0-2 with an 11.05 ERA with four wild pitches.

Lefty Luis Rico’s three losses are tied for most in the league. He has allowed three earned runs or more in three of four starts this season, and has posted a 9.00 ERA to this point.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Minor League Update - Wilmington Blue Rocks

Through the season’s first 18 games, Wilmington is 7-11, four games behind first place Potomac (WSH) in the Carolina League’s Northern Division. The club has dropped four in a row.

Wilmington’s offense has struggled thus far hitting just .217/.316/.311 with only three long balls, fewest in the league (as is the Royals style). That number is half the next closest club.

The Blue Rocks have been good on the base paths however, stealing 21 bases, which ranks second in the eight-team league. In fact, the club is a staggering 21-for-21 in stolen base attempts!

While the team’s 3.67 ERA falls in the middle of the pack, the club has fanned a league-high 162 batters in 147 innings this season. Defensively, the club has allowed only four unearned runs, fewest in the league.

Individual Hitting

Who’s Hot:

Everyone’s favorite Blue Rock, Raul A. Mondesi has hit safely in 11 of his last 13 games. The 18-year old shortstop is hitting .283/.358/.367 in 66 plate appearances as the Wilmington leadoff hitter.

Zane Evans is tied for second in the league with seven doubles, six of which game in his first four ballgames. In 11 games, the Georgia native is hitting .400/.467/.575 and has eight RBI. The catcher/DH is 10-for-22 against right-handed pitching with a 1.227 OPS in that small sample.

Middle infielder Jack Lopez leads the club with nine RBI, and is tied with Terrance Gore with a team-high five stolen bases. The 21-year old is currently the league’s hardest regular to strike out. Lopez strikes out every 16 at bats, on average, more than five at bats more than the closest player.

Who’s Not:

Bubba Starling has struck out 24 times this year, third most in the league. In fact, the outfielder has recorded at least one strikeout in all but one game this season (and 0-for-3 night on April 9). The one-time top prospect is hitting just .133/.284/.250 through 17 games, but has improved quite a bit from his low point of .098/.260/.220 a week ago. He has accounted for one-third of the club’s homers, however.

2013 first rounder Hunter Dozier is on a four game hitting streak, but has spent a large portion of April below the Mendoza Line. The third baseman currently stands at .203/.316/.266 in 72 plate appearances hitting third in the order for Wilmington.

Individual Pitching

Who’s Hot:

Christian Binford ranks ninth in the Carolina League among qualified starters with a 2.20 ERA in 16.1 innings. The right-hander did not allow an earned run in his first 12 innings. He has struck out 19 hitters (29.7%) and allowed just three walks (4.7%) this season. Opponents are hitting .197 against Binford, and he has allowed a total of 15 baserunners - 8.27 per nine innings – which ranks third in the league.

Lefty starter Jonathan Dziedzic is tied for the league lead with three wins, and owns a 1.69 ERA in 16 innings across three appearances. He has struck out 29.7% of the hitters he has faced this year. Lefties are 1-for-12 against Dziedzic thus far.

In the bullpen, Zeb Sneed has held opponents to a 2-for-29 start this season, good for a .069 batting average allowed. He also has yet to allow a run or a walk in 9.1 innings.

Fellow reliever Glenn Sparkman has struck out 15 of the 37 batters he has faced this season (40.5%) in ten innings across five outings.

Who’s In Between:

The club’s top pitching prospect, Miguel Almonte, ranks third in the league with 21 strikeouts, a round 25% of the batters he has faced. If that rate holds, it would be the best of Almonte’s professional career. He has held opponents to a .191 batting average. In four starts, the 21-year old is 2-0 with a 5.23. with two outstanding starts and two poor ones.

Relievers Matthew Murray and Ali Williams have ERAs of 1.35 and 1.17, respectively, in a combined 21 innings.

Who’s Not:

Following a very rough third start, in which he allowed seven earned runs in just two innings at Myrtle Beach (TEX), big-time prospect Sean Manaea sits with an 8.71 ERA. Opponents are now hitting .318 against the lefty.

Daniel Stumpf is 0-3, and his three losses are tied for the most in the league.