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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Jazayerli: They Might Be Royals (Royals)

And keep your gushers sealed in tight with aluminum foil (foil).

The Royals’ walk rate (6.04 percent) is the lowest in the major leagues since the strike zone was redefined in 1969. They’re on pace for 99 homers, which would be the fewest by an AL team since 1994… while they’re last in the majors in walks, they’re also last in strikeouts… All of that contact has propelled the Royals to third in the majors in batting average, meaning that despite their historic lack of plate discipline and power, their overall OBP (11th in the AL) and slugging (11th) are merely bad, not putrid. Their 110 stolen bases are 24 more than every other AL team, and their 83 percent success rate is third in the majors…

The Royals rank ninth in the AL in runs scored… However, they excel in run prevention. I say “run prevention” and not “pitching,” because while the Royals’ pitching staff is above average, their defense is the best in baseball for the second year in a row. Their fielders have been worth 52 runs above average this season according to FanGraphs, a year after their defense saved an incredible 88 runs… The Royals’ outfield defense, in particular, has been astounding…

The Royals’ playoff odds, which were barely out of single digits at the trading deadline, are now above 70 percent, including better than 60 percent odds of winning the division…

Appropriately enough in a season in which up is down and black is white, the Royals aren’t really winning because of their fabled farm system, the one labeled maybe the greatest ever three years ago, when it put a record nine players on Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects list… Of the nine players featured on that top prospects list, only one, lefty Danny Duffy, has made a significant contribution to this year’s team…

To win without any power, and without any plate discipline, requires a minuscule margin for error.

But on their 29th try, the Royals might have finally hit a gusher.

The District Attorney Posted: August 19, 2014 at 02:11 PM | 21 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: rany jazayerli, royals

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 19, 2014 at 02:42 PM (#4774683)
Rany tweets that the Royals could be the first team ever to make the playoffs while finishing last in walks and home runs.
   2. Lassus Posted: August 19, 2014 at 02:50 PM (#4774690)
Well done, DA.
   3. The kids disappeared, now Der-K has too much candy Posted: August 19, 2014 at 02:56 PM (#4774695)
I dunno, they might be big, big, big, big lies.
   4. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: August 19, 2014 at 03:01 PM (#4774700)
To win without any power, and without any plate discipline,


Everything Right is Wrong Again.
   5. Greg K Posted: August 19, 2014 at 03:12 PM (#4774709)
Does this mean we have to call Billy Butler "Queen Bee"?
   6. The kids disappeared, now Der-K has too much candy Posted: August 19, 2014 at 03:25 PM (#4774721)
Lorde no, Greg.
   7. villageidiom Posted: August 19, 2014 at 04:02 PM (#4774755)
They do have Tigers on a gold leash.
   8. Win Big Stein's Money Posted: August 19, 2014 at 04:11 PM (#4774767)
I for one welcome our new Korean Overlord.
   9. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 19, 2014 at 04:42 PM (#4774802)
Well, it was nice while it lasted. Royals are on a regional cover for Sports Illustrated. Smell ya later.
   10. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 19, 2014 at 04:52 PM (#4774811)
is there any indication that run prevention was a focus of management?

meaning did they have a plan or did it just happen?

because from the backwoods the focus seemed to be on having their young position players develop as hitters. gordon becoming a great defensive left fielder is the pleasant outcome of him washing out as a third baseman.

not looking to be critical. just curious.

and ned yost managing not just an effective bullpen but a great bullpen boggles my mind.
   11. JRVJ Posted: August 19, 2014 at 04:54 PM (#4774812)
They do the little things in an era in which “doing the little things” has deservedly become a point of mockery, not pride. And it’s working for them.


As offense has cratered after the PED era, but Ks are up, I wonder if it's not time to start changing our POV as to what constitutes successful baseball. Phrased differently, perhaps "doing the Little things" should be a praiseworthy strategy, as opposed to a mockable one.


While the Royals play great defense, their opponents sometimes do not, and by putting the ball in play as often as they do, Kansas City is constantly testing its foes


In essence, the Royals may be dispelling the long held SABR tenet that errors don't matter. Interesting.
   12. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 19, 2014 at 04:58 PM (#4774815)

is there any indication that run prevention was a focus of management?


Probably. They've been stressing pitching and defense since 1985. I know they specifically wanted Esky for his glove, and I think they liked Cain's as well.

Gordon and Dyson were really happy accidents though.

Phrased differently, perhaps "doing the Little things" should be a praiseworthy strategy, as opposed to a mockable one.


But what are the "little things"? Clutch hitting? That's fine if that's what contributes to successful baseball, but if its not a repeatable skill, I don't know how you build a team for that. Its been fun to watch the Royals lately, but they've been enormously lucky offensively the last month.
   13. McCoy Posted: August 19, 2014 at 04:59 PM (#4774818)
It should be easily testable. By being aggressive on offense how many runs have they created through errors and taking the extra base?

They have a below average offense with a 92 OPS+. So you could try to grind it out to scratch out a run here or there every so often or you could simply hit the ball over there head and move the runners that way. I doubt the whole putting pressure on the defense actually amounted to much so far this season. Maybe a 10 runs or so if they are actually doing that.
   14. McCoy Posted: August 19, 2014 at 05:04 PM (#4774822)
The Royals take the extra base 40% of the time. The league does it 41% of the time so that doesn't look like the answer. KC has the 4th highest outs on base while being below average on raw extra bases being taken. KC has reached on an error 44 times so far this year. The AL average is 44 as well. 32% of their runners have scored while the league average is 30%. The Royals by far and away steal the most bases in the AL and they are extremely successful in doing so.

On paper their "little things" on offense don't appear to amount to much. WAR gives them 6 runs above average for baserunning and GDP.
   15. JRVJ Posted: August 19, 2014 at 05:12 PM (#4774834)
Why only on offense? Also, is there a way to check if they've actually advanced a higher number of bases due to errors vis-a-vis other AL teams?
   16. The District Attorney Posted: August 19, 2014 at 05:16 PM (#4774839)
They do have Tigers on a gold leash.
I wish I had thought of that.
   17. McCoy Posted: August 19, 2014 at 05:22 PM (#4774847)
Why only on offense?

Because the idea was that they were putting the ball in play more often and putting pressure on defenses. Overall that doesn't appear to be the case. I think we all agree that their defense is good this year.
   18. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 19, 2014 at 05:27 PM (#4774853)
Their defense was really good last year too. Of course, they're playing about as well as last year, its Detroit that has gotten appreciably worse.
   19. villageidiom Posted: August 19, 2014 at 05:34 PM (#4774859)
I wish I had thought of that.
It came up before. This was my "the jerk store called" moment; I've been waiting eight months for the opportunity to come up again so I could play it right this time.
   20. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: August 19, 2014 at 05:46 PM (#4774864)
One thing about the 2014 AL, best team offense (raw numbers): 4.81 r/g, worst: 3.85 r/g (gap 0.96)
pitching/defense, best: 3.19 r/g, worst: 5.07 (gap 1.88)

2013 the offense gap was 1.58, defense gap was 1.52

2012 the offense gap was 1.17, defense gap was 1.66

2011 the offense gap was 1.97, defense gap was 1.52

2010 the offense gap was 2.23, defense gap was 1.36

2009 the offense gap was 1.70, defense gap was 1.14

2008 the offense gap was 2.23, defense gap was 1.36

so in 2014 (and to a lesser extent 2012) the variability among teams is mostly on the run prevention side- this is not usual, most years there is a greater gap between the highest and lowest scoring teams than there is between the teams best at and worst at run prevention...

I'm not sure what this means, could just be fluke year, maybe I need to look at more years

pre-souped up HR era
1992: the offense gap was 1.31, defense gap was 1.20
1991: the offense gap was 1.56, defense gap was 1.18
1990: the offense gap was 1.01, defense gap was 1.17
1989: the offense gap was 1.05, defense gap was 1.48
1988: the offense gap was 1.60, defense gap was 1.10


I think the majority of years there is more variability on offense than defense, there are years where there is more variability on defense than offense, but even for those years, 2014 is off the charts, having the best and worst run scoring teams being less than a run apart is odd, having the best and worst teams at run prevention being nearly 2 runs apart is odd, having them happen in the same year?

One more year 1976 (the year I began seriously following baseball, the year that "pitching is 80% of the game and "pitching and defense is what wins" were considered Gospel truth, also the year that the consensus best team in Baseball was the Big Red Machine (which somehow was not seen as contradictory by the people who believed the gospel of pitching and defense - since I rooted for a team that was better than the Reds at pitching and defense- but despite that was not nearly as good as the Reds, my young mind saw a clear contradiction in what Baseball people/fans were saying/believing)
1976: the offense gap was 2.01, defense gap was 1.21
   21. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: August 19, 2014 at 05:59 PM (#4774871)
They have a below average offense with a 92 OPS+.


They score 4.14 runs per game, OPS of .694
Houston scores 4.01 ruins per game with an OPS of .700
The Rangers score 3.98 runs per game with an OPS of .698
the Rays score 3.97 runs per game with an OPS of .702
the Mariners score 3.96 runs per game with an OPS of .676
the Yankees score 3.94 runs per game with an OPS of .692

So the Royals are perhaps scoring a handful more runs than their OBP/SLG would suggest
How?
110/23 in stealing bases, the Rays for instance are 53/22, but then again the Yankees are 86/21

RISP?
Royals are .275/.336/.412 (league is .255/.331/.391) The Yankees are .250/.323/.360: that goes a long way towards explaining why the Royals scores .2 runs per game more than the Yankees with the same OPS (fortunately for the Yankees, unfortunately for the Royals, team RISP performance is generally not predictive of future performance)

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