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Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Posnanski: The Unbeatable Kansas City Royals

Practice? We talkin’ about practice?

Now, let me make this clear: I believe this 10-game spring training winning streak means almost exactly nothing. It means about as much as an NBA player making 20 three-pointers in a row during warmups or an NFL kicker making a 68-yard field goal in pre-game. It might buoy the confidence a bit. It might sell a couple more early season tickets. It might help create a more positive atmosphere in the clubhouse. But that’s it. The Royals began last year by losing their first 10 home games in the regular season — THAT means something.

But … hey winning 10 in a row is better than losing 10 in a row. And there is something exciting about this team. That exciting thing is, paradoxically, something kind of boring: For the first time in what seems like forever, the Royals don’t enter a season needing miracles. They don’t need some crazy-good year from Emil Brown or Dan Reichert, they don’t need supernatural comebacks from Chuck Knoblauch or Jose Lima, they don’t need for anybody to transform into one of the Avengers. Few are expecting the Royals to really compete for a playoff spot this year … and they might not. But for the first time in forever, they COULD compete without an inconceivable series of magic tricks and freak occurrences and James Bond luck….

Does this mean the Royals definitely will compete in 2013? Of course it doesn’t. They still need all the things teams need — they need to stay healthy, especially in the starting rotation. They need for some young players to break through and get better, Hosmer in particular. They need for some veterans to repeat what they’ve done in the recent past. They need some luck. But these are the things all teams need going into a season. As one Royals executive said Tuesday, “This camp feels more businesslike than any I can remember.” That might not sound like much, but having been around the Royals for a long time I thought what he was really saying was: “Hey, look, we actually have good players.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 06, 2013 at 10:40 AM | 23 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: fake games, royals, spring training

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   1. What's the realistic upside, RMc? Posted: March 06, 2013 at 11:54 AM (#4381947)
I believe this 10-game spring training winning streak means I can get a column out of it.
   2. thetailor Posted: March 06, 2013 at 01:15 PM (#4382038)
The 20 three pointers in a row in practice analogy holds for me, but the 68 yard field goal in practice doesn't. A 68 yard field goal is special and requires leg strength that not all kickers have. It'd be like hitting a 500 foot home run in spring and then writing it off.
   3. Greg K Posted: March 06, 2013 at 01:24 PM (#4382051)
I believe this 10-game spring training winning streak means I can get a column out of it.

I won't hold it against him. It may be a column about nothing particularly important, but hey, a Posnanski article about something that's ultimately irrelevant to the MLB season is better than no Posnanski article!
   4. Shooty Is Disappointed With His Midstream Urine Posted: March 06, 2013 at 01:34 PM (#4382060)
Like I said in the Rangers thread, I think the Royals have a significantly higher than 0% of being good this year. They've got several good players and a couple of others that could make a step forward. If their starting pitching can be mediocre I think they can be a real surprise.
   5. Too Much Coffee Man Posted: March 06, 2013 at 01:45 PM (#4382074)
I really am surprised at the love the Royals are getting. In the national media, the logic seems to be:
The A's had a surprisingly good year
Therefore, the Royals could have a surprisingly good year
Therefore, the Royals will have a surprisingly good year.

I see good not great (read: A's) pitching, and a very suspect offense.

Pos calls Alex Gordon "one of the best players in baseball," but he's only a good/not great hitter. And he goes into the season as the Royals' first or second best hitter. You're punting at 2 positions, RF and 2B, and while I like Cain and Hosmer, until they do hit to justify the position they play, I think you are safer assuming that they won't.
   6. John Northey Posted: March 06, 2013 at 01:51 PM (#4382083)
I remember a study from years ago that checked spring records and there was a statistically significant chance of improvement if the team played something like 200 points ahead of their previous season. I forget the exact figures, but basically if you play drastically better (or worse) than you did the season before then an improvement (or drop) is likely.

Of course, with the Royals a 10 game improvement would be very significant and would just get them to 82 wins. Heck, a 20 game improvement might not be enough for the playoffs (92 wins). Still, it would be fun if the ALCS could be a 1985 replay - Jays vs Royals.
   7. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 06, 2013 at 02:05 PM (#4382099)

I really am surprised at the love the Royals are getting. In the national media, the logic seems to be:
The A's had a surprisingly good year
Therefore, the Royals could have a surprisingly good year
Therefore, the Royals will have a surprisingly good year.


I think its more:

The Royals were really bad for a long time
No team can stay terrible forever
They have young players that were thought to be pretty good
They aggressively went after pitchers we have heard of
The Royals suddenly becoming good is a good story
   8. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: March 06, 2013 at 02:15 PM (#4382118)
It helps that the Royals play in a crap division. The Tigers project to something like 92 wins, then the White Sox, Royals, and Indians project in the 77-81 win range (with a lot of variance). If something happens to Detroit, then suddenly an 85-win team is a contender for the division.

The Royals have 57 total games against the Twins, Indians, and White Sox. Minnesota are not good, and if the White Sox finally fall apart and the Indians continue to underwhelm, then that's a third of the season playing poor divisional opponents. It's not hard to imagine a pretty mediocre Royals team coming in 2nd in the division and being in the hunt well into September. Hell, they sucked last year and came in 3rd.
   9. zonk Posted: March 06, 2013 at 02:29 PM (#4382129)
I remember a study from years ago that checked spring records and there was a statistically significant chance of improvement if the team played something like 200 points ahead of their previous season. I forget the exact figures, but basically if you play drastically better (or worse) than you did the season before then an improvement (or drop) is likely.

Of course, with the Royals a 10 game improvement would be very significant and would just get them to 82 wins. Heck, a 20 game improvement might not be enough for the playoffs (92 wins). Still, it would be fun if the ALCS could be a 1985 replay - Jays vs Royals.


Heh...

One thing I always remember as a Cubs fan is that the Cubs had absolutely abhorrent spring training records in 1984, 1989 and (I think, 1998) -- i.e., the Cubs regular season success always seemed to be inversely proportionate to their spring records. If they were dreadful, they surprised... if they were good in spring, they sucked.
   10. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 06, 2013 at 03:55 PM (#4382223)
Small sample of recent high performers in spring training. Doesn't seem to help all that much, but I suppose it can't be completely dismissed. Seems like I can recall the Royals winning the Cactus League a few times during their run of losing seasons. I will forever remember Ruben Gotay: Cactus League MVP.
   11. cardsfanboy Posted: March 06, 2013 at 04:23 PM (#4382267)
I remember a study from years ago that checked spring records and there was a statistically significant chance of improvement if the team played something like 200 points ahead of their previous season. I forget the exact figures, but basically if you play drastically better (or worse) than you did the season before then an improvement (or drop) is likely.


Is it possible you are conflating two studies. There was a study done by John Dewan that says if a player slugs .200 higher in spring training(minimum 40 at bats) than his career mark(minimum 200 at bats) that he is poised for an increase in the regular season.

There is some correlation between having a winning spring training record and having a regular season record, and vice versa, but I don't think it's anything to take seriously or project any confidence in. Here is one article though that does say if a team posts a .700 record in March, they have a good chance of making the playoffs

Of the 13 teams since 1984 that have played over .700 ball in March, seven have made the playoffs.
   12. The kids disappeared, now Der-K has too much candy Posted: March 06, 2013 at 04:35 PM (#4382283)
6 - i remember reading something like that as well
   13. Kiko Sakata Posted: March 06, 2013 at 05:09 PM (#4382317)
This suggests that a team that out-performs its PECOTA record in spring training is likely to do better in the regular season, all other things being equal. I wouldn't bet a ton of money on the meaningfulness of this, but it might have some value.
   14. Brian White Posted: March 06, 2013 at 07:03 PM (#4382425)
I remember a study from years ago that checked spring records and there was a statistically significant chance of improvement if the team played something like 200 points ahead of their previous season. I forget the exact figures, but basically if you play drastically better (or worse) than you did the season before then an improvement (or drop) is likely.


Was this from Neyer? I remember him writing something about this in spring of 2003, in regards to the great spring the Royals were having then, which ended up preceding their only winning season in the last 19 years.
   15. Walt Davis Posted: March 06, 2013 at 07:51 PM (#4382442)
1984

The 1984 Cubs spring training team and the regular season team didn't have a huge amount in common. On March 26, the Cubs picked up Matthews and Dernier from the Phils (for Bill Campbell) and Tim Stoddard from the A's. At the end of May, they traded Buckner for Eck. In mid-June, they made the Sutcliffe trade. And, for good measure, in the June 84 draft they grabbed Maddux, Moyer and Dwight Smith. That was one hell of a run of amazing GMing, all coming at a time of the season when it's hard to make big deals.

I mean, Green has his faults but in those 3 months, he built the 84 and 89 Cubs into winners.
   16. RollingWave Posted: March 06, 2013 at 08:04 PM (#4382451)
I can see if everything breaks right for the Royals they might be over .500 , which at least puts them in shoot distance of the 2nd WC these days I'd guess.
   17. Greg K Posted: March 06, 2013 at 08:22 PM (#4382462)
Their rotation consists of five guys, (Shields, Guthrie, Santana, Davis, and Chen) each of whom at least has a chance of not sucking. That's a huge improvement!
   18. Jim Wisinski Posted: March 07, 2013 at 12:04 AM (#4382603)
Shields was my favorite pitcher on the Rays for a long time and my favorite player since Gomes left so I'm hoping the Royals are at least respectable this season. I like the trade a lot but it would be disappointing if it resulted in Shields being dumped on a crappy team.
   19. Dock Ellis on Acid Posted: March 07, 2013 at 11:12 AM (#4382813)
Pos calls Alex Gordon "one of the best players in baseball," but he's only a good/not great hitter.

Last year, Alex Gordon was 17th in WAR, per Fangraphs (5.9) and 10th in WAR, per bb-ref (6.2).

In 2011, Alex Gordon was 9th in WAR per Fangraphs (6.9) and tied for 9th in WAR, per bb-ref (7.1).

Maybe he's only a "good/not great hitter" but he adds a lot of value in defense and base-running. He's a star.
   20. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 07, 2013 at 11:22 AM (#4382827)

Their rotation consists of five guys, (Shields, Guthrie, Santana, Davis, and Chen) each of whom at least has a chance of not sucking. That's a huge improvement!


Chen seems to be the odd man out right now because the team will NOT GIVE UP on Luke Hochevar.
   21. base ball chick Posted: March 07, 2013 at 11:50 AM (#4382860)
i don't get the luke hochevar luuuvvvv
reminds me of grrrls whose partners beat them up, then they say - but he's sorry and he's changed

and isn't felipe paulino coming back this year? i'd rather have him than hochevar
   22. Too Much Coffee Man Posted: March 07, 2013 at 02:37 PM (#4383022)
@19
Fair enough. I was only looking at hitting.
Apparently, there is a cleverly named war on WAR and I didn't want to get too close to the battle zone.
   23. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 07, 2013 at 02:40 PM (#4383026)
Paulino and Danny Duffy are out til probably the All Star break.

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