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Monday, August 19, 2013
Lough and Cain and pray for arcane.
The answer is so obvious that it’s easy to miss. The Royals are playing dramatically better defense. Trading Wil Myers for James Shields isn’t why they’re giving up fewer runs. They’re giving up fewer runs because the defense is turning batted balls into outs much more efficiently in 2013 than they did in 2012.
Let’s just consider some basic numbers at first. The Royals allowed a .311 batting average on balls in play in 2012 and it’s down to .292 in 2013. Some of that could be because the new pitchers give up weaker contact, but the numbers I’m about to present will overwhelm that belief.
...The Royals are doing an excellent job preventing runs this season, but it’s not because of some terrific improvement in their pitching staff. Their hurlers are better, but only marginally so. The big difference is their much improved defense. Last season the Royals pitchers gave up more runs than their FIP suggested they should and this year they lead the AL with an ERA that is 0.40 runs better than their FIP. The key to the Royals’ success is an amazing defense, not an improved staff. They could have given the ball to Kyle Lohse or Ryan Dempster instead of James Shields and the defense would still be making all of these great plays. And they’d still have Myers slugging .503.
The Royals are first in baseball in UZR and only trail the Diamondbacks in DRS. This is one of the best defensive teams in the league and it’s a big reason why they’re winning. They could be preventing runs this well even without James Shields and they could be doing it while scoring more thanks to Myers who, ironically, could end up being the difference between the Rays making the playoffs and the Royals missing out.
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