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Friday, April 23, 2021

Yes, the Royals Can Win the AL Central

Having a one-in-five chance to make the playoffs and an 8% change to win the division still leaves the Royals an underdog, but that’s a big jump from the final preseason projections, which had them at 6% and 2%, respectively. The games already in the hopper only represent about 10% of the season, but it’s 10% of the season in which the Royals have a small lead on the White Sox and a healthy margin over the Twins. The rest of the season can still be classified as a marathon, but starting a bit ahead of your competitors sure is nice.

It’s also more than just their existing lead that makes ZiPS more positive about the Royals than it was at the start of the season. Taking the schedule out of the equation for the moment, under current roster assumptions, ZiPS sees the Royals as a .495 team, compared to .475 before the season, a difference of 20 points of winning percentage. That’s the largest change for any team in the majors:

The difference is largely due to the pitching. With the offense, the sunnier ZiPS outlooks for Perez, Jarrod Dyson, Santana, and Michael A. Taylor are largely canceled out by grumpier estimations for Benintendi, Hunter Dozier, and Jorge Soler. But on the pitching side, ZiPS only really frets over Greg Holland, who has been awful so far. While the projection system only sees a 0.08 improvement in projected ERA for Danny Duffy, the more robust season-to-season model sees nearly quarter-run improvement already thanks to his bump in velocity and some of the best contact data of his career. It’s just three starts, but Duffy finding his 2016-17 form again was one of the elements that could make for a surprising Royals season.


RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: April 23, 2021 at 09:21 AM | 9 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: believe, royals

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   1. Zach Posted: April 23, 2021 at 07:43 PM (#6015111)
I haven't wanted to jinx it, but they're playing pretty well so far. They've looked like a good version of themselves without looking like the best possible version of themselves.

Nicky Lopez has been surprisingly good, and Benintendi has been surprisingly bad. Taylor, Santana and Alberto have all looked like shrewd pickups.

The rotation is a bit worrisome, but that's the area where the minor league system is strongest right now.

I don't know if this is a team built to win the World Series, but I hope they can hang around and stay in the race all summer.

One in five for the playoffs doesn't sound like a terrible estimate to me.

   2. Zach Posted: April 23, 2021 at 07:47 PM (#6015112)
Things that could change those odds positively:

1) Mondesi comes back and plays well
2) Benintendi rights the ship
3) Isbel gets more comfortable and regresses closer to true talent level.
4) Young starters show up and improve the rotation.

None of those seem like terrible bets, but of course good things can always get worse, too.
   3. Jobu is silent on the changeup Posted: April 24, 2021 at 06:24 PM (#6015218)
Not sure what you mean by Isbel's "true talent level" but he was outperforming his projections when he was sent down (largely due to a .474 BABIP!)

I think the Benintendi situation is the most interesting. Mondesi is what he is, and that's valuable, but I don't think we have any idea what Benintendi really is. I was shocked that over half of his career WAR was in 2018. To boot, his 2018 was good-but-not-great and, well, 3 years ago. Still, obviously better off betting on him to recapture that - or close to it - than waiting for Isbel to become something that he hasn't really ever been (unless 119 PA in rookie ball as a 21-yo does it for ya;-)
   4. Zach Posted: April 24, 2021 at 07:40 PM (#6015223)
Well, yeah, Isbel was striking out 40% of the time. Make a projection on that and you have an unplayable out machine.

In spring training he was hitting .333/.420/.548. I wasn't expecting that, but a contact heavy .280 hitter with sneaky power does not seem out of reach.
   5. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: April 25, 2021 at 10:48 AM (#6015246)

Things that could change those odds positively:

Bobby Witt, Jr. is also a wild card. He could come up in August and be a huge shot in the arm, or he could fall flat on his face, or maybe he doesn't even called up.
   6. Zach Posted: April 25, 2021 at 07:30 PM (#6015329)
Yes, Witt is a huge wild card who's probably a bigger factor than the pitching.

Following yesterday's start: is anyone else getting the impression that Brady Singer's stuff is better than advertised? In the minor leagues he was always billed as more of a competitor with average stuff, but that two seamer is a clear plus pitch to me, and he has great command of it.
   7. Walt Davis Posted: April 25, 2021 at 08:16 PM (#6015340)
One issue the Royals face is the bench. They're not really using it at all, same 9 guys day after day (Isbel broke that up for a bit). They also seem to have 14 pitchers on their 26-man roster which I thought was against the rules -- or was that just a 2020 experiment?

I'd never heard of Isbel before and ... yeah, never played above A+, put up a 643 OPS at A+, it would be one heck of a story if he could hang in the majors. Anyway, that OF could easily turn into a disaster and I assume they don't have much help on the way. (Losing 2020 and minors starting late in 2021 makes it impossible for us on the outside to judge but Witt's only pro experience is 180 PAs at rookie ball, it's unlikely he'll be a ML positive this year.)
   8. Zach Posted: April 25, 2021 at 11:13 PM (#6015385)
Alberto, Lopez, and Dyson are the bench. Lopez and Alberto have been getting most of the playing time because Mondesi and Dozier have been hurt.

The backup plan for the outfield is probably to put Soler there and call up a minor leaguer (what they're doing currently), put Lopez at second and move Merrifield to RF (a possibility if Mondesi comes back), put Albert at third and move Dozier to RF (they'll probably do it occasionally) or hope that Isbel or another minor leaguer forces his way back into the conversation.
   9. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: April 25, 2021 at 11:38 PM (#6015402)

Following yesterday's start: is anyone else getting the impression that Brady Singer's stuff is better than advertised? In the minor leagues he was always billed as more of a competitor with average stuff, but that two seamer is a clear plus pitch to me, and he has great command of it.

The knock was he didn't have a third pitch. He still hasn't thrown his change much at all, but he gets so much sink on his fastball and his slider looks really good, it hasn't mattered much. As hitters get more of a look at him, I wonder if it will matter more.

which I thought was against the rules -- or was that just a 2020 experiment?

They held off on that rule change due to the pandemic.

Anyway, FG has their playoffs odds now at 25 percent, higher than Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Washington, the Cubs, or Philly.

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