Recently, I’ve been reviewing the 2010 Royals offense position by position. You can go back and read the individual position articles for catcher (including a series preview), first base, second base, third base, shortstop, left field, center field, right field and designated hitter. Each individual post looked at the players who played the position and how the entire unit hit compared to the rest of the American League. It’s certainly instructive to see where the Royals rank within the entire league, but in reality they only have to compete with the teams in the American League Central in order to win a coveted spot in the playoffs. Below is a series of graphs and charts which will allow you to see more clearly how the Royals ranked compared to their peers and where exactly the offense needed the most help to compete within the division.
For this exercise, I’ll be using the statistic wOBA, which I gathered from Fangraphs. You don’t really need to understand how the statistic is calculated, just know that a higher number represents better offense.
First, let’s look at a heat chart that shows every position in the American League Central and ranks them according to wOBA. Red represents the best in that statistical category and green the worst, with the colors ranging in the middle.
As usual, middle infielders and catchers are towards the bottom and corner infielders and outfielders are towards the top. What always surprises me when I do these exercises is how poor some teams utilize their designated hitter. For a position that’s supposed to be nothing but offense, teams consistently have middle of the pack numbers at the position. It seems kind of crazy, but I think that finding a better hitter at DH could really help some teams out. For instance, the White Sox got more offensive production out of their shortstop and catcher than they did out of their DH, while the Tigers got more offense out of their second baseman.The Royals have a pretty standard looking distribution. They got the worst production from catcher, shortstop and center field, while getting better production from first, third and designated hitter.
Now, I’ll separate it out position by position and provide where each team ranked in the American League at that position. Again, these are sorted by wOBA.
The Royals were only last in the division at the position of catcher, probably one of the better spots to be last in, especially in a division with some good hitting catchers. The tables are a nice reference, but I think putting them into a radar graph is really the best way to visualize the information. In the graph below, each line represents a team in the AL Central, for example the blue line is the Royals. Along the outside of the graph are each offensive position, for example catcher is at the top. Each of the different levels represents a rank in the American League in wOBA at that position, with the outside being 1st place and the inside being 14th place. So staying with catcher you’ll see that the Twins had the 2nd best catcher by wOBA, then a few slots below is the White Sox, then the Indians, then the Tigers and finally the Royals. It takes a minute to really let the information jump out at you, but if you just kind of relax your eyes it comes to you.
You can see that the Royals posted the best offensive numbers at third base in 2010, but they were a tad above average across the American League. It’s also interesting to see where teams are stacked and where they need help. Just think how bad things could have been for the Indians without Shin-Soo Choo playing right field. The outfield was clearly a concern for the Royals last year, and it’s obvious why Dayton Moore decided he needed some help out there. It can bring into focus why some other teams made offseason moves. Whether the Tigers utilize Victor Martinez at catcher, designated hitter or both, he’ll be a mighty offensive upgrade.
The Royals still have a long way to go to become an offensive powerhouse in the American league, but 2010 was a mild improvement over 2009. The offense is shaping up in 2011 to be an improvement on 2010 as well. The pitching, well that’s another story. I like taking stock in the offseason to see where the team and organization sit within the Division. Things seem to be moving in the right direction, although at a seemingly snail-like pace. Lots of new faces will be taking the field next season, including some highly touted Minor League talent. I’m very interested in seeing how these charts look next offseason.