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For the last couple of seasons, March has been… Well, it’s been a testy month here at Royals Authority. Maybe it’s the change of seasons. Maybe it’s the grind of meaningless spring training baseball. Whatever it is, this has been a month where everyone is on edge.

They say spring is a time for optimism. I’ll freely admit I’m not an optimist. Can’t do it. Not after lo these many years. But I’m not a pessimist either. I consider myself a realist. (Right now, there are people reading this paragraph at 1 Royals Way and coughing, “Bulls#!t.”) It’s true. I’m a realist at heart. You may disagree, but I like to think I call things like I see them. It’s an honest take of the team I love. It’s just that the negative sometimes outweighs the positive.

That’s unfortunate.

We’re so caught up in the Chris Getz Story and the knowledge that somehow the Royals are going to find a way to give Yuniesky Betancourt 500 plate appearances that we tend to overlook a few things. It’s the nature of the beast. We know Eric Hosmer is going to play and play well. What is there to say about him? He’s great. On the other hand, we have someone like Getz. Why? Sadly, the Royals have given us plenty of ammo.

Please don’t get caught up in my previous paragraph. You want to bitch about Getz today. Go someplace else. You want optimism? This is your place for Friday.

Here are some things I’m looking forward to in 2012…

— The continuing development of Eric Hosmer. When was the last time the Royals had a player with a ceiling of MVP?

— The possibility that Luke Hochevar truly turned the corner in the second half of 2011. For some reason, I’m irrationally bullish on Hochevar. By altering his arm angle ever so slightly, he’s added the deception – and movement – necessary to be a quality starter.

— The SS Jesus. Can’t wait for him to range to his left to snare a grounder up the middle, plant, spin and throw to beat the runner by a couple of steps.

— Brayan Pena smiling and giving his teammates high fives. If this was basketball, we would be describing Pena as a “glue guy.”

— The Lorenzo Cain Show. I am thrilled that this guy, who was buried all of last season (justifiably so, given the performance of the Royals outfield), is kicking ass in Surprise. I hope he brings some of those hits north with him next week.

— A1. Domination. The Sequel.

— Johnny Giavotella tearing up Triple-A pitching.

— The continued development of Danny Duffy. I just have this feeling that he’s this close to putting everything together. Needless to say, we can expect improvement over his 4.4 BB/9 and 4.82 FIP. There will be moments where the kid is going to struggle again this summer, but it won’t be as frequent. And the lows won’t be as low.

— The young arms of the bullpen. I thoroughly enjoy watching Aaron Crow, Everett Teaford, Louis Coleman and Kelvin Herrera pitch. It helps that they could be pretty good relievers. (Side note: I’m not upset that Coleman was sent to Omaha. Surprised, but not upset. The bullpen is a fungible beast. He’ll be back. Probably before the end of April.)

— The return of Salvador Perez. I’m counting down the weeks. So is every other Royals fan.

— Our Mitch. Because it wouldn’t feel like the Royals without him.

— Billy Butler’s annual pursuit of 50 doubles. Quite simply, Butler is the most consistent hitter on this team. And it’s not even close.

— Jeff Francoeur punching his teammates in the nuts after a walkoff. Crazy eyes!

— The late game tandem of Jonathan Broxton and Greg Holland. Holland is nails and you know I’m bullish on Broxton. It’s probably just my wide-eyed optimism that I think Broxton can be a servicable closer.

— The development of Mike Moustakas. He’s not the “sure thing” Hosmer is, so there’s a bit of a risk here, but we really need him to be the Moose of September and not the Moose of every other month.

Those are my positive thoughts heading into 2012. Fire away in the comments. Although in the spirit of optimism, I’ll ask that you only leave positive comments. Thanks.

A good writer creates an interesting topic, fleshes it out with solid research, expands on it with creativity and presents it with fluid prose.  Today, you get none of that.  NO SOUP FOR YOU!

I have an assortment of topics, which either are not quite robust enough to warrant a column on their own or which would require research and thought beyond my appetite.  

The Royals Made A Lot of Money Last Year

Forbes reported that the Kansas City Royals turned a $28.5 million profit last season, second only to the Cleveland Indians in all of baseball.  At best, that is an educated guess by Forbes, if not just a straight out shot in the dark.   I have no doubt that this revelation will stir up a bit of outrage among certain portions of the fanbase.

The truth is, however, that the Royals did not go cheap last year:  they went young.   If you believe David Glass and the team roughly broke even in past years with higher payrolls, then the Forbes’ number makes some sense.   It is nothing that should be used as an indictment of the Glass ownership, but simply a profitable portion of a very logical business cycle.

Now, the test is whether that $28.5 million (or whatever it actually was – my guess is something a little less than that) comes into play next off season or the season after that.  If Glass did make $28.5 million in 2011 and basically breaks even when the Royals’ payroll is around $70 million, then will a hopefully talented and contending Royals’ team in 2014 or 2015 be able to carry a payroll somewhere north of $80 million?   Basically, did David Glass bank the $28.5 million or, as my wife certainly would do, did he go on a bunch of really nice vacations and get four new cars…and a jet…and a boat?

Do Sabermetrics Undervalue Relief Pitchers?

In 2011, Craig Kimbrel had the highest WAR (according to Fangraphs) of any reliever in baseball:  3.2.   Thirty-eight starting pitchers posted an fWAR higher than Kimbrel’s.  In fact only seven relievers in the game would appear in the top 74 fWAR posted by pitchers in 2011.  One of those was the Royals’ Greg Holland, by the way.

Now, WAR has a lot to do with ‘showing up’.  A position player can have tremendous stats, but if he missed 25 games with an injury, his WAR will take a hit.   We may all disparage the ‘Replacement Player’, but not even Albert Pujols is better than Mr. Replacement if Albert is sitting on the bench.   When it comes to pitching, innings matter.

Jeff Francis was more valuable (in WAR terms) than any Royals’ relief pitcher last year based almost completely on the fact that Jeff ground his way through 183 innings of work:  nearly three times what any reliever pitched.  Now, the argument exists and I cannot really dispute the general theory, that a run in the third inning is really the same as a run in the ninth inning, but it sure does not feel that way.

I don’t think anyone would argue that a good starting pitcher is more valuable than a good reliever.   In fact, one can pretty effectively argue that an average starting pitcher is more valuable than a good reliever and, quite possibly, more valuable than even a great reliever.  However, WAR really tells us that a below average starting pitcher (Jeff Francis) is more valuable than almost every reliever in the game.

My current allotment of grey matter does not properly equip me with the ability to dive into the internal mechanizations of fWAR and debate that fact.   Nor does the fact that my gut disagrees with the above assessment invalidate the value of WAR as a statistic.   Baseball is certainly a game of numbers, but it is also a game of feel.

I know, I know, we are dancing our way into the world of intangibles where Jason Kendall and Dayton Moore sit amongst the clouds and lord over the baseball world, but there is something to it.   Baseball players and fans, as well, are conditioned that they will give up runs.  A starter gives up three runs and leaves the game tied after six innings and we applaud the effort.   The team feels good:  he gave them a chance to win, after all.   Everyone’s happy, until a reliever gives up a solo homer in the bottom of the 8th and the Royals lose.    Of course, if the starter had stranded on of those three runs in the fourth, the solo homer would not have triggered the loss, but in the clubhouse, the starter did his job and the reliever did not.

That run in the eighth inning may not be statistically different than a run in the fourth, but it certainly feels different and, I have to believe, it affects the team differently.  If your bullpen does that on a regular basis it can tremendously batter the collective psyche of the team.   Conversely, if your bullpen is truly a lock-down unit it can buoy that same team is a tremendously positive way.   

WAR may never truly love a good bullpen, but I have to believe that a good bullpen is more valuable than the sum of it’s WAR.

Catchers, Catchers, and More Catchers

Should Brayan Pena or Humberto Quintero every bat after the seventh inning? 

As Craig detailed yesterday, Quintero is a legendarily poor hitter and as I pointed out in the comments and on Twitter, Brayan Pena has spiraled into something that more closely resembles Quintero at the plate than Mauer.  The Royals are hoping for more offense out of Alcides Escobar (and I think they will get it), but one can only expect so much and the team may not get a whole lot of punch out of the second base position, either.   Given that, should the Royals take a big step outside of the box and plan on pinch-hitting for the catcher almost every night?

Now, I know this won’t really happen and I also admit that this theory falls back on the possibly flawed idea that a run in the eighth is more important than a run in the third, but let’s take a quick look anyway.

I don’t care what the score is, just plus or minus five runs either way (basically any situation short of a Mitch Maier getting ready to pitch scenario), but what if the Royals simply assumed that any time the catcher came up in the sixth inning or later, they would pinch-hit for him?   Pena starts, his turn comes up in the sixth, and Maier pinch hits.   Quintero enters the game, comes up in the eighth, and Bourgoeis pinch hits, but then what?

Ah, you need to carry three catchers.  To do that AND pinch hit for said catchers, the Royals would have to carry three catchers AND a five man bench.  That forces them into breaking camp with just six relievers, which I know sounds like disaster when the starting rotation is what it is.   Except, given there is really nothing to prevent Kansas City from pitching the hell out of Louis Coleman and Tim Collins for three weeks, then sending them to Omaha to pitch sparingly while Kelvin Herrera and Everett Teaford come to KC to throw for two or three weeks.

The whole concept is dicey, unconventional and truthfully won’t work for any extended period of time.  Not to mention that the Royals’ options for pinch hitters are only slightly more productive than letting Pena, Quintero and even Cody Clark hit.  Right there, is the real problem with virtually any scenario that heavily involves using the Kansas City bench players.

Option 2013

With Joakim Soria headed towards a second Tommy John procedure, the question of whether the Royals should pick up Soria’s $8 million 2013 option will be a recurring theme throughout the season.   Personally, that eight million looks a lot better put toward an Eric Hosmer contract or, for that matter, even an Alex Gordon extension.

Sure, the Royals are on the hook for Soria’s six million this year, but does knowing that they might have an extra eight million available next year grease the wheels to getting Gordon locked down and out of the way?  Let’s also keep in mind that no one is going to be throwing money at Soria next winter.   Unless Joakim gets offended by the Royals turning down his option, there is nothing that says he could not come back on a lesser deal.  It seems like a no-brainer at this point.  I feel bad for Soria, but the game is a business and the Royals cannot afford to gamble with eight million bucks.



Say, did you see what Eric Hosmer posted to his Twitter account?


It would seem that Mr. Hosmer is speaking to the culture of fan known as “bandwaggoners.” This species is known to stay away from sporting stadia when teams are in the dumps, yet return in full face painting glory when the team is on top.

As David Puddy would say, “Ya gotta support the team.”

If The Process continues the way it’s drawn up in the master plan, bandwaggoners will be a byproduct. Be prepared. It will be difficult to get decent seats at the K for a decent price. There will be minor traffic jams and longer lines for a Boulevard. I’ll have to wait a super long time to ride the carousel in the outfield.

Part of me is stymied by Hosmer’s attitude. Is he saying that if his team succeeds and reaches the postseason, he would prefer playing in front of 10,000 people in October who have made sitting on their hands a form of performance art? I’m not knocking the die hards (I’m a card-carrying member) but the atmosphere at the stadium on some nights – especially late in the season – resembles a screening of The Artist.

The rest of me is slightly amused. Hosmer is still getting his feet wet in this league. He’ll learn soon enough that you can’t say negative things about the fans. (Although he was shrewd in his selection of a target. Who freely admits they’re a bandwaggoner? No one, that’s who.) But there’s a bit o’ swagger behind that tweet, no? It gives a little insight as to the culture of the clubhouse Dayton Moore and the Royals brain trust has built over the last couple of years. These guys are hungry, optimistic and able. They’ve all had success in the minors and they think they can replicate that at the major league level. Us die hards think this is great. Every spring we hear talk about how the Royals are improving and close to a breakthrough. This time, it feels different. This time, it feels right. Maybe because the messenger is Eric Hosmer and not Joe Mays.

Our Time, indeed.

Talk smack on the bandwaggoners all you want, but they are going to be at the K this summer – and hopefully for the next several. As long as they don’t wear pink hats (Heeeeeello, Red Sox Nation!) I’m fine with them. Every successful team has scads of bandwaggoners. Don’t hate… Embrace them. Regale them with stories of Ken Harvey getting hit in the back with a cutoff throw. Or Kerry Robinson scaling the center field wall to rob a home run, only to have the ball bounce 10 feet in front of him and over the wall for a ground rule double. Or the time Mark Quinn took a walk and they shot off fireworks at the K. Or the time the fireworks set off a brush fire behind the scoreboard and the fire department was called in during the game. Or… You get the picture.

Yeah, all that crap may have been pathetic and frustrating… but you cannot dispute it was highly entertaining. Seriously. Do you ever hear goofy stories about the Pirates? No? That’s because for the last 20 years, they’ve suffered a dual indignity: They suck and they’re boring. Damn, that’s a horrible combination. I mean the Pirates have never lost a game because their center fielder was shielded from a batted ball by a bird. Am I right? I’m glad I stuck around for all these years. For what the Royals lacked in fundamentals, they made up for in inventiveness.

My advice… Adopt a bandwaggoner. Take him or her under your wing and educate them what it’s all about… How this team was once upon a time a model franchise and now after 27 long years we’ve rediscovered our mojo. Tell them the stories of the good times and the bad. And maybe when this team hits a rough patch, your bandwaggoner will decide to ride the storm out right along with you. Maybe they’ll even buy you a Boulevard Wheat.

Misery loves company. So does success.

Our Time!

“What the hell is going on with you?”  – A statement from me to myself.

The Kansas City Royals are budding contenders, right? I’ve been writing those words in articles and saying them aloud to friends for almost a year now. It has become second nature for me to just start rattling on about how Eric Hosmer is going to be a star and the bullpen is one of the best in baseball and they can overcome a mediocre pitching staff and blah blah blah. I can say it and convince others, but I don’t believe I’ve convinced myself.

I should be stoked for the upcoming 2012 season for all the reasons you are aware of. This should be a good team, this should be a fun team. But I can’t get excited. I’ve thus far been unable to embrace what might come. Which prompts the statement at the top of the post.

I’ve been a die-hard Royals fan since birth. I’ve lived through the 90’s and the 2000’s and the 2010’s and always retained a sense of optimism. I’ve always been the guy that people could come to and ask “Why should I like the Royals this year?”. Surprisingly, I’ve always had answers:

“Kevin Appier is one of the best pitchers in baseball.”

“They have these young guys Carlos Beltran and Carlos Febles who are going to be superstars.”

“Kyle Snyder is going to be a rookie sensation!”

My enthusiasm has rarely wavered and my optimism has known no bounds. But now, suddenly on the verge of what might be something truly special, I’m hesitant. Have waves of constant losing eroded my baseball soul until there is little more than a nub remaining? Has writing, which requires objective observation made me empty? Or has the constant drive to find information and post about it just worn me out?

The truth as always is complex. I believe that my time spent analyzing baseball has begun to create a zen-like state of baseball awareness. Things just are. And for as long as I can remember baseball fandom has been one which is synonymous with losing. I’ve accepted it. I’ve almost welcomed it. I can list a number of things about losing which actually make being a baseball fan better.

1. Tickets to games are cheap

2. Tickets to games are plentiful

3. The Spring Training complex is much easier to get in and out of

4. I can’t prove it, but I think it creates better baseball writers

I’ve combined this acceptance of losing with a crash-course in baseball analysis. Knowing that there are significant elements of luck in baseball and that players value can be measured and compared has opened my eyes. Many people fight this realization. They just can’t allow the beautiful game to be reduced to 1’s and 0’s. I get it. It can leave you feeling a bit dead inside. It’s almost as if learning that Picasso traced his paintings. I disagree, but I see it. But this awareness has allowed me to objectively see the Royals for who and what they are.

With that knowledge, I should be optimistic. I know this team has flaws, but there are real objective reasons to believe they should be a contender for the playoffs.  I know this. I’ve written this. However, the intersection of my analysis, my heart and most importantly my history won’t let me process it.

“What does it mean?” – Me, again to myself.

The Royals are actually and objectively possible contenders. What am I supposed to do with that information. My experience has no way to deal with it. Getting excited has proved in the past to be an exercise in futility. Believing this is the same as the past 20 years conflicts with my analysis. So I’m stuck. I’m caught in the middle of a psychological impasse. My reaction has been to let my brain do my writing and talking, while my heart has covered my eyes, plugged my ears and screamed ” LA LA LA LA LA LA I CANT HEAR YOU LA LA LA LA”. It’s left me to keep baseball and the Royals at arm’s length for now. It has almost pushed me into apathy.

What both sides need is more information. They need games. They need to see the standings. Only once the results start to stream in can both sides be placated. For now though, both sides are standing their ground.

“Is it baseball season yet?” – Me, in unison.




Nick Scott
Follow @brokenbatsingle

Eric Hosmer* was the least effective first basemen in the American League Central in 2010. Yes, I know that Carlos Santana hit .239, but he hit 27 bombs and got on base at a .351 clip. In 2011, the average AL first baseman hit .271/.340/.452 while Hosmer posted a .293/.334/.465. So what the Royals had last year in the young Hosmer was an average first baseman.

*It may be early, but I believe that Eric Hosmer needs a nickname. I say this primarily because I love nick names. They add so much fun and color to the game of baseball. Recently it seems the NBA has been completely stealing the nick name thunder from baseball. We need to reclaim that title. I’m throwing out Eric the Blue as a starting point. Add yours in the comments.

It’s not a knock on Hosmer, the kid is still only 21 years old and his best years are almost certainly in front of him and it’s been a long time since the Royals were anywhere near average at first. So there was a lot to like about his rookie campaign. However, if the Royals are going to really compete in the division in 2012, then he needs to be more than average. It’s probably not fair to heap expectations onto a twenty one year old, but it’s not fair that he’s already a multimillionaire. It comes with the territory. And what I know of the kid, he’s not phased by what some nerd writes on the computernets.

While the construction of playoff teams and World Series Champions is always a bit unique, there is nearly one constant. They all have at least one elite offensive player. Right now the Royals don’t have an elite offensive player, they have some players who could become elite but then again so do lots of teams that have sub .500 records. That’s not the goal.

Here are some numbers from Royals history to illustrate the point:

Last time that the Royals had a player with an above 6.0 bWAR – 2003 Carlos Beltran 7.4 (remember the magical 2003?)

Here is a list of every individual season where the Royals had bWAR over 8.0

1980 – George Brett 9.6 – AL Champions

1979 – George Brett 8.7 and Darrell Porter 8.4 – 85-77 record

1976 – George Brett 8.0  – AL West Champions

1985 – George Brett 8.0 – World Series Champions

I know, I just blew your mind, right? Good players make teams win games. I should write a book about my computer that came up with that formula and then make a movie about it where a Royals beat writer will refuse to move out of the shot. I’m thinking about it, don’t you worry. As simple as it is, it’s a formula which is pretty tried and true. Though it’s not always required, a team almost always needs an elite player to win a bunch of games. The question we have right now is can Eric Hosmer be that player? Can he turn this country into the United States of Hosmerica?

Right here is where I should trot out his size, his skill,s his Minor League numbers and try and prove to you all that he can right? Wrong. The answer truly is that we have no earthly clue. I would love to be able to tell you with some degree of certainty that Hosmer will become what we want him to be. I’ve been trumpeting him to everyone I know since the first time I saw him. Heck, I posted this video of him from last Spring Training as he blew me away again in person.

But in reality, I don’t want to know. It’s the reason we watch the game. It’s the not knowing that makes the finding out so much better. It’s like if we had a big holiday where we gave presents and let’s just say it was around this time of year. Let’s call it Hosmas. It wouldn’t be any fun if the presents were clearly labeled as “socks”, “baseball nerd book” or “coal”. The moment as you’re opening the present ans it’s coming into focus, those are the moments we live for. It’s what baseball provides in gigantic heaps.

It feels like we’re balanced on the precipice. As if things are just on the edge of being really, really good for Royals fans. But we’ve seen the heart of darkness, we know how terribly wrong it can go. We see this talented 21 year old who seems to have every skill one could ask for in a baseball player. Next season I’ll be tuning in on my radio and TV and going to the stadium to find out if the Royals can win and if Eric The Blue (just trying it on for size) can be the great Royal that we’ve needed on the team for so long.

Thank you all for a fantastic year, I really enjoy writing about the Royals and having great readers makes it all worthwhile. Please have a happy and safe Holidays. Hopefully here at Royals Authority we’ve armed you the last year with some info to throw at your uncle who’ll tell you how terrible the Royals are going to be and yadda yadda.



Nick Scott hosts the Broken Bat Single Podcast and writes a blog for the Lawrence Journal World. You can follow him on Facebook or email him at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.




I’ve written about the Rookie of the Year race at length and each time, my conclusion was similar: There was a unique depth to the field this year where you could make a case for any number of players. Eric Hosmer’s late September charge put him on the radar, but the race was so wide open, he merely got himself in the conversation. In the hours prior to the announcement, I tweeted that I was so unsure of the results, I could see Hosmer finishing anywhere from first to fourth.

Turns out I was (pretty much) spot on. The voters seemed to agree that there were so many players worthy of consideration, not a single rookie was named on every ballot. I didn’t go through the history of ROY voting, but that just seems amazing to me.

In the end, Jeremy Hellickson takes home the hardware, with Mark Trumbo second, The Hos taking third and Ivan Nova finishing fourth.

There are 28 voters for the AL ROY (technically two from each AL city) and each voter lists their three choices. Here’s how many ballots each player earned:

Hellickson – 24
Trumbo – 21
Nova – 16
Hosmer – 14
Pineda – 5
Ackley – 2
Jennings – 1
Walden – 1

Hosmer finished ahead of Nova in the final balloting because the bulk of Nova’s votes were for third place. Hosmer’s were spread a little more evenly between the three slots. Some takeaways from the voting:

— The initial knee jerk reaction I saw on Twitter from Royals fans was disbelief that Hosmer was left off of 14 votes. I would hope that when they saw how fractured the voting was, they calmed down. Again, there was just a ton of candidates and you can make a case for all of them. (Well, except Trumbo… More on that in a second.)

While it’s nice for the hometown guy to get the recognition, it’s not that big of a deal. Especially the Rookie of the Year award. I know I’ll catch hell from Nick for not referring to the Jackie Robinson Award (it’s rightful name) but maybe we should change it to the Joe Charboneau Award. It seems there have been more winners who have flamed out than have gone to the Hall of Fame.

— I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that while Hellickson was the clear favorite among the majority, the voters who listed Trumbo second, most likely had Nova third on their ballot. Makes sense, doesn’t it? The voters who swoon for home runs and RBI would also go for wins, right?

— That Trumbo earned so much consideration isn’t really surprising to me. Yes, I know about the .291 OBP, but he had a couple things going for him that no other hitter had. One, voters dig the long ball. And two, he was the only rookie hitter to play the entire season in the bigs.

Counting stats are still huge among members of the electorate, and the only way to rack up the big numbers is to play the whole season. With Hosmer arriving in May, Ackley in June and Jennings in July, these three will ultimately be superior players to Trumbo (I’m betting) but they had had a distinct disadvantage this year.

— After the strides that have been made in the MVP and (especially) the Cy Young awards, it’s odd that the ROY still fights this battle. Chalk it up to the unique nature of the award and the fact that often, the winner does not play the full season. It surprised me that Ackley got such lukewarm support. He played a premium defensive position and

— Defensive metrics hurt The Hos. Again, we’ve discussed this at length, but for some reason the defensive measurements that help define WAR despised Hosmer. If some “enlightened” voter decided to look beyond the HR and RBI and examine some advanced numbers, they would have seen Hosmer’s fWAR and rWAR were depressed.

Hosmer’s 1.6 fWAR was behind not only Trumbo, Jennings and Ackley, but Josh Reddick and Jemile Weeks as well. His 1.3 rWAR is below everyone who received a vote except Walden.

— There needs to be more transparency in the process. The BBWAA doesn’t need to make every ballot public, but we should be able to find out who the voters are for each award. Some of the best articles I read every winter are from voters and their thought process behind their ballot. I respect those guys who give us a peek behind the curtain so to speak.

— Finally, I cast a ballot for ESPN’s SweetSpot Network and ranked the AL Rookie of the Year award:


While some might like Wins Above Replacement level (WAR) to be that magic ‘one stat’ that tells us which player is more valuable than another, it is not.  Brett Gardner is a fine player, but his fWAR (Fangraphs) was basically the same as that of Albert Pujols this season.  That does not mean that WAR is useless, just that it is not the ONLY stat when it comes to evaluating players.

That said, WAR is a very good tool.   For position players, it attempts to consolidate hitting, baserunning and fielding into a tidy little package that gives us a general idea of his overall value.   It is not a fail safe option when calculating team wins.  

In 2011, Kansas City compiled a total team fWAR of 39.1 and won 71 games.   Chicago had 40.3 total fWAR and won 79, while Cleveland totalled up just 30.1 fWAR yet won 80 games.  If you want to know how many fWAR your roster needs to contribute to get 94 wins, I can probably find you 15 different answers…in the last five years.   Like I said at the beginning, WAR (be it fWAR or bWAR or some other WAR…good god, y’all) is not the be all and end all of the statistical world.

Here is what I know, if you want to win the A.L. Central, you have to have more fWAR than the other four teams.    Detroit won 95 games the division in 2011 with an fWAR of 48.5 (8.2 better than anyone else).   Minnesota won in 2010 with 94 wins and a fWAR of 49.7 (6 better than Detroit and 6.7 better than Chicago).  Minnesota only won 87 games in 2009, but it was enough to take the Central and their 41.2 cumulative fWAR was 4 better than second place Detroit.

How many fWAR will it take to win the Central?  I don’t know.   How many will it take to win 92 games?  I don’t know.   What I do know, is that the Royals are almost certain to need more than last year’s 39.1.   If you take my approach of last week that Kansas City should not make any drastic off-season moves (unless someone drops a gem in their lap), then what are the possibilities for the current roster to improve on last year’s mark?

Let’s start with the position players, who provided 25.6 fWAR in 2011.   Alex Gordon (6.9), Melky Cabrera (4.2) and Jeff Francoeur (2.9) accounted for 14 of that total.   All three played everyday, Gordon and Cabrera set career high marks and Francoeur had his highest fWAR since 2007.   Kansas City also got 1.1 fWAR from Mitch Maier, Jarrod Dyson and Lorenzo Cain.   If you believe the Royals’ outfield will total 15.1 fWAR again next year, then I have some start-up tech company stock to sell you.

Almost universally, people think it is far more likely that Alex Gordon is more likely to sustain his 2011 performance than Melky Cabrera.   You can count me among them, although I readily admit there is not any real logical reason to have such a clear cut division on two players of basically similar age.   Kansas City can afford to have Melky falter, but they cannot make up for a big Gordon drop-off.   Simply put, if Alex Gordon is a 2.3 fWAR player next year, the Royals are going nowhere.   I don’t think he will drop that far, but I also cannot see Gordon, Cabrera, Francoeur and Cain posting 15.1 fWAR in 2012, either.

Let’s set the outfield aside for a moment and look at three other positions:  third, first and DH.   Billy Butler was the Royals’ everyday DH and provided 1.8 fWAR – the lowest total in three years.   Hosmer provided 1.6 fWAR which we will use to quantify the first base position.  (Without getting too crazy, we know that Ka’aihue provided no value at first – fWAR speaking – and Butler played there when one of the outfielder’s took a half day and DH’d – it’s not exact, but close enough for this rough review).   At third, the Royals got 0.7 fWAR from Moustakas and 0.5 from Wilson Betemit for a total of 1.2.  All told, these three positions contributed 4.6 fWAR last season.

Hosmer is, well he HAS TO BE, the real deal.   It seems as though the question is not ‘will Hosmer progress in 2012?’, but instead is ‘how much will he progress?’.     In addition, Moustakas seemed to ‘get it’ as the season wore on and while he is not a lock to improve, I would say the odds are decent that he will.   I would also expect improvement from Butler, who probably won’t spend the first three months of the season being put off about not getting to play first base.

Is it realistic to say the the outfielder, corner infielders and designated hitter can contribute the same 19.7 fWAR as they did in 2011?  Certainly, the contributions might be weighted more heavily to the infielders than the outfielders in 2012, but I can envision Hosmer, Moustakas, Butler making up the difference from the expected regression (hopefully minor) of the three everyday outfielders.

If so, then the Royals would be looking to Alcides Escobar (2.2 fWAR), the catchers (2.9 fWAR total in 2011) and second base (1.1 fWAR total) to hold the line.   Salvador Perez, who provided 1.4 fWAR himself, might be hard pressed to get to 2.9 in his first full season as a regular, but one can hope that Escobar might hit just a little more and that second base might add a little more as well (not exactly sure how, but we can hope).

At any rate, all of the above considered, it is not out of the realm of possibility that the Royals’ position players could contribute close to their 2011 output.  If they do that, then the pitchers need to hold up their end of the bargain.   Wow!  I bet you didn’t see that coming did you?

In 2011, the Royals’ pitching staff contributed a pretty awful 13.5 fWAR.   Felipe Paulino and Jeff Francis each contributed 2.6, Luke Hochevar 2.3, Greg Holland 2.0 and Bruce Chen 1.7 (remember, throwing innings is big part of fWAR for starters and Chen threw just 155).   Joakim Soria chipped in 0.9 fWAR, the lowest of his career (his previous marks were 2.4, 1.6, 1.8 and 2.0).    Those pitchers right there get you to 12.1 of the 13.5 fWAR total.

Danny Duffy’s 0.6 is cancelled out by Sean O’Sullivans -0.5.   Kyle Davies, yes KYLE FREAKING DAVIES, provided 0.7 fWAR which was cancelled out by the negative contributions of Vin Mazzaro, Jesse Chavez and Robinson Tejeda.   WAR, in any form, really does not think much of relief pitchers – which points out how good Greg Holland was in 2011 – and as such, Louis Coleman gets a skinny 0.1, Aaron Crow 0.3 and Blake Wood 0.4.   I do believe that WAR undervalues the contributions of a relief pitcher, especially a non-closer, but that is a debate for another time.

Let’s get back to the starting rotation.   We pretty much know that Hochevar, Paulino and Duffy will be in the 2012 rotation.   Can they better their combined 5.5 fWAR?  To begin with, baseball history is full of young pitchers who are not very good as rookies and take a big step forward in year two.   I think Danny Duffy is likely to do the same.   I am not saying his going to become an ace, but it is reasonable (albeit hardly a sure thing) that he could become a 2.5 fWAR pitcher in 2012.   If Paulino can give the Royals another 2.5 fWAR and Hochevar finally, FINALLY, put it all together and become a 3.5 fWAR guy, the Royals could have 8.5 fWAR out of just three starters – that’s not horrible.  Problem is, that is just one win more than Francis, Paulino and Hochevar gave them last year.

Now what? 

Does bringing back Bruce Chen give you another two wins?  After that, can the number five spot, in combination with the spot starts and injury fill-ins from other starters, get you a ‘barely-head-above-water’ 0.5 fWAR?  You would certainly hope for better, but I am not sure logic will back us up on that one.  Let’s say that Kansas City does gleen 2.5 fWAR total out of the number four through eight starters.    Now, you are at 11 fWAR heading into the bullpen.

Can Joakim Soria bounce back?  If he can, Soria is probably good for 2.0 fWAR.   Then you have Greg Holland coming off a terrific year, Louis Coleman and Tim Collins (0.0 fWAR by the way) setting him up.   Combined, those three accounted for 2.1 fWAR in 2011, you have to get at least that much again in 2012.   Now, the Royals are at 15.1 fWAR out of their staff with the back of bullpen coming into play.   Basically, there was an entire negative win contributed by a bunch of arms last year, which is not uncommon, but it would be nice to avoid.   If the Royals would somehow not have the negative numbers and get another win out of Wood, Herrera, Crow (?) et.al. would that translate into a net gain of 2.0 fWAR?  Maybe….maybe just.

If the above scenario played out, Kansas City would have 17.1 fWAR from their pitchers and another 26 from the position players for a total of 43.1.   Would that translate into a division title?  That is hard to tell, but it almost certainly would get the Royals around or above .500, maybe even into the high 80’s in wins. 

In my opinion, getting an eight at the front of your win total and hoping for some luck and good breaks in 2012 is better than stretching to make a risky deal in a skinny off-season market.   I would rather the Royals shop for that one arm to put them over the top coming off an 84 win 2012 campaign than to do so now, coming off a 71 win season.




This is the worst time of year to blog about a perennial also-ran. October baseball means another post season spent on the sidelines and it also means front office inertia. I don’t mean that the Royals brain trust has shut down for the month… Just, there’s not much happening that is actually newsworthy.

— The Royals announced their player of the month for September and gave it to Eric Hosmer. Interesting choice if only because there was an actual plethora of excellent candidates from which to choose. When was the last time we could say that? Check some of these numbers.

Mike Moustakas – .352/.380/.580, .227 ISO
Sal Perez – .375/.400/.513, 14 runs
Eric Hosmer – .349/.360/.557, 5 HR, 21 RBI
Jeff Francoeur – .329/.345/.600, 5 HR, .271 ISO

And we can’t forget Billy Butler who hit 10 doubles, or Alex Gordon and Alcides Escobar who both had identical .367 OBPs. I cannot remember a month like this where seemingly everyone in the lineup was a difficult out. (Except when Yost was playing for one run and sac bunting. Small Ball!)

What a month for the hitters.

That was a tough ballot for the writers. For sure. I can make a case for any of those guys.

Allow me to climb on my soapbox for a moment: The monthly awards are voted on by “Kansas City media.” I assume that means dudes from the Star with press passes who attend the game where the ballots are distributed and the odd TV guy who just happened to be at the stadium that night. The Royals made an effort to include “social media” this year, but it’s time for them to open this voting to include the blogs. There are a bunch of writers out there who follow this team as close as any professional writer. It would be a heckuva gesture if the Royals opened up their voting.

— Having said that, if I had a vote, I’d give it to Alex Gordon for Player of the Year. I don’t think that is a shock to anyone who regularly reads this blog. The guy lead the team in OBP and slugging, OPS+ and WAR. And outfield assists. Can’t forget the assists.

To me, it’s a no-brainer.

— For Pitcher of the Year, I’d give my vote to Greg Holland. The guy was absolute nails coming out of the bullpen, with an 11.1 SO/9 and 1.80 ERA.

Sure, it’s a little unorthodox to give a pitcher of the year award to a set-up guy, but since the closer struggled for most of the season and the starting rotation was… Let’s be nice and call it inconsistent, Holland is my guy.

I’m sure Chen will get some consideration because he led the team in Wins (Old School!) and ERA, but Hochevar, with his strong finish, posted stronger overall numbers and Paulino was better as well.

Nope… The bullpen was a strength of this team for the most part, so the award has to go to a reliever.

— Actually saw Trey Hillman’s name mentioned in connection with the vacancy in Boston. Then, Pete Abraham, who is the Red Sox beat writer for the Globe, brought it up again on Tuesday:

When the Red Sox last hired a manager, in 2003, general manager Theo Epstein went with a 44-year-old bench coach who had a background in player development and a brief, unsuccessful run as a major league manager.

Terry Francona did not seem like a particularly inspired choice at the time. But he proved to be the most successful manager the Red Sox ever have had.

Assuming Epstein remains with the Red Sox, he’s going to stick with the plan that worked so well the first time.

“In respect to the qualities that we’re looking for, this is a tough job,’’ Epstein said. “I think I’ll use the same process that we used eight years ago when we identified and hired Tito. Looking back at that process eight years ago, I think we found the right guy and hired the right guy.’’

One potential candidate who fits largely the same profile that Francona did is Dodgers bench coach Trey Hillman.

When it comes to baseball, I’m a pretty forgiving guy. I believe in second chances and that managers (and players) can sometimes experience a reawakening when given a change of scenery.

However, in the case of SABR Trey, I’ll lay it out there… There’s no way he can ever be a successful major league manager. The guy had plenty of time in Kansas City to prove he learned something… Anything. Yet he was as horrible at his job the last day as he was on the first. When I say that, Hal McRae comes to mind for the opposite reason. When he took over as manager, he had an extremely difficult time adapting. Yet, by the time he was fired in 1994, he had evolved as a manager. He was not the same guy who came into the position as a rookie a couple of years earlier. He learned and he improved. You can’t say the same about SABR Trey.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against Hillman getting another managerial job. In fact, I welcome it. Let another fan base experience the wonder of the Trey Hillman Experience. They’ll love it in Boston.

It’s the final day of the regular season and the award ballots are due sometime before the first pitch of the postseason on Friday.

It’s time to revisit our offensive cast of nominees for the AL Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year award. If you’ll recall, last month I checked in with the rookies and decided my top choice would be Desmond Jennings with Dustin Ackley and Mike Carp second and third. Hosmer, was close to landing on my ballot, but was probably around the fourth or fifth best rookie.

I ended my post with this:

It’s possible Hosmer puts together a sweet September while his rivals falter and storms to the award. That would be ideal. There’s still plenty of baseball to be played…

Hmmm… Guess who had a killer September?

Time to revisit my table of rookie batters:

Interestingly enough, if you go back and look at my post from about a month ago, you will notice two things: First, nearly everyone on this list accumulated 100 additional plate appearances. And second, everyone except Hosmer and Jemelle Weeks saw their overall performance decline. The Hos is hitting .367/.379/.592 with five home runs in September.

The pitchers

Last time, I identified four pitchers who could earn consideration. Let’s look at them with their key numbers:

Ivan Nova – 16 wins, 3.70 ERA, 5.3 SO/9, 3.1 BB/9
Jeremy Hellickson – 13 wins, 2.90 ERA, 5.7 SO/9, 3.3 BB/9
Michael Pineda – 9 wins, 3.74 ERA, 9.1 SO/9, 2.9 BB/9
Jordan Walden – 32 saves, 2.73 ERA

Let’s dispense of the reliever… Greg Holland has been a better pitcher. And he’s not going to get a vote for this award. Moving on…

Of the remaining three, Pineda has been the most impressive. Although, both he and Hellickson have crazy low batting averages on balls in play (.258 for Pineda and .222 for Hellickson).

Still, it wouldn’t be surprising if Nova received some serious consideration for his wins. Old school, for sure, but he’s also playing on a winning team. The kind of voter who votes for wins, also votes for players on pennant winners.

The Jennings (Non) Factor

Remember how Jennings (my top pick) was in the stratosphere? Well, a .179/.278/.274 September has brought him crashing back to Earth. Overall, Jennings is hitting .271/.368/.470 in 275 plate appearances. Those are still excellent numbers. However, there are guys who have done as much in more plate appearances. Yes, I argued that playing time shouldn’t be a penalty in the balloting. My thought is if you play enough to lose your rookie eligibility, you should be considered for the award. However, if your rate stats are equal to another player and that player has double the plate appearances… I have to go with quality and quantity over just quality.

So while Jennings was my pick a month ago, he’s no longer on my ballot. This year’s rookie class is just too strong and his numbers no longer stand out. He’s dropped.

It’s time to play the elimination game…

The Field

Ben Revere – Notable for a 0.39 ISO. Notable because it’s historically bad. I suppose the 34 steals are nice, but his OBP is below league average. He’s out.

JP Arencibia and Mark Trumbo – Trumbo has the second highest slugging of this group, but the second lowest OBP. If he had been around league average, this probably would have been his award to lose. Arecibia has a lower slugging and an even lower OBP. Both are out.

Eric Thames – Meh. Low OBP. Out.

Just Outside

Jemile Weeks – Weeks has taken a hot September to push his batting average above the .300 mark. I’m not that interested in BA, but that will catch the eyes of a voter or two. Lacks power, but has speed to burn. Although a 67% success rate on stolen base attempts would suggest he has a thing or two to learn.

Mike Carp – He leads in slugging, but barely makes my arbitrary cutoff of 300 plate appearances. His .813 OPS and 129 OPS+ also lead this group. Intriguing.

The Contenders

That leaves two players standing – Dustin Ackley and Eric Hosmer.

Ackley has the advantage in OBP and TAv. Hosmer takes the edge in BA and slugging. They’re neck and neck in wOBA. Hosmer has the advantage in OPS (.807 to .780), but they’re tied with a 121 OPS+. According to Baseball-Reference, Ackley has 5.9 Runs Created per game, while Hosmer has 5.4 RC/9.

Ackley has a 2.9 fWAR, while Hosmer has a 1.6 fWAR.

As mentioned last week, the defensive metrics think Hosmer is a notch above those pervs on To Catch a Preditor on the what I will call the Scale of Evil. Meanwhile, Ackley plays a premium defensive position, and according to those same metrics that loathe Hosmer, he plays it quite well. That’s your difference.


This is tight. Damn tight.

Strange as it may sound, when the race is this close, I like the fact that Hosmer has almost 200 more plate appearances than Ackley. In a race like the ROY, as I mentioned, longevity counts and Hosmer’s numbers have been collected over a larger stretch of games.

Both players have deserving cases, and there’s no way I can begrudge Ackley a win. Voters have a difficult decision ahead.

My final ballot:

Call me a homer if you like, but I give the slight edge to The Hos.

I’m sure this got the Lee Judge Fanboys all hyper (kind of like when I mainline Cheez-Doodles and Mountain Dew) but there was some chatter in the middle of the week about how Eric Hosmer ranks last among American League first baseman in Ultimate Zone Rating. (UZR) It’s important because with the Rookie of the Year race getting closer by the inning, defense could come into play with some voters who will have a difficult decision to make.

Keith Allison/Flickr

We’ve all seen The Hos play first. In my opinion, he’s the best defensive first baseman we’ve had in Kansas City since Wally Joyner. From watching the games, I give him high grades for footwork, fielding grounders to his right and throwing the ball to pitchers covering the bag. (The latter is an underrated skill, in my opinion. Watching Joyner in ’93 underscored just how valuable this is for first basemen.) My eyes tell me Hosmer is a quality defensive first baseman.

However, UZR disagrees. It hangs a -9.9 rating on our rookie. Worst in the AL. Ugh.

But… But… What about all those awesome scoops he makes at first? How can his UZR be so abysmal if he’s making all these sweet picks and saving valuable runs? Simple. UZR does not account for scoops at first. It’s just another out. (And before you decide to kill the messenger, remember this is just the way it is. I didn’t invent the system… I’m merely trying to shed some light.)

Line drives are similarly ignored. So, those great diving stabs we’ve seen Hosmer make? Not counted in UZR. The developer of this metric says snaring a line drive is more a luck factor than a skill factor. Not certain I agree with this. For sure, the infielder’s position counts big-time on a scorching liner, but if the fielder doesn’t have the reaction time, that catch won’t be made.

Another thing to remember is we’re dealing with a sample size of four months. The creators of UZR realize their system has limitations and stress that to get a portrait of “true” talent, you need to accumulate at least three years of data. Even then, there are players all over the game who have something like a +10 UZR one year, followed by a -10 UZR the next. What gives?

From the UZR primer at FanGraphs:

…there is still a potentially large gap between what you might see on the field if you were to watch every play of every game and what UZR “says” happened on the field. And that is one of several reasons why one year or even 10 years of UZR (or any other sample metric) does not give us a perfect estimate of a player’s true talent or even an accurate picture of what actually happened on the field. The reason for that is that the data is imperfect.

It all goes back to the data, the data, the data. It’s categorized by Baseball Info Solutions where batted balls are placed in “buckets” based on a number of factors. Yet, there are still a number of variables that are not accounted for in charting fielding plays. It’s an imperfect science.

Does this mean we dismiss UZR and other defensive metrics out of hand? I don’t think so. At least I hope not. While the data may be imperfect, it ultimately underscores the need to have more of it before we can make any kind of assumption. Even then, on defense, we need to use our eyes, along with the numbers to form an informed opinion. I really like the advancements in defensive metrics. In particular, I’m a fan of Dewan’s Plus/Minus system. But I understand their limitations. Maybe FieldF/X will perfect the research. Sadly, that’s data we will probably never get to see.

In explaining Hosmer’s low UZR rating, let’s say it’s a combination of an imperfect science made even more imperfect by a lack of data and further complicated by his position on the field. We know he hasn’t been that bad with the glove, no matter what the metrics say. That’s why things like Tango’s Fan Scouting Report – a system that relies on the input from those who regularly watch the games – are so useful. (Take a moment and fill out the report for the Royals.) Sorting by current first basemen on Tango’s report, you see that Hosmer fares much better and rates as an above average defensive first baseman.

So, looking at Hosmer’s UZR and drawing a conclusion from not even a full season of data isn’t going to accomplish anything productive. We’ve seen him play in the field… Let’s give UZR another couple of seasons and see how the ratings and rankings evolve.

In the meantime, if anyone with a ROY ballot is reading this, please don’t pay attention to UZR when evaluating Hosmer’s defense. He’s been solid, steady and at times, exceptional with the glove.

On Hosmer’s Opposite Field Power

The other day, I touched on Eric Hosmer’s opposite field power as a sign of future success.

Daniel Russell/Flickr

A study in the 2010 Baseball Forecaster found that nearly 75% of all home runs were hit to the batter’s pull field, with the remaining quarter distributed between center and the opposite field. After analyzing over 4,000 batters covering nine years, the research found that a high percentage of players under the age of 26, who hit two or more opposite field home runs for the first time in their careers, subsequently experienced a sustained three year breakout in value.

This was an exercise to identify potential breakout players for fantasy baseball for the bargain hounds. It can certainly extend into the real game as a method to find players with potential to improve… Or to breakout.

When Hosmer hits the ball to the outfield, he truly hits to all fields. (As opposed to when he hits the ball on the ground. Then, he’s a strict pull hitter.) And we know that with 18 home runs, Hosmer has the capacity to club the ball over the fence. And we know from my post on Wednesday that he is hitting with power to left and center field. To get some perspective of how well The Hos is doing in hitting to the opposite field for power, we need to look at some of his peers. Using the Baseball Reference Play Index, I generated a list of all hitters 24 (keeping the list manageable and closer to Hosmer’s age) and under who have at least 15 home runs. The search returned 10 players who can be considered the next wave of elite power hitters.

Here are the players with their home run location broken down by field.

(Sandoval’s numbers aren’t there because, as a switch hitter, I don’t have the same data for him as the other players. Besides, this is about future greatness and with his body type… Let’s just say I’m betting against him.) The raw number of opposite field home runs may not look like much, but percentage-wise Hosmer has clubbed 22% of his home runs to left. Of the guys on the list, only McCutchen and Avila – both at 26% – has a higher percentage of opposite field long balls.

Remember nearly 75% of all home runs are hit to the batter’s pull field… Hosmer is pulling just 44% of his homers. To be hitting like this – spreading the power to all fields – at his age… He could be in for a monster run over the next several years. Hosmer is already in elite company as a young power hitter and his home run profile means he has the chops to hang with this crew. (Stanton and McCutchen are already great and have spectacular futures.)

Hosmer’s had a heckuva debut season. The great thing about it is, it’s no fluke. He’s the real deal. Set to explode. And he’s a Kansas City Royal.

I’ll go out on a limb and say that The Hos breaks Steve Balboni’s franchise record of 36 home runs within three seasons.

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