It’s not just disgruntled east coast football writers that hate the Royals. Now even the computers hate our boys in blue.
Not really, of course. Unless you believe PECOTA has become self-aware, that is.
By now, you have likely heard that the PECOTA projections have come out and they project the Royals to finish last in the AL Central, winning just 76 games. I am fairly, mostly, kind of certain that Craig is going to give you a much better drilled down analysis tomorrow in this regard. You can get an interesting explanation right now from Sam Miller at Baseball Prospectus. You can get outrage from any number of sources on Twitter as well as snarkiness about the outrage on Twitter and other outlets from even more of us. We are all annoying today. Even you over there, don’t kid yourself.
Sarcasm aside, I doubt you will find many that truly believe the 2016 Royals are going to fall from a 95 win regular season and World Series Champions all the way down to just 76 victories. Although they would not be the first defending champ to under perform. Those of us old enough to remember or those of a younger generation who will accept knowledge from things ‘that happened before they were born’ will note that the 91 win one 1985 World Champion Royals did, in fact, fall to exactly 76 wins the following season. Heck, even those who manage PECOTA generally believe the Royals will win more than 76 games.
Many, many in the Royals’ sphere of writing, blogging and commenting are far more in tune with the data side of the equation we know as baseball than I am. In general, however, every projection system is aimed towards projecting the individual player and they are not horrible at it. Some might take umbrage to this statement, but if a projection system is plus or minus 10% versus what a given player actually produces, that seems decently accurate to me. Being off by that amount on a team’s overall win total? Well, that can be a big difference in a hurry.
That last sentence does not even account for what I perceive to be a fair amount of ‘lost in translation’ when we take individual player projections and combine them into a team win total. I have always felt and, having watched what the Royals have done the past few seasons has certainly jaded my view even further, that team projections undervalue overall team defense, great bullpens and good team baserunning. Certainly the Kansas City teams have excelled in those three areas (the first two in particular) and maybe that has helped to darken the tint on my rose colored glasses to the point that my opinion is more gut than fact at this point.
However, the purpose of this quick little ditty is not to defend or condemn PECOTA. There will be far better discussions and analysis that will drill into this year’s projections or determine why the Royals so outperformed similar projections in past years. The purpose here, early this Tuesday afternoon, is to say calm down. The Royals are not suddenly 14 games behind the leader of the AL Central. They are essentially the same team that won 95 games in 2015. There is not a sinister national plot to disrespect the Kansas City Royals.
All is well. Spring is near. Come April 3rd, everybody starts out dead even no matter what the projections say.