Finding Perspective During Dark Days


On May 7th the Royals defeated the Seattle Mariners 3-1 to win their 6th game in a row. Since then Kansas City has gone 5-13 in their last 18 games. But the depressing news doesn’t end there. They have scored more runs in their 5 wins (30) than they have in their 13 losses (28). If it weren’t for Zack Greinke heading to the mound every 5th day the Royals bandwagon would be sitting up on cinder blocks in a field while Kansas City fans would be looking forward to NFL training camp.

What we need at a time like this is a little perspective. 28 runs in 13 losses makes it hard to maintain proper perspective so I thought I would try to bring a little sunshine to the overcast and gloomy outlook most fans now possess. To know where you are, you have to have a grounded understanding of where you’ve been. As Royals fans were are acutely aware of our team’s past, but here are some numbers to ponder comparing the 2009, 2008, and 2007 seasons. Hopefully this will help to put everyone in a little better mood.

Thanks in large part to Zack Greinke, everyone has been focused on the improved pitching, but the pitching staff is not the only aspect of this team that is getting better.

 

2009*

2008

2007

BA

.254 (20th)

.269 (9th)

.261 (22nd)

OBP

.327 (23rd)

.320 (26th)

.322 (t-26th)

SLG

.407 (t-20th)

.397 (25th)

.388 (29th)

HR

134 (t-22nd)

120 (27th)

102 (30th)

BB

537 (t-21st)

392 (30th)

428 (29th)

SO

1054 (16th)

1005 (24th)

1069 (15th)

R

689 (22nd)

691 (25th)

706 (27th)

*2009  totals are adjusted from 47 to 162 games played

Despite the overall poor performance over the last 18 games, Royals are still ranked 20th, 23rd, and tied for 20th in BA, OBP, and SLG respectively. As bad as they have been offensively, there are 10 teams in MLB that are worse than the Royals. The BA is down but the OBP, SLG, HR and BB will all end up at 3 year highs if they stay on their current pace. The statistical improvements may seem small, but in terms of MLB ranking they are rather significant. After ranking 30th and 29th in walks the last 2 seasons, they Royals currently sit tied for 21st. If they stay on course they will draw 145 more walks in 2009 than they did in 2008. Even with poor situational hitting that is a lot of baserunners and a lot of chances to score more runs over the course of a season. They currently project to score fewer runs than the previous 2 seasons, but the ranking is more of note here since scoring as a whole has dropped the last few years due to a number of factors.

No the Royals aren’t an offensive juggernaut, but they are getting better. Things are even more promising when you consider the Royals have been without Alex Gordon for most of the season and were without their best pure hitter in Jose Guillen for a few weeks.

 

2009*

2008

2007

ERA

3.95 (6th)

4.48 (22nd)

4.48 (16th)

BB

534 (8th)

515 (11th)

520 (15th)

SO

1141 (10th)

1085 (17th)

993 (26th)

WHIP

1.37 (t-8th)

1.38 (t-17th)

1.44 (t-21st)

*2009  totals are adjusted from 47 to 162 games played

Despite having 3 members of their bullpen on the DL they Royals have lowered their team ERA by a half a run. They are on pace to strike out 60 more batters this year compared to 2008. That increase would follow up a 90 SO improvement from 2007 to 2008. If they stay on course that would give them an additional 150 strikeouts in just 2 seasons while also improving their WHIP. As with the offense I think the best is yet to come for the pitching staff. Greinke and Bannister are going to come back to earth to some degree, but Davies and Meche should be better as the season goes on. The 5th spot in the rotation is what it is. The bullpen has slipped into disarray since Soria started having trouble with his shoulder and it seems to have impacted the entire team in the process. The injuries to Soria and Tejeda do not appear to be serious and they recently got John Bale back from the DL. Roman Colon has been added to the mix and had 2 solid outings already. When Tejeda and Soria come off the DL, they will likely push Ho-Ram and possibly Sidney Ponson off the ML roster. As we all know, Tejeda and Soria in for Ponson and Ho-Ram would be a huge upgrade in terms of talent and just removing Ho-Ram and Ponson could be addition by subtraction. When Soria and Tejeda come back, the pen should stabilize affording Mahay and Wright some time to bounce back and have lighter workloads going forward. Farnsworth is well suited to the role Trey currently has him in and will continue to be an asset in the bullpen if he remains the low pressure middle relief guy. The big bullpen question mark for me is, Juan Cruz. He has been effective in 2009, but his 5.9 SO/9 is by far the lowest of his ML career. Cruz has never had a SO/9 lower than 7.5 and he simply doesn’t look like the same pitcher he was with Arizona the last 3 seasons.

The Royals offense and pitching has improved compared to where it was in 2008 and 2007, but the defense has not followed suit. Defense and fielding is difficult to measure statistically, but anyone who has watched the team the last 3 years knows that this is a really poor defensive team. The stats back up the “eye-test.”

 

2009*

2008

2007

FP

.983 (t-17th)

.984 (t-13th)

.982 (t-17th)

DER

.6922 (25th)

.7023 (18th)

.7053 (19th)

CS%

14.3%

25.0%

30.7%

E

103 (t-20th)

96 (t-12th)

108 (18th)

*2009  totals are adjusted from 47 to 162 games played

Defensive Efficiency Rating (DER), as defined on MLB.com, is the ratio of team defensive outs recorded in defensive opportunities. To determine Defensive Efficiency Rating for a team, divide the total number of hits in play allowed (not including home runs) by the total number of defensive opportunities (all balls hit into play, not including home runs) and subtract from one: 1-((H-HR)/(PA-HR-BB-HBP-SO)).

The numbers tell the story all on their own. There are holes defensively all over the field. In the outfield Coco Crisp is the best the Royals have and even he is vastly overrated defensively. His throwing ability is making us pine for Johnny Damon’s noodle-arm to come back to KC. At least Damon could hit a cut off man. Butler has been a pleasant surprise defensively at 1B but even the most positive assessment would put him at league average. The rest of the infield is suspect at best and Mark Teahen’s recent defensive work is quickly putting to rest the idea of moving Gordon off the hot-corner when he returns. Unless the Royals start trading players like Guillen off to clear room for Maier or Teahen to play RF, there is little they can do to improve their defense this season so we’re pretty much stuck with what we have.

All in all there is reason for optimism for the 2009 Royals. They are improving in every aspect except defense and I fully expect the defense to be addressed in the offseason. It takes time to completely rebuild a franchise, and that is what Dayton Moore was faced with when he took over the team. Even though it doesn’t feel like it, they have come a really long way in a short amount of time.

Tags: AL Central Baseball Kansas City Royals KC MLB