It seems like it was years ago that I wrote my 3 part AL Central preview. I suppose following and writing about the Royals on a nearly daily basis* can do that to a person. So let’s start taking a look at how I did with my predictions and analysis back in April.
*I have chosen to implement the magical Posnanski/Mellinger asterisk tangent marker. It works well and I respect the hell out of their work, so it is a good way to briefly go off topic and honor two excellent writers at the same time. Anyway, it seems like it is worth mentioning that this very post will be my 199th published post on Kings of Kauffman. Not sure what that means, other than I have spent a lot of my free time writing about baseball in the last 8 months or so, but it seems like it is a significant milestone regardless. If you are wondering why I am making a mention of post #199 instead of post #200, I tend to go my own way on things. Patting myself on the back for this post as opposed to the next one is just being more true to my own spirit.
Minnesota Twins (Predicted: 86-76) (Actual: 87-76) (Expected W-L: 86-77)
I nailed the hell out of this one. The only thing that kept this prediction from being 100% accurate was the necessity of game 163 with the Tigers to decide the division. While I got the end result right, how the Twins actually arrived at 1st place deviated quite a bit from my early season projections.
Chicago White Sox (Predicted: 82-80) (Actual: 79-83) (Expected W-L: 80-82)
Instead of finishing second, they came in 3rd but with a very similar record to my prediction. Only the Tigers overachieving kept me from getting this one right.
Kansas City Royals (Predicted: 77-85) (Actual: 65-97) (Expected W-L: 66-96)
I admit, I drank the KC Kool-Aid a little bit, but I didn’t go overboard like many people, fans and experts alike, did. I failed to account for many things that happened to the Royals in 2009. In my defense, no rational human being could have anticipated some of the decisions, or quotes, that came from Dayton Moore and Trey Hillman.
Detroit Tigers (Predicted: 76-86) (Actual: 86-77) (Expected W-L: 81-82)
I missed the boat on the 2009 version of the Tigers, but they also overachieved based on their expected W-L record. Rick Porcello, Edwin Jackson, and Brandon Inge were a big reason why I missed the boat by 9 or 5 games depending on which measure you use.
Cleveland Indians (Predicted: 73-89) (Actual: 65-97) (Expected W-L: 73-89)
I picked them to finish last, and technically they did, but the Royals were worse. The Indians held a fire sale in July, while the Royals added Yuniesky Betancourt. The Indians were front and center when it came to waiving the white flag and basically played out the string the last couple months. The Royals, well, like I said, no rational human being could have anticipated some of the decisions of the Royals brain-trust.
In my AL Central preview, I asked what had to happen for each team to win the division. I won’t recount all of them here, but I reserve the right to do so at a later date. The Royals one, however, needs to be revisited right now because it made me chuckle and weep (figuratively) at the same time. Statements from the April preview is in italics. I’ll set the table by asking again:
What has to happen for the Royals to win the division?
Gil Meche, Zack Greinke, and Kyle Davies all need to routinely pitch deep into games and provide quality innings to keep the bullpen fresh for when the 4th and 5th starters are pitching.
Greinke? Check, but after that not so much. Meche? He did a fairly good job of staying in games at the start of the season, though he did leave the game before going 6.0 innings in 4 of his first 13 starts. Then the fateful 132 pitch CG shutout came in start 14 and Hillman proceeded to run Gil into the ground. I still don’t understand why the team had him come back from the DL to make 4 starts in August. Davies? All told Kyle made 22 starts on the year and went 7.0 or more in only 3 of them. It took a nice run in his final four starts to drop his ERA from 6.12 to 5.27. Barring a major roster shakeup, he remains the Royals best bet for the #3 slot in the rotation.
The worst fielding infield in baseball has to be fundamentally sound and play sound above-average defense as a unit.
This is the one that made me start laughing. What the Royals got, instead of fundamentally sound above average defense, was perhaps the worst infield defense I have ever witnessed at the ML level.
Mark Teahen needs to prove he is worthy of being an everyday player on a major league team.
Whether or not Teahen achieved this one depends on what you are looking for in an everyday player. For me when he was playing 3B every day, he was proving it to me. When he was bouncing positions, not so much. I really, really wish Mark could stick in one spot for an entire season. Maybe we’d get more of the same, or maybe he’d be better if allowed to get comfortable at one position. My guess is that we will never find out, especially if he remains a member of the Royals organization.
Either Billy Butler or Alex Gordon needs to prove they can be all-star caliber hitters.
Thanks to Billy Butler, check. Alex Gordon was MIA.
Mike Aviles needs to keep Tony Pena Jr. on the bench.
This one went so wrong on so many levels, and now we have Yuniesky Betancourt at SS.
Sidney Ponson and/or Horacio Ramirez need to be replaced in the rotation with better options by midseason. One of those options needs to be Luke Hochevar.
Well, Ho-Ram and Ponson did get replaced, Hochevar was one of those guys, and Luke did end up being a better option than either of them. Still the Royals were far too slow in the expulsion of Ponson, Ho-Ram should have never made the one start that he did, and Hochevar’s overall results were disappointing.
Trey Hillman needs to improve his decision making.
I fired him midseason. It is safe to say he did not improve his decision making. From giving Mark Teahen random starts at 1B to going back to using Farnsworth in high-leverage situations late in the year, the managerial decisions were typically poor and cost this team. I refuse to believe that any player on the roster respects or takes Trey Hillman seriously at this point.
Player(s) they can’t afford to lose: Zack Greinke and Joakim Soria
They did lose Soria for a bit, but the team didn’t have many save opportunites while he was on the DL.
Breakout Player(s): Mark Teahen and Zack Greinke
All Zack did was turn in one of the greatest pitching seasons in Royals’ history. Teahen didn’t breakout, but he was steady and solid most of the year.
That pretty much sums up why the Royals missed the competitive boat in 2009. I can’t wait to do it again in March/April. Next season, I might expand my preview to all of the AL but I make no promises. Be back tomorrow with post #200!