Sophomore Slumping

Going into 2012, the Royals will likely have around 12 players on their roster that reached the majors for the first time in 2011. That number has some wiggle room, but the fact is that the team is very young. As such, we just have to have a discussion about the dreaded beast known as the sophomore slump.

Whether it exists or not is unclear (but there have been articles), but I’ll be on watch to see what a second season does to Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, to Salvador Perez, Johnny Giavotella, Aaron Crow, and Danny Duffy. So, I wondered what we should expect for those players. I just did a brief search and my findings are described after the jump.

This is fairly basic, but I wanted to look at each player that should be returning and see what sort of performance we should expect from their second year. I just used the Play Index at Baseball Reference to dig this up and see what I could find. Small sample sizes apply where necessary. And I’m also going to say that this isn’t completely scientific. Looking at the stats and numbers can be difficult based on changes in season time and otherwise, so it’s hard to get a solid number. The guys at The Hardball Times took a shot last January by looking at Rookie of the Year winners, if you want to take a look at that, but I’m going to take a more qualitative approach. I’m simply going to report the number of players that compare to these Royals and see which ones improved, stayed stable, or declined in their second years.

I’m just going to run through the numbers quickly. Looking at years from 1950 to 2010, I generally picked a range of 20 games played centered on the Royal in question and used a minimum batting average of .225 to clear out those that bring down the numbers. If you have other questions about how I searched, add them in the comments.

First basemen:

Eric Hosmer had a notably good first season, to the point where it’s hard to find comparable players. I widened the games played range to add in more, as the initial range brought up three players.* For a range of 40 games played, three players improved, one stayed constant (but was great and was voted into the Hall of Fame), and two declined.

*One improved in his second season, one didn’t play a second season until 24 games two years later, and one died in the middle of his second season. So…yeah.

Second basemen:

Giavotella’s 2011 starting out strong, but he ended with a .247/.273/.376 line. For players that have performed similarly, one improved in their second season, two stayed roughly steady, two declined (Ruben Gotay, everyone), and six played less than a third of a season or were out of the majors. The one that improved was a small improvement and none were offensive masters.

Third basemen:

Mike Moustakas had a line of .263/.309/.367 in 89 games, ending on a hot streak. For similar players that played a significant time in their second season, two improved their performance (Ron Santo and Bob Horner) and four declined. For three of those declining players, their batting average dropped at least 60 points.

Catchers:

Salvador Perez had a wild line of .331/.361/.473 in his 39 games as a Royal, so I bumped the minimum production up to a .250 batting average to get a closer sample. No one was quite close to Sal’s numbers, but one improved, two stayed steady, four declined, and two played little in their second season.

Starters:

Danny Duffy was the lone rookie starter, but he had a 5.64 ERA in 20 starts and 87 strikeouts to 51 walks. I used an ERA range of 5.14 to 6.14 and a starts range of 17 to 22 to limit results with all required to be 100% starters. Out of these eight players, three improved, two stayed constant (and three some relief innings), one declined, and three either didn’t pitch or had very few games.

Relievers:

This is where it’s all over the board. We have five players that I’m considering: Aaron Crow, Tim Collins, Everett Teaford, Nathan Adcock, and Louis Coleman. To look at Crow, Collins, and Coleman, I used an ERA range of 2.50 to 3.75 and an innings range of 55 to 70. Based on a judgment of their primary statistics, two of the 27 players improved, ten stayed constant, and 14 declined and/or were out of the majors at some point during the following season.

For Adcock, I used an ERA range of 4.00 to 5.00 and the same innings range as above, plus at least 85% relief appearances versus starts to accommodate Adcock’s three starts. Of the 31 players there, six improved (some started many more games), seven stayed roughly constant, and 18 either simply declined or were out of the majors for most or all of the season after pitching poorly.

Finally, I used an ERA range of 3.00 to 3.5 with a 40-50 inning range and the same relief percentage as Adcock to look at Teaford’s comparable players. For these 19 players, two improved, four stayed steady, and 13 either declined or were out of the majors at some point in their sophomore season.

 

So, what does it all really mean? Well, not a ton! It gives us a good idea of what to expect, but the minute variations between players makes it impossible to truly predict which players will experience regression and which will be able to maintain or improve on their initial seasons. I think the biggest message is that we can expect the batters to be more likely to stay consistent, while the relievers are the most volatile. Still, it comes down to each particular player.

To me, I largely expect Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas to either stay steady or improve. They’ve shown the abilities to handle their roles and, while they have some room for improvement at certain areas, they are the most likely to be ready to handle another season. Danny Duffy should also be up there, as that experience from last year should come in handy moving forward. That idea is also based on the rough findings above, but I think he’s well-poised to take a step forward and use what he’s learned in 2011.

As for Giavotella and Perez, I think there are two different situations. Giavotella is at a position that’s offensively less powerful and is a player that is more offensively charged than defensively. He should have the ability to bat reasonably well and bring in runs, but needs to make adjustments this offseason to improve, as it seem pitchers started to figure him out in the latter half of his season with Kansas City. And Perez has set his standard so high than there’s almost no chance of it staying there, so there should be a decline of some sort. Now, I don’t think it’ll be too substantial, but it’s likely that he finds more difficulty in 2012 than he did in 2011.

Ending with the pitchers, I feel like there are several different issues here. I expect Coleman and Crow to stay roughly steady and perhaps experience a slight drop in performance, but nothing too severe. That’s purely based on watching them perform and thinking of their ability. As for Collins and Teaford, it’s more complicated. There are three lefty relievers on the 40-man roster that can fill the left-handed specialist reliever role, and one of these two (if not both) will likely not make the team. It seems like the team is more likely to work with Collins at Omaha, but it’s impossible to tell. I’d expect they both pitch roughly the same in 2012 as they did in 2011, however, if given the chance. Collins may pitch more like his late-2011 self, however.

And Adcock will likely be in Omaha given that he’s no longer required to be on the 25-man roster, but we’ll see what happens.

There’s definitely a lot to watch with last year’s rookies, so we’ll see how it all goes. Let me know how you think the guys will do in the comments below.

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Tags: Aaron Crow AL Central Baseball Danny Duffy Eric Hosmer Everett Teaford Johnny Giavotella Kansas City Royals KC Mike Moustakas MLB Nathan Adcock Royals Salvador Perez Tim Collins

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