Another Projection Doubts the Royals in 2014

 

May 25, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals first basemen Eric Hosmer (35) sit in the dugout against the Los Angeles Angels during the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

With Spring Training around the corner, it is time for the projections to begin. We already saw Clay Davenport’s projections that pegged the Royals as regressing to the point where they finished fourth in the American League Central, with an expected record of 77-85. Davenport sited the expected regression of the pitching staff as the main reason why they were projected as a below .500 team, as the Royals pitching staff was expected to give up 111 more runs this year.

David Schoenfield of ESPN.com has released his projections, or, at least, part of them. He has been going through teams six at a time, and has come to the Kansas City Royals. While his projections are slightly more favorable than Davenport’s, he still expects the Royals to finish below .500, with a 79-83 record. That would be good enough for third in the AL Central, finishing ahead of the White Sox and Twins.

Essentially, Schoenfield has the Royals facing the same issues that other prognosticators see: a lack of power in the lineup and the regression of the pitching staff.

…I see a pitching staff that is going to regress, maybe a lot, and an offense that won’t have enough firepower. I hope I’m wrong.

While the starting rotation is likely to regress, particularly Jeremy Guthrie, the Royals are built to hold a lead after six innings. Should they have the advantage heading into the seventh, the depth of the bullpen should allow the Royals to win the vast majority of those games. Ned Yost should be able to work the matchups to bridge the gap to Kelvin Herrera and Greg Holland, allowing the Royals to essentially play a six inning game with the rotation.

Offensively, the Royals are harkening back to the days when they primarily got on base and used their speed to put pressure on the defense. There may not be a true power hitter in the lineup, unless Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are ready to be those players for the Royals, but the Royals should be able to get on base at a reasonable rate and score more runs. The Royals defense has also improved, which should help lessen the regression for the pitching staff.

It is easy to state that, on paper, the Royals are going to struggle in 2014. They may not have the impact bats in the middle of the lineup, and they may not have the strongest starting rotation. But as long as they can get on base and take a lead into the latter third of the game, the Royals should still win more than they lose.

To me, the Royals still look like a team that can win 86 games. It may not be enough to get them into the playoffs, and being able to sign a legitimate second starter (*cough* Ervin Santana *cough*) could certainly help, but the Royals should be roughly the same as last year. What do you all think? How do you see the Royals performing this season?

Topics: Kansas City Royals

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  • jimfetterolf

    I would mention that Santana is a target for regression. Several other players are likely for progression. I think this a stronger team than last year. Still at 90 wins based on average health.

  • Eric Akers

    Offensively I think we are due for some great improvement. Cain was bad last year, and I believe he can be closer to average. Obviously, there is RF, 2B, and 3B. Not that Moose will certainly improve, but I think he has a much shorter rope. There are lots of reasons to expect a good offense this coming year.

    As for pitching, yeah we will have some regression there. But we have a chance to be better there as well (just a much smaller chance. Go Duffy and Ventura!) I will be extremely disappointed if we are 111 runs worse than last year. That would have moved the Royals from being 6th in runs allowed to 22nd.

  • grantastica

    Let’s start with the rotation-
    Shields- even
    Vargas- even (Regression from what Santana was last year, but Santana will regress too)
    Guthrie- regression
    Chen- even (will probably make 15 starts before being sent to the pen)
    Duffy- ??? Can he pitch into the sixth inning? Can he limit his walks? Enigma
    Hoch- even…as in he will pitch roughly the same as he always has as a starter.
    Davis- even…as in he will pitch roughly the same as he always has as a starter.
    Ventura- Progression in the fifth slot, when he gets called up to take either Duffy or Chen’s spot in the rotation. 10-15 starts out of him in 2014.
    I see the rotation being slightly worse than last year, only because Santana was such a solid and competent number two starter. Vargas regresses to the means. Duffy will be similar to Hoch and Davis, which isn’t a good thing. The way I see it though, is that all three can only get better if they are slated into the rotation. Ventura will be better than any three of Duffy, Hoch, or Davis…when he gets his shot.
    The bullpen is the core strength of this club and I don’t see any room for improvement whatsoever, but I also don’t think they will regress either. Even.
    Looking at the defense, the Royals will be better all the way around. I don’t take defensive metrics into too much consideration but do like the runs saved stat. Moose should gain some range and be better than he was last year. Escobar will also improve in that category. Infante is a much better improvement over the slew of jerkoffs Ned ran out there at 2B last year. Aoki in right is a tremendous asset. The rest of the guys will be the same as last year- fantastic! Defensively, this club just got a lot better, and they were already damn good!
    Offensively I see an improvement all the way around. Let’s take a look at Ned’s “set in stone” lineup, even though spring training hasn’t even started.
    Aoki- true leadoff hitter in terms of stereotype. He’ll get on and move from first to third regularly. .280/.350/.385 with 5-8 HRs, 50 RBI and 25-30 SB.
    Infante- can handle the bat. I can see a regression in his numbers, but he’s an improvement over the “jerkoffs”. I don’t think the two hole is where he should hit. Because I think Omar will press to live up to his contract, I see a .260/.325/.415 line with 10 bombs 55 RBI and 10 SBs
    Hosmer- He’s about to break into superstardom. .325/.390/.450 with 25 HR and 115 RBI
    Butler- Grounds into too many DP’s. Should see a shit ton more quality pitches and improve on his numbers compared to last year because Gordon is hitting behind him. .305/.410/.420 with 20-25 HR and 100 RBI
    Gordon- I see Gordon striking out a lot and hitting in the .260 range again, although his OBP will probably be in the .340 range. I see 25-30 HRs and lots of RBI
    Perez- I see Salvy hitting in the .270-.280 range with very few walks, a bit more pop, and a solid RBI guy.
    Moose- Hey, he can only get better, right? I see .260/.310/.425 with 25 bombs and mid seventies RBI
    Cain- .275/.325./380 with no more than a dozen HRs and 60 RBI.
    Esky- .255/.330./355 I’ll take this all year long. He’s essentially the second leadoff guy so I envision 30+SBs and 70+ runs scored
    So there’s my take on the upcoming season. Overall I think this team is exactly who a lot of fans think they are, and not the prognosticators. I see a regression from the rotation in terms of what the rotation did last year, but I don’t think there are any surprises outside of Ventura and they will perform par for the course. The bullpen is the strength of this team and there is very little wiggle room to improve there, but they are so good that I cannot fathom a regression of disproportions. The defense will be better than last year and save quite a bit of runs for the rotation and keep us in games alongside the bullpen after the sixth inning. The offense is going to bang out some more runs and challenge the 2000 Royals for best offense ever.
    I didn’t mention the bench or the AAA pitching depth that GMDM is adept at using, but I’ll say this: If the Royals see any significant injuries to any position players, there’s not a lot of depth to play replacement level ball. Not only that, but if Salvy misses any meaningful time, this season is toast!

    • jessanders

      You really think that Vargas will put up similar numbers to Santana, wherever he lands, this year?

      Really?

      If I knew you in person, I’d be asking what kind of price you’d be wanting to put on this. Cash, beers, dinner, whatever. Santana will out perform Vargas by at least half a run on xFIP, if not a full run, guaranteed.

      • grantastica

        No. Not what I’m saying at all. I think Santana is a much better pitcher. I think wherever Santana lands, he will not put up the same type of numbers he did for the Royals last year.
        I think Vargas will pitch to his career numbers for the Royals this year. Maybe a little worse.
        Sorry for the confusion on that.

  • Dave Lowe

    These projections are nonsense. You know what EVERYBODY is forgetting? Who were the Royals running out to RF every day for the first 2.5 months? Jeff Franceour, who had one of the worst offensive seasons in a very long time.

    Who were the Royals running out to 2B every day? Chris Getz, who also had a pitiful offensive season.

    Who are their replacements? High OBS and AVG guys Nori Aoki (Ichiro-lite) and Omar Infante. NIGHT and DAY comparison…HUGE IMPROVEMENT.

    What about the 4th and 5th starters for the first couple months? Luis Mendoza and Wade Davis. Mendoza was OK for a while but then stunk it up, and Wade Davis was an EPIC disaster.

    Who are their likely replacements? Bruce Chen, perhaps Danny Duffy, or Yordano Ventura. There will be big improvements here as well, as you can’t get much worse than Wade Davis was last year.

    What about the rest of the lineup? Mike Moustakas was batting about .170 for the first couple months, and Alcides Escobar had one of the weakest seasons by a major leaguer EVER. Lorenzo Cain was not healthy again, and was inconsistent. I see improvements from all 3 of these guys.

    I also see improvements for Salvador Perez and Eric Hosmer, as they continue to mature and get closer to their prime years. I think Billy Butler will be at least as good as he was in 2013, and I think Alex Gordon will be consistent again.

    I see no regression from the defense…in fact, it could be even better. I see perhaps a little regression in the bullpen, but it will be very good again.

    The starting rotation I do NOT like, however. In fantasy baseball drafts, you will see only James Shields getting drafted. Guthrie and Vargas are not getting drafted. For the Tigers, all 5 starters are getting drafted. Other AL teams go three and four deep into their rotations for fantasy drafts.

    Why do I care about fantasy drafts? Because they tell you what faith neutral third parties have in our rotation…they want to have success in their fantasy season and therefore they AVOID the Royals starting pitchers. This did not used to be the case, as guys like Appier, Saberhagen, Cone, Tom Gordon, Gubicza, Grienke and others were dominating the AL.

    Does this mean Duffy and Ventura cannot surprise us all and be awesome? Of course not..if they get the chance, they could dominate. However, it doesn’t look like Dayton has faith in Ventura or Duffy because he keeps signing #4 and #5 starters like Penny and Chen, and hinting that Wade Davis and Luke Hochevar will be given opportunities to start.

    Overall, I think the Royals will be much better on offense, great again on defense and in the bullpen, and moderately worse in the rotation. Probably again in contention for the playoffs in 2014.

    • KingofKauff

      Projections are typically non sense but these in particular do not seem too off base. Sure their seems to be a vast improvement in areas but look a little further. Sure new faces are roaming RF and 2B, but Getz was far from the every day starter, Tejeda produced along with Boni, not a complete lost cause. RF is the big improvement for me, but projecting moose to improve based on winter ball is just as laughable. Then we arrive at Santana, allocating 30 plus million at 2b while digressing in the pitching department is highway robbery.

  • moretrouble

    One of the problems with computer projections is they are based on league averages. Teams don’t play against league averages — they play against other teams. Match-ups are incredibly important.

    For instance, KC played Detroit tough last year (winning the series) because they could run on them. However, Cleveland, with Gomes behind the plate, shut KC’s running game down and KC didn’t fare so well against Cleveland.

    With an unbalanced schedule, the quality of the division matters. I do not believe Minnesota has improved much, the same could be said of Cleveland and Detroit. Only Chicago has improved. I think the Royals win more games playing in the AL Central than any other division. KC doesn’t have to be as good as the Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers or a wild card contender who plays in a tougher division.

    I think KC will have another fine season and win more games than last year. The KC team I saw in the second half last year was one of the league’s best. That momentum carries over and KC breaks it’s playoff drought this season.

    • Eric Akers

      I think Minnesota has improved. Their pitching is undoubtedly better than last year. Other than that, I don’t know.

      However, the worrisome part is that our record versus the twins was 15-4, and 29-28 against the other three in the division. I am happy playing the tigers and Indians at .500 ball, but we have to be better against the Sox than 10-9. We played the AL East fairly well, but why can’t we beat the A’s (1-6 record against!). Anyway, I am sure that we will not have as good of a year against the Twinkies this year, but we need to improve against teams like the White Sox. I think we might be better against Cleveland and Tigers this year because their teams look a little bit worse.

      I agree with what you are saying. In 2003 we went 46-30 against our division. Last year we were 44-32 against them. But their is only so much room for improvement if we expect to about .500 against Cleveland and Detroit.

      I just noticed while looking at the grid standings that Cleveland went 17-2 against the White Sox! Of course they went 6-1 against the Astros. I think both of those records will be worse for them this year, I had no idea they were so good against the Sox. Ridiculous.

      The Tigers best match up was against the Indians, they went 15-4 against them.

      • moretrouble

        I like your thinking, Eric; your analysis is good. Match-ups mean just as much in baseball as in other sports. If fans were to break match-ups down even further — to individual vs. individual, then they would be thinking like managers because that’s what those guys look at. How do they attack a certain team; take advantage of weakness; how do they attack a certain pitcher; can they go 1st to 3rd on a particular RFer, can they exploit a certain catcher, etc. Baseball managers and coaches roll video just as much as the football guys. This “game within a game” stuff is important to the success of every team.

  • jessanders

    I more or less agree.

    Unless the Royals sign an impact starter (they won’t) or Ventura and/or Duffy figure it out, I project them struggling to win 80 games.

    I want to be wrong, I hope i’m wrong.

    That said, their first few months are the easiest in the season, so hope they get off to a really really good start.

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