If you follow the Royals you probably know how this story plays out before we even get started. There is no way to sugar coat this one. It’s bad, real bad. Read on to see how the division shapes up in terms of team OBP and how each team’s top 5 OBP players stack up with one another.
The AL Central ranking for team on-base percentage is a tale of 3 tiers. The first tier features a close race between the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins. The second tier is a close race for 3rd between the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers. The third tier features the Kansas City Royals, all by themselves, in last place.
Considering about half of the season has been played, the gap between the 1st and 2nd tier of 0.010 is very significant. The 0.017 gap between the team OBP of the 4th place Tigers and the Royals, is the largest spread between any 2 teams in the division. Not only are the Royals in last place, they are in last place by a mile. Even with significant changes and improvements to the roster during the second half of the season, it would be almost impossible for the Royals to even sniff 4th place in team OBP.
The stats listed are updated through the games played on Saturday July 4th. Players were required to have a minimum of 100 AB to qualify for their team’s top 5.
Cleveland holds a slim lead of 0.003 over the Minnesota Twins. The fact that the Indians rank 1st in OBP and yet have the worst W-L in the division highlights how woefully awful their pitching has been this season. OF-Shin Soo Choo (27) leads the team with a 0.406 OBP in 289 AB. DH-Travis Hafner (32) .0396 in 113 AB, C/1B-Victor Martinez (31) 0.387 in 305 AB, 2B-Jamey Carroll (35) 0.381 in 127 AB, and 2B/SS-Asdrubal Cabrera (23) 0.367 in 223 AB round out the Indians top 5. The average age of the Indians top 5 is 29.6 with ranks 3rd within the division.
In 2nd place we have the Minnesota Twins who are led by C-Joe Mauer (26). Mauer’s 0.464 OBP in 213 AB leads the division by a large margin aver Choo’s 0.406. The Twins are far from relying solely on their MVP caliber catcher however. 1B-Justin Morneau (28) 0.398 in 309 AB, OF-Denard Span (25) 0.377 in 264 AB, RF-Michael Cuddyer (30) 0.361 in 278 AB, and DH-Jason Kubel (27) 0.358 in 254 AB complete the team’s top 5. The Twins have the youngest OBP core within the division with an average age of 27.2.
The Chicago White Sox are in 3rd place and are led by DH-Jim Thome’s 0.400 OBP in 199 AB. Thome is 38 and in the final stages of his career, yet he remains an OBP machine for the White Sox. In fact, his 0.400 OBP ranks him 3rd in the division behind only Mauer and Choo. OF-Scott Podsednik (33) 0.368 in 231 AB, RF-Jermaine Dye (35) 0.362 in 265 AB, 1B-Paul Konerko (33) 0.349 in 288 AB, and C-A.J. Pierzynski (32) 0.331 in 244 AB round out the White Sox top 5. The White Sox top 5 has an average age of 34.2 making them the oldest core in the division by a whopping 4.4 years. All 5 of the above listed players are on the wrong side of 32 years old and the team, offensively, is in desperate need of an overhaul this offseason.
The Detroit Tigers rank 4th in the AL Central, led by 1B-Miguel Cabrera (26) 0.387 in 296 AB. 3B-Brandon Inge (32) 0.363 in 275 AB, OF-Ryan Raburn (28) 0.359 in 104 AB, CF-Curtis Granderson (28) 0.339 in 314 AB, and RF-Magglio Ordonez (35) 0.333 in 252 AB comprise the rest of the team’s top 5. 29.8 is the average age of the Tigers top 5, but that includes 35 year old Magglio Ordonez and his rapidly declining career. Dropping Ordonez from their average would drop their age to 28.5.
In last pace we have the Kansas City Royals who are led by 2B-Alberto Callaspo (26) 0.354 in 272 AB. I need to restate that for emphasis. The Royals are led by Callaspo’s 0.354 OBP. Take a look back at the other team’s listed above and see where AC’s 0.354 would rank our offense first 2B. That’s right folks, Callaspo would fail to crack Cleveland’s top 5, would be 5th on the Twins, 4th on the White Sox, and 4th on the Tigers. The rest of the Royals top 5 is comprised of 3B/OF-Mark Teahen (27) 0.350 in 280 AB, 1B-Billy Butler (23) 0.338 in 287 AB, RF-Jose Guillen (33) 0.322 in 234 AB, and utility player Willie Bloomquist (31) 0.319 in 192 AB. Since CF-Coco Crisp (29) is done for the season, I did not include his 0.336 OBP in 180 AB. Had I included him, he would have ranked 4th on the Royals list. Kansas City’s top 5 has an average age of 28.0 while their top 3 of Callaspo, Teahen, and Butler averages 25.3 years of age. Only the Twins have more youth at the top of their list. Hey, I found a positive!
2009 OBP compared to Career OBP:
One of the other things I looked at when researching for this article was the difference between each player’s 2009 OBP and their career OBP. When I rolled this variance back up to the team level, the Royals, yet again, finished dead last.
The Minnesota Twins are collectively +139. This somewhat expected since all 5 of the Twins included are either in the upswing of their careers or in the “prime” of their career (Cuddyer). Mauer’s career OBP of 0.405, which is the 2nd highest career OBP in the division behind Jim Thome’s 0.406, makes his 2009 0.464 OBP a whopping +59. Also of note, Morneau’s +45 is the 3rd biggest variance in the division. Span -6, Cuddyer +15, and +26 complete the Twins 5.
The Cleveland Indians are collectively +82 and are led by Jamey Carroll’s +28. Choo +18, Martinez +16, Cabrera +14, and Hafner +6 round out the Indians top 5.
The Detroit Tigers +57 feature Inge +55, Raburn +41, Cabrera +6, Granderson -9, and Ordonez -36.
The White Sox are +48 as a team. Podsednik +29, Dye +23, and Pierzynski +5 are the 3 Chicago players in the positive. Thome -6 and Konerko -3 are the two in the negative.
Finally we have the Royals who are +36 as a team. Callaspo leads the way again with a +21. He is followed by Teahen +16, Butler +3, Guillen -1, and Bloomquist -3. Even with Wee Willie B hitting like Ted Williams to start the season he still has a -3 on the season. Having a -3 isn’t so bad if your career OBP is 0.350 or so. Unfortunately for Willie and Royals fans, his career OBP is 0.322.
The youngest players to appear in this 25 player group, are Asdrubal Cabrera of the Indians and Billy Butler of the Kansas City Royals. Both Cabrera and Butler are only 23 and both look like they have long and promising careers ahead of them. The oldest players to appear in the above are Chicago’s Jim Thome (38) and Jermaine Dye (35), Cleveland’s Jamey Carroll (35), and Detroit’s Magglio Ordonez (35).
All in all, the OBP rankings paint a very bleak landscape for the Kansas City Royals. The good news is that their top 3 are players are key players on my 2011 playoff team. Sadly, that is where the good news ends with respect to OBP. Callaspo is still a well-below average fielder with sub-par range. Teahen will probably end up being traded by the deadline, though I am hoping and praying he remains a member of this team. Guillen and his $12 million 2010 salary will probably remain on the team limiting their offseason payroll flexibility. Finally Willie Bloomquist is forced to play every day thanks to the Aviles injury and the historic offensive ineptitude to TPJ. Since Bloomquist is being overused hit 2009 offensive numbers will most likely continue to erode.
It’s bad, real bad.