The KC Royals felt disrespected early in the 2015 season when many pundits and projection systems dismissed their 2014 World Series appearance as a fluke. Today, Fangraphs.com’s early 2016 projections again estimate the Kansas City Royals will win only 79 games in defense of their 2015 title.
Fangraphs also projected the 2015 World Series Champions to win 79 games last spring.
Instead, Fangraphs.com consider the Cleveland Indians the strongest team in the AL Central at 85-77, and the Boston Red Sox as the top team in the AL at 92-70. Steamer thinks that 2015 free-agent busts Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval will bounce back in 2016. Overall, Steamer projects the Cubs as the best team in baseball after adding Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward, and John Lackey.
I love it.
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If the KC Royals aren’t already self-motivated by their love of the game, getting disrespected after WINNING THE FREAKING WORLD SERIES just might do the trick. Though the Kansas City Royals have lost Johnny Cueto, Ben Zobrist, Alex Rios, Ryan Madson, and are likely to let injured Greg Holland sign with another team, they return most of the group that won the 2015 World Series.
In fact, the KC Royals seem to be almost identical to the team that finished the first half of 2015 with the American League’s best record, aside from losing under-performing Alex Rios, a sore-armed Greg Holland, and long reliever Joe Blanton.
Assessing the “true talent level” of this team at sub .500 is absurd. I’m sure the guys in the Kansas City Royals clubhouse will agree. The only difference from last season is that most pundits will laugh off projection systems like Steamer, and others yet to come, that tab the KC Royals as a losing squad.
Perhaps such general derision of sabermetric wisdom will turn what clearly stung last season, into a joke this spring.
I have discussed multiple times why projection systems tend to under-rate the Kansas City Royals (also see here and here). In short, Kansas City’s combination of contact hitting and strong relievers contain hidden value that isn’t accounted for by algorithms like PECOTA and Steamer that give a lot of credence to the idea that run differential is the best indicator of true talent.
Nate Silver, who made his name projecting the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, asked if 2015 would become “the year that baseball’s projections failed” on his 538 blog. If the KC Royals again return to the World Series (and hopefully bring home another title), they will force stat heads across the globe to rethink their algorithms.