Long-time baseball fans know about the rise of advanced analytics in the sport. Kansas native Bill James took stats to previously unknown places, birthing a new generation of sabermetricians. One of James' most prolific disciples is Dan Szymborski, an author for FanGraphs and ESPN. With over 20 years of experience projecting baseball players' output, Szymborski tells KC Royals fans what they already know to be true: the 2024 Royals will not be good.
All signs point to another terrible KC Royals season, according to FanGraphs.
Szymborski released his ZiPs projections for the Royals this week, with very little positive news. Shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. projects to be the only Royal among baseball's best. ZiPs predicts a 4.1 fWAR season from Witt, with 26 home runs and 35 stolen bases. Szymborski described Witt as "the saving grace of this lineup," adding his take on a possible extension in Kansas City.
"If the team isn’t preparing a large extension for Witt before he hits arbitration, they’re doing something seriously wrong," Szymborski wrote. "Sadly, given that it’s the Royals, there’s a good chance of them doing something seriously wrong."
Well, glad to hear Royals pessimism stretches far and wide.
The remaining ZiPs projections hardly inspire confidence. The other top batters include first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino and third baseman Maikel Garcia, two players with large roles in the Royals' young core. The pitching projections offer little positivity, with Cole Ragans standing tall above their counterparts. The worst part is the projected bullpen totals for a -.1 fWAR. something Szymborski "can’t remember the last time that happened."
"So what does this all add up to? A 90-loss team, something Royals fans are sadly familiar with," Szymborski concluded. "And unfortunately, the Royals are the worst type of 90-loss team: one without much in the way of upside. The organization has been a mess for a while now, despite playing in the weakest division in baseball. The Royals need to drastically change how they’re run if they want to set a more ambitious long-term goal than having two good seasons every 20 years."
The fanbase likely shares this outlook, but ZiPs puts numbers to feelings. The projections utilize advanced analytics and historical player performance data to forecast future player statistics, offering insights into how a player is expected to perform in a litany of key metrics. The system takes into account a player's past performance, age, and other relevant factors to generate predictions, providing a quantitative basis for understanding a player's likely contributions in the upcoming season.
Formally known as the sZymborski Projection System, MLB.com says the calculation "is widely regarded as one of the most accurate predictors in the industry."