2007 Sabermetric Year in Review: Kansas City Royals
February 11, 2008 6 Comments
Seeing that we’re soon closing in on Spring Training I wanted to lend my colleague Pizza Cutter a Sabermetric YIR hand in order to get these bad boys done before the real New Year’s Day.
Next up on that list of teams to review – those Royals from the good old KC.
Record: 69-93, 5th in AL Central
Pythagorean Projection (Patriot formula): 73.6 wins (706 runs scored, 788 runs allowed)
Team Statistical Pages:
More Royals Resources:
Overview: I don’t think I would be blowing anyone’s mind by saying that the Royals have not been very good lately. In the last fifteen years they have produced only two winning seasons (1993, 2003) and finished in 3rd place during both of those seasons. In fact, their highest seasonal finish since 1993 came in 1995 when the triumvirate of Mark Gubicza, Kevin Appier, and Tom Gordon led them to a 2nd place, 70-74 finish. When referring to their 2007 season, the main reason they struggled and were not very good can be found when answering one question – “Who is their most well-known hitter?”
The answer is Mark Grudzielanek. Of course, a player does not need to be well-known in order to produce or be talented, but when your most recognizable hitter is “Grudzy” chances are you are going to struggle. Despite struggling for so long, though, the Royals have gone from 56 wins in 2004 to 69 wins in 2007.
What went right: Well, Gil Meche went right! Generally, my rule of thumb for those not savvy with statistics is that a pitcher with a sub-4.10 ERA on a last (or 2nd to last) place team, had a good season. Sure that’s somewhat superficial but not everyone likes to conduct research or look up stats. Let’s plug Gil Meche’s 2007 into my Seidman SP Effectiveness System, though, to see how he really fared this year. Though Meche recorded a 9-13 record, my system shows he should have been 14-8, and my Net Luck Rating stats (which measures.. well, you can figure it out) has Meche at a -8.0 NLR. That -8.0 would put him in a tie for the 9th unluckiest season since 2000. In my system, to be a #1 SP in the AL one needs to score a +47 or higher, and Meche scored a +47 on the nose. At least the first year of that 5/55 paid off.
This Joakim Soria looks pretty darn-tootin’ good, too. A rookie season consisting of a 0.94 WHIP, 189 ERA+, .256 BABIP, and a HR/BF rate of 0.01 (3 HR out of 270 BF) somehow looks even better when combined with the context of being on a last place team. In fact, the Royals bullpen, as a whole, was extremely solid. Looking at the relievers who appeared in over 30 games, the lowest ERA+ was 124 and belonged to a guy who posted a 3.80 ERA, the highest HR/BF rate was 0.03, and their VORP ranged from 13.0-30.1.
What went wrong: Without phrasing the answer to the question in a very melodic or evasive fashion – the Kansas City Royals could not hit in 2007. The team had 102 Home Runs which, for those keeping track, is less than Alex Rodriguez and Prince Fielder combined. They finished last in the AL in XBH, HR, RBI, and SLG, while finishing in the bottom four in Runs, Hits, and OBP. Grudzielanek, their leader in Hitting VORP, finished 134th in the major leagues, and, while I know the results might be skewed, reliever Joel Peralta and starters Brandon Duckworth/Brian Bannister had HIGHER Hitting VORP’s than Joey Gathright, Mike Sweeney, Angel Berroa, Tony Pena, and Shane Costa.
The Royals Were Great…: ..at having players amass 37+ RBI’s. Yes, the Royals had a whopping 11 players who recorded 37 or more runs batted in, however none of them got higher than 62! All 11 players fell into the range of 37 RBI to 62 RBI, with Esteban German and Emil Brown serving as bookmarks respectively.
Zach Greinke: The determination exhibited by Zach Greinke was remarkable.† For those unaware, Greinke has battled bouts of depression and social anxiety since his short-lived days in the minor leagues, often crying himself to sleep with a baseball bat in his hand.† The pressure and depression led to numerous instances of Greinke almost quitting and he missed most of the 2006 season while seeking psychological help.† Not only did he return this year, somewhat cured, but he returned with a bang.† The guy is still not much older than I am and we can only hope, as baseball fans, that he and the team can use this as motivation to build upon this year’s improvement.
Brian Bannister: So, apparently there is some brew-haha (how I would like that term to be spelled) about Brian Bannister being really smart and sabermetric savvy. I must admit that I had several Saber-gasms upon reading his three-part e-mail interview with MLB Trade Rumors. That, combined with the whole USS Mariner blog influencing Felix Hernandez story, really makes me excited about the usage of statistical analysis in baseball. And, since we’re here, Bannister pretty much put up statistics evident of how he performed in 2007. His Adjusted W-L would still be 12-9 and his 6 No-Decisions were equally split between quality and non-quality. Bannister’s +23 in the system deems him a #3 AL SP in 2007.
Random Former Player Mention: Mike Macdougal.
Outlook: The “key” acquisitions of the off-season were Jose Guillen, Brett Tomko, Miguel Olivo, and Ron Mahay. Despite not getting an MVP-caliber player in Roids Guillen, a team that finished dead last in XBH and RBI would benefit from having even Brett Tomko in the lineup, let alone a guy that has proven himself to be a viable major league hitter. I honestly cannot see the Royals finishing above 4th place this year but I do think the bullpen, Meche/Bannister combo, and upside of Alex Gordon/Billy Butler is going to surprise some people.†