2007 Sabermetric Year in Review: Kansas City Royals

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:
Baseball Reference
Baseball Prospectus
FanGraphs
MVN Blog:
Royals Authority
More Royals Resources:
Latest News
Contract Status
Trade Rumors
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.†

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6 Responses to 2007 Sabermetric Year in Review: Kansas City Royals

  1. Ryan Brown says:

    Meche’s contract was actually 5 years for $55 million – right amount of money per year, but the terms were a little off.
    Thanks for an insightful, fair column. As one of the remaining 19 Royals fans on the planet, its nice to read something that doesn’t contain several smug comments about how bad the team has been the last few years.
    Keep up the good work.
    RB

  2. Ryan, my mistake with the contract, I’ll make the correction.
    There would be no point in blatantly pointing out what everyone knows. My goal with the year recap was to be realistic. I mean, yes, they have been bad, but the first step in correcting a problem is admitting a problem exists. Everyone knows the Royals have struggled and so now we can look at positives and ways they might be able to improve.
    Like I said, though the results may be skewed, when Joel Peralta has a higher Hitting VORP than anyone on your team there is a problem.

  3. Ryan Brown says:

    Yeah, but that one hit was a MOTHER! It just goes to show that anyone can hit at Coors Field.

  4. RollingWave says:

    I think the Royals are finally going in the right direction though, they’re probably not projected to finish last this year for starter …. the Twins dont’ have much of a team either and the White Sox’s potential for a mega collaspes is pretty big.

  5. RollingWave, I completely agree. As I said, they have gone from 56 in 2004 to 69 to 2007. Not every team needs to go from 75 to 90 wins to be moving in the right direction.
    To be honest, I mentioned how I couldn’t see the Royals finishing higher than 4th, but if they finished in 3rd behind Det and Cle (not in order) I would not be totally surprised. I mean, I highly doubt anyone saw the 83-79 season coming.

  6. RollingWave says:

    PECOTA has them finishing last again, i think the potential is there though.
    They’re making a lot of savvy low risk moves, if a few of them pans out they could be in very good shape. some potentially overlooked move like signing Chin-Hui Tsao, Tsao was top Rockies prospect. he did reasonablly well for the Dodgers last year as a RP, the book on him is pretty simple, he’s great whenever his shoulder is attactched to his body. which hasn’t been very often since 2003 though, when the Rockies rushed his workload badly.
    Still, he’s got some pretty good potential, even perphaps closer material. the Royals quietly picked up some RPs that no one was really looking into. and could assemble a pretty formidible pen again. and that in turn could a. permanently stick Grienke in the rotation and b. maybe move Soria into the rotation too.
    their pitching staff got a bit lucky last year. they correctly realize this and instead of sticking with the *soon to implode* guys they brought in more potentially good RPs that could really secure them as a decent pitching team.
    they’re offense got some potential but need some time. they’ll eventrually have to make more splashes to really break out here though.
    I think the first real goal is for the Royals to return to respectability, they actually did make some good offers to people like Kuroda and Fukudome in the offseason but they shied away from what they precieved (correctly) as losers. this does hurt them in the FA market, they need to first blast their way into at least .500 and i think it’s achievable in 2 to 3 years.

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