Tag Archive | "Prognosticators"

Is One Series Enough To Begin Raising Expectations For The Royals?

The Kansas City Royals are only 3 games into the season, however, they have already given fans much reason to believe things could truly be exciting in 2012.

Coming into this season, there have been a wide array of opinions on what the Royals record might be when the 2012 season comes to an end. The most optimistic of prognosticators predicted as many as 85 wins for the Royals on the high side, while some have picked them to show little to no improvement and still finish last. The first series of the season was sure to be an immediate test, heading out west to take on Albert Pujols and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Not only were they going to have to deal with that extremely potent offensive attack, but they would have to face starting pitchers Jared Weaver, Dan Haren, and Ervin Santana in succession. So while the world was watching how Pujols would perform on his new club, the Royals took advantage of the attention and showed the baseball world that it is time to take notice.

It is hard to not look at this series and wonder what the possibilities might be for 2012. Consider that the Royals won this series despite the following events:
-LF Alex Gordon failed to record a single hit
-3B Mike Moustakas recorded just one hit
-CF Lorenzo Cain recorded just one hit

Also, despite being shut out in the first game, the Royals responded with 6 runs and 7 runs respectively in the next 2 games, giving them an average of 4.3 runs per game for the series. This happens to be just under the 4.5 runs per game they scored per game in 2011. It definitely appears this team is going to hit.

So while one cannot reasonably expect Humberto Quintero and Chris Getz to hit close to .600 for the whole season, it is safe to assume their negative correction will be more than made up for by Gordon, Moustakas, and (hopefully) Cain’s positive correction. Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler looked to be poised for huge offensive years, and Jeff Francoeur looks to be picking up right where he left off in 2011.

So back to the question: is one series enough to begin raising expectations for this team? The answer is probably no. But when you consider that the biggest question for the Royals coming into the season was the starting pitching, it is difficult to not look at this first series of 2012 as being an extremely positive sign for things to come.

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Winter Worries

Kansas City Royals fans are excited for the coming baseball season. I’m not sure if they’re excited to have any kind of baseball back, or they think the Royals have a legitimate shot at winning games during the 2012 season. Like most either-or situations the truth is most likely in the middle. I’m excited too, and I have been since the end of the regular season.

I have not been this excited during a Royals off-season since the winter of 2003-2004. Remember that? I do, and it has me slightly worried. The Royals finished the 2003 Season 83-79. While the 2003 Royals faded down the stretch, and dropping their last three to White Sox there was lot to be excited about that fall. The Royals had a collection of young guys. Angel Berrora was the 2003 AL Rookie of the Year. He flashed some leather in the field, and was surprise at the plate. Surely Berrora would get better during the off-season? Ken Harvey had a good first half of the season and became an All-Star. Even though he faded during the second half of 2003, surely he would figure some things out and get better? Mike MacDougal would learn some control. Jose Lima had eliminated his demons and was back to being a productive starter. Mike Sweeney will get healthy over the winter. Runelvys Hernandez, Brian Anderson, Jeremy Affeldt, DJ Carrasco, Jimmy Gobble, would all come back in 2004 and be better. Because that’s what young ball players do. They get better. They don’t ever regress? Do they?

Not only was the current roster going to improve but Allard Baird signed veteran free agents Benito Santiago and Juan Gonzales. Zack Greinke was waiting in the minors. Some national media prognosticators even picked the 2004 Royals to win the division! The Royals future was bright, and the Royals fans had to wear shades to even look at it. How could anything go wrong?

You're looking at the best moment of the Royals 2004 Season.

The 2004 Off-Season concluded with one of the most exciting Opening Day’s in franchise history with Mendy Lopez hitting a home run off Damaso Marte in the bottom of the 9th. I was at that game, and it’s one of my favorite Royals memories. The Royals march to October was underway. I went to two more games that opening week. The Royals finished up the opening home stand 4-2. Of Course, we don’t need Paul Harvey to tell us what happened to Ken Harvey and learn the rest of this story. The Royals only won three more games the rest of April, finishing 7-14. This included a six game losing streak. May got even weirder with Tony Pena fleeing the country and the wheels officially coming off the wagon. Thus began even darker days for the franchise and it’s fans, and truthfully I don’t know if we’ve ever fully recovered.

This season does look promising. But years, and years of disappointment have dulled my optimist’s blade a little. After all, the 2003 Royals won twelve more games than the 2011 Royals. I claim to not be a very big statistics person. But one statistic that came to my attention during the 2003 season was the Pythagorean Win-Loss Formula. You use total runs scored and total runs allowed for a team to determine what a team’s record should be. The 2003 Royals had a better record than their Pythagorean W-L: 78-84. Their actual W-L was 83-79. In other words, the 2003 Royals were lucky. Any team that got to play the 2003 Tigers 19 times was lucky. The 2011 Royals Pythagorean W-L: 78-84. Their actual W-L was 71-91. The 2011 Royals were more unlucky than the 2003 Royals were lucky. This tells me that last season’s Royals weren’t all that far off from being a .500 team.

Knowing that last season’s team was better than perceived sort of eases my mind. However, a lot of assumptions on 2012 being a good season for the Royals are dependent on the same things that made us think 2004 was going to be a good season. Youth taking a step forward, no major regressions from the established roster, and new additions being as advertised or better. I’ve been this excited before only to see the worst team in franchise history trotted onto the field. There are always a lot of ifs for a baseball team this time of year. Too many times the answer to those ifs has been wrong for the Royals. That’s what has me worried. If this group of players doesn’t turn things around for the organization the only thing we’ll have to look forward to is another GM and another process. For once it would be fun to be excited about the Royals, and not worry that the wheels might fall off. Of course, like a lot of Royals fans problems only consistent winning will take care of that.

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Comparing Cardinal And Phillie Starting Pitching

Philadelphia has four outstanding pitchers forming the core of their 2011 rotation – can the Cardinals quartet compete?

Most prognosticators have already ceded the Philadelphia Phillies the NL East, NL Pennant, and World Series Championship in 2011. This is based on the team being able to send a formidable foursome of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels to the hill on a recurring basis. No other team, as the logic goes, can match that rotation for quality and depth.

Well, perhaps Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Baumgarner, and Jonathan Sanchez. But let’s not sell Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Jake Westbrook, and Jamie Garcia short – they can pitch too. How close are these Cardinal hurlers to the new National League gold standard?

Looking at Wins Above Replacement for each pitcher over the past three years, one is amazed at how durable the Phillie starters are. Consider:

  • Roy Halladay WAR (2010-2008): 6.8, 6.6, 7.3
  • Cliff Lee WAR : 6.7, 7.1, 6.6
  • Roy Oswalt WAR: 4.2, 4.7, 3.0
  • Cole Hamels WAR: 4.2, 3.8, 3.6

Now compare that to the Cardinal starters over the same period.

  • Chris Carpenter WAR (2010-2008): 3.7, 5.6, 0.4
  • Adam Wainwright: 6.7, 6.1, 5.7
  • Jake Westbrook: 2.3, missed all of 2009, 0.4
  • Jamie Garcia, 3.2 (rookie season).

Wainwright is as good as any pitcher in the league, and was every bit as good as both Halladay and Lee in 2010. After him there is a significant drop-off. Carpenter was hurt in 2008, Westbrook missed most of 2008 and all of 2009 to injury, and Garcia just completed his first full season in the bigs (after missing 2009 to arm surgery). And let’s not get into Kyle Lohse’s injury history since his bit 2008 season.

Carpenter is certainly still capable of putting up another season close to his 2009 effort, but will probably be in the 3.7-4.2 WAR region for 2011. He is a warrior, but he will also turn 36 next season and has a lot of miles on his right arm (not to mention injuries). Garcia will improve in his second season and will probably be close to Carpenter, perhaps 3.5-4.0 WAR. Westbrook is 33; his best years were 2004-2006, and his best WAR was 4.5 (2006). If he is able to stay healthy all season, he’s probably a Carpenter-level guy (3.7-4.2 WAR). Wainwright will remain one of the best pitchers in the league (6.4-7.2 WAR).

Figure Halladay and Lee to post between 6.3-7.0 WAR, and Oswalt/Hamels to post similar numbers (somewhere in the 4.0-4.7 range).

What does it all mean? It means pitching-wise, this team is still good enough to win the NL Central and make a run in the post-season. It means Cardinal pitchers are pretty good too – perhaps not quite as vaunted a rotation as the Phillies have, but certainly good enough to win 90+ games.

Granted, should they make it to the NLCS, having to face Halladay, Lee, and Oswalt twice each in a 7-game series is a tough task. If the 2006 post-season taught us anything, however, it’s that the playoffs are a crapshoot. In 2010, that lesson was reinforced – who seriously thought the Giants would beat Cliff Lee twice in the World Series?

So let’s not mail Ruben Amaro Jr the National League pennant for 2011 just yet. There’s a pretty good staff working alongside the banks of the Mississippi too.

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