Friday, February 25, 2011

Yost on Getz

From Dutton's article in the Star:
“His bat never came around,” Yost said. “He has the opportunity, we think, to be a high on-base guy with gap-to-gap power as a line-drive hitter. He’s a guy who can steal some bases.

Yost and Moore throw the phrase high on base guy around a lot. As inconceivable as it sounds I do not think that means what they think it means.

This is most likely Yost just spewing out another cliché but seeing how there's a 99% chance that Getz starts the season as the every day second baseman, well, it makes me wonder. In 670 career plate appearances Getz has a .315 OBP and 33 extra base hits so up to this point he's not been remotely close to being a high on base guy with gap to gap power. He wasn't exactly either of those things in the minors either so I'm not sure why Yost believes he can be those things now.

I think the general assumption is that when Moustakas is called up then Aviles will slide over to second and hold that position until Giavotella claims it. I suspect, though, that Yost would rather Getz stay put. I may be reading too much into a spring training quote, which I've been known to do, but this is the Royals and light hitting infielders have soaked up way too many at bats the last several years. So what's 600 more I guess?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Betancourt and RBIs

A couple years ago Baseball Prospectus had a contest where they were calling for writers to submit articles, BP Idol is what I think they named it. I don't recall too many of the details but basically they'd review and eliminate articles every so often and post the ones that advanced on their website. I thought it was an interesting idea so I decided to give it a shot. I knew I wasn't a good enough writer or statistically inclined enough to ever advance so I went in another direction, I wrote up a defense of RBIs. My plan was that they'd be so dumbfounded that I'd pass the initial screening just because they'd want to see what I'd defend next. That article is now lost to a deceased laptop and I can't quite recall what all I wrote but I do remember using every cliche in the book, about how only good hitters drive in 100 runs and several others. Man, I really sold it. Unfortunately they weren't buying what I was selling which is too bad because I'm sure their subscribers would've had a field day with it.

By now you're probably asking what this has to do with Betancourt, though I expect you already have a feeling where I'm going. Last season he tied for the team lead in RBIs with Butler and since he also tied for the team lead in home runs with Guillen this led people to believe he had a better season than he actually did. This post is inspired by an actual conversation I had with an old friend of mine, he believed Betancourt was the Royals best player last season. His reasoning is that whoever leads the team in RBIs has done more than the rest to help the team win games. Furthermore he bet me that if I went through the Royals past, using my "nerdy stats" like brWAR and OPS+, I'd actually prove him right. In the words of the immortal Barney Stinson, "Challenge accepted!". Now it might be unfair to use brWAR since it incorporates defense but he did say best player, not just best hitter.

So here's what I did, I went back and looked at the team leader in RBIs, brWAR, and OPS+ from every season since 1991. He suspected that the three would match up 90% of the time and if they didn't than it was because brWAR and OPS+ are flawed, not RBIs. Yeah, he's of the earth is still flat even if you prove it round ilk. At this point I realized there was probably no point in looking at the stats but my curiosity had already been piqued so I went ahead with it. So here's the team leaders in the three stats for the last 20 years.

Year RBIs brWAR OPS+
1991 Tartabull Tartabull Tartabull
1992 Jefferies Miller  McReynolds
1993 Brett Gagne MacFarlane
1994 Hamelin Hamelin Hamelin
1995 Gaetti Gaetti Joyner
1996 Paquette MacFarlane MacFarlane
1997 King Bell Davis
1998 Palmer Offerman Offerman
1999 Dye Damon Sweeney
2000 Sweeney Damon Dye
2001 Beltran Beltran Sweeney
2002 Beltran Sweeney Sweeney
2003 Beltran Beltran Beltran
2004 Sweeney Randa Sweeney
2005 Brown DeJesus Sweeney
2006 Brown DeJesus Teahen
2007 Brown DeJesus Grudzielanek
2008 Guillen DeJesus Aviles
2009 Butler DeJesus Butler
2010 Betancourt
Butler Butler

So breaking it down we find that 4 times the RBI leader led in WAR and OPS+, that would be 20%, which is a far cry from 90. That's counting Butler last year, not Betancourt.
Removing WAR though and focusing purely on the offensive side of things we find the RBI and OPS+ leaders were the same only 6 times (30%), again counting Butler and not Betancourt. 

This just confirms what we already knew, RBIs are a terrible way to judge and compare hitters. Now I didn't need to do this exercise to confirm that but once an idea is planted in my head I like to see where it leads. All this did lead to one burning question though, how in the hell did Keith Miller ever lead the team in brWAR?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Best Case Scenarios: Part II

In moving on to the second part of this series, it is time to discuss some best case scenarios for the young position players on the roster. There are a lot more here than there were with the pitching side of things. Remember, I’m not necessarily defining best case based on win-loss totals this year. Inevitably, that would happen if these players performed as we want them to. But I care more about improvement and reliability going into the future. So without further ado, let’s take a look at a few players.
I’ll begin with a player that’s been on this list the last few years, and that’s Alex Gordon. His partner in crime at the minor league level was Billy Butler, and he’s done his part to stamp his name into the organization, but thus far Gordon has not. I really want to believe that this is the season that Alex can put things together and become a productive hitter. Superstar? Forget it, we’re past that. But that doesn’t mean Gordon can’t still become a steady offensive and defensive player in left field. Defensively, he might already be where he needs to be. He looked fairly good and, for what it’s worth, UZR liked his defense in the left field, where he checked in with a rather surprising 9.1 UZR/150. Offense is of course another story, but his approach at the plate was good last year and it should lend to improvements in 2011. It may not be particularly likely, but I like his chances more than fellow corner outfielder Jeff Francouer. I won’t get into Francouer too much, we’ve all heard enough about him. Do we want him to finally figure things out so he’s a nice trade chip at the deadline? Ha! Does anyone really think the front office wouldn’t try to extend him the first chance they got in the event he actually did improve? I don’t like not rooting for players on my favorite team, but…
Now let’s move to the infield where we have newcomer Alcides Escobar taking over at shortstop. At this time last year, Escobar was being billed as the next big thing at the shortstop position, checking in at #12 on Baseball America’s top 100 list for 2010. Defensively, as expected, Escobar did his part, posting a 4.7 UZR/150. That’s a number that can and should get higher as he continues to iron out his play, which is still a little raw. On offense though, Escobar only managed an OPS+ of 67, which as we know is pretty bad. Worse than his predecessor, hard as that is to believe. That said, there are reasons for hope – his line drive percentage and his BABIP were not really in line with each other, and should rise significantly this season. Escobar doesn’t have the tools to be a star offensive player, but if he can hit .280, steal a few bags, and play great defense, no one will complain. If Escobar can solidify the shortstop position, a position that has been historically awful for the Royals, that would be a huge step in the right direction.
We have another player who will be getting a chance to improve on his rookie year, a player completely different than Escobar, and it’s Kila Ka’aihue. Kila has a chance to turn a potential log jam into a potential clusterf*** of awesome at the first base/DH spots in 2011 and the future. A long time fan favorite, Ka’aihue should get a shot for the full 2011 season to see what he can do at the Major League level. He should promise down the stretch in September by hitting .261/.367/.511. One projection system, PECOTA, projects Kila to have a .380 OBP with 25 HR’s in 2011. Now a lot of fans are expecting that Ka’aihue will eventually get traded so uber-prospect Eric Hosmer gets his day in the sun, but those are not the kind of numbers you just trade away without thinking about it. Kila can make the 1B/DH situation very, very interesting with a good season.
There are two young catchers that should get a shot at least early in the season. Best case scenario, is that one of them separates themselves as a potential starter or strong backup going into the future. Brayan Pena is the fan favorite, and he’s probably the better defender of the two, and has the advantage of being a switch hitter. Lucas May is a more raw behind the dish, but I personally believe that he has a little more upside with the bat. These guys will probably split time until inevitably Jason Kendall comes back, and let’s not kid ourselves; he absolutely is coming back sooner or later. For all the good fortune in the Royals minor league system, there is only one potential starting catcher that is within three years of Kansas City, so it would be great if one of these two stepped up.
Next on the list will be the prospects in part three. That’s the fun one.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Quality Starts - Royals edition

Inspired by a Murray Chass post I found something interesting regarding the Royals and quality starts. But first the quote that set the ball rolling:
If a pitcher pitches six innings and gives up three or fewer earned runs he is credited with a quality start. Never mind that three earned runs in six innings computes to a 4.50 earned run average; that’s a quality start.
Now Rob Neyer already responded to this in typical Neyer fashion, and I'm sure you already read it, but Chass got me wondering how the Royals fared in such games. Last year KC had 9 games where their starting pitcher went exactly 6 innings and gave up exactly 3 earned runs, their record in those games was 8-1. In all of their quality starts KC had a 47-24 record but it's the 6/3 starts that fascinate me. As a franchise KC typically hasn't done well in these games, they are 87-99 overall but are 15-5 since 2008.

Decade W L
1969 0 6
70's 12 17
80's 13 15
90's 23 26
00's 31 34
2010 8 1

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Friday, February 11, 2011

WAR and the Rotation

Okay so now that we know what the positions players need to do it's time to apply this pointless exercise to the pitchers. I was going to do just the rotation but then decided I'd do Joakim Soria too, although a bit differently than the rest. Same deal as before, I'll give their age this season and the best WAR (b-ref's) at that age in team history. Right handers will be compared to right handers and lefties to lefties, which I think is the fair way to do it.

2010 WAR - 0.5
WAR to beat - 5.0 (Saberhagen)

Bret Saberhagen had a 135 ERA+ that year (1991) and as much as I still believe in Hochevar I don't think he's capable of outperforming Sabes this year. Kevin Appier has the second best mark with 4.3 (1995), that the two best pitchers in team history have the two highest WAR totals at age 27 is unsurprising. 

2010 WAR - 0.5
WAR to beat - 5.5 (Charlie Liebrandt)

Francis won't challenge this, in his two best seasons he managed 4.7 WAR combined. But assuming that it all breaks right and he makes a run at it, well, you have to imagine that Moore will flip him, which would be the smart thing to do.

2010 WAR - -0.1
WAR to beat - 7.6 (Appier)

Appier did this in 1992, the year before he was robbed of the Cy Young award. In second place with 6.1 is 22 game winner Steve Busby. Mazzaro will fall far short of both marks but he could make a run at the 1.7 Davies put up in 2008, that'd put him in 15th place.

2010 WAR - 2.1
WAR to beat - 1.6 (Larry Gura)

Well this certainly reachable. It really depends on if Chen actually did start to figure things out last year or if he was just lucky, like many analysts have suggested.  If he was just lucky then the -1.7 WAR he put up in 2006-2009 in 171 innings will be more likely than Gura's mark.

2010 WAR - 0.2
WAR to beat - 5.0 (Saberhagen)

Davies is at -1.5 in his career, true most of that damage was done as a Brave but he's still only at 1.8 as a Royal. I'll be surprised if he's still in the rotation by the all star break, of course keep in mind I thought he'd be released over the winter. So his habit of never going away could land him 30 starts and half a WAR this year.

Like I mentioned before I want to look at Soria a little differently. When I discovered that Jeff Montgomery and Dan Quisenberry were one and two in WAR at age 27 I decided to show all three pitchers year by year total. Soria's career is unlike the other two because they didn't establish themselves as closers until age 27 whereas Soria was 23, so we kind of see what he needs to do going forward to top Quis and Monty

Age Quis Monty Soria
23 - - 2.9
24 - - 3.4
25 - - 2.7
26 0.7 0.9 3.8
27 3.0 4.1 -
28 2.1 2.8 -
29 3.4 2.7 -
30 5.3 3.3 -
31 3.2 4.5 -
32 4.1 1.1 -
33 1.7 1.6 -
34 1.5 1.3 -
35 0.2 1.1 -
36 - -0.1 -
37 - -1.0 -
Total 25.2 21.5 12.8

Thursday, February 10, 2011

WAR and Age and Royals

Now that I know the top seasons by age I decided to look at the 2011 roster and their ages this year, basically I just wanted to see if any of them can add their name to that list. With most of the roster filled with placeholders I figured maybe only one or two would be likely to outperform the previous top season, and I didn't bother with guys I suspect won't see much or any playing time. I also decided to break it down by position just to make it interesting. So I'll list the players, their age, and their 2010 WAR and then I'll list the top WAR at that same age and then another at that age/position (for positional purposes I set time at that position at 50%). I do realize all of this is completely and utterly pointless but I still find it extremely fascinating.

Jason Kendall 37
2010 WAR - 1.0
WAR to beat - 4.6 (Brett)

Either there haven't been any 37 year old catchers in team history or they just sucked so bad that play index refuses to acknowledge them. So while Kendall isn't capable of topping Brett a simple 0.1 gives him the age/position title. For what it's worth Bob Boone had a 2.2 WAR at age 41 in 1989, that of course is irrelevant to Kendall this season but I thought it was interesting nonetheless.

Brayan Pena 29
2010 WAR - 0.3
WAR to beat - 5.8 (Brett)

Pena isn't topping Brett either. Mike Macfarlane's 3.2 is the top WAR for a 29 year old catcher, probably also unreachable.

Kila Ka'aihue 27
2010 WAR - 0.2
WAR to beat - 9.6 (Brett)

Brett achieved that WAR in his epic 1980 season and it probably will never be broken. Mike Sweeney owns the top WAR at 1B with 4.3 and Calvin Pickering's 0.6 tops all other DH's, Ken Harvey was second here with -0.2. I know what you're thinking and I agree, debate settled!!! Kila probably surpasses Pick but not Sweeney.

Billy Butler 25
2010 WAR - 4.5
WAR to beat - 5.1 (Al Cowens)

It wouldn't surprise me if he tops Cowens, I won't predict it but it's very possible. I think Butler has the best chance out of anyone on the team to get on the top season by age list. John Mayberry's 1.5 is history.

Chris Getz 27
2010 WAR - -0.1
WAR to beat - 9.6 (Brett)

No. Frank White's 3.6 is also safe.

Alcides Escobar 24
2010 WAR - -0.7
WAR to beat - 7.8 (Willie Wilson)

He's not touching Wilson's mark but Kurt Stillwell's 1.9 is definitely within reach. I'll even call it, he will top Stillwell this year.

Mike Aviles 30
2010 WAR - 0.9
WAR to beat - 5.4 (Hal McRae)

Aviles will give way to Moustakas at some point, which doesn't matter because neither McRae's mark or Brett's 4.1 are a realistic possibility. If he end up playing half his games at 2B then Bill Pecota's 2.2 is reachable.

Wilson Betemit 29
2010 WAR - 1.2
WAR to beat - 5.8 (Brett)

Betemit won't see much time at 3B unless something goes horribly wrong so Brett's mark is safe. Sweeney's 2.4 at DH I suppose can be reached but I doubt Betemit sees much time there either.

Mike Moustakas 22
WAR to beat - 5.1 (Brett)

Not likely but considering he won't be called up until mid May at the soonest he could rake and still fall short. Besides in the last 50 years only two 22 year old third  basemen have bested Brett's 5.1, and that's in all of baseball. This will definitely be a more interesting topic after Hosmer and Myers join Moose in KC.

Alex Gordon 27
2010 WAR - -0.1
WAR to beat - 9.6 (Brett)

There's Brett's 1980 again, it's still safe and we'll see it one more time (spoiler alert, it'll be safe then too). Tom Goodwin surprisingly owns the left field high with a paltry 0.1. That almost seems like it can't be right. Is Goodwin really the only 27 year old left fielder in team history to post a positive WAR? Well according to play index he is, Gordon tops this fairly easily I imagine.

Lorenzo Cain 25
2010 WAR - 0.9
WAR to beat - 5.1 (Cowens)

Cain likely starts the season in Omaha so he's unlikely to challenge Cowens. For that reason he's also unlikely to pass the position high either. You see while 27 year old left fielders have been a rarity 25 year old center fielders have not. No shame in finishing behind these four.

1 David DeJesus 4.4 2005 25 9 56 5 .293 .359 .445
2 Carlos Beltran 3.9 2002 25 29 105 35 .273 .346 .501
3 Amos Otis 2.8 1972 25 11 54 28 .293 .352 .413
4 Brian McRae 2.6 1993 25 12 69 23 .282 .325 .413

Melky Cabrera 26
2010 WAR - -0.4
WAR to beat - 8.7 (Brett)

So same deal here except those 25 year old center fielders are now 26. Beltran's 7.4 at that age will not be approached, especially since Cabrera is just at 4.9 for his career.

Jeff Francoeur 27
2010 WAR - 0.7
WAR to beat - 9.6 (Brett)

If I told you that Danny Tartabull, Al Cowens, and Jermaine Dye all played right field in KC at age 27 what would you guess the top WAR would be? 5? 4? 3? Try again.

Rk Player WAR Year
1 Danny Tartabull 1.2 1990
2 Al Cowens 1.1 1979
3 Jermaine Dye 0.7 2001

Now Francoeur has topped 1.2 three times in his career but hasn't since 2007. I'm not sure he will this year either.

Top seasons by age

Yesterday's post on the best and worst age 27 seasons in Royals history got me wondering about the best performance's of all ages, well just 20-40 actually. That post only took offense into consideration but this time I wanted to incorporate defense so instead of using OPS+ I've opted for b-ref's wins above replacement, this altered the results dramatically and enabled Joe Randa to make an appearance. However, I did use OPS+ as a tie breaker in two cases. The minimum plate appearances is once again set at 400.
Any guesses on how many times George Brett appears?

20* Clint Hurdle 1.6 7 56 .264 .348 .398 108
21* George Brett 0.8 2 47 .282 .313 .363 91
22 George Brett 5.1 11 89 .308 .353 .456 125
23 George Brett 8.0 7 67 .333 .377 .462 144
24 Willie Wilson 7.8 3 49 .326 .357 .421 113
25 Al Cowens 5.1 23 112 .312 .361 .525 137
26 George Brett 8.7 23 107 .329 .376 .563 148
27 George Brett 9.6 24 118 .390 .454 .664 203
28 Mike Sweeney 4.7 24 86 .340 .417 .563 148
29 George Brett 5.8 21 82 .301 .378 .505 141
30 Hal McRae 5.4 8 73 .332 .407 .461 153
31 Amos Otis 7.5 22 96 .298 .380 .525 150
32 George Brett 8.0 30 112 .335 .436 .585 178
33 Frank White 3.5 17 56 .271 .311 .445 107
34 Joe Randa 2.7 8 56 .287 .343 .408 94
35 George Brett 5.2 24 103 .306 .389 .509 149
36 Hal Mcrae 4.0 27 133 .308 .369 .542 147
37 George Brett 4.6 14 87 .329 .387 .515 153
38 Frank White 1.5 2 36 .256 .307 .328 80
39* George Brett 0.0 7 61 .285 .330 .397 102
40* George Brett -0.4 19 75 .266 .312 .434 94
* Indicates only one eligible player

So yeah, George Brett was pretty good. I'd like to do this with pitchers too but I wouldn't mind if another Royals blogger beat me to it (I'm looking at you McGannon).

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Remember when Alex Gordon was the next George Brett?

It's getting harder and harder to recall when Alex Gordon last wore the next George Brett label, from ages 23-26 Gordon has hit a disappointing .244/.328/.404 with a 95 OPS+. The same ages Brett hit .319/.368/.507 with a 140 OPS+. So he's not the next Brett, but we already knew that. Gordon is now a 27 year old outfielder and any comparisons to Brett are now only made by the certifiably insane. The point here isn't to pile on Gordon, because after all I think he'll have a fine season, no the point is to bring up what Brett did when he was 27.  He nearly hit .400, yep 1980 a.k.a. the best offensive performance in franchise history.

Gordon is not alone this year as Ka'aihue, Getz, Francoeur, and Blanco will also be playing their age 27 seasons, that's four likely starters and a fourth/fifth outfielder. So in honor of half the frickin offense being the same age I present to you the top ten OPS+ performances by 27 year olds in the history of the Royals, best and worst. And because I needed some sort of arbitrary set point I decided on 400 as the minimum number of plate appearances to make either list.

First the best:

1 George Brett 203 515 1980 33 9 24 118 58 22 15 .390 .454 .664
2 Bo Jackson 142 456 1990 16 1 28 78 44 128 15 .272 .342 .523
3 Darrell Porter 142 679 1979 23 10 20 112 121 65 3 .291 .421 .484
4 Mike Sweeney 132 632 2001 46 0 29 99 64 64 10 .304 .374 .542
5 Ed Kirkpatrick 128 423 1972 15 1 9 43 51 50 3 .275 .365 .396
6 Steve Balboni 123 488 1984 23 2 28 77 45 139 0 .244 .320 .498
7 Mike Aviles 121 441 2008 27 4 10 51 18 58 8 .325 .354 .480
8 Amos Otis 121 632 1974 31 9 12 73 58 67 18 .284 .348 .438
9 Willie Aikens 119 519 1982 29 1 17 74 45 70 0 .281 .345 .457
10 Bob Oliver 108 662 1970 24 6 27 99 42 126 3 .260 .309 .451
And now the worst:

1 Freddie Patek 67 577 1972 25 4 0 32 47 64 33 .212 .280 .276
2 Tom Goodwin 70 587 1996 14 4 1 35 39 79 66 .282 .334 .330
3 John Buck 79 418 2008 23 1 9 48 38 96 0 .224 .304 .365
4 Willie Wilson 85 611 1983 22 8 2 33 33 75 59 .276 .316 .352
5 Craig Paquette 87 462 1996 15 1 22 67 23 101 5 .259 .296 .452
6 David DeJesus 91 703 2007 29 9 7 58 64 83 10 .260 .351 .372
7 Mark Quinn 91 473 2001 31 2 17 60 12 69 9 .269 .298 .459
8 Jermaine Dye 91 410 2001 14 0 13 47 30 68 7 .272 .333 .417
9 Pete LaCock 91 453 1979 25 4 3 56 37 26 2 .277 .334 .380
10 Lou Piniella 93 476 1971 21 5 3 51 21 43 5 .279 .311 .368
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used

Which list will the current crop of 27 year old Royals land on?