Monday, December 10, 2012

A Disaster

Here is how I was guessing/projecting right field and the starting pitchers would shape up for 2013 before the Shields/Myers trade:

Wil Myers 407 0.330 1.2
Jeff Francoeur 192 0.310 0.2
J. Guthrie 180 4.00 1.0
Ervin Santana 180 4.50 -0.1
Luis Mendoza 110 4.30 0.2
Jake Odorizzi 110 4.30 0.2
Bruce Chen 110 4.50 0.0
L. Hochevar 100 5.40 -1.0
Felipe Paulino 70 4.20 0.2
Danny Duffy 70 4.20 0.2
2.1 total

And here are my guesses after the trade:

Jeff Francoeur 590 0.310 0.7
x 40 0.315 0.1
James Shields 200 3.60 2.2
J. Guthrie 180 4.00 1.0
Ervin Santana 170 4.50 -0.1
Wade Davis 140 4.45 0.0
Bruce Chen 80 4.50 0.0
Felipe Paulino 60 4.20 0.2
Danny Duffy 60 4.20 0.2
Luis Mendoza 40 4.30 0.1
L. Hochevar 54 5.40 -0.5
3.9 total

So that's a +1.8 win difference, but the increase in innings pitched by the starters decreases my prediction for bullpen WAR by -.5 for a grand total of +1.3 wins in 2013. My best guess is that the trade improved the Royals from roughly 80 wins to 81. If the Royals somehow figured they were sitting closer to 86-90 wins, a one win improvement would be significant since it could make the difference in winning the division. If my guess is closer to the truth, such a marginal improvement is meaningless. That's saying nothing of the 2015—2018 seasons after Shields's contract is up and Wil Myers is in his prime in Tampa Bay.

My knee jerk reaction to the trade was that it was terrible. After mulling it over for a day and trying to find the positives, I still think it was a disaster. I hope I'm wrong.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Greatest WAR Seasons and MVPs

Just to satisfy my own curiosity, I whipped up the below chart of the 24 seasons in which a position player has put up 10.5+ rWAR since 1900 and how they fared in the MVP voting. Mike Trout is just the third player to put up that much rWAR but lose in an MVP vote. In five of the seasons, there were no MVP awards. And three times Babe Ruth had a 10.5+ rWAR season but was ineligible to win the MVP thanks to a bizarre rule at the time that players could only win one MVP award in their career.

Interesting that Willie Mays's 1964 is valued the same as Trout's 2012 and Mays finished all the way down at sixth in the voting. Obviously WAR wasn't a thing in 1964, but Mays did lead the NL with 47 homers. His 16th place finish in batting average may have done him in. Ken Boyer took the prize with a pedestrian-for-an-MVP 5.8 rWAR.

Rogers Hornsby's 12.0 rWAR in 1924 is the biggest rWAR season to lose an MVP vote. Hornsby hit .424/.507/.696 with a 222 OPS+, but he did lose the MVP to Dazzy Vance's historically great rWAR season of his own. Vance had a 2.16 ERA (174 ERA+) and 262 strikeouts, a total that almost doubled the second place finisher's strikeout tally.

So, if rWAR was the only factorand I, like everyone else in the world, don't think it should beMays not winning the MVP in 1964 may have been the biggest miss among these 24 seasons. Trout losing in 2012 would be the second.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Alex Gordon 2012 Defense Highlights

Alex Gordon's all-around game has been the best part of Royals baseball for the past two seasons. In addition to a great combination of on-base skills and pop with the bat, he has turned himself into the best defensive left fielder in the game. His 2012 glove work has been recognized with a second straight Gold Glove and as the unanimous choice for the Fielding Bible Award. In honor of another stellar year by Our Alex, here are all the defensive highlights has for him in 2012:

many more after the jump

Saturday, October 13, 2012

2010–2012 fWAR All-Stars

Here's what the ideal 25 man roster might look like going by Fangraphs WAR put up over the last three seasons. I love that Miguel Cabrera has the highest fWAR in the majors over that stretch.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

2012 Royals In Review

 It was a bad year. Good night folks!

The starting pitchers seem to get the lion's share of the blame for the Royals poor record, but the offense was equally at fault. Combine the starters and relievers performance as measured by win probability added, and the arms come out looking a whole lot better than the bats:

But, yes, the starters were a problem. Here's how stark the difference was between the starters and relievers by WPA:

Notice that the hitters and starters come out with almost the exact same win probability added.

While that is a huge spread between the starters and relievers, it's not that unusual. Three AL teams had a larger difference in WPA between their relievers and starters (Twins, Orioles, and Indians). (Only the Tigers, Angels, and White Sox starters posted more WPA than their bullpens. Only the Mariners and Angels bullpens had negative WPA.)

The bullpen was only fifth in the AL in WPA, but they led the loop in fWAR. Part of that comes from being used so much thanks to the weak rotation. The bullpen was only fifth in K% and ninth in BB%, but limited homers better than any other AL 'pen. Their 7.3 fWAR was the highest in team history and resulted in the fourth time the Royals bullpen has led the league in fWAR:

As for the rotation, they posted the fourth worst adjusted FIP in team history with an even worse adjusted ERA:

Maybe the less said about the rotation the better.

The offense was fourth in the AL in batting average and stole bases pretty well but struggled to score runs. If this were the 1970s or prior, that might be confusing, but of course the Royals were bad in the areas that actually correlate to scoring runs: Getting on base and hitting for power.

This chart shows the team rank in various offensive categories (I've explained or linked to explanations of some of the stats in the caption):

ISO, wOBA, wRC+, BsR=base-running of the non stealing variety, SBr = (.2 x SB)+(-.4 x CS), WPA

It's kind of amazing they had the lowest homerun, walk, and strikeout rates. They loved to put the ball in play. If it's true that former hitting coach Kevin Seitzer's philosophy focused on hitting for average, I'm glad they let him go. It's ironic considering Seitzer was one of the best on-base guys in team history as a player.

Here's a similar chart for the pitchers:

ERA-, FIP-, xFIP-, OPS=opponents OPS, WPA, QS=percentage of games with a quality start, GmSc=game score average
A not great but not terrible K rate, a terrible walk rate, and a good home runs against rate led to a middle of the pack FIP but only a tenth place finish in runs allowed.

Moving on to the confusing world of defense:

"Eff" is defensive efficiency, which is a simple measure of what percentage of balls in play the defense turned into outs. The Royals were at 68.9%, worst in the AL. The fact that UZR and DRS rate the Royals a little better suggested to me that spacious Kauffman Stadium suppresses defensive efficiency. Except Baseball Prospectus has a park adjusted defensive efficiency...and the Royals are still last. So the Royals were at best mediocre on defense and possibly really terrible. I felt good whenever a ball was hit to the left side of the field and nervous when it was hit to the right side.

The end!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Baseball Bloggers Alliance AL Awards Ballot

Baseball! Bloggers! Awards! This is the first year I am participating in the Baseball Bloggers Alliance awards voting. I've spent way too much time poring over the numbers trying to make my picks. My number ones were not difficult, but the second and third spots drove me crazy for some reason.

Stan Musial Award (MVP)

1. Mike Trout
2. Miguel Cabrera
3. Robinson Cano

For all the controversy over Trout v. Cabrera, this is an easy one for me. Cabrera had a great year...and Trout was significantly better. Cabrera was the better hitter by only the slightest of margins, and Trout ran the bases like Rickey and fielded like Willie.

Walter Johnson Award (Pitcher)

1. Justin Verlander
2. David Price
3. Felix Hernandez

Price had a slight edge in raw ERA to Verlander, but when park adjusted, Verlander comes out ahead. Add to that better fielder-independent numbers for Verlander, plus his league-leading innings pitched, and Verlander is the easy choice. The ordering of Price and Hernandez could go either way, but I liked Price's consistency. He had a quality start a league-leading 81% of the time he took the mound.

Goose Gossage Award (Reliever)

1. Fernando Rodney
2. Jake McGee
3. Jim Johnson

So, I'd never heard of Jake McGee when I started looking at AL relievers. McGee was apparently used as Tampa Bay's "fireman" this year, which I love. The lefty struck out 34% of the batters he faced and only walked 5%. Jim Johnson doesn't have impressive strikeout totals, but he did lead the league in both saves and shutdowns, while only "melting down" three times.

Willie Mays Award (Rookie)

1. Mike Trout
2. Yu Darvish
3. Jarrod Parker

Connie Mack Award (Manager)

1. Buck Showalter
2. Bob Melvin

I really don't know how to go about picking managers other than from teams that outperform their "on-paper" expectations. The O's and A's certainly epitomized that this year.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

2012 Royals Pitcher wOBA & WPA Records

wOBA Against

.251 Francisley Bueno
.269 Aaron Crow
.280 Kelvin Herrera
.281 Jeremy Guthrie
.288 Greg Holland
.292 Felipe Paulino
.302 Jose Mijares
.302 Tim Collins
.308 Jonathan Broxton
.326 Louis Coleman
.332 Luis Mendoza
.334 Nate Adcock
.341 Danny Duffy
.347 Bruce Chen
.350 Vin Mazzaro
.351 Luke Hochevar
.352 Everett Teaford
.364 Will Smith
.376 Jeremy Jeffress
.400 Jonathan Sanchez

wOBA = ((.688 x BB) + (.719 x HBP) + (.88 x 1B) + (1.251 x 2B) + (1.585 x 3B) + (2.048 x HR))/PA

minimum 50 batters faced; average wOBA for 2012 was .315

WPA Records

Jeremy Guthrie 9-5
Felipe Paulino 4-3
Vin Mazzaro 3-3
Danny Duffy 3-3
Luis Mendoza 12-13
Bruce Chen 14-20
Everett Teaford 2-3
Luke Hochevar 11-21
Jonathan Sanchez 4-8
Will Smith 5-11

team total: 68-94

a "win" is a start with a positive win probability added

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Color Video Of Satchel Paige Pitching For The Kansas City Royals In 1948

This rather amazing video has just surfaced on YouTube. The game is being played in Los Angeles at Wrigley Field. The description of the video says the date was November 7, 1948, which matches up exactly with a doubleheader reported on in the November 17, 1948 The Sporting News. Satchel had for years taken part in post-season tours pitching against Dizzy Dean and then Bob Feller, but in 1948 his foils were Indians teammates Gene Bearden and Bob Lemon (who managed the MLB KC Royals between 1970-72). Bearden is not a well known player these days, but was a sensation in '48 after going 20-7 with an AL best 2.43 ERA and helping the Indians to the World Series crown. The lefty #30 seen starting around the 23 second mark is Bearden. According to commenters on YouTube, some of the people in the crowd shots are MGM bigwigs, which matches up with another article in the same issue of The Sporting News about Bearden having been cast in the Jimmy Stewart movie The Stratton Story. The article even mentions that Bearden sat in the MGM box for the second half of the twin bill that day. Satchel and Bearden both appeared as themselves in another movie, The Kid From Cleveland, around the same time.

Of more interest to KC fans may be Satchel Paige pitching for the Kansas City Royals. The Royals were organized by Negro Leagues and KC Monarchs great Chet Brewer and were regulars in California winter ball for many years. The team did not have a direct connection to KC, but did feature many Monarchs players. I imagine Brewer chose the name in an attempt to borrow some of the cachet the Monarchs name had. In addition to Brewer and Paige, the November 7, 1948 doubleheader featured one-time Monarchs Jesse Williams, Chico Renfroe, Cool Papa Bell, Jim LaMarque, and Herb Souell.

The Royals had no trouble with Bearden in the opening game, and Satchel exited with a 7-2 lead after seven innings, but Jim LaMarque got roughed up as Bearden's "All-Stars" stormed back to win 8-7. The Royals took the sunset-shortened second game 5-2. Here is the full account from The Sporting News:

Friday, August 31, 2012

Painfully Useless Royals Doubleheader Trivia

• The Royals have played the Rangers in seven doubleheaders in Kansas City. Texas won the first game of the first of those doubleheaders on July 2, 1972. Since then, the Royals have gone 13-0.

• The Royals and Yankees have hooked up in 12 doubleheaders, but only one of them was played in KC.

• The Royals have played more doubleheaders against Oakland than any other team (24).

• 1996 and 2011 are the only years in which the Royals have played zero doubleheaders.

• Between June 16-20, 1969, the Royals played three doubleheaders, and no singleheaders.

• Five back-to-back doubleheaders in club history:
September 21 (vs OAK) and 22 (vs WAS), 1970
September 25 (@ WAS) and 26 (vs WAS), 1971
July 15 (@ CHI) and 16 (@ CHI), 1976
September 14 (@ OAK) and 15 (vs OAK), 1977
August 13 (@ DET) and 14 (@ MIL), 1983

The Royals have played 215 twin bills, 110 on the road, 105 at home.

• The Royals have played well in doubleheaders with a record of 232-198 (.540). They are 120-95 in first games and 112-103 in second games.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Royal Doubles

Billy Butler has slowed down in his pursuit of the Royals single-season home run record, but Alex Gordon has a good shot to capture a less glamorous team record: doubles in a season. Hal McRae has held the team mark with 54 since 1977. Gordon is up to 44 and is on pace for 56. Here is a graph of McRae's and Gordon's doubles totals by game:

And while we're talking about Royals doubles, here are the top doubles hitters in team history:

Rk Player 2B
1 George Brett 665
2 Hal McRae 449
3 Frank White 407
4 Amos Otis 365
5 Mike Sweeney 297
6 Willie Wilson 241
7 Joe Randa 223
8 Billy Butler 204
9 David DeJesus 187
10 Freddie Patek 182
11 Alex Gordon 176
12 Mike Macfarlane 174
13 Carlos Beltran 156
14 Johnny Damon 156
15 Mark Teahen 146
Generated 8/29/2012

Mark Teahen looms disturbingly large in team hitting history. Billy and Alex are already looking good from the counting perspective (they might be 8-9 in team history by the end of the year), and their rates look even better. Out of the 76 humanoids with 1000+ plate appearances for the Royals, here are the hitters with the most doubles per 550 PA:

Player PA 2B 2B/550
Mark Quinn 1166 72 34.0
Mark Grudzielanek 1432 88 33.8
Hal McRae 7362 449 33.5
Billy Butler 3392 204 33.1
Alex Gordon 2906 174 32.9
Jeff Francoeur 1141 66 31.8
George Brett 11625 665 31.5
Mike Sweeney 5278 297 30.9
Clint Hurdle 1240 69 30.6
Wally Joyner 2173 120 30.4

Jeff Francoeur ya'all!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Graph of Billy Butler's Home Run Pace Compared To '85 Balboni

114 games into the 2012 Royals season, Billy Butler has 24 ding dongs. In 1985, Steve Balboni had 25 at that point in the season. Balboni was on pace for 35.5, and finished with 36, the infamously pitiful team record. Billy is now on pace for 33.8.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Royals Starters WPA Records

In celebration of me re-subscribing to the magical Baseball Reference play index, below are a couple of tables related to Royals starters and win probability added. WPA "records" is sort of a pet junk stat of mine. I keep track of 2012 Royals starters in the right sidebar, with the first number being a start with a positive WPA and the second number starts without a positive WPA. As you can see, Felipe Paulino (4-3) is the only Royals pitcher this year with a winning WPA record. It is not a terribly meaningful measure, but I enjoy seeing numbers that look like the silly, traditional record but with a little more sabermetric oomph behind them. I also like that there aren't no decisions. Does Greinke's 16-8 W-L in 2009 actually represent what kind of season he had? Of course not. His WPA record of 25-8 doesn't completely either, but it certainly tells more of the story. WPA also rewards pitchers who have a good game but don't get run support. Greinke had nine starts in 2009 in which he gave up exactly one run. According to W-L, he was a 5-2 pitcher in those games. According to WPA, 9-0.

Here are the seasons with the most starts with a positive WPA in Royals history:

Rk Player Year
1 Bret Saberhagen 1989 26
2 Kevin Appier 1993 26
3 Zack Greinke 2009 25
4 Dennis Leonard 1977 24
5 Larry Gura 1980 24
6 Steve Busby 1975 24
7 Kevin Appier 1992 24
8 Dennis Leonard 1978 23
9 David Cone 1993 23
10 Mark Gubicza 1988 22
11 Dick Drago 1971 22
12 Steve Busby 1974 22
Generated 7/30/2012.

And here is the all-time Royals positive WPA starts leaderboard:

Rk Player
1 Paul Splittorff 200
2 Kevin Appier 178
3 Mark Gubicza 174
4 Dennis Leonard 165
5 Bret Saberhagen 129
6 Larry Gura 115
7 Charlie Leibrandt 102
8 Zack Greinke 97
9 Steve Busby 85
10 Dick Drago 79
Generated 7/30/2012.

And on the flip side, here are the seasons with the most non-positive WPA starts:

And the all-time most non-positive WPA starts: