Spreadsheet Baseball: The Book on the Royals

I'm not going to make a habit of posting this late, I promise. Right now, I'm going through any extremely busy time of the year as midterms, declaring a major, thousands of words of advice on declaring a major, meetings with advisors and professors, and--oddly enough--women asking me to the movies all converge at once. Next week should be much quieter on some of these fronts, I hope.

However, if there's one consolation of the week, it's the arrival of my copy of the BP Annual. Any good with analogies? Me:Waiting for 'The Book'::Teenage Girl:Waiting for the day where she goes to see her boyband heroes. It's rather pathetic, I suppose, but it enables me to do some things that I couldn't before for these articles. I took a look through the Royals' chapter today, as well as their competitors in the division. Without further adieu, here are some of the results of my perusing (well, I hope it was perusing).

The Alex Gordon/Mark Teahen Verdict

PECOTA thinks highly of Teahen on both sides of the ball, and even more highly of Gordon. It appears that neither the projection system nor the BP writer assigned to put together the Royals' chapter think that Teahen's surgery will affect him much; while Teahen is projected to come back to earth a bit, PECOTA sees him virtually maintaining his OBP, as the "coming back to earth" is a slighty dip (back below .500 in power). In case you're wondering, Alex Gordon is one of the six faces on the cover of 'The Book,' and PECOTA thinks highly enough of Gordon to predict a 850+ OPS. If both players approximate their PECOTA Weight Means, Gordon will be better than Teahen but both players will have very good seasons.

In terms of how to resolve the position problem, the rave reviews of Gordon's defense seems to back up the Royals' decision to move the athletic Teahen to an outfield corner. Affirming once again that this blog is a savvy group, the player comment on Teahen acknowledges that probably the best way to get value out of these two players is to flip Teahen, a suggestion made in one of the diaries by royalsreview himself amongst others, but at the same time acknowledging the fact that Teahen's bat looks good enough to be a good contributor from right field.

Proving once again that apple falls close to the tree, or in this case that the stats-oriented PECOTA worshipper agrees with his heroes, The Book hints at the Royals line-up moving up into the upper half of the AL line-ups. Perhaps you remember me writing similar words? Well, you should, anyway. I certainly do. In no small part, this would happen if Teahen and Gordon both hit the way they're capable. Keeping them both may not technically be the "best way" to get pitching talent, but the Royals don't necessarily need to trade a young, productive, athletic guy like Teahen just because they have another, better one in Gordon. Moore seemingly acquiring a pitcher in every transaction he facilitates suddenly appears to make even more sense than before.

Mike Sweeney: Nice Guy.

Baseball Prospectus 2007 would like you to know that you should appreciate Mike Sweeney for what he's done for your franchise, even if he's in decline. Any objections? Didn't think so...

Forrest Gump Runs, Stephen King Writes Horror Genre Books, and This Guy Hits

Billy Butler is another young guy tabbed by The Book as a stud, and that's despite the acknowledgement that Butler's time as a non-DH in the majors could be ridiculously brief. I remain optimisic that a 21-year-old can learn to play defense at first or on a corner that at least with give the Royals a chance to DH someone else for some games. Don't hold Butler lack of defense against him: this kid would be the best thing since sliced bread in some organizations, and the Royals have the pleasure of seeing him take a back seat to Gordon.

Dave Of Jesus and The Speed Merchant

Very interesting. PECOTA sees him as continuing his good OBP, mid-.400s power range, and forecasts a very low percentage of a break-out. However, me and the writer of his player comment have something in common: we disagree with the mighty PECOTA on this one. We both see him adding power in his Age 27 season. Either way, that nifty five year deal that DeJesus hauled in should return good value even if he does not have a power spike. In other news, Joey Gathright is a fifth outfielder.

The Supporting Cast

However, not everybody can be a stud. Just like every good movie has good supporting actors to support the leading man and lady, every team needs a supporting cast to back up their nucleus. If Gordon, Butler, Teahen, and DeJesus are that nucleus for the Royals, than that's good. The question is who can emerge as useful parts to help these guys make the Royals a legimate great line-up. Using my favorite book series to hammer an extended metaphor into your brain, let's say that Alex Gordon, the potential franchise player, grows up to be Commissar Gaunt, Billy Butler turns out to be Colonel Corbec, Mark Teahen is Major Rawne, (Rawne hates Gaunt but grows to have a grudging respect for him, so let's say Teahen hates Gordon because the latter took the former's position) and David DeJesus plays the part of the awesome Captain Domor . It's great thing to have these guys, but just like the Ghosts (read this series. I swear I'm not getting paid to advertise it) need lower ranking guys who contribute like Try Again Bragg, Sergeant Soric, and Sergeant Varl, the Royals line-up needs people like Ryan Shealy, John Buck, Esteban German, Mike Sweeney this year, and others to play their roles well to put together an above average line-up.

PECOTA isn't in love with any of those three guys, but projects them all to play their parts. BP's writer here is apparently on the ABB bandwagon as well, and even hints German should be given a shot at shortstop. "How much worse could he be (this is pre-Grudz injury)?" is a legit question here. In terms of a long-term solution the other corner, BP 2007 is oddly high on Shane Costa. I said give the guy a chance, not that he'd be any good, and the PECOTA projection for him is not great, but it's not bad either. If he hits the way PECOTA says he can, he could at least play the part of Doyl (a solid soldier who died early in the series. The metaphor here is death=end of arbitration years). I was also surprised to see BP likes Grudzielanek, though they agree he needs to be flipped at the deadline. Bottom line here is that BP likes the Royals line-up--even admitting that Emil Brown has his uses, for now (like hitting pretty well and being traded)--minus Angel Berroa. It's not too hard to see why, I think, given that SS appears to be the only definite problem.

Fun fact 1: the Royals could probably add three wins just by playing anyone not named Berroa at SS.

Fun fact 2: the Royals, of course, are much more likely to receive reinforcments--whether FAs or prospects--than the Tanith First and Only.

Do We Have To Talk About Pitching?

BP kind of disappoints me in this section, as they flip-flop on JDLR, like Hudson but are skeptical to the point where I feel like I want to punch them for not hopping on the My Favorite Hudson Brother Train. Also, they kind of hint at being dissatisfied with the trades of Sisco and Burgos, and they defend Odalis Perez and John Bale. Don't even get me started on Meche, who is projected to have a 5.37 ERA. I say PECOTA is unnecessarily down on Meche, and that his contract is way too big. I think he'll land in the 4.40-4.60 range for his ERA this year, and that's all I'll say about him.

Saying Odalis Perez doesn't walk many people, and was just unlucky last year, as BP 2007 does here, is like defending Tara Reid's acting abilities by saying that she doesn't kill anyone. Well great, but you still don't want an multi-million dollar LAIM-at-best-in-a-pitcher's-park just because he doesn't walk many people, just like you probably don't want to employ drunky Tara as an actress for "Royals Review: The Movie" because she is not a convicted murderer. I'm losing the metaphor thread. Odalis Perez is not a good pitcher any more, and I don't know if he ever really was 'that good.'

Defending John Bale's signing, BP pulls out a line that basically says that it's hard to sign any FA to a two million dollar a year, two year deal. What? Okay, but there's no guarentee of success from Bale! Why wasn't he a guy signed to a make-good deal instead of sucking away two million bucks to be a LOOGY hopeful? There could be some value in him, but there could be just as much in Jimmy Gobble. I don't think it was necessary to go outside the organization for a guy like Batman Bale.

Jorge de la Rosa, until he shows a modicum of control, is not even a major league LOOGY-quality reliever. 'Nuf said. Burgos gave up too many goddamn home runs, okay? Sisco was terrible as well.

Maybe the years that both had were partly the organization's fault, but Moore is trying to build his own team here while using some notable assets from the Baird regime. You can understand that he's not interested in waiting Sisco--a Baird administration rule fiver--who showed nothing last year, or Burgos who blew close game after close game. Moore has brought in plenty of young arms, and until we see something positive from one of those guys, you have to acknowledge his getting potentially usable parts for guys who had ERAs of 5.53 and 7.10 last year.

This is good stuff, of course; it's an unwritten rule of baseball and of life in general that we focus on the negative when's it apparent (look at our testing system: getting three-quarters of the answers right is mediocre), but to do justice to the organization and The Book, there are positives:

-The pick of Hochevar is not exactly lauded, but PECOTA says he'd have an ERA lower than Mechey's this year.

-BP acknowledges it was the right move to let All-Star Redman go.

-While PECOTA is understandably skeptical, BP notes that Greinke--he of the psychological issues apparently--is still younger than prospects Billy Buckner, Hochevar, and Tyler Lumsden. These guys have not had a 3.97 ERA in the majors before, yet Greinke's treated with kid gloves while the others get good press from the organization.

-They kinda like Jimmy Gobble. K-rate.

-Ryan Braun's stuff gets very good reviews

-Runelvys Hernandez is dead. Long live anyone else!

Anyways, the overall verdict on the pitching staff is understandably negative, but perhaps to an unnecessary extreme. Hudson, Meche, and Greinke are all better than BP gives them credit for, in this writer's humble opinion. That at least gives the Royals three decent starters. The other two spots probably won't be pretty, but BP needs to have a Fresca and chill out a bit.

The Royals have not blown a ton of money on generic relievers, and still stand a good chance of having a decent 'pen. They broke the bank for Meche, and then watched as signings of older pitchers for around the same money made the signing look more reasonable. This still needs to be regarded as a rebuilding year; maybe it's the start of the turnaround, but would everyone be happier if GMDM had blown money on bad veteran starters like his predescessor had?

The answer should be "no." Maybe the Royals' pitching staff suffers this year, but 2007 will be telling in what they need to do to bring it up to speed. Hopefully, they'll only need two more decent rotation regulars, but in any case, this season--particular with pitching--is about finding out needs for the opening of a contention window.

In conclusion, BP likes the Royals hitting, and doesn't like the pitching. That's an oversimplification, of course, but it's generally accurate even if the player evaluations are suspect at some points. The BP Annual can be purchased here . Whoops, sorry about that. I mean, here As usual, the folks at Baseball Prospectus have done a fine job.

I'm out of gas. Tomorrow I'll update this with BP's general outlook on the division. Good night, and as always, comments/questions are welcome/encouraged.

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