With the end of the Royals' best first month of the season in recent memory, fans are understandably wondering how sustainable it is. Obviously, the pitching has been good (some young guy whose name I can't remember and some others). We know that Mr. SI probably won't have a sub-1 ERA all season, but the pitching was expected to be fairly strong, at least relative to the rest of the division. And even those expectations have been exceed to this point. But what about the offense? Is it about to awaken from its
dogmatic slumbers to vault the Royals into Al Central dominance? Truthfully, who knows? After all, I have made this observation that I think you might like: They play the games on the field.
But until those games are played, what might we expect going forward, given what we thought in the offseason about the Royal's hitters?
Remember way back when we did that community projection? Well, I don't know how many people from other teams finished theirs, but while at the time the only "big" projection system that was published was CHONE, I later updated it (at least the offense wOBA numbers) by averaging with ZiPS and PECOTA. I left our own mods and playing time projections in except for guys who got cut and stuff. There isn't a huge difference. Click here and scroll over the KCA tab to see what we got.
I'm going to use wOBA here, because it's the most awesomest offensive stat out there. Why? Just read NYRoyal's helpful intro for Royals Review users
which I wish I would have done but NOOOO I get stuck with replacement level. Basically, unlike just about every other individual or composite stat like BA, OBP, OPS, etc, if two guys are in the same run environment, the one with the better wOBA is the better offensive player (at least for the period in question). It's on an OBP scale, so ~.330 is about average, usually, .400 is awesome, .300 is horrible, etc.
I'm going to try not to make this needlessly complicated by discussing the importance of relative run environments, etc. at length. Some people think projections are useful, some think they aren't. That's up to you. Keep in mind they aren't certainties nor do they (usually) claim to be. Rather, they are "probability densities," as kcdc1 helpfully put it.
Keep in mind our projections assumed certain playing time for everyone, but changes (e.g. Gordon out, B. Pena gone) will modify those one way or the other.
With our playing time esimates and the averaged wOBAs of CHONE, PECOTA, and ZiPS for each player on the Royals, we projected an overall wOBA of .328.
The Royals current team wOBA as per FanGraphs this morning is .333.
Note that Sky's spreadsheet assumed a run environment with a league wOBA of .335. Last season was more like .330 (that's what I've been using). For some reason (perhaps I'm too stupid to find it), FanGraphs doesn't have year-by-year league averages posted -- looking at the leaderboards, I'm guessing that currently, it's about .337.Take that as you will. As a whole, the Royals are hitting a bit better than we and the systems projected, but then, the whole league is, too (after only a month, of course).
Readers may or may not be surprised by that, perhaps (understandably) focusing on certain hitters who are hitting much better than expected or much worse than expected. We need to remind ourselves that while it isn't early early, it's still early. The premature nature of April judgments are well-illustrated by Billy Butler, who, before the Toronto series, was mired in the mid-.200s wOBA-wise. With two godo games, he went up to the .350s. That doesn't tell us he's awesome, or that he's terrible and then got lucky. What it tells us is that one month shouldn't have changed our expectations anyway. If a player has one horrible month in the middle of the season, it's much less likely to be noticed than if he has it right at the start, since his "yearly line" doesn't look at terrible. And, of course, now Butler's April looks all right, just based on two games...
Here are most of the active hitters (tables in this editor are a pain, so you can look up MITCH and Alex yourself, although their limited PA didn't have much impact so far overall). Dan Szymborski recently stopped by with his updated ZiPS projections, but the ones listed are from before the season. I give the player's PA so you can get an idea of how much impact he's had on the offensive numers, then his current wOBA (remember it's on approximately an OBP scale, for those not familiar), then what "we" projected, then the difference. You get the idea: while some guys are doing much getter than expected, and some much worse, overall, it balances out to the team's offense being pretty much where we thought it was.
There it is. Rather than make more of my own comments here, maybe that's better left for the discussion. I hope this is interesting and illuminating for someone, somehow.