At some point over the weekend I was emoto-tweeting and being negative and bitter about the Royals (shocker). Kevin Agee, who has been around the Royals-interwebs for awhile, and knows his stuff, tweeted back at me that the team's run differential was much better this season. I'd seen reference to this before, but I'd never gotten around to looking it up. Turns out, there is something there. Although the W-L record isn't really any better, I think fundamentally the 2011 Royals have been a better team. Not good yet, but better.
- 2011: 4.39 runs per game/ 4.80 runs allowed per game
- 2010: 4.17 runs per game/ 5.21 run allowed per game
As you can see, the Royal offense has been a tick better in 2011 and the Royal run prevention has been a tick and a half better. By pythag, the Royals should be 68-80, rather than 62-86, but really, I care more about the runs/runs allowed than the details at this point. If the Royals were playing for something, that underperformance would be critical, but looking ahead to 2012, the fundamentals are more important.
We've talked quite a bit about the offense this season, while generally overlooking the run prevention as typically bad. The improvement in the run prevention is probably due in some part to the improved team defense in 2011 (though this should be a post of its own). Other than that, the biggest change has been in the bullpen, which has been much much better.
Again, those ERAs aren't gospel, because we've still got to account for defense and luck. Nevertheless, it seems highly likely that the bullpen is much better this season. And the starters, as bad as they have been, were probably even worse in 2010.
So the Royals are getting better. Are they setting themselves up for a great leap forward in 2012... we'll see.