Bill James changed the game of baseball. Some people may argue that it was Billy Beane, but Bill James did, in fact change the game we call baseball. As they say in Money Ball, which I highly recommend if you haven't already seen it, the game has evolved. This isn't just looks or little deficiencies, this game is about numbers. Bill James used statistics to create equations that somehow, accurately depict how a player will perform. James used a concept that was so complicated but in theory, it was very simple. As Peter Brand in Money Ball said, "Your goal shouldn't be to buy players. Your goal should be to buy runs. And to buy runs you need to buy RBI's..." The interesting thing is the Royals defied everything Bill James said. Try to stay with me, I will be jumping around quite a bit.
First off, the Royals need to own their division. As Bill James has it projected, next year the Royals will be battling it out with the Tigers the whole season, but by season's end, the Tigers will claim the division once again. Now, there is no way that we can go head to head with the Tigers and plan to beat them consistently. So, with the genius minds of Dayton Moore and Ned Yost, we will plan to get around the Tigers. So like I said, first order of business, control the division. Last year, the Royals beat Detroit 7 times, Cleveland 4 times, White Sox 11 times, and Minnesota 8 times. With the recent declines of Cleveland, Chicago, and Minnesota I think the Royals will add about 15 more wins from them. Assuming the Tigers beat us about 5 more times than last year, that puts us in pretty good playoff contention for next year. Pretty good won't cut it. If we want to have any way of winning the division we need to beat the Tigers. Ned Yost has the perfect roster for that. In order to beat the Tigers, we need mismatches. So lets look at some of their holes. Defense. With the big corner infield holes in Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, the Royals found a place of attack. In addition to Escobar's speed, his bat precision will be key in a bunt for a base hit. Now that you have Escobar on first, Cabrera and the pitcher rattled, what a perfect time to steal a base. Now Escobar is on 2nd, no outs and the whole team is rattled. That brings me to my next point. Composure. As mentioned before, it would be fairly simple to make the Tigers lose their composure. After all the Royals are pretty good at getting under other teams' skin. Anyone remember Yunel Escobar and Jose Bautista, or Billy Butler almost losing his head? Ahhh... things can become easy now that you hold these two components. And on the the final mismatch. Speed. Sure they have Austin Jackson, but I will point out to you again. They have Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Fielder, in my eyes, is not valuable. He has one tool. Power. what does this tool do if you don't have any complements to it? Well, if the Royals use these three mismatches against them, they have a shot at winning more games.
Now on to the good stuff. Like I said before, building a team is through statistics. I wish I had these numbers, but what Bill James did for this game was he provided equations that get a players ranking down to just one number. I'll give you an example. These are not the real number just my best guess.
First, you rank the importance of each position by giving the percentage of importance for your team.
1. An ace Pitcher. 20%
2. Shut down Catcher. 20%
3. 5 tool Outfielder. 10%
4. 4-5 tool Shortstop. 10%
5. Power Hitting Cleanup hitter. 10%
6. Fast leadoff hitter. 10%
7. Bull pen. 5%
8. Pinch runner. 5%
9. Pinch Hitter. 5%
10. Solid rest of rotation. 5%
Now that you have your percentages straight, and you have your players down to one number out of 100, put them together. Again, I don't know what the real numbers are.
1. Ace Pitcher. Luke Hochevar- 65* 20%=13
2. Shutdown Catcher. Salvador Perez- 90* 20%= 18
3. 5 tool Outfielder. Alex Gordon- 90* 10%= 9
4. 4-5 tool Shortstop. Alcedes Escobar. 85* 10%= 8.5
5. Power Hitting Clean up hitter. Billy Butler or Eric Hosmer. 80* 10%=8
6. Fast Lead Off hitter. Alex Gordon or Lorenzo Cain. 70* 10%=7
7. Bull Pen. 100*5%=5
8. Pinch runner. Jarrod Dyson-100* 5%= 5
9. Pinch hitter. Mitch Maier- 50* 5.%= 2.5
10. Solid rest of rotation- 90* 5%= 4.5
Now as a team, that gives us an 80.5/100. Now that we have our team rank, we can start to project and find holes.
I also found a little fact that may relieve you guys a little. Bill James suggests that the Royals had all of the hits and RBI's and HR's, they just didn't put them together. Consequently, the Royals were last in league in run efficiency. In, The Bill James Handbook, James states,"The Kansas City Royals- the Pittsburgh Pirates of the American League- showed much more progress than the Pirates did in terms of underlying skills, but finished with a worse record than the Pirates because they were very inefficient in terms of putting things together to make wins. If the Royals had been as efficient as the Pirates were, the Royals would have made the playoffs." James later elaborates with statistics. The Royals had 764 Runs Created (which is a completely different formula). And on defense, some of their players were ranked very high in terms of Runs Saved. We all know that the reason the Royals didn't get it done last year was... bad pitching. Or was it? The Royals were ranked 13th throughout the whole league in pitching. Not just in a few categories, with everything combined. So, my friends, according to Bill James, the Royals are, indeed, on the right track. Lets just hope they put things together.