Did Dayton Moore inherit an expansion team?

Last week, Will asked "Where is the Anger?" in regards to the Dayton Moore regime and their consistent lack of winning over the past six* years. I can't say I know what the answer is, nor that there is just one. However, i do think that part of the equation is a common belief that what Dayton Moore took over was nothing short of an expansion team.

*I'm not attributing 2006 to Dayton Moore as he joined the club after the draft** and had little to do with the construction of that team.

**I'm skeptical of this

If that is the source of some of the acceptance, then it requires two separate assumptions:

1. For an expansion franchise, this is an acceptable six year run

2. The talent on the team in 2006 was of the caliber of an expansion team

The first assumption is easy enough to prove. Let's look at all of the modern era expansion teams and see how they've done their first six years in existence. The table below has winning percentages for each year and an average. The team Dayton Moore inherited is denoted by "DM Royals."

Team yr1 yr2 yr3 yr4 yr5 yr6 avg
Diamondbacks .401 .617 .525 .568 .605 .519 .539
Rockies .414 .453 .535 .512 .512 .475 .484
Royals .426 .401 .528 .494 .543 .475 .478
Angels .435 .531 .435 .506 .463 .494 .477
Marlins .395 .443 .469 .494 .568 .333 .450
Nationals .321 .451 .441 .449 .488 .491 .440
DM Royals .426 .463 .401 .414 .438 .443 .431
Brewers .395 .401 .429 .417 .457 .469 .428
Astros .400 .407 .407 .401 .444 .426 .414
Mariners .395 .350 .414 .364 .404 .469 .399
Rangers .379 .373 .346 .383 .432 .447 .393
Rays .389 .426 .429 .383 .342 .389 .393
Blue Jays .335 .366 .327 .414 .349 .481 .379
Padres .321 .389 .379 .379 .370 .370 .368
Mets .250 .315 .327 .309 .410 .377 .331

There are a whole lot of caveats here which I don't want to completely ignore. The financial realities of teams in the late 60's vs the mid 2000's are very different. In those days, if you had high attendance you were a financial player. Also, the expansion teams of the 90's had an easier go of it due to the benefits they got from their better handled expansion drafts.

With all of that said, Dayton Moore's team performed in about the middle of the pack compared to modern era expansion teams*. So, if you accept the premise that the talent was that of an expansion team, then it would seem somewhat acceptable to be .431 over 6 years.

*By the way, would anyone have guessed that the Diamondbacks were far and away the most successful expansion team in history? I had no idea.

The larger and much more difficult question is whether or not Dayton Moore did in fact inherit a team which was equal in quality to an expansion team.

In order to do this I decided to compare Dayton Moore's Royals to the expansion Devil Rays and Diamondbacks. They make a good comparison because the Royals fall in between them in record, they are fairly new and their financial situations should be relatively similar.

To compare, I tried to take a snapshot at the point where the teams began. For the Royals I attempted to capture the 2006 team and farm system which Dayton Inherited (including the 2006 draft). For the Rays and Diamondbacks, I looked at how the teams were after their 1997 amateur draft and expansion drafts.

I then looked at how every one of those players did after that point in time. So 1998 and beyond for the expansion teams and 2007 and beyond for the Royals. I used WAR from Baseball Reference because it was the easiest to get to for all the players. So for example Jason Johnson was taken by the Devil Rays in the expansion draft and from 1998 on he had a cumulative bWAR of 2.7.

I filtered out all of the negative WAR guys because they just seemed to add noise. This way I have a rough capture of the positive talent each of these teams had. So, how did it come out?

Team WAR
Devil Rays 148
Royals 91.8
Diamondbacks 79.6

Shockingly the result was the inverse of their average finish over their first six years. However there are a few things which are mitigating factors.

The first is that a significant portion of the WAR is made up by a few individual players and in the case of the Devil Rays, they drafted Bobby Abreu who had a 57.3 future WAR and immediately traded him for Kevin Stocker. The second is that nearly every player on those initial Devil Rays and Diamondback teams has completed their career. The Royals on the other hand have the best players with a lot of time to build WAR; guys like Zack Greinke, Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, David Dejesus and Luke Hochevar.

Taking a conservative estimate, it seems extremely likely that when all is said and done, the team that Dayton Moore inherited would be superior to the Devil Rays. For now, they are significantly better off than where the Diamondbacks were. A team which over their first six seasons had a .539 winning percentage.

It's an important fact that in their 2nd year of existence the Diamondbacks put together a payroll of $68m when they picked up guys like Jay Bell and Randy Johnson. However they made some very smart moves by getting Matt Williams and Luis Gonzalez via trades.

So in the end, I would have to say that no, Dayton Moore didn't acquire a team as bad as an expansion team. The talent he had to work with wasn't exactly spectacular but it exceeds what would be expected of a newly formed team. With that superior talent, he had put on the field what is the functional equivalent of an expansion team for the last six years by wining only 43% of the time.

So if what's keeping you from being angry is the assumption that Dayton Moore didn't have enough talent, then you might want to consider finding your pitch fork and torch.

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