Just as 2012 was being pronounced dead by Royals fans, GMDM promptly started talking up 2014. The most savvy among us noticed an omission - what the heck happened to 2013? Are the Royals not going to play games next year? Are they going to give away tickets if they are going to give away a whole season?
Something tells me that it ain't happening in 2014 either, and only if they are lucky, maybe 20-freaking-15.
As long as there are 26* teams trying to win the World Series, there will be fascinating story lines to follow. The recent fourth no-hitter suffered by the winning Tampa Bay Rays is worth a closer look, and how that factors into 20-freaking-15.
How can a team that has averaged 92 wins each of the last four years get no-hit four times? The answer lies in their roster construction.
In drafts, typically premium players are selected in the first round - making that pick each year essential to a team's continued success. Teams have been creative in drafting talent in later rounds that are essentially premium players as well. But there is a limit to the number of impact players you can draft each year, not to mention the high rate of failure among picks.
Since 2004, one can argue that the Royals have done well with drafting batters while the Rays have done well drafting pitchers. The reverse is also true - Royals' pitching and Rays' batting are dismal.
As the 2012 season winds down, there is a clear winner in the draft and develop model of roster construction between Kansas City and Tampa Bay - and it isn't even close.
The Maddon ‘Genuis'
Typically ‘genius' managers - ones that seem to win immediately - are simply a product of recent quality drafts. Maddon benefited from timing - arriving two years after their best draft for pitchers.
Beginning with the talent from that draft, the Rays have methodically replaced non-drafted starters with drafted players, about one starter per year as they developed. Starts by drafted players rose each year from 2006 to 2011, the year in which all 162 games were started by drafted players.
While loading up on pitching, Tampa Bay drafted fewer positional players with premium picks and had several notable/notorious failures. In failing to draft and develop premium batters, the team has had to rely on talent acquired by other means. This results in a group of average to below-average hitters - capable of being dominated on any given night.
The results of the draft and develop strategy combined with having good luck with pitchers and bad luck with batters explain how a winning team can get no-hit on an annual basis.
The Long(er) Process
The Royals had a cluster of drafted pitchers in 1998/9 that made the big leagues and, while not the greatest group of pitchers and probably not the reason, the team had a +21 bump in wins five years later. The Rays had a cluster of drafted pitchers in 2004/5 that made the big leagues and had a +31 bump in wins four years later.
While we all love the young Royals' hitters, offense sells tickets, pitching wins games. If the cluster of Royals' pitchers drafted in 2010/11 actually pan out with major league talent, then a bump in wins would probably hit in 20-freaking-15.