There has been much clamoring from Royals faithful to replace Mike Moustakas and Alcedes Escobar with dead alleycats in the starting lineup. At first glance, this seems to be a no-brainer: Bring on the alleycats! This is a semi-statistical attempt to explain why this is a winning and necessary strategy for the currently constructed Kansas City Royals.
For 81 road games a year, the Royals play at an indisputable advantage using random dead alleycats in the numbers one and two spots in the lineup. (We’ll call them Fluffy and Spot in this example, though any two alleycats without life will suit our needs.) The strikezone for a dead alleycat is by definition infinitesimally small, so outside of the few occurrences when Fluffy or Spot are hit by the pitch, they will be granted bases on balls to start each game. We should expect between 1.5-1.7 runs whenever dead cats become located on first and second with no outs.
Occasionally, pitchers from Southern states will throw intentionally at the dead cats by force of habit, and the Royals stand to gain yet another advantage from opposing pitcher warnings and ejections to begin the game.
Neither Fluffy nor Spot grade out well on the basepaths, and in most every case it is beneficial to pinch run for dead cats.
Escobar is set to earn $3MM, Moustakas 459K. These two are relative bargains, and are replacement-level players, almost. Both are utterly impossible to watch as stand-alone MLB players, but for this exercise we’ll assume each produces according to fangraphs’ wildly optimistic projections: That they will combine for about 3-4 WAR without cats this year. They can pinch run for the dead cats in the first inning of every ballgame. Though the Royals could come out even further ahead by replacing dead cats with Major League ballplayers, for simplicity’s sake we will include the current starters in this exercise. An additional benefit to this strategy is that Escobar and Moustakas now bat tenth and eleventh in the order, which is much closer to proper placement according to their true talent level.
The cats each will earn league minimum contracts. Either Dyson or Maxwell is optioned or cut, and any of the eleventh reliever candidates that talks about or misses Nebraska even the tiniest bit can get his wish. The Royals come out ahead paying the dead cats at league minimum if the corpses can be preserved enough to withstand the rigors of the season. If Fluffy and/or Spot become unable to stay intact at any point of the season, now management is paying yet another dead cat for the exact same service. This is financially irresponsible, and taxidermists are relatively affordable options to support the financial reasoning behind this example.
In this model I’m never pinch running for Spot until Fluffy gets his base on balls. This model doesn’t account for the possibility of a dead-cat pickoff, and Spot will be instructed to never leave his base while the ball is in play. Occasionally, the opposing pitcher may balk, but Spot should still stay in the game until Fluffy is either hit by the pitch or is otherwise awarded first base on balls.
The inclusion of deceased cats to the Royals’ roster brings enormous benefits to the team. It gives the Royals a fantastic one-two-three-four punch to start each game. The per-diem allotment for the dead cats could be donated to PETA, as a PR coup. I’d propose Escobar always pinch run for Spot at second and Moustakas to pinch run for Fluffy at first due to Moustakas’ propensity to be a perpetually puffy ball of goo. Still, the Royals now have production from their left side of the infield that makes players like Cabrera and Trout blush. With a little help from dead felines, we could expect OPS from the SS and 3B positions to now be around .800-.850. The Royals would stand to gain about 200 runs (extending the run probability of two-on, no out in every first inning) on the year simply by starting dead cats in lieu of Moustakas and Escobar.
There is a price to pay with this strategy, that Fluffy and Spot will be unable to play defense very well for home first innings. On the bright side, they will only make errors when unable to field line drives and grounders that hit the glove. Their range won’t be very good at all. This is all hypothetical, but for the sake of simplicity, we will project these two fielders to be roughly equal to a dead Neifi Perez. Neifi was a roughly replacement-level defender when alive, so the net loss to the team for the dead cats to take the field six percent of the time is a risk I’m willing to take.
With two dead cats getting on base to start the game, Eric Hosmer’s opening day double in the first inning would have changed that game entirely. The Royals likely lead 2-0 (scoring the pinchrunners of each dead cat) in the top of the first after this two-out double, and Holland very likely is brought in to a late-game save situation and comfortable lead before things are out of control.
Just today dead cats supply the Royals two additional runs and another win, as each would have likely scored after the Aoki walk and Infante single. Final score: Royals 3, Tigers 1. (or 2-1 if Moustakas predictably is thrown out at the plate on a single to left.)
The Royals very likely are leading the Tigers by two games right now if they only had the good sense to start dead alleycats at short and third each and every game. Yes, this is a very small sample, but just two dead cats immediately flip the performance of the team, and turn a loser into a winner.
Financial: The Kansas City Royals can immediately improve their allegedly suffering bottom line by occupying eight percent of available roster space with dead cats paid at league minimum. Replacing Yost with a billygoat brings further financial relief. Depending on players cut outright or optioned, potential gains range from $500K-$5MM and up. Furthermore, the Royals will be able to selectively target the living- and dead-cat apparel marketplace, one of many yet untapped revenue streams. A few ads in Cat Fancy, and the money begins rolling in.
Offense: The Royals stand to gain around 190 runs a year with dead cats in the starting lineup. Spot+Escobar now get on base at about a .460 clip, scoring around 157 runs over 162 games; Fluffy+Moustakas at around .470 and scoring about 163 runs. The dead cats turn AAAA players into perennial MVP candidates and the Royals from also-rans into league champions.
Defense: Having the dead and feline equivalent of Neifi Perez at two defensive positions for 11 percent of home innings will require some new strategies for first inning ball, as the team could lose up to fifty runs a year by playing dead cats on half the infield the first inning of home games. I know this number is probably high, but I don’t expect many spectacular plays from these fielders. However, the plays they are able to make will become instant highlight reel classics. Perhaps a firethrower like Herrera or a strikeout specialist like Holland could be employed for first-inning work only to start home games, improving the chances of balls kept out of play.
Morale: Everyone loves a winner. These dead alleycats will light a fire under this team’s ass that will never extinguish. Other teams will bitch and moan, fanbases can cry foul, but as long as the alleycats are compensated fairly, I see no issue with the players union or the rules of the game. Cats, alive or dead, don’t seem to be excluded from play. The Royals could even use a female alleycat if they want to be trailblazers and be the first team to shatter the gender barrier. Feminists everywhere will rally to these equal-opportunity Royals! An additional benefit to this strategy is that Yost becomes expendable, and may be immediately replaced by a billygoat. The billygoat can eat the lineup card daily, as there won’t be much of a bench to work with throughout the course of the game or season. The players can more or less make decisions on their own regarding in-game strategy, or they could leave it to the goat, as long as the dead cats are properly and consistently deployed on a daily basis.
Dayton Moore likes to talk about "mistake-free" baseball. It’s time to walk the walk, Mr. Moore. Sure, alleycats that are alive sometimes make mistakes, averaging about nine per cat. Dead alleycats have spent their opportunity for error. My experience is somewhat limited, but I have never personally witnessed a dead alleycat in the act of making a mistake.
The beauty of the dead cat is its predictability. Royals fans won’t have to worry about Fluffy swinging on a 3-0 count, or Spot laying down a bunt to start the game. Dead cats are very unlikely to swing at any offering at all, and will only foul off very carefully placed pitches in the dirt of the batters’ box. Dead cats don’t bitch about their contract, they don’t argue balls and strikes, and they follow instructions to the best of their ability. Injury concerns are nil. Dead cats will show up and suit up every damned day to help their team win. Fans will rally behind these offensive terrors, and will turn the K into a house of horrors for opposing teams. No one wants to get beat by a dead cat or two, but this could happen with regularity. Until the rest of baseball adapts, the Royals will enjoy a tactical advantage of the style and means that will require Billy Beane to call his doctor every four hours. October will again be a wonderful time for a parade in Kansas City.