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The Rays Are Now Better Than the Royals

(Hat tip to Lookout Landing for the premise, which probably applies even more strongly to the Royals.)

Understanding that there are still many moves, small and medium, left to be made, I think its fairly clear that the Rays will be better than the Royals in 2008.

Lets start with the rotations, since the Matt Garza deal was the occasion for this piece. The Rays go Kazmir, Shields, Garza, 1-2-3, with the usual assortment of random flotsam at the back of the rotation. Between Edwin Jackson's potential and J.P. Howell's genericness, and accounting for someone else possibly stepping up and or being merely adequate, thats a decent rotation. The front end has the potential to be excellent. The Royals counter with Meche, Bannister, Greinke, then some mix of Kyle Davies, de la Rosa and possibly Hochevar and a few other randoms. Did you know that the Rays led the AL in strikeouts last season? They did, recording 1194 Ks, a full two hundred more than our Royals managed (who finished 13th in the AL). I like the combination of Meche, Banny and Greinke, but lets face it: its very National League, consisting of three guys who pitch smart but don't really have a consistent out pitch and rely on a number of interlocking factors to post clean innings. Unfortunately, the Royals don't play in the NL.

The point can be conceded that the Royals might have a better bullpen than the Rays, but with all the year-to-year flux in individual performances and roster turnover, I don't know how major an issue it is. All we really know is that Soria is good and Yabuta is Japanese. Nevertheless, I don't think the Royals bullpen will be substantively better than Tampa's in 2008.

Which brings us to the lineups. Tampa outscored the Royals 782 to 706 last season, and like the Royals there's lots of room for personal improvement on their roster. In the outfield the Rays go Crawford-Upton-Baldelli, against a Royal offering of XXXXX-DeJesus-Teahen. I love David and Mark, but they posted OPSs of .723 and .763 respectively last year. In the infield the Rays go Iwamura-Bartlett-Wilson-Pena with Navarro catching. The Royals have an advantage at third, but in 2008 it may not be as large as we'd like. Iwamura hit .285/.359/.411 last season, and is heading into his age 28 season. Other than that, the Royals biggest advantage is at second base, as Grudz is probably a much better bet than Josh Wilson (.238/.290/.333) at second base. Then again, Grudz is 58 years old and Wilson will be 27 in 2008. When you factor in Grudz's inevitable injury and/or midseason trade, this is another small victory for our Royals. Finally, at DH/1B/COF the Rays have Carlos Pena and Gomes, who seem superior options at this point than whatever Shealyfied monster the Royals employ in 2008. And sure, John Buck might be a tick better than Dioneer Navarro (.227/.286/.356), but would you bet your life that he'll post an OPS .050 points higher in 2008? I also fear that Buck is a bad April and a failed bunt or two away from getting into Hillman's doghouse.

Last year the Rays posted a run differential of -162, good for a pythag of 67-95. The Royals, thanks to an inspired performance from the pitching staff, posted a differential of -72, good for a pythag of 74-88. For the purposes of 2008, does the addition of Garza and Bartlett (minus Young) make up that seven game gap? Its not a given, especially since Baldelli is injury prone and Pena will certainly not be as good. But it is a possibility.