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Game 88 Open Thread - Royals (39-48) at Rays (53-32)

It was something like Rays Week at BP the last few days, and one of the more interesting pieces was Nate Silver's Flipping the Switch article (free):

Team balance? The Devil Rays had five players who had a legitimate argument for making the All-Star team last year: Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, Carlos Pena, Scott Kazmir, and James Shields. But they also had 28 distinct players who produced a negative VORP, collectively costing the Rays 157.9 runs below replacement level. Merely replacing those guys with passable alternatives—never mind league-average players—would have made a huge difference.

Put differently, the Rays had an awful lot of room to make additions by subtraction. The difficult part about baseball is supposed to be locking up blue-chip assets like Upton and Kazmir at below-market rates. The Rays had done plenty of that, but they hadn’t really bothered to sweat the small stuff—to dump some of their dead weight, to make sure they had guys who were up to the job defensively, or to tend to their bullpen.

Sound familiar? How's this for dead weight? First, the position players: John Buck (-1.7 VORP), Joey Gathright (-5.4 VORP), Ross Gload (-6.0 VORP), Esteban German (-8.7 VORP) and, por supuesto, Tony Pena Jr. (-18.0 VORP). Combined, those players have eaten up 952 plate appearances, or 29.1 % of the team's at bats.

As for the subpar pitchers, at least purely according to VORP: Brian Bannister (-1.2 VORP), Yasuhiko Yabuta (-1.4 VORP), Joel Peralta (-2.5 VORP), Jeff Fulchino (-3.3 VORP), John Bale (-3.8 VORP), Jimmy Gobble (-5.5 VORP), Hideo Nomo (-6.5 VORP) and, Brett Tomko (-12.3 VORP). Now, some of these horrible innings can be dismissed, to a point, thanks to size (Nomo only blasted 4.3 innings) and leverage considerations. In a blowout you can send Nomo out there for an inning, but you can't give TPJ most of his at bats that way. Nope, TPJ was slowly eroding innings an at regular distribution. Still, its telling how quickly a bullpen that we all thought was going to be an asset has not quite turned out that way.

Until this winter, that is, because that's when the Rays decided to transform themselves from a sort of hedge fund for undervalued assets into a real, functional baseball club.Maybe the Royals will get to that point someday.