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Wrapping Up Your Gut Responses to the Royals Place in the AL Central

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It's been a strange and divisive off-season for Royals fans, with a series of relatively minor moves (Bloomquist, Ho-Ram, Farnsworth) eliciting a torrent of mostly justified anti-Moore sentiment. As may be expected, the people at the extremes have been the most vocal. Even accounting for that however, I must say that, as a guy who has endured a significant amount of criticism for being too negative, there's a part of me that feels vindicated by the results of the Gut Responses series. At some point, if the team is really going to take the next step, the Royals have to become, you know, better than other teams. Although it is now year three of Dayton Moore's rebuild of the Royals, the majority of the team's best players remain Baird-era holdovers, and, according to the readers of this site at least, the Royals are basically still a fourth place team. And this isn't the AL East.

Hopefully, it'll turn out that we're all wrong wrong wrong.

Quite plainly, the "yes or no" nature of the question colors everything, as there's a big difference between what these answers can and do mean. Still, I think there's something in how many people are willing to go out on a limb and say, "yes, the Royals are better." And as it stands, that's still where we are, being better is going out on a limb. Here are the results, given the question, Are the Royals Better than the ___ ?

Yes % No % Total Votes
Tigers 63% 37% 413
White Sox 42% 58% 718
Twins 23% 77% 813
Indians 18% 81% 582

 

  • The Tiger vote: Considering that the Tigers were a trendy World Series pick just a year ago, it's a signal of how far they've fallen that only 37% of Royals fans now believe that the Tigers are better than the boys in blue. Of course, the Tigers did have an awful year last season. As the White Sox, Indians, and even the Twins have shown over the last three seasons, for whatever reason, teams in the AL Central are rarely as dead as one season makes them seem. My take: the Tigers were six wins better than the Royals in terms of their pythag last season, but if you account for the relative strength of KC's bullpen and the problems the Tigers had, its closer to a dead heat, which makes sense considering they finished only one game apart in the real standings. This is a very tough call, as I think the Tigers still have a better roster, but that too many of their players are, or should be declining, while the Royals have many players, at least offensively, that should be getting better. The quiet off-season the Tigers had is all the more puzzling. I'll go with the popular sentiment and say the Royals are now slightly better, emphasis on slightly.
  • The White Sox vote: PECOTA is the biggest White Sox hater, but most of the Royal Pride types hate PECOTA, or at least an over-reliance on it. The White Sox seemingly had a pretty weak off-season, and lost more good players than any other team in the division, yet only 42% of Royals fans think the Royals are better. My take: Other than in 2007, the White Sox have never really cratered this decade, and perhaps without knowing it, they've built a solid team for their ballpark. I see the White Sox finishing ahead of the Royals in 2009, although I suspect that they will be closer to the Tigers than to the Indians. There is a tear-down scenario possible here as well, but I don't quite see it, even if the Sox wanted to, given the industry-wide fear of spending and/or taking on big contracts.
  • The Twins vote: Something of a surprising total, although perhaps it's just my well-established anti-Twins sentiment that clouds my perception. For some reason, the Twins vote was also the largest of the whole little game, so not only did a huge portion of the readership think the Royals weren't better than the Twins, but the overall sample was larger. My take: sure, the Royals will probably be worse than the Twins next season, but I have a hard time seeing how the gap between the two teams is as large as might be implied here. The Twins were lucky in all sorts of ways last season, and still finished behind the White Sox. Really, I don't see much difference between the Royals and Twins anymore, solid pitching with bad offense for both teams is the modus operandi and looks to remain so for years to come, complete with a side-order of questionable acquisition strategies at the Major League level. If anything, on both sides of the ball, to use a footballism, the Royals have more high-upside talent than the Twins do, only the Twins' main guys offensively have already arrived.
  • The Indians vote: Yet another interesting result. Considering that the Indians and Tigers only seven wins apart last season, you wouldn't necessarily think that there'd be forty-five point gap between how they polled. My take: Yes, the Indians are better. The Indians had like six or seven independent variables all go horribly wrong last season, and they still managed to win 81 games. They might not be capable of winning 95 games next season, but they may be the only team in the division which basically can't dip into the 75-win zone.
  • So if we can all agree that the Royals have gotten better, but yet are still more or less a fourth or fifth place team, then what are we really saying? The improvement has merely been marginal? The improvement is all at the level of potential or a foundation yet to be seen? Have the Royals simply risen, along with the rest of the American League? Do we overrate the quality of our hated foes in the Central?