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On the Bright Side...

Team Fortress 2 is a PC game that I've devoted waaaaaaayyyyy too many hours to during my slacker college years, you die often. It's an online FPS--that's First Person Shooter, for you n00bs--that places a strong emphasis on teamwork. A staple of FPSes is back-and-forth gameplay, and while your character dying is nowhere as near as random as your typical bullet-spraying fratboy game--Halo and Call of Duty come to mind--you will still die fairly often. The graphics being done in a cartoony style (my avatar is one of the classes), the game has a good sense of not taking itself very seriously. When NHZ or any of the other heroic protagonists (it's a world full of heroic protagonists) die, the game will display some statistic under the heading "On the Bright Side...". This helps takes the edge off dying and waiting to magically come back to life (known as "respawning' in TF2 circles) and lends much-needed humor to the totally non-funny situation of getting your cartoony blood spilled everywhere because your blew yourself up or just got totally owned by some troll who can barely operate a mouse correctly. For example: "On the Bright had more kills (3) that round than your previous best."

And now Alex Gordon needs surgery, and he's on the 15-day respawn timer disabled list for the time being. "On the Bright's hard for some of the Royals to keep being this terrible on offense." Too positive, you say? Crazy talk. The primary reason for an offensive rebound without Alex is the indisputable fact that Willie Bloomquist might get an extra base hit sometime soon. Hell, maybe even next month! Seriously folks, the reason that we signed someone like Willie Ballgame is because he's a guy you can plug into any position and lose only a couple ticks of production. It's hard to find someone who can slug .285 over a full season and be a non-entity at seven different positions. No really, it is. Crimony, does anyone else have a player like that?

Player Current wOBA Projected wOBA Difference
David DeJesus .278 .337-.350 .59-.72
Mark Teahen .319 .322-.342 .03-.23
Alberto Callaspo .308 .315-.326 .07-.18
Billy Butler .204 .340-.357 .136-.153
Mike Aviles .206 .328-.350 .122-.144

When I had the idea to compare the wOBAs of the Royals hard-luck offense so far this season, these five were the players I pegged as likely to be the worst offenders in terms of the difference between the level of hitting expected and the level of hitting displayed in this admittably very small sample size. I'm not trying to make any deep, sabermetric argument here - I'm just illustrating that the offense should improve without Gordon. Butler's and Aviles's offensive games have been absent without leave in the first two weeks of the season, and DeJesus is also hitting well below the level that he should reach at the end of the year. If there's any caveats to the large differences between projected and current wOBAs, it's that A) Butler and Aviles are both still somewhat unknown quanitites at the dish, as the number they put up last year don't much resemble what most projection systems show for them and B) the high end projections here are almost always the Bill James projections, which always seem to border on insanely optimistic. The point that Aviles, Butler, and DeJesus are all significantly underperforming at the moment still stands.

In the cases of Callaspo and Teahen, they're both only marginally below the projections, but for different reasons. I think many people were expecting a modest breakout from Callaspo this year, as a modest increase in doubles power would allow him to better utilize his ability to work the count. As for Teahen, his wOBA is close to the projections, but he's only slugging .323 - it's fairly certain that he should be able to do better than that. Even if Teahen isn't the All-Star that he once looked like, what he can do is give a team an above-replacement-level substitute in case of injury. All of the caveats and the small sample considered, all five of these guys should be in the lineup on a regular basis and they should contribue more than they have so far this season. That should be enough to offset the bumps in the road that will no doubt crop up for the ~1000 OPS club of Crisp, Jacobs, and Buck.

Coupled with the fact that the starting pitching has been and should continue to a be a positive for the Royals, KC should be putting more runs on the board despite the injury to Gordon.

Player Current  wOBA Projected wOBA Difference
Miguel Olivo .145 .298-.306 .153-.161
Willie Bloomquist .207 .299-.307 .92-.100
Jose Guillen (15-day DL) .167 .262-.277 .95-.110

The only nice thing I can say about these guys is that while they stink, I really doubt any of these three can keep being this horrible. Olivo has all the plate discipline of a compulsive twinkie inhaler, but he usually does a fair amount of damage versus lefties so he should contribute a little bit more than a .145 figure. Bloomquist is a replacement level player who the Royals would be better off keeping out of the lineup because any improvement of his wOBA won't have much positive effect given his mediocre defense and total lack of power (somehow, I think the projection systems have overvalued his flukey OBP of last year). And Guillen, whenever he comes back, "should" be an upgrade over MITCH or whoever else plays in place of Teahen once Teahen replaces Gordon at third.

I can't call the above players hopeless. I'd like to, but the fact of the matter is that even those guys are likely to do better down the road. Hell, Bloomquist probably will get on base a couple times when Hillman slots the supersub into the lineup.

Player Current wOBA Projected wOBA  Difference
Alex Gordon .259 .337-.359 .88-.100

Likelu improvements or not, it's a little depressing to think the offense could have improved that much more with a healthy Smirk here and there. Gordon had started the season cold, but as a player who had already established himself as a contributor with the bat and someone with breakout potential, he's a rare commodity for the Royals. How many times have we seen some article about KC that drops something like the line "the Royals need improvements from Alex Gordon and Billy Butler to get over the hump"? It's frustrating and scary to see Gordon go down at the time like this, as the early season games seem to have convinced not just loyal rooters, but even a lot of bandwagoners in the MSSM that the Royals have a chance for the AL Central crown this season. In the short term, as I've alluded to here--though this entire article could be just as aptly named "NHZ plays with small sample sizes"--the offense should improve. The pitching looks good, as the Royals are getting quality out of Meche, Greinke, and Davies thus far, and even some tolerable starts from Sir Sidney. Outside of the prediactable HoRam and Farnsworth adventures, the pitching staff has been a definitive positive.

On the Bright Side, the offense should improve without Alex Gordon in it over the next couple weeks. That doesn't change the fact that the Blue are very likely to need me to respawn and kill some more cartoon flamethrower weilding crazies a healthy Gordon's production in the long term to be successful. Unfortunately, it's not clear on when they'll be able to count on that.