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Old Man Duggan's 2014 Shadow Royals - Position players in review and closing thoughts

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Hot on the heels of Tuesday's comparative evaluation of the Shadow Royals' pitching, we take a look at the position players and reflect on the exercise on the whole.

The Shadow Royals savior
The Shadow Royals savior
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

For those who have no idea what this article means from the headline, Max has run a SBNationwide offseason simulation in each of the past three offseasons (this season included) wherein writers and readers of each team page (for the most part, at least) get to execute whatever plan they desire, imposing their vision and team-running philosophy on the team for whom they root. In each of these seasons, I have run the Royals, who I have dubbed the Shadow Royals.

Just as in the first year following the simulation, I am electing to not simply make moves in a vacuum, declare preemptive victory, and hold myself accountable as a fake general manager by reviewing my fictional team's performance.

There are some limitations to the exercise, as one is unable to continue to make moves throughout the regular season. In the instances in which a player was acquired at a low cost--and this was more prevalent in Tuesday's piece reviewing the pitching of the Shadow Royals--I have elected to carry over that production. In the instances in which that player may not have made sense for the Shadow Royals as constructed, I will eventually choose to omit their production, as their superfluousness would not make sense.

In the second part of the 2014 Shadow Royals review, we'll move on to a segment of the roster that I am confident performed significantly better than its pitching counterpart. For those who don't care to go back and read the piece on pitching, the gambles I took in constructing a patchwork pitching staff full of reclamation projects and moderate gambles blew up in my face. In cutting costs and reforming the pitching staff in my vision, I thought that I had been selling high on Wade Davis and Danny Duffy only to have them account for a ~6 WAR difference in production on the pitching side of the equation. When the rubble had come to a rest and the dust had settled, it was clear there was asbestos everywhere.

The real Royals pitching staff accumulated 18.8 fWAR and 20.0 rWAR, good for an average of 19.4 WAR. After adjusting the Shadow Royals' numbers for intended usage, the Shadow Royals pitching staff was worth an average of 11.05 WAR.

With over 8 WAR to make up for, the Shadow Royals' position players had their work cut out for them.

First, we need to establish what the Royals offense did in real life.

Real Royals position players

Name G PA HR R RBI SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR avgWAR
Alex Gordon 156 643 19 87 74 12 .266 .351 .432 .346 122 6.6 6.6 6.6
Lorenzo Cain 133 502 5 55 53 28 .301 .339 .412 .330 111 4.9 5.0 4.95
Salvador Perez 150 606 17 57 70 1 .260 .289 .403 .303 92 3.3 3.3 3.3
Jarrod Dyson 120 290 1 33 24 36 .269 .324 .327 .293 85 3.1 2.8 2.95
Alcides Escobar 162 620 3 74 50 31 .285 .317 .377 .307 94 3.4 2.4 2.9
Norichika Aoki 132 549 1 63 43 17 .285 .349 .360 .320 104 2.3 1.0 1.65
Christian Colon 21 49 0 8 6 2 .333 .375 .489 .378 144 0.7 0.7 0.7
Mike Moustakas 140 500 15 45 54 1 .212 .271 .361 .281 76 0.9 0.4 0.65
Omar Infante 135 575 6 50 66 9 .252 .295 .337 .280 76 0.5 0.7 0.6
Eric Hosmer 131 547 9 54 58 4 .270 .318 .398 .314 99 0.2 0.8 0.5
Josh Willingham 24 86 2 14 6 1 .233 .349 .384 .333 113 0.3 0.1 0.2
Erik Kratz 13 31 2 4 3 0 .276 .290 .517 .334 113 0.2 0.1 0.15
Johnny Giavotella 12 41 1 8 5 0 .216 .268 .324 .266 66 0.1 0.1 0.1
Francisco Pena 1 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
0.1 0.1 0.1
Terrance Gore 11 2 0 5 0 5 .000 .500 .000 .361 132 0.1 0.0 0.05
Carlos Peguero 4 10 0 1 1 0 .222 .300 .333 .286 80 0.0 -0.0 0.0
Danny Valencia 36 119 2 8 11 0 .282 .328 .382 .316 101 0.0 -0.0 0.0
Pedro Ciriaco 25 49 0 7 2 4 .213 .229 .255 .217 32 0.0 -0.2 -0.1
Lane Adams 6 3 0 1 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 -100 -0.1 -0.1 -0.1
Jayson Nix 7 9 0 0 1 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 -100 -0.2 -0.2 -0.2
Jimmy Paredes 9 10 0 3 0 2 .200 .200 .200 .178 5 -0.2 -0.3 -0.25
Billy Butler 151 603 9 57 66 0 .271 .323 .379 .311 97 -0.3 -0.3 -0.3
Raul Ibanez 33 90 2 7 5 0 .188 .278 .325 .274 72 -0.5 -0.8 -0.65
Brett Hayes 27 53 1 3 2 0 .135 .151 .212 .162 -7 -0.6 -0.8 -0.7
Justin Maxwell 20 45 0 4 3 0 .150 .222 .175 .190 13 -1.1 -1.2 -1.15

In 6032 PAs, the real Royals totaled 23.7 fWAR and 20.5 rWAR (using the totals calculated at FanGraphs and Baseball-reference to protect against operator error). This means they averaged 22.1 WAR.

Shadow Royals position players

Name G PA HR R RBI SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR avgWAR
Alex Gordon 156 643 19 87 74 12 .266 .351 .432 .346 122 6.6 6.6 6.6
Howie Kendrick 157 674 7 85 75 14 .293 .347 .397 .328 115 4.6 5.4 5.0
Lorenzo Cain 133 502 5 55 53 28 .301 .339 .412 .330 111 4.9 5.0 4.95
Salvador Perez 150 606 17 57 70 1 .260 .289 .403 .303 92 3.3 3.3 3.3
Jarrod Dyson 120 290 1 33 24 36 .269 .324 .327 .293 85 3.1 2.8 2.95
Alcides Escobar 162 620 3 74 50 31 .285 .317 .377 .307 94 3.4 2.4 2.9
Luis Valbuena 149 547 16 68 51 1 .249 .341 .435 .342 116 2.7 1.6 2.15
Travis Snider* 140 359 13 37 38 1 .264 .338 .438 .343 121 1.7 2.1 1.9
Christian Colon 21 49 0 8 6 2 .333 .375 .489 .378 144 0.7 0.7 0.7
Michael Bourn 106 487 3 57 28 10 .257 .314 .360 .300 94 0.4 0.9 0.65
Mike Moustakas 140 500 15 45 54 1 .212 .271 .361 .281 76 0.9 0.4 0.65
Eric Hosmer 131 547 9 54 58 4 .270 .318 .398 .314 99 0.2 0.8 0.5
George Kottaras 18 38 3 4 5 0 .233 .351 .533 .381 150 0.3 0.3 0.3
Josh Willingham 24 86 2 14 6 1 .233 .349 .384 .333 113 0.3 0.1 0.2
Johnny Giavotella 12 41 1 8 5 0 .216 .268 .324 .266 66 0.1 0.1 0.1
Francisco Pena 1 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
0.1 0.1 0.1
Terrance Gore 11 2 0 5 0 5 .000 .500 .000 .361 132 0.1 0.0 0.05
Carlos Peguero 4 10 0 1 1 0 .222 .300 .333 .286 80 0.0 -0.0 0.0
Pedro Ciriaco 25 49 0 7 2 4 .213 .229 .255 .217 32 0.0 -0.2 -0.1
Lane Adams 6 3 0 1 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 -100 -0.1 -0.1 -0.1
Justin Maxwell 20 45 0 4 3 0 .150 .222 .175 .190 13 -1.1 -1.2 -1.15
Paul Konerko 81 224 5 15 22 0 .207 .254 .317 .257 57 -1.2 -1.1 -1.15

Before adjusting for usage--and there will need to be significant adjustments made for this--the Shadow Royals amassed 30.7 fWAR and 29.9 rWAR, an unadjusted average of 30.3 WAR over the course of 6,236 PA.

Adjustments for usage

Oh, there are so many. For a starting point, here are the adjustments that had been made as of June 30th.

Player Adjustment
George Kottaras +117
Jarrod Dyson +10
Lorenzo Cain -9
Michael Bourn -22
Mike Moustakas -184
Luis Valbuena -22
Pedro Ciriaco +26
Paul Konerko -36
Justin Maxwell +7

For those wondering where the changes (and the adjustment is in terms of plate appearances) came from and where the further changes I'm about to make are coming from let's break things down by position.

Catcher

In real life, Salvador Perez, Francisco Pena, Brett Hayes, and Erik Kratz accounted for 690 PAs. 15 of Perez's PAs were as a DH. 6 of Kratz's were. That means Royals catchers totaled 669 PAs.

For the Shadow Royals, Kratz was obviously never traded for (Hendriks's production yesterday may as well not have a name attached to it, consider him Fungible Random Spot Starter), and Brett Hayes was never getting called up this season. We'll leave Francisco Pena's production in there, as it's so nominal (0 PA, 0.1 WAR) as to be pointless in changing it.

Of those 669 PAs, Perez had 591 of them in real life, plus another 15 as a DH. Were Perez's playing time to not get adjusted, that leaves 78 plate appearances for Kottaras at catcher (some of the above adjustments were made because he'll figure into the DH mix later. I'm dropping 40 PAs off of Perez's totals for days of rest, and giving them to Kottaras. That means Kottaras, will have 118 PAs at catcher.

  • Salvador Perez - 606 PA => 566 PA (-40)
  • George Kottaras - 38 PA => 118 PA (+80)
  • Francisco Pena - same
Third Base

Between Mike Moustakas (500), Danny Valencia (106), Jimmy Paredes (6), Christian Colon (14), Pedro Ciriaco (13), and Jayson Nix (4), Royals third basemen came to the plate 643 times in real life.

As established back in the first check-up, Mike Moustakas was sent down on April 15th when Michael Bourn came off the DL. At that point, he'd had 45 PA. He'd have sat in Omaha for a lot longer on the Shadow Royals than he did in real life. Given the play of Luis Valbuena, there's really no way that Moustakas wouldn't have sat down in Omaha until rosters expanded on September 1st. This would have cut 138 days of service time off of Moustakas's arbitration clock, taking him 17 days shy of three years of service time making him an arb-one super-two but delaying free agency by a year. In that time in the hypothetical minors, Moustakas accrued 372 plate appearances in real life.

Valbuena lost 22 PA before Moustakas's demotion, but of his 547 PA in real life there's no reason to think he'd have lost other PAs to anyone. That leaves Valbuena with 525 PA.

Valbuena didn't start two games in September for the Cubs, so we'll give eight more plate appearances to Mike Moustakas, bringing his total to 53.

At the end of June, Ciriaco had gathered up 49 PA. Given the fact that he wasn't very good, I'm going to go ahead and say that those 49 were all of the ones he'd have gotten for the Shadow Royals, too.

That leaves 16 PAs for Christian Colon, who logically would have gotten called up this season.

  • Luis Valbuena - 547 PA => 525 PA (-22)
  • Mike Moustakas - 500 PA => 53 PA (-447)
  • Pedro Ciriaco - 49 PA (unchanged)
  • Christian Colon - 16 PA (change undetermined as he will figure into utility playing time)
Outfield

Clearly, there is nothing to change for either Alex Gordon or Lorenzo Cain aside from the 9 PA that Cain had already been deprived of. Jarrod Dyson and Michael Bourn, however, would have been subject to changes. Royals outfielders not names Alex Gordon or Lorenzo Cain accumulated 896 PA. Adding 9 PA to that total to account for Cain's lost PA, and there are 905 that need to be divvied up.

At the end of June, Michael Bourn had 272 PA for the Shadow Royals, Maxwell had 52 PA before being designated for assignment, and Dyson had 145 PA. Bourn spent 40 days on the DL from July 6th through August 15th; the Royals played 34 games in that time, leaving 40 to go after he was activated. Dyson was healthy all year, so he'd have gotten the lion's share of this playing time and then given his play, he'd have unseated Bourn for his half of the platoon in the outfield. Dyson gets roughly 75% of the remaining 436 PAs (versus RHPs), so for the sake of ease we'll put him at 475 PA overall (330 added to his previous total). Bourn had 15 PAs after reaching 272 before going on the DL. He gets another 50 after coming back, and 40 of those PAs go to some combination of Travis Snider (25), Carlos Peguero, Terrance Gore, and Lane Adams, whose totals don't need to change.

  • Lorenzo Cain - 502 PA => 493 PA (-9)
  • Jarrod Dyson - 290 PA => 475 PA (+185)
  • Michael Bourn - 487 PA => 337 PA (-150)
  • Justin Maxwell - 45 PA => 52 PA (+7)
First Base

Obviously, the way in which Eric Hosmer's time on the disabled list affects the Shadow Royals needs to be figured out. He missed the entire month of August. Howie Kendrick could slide over and play 1B as he has in the past. Paul Konerko can also fill that role but only against LHP, as he was NEVER going to play against RHP. Butler made 146 PA at first. The only other Royals to get any plate appearances at first base was Raul Ibanez, who had 7. So there are 153 that need to be accounted for. 115 go to Howie Kendrick (roughly 75%), which means that of those 115 PA that he made while playing first base, that means 115 of his PAs accrued at 2B need to get redistributed, and they will go to Christian Colon (Mike Moustakas was still in Omaha to continue gaming service time, so Luis Valbuena would not swing over from third base). That means 38 of them (25%) go to Paul Konerko.

  • Howie Kendrick - 115 PA in temporary move to 1B while Hosmer is injured
  • Christian Colon - 49 PA => 131 PA (+82) - 115 PA plus the pre-existing 16 PA at third base brings his existing total to 131 PA
  • Paul Konerko - 38 PA
Kendrick doesn't net new PAs so there is no need to adjust his total. Colon could still factor into the pinch-hitting mix, so his PA additions aren't necessarily final. Konerko's 38 will go toward his total, which will get figured out in the next section.
Designated Hitter / Pinch-hitting

The Royals designated hitters Billy Butler (457), Josh Willingham (86), Raul Ibanez (53), Nori Aoki (33), Perez/Kratz (21), Jimmy Paredes/Pedro Ciriaco (2)  amassed 652 PA.

Travis Snider had 359 PA and would have gotten 334 of those at DH.

Pedro Ciriaco was given an extra 26 PA to make up the difference in PAs for infielders through June 30th.

Paul Konerko had lost 36 of his plate appearances as of June 1st. Over the course of the whole season 98 of his 224 PA (43.8%) came against RHP. It's very difficult to completely eliminate those plate appearances, but he loses another 32 PAs against RHP realistically. After lopping off 68 PA and taking into account that 38 of his PA came at first while Hosmer was on the DL, this means 118 of his PAs came at DH.

At the end of June, George Kottaras had accounted for 101 PAs at DH. At that point that means there are 99 PAs for which to account, which we'll split between Travis Snider (who had a weird platoon split this year, so it doesn't really matter which handed pitching he face) and Kottaras. Add 33 to Kottaras for 134 at DH, and 50 to Travis Snider's total.

  • Travis Snider - 359 => 409 (+50)
  • Paul Konerko - 224 => 156 (-68)
  • George Kottaras - 38 => 118 => 290 (+252)
  • Pedro Ciriaco - 49 PA => 75 (+26)

Adjustments

Just a warning, the adjustments for Colon, Konerko, and Kottaras are not going to be proportional, as adjusting Colon or Kottaras proportionately (they'd be worth 1.9 and 2.3 WAR, respectively) is far too advantageous for me and Konerko had a platoon split of 87 wRC+ vs. LHP and 18 wRC+ against RHP. If 30.4% of the plate appearances in which he was 82% below average are eliminated, that paints a very different picture for Konerko.

Player Adjustment fWAR rWAR avgWAR Diff.
Salvador Perez -40 3.1 3.1 3.1 -0.2
George Kottaras +252 1.0 1.0 1.0 +0.7
Luis Valbuena -22 2.6 1.5 2.05 -0.1
Mike Moustakas -447 0.1 0.0 0.05 -0.6
Lorenzo Cain -9 4.8 4.9 4.85 -0.1
Jarrod Dyson +185 5.1 4.6 4.85 +1.9
Michael Bourn -150 0.3 0.6 0.45 -0.2
Justin Maxwell +7 -1.3 -1.4 -1.35 -0.2
Christian Colon +82 0.7 0.7 0.7 0.0
Travis Snider +50 1.9 2.4 2.15 +0.25
Paul Konerko -68 -0.5 -0.5 -0.5 +0.65
Pedro Ciriaco +26 0.0 -0.3 -0.15 -0.05

After adjustments, the Shadow Royals position players add 2.05 WAR, and that's while leaving Colon's value as-is despite the fact that his usage would have increased by 267%. 1.0 WAR seemed like a reasonable mark to set for Kottaras, using his 2012 campaign as my point of reference (1.1 fWAR in 209 PA). I honestly have no idea how much to weigh the deduction of three-tenths of Konerko's total PAs in which he sported an 18 wRC+ against righties, nor do I have the know-how as to how to reverse-engineer WAR. He was obviously still going to be below replacement level, so I left him at -0.5 WAR in 156 PA, which is probably pretty close if not still a little too penurious (but only by 0.1 or 0.2, so not enough to fret over).

For those feeling like Dyson's increased playing time is too helpful to the cause, he was the eighth-most valuable defensive player in the majors in terms of the defensive component of fWAR despite only having 290 PA and limited innings. More innings equals more value, especially from an ELITE defender.

After adjustments, the Shadow Royals position players were worth 32.35 WAR. For those with short attention spans, that is 10.25 WAR (averaged) better than the real Royals position players were.

Closing thoughts

Side-by-side comparison:

  • Royals pitching - 19.4 avgWAR, Royals position players - 22.1 avgWAR, team total - 41.5 avgWAR
  • Shadow Royals pitching - 11.05 avgWAR (adjusted), Shadow Royals position players - 32.35 avgWAR (adjusted), team total - 43.4 avgWAR (adjusted)

When you have to adjust as much production as had to be done, there are obvious limitations to the accuracy of the end totals. Still, there was a 1.9 WAR difference between the two teams.

Before we got to the offense, it sure looked like trading Duffy and Davis was going to kill me. Then in walked Howie Kendrick's production. For those who want to weigh that trade out, Duffy and Davis were also dealt with Aaron Crow and Michael Mariot. They were worth 5.3 avgWAR as a group while Kendrick was worth 5.0 avgWAR.

It's also impossible to compare the hypothetical chemistry issues that could have manifested themselves in the win-loss column. After all, George Kottaras is on the Shadow Royals, and he must be a clubhouse cancer to get shipped around as much as he does despite the fact that he can rake.

While speaking of hypotheticals, giving Salvador Perez 10 games' worth of rest could well have prevented his end of year futility, at least to the degree that he stank down the stretch, but it only hurt the Shadow Royals in the adjustment.

Still, I assumed before undertaking the tallying of the numbers that the Shadow Royals' second season would have paled in comparison to the World Series entrant 2014 Royals of the real world. Fortunately, the Shadow Royals offense was elite. In real life, the best team WAR from position players was the Dodgers at 31.2 fWAR and 32.4rWAR (2.0 rWAR coming from their pitchers hitting). Between replacing Infante with Kendrick and Moustakas with Valbuena, increasing Dyson's playing time, and inserting Travis Snider into the mix at DH, the Shadow Royals position players were much more productive than the real ones.

The Shadow Royals were also constructed with an $85.88MM payroll (Luis Mendoza and Travis Snider were on $700K deals if added to the 25-man roster, Slowey a $900K deal if added, and Capuano made $1MM in performance bonuses). That ended up being about $10MM less than the payroll the Royals were cobbled together with by the end of the season. There were clear issues with the construction of the Shadow Royals pitching staff, as the 13 potential candidates for the rotation were quickly just six, as Zimmer (who I was hoping would be ready midseason) was injured all year, and Shaun Marcum, Felipe Paulino, Lucas Harrell, Jeff Karstens, Kevin Slowey, and Bruce Chen were worthless or worse. Getting Hector Noesi for Tim Collins worked out nicely for the Shadow Royals who were desperate for starting pitching.

The prospects traded away in the simulation were Sam Selman, Jason Adam, and Michael Mariot. The ones acquired were Kevin Vance, Austin Wright, and Daniel Tillman. Vance was all right. The other two continued to be terrible. Dalier Hinojosa was also signed on a deal that likely was a waste.

Bottom line: ~10% lower payroll, ~2 WAR better.