Eight-year-old Blue Springs native Mark Teahen Michelson approached his parents' bedroom door late last night unable to fall asleep. The precocious third grader rapped at the door, calling for his father with reluctance in his voice.
"Dad?" he queried in the drawn out fashion of a child not confident that he should be bothering his father. "I can't get to sleep."
His father, Otis Michelson, stirred but did not awaken.
"Dad?" he called again with a little more volume.
A few short moments later, Otis slowly sat up in bed. "Yes, Mark?"
Mark took two steps into the room and repeated his declaration.
"Why is that, son?" Otis asked as he turned on his bedside lamp.
"I know I wasn't supposed to go online after supper, but I saw that page you left up. The Baseball Prospects USA thing."
After a moment of bewilderment followed by a flash of knowing across his face, Otis corrected him in the form of a question. "Baseball Prospectus?"
At this time, Brianne Michelson turned to her husband and shot him a glance that without the use of any words let him know that the situation presenting itself was entirely his fault. Otis slowly swung his feet around to the side of the bed and rose. Placing his right hand on Mark's back, he walked him out of their bedroom and down the hall.
"What about Baseball Prospectus is keeping you from going to sleep? Were you reading Jason Parks's old scouting reports again? You know you're not supposed to do that. They're far too grown-up for you, Mark."
"No, Dad, I promised I wouldn't." As they entered Mark's bedroom adorned from floor to ceiling with Royals memorabilia from the 2014 postseason and candid photos from the commercial shoot that he was lucky enough to have been cast in a handful of other kids and Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, he hopped into his bed. "I saw the standings that were up, and PECOTA said the Royals were only going to win seventy-two games next year."
"It's three-sixteen in the morning, and you can't sleep because you're worried about PECOTA? You are your father's son."
With Mark laying in his bed, Otis pulled the blankets up to his son's neck and tucked him in snugly.
"Mark, this was something you knew could happen. Do you remember when I explained third order wins to you?"
"Yes. I'm not dumb, dad."
"All right, so you know that the Royals played like a seventy-eight or seventy-nine-win team last year but were beneficiaries of having a strong bullpen and sequencing working in their favor."
Mark glared at him, annoyed. He shot a "no duh" nod at his father.
"And we both know replacing James Shields with Edinson Volquez is unlikely to work out well for the Royals. When you combine that with a bullpen that is likely to regress from being spectacular to merely very good and the playing time that Alex Rios and Kendrys Morales are sure to get, what does that spell out?"
"Potential for sub-replacement level production and a net loss of about six WAR?"
"But why would Bill Pecota say something so bad about the Royals? I mean they went to the World Series, and Kris Medlen, Luke Hochevar, Jason Frasor, and Christian Colon should help more next year."
"Mark, it's just named after Bill Pecota. It was that politics guy who came up with the system. And those guys could help quite a bit. But PECOTA doesn't know any better than you or I do how well Eric Hosmer is going to be next season. Or if Salvador Perez will get enough rest to not fade down the stretch. Or worse. Or if Yordano Ventura looks as great as he did in the World Series."
"So what does it all mean?"
"Well, son, other systems don't hate the Royals as much as PECOTA did. Maybe Bill's just trying to look impartial."
With that, Mark and Otis, both of whom were named after their fathers' favorite ballplayers, shared in a father-son laugh, and Otis stood up from his son's bedside.
"Mark, anything could happen."
As he shut out the light, he added, "Let's wait to really worry until ZiPSmas."