For the uninitiated, a couple weeks back our Fearless Overlord Maximillian Rieper presided over a cross-network simulation in which writers/fans from each of the team sites (with a few fill-in participants from Royals Review) took the reins of the team for whom they root/write, operating as general manager but taking the year-end roster in whatever direction they saw fit.
In other words, this is not an exercise in which I bandy about theoretical trade proposals with teams where they clearly wouldn't dream of making such a deal. As the Shadow Royals' GM, I negotiated trade proposals with other people looking to better their squads at the expense of mine. I struck free agent deals while having to bid against other humans for those players' services.
The recently completed simulation was the fourth such exercise. In all four, I ran the Royals, dubbing them the Shadow Royals and running them according to what made sense for where the club stood. In each of the first two sims, I decided it would only be fair as a writer who has historically been pretty critical of the real Royals' general manager to reflect upon my own fantasy job performance.
The third one happened roughly one year ago. This was my end of simulation wrap-up last year.
Produced from the first two offseason simulations, the 2013 and 2014 incarnations of the Shadow Royals actually fared quite well (as detailed in the 2013 wrap-up here and the 2014 two-part comparison here and here) when comparing each team by an average of rWAR and fWAR when adjusting for intended usage. While there are limitations to this evaluation, it does at least give some semblance of an idea as to how the two teams performed.
Of course, it is hard to imagine a scenario in which the Shadow Royals compare favorably, what with the Kansas City Royals winning the World Series and all. Nevertheless, I trudge forth regardless of likely outcome.
With that in mind, I am nothing if not willing to explore my shortcomings, using thousands of words to excoriate myself in a bizarre exercise of emotionally scarring self-flagellation. This will be the first occasion I've had to compare these teams, though my presumption is that the Shadow Royals will come up considerably short of the real ones.
Let the exercise in self-hate begin.
The Position Players
Royals Position Players
To establish a starting point, here are the real-life Royals that you know and love.
For the sake of ease (and since it makes little sense to account for their nominal value, negative or otherwise), pitchers offensive values have been ignored. The position players of the Royals amassed 24.8 fWAR, 25.5 rWAR, and an averaged 25.15 WAR.
Shadow Royals Position Players
Here are the Shadow Royals players as the roster was constructed this past offseason. The different players are in bolded italics. As the Shadow Royals possessed the pieces used in the Zobrist deal and their GM wholeheartedly approved of the trade, I will include his post-trade numbers in the Shadow Royals' stats. The Shadow Royals also already had Jonny Gomes, so his numbers will be changed to reflect his entire season.
Clearly a full season of Jonny Gomes and the horrifying smattering of plate appearances Allen Craig had did the Shadow Royals no favors, though his clubhouse presense surely added somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 wins if his value per the Boston media is to be believed. Without adjusting players' numbers for usage, the Shadow Royals tallied 22.6 fWAR, 26.2 rWAR, and an averaged WAR of 24.4.
Adjusting for playing time
Of course there is the matter of usage to take into consideration. The Royals' position players totaled 6,093 plate appearances. The Shadow Royals totaled just 5,672. This means that 421 PA--or the equivalent of more than 11 games worth of playing time--need to be made up for to balance the scales.
We will start with the easiest adjustment before diving into more involved adjustments. Back-up catchers Erik Kratz and Drew Butera accounted for 104 PA, exactly twice as many as Josh Thole accrued in Toronto. This doubles Thole's negative worth.
Jarrod Dyson was always the intended starting outfielder in a LHH/RHH platoon in which he got roughly 80% of the reps, the bulk of which would come against RHP. To sort out the outfield situation, the most sensible way to make the adjustment would be to assume that Alex Rios's playing time needs to get divvied up, with Dyson getting a significant bump in plate appearances.
Before anyone goes off the methodological deep end here arguing that Dyson's value wouldn't double because he would be exposed, I will simply state that Dyson would be playing center field on the Shadow Royals, a spot where his defense is beyond reproach.
He would also be on base more often. Unless I'm completely mistaken, base-running leverage is not taken into account in calculating WAR. Furthermore, he would most definitely have a permanent green light. It is not like an appearance as a pinch-runner in which he steals a base carries more value than his if he got on base himself and stole a base.
His two places of greatest value would inarguably be positively affected by increasing his playing time.
Dyson Doubter, your complaint has been preemptively recorded. It has also been summarily ignored. But please, keep reading.
Rios had 441 PA. Dyson had 225. Despite there being no measured rationale for playing Paulo Orlando over Dyson AGAINST RIGHT-HANDED PITCHING in the real world, we will leave Orlando's PA where they're at, assuming that he'd have played sometimes, especially while Gordon was on the DL and mending from his injury. Dyson, however, is going to get the lion's share of Rios's vacated PA.
For the sake of ease, we will simply increase Jarrod Dyson's plate appearances to 500, an increase of 275 PA.
We'll assume that the remainder of the plate appearances came from a combination of Sean Rodriguez, Jonny Gomes, and Allen Craig. When figuring the plate appearances for designated hitter, we'll just subtract 166 PA from their count towards that total.
The plate appearances at second base will come from the group of Luis Valbuena, Ben Zobrist, Christian Colon, and Hector Olivera. In real life, Zobrist, Colon, and Infante collected 155, 36, and 455 plate appearances, respectively at second. That's a total of 646 that need to be attributed to second basemen.
This also means that Colon's services were employed for 83 plate appearances at other positions. As Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar were on both squads, it can safely be assumed that these 83 PA would have still been required in their stead.
The intent was for Valbuena to be the dominant part of a LHH/RHH platoon at second with Christian Colon. Upon Gordon's return following the acquisition of Zobrist, Zobrist would have shifted over to second, and Valbuena would have moved to DH for the last month of the season. He accrued 59 PA after September 1, so those PA will go toward the DH total. As Allen Craig's demise would have forced the Shadow Royals' hand to further account for left-handed plate appearances at designated hitter, we'll assume that another 100 PA were needed at DH from Valbuena prior to September.
With an abundance of second basemen, the utility of the switch-hitting Zobrist would likely have led to him filling in a bit over the last few weeks in right field, we'll pull 25 of his PA from his 155 at second and apply it against the Rodriguez/Gomes/Craig right field total.
This means a total of 46 PA need to be accounted for between Olivera and Colon. For the sake of ease, we'll bump that up to an even 50. 25 of Olivera's PA will come at second, and Colon will get a 125 PA bump.
For the Royals of the real world, every player who logged a PA at DH not named Kendrys Morales was also on the Shadow Royals. Since the handful of PA he accounted for on the field would have to be taken by an outsider on the Shadow Royals, Morales's 639 PA need to be divvied up. 159 come from Valbuena. 448 come from the trio of Sean Rodriguez, Allen Craig, and Jonny Gomes. 62 come from Olivera's total. This means 30 PA needs to come off of either Gomes or Rodriguez's total PA. It's probably too beneficial to expect them all to come off the worse player, so I'll take them away from Rodriguez. This doesn't move Rodriguez's value enough to affect his WAR.
As 2015 saw Jonny Gomes face right-handed pitching for 128 PA and Rodriguez had 135 PA against righties, there probably isn't a need to further penalize myself at DH against right-handed pitching early in the season for not having the benefit of getting Olivera active until September.
Maybe Craig would have ended up with another 40-50 PA at the expense of Gomes or Rodriguez, but that's rejiggering that I am not going to bother with. You're looking at maybe a net-loss of another 0.2-0.3 WAR, which isn't enough to move the needle a whole lot. Make the adjustments in your head if you so wish.
Summarized playing-time adjustments
There was a 421 PA disparity between the Shadow Royals and the real ones.
- Dyson gained 275 PA [+2.2 fWAR (4.0 fWAR), +2.7 rWAR (4.9 rWAR), +2.45 avgWAR (4.45 avgWAR)]
- Thole gained 52 PA [-0.3 fWAR (-0.6 fWAR), -0.4 rWAR (-0.8 rWAR), -0.35 avgWAR (-0.7 avgWAR)]
- Colon gained 125 PA [+0.2 fWAR (0.4 fWAR), +0.6rWAR (1.2 rWAR), +0.4 avgWAR (0.8 avgWAR)]
- Sean Rodriguez lost 30 PA [ -0.0 fWAR (-0.2 fWAR), -0.0 rWAR (-0.1 rWAR), -0.0 avgWAR (-0.15 avgWAR)]
In total, adjustments for playing time add 2.1 fWAR, 2.9 rWAR, and 2.5 avgWAR to the Shadow Royals position player totals, bringing the team totals to 24.7 fWAR, 29.1 rWAR, and 26.9 avgWAR.
Even with little positive production from designated hitter, once adjusted for intended use, the Shadow Royals' position players were 0.1 fWAR worse than the real Royals, 3.6 rWAR better, and 1.75 avgWAR better than the real Royals.
The Batsmen: A Conclusion
The methodology was crude as always, and it's hard to say that the Shadow Royals would have gotten Glass's approval to designate Craig for assignment, but it's hard to say that the Shadow Royals' position players wouldn't have performed on par or better than the real Royals since Infante and Rios were not gumming up the works as net-negatives entities. Furthermore, if Craig looked that bad, there is no reason to believe that the Shadow Royals crack team of trainers couldn't have concocted some wonderful phantom injury to shift him to the 15- and eventually 60-day DL.
The Shadow Royals were already close to the Royals' position players in terms of total WAR with a 421 PA deficit, without the luxury of being able to make any moves independent of the real Royals outside of options already present internally. The lack of in-season flexibility is unfortunately the primary limitation of the exercise.
Halfway through the exercise, the Shadow Royals look surprisingly good compared to the World Series winning Royals. In the next installment, I will look at how the Shadow Royals' pitching staff fares against the real deal.