The Kansas City Royals went to the World Series in 2014. The Royals are also the betting favorites to win this year's World Series. They are on pace for 95+ wins. This is a very good team.
However, there is also no room for screwing around. If you're in contention, you want to do everything in your power to increase your odds of winning in the playoffs, as so much can happen in a five or seven game series that simply being the best team in baseball is not enough. That's why the Royals acquired Ben Zobrist and Johnny Cueto. That's why both of those moves were good ones. Due to the twists and turns of fate, this franchise went from playoff-starved to World Series contender instantly. There's no reason to arbitrarily lower expectations. This team ought to contend for a title.
Look, every team will have good and bad players. Generally, the best teams tend to have more of the former and fewer of the latter (news flash: thank you, Captain Obvious). But the fact that Alex Rios and Omar Infante have been on the team for so long is mind-boggling. It has wrinkled my brain. Rios and Infante are really, really bad. Both have had long and successful careers. But baseball does not continue to reward based on past performance; otherwise, Barry Bonds would still be employed.
I hear someone advocating for the devil: sure, Rios and Infante aren't good, but surely other playoff teams must have bad players too. That person would be correct--to an extent. I took a look at all six division leaders to see who were the two worst players with at least 100 plate appearances based on Fangraphs' Wins Above Replacement. They are ranked below from best (#6) to worst (#1).
#6 - Los Angeles Dodgers
- Jimmy Rollins - 400 PA, .219/.273/.362, 0.2 WAR
- Alberto Callaspo - 104 PA, .250/.330/.293, 0.4 WAR
- Total: 0.6 WAR
The Dodgers are a good baseball team. Their worst regulars or semi-regulars this year have created decidedly positive value. Rollins, a veteran shortstop, has been a poor player for sure, but is still worth something. Meanwhile, Callaspo has been actually really solid in Los Angeles after moving cross-country from the Atlanta Braves.
#5 - St. Louis Cardinals
- Matt Adams 143 PA - .243/.281/.375, 0.1 WAR
- Mark Reynolds 307 PA - .223/.303/.381, 0.2 WAR
- Total: 0.3 WAR
The Cardinals employ three Matts, a Mark, a Michael, and a Mitchell. While this is neither here nor there, two of these Ms have been underwhelming. Adams has offensively regressed in a major way, tanking his value, and Reynolds hasn't really been better at first base than Adams.
#4 - New York Mets
- Michael Cuddyer - 314 PA, .250/303/.380, 0.0 WAR
- Eric Campbell - 186 PA, .181/.303/.277, -0.2 WAR
- Total: -0.2 WAR
Aging, injuries, and not being in Colorado have caught up with Cuddyer, as the 36 year-old outfielder hasn't really produced offensively and sure hasn't brought defensive value. Campbell is a 28 year-old sophomore player who has been filled in for the injured David Wright. Poorly. But he's trying, gosh darn it.
#2 (Tie) - New York Yankees
- Stephen Drew, 315 PA - .199/.268/.390, 0.1 WAR
- Garrett Jones, 152 PA - .215/.257/.361, -0.5 WAR
- Total: -0.4 WAR
Wow, has Garrett Jones been bad. Terrible OBP, poor defense, and that's what you get. Drew has provided good defense and a surprising amount of power, but an extremely low BABIP has more or less killed his overall offensive production.
#2 (Tie) - Houston Astros
- Evan Gattis - 405 PA, .244/.274/.449, -0.3 WAR
- Chris Carter - 368 PA, .181/.296/.381, -0.1 WAR
- Total: -0.4 WAR
The Astros' overall team philosophy--swing hard, hit ball far, repeat--has been successful for them. But this has not been the same for Gattis and Carter. Both are high-strikeout guys who have lots of power (17 HR each), but with nonexistent defensive skills and an inability to get on base frequently, that approach amounts to all flash and no substance.
#1 - Kansas City Royals
- Alex Rios - 241 PA, .246/.278/.316, -0.3 WAR
- Omar Infante - 373 PA, .230/.242/.317, -0.4 WAR
- Total: -0.7 WAR
Your Kansas City Royals have the worst duo of regular or semi-regular players out of all the divisional leaders. Are you surprised? You probably shouldn't be. A .242 OBP is unplayable. A .278 OBP combined with an ISO of .070 in right field is unplayable.
Unfortunately, the Royals continue to play both. Also, remember that the Royals have Infante under team control for three more years. Be Royal!