These position players are better than the WS team.— kevin kietzman (@kkwhb) April 14, 2019
When I first saw this tweet from Kevin Kietzman I just brushed it off. Opinions of our local radio personalities tend to burn some pretty hot trails and I sort of dismissed this tweet without thinking much of it. But, then I, ya know, started thinking about it. Here was a quick search I did over at FanGraphs to get a quick assessment of what we were dealing with:
Let’s get funky.— Alex Duvall (@duvy_013) April 15, 2019
Hos 3.5 fWAR
Sal 0.9 ( )
Gordo 2.7 (104 G, 4.2 pace)
Rios -0.2 ( )
Kendrys 131 wRC+
O’Hearn ~2.5 fWAR pace
Owings ~ -2.5 pace
Gordo ~10 ( )
Hamilton ~ -2.5
Soler 92 WRC+
Here’s a more organized, and more detailed comparison position by position from the 2015 team and the 2019 team. For the 2019 team, we’ll strictly be looking at the pace for which the player is on (based on 150 games played) given his start to 2019 (this may look a bit different than my tweet above). We’ll tie in obvious nuances later.
- 2019 - Ryan O’Hearn: 22 HR, 118 wRC+, 2.1 fWAR
- 2015 - Eric Hosmer: 18 HR, 124 wRC+, 3.5 fWAR
- 2019 - Chris Owings: 10 HR, 33 wRC+, -1.1 fWAR
- 2015 - Ben Zobrist: 13 HR, 122 wRC+, 3 fWAR
- 2019 - Adalberto Mondesi: 20 HR, 130 wRC+, 6 fWAR
- 2015 - Alcides Escobar: 3 HR, 66 wRC+, 1.5 fWAR
- 2019 - Hunter Dozier: 40 HR, 127 wRC+, 4.6 fWAR
- 2015 - Mike Moustakas: 22 HR, 123 wRC+, 3.8 fWAR
- 2019 - Martin Maldonado (based on 130 G): 0 HR, 54 wRC+, 1.08 fWAR (3.25 bWAR)
- 2015 - Salvador Perez: 21 HR, 87 wRC+, 0.9 fWAR (2.2 bWAR)
- 2019 - Alex Gordon: 32 HR, 191 wRC+, 11.8 fWAR
- 2015 - Alex Gordon (104 G): 13 HR (19 HR pace), 122 wRC+, 2.7 fWAR (3.9 fWAR pace)
- 2019 - Billy Hamilton: 0 HR, 44 wRC+, -2.1 fWAR
- 2015 - Lorenzo Cain: 16 HR, 128 wRC+, 6.1 fWAR
- 2019 - Whit Merrifield: 20 HR, 134 wRC+, 5 fWAR
- 2015 - Alex Rios: 4 HR, 72 wRC+, -0.2 fWAR
- 2019 - Jorge Soler: 40 HR, 104 wRC+, 0 fWAR
- 2015 - Kendrys Morales: 22 HR, 131 wRC+, 2.1 fWAR
- 2019 pace: 187 HR, 103.9 wRC+, 27.38 fWAR
- 2015: 138 HR, 108.3 wRC+, 23.4 fWAR
So, let’s start out with some perhaps obvious caveats to the data above.
- Alex Gordon is not going to post 10 fWAR this season. Nor will he be anywhere near as good offensively as he’s been so far. That’s not to say that I don’t think he’ll continue to be good, but he’s on an MVP pace right now and I don’t think any of us expect Gordo to be an MVP. 20 HR? 130 wRC+? 4.5 fWAR? Hell yeah. But this has been a ridiculous pace thus far.
- Adalberto Mondesi may very well post 6 fWAR this season, but that would be an extremely favorable outcome and not what I just expect to happen. I would not be shocked, nor do I think we should assume that he keeps this pace.
- Billy Hamilton and Chris Owings will not combine for -3 fWAR. The Royals won’t allow them to play that long, contrary to popular belief. I’d expect these two to be worth nothing positive, but certainly not negative three wins either.
- I love Salvador Perez, and I think he’s been one of the best defensive catchers for some time. The reason I put the catcher’s bWARs up there as well was to offer some variety in value. There’s a reason these WAR calculations are free to the public, and they should be taken with a grain of salt. I am not a fan of using WAR to judge a catcher.
HOWEVER. Martin Maldonado is off to a blazing start defensively. He’s been every bit as good as I’ve seen Salvy in the past. His offense leaves much to be desired, but his defense has been Gold Glove level early on. Depending on your way of valuing catchers, there could be an argument here, but I’m going to tip my hat to Salvy based on his known clubhouse presence and legitimate power threat behind the plate.
To begin 2019, Kevin Kietzman may not be wrong in his evaluation of this group of position players. Over the course of 15 games, they’re projecting to be better than the 2015 World Championship group. The Kansas City Royals have scored the fourth most runs in the American League to begin 2019.
They are on a tear and they’ve been fun to watch. Do we really expect them to have the fourth most runs at season’s end, though? In 2015, the Royals scored the sixth most runs in the American League. To expect that kind of pace from this current crop seems like lofty expectations.
To say that this current group of position players is better than the crop from 2015 seems short-sighted. To expect this kind of production over a full 162-game schedule seems unfair. However, in Kietzman’s defense, he may be on to something in the sense that this current crop of position players has looked really, really promising early on. If we could potentially add Nicky Lopez to this group later on in the season, they have a chance to be really good.
But let’s also be sure to not get too caught up in unreasonable expectations. A lot of this offense so far has centered around some robust performances by Alex Gordon, Adalberto Mondesi, and Hunter Dozier. If/when those three begin to regress, I’m not sure what this offense will look like. It’s been really fun to begin the season, but expectations of a top five American League offense ought to be tempered just a bit as well.