Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Joe Posnanski on the dismal state of the 2004 Royals. What's so perplexing about the Royals this year is the night and day performance of the bullpen. Their overall stats are very good, across the board - EXCEPT when they've been asked to finish games with a lead. They've blown six saves already this season, which is the difference between a disappointing start and a disastrous start.

Joe also makes another point, that in the course of two months, all of the things that appeared to be "little strengths" on this team now look like annoying weaknesses - old, slow, defensively-challenged. But this is part and parcel of the value marketplace - you add talent that can potentially fill important roles on a team with players that are undervalued in the marketplace. These short-term acquisitions look bad when the core components of the team - namely, the starting pitching - fall flat on their collective asses. I can't really worry about Matt Stairs' limited defense when the Royals only get 1 quality start in every 3 attempts (and their "ace" is the worst starting pitcher in baseball). It doesn't matter that Benito Santiago has run headfirst into the retirement wall when the bullpen can't hold a lead late in the game. I can't sweat all the second base injuries when Mike Sweeney has swooned enough to be considered an average major league hitter. Its the KEY components - the extremely poor starting pitching, the eerily-unclutch bullpen, the failure of the big bats (Gonzalez and Sweeney) to materialize - that broke this team. Then all the fill-in veteran signings - Scott Sullivan, Matt Stairs, Benito Santiago, Joe Randa, etc. - look unwise in retrospect.

But for the most part the Royals did it right this year, with the possible exception of giving the creaky Santiago a two-year contract. Each of these veteran players is tradable, because they can probably help some upstart team looking to fill in their gaps for a pennant run. None have long or expensive contracts.

Some writers also like to cite the fact that the Royals were outscored last year as evidence that the Royals were lucky to be over .500. I completely disagree with this view of the season, because this takes a season-long analysis of vital statistics when the month-to-month stats, at least in this case, are more telling. The Royals had such a hot start last year because they had some fortunate, dramatic wins, yes, but the main reason was that their pitching for the first month of the season was very good. Then injuries and reality set in, and the Royals played like the below .500 team that they were the rest of way:

First 21 games: 17-4

(Interlude: It was about this time that Ichiro - Ichiro! - hit a ninth-inning game winning dinger off Mike MacDougal. This was the beginning of the end. I remember watching this game and feeling the dread. Seriously. The Royals were 17-5 and I thought it was over. No faith whatsover.)

Last 141 games: 66-75

The team probably won a few more games during that 17-4 start than you would otherwise expect, but the Royals did outscore their opponents 125-95 in April last year, which should guarantee a very good record. The rest of the way, they were outscored by 60+ runs, which probably corresponds pretty closely to the .468 clip at which they performed the rest of the way.


Post a Comment

<< Home