Thursday, September 22, 2005

Streaking into the Wilderness

Now I know how Galileo must have felt - my revolutionary thoughts have been prevented from reaching the mainstream for days by the sinister Blogger software. OK, Galileo may have suffered a bit more, but he still never had to deal with Blogger.

(Interlude: I'm still trying to learn to like Out of Exile, Audioslave's latest offering. It just can't match the sheer musical genius and intensity of their debut.)

The Weatherman beat me to the punch, but since I'm feeling chipper about the Royals after a bloodier-than-rare 4 game sweep of the Detroit Tigers (Denny Hocking! The 3,500 in attendance must have gone hog wild), I'd thought I'd dig deep into the very foundations of the franchise to find some "momentum builders" heading into the offseason that aren't just based on a player having a good September, which isn't enough to change my impressions of how they've performed through the course of a 6-month season (this means you, John Buck and Zack Greinke).

I came up with two:

1) Andres Blanco is a spectacular defensive second baseman. So dazzling, in fact, that I headed to the Hardball Times win share calculations for second basemen to get an idea of what I could expect from an all-defense, no hitting second baseman in the starting lineup. Granted, fielding measures are still fairly unrefined and subjective, but this at least gives us some idea of what Blanco is up against if he wants to be at least a league average second baseman.

The top-rated defensive second baseman in the major leagues by fielding win shares is Orlando Hudson, who has garned 8.1 shares. An average second baseman in the AL produces about 15 total win shares per season. Assuming Blanco's offensive win share contribution approaches the level of a player like Omar Infante, to the tune of .222/.254/.361 (which over the course of 150 games equals about 4.9 batting win shares per season), Blanco would need to contribute about 10 fielding win shares per season to be an average second baseman. That would require him to be about 25% more prolific defensively than the best defensive second baseman in all of baseball.

I don't think that's unrealistic given what I've seen from Blanco in the field. The contributions required to be an average SS are about the same, so the Royals could plug him in at short or 2B and have themselves something close to a league average second baseman for the next 6 years. If his offense improves at all, they'll have an above average second baseman. Plus, there's the indirect benefit of boosting the confidence their young pitchers have in the defense playing behind them.

As long as Berroa is shown the door, I'd feel pretty good about the Gotay-Murphy-Blanco troika manning the middle infield for this team for the next several years. But the Royals are stubborn with sunk costs, so I have no doubt that Berroa will continue to play everyday as the value of his contract increases (and his output per dollar shrinks).

2) Emil Brown might be a keeper. Emil Brown is the anti-Blanco. He might just be the worst defensive outfielder in the American League. He commits an unbelievable number of errors for a right fielder, has poor range and questionable “field presence”. But did you realize that Emil Brown is the 7th highest rated right fielder in all of baseball in terms of VORP and has produced the 10th most batting win shares among ALL outfielders in the AL? There really aren’t too many corner outfielders who are more productive with the bat.

Do I think Emil Brown is an above average right fielder? No. But I do think he’s probably a league average corner outfielder, and he’ll only cost the Royals two things for the next two years – less than $400,000 per season and a spot on the 40-man roster. He’s producing about as well as Jermaine Dye at a fraction of the cost. If nothing else, he’d be one of the best 4th outfielders in baseball. Brown would be fine batting 6th or 7th on a team that actually produced quality position players from their amateur drafts. But when he’s your second-best hitter…

-- And now, David Glass has announced his intention to increase the payroll to at least $50 million next season. With existing contracts expiring and the anticipated raises for remaining players, that gives the Royals $25 million to work with next year. The Weatherman has already opined below, and I'll post my thoughts about this development and what the Royals should do with this booty tomorrow, Blogger willing.


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At 10:08 PM, Blogger SoonerRoyal said...

I agree with your sentiments about Emil Brown. I wouldn't mind seeing him and Guiel/Costa/Ambres in LF and then a free agent outfielder in RF. Given the lack of outfielders available, I'd be tempted just to keep the current group. Brown has been pretty productive offensively and his offense outweighs his defensive problems. A Costa/Ambres platoon in left would work until Butler is ready. I think we'd all agree that the money is best spent on starting pitching. Trading for a corner outfielder would be our best bet if that's still a concern.

Overall, the offense hasn't been horrible this year. When the Royals have had quality starts from the SP, they've won a lot of games. If we could sign 2 solid above-average starters to complement Hernandez and Greinke (who should be league-average or better next year hopefully), we could very well have an average or better rotation.

At 11:02 PM, Blogger DL said...

Oh, I think the offense has been horrible. But Emil Brown is the least of this team's problems, and the Royals need cheap production wherever you can get it. None of this is news, really, but I think I should acknowledge when AB does something right, too.

I could live with a Jose Cruz/David DeJesus/Emil Brown outfield next year, with Ambres, Diaz and/or Guiel on the bench.


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