Monday, February 28, 2005

Everybody’s Equitable – AL East Preview

New York
2004: 101-61 (.623) Division Winner

It was another tough year for the Yankees, as the team could barely eek out 101 wins and failed yet again to win the World Series. Still reeling from the worst choke-job in modern sports history, the Yankees will struggle to win games in the first half of the season. Luckily, they’ll be able to maintain respectability against the likes of Tampa Bay and Toronto.

Finally, just after the All Star Break, Alex Rodriguez will get tired of people making fun of him and start putting up numbers at the hot corner that put Mike Schmidt and George Brett to shame. Unfortunately for the Yankees, Derek Jeter will still be playing shortstop and Randy Johnson, Kevin Brown and Mike Mussina are all getting old.

Bernie Williams will record 24 putouts in 143 games as the starting center field.

Prediction: 81-81

98-64 (.605) Wild Card Winner

Inspired by their victories over the Yankees, the communist forces of Mother Russia, Hitler and a terrifying new strain of small pox, the Red Sox will have a torrid start to their season, ripping of thee straight victories over their hated rivals. However, it will soon become apparent that the only team the Sox can be inspired to beat is the New York Yankees.

The inability to use Dave Roberts in late-inning base-running situations will lead to catastrophic losses to the lesser minions of the American League. Johnny Damon will cut his hair in an attempt to break the voodoo curse and Curt Shilling will launch three new political parties to distract reporters.

Finally, Commissioner Selig will step in and demand that Peter Angelos forfeit his team’s remaining games for a undisclosed sum of money in order to give the Red Sox a shot at the wild card in what (by my estimations here) shakes out to be the tightest post-season race ever.

Prediction: 81-81

Baltimore / Tampa Bay / Toronto
2004: 215-269 (.444)

According to the media sources I use to research baseball, there are no other teams of significance in the American League East.

Prediction: 243-243

Tony Pena Nears a Cure for Cancer

Easily, my favorite part of spring baseball is articles like this one in which we find out that a player is trying something new this season that will result in many generic statistical improvements.

Another common element is the life-changing experience. In this case, Angel Berroa has gotten married and now has the ability to spray balls to right field.

These articles embody all of the hope that each new season brings. Everybody's undefeated and has a chance to win the World Series, and I get to have water cooler conversations and use phrases like "we've got this career minor-leaguer who found an abandoned puppy on the side of the road this winter, and the little pup has inspired our middle-inning LOOGY to start throwing a wicked knuckle-curve. I bet he wins the Cy Young."

Usually, people are smart enough to ignore these comments.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Everybody’s Equitable – NL East Preview

2004: 96-66 (.593) Division Winner

The Braves are supposed to have been dead in the water for something like nine years now. At the end of each season, they lose some vaunted member of the previous years championship core (an MVP candidate here, a few Cy Young winners there), only to scrounge up some deadbeat from the Mexican League, or a barely-adequate innings sponge from the bottom of another team’s roster and turn them into pure gold.

I’m sure this season will be no different.

My guess is that Tim Hudson will win 23 games with the help of run support from the Jones boys and a healthy Marcus Giles, while John Smoltz’s arm will fall off in his third start, allowing Horacio Ramierez to flounder about in way too many starts for Leo Mazzone’s magical rocking heiney to save.

Prediction: 81-81

2004: 86-76 (.531)

Philly is trying to take the Saint Louis route into the playoffs, with barely-better-than-league-average pitching and a powerful offense. The only problem is, they’re the Phillies and God hasn’t liked them since Mike Schmidt retired, so Jim Thome, Bobby Abreu and Chase Utley are all going to run into each other chasing a pop foul about two months into the season, leaving luminaries such as Kenny Lofton, Jimmy Rollins and David Bell to carry the load.

Prediction: 81-81

2004: 83-79 (.512)

Josh Beckett tanked it for my Roto team last year, so I’m a bit bitter about his chances in 2005. He’s had similar blister problems to Jeremy Affeldt, and aside from a few superb playoff performances is sinking dangerously close to similar average-ness. If he can turn it around, then he’ll be part of a mostly young (welcome back, Al) staff that sports a ton of upside.

As for the offense, we know that Juan Pierre is fast, Carlos Delgado is strong and Paul Lo Duca sucks in the second half. Miguel Cabrera’s rocket ship to stardom should offset Mike Lowell’s age-related declines.

Of course, Jeff Conine always seems to garner too many at bats over the course of a season, and Guillermo Mota isn’t nearly as good without the fear of Gagne behind him.

Prediction: 81-81

New York
2004: 71-91 (.438)

Carlos has to cry alone at night with his money on a winless team deep into June, then remembers that he’s a superstar, puts the team on his back and goes all 2004 Postseason on the league for the remainder of the schedule.

Pedro will be too distracted by Kris Benson’s sultry wife to do anything remarkable.

Prediction: 81-81

2004: 67-95 (.414)

A poor start leads to low fan interest for the Nationals. MLB acts quickly to recoup revenues and sends the team on a barnstorming tour of North America, hitting up Las Vegas, Portland, Monterey, Vancouver and assorted farming communities throughout the Northern states.

Brad Wilkerson defects to the Oaxaca Warriors during a layover in July and wins MVP honors in the Mexican League.

Meanwhile, the travel schedule hampers the team and opponents alike, allowing the National’s record to float near .400 until the league finally settles on Billings as their new home. Thrilled to find out they have a new baseball team, the citizens of Montana come out in force, cheering the players on and providing enough inspiration for a climb towards respectability.

Prediction: 81-81

Steroid Serenity

Joe Sheehan at Baseball Prospectus makes a good point in his article today:

I refuse to jump on the bandwagon. My position on steroids in baseball is the same as it's been all along: we don't have enough information, and the hysteria over the issue is a media creation. The things we do know for sure--that survey testing in 2003 showed 5-7% of players were using steroids, that random testing in 2004 actual coincided with a higher level of offense, that the players who have been known to test positive, or been associated with BALCO, are far from an All-Star team--would not lead to the conclusion that steroids are a rampant, game-warping problem.

This whole 'roid business hasn't really been much of a Royals story (aside from Benito Santiago making a brief appearance on the BALCO list), but I think it's worth noting that there have been many different ways to cheat at the game of baseball since its inception, and it's a bit foolish to focus too intensely on the most recent.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Let's start the list with Olney

Buster Olney wrote ESPN's first set ofPreseason Rankings, putting the Royals in the 30th (and last) spot.

He's certainly not going to be the only sports pundit to put our team in the lower tenth of any pre-season ranking, but putting us behind the Devil Rays AND the Nationals.

Buster. That hurts.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Everybody’s Equitable – Major League Baseball Preview

There will be 2,430 games scheduled this summer before Division and Wild Card winners are decided. Forgiving the occasional rainout or All-Star tie, Major League Baseball’s overall record will be 1,215-1,215.

Runs scored and allowed by all teams will work out to a pythagorean record of 1,215-1,215.

After all the errors, stolen bases, hit-by-pitches, 6-4-3s, diving stops, digs in the dirts, hustle plays, brain freezes, web gems, thrown heat, buckled knees, wild pitches, insurance runs, big innings, payoff pitches, bad hops, good jumps, tough outs, frozen ropes and amazing feats of veteran leadership… the final score will be one-thousand, two-hundred and fifteen up and one-thousand, two-hundred and fifteen down.

It is in this spirit that I have decided to forgo prognosticating winning or losing records for each team in the league. Instead, I will take to heart the spirit of equality that the entire MLB schedule exudes and predict that every team will have an 81-81 record.

I will discuss various reasons the fans of a particular squad can be optimistic about their chances in 2005 and then crush those feelings with the cold realities that will pull said team back into the pack of major-league mediocrity.

I will do this with little or no knowledge of who the players and coaches are for the 29 teams in the league that are not the Kansas City Royals.

I will post these diatribes in a sporadic manner, with the end goal of having predicted absolute average for every team in the six divisions by the time I get in my car on March 11th to cruise I-10 East into the dessert for a glimpse of the Royals in Spring Training action.

Please stay tuned…

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Bitter Bias Towards Numbers

From today's (2/15) Daily Quickie on
Final Four "Power" Pretender Kansas (RPI Ranking: No. 1?!) Combine KU's humiliation at Villanova in January with last night's 2OT loss to Texas Tech, and that top-ranked RPI is a joke.

I'll have my fan comment (1) and a statistical comment (2).
  1. I can't begin to explain where I take offense to this comment. I don't want to cry about an East-coast, ACC bias, because KU gets pretty good coverage by the boys in Bristol, but this kind of ignorance about how good the Big 12 is (and has been since it's inception) at basketball galls me. KU lost to Villanova on the road at 8 a.m. EST. Nova's a legit top 40 team and should make the tournament easily. Let's not call a loss there humiliating. And, I'll take a two OT gut check loss on a TERRIBLE call at the end of the game in Lubbuck any day of the regular season. This team has been to two Final Fours and a Great Eight overtime in the last three years. Let's not be calling somebody who is 20-2 a pretender.
  2. I'll be the first to admit that the RPI is far from perfect, but it is a hell of a lot more objective than the human polls that wreck college football every year. In one breath, Shanoff is dissing the #1 ranking of Kansas based on one bad game he read about (Nova) and in the next, he's giving props to Utah for being highly-ranked after winning 17 in a row against what I'm willing to bet is much-kinder competition.

    It's sad that even a number as simple to understand as the RPI Ranking can be so thoroughly despised and misused at the same time by a major sports news source (and, I'm talking about ESPN, not necessarily Shanoff). I don't think OPS+ or VORP will ever stand a chance.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Graffanino Loses Free Lunch

Jeremy Affeldt lost his arbitration case to the Royals, making the team 3-1 since Allard Baird took over as GM.

I recall Bill James discussing his work creating arbitration cases for players, and I'm curious if this recent string of success has anything to do with Baird being more aware of the sabermetric arguments he can use against a player. Before last season, Baird was given a lot of credit by the stathead community before injuries, slumps and the TNSTAAPP prophecy bit him in the ass.

It's also quite likely that the arbitration arguments were just Affeldt screaming that he's been shuffled all over the board in terms of being a starter, middle man and closer, whereas Muzzy Jackson just kept throwing band-aids on the table and crying about blisters.

Well, it's early and I'm an optimist, so let's take this win by the team as a sign that the proper principles are still being pushed behind closed doors.

Friday, February 11, 2005

I know the big league team stinks, but how bad are we in the minors?

John Sickels has launched a newMinor League Site now that his ESPN gig is up.

I don't follow the minors nearly as much as I do the big league club, but I do plan to check out the High Desert Mavericks, the Royals newest minor league affiliate, on a trip to Vegas sometime this summer. I want to take some pleasure in a 19-year-old kid with four million dollars in the bank having to live in California's version of Norton, KS for half the year.

John's a local Lawrence guy, so check out his site when you've got a chance.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Big Time

Yours truly has scored a mention onRoyals Baseball. This is the first Royals blog that I got into, and I still check it daily.

I only list a few of my favorite websites to the right, but check out Harley's site for a comprehensive list of websites with information about the boys in blue.

For all the ills of the sports world -- drugs, corruption and Jose Canseco, to name a few -- it's nice to remember that sports offer us a chance to celebrate and commiserate in a community well beyond our own social boundaries.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Posnanski's Annual Pitch

Much like groundhog day, Joe Po's annual prediction that the Royals will win the AL Central is a bit repetitive, but always fun.

This year's pitch relies heavily on the young pitching coming around. I don't see it happening quite the way Joe does, but if Lima and Anderson can be league-average, Greinke can continue to improve and just one of the 18 other guys lined up to start can surprise us... well, then Joe may finally get one right.

There... You've now seen me exposed as a cautious optimist. Consider yourself duly notified.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Who are these guys? - Pitchers

Rather than go player by player, I have decided to break the pitchers up into a few categories – the likely strarting rotation, likely relief corps and the somewhat healthy ligaments to be kept at Triple and Double A.

Stat lines are listed for 2004 if available and will follow this pattern: ERA/WHIP/OOBP

ERA = Earned Run Average
= Walks + Hits per Inning Pitched
OOBP = Opponents On Base Percentage
I will also use ERA+ which adjusts for park effects. 100 is the baseline. Above is better than average, below is worse.

Starting Rotation
Zach Greinke (3.97/1.17/297)
ERA+ 112

Runelvys Hernandez

Brian Anderson (5.64/1.63/366)
ERA+ 79

Jose Lima (4.07/1.24/307)
ERA+ 102

Jimmy Gobble (5.35/1.35/320)
ERA+ 83

To quote Huey Lewis, “bad is bad.”

A quick look at the career ERA+ of our starting five shows 112, 113, 97, 89, and 89. Yes, the only two above-average starters are a kid who’s been living in George Brett’s garage and the Dominican Elvis who’s best moments were collected when baseball went Bizzaro World during April of 2003.

Brian Anderson has been almost dead-on average his entire career and can’t pitch nearly as bad as he did last year; Jose Lima is enjoying a career “renaissance” in which he’s posted league average ERAs for the last two seasons, and Jimmy Gobble… well, he wouldn’t even acknowledge the fans during warm ups when I went to see the Royals play at San Diego last year, so I guess he can go to hell.

At any rate, there is enough known about Lima and Anderson to assume they won’t kill the team this year. So much is unknown about every other pitcher that may start that my best guess is it will end up a wash – some great performances counteracted by some terrible ones. The good news is that league-average aptly describes the entirety of the American League Central.

Relief Corps
Jeremy Affeldt (4.95/1.61/371)
ERA+ 90

Jamie Cerda (3.15/1.55/363)
ERA+ 141

Scott Sullivan (4.48/1.61/382)
ERA+ 93

Nate Field (4.26/1.33/323)
ERA+ 104

Shawn Camp (3.92/1.35/335)
ERA+ 114

D.J. Carrasco (4.84/1.58/364)
ERA+ 92

Mike MacDougal (5.56/2.21/426)
ERA+ 80

So, here’s the deal: All of the relievers currently employed by the Royals have posted seasons with well above-average ERA+. This has never happened at the same time and for some of them, it wasn’t for very long, but as a group, they aren’t as bad as the first brush makes them seem.

The problem with the Royals bullpen is that nobody knows where these guys should be. Whatever magic divining rod Pena used in early 2003 to pick out relievers was stolen back by Mike Scioscia last year.

Affeldt’s been pegged as a 20-game winner and dominating closer while doing neither. MacDougal made the American League look silly for three months and then pitched all of 11 innings for the big club last season. Even a guy like Sullivan, who was a consistent middle relief innings eater couldn’t keep the balls from dropping in.

So, anyway…

Somewhat Healthy Ligaments
...The following players (ERA+) will shuffle between Omaha, Wichita and Kansas City this year:

Chris George (62), Dennis Tankersley (78), Kyle Snyder (DNP), Mike Wood (75), Denny Bautista (53), Kevin Appier (33)…


Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Anderson Ranked Best Pickoff Move

From ESPN's Hot Stove Heaters.

Must be why he let people on base at a .364 clip last year. Show off.