Defense Needed the Royals

I’m writing this underneath a framed ESPN magazine cover from the 2010 baseball preview. The cover features Cliff Lee, Felix Hernandez, and Ichiro Suzuki, and right up top are these words: “Outs are in — and so are the Mariners”. It’s funny now, and it was given to me half as a joke, because of course the 2010 Seattle Mariners were a total catastrophe. But I remember the feeling, the state of things back then. The 2009 Mariners had set a UZR record, and then the front office brought in Chone Figgins and Casey Kotchman. The goal was to win by prevention, and the prevention was there, but what happened was the Mariners prevented their own scoring too and lost 101 times. Things changed rapidly for the organization. There was a missed opportunity to have defense front and center on a national stage.

We’ve never been real shy about WAR, and as such, we’ve never been real shy about the more advanced defensive metrics. FanGraphs didn’t exactly invent the concept of baseball players with good gloves, but statheads have argued for years that defensive players deserve more respect, that a guy can be incredibly valuable because of what he does in the field, instead of the box. Naturally, there’s been resistance, because hitting is a lot more visible, and nothing in the field is as valuable as a home run. And, absolutely, offensive value does have a higher ceiling than defensive value, just because of the limited opportunities. But defense, as a concept, needed a mascot. It needed a representation that would allow more people to understand how significant it can really be. Defense needed a team like the Royals.

The Royals, of course, have more than one strength. They have an unhittable back of the bullpen, and the defense doesn’t have to help those guys much. They have a bunch of solid baserunners, and they have James Shields, and there are a few guys who can hit a little. Salvador Perez is said to be a tremendous leader, of both the staff and the team as a whole. But, lots of teams have good relievers. The Royals’ rotation is relatively unremarkable. Baserunning tends to be a small factor. And the position players are better on defense than offense.

The Royals have captured national attention, and while the story after the wild-card game was that they ran Oakland mad, it’s since been all about the gloves. The gloves and Mike Moustakas, I guess. The Royals have played some long games, and time during those games has to be filled, and you can’t ignore what the defenders have done. The Royals, in the playoffs, have allowed a .258 BABIP, and it feels like lower than that. Every time you look up, someone in blue is either catching his breath or picking himself back up off the ground. The defenders have been everywhere.

Tuesday’s game against the Orioles wasn’t even one of the Royals’ most spectacular, defense-wise, but nevertheless, here come some clips. Here are eight plays of at least moderate difficulty. All were outs. The Orioles made 27 outs, and five of those were strikeouts.

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Not easy. Alex Gordon lost his footing because he tripped, not because he had to dive.

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Grounder over second base. Hard play made to look like easy play.

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Sure, maybe this play is typically made, I don’t know. But is it typically made that easily? Lorenzo Cain had almost stopped by the time the baseball came down.

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Cain again. Outstanding. And it doesn’t even look like it.

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Also, Eric Hosmer is on the team.

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Nobody blames Mike Moustakas if that gets through for a single. The ball was scalded on a line. Welp.

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Everybody in love with Lorenzo Cain yet? I realize I’m not embedding these in any kind of order. That’s an incredibly difficult play from Cain’s second position of the game.

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And here’s the lasting highlight. Here’s the Kansas City version of Derek Jeter going head-first into the seats. If Moustakas doesn’t make the catch, if he doesn’t even really try to make the catch, it’s a strike and the count is 0-and-2. The batter’s probably going to get out anyway. But every little gain is a gain. Every play made has value, and the Royals make so many plays.

The Royals were ninth in the American League in runs scored. They were 11th by wRC+. The Tigers led the AL in wRC+, yet their position players were just one WAR better than the Royals’, because the Royals reliably caught everything. Some of it is disguised by a spacious home environment, but the Royals tied for the lowest road BABIP allowed. The Royals were worth 61 team UZR, and the outfield was responsible for 60 of that. UZR loves the Royals, Defensive Runs Saved loves the Royals, and every metric and every eye loves the Royals. Defensively, they were great, and in the playoffs, it feels like they’ve been even greater.

The Royals feel like an exaggeration of what defense can do. In this way I can only speak for myself, but when, say, Miguel Cabrera goes on one of his tears, I see him at the plate and I feel like he could hit a dinger at a moment’s notice. I can sense the threat of a slugger, because I’m aware of the range of possible outcomes. The Royals have made me sense a defense. The feeling I get is that every ball in play is doomed. Hit a ball to the outfield and you might as well just walk back to the dugout, unless you hit it 420 feet. Not every ball in play is converted, naturally, but not every slugger plate appearance turns into a handful of bases. It just happens often enough to set the expectation. The expectation is that the Royals will make the out, if it’s in any way possible.

And that’s important. Obviously, it’s important for them to get the outs, as they try to win a World Series. But it’s also important for fans to see that. If, that is, the fans are in any way interested in learning more about the game. It can be so difficult to understand what a run saved really looks like. It can be difficult to understand how a player can be worth 10 or 20 runs better than average in the field over a year. The Royals are instructive. You can see what an elite defensive team looks like, and in every game you can estimate the bases saved. And, how often has Lorenzo Cain been running down a liner in front of him, behind him, or to the gap? Cain posted awesome defensive numbers this year, allowing him to finish with a 4.9 WAR, and if the Royals weren’t in the playoffs it would be hard to believe it. Seeing him, it makes a lot more sense. He catches everything he can. Forget the 4.9, specifically, and just focus on what it means. Cain has demonstrated how he can be an above-average hitter and a star-level player.

The Royals have demonstrated the importance of team defense, and they’re doing it with everyone paying attention. They’re doing it while never losing in the playoffs, and they’re doing it without a shutdown ace or a mid-lineup slugger. The Royals are proving how far you can get as a defense-first ballclub, and while it’s not the only way to build a winner, it’s a way to build a winner. And if you can appreciate the importance of defense on a team, you can then break that down and better appreciate the importance of individual-player defense. Mets fans get to watch Juan Lagares. Braves fans got to watch Andruw Jones, and they’ve got Andrelton Simmons. Mariners fans, for a short time, got peak Franklin Gutierrez. You can add defensive value on top of defensive value, and if one good defender is useful, a bunch can form a real weapon. They just need to be able to do enough of the other things.

I get how weird it might be to see something of a pro-Royals article on FanGraphs, given, you know. But for one thing, this isn’t specifically about the Royals. And for another, there’s no better current representation of something we all hold to be important. The Royals are like if UZR were a general manager, and while there have been great defensive teams before, the Royals are sensational and the Royals are one win away from the World Series with limited other strengths. Is defense really as important as WAR suggests? I mean, I don’t know with 100% certainty, but the Royals make a hell of an argument. Outs are in — and so are the Royals.



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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


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regfairfield
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regfairfield
1 year 7 months ago

No one who matters argues defense is meaningless, they’re arguing that UZR is a horrible way to do it.

Hell, your own defensive measurements say the Cardinals are the best defensive team left in the playoffs, not the Royals. That you’re focusing on the Royals and not the Cards just reveals the flaws in the system.

gump
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gump
1 year 7 months ago

FG uses UZR, not DRS, which is the measurement I assume you’re citing

regfairfield
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regfairfield
1 year 7 months ago

I’m citing the number under “defense” on the team value page

regfairfield
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regfairfield
1 year 7 months ago

Apparently there’s completely different numbers for defense on the batting page than there is on the fielding page.

Brooks
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Brooks
1 year 7 months ago

“Defense” includes the fangraphs positional adjustment, which is simply factored into the WAR calculation. It’s a shame, because that positional adjustment should probably be listed in a separate category. In fact, it arguably makes more sense to include it in the offensive category, since the positional adjustment rewards players who play more difficult positions and punishes players who play easier positions. The Royals are “punished” because Alex Gordon, a defensive wizard, plays a corner outfield position, and so his positional adjustment takes a huge chunk off of his “defense” value. Even Lorenzo Cain gets whacked by the positonal adjustment because he splits his time between center and right.

cass
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cass
1 year 7 months ago

The National League teams have an advantage here because they have a pitcher in their lineup (largest positive positional adjustment) and the American League teams have a DH (largest negative positional adjustment). So you want the Fielding number, not Defense.

http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=bat&lg=all&qual=0&type=6&season=2014&month=0&season1=2014&ind=0&team=0,ts&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0&sort=4,d

arc
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arc
1 year 7 months ago

I for one am shocked that someone expressing extreme certitude in criticizing these metrics doesn’t in fact even understand the object of his criticism.

Shocked.

Brooks
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Brooks
1 year 7 months ago

UZR loved the Royals this year. They were ranked number one overall, and second to the Orioles in UZR/150.

Sean
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Sean
1 year 7 months ago

Umm, FG has the Royals at 74.8 DEF runs. Second place is the Orioles at 55.4 The Cardinals are at 30.5.

Those are the numbers that FG uses to calculate fWAR.

Anon
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Anon
1 year 7 months ago

Try looking at DRS. UZR (and other stats that use it) ignores catcher and pitcher defense.

KCEXILE
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KCEXILE
1 year 7 months ago

The Cardinals would like to omit Choate’s defense too.

E-bone
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E-bone
1 year 7 months ago

Just read Eno Sarris’ article on Eric Hosmer. What a scum.

Yosted
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Yosted
1 year 7 months ago

Agreed; you’re in the big leagues, act like it instead of a high schooler with no maturity. I’m talking about Eno just as much as Hosmer.

Going in to interview a MLB player with absolutely no preparation, then expecting to be able to be taken seriously as a journalist by asking about random stats. He didn’t deserve to be ridiculed to his face, but he deserved the ridicule. He even has admitted it.

Yessir
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Yessir
1 year 7 months ago

Yes, not having enough preparation is acting like a “high schooler with no maturity.” Well done on the logic there, sport.

You, a high schooler with no maturity, deserve this ridicule (although not to your face because apparently that is what matters).

Yosted
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Yosted
1 year 7 months ago

Be mature enough to take your job seriously.

Johnston
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

Either prepare well for your work, or don’t do it all.

Yessir
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Yessir
1 year 7 months ago

Eno’s unpreparedness had nothing to do with immaturity. Also, I’m not defending him here; I’m condemning what the players did. This:

I didn’t know who exactly was talking, but the tone of the stream and the intent was clear: “we get paid to put barrels on balls man, what the f— is this guy talking about, walk rates, ground-ball rates, barrels dude, barrels, what’s up with this hair, must be because he’s Greek, yeah or blind, these are some stupid questions, man, I’ve never heard anything like this, dude needs to shut up, bothering us about ground-ball rates man, barrels, dude, barrels, nut sacks more like.” The interview with Butler had been getting better, but there was one last emphatic statement from the trio behind me before they exited: “This guy’s the f—ing worst.”

is not deserved from Eno’s actions. It sounds like the players are the one’s being immature, not the reporter who keeps his cool.

ReuschelCakes
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ReuschelCakes
1 year 7 months ago

“no preparation”

apparently you didn’t read the article. or anything else that Eno has written. ever.

jimfetterolf
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jimfetterolf
1 year 7 months ago

Eno,uninformed of protocol and unfamiliar with pro athletes,walked into a Jesuit seminary, plopped down the Book of Mormon, and started babbling in Mandarin. Hosmer, Moustakas, and the ringleader Francoeur had a little fun with him. He got over it, learned the language, and everyone has moved on after a few years except some fangraphs’ posters. In the old school days he would have been dunked in the ice pool.

KCEXILE
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KCEXILE
1 year 7 months ago

Is there a link somewhere? I feel like the comments on this article are an F. Scott Fitzgerald book.

Jianadaren
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Jianadaren
1 year 7 months ago

http://www.hardballtimes.com/learning-the-language-of-the-clubhouse/

“More laughs, and I realized it was Eric Hosmer with… oh yup, Mike Moustakas.”

“Since I knew Eric Hosmer was the one behind me laughing at me, I thought I’d be the adult. I asked Butler about ground balls, but I motioned at Hosmer (I see you there): “I was asking Eric about this, but are ground balls and fly balls something you think about when you get up to the plate?””

“I think about putting the barrel on the ball.”

The peanut gallery exploded. “He gets paid to put the barrel on the ball, you guys get paid to think about fly balls and ground balls,” offers Hosmer clearly on the tape. Which wouldn’t be so bad, he’s right. But as I finished up the interview — Butler was great, he admitted that he looked for the low ball, since the pitcher was trying to throw it there anyway, something I found very interesting in terms of game theory — there was a hum behind me that threatened to take away my concentration.

I didn’t know who exactly was talking, but the tone of the stream and the intent was clear: “we get paid to put barrels on balls man, what the f— is this guy talking about, walk rates, ground-ball rates, barrels dude, barrels, what’s up with this hair, must be because he’s Greek, yeah or blind, these are some stupid questions, man, I’ve never heard anything like this, dude needs to shut up, bothering us about ground-ball rates man, barrels, dude, barrels, nut sacks more like.” The interview with Butler had been getting better, but there was one last emphatic statement from the trio behind me before they exited: “This guy’s the f—ing worst.”

jimfetterolf
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jimfetterolf
1 year 7 months ago

That does sound like Frenchy talking, he was a bad influence on the kids. Veteran leadership.

dave gb
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dave gb
1 year 7 months ago

This ALCS easily could have gone either way. A few lucky falls for the and some great catches for Royals were the key, but these two teams matched up well. Speaking as an O’s fan too, and this has been a great series. Both teams are deserving to be in the World Series.

Kevin
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Kevin
1 year 7 months ago

It could have, BUT IT DIDN’T.

And there’s a reason for that.

It was kind of like the 2012 Presidential Election. It really could have gone either way. Normally when you win a state by just 2 or 3 points, it could have easily gone the other way. But when you won almost every critical state by 2 or 3 points, there was something to the way you structured your campaign that made a serious difference.

The Royals used that absurd bullpen for maximum effectiveness. They pitched 16 innings in 4 games, and they struck out a batter an inning, and allowed under a baserunner an inning. Small sample size? Sure. But everyone knew their bullpen was freakishly good all year. The value of a good shutdown artist increases expotentially in the playoffs.

So it could have been luck, but don’t overestimate luck. The Royals played the kind of baseball they wanted, and they played it better.

Michael Sweeney
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Michael Sweeney
1 year 7 months ago

1) There is no doubt that the Royals played better and deserved to win this series.

2) The election analogy is awful.

dave gb
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dave gb
1 year 7 months ago

First, to respond to your comparison to the 2012 election; comparing the current Orioles-Royals would be like comparing the 2003 Tigers to the 2003 Orioles. Two horrible teams. An embarrassment.

With that out of the way, I’m not taking anything away from the Royals. They played a great series against a very good tram. I will be rooting for them. But between the two, I think it was very well matched. It was a great ALCS. That’s all.

tz
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tz
1 year 7 months ago

I can see where you’re coming from dave. I remember watching a tennis match that ended up being 6-2, 6-1, but had tons of great rallies and spectacular shots on both sides. The guy who lost played some awesome tennis, but on that particular day the winner (I think it was Boris Becker) was playing out of his mind.

ReuschelCakes
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ReuschelCakes
1 year 7 months ago

wtf is happening here?

GreenMountainBoy
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GreenMountainBoy
1 year 7 months ago

Look, I’m not saying the Royals don’t have an outstanding defensive club. They clearly do, and OF speed is a huge part of that. I love the underdog story and am pulling for the Royals to win it all.

However, let’s be honest. They’ve been tremendous beneficiaries of luck of balls in play this post-season, on both offense and defense. Seemingly every ball they hit drops by 2-3 feet, while every ball the O’s hit, if it were 2-3 feet further away, would not have been caught. So take it for what it is. It’s a streak where everything they hit drops and everything their opponents hit seems to be caught. If KC-BAL played a 162 game series, all this crap would regress to the mean and the O’s would (probably) prevail, but in a short series like this, KC can ride it out and might just do that, up to and including a WS Championship.

Do they remind anyone of last year’s Red Sox? Last in 2012, champs in 2013, last in 2014. No, KC has a higher floor, so that won’t happen, but the 2014 Royals DO look a lot like the 2013 Sox at this point.

Just sayin’…

dave gb
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dave gb
1 year 7 months ago

It goes to the saying that the playoffs are a crapshoot. Baltimore was good enough to be in the World Series, but KC had everything going for them. Toe to toe, it was a great series played by who were both deserving. It was an excellent matchup, I don’t care how you break it down. As an O’s fan, I wish the O’s would’ve made it (or at least won a game, hell, after rooting for them thru 14 years of suckitude I don’t ask for much) but the Royals gained my respect and I’ll be rooting for them next week.

KCEXILE
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KCEXILE
1 year 7 months ago

Remember that 70′ hit over the pitcher but in front of Alcides that scored Schoop from 3rd? Schoop got a great read on that play, but the mere fact of that ball hitting earth was logic defying.

Lots of flairs on both sides. Just a testament to the good pitching and two great defenses (though one was hampered) in this series.

Costanza
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Costanza
1 year 7 months ago

> Seemingly every ball they hit drops by 2-3 feet, while every ball the O’s hit, if it were 2-3 feet further away, would not have been caught

Does it seem to anyone else like this could be due (at least in part) to… the Royals better defense?

Stealfirstbase
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Stealfirstbase
1 year 7 months ago

It is NOT the case that “statheads have argued for years that defensive players deserve more respect,” because in the moneyball era statheads valued OBP and power, and denigrated defense and baserunning. The ideal moneyball players were the adam dunns of the world.

Only recently have statheads come around on the value of defense, and even more recently on catcher defense.

It bothers me in any field when experts try to whitewash their own previous mistakes or failed predictions. In this case, if Jeff Sullivan wants to argue that recent sabermetricians have argued “that defensive players deserve more respect,” he should at least acknowledge that for years sabermetricians argued the EXACT opposite of that statement.

This isn’t a weakness, it’s honesty, and it’s an acknowledgment that our understanding of baseball continues to evolve.

Justin Bailey
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Justin Bailey
1 year 7 months ago

The “ideal moneyball players” were, and still are, the players that other teams undervalue, irrespective of their skill set.

Which Michael Lewis said. In Moneyball.

Stealfirstbase
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Stealfirstbase
1 year 7 months ago

Ah, that explains why the baseball prospectus covers immediately after moneyball featured Richard Hidalgo, Adam Dunn, and Josh Phelps.

It ALL MAKES SENSE NOW.

Also, I never stated that Michael Lewis wrote high OBP lumberers were ideal ballplayers. But plenty of sabermetricians did. Which is what I wrote. Above.

Expo45
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Expo45
1 year 7 months ago

Moneyball came out 11 years ago. The Fielding Bible came out eight years ago and Fangraphs has published Dewan’s stats for at least five. It would be inaccurate to say sabermetricians have always argued that defense was underrated, but it’s fair to say they’ve been doing so for years now.

Wilin Rosario
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Wilin Rosario
1 year 7 months ago

Also, for three years now, they use that pendejo’s pitch blocking study, so I lost one third of my WAR.

Costanza
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Costanza
1 year 7 months ago

I think you’re conflating Moneyball with Sabrmetricians.

Well before Moneyball existing, sabrmetrics started as a way to evaluate what on-field elements actually contribute to team winning.

Moneyball is a book about economics. It’s realm of concern is baseball, but it’s about
market inefficiencies. That’s Michael Lewis’ core theme across much of his work.

Moneyball took the sabrmetric movement and added in economics. That, I think, is where the confusion happens — lumbering OBP players were undervalued because most of baseball didn’t understand that OBP is very important to offense.

But to conflate the two is … naive, or intellectually dishonest.

David
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David
1 year 7 months ago

Expo45 seems to have hit it right. I do think it’s fair to say, though that for years, baseball’s conventional wisdom valued defense highly.
Having attention drawn to run creation (in part by the fetishization of OBP after Moneyball, in part by the availability of massive amounts of offensive data online, and in part by the Age of the Slugger through the ’90s and ’00s) generally shifted both “sabremetric” and “mouthbreather” thinking toward valuing offense more highly and disregarding defense.
About five years ago, sabremetric thinking starting to swing back toward what was once considered conventional wisdom, but measuring defense very differently than it had been (or could be) 20 years ago.
One cam hope that Sullivan’s right that this current iteration of Royals might re-engage NeanderFans on the idea that defense matters more than we’ve been pretending for a while.

KCDaveInLA
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KCDaveInLA
1 year 7 months ago

At this point, we have no choice but to take this club at face value. Advanced stats didn’t predict this (Dave Cameron’s article notwithstanding), neither did old-school thinking. Projections can only tell us who has the best chances, but they cannot tell us the exact way things are going to turn out.

To reference an NFL cliche, sometimes MLB is a copycat league. Just because one idea works for a team does not mean that it will turn out the same for every team that tries a similar strategy. That’s what frustrated me about Moneyball thinking: just because the A’s made that work shouldn’t have meant that every team with financial issues ought to follow suit. By the way: a Dayton Moore club will have appeared in WS more than a Billy Beane club, but that’s not because GMDM has always been smart with his money, but this year the team identified its strengths and rode them. As Jeff said, there’s more than one way to do it.

Congrats Royals!!!

Michael Sweeney
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Michael Sweeney
1 year 7 months ago

What’s damning about many sabr-types attitude towards fielding 10 years ago was that it had so much certainty. It would’ve been pretty defensible to say “we don’t know how important defense is because we don’t have good ways to measure it in numbers yet” but saying “the game is 90% hitting and pitching” as if that was something you could know at the time was ridiculous.

It reminds me of how “there’s no such thing as the hot hand” became basketball analytics dogma despite contradicting the experience of everyone who has played basketball ever. Until someone came out with a paper saying that it does exist and just couldn’t be measured using older techniques. A good reminder to always be humble in fields we’re just beginning to understand.

Brooks
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Brooks
1 year 7 months ago

I don’t remember reading or hearing that particular narrative. In the 1970s Bill James ridiculed fielding percentage as a reliable measure of defensive skill, and proposed range factor and then relative range factor as a defensive metric. James, Tom Trippett and Pete Palmer proposed additional defensive metrics in the 1980s, and in 1989 STATS developed the system of zone rating, which is basically the foundation for the metrics of UZR and Dewan’s stuff – in fact any defensive metric that uses tracking of the ball in play as a means of measuring defensive skill.

I’m sorry, but I cannot remember a time in sabrmetrics history where sabrmetricians weren’t working on ways to reliably measure defensive skill. They certainly weren’t devoting so much time and effort toward measuring defensive skill because they believed that defense was worthless.

Jeff
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Jeff
1 year 7 months ago

I’ve been a stathead since Bill James’ Historical Baseball Abstract came out, so I can give you an example. James argued strongly that Mantle at his peak was better than Mays at his peak. He analyzed both players’ peak value in great detail, but back then he didn’t have the tools to measure the value of their defense. He showed that at their peaks, Mantle’s offense was worth x (a lot) more runs than Mays’, and he concluded (paraphrasing), “I don’t know how many more runs Mays’ defense was worth than Mantle’s. It wasn’t [x].” Well, knowing what we now know about the value of outfield defense, maybe it was.

I think the turning point in stathead appreciation of defense was Voros McCracken’s discovery that the outcomes of balls in play are essentially out of pitchers’ control. Before then, one looked at ERA+ or RA+ to determine a pitcher’s value, and when one did that, there weren’t many runs or wins left to attribute to fielding. Once analysts learned that outcomes of balls in play can’t be attributed to the pitcher, they *had to* look more closely at fielding to better understand run prevention.

olethros
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olethros
1 year 7 months ago

Who actually said the purported quote about 90% hitting and pitching? Since it’s in quotes, and it’s the basis of your entire argument, I assume you can provide a source that said that, or at least words to that effect. Or are you just arguing against the imaginary stats nerd in your head?

fireal20
Member
fireal20
1 year 7 months ago

This shows a complete misunderstanding of the hot hand theory. No one claims that guys don’t have hot and cold streaks, just like baseball. The argument is that a hot streak is not predicative. In other words, just because you’ve hit your last seven shots in a row doesn’t mean you’re more likely to hit the next one.

ChummyZ
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ChummyZ
1 year 7 months ago

The Royals may be a great defensive team, but it feels like saber writers are now using web gems as validity for UZR.

Expo45
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Expo45
1 year 7 months ago

What Jeff is arguing is more that the Royals putting on a show in the outfield illustrates to non-stathead fans the power of defense. Highlights aren’t what proves the validity of defensive metrics to statistically inclined fans, but they’ve probably already been convinced. The viceral illustration of the point is necessary for everyone else.

KDL
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KDL
1 year 7 months ago

Could you point me to an article where that has happened? So I can maybe begin to understand your critique. Because it didn’t happen in this one.

KCEXILE
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KCEXILE
1 year 7 months ago

He’s arguing that the metrics (UZR/DRS) love the Royals and now the baseball world’s eyes love the Royals as well.

In short, “The Royals passed the eye test validating the metrics.”

jimfetterolf
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jimfetterolf
1 year 7 months ago

Metrics have evolved to get closer to the eye test.

Max
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Max
1 year 7 months ago

Maybe I’m just crazy, but isn’t that Moustakas catch the same as the Anthony Rizzo catch that happened in August or September? Rizzo caught the ball but fell out of play and the end result was that the batter was called safe and the baserunners each advanced one base. Someone please explain to me how these two plays are different.

figgy
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figgy
1 year 7 months ago

be more specific.

Max
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Max
1 year 7 months ago

Although I guess there weren’t any runners on base so that makes my question irrelevant.

Da Bear
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Da Bear
1 year 7 months ago

The batter was in fact out on that catch. It so happened that with a runner on 3rd, the one-base award was enough to drive in a run, turning it into a sac fly despite being just 60 feet away from home plate.

That ultimately may not have been a profitable trade-off in the 6th inning of a tie game, but it does result in an out and it’s not an all-downside deal.

Orsulakfan
Guest
Orsulakfan
1 year 7 months ago

One of the things I like about stats-based analysis is that it removes the tendency to create easy narratives. At least it could. The problem is that it doesn’t seem to have that effect as much as it should. The Royals were what they were before, which is a good team with strengths in the bullpen and with their defense. The Orioles were the same, except with more power. If the Orioles had won, you could have written about defense, since they had great defense. Or bullpen. But I think we should move away on a stats site from having some random (and frankly lucky) run of 4 games structure some whole narrative about what really wins games.

Garrett
Guest
Garrett
1 year 7 months ago

Lucky 4 game run? How about 8 game run. They were incredibly lucky against the A’s after the 6th inning. They went into extra innings in 2 of the 3 games against the Angels. Then they played the O’s close in virtually every contest.

I give the Royals a ton of credit. They have a good team and I’ll be rooting for them. But this run just goes to prove that the “best” teams don’t always end up hoisting the trophy. In a small sample size anything can happen. The playoffs always have been and always will be a total crapshoot.

Wobatus
Guest
Wobatus
1 year 7 months ago

Well, we’ll see if they win but it seems like the Royals have been the best team since late July. They’ve won at a .681 pace since July 21 including the playoffs. If we just go by second half war totals, the Orioles were slightly better. The Orioles had the best team WAR in the AL in the 2nd half, 20.8, and the Royals 2nd at 19.8, although the Royals stumbled out of the break, losing their first 4, and that doesn’t include the playoffs.

Counting the playoffs they’ve gone 49-23 since July 21. I don’t know what their base runs have been since then. Looking at them they appear to have become a dominant run preventing team. The Orioles are pretty good on that score too, though. And sure, it was the closest 4 game sweep you can imagine, but the Royals like they just fluked into it.

Wobatus
Guest
Wobatus
1 year 7 months ago

meant to say they don’t look like they just fluked into it.

olethros
Guest
olethros
1 year 7 months ago

I think you should practice your reading comprehension skills.

Jim Garman
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

In this context, on this night, I think of Weiters and Machado. Wait till next year!

Joshua Northey
Guest
Joshua Northey
1 year 7 months ago

I was rolling a pair of dice and I got a 9 three times in a row! What is wrong with the world? Why has Dave Cameron been lying to me about dice?

Johnston
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

I love what the Royals have done, but I’m afraid that the Giants are going to make their coach turn back into a pumpkin.

Brooks
Guest
Brooks
1 year 7 months ago

Good pitching will do that. The Royals haven’t faced it yet in the postseason.

fs
Guest
fs
1 year 7 months ago

Ditto. ESPN poll has 71% picking the Royals. That’s insane.

KCEXILE
Guest
KCEXILE
1 year 7 months ago

The Royals lineup makes everyone look like good pitching. Yesterday, they scored two runs without hitting a ball out of the infield. Infield hit + HBP + sac bunt + fielder’s choice = 2 runs

Against the White Sox late in the year, they scored two runs in the 9th from 2nd without a ball getting out of the infield.

Mike Green
Guest
Mike Green
1 year 7 months ago

The Royals are a good team built on defence and they are healthy. Their bullpen has been unconscious for a stretch. All of that, with some luck, has led to their post-season success. The 2005 White Sox were built on defence (who can forget Scott Podsednik in left-field?), won 99 games and a World Series.

And as for the sabermetric question, the issue is really about measurement. Team defence is easier to measure than individual defence, and so the Royals (and White Sox) are easier cases. For individual players, it is trickier. Alex Gordon has, according to both UZR and DRS, had much better range numbers in 2014 than in 2013 and 2012. Is that real improvement or a sample size anomaly? By contrast, Lorenzo Cain has had essentially the same range numbers over the last 3 years.

phoenix2042
Guest
phoenix2042
1 year 7 months ago

Fun thought exercise: the all defense club. Put the best defender at each position on one team. How would they do? Some of them are good hitters too, but the point is the defense.

BenRevereDoesSteroids
Guest
BenRevereDoesSteroids
1 year 7 months ago

Are you going to give Dayton Moore some credit for his good defense/BIP/baserunning centered team building strategy?

Circlechange11
Guest
Circlechange11
1 year 7 months ago

Didn’t the cardinals from the 80s already show the importance of defense? Made it to 3 World Series.

Wasn’t their left-side defense (Pendleton-Smith-Coleman) the highest rated in history?

IIRC, in 82 their HR leader (Hendricks) had 14 HR, the lowest total for a WS champ.

Isn’t that the comp of the royals?

DAKINS
Guest
DAKINS
1 year 7 months ago

Counterpoint to defense first:

Ryan Goins, aka the offensive boat anchor for the Blue Jays.

Elite level defense, but a sure out every time he steps up to the plate. It`s frustrating to watch.

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