A continuation of the series of retrospectives looking back at the regular season and how teams fared. They will be presented, from first to last, in order of their run differential as given by the BaseRuns formula and adjusted for strength of schedule, which I feel is the best measurement of a team’s actual talent level.
Number Twenty four: Kansas City Royals
What to say about the Royals. Another year wallowing in the depths of the AL Central and heading into an offseason with rumors rampant about more curious moves from GM Dayton Moore. The Mike Jacobs trade being just such an example. As 2008 clearly demonstrates, this team needs an offensive overhaul and more hitters with a .320 OBP isn’t exactly doing something different. The Royals finished the year at 682 runs scored according to BaseRuns, 25th in baseball and head of only Seattle and Oakland in the AL. Their run prevention though was about average, 748 runs allowed, 16th in baseball.
The Royals were actually one of the best defensive teams in 2007 according to John Dewan, coming in at 63 plays above average, 49 of those from the infield. This year, he has them as the fourth worst team in baseball, 65 plays below average, good for a mind-blowing 128 play difference which amounts to around 100 extra runs scoring. That’s pretty horrendous. The plus side to that is given that their run prevention overall was about average, and their defense was horrid, that means the pitching had to be above average.
Indeed it was, as Zack Greinke took a big step forward in 2008 and having just turned 25, looks poised to start a streak of really impressive seasons. He’s overlooked in Kansas City, but no mistake, he put up franchise-type numbers this season. Gil Meche had a really rocky start to the year, but recovered nicely and finished with 2008 on par, or even better than 2007. Two seasons in, and his contract has been a bargain so far. Time will tell if that performance holds up. Luke Hochevar and Kyle Davies contributed some acceptable innings out of the rotation as well, but Brian Bannister was a bit of an issue with an ever-increasing line drive rate. Bullpen wise, Joakim Soria and Ramon Ramirez paired up to form one of the best relief duos nobody paid attention to.
The people responsible for all that bad defense were also responsible for some atrocious hitting. There are some decent contact hitters amongst the group, but they finished dead last in walks drawn among AL teams and 12th in slugging percentage. Tony Pena mercifully got replaced by actually productive Mike Aviles, but before he did he managed to rack up 225 at bats and an OPS+ of 7. There were numerous other problems as well with Aviles, Alex Gordon and David DeJesus being about the only contributors amongst the position players.
The Royals have some pitching, especially in the rotation, for the next couple years, but they need an overhaul of their positional talent if they’re going to even sniff the central of the AL Central.
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