Where I Was Wrong About the Royals

Over the last few years, I’ve been pretty down on the Royals as a contender, most notably writing a pretty harsh review of their side of the James Shields trade. Then, before the season began, I stated that I didn’t see the Royals as legitimate contenders this year, even though they were becoming a trendy pick in the national media. And finally, on July 21st, I suggested that the Royals punt on 2014 and trade Shields before he gets to free agency, given that they had fallen into third place and were seven games behind the Tigers in the AL Central.

Since that last piece was published, the Royals have gone 49-24, including their current 8-0 postseason run that has let them to the World Series. A moribund franchise has been rejuvenated, and the Royals have achieved the exact result they were hoping for when they made the Shields trade in order to speed up their timeline. If the Royals had listened to me at any point along the way, they probably wouldn’t be in the World Series right now, so it’s time for some self-examination. What did I miss? Is there a lesson to be learned here?

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that when the results of the postseason don’t align with expectations, that our expectations were clearly wrong to begin with. The playoffs — like most short tournaments between competitors of mostly equal stature — are mostly random, with the outcomes swinging wildly on things that simply couldn’t have been predicted in advance.

There’s a decent chance that the Royals don’t even make it out of the Wild Card game if Geovany Soto doesn’t get injured on a play that began when Billy Butler screwed up a stolen base attempt. The Royals postseason run has been amazing, but it was also six outs away from not happening, and we don’t want to treat results that could have legitimately gone the other way as evidence that this was a probable outcome. Sometimes, the answer really is just that an unlikely event occurred.

But, that can also be a cop-out. We can’t take every example of our expectations not being met as an unlikely event occurring without at least asking if we got the odds wrong. If we just write off all unexpected outcomes as randomness, we’ll create a bubble in which a false sense of our own understanding thrives without being challenged. The Royals World Series run doesn’t inherently mean that we should have all seen this coming and my analysis of their team over the last two years has been entirely wrong, but it’d be folly to not at least consider that possibility. Maybe this was randomness shining on the Royals, or maybe I missed something.

So, let’s see if we can figure out where my analysis could have been better. For instance, this assumption:

Even with Shields, the Royals were still a mediocre team.

This was the crux of my argument when the trade was made; deals like that can be justified at times, when you have a very high likelihood of reaching the postseason — I’ve defended the A’s use of Addison Russell to acquire Jeff Samardzija because of their position at the time of the trade, for instance — but I didn’t think the Royals were a 90+ win team even with the upgrade. And I’m not sure that part was wrong. They won 86 games last year and 89 this year, and the 89 wins required outperforming their BaseRuns expected total by eight wins, the biggest difference in baseball this year. Since Shields was acquired, their BaseRuns winning percentage is .517, pretty much the definition of mediocre.

But while I think I can defend my analysis of the Royals talent level, that doesn’t make the overall argument correct. Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen essentially unparalleled parity in MLB, and this year, we have a World Series match-up between two teams who made the playoffs via the Wild Card. In 2012, the Tigers got to the World Series with 88 regular season wins; in 2011, the Cardinals won it all after winning just 90 games. While better teams are still more likely to win out in the postseason, the structure of the playoffs gives a real chance to every team who simply qualifies, even if they sneak in via the Wild Card. So maybe I underestimated the potentially positive returns from being on the good side of mediocre.

After all, our calculations on when to make a bet shouldn’t just include the probability of that bet winning, but the magnitude of the results of each outcome. Let’s use a poker analogy to make this point.

Let’s say you’re playing a hand of poker, and you’ve got four cards to a straight, with one card to still be drawn. This gives you about a 16% chance of making your hand on the final card, and an 84% chance of going bust. Basically, you have about the same success rate as a pitcher hitting. You’re probably going to fail. However, let’s say the pot is at $1,000, and your opponent only bets $100. Now, even with the likelihood of failure being the overwhelming expected outcome, folding is a mathematically incorrect decision — to the extent that we’re covering all poker strategy in one analogy, which we’re obviously not, since this is just an example — because when you the cards do fall your way, you win enough to cover all of the times you lost making that same play and still come out ahead. Betting on an expected loser can be a good play when the outcome is strongly positive when you do win.

I think it’s possible or even likely that I’ve been underestimating the potential rewards for being decent enough to have things break your way, especially for teams who haven’t been good for a long time. This playoff run is going to pay dividends for the Royals for years to come. It likely created fans for life out of kids in Kansas City who didn’t care at all about the Royals before a few months ago. The long-term benefits of this kind of run are substantial, and the Royals are likely going to generate more in future revenue from this playoff run than they would have saved by underpaying Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi for the next half decade.

In other sports, where the value of a top draft pick is so much higher than it is in MLB, the correct decision is often to either be great or terrible, with mediocrity as the awful middle ground. Perhaps too much of that sentiment crept into my own thinking about the upside of building an 85 win team, because in today’s baseball world, 85 wins and a little bit of luck can turn a franchise around. I’ve argued against losing on purpose, but perhaps I’ve argued too strongly for wins in the 88-95 range and not strongly enough for wins in the 80-88 range. The win curve is a real thing, and some wins are more valuable than others, but that doesn’t mean that I’ve correctly evaluated the marginal benefit of pushing yourself from 82 to 86 wins.

Not every team in the Royals situation has this outcome, of course. I made similar comments when the Mariners pursued Robinson Cano last winter, for instance, and the Mariners Wild Card run fell short, so they’re not getting the same benefit from their big bet as Kansas City did. But even then, with a failed Wild Card run, the Mariners saw their TV ratings go up 20% this year and they drew 300,000 extra people to Safeco Field. That creates real revenue gains for the franchise which likely wouldn’t have been in place if the team hung around .500, or had yet another losing season.

We’ve seen similar boosts for the Pirates and Orioles lately, two other franchises who got themselves back on track after long stints of losing, and have rejuvenated their base of fans in the process. And neither of them had to win a World Series to do it. The Pirates haven’t even won a playoff series, and yet, they’re still reaping the rewards of a couple of Wild Card berths.

The Royals made a bet that I’ll still maintain was likely to not work out more often than not, but it’s quite possible (and probably even likely) that they did a better job of anticipating the potential returns to their organization if it did work out. And that has to be part of the calculation when deciding whether to exchange future value for a short-term upgrade. Given the parity in MLB and the randomness involved in the postseason, perhaps the goal shouldn’t be to build a great team anymore, but to build a decent team as often as possible.

The Royals could have waited another year or two to push their chips in and really go for it, and they probably would have had better odds of the move working out when they did so. Instead, they went for for quantity in years of contention, and perhaps that’s the better model right now. Given what we know about the postseason, maybe it doesn’t pay to give up a couple of longshot years in order to move the needle a little bit more in your favor in the future.

I’ll still defend my position that the Royals overpaid for James Shields, and that there were other paths to try and reach this same goal that could have been pursued. I don’t think we should throw away logical conclusions when unexpected results occur, and I’m not going to start encouraging results-based analysis. I still don’t think the Royals are a great team, and I’m not sure I was wrong about their moves simply pushing them into mediocrity.

But I think there’s a pretty good chance that I’ve underestimated the positive returns on mediocrity in Major League Baseball. That isn’t a goal to be derided anymore. The sport rewards it, especially if a few things break your way. The Royals put themselves in a position to take advantage of a few lucky breaks. Their decision isn’t any smarter because it paid off, but perhaps the size of the payoff should cause us to reconsider the relative costs and benefits of a decent-but-not-great team going for it. While I think we’ve done a pretty decent job on the cost of side of things, perhaps we’ve underestimated the upside.

I’m sure Royals fans wouldn’t trade this run to get Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi back. And maybe I need to do a better job of accounting for the upside of outcomes like this one.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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KCDaveInLA
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KCDaveInLA
1 year 7 months ago

I tip my powder blue hat to you, good sir.

Bill Anderson
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Bill Anderson
1 year 7 months ago

I think the part that can’t be quantified is what James Shields leadership/coaching meant to the rest of the pitchers.

Not an expert
Member
Not an expert
1 year 7 months ago

The main issue is that there is something that has and is constantly being quantified, but people are turning their heads the other way for no discernible reason.

The thing I’m talking about is WPA, and WPA determines a player’s true impact on winning percentage. WAR is context neutral and completely ignores the fact that good relievers can be saved for only high-leverage situation.

The Royals bullpen can be said to have actually generated more wins than any MLB rotation. That is BIG!

http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=rel&lg=all&qual=0&type=3&season=2014&month=0&season1=2014&ind=0&team=0,ts&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0

WAR, what is it good for? Certainly not evaluating the impact of a shutdown bullpen.

ValueArb
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

James Shields leadership was so important that KC was an 84 win team by Pythag, and a 79 win (sub 500) team by 3rd order wins.

I understand how exciting it is when a mediocre team runs hot at the right moment and parleys that streak into the World Series, esp. for fans of that team that have waited 30 odd years in misery.

But I don’t understand the revisionism on team construction. Just getting lucky in the playoffs this year doesn’t justify the horrible mistakes made, any more than winning the lottery would justify spending my final paycheck on it before being laid off with a wife and kids to support.

KC looks to be back to rebuilding after this year. They have more than doubled payroll in the last 3 years, is Glass really going to reinvest the playoff windfall or is he going to pocket it as repayment for the last 3 years of investment? If not, goodbye Shields and either Davis or Holland. Take 2 of those off a team that was roughly a .500 team in true talent and has a very limited budget for free agents, and even wildcard contention becomes a tough goal.

The one credit I can give Dayton Moore and staff here is that it wasn’t all luck that propelled their playoff run. Constructing a team with a top heavy rotation and pen makes them a significantly better playoff than a regular season team. But I still think that giving up payroll flexibility and all that talent for a 2 season run at the playoffs was foolish.

Not an expert
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Not an expert
1 year 7 months ago

Why would we be using Pythag to judge a team that places its best pitching talent (and also baserunning although its effect is comparatively minimal) in high leverage situations?

vivaelpujols
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vivaelpujols
1 year 7 months ago

Because bullpens are so stable year to year. Duh.

Anon21
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Anon21
1 year 7 months ago

“Why would we be using Pythag to judge a team that places its best pitching talent (and also baserunning although its effect is comparatively minimal) in high leverage situations?”

Was that even a characteristic of regular-season Royals, though? I’m genuinely asking; I don’t follow the team, but with all the bitching about Ned Yost, I had assumed he was making a lot of shitty decisions about pitching changes.

Not an expert
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Not an expert
1 year 7 months ago

I would assume Yost usually used the 3 run rule. The fact is – the LI for the Herrera/Davis/Holland combo is 1.13/1.58/1.75 respectively and they combined for a WPA of 9. During the playoffs where they will even have a slightly higher workload, sometimes 2 innings for example, their effect will be even greater.

vivaelpujols
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vivaelpujols
1 year 7 months ago

I can make up things too.

Mr. Big Swinging D
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Mr. Big Swinging D
1 year 7 months ago

World Series features two wild card teams…

Friedman joins the team with highest payroll…

Cameron admits a mistake…

Earth explodes….

Avattoir
Member
Avattoir
1 year 7 months ago

Still awaiting results of de Cameronian reconsideration of the probability numbers of each of the WC teams getting to the WS.

What we’ve got here is what looks to me something in that vein directed to the Royals; but KC isn’t the only WC team in this year’s really big shoo. Don’t the outcomes this year’s regular seasons appear to imply a greater probability for this sort of match-up than in most seasons?

Samuel Eto'o
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Samuel Eto'o
1 year 7 months ago

After further review and consideration, I shall inform you that I am not at all knowledgeable about this American baseball and shall not again mention probability numbers.

AK7007
Member
AK7007
1 year 7 months ago

That second paragraph is indecipherable, but the overall sentiment of what you have written – “imply a greater probability for this sort of match-up” is probably false. There’s likely not any significant change in probability for a wild card team reaching the WS, because there are the same number of WC teams competing in the division series as in years past.

welsh-hmong-arabic-thai in hopes to make this guy more understandable
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welsh-hmong-arabic-thai in hopes to make this guy more understandable
1 year 7 months ago

We want to do what’s best for this excellent health (nurses), called the Royal, but not KC only had one team ask Shaw this year year holidays occur during the clarify of many types of games.

jim
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jim
1 year 7 months ago

no, they added a second WC team last year. adding a second WC team almost certainly increases the probability of a WC team reaching the WS.

Heisenberg
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Heisenberg
1 year 7 months ago

Having two wild cards probably decreases the likelihood of having a WC make it to the WS. When you get to the round of 8, it’s still the same percentage of WC teams (25%, 2 of 8) but now they’re a little more tired/worn than their opponents due to playing an elimination game. Obviously this excludes things like momentum and whatnot, which we’ve never been able to quantify, but have 4 WC teams doesn’t make it 4 of 10 teams. It’s still 2 of 8.

I don't care what anyone
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I don't care what anyone
1 year 7 months ago

Are you certain about that?

Justin Bailey
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Justin Bailey
1 year 7 months ago

But a WS featuring two WC teams has happened before…

Scott Marcus
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Scott Marcus
1 year 7 months ago

But not since MLB went to 2 wildcard teams per League. That has made it a bit harder for the wild card team to advance through to the WS.

Antonio Bananas
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1 year 7 months ago

The two wild cards has made it harder for a specific wild card team. Not for “a” wild card team. They still have a 1 in 8 shot and because they still get best of 5, best of 7, etc, I think burning your ace in the WC game isn’t as big of a deal as people say. Especially with the randomness.

In other words, yes, the Royals specifically had a lower shot at making the world series because of the one game playoff. However, “a wild card team” (collective) had the same shot as before.

nomo
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nomo
1 year 7 months ago

So in the two years of expanded WC, this is the first time a WC has advanced to the series? Glad that’s cleared up.

Pete Rose
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Pete Rose
1 year 7 months ago

There are two kinds of people: those who can accept an admission of a mistake gracefully, and those who cannot.

PWR
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PWR
1 year 7 months ago

great article, very fair

tz
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tz
1 year 7 months ago

Great article Dave. I’m glad you didn’t duck all the repercussions about your earlier article, because baseball is great at surprising us all.

I also wonder if teams that go so boldly against the grain, like the Royals have done, stand a better chance than expected to edge out teams that follow the current “book” about how to build a roster, etc. I mean, I thought it was kind of cool for the A’s to try to build a roster of flyball hitters to match up against all the groundball pitching that’s been in vogue lately. I should probably give the Royals similar props for focusing so diligently on excelling in everything not related to the TTO skills.

rjbiii
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rjbiii
1 year 7 months ago

This I think is the key point. Hard to say, as Dave grudgingly does, that the Royals have aimed for mediocrity. They appear to have a very clear strategy to build a team around certain core strengths that they think give them an edge over higher payroll teams. This KC team does what it does well too well for it to be chance. The big question for me is whether what we’ve seen of KC of late will see them reach another level next season. These are largely young players who could still grow. But if they do kick on, this is going to raise bigger questions of Dave’s beliefs about teambuilding and roster construction than he is willing to accept now.

tz
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tz
1 year 7 months ago

And it also brings up the issue of what kinds of assets work best together. Base-stealing ability has the most benefit when the base-stealer is on base ahead of a singles-hitting, contact type of player. So, adding one more singles-hitting base stealer to the mix actually adds more marginal value than if you added one to a TTO-type team like the A’s.

Or for that matter, having three OFs with excellent range gives you the most bang for the buck when you have a flyball pitcher on the mound. The pieces on this Royals team seem to fit together too well to just be an unplanned coincidence, but a result of actual design strategy.

KCDaveInLA
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KCDaveInLA
1 year 7 months ago

This brings up the idea of Dayton Moore’s “Process” again; as much as I’m loving all of this, I don’t pretend that this was the plan all along. The plan was to have perenially offensive threats and power arms forming the core of the team, and well, that didn’t really work out. Much credit goes to the team, though, for maximizing their identified strengths. They were lucky for sure, but KC made a lot of its own luck this season.

Mailinator
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Mailinator
1 year 7 months ago

This is a great point and particularly when you compare this year’s Royals to Yost’s Brewers. Watching the first few KC playoff games was a revelation after being so frustrated watching Yost’s small ball fail to add up to anything substantial for Milwaukee. The Brewers simply didn’t have enough players who could execute that kind of play to sustain the strategy through the lineup. Here now was a team that could (and was) and suddenly I understood all those managerial calls Yost used to wreak havoc on my blood pressure.

Jose
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Jose
1 year 7 months ago

I’m happy for the Royals and their rabid fans in the comments section of many articles.

Screw the Orioles though.

Matt
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

Huh. That seems…inexplicably harsh.

diderot
Member
1 year 7 months ago

Dave, first of all thanks for the humility it took to write this.
But beyond that, the insight concerning the value of building an 85 win team is both new and intriguing.
Good work.

Andrew Follow the Money Friedman
Guest

fine. I’d still like to see some analysis of the possible underrating of RPing and defense. So much is made of stocking a rotation with aces and we know this by how much they get paid. And then the there is the other way – which the Royals put on display here. I think teams are actually ahead of the analysts wrt loading bullpens with talent.

Defense is very obviously the next frontier in terms of deciphering real value from guesses.

PW
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PW
1 year 7 months ago

Last winter we saw the A’s and the Rays put an unusual amount of effort into their bullpen, and I remember people (myself included) being fairly surprised about this. So we have been seeing smart teams noticing that good middle relief is undervalued! It just seems to me that finding good middle relievers isn’t so easy: most really good pitchers are expensive starters or closers. Even with all the work they put in, the A’s weren’t a top 10 bullpen last year, and the Rays barely made it. So while having a killer bullpen is a great (and often cost effective) way to help a team, it’s not such an easy thing to build.

Gabes
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Gabes
1 year 7 months ago

I don’t think front offices under-rate or under-value Relief pitching, they regularly get paid higher $/WAR or $/IP figures than starters. The problem with relievers is their unpredictability. Both the Dodgers and Tigers looked to have decent-to-pretty-good ‘pens on opening day this season, which cost a decent chunk of cash, and both were dumpster fires in the post-season. Everyone WANTS a great relief corps, no one seems to know how to make that happen and starters are less volatile than relief guys.

Andrew Follow the Money Friedman
Guest

I think both the Dodgers and Tigers made the common mistake of paying for name value in the pen. Merely spending in the pen does’t make them wise. Many people criticized the way both teams spent.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
1 year 7 months ago

I can’t speak as much for the Tigers, but you’re both right and wrong about the Dodgers. With Brian Wilson, Chris Perez, and Brandon League, it sure seems like the Dodgers were lured by the mystique of “closer experience,” something that is definitely highly overrated. On the other hand, their bullpen was worse than objective projections thought it would be too. Gabes’ point is still correct, that bullpens are quite unpredictable.

Joshua Northey
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Joshua Northey
1 year 7 months ago

This happens in every sport…when the NYG beat the 18-0 Pats everyone did all this soul searching about whether the already highly regarded importance of the D-line was perhaps still unappreciated because that was the strength of the most recent champion. SO teams tacked in that direction, and then nothing happened.

Changing your opinions because of 1 or frankly even 5 seasons on things like this is chasing noise. The data is crazy noisy in baseball outcomes.

Ruki Motomiya
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Ruki Motomiya
1 year 7 months ago

But hasn’t the D-Line thing actually worked? The 2013 Seahawks, the 2012 Baltimore Ravens, the Giants again in 2011…even the 2009 Indianapolis Colts had Freeney + Mathis, though I suppose they were weak up the middle @ DT. The Saints also had Ellis/Will Smith/McCray that year, but I’m not entirely sure that counts (McCray was having a bit of an anomalus career year for instance).

But to me it seems like having a strong D-Line (and defense, even: The year the Saints, and the first Colts super bowl for example, went to the playoffs was the year they actually put in a defense) has actually done well in the NFL, despite people always saying it is now a passing league.

Joshua Northey
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Joshua Northey
1 year 7 months ago

None of them were built like the Giants with 4 or even 5 really great linemen who were flexible and could play multiple positions. I was simplifying the story for baseball fans, but that was supposed to be the big breakthrough, and nothing came of it.

Having good flexible players is good. Not a news flash.

Ruki Motomiya
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Ruki Motomiya
1 year 7 months ago

Yeah, that much is definitely true. I get what you mean now.

Trout
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Trout
1 year 7 months ago

Based on the discussion above, would the Royals trade their current situation the Angels for Mike Trout? How much is a 50% chance at a world series worth in terms of players?

Chris
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Chris
1 year 7 months ago

I’m almost positive that they would not.

The goal is the trophy, not the player. The Angels have more resources than the Royals and Mike Trout has not delivered them anything, and I’m not sure the expected return on WS appearances is greater than 1.

This sounds analogous to the Nats shutting down Strasburg in 2012. They chose increased odds of future star health over increased odds of a title, and I think they chose wrong because Strasburg’s service time is more than half-way gone and they still don’t have a flag flying over the stadium.

arc
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arc
1 year 7 months ago

The goal is the player(s), because the goal is trophies. Plural.

How many years of failure are worth a world series title?

Chris
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Chris
1 year 7 months ago

True, but I think you are over estimating how many trophy’s Trout by himself would be able to bring the Royals. In other words, does he bring them 0.5 TAR (trophies above replacement)? I’m quite sure that he does not.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
1 year 7 months ago

If I am a basketball franchise, I absolutely trade a NBA championship appearance for Lebron James. In baseball, never, no way.

Royals Fan
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Royals Fan
1 year 7 months ago

29. Exactly 29.

arc
Guest
arc
1 year 7 months ago

To clarify, I wasn’t making an argument for Trout. I wouldn’t do it. But I think “the goal is the trophy, not the player” is a poor argument.

Garrett's Mom
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Garrett's Mom
1 year 7 months ago

“But I think “the goal is the trophy, not the player” is a poor argument.”

Shoot, tell that to an ATL fan. We had a horde of HOF players, years of the top payroll in the league, and All-Star after All-Star don the uniform… and oh, man, what we wouldn’t to have one season with out the seemingly eternal recurrence of embarrassing October pants-pissing.

cass
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cass
1 year 7 months ago

Definitely. If the Nats kept Strasburg pitching far beyond his previous limits while his performance was in decline late in the season, they surely would have won it all in 2012.Just like Strasburg, now stronger and healthier and pitching very well late in the season, clearly helped them win it all this year.

Chris
Guest
Chris
1 year 7 months ago

I’m assuming that late-season Strasburg was still better than whoever replaced him in the playoffs. If that’s not true, then the analogy doesn’t hold up, but let’s just go with it.

And the point of the analogy is that they made a decision to transfer win-pct from an actual playoff team towards some largely random, unknown future.

cass
Guest
cass
1 year 7 months ago

Ross Detwiler was the guy added to the postseason rotation since Strasburg was shut down. He had a great NLDS start and the Nats won that game.

You don’t mess with player development best practices and risk messing up a player’s career for a small increase to your playoff odds.

TangoAlphaLima
Guest
TangoAlphaLima
1 year 7 months ago

Maybe I’m remembering this wrong, but didn’t Strasburg and his agent play some role in that as well? I don’t think it was 100% the Nationals decision to make. Strasburg smartly wanted to preserve himself for his future big money free agent payday.

JWP
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JWP
1 year 7 months ago

According to all public Strasburg quotes, he was pretty unhappy about being shut down. Local reporters/commentators even speculated at the time that it might one day be a factor in whether or not he resigned with the Nationals. (I note that while doubting it.)

FishFlyForever
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FishFlyForever
1 year 7 months ago

I think this sort of thing is sort of like deciding when to bunt. Are you trying to increase the probability of one run scoring or are you going for multiple runs?

I know that the goal is winning a championship and I am a proud fan of the only team in MLB to never lose a playoff series. From my perspective, I don’t know what is better, the Marlins 2 WS or the Braves streak of division titles with only 1 WS. Nothing is guaranteed in baseball so I wonder just how much a 50% chance of WS is worth. Stanton & Trout? Kershaw, Stanton, & Trout? There is a point where you would take the players over a WS appearance.

Joshua Northey
Guest
Joshua Northey
1 year 7 months ago

The question “what is better” only makes sense if you also include who is asking. I am sure an owner would prefer the Braves situation, as likely would a front office.

You also need to remember that the decision makers probably don’t care at all what is better for the fans and are much more interested in their careers and making $.

vivaelpujols
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vivaelpujols
1 year 7 months ago

After the fact, the Marlins run might have been better (for fans at least). But for those watching the whole time I’m pretty sure 14 years of dominance and playoff baseball is better than 10 years of suck and 2 great years.

Joshua Northey
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Joshua Northey
1 year 7 months ago

No the goal is to make money. Don;t lose track of that. Winning the World Series is a tiny bonus compared to that in MLB teleology.

Chris
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Chris
1 year 7 months ago

Is that you, Mr. Loria?

Joshua Northey
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Joshua Northey
1 year 7 months ago

If the teams didn’t make money they would shut the league down. Don’t kid yourself.

chuckb
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chuckb
1 year 7 months ago

Humans are naturally risk averse. If they got Trout for the next 8 years or whatever and that gave them a 1:8 chance of winning a WS every year, they would theoretically win 1 championship over the next 8 years. That’s 100% better than a 50% chance this year at a championship. But they’re already in the World Series and anything could happen over the next 8 years. Sure, they could turn it in to 8 championships but Trout could get hurt next year and never be the same. They’re in the World Series now and, because people are risk averse, they wouldn’t trade that for Trout even if the likelihood of winning 1 or more championships was higher than it is now.

math checker
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math checker
1 year 7 months ago

over 8 years there is a 34.36 chance they win 0 WS so not 100% better if goal is to win 1.

Pumpsie Green
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Pumpsie Green
1 year 7 months ago

Baseball had long been about elite teams, built by money or smarts (or even by cheating!). For better or worse, it isn’t that way any more. Nothing wrong with wishing for the good ole days, but this is the new reality.

Brian
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

True. As Bill James often points out, baseball NEEDS to have some randomness built into the postseason, otherwise it’s just one long slog toward the inevitable.

But it’s hard finding the sweet spot between rewarding excellence and being surprised. I think the NBA playoffs, for example, tilt too far one way – they’re too predictable – but MLB seems too far tilted the other way to me.

I thought we had it right between ’95 and ’11: 3 division winners and 1 wild card team in each league. That was just enough surprise to allow a run like the 2011 Cardinals, but just enough “justice” (for lack of a better word) to reward a team like the late ’90s Yankees.

But there’s really no right answer here. 8 teams out of 30 in the postseason (or roughly the top quartile) just happens to suit my taste.

Ruki Motomiya
Guest
Ruki Motomiya
1 year 7 months ago

Yeah, the NBA definitely has too many in the postseason: They have 16 of 30! That’s over half the teams! I kind of worry if this is a problem for the NHL as well (Also 16 of 30), but I don’t watch the NHL enough to see. I can only assume that the reason it is 8 + 8 is math reasons (6 + 6 leaves an odd man out, 4 + 4 would be too few). I think 10/30 is a pretty good number for the MLB, about 1/3rd, 12/30 would be pushing it and anything more is too much. The addition of the second Wild Card certainly may have shifted the paradigm of when to try and get in, though.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
1 year 7 months ago

I like the NFL setup – 12 seems about right, you don’t often see legitimately good teams left out or legitimately mediocre teams included (excepting the occasional 8-8 division winners, which will happen with 4-team divisions). And I especially like that getting a 1 or 2 seed confers a clear advantage with a bye.

Of course they’re discussing adding more teams to the playoffs and effing it all up because money.

Ruki Motomiya
Guest
Ruki Motomiya
1 year 7 months ago

I agree that the NFL setup is good, plus there’s been really few 8-8 winners. I also agree that the 1 or 2 seed offering a clear advantage with the bye week is good: I wonder if something like that could be done with baseball. Likewise, hopefully they don’t mess it all up TOO much with the additional team talk, since they’ll probably add stuff anyway since money. Maybe they can do baseball-ish WC play-in games to make it not so bad.

Ruki Motomiya
Guest
Ruki Motomiya
1 year 7 months ago

Also, every single one of them can take solace in one thing: They aren’t college football’s system.

Andrew Follow the Money Friedman
Guest

This discussion can’t be complete without talking about the horrendous playoff format that MLB has come up with and which contributes to outcomes we’re seeing.

I’ve seen some people rationalize this format by saying that they like the “penalty” of the non-division winners being subjected to the 1 game do-or-die WC round. But why is that penalty more important than the complete loss of integrity of an entire round? Heck, the worst team in baseball can beat the best team in any one game and probably as much as 40% of the time if they play over a longer sample.

So people talk about randomness and variation accounting for the outcome of a best of 7 series, but ignore a 1 game “series?” Add that the “penalty” of a surviving WC team is that they get a little bloodied by having to use a pitcher in the WC game, then they will be that much more “bloodied” by having to play a 3 game WC series. That adds both integrity to the WC round and additional hardship to the surviving WC team.

All that aside, I’m still not sure why people get so perturbed by WC teams getting to the WS. It makes for a great storyline when it happens. If it never happens then teams wouldn’t put their chips in and try to get in via WC. If only the top 2 or 3 teams cruise thru the playoffs each year, then watching the playoffs would be boring.

Walter
Guest
Walter
1 year 7 months ago

The WC game hardly penalizes the WC-game winner in the DS though. People haven’t really thought this through enough.

What happens is that the ace usually can throw games 1 and 5. But with the ace pitching the WC game he can only throw game 3. However, the loss is trading your ace for your second best pitcher in game 5 only if it makes it to game 5. 8 out of the last 20 DS made it to game five. So what’s the win probability difference going from your ace to your second best pitcher, now multiple by .4. That’s pretty meh. And theoretically, this would be your ace’s off day to throw, so he could be available out of bullpen, a la Johnson, if the game needs it.

GiveEmTheBird
Guest
GiveEmTheBird
1 year 7 months ago

Why don’t you out some real integrity in the post season and just have it be a 162 game contest? I don’t see the magic in 3, 5, or 7 games when it comes to small sample size.

Bill Anderson
Guest
Bill Anderson
1 year 7 months ago

A lot of times, the wild card team is the 2nd or 3rd best team in the league. They shouldn’t be penalized just because they are in a stronger division.

Tito Landrum
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

Crap. Now I don’t know if I’m more pissed at the Royals for keeping th Orioles out of the World Series or from keeping Cameron from possibly writing “Where I Was Wrong About The Orioles”. ;). :D

vin
Guest
vin
1 year 7 months ago

Spot on.

“Perhaps too much of that sentiment crept into my own thinking about the upside of building an 85 win team, because in today’s baseball world, 85 wins and a little bit of luck can turn a franchise around. I’ve argued against losing on purpose, but perhaps I’ve argued too strongly for wins in the 88-95 range and not strongly enough for wins in the 80-88 range.”

It all makes very real sense with the addition of the extra wild card teams. As they say, “you’ve got to be in it, to win it.” And getting “in it” doesn’t require 90+ wins like it used to.

Los
Guest
Los
1 year 7 months ago

Last Year the Pirates & Reds were WC at 94 wins and 90 wins. Tampa Bay and Cleveland had 92 each. I think this year was more of an anomaly than anything where 5(!) teams made the playoffs with a record equivalent to the worst playoff team in 2013.

Basebull
Guest
Basebull
1 year 7 months ago

Not that the Royals are the perfect example, but I think this is an example of what I see as the biggest logical shortcoming I see repeated as gospel among internet MLB fandom: that teams can be easily compartmentalized as contenders or rebuilders, with little or no middle ground. Rebuilders get derided for making “win now” moves with long-term consequences (KC trading Meyers for Shields, M’s signing Robinson Cano for a decade, etc.) when the conventional wisdom and projection systems say they’re too far away from being playoff caliber to justify those moves. Even overlooking the inherent randomness of the game (which has certainly worked in KC’s favor over the last couple months), teams’ fortunes can change so quickly that it’s foolish to expect that a 75 win team one year can’t be an 85 win team the next. For Christ’s sake look at the Marlins this year and imagine what one stronger UCL and a couple decent free agent upgrades could have changed.

kevin
Guest
kevin
1 year 7 months ago

There is a difference between making yourself better, and going all in when you seem like an low 80s win team.
The Shields trade got flack mostly for the price tag. No one was saying that all things equal the Royals shouldn’t be trying to get Shield. They were saying, maybe don’t go all in when it doesn’t seem like the best time to go all in.
The Omar Infante signing was seen in a much more favorable light. Infante is a slightly lesser talent…but true rebuild/win-now dichotomists would still have put KC in the rebuild pile. Yet Infante was viewed as a good move. Perhaps because the price-tag was smarter.

jimfetterolf
Guest
jimfetterolf
1 year 7 months ago

Royals didn’t go all-in, that would have been Ventura, whom the Rays wanted, on top of the flawed Myers. Rays instead got Odorizzi and the bustish Mike Montgomery. Royals also thought they were closer than the blogosphere gave them credit for by having Duffy hoping to return, having Ventura on the horizon, and likely knowing they could get Erv Santana.

Pundits looked at ’12’s 72 wins as reflecting true talent, Royals saw an 81 win team derailed by injuries, so went for it with Perez and Cain looking to be healthy again.

Owen
Guest
Owen
1 year 7 months ago

Good article and I think there is a lot more data to mine about the inefficiencies in looking at all mediocrity as the same– for instance the Angels, Tigers, Dodgers etc. stand to lose a lot more than they gain by consistently going for 85 wins a seasons whereas the upside in terms of local interest, tickets receipts etc. for teams like the Dbacks, Astros and Rocks may be worth it to push some prospects or make some trades to contend for 85-wins earlier than statheads would otherwise say.

It’s time to recognize that the standard for all teams shouldn’t be baseball in October but for some teams meaningful baseball in September gets you nearly all the rewards as well.

It’d be fun as hell to develop a calculation of how much more a team earns for each win over x over the number of years since they’ve made the playoffs, how apathetic the fanbase is etc.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
1 year 7 months ago

“for instance the Angels, Tigers, Dodgers etc. stand to lose a lot more than they gain by consistently going for 85 wins a seasons”

Whaaa? I’m failing to understand your point about these teams in particular. Should they try and be worse so they can barely eke into the playoffs? Because it’s not like you can just say, “well this is exactly a 92-win team but we should make ourselves exactly an 85-win team and eke into the playoffs by exactly one game so that our fan base is super pumped up.” You OF COURSE want to win your division, and put it away as early as possible. Because in your striving to sneak into the playoffs you may find yourself missing the dance altogether. Don’t let one season’s results convince you that chasing the wild card should become a thing to do (if the alternative is winning the division handily).

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
1 year 7 months ago

(But chasing the wild card can generate interest, excitement, and revenues for teams right around .500, as you rightly indicated. Just not a great plan to purposefully backslide to the wild card chase if you’re a true talent .600 team.)

Nathaniel Dawson
Guest
Nathaniel Dawson
1 year 7 months ago

I believe he meant that the Tigers, Dodgers and Angels should be aiming for more than 85 wins. While for other teams that lack the kind of resources those three teams have, 85 wins could be a realistic goal that might pay off for them. It would hurt the high revenue teams to settle for a roster that would be expected to win around 85 games. With the resources they have available to them, they need to be aiming higher.

Owen
Guest
Owen
1 year 7 months ago

I agree with ya Jason B that if you’re the Tigers, Dodgers, Angels you should be aiming for the division every year, not an exact numbers of wins. Specifically, those teams can have a rough idea going into the season of what type of players and $$$ they need to pick-up to give themselves the best odds to win the division and still have enough $$$$ to reassess again before the trade deadline and pick up more pieces if necessary.

But as Nathaniel pointed out, that strategy doesn’t have to be the be-all, end-all for the majority of the teams with fanbases that are desperate for some kind of winning and thrill now that we have the WC. The Royals built a team with lots of unknowns (paging Ventura and Duffy) and the head-scratching-at-the-time Shields trade not trying to obliterate outright the rest of the division but just to compete in the division. It worked for them and that town has been going baseball crazy since the middle of September, before they were even assured of a playoff spot.

joecatz
Member
joecatz
1 year 7 months ago

Not sure I get that.

1. Quick. Name the teams that were in it in September this year. Then name the ones that were in it last year and the year before.
2. Quick. Name the teams that made the WS the past four seasons.
3. Now tell me how many games each of those teams won without looking it up

Everyone should be able to answer number 2. Some will be able to answer 1. 1 in 1000 can do three.

PackBob
Guest
PackBob
1 year 7 months ago

The Royals fuel the hope machine that so many fans ride on. They have been beneficial not only to KC fans, but to fans of any team that is close to making the playoffs. Fans of those teams look at the Royals and think that could easily be their team with an addition or some better bounces of the baseball.

cass
Guest
cass
1 year 7 months ago

And fans of teams that have historically been awful but have built themselves up to being very good in the last few years now throw their hands up in dismay because no matter how good their team is, they have very little hope of getting to the World Series.

Hot in September, above average or better at every position, best pitching staff in baseball… and four playoff games and out to a wild card team that won 88 games.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
1 year 7 months ago

what did you expect, it’s an even year bruh.

gag

cass
Guest
cass
1 year 7 months ago

Even year. Yep. Just like 2008, 2006, 2004, 2002, 2000, 1998, 1996, 1994, 1992, 1990, 1988, 1986, 1984, 1982, 1980, 1997, 1976, 1974, 1972, 1970, 1968, 1966, 1964, 1962, 1960, 1958, and 1956.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
1 year 7 months ago

I was joking. I’m a Dodger fan. I feel your pain quite acutely.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
1 year 7 months ago

Born in 1989 btw, so i’ve never seen my team win either. Knowing that your team used to be great in the 70’s and the 50’s isn’t much of a consolation.

mike2
Guest
mike2
1 year 7 months ago

Cass. Why didn’t you add 1954?

ElJimador40
Guest
ElJimador40
1 year 7 months ago

The Nationals had as much chance to make the WS this year as any other team that made the playoffs. In fact you could argue they had the most chance considering they were at full strength and at least had home field advantage set up through the NLCS while the team had home field advantage set up throughout (the Angels) had a depleted starting rotation.

As for losing to an 88 win WC team, the Giants’ winning% was .050 behind the Nationals’ this season – less than the difference between any 2 NFL playoff teams that finish 1 game apart in the standings. I’m not a huge pro football fan so maybe I’ve missed it but does anyone contend that a 10-6 WC team defeating an 11-5 division winner invalidates their playoff format? I think a lot of people are overstating how overstating how much “randomness” was involved this year for the lower seeds to advance. There was no ’98 Yankees this season and these were basically all even contests to begin with.

Pumpsie Green
Guest
Pumpsie Green
1 year 7 months ago

Nothing saying you can’t be a great organization AND have the baseball gods smile upon you. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

Brian L
Guest
Brian L
1 year 7 months ago

Great article Dave, honest insights.

There’s always going to be some break in the logic of evaluating that risk/reward decision, because the reward in baseball and sports in general is so abstract. It’s not like other arenas where analytics are used, where positive performance and metrics are the end goal (e.g. a company’s stock price). You can quantify some pieces of the ultimate reward of winning, in terms of higher viewership, added ticket revenue, etc. – but in the end, winning the championship will always remain almost entirely an unquantifiable.

Rawson
Guest
Rawson
1 year 7 months ago

Rangers were a moribund franchise until 2010. Then came two WS trips. “One strike away” and all that. Even after one of their worst seasons ever this year, the team’s average attendance was 9th best in MLB. Those two ALCS flags have made a long-term difference.

Rawson
Guest
Rawson
1 year 7 months ago

” … perhaps the goal shouldn’t be to build a great team anymore, but to build a decent team as often as possible.”

Still chewing on this. Decent team=Royals, World Series: great team-Angels, couch. Recency bias, or the new reality?

indyralph
Guest
indyralph
1 year 7 months ago

I think it’s fair to say that Cardinals of the last decade and Giants of the last 6 or so years are pretty good examples of building decent teams as often as possible. The Rays also, but with less success.

arc
Guest
arc
1 year 7 months ago

Give that the playoffs themselves are a toss-up, the goal should be to be a in a position to participate in them as often as possible.

I don’t think there’s anything new in that idea. What’s worth considering is the definition of “in a position to participate”. The bar may be lower than it used to be.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
1 year 7 months ago

arc – very well stated. If all the playoff teams are created equal and have a 1/8 chance of winning it all (excepting the WC losers), you want as many pulls on that slot machine as possible. But contention may not be just a pipe dream for a team sitting at 60-57 in early August, for instance.

Shermham
Member
Shermham
1 year 7 months ago

Is it sanitary to say that the playoffs are truly a toss-up when the Giants or the Cardinals have won the NL pennant each of the last 5 years? Or when the Yankees won 4 rings in 5 years a decade ago?

Surely there is some randomness, yes. Especially this goofy WC playoff. But to say the playoffs are a toss-up I think misses the point by not recognizing that some organizations have cultures that are conducive to playoff success. Or in the Royals case, they play in a way that’s built for playoff baseball (running game, bullpen)

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
1 year 7 months ago

“some organizations have cultures that are conducive to playoff success.”

But I think that’s a post-hoc label applied to teams after they have postseason success. Otherwise, I’d like to see articles or predictions about what teams are built to have postseason success going forward (say in the next 3-5 years), and we’ll see how accurate those assessments are after those postseasons are played.

Shermham
Member
Shermham
1 year 7 months ago

I totally agree that you need to have some way of projecting theories forward. The troublesome thing is while it’d be nice to just say that the Cards and Giants will keep winning, it’s very possible that other teams are going to start emulating what those organizations are doing.

Jim Price
Guest
Jim Price
1 year 7 months ago

“Great team-Angels” might be a stretch, yes they won a lot of games but have clear holes themselves. In reality maybe they aren’t a whole lot better than Royals.

Rawson
Guest
Rawson
1 year 7 months ago

I concede your point that it’s a stretch to call the 2014 Angels a great team, but they were the closest thing MLB had to a great team this season. They did win 98 games, 9 more than KC, so by that measure they were a “better” than KC by a wide margin – which meant absolutely nothing once the post-season began.

UZR needs a tweek
Guest
UZR needs a tweek
1 year 7 months ago

They punished bad teams, and having more against the Rangers and Astros helped to pad their record. Against above .500 clubs they were 41-43. The Royals were 44-45.

Using an unbalanced schedule can also skew results over a 162 game season.

ElJimador40
Guest
ElJimador40
1 year 7 months ago

The Angels were better than the Royals by virtually the same margin in terms of winning% that an 11-5 NFL team is better than a 10-6 one. I wouldn’t consider that a wide difference myself.

vivaelpujols
Guest
vivaelpujols
1 year 7 months ago

Obviously a great team is more likely to win the WS than a mediocre team. The question is if you want sporadic great years or consistent 90 win years. The Royals are looking like a sporadic 90 win team, which is the worst of both worlds. Good for them on getting the WS, but let’s be realistic, they aren’t especially set to be contenders in the future. The main reason they even made the playoffs this year was because of their bullpen and bullpens are rarely stable year to year.

Pumpsie Green
Guest
Pumpsie Green
1 year 7 months ago

We pay you for your opinion, Cameron. Never regret confidently expressing an opinion.

Brian
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

I don’t think he regrets that he expressed the opinion. He’s just examining where his opinion may have been off and how it could have been stronger. We “pay” for that too.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
1 year 7 months ago

This site is free. Is this intended to be an insult disguised as a compliment?

Nathaniel Dawson
Guest
Nathaniel Dawson
1 year 7 months ago

We pay for it being free by our page clicks.

Pumpsie Green
Guest
Pumpsie Green
1 year 7 months ago

Definitely all compliment. Love the site, love Cameron. Thought he might be feeling bad about what he said about the Royals and wanted to pick him up. No reason to feel bad – he looked at all the information available to him and said what he thought. Fantastic! Some guys on here accuse him of being arrogant – I’ve never thought that. He’s a guy who expresses an informed opinion – just what I want, even if I come to a different conclusion.

Corey
Guest
Corey
1 year 7 months ago

This is essentially the Cardinals strategy each year. As well as the Giants. Many of the St Louis Post Dispatch writers have commented that the Cardinals organization considers October baseball to be random. The goal each year is to build a team capable of entering into the playoff lottery. Mozeliak has proven very adept at building such a team. Now, if they could only get Tony LaRussa to manage the team in the playoffs…

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
1 year 7 months ago

This is the Dodgers too. They’ve been at least mediocre every year, and usually they are a little to a lot better than that. Hasn’t really worked for them though.

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
1 year 7 months ago

Nice job putting this out on a Friday.

NBarnes
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NBarnes
1 year 7 months ago

Because nobody reads baseball blogs on the weekend. Everybody’s too busy getting stuff done to spend time on hobbies. That’s why the NFL runs so many games on Tuesday, to get viewers with actual time on their hands.

Hugh G. Reckshun
Guest
Hugh G. Reckshun
1 year 7 months ago

Well, apparently nobody writes them on the weekend.

Whiny McDipShit
Guest
Whiny McDipShit
1 year 7 months ago

I shall suggest, nay, DEMAND you put articles out according to my whims! Geez, check in first, Cameron.

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
1 year 7 months ago

Jebus, it was a joke. It’s common knowledge that you put out bad news on Fridays. I honestly don’t think Dave needed to write this. I think he’s being overly generous to the idiot crowd.

vivaelpujols
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

Probably. Most people just have trouble thinking of stuff in probabilities. If the Royals win the WS that’s the best possible outcome, but it doesn’t retroactively change the probability of that happening over the past few years.

MLB Rainmaker
Member
Member
MLB Rainmaker
1 year 7 months ago

Just to play Devil’s advocate…its a pretty time honored tradition in the newspaper business to print retractions on Friday’s, because Friday papers are hardly read.

In the internet world, its typically 5PM Friday, the end of the weekly news cycle, when folks print retractions to avoid them being read. In that context, the dig made me laugh…

KCDaveInLA
Guest
KCDaveInLA
1 year 7 months ago

Not read, huh? 244 comments and counting….

Eminor3rd
Guest
Eminor3rd
1 year 7 months ago

Don’t feel bad, Dave. This is the result of a paradigm (Short contention window/long-term rebuild) not having caught up with the changing environment around it. The truth is, we’re just now discovering the “lay of the land” for macro-level team building strategy in the current two-wild card format.

This article represents a breakthrough in understanding the changes.

Brian
Guest
Brian
1 year 7 months ago

A prime example of why Dave is my favorite baseball writer on the planet. Just great stuff.

jruby
Member
Member
jruby
1 year 7 months ago

“Given what we know about the postseason, maybe it doesn’t pay to give up a couple of longshot years in order to move the needle a little bit more in your favor in the future.”

Clearly, what you’re saying is that the Phillies are ahead of the curve and RAJr is a genius.
Clearly.

LK
Guest
LK
1 year 7 months ago

“Given the parity in MLB and the randomness involved in the postseason, perhaps the goal shouldn’t be to build a great team anymore, but to build a decent team as often as possible.”

Dave, in your chat this week, a question was posed as to whether the MLB playoffs are “too random.” You gave a pretty dismissive answer, basically stating that the outcome of any tournament will always involve randomness. I didn’t think that was a legitimate response then, and I don’t think so now. The sentence above is why. The current incentives in MLB do not reward great teams over good teams. I primarily watch sports to see greatness, not just in individuals, but also at the team level. This run is great for Royals fans, and I’m legitimately happy for them. I don’t think it’s great for the sport of baseball; I’m less interested in it than I used to be, and the random nature of the postseason (combined with the fact that no one seems to care about the regular season results at all) is why.

Eminor3rd
Guest
Eminor3rd
1 year 7 months ago

Let me guess: Yankees fan?

cass
Guest
cass
1 year 7 months ago

I doubt it. The Yankees had a poor regular season.

arc
Guest
arc
1 year 7 months ago

Not unique to baseball in any way. In fact baseball has one of the least volatile playoff systems in sports.

Despite the narrative, tournament structures were never designed to determine who the best is. They’re designed to be exciting. Elimination! Win or go home! The same exact game, plus a spectacle of brief, elevated significance!

The narrative that these things determine who the best is just sort of follows naturally from that design of excitement. “This isn’t just for fun; it’s to CROWN A CHAMPION!”

cass
Guest
cass
1 year 7 months ago

Historically, and for most of baseball history, the leagues operated just like the EPL does today where the team with the best regular season record would be the champion. The only difference was that we had two top leagues and the winners of each faced each other in a series to see which team was better.

Expansion kind of messed everything up.

Walter
Guest
Walter
1 year 7 months ago

I’m not sure about the validity of the claim that tournament structures were never designed to find the best at something. In a lot of sports a single match/game/race(whatever) is quiet good a determining the best person/team in that event. And the tournament structure is there to whittle down the field in order to get to a best-of-the-best match up.

In more complex team games, like baseball, win percentages of the better team are lower than something like a track race or a wrestling match. So there has to be balance between time constraints and finding the best team. I think all else being equal, baseball fans want to see high talent teams advancing further in the playoffs. But we can’t play a 21 game series (or probably more) to get the win probability of the better team into the realm of something like those highly reproducible sports.

So, if we agree we have only 30 days for some sort of tournament structure, how do we want to do it? I’d argue 3 relatively short series, plus a single play-in game, with tons of off days is not ideal. I’d like to see the play-in game and most off days eliminated, keep the 3 rounds, but lengthen them to 7 games for the DS, 9 for CS, and 9 for WS. To eliminate the travel days, award many more home games to the higher seed. Like a 2-5 format the 7 game series, and a 3-3-3 for the 9 game series. Teams travel and play on the same day all the time in the regular season. No need to take that away now. Keep an off day between series though, because, well its October, rain outs are probably going to happen. Anyway, that’s only 25 games. Plus maybe 3-4 off days and we’re still within 30 days to keep this to a month.

And honestly, why does MLB not want more games? Wouldn’t squeezing more games into October mean more revenue? It would seem crazy to assume we’re at a point of diminishing returns were more October games actually doesn’t make more money.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
1 year 7 months ago

Well, if what you really want is to find the best team, then you would just make the playoffs as long as possible — from April to October. You would basically have every team play every other team 6 times, 174 total games, a completely balanced schedule, and the team with the best record is the champion.

vivaelpujols
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

Basketball has by far the least volatile outcomes of any of the big 4 sports. I’m not sure where Hockey and Football are, but I would guess they are less volatile than baseball as well.

vivaelpujols
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

The only reason I say Football and Hockey might have less randomness than baseball, is that they are more dominated by single players (the goalie in hockey, the quarterback in football). If you have Peyton Manning or Brodeur, you’re very likely to at least make the playoffs every year.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
1 year 7 months ago

This is why I watch baseball, in no particular order:

– I love watching pitchers pitch.
– I like the battle between the pitcher and the batter.
– I like watching the best players in the game do what they do.
– I have an irrational love of the Dodgers and when they do well I experience an irrational elation.
– I have an irrational need to see the Dodgers succeed in the postseason and, in particular, win the world series.
– I have an irrational emotional attachment to certain players and watching them do well inspires in me an irrational elation.
– Watching teams do things that defy expectations is damn exciting, in no small part because they themselves are so excited when it happens. (Unless I hate that team…)

Those things are not hindered at all by the fact that the best teams are often not the ones who make it to the world series. Even the part about watching the best players doesn’t apply, as the relationship between having the best player and being the best team is tiny in baseball (though this year it pretty much happened, if we consider Kershaw the best player in the NL and the Dodgers the best team in the NL, both of which could be argued.)

Cool
Guest
Cool
1 year 7 months ago

Hey Dave. Thanks for this article. I think Jeff Sullivan has done a good job of realizing this. The saber-community as a whole seems really, really quick to call for teams to firesale/dump/etc. There’s value in being in the hunt for awhile, there’s the possibility of things going right, and the allure of 85 wins and maybe sneaking into the wild card has a huge value to teams, especially small market teams with a recent history of mediocrity. I remember one chat with Jeff where several people suggested the Astros trade Altuve, and it’s like… he’s young, and good, so why? I remember years ago, when Seattle stunk, several saber writers around the internet saying Felix should be traded. Why? He was young, he was good, and he could be a crucial member of a good team in just a couple years. Every year there are 4-6 teams that outperform or underperform baseruns by 5 games. A 10 game swing isn’t common or something to be relied on, but it does happen frequently enough to not necessarily throw in the towel at a moment’s notice.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
1 year 7 months ago

We like to think of the game as consisting entirely of what happens on the field. I think introducing the variable of how team success influences fan attendance and interest which influences payroll which influences team construction which influences team success… it’s too far outside the realm of pure baseball analysis and we tend to avoid it.

vivaelpujols
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

Wasn’t what the Royals did the opposite of what you are proposing? They traded away a long term asset for a short term gain. If their goal was to win 85 games as often as possible, obviously Myers for 6 years lets them do that better than Shields for 2 (in probabilistic terms, it might not play out like that in real life).

vivaelpujols
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

No one advocated the Royals rebuild. In fact most analysts thought the Royals were on the cusp of contention due to their extremely strong farm system and solid young MLB talent.

Wobatus
Guest
Wobatus
1 year 7 months ago

Baseruns seems to undersell how good the Royals are, because a lot of their players actually seemed to underachieve at the plate this season. By projected WAR they are the 4th best team in baseball, at least per the playoff odds page. Given how well they have played over the last almost half season including the playoffs, I think they are going to be a contender next year as well, with or without Shields. Although without him it’ll certainly help if Duffy, Ventura and Zimmer can all stay healthy.

channelclemente
Guest
channelclemente
1 year 7 months ago

I approve of your act of gentile self flagellation, at the very least for associating yourself with Faux Sports. If analyst’s analysis is found wanting, perhaps that’s a reflection of the skeleton he hangs the flesh of his analysis on, the model. I’m not wise enough to suggest a model, but I will suggest that if you’re going to pick a metaphor for decisions, I pick Spades or Hearts and not Poker.

O'Bummer
Guest
O'Bummer
1 year 7 months ago

Faux Sports!! Hawhawhaw YASSSSS bro!

All the best,
Nobama

Paul of Tarsus
Guest
Paul of Tarsus
1 year 7 months ago

Gentile or gentle?

Nathaniel Dawson
Guest
Nathaniel Dawson
1 year 7 months ago

Perhaps he thinks Cameron is actually a Benedictine monk?

That Guy
Guest
That Guy
1 year 7 months ago

I think it all boils down to one fact: The difference between a great team and a good team in MLB is relatively minuscule. It’s worth striving to be good team if being a great team is impossible because you don’t need to be a great to defeat other greats. It’ll be more difficult sure, but the potential payoff is overwhelmingly in your favor.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
1 year 7 months ago

I don’t think the difference between a great team and a good team is miniscule, but I think that most seasons don’t have any great teams. Even winning 100 games doesn’t make a team great. A great team is something like the Braves and Yankees of the ’90’s, teams that win year after year. An isolated 100 win season is probably just a good team that had many things go right.

Paul
Guest
Paul
1 year 7 months ago

This article is cool granted but I am getting tired about these articles about the Royals … It feels like we have had 15 articles on this team and maybe one for each other playoff team over the last week or so

cass
Guest
cass
1 year 7 months ago

They’re far more interesting than any other playoff team.

Whiny McDipShit
Guest
Whiny McDipShit
1 year 7 months ago

Totally agreed! Who wants to read about one of the two remaining teams?! I demand more coverage of the ChiSox and Rockies, and I want it NOW!!

jimfetterolf
Guest
jimfetterolf
1 year 7 months ago

Re: The Trade. I consider it possible that Dayton Moore and staff had a better feel for Myers and Odorizzi than others did. In Omaha and Springdale the season before, Wil hit a lot of homers in band box parks, looked like he used Johnny Giavotella’s glove, and was seriously challenged by minor league breaking stuff. His first year in the majors he matched David Lough’s fW, his second year he looked a lot like second year Mike Moustakas, without the durability and glove.

Jake Odorizzi’s stock had fallen from being the next Greinke to being a #3 starter who would spend another year in the minors. Lot of pitches to get through five innings.

Mike Montgomery had bust whispered about him, unable to command the fastball and a bit brittle.

That’s what I saw being traded for a top 20 starter and a nasty arm. At that point in time, the winter after Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino’s arms blew up but with some position talent coming back from injuries that destroyed the 2012 season like happened in Texas in ’14, The Trade was a smart move, some prospects with flaws were exchanged for two arms that brought legitimacy to the team, made it a slightly more attractive destination for an Omar Infante or Jason Vargas, and provided a bridge to the next wave of pitching prospects such as Ventura, the returned Duffy, and as it turns out Zimmer and Manea. It was a good move at that moment in time, would have been wasted before, would have been a big mistake a few years later.

As for the year’s predictions, I had them at 90 wins and thought the aging Tigers were slightly over rated. Tigers may have been a few wins better than they played but the unexpected can be counted on for a few or five wins either way. That’s why they play the games.

Wario
Guest
Wario
1 year 7 months ago

When the option is trade/no-trade, the Moore-had-more-complete-info point is a fine point. When it’s good trade/bad trade, however, we can only look at objective value. In your scenario, only Moore knew as much, and on all appearances this was an amazing package. He should have been able to turn it into more than he did.

jimfetterolf
Guest
jimfetterolf
1 year 7 months ago

Myers’ and Odorizzi’s flaws were pretty well known in the local market, so lots of us knew that Myers’ power and defense wouldn’t play at the K in the AL Central. He’s an AL East player. Friedman knew that and thought Myers’ flaws could be fixed or minimized. They may yet be, slow down the bat launch so he doesn’t get fooled, but that will cost power, perhaps experience will make him a better RF.

As for value, we have two years of f and r WARs and have a pretty good idea of the cost of marginal wins, so the Royals got a lot of value in the deal. Tampa may yet get greater value. I don’t have a crystal ball. Myers may be Alex Gordon, he may be Jeff Francoeur without the arm. Wide range of possibilities between those two.

Pumpsie Green
Guest
Pumpsie Green
1 year 7 months ago

Doug Fister. But maybe he knew that they knew that he knew. You know?

Matt
Guest
Matt
1 year 7 months ago

It is worth a note that Odorizzi could have been awful if he never went to Tampa and learned the splitter from Cobb.

Shankbone
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

Nice insight into the Royals minor league adventures. I tend to think that Moore & Staff didn’t need yet another teething adventure with a hitting prospect as well. Nice look into making KC better for a couple free agents. Shields anchors what had been a journeyman and joke pitching staff, giving it some spine. I thought they’d take it to the aging Tigers as well.

The whole “more for Myers” part… There are only so many top 20 pitchers in baseball. Most teams are contending and have no such intentions of letting go. The top of the market is a limited place.

jimfetterolf
Guest
jimfetterolf
1 year 7 months ago

One other thing is that the trade didn’t happen in a vacuum. The ’12 team would have been about 81 wins without losing the two best pitchers, Perez, Cain, and Getz to long injuries, so Dayton Moore wasn’t trying to pick up twenty wins in the off season, more like five to ten as the kids developed. Coupled with the cheap trade for Erv Santana, Moore brought in three new rotation pieces, two of which did quite well, the third having his moments by ultimately becoming a core bullpen piece.

Hank G.
Guest
Hank G.
1 year 7 months ago

The whole “more for Myers” part… There are only so many top 20 pitchers in baseball.

About 20, right?

Ruki Motomiya
Guest
Ruki Motomiya
1 year 7 months ago

This is just my opinion, so take it for what you will (and it is what I said at the time of The Trade), but another thing to consider is that even if Wil Myers turned out well, at the time he would at best be spinning the wheels past 2016 and IMO without a strong enough farm system to support that should happen, kind of like the Pirates and past Royals teams when they failed. I think the Myers trade was a gamble, but it wasn’t bad as much as a reasonably calculated risk and a trade I feel was a good one overall. But I am also biased because, at the time, I thought Wil Myers was very overrated. Jury is still out on how wrong or right I am there.

vivaelpujols
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

Lets be clear. Wade Davis is the big win on this trade. He put up one of the best relief seasons of all time this year. No one saw that coming. He was a throw in on the deal, certainly he was not valued more than Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery. B grade pitching prospects tend to be interchangeable and Davis was pretty mediocre so far in the majors.

Davis was worth about as much as Shields this year in 1/3rd of the innings. He was as big a reason for the Royals making the playoffs. I don’t feel comfortable giving Dayton credit for that one.

maqman
Guest
maqman
1 year 7 months ago

I think you’ve figured it out Dave. Well done you.

Matt
Guest
Matt
1 year 7 months ago

Dave. We put you in control of the Royals. You have two options. You can stay where you are with current players and in the World Series. Or Mike Trout could magically be on the team next year to exchange for giving your spot to the Angels.
.
Which do you pick?

Joshua Northey
Guest
Joshua Northey
1 year 7 months ago

What are his financial and performance incentives? Or does he own the Royals too?

Matthew
Member
Member
1 year 7 months ago

Well, it was rumored the Royals could find extra money for Shields with their current playoff money. I imagine the owner keeps the GM based on money over all

Joshua Northey
Guest
Joshua Northey
1 year 7 months ago

“Over the last few years, I’ve been pretty down on the Royals as a contender, most notably writing a pretty harsh review of their side of the James Shields trade. Then, before the season began, I stated that I didn’t see the Royals as legitimate contenders this year, even though they were becoming a trendy pick in the national media. And finally, on July 21st, I suggested that the Royals punt on 2014 and trade Shields before he gets to free agency, given that they had fallen into third place and were seven games behind the Tigers in the AL Central.”

Literally none of those opinions is invalidated by what has occurred. They all could have been correct (or incorrect), and this (or any) post season has absolutely no bearing on that. They need to be examined on their own merits, not in the light of the results of a few dozen die rolls.

People need to understand that when you say “I suggested that the Royals punt on 2014 and trade Shields” you were not suggesting they had a 0% chance of making the World Series. Likely you thought they had a very low chance. And look it has happened! I get so frustrated with people throwing up these absurd objections to fangraphs posts.

Bob says “I want to roll the highest amount possible with these two die. Should I trade two normal dice for once dice that has a 1-X?”.

Dave Cameron says “I think the it is a 12 sided die and thus you should not make the trade.”.

Bob makes the trade anyway and rolls the dice and gets a 11! A good result and Bob wins.

The unwashed masses sprint to fangraphs to criticize Dave not on his opinion that it was a 12 sided die (the actual interesting claim worth evaluating and discussing), but instead focusing on Bob’s success the recommendation despite it.

How can people expend so much energy on such inane criticism. There is plenty to argue about without pretending that outcome of some die rolls proves anything.

Joshua Northey
Guest
Joshua Northey
1 year 7 months ago

“We can’t take every example of our expectations not being met as an unlikely event occurring without at least asking if we got the odds wrong.”

But the thing is many of the items people in baseball are expected to make predictions about are situations where every single possible outcome is at the time of the prediction very unlikely. Forgetting that leads you to the land where the idiot predicting Dayton to come out of the NCAA South regional is king.

Theo E.
Guest
Theo E.
1 year 7 months ago

I hope the Tribune doesn’t run this tomorrow…

TangoAlphaLima
Guest
TangoAlphaLima
1 year 7 months ago

Dave,

As a Royals fan, I gotta say, the sabermetrics community has gone too far with the mea culpas with regard to the Royals organization (for example, Rany Jazayerli, who wrote a big mea culpa in the Kansas City Star). David Glass is not a good owner. Dayton Moore is not a good GM. Ned Yost is not a good manager. At absolute best, each of them is average at their respective jobs; they do not deserve to receive mea culpas.

Yes, the James Shields trade worked out for the best, but that still doesn’t mean it was the right move to make. 1 out of 100 times that trade ends in this result, we just happen to be living in that 1 time.

I should also point out that the Shields trade is not as simple as the Royals either keeping or trading Myers and Odorizzi. It’s also about keeping $12.5 million on the books for the 2014, which could have been spent in other ways. With Myers in RF, RP Will Smith would not have been traded to acquire RF Nori Aoki. That saves another $1.5 million on the 2014 books to spend other places. Now, you could argue that it’s more dangerous to give that kind of money to Dayton Moore to spend on the free agent market, and you might be right, but accepting his incompetence in one facet of his job because he’s even more incompetent in another facet seems like faint praise at best.

I certainly don’t mean to sound like I’m not enjoying this postseason run for the Royals, I’ve loved every minute of it. Honestly, I’m still shocked by it all. I sat in the stands during the Wild Card game and thought the season was undoubtedly over after Moss parked his second homer in straightaway centerfield. To think that we are AL Champions and in the World Series is honestly mind-blowing.

But just because the end results turned out the best possible way doesn’t mean the method wasn’t unorthodox and likely to fail from the beginning. The Royals organization still has a lot of growth to go through in many facets, and I’m afraid this success will make them even more resolute that they were always doing things the right way. When they aren’t blessed with the 1 in 100 longshot again, you will see that your mea culpa was not warranted.

Andrew Follow the Money Friedman
Guest

wow, so *you’re* the one unhappy Royals fan…

TangoAlphaLima
Guest
TangoAlphaLima
1 year 7 months ago

No, no, very happy. I just don’t trust that “The Process” will provide anything close to a repeat.

Andrew Follow the Money Friedman
Guest

Wow, who gives a FF? The Royals are on a magical ride and you’re worried about what might happen in the future…??

TangoAlphaLima
Guest
TangoAlphaLima
1 year 7 months ago

I’m worried that GMDM will feel that this “magical ride” simply reinforces that he’s been doing things the right way the whole time, when he clearly has not been.

jimfetterolf
Guest
jimfetterolf
1 year 7 months ago

Royals seem to have some more pitching coming up, got a good look at Finnegan, and the other likely loss beyond Shields may be Butler, which is replaceable production. On the other hand Colon looks a legit UIF, we can hope Frank Pena can do the job as back up, and Hochevar is likely back on an incentive laden contract, so at the moment Royals look to be a similar team next year, give or take injuries and some luck.

The Process has worked and looks sustainable. That’s been the goal.

arc
Guest
arc
1 year 7 months ago

who gives a FF?

He wants more than one magical ride every 30 years. This isn’t hard to figure out.

KCDaveInLA
Guest
KCDaveInLA
1 year 7 months ago

I’ll say the same thing to you that I say to my friends who think everything belongs on Instagram: LIVE IN THE MOMENT.

LaLoosh
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

Guy’s team is in the WS and he comes here and whines that he’s worried that he may not get the dynasty that he wanted… We’re supposed to feel his pain for that??

forgive me if I think TAL’s comments went way over the top.

Kenz
Guest
Kenz
1 year 7 months ago

I think this article does Dave a disservice. The Shields/Davis Myers/Odorizzi trade happened in winter of 2012 and resulted in an 86 win team. But the winter of 2013 saw GMDM go out and plug their 2B and RF holes with solid, if unspectacular players in Norichika Aoki and Omar Infante. They also moved Wade Davis back to the bullpen, and got great seasons from Dan Duffy and Yordano Ventura. Filling in black holes, moving a failed starter to the bullpen, and having young guys produce is what gave them the real boost. At the time of the big trade, it was compared to the R.A. Dickey trade and the Blue Jays’ strategy, and it’s interesting to note that while AA was credited with doing more to increase his team’s chances, he STILL left open a huge gap at 2B for two years now. Also, the age of the Jays’ roster is much more than that of the Royals’, so they were much more susceptible to injuries.

emdash
Guest
emdash
1 year 7 months ago

If you think this article is doing Dave a disservice, then you think his basic assumption was that the Royals would do absolutely nothing to improve beyond adding Shields. I’m not sure why he would think that, as one would think that kind of dramatic trade wouldn’t be the only move.

MLB Rainmaker
Member
Member
MLB Rainmaker
1 year 7 months ago

The whole point here is that Dave and the sabermetric community “consensus” construct for Win values may be wrong or at a minimum, require some gentle massaging.

From the Royals run, its seems likely that there is non-linear expected Win value to be gained for additional WAR added in areas of weakness. By this I mean, on paper (per the current model) adding Shields ~4 WAR isn’t enough to get the Royals over the hump. But when you consider how bad the Royals started pitching was, adding 4 WAR of value was a MASSIVE improvement for the team.

Think about it this way — it would be nice if you got a check in the mail for $20K today. It would be a great windfall, but if you have a computer and are reading this blog, I’m going to guess it wouldn’t be life changing. If you gave that same $20K to someone in a third world country, that $20K would be life changing. And as is our current linear Win models don’t account for that relative value curve.

james wilson
Guest
james wilson
1 year 7 months ago

In Kansas City, experience would give you most of a 29 year losing streak to work with. Great odds. Genius would get you one win, and there are no geniuses in baseball. There must be such a thing as destiny though. The ’13 Red Sox were a mirage. These things happen from time to time and there is no better explanation for them.
Go KC.

Max G
Guest
Max G
1 year 7 months ago

Dave, re: the Cano part of the discussion, “…But even then, with a failed Wild Card run, the Mariners saw their TV ratings go up 20% this year and they drew 300,000 extra people to Safeco Field. That creates real revenue gains for the franchise…”

But does it really? I’m not so sure, when taking into account how much is needed to generate a net increase, given Cano’s salary.

Does anyone know how much a team gains per seat filled? For example, the average Mariners ticket price is $59.45. 300,000 x 59.45 means an extra $17,835,000 in revenue; I don’t know what MLBPA, MLB & Commissioner’s office cuts are on the regular season gate receipts, but there was a great fangraphs article on how postseason ticket revenues are pooled, which surprisingly leaves the teams with little direct revenue from the tickets, but a whole lot of shared revenue. Maybe somebody with more knowledge about the regular-season ticket revenue process can chime in.

About figuring out if Cano really did make the Mariners money, I think one way to look at this is to compare the difference in Cano’s salary ($24 mil) with the salary of whoever he replaced, and balance that against the additional ticket sales. For example, with $17 mil in new ticket sales, if the salary difference between Cano and the player he replaced is substantially less than $17 mil, then Cano provided a real financial return on the Mariners investment in him for 2014. I’m guessing the difference was >$17 mil, so he probably still cost them more than his presence created financially, correct? Or am I not evaluating this right?

Separately, I did not factor in the increased TV ratings, because there are too many variables associated with that, i.e., local station ad sales, rates per game vs. rates per non-game programs, etc. It would be interesting to look at though, if we had all the numbers (pre- and post-Cano airtime ad-rates, etc. Perhaps the increased ad revenue plus the gate receipts are greater than Cano’s salary?

I know this gets a bit off topic but I thought it interesting.

Kram
Guest
Kram
1 year 7 months ago

Would you also need to factor in the revenue generated from people buying various things at the ballpark? I think it’s likely based on everything that you said, including the TV rating and variables, that they at least broke even.

Not to mention that, given they were pretty decent, it might be easier this offseason to attract a targeted FA.

Wayward
Guest
Wayward
1 year 7 months ago

It’s not just ticket sales, though. It’s also concessions, apparel, new licensing rights, maybe parking fees (I don’t know if the team owns the parking lots or leases them) associated with more butts in those seats, plus more people tuning in on tv, radio, internet broadcasts. When you consider all the tertiary money coming in, it may very well result in a greatly increased revenue, regardless.

Wayward
Guest
Wayward
1 year 7 months ago

And I didn’t refresh before leaving my comment, which was addressed as well by Kram. Whoops.

Paul
Guest
Paul
1 year 7 months ago

The average ticket price for the Mariners is $28.45. You might not want to lie about something that can be easily determined.

In fact, not even the Yankees or Red Sox averaged that high for ticket prices.

Shankbone
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

Poker analogies are pretty weak. Baseball is about competing, and reducing it to a poker bet (no athletic skills) is yet another version of tired old Billy Beane slogans. All 30 teams are well aware of all the various history, rules and what not when they begin each season of play, and plan accordingly.

And that Shields trade was about enough stockpiling, go and compete. The whole “sell off” when you’ve got less than 1 game a week to make up is an incredibly feeble argument. The Al Central is always up for grabs. Worrying about cost of talent should be second to putting talent to use. The Royals have a great IFA pipeline and have drafted well enough to replace this “bounty” they gave away to become competitive. Said “bounty” really hasn’t done much, and it’ll get expensive if it does. Go compete now, stop stockpiling, and WAR values are one part of the equation, not a religion.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
1 year 7 months ago

“The whole “sell off” when you’ve got less than 1 game a week to make up is an incredibly feeble argument.”

Amen!
Signed, teams 20 games out after May

Ruki Motomiya
Guest
Ruki Motomiya
1 year 7 months ago

I know this reply was meant to be sarcastic, given specifying May as the time, but we didn’t get any 20-games-out teams until around August 1st.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
1 year 7 months ago

It was of course. Selling off makes sense for a lot of teams a lot of times; it just so happened that the Royals bucked the odds and had a terrific late season charge in them this year and have parlayed that into a WS appearance. As Dave rightly points out, the bar for contention may be lowered and thus the decision to sell-off may likewise by altered. Or it could be a one-year thing, time will ultimately tell.

arc
Guest
arc
1 year 7 months ago

He didn’t reduce it to that. You seem confused about what an analogy is.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
1 year 7 months ago

“The Al Central is always up for grabs”

What?

Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox
Guest
Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox
1 year 7 months ago

SO YOU’RE SAYING THERE’S A CHANCE!!

Kram
Guest
Kram
1 year 7 months ago

I found this article extremely insightful and well written. Thanks, Dave.

Compton
Guest
Compton
1 year 7 months ago

4 outs on the river is 4/46 or 9%. If it was the turn, then it would be 18%.

Poker dork
Guest
Poker dork
1 year 7 months ago

Assuming he means open-ended, not gut-shot.

Blue
Guest
Blue
1 year 7 months ago

There’s one big reason why saber types undervalue mediocrity:

The reify replacement level.

In reality a team CANNOT simply assume replacement level production at any time and in any position. So the real baseline of production is below that level.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
1 year 7 months ago

They do reify it. They are committed Reists.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
1 year 7 months ago

Part of the argument against the Shields trade was that without Myers, their RF situation was replacement-level at the time, and Myers was projected to be basically average. So, it wasn’t just a matter of trading the future to take advantage of their present window, it was that they were sacrificing present value as well.

jimfetterolf
Guest
jimfetterolf
1 year 7 months ago

David Lough did manage to put up 2.4 fW in RF, so that was a wash, even assuming Myers’ SLG and defense wouldn’t have been lower at the K. This year Nori Aoki provided quite a bit more value for KC than Myers did for Tampa. Royals haven’t felt the loss of Myers so far but have gained over 8fW from the gain of Shields and Davis this year alone.

Ruki Motomiya
Guest
Ruki Motomiya
1 year 7 months ago

This argument ignores Dyson, who while he should not have been expected to be this good looked fine to platoon with Frenchy (They tried this near the end of 2012, until a Cain injury: Frenchy usually hit lefties decently) to make a solid if unspectacular RF duo, though naturally being the Royals they ended up playing Frenchy too much. But they actually had a solid RF platoon option at the time.

isavage30
Guest
isavage30
1 year 7 months ago

I didn’t like the Shields trade for the Royals because it seemed like they could’ve got a pitcher on the free agent market who would have had just as much success. With the Royals outfield defense, they can make guys like Vargas and Guthrie reasonable starters. If they didn’t have Shields, and they instead had just signed, like, Aaron Harang, and used the money they spent on some offense, and still had Myers and Odorizzi, would think they’d be just as well off now and better off long term.

I think the argument about BaseRuns is weak though. I would think a team with a strong back end of the bullpen would outperform their BaseRuns. (I would also think run-suppressing defense and strong base running would also lead to outperforming BaseRuns, but the teams that have outperformed/underperformed BaseRuns, it has generally been all about the bullpen) Assembling a consistently strong bullpen is difficult to do and involves some luck, but you would have expected high performance from the Royals (and Orioles) bullpen before the season started. I think that’s where a lot of fangraphs analysis goes wrong, underestimating the value of a strong bullpen, especially in the lower run-scoring environment. fWAR is not really a useful measure of bullpen effectiveness, but the writers here still get caught up in when evaluating bullpen potential.

doug K
Member
doug K
1 year 7 months ago

It is still surprising to me how much people are wringing their hands over the Royals success. It is based on emotion, confidence and other things that are only sustainable over 10 or so games but that is all it takes to beat teams in the postseason.

The real story of the 2014 moves is the ridiculous deals by Oakland and Detroit to add “aces” in the expectation this would help them in the post season. Both overpaid enormously for the chance to show the stupidity of that approach since both teams were likely headed to the post season anyways. What they should have been doing is strengthening the bullpen not adding an ace. I maintain if the Tigers had offered Smyly and a prospect to Boston for Andrew Miller, they would have gotten him and might still be playing.

The value of relief pitching is vastly magnified by the extra days off in the postseason and there are studies out there to show that as well.

Ruki Motomiya
Guest
Ruki Motomiya
1 year 7 months ago

My two thoughts on it are: Keeping Myers, even if he turned out well (and I was and still an skeptical), would have eventually amounted to spinning the wheels, as it is unlikely he would do more than Gordon (who was a 5+ WAR player at the time) and at the least could not be projected as such. The Royals ultimately only gave up a single super prospect (Wil Myers), an okay “work-y” player (Odorizzi), a lottery ticket (Montogomery) and Patrick Leonard, who I don’t really know about. It wasn’t a really huge haul and honestly I wouldn’t be surprised if trading high end prospects for multi-year good players is actually an undervalued asset. Perhaps some kind of team where you consistantly trade off high value prospects for players like Shields or, theoritically, a player like Giancarlo Stanton, then flip them near the end of their contracts at times for high floor/undervalued assets, to create a sort of not ending rotation of above average players at okay prices.

I will say I am very glad to see this article, because while I am not sure if the Royals prove anything “wrong” the only thing I got annoyed at with Dave is that he seemed to dismiss even looking for if there could be something there, and looking deeper does reveal a possibility: Specifically, the win curve may be changing and there may be more value in being closer to mediocre, due to the possible value that variance could give you. I do also think the point about bad teams finally being good is something to consider. When you lose for years that can be counted in double digits, you’ll probably see the scope of your fanbase, and thus revenue, pretty reduced. Even just one year of doing good could spark enough money, or long term fanbase building which will create future money, to be worth the cost.

Some other things to consider, in my head, but which I am not sure I know the answer to: Are we properly evaluating the cost of prospects possibly busting or underperforming projections in things like trades? Are we properly considering the value of a win now vs. the value of a win later, considering the fact the roster “later” will be inherently harder to predict than the one now? (It is easier to predict this year than next year using data only up to this year, for example). Are there any parts of the game which may be undervalued currently in BaseRun calculations or other calculations?

And finally, one I think is important: Are we ignoring too much composition of a team when considering the team as a whole? Defense dependant pitchers, for example, should in theory be worth more in front of a great defense, and these might be undervalued assets with which you could build a solid rotation, sort of like how platoons can offer higher production by combining two things (Leftie + Rightie to produce the most offense. Pitcher + Strong defense to take advantage of how the pitcher pitches). I dunno if that analogy is good, but you get what I am trying to theorize: That you can build a pitching staff which works better with the team around it and thus outperform what is expected from a pure neutral context. And finally, when looking at the team overall, are we using improper metrics or thoughts in how to do it? For example, pitchers should be considered with the defense around them for run prevention at a team level, even if you want to remove the defense from the equation when trying to quantify the pitcher himself, because you are trying to capture different things for each: The pitcher’s value in one and the team’s overall value in another.

SKob
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

What’s with all the comments kissing Dave’s Ass? Dave – you wrote an article that was basically the most smug ‘oops, I was wrong, but I wasn’t really wrong’ BS I’ve ever read! I defended the trade for KC and Dayton Moore in the post you referenced and even other articles about it at the time. This site is so prospect oriented, it’s bordering on bizarre. Wil myers may still be great, but color me unimpressed. That part of it aside, you completely underestimated the actual team needs. You and a whole bunch on commenters thought they could get a better pitcher for Myers opr could have overpaid a free agent, when it just wasn’t possible at the time. KC knew they didn’t need another OF, Jeff Francoer, sub-replacement level player aside. A guy like Aoki came pretty cheap. They knew it would come cheap and they knew Myers was being overvalued and they got a borderline ace pitcher who would have never elected to go there through free agency. Wade Davis was the bonus, but the fact that a deal like this gets so widely panned because of a prospects ratings is why I’ve stopped ready various articles and authors on this site. This fantasy world you guys have created where everything is predictable and all elite minor leaguers are gold is insane. It’ like… with every wave of new prospects the thought is that this is the group the will pan out. These top 5 will be really good – period! It ain’t true! The Royals cashed in a lottery ticket before the numbers came out for something real… and made so many of you guys look really dumb! Damn I hope they win this thing!!!!

Malcolm-Jamal Hegyes
Guest
Malcolm-Jamal Hegyes
1 year 7 months ago

Congrats SKob. You’ve convinced me to NOT root for the Royals in the WS.

Jimmer
Guest
Jimmer
1 year 7 months ago

So, for you, it’s all about look mommy, look at me, I was right, I was right…

I have an idea, why don’t you become a sports writer and see how you do. They all get things right and get things wrong. Difference is, most of the time, the ones who get it wrong base their predictions on a lot less than what predictions are based on in here. Most people with any kind of intelligence should know the difference and should at least appreciate the fact that most of their predictions, though not always right, are well thought out.

I, too, liked the Shields trade when it happened. I even predicted they’d win the division this year before the season even started, so obviously I thought they had a good chance to make the postseason as well. Even though I’m not a Royals fan necessarily, I’ve enjoyed watching them during these playoffs as my team, once again, sits well out of playoff reach. You should just enjoy what the Royals have done instead of writing a post that makes you look like a tool.

Shermham
Member
Shermham
1 year 7 months ago

I don’t think you’re really replying to what his comment was about. The body of his post is not parading around the fact that he was right, but rather pointing out how fangraphs can often be wrong–that is, by overvaluing prospects. And that’s a very real and debatable topic.

vivaelpujols
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

ok lets see some more detail. How much is fan graphs overvaluing prospects?

I’m just asking the question…

Marsupial Jones
Guest
Marsupial Jones
1 year 7 months ago

He went about it in a bit of a douchey way but SKob has a very valid point. Prospects are far more volatile then a lot of us like to admit and the idea we can accurately evaluate a trade between proven MLB commodities and guys who have yet to swing a bat/throw a pitch is flawed to put it mildly.

DetroitMichael
Guest
DetroitMichael
1 year 7 months ago

When are MLB commodities ever proven? Was Wil Myers a “proven” commodity after one great year?

Justin Verlander is pretty proven so is Shin-soo Choo and Prince Fielder and David Wright and Joey Votto and Carlos Gonzalez.

Jason Kipnis and Bryce Harper and Chris Davis had proven themselves to be pretty good as well. Yet they all had off-years, despite PROVING themselves.

ALL baseball players are far more volatile than people like to admit, not just prospects.

Zsigs
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Zsigs
1 year 7 months ago

I was wondering if there would ever be an article of this nature. It is hard to admit mistakes at times, and many times unnecessary. In this case with the number of time the Royals were called terrible this season and the number of articles written on here to explain away the Royals successes; a retraction seemed necessary. We are all wrong many times, and it is great to see somewhat of an attempt to admit that here.

Mike Green
Guest
Mike Green
1 year 7 months ago

Well done, Dave. I too prefer the method the Rays used in 2007 and following to this one, but a reconsideration and mellowing was in order.

jimfetterolf
Guest
jimfetterolf
1 year 7 months ago

Was ’07 the year the Rays broke the business model and spent big on Pena? Similar to what Moore did, a team about ready but needing another piece or two now, not three years from now.

Mike Green
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Mike Green
1 year 7 months ago

The move of Upton to centerfield and the Young for Bartlett and Garza trade were the signs for me of a different approach.

Kevin W.
Guest
Kevin W.
1 year 7 months ago

Dave,

I’m a big Royals fan who has been reading you for years. For all these years, especially all the Dayton Moore ones, I’ve been steadfastly been one of his few (if not only) supporters on the internet, outside of the whole Lee Judge & mainstream crowd. Though I don’t follow him blindly, he’s had plenty of simply bad moves and some other questionable ones, but the overall hatred towards him over the years was largely unjustified (the same can’t be said about people like Trey Hillman and Ned Yost). One of the reasons I believed in his plan, I think you hit spot on here:

“But I think there’s a pretty good chance that I’ve underestimated the positive returns on mediocrity in Major League Baseball”

Mediocracy with an ace leading the rotation and good bullpen is enough in baseball. Especially as a building point for a small-market club. The avearge starting rotation ERA in 2014 the AL is 3.92. The Royals 3.60, the Giants 3.74. The Angels 3.62, the Tigers 3.89. Last year for the Royals it was 3.87 (a healthy Lorenzo Cain, along with an actual 2B goes a long way in terms of the differences this year).

One step further, Overall team ERA in the AL was 3.82 in 2014. The Royals were at 3.51, Giants 3.50. Last year, the Royals team ERA was 3.45. Quite a few times over the last few years, it was only slightly above the team ERA average for the league. The idea that GMDM put forth that the Royals are not that far away from contention, that one big piece could do it, was not misleading.

Now go back to 2008. What propelled the Rays from the worst ERA in baseball in 2007 to the 2nd best in the AL in 2008, only behind the Halladay-led Blue Jays? Largely, the Matt Garza trade. Shields wasn’t exactly an ace yet, with his ERA entering 2008 being at 4.21. Now with two pitchers able to provide mediocre surface-level numbers (3.56 and 3.70 ERA, 3.8 WAR & 3.3 WAR)

The Royals tandem of Shields and Ventura this year posted ERA’s of 3.21 and 3.20, and WAR’s of 3.3 and 3.2, respectively). All this to say was that those WAR’s or ERA’s are not the best in the game but are above average. In terms of pitching, every World Series winner in the last decade had an ace leading the helm (not surprisingly…) The 2008 Rays or the 2014 Royals are not a coincidence, they are similar teams built on similar strengths, who pulled of similar strategies to take them on similar paths. I think the Royals are better than that Rays team, with a rotation going deeper than Edwin Jackson at #3, the Bullpen astronomically better (lets just say Troy Percival led the ’08 Rays in saves), both with good defenses, and the Royals offense somewhat behind.

One last note on that — the Royals offense isn’t as bad as it seems. Sure it’s a lot to expect a lot of players who have previously struggled to live up to expectations to suddenly all do it at the same time, but the talent has been there all along, and Kauffman Stadium hasn’t been helping. The Royals were the best road team in the AL in 2014. They excel in hitting environments if you put them in one, and with a sold out crowd behind them, they ain’t bad at home either.

blindbuddysirraf
Member
blindbuddysirraf
1 year 7 months ago

The question is, if we assume that Moore was building a mid 80s team and hoping to be fortunate enough to get into the playoffs, then why would he leave Ned Yost as manager knowing he could cost them a costly game or two with his tactical definciencies.

Noah
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

Here are the three things that people really didn’t expect:

1. Jarod Dyson and Nori Aoki would emerge as an all-star combination in right field. If they were still playing Jeff Francouer in right field, they undoubtedly would not have won a wild card spot.

2. Wil Myers would not have nearly as large of an impact as expected. Perhaps we could have foreshadowed this; even though his traditional minor league numbers were good, if you dig a bit deeper you see a player who struck out too much to be considered an elite prospect, a player whose power numbers were inflated by playing in consistently hitter-friendly leagues and ballparks.

3. Wade Davis would become a dominant late-inning reliever. Should we have seen this? Possibly. If you look just at his final season with the Rays as a reliever, he posted a 30.6 K%, which is ridiculous. Maybe we shouldn’t be that surprised that he is again eclipsing the 30 K% plateau as a reliever in 2014.

I wish I knew as much about advanced stats when this trade was made as I do now, because I must admit to being complicit in my adoration of the Rays for this trade. Looking back now, with a more careful eye, shows a vastly different trade.

chuckb
Guest
chuckb
1 year 7 months ago

Wil Myers has played just 2 years and his first year was very good. It’s a little early to say that he “would not have nearly as large of an impact as expected.”

Ruki Motomiya
Guest
Ruki Motomiya
1 year 7 months ago

1. I definitely wanted a Dyson/Francouer platoon back when Frenchy was in Kansas City and they actually tried this in 2012, until Cain’s injury messed it up, and I figured the platoon would be good. I definitely did not expect Dyson to be THIS good, though!

2. I never understood this. Myers never had good minor league numbers until 2012, when he suddenly exploded in power backed by a huge strikeout rate (I forget if he plays in an offense friendly minors park). It was one of the reasons I was down on him. I will definitely agree it is too early to say on if he has done good or not, though.

3. I definitely didn’t see this coming, even if he was dominating late with the Rays that season, mostly because I didn’t think the Royals would keep him as a reliever given they wanted to try him as a starter.

I still feel the Rays/Royals trade was win-win, but I will say that I think the pieces fit even a bit better for the Royals. The Rays have also done quite well with their pieces, assuming Odorizzi’s under the hood numbers don’t bite him/drop.

MLB Rainmaker
Member
Member
MLB Rainmaker
1 year 7 months ago

Great points, and I believe this is the right appoach we should be taking with respect to the Royals season.

To add on, I think you have to consider Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas numbers in AA and AAA when you evaluate Wil Myers and the Royals decision to trade him. Both had monster power numbers, which largely didn’t translate to the MLB level; that insight was certainly a consideration of Dayton Moore relative to Myers.

Also, while Shields was only a 4 WAR pitcher, that 4 WAR was very valuable considering just how bad the Royals SPs were. Only the Twins had a worse staff prior to that trade.

HamiltonJames
Guest
HamiltonJames
1 year 7 months ago

It’s hard to defend the Shark trade and yet blast the shield trade.
Cameron is one of these guys who thinks playoffs are luck. So why did Oakland need Shark then? They were a cinch for the playoffs (or so it seemed) when the made the trade and the trade certainly wasn’t made to get to the playoffs. Further, the Royals had more depth of prospect to give than the As.

Pumpsie Green
Guest
Pumpsie Green
1 year 7 months ago

My head loves analytics, my heart loves my team, but my wallet loves this tenet: Spending within your division is what really matters. When you bet on baseball, bet that the world series will be won by a team that is in the top two in spending in their division. As it will be in 2014, again.

jasonshure
Member
jasonshure
1 year 7 months ago

I think its good that this article was written, but two things are missing, IMO.

The first is a recognition of the extreme Royals bashing in these pages and others. Its not just the Shields trade, The Royals have been the whipping post for lots of haughty stat-head writers for years. The piling on is a weakness in our culture, seems to me, and reeks of the bad side (who knew there WAS a bad side!) to Revenge of the Nerds.

The second is that we don’t entertain whether perhaps the Royals are actually really good right now. This is a perennial question when the playoffs come around – who is better, the team with the best record (or run differential or whatever) over the year, or over the second half, or over the last month, etc? Teams morph over the year for many obvious reasons, and it seems possible that these Royals, right here right now, are actually good. In a wild card world, the question of how good a team is, Right now, is really important. Cameron assumes they arent so good, but have gotten themselves in striking distance and met some flawed teams, thus benefitting from parity and randomness. And I’m inclined to agree, but I would at least ask the question.

See, these two questions are related. If the Royals are not really that good, then all that mockery in the baseballblogosphere can still stand, as their run is a fluke. But if they are actually good, then there are plenty of smarmies out there who need to look in the mirror as much or more than Dave Cameron.

Ruben Amaro. Jr.
Guest
Ruben Amaro. Jr.
1 year 7 months ago

I agree about the piling on. As you guys on the Inter Net say, it ends up turning into a meem.

Ramblin' Gamblin' Man
Guest
Ramblin' Gamblin' Man
1 year 7 months ago

According to DC’s theory of mediocrity, Budweiser should be the King of beers.
Read into that what you will.
Rorschach to the head.

Joe's run off to Fire Lake
Guest
Joe's run off to Fire Lake
1 year 7 months ago

lolwut

ned yost is a mad genius?
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

How can somoeone argue a team plays above their talent … I just don’t understand that. It’s like “yeah these guys AREN’T that good they just PLAY really good.”

It could just be that they have a lot of young guys who are a lot better than they were 170 games ago.

Not to mention the teamwork factor or the outfield that covers more ground than anyone over the past 20 years. We measure defense based on many games, but there is a variance that isn’t measured. Someone like Mike Moustakas does’t have a great defensive rating, but when he is PLAYING really well he is among the best defensive 3rd basemen out there. Same goes for Alcides Escobar. He makes some bad throwing errors, sure, but when he’s focused it’s pretty impossible to get a ball past him without a sure out or a ridiculous double play being turned. When the Royals are playing well they are damn near unbeatable. There is a reason they went on such a win streak after the allstar break – and that’s how they are playing right now.

Bob Hamelin
Guest
Bob Hamelin
1 year 7 months ago

Yeah, it’s definitely used too often as a cop out for saber analysts when the results differ from their predictions. It’s easy to just chalk it up to randomness / small sample size instead of admitting you were simply wrong.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
1 year 7 months ago

Except for that when the sample size is small, we actually don’t know if we’re wrong or not, so admitting we’re wrong wouldn’t be any more correct that continuing to assert we were right. The Royals have won eight straight games. That is impressive. During any given season, for every team one can identify an eight-game stretch such that, if one were to read too much into it, would cause us to come to conclusions we know to be wrong.

arc
Guest
arc
1 year 7 months ago

How can you possibly be confused about that. Have you never seen a bad hitter go for 4-for-4?

neverender
Member
neverender
1 year 7 months ago

How humble of you, Mr. Cameron. Also – don’t you guys have proofreaders?

MajorDanby
Guest
MajorDanby
1 year 7 months ago

“But I think there’s a pretty good chance that I’ve underestimated the positive returns on mediocrity in Major League Baseball. That isn’t a goal to be derided anymore. The sport rewards it, especially if a few things break your way. ”

This quote sums it up pretty nicely. If we were back to no interleague play and the teams with the best record in the NL and AL playing in the WS, then your previous analysis of mediocrity is spot on. But, that’s not the case anymore.

MLB Rainmaker
Member
Member
MLB Rainmaker
1 year 7 months ago

First, I appreciate that you finally wrote this article, though I was pretty unsatisfied past the title.

You’ve basically concluded that you were only wrong in that you didn’t put a value on the (1) the ability to make the playoffs, and (2) the randomness of the playoffs. From that, #1 is a fair and needed admission and #2 is a cop out.

Related to #1, I think labeling success as “mediocrity” is a small way to address what the Royals did. They lost the AL Central by one game to a team that had significantly more expected Wins at the start of the season. Just as you point to Soto’s injury, you can just as easily point to any number of what-if arguments where the Royals win the division outright — those logical arguments cut both ways, which is why they are a weak basis to begin with. In basic terms, the only value of the regular season is to make the playoffs — 100 wins or 88…it doesn’t matter.

On point #2, it is the goal of roster construction to make a team that can win in the regular season and the post-season. The skill mix (defense, bullpen, baserunning) and value of skills are different in the regular season, but they are not random — things didn’t just “break their way”, the Royals team is strong in the areas that make playoff teams successful. The right approach for Fangraphs to take would be to examine the factors across years that drive playoff success, not dismiss the playoffs as random. Also, its not like the Royals have squeezed into the playoffs, they are 8-0.

At the heart of my issue with your viewpoint on the Royals is the sense I get that you are “stuck” in your view of sabremetric analysis. Your articles take the tone “we know the right answer, and this doesn’t fit that answer, so it must be wrong”, when instead, we should be looking at the Royals success and incorporating the data point to update our model on expected wins. I’m not advocating results-based analysis, but dismissing results completely is also a flawed approach. Relief pitching seems to be more valuable than we thought, same with defense (assuming baseline levels of offense….I’m just generalizing here, but this seems to the discussion we should be having, not defending the old model in the face of contradictory results.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
1 year 7 months ago

the Royals team is strong in the areas that make playoff teams successful

No they aren’t. The things the Royals do have not been demonstrated to be of disproportionate advantage in the postseason. I mean, people usually say having an ace is an extra advantage in the postseason, but it hasn’t been true this time around and our memories are short so I guess that was never true all along.

Usually, the playoffs don’t play out how people expect. Usually the best team loses in the playoffs, and often they don’t even look particularly good doing it. Primarily, we can posit two explanations for this:

1. Baseball is just different in the playoffs. The things that allow a team to win in the regular season are different than the ones that work in the playoffs.

2. The playoffs are random.

Some people don’t like explanation number 2. We derive so much meaning from the results of the playoffs that we hate the idea that it is random. But, we’re talking about fewer than 20 games. 20 regular season games is not enough to know anything. It literally can’t be different in the playoffs. There is no reason at all why the sample size should be more meaningful because we want it to be.

the only value of the regular season is to make the playoffs — 100 wins or 88…it doesn’t matter.

Once the results have been decided, it doesn’t matter, but when a team is being constructed, it absolutely does matter. A team constructed to win 88 games could easily win 81, while a team constructed to win 100 will likely win no fewer than 92. And, the Royals in the preseason didn’t even rate as a 88 win team.

we should be looking at the Royals success and incorporating the data point to update our model on expected wins

Who says we don’t? The problem is, why should we weigh these 8 games more than 8 other random games in which the Royals same style of play led to a 4-4 or 3-5 record>

Relief pitching seems to be more valuable than we thought, same with defense

This postseason, sure, but not every postseason. The percentage of games decided by one run has been absurdly high this postseason. Usually it is nowhere near this high.

MLB Rainmaker
Member
Member
MLB Rainmaker
1 year 7 months ago

You make lots of broad statements, but provide no data support it.

I mean you say the Royals aren’t strong at the areas that make playoff teams successful, but yet you can’t show me anything to show what makes teams successful in the playoffs. USE DATA — That is the whole point of this website!!!

Just imagine for a second, you’re Ned Colletti, and you’re at the meeting with Magic and the guys from Guggenheim, and they ask you to explain yourself and explain why the Dodgers can’t get to the world series. “The playoffs are just different” and “the playoffs are random” are terrible answers. No owner will accept that. Ever.

So no, you can’t just say the playoffs are random, that is not a good enough answer. I mean for some reason, the statistical projection engines had the Royals as favorites to make the playoffs…..so what did Steamer/PECOTA/etc know that conventional saber wisdom didn’t?

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
1 year 7 months ago

but yet you can’t show me anything to show what makes teams successful in the playoffs

because there isn’t anything. The research has been done. There is no statistical team quality that strongly correlates to postseason success. this postseason has created the illusion that you need a good bullpen, but that doesn’t hold up overall. I’m not saying the Royals are weak in what makes playoff teams good, I’m saying there is no such thing. You’re the one who said the Royals are strong in those areas. What are they?

“The playoffs are just different” and “the playoffs are random” are terrible answers. No owner will accept that. Ever.

Well, I’m saying the former is NOT true, and as for the latter, well, I’d hope owners are rational enough to see that, yes, the playoffs are random. I mean, we KNOW that 20 regular season games are subject to a high degree of chance. So, what, because we label the postseason as the postseason, the very nature of baseball changes and the game becomes less random?

the statistical projection engines had the Royals as favorites to make the playoffs…..so what did Steamer/PECOTA/etc know that conventional saber wisdom didn’t?

Uh, did they? Didn’t they consider the Tigers the clear favorites? And in what way are Steamer/PECOTA different from saber wisdom? What do they incorporate that is outside of or beyond “saber wisdom?”

Blue
Guest
Blue
1 year 7 months ago

The playoffs may be probabilistic but they certainly are not “random.”

PolitiJim (@politiJim)
Guest
PolitiJim (@politiJim)
1 year 7 months ago

I very much appreciate the author’s willingness to “get it right” rather than forcing a statistical cop out that KC was a fluke.

However, it really doesn’t address the core of HOW the Royals are succeeding with the players they have. EIGHT STRAIGHT PLAYOFF WINS against two much more talented teams is still an unexplained anomaly. Leadership, confidence – even faith (individual or team) – have a much better chance of explaining things like this. We all have played with immensely talented teammates who – in crunch time – are much less reliable than the poorer player with more determination. Just saying “it’s a statistical outlier” ignores other real team dynamics that add some light to predictive modeling in my opinion.

Hank G.
Guest
Hank G.
1 year 7 months ago

EIGHT STRAIGHT PLAYOFF WINS against two much more talented teams is still an unexplained anomaly. Leadership, confidence – even faith (individual or team) – have a much better chance of explaining things like this.

It’s a human trait to see patterns in random data. We see horsies and bunnies in clouds. We create religions to explain random events. Why do we need an explanation for a team winning 8 games in a row, albeit at a very convenient time?

wallysb01
Guest
wallysb01
1 year 7 months ago

You’re lucky that’s all you see in clouds.

Stank Asten
Guest
Stank Asten
1 year 7 months ago

We don’t need an explanation for why people think clouds look like flying ponies because we know that clouds aren’t flying animals. Do you know what makes a baseball team good with such certainty?

Hank G.
Guest
Hank G.
1 year 7 months ago

Of course not. The point was not that clouds might be something other than clouds, but that it is in our nature to try to see patterns even when the patterns are random.

No matter how good people get at analyzing baseball, the fact that there is a lot noise in the signal caused by randomness is always going to be there. A good team winning eight games in a row is not sufficiently out of the norm to demand an explanation. The comment that I was responding to seemed to believe that the winning streak required some other explanation other than “baseball”. It may be that there is a reason, but random variation seems to be a reasonable first guess, in an environment where good teams can lose several in a row and bad teams can win several in a row.

wallysb01
Guest
wallysb01
1 year 7 months ago

This is the key thought:


EIGHT STRAIGHT PLAYOFF WINS against two much more talented teams is still an unexplained anomaly.

Then it was suggested that things like leadership, confidence, determination, or faith are the reasons they were able to win 8 straight supposedly against a series of more talented teams.

So, first, we’re already assuming these other teams have more talent. I guess this means they posses some sorted of added physical ability to hit, throw, field and catch baseballs. While the reasons above are largely “mental,” but where does the logic come from that these mental characteristics don’t impact a players performance in a way seen in the regular season? To the individual its actually much more important that you are good through the first 162 games, because that’s all you actually have to control in order to earn your next pay check (a good postseason can be a nice benefit, but it also takes good team mates to get there). Alex Gordon has a OPS in the post season of 1.021 compared to his regular season number of .783 (which is almost exactly his career average). If there was some magical determination, faith, confidence thing he could turn on, you’d think he’d have done it by now. Because if he could actually maintain a 1.021 OPS he’d be one of the best players in the game and in line for $100M+ contracts. Instead he signed a pretty team friendly deal several years ago, because, alas, he’s a not a 1.000 OPS hitter.

This 8 game stretch is certainly a lot of fun to watch if you’re a Royals fan, or just a guy that likes rooting for the underdog, but don’t let the fox/tbs announcers interfere with your logical thought processes. This run is nothing more than a collection of over performances in small sample size.

Blue
Guest
Blue
1 year 7 months ago

it’s just as ignorant to insist that a pattern in data is due to random chance as it is to insist there is a meaning to it.

Anon21
Guest
Anon21
1 year 7 months ago

“it’s just as ignorant to insist that a pattern in data is due to random chance as it is to insist there is a meaning to it.”

It depends on how much of the data you’ve seen, and how much of the set the apparent pattern embraces. As to the latter, 8 games is nothing as compared to baseball history or just the 2014 season.

Walter
Guest
Walter
1 year 7 months ago

Uh, Blue, that’s not true at all. Even in small samples you can get a sense of the noise in a system.

Imagine, for example, that you just took every event in each game and randomly shuffled them into 8 imaginary games. Then you did that 1000 times. You could even build a type of imaginary simulator that tries to take typical game strategy into account when doing this.

Now, do you expect that even though in this data the Royals had more positive outcomes to plays, that they would still win all 8 games in more than a handful of those 1000 random shuffles?

Essentially those random shuffles represent an attempt at measuring the talent difference, as displayed in those 8 games, between the opponents and KC regardless of ordering. However, it can’t measure talent displays that come from things like line drives that are caught or bloops that find a hole, for example. This is because, at least in our simple model, we’re enforcing that hits are still hits, and not that hit types are only hits X% of the time as we know from regular season data. But we could certainly do those things too, depending on how much data we’re pretending we already know.

Anyway, err, you’re just so wrong.

Joe
Guest
Joe
1 year 7 months ago

If, this happens then… If that happens then… If my aunt had balls she’d be my uncle. The Kansas City Royals are in the World Series – deal with it.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
1 year 7 months ago

Some women have balls.

everdiso
Member
everdiso
1 year 7 months ago

It all comes down to the overrating of prospects.

Myers was a guy posting a 130-140wrc+ in AA and AAA with mediocre declining peripherals and questionable D. He was still being ranked as an elite prospect based on one huge year a couple of years before.

Odorizzi was a guy posting a fip well over 5 at both AA and AAA, without top end stuff.

Shields was a legit top of the rotation horse signed to a very affordable deal. Davis also was at least a good reliever and possibly a serviceable backend starter on an affordable deal as well.

the trade was never as bad as it looked, especially after Myers fluke babipped that good rookie year.

There’s really not much reason to project Myers or Odorizzi as anything but replaceable players, while a pitcher like Shields is anything but replaceable.

Davis by himself has amassed as much war as Myers and Odorizzi combined since the trade. Shields’ 8+ war since the trade has cost the royals nothing but mid-rotation free agent money so far. That says it all, IMO.

Paul
Guest
Paul
1 year 7 months ago

Lol.

Yeah, his 161 wRC+ between Low A and High A as a 19 year-old; 171 wRC+ between AA and AAA as a 21 year-old; and his 142 wRC+ in AAA as a 22 year-old before his call-up all prove he was overrated. Especially when you include his 103 wRC+ in AA as a 20 year-old which was not a fluke because of its small sample size and injuries occured during it.

And clearly Odorizzi’s 3.38 FIP in Low A as a 19 year-old; 3.58 FIP between High A and AA as a 20 year-old; 4.04 FIP between AA and AA (with most of his time in the 4.68 LG ERA PCL); and 3.45 FIP in AAA prove he was also overrated.

Clearly you did not cherrypick or lie about their statistics, and clearly you are not trying to serve your own narrative without regard for the facts. Good job.

everdiso
Member
everdiso
1 year 7 months ago

not sure why you’re lolling. yes, i ignored their low minors performance in light of their high minirs performance. that was exactly the point – these two had earned elite rep in the low minors but hadn’t carried that through to the hgh minors. their low minors careers were a long way behind them when the trade was made. this was a clear warning sign and a great reason to believe that it was a good time to sell high.

Myers AAA: 728pa, 10.2bb%, 23.1k%, .343babip, 140wrc+
Myers AA: 568pa, 12.0bb%, 22.7k%, .339babip, 133wrc+

Odorizzi AAA: 107.1ip, .293babip, 4.66fip
Odorizzi AA: 106.2ip, .272babip, 4.21fip

these numbers just aren’t the stuff of grade A prospects, and dreaming on their low minors numbers from years before seems kind of silly.

KC – a team with plenty of experience with overhyped prospects busting – seemed to have learned their lesson and finally sold high on a couple of them.

Paul
Guest
Paul
1 year 7 months ago

For someone where 73% of his PAs in AA came at the age of 20 and the other 27% came at the age of 21, a 140 wRC+ is absolutely a potential top 10 prospect. For someone where 60% of his PAs came at the age of 21 and the other 40% came at the age of 22, a 133 wRC+ is absolutely a potential top 10 prospect. I’m not sure why you think otherwise considering he is also an above average corner outfielder who won’t kill you in centerfield and is a solid base runner.

For Odorizzi, you can’t ignore the leagues he pitched in. Any FIP attained in the Texas League and Pacific Coast League is quite different from the Florida State League and Southern League. For AA, he has a FIP- of 97. That’s 3% better than the league average and still ignoring his unsustainable HR/FB%. With 64% of his innings as a 21 year-old and the other 36% as a 22 year-old. For AAA, he has a FIP- of 94. That’s 6% better than the league average with 46% of his innings as a 22 year-old and the other 54% as a 23 year-old.

His performance was definitively above average despite his age. And nobody was calling Odorizzi a Grade A prospect, so you’re making a strawman there. BA had him as the 92nd and 67th top prosect after the ’12 and ’13 seasons respectively. John Sickels had him as the 80th and 73rd top prospect respectively. Baseball Prospectus had him as the 83rd and 92nd top prospect respectively.

jimfetterolf
Guest
jimfetterolf
1 year 7 months ago

On Myers it was apparent that numbers rung up in small parks couldn’t hide poor defense and challenges with breaking stuff.

Odorizzi was a nibbler without elite stuff who had a hard time finishing the 5th inning.

Kansas City already had Moustakas and Hosmer as examples of minor league heroes, so had a good idea of how Werner production would play at the K. I will grant That Myers matched David Lough’s first year production at 2.4fW.

Paul Wilson
Guest
Paul Wilson
1 year 7 months ago

“Perhaps the goal shouldn’t be to build a great team anymore, but to build a decent team as often as possible.”

The Brian Sabean model!

Lord BatCat
Guest
Lord BatCat
1 year 7 months ago

Okay, so I read the entirety of the article, but couldn’t spare the time on the 5,000 comments. Consider that a qualifier to this question. So, why no mention of the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals, who were an 83 win team? Granted, they won a veru weak NL Central that year, but they end up winning the World Series after a very lackluster year. Is it the fact that they weren’t a Wild Card team that you didn’t mention them? Seems they might fit the context of the argument of the article.
Thanks for your time.

Otis
Guest
Otis
1 year 7 months ago

The #1 reason the Shields trade was so important was that it meant that the Royals would be over .500 in 2013. Mediocre? Perhaps. But it was enough for DM to go to Glass and get him to pony up the money to sign Vargas and Infante. Without the Shields trade they don’t get to .500 in 2013, Glass doesn’t increase the payroll, and we’re not talking about the Royals in the World Series in 2014.

DrBGiantsfan
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

Isn’t mediocrity a glass half empty way of saying parity?

Griffin Klett
Guest
Griffin Klett
1 year 5 months ago

Isn’t there a mathematical formula to calculate expected value based on the payout vs probability? I can’t remember the name. Dave, maybe you know what I’m talking about?

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