The Royals Are A Sabermetrics Team

Jarrod Dyson has helped to form baseball's best defensive outfield. (via Arturo Pardavila III)

Jarrod Dyson has helped to form baseball’s best defensive outfield. (via Arturo Pardavila III)

For two straight seasons, the Kansas City Royals have defied just about everyone’s expectations and played deep into October. The Royals are few people’s idea of a smart, progressive and well-run organization, but that didn’t stop them from getting back to the World Series and taking home the crown this season. After, of course, they finished with the American League’s best record.

Despite all this, many in the sabermetric community still view Kansas City with an air of ironic amusement and skepticism, as if the team’s success is more smoke and mirrors than the result of some well-executed plan. Royals Devil Magic — or rather, #RoyalsDevilMagic — has been a popular phrase on Twitter this month. While many fans are quick to place analytically inclined clubs like the Rays or A’s on a pedestal, the Royals are rarely held in such regard, even as the wins keep piling up. Their run to the World Series in the 2014 postseason happened through a good deal of luck, sure, but they were among the best squads in baseball this season and backed that up in the playoffs.

Numerous reasons exist for why Kansas City has developed such a reputation. The polarizing Wil MyersJames Shields trade (which, funny enough, worked out better for the Royals) spawned not only a bevy of hot takes, but also a tendency to dismiss the organization as incapable of going toe-to-toe with baseball’s shrewder clubs.

Manager Ned Yost, too, has come under fire for his affinity for the sacrifice bunt and an often-archaic handling of his pitching staff. But Yost isn’t the only manager who makes head-scratching decisions (Mike Matheny continues to display his own brand of tactical futility each October), and there’s evidence he’s adapted well enough from his previous mistakes, like when he turned to Wade Davis for a six-out save to close out Game Four on Saturday night.

Yet beyond these criticisms, the Royals have massively outperformed their projected win total the past two years. For writers and analysts to disparage a team’s moves and decisions is one thing, but when the computers all predicted the Royals would finish close to .500 (or below it), the notion their success is the product of luck becomes easier to accept.

Indeed, nearly every projection system, from Steamer to ZIPS to PECOTA, forecast Kansas City to miss out on the playoffs in 2015. That didn’t happen, of course, and while the club has benefited from good fortune at times, its achievements are the result of more tangible reasons than mere luck.

A closer look at how the Royals are run and the manner in which they’ve built their current roster reveals an organization that is smarter and more progressive than it’s given credit for. In fact, if Kansas City had a better reputation within the sabermetrics community, the Royals would be receiving far more praise from analysts and statheads alike for their play this season.

The Royals have risen to the top through a shrewd roster-building vision that has exploited what other clubs value most on the open market and optimizes the playing environment in their home ballpark.

To begin with, the idea the Royals are some old-school organization that eschews advanced stats is plain wrong. Kansas City has a bigger and better analytics department than many realize; the team just rarely divulges much information about that work to the public.

The club has no fewer than four full-time employees who work in analytics, and that doesn’t include any interns or consultants. Mike Groopman, who has spent eight years with the franchise and previously worked at Baseball Prospectus, was promoted to the role of director of baseball operations/analytics back in January. In fact, he just became the first BP alum to be part of a World Series-winning team.

Groopman oversees Kansas City’s analytics department, which also includes John Williams, Daniel Mack and Guy Stevens, whose academic backgrounds rival any front office analyst in the game. Williams attended Yale and has a graduate degree in atmospheric science from MIT. Mack has a Ph.D from Vanderbilt where his studies focused on machine learning, and Stevens co-authored a paper that appeared in the “Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports” while he attended and pitched at Pomona. Mack and Williams spoke at the sabermetric conference Saber Seminar this summer.

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These are the types of talented people other organizations are praised for hiring, but the Royals continue to be pigeonholed as a franchise that still clings to outdated ideals and avoids advanced stats altogether. For this reason, the perception remains that they’ve lucked into this winning more than anything else.

Even more impressive than the front-office brainpower has been the way in which Kansas City has applied progressive approaches and taken advantage of undervalued assets to gain an edge on the field. They may not tout themselves as an analytically driven team, but the Royals have excelled with strategies any careful reader of Moneyball should recognize and applaud.

Kansas City’s recent success begins with its defense. That fact won’t come as a surprise to anyone. What some observers might not realize, though, is just how great the Royals are in the field and how this has benefited them in other areas as well.

Back in July, Dan Szymborski wrote about how the 2015 Royals were on pace to be one of the greatest defensive teams in major league history. And indeed, they outpaced just about every other club in baseball with their gloves this season. Kansas City ranked first overall by a wide margin in defensive value and team UZR. The Royals finished second in Defensive Runs Saved behind only the Diamondbacks.

More importantly, this strong performance in the field has resulted from a clear front-office strategy. Kansas City has specifically targeted and developed great outfield defenders in Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Jarrod Dyson, Paulo Orlando and others. The Royals have paired a fast, athletic outfield with their spacious ballpark, and in turn, been unafraid to acquire fly-ball pitchers who might not be great fits elsewhere but perform well in Kauffman Stadium with the Royals’ stellar defense behind them.

Shields, Chris Young, Jason Vargas, Edinson Volquez and Jeremy Guthrie all have found success in Kansas City the past two years, in part because the team knew each hurler’s weakness would be eased by pitching in an environment suited to his skill set. That each of these pitchers came with his own perceived faults also enabled the Royals to obtain them cheaply, except in the case of Shields. Though even there, the player the Royals traded was an outfielder in Myers who doesn’t necessarily fit that great-defense mold.

Given how undervalued defense remains around baseball, Kansas City deserves credit for committing resources to elite fielders and pitchers who benefit from good glove men in the outfield. In exploiting these market inefficiencies, the team’s front office has constructed a squad that excels at run prevention without ever having to dive into free agency for a high-priced starter.

The Royals haven’t just won with defense, of course. At the plate, they’ve built a lineup filled with high-contact hitters in an era when power has become pricey and highly sought after. Moreover, in a time when hurlers have dominated and strikeouts have soared, Kansas City has assembled an offense that is less susceptible to the effects of elite velocity and pitching’s widespread supremacy.

As Ben Lindbergh wrote recently at Grantland, evidence exists that high-contact hitters perform better against power pitchers, a notion that has been borne out in the playoffs for two years in a row. (The Giants, too, have succeeded with a similar offensive makeup.) Although burly sluggers often can do more damage, they’re less consistent at the plate, and they’re vulnerable when facing hurlers who excel at getting strikeouts. Watching the Mets’ power arms churn through a formidable Cubs lineup demonstrated this concept to a “T.”

Of course, Kansas City proved to be a much tougher foe in the World Series, and that isn’t the result of some small-sample-size fluke. Since the start of 2013, the Royals have posted the lowest strikeout percentage in baseball by nearly two percentage points, the same-sized gap separating the clubs ranked second (Oakland) and 14th (Boston) on the list. The Royals are a clear outlier here, and that their lineup also led the league in contact rate is no accident.

At the end of the day, one still might prefer an offense full of mashers. But the Royals don’t have the cash to spend big money on those kinds of hitters on the open market nor could they trade for them without emptying their farm system. Instead, they’ve built an above-average lineup far more cheaply in a manner any smart front office would love to emulate.

Kansas City also has been on the cutting edge in building one of baseball’s best and deepest bullpens. Relievers like Davis, Greg Holland, Kelvin Herrera, Ryan Madson and Luke Hochevar have given the team an almost unmatched advantage in the late innings. And, as we’ve seen the past two postseasons, that advantage only grows in the playoffs. Other organizations, most notably the Yankees, have sought to copy the Royals’ bullpen blueprint in recent years.

All these stellar arms have helped take pressure off the starting rotation and enabled the Royals to consistently depend on relievers for one- and two-inning spurts rather than the diminished performances of tiring starters in the middle innings. Indeed, for an organization that supposedly eschews progressive thinking, Kansas City has done a great job circumventing the times-through-the- order penalty with a deep bullpen that carries much of the workload.

The club’s relievers led all AL squads in innings pitched this season and finished with the league’s lowest bullpen ERA at 2.72. The Royals’ phenomenal bullpen has allowed Yost to frequently spell his fatigued starters in a way many analytically inclined fans have long been calling for.

Moreover, in Davis, Hochevar, Brandon Finnegan and Will Smith, they’ve also done a great job converting mediocre starters into valuable relievers over the past few seasons. This pattern isn’t a coincidence and has aided their ability to remain among baseball’s best teams at run prevention.

From this perspective, the reasons Kansas City has so outperformed projection systems the last couple years are much easier to discern. The Royals excel defensively, which is the one area of the game we still have legitimate issues measuring and forecasting accurately in the public realm. Yet just because fielding value is harder to quantify than offensive production doesn’t mean the Royals have been unable to gain an edge through valuing defense more than other franchises.

Similarly, one of the major shortcomings of projection systems is how little weight they place on reliever impact. When you hold an advantage in nearly every high-leverage situation, that’s going to end up being a huge benefit to your wins total. That the Royals have excelled in such circumstances lately (and likely more than any other club) helps explain just how they’ve been able to outstrip forecasts of their true talent level.

Perhaps most importantly, when Kansas City called its shot, the team got it right. History is littered with teams who pushed their chips into the middle of the table and came up empty. Larry Anderson to the Red Sox, Carlos Beltran to the Giants, Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the A’s, are but a few of the trades that immediately spring to mind as examples where the acquiring team was left unfulfilled. But this year, the Royals landed two big fish in Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist, and it paid off in a World Series trophy. Both players were integral to the World Series triumph over the New York Mets. For a team with little margin for error financially, it was imperative the Royals wait for the right time to call their shot, and they did.

Ultimately, Kansas City is still not viewed as a sabermetric team due to a dated reputation that no longer accurately reflects the organization’s capabilities. Instead, the Royals should be regarded as one of the smartest organizations in baseball — a franchise, much like the Pirates or Astros, that has developed a clear plan and carried it out to great success. No, the Royals haven’t excelled solely because they possess some hyper-advanced analytics department filled with mad scientists churning out data and formulas that are well ahead of everyone else. But what they’ve done probably would draw far more accolades from the sabermetrics crowd if a team like the Rays or Cubs had succeeded with similar strategies.

The Royals, for their part, are probably fine with being misjudged and underestimated. They have one of baseball’s best front offices and a collection of hard-nosed players any fan would love to root for. Luck is the last reason for their run to the World Series crown.

References & Resources


Alex Skillin has written for SB Nation, Beyond The Box Score, The Classical, Sox Prospects, Fire Brand of the American League, and Celtics Blog, among others. Read all of his writing on his website, and follow him on Twitter @AlexSkillin.
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Blue
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Blue

“Similarly, one of the major shortcomings of projection systems is how little weight they place on reliever impact. When you hold an advantage in nearly every high-leverage situation, that’s going to end up being a huge benefit to your wins total. ”

Using reliever chaining to measure WAR is stupid and lazy. The Royals show exactly why this is the case.

Al
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Al

“The Royals are a poorly run joke of an organization!” — Sabermetricians, all year long 2015

“The Royals won the World Series by practicing sabermetrics!” — Sabermetricians, November 2, 2015

John C
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John C
Only those who dogmatically stuck to the script that there’s only one way to succeed in baseball. The Royals built this team perfectly to exploit the characteristics of Kauffman Stadium and to take advantage of a market inefficiency. Speed, defense and contact hitting have all been deprecated ever since sabermetrics came into the mainstream. But that’s a misunderstanding of the science. The Royals are dead last in walks drawn, but they’re seventh in OBP. If you get on base, it doesn’t matter if it’s a walk or a hit. The Royals hit their way on, and they do it well… Read more »
The 1980's: the LAST great decade of MLB...
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The 1980's: the LAST great decade of MLB...
Is here again. Who better to exploit and undermine the three true outcomes philosophy than the Royals, since they last won a championship 30 years ago, in 1985. If interested, I compared 1980-85 to 2010-15 and here is the results: Average Team Contact Outs & Errors Gained/Lost Year 1980’s 2010’s Diff 1980v2010 3422 3046 376 1981v2011 3438 3064 374 1982v2012 3394 2983 411 1983v2013 3354 2996 358 1984v2014 3333 2974 359 1985v2015 3328 2947 381 w/ 81-11 20269 18010 2259 w/o 81-11 16831 14946 1885 Average Team Differential: Hitting Components Gained/Lost Year Hits 2B 3B HR XBH 1B CO +… Read more »
tz
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tz
John C – great comment to a great article. Actually, it’s funny about walks and hits. If you just go by OBP then a walk is as good as a single. If you use wOBA, singles are worth a bit more because wOBA was built from run expectancies, which account for the baserunner advancement you get from hits but not necessarily from walks. So you could argue that part of the “sabermetrics doesn’t get it” issue is which generation of sabermetrics are being used. Heck, for a lot of folks OPS is about as far as they would dare to… Read more »
john
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john
There’s no hard and fast rule. If there’s no one on base, a walk is as good as a single. If there’s someone in scoring position, a single is much better than a walk. It’s fine for a team to have a couple of walk-oriented hitters to put in the leadoff and #2 positions, where they’re going to come up a lot with no one in scoring position, but if the entire team is walk-oriented, they’re going to have serious problems because at some point someone is going to have to drive them in. And it isn’t a solution to… Read more »
Pat
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Pat

I wouldn’t say a walk is exactly “just as good as a single” even with no one on base, because a single can allow the opportunity for the defense to additionally make an error when fielding the ball in a way that a walk generally can’t. It’s not the most common thing to have happen, but it does happen enough that I’d say it should be a consideration

Carl
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Carl

Yeah, that’s exactly how this reads.

DrBGiantsfan
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Great article. Someone who writes on this site finally gets it right!

Steve
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Steve

@Al

Exactly, and the same sentiment in 2014, 13,12 ….

Carl
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Carl

“The Royals are few people’s idea of a smart, progressive and well-run organization…” What?

Carl
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Carl

If sabermetrics just means “scouting” and “preparation” now, then “sabermetrics” doesn’t mean anything. Nice job wasting everyone’s time, guys.

Eric
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Eric

No the Royals are NOT a Sabermetric team, they are a collection of individuals that know how to PLAY TOGETHER AS A TEAM -team baseball like in the 1980’s, the last great decade of MLB!! The Royals won because of HEWCO, BSM, and CCR – the stats I created to replace batting average, OBP, SLG, and OPS, which are outdated and do not account for everything good created by offense. Email me if you want to know more about them, thecrazybaseballcoach@gmail.com. I will post a 4 part series on these stats from my linkedin account too.

Shankbone
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Very nice article. The Giants have been down this road as well, with a full time squad of analytic guys quietly doing great work. They also went after high contact rate hitters (“hackers”), taking the hit on OBP (and getting mocked for it by most sabermetric publications/bloggers) built a great bullpen, focused on team chemistry/clutch (which is another round of mocking) and built to the team to fit the park via defensive runs saved. Seeing the Mets get their weaknesses exposed was tough, but pitching and defense are huge in the playoffs. The Royals were absolutely amazing in the late… Read more »
John C
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John C

I wouldn’t call Friedman overrated. How many times did he get the Rays into the playoffs while being in the same division with two of the wealthiest organizations in baseball?

Not taking anything away from Dayton Moore, but it took him nine years to get KC into the postseason, and he only had to get past Detroit once he got them into contention. Friedman banged heads with the Yankees and Red Sox every year.

Shankbone
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The number is 4 playoffs, and while that is impressive you have to consider how bloated the Yankees and Red Sox were (are?) during that time period of 2008-13. Then again, both teams did win a title, the Yanks in 09 and the Sox in 13. But a lot of the success came from inheriting a franchise player (Longoria), being able to draft 1st for Price and a killer trade in Zobrist (Aubrey Huff). The Rays have good pitching development. However… The drafts after 2007 and Price have been disasters, Price and Zobrist are gone, the Rays are a mess… Read more »
John C
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John C
I think Dayton Moore is, and will, get a lot more credit going forward than he has, while if Friedman fails to win a championship with the Dodgers, his stock will deservedly drop. Moore always had a vision for the Royals, and I give him credit for that, but he made some atrocious player-personnel decisions at the major-league level when he started out. The one thing he did right was Gil Meche, and even that got messed up when the manager he hired ruined Meche’s arm. KC wasn’t going anywhere until Moore finally nailed it with the Greinke trade. That… Read more »
john
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john
It would be more accurate to say that the Royals SHOULD be a sabermetrics team, meaning that sabremetricians SHOULD recognize that the statistical measures which they have been using have gotten things so wrong with the Royals in the last few years (and with other teams built in a generally similarly way, like the Giants in the last few years and the Angels around 2001-5) that they should be an inspiration to make up better statistics. One obvious target is evaluation of reliever importance. WAR as presently conceived just isn’t working. Wade Davis’ WAR this year was only 2.0. Out… Read more »
Eric
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Eric

I don’t have as much of a problem with Davis’ position in terms of WAR. It is an cumulative stat. Wade was worth nearly as much as Colon’s 194 innings pitched in only 67 innings.

john
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john

So if you were running the Royals, and the Mets came to you before the Series and offered to swap Colon for Davis just for the Series, you’d have accepted? Seriously?

Dave T
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Dave T

Of course not, that’s a silly question. Obviously Colon wasn’t going to pitch 3 times as many innings as Davis in the World Series. A short series with multiple days off is pretty much the maximum possible value for Davis, because he can be used so often for more than 1 inning.

Regular season value makes a lot of sense to me due to the difference in IP’s that Eric mentioned.

Eric
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Eric

I said that Davis was worth about the same as Colon in only a third of the time. He was three times as effective. Had he pitched the same number of innings and kept everything the same, he would have had around 6 WAR. Hardly saying I want Colon over Davis.

john
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john

Oh, I thought you were taking WAR at face value (as many people do).

Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth

I’d just use WPA/LI, which puts him at the same level as Corey Kluber, or RE24, which puts him between Max Scherzer and Sonny Gray.

john
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john
Using just WPA/LI has the same problem as using just WPA, that it doesn’t factor in luck on BABIP because it doesn’t give more weight to BBs, Ks, and HRs. And RE24 doesn’t consider game situation at all. What I’m suggesting would be a lot more work, but it would combine the advantages of WPA with the advantages of FIP/WAR and this wouldn’t neutralize each of their disadvantages. It might be better to do this combined metric with WPA/LI instead of WPA, but my first instinct is to say no because this would decrease the value of pitchers who come… Read more »
tz
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tz

What about RE24 divided by final scoring margin? RE24 does consider a big chunk of game situation, but doesn’t capture the difference in leverage due to score and number of innings left. Dividing by final margin would be a fairly painless way of converting it to a number that captures most of the important parts of leverage.

tz
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tz
Gotcha. The issue is that in order to strip out BABIP luck might understate the value of pitchers with an ability to limit damage on balls in play. I agree that much of the BABIP impact is out of the pitcher’s control (defense and a large part of batted ball location), but then you consider a guy like Mariano Rivera, whose .265 BABIP allowed was more than 30 points lower than the MLB average over his career. I do understand the impact of bad luck/bad defense being magnified when it comes to reliever WPA. Though probably not as much as… Read more »
john
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john

The probably isn’t weighing leverage (I’m not saying that the idea you’re suggesting here isn’t good, it just doesn’t address the problem here). The problem is that anything which doesn’t take BBs/Ks/HRs into consideration (like FIP does) is going to have too much luck involved.

Dayton Moore
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Dayton Moore

Saying the Royals won the Shields-Myers trade (should be called the Shields Wade Davis-Myers trade) is like saying the U.S. won World War 2 over Germany. Wasn’t a win, it was a demolition

CoolWinnebago
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CoolWinnebago

The royals won, but i wouldnt call it a demolition, Odorizzi still exists.

Marc Schneider
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Marc Schneider

Well, the Russians had something to do with that too. The better analogy would have been the US over Japan.

Joe Blow
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Joe Blow

So, 15 years ago, I was laughed off of Royals message boards because my exact same message didn’t fit with the current SABR thinking. Now it’s cutting edge!

john
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john

It still isn’t cutting edge for sabermetrics because people haven’t thought of statistical measures to replace the old ones and give a more realistic value for the Royals and teams like them. At this stage the leading theoreticians are still only at the stage of recognizing that there’s problem.

Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth

Has anyone looked at whether Contact% correlates positively with RE24-wRAA?

It seems intuitive that high-contact teams will have above-average numbers of sacrifice flies and grounders that advance or score runners, which are often positives in RE24, but negatives in wRAA.

james wilson
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james wilson

The Moneyball comp for KC is exactly right. You take what is most undervalued at the time. But Oakland’s success changed what was undervalued, and so now will KC’s. Good luck to them on that.

The greatest shield KC had from being identified as a sabermetric organization was their manager, who they have survived two consecutive years. On the other hand this may only highlight how bad most managers are and how rare the Botchy’s of the game are. Managing men and managing game requires two different people in the same head.

Obsessivegiantscompulsive
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Obsessivegiantscompulsive

So that explains why Bochy is so good! He has a huge head, which helps him fit two different people in the same head!

john
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john
No, the greatest problem in being identified as a sabermetric organization was that they didn’t go for home runs, walks, and starting pitching, all of which are overvalued by existing favored sabermetrics statistics. And I will admit that Bochy managed circles around Yost in 2014 but Yost really learned a lot (basically by imitating Bochy) and did a great job in the postseason this year in terms of things like getting his starting pitchers out of the game faster, using his relief pitchers flexibly instead of like a robot (hats off for having the balls to use Herrera for 3… Read more »
Obsessivegiantscompulsive
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Obsessivegiantscompulsive

Like Bochy, Yost appears to have learned from his disappointing first World Series. I noticed the changes in handling his team too, good for him and congrats to the Royals for winning the championship.

Andrew
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Andrew
So we now have 2 years in a row where every major public projection system had the Royals as a .500 team, and 2 years in a row they went to the World Series, winning it this year. That seemed to be something of a trend. It was not a good year (relatively speaking) for projection systems, which Dave Cameron wrote about in more detail in this article (http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-year-baseruns-failed/). Is there any validity to the idea that maybe the pendulum has swung back a little bit, and that we have teams that have more advanced projection systems, thus causing the… Read more »
Eric R
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Eric R
While the Shields/Davis trade has worked out well thus far — the Royals got 12.0 rWAR thus far from the players they got back, but had to pay them $37M [and still have team options on Davis for $8M and $10M]. Meanwhile, the Rays have gotten 5.1 rWAR for $1.5M of Jake Odorizzi and still have a pre-arb and 3 arb years left. They move Montgomery for Erasmo Ramirez who they got 2.1 rWAR for $522k and also has four team controlled years left. They have a 22yo from the deal still in AA and turned Myers [after getting 0.9… Read more »
BobDD
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BobDD
Nice point Eric R. I had oversimplified it as a trade for two years of good production at high pay vs. 6 years of average to good play at below average pay. From that standpoint it is still almost guaranteed to be at least a good trade for the Rays. So far it has worked out as well for KC as anyone could have hoped for, but the Rays are line to at least break even and probably come out ahead. So a trade that is probably a win for both teams. But I still think that because of the… Read more »
Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth

But you can’t just look at how much money they spent.

You also have to account for how much money have the Royals have made by adding two pieces that proved integral to back to back WS appearances, including a victory.

…even before you account for the fact that fWAR is absolutely horrid for evaluating RPs.

Cyril Morong
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Cyril Morong

They had a .778 OPS with runners on and .701 with none one. With RISP it was .772. Their pitchers allowed an OPS of just .668 with RISP while it was .700 with none on. That is impressive given that teams usually hit better with RISP.

The Royals pitchers allowed an OPS in Late & Close situations of just .629, far below their overall OPS allowed of .710. That beats the normal differential by quite a bit.

Did they build their team to achieve these splits?

Obsessivegiantscompulsive
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Obsessivegiantscompulsive

Hey, Cyril, hope all has been well, just wanted to say I miss your writing at Beyond the Box Score. Have you ever updated your lineup regression? The numbers still seems to work (I run the NL numbers against it every year, and I recall them still being close) but was just curious if you ever looked into it again.

Cyril Morong
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Cyril Morong

Thanks for the nice comment. I have not updated those numbers. Maybe I will sometime. I have a blog http://cybermetric.blogspot.com/

john
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john

And obviously any team with really strong relief pitching is going to have a lower OPS in Late%Close situations because that’s when you use your really strong relievers. This is clearly not an accident.

Cyril Morong
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Cyril Morong

But the Royals have a much larger than different differential than average. Normal differential is .052. Royals had .091. They designed it that way? How? By putting better pitchers in the bull pen instead of starting?

Also, how do they pitch so well with RISP? OPS is normally .031 higher compared to none on cases, yet Royals see their OPS allowed fall with RISP. Can you find pitchers who do better with RISP?

john
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john
Part of this may be luck. But a non-luck factor would be, for example, if the manager intentionally brings in strong relievers with people in scoring position in the 6th and 7th inning rather than saving them for pitching the whole 8th or 9th inning, or often not bringing their closer in in the beginning of the 9th but waiting until the other team gets a runner in scoring position (like for example Collins did last night). Another related non-luck factor would be the manager doing comparatively more lefty-righty switching in RISP situations. In all of these cases, it isn’t… Read more »
john
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john

I don’t know if it’s so much conscious at what the market dictates, even if most teams don’t seem to understand it. Relievers are much cheaper than starters.

Cyril Morong
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Cyril Morong
Okay, good points. I guess we need to know if the Royals bring in relievers more often with RISP than other teams. In general, the Roayls only used relievers slightly more often than the league average. For all of the AL, 34.59% of PAs were with relievers. For the Royals it was 35.88%. That works out to .5 more PAs per game going to relievers. The Royals starters allowed an OPS of .755. The relievers had .629. For the whole AL, those numbers were .731 & .706. So a very large difference between the Royals and the league. Is this… Read more »
Cyril Morong
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Cyril Morong

But I guess we would have to know how much difference in general the shift makes and how often it is used against the Royals vs. other teams.

Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth

It’s pretty intuitive that high-contact teams will improve with runners on more than K-heavy teams, because baserunners prevent the shift.

john
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john

i don’t think this is necessarily true. High-contact teams tend to pull less and so they are less generally vulnerable to a shirt. This may not logically follow but this is the reality of the situation.

Cyril Morong
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Cyril Morong

But baserunners prevent the shift applies to all teams, not just high contact teams.

Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth

But high contact teams are more affected by the shift than other teams because, you know…the shift only affects balls in play.

john
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john

I don’t know if it’s so much conscious at what the market dictates, even if most teams don’t seem to understand it. Relievers are much cheaper than starters.

Cyril Morong
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Cyril Morong

But I guess we would have to know how much difference in general the shift makes and how often it is used against the Royals vs. other teams.

john
Guest

Assuming of course that it’s predictable whose going to be good. The Giants were in a weird situation this year because their 8th and 9th inning men (Casilla and Romo) were actually less effective than most of their middle relievers (Strickland, Osich, Lopez, and Kontos), unlike in previous years, so although overall the relief pitching was well above average I would guess that the OPS in Late/Close situations wasn’t so good.

Dominik
Guest
Dominik

After Reading moneyball many think that sabermetrics = Walks and the royals don’t walk. For most people sabermetrics are three true outcome hitters, the Astros and Cubs for example are built around TTO hitters and they are considered very sabermetric.

Eric
Guest
Eric
Personally, I have always looked at Sabermetrics like this: its applying strategic and economic thought to the game of baseball. So to that end, its nothing new. This is exactly what strategic planning and economics have been doing for decades in business, but not in MLB. Its turning logic from every angle to gain an advantage from the status quo. So if you absolutely hate the saying, “well that’s the way we have always done it” then Sabermetrics is for you because it also teaches that you can blaze your own path, or explain your version of how you see… Read more »
john
Guest
john

Well walks are one of the TTOs.

Dominik
Guest
Dominik

Of course they are and the royals don’t walk or strike out and are mediocre at home runs, so they are an anti TTO team.

john
Guest
john

I agree. I didn’t realize that that was the point you were making.

Bob
Guest
Bob

So, the Roylas are sabermetric, because they hire people who have explored the known weak areas of sabermetrics, such as quantifying fielding and the influence of relievers on starters etc. Are you sure these advanced sabermetricians have not put numbers on the power of team chemistry as well?

David Scott
Guest
David Scott

Perhaps what we should be doing is not analyzing KC by the old sabermetrics but analyzing KC to create new sabermetrics.

john
Guest
john

That should have been the point of this article.

bmarkham
Guest
bmarkham
You keep mentioning the projections, but what about BaseRuns? Sure, the projections can be off on teams and it happens every year. Baseball’s not predictive enough for projections to be more than the best over/under. But let’s not forget that this team was a 84 baseruns win team this year. Are we prepared to say the Royals have achieved the ability to beat baseruns, or that baseruns isn’t capturing something about the Royals? Great article none the less, and I enjoyed the read. I tip my hat to the Royals, they’ve had a great couple of years, and they bet… Read more »
john
Guest
john

That will be the logical next step to this absurdity. Sabermetricians won’t even bother to predict actual wins but rather Baseruns. Then after that they’ll start suggesting that we do away with 9-inning games with scores altogether and just have everyone hit with no one on base and declare the winner to be the team with the most Baseruns.

bmarkham
Guest
bmarkham
I don’t get what you mean here. All the projection are on a team level is calculating Expected Run Differentials, which is what BaseRuns is. There’s no way to predict the noise that will occur when sequencing plate appearance events into runs and runs into wins. The projections had the Royals as a .500 team, and by BaseRuns, they were 3 wins better than that. That’s somewhat interesting I guess, but much more important is that they completely broke BaseRuns to the tune of 11 games. My Cardinals made BaseRuns look silly this year too, but the difference is I… Read more »
bmarkham
Guest
bmarkham

should read “that the Cardinals were a true talent level* 100 win team”

KHAZAD
Guest
KHAZAD
I enjoyed this article. Last year in July, I wrote an article for a site titled “Dayton Moore is playing Moneyball, we just don’t recognize it”. It was met with mostly pompous scoffing. I think there are alot of people that think walks are sabermetrics are all about, and the Royals don’t walk, so they are anti sabermetrics. Moneyball was all about finding something undervalued by the rest of the league and exploiting market inefficiencies. Then, it was walks and OBP, which are not at all undervalued anymore. Instead, in the Royals case, it was defense, contact, (and limiting strikeouts… Read more »
Frag
Guest
Frag

Something that should be mentioned was that the Royals had a WPA below 20% SIX times during the 2015 postseason:

http://www.sbnation.com/2015/11/2/9657312/2015-royals-world-series

That’s insane, even if contact-oriented teams with good bullpens are better able to comeback from a deficit relative to average teams. If Correa didn’t misplay that ball, we would be talking about a totally different narrative of winning the World Series.

Jose guillen
Guest
Jose guillen
Dayton Moore has come a long way in understanding what works in Kauffman stadium, but let’s don’t forget the journey- the Jose Guillen contract, acquiring Yuni Betancourt twice, more recently the Francouer extension. None of these players fit this current genius with a plan narrative. He gave Omar Infante a 4 year deal less than 2 yrs ago, and he extended Jeremy Guthrie to find the cash. Also, let’s remember that the Royals had a lot of top 10 draft picks over Moore’s years and really only Moustakas and Hosmer panned out. Also, giving him credit for what Wade Davis… Read more »
Cyril Morong
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Cyril Morong
I looked at the following 7 pitchers on the Royals. These guys were primarily starters and the vast majority of their innings were from starting. I found their weighted average of OPS allowed with none on and with RISP (weighted by PAs-maybe that is not quite right since SLG is TBs over ABS). Chris Young Danny Duffy Edinson Volquez Jason Vargas Jeremy Guthrie Johnny Cueto Yordano Ventura With none on, they allowed an OPS of .731. With RISP it was .691. As I mentioned above, the team staff as a whole did .032 better with RISP. So the starters had… Read more »
Zita Carno
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Zita Carno
And there’s another element that a lot of people had missed but that I spotted right away: Five o’clock lightning. Way back in the 1930s, when the Yankees were embarking on their first great dynasty, right-fielder-cum-first-baseman Tommy Henrich coined this phrase to describe the team’s way of striking back in the late innings when they were behind in the game. Come the seventh, eighth innings (and remember, there were no lights in those days), this would happen again and again, and the Yankees would cut loose and end up snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. Five o’clock lightning. And… Read more »
Cyril Morong
Guest
Cyril Morong

“Five o’clock lightning. This was no fluke.”

So they discovered the secret to clutch hitting in late innings in close games?