Updating y’all on our stat nugget from yesterday…the Royals have now allowed 33 runs in 13 games. Going back to 1982, here’s a list of every
26: 1988 Cleveland Indians, who finished 78-84, sixth in the AL East, and 8th in the league in runs allowed.
28: 1982 California Angels, who led the league in runs allowed and went 93-69, losing to
28: 2001 Boston Red Sox, who finished 82-79, the worst record of any Red Sox team in the last decade. They also finished just 5th in the league in runs allowed.
33: Four teams: the 1985 Kansas City Royals (won a world championship, 2nd in the
So of the six other teams on the list, two won a championship, one lost in the playoffs, two finished a little over .500, and one lost 84 games. Half the teams finished 1st or 2nd in runs allowed, the other half finished around the league average. The Royals are following in the footsteps of some great teams...but also some mediocre ones.
Again, the mitigating factor for the Indians was that they played so many games against a hapless Baltimore Orioles team. The Royals have no such crutch; regardless what you think of the Tigers as a whole, you can’t deny that their lineup is formidable.
The Royals have had the weather in their favor; it’s hard to hit in cold weather, which is why offense is always down in April (and this has been a particularly cold April, which is why the American League as a whole has scored just 4.42 runs a game.) Back in the 1980s, the season started later and teams were not subject to early-April cold as much. (The 1985 Royals had only played 5 games through April 15th.) On the other hand, offenses were much less productive in general in the 1980s; the league as a whole scored 4.56 runs a game in 1985.
On the other hand, offenses were much less productive in general in the 1980s; the league as a whole scored 4.56 runs a game in 1985.
Thirty-three runs in 13 games is impressive no matter how you slice it. If the worst-case scenario for the Royals is winning 78 games, we’ll take it. But we’ll also hold out for the best-case scenario.
- It’s not all pitching. The team’s defensive efficiency is .737, which sounds amazing – last year the team’s mark was .689. But there’s a lot of confounding factors there. The cold weather that is keeping offense down also artificially inflates defensive efficiency. The median defensive efficiency right now is .7065, a full 13 points higher than last year’s full-season mark. Even so, the Royals, who ranked 23rd last season, currently rank 4th in the majors. Do we give Brian Bannister credit for that? If it’s true that he can manipulate BABIP in his favor, that would mean that the team’s defensive efficiency (which is basically the inverse of BABIP in the first place) would have improved through no fault of the defense.
And comparing this year’s defense to last year’s…where would such an improvement come from? The only significant difference between 2007 and 2008 is that Jose Guillen is in right. Guillen has a gun, but no one has accused him of possessing tremendous range. Has the fact that Joey Gathright played most of the innings in center made a difference? Alex Gordon got off to a horrible defensive start last year, and has been much more steady this year. But I don’t see an obvious reason for the Royals to have made this kind of improvement, other than the fact that what looks like defense may in fact be pitching. This will be a development to keep an eye on as the season unfolds.
- I love the fact that Hillman has twice used Miguel Olivo as his DH against LHP. Love love love. Olivo crushes LHP – his career mark is .293/.322/.532 – and getting both Buck and Olivo in the lineup at the same time makes the most of a catching “platoon” that involves two remarkably similar players. Essentially Hillman is platooning Olivo with Gload, with Butler moving from DH to 1B. This gets Olivo more playing time than your typical backup, without taking PT away from Buck. It also eases Butler into playing first base, giving the Royals the opportunity to evaluate him for full-time play.
The downside – and the reason I’m so impressed Hillman has made this move – is that your backup catcher is DHing, which means if your starter gets hurt you have to lose the DH in order to get Olivo behind the plate. It’s a minimal risk – how often does a catcher have to leave a game because of injury? – but that minimal risk is the entire reason why most managers are terrified of DHing their catcher. Most managers will always take the risk-averse option. On this point, Hillman has not, and last night his gamble led to a key 2-run homer.
- Now that we’ve properly massaged Hillman’s ego, can I make a suggestion?
Seriously, this is ridiculous. You have a starting rotation which has given you over 6.6 innings per start. Hillman has shown a willingness to push the envelope a little with pitch counts; Bannister went 111 pitches Sunday and Greinke’s gone 107 pitches in back-to-back starts, which is nothing unusual in the middle of summer but a little aggressive at the beginning of April, in cold weather. The Royals have back-to-back complete games which represent a full one-third of the
On top of that, the top six men in your bullpen have allowed 4 runs in 29 innings 1 run in 26 innings. They’re lights out. Joakim Soria, Leo Nunez, and Ramon Ramirez – the Hispanic Panic (if you’re the other team) – have combined for 14.1 scoreless innings, with 8 hits, 2 walks, and 19 Ks. All six guys are fully capable of protecting a one-run lead in the ninth or keeping a game tied in extra innings if the need arises.
So why do we need Hideo Nomo, or any pitcher in that slot? Jimmy Gobble has thrown all of 2 innings this year – two devastating innings, I might add. He’s on pace for 25 innings all season. If we can’t find enough innings for Gobble, what do we need Nomo for?
Bring up another hitter. It could be a lefty hitter to pinch-hit when one of the catchers is stuck facing Pat Neshek or some other sidewinding righty in the late innings. It could a be righty slugger to pinch-hit for Gload or Gathright or DeJesus against a LOOGY. It could be a third catcher if Hillman really wants to be aggressive about playing Buck and Olivo at the same time. Whoever you bring up is going to have some value. Which is more than you can say about the Royals’ seventh reliever at this point.
(Having said that, I must concede that if you’re going to have a four-man bench, the Royals would be hard-pressed to come up with a better one than the one they have. Gathright plays everywhere, and can come in to bunt or pinch-run. Callaspo compensates for the lineup’s biggest weakness – Pena having to bat when the Royals are losing – and between him and German the Royals have two guys who can play everywhere but catcher. Olivo has already proven he can do more than just play when the starting catcher needs a break.)
- I’m supposed to be on with my friends at 810 WHB, Steven St. John and Nate Bukaty, tomorrow (Wednesday) morning around . If you’re interested.