Sunday, June 15, 2008

NL, How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways.

In honor of the Royals’ first two-game winning streak in two weeks (and second such streak in a month), I’m going positive tonight.

The Royals are now 33-27 (.550) against the NL over the last four years. In that same timeframe, they’re 182-314 (.367) against AL opponents. Sixty games is a pretty substantial sample size, and in those 60 games the Royals have outscored their opponents by 46 runs, so their record is representative of how well they’ve played. How much would the perception of this franchise be altered if they simply had the good fortune to play in the inferior league? The general consensus of smart people who have studied the subject is that the difference between the leagues in 2006 and 2007 was on the order of 8-10 games. Which is to suggest that had the Royals played in the NL, they would have had a record of approximately 71-91 in 2006, and 78-84 last season. A lot more wins, a lot fewer Jay Leno jokes.

There’s a meme going around this year that the NL is starting to catch up on the AL, primarily because offense levels are so much higher in the NL this year, prompting claims that the NL has all the young hitting talent. That may be so, but color me unconvinced, and not just because the AL went 25-17 against the NL this weekend. I just don’t understand why we have to interpret the higher offensive levels in the NL this year as the product of good young hitting in the NL, as opposed to good young pitching in the AL. Scoring levels tell you nothing about the quality of play – an increase in scoring could be the result of better hitting, worse pitching, or both.

As I write this, a total of 22 pitchers have thrown 50 or more innings this season with a better-than-league average ERA (i.e. an ERA+ of over 100), and are no older than 25. Fifteen of them are in the American League. In descending order of ERA+, they are: Scott Kazmir, John Danks, Aaron Laffey, Felix Hernandez, Fausto Carmona, Gavin Floyd, Jon Lester, Zack Greinke, Ervin Santana, Chad Gaudin, Jesse Litsch, Greg Smith, Dana Eveland, Edwin Jackson, and Matt Garza. Only seven toil in the NL: Edinson Volquez, Tim Lincecum, Cole Hamels, Scott Olsen, John Lannan, Chad Billingsley, and Jair Jurrjens.

So can we dispense with this idea that the NL is making a comeback? The dregs of the American League just went to the home of the NL West leaders and won two out of three, outscoring the Diamondbacks 20 to 7. A month ago they played the Marlins on the road and won two out of three. An extended run against the NL could be just the tonic the Royals need to right the ship. Three games in St. Louis against the NL Wild Card leaders? Bring it on. Especially since that means Bannister and Greinke both get to swing the bat, and that’s always fun.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing and keeping this blog going

KB said...

I agreed with anonymous. Your stuff is really good, Rany. Don't lose the faith. Better days are coming for us Royals fans!

Old Man Duggan said...

The Royals should be the Brewers...

Shelby said...

It's hard to make a legitimate case for this, but seriously.....could the Royals have competed for a playoff spot in 2003 had they decided to go to the National League as the Brewers did a few years prior?

Anonymous said...

I don't think we can impute anything about where the Royals would be if we had moved into the NL. Our personnel would be different - no Alex Gordon or Billy Butler - if our draft positions had been different. But even more importantly, would the ownership have made some of the corrections of the last couple of years that had led us to such optimism if we had had a disguise of mediocrity in some of the last ten years?

This may be the most cynical thing I have ever written, but it was what first popped into my head.

Anonymous said...

I love NL/AL interleague rivalry. I don't really believe it -- color me skeptical that all the teams of an entire league could just coincidentally suck at the same time -- but it's fun to talk trash to my friends who are Cubs fans. I mean, as a Royals fan, I desperately need a new angle.

Anonymous said...

Bullpen usuage does not seem to be Hillman's strong point. He used Soria twice for two innings in tie games. If you are going to use him for two innings,would it not make more sense in a game the Royals were actually leading after 7?

The day following one of the two inning stints for Soria, the Royals lost late because their closer was unavailable.

Matt the Dragon said...

Psst, you do know the Mariners are in the AL, right? ;)

Anonymous said...

could the Royals have competed for a playoff spot in 2003 had they decided to go to the National League as the Brewers did a few years prior?

Fun fact: In 2003, the NL crushed the AL in interleague play exactly as convincingly as the AL crushed the NL in 2007.

Rany, THT bothered to look at the difference between the leagues beyond just looking up interleague records. By far the biggest difference between the leagues is a huge increase in the rate of HR and XBH per flyball in the NL, which pitchers seem to have little control of. If you want to pin it on NL defenses, you have to explain why BABIP is unchanged and a virtual tie between the leagues.

The best guess is that the NL has made up substantial ground on the AL. By the end of the season, that will either be more apparent or the XBH rates will have come back down.

Anonymous said...

Comments on the signing of draftees at this point? Everything seems to be going as well as could be expected, right?

chrisc said...

Royals roster benefits when matched against the NL because of the DH. The Royals have not had a decent DH since Chili Davis. This is a major disadvantage when playing against AL teams who are spending ~$10M on DH's like Frank Thomas, Jason Giambi, etc...The Royals have a much better match up against the NL.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the last post.

If Pena does not come into the game last night in the middle of the eighth inning - Aviles is due up seventh in the top of the ninth - then why is he even on the roster?

I have only seen Aviles play a handful of times, and he has seemed solid if unspectacular at short, but it is my understanding that Pena is a much better defender.

So did Hillman miss a chance to improve our chances last night, or is the upgrade at defense slight enough that you can't take Avile's bat out of the lineup even if it is unlikely his spot will bat again? And if it is that slight, why is Pena still with the big league club? Is it just until we have the DH back and can call back Billy?

Anonymous said...

For the last couple posters, at some point you need to figure out if Aviles can handle the late-inning defense. Would you prefer they run Aviles out there last night to find out if he's going to soil his shorts in the 9th, or wait to find out until they've named him the starter next year? The only thing running TPJ out there last night gets us is a little more confidence that we're going to win that specific game. I'd prefer to conclusively find out what we have in Aviles.

On that topic, anyone know what pace for errors Aviles is on versus Pena?

Shelby said...

Also, it was only a 1-run lead vs. a semi-potent offense. You'd have to figure that they had a 35-45% probability of tying it. If it's a tie game after 9 innings, chances are Aviles is coming to bat in the 10th.

I'm not defending leaving Aviles in there, rather I just wanted to illustrate that it's a tough call.

Anonymous said...

I have to believe that once the interleague road trip is over this weekend they will be calling Butler up and designating TPJ and eventually sending him to Omaha. I can't see any team claiming him.

Anonymous said...

Shelby, good call - it's a tough decision.

Jay, I could see a team that needs a defensive replacement picking up Pena. But would we really be upset about losing him?

PlanB247 said...

right on, Rany. I think the reason there's more offense in the NL this year is because there are so few good pitchers there. They only have a few standouts and the rest are pretty mediocre... just look at the Cards staff for a great example.

Anonymous said...

Subject: FW: FBI Baffled, Nation Horrified -- Mexecusioner claims three more victims in 17th attack bringing the death toll to 93 in the last 12 weeks.

East St. Louis, IL

In another of what has become a seemingly endless string of ruthless, gruesom, cold and calculated homicides in cities throughout the midwest and indeed throughout the nation, three more victims were disposed of last night.

Just after 10 p.m., their lifeless bodies were found floating in the swollen Missouri river in E. St. Louis, Illinois. The attack, the 17th such incident bearing all the hallmarks of and fitting the motis operandi of the serial killer that dectectives are calling the "Mexecusioner", brings to 93 the total number of vicitims at the hands of the man who, despite executing his victims in front of thousands of witnesses and on live H.D. surveilence, remains seemingly immune to capture or punishment.

In fact, rumors have recently surfaced that a wealthy organized crime family with ties to corporate America has agreee to pay the perpetrator up to $19 million dollars to work for the next five years for the notorious Mexican Mafioso organization "El Familia Royale", or E.L.F., a family that FBI organized crime experts say was until recently largely unknown for this type of activity, and in fact was known to be one of the weakest and most pasive gang in the enitre M.L.B. syndicate.

But since securing the services of the elusive "Mexecusioner" and sucessfully interting him within the borders of the U.S. and obtaining citizenship for him, El Familia Royale has suddently been able to strike fear in the hearts of the other gang families due to the fact that they have what in organized crime parlance is called, "a closer" or someone who can "end the game".

Authorities have released only the most general discription of the killer, saying he appears to be of Latino decent, is a tall but slender man with an Abe Lincoln-style beard, perhaps as tall as 6'-3" and weighing between 180 and 190 lbs, and by examination of the handle side of the guilleteen he uses, appears to be righ-handed.

Said F.B.I. agent Dom Sheet, "to be perfectly honest, we're no closer to stopping this after last night's execusions that we were after the first three victims showed up in a dumpster in Detroit on March 31", alluding to the first three gang-style execusions attributed to the fugitives.

"We'd be naiive to think that even the Detroit incident was the first time this guy's executed someone," continued Agent Sheet, "the work was clearly that of an experienced technition".

Dr. Peter Puffer, Ph.D, Professor Emeritus and Dean of the University of Califonia at Berkey department of criminal psychology, concurred.

"Looking back and mining crime databases, we've found that there was a similar sting of execusions during the summer of 2007," said Dr. Puffer.

"However," Puffer continued, "there were only 17 incidents over the entire sample period of April through October."

"If this is the same guy, he's definitely become a more prolific killer, as there have been 17 attacks in just the last three months. That's what happens when these guys successfully complete several of these execusions and get away with it.

They become more and more brazen. They love the thrill of outsmarting the authorities and rival gangs, and they will never stop voluntarily."

Police stress that if anyone thinks they've seen someone fitting the suspect's description, they should first turn to Fox Sports Midwest H.D. for detailed images as well as up-to-date infomation concerning his current whereabouts. Experts have said that it is a common tactic with all members of the M.L.B. to have safe houses referred to as "bull pens" where their "closers" are kept hidden between "assignments".

Anonymous said...

That was a great post

Anonymous said...

Thanks anon 11:48, but I must give all propinas to Rany and/or whomever suggested it to him for the name Mexicusioner.

I think he is my favorite current Royale with Bleu Cheese. I've been growing the Soria beard for about six weeks.

I'm sooooooooo glad they locked him up for what, if he keeps performing the way he has been, will be a bargain price five years from now.

It would be interesting to see what he could do in the staring rotation, but I think within the next couple years hopefully the RWC will have 4 quality starters and a servicable #5 in the rotation and can just let Soria keep slamming the door.

I don't want to abuse the kid, but I've seen situations where it killed me that they didn't go to him in the 8th, sometimes with two outs in the 8th. I don't think the kid's arm is going to fall off if he has to get 4,5 or 6 outs once in a while instead of just 3. Especially as efficient as he is with his pitches.

For God's sake, how many 2-inning or more saves/wins did Goose Gosage rack up? A ton. And I personally saw Tomko pizz away many too many games as "set-up" guy.

Anonymous said...

All good points J Jest...he just shut the door on the red birds 3 straight.

Anonymous said...

Very good Mexicutioner post! It seems a shame that it is at the end of the comments for an old post. I fear many readers will never see it. Rany, it may be worth giving it a mention in a future post so readers can see it.

Anyway, lets hope that he keeps the executions coming!!!

Go Royals!!! C-ya, AusSteveW

gib4ksu said...

PETA just stated that they wanted to quarantine an area near I-70 and I-435 beginning next Friday. They are worried about the Cardinals getting slaughtered by the Royalty in the area. As I am not a fan of PETA, at all, I decided to do a little research. It appears that the Cardinals that migrate to this area in June have typically faired ok, however research indicates that they almost went extinct in 1985 during the month of October. Since the Royalty in the KC area has become Marlin Killers, Diamondback Killers and most recently Cardinal Killers, I understand why PETA is afraid of the Cardinal livelihood next week. Especially since each of the Marlins, Diamondbacks and Cardinals were either at the top of their divisional food chain or the wild-card leader in the overall standings rated by the NL Survival Handbook of 2008.