Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Moving On.

Before we move on from last week’s drama – and believe me, I want to move on – I think it’s only fair to conduct a final post-mortem. I spent much of the weekend replaying what happened and trying to figure out if and how I could have handled things better. I wrote last week that “The defining hallmark of good organizations is that they are more critical of themselves than any outsider would be.” Well, that doesn’t just apply to organizations. I neither wanted nor anticipated that the situation would mushroom to the size that it did, and if I didn’t engage in some self-reflecton to see how this could have been avoided, I’d be a hypocrite. I don’t want to be a hypocrite.

I think Sam Mellinger’s take on the situation was spot-on, and that includes his criticisms of me: “Rany can write whatever he wants on his blog. But he changed his situation when he took on the radio show, and if he wants to be taken seriously and especially if he wants the Royals to help him with his show, he needs to at least make a phone call when calling for someone’s job.”

If you define a “blogger” as someone who delivers opinionated commentary over the internet from an informed but access-free perspective, then I’ve been a blogger since the founding of Baseball Prospectus over 13 years ago, which is to say for longer since the word “blogger” has existed. The part about “access-free” is critical, because that really is they lynchpin of the whole blogger/journalist dichotomy. Joe Posnanski has one of the most well-read blogs on the internet, but he’s not a blogger: he’s a journalist with a blog.

For all the criticisms that the mainstream media heap upon the blogosphere, most of them are just variations on a single theme: that bloggers neither have nor need access to the subjects they are covering, and because they don’t have access, they also don’t have accountability. It’s a simple fact of human nature that it’s a lot harder to criticize someone when you have to see them face-to-face on a regular basis.

What some members of the mainstream media – and certainly some sports franchises – fail to understand is that the lack of accountability is precisely what makes some bloggers so popular. Baseball Prospectus would never have existed if we had felt compelled to tone down our criticisms because we saw the targets of our criticism on a daily basis. When we started in 1996, the majority of major league teams were making demonstrably dumb decisions on a regular basis, and we called it like we saw it. Maybe we could have shown people like Chuck LaMar and Dave Littlefield more respect, but to do so would have been to disrespect our readers, who came to us to read the unvarnished truth instead of having smoke blown up their ass.

Blogs have evolved to serve as a set of checks and balances for traditional journalism, and while I find some of them needlessly vulgar and trashy, I make no apologies for the fact that blogs serve an invaluable purpose in the sports landscape. And not only can blogs and mainstream media coexist, they have to coexist – they can’t exist in today’s world without the other side. It would be almost impossible to blog about the Royals without the work of people like Mellinger and Bob Dutton, who go into the clubhouse on a daily basis and let us know what the Royals are doing and thinking. Flip the coin over, and without the passion and awareness of the local teams that bloggers cultivate, the Kansas City Star would have a lot fewer readers. The Star also benefits when bloggers occasionally break the taboo against speaking about uncomfortable topics – like, say, the team’s rash of injuries – that then opens the door for the newspaper to discuss the subject without risking open confrontation.

Bringing this back to the situation at hand, after 13 years of being a blogger – an unjournalist – I’ve put one foot through the doorway. And now I have to decide how far I want to take this transition from outsider to quasi-insider. I’d rather stop writing than surrender my objectivity, but at the same time, in all the years I’ve spent writing about the Royals, I’ve tried to aim my words in the direction of the team as much as to my readers. I’m not just writing to attract an audience – I’m writing to effect change in the organization. The ultimate goal of this blog is for the Royals to win.

So having spent all these years building a bridge to the Royals, it makes no sense to burn that bridge as soon as it’s been finished. I don’t want to tilt at windmills. If that means behaving a little more like a journalist and a little less like a blogger, than so be it.

Re-reading my original piece that set all of this in motion, I have no regrets about my argument and about the facts that I used to defend it. And I’d hate for this controversy to overshadow what provoked it: the Royals’ medical system is light-years behind the industry standard. That’s just a simple fact. If you don’t believe me, read this. The vanguard of major-league teams are trying to use statistics to further their understanding of injury risk – the Royals are still not convinced they should use statistics at all.

But I do think I could have made it a little less personal. While I still strongly feel that Nick Swartz is a part of the problem, the tone of my attacks presupposed a degree of certainty that I don’t have. More to the point, I could have written the exact same column, replaced “Nick Swartz” with “the medical and training staff”, and gotten the same point across.

I’d like to think that I do a good job of criticizing the Royals without crossing the line of making things personal. I’m not sure that I crossed that line this time, but I probably came closer than I should have. So going forward, I’ll try to keep this incident in mind the next time I decide to bring the hammer down. (Which won’t be long, I’m sure.) It’s not going to have an impact on 95% of my columns, honestly. But the other 5% of the time, when I’m so mad about something that I have trouble seeing straight, maybe I’ll wait until the morning before posting and sleep on it first.

Every crisis is also an opportunity, and I’ve tried to use this crisis as an opportunity to see how to handle things better in the future. I hope the Royals are doing the same thing. I think they handled things a lot worse than I did, but that’s not an excuse for me to not try to learn something from this. I mean, "better than the Royals" hasn't been a compliment since the early 1990s.

And with that, let’s move on. If I gaze any deeper into my navel I’m going to start seeing my intestines.

xxx

So how did we get into this mess? Even with their modest three-game winning streak, the Royals have won 18 of their last 54 games – they’ve won exactly one-third of their games over one-third of the season. As I write this, the best pitcher in baseball is losing to someone named Luke French, 3-0. Billy Butler has doubled three times – and has neither scored nor driven in a run, because the 1, 2, 4, and 5 hitters have yet to reach base.

If you break down all the transactions that Dayton Moore has made since taking over in Kansas City, you find some very interesting trends. I think the most compelling is this: Moore has done a very good job – maybe even an outstanding job – of acquiring players based on a perception of their future value. He has done an absolutely horrendous job of acquiring players based on a perception of their present value.

By that, I mean that when Moore has acquired a player who has yet to establish himself in the major leagues, or a player who is established but who the Royals feel is capable of making a leap forward, he has done well. When Moore has acquired an established major league player based on what that player has already done, he has done terribly.

Just look at a list of the significant acquisitions on the current roster:

Acquired based on future value:

Gil Meche

Joakim Soria

Brian Bannister

Alberto Callaspo

Acquired based on present value:

Jose Guillen

Tony Pena

Miguel Olivo

Mike Jacobs

Kyle Farnsworth

Horacio Ramirez*

Willie Bloomquist

Juan Cruz

*: Okay, I’m cheating. But he was such a terrible signing I get to count him anyway.

Let’s break this down.

Soria was an obscure Mexican pitcher when he was plucked out of the Rule 5 draft. Bannister had made all of eight major league appearances and his minor league track record suggested he was a #4 or 5 starter at best; most observers thought the Royals were nuts for trading Ambiorix Burgos and his 100-mph fastball for him. Callaspo had a great minor-league track record – a career .317 minor league average – but had hit just .220 in two trials with the Diamondbacks, and was trailed by whispers about his character after a domestic violence incident with his wife – Moore bought low by getting him for Bill Buckner, who now has a 6.50 career ERA.

Meche, unlike the three guys above, was an established major league pitcher when the Royals outbid everyone with a 5-year, $55-million contract. But as with Soria, Bannister, and Callaspo, Meche was targeted because of what the Royals thought he could become, not who he was.

At the time, he was a chronic underachiever with a 4.65 career ERA, who drove the Mariners and their fans crazy because the results never matched his stuff. The Royals’ front office thought that they knew how to fix him, and had the balls to gamble $55 million that they could. That gamble has paid off better than almost anyone outside the organization expected: Meche has a 3.88 ERA in a Royals uniform, and has never missed a start. The acquisition of Soria may have been Moore’s best move, but in terms of gambling on a player to do something he’s never done before and have that gamble pay off, nothing comes close to the Meche signing.

All four players have exceeded expectations since joining the Royals. All four have exceeded expectations largely because the Royals correctly predicted that they would become better players than they were at the moment they were acquired. There’s a word for that: scouting.

Now look at the other list. Moore gave Jose Guillen a 3-year, $36 million contract not because he thought Guillen was going to get better, but because of what Guillen had already done: in his three previous healthy seasons before signing, Guillen had hit between .283 and .294, with between 23 and 27 homers each year. He signed Miguel Olivo because Olivo had hit 16 homers each of the last two years, and had a strong arm behind the plate. He traded for Mike Jacobs because Jacobs had hit 32 homers the year before and the Royals needed some power. He signed Kyle Farnsworth because the Professor threw 100 miles an hour. He signed Willie Bloomquist because of his versatility, intangibles, and ability to perform magic spells. He signed Horacio Ramirez because Ramirez, at some point in this millennium, had briefly been an effective starting pitcher. He signed Juan Cruz because Cruz was the best reliever left on the market.

I’ll dispense with Cruz because there was near-unanimous agreement that it was a savvy move at the time, given the cost and Cruz’s pedigree. Cruz’s overall numbers are down – particularly his strikeouts – but it’s not yet clear whether he’s lost his stuff or just going through a prolonged slump. And Bloomquist has been everything the Royals advertised he’d be: capable of playing everywhere on the field, fast, heady, and a better hitter than we expected.

But look at the other guys. The Royals committed $36 million to Guillen in the hopes that he would continue to hit the way he had hit the last few years – ignoring the fact that 1) he was at an age where players of his ilk tend to drop off a cliff, and 2) owing to his shoddy plate discipline, he wasn’t nearly as good a hitter as they thought he was in the first place. Olivo did hit 16 homers in both 2006 and 2007 – unfortunately, he didn’t draw 16 walks in either 2006 or 2007. The Royals can’t claim to be disappointed in how Olivo has played because he has played exactly as well – if not better – than he did before he was acquired. Olivo’s line with the Marlins was .249/.275/.422, and with Kansas City it is .252/.276/.466.

Olivo is responsible for two of the most amazing stats of the year. As one brilliant commenter on Royals Review pointed out, Olivo has reached base on a wild pitch following a strikeout three times – and has also walked three times. Olivo has reached base on a strikeout as often as he has reached base on a walk. Just as impressively, for the season Olivo has 71 strikeouts to go along with those 3 walks. No one in the history of baseball has ever struck out that many times with so few walks. The previous record holder, Rob Picciolo (with 63 Ks and 2 BBs in 1980) is probably the most infamous hacker in major league history.

The Royals wanted Jacobs because he hit 32 homers last season – not only did they neglect the fact that he had never hit more than 20 homers before, they didn’t understand that even with those 32 homers, Jacobs was not that good. He only hit .247; he only walked 36 times; he played horrible defense at the game’s easiest position. There was a reason the Marlins were so eager to trade him, and a reason that no other team was particularly eager to acquire him. The Royals also talked up the fact that Jacobs would hit for more power away from the Marlins’ spacious stadium, while ignoring the fact that Kauffman Stadium is one of the toughest home run parks in baseball.

They signed Farnsworth because Moore had a notion that the bullpen was like a jigsaw puzzle: it was simply missing a piece to complete it, and that piece was a pitcher with a big fastball. Somehow Farnsworth’s career 4.47 ERA got overlooked in the process.

And finally there is Tony Pena, who unlike the other guys on the second list was not an established major leaguer. I would still venture that he belongs here, because when Moore sent the Braves a prospect to acquire Pena, he wasn’t doing so because he felt that Pena was about to have a breakout season. He did so because he thought that what Pena was at that moment – a career .252/.285/.332 hitter in the minor leagues – was playable at shortstop. Pena was better than expected as a rookie, and has hit like a pitcher ever since – but his overall line with the Royals, .228/.248/.299, is almost identical to his minor league translations. Pena is who we thought he was – and who the Royals thought he was, or at least what they should have thought he was. The problem is that the player he was – the player they should have expected – was such an execrable hitter that no amount of defense could redeem him.

In all of these cases, the Royals acquired a player not based on their expectation of his future potential, but based on their understanding of his current value. And just as the former can be defined as “scouting”, the latter can be defined as “statistical analysis.”

This is the Braves Way that we were all promised when Moore was hired. Moore has done a solid job of scouting, both in terms of picking up young talent but also in terms of picking the right talent to trade away. (The best example of the latter is the fact that he traded Burgos, Andy Sisco, and Mike MacDougal all shortly after he was hired – all three threw extremely hard, and all three have since proven that all the velocity in the world doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to pitch.)

But under Moore, the Royals have shown a willful disregard for any kind of serious statistical analysis. Oh, they’ve paid lip service to it at times, publicly talking about the importance of plate discipline from time to time. But the Royals seem to regard plate discipline as something that can be taught – they hired Kevin Seitzer largely for that reason – as opposed to something which is intrinsic to the player. This is ironic, since the Braves Way is to obsess over tools, innate abilities which can not be acquired, and yet they don’t seem to regard plate discipline as a tool despite overwhelming evidence that it functions the same way.

The Braves Way still might work. The bottom line about building a franchise is that if you do a good job of signing and developing young talent, you’ll succeed; if you don’t, you won’t. Everything else is just details. The Royals have devoted more resources to their minor league system over the last 3 years than they had at any point in my lifetime, and if that continues eventually that focus should bear fruit.

The Royals spent a major league-record $11 million in the draft last year; this year, they’ve already spent $2 million on a pair of international free agents (Korean catcher Jin-Ho Shin and Panamanian third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert), who are the two most expensive international amateur talents the team has ever signed. Post-game host Greg Schaum has tweeted that the Royals have an agreement with third-round pick Wil Myers which is being delayed only for the sake of Bud Selig’s delicate ears. If that’s the case, then for the second straight year (after fourth-rounder Tim Melville last year) the Royals will have signed a borderline first-round talent later in the draft because they were willing to spend money where others weren’t.

All that is well and good. There’s certainly nothing wrong with the Braves Way, which (along with the services of three Hall of Fame pitchers) helped Atlanta to 14 division titles. But someone needs to tell Dayton Moore, Dean Taylor, J.J. Picollo, and all the other guys that came over from Atlanta: it’s not 1995 anymore, fellas. The bar has been raised – major league organizations are much, much better run today than they were 15 years ago, and the greatest source of that improvement is in the way that teams use statistical analysis to augment the rest of their operations.

But while the rest of baseball is moving forward, the Braves Way seems bent on proving that you can still win with scouts alone. It’s not a coincidence that the Braves themselves have fallen on hard times the last few years, or that the purest distillation of the Braves Way in a single player, Jeff Francoeur, has turned into, well, Jeff Francoeur.

The greatest mistakes of Dayton Moore’s tenure have been, almost without exception, when he ignored statistical analysis. He ignored the analysis that said that Jose Guillen was an overrated hitter and was at an age where he would likely become an albatross quickly. He ignored OBP entirely when he signed Olivo and traded for Jacobs. He ignored every offensive statistic ever devised when he acquired Tony Pena. He ignored every pitching statistic other than strikeouts when he gave Farnsworth nine million dollars. He ignored the fact that analysts like myself hated every one of these moves.

This disregard for statistics goes beyond the numbers that get created on the field and extends to things like contract analysis – the Royals had trouble understanding that it would have been a bad idea to trade anything for Mike Jacobs, because for the money he was going to be awarded in arbitration, he actually had negative value. That’s how you wind up spending more money on payroll than you ever have before without improving the team one whit.

Despite what Moneyball may have you believe, stats aren’t everything. But despite what Scout’s Honor might have you believe, scouts aren’t everything either. Until the Royals acknowledge that both approaches are necessary in order to build a winning team, they’re going to continue to finish near the bottom of the league in walks, they’re going to continue to spend millions on mediocre veterans, and they’re going to continue to disappoint.

62 comments:

Ron said...

Joey Gathright is another Dayton Moore acquisition that was a waste of time. Moore and the Royals also have a difficult time recognizing talent and giving talent already in their organization a chance to play in majors. It seems other teams move rather speedily through the minor leagues. Not the Royals. Aviles was promoted grudingly, after years in the minors, and only given a chance to play because the game was in Aviles hometown of NYC. To their horror, he did so well they couldn't stop playing him. Instead of trading for Freel, why not bring someone up from the minors and give them a chance to play? Everyone down there can't be that bad, can they?

Number 32 said...

Long before I began learning about the value of statistical analysis, there were a number of basic concepts I heard regularly stated about baseball...things like "a walk is as good as a hit" and "you can't score runs if you don't get men on base". As simplistic as these statements are, they truly reflect the most fundamental elements of baseball. The only way to win a baseball game is to score more runs than the other team. In order to score runs you have to put men on base. And if you're trying to get on base, taking a walk will accomplish the same thing as a hit. No rational, even moderately-informed fan can argue with these concepts; they are universal truths so far as the game of baseball is concerned.

This leads to my bigger question: even if teams like the Royals patently refuse to utilize statistical data to make better informed decisions - even if they couldn't care less about simple stats like OBP - shouldn't they at least be expected to comprehend the basic concept that walks are good, and give you more opportunities to score runs? If this is truly a basic tenet of the game that even moderately knowledgeable fans can grasp, is there any excuse at all if a professional baseball GM like Dayton Moore doesn't?

I don't mean to over-simplify, and I don't believe that DM thinks walks are evil. But based on the number of players he's acquired who just don't walk, it's pretty clear that he places no emphasis whatsoever on one of the most basic aspects of the game. I suppose if you had a lineup stacked with guys who all hit .350 with 40 HR then it wouldn't matter if they each only took 15 walks a season. But clearly that isn't the Royals - or any other major league team - so walks are pretty damn valuable. You don't even need statistical analysis to understand that; you just need to know basic stuff about baseball. I would suggest that a GM who doesn't understand something that incredibly simple can't ever be realistically expected to succeed.

Rocketman said...

@32

I don't think GMDM or Trey Hillman of anyone else in the Royal's organization (outside of a few players) would dispute the value of the walk.

The disconnect (and Rany points this out) is that the Royals seem to think that you can teach plate discipline and/or the ability to walk, while all statistical evidence points to the contrary; you can no more teach a man to walk than you can teach him to hit homeruns or throw 98 mph fastballs.

royalfan said...

The lack of OBP and shoddy fielding are the two main downfalls of this team IMHO. The Royals team OBP of .311 is the worst in MLB. The Yankees collective team OBP .358 is higher than our best regular Alberto Callaspo's .353 !!!

keith jersey said...

I don't think this is completely fair. Crisp, Aviles, and Gordon have been hurt all year. Crisp and Gordon would have probably led the team in OBP this year. Add those 3 to the lineup in a healthy form and the team would not be losing as many games as it is now and we would not be screaming that this year is a total disappointment. I still think if Alex comes back in the 2nd half and shows some power that things will be much better in the 2nd half.

royalfan said...

keith jersey said...

I agree that Alex Gordon certainly has shown that he can be a positive OBP with his career minor league numbers 325/433/592 and last years 260/351/432 with the Royals. Crisp however is a career .331 OBP in the bigs and I fear Aviles will be a 2/3 year wonder when all is said and done.

Anonymous said...

i don't think it took a rocket scientist to suspect guillen's recent performance might have been chemically enhanced, making his contract an even bigger risk than it otherwise would have been. i don't think it's been a complete waste, though, just a few million too much annually! plus, without him (or a free agent replacement) we might be batting 8 LH hitters every night.

leawoodcat said...

I agree with all of the players in the "acquired based on present value" except Farnsworth. I believe they thought they could develop him. I think, though, the problem may be in his head and not his lack of talent.

Anonymous said...

I'd be careful about saying that the "vanguard" of teams are using statistical analysis to understand injuries. This bit would make me concerned if I were a Dodger fan:

"When the team’s contract with relief pitcher Scott Proctor was due to expire last year, Conte said he and his assistants conducted a risk assessment that considered Proctor’s medical history, the number of pitches he had thrown and his frequent appearances two seasons in a row.

“'We did a risk analysis — I can’t tell you what it was, but we saw him go 83, 83 in appearances two years in a row and had some concerns,' Conte said. 'Without getting into specifics, we ended up not tendering him a contract.'

"Proctor, who recently revealed that he is an alcoholic, signed with the Florida Marlins. He sustained an elbow injury in spring training and needed major surgery. He may miss the entire season."

Yeah, that's right. They had a guy who was an alcoholic on the team, and they were using not-yet-well-supported statistical analysis to decide whether to resign him, apparently ignoring the fact that he was an alcoholic.

Anonymous said...

Rany, I have one additional thought for your consideration before you completely close the "banning" topic. The Glasses, Dayton Moore, and Trey Hillman are open to direct criticism by name because they represent the public face of the Royals and are more directly responsible (or they assume the responsibility) for the performance and workings of the organization. Nick Swartz is a "silent" employee and is therefore probably deemed to be off limits to direct personal criticism. Just a thought.

Thanks for you excellent work.

Anonymous said...

I hope you talked to the Royals before posting this as well (that is, the second half of your post) as they sorely need to hear this informaiton. Its absurd that they don't do a better job with statistics, especially given what teams like the Red Sox have done with that information.

Scott said...

Anybody paying attention to what Gordon is doing on his rehab assignment? Batting .333 with 10 walks in 31 at-bats, there is your OBP right there. Help is on the way! You can't tell me we won't be much better in the 2nd half with Alex back, DeJesus sliding to center and Teahen moving to right.....assuming he doesn't get dealt. The Royals have been extremely unlucky this year. With the exception of Greinke, everything that could have gone wrong this year did.

Max said...

Acquired based on past value:

Kyle Farnsworth
Horacio Ramirez
Ross Gload

devil_fingers said...

Good to have you back, Rany. Dead-on on the broad strokes.

One thing you forgot to add: on top of everything else about contemporary baseball analysis the Royals are ignoring, their defensive evaluations are horrible -- sure, they still haven't caught up on OBP, but PBP defensive metrics are (or,frankly, were) the cutting edge of sabermetric analysis.

Wouldn't you agree that a baseball organization that doesn't make PBP defensive metrics part of its system is pretty silly?

steak said...

I'd argue this was your best post to date. Well put; from your own admonishing to the straight forward, equitable evaluation of their player acquisitions. People regularly, prematurely call for heads of executives and back-office managers in all sports when things are (or seem to be) chronically bad. However, these same people also readily admit that new player development can take years. Your points about Dayton & co.'s non-use of modern statistical analysis aside, I still do not feel justified in calling for heads before Dayton's first draft class is able to reach the majors.

And in looking back at why this post was so good, I believe its the first time that we've had a large enough sample over a long enough time for one to make a comprehensive analysis of Dayton's approach to player acquisition. Let's hope the next sample size shows a change in strategy.

Edge - PA said...

Rany -

(Okay you know the following, but to state it clearly ...)

Stats can give you expected value, and a confidence range. Scouts are the ones who can find the exceptions.

The best Jacobs could be wasn't worth getting ... the stats showed that. Knowing Meche's upside is what scouts are for. He is preforming near maximum potential that the stats predicted, not his mean expected value. That's how the combo has to work to succeed on a budget.

bankmeister said...

Wow. I was certain that the posts on this blog in the last two weeks were far and beyond the best I've read on these pages. Way to trump yourself yet again. Fantastic.

genuinebeat said...

If this team was a movie, it would be an independent movie. Independents can't always get a Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt to star in their movie. Sometimes they have to get a Mickey Roarke or Eric Roberts. Sometimes you get a masterpeice like "The Wrestler" (Meche). And sometimes you get whatever crappy movies Eric Roberts has been making for the past 20 years(Guillen).

That is the fate of the small market team when they try to make big free agent signings.

Juancho said...

Good series of columns. I think you're right to condemn the Royals' medical and physical training staff, since the players seem to be hurt all the time. Fire all those guys and bringing in a team of young folks with recent medical and PT degrees who have heard about some of this new stuff.

I'm also tired of this constant dishonesty by management about who's injured and what's wrong with him. As the fans, i.e. the folks who pay the bills in the long run, we deserve the truth.

By the way, I'm also in favor of firing all the players but Butler, Callaspo, Gordon, Teabag, DDJ, Zack, Gil, Banny, Hoch, Davies, and Soria. OK, Bloomy's performed as advertised, and he's gritty, so keep him too.

So we have to eat fifty million dollars in salary. Let's unload that wagon of crap, accept it as a sunk cost, and move on to next year with what we've got and whatever we can pick up young and cheap.

Oh, yeah, definitely fire the third base coach, who must be the worst in the league.

Benjamin said...

You are being generous with his future value acquisitions. Kyle Davies hasn't really panned out, Joey Gathright never panned out (and Howell did), Yabuta didn't pan out (although you might want to argue the other way on him, I would say future is more accurate because we didn't know how he would fare against MLB batters), and Shealy didn't pan out. Those are just off the top of my head.

Also, De La Rosa was/is probably better than Ramirez/Crisp long term. I won't criticize that trade because Ramirez pitched well for us.

So while your analysis seems correct, when you dig a little deeper Moore has had his misses with future talent too. Further, I don't think his future hits outweigh his current misses. He claims to know sabrmetrics but fails to apply them to actually running the team. He might have all the theory in the world but he has failed to bring it all together to put a cohesive Royals team on the field.

Anonymous said...

Rany, in your next post let us know what the plan is for the 18th.

Stacy said...

Rany,
Excellent as usual. The Braves way and statistical analysis are neither perfect but to completely ignore either one is just nuts.

Kansas City said...

Rany was wrong to single out Schwartz, but that is of little interest to me.

Of great interest is that Rany is amazingly good in his analysis of players. Reading those old posts he cited was eery in seeing how good he was at predicting what would happen with Jacobs, Olivo and Farnsworth, and also talking about Guillen.

He also seems to have DM pegged correctly in terms of not being able to accurately assess present value of players; however, with two possible exceptions: (1) this is not rocket science, so DM must have some reason for believing guys like Guillen, Jacobs and Olivo have more value than statistical analysis suggests; and (2) on Olivo, I think his home runs must make him more valuable than statistics suggest -- to have a catcher who hits 20 to 25 home runs, which occasionally win ball games, has appeal to me.

Anonymous said...

Very thoughtful hindsight regarding the blow up. If you dont learn from these issues (not assuming any fault of yours) you dont grow. Keep up the great work and keep pushing the Royals for fielding a better and more respectable team.

Kansas City said...

It is probably true that Rany gets read by DM and other Royal officials, and he might have some influence.

I suspect Jacobs will not be around next year. I thought maybe they could unload Guillen for the next bad boy who blows up - Milton Bradley?

gbewing said...

Don't call it a comeback! One of your most thoughtful and relevent pieces I've read over the years. I think you summed up where the Royals as an organization are and where they need to go. GMDM is at a crossroads where as a young GM he will either grow or stagnate but this is a crossroads period.

Steve said...

Felix Pie is available, I hear. He is still only 24 years old. I think the Royals should get him. Maybe the Orioles would take Tony Pena in exchange.

Alan said...

Rany,

I don't feel like scrupulously analyzing your decisions to put players in the future or present value categories. With that said, I'd like to comment on the farce of separating Gil Meche & Kyle Farnsworth into different categories.

I feel like you have to either put Kyle Farnsworth in future value or you have to put Meche in present value.

'At the time, he was a chronic underachiever with a 4.65 career ERA, who drove the Mariners and their fans crazy because the results never matched his stuff.'

Change the team name and you might as well be talking about Farnsworth. The only difference is that Meche has, for the most part, panned out and Farnsworth continues to struggle. It seems that the royals were banking just as much on Farnsworth thriving in Kauffman Stadium as they were with Meche.

Perhaps you could say that the difference is that Farnsworth's stuff matched his penchant for giving up the long ball, but I still think you have to lump Farnsworth in the same category as Meche, not doing so just sets up a straw man.

Thoughts? Thanks Rany, great blog.

Kansas City said...

I think the Royals are both: (1) closer than one thinks to winning, because of the strong pitching; and (2) a very poorly designed position player team at this point (with poor defense and low OBP).

If only it was few years ago, where the A's were able to snatch undervalued high OBP guys and add some cheap players with high offensive value. I might take a chance on bringing back a higly motivated Crisp in his contract year because it would improve defense at a key position and bring in at least an adequate OBP guy.

I'm listening to the game. Should Freel have caught that soft liner by Pedroida [sp?] with two outs in the 7th?

jason said...

love your blog, support you 100% in what happened. dont ever quit writing.

Douglas said...

Best. Post. Ever.

I applaud your self-awareness and introspection. Thinking through not only what you're saying, but how you're saying it is a healthy and beneficial thing to do. And it might get you back in good graces with the team -- not for any mea culpa, but because you're presenting yourself, the blog, the radio show as coming from a reasonable person who's still a fan.

The unspoken secret of the shoddy medical staff is worthy of exposure. Ever more so, I believe, because teams like the Royals can't cover their mistakes with money. They have to be ahead of the curve, like the A's, by innovative training techniques, medical advancements, dietary, etc. Shining a light on this is not only overdue, it speaks to the kinds of enhancements that winning clubs, especially small market clubs, must adopt in order to compete.

I completely agree with your analysis and hope DM & Glass keep tabs on the blog/show because they should be cribbing these notes -- look what happened to the Red Sox when the Great Midwesterner & Royals fan himself was hired. It's time organizations stopped dividing their thinking into stats guys and scouting guys. Use what you can that makes sense, that sounds reasonable, that actually bears fruit in order to win. It's easy to see the results.

Anonymous said...

George Brett is gonna get drunk and call you out Rany.

Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Yuniesky Betancourt?????????

Anonymous said...

another hacktastic SS, although a big improvement over the existing options! let's hope for many more moves to follow...

Kila-Ton said...

Betancourt! I could go for one of your angry tirades, calling for someones job right about now.

Dave said...

Trading for Yuniesky is bad enough...giving up Cortes PLUS someone else is absolute lunacy! What the hell is going on at Kauffman?!?

Charles said...

I QUIT ON THIS TEAM!

This is absolutely ridiculous. The minimum amount due to YB is 10.5M over the next 3.5 years. That's NUTS.

He's a replacement level player. He's about the same as Luis Hernandez (probably better with the bat, but worse with the glove).

An AWFUL move. Moore still hates the statistical analysis and now should be FIRED.

Put the Donald on the Crown Vision and have him yell it!

I QUIT.

Anonymous said...

My guess is Seattle is paying the entire salary (let's hope) - we take on the project, they take on the prospects.

Anonymous said...

Let's hope the change of scenery does Yuni some good. God, I hope the M's are paying it all.

Anonymous said...

I swear I am near done with this ass clown of an organization. I have been as loyal and faithful to this team, organization, front office as anyone could ever be.

But they give no hope. They're obviously stuck in a zietgiest of believes that is flat out stupid, wrong and bound to fail.

The ROyals should be trading guys like Yuniesky Betancourt for guys like Cortes. Not the other way around.

Has Dayton Moore not seen the standings lately? a team TWELVE GAMES UNDER .500 is not a contending team. There is nothing on this team aside from Billy and Zack worth building around.

But hey now we have the trifecta of dumbasses who could give two cents about anything in clubhouse. Guillen, Olivo, Betancourt.

Yeah, that strikes fear throughout the entire AL central.

Jason said...

Rany said: "So going forward, I’ll try to keep this incident in mind the next time I decide to bring the hammer down. (Which won’t be long, I’m sure.)"

Cue the hammer...

Anonymous said...

Oh, I can't wait to hear Rany's reaction to the Betancourt fiasco.

Anonymous said...

From his twitter, "Uh-oh. I think I'm going to get banned again."

JWalker said...

Rany, I gotta blame this one on you. DM has obviously made this trade out of spite for you, knowing that you care about kooky stats like OBP and value qualities like good defense. This move will teach you not to criticize his team.

gbewing said...

This essay is even more poignant with the Betancourt trade which cements your analysis this organziation lives in another era and has no belief in anything sabermetric. This was an incredibly bad trade and poor judgement from a GM Dayton Moore remains in 1980's Atlanta except we are short 2 CY Young pitchers.

Calif Fan said...

This has been bugging me for weeks: why in the hell does Guillen ALWAYS HAVE TO BAT CLEANUP??????? The guy is obviously in a huge slump and has almost no RBI's in the past month. His "power" is ancient history. Can't he bat sixth for a couple of weeks? Why not Teahen or Callaspo? I don't know how many times just in the last few games this has cost runs.

genuinebeat said...

For a long time everyone has been ripping the Royals for fielding a team without anything close to a major league shortstop. This team NEEDED to get someone at that position. Guess what Royals fans, no one was going to trade anything close to that for Teehan, Dejesus, Jacobs or Guillen.

This was not a horrible trade. The Royals are paying him nothing this year and the Mariners are paying a chunk of his salary for the next two years. No, he's not a top of the line SS but is he an upgrade over what this team was throwing out there everyday.

Kevin said...

Rany, please fire away at Dayton Moore in your next post. He must be held accountable. What a terrible, terrible trade.

Dave said...

Rany,

In your response to this acquisition, please detail what you would have done DIFFERENTLY. What I mean is, please don't spew Yuni's horrible OBP, declining defensive skills, etc. We all know that stuff. Specifically, what should the Royals have done in your opinion? No question they had to do something with the SS position. Next year's free agent crop is thin at short and there isn't anybody on the farm that is ready. If not Betancourt, who? And for what? By the way, did you read Dutton's article with the player's reactions? Probably just lip service but they seem generally excited and see potential there. This might not turn out as bad as we think. If Francouer is a possibility to turn it around somewhere else, why not Yuni?

chjohn said...

I'm shocked that Royals fans are criticizing this move. We are usually such an optimistic bunch. We have complained for two years about Pena being so terrible. DM goes out and gets a SS for two minor leaguers who will never make a meaningful impact on the Royals, and we complain about that one too. Nobody gives an alternative option, they just say DM is an idiot. Cortes is now on third organization before reaching AAA. I wonder how many good major league pitchers can make that claim. KC gave up almost nothing to fill a hole they would not have been able to through free agency, unless they wanted some old guy for a year or two.

Fast Willie is a utility player, and that's it. Remember, he was another acquisition that was heavily panned on message boards, and it has worked out fine. Everybody loves the guy now. If they keep Pena on the roster, I will question it, but if it means they can move on without him, then this is a good trade.

And to those who want to quit on the Royals - See you later. Don't come back.

stevo said...

chjohn,

I'm with you. This train will get to the station faster without all the dead weight. Don't come back next year, quitters.

Matt said...

The issue shouldn't be about what would critics of this deal have done differently. I'm afraid the status quo is better than Betancourt. On ESPN.com Keith Law says Yuni is the worst everyday player in baseball. We're paying $5 million through 2011 and then we'll be on the hook for a $2 million buyout in 2012. That's $7 million for a declining skills player who will be sucking at shortstop everyday for the next two and a half years. I've been a huge defender of DM until now but this deal makes no sense. It's like the front office wanted to prove Rany right on his July 8 post.

Anonymous said...

That's the thing, though, the status quo is NOT better than Betancourt. Bloomquist is overmatched as an everyday SS, there is no arguing that he is qualified to play there everyday. 2B maybe, but no way is he an everyday SS. Don't even bring up Tony Pena as being a better alternative. Who else does that leave you? Is Betancourt everyone's first choice? No. Is he better than what we currently have? Yes. Here's a thought. How about sending Betancourt along with Teahen to Atlanta for Escobar? Maybe Dayton acquired Betancourt to flip him later. Doubtful, but just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Any deal that may result in us dumping Tony Pena, Jr. is a good one.

Anonymous said...

How do you know he has "declining skills"? He's only 27. Don't believe everything these so-called experts write.

Anonymous said...

You're waxing prophetic once again; Betancourt is statistically worse than other teams' backup shortstops. Great trade...

Steve said...

Betancourt, 70 walks in over 2100 career plate appearances. Fits right in. But, weren't the Royals once rumored to be trading Bill Butler for him, a year or 2 ago? That would have been much, much worse. Still, the Royals don't know what they're doing.

Beetle said...

Rany,

My brother was a 34 year old pediatrician and a lifelong Royals fan. We both really enjoyed your commentary and appreciated everything you ever did. He died in November. I can't imagine his disappointment had he read your last post.

I know I'm disappointed.

Calif Fan said...

To me, it's not the trade. It's seeing that Bruce Chen is starting and knowing there is ZERO chance of a win today; it's seeing that Bloomquist has to "rest" today with five off days coming; it's knowing that, in a nothing to nothing eight inning Friday, the Royals are a mortal lock to lose 1-0; it's R Tejada coming in to relieve in the fourth today and walking three guys that inning, all in all not a bad outing for him or the bullpen; it's the impossibility of anyone getting a two out base hit with someone on base; it's all the nobody pitchers who somehow "fool" the Royals for eight innings and hold them to one run or less, leading to newspaper articles about how that guy "really had his stuff today;" it's overpaid Gil Meche with his different kind of "sore back" yesterday; it's "cleanup" hitter Guillen with his hopeless at bats; it's that Jacobs is even worse, and T Pena is beyond description; it's the base running mistakes like Olivo not going halfway yesterday, and that they occur day to day; and it's the absence of even minimal fielding ability. That's why I find following this team to be masochism that probably should be treated.

guinnessman said...

I am so sorry.

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