Friday, March 22, 2013

Five For Friday: 3/22/13.

Sparksjay (@sparksjay): 2013 Royals Post-Mortem Headline on your blog?

Right now, my guess would be “Good. Not good enough.” I think this will be the Royals’ winningest season since 1989; I don’t think they will make the playoffs. For some people, the former will justify the James Shields trade. For me, the latter will justify my criticisms of it.

I’m sure I’ll make this point a few dozen more times as we go along, but to be clear: I hate the trade, but I’m still optimistic bout the Royals in 2013 – in large part because the costs of the trade won’t manifest themselves until 2014 and beyond. But in order for the trade to be a true win this year, the Royals have to go to the playoffs. It should be telling that I’m more optimistic about the 2013 Royals than virtually every other analyst out there – and even I don’t think they’ll make the playoffs.

Adam Pearce (@pearcead): What will you be looking for once the season starts (i.e. Hosmer’s ability to hit inside pitches) to believe the Royals have a chance?

What will I be looking for? Wins. Specifically, a winning April. It would have symbolic significance, given that the franchise has had just three winning Aprils in the last 23 years. But it would also have immense practical value, because here is the Royals schedule from April 30th until June 2nd:

vs. Tampa Bay (3)
vs. White Sox (3)
@ Baltimore (3)
vs. Yankees (3)
@ Angels (3)
@ Athletics (3)
@ Houston (3)
vs. Angels (3)
vs. St. Louis (2)
@ St. Louis (2)
@ Texas (3)

There’s a breather in there against the Astros, but aside from that, the easiest series of the bunch could be the one against the Yankees. Seriously. (Assuming Granderson and Teixeira aren’t back by that point.)

The Royals don’t have to come out of the gate like they did in 2003, but if they’re 10-14 when the Rays come to town, they could already be in selling mode by the time they leave Texas.

Bart Parry (@Bart41CPA): If Frenchy struggles, who are the likely trade candidates? Seems like real upgrade possibilities are scarce/costly (i.e. Stanton).

I’ll spare you my pie-in-the-sky trade ideas for Stanton until the Royals are actually in contention this summer. If the Royals do make a trade, it will likely be for a left-handed bat, which would allow them to use Francoeur in a platoon rather than give up on him completely.

I’m sure there are a number of left-handed bats in the major leagues who could fit the bill, but the name that stands out to me for obvious reasons is David DeJesus. DeJesus is only under contract for 2013, the money isn’t crazy, the Cubs are rebuilding…I’m sure they would be happy to trade him for a prospect of some worth. Since leaving the Royals he’s hit .252/.337/.390 the last two years, which comes out to an OPS+ of exactly 100. He has a fairly sizeable platoon split – for his career, he’s hit just .256/.325/.346 vs. LHP, but .292/.367/.449 vs. RHP. He doesn’t have a classic rightfielder’s arm, but he makes up for a lack of strength with impressive accuracy, and he played 86 games in right field for the Cubs last year.

Basically, DeJesus’ strengths and weaknesses makes him a perfect complement for Francoeur (or more precisely, makes Francoeur a perfect complement for him). He’d be an ideal candidate even if the Royals didn’t have a familiarity with him.

The only downside is that it requires Dayton Moore to make a trade with Theo and Jed. Well, nothing’s perfect.

Greg Brokaw (@gregbrokaw): Another “if contending…” question: What does your ideal September/playoff rotation look like?

That’s a good question, because on the one hand, it’s possible that some of the pitchers who will be in the minors or on the DL in April will be among the Royals’ five best starters by September. But on the other, if the Royals are actually contending in September, then things have likely gone well with the rotation that the Royals are opening the season with.

So the only two things I’m fairly certain about are that 1) barring injury, James Shields will be your Game 1 starter and 2) none of Mendoza, Chen, or Hochevar will be in the playoff rotation.

If I had to guess, Ervin Santana would start Game 2, if only because it’s hard to imagine the Royals going to the playoffs without Santana bouncing back to his 2011 form, and if he does, he’s a worthy starter. I’ll go with Danny Duffy in Game 3; a playoff berth from the Royals will likely include a big boost from his return in July. You could round out the rotation with a bunch of guys – Jeremy Guthrie, Wade Davis, Felipe Paulino, even Yordano Ventura or Kyle Zimmer.

Peter Radiel (@petercr1): Do you think the Royals can win the World Series with the current front office?


There are two main reasons for my confidence. The first is that asking “can X win the World Series” is just a subset of the question “can X make the playoffs”. There’s no hard evidence that one particular type of playoff team is more likely to win a World Series than another. Teams that win more games in the regular season have a slight edge, but even that’s less than you would think. Anything can happen in a best-of-seven series, to say nothing of a best-of-five or the new Wild Card game (what my friend Joe Sheehan refers to as the Coin Flip game).

In the last 14 years, do you know how many times the team with the best regular-season record went on to win the World Series? Once. In 2009, the Yankees won 103 games and a world championship. (Okay, 1½. The Red Sox, who tied with the Indians for most regular-season victories, won the title in 2007.)

So if the Royals can reach the playoffs – or at least win the division, so they don’t have to play a fourth playoff round – they can win the World Series.

The other main reason is this: the San Francisco Giants have won two of the last three World Series. (They didn’t rank among the top 3 in regular-season wins either year.) Maybe Ned Colletti Brian Sabean isn’t as bad a general manager as I thought he was in the summer of 2010, when he was on my list of the five worst GMs in the game. But he is still the guy who:

1) Traded a living, breathing human being for Jose Guillen that summer.
2) Gave Barry Zito a 7-year, $126 million contract.
3) Refused to commit to Brandon Belt at first base for the better part of 2 years.
4) Signed Aaron Rowand to a 5-year, $60 million contract.
5) Signed Barry Zito. For seven years. And $126 million. No, really.

The secret to the Giants’ success? Draft Matt Cain. Draft Tim Lincecum. Draft Madison Bumgarner. Draft Buster Posey. Sign Pablo Sandoval out of Latin America. The rest is just details, honestly.

The Royals haven’t hit on their draft picks quite that well, but they’re still working on it. If Brian Sabean can win not one but two World Series, then yes, Dayton Moore & Company can win one.


Unknown said...

Ned Colletti or Brian Sabean? Colletti was just an assistant and is definitely just as bad as his boss, but Sabean was the guy signing those terrible contracts... Either way - if the the Giants can win 2 of 3, the Royals can too, no matter who is in charge really. The question is would ownership be on board like SF's? That is ultimately more important. You can win in spite of bad ownership OR a bad GM, but not both... that is the question that hasn't been truly answered for the Royals yet.

Drew Milner said...

Greg Brokaw: How could you put Duffy ahead of Paulino for a playoff starting berth?

San Diego State Sports MBA said...

Don't forget that Sabean also traded 6+ years of front-of-the-rotation prospect Zack Wheeler for 3 months of Carlos Beltran.