Photo: (Charlie Riedel/AP)
UPDATE: Moose has been sent to AAA Omaha. In doing so they brought up Jimmie Paredes. More to come on this soon!
So I was talking with Walker about a little baseball this morning, and he says, “hey, you should do a comparison between this year and 2004.” To which I replied that 2003 was a fluke, 04 was a trainwreck and I would rather not.
Buuuut I couldn’t help myself, so I pulled up both years, and wow.
First of all, I thought that I remembered Jose Lima being much better than he actually was, but I think that was a byproduct of 2 things, one the Roid ERA where all run statistics were inflated, and 2, he was actually one of the better pitchers on a horrible staff. At least…it was horrible until you compared it to 2004.
Not only did they decide to replace most of the offense they had in 2003 with horrible players, they also had a staff that looks so bad on paper, my eyes are burning.
Of the 5 pitchers with 17 or more starts, one, count them ONE had an ERA under 5.35. This would be Zack Greinke.
Mike Wood won the award for highest ERA on that staff with 5.94, although in a true sign of the times came in at a surprisingly high 81 ERA+. For comparison sake, Luke Hochevar was regarded to have had a disasterous 2012 (he did) and his ERA of 5.73 ERA had an ERA+ of 73. Its almost like….PED’s helped batters score more runs…who knew (this is for all those who maintain the argument that “they didn’t do much, the guy still had to hit the ball, yada yada yada”).
If you haven’t bowed down and thanked your lucky stars for this years starting rotation, do so now. With Jeremy Guthrie considered by many to be the dead weight at the back end of the rotation, and already some radio talk of if Chen might be able to claim his roster spot (not kidding, but there is ZERO chance this happens) he still comes in with an ERA of 4.39. Our absolute worst starting pitcher in 2014 would be one of the front of the rotation guys in 2003 and 2004, and the opening day starter MANY of the following years.
2003 had this years squad beat in hitting, no doubt about it, but 2004……wow. I am not sure I have ever felt so lucky with this current squad. Though it may not seem like it, this team individually isn’t as bad as we take it for. SIX of the nine in the lineup actually have an OPS+ of 96 and above. (OPS+ Explained) We have six average hitters on this team. The problem lies mostly in the fact that we have no one hitting ABOVE average except Lorenzo Cains 107 OPS+ , and are therefor weighted down as a whole by players like Mike Moustakas and Billy Butler who have hit so far BELOW average. Mike Moustakas with a 47 OPS+ could actually get 3 chances every 2 at bats and still be below average.
Among the 3 in this years group performing far below average was Nori Aoki. This was somewhat of a surprise, as while I know he hasn’t performed up to expectations, I did not expect his overall body of work to be considered statistically bad enough to only have an 81 OPS+. His batting average and on-base don’t look horrible with a .271/.326 respectively but with only a .328 slugging percentage, he is being docked heavily from being nothing more than primarily a slap hitting singles hitter, who right now isn’t getting on base enough to justify BEING a slap hitting singles hitter.
While I, and pretty much the entire blogging community have made no bones about the fact Mike Moustakas needed to be pulled from the starting lineup, I wasn’t aware of just how much his sucktitude had hurt this club (and Billy Butler for that matter, more on him in a bit).
Even placing an average hitter in his place would help the team tremendously, and I believe the Royals have finally done just that by giving Danny Valencia a bit of an extended look (by Yostian standards anyway). Through 16 games this year, Valencia has come out and actually had the HIGHEST OPS+ on the entire team with 115. That’s right…one of the worst hitters in all of baseball was blocking the guy who has put up the best numbers on the Royals. While I don’t feel it is sustainable for Danny Valencia to continue with a .308/.362/.423 line, I do believe he will be a SUBSTANTIAL upgrade for the Royals offensively. Even though he will be a step back defensively, it wont be near enough to offset the relative windfall he will provide at the plate compared to Moose. Update: Moose was sent to AAA Omaha, Valencia did enough to show he was the answer over Moose.
Billy Butler gets a LITTLE BIT of a free pass FOR NOW based on the fact he is hitting better of late. The 2 things that Butler has that Moose has never had is a history of being able to actually hit, and hit well and the fact that he has shown signs of being able to break out of a funk. His OPS+ of 74 is trending the right direction.
So….currently the Royals have 3 players under a 96 OPS+, and being as we are comparing 2 different era’s of baseball, I think it is fair to continue using that as a barometer for comparison with the 2004 team. In 2004, the Royals had a whole slew of Mike Moustakas’. With Desi Relaford even getting the opportunity to accumulate 430 plate appearances of horror and 57 OPS+. Others below the 70 mark included perennial MVP canidates Tony Graffanino, Abraham Nunez, Ruben Gotay and Aaron Gueil (OPS+ 45 !!!!!) who all were allowed to garner at least 150 plate appearances. The DIFFERENCE between that squad offensively and this one, is at least there were a few players who performed above average with Carlos Beltran, and Mike Sweeny being quite good. Even Matt Stairs had a solid year, and a player I forgot about Calvin Pickering creating a little noise with 7 HR in his 142 plate appearances.
So….the next time you get frustrated with this team, want to clean house and start all over…remember….at least it isn’t 2004 where the team leader in ERA (bullpen included now) was Shawn Camp and his SPARKELING 3.92 ERA. The Royals currently have ONE player above that mark….and that would be starter Jeremy Guthrie at 4.39.
With the Royals (HOPEFULLY) making the smart decision to sit Moose in favor of Valencia, and the offense actually showing the slightest signs of life as of late….I am willing to put the pitch fork down for a couple of weeks and see what happens. It might have taken looking at 2004 to realize where it was we once were, but a quick look back gives a much greater sense of optimism we are headed in the right direction.