Royals Need Talent AND Leadership Reviewed by Momizat on . Given the choice, I'll take talent over everything. Good players win baseball games. Winning smiles and great clubhouse presences do not win baseball games alon Given the choice, I'll take talent over everything. Good players win baseball games. Winning smiles and great clubhouse presences do not win baseball games alon Rating: 0
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Royals Need Talent AND Leadership

Royals Need Talent AND Leadership

Given the choice, I’ll take talent over everything. Good players win baseball games. Winning smiles and great clubhouse presences do not win baseball games alone. That said, and this is a pretty obvious statement, if two players of roughly equal talent are available and one of the players is a better clubhouse guy and maybe even what some would refer to as a natural later, you have to choose the guy who brings the intangibles. A lot of stats people scoff at the idea of leadership, and I do to some extent. I don’t think someone who doesn’t perform can be a real leader. The talk of Jeff Francoeur as one of the leaders in the clubhouse is all well and good, but if he puts up a season as far below average as his 2012 was, his message seems empty.

There’s a danger in looking at baseball through only one lens whether it be statistically or through the idea that statistics don’t matter and what you see on the field is all that matters. The idea that baseball isn’t played on a spreadsheet is one that you hear a lot from people who discount people who rely heavily on stats. And while that’s true, it’s also true that a baseball team is put together largely on a spreadsheet (or at least some sort of document on a computer). Teams need to utilize the advanced statistics in order to make their best guess as to who will continue success. While it’s true that free agency is about paying players for what they did, the best teams pay players based on what their analysis says they will do. I’ve digressed, but that’s a point I like to make from time to time.

My point, that I’ve taken too long to get to, is that for the 2013 Royals to be better than the 2012 Royals, they’ll need to play better, but I think they’ll need to have better leaders on the field. They’re going to need the same players to contribute to both categories at once in order for their messages to actually mean anything. I talked about this on the podcast, but I wanted to get into it here as well for those who, for some reason, haven’t become regular listeners. (Seriously, what are you waiting for?) I think the 2012 Royals struggled, in part, because they paid a little too close attention to the hype and maybe, just maybe, choked a bit under the pressure.

Personally, the idea of “Our Time” came a little early, and wasn’t entirely fair to put on the 2012 version of the Royals, which really had the upside of about 83 or 84 wins, and that was if everything went well. I also want to say before I say anything else that the Royals simply weren’t a good enough team in 2012 to win anything. They simply didn’t have the pitching staff to compete. Though if you’ll remember, heading into the season, Luke Hochevar was coming off a 12 start stretch we hadn’t yet seen from him, Jonathan Sanchez wasn’t a complete failure yet, Danny Duffy was expected to take a step forward, Felipe Paulino was coming off a nice season and Bruce Chen had begun to turn many into believers about him. No, this isn’t exactly what people expected out of the Phillies prior to 2011, but there was upside in the rotation to be above average. It didn’t happen. And it didn’t help that Eric Hosmer had a horrific sophomore slump while Mike Moustakas finished the year about as poorly as he could. Add in a hole offensively at second base, Lorenzo Cain’s injury and Jeff Francoeur and you could make the argument that the talent cost them a chance to finish .500 way more than choking over expectations.

Still, I look at the team and I see a team that played really well with nothing on the line and as soon as people started to get excited, they began to tank. At the start of the season, they headed home for the first homestand and were met with a fanbase that hadn’t been so excited since Zack Greinke’s run in 2009. They lost all ten games that homestand. Once they were pretty much dead and buried, they started to show signs of life, and as I mentioned on the podcast, they made it all the way back to 35-39 with a few games left before the break. In a division that was being led by some serious underachieving, there was a thought that the Royals might be able to get to .500 and then make a move to be a player in the division race. Then they went 7-19 in July. After that, nothing really mattered and they were very good in August and were very good in September until the last 8-10 games or so.

My point here is that I think Dayton Moore might share in my thought that this team was in need of finding a way to avoid those down times as soon as things started to get real. I hate this game usually, but bear with me. Without April and July, the Royals were 59-58. I recognize that I’ve take away about 1/3 of the season, and I wouldn’t operate this way, but I have a feeling Dayton Moore sees that team and believes they just need a little extra leadership to turn that 13-34 in those two months into something more like 20-27. And then if you do that, well, by golly, they’re at 79 wins which looks a lot better than 72.

And this is something you don’t see me say a lot, but I do think that to some extent, he’s right. The game is played on the field an talent rules over everything, but sometimes young teams need some guidance beyond what the management on the bench can provide to them. That flies in the face of much of what people like me who rely on statistics stand for, but it’s simply the truth. So Dayton Moore went out and got  three guys for the rotation who have been there before. James Shields, Ervin Santana and Wade Davis have all made starts down the stretch for a team in a division race. They’ve all started games in the postseason, which is something that nobody on the staff had done. It won’t matter if Santana puts up another 5.00+ ERA or Shields has another down year like 2010 or Wade Davis can’t transition back to the rotation, but if they produce, I do believe their leadership will be very important to help avoid the 12 game losing streaks and to help a young team deal with expectations. Their production matters most, but their experience in these situations will be a valuable piece you won’t see in any box score.

Follow me on Twitter @DBLesky

About The Author

I never had a chance. I was born into a family who loved baseball and the Royals, so I accordingly love baseball and the Royals. I just so happen to love to write also, which makes writing about the Royals for this site something that makes me happy each and every day. When I first started blogging, a fairly well known baseball writer told me to only do it until I'm unhappy doing it, but I don't see that coming any time soon.

Number of Entries : 830

Comments (5)

  • DownUnderFan

    By the way, I encourage you to go to the Royals MLB site and the Moustakas article. Read the comment by 5569 from yesterday that has an assumed phone call between Dayton and Ned. You will die laughing. It is the best comment of the year.

  • DownUnderFan

    On Hochevar. Dayton and Ned have clearly committed to Hochevar this spring just as they have committed to Frenchy.

    Basically, the 5th starting spot is Luke’s to win or lose. Some think he will be a better pitcher at the back end of the rotation. I wonder. I still think Jim Morris of The Oldest Rookie fame had the best answer for Luke. He said some pitchers just cannot handle the pressure that builds in the 5 days between starts. They work themselves into their own panic. But those same pitchers can do well in relief because they never know when they will pitch and they pitch more often thus having less time for the panic to build. Finally, if they get in trouble, it is usually much quicker to pull a reliever than a starter because the bullpen is usually already up.

    The problem now is Luke will either make the grade at #5 or probably be released and not get the chance to prove if he could be of value in the pen. Guess will just have to let it play out and see.

  • David Lesky

    DUF – I do enjoy the back fields a lot. I spent a good amount of time there last year and loved it. It’s always a good time in Surprise.

    adwatts – I don’t buy the talk when it comes to Hochevar. I think he’s a lost cause. I don’t think it’s crazy, though, that some of the work habits and attitudes can rub off on the younger players.

  • adwatts

    Echo DownUnderFan. David do you buy into all the talk about the mindset and moxie of Shields rubbing off on the other members of our pitching staff? Hochevar could sure use some and on paper it at least looks like he could bring some of that “Rays mindset” to this team.

  • DownUnderFan

    Good article as always.

    By the way, you talked in the podcast about going to the backfields in spring training. I found last year that I enjoyed that more than the games. I was there every morning before 9 am waiting for the gates to open and didn’t leave until game time. I spent a half hour one morning waiting at the gate with Bubba Starling’s father. A wonderful man. If Bubba is anything like his Dad he will have a good head on his shoulders and be a credit to the Royals. Also, got to talk to a lot of the players and even spent a morning with several of the host families for minor league players. Learned far more about the business of baseball from them than speaking to coaches or players. I wrote several blogs (DownUnderFan) about the different people I met and things I learned while there. Wish I could go back and do it again this year but going to spend a week in KC going to games instead.

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