Why Are Some 2014 Projections Unfriendly To Royals? Reviewed by Momizat on . By all accounts, Clay Davenport is a bright guy. Co-founder of Baseball Prospectus? Meteorologist by day? Sounds pretty smart to me. So this is not intended to By all accounts, Clay Davenport is a bright guy. Co-founder of Baseball Prospectus? Meteorologist by day? Sounds pretty smart to me. So this is not intended to Rating: 0
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Why Are Some 2014 Projections Unfriendly To Royals?

Why Are Some 2014 Projections Unfriendly To Royals?

By all accounts, Clay Davenport is a bright guy. Co-founder of Baseball Prospectus? Meteorologist by day? Sounds pretty smart to me. So this is not intended to diminish Davenport or his work—BP is a fantastic site and really, every baseball fan (stathead or not) should be paying attention to their work.

As you may have heard, Davenport released his 2014 projections the other day, and they were not kind to our Kansas City Royals. Now, most Royals fans are probably used to this sort of thing; if they’ve had any sort of reality-based thinking over the past 20 years, they would have realized that those teams were not going to magically win 95 games in some sort of Major League scenario.

However, these projections were a bit stunning. 77-85? After an 86-win season? After all, even assuming Ervin Santana does not come back for 2014, it’s hard to see how the Royals are nine games worse than in 2013.

So what gives? Well, for one thing, while I don’t necessarily disagree with Davenport’s methods, the fact is that running a simulation many times (I don’t see a precise number on his website) will by nature cancel out the outliers. Note that there are no teams projected to win more than 91 games or lose more than 95. We know in practice that a few teams will get to 95 wins this year, and the chances are good that someone will lose 100. Although I am a big believer in the usefulness of stats, I am no statistician. But my guess is that the Royals’ numbers got flattened out a bit.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the Royals have some players who may not “project” well. For example, Jeremy Guthrie is one—if you look at his peripheral numbers such as walk rate, strikeout rate, and hits allowed, you would never expect him to be successful. Yet, so far, he’s had a fine career (103 ERA+ lifetime, so essentially a league-average starter). Davenport projects him to post a 5.01 ERA in 189 innings (individual player projections can be found here), which would be a little bit surprising. Guthrie will be 35 in April, so some regression is likely, but he has made a career out of outperforming what you’d expect.

Other projection problems might arise from the Royals’ relative lack of veterans. Although this aspect might be a little overblown; after all, we do have three seasons’ worth of data on Eric Hosmer, almost that much on Mike Moustakas, and two seasons’ worth on Salvador Perez. But those can still be small sample sizes for the purposes of a simulation like this, especially when Hosmer’s disastrous 2012 season (and first two months of 2013) are included. Davenport has Hosmer hitting .273/.335/.432 this year, which frankly would be a disappointment. From a simulation standpoint it makes sense—compare that projection to Hosmer’s lifetime .277/.332/.425 line—but based on what we saw Hosmer do for the last four months of 2013 (.318/.367/.494), it’s odd. At age 24, Hosmer is likely to improve, and my guess would be somewhere quite a bit better than his career line.

Also, I do wonder how much defense plays into these projections. Davenport’s website says that “Defense trickles back into pitchers hits (and runs) allowed.” I don’t think it’s any big secret that an excellent defense was key to the Royals’ winning record last year. It may be tough to sustain that standard of defense in 2014, but since most of the key players are still young, I wouldn’t expect a big dropoff. I think it’s very possible that the defense is not getting enough credit here (and as a bonus, excellent defense is probably going to make non-strikeout pitchers like Guthrie and Jason Vargas better than projected).

Davenport has already answered some of this criticism on his website:

“With the Royals, the big concern for me is the pitching. I expect Shields to come back about a half run in ERA, and I don’t see quality replacements for Santana and Chen, who surprisingly put up over 400 IP @ 3.50 ERA. Two things I will concede – there is some evidence, looking at the last two years of projections, that I under-count defense…or rather, that teams with good(bad) defense don’t get their runs allowed moved down(up) enough. The Royals and Orioles are two teams who might be suffering from that bias…if it is real. It didn’t show up in the 2011 data with nearly the same effect as in 2012-13.

Now, Guthrie at a 5.00-ish ERA. I’m perfectly comfortable with that projection. He was 20 runs above average in the DR component – my way of saying he gave up 20 runs less than expected, base don his other stats. He doesn’t have a history of putting up that kind of number, and even if he did, that component score heavily, heavily trends towards zero in future years. The issue I have with the projection, in retrospect, is that there’s no way he gets 30 starts with that level of performance. Its not as though there’s a ton of depth there, though, so its not going to make a big difference, but future iterations are liable to come up a a couple of wins for them. It IS a process to run these stats, and this was just an opener.”

There’s no need to get bent out of shape over these projections, or to get wildly excited that Fangraphs has the Royals at 41.4 WAR for 2014 (those projections don’t come with a win-loss record, but if a replacement-level team is 47 wins, that puts the Royals at 88 wins). For one thing, we don’t know if the Royals are done adding pieces—another starting pitcher would be nifty. For another thing, 88 wins might not be enough to reach the playoffs; it certainly wasn’t in 2013. And let’s face facts: trading Wil Myers for James Shields is a statement that you WILL make the playoffs while you have Shields.

Of course, ultimately this will all be decided on the field. I tend to think the Royals are an 85- to 88-win team. To me, 77-85 is what happens if two or three key players miss time with injuries. I expect the Royals to be competitive. We can argue a different time about whether that’s enough.

About The Author

I grew up in Topeka, and learned to love the Royals over many summer nights listening to Denny and Fred. Of course, the Royals were much easier to love back then. They got their claws in me some 30 years ago, then they went to the playoffs in 1984 and won it all in 1985. And I thought to myself, "This is easy. This team is always going to be good!" Sigh. But what can I say? If I've made it this far, I suppose I will always be a fan. But whenever they get good again, I'll be sure not to take it for granted. I promise. I'm also a fan of the Chiefs, Jayhawks (even the football team), Sporting KC, and the Nashville Predators. By day, I'm a mild-mannered project manager for a publishing company, and every night I'm lucky to come home to my amazing wife Michelle. We've been married since 2005 and live in Overland Park. Fun fact, she grew up in Memphis watching many future Royals when Kansas City's AA team was there. So it didn't take much to make a Royals fan out of her. We don't have kids, but we've got three cats (one named after Alex Gordon) and a dog. Follow me on Twitter! @Darin_Watson

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Comments (1)

  • BobDD

    So his comments are saying that if the defense is for real that could be a half dozen games and if we unbelievably have another year without major injuries that accounts for another half dozen – so 88 or 89. I don’t think that is hard to believe at all. The injury part is long odds, but is fixable with an unexpected breakout year, which is about half as possible an injury free season. My concern about some surprising breakout season is that it will have to come from the Royals starting lineup or Yordano – since there is so much downplaying expectations about Zimmer and Selman now. I do not accept only 77 wins, but I can see that more things than would be normal, have to go right to increase wins. There is also the handicap of current management on and off field. So as currently constructed I expect most projections from outside the organization and local fans to peg us at about 83-84 wins – and BP’s final projections at least 82. :-)

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