Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Closing It Out

I have come to the realization that the Op-Ed Page needs to be retired due to neglect. As such, I want to thank everyone who visited this site during the year and helped it become popular and led to my joining the MostValueableNetwork. Barring a change in circumstances, I will no longer be posting at this site on anything but an extremely sporadic basis, if at all.

Please be sure to catch me at the following TWO sites:

ROYALS AUTHORITY - For all my Royals opinions and analysis, plus those of Craig Brown of Warning Track Power. We alternate weekdays and seldom go a day without posting. Also, great links to other Royal sites from there, too. Hey, we both managed to post through an 106 loss season, imagine what we will do if KC becomes a contender!

BIG RED ANALYSIS - No, not a Nebraska football site, but one devoted to Nebraska Cornhusker basketball. Yes, I know a Royals fan AND a Husker basketball fan, yet I still manage to get up every morning. A new site that will dissect Nebraska basketball and college ball in general.

For those of you following my series on the Royals, Twins and A's from the mid 90's to the present, I posted part five of that series over at Royals Authority this morning. Thanks again, everyone, and I hope you join us at the above two sites.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Three Different Plans - 1999

At last, I have returned to this long neglected series, sorry for the delay.

Part four of our series covers the 1999 season. In this season, both KC and Minnesota regressed in wins by 8 and 7 respectively. Oakland, after improving by 9 games from 1997 to 1998, jumped up by 13 more in 1999. Take a look at the numbers and general lineups for 1999.

Runs Scrd856686893
Runs Allwd921845846
98 Payroll$23,812,000$20,407,500$32,657,500
97 Payroll$37,118,000$27,930,000$27,112,000
Avg Age27.026.630.0


DHJe. GiambiCordovaJaha

The off season between 1998 and 1999 was filled with the kind of player movement to which only the local papers would pay any attention. The Royals traded Juan LeBron for Joe Randa, and signed Rey Sanchez and Chad Kreuter. The Twins 'biggest' signing was of amateur free agent Bobby Kielty and, as a sign of going really young, releasing shortstop Pat Meares. Oakland added veteran pieces to go around their emerging young offensive stars, signing Tony Phillips, Tim Raines and John Jaha.

Kansas City traded away two starting pitchers during the season: Kevin Appier to Oakland on July 31st (Ape still pitched enough for the Royals to be shown as one of their starters in the above chart) and Glendon Rusch to the Mets on September 14th. Unless you consider Blake Stein, Brad Rigby or Dan Murray a major league pitcher, they got nothing in return for them. The Royals were a potent offensive team in 1999, ranking 7th in runs scored and 3rd in batting average - that with only two regulars over 30 (Rey Sanchez at 31 and Chad Kreuter at 34). They sported two 24 year old starters in Jeff Suppan and Jose Rosado who both pitched over 200 innings, but the rest of the staff was weak, particularly in the bullpen where three of the four leaders in appearance had ERAs over 6.00.

Minnesota cut ties with long time closer Rick Aguilera on May 21, 1999, trading him to the Cubs for Kyle Lohse. Otherwise their big moves were simply by bringing up the fruits of their execellent early/mid nineties draft. Keeping in mind that Jacque Jones was the 4th outfielder on that team, the Twins in 1999 were basically the group we Royal fans have become all too familiar with. Radke was Radke (219 IP, 3.75 ERA) and 23 year old Eric Milton logged 207 innings, but the rest of the Twins' staff pitched like a staff with an average age of 26.

Oakland was active in the in-season trade market as they fought to contend in the A.L. West. On July 23rd they traded Kenny Rogers for Terrance Long, followed shortly by trading Jeff Davanon and others for Omar Olivares and Randy Velarde. IN addition to the aforementioned Appier acquisition, they also snagged Jason Isringhausen for Billy Taylor on July 31st. Although just 13th in team batting average, Oakland was 4th in on-base percetange and 4th in runs scored. Despite a somewhat hodge-podge pitching staff (Gil Heredia's 200 innings were 58 more than the next highest starter) and they used 3 different closers (Taylor, Doug Jones & Isringhausen), Oakland did manage to finish 3rd in ERA.

Kansas City may have regressed in terms of won-loss, but there were reasons to be excited. They had slashed payroll by $14 million and IMPROVED their offense. Sweeney, Damon, Beltran and Dye were all all-stars in the making and none were older than 25. Plus, KC's best pitchers were both 24. The Royals needed more pitching (dead last in team ERA), a lot more when you remember they were counting on Blake Stein, Mac Suzuki, Dan Reichert and Chad Durbin to develop.
The Twins took their lumps in 1999, but had just one regular over 30 (Terry Steinbach) and only two pitchers over 30. They were 11th or lower in every offensive category except stolen bases (5th in the A.L.). Like KC, the Twins had two young starters in Radke and Milton and a whole bunch of question marks. However, Minnesota was looking to Joe Mays, Mark Redman and J.C. Romero to help in that area.
Oakland had fashioned a blend of young stars with some good veterans and made a good run at the playoffs. They had made trades as part of this run, but given up very little to do so. Besides adhering to the organizational code of getting on base, the A's also mashed 235 homers (2nd in the A.L.). They did sport 4 regulars over 30, but Tejada and Grieve were 23, Chavez 21 and Giambi still just 28. Their pitching staff, although a work in progress, was effective in 1999 and they had thrown 23 year old Tim Hudson into the mix.
Unlike Minnesota and KC, Oakland never went completely young between 1995 and 1999. Instead opting to blend veterans with young players, and bringing in their youngsters in phases. It was clearly an effective tactic. By contrast, the Twins had been biding their time for their prospects to get close and in 1999 pretty much turned the team over to them all at once. Kansas City had waffled between the two tactics, and spent too much money in the interim doing so, but frankly at the end of 1999 they did not look a lot different than either the Twins or the A's...on paper anyway.

The Draft and The Systems
The Royals selected Kyle Snyder with the 7th pick in the 1999 Amateur Draft. The Twins, picking 5th, selected B.J. Garbe and the Athletics, after nabbing Mark Mulder in the 98 draft, took Barry Zito with the 9th pick. Josh Beckett went number 2 to Florida, but then Eric Munson was the second most successful pick of the top 6 - so not a great early draft. Royal fans can salivate at having Zito (or Ben Sheets who went number 10) instead of Snyder, but KC then picked Mike MacDougal with the 25th overall pick and Jimmy Gobble with the 43rd. Looking at who went in the top 50 in this draft, the Royals really did alright in 1999.

Aside from the three mentioned above, Kansas City also drafted Wes Obermueller in round 2, Ken Harvey in round 5 and Mark Ellis in round 9.

Minnesota's 1999 draft was better than 1998, but then 1998 sucked. They picked Justin Morneau in round 3 and Terry Tiffee in the 26th.

After drafting Zito, Oakland added Ryan Ludwick in the second round and not much else. However, when you draft Hudson in 1997, Mulder in 1998 and Zito in 1999, you don't have to add much else.

The Royals system had Mark Quinn up for a look in September, but was otherwise filled with a bunch of pitchers long on potential and short on performance. Sal Fasano and Dee Brown were in the mix, too, but...well, nevermind.

After going very young in 1999, the Twins were ready to bring in A.J. Pierzynski to catch and had left field to Jacque Jones. As mentioned above, Mays, Redman and Romero, joined by Kyle Lohse were also in line to contribute. The Twins had not done a good job of drafting in the recent couple of seasons, but were young enough at the major league level to withstand that. Perhaps their only failing at this point was to not give David Ortiz a chance (just 20 at-bats in 1999)

Oakland had traded an old closer (Billy Taylor) for a young one (Jason Isringhausen) and was poised to unveil the second member of 'The Big Three'. Terrance Long (stop laughing Royal fans) was in line to improve the outfield and two young catchers, A.J. Hinch and Ramon Hernandez, were in the system.

Oakland had 'arrived' in 1999, almost making the playoffs and becoming an offensive force in the American League. They were in the process of turning a patched together, albeit effective, pitching staff into a major strength and had a bonafide superstar in Jason Giambi.

The Twins had gone young in a big way, paid the price and were hoping to have the right core to get dramatically better in 2000. There was talk of contraction in Minneapolis/St. Paul as attendance and payroll were both quite low. No one gave Minnesota a second thought, other than to think they might not exist in a couple of years.

The Royals had to be thinking they were on the edge of getting better. Their offense was better than Minnesota's and their pitching no worse. Oakland had contended in 1999 without a single star pitcher and great offense, could not the Royals do the same in 2000?

The new millenium was about to dawn and with it two contenders and an also ran.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Three Different Plans - 1998

Part three of our series covers the 1998 season. All three teams improved marginally in their won-loss records from 1997 (see Part Two below) to 1998. Oakland by 9 games, Kansas City by 5 games and the Twins by 2 games. Here are the raw numbers and general lineups for 1998.

Runs Scrd714734804
Runs Allwd899818866
98 Payroll$37,118,000$27,930,000$27,112,000
97 Payroll$39,350,000$27,150,000$23,950,000
Avg Age28.829.329.9



Prior to the season, all three teams made some rather uninspiring 'station keeping' signings of or trades for veterans players. Kansas City went out and signed Hal Morris, Terry Pendleton and Pat Rapp. They also traded Blaine Mull (yeah, I don't know him either) for Jeff Conine. Minnesota signed Otis Nixon , Mike Morgan and Orlando Merced. Oakland did their part by signing the likes of Mike Blowers, Rickey Henderson and Kevin Mitchell.

The Royals most exciting news of the offseason probably generated no mention of all at the time. On December 16, 1997, they signed an amateur free agent by the name of Runelvys Hernandez. They also made a trade very early in the 1998 season, moving Mike Macfarlane to Oakland in exchange for Shane Mack. Jay Bell and Tom Goodwin were gone and Jermaine Dye appeared in just 60 major league games in 1998, so the Royals went from scoring 747 runs in 1997 to 714 in 1998. Kevin Appier was injured and his 236 innings and 3.40 ERA were replaced by Pat Rapp's 188 innings and 5.30 ERA and the pitching staff suffered accordingly.

Minnesota made a very interesting trade prior to the 1998 season. With Todd Walker slated to play second base for the Twins, they moved Chuck Knoblauch to New York for four prospects and cash. Two of those prospects were Cristian Guzman and Eric Milton. Walker proceeded to hit .316 in his first full season and the 22 year old Milton managed to log 172 innings. Outside of Walker and 39 year old Otis Nixon, however, the Twins had a very non-descipt offense and could not take advantage of a pitching staff that surrendered 43 fewer runs than in 1997.

Oakland improved by the most of all three teams in 1998 and it is not very hard to see why. After having no pitcher throw more than 134 innings in 1997, the A's had four starters log 175 innings or more, led by two veterans free agent signees in Kenny Rogers and Tom Candiotti. With essentially four rookies in their every day lineup, Oakland had just two pitchers on their staff under 25 (Jimmy Haynes and Blake Stein).

Although better than in 1997, there was no confusing any of these three teams for a contender. With the exception of Damon and part-timers Sweeney and Dye, the Royals offense was all nearing or over 30 years old. With Appier hurt and the 36 year old Montgomery compiling a 4.98 ERA as a closer, some of what happened to their pitching staff could not be helped. They still had a pair of promising 23 year olds in Jose Rosado and Glendon Rusch and late in the year added another young pitcher in Jeff Suppan. Minnesota was faced with replacing aging Paul Molitor, Terry Steinbach and Otis Nixon and the spectre of a declining Marty Cordova. They had young arms in Hawkins, Milton, Radke and Frankie Rodriguez, but a bullpen that had only one reliever of note with an ERA under 4.00. Oakland had handed shortstop to 22 year old Miquel Tejada (who hit .233 in 365 at-bats) and catcher to A.J. Hinsh (who hit .231 in 337 at-bats), but they did have the rookie of the year in Ben Grieve and an ever improving Jason Giambi to replace Mark McGwire. They had patched together a mostly veteran pitching staff to take the heat off a young offense and were rewarded by a team that was learning how to win.

The Draft and The Systems
The Royals selected Jeff Austin with the 4th pick in the 1997 Amateur Draft. The Twins, picking 6th, selected Ryan Mills and with the number two overall pick the Athletics made a spectacular pick of Mark Mulder. Sandwiched between KC and Minnesota was St. Louis' pick of J.D. Drew, but below those in the first round were a bevy of prospects: Austin Kearns (7th), Sean Burrougsh (9th), Jeff Weaver (14th), Brad Lidge (17th) and C.C. Sabathia (20th).

After Austin, the Royals also had the 30th and 31st selections, taking (and wasting) them on Matt Burch and Chris George (Brad Wilkerson and Aaron Rowand went 33rd and 35th). Other players taken by KC in 1998 were Paul Phillips in the 9th round and Shawn Sedlacek in the 14th.

Minnesota absolutely wiffed in the 1998 draft, the most notable player they drafted was Juan Padilla in the 24th round. As we will see, however, Minnesota had already done their good draftwork earlier.

In addition to Mulder (who followed the drafting of Tim Hudson in 1997), Oakland added one other solid ballplayer by picking Eric Byrnes in the 8th round.

The Royals system was about to contribute Carlos Beltran and Carlos Febles, both of whom were up for a cup of coffee in September of 1998. Jermaine Dye was shuttling between Omaha and KC and Mike Sweeney was still toiling away behind the plate.

The outstanding season complied by Todd Walker was just the beginning of the Twins reaping the benefits of the good drafts of the early nineties. Corey Koskie, Doug Mientkiewicz, Torii Hunter and A.J. Pierzynski all had gotten a taste of the bigs with September callups and there was hope that Hawkins, Milton, Frankie Rodriguez and former number one pick Dan Serafini would join Brad Radke to form a young and talented rotation. Maybe even a raw talent like big David Ortiz might turn into something after hittin .277 with 9 homers in 278 at-bats in 1998.

Oakland had Ben Grieve to join Jason Giambi and were hoping their young shortstop Tejada would improve. Eric Chavez had hit .311 in 45 September at-bats and there were those two young arms, Mulder and Hudson, coming up to join the promising Jimmy Haynes.

The Twins and A's had both upped their payroll, mainly to plug gaps with veterans while they waited for youngsters to be ready. Oakland had invested wisely in Candiotti and Rogers to keep their team competitive and somebody (Mike Blowers) had to play third so Chavez could develop - particularly given the rookie Tejada was already playing on that side of the infield. Otis Nixon was better at 39 than Torii Hunter would have been at 22. While the likes of Ron Coomer and Terry Steinbach bought time for the Twins to develop Pierzynski and Koskie.

Even the Royals, while fielding a rather ininspring collection of veterans around Johnny Damon, had the offense on the way in Beltran, Sweeney and others. They even had some hope in some young arms. Probably Kansas City's biggest transgression at this point was carrying a high thirties million dollar payroll while both Oakland and Minnesota were saving money for later.

The winds of change, however, were about to begin blowing and three times that were so very similar for over ten years were suddenly about to get very different. Next installment: 1999.

Just a Quick Note

Just a quick post to let you know that I am still continuing on with our "Three Different Paths" series detailing the Royals, Twins and A's from 1996 forward. A busy couple of weeks have kept me from doing the next post in the series, but will do so shortly.

As always, catch me over at Royals Authority along with Craig from Warning Track Power.

Also, welcome back to the Blogger world (can I say that if I also write for MVN?) to Kevin Agee at Kevin's Royal Blog.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Three Different Plans - 1997

Part two of our study of KC, Minnesota and Oakland and the paths they took to success or oblivion focuses on the year 1997. As we discussed in the Introduction posted earlier (or below for those of you dealing in verticality instead of time), all three organizations experienced a great deal of success in the late eighties and into the early nineties and were, if not good, competitive in 1996 all finishing with 75 or more wins. Take a look at some of the overall numbers for 1997.

Runs Scrd747772764
Runs Allwd820861946
97 Payroll$39,350,000$27,150,000$23,950,000
96 Payroll$19,998,000$17,390,000$21,161,000
Avg Age29.128.827.6



Prior to the season, the Royals traded a young Joe Randa and disappointing Jeff Granger for veterans Jay Bell and Jeff King. They also swapped Keith Lockhart and Michael Tucker for Jermaine Dye and Jamie Walker. Although Dye was a couple of years away from being an effective regular, that was a nice trade (Walker was, and still is a servicable reliever in the majors). Putting that lineup in the table, makes you think that team should have been better (Bip Roberts and Mike Sweeney were the top reserves), just as it appeared on the eve of 1997.

The Twins big off season moves were the signing of two veteran free agents: Bob Tewksbury and Terry Steinbach. They had what they thought was a solid outfield for years to come in Cordova, Becker and Lawton and a young gun ready to become an ace (Brad Radke - maybe you've heard of him). Adding the veteran Tewksbury to a young staff (Latroy Hawkins, Todd Ritchie and Frankie Rodriguez) made a lot of sense.

Oakland traded John Wasdin to get Jose Canseco back, signed Brent Mayne and Dave Magadan and otherwise did nothing of note prior the beginning of 1997.

As the records reflect, none of the three teams were anywhere near good in 1997. The Royals, despite being in the middle of the pack in pitching (4 starters threw 170+ innings, wouldn't we kill for that now?), simply could not hit enough to win ballgames (12th in runs scored, 10th in average, 12th in slugging). Essentially, their veterans underachieved. The Twins finished 10th in runs scored and 13th in ERA, despite 240 innings from Radke and a 4.22 ERA from Tewksbury. Cordova, Becker and Lawton all hit .264 or below. Molitor and Knoblauch were both very good, but Ron Coomer was their 3rd best hitter - not exactly a recipe for success. Oakland simply could not pitch (team ERA 5.49). No one on the A's logged more than 134 innings and only veteran closer Billy Taylor managed to survive the season with an ERA under 4.00. Their offense, led by a young Jason Giambi, Matt Stairs and McGwire, was not bad, but nowhere near good enough to compensate for a staff that resembled...well, resembled the 2004 Royals.

The Draft and The Systems
The Royals selected Dan Reichert with the 7th pick in the 1997 Amateur Draft. The Twins, picking 9th, selected Michael Cuddyer and at number 11 the A's took Chris Enochs. To be fair, guys like J.D. Drew, Troy Glaus and Vernon Wells went in the top five and the only other really good players to go in the top fifty were Jon Garland (10th), Lance Berkman (16th) and Adam Kennedy (20th), so this draft was not exactly littered with obvious major leaguers.

After selecting Reichert, Kansas City picked Jeremy Affeldt in the third round and unless you want to count Kris Wilson, Jason Gilfillan and Mike Tonis, did not pull in any other players of note.

Minnesota nabbed Matthew LeCroy with the 50th overall pick, Michael Restovich in round two, J.C. Romero in round 21 and Nick Punto in round 33. Romero turned into a nice pick and LeCroy is serviceable, but truthfully the Twins had already laid their ground work with excellent drafts in the years preceeding 1997.

After whiffing on Enochs with the 11th overall pick, the A's did little better with the 21st overall pick, tabbing Eric DuBose. In fact, no one stands out in this Oakland draft, EXCEPT FOR A GUY NAMED TIM HUDSON (picked in the 6th round). Sometimes it only takes one player to make a draft. I think Tim Hudson qualifies as that type of player.

The Royals system had already produced regulars in Damon, Rusch and Rosado and two others who were traded for regulars (Tucker and Randa). Mike Sweeney was still proving that he could not play catcher, but was on the verge of an offensive breakout. Carlos Beltran, Mark Quinn and Jeremy Giambi were in the pipeline.

The Twins were stocked, although they may not have known just how well. Todd Walker had gotten his feet wet in the majors during 1997 and the 1990 and 1991 drafts had already accounted for 10 players on the major league roster. The pipeline was bursting with Torii Hunter, A.J. Pierzynski, Corey Koskie, Doug Mientcewicz, Jacque Jones and some guys who would not have an impact with the Twins but turned out alright: David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, Jose Valentin, Travis Lee and Danny Kolb.

Oakland had Jason Giambi poised for stardom and likes of Mark Bellhorn, Tony Batista, Miguel Tejada, Ben Grieve and Eric Chavez at various stages of development. They also had drafted a future ace in Tim Hudson.

The Royals spent a lot of money on veteran hitting to joing a solid starting rotation and failed miserably. By mid 1997, they were sellers at the trade deadline. Minnesota had also spent some money on veteran players, but in an attempt to hold the line while their considerable minor league wealthy developed. Oakland was about to part ways with the Bash Brothers for good. They knew they had the offense coming up, could they ever find enough pitching?

Check back at the end of the week and see what happened as these teams rolled into 1998.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Three Different Plans - Introduction

This is the first in a series of posts in which we are going to follow three organizations: Kansas City, Minnesota and Oakland. All three teams can be classified as 'small market teams', all experienced a great deal of success before the landscape of baseball changed dramatically in the 1990s and all had very similar records in both 1996 and 1997. It is the 1997 season that will serve as our starting point for this series. However, before we embark on a season by season analysis, let's first take a quick look at what these franchises did leading up to 1997.

Let us begin with our beloved Royals. Although they had not been in the playoffs since winning the 1985 World Series, Kansas City had remained competitive: finishing over .500 six of the next eleven years and winning over 70 games even in the down years. No, they weren't great, but the Royals were decent and at times still in a pennant race late in the season. In fact, before the strike prematurely ended the 1994 season, KC was 64-51 and giving every impression that they could win the division.

Minnesota had experienced greater successes (two World Championships and a 90-72 season in 1992) and also greater failures (1993 71-91, 1994 53-60, 1995 56-88). Oakland had been in three consecutive Series from 1988 through 1990 and won 96 games as late as 1992. Like the Twins, Oakland had fallen on hard times in the mid 90's winning just 68 games in 1993 and posting very average 51-63 and 67-77 marks in 1994 and 1995.

All three teams then made one last gasp at respectability in 1996 and fell back to earth in 1997. Take a look at the records for those two years:

1996 Records
Minnesota 78-84
Kansas City 75-86
Oakland 78-84

1997 Records
Minnesota 68-94
Kansas City 67-94
Oakland 65-97

Now, let's take a look at how these teams drafted leading up to 1997. One thing that truly stood out as I reveiwed past drafts: if the NFL draft is an inexact science, the NBA draft is all about projecting talent, then the MLB draft is pretty much like playing KENO. As such, I am not going to take time pointing out the spectacular failures all three organizations had, but instead will simply touch on those players that turned into decent to excellent major leaguers. You will be able to tell the success and depth of each year's draft simply by the number of players shown and the careers they had. The numbers in parantheses is the round in which the player was drafted.

1990 - Phil Hiatt (8)
1991 - Shane Halter (5), Mike Sweeney (10), Joe Randa (11)
1992 - Michael Tucker (1), Johnny Damon (1), Jon Lieber (2)
1993 - Glendon Rusch (17), Sal Fasano (37)
1994 - Jose Rosado (12), Jose Santiago (70)
1995 - Carlos Beltran (2), Mark Quinn (11)
1996 - Jeremy Giambi (6), Jason Simantacchi (21), Kiko Calero (27)

This was not a horrible job of drafting, especially on the offensive side (the core of one of the best offensive teams in the A.L. in 2000 came from the above).

1990 - Todd Ritchie (1), Rich Becker (3), Pat Meares (12), Eddie Guardado (21)
1991 - David McCarty (1), Latroy Hawkins (7), Brad Radke (8), Matt Lawton (13)
1992 - Dan Serafini (1)
1993 - Torii Hunter (1), Jason Varitek (1), Jose Valentin (3), Dan Kolb (11), Alex Cora (12)
1994 - Todd Walker (1), A.J. Pierzynski (3), Corey Koskie (26)
1995 - Mark Redman (1), Doug Mientkiewicz (5)
1996 - Travis Lee (1), Jacque Jones (2)

A lot of names here that formed the basis of the Twins success of the recent years. Imagine if some of these guys (Lee, Kolb, Varitek not to mention a guy named David Ortiz acquired in a minor league trade) had actually matured into the players they are now with the Twins.

1990 - Todd Van Poppel (1), Tanyon Sturtze (23)
1991 - Brent Gates (1), Darrell May (14)
1992 - Jason Giambi (2), Dan Wengert (4), Robert Fick (45)
1993 - John Wasdin (1), Jeff D'Amico (2), Scott Spezio (6)
1994 - Ben Grieve (1) *also drafted Ryan Drese & Tim Hudson as high schoolers but did not sign them this year
1995 - Ariel Prieto (1), Mark Bellhorn (2), David Newhan (17), Jeff Davanon (26)
1996 - Eric Chavez (1), A.J. Hinch (3)

It's kind of hard to disrespect a list that has Giambi and Chavez on it, but clearly Oakland was not outdrafting anyone in the early nineties. Some of these guys, however, (Wengert, Gates, Grieve, Spezio) gave Oakland some decent seasons before their production fell off.

So, that is where these three organizations stood on the eve of the 1997 season. A season in which all three would struggle mightily. In our next installment, we'll take a look at the lineups and the salaries that led to their dismal 1997 records, We'll also take a look at the 1997 drafts of all three teams.
Look at the names

Friday, August 05, 2005

Scoring Runs - The Good, The Efficient and The Ugly

I thought it might be interesting to compare the American League when it came to how efficient various teams are when it came to scoring the runners they get on base and, obviously, how efficient they were at keeping their opponets from doing the same. Below is a table, in order by won-loss record, reflecting those numbers.

TeamTotal Base RunnersPct Runners ScoredOpp BaserunnersOpp Pct Scored
CHI1308 40.3%128233.6%

Although, it is not suprising to see all the teams with a shot at the post season to be among the most proficient at scoring their runners and generally (with the exception of the Yankees) much better at keeping their opponets from doing the same, here are some very interesting tidbits:

Chicago and Anaheim (yes, I said Anaheim intentionally) rank 11th and 12th in total number of baserunners - ahead of only mighty Tampa Bay and Kansas City. Yet, those two teams have dramatic spreads in the percentage of runners they score versus the percentage they allow to score. Chicago is second only to Texas in scoring 40.3% of their baserunners and Anaheim is well above average at 38.2%, but they both are at the top of the league in allowing less than 34% of their opponets baserunners to cross home plate.

Why is Minnesota fading in the wild card race? Well, look no farther than a league low 34.8% rate of baserunners scored. Although no one will confuse Minnesota with Texas offensively, the Rangers are putting less than one extra baserunner on base per game than the Twins. The Rangers, however, score their baserunners at a league leading 41% rate, fully seven points better than Minnesota. Why aren't the Rangers better (and they are over .500 anyway)? Well, the allow opponets to score 38.6% of their runners, identical to Boston and much better than New York, but at 1,432 baserunners allowed, the Rangers let too many guys on base (only Tampa Bay and Kansas City allow more).

These number reveal nothing earthshaking. After all, good hitting teams get guys on base and generally will hit more in. Good pitching teams will limit runners on base and pitch out of trouble when they do. Still, I believe that the above percentages do provide a glimpse into which teams combine good pitching with good defense and solid fundamental play which translates into low percentages of opponet baserunners scoring. On the offensive side, I think it reflects not only who can hit the ball, but hit the ball when it matters, move runners along when they need to, and run the bases efficiently.

For a recap of a dismal Royals' weekend, remember to check us out over at The Royals Authority.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Defensive Rating Inefficiencies

Baseball was seemingly invented for statistical purposes. One can absolute be buried by batting and pitching stats. There are batting stats to overule batting stats to disprove other batting stats. Yet, when it comes to analyzing defense, statistical analysis is still somewhat scant.

Sure, you have the old reliable - fielding percentage - widely regarded as highly inaccurate. We have range factors and zone ratings, which surely give us a better picture of defensive performance. Then there is Defensive Efficiency, essentially the percentage of balls in play that a team turns into outs.

Does this translate into accurately reflecting a team's defensive prowess? Take a look at the Top 5 A.L. defensive teams according to defensive efficiency the last three years (2005 to date):

2005 - Oakland, Chicago, Cleveland, Seattle, Anaheim
2004 - Tampa, Seattle, Oakland, Chicago, Boston
2003 - Seattle, Oakland, Tampa, Chicago, Anaheim

Interestly, two of the top five in 2005 (Chicago and Anaheim) are also in the top five in fielding percentage. In 2004, Chicago and Oakland managed top fives in both categories, while in 2003 Chicago and Seattle managed the feat (Seattle actually leading the league in both categories).

I was not suprised to see Seattle number one in 2003, when they had essentially three centerfielders in the outfield (Winn, Cameron, Ichiro) and Tampa Bay, too, for all its faults, has speedy and proficient defensive players. Given their successes, Anaheim and Oakland being regular top fivers is not all that eyeraising. However, isn't interesting that the White Sox, a team that supposedly just committed to speed and defense this spring, have been solidly in the Top 5 in both Defensive Efficiency and Fielding Percentage all the way back to 2002?

Once adjusted for diffences in ballparks (courtesy Baseball Prospectus) the range in Defensive Efficiency from first to last is roughly .720 down to .670, year in year out. What does that translate into? Basically, it is five balls in play out of 100 that the best defensive team converts for outs that the worst team lets fall in for hits. Or, more to the point, one ball per game. What does one out mean? Not much in a 7-2 loss, probably a lot more in a 2-1 loss.

Still, is Defensive Efficiency the be all and end all in ascertaining defensive prowess? How do we account for missing the cutoff man, for an outfielder cutting off the gap and turning a probable double into just a long single? Or maybe even more importantly, keeping the runner on first from going first to third on a single. I imagine many, if not most, teams are intricately tracking evey ball in play, every exchange, every misstep, and attempting to compile this mountain of data into some usable measure, but they are not sharing that with the public.

Until such a time as the major leagues do provide this data, we may all be left trying to cobble together a clear picture of defensive worth from a myriad of old and new statisical measuring devices.