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Royals Nightly
Thursday, April 29, 2004
 
Game 20 - Rangers 9, Royals 7 (7-13)
What, you thought the Royals could go an entire series without the opposition scoring 9 or more runs? Before todays game, with the help of the huge % of opposition hitters hailing from Cleveland and buoyed by the relatively low scoring initial games against Texas, the Royals had actually crept into the top 10 in the AL in a few major pitching categories. To be honest, the consecutive 3 run outings against Texas are the more likely to be an abberation than a starting point.

Clearly, the Royals approach on the mound has been one which places extreme emphasis on putting balls in play- the staff is walking very few batters, but is also striking almost no one out. Post Voros MacCracken's (hope I'm spelling that right) DIPS research we have come to understand that the pitcher has very little control over the fate of a non-HR hit ball. With this in mind, the ROyals staff has become strangely codependent... essentially their success or failure has nothing to do with what they do, but only with what the hitters are able to make of their endless barrage of hittable balls in the 80s.

Perhaps I am not being clear.

What VM looked at was the batting average that pitchers allowed on balls hit in play over time. For example, in 1998 Pitcher X may have allowed a .210 average on balls in play (minus at bats that resulted in walks, HRs or Ks) and a .250 average the next year. Anyway, what he found was that while other peripheral stats- strikeout rate, strikeout/BB ratios, HR rate etc- were both fairly consistent and showed demonstratable patterns (i.e. a pitcher slowly improving, then peaking, then declining) the batting average allowed was all over the place, and often being quite "bad" when the pitcher was otherwise doing quite "good".

Anyone who has watched 5 baseball games can understand this. In one inning a rocket can be caught for an out, while a little flubber "falls where they ain't".

(Realizing this needs to go somewhere towards KC)

Through Thursday the Royals were allowing the 4th fewest walks in the AL, while striking out the fewest hitters of any team. To complicate matters, and especially the Royals relationship to DIPS, the Royals staff is giving up HRs like its going out of style. So, moving forward for the rest of the season, we have this to look reasonably forward to:

-Walks: probably a little more, but relative to the AL, not that many.
-Ks: maybe a tad more as things improve, but trends are trends, and as Parcells made cool "you are what you" and this staff just doesn't have many people that are big strikeout guys
-HRs: maybe a chance that the Royals improve to something like average here... the K could still morph back into a neutral park, and again, mebbe theres small improvement. As with the walks, only in the other direction, its hard to imagine things changing drastically.

So, we are left with oppostition batting average. In the first two games of the series the Rangers left 39 men on base, thus, largely because of fluky "clutch" pitching/ "choking" by Texas, the Royals only allowed 3 runs in each game. Today, Texas sorta improved, only left 15 men on base, and, most importantly, yanked some over the fence when it counted. As things stand now, I just can't imagine this team being consistent this season, with this staff of "Bad Jaime Moyer-lite X4" and a somewhat robotic manager. This pitching staff is like competitive batting practice, or even a homer run derby- no walks, no strikeouts, with all positive and negative outcomes essentially the responsibility of the hitter.

Weirdly, this may be a reasonable formula for mediocrity, but is far from a recipe for success.


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