Monday, July 13, 2009
Statistically, Royals stuck in '70s
It took me just a couple of hours to post my reaction to the Royals' trade for Yuniesky Betancourt. It took Rany Jazayerli nearly 24 hours to post his but then, he had a good excuse: Rany's response ran more than 4,200 words. Frankly, I don't know if I recommend reading the whole post unless 1. You're a Royals fan, or 2. You've got a masochistic streak within you. Because this is painful stuff.
A snippet, though:
Unfortunately for the Royals, last year [Mariners GM Bill] Bavasi was fired -- and remember, this was the same genius who, before the axe fell, cited the departure of Jose Guillen as one of his biggest regrets -- and the Mariners hired the talented Jack Zduriencik as their new GM. Zduriencik had been the scouting director for the Milwaukee Brewers, but unlike certain scout-oriented GMs he quickly proved that he was not intimidated by statistical analysis. He created a Department of Statistical Research and hired his former assistant Tony Blengino to run it. The Mariners also hired the brilliant Tom Tango as a consultant. You probably don't need anything more from me, after that. Zduriencik is employing all (or most) of the tools at a modern general manager's disposal; Moore chooses to ignore one of those tools, and winds up with out-machines like Jacobs, Miguel Olivo, and (soon) Betancourt in his lineup. Zduriencik's acquisitions of castoffs Branyan and Franklin Gutierrez -- two of three best players in the lineup -- were right out of the sabermetric playbook. Meanwhile, Moore behaves as if Bill James hadn't started writing "The Baseball Abstract" more than 30 years ago.
This winter, the Mariners and Royals were both looking for first basemen. The Mariners decided to gamble on a player who, despite a .485 career slugging average and being a perennial stathead favorite, had never batted even 450 times in a season and had gone over 300 plate appearances just twice. They signed Russ Branyan to a $1.4 million contract, and Branyan currently is hitting .284/.383/.575 and ranks second in the league with 21 homers despite playing in one of the AL's best pitchers' parks. The Royals, despite having one of the best first base prospects in baseball in Kila Ka'aihue, instead sacrificed a quality reliever in Leo Nunez for the opportunity to pay Mike Jacobs over $3 million. Jacobs had a career .498 slugging average, but his plate discipline was terrible and he was coming off his best season at age 27 – a strong statistical sign that he was likely to fall back. You may recall that the stats community hated the trade. He's hitting .218/.294/.401.
Which is how we got where we are: the Royals are, once again, the most ridiculous franchise in the American League. And a hearty congratulations to everyone who made it happen.
(For more on the disconnect between Dayton Moore and the current state of baseball analysis, there's Pos-o'-plenty here and especially here. Oh, and now there's this; at least Moore admits that he doesn't know, and doesn't care. More kudos to all involved.)