“I look at the talent level on our team,” he said, “and I feel like we’re going to continue to get better. We’re going to do everything we can to win games every single night from this day until September 30.
“We’re not going to back off that. We’re going to keep pushing. We’re going to keep expecting our players to get better. There’s a lot of upside to these players individually and collectively as a team.” - Dayton Moore to Bob Dutton yesterday.
Here is the thing about the Royals: They have a different set of values than just about any other winning team. It is about feeling and preconceived perceptions. Reality – or at least the modern reality – of baseball does not factor in to the way the Royals feel about players or they way they evaluate them.
It goes something like this:
FEELING: Alcides Escobar is a two-hole hitter because he is fast, makes a lot of contact, can bunt, and looks like a conventional two-hole hitter.
REALITY: Most two-hole hitters now are a team’s best non-power hitter. They are among their best on-base percentage guys, can hit 15-20 home runs with 40 doubles, and are solid base runners. Escobar, aside from maybe the last qualification, is none of those things.
Here is another one.
FEELING: Tim Collins is lefty specialist because he throws left-handed.
REALITY: In his career, Collins has a 2.13 K/BB and .669 OPS against versus right-handed hitters, a 1.52 K/BB and .708 OPS against left-handed hitters.
FEELING: Lorenzo Cain is a right-handed batter so he hit should bat more against left-handed pitching.
REALITY: Cain is a career .278 hitter against righties (.740 OPS), .259 hitter against lefties (.673 OPS).
FEELING: Our park is big so there are not going to be a lot of home runs by us or our opponents.
REALITY: Royals pitchers are allowing 1.04 home runs per game at home and 1.06 home runs per game on the road. Royals batters are averaging 0.64 home runs per game at home and 0.67 home runs per game on the road. The numbers would suggest the ballpark is not the factor for the lack of home runs hit by the Royals, nor is it a factor in reducing home runs allowed for your own pitchers. Reality is your pitchers give up a lot of home runs and your hitters can’t hit home runs.
We could do this forever if we wanted. Luke Hochevar has turned the corner; Mike Moustakas is a core player; Tony Pena Jr. is an elite defensive shortstop; say on-base percentage is valuable and then trade for Yuniesky Betancourt.
The Royals simply do not operate in the same reality as the rest of modern baseball. They are stuck with an outdated approach; doing things like valuing players whose only tool is great speed over players with plate discipline, ignore the numbers and data other teams are using to beat them, and misspending their few dollars on players like Jeff Francoeur, Bruce Chen, Hochevar, and Getz when they can find that same production or better for a quarter of the cost.
So it really shouldn’t be a surprise when Dayton Moore comes out and says he still expects for this team to make a run. Never mind that the Royals average less than four runs per game, have three starting pitchers with below league average ERAs, and nothing in the minor leagues to bring up and fix the several holes in the rotation and starting lineup.
It’s not like he’s admitting the holes but saying we can fix these by the deadline and be in contention in September. No, Moore feels the wins coming. He expects players to change, sees upside.
“There’s no reason for us to believe we won’t continue to get better,” he says.
It is this kind of mindset that prevents the Royals from getting better and from turning into the winners Moore keeps telling us the Royals are going to be. Eventually Moore, or whoever replaces him, will understand there is a way to improve the team and know it is going to happen. There are tools in place – available to all teams, in all markets – which can help one build a team that can win on the field.
But until that lesson is learned, until KC’s general manager finally enters reality, we’ll be stuck listening and reading to things like this:
“When are these young players going to come together? I don’t know, but we’re going to continue to believe in them.” – Dayton Moore