Jun 16, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Wade Davis (22) talks with the umpire against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Royals Postmortem: The Things That Didn’t Happen


Aug 7, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; A Kansas City Royals fans holds a sign in the ninth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium. Kansas City won the game 5-2. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Laying the 2013 Royals season to rest is going to be complicated. For one, the Royals actually won more games than they lost, so that’s an entirely new perspective to deal with.

But it also means the mistakes loom larger. Now instead of bad decisions costing the Royals another 90-loss season, bad decision cost the Royals a chance at the playoffs.

Figuring out what happened this year is going to take a lot of time because the little things suddenly matter more than usual. So over the course of the next month we’ll take a look piece by piece of the Royals 2013 season and try to figure out what exactly happened.

Today we take a look at the things that didn’t happen for the Royals that ended having huge consequences.

OFFSEASON

December 12, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals general manager Dayton Moore (left), newly acquired pitcher James Shields (center), and manager Ned Yoast display Shield

Dayton Moore’s 2013 season should not be remembered for what he did do – the Wil Myers for James Shields trade – but for what he didn’t do: find a starting second baseman and right fielder.

No one can deny that the Royals pitching staff was good enough to take the Royals to the playoffs. Kansas City had the best bullpen the American League had seen in decades, and the starting rotation ranked fifth in starters ERA. No one in the AL allowed fewer runs per game than the Royals did this season.

Run prevention was top-notch for the Royals, and Dayton deserves the credit for that accomplishment. On the basis of run prevention, Moore did enough to get the Royals to the postseason. And the run prevention probably doesn’t happen without James Shields on the mound every fifth day.

The issue was scoring runs, an issue that was a carry over from 2012.

Moore made what ended up being the fatal assumption that the Royals offense would fix itself. He assumed Mike Moustakas would hit 30 home runs, Alex Gordon and Billy Butler would hit like All-Stars, and Eric Hosmer burst into a superstar. This was enough for him to justify keeping Chris Getz at second and Jeff Francoeur in right.

The moment Moore made the decision to keep Frenchy and Getz last winter marked the instant that the 2013 season was over.

Had Moore made one more move to add at least a second baseman or an outfielder, the Royals may have pulled off a wild card berth. Alas, that didn’t happen.

MIKE MOUSTAKAS

Moose was supposed to mash this season. He was supposed to have learned from his trials and tribulations in 2012, used it as motivation in the offseason to get better, and come into 2013 ready to be the player everyone projected him to be.

Instead, he sucked again.

Mike Moustakas is going to be the starting third basemen for the Royals on Opening Day in 2014. Whatever dream that may exist where that is not the case should be laid to rest now. He’s still has one more year at the rookie minimum before he enters arbitration. Giving up on him at such a low cost isn’t going to happen with Dayton Moore’s Royals.

Aug 12, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas (8) lays on the ground after a single got past him down the line in the third inning against the Miami Marlins at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

The question with him is whether or not enough sense has been beaten into him that he has to work harder in the offseason to get better. He doesn’t need to be a .300 hitter or a big on-base guy. The Royals need him to actualize his .500-plus slugging potential.

A winter watching Chris Davis‘ swing and approach would be a good start. Davis’ type of production is very much like what the Royals (should) want from him – a guy who looking t0 crush the ball every chance he gets and doesn’t care about batting average and strikeouts. All Royals fans would be willing to deal with lots of strikeouts under the notion they are also getting a ton of power to go with it. Davis’ 2012 season where he hit .270/.326/.501 would be completely acceptable line from Moose next year.

But does he want it enough to put in the work? Royals fans have to hope so.

WADE DAVIS

Wade “Key to the Trade” Davis did not pan out in the rotation, but the reason why is a little tough to figure out.

Davis was a starter for two years for the Rays before getting bumped to the bullpen in 2012 because of the arrival of some of Tampa stud young pitching prospects. Davis was excellent there and was a real asset for the Rays.

But it wasn’t as if Davis was terrible as a starter in Tampa, and his peripherals are actually better this season in KC than they were with the Rays.

Years as a Starter

2010: 168 IP, 6.05 K/9, 3.32 BB/9, 1.29 HR/9, 4.07 ERA, 4.61 xFIP

2011: 184 IP, 5.14 K/9, 3.08 BB/9, 1.13 HR/9, 4.45 ERA, 4.82 xFIP

2013: 133.1 IP, 7.56 K/9, 3.92 BB/9, 1.01 HR/9, 5.40 ERA, 4.18 xFIP

Davis has only six appearances as a reliever this year, so those numbers are essentially what he did as a starter. Davis had an improved strikeout rate, fewer home runs allowed, and an a much lower xFIP, but managed to raise his ERA up to a staggering 5.40. How did this happen?

Best guess: Luck and the cutter.

2010: 78.1% LOB, .272 BAbip

2011: 72.1% LOB, .280 BAbip

2013: 67.6% LOB, .364 BAbip

Here you can see the massive jump in BAbip and the decrease in runner stranded on base. Both of those things, in theory, should revert back to average. But there is also something else to consider:

While Davis earned a lot more ground balls, he also gave up a lot of line drives. His 27.7 line drive percentage was a six percent leap from his career average of 21.7%.

This issue with this is completely related to the cutter according to the number.

Davis abandoned the slider and added the cutter upon arriving in Kansas City. These are the ugly results.

Opponents vs. Cutter: .336 BA, .483 SLG

Compare that to his fastball and curveball, which were the only two pitches he threw more than his cutter.

Opp. vs. fastball: .268 BA, .426 SLG

Opp. vs. curve:  .270 BA, .387 SLG

Now look at what his slider did when he added it back in August.

Opp. vs. slider: 2-for-9, HR, 3 K, 0 BB

From 2010 to 2012, opponents were hitting .191 with a .280 slug against his slider. Re-add the slider and drop the cutter and maybe Davis becomes a viable back of the rotation pitcher again.

 

Tags: Dayton Moore Featured Kansas City Royals Mike Moustakas Popular Wade Davis

  • Joel Wagler

    Good stuff, Ben.

  • jayhwk01

    I am glad I am not the only one who refers to Davis as the “key to the trade”…
    To date he is a bust.
    Royals took us on a great ride but I can’t help but think back to getting swept by the White Sox and the 11 or 12 game slide early in the season. That was probably the playoffs right there. Very much looking forward to next year. I just hope they Royals come up with a second baseman.

  • jimfetterolf

    Easy pickings on scapegoats. I think part of the problem was Gordon going AWOL for the middle of the season while Hosmer started slow, Escobar got homer-itis, Butler went back to being a ground ball hitter. Moose is an obvious issue and the team should look at moving Gordon back to 3rd with an OF of Lough, Cain, and Maxwell/Dyson with Moose in Omaha until he fixes his swing and approach and maybe even his attitude. He might be Chris Davis in Baltimore but needs to be Eric Hosmer at the K. He has the bat speed and strength for that.

    Teams win and teams lose, everyone contributed to both. For what it’s worth, the team we have now will contend again next year, so probably not a lot of desperation beyond re-signing Santana. Probably not a popular view in the blogosphere, but probably close to what Dayton Moore sees.

    New money may be used best for locking in some young guys, Hosmer, Duffy, and Ventura at the top of my list. What’s left can be used to extend Shields and saved to make a play for Shield’s little brother, David Price after next season.