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.
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.
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.
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 “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.