The Kansas City Royals Are Not Yet Contenders In the American League Central


Late Sunday night, after word broke of the major trade that sent James Shields and Wade Davis from Tampa Bay to Kansas City in exchange for Wil Myers et al., there was no shortage of knee-jerk reaction to the news around the internet. There are varying opinions on just how good or bad this deal was for the Royals, but two things were (are) fairly clear:

(1)    They got better for 2013.

(2)    They got worse for 2015 and beyond.

I happen to believe that the Rays got the better end of this deal, but that’s not going to be my point here. My point is that while the Kansas City Royals are almost certainly better today than they were yesterday, they’re not that much better. Or, at least, there not so much better as to challenge the Detroit Tigers for the American League Central crown.

 

Yeah, no.

The Royals finished 16 games behind the Tigers last year, which is a significant gap to bridge. The additions of Jeremy Guthrie, Ervin Santana, James Shields, Wade Davis, and a full season of Salvador Perez might add up to seven wins (I feel like I’m being pretty generous), which would still put the Royals around .500 and seven (or so) games behind where the Tigers finished a season ago. And that’s assuming the Tigers didn’t improve at all this off-season (hint: they did. A lot.). Even if you account for players returning from injury (a whole season from Salvador Perez) and the young core of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Alcides Escobar improving, they still seem to come up well short of the Tigers.

Similarly, and probably more scientifically, “Extremely Early and Completely Useless 2013 Projected MLB Standings” were run at the Replacement Level Yankees Weblog (home of the CAIRO projections) with these players on their new teams, and the Royals – now in showing up in second place – came up still seven games short of the Tigers.

TM W L RS RA Div WC WC2 PS%
Tigers

91

71

791

709

46.2%

7.3%

6.0%

59.5%

Royals

84

78

717

701

24.7%

6.4%

8.3%

39.4%

White Sox

80

82

725

755

18.2%

4.4%

6.5%

29.0%

Indians

73

89

692

768

7.3%

2.7%

4.0%

14.0%

Twins

65

97

696

854

3.7%

1.6%

1.6%

6.9%

Perhaps simply being projected to finish in second place makes one a “contender”, but the projected spread here between first and second place – seven games – is the second largest in baseball (behind the eight game spread of the NL East). Detroit’s 91 win projection is the second best in the American League while Kansas City’s 84 projected wins ties them for eighth.

Adding an (that is one, single) ace – and that of the workhorse variety, not necessarily the dominating variety – does not so quickly turn a bad team into a contending one. It turns a bad team into an average-or-slightly above team, perhaps, but it’s going to take a lot more than Shields and Davis to put the Royals over the top in the division.

Tags: Detroit Tigers James Shields Kansas City Royals Wade Davis

  • chrisHannum

    My less scientific projection puts them farther behind Detroit, but I consider both teams to be better than (apparently) CAIRO does. You have to understand that they aren’t adding Shields, Davis, Guthrie and Santana to a somewhat below average staff, they gave 85 starts last year to below replacement level pitchers and another 21 to guys precisely at replacement level – and that doesn’t count the 7 starts they gave Teaford & Adcock (who were above replacement level overall but appallingly bad as starters). They are replacing a net -4 with some sizable positive contribution.

  • Hunter

    I think this new staff gets us more than 7 wins because last year’s staff was so dreadful… but even then I think the Royals best chance of contention lies in 2014 with a rotation of Shields, Paulino, Duffy, Guthrie, and Davis/whoever. Frenchy will be gone and the offense will have hopefully developed well. I like our 2014 chances.

  • jimfetterolf

    You forgot to mention the possibility of a full year of Lorenzo Cain and a full year of a competent 2nd baseman, Chris Getz, plus expected returns of at least some of the TJS pitchers. Seven games isn’t that big a chasm, just beat the Tigers four more times and the Royals take it. A look at how close several of the games were last year shows that’s not out of reach. And our final series might have been more interesting with the Tigers needing to get past three better pitchers than they actually faced.

    No guarantees, that’s why they play the games, but I feel good about this team, certainly much better than if the Tigers had gotten Shields instead.

    • http://tomaroonandgold.blogspot.com Matt Snyder

      Seven games is 70 runs which would be akin to swapping out a starting pitcher with a 4.50 ERA for one with a 1.35 ERA. That is to say, if Ervin Santana turned into Justin Verlander, it might become close.

      • jimfetterolf

        For several of those games, four more wins for the Royals would have been eight runs.

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