Friday, October 31, 2014

The Experience was Everything

What an incredible run? I don't even know where to begin. I guess to start let me just say how blessed I am to have gotten to witness such an improbable story about a team that simply refused to quit. For Kansas City the last few weeks have represented so much more than W's on a baseball scorecard. For the city it represented rebirth.

Once upon a time, the city of Kansas City was betrayed by the team they loved. Shortly after the exodus, Ewing Kauffman brought baseball back to the city which adored it. Through shrewd moves and a dedication to developing talent from within the Royals developed into the model franchise of professional baseball. This was not only the case on the field, but in a time when cookie cutter parks were the norm, only Kauffman Stadium and Dodger Stadium continue to represent the beauty of their era.

Expressing their love for the team, the fans came in droves. For 18 straight seasons the Royals posted attendance totals above the American League average. This stretch peaked in 1989, when the team averaged over 30,000 fans per game for the only time in the franchise's history. Will this magical season push the Royals past that mark again in 2015?

In 2014, the team averaged 24,154 per game. It isn't unreasonable to expect a jump of about 3-4,000 per game next season. A jump of 3,000 per game would give the Royals nearly 2.2 million fans on the season and would be their highest total since the 1990 season. Even if the Royals could just average 537 more fans per game next season they will top the 2 million mark since the first time since 1991.

What do you think Royals fans? Can we collectively push this team over the 30,000 per game mark for just the second time in team history? It is undoubtedly a tall order, but this city has fallen in love with this team.

For me the October magic brought back memories. I was reminded of school nights when I was supposed to be tucked sound in my bed, but instead would sneak into the living room to watch the game with my dad. It reminded me of the time I got home from school and my dad was parked in the drive way and said to get in, we are going to go watch the Royals take on Ken Griffey Jr. and the Mariners.

These are the things that the Royals postseason has reminded us of. Sports aren't just about winning or losing. If they were then why would so many people choose a hobby in which every night, half of the participants wind up disappointed?

What this postseason run has reminded me of is the beauty of the game. It reminds me of how integral of a role that it has played in the relationships of my life. While I consider myself to be an extremely analytical fan, over the last year and a half I have wondered if this approach somehow detracts from my enjoyment of watching the game that I love. Expected win percentages and projected records. If we can pinpoint these things so distinctly then why do we even watch? We watch because even if there is an 87% chance that the Royals win between 79-86 games, there is still a 13% chance that they don't. Somewhere in those odds is the opportunity for something incredible to be witnessed. This season the Royals have reminded me of that.

In 20 years, when we look back on the 2014 season, we won't explain that the Royals playoff odds were set at 23% at the start of the season. We won't talk about how at one point during Game Four their series win expectancy stood at 83%. We will talk about the moments that defined the season. We will talk about how this team overcame two deficits of more than 7 games in the division. We will talk about Lorenzo Cain's diving catches, Jarrod Dyson's stolen bases, Alex Gordon's throws, and the two young stud pitchers who shoved it.

More importantly than that we will talk about our personal highlights. The moment in the Wild Card game when the man beside you started sobbing after Hosmer dove in to first to beat out a throw in the top of the tenth. Or the night spent with your dad and brothers in the upper deck during the ALCS. Or the time you were so happy that the Royals came back on Jon Lester that you kissed your friend on the cheek. These are the moments that sports are all about.

The Royals were just the third team in baseball history to lose Game Seven with the tying run on third base when the final out was made. The Royals are also the winningiest team from a single postseason to not earn World Series rings. By all accounts all Royals fans should be heart broken today. But I'm not heart broken. In fact, I feel more love for this team and these fans than I have felt in my entire life and I know one thing for certain.... Just wait until next year.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Naming Rights for "The K"


This morning Front Row Analytics posted a very interesting tweet regarding the naming rights of Kauffman Stadium. As you can see above the company estimates that a sponsor could have generated approximately $28.1 million in advertising value from having its name plastered on Kauffman throughout the postseason.

Some of you might recall past rumors about the naming rights to Kauffman Stadium. In 2011, Yahoo reported that the team had sold the rights  for $3-6 million annually over the next 21 years. Later it was reported that a deal had fallen through with US Bank to acquire the naming rights to the stadium known affectionately by Royals fans as "The K."

I come from a background in sports marketing and sales and so I realize as well as anyone that everything has a price. This is especially true when it comes to sports marketing and promotion. However, I couldn't get myself to be accepting of selling the Kauffman name for just $3-6 million per season. Roughly enough to add a utility player or middle reliever to the roster. 

What Front Row Analytics illustrates though is how quality performance can boost revenue across the board. Not only will the Royals sell more seats in 2015 than they have for twenty years, but they will also see an increase in advertising and sponsorship revenue as a result. More butts in the seats means more eyes on the field, eyes on the screens, and ears next to radios. These things equate to dollars. 

I'm not sure what it would take for me to be happy to hear that the Royals have sold the naming rights to Kauffman Stadium. Would $6-10 million be enough to get the job done? Would $10-15 million per year make it worth it? Obviously, that sort of money could be a huge boon to the payroll of the franchise and more important to me than the name of the stadium is the product on the field.

For many fans, there is no number that could make such an action acceptable. What we must remember is that no matter the name scripted on to the facade of the building it will always be "The K" for us. 

Revived

Wow! Where do I even begin? As many of you know this blog has been eerily quiet over the past four months. After posting a record number of times and receiving a record number of page views all throughout the Spring (thank you all for taking the time to read our ramblings), this blog slipped into near non-existence throughout the summer months.

First, let me explain why that was the case. You see when a man loves a woman...

Let's try this again. First let me explain myself.

This last summer, I was busy planning a wedding, honeymoon, and beginning the process of remodeling a house. The wedding was completed on October 11 and my loving wife allowed the ALDS to be played during the reception. The honeymoon was finished on Sunday, October 26. Again my wonderful wife allowed us to watch each of the games while we were in Vancouver and Seattle. Finally, my home is should to be finished this afternoon. On top of all of this I have also been pursuing an MBA and working a full time job.

I do not believe that I am necessarily any busier than the rest of you, but when it came to time management, unfortunately, posting to this site was the first sacrifice. Hopefully, we can get back to writing as usual as we move forward!

As for the rest of the blog team, Dan Ware is engaged and planning a wedding/honeymoon for next summer. He is also searching for schools to continue his post graduate learning. Paden Bennett was married this summer, a wedding that myself and Dan were fortunate to be a part of. Joe Cox moved twice and has started a new job. Finally, Nathan Bramwell finished up his MBA a couple of months ago and has transitioned to a new home and job back in our hometown of Joplin, Missouri. Nick Allen may stop in from time to time, but you can also find his excellent work on Fly War Eagle and TripSided.

What I am saying is that for our blog team it has been the perfect storm, but we have stayed as active as possible on Twitter and have simply enjoyed the ride that we are on.

We'll be with you tonight Royals nation as our Boys in Blue seek to cap off what has been one of the most incredible runs in sports history. Regardless of the outcome, consider the Royals Revived!

You can find our team on Twitter at the following handles:

Landon Adams - @Landon_Adams
Nicholas Allen - @NicholasIAllen
Paden Bennett - @PadenBennett22
Nathan Bramwell - @tipof_arrowhead
Daniel Ware - @Daniel_L_Ware

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Revisiting the Wil Myers Trade

First off, I want to apologize for my absence over the past six weeks. As many of you have read here before, I've never been one to analyze individual games or do weekly updates. Quite frankly, I haven't been writing for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, I haven't had the free time necessary to maintain this blog. I am getting married in October and in the process of a home remodel. Also, my brother was married last night, as well as fellow Royal Revival writer Paden. In addition to these items, I am currently pursuing a Master's degree and have the responsibilities of a full time job. If the posts here are few and far between over the next few months, I hope you can bare with me.

The major reason for this post today is yesterday's blockbuster trade between the Athletics and Cubs. My initial reaction to the trade was 'man, is the Cubs system stacked.' My second thought, I hope this gets Billy Beane a ring.

Despite the lack of pitching prospects in the Cubs system it seems possible that the lovable losers could push for the title of Best Farm System ever. Theo Epstein, who has stated that he wants to build a farm system like the one the Royals had is on the cusp of accomplishing just that. (On a side note, I wonder how many baseball executives looked lustily upon the Royals system and thought to themselves, "oh if only I could be the one to take them to the next level.")

Since the trade there have been many who have comped this deal to the trade that sent Wil Myers to Tampa Bay. Let me be perfectly clear, this comparison is lazy. Yes, both the Royals and A's sent a top ten prospect plus to another team for pitching talent in an attempt to win now. No, that doesn't make the trades equal. This mentality that one is approved because it is Billy Beane and the other is rejected because it is Dayton Moore is unfair to the fans smart enough to evaluate moves on a much deeper level.

The Royals made the trade to get to the periphery of playoff contention. The Athletics made the trade to win a world series title. If you equate these two items as being of the same value, then you can click the X found in the upper right hand corner of the browser. A team's placement on the win curve is essential in determining what they should be willing to pay for each additional win. This is rudimentary stuff, but somehow seems to be forgotten by those stating these trades are one in the same.

Another point that should be made is that the Royals trade occurred in the off-season, a time in which talent can be acquired without sacrificing talent already in hand. Quite simply, if the A's wanted to improve their rotation in July, they had no choice but to move talent from their organization. In the off-season, the Royals could in theory acquire talent, while also hanging on to the talent at hand. This represents an enormous difference in the trades.

Finally, Addison Russell, while he is an outstanding prospect is not ready to contribute at the Major League level. He has played 16 games in the upper levels of the Minor Leagues. Best case is that he is called up midway through next season. Meaning the A's were not going to get a return on him for basically an entire season. Wil Myers on the other hand was Major League ready and returns on him would begin the same time as the returns of the asset. This is a key point that I haven't seen mentioned, but should not be ignored.

Of course, all of this pushed me to revisit the Myers trade. Since the Royals seemingly made the decision to go for it in 2013 and 2014, it would make sense that they would have returned much more value in the short term than the Rays. In order to see if the Royals have come out ahead in the Myers-Shields trade, I decided to compare the post trade WAR totals for the Royals with the WAR total from the Royals in an alternate universe in which they stayed the course and held on to Wil Myers. Also, since the Royals would have had a solution in right field, I have included the Smith brothers, Justin Maxwell, and Nori Aoki in this evaluation.

bWAR 2013 2014   fWAR 2013 2014
w/out trade $1.00 $1.50   w/out trade $1.00 $1.50
Patrick Leonard A A+   Patrick Leonard A A+
Mike Montgomery AAA AAA   Mike Montgomery AAA AAA
Jake Odorizzi 0.3 0.9   Jake Odorizzi 0.3 1.5
Wil Myers 1.9 -0.6   Wil Myers 2.4 0.4
Will Smith   1.3   Will Smith   0.6
Kyle Smith A+ AA   Kyle Smith A+ AA
  2.2 1.6     2.7 2.5
             
w/trade $11.80 $20.25   w/trade $11.80 $20.25
James Shields 4.1 -0.1   James Shields 4.5 1.4
Wade Davis -2.1 1.8   Wade Davis 1.7 1.5
Nori Aoki   -0.5   Nori Aoki   0.9
Justin Maxwell 0.6 -1.2   Justin Maxwell 0.7 -1.1
  2.6 0     6.9 2.7

The left hand column utilized the WAR from Baseball Reference, while the right side uses Fangraphs' version. As you can see, the Royals clearly came out ahead in 2013, but depending on which WAR you prefer it was either just 0.4 wins or 4.2 wins ahead. Let's split the difference and say the Royals were 2.3 wins better because of the trade. In 2014, we find that according to bWAR the Royals are actually 1.6 WAR worse because of the trade, while fWAR says they are 0.2 wins better. Again let's split the difference and say they are 1.4 wins worse because of the trade. 

Really based off the above totals, no matter how you slice it, it is hard to argue that the Royals were much better off over the past two seasons due to the acquiring of James Shields and Wade Davis. In fact, based off of our midway points, the Royals actually were just 0.9 wins better over the last year and a half, thanks to the trade. I doubt this is what Royals officials had in mind when they pulled the trigger on the trade that would send their top prospect to Tampa Bay.

Unfortunately for Royals fans it gets worse. As you can see in the above tables, there is also a dollar figure included. This represents in millions how much the Royals paid for the players. In 2013, the Royals spent $10.8 million more for the bottom group and in 2014 the total jumped to $18.75 million more. My guess is that this difference could have been spent on the free agent market to acquire an additional win over the last year and a half, which would have made the top grouping better even in the short run. 

Fortunately, there is a way that we can consider the monetary implications in our evaluation. In 2013, Fangraphs valued each win at approximately $5 million. If we multiply that by the WAR total for each set and add in the difference in money to the alternate universe scenario, the Myers led Royals squad boasts an average over $23.05 million in value between Baseball Reference and Fangraphs to $23.75 million for the Shields version (approximately 0.1 win). This obviously is a slight edge to the Shields led Royals. However, the 2014 averages favor the Myers led squad $54.1 million to $26.65 million (roughly 4.6 wins).

Clearly, the Royals were willing to sacrifice the long term to push the envelope in the short term. Unfortunately, based off these numbers the Royals have lost tremendously in the short run as well. Even if we discount each year following 2013, the numbers are going to be staggeringly one sided when this set of trades is evaluated. To close, let me just give you an update on the other guys the Royals gave up that have yet to contribute at the Major League level. 

Patrick Leonard: Hitting .298/.386/.521 in 76 games with Tampa Bay's High A team. His 12 homers would be tied for third most in the Royals organization. He is 21 years old.

Mike Montgomery: 3.28 ERA in 85 innings with Triple A Durham (most hitter friendly park in league). He leads the International League in FIP and SIERA. Still just 24 years old. 

Kyle Smith: Has pitched 78.1 innings between the Astros High-A and Double A teams. Currently has a 3.56 ERA, is striking out 10.23 per 9 innings and walking just 2.64. He is also 21 years old.

Follow me on Twitter @Landon_Adams!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Royals Offense is as Bad as it Seems


The Royals offense obviously has been disappointing yet again in 2014. Most of us would make the case that this is mainly because of the Royals inability to drive the baseball. We'd all likely also admit that this team does a pretty good job of making contact, albeit very weak contact. 

Given the amount of contact that the Royals make, it is likely that the success of this offense will fluctuate more than that of offenses that rely on walks and the long ball. This is simply because as a statistic batting average on balls in play can fluctuate a great deal. This thought process has led us in the past to make excuses for the offense and specifically individual players. 

This season for instance the Royals offense currently ranks 18th in baseball in batting average on balls in play. How much difference would our opinion of the offense be, if for instance, instead of posting a .293 BABIP, they were above the .300 mark? Specifically, we might look at individual players and point out guys who are likely to improve. 

Sure, Moustakas has been bad, but damn the luck his BABIP is just .132!

Unfortunately, what we must remember is that there also exist methods to calculate expected BABIP. These methods can vary, but Jeff Zimmerman has found good reason to believe that Hard Hit% plays a crucial role in the xBABIP formula. Either way, the days of assuming that players should fall in around the .300 mark in batting average on balls in play are behind. It is clear that players have an enormous say in how the many of their balls are converted into outs. 

Here's a look at the Royals current hitters. The first number is their current BABIP and the second number is their xBABIP supplied by Zimmerman. (You can view the numbers for yourself here.)
  • Nori Aoki: .337/.266
  • Omar Infante: .286/.305
  • Eric Hosmer: .344/.263
  • Billy Butler: .275/.262
  • Alex Gordon: .306/.240
  • Salvador Perez: .269/.265
  • Mike Moustakas: .132/.239
  • Lorenzo Cain: .412/.238
  • Alcides Escobar: .343/.273
  • Jarrod Dyson: .429/.240
  • Justin Maxwell: .364/.252
  • Brett Hayes: .000/.158
  • Danny Valencia: .300/.275
As you see, the Royals have actually been quite fortunate when it comes to their batting average on balls in play. On average, each starting Royals is overachieving by about 39 points. This would indicate that instead of being near the middle of the pack in BABIP, the Royals should actually be ranking near the bottom of the league. 

For Royals fans this is a scary notion. Is it really possible that an offense averaging 3.9 runs per game has actually outperformed itself? It's a tall order, but let's hope the Royals realize that being a good hitter isn't just about putting the ball in play.

Follow me on Twitter @Landon_Adams!