2006 ZiPS and More
I hope everyone in Royals Nation had a great holiday weekend, and that you got everything on your wish list. KRB ended up with quite the haul, and while Try! (John Mayer Trio's first album) hasn't been taken out of my CD player, my favorite gift is still the very-cool Mayer poster from KRB's best friend, Meagan. Well, that, and the gift of turning 21. Have I mentioned that John Mayer's my favorite musician?
On to the Royals news...
Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA is my player projection system of choice, but Baseball Think Factory's Dan Szymborski's ZiPS is pretty darned good in its own right. A little more than a month ago, Szymborski released his 2006 ZiPS for the Royals. While Dan's system isn't at all optimistic about the Royals' pitching, the offense doesn't look quite as bad. Using his projected numbers, -- which give us just a rough view at what each player's 2006 season may look like -- my own opinions and the reality of what the Royals probably will do, here's the best possible lineup they can field next April:
AVG OBP SLG
CF David DeJesus .295 .372 .442
1B Doug Mientkiewicz .272 .369 .397
DH Mike Sweeney .293 .355 .492
RF Reggie Sanders .247 .306 .457
LF Emil Brown .283 .346 .440
2B Mark Grudzielanek .290 .330 .394
3B Mark Teahen .260 .324 .380
C John Buck .257 .309 .407
SS Angel Berroa .276 .318 .401
That lineup probably looks similar to the one any of you would expect with the exception of Doug Mientkiewicz hitting second behind Johnny Damon v2.0 and Mark Grudzielanek hitting sixth. Over the years, the media has brainwashed baseball fans into believing that the second-place hitter should be a guy who "handles the bat well," a phrase that, to them, means he's valuable because he can get a bunt down. Grudzielanek fits that bill, but that doesn't mean he should get the second-most plate appearances on the team.
Lineups are very much an inexact science, but the purpose of it is not to "set up innings" in a "get 'em on, get 'em over, get 'em in" sense. On the contrary, good lineups should feature a team's best hitters at the top and its weakest near the bottom. Common sense tells us that to maximize an offense's run-scoring potential, the best hitters (read: those who make the fewest outs) should get the most chances to hit, whereas those who make the most outs should get the fewest opportunites. That's why I have Mientkiewicz hitting four spots ahead of Grudzielanek, a hitter whose abilities are overstated because nobody seems to understand the very simple concept that outs are bad.
"Nobody," of course, includes every manager in baseball, and after we saw Terrence Long bat high in the order for much of 2005, I'm sure that Royals skipper Buddy Bell is no exception. Mientkiewicz may not be a good first baseman because of his lack of power, but he doesn't make a lot of outs and plays a damned good first base, so he'll earn his playing time.
Overall, that offense looks to be much improved from 2005, especially at the corner outfield positions. Kansas City leftfielders hit just .276/.324/.396 last season. I expect Reggie Sanders to beat his projection by a lot and Emil Brown to fall a little short of his.
Other notables from Szymborski's projections include Justin Huber (.279/.360/.443), Chip Ambres (.249/.351/.406), Matt Stairs (.254/.338/.412), and KRB favorite Calvin Pickering (.255/.362/.488). I didn't include those guys in the lineup because, barring injury to one of the starters, they'll either be playing in Triple-A for most of the year (Huber), won't be a regular (Stairs), or isn't appreciated by his team (Pickering). Ambres, however, may win a roster spot as the fifth outfielder.
As I mentioned earlier, the pitching staff doesn't look nearly as good as the offense does. Using the same criteria, here's a possible rotation and bullpen to open the season, again with Szymborski's projections:
IP ERA SO BB
Scott Elarton 171 5.53 98 54
Mark Redman 183 4.82 99 61
Zack Greinke 186 4.69 119 45
Runelvys Hernandez 148 4.80 80 62
Joe Mays 136 5.49 47 39
IP ERA SO BB
Mike MacDougal 65 4.57 59 30
Andrew Sisco 77 4.32 78 41
Ambiorix Burgos 67 4.70 69 35
Joel Peralta 53 3.91 47 18
Jeremy Affeldt 92 4.50 68 35
Mike Wood 147 5.08 85 50
ZiPS expects quite a regression from Scott Elarton, and while I'm no big fan of the signing, I also think he'll do quite a bit better than a 5.53 ERA given the Royals' improved infield defense. Everyone else in the rotation looks about right to me, although I'm sure that injuries and ineffectiveness from Joe Mays will eventually give J.P. Howell (ZiPS 4.68 ERA) a chance this summer.
Moving on to the bullpen, given his flaky history, expecting Mike MacDougal to suffer through a regression doesn't come as a surprise to me, but I'm a little bit stunned that ZiPS doesn't think Ambiorix Burgos or Andrew Sisco will improve at all in their sophomore seasons. Both simply got tired near the end of the season, and I expect they'll be better conditioned to make it through 162 games this time around.
And how about the 2004 Shawn Camp-esque projection for waiver wire claim Joel Peralta? The Royals would be thrilled if he gave them 53 innings of 3.91 ERA ball.
Other Royals Notes...
- But despite carrying some risk for the Royals, Mays has had success pitching in KC. He is 4-0 with a 3.89 ERA in eight career appearances at Kauffman Stadium.