Anyone who reads this blog knows that my posts are mostly analysis based – you’ve got your Wins Above Replacement, Pitch/FX, projections, trade speculation, and so on. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have feelings though. I’m not a robot, to the best of my knowledge. And so, watching the Orioles blow what was a sure win last night to the Indians wasn’t tragic from an analytical perspective (David Herandez was OK, Matt Wieters homered, Zombie Melvin Mora picked up three hits including a home run of his own, the team’s record doesn’t really mean anything) but it really got to the fan in me. I know that it doesn’t really make sense to say that the Orioles “find a way to lose” – they lose more often than not because they’re worse than the teams they play more often than not – but that’s the way I’m seeing things. Joe Posnanski conveyed these same types of feelings with regards to the Kansas City Royals today and – being Joe Posnanski – he did so better than I possibly can. So I’m going to quote him at great length, and you can just switch “Orioles” for “Royals” and their respective players where appropriate.
The Royals have been bad for a long time now. Take out their 83-79 season in 2003, and they’d have a longer stretch of futility than the Orioles (back to 1994; and the Pirates last season over .500 was ’92). Joe mentions some of their recent awfulness:
“The 2005 Royals. They lost 106 games. They were outscored by 234 runs. They had a manager leave in the middle of the year (not coincidentally, just as he was about to be called in a divorce case). That team lost 19 games in a row. That team lost a game when an outfielder named Chip Ambres dropped a fly ball with two outs in the ninth inning, In another game, Ambres and fellow outfielder Terrence Long jogged in toward the dugout together while a fly ball landed behind them… the worst starter on the team — that would have been Jose Lima with the 5-16 record and almost impossible to believe 6.99 ERA. That team’s pitching staff — the WHOLE STAFF — had a 79 ERA+.”
“2006 Royals. Lost 100 games. Were outscored by 214 runs. Mark Redman was the team’s All-Star. Kerry Robinson climbed the wall while a ground rule double bounced 10 feet in front of him. Esteban German forgot his sunglasses and got hit in the face with a fly ball — on the team plane on the way home he did wear sunglasses. Allard Baird was left dangling for two months, then finally fired, then Dayton Moore was hired but not in time to lead the 2006 draft — so officially the Royals did not have a general manager for the 2006 Draft.”
“I remember very clearly the comedy that surrounded those teams. I remember the suffocating hopelessness of those teams. I remember Juan Gonzalez. I remember Darrell May (and his famous complaint that he couldn’t even get no-decisions). I remember the time the Royals players had a smiley-face chart for Tony Muser — when Muser smiled on a spring training day, they would give him a little smiley face. I remember Buddy Bell’s now famous “It can always get worse” mantra.”
O’s fans are all too familiar with bad pitching staffs a dumb plays in the field. There have been bad contracts and fired managers.
In 2009 though, the Royals had a lot of promise. The rotation looked solid (Greinke is one of the best pitchers in baseball, Meche and Bannister are both solid), they have a great closer (Soria), and some interesting position players (Billy Butler, Alex Gordon theoretically, David DeJesus is OK). Joe compared the ’09 Royals players with their counterparts from previous seasons and found the current guys to be superior (I’ve done similar things with the O’s and come to the same conclusions).
“So, man-for-man the 2005 team was worse than this team. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. This is why I took you through that bizarre early bit about movies. Maybe the 2009 team would take a seven game series from the 2005 team (though I would fully expect it to go seven games). But my expectations are a lot different in 2009. This team is spending a lot more money. This team has a dominant starter. This team has was carefully put together to succeed (unlike 2005 when, let’s just be honest, they were throwing stuff at walls). “
That is why Joe says that the current Royals are the worst KC team he has seen – the expectations were so much higher. The 2009 Orioles aren’t being led by Jay Gibbons and Tony Batista… they have Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis and Adam Jones and Matt Wieters! They’ve got loads of young pitching! They’re supposed to be going places!
“And … this team is the worst I have ever seen at doing the necessary things to win baseball games. I did a little study to try and come up with the most underachieving terrible team in the last 20 or so years — and there’s absolutely no question that team is: The 1993 New York Mets. No other team is even close. That Mets team lost 103 games — and they probably should not have lost 90. That Mets team hit more triples and more homers than their opponents and — this is actually quite incredible — they drew more walks than their opponents. That might not sound incredible for a 100-loss team, but it really is… This will sound awkward but it seems to me that while there have been worse baseball teams over the last 25 years than the 1993 Mets, I’m not sure there has been a team worse at PLAYING BASEBALL than the 1993 Mets.”
“Which brings us to the 2009 Kansas City Royals. It would not be fair to say the Royals are underachieving the way those Mets did — this Royals team is bad by conventional measures too. They are on pace pace to draw 100-plus fewer walks, hit 40 or so fewer homers, crack 100 or so fewer hits.”
The O’s, by the way, are on pace to draw only 27 fewer walks, but hit 46 fewer home runs, and pick up 94 fewer hits.
“But this Royals team reminds me of that 1993 Mets team in this way — they are not without talent. But they will do what’s necessary to lose games. The 2005 Royals went out there every day knowing that the team across the dugout was better than they were. These Royals, on the other hand, are bad when Zack Greinke’s pitching. They are also bad when they score five runs in a game (4-10 record in those games if you can believe that). They don’t SCORE five runs in a game very often … but they still find ways to lose when they do.”
“They are also — and I admit this is an unofficial stat but I’m pretty confident about it — the league leader in times a player forgot the number of outs. The other day, catcher Miguel Olivo ran off the field with two outs which was staggering not because it was unusual (it has to be the third time this year Olivo has forgotten the number of outs) but because only two batters had come to the plate. It wasn’t like it was a long inning or something.”
*cough* Brian Roberts *cough*
“I’ll give you an example of what is has been like watching the Royals … and this is one that ended up not even costing the Royals anything. The other day David DeJesus (who until the last couple of years was an excellent baserunner — not fast, but really a good baserunner) singled to lead off the game. Two batters later, with a 3-2 count, Billy Butler lined a single to left-center. I mention the 3-2 count because DeJesus could have been running on the pitch, and he certainly should have gotten a good jump. He did not, and he stopped at second. I had to rub my eyes. How could he not have gotten to third on that? The next batter, Miguel Olivo, blooped a single to right. It seemed clear from the crowd angle that it would drop … but again DeJesus got a bad jump. And he ended up on a third.
DeJesus would finally score on a sac fly. But that is what it’s like watching the Royals … even when they score runs it’s painful. They don’t go first to third. They don’t go second to home. They need two hits and a sac fly to get their leadoff man home from first. The Royals lost the game 4-2 and there was so little energy in their effort that, as a football coach used to tell me, “If you could harness all that energy you wouldn’t have enough to start a flea motorcycle.””
I know I’m a big Felix Pie booster, but I’ll readily admit that Felix might himself be the personification of this entire post.
“That’s why they’re the worst Royals team I’ve ever seen. The Royals are bad at the big things — but there have been lots of Royals teams who were even worse at the big things. I’ve never seen a Royals team as bad at the little things. And even though I think all the talk about “doing the little things right” can get tedious — this team’s inability to do those things makes them just about unwatchable. I came up with a fairly extensive chart showing this … but really at this point this is way past overkill.”
I imagine this just about captures the feelings of a lot of O’s fans out there. I think the Orioles are in better position than the Royals with respect to organizational talent (probably players & definitely front-office), if not division-wise, and at least the Ravens are better than the Chiefs. It’s gotten to the point though, where losses are assumed – it’s just a matter of finding out how they’re going to pull it off. A victory is when the team losses by only two runs and the starting pitcher doesn’t give up a home run. These days I sometimes find myself wondering if there will actually be a good Baltimore team anytime soon. Either way, it’s not likely to stop me from doing the usual analysis I enjoy here. Just thought a change of pace might be nice.