Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Change Is Good

An off day following a successful 4-2 road trip calls for a little more analysis of the Royals resurgent offense.

The improvement over the last month of the season has been nothing short of amazing:

DateAVGOBPSLGW-L
First 33 Games.232.290.3728-25
Last 29 Games.290.356.43613-16

But why?

When Tony Pena quit on this team, something changed. Something other than the tangible statistical improvement noted above. The team changed it’s approach to the game. Gone were the days of “working the count” where hitters would look at a great pitch for strike one and spend the rest of the at bat battling from behind in the count.

When the Royals dismissed hitting coach Jeff Pentland in late May, they were acknowledging a total shift in approach that had begun under interm manager Bob Schaefer was necessary to prevent this team from sliding into the depths of a 120 loss season. It’s too early to tell what impact new batting instructor Andre David will bring, but it seems safe to say his instruction will fit the new organizational philosophy of “selective aggressiveness.”

For the Royals, the current success lies in this new approach. Plate discipline doesn’t mean looking at two strikes and then deciding to swing the bat. Plate discipline is about waiting for a good pitch…your pitch, and then putting the ball in play.

The results of this new approach at the plate are becoming clear. Numbers are up almost across the board. As a team, the Royals have gone from scoring 3.5 R/G to almost 4.5 R/G. Even though they are swinging at more pitches, they are drawing more walks, while putting more balls into play.

And most importantly, it’s translating into wins. The Royals won eight games the first month and a half of the season. They’ve won that many in the last two weeks.

Yes, things are looking up in K.C. Let’s go down the batting order to see exactly how the Royals are doing it:

ANGEL BERROA

DateAVGOBPSLG
4/4 - 5/10.230.271.341
5/11 - 6/13.266.305.395

Berroa is one of the few Royals who have only seen modest improvement over the last month.

Currently, Berroa is horribly miscast as a leadoff man, a point documented on this website. If you break the numbers down even further, in the 12 games since Buddy Bell took over this team at the first of the month, the only Royal getting on base less than Angel Berroa is Mike Sweeney.

Getting Berroa out of the leadoff spot is becoming the WTP cause celebre for the last month of the season.

DAVID DEJESUS

DateAVGOBPSLG
4/4 - 5/10.262.323.377
5/11 - 6/13.309.387.433

David is not Carlos Beltran. It seems the Royals have finally gotten the message.

Immediately slotted into the number two spot in the lineup after Pena quit, DeJesus is quietly regaining the flashes of brilliance he displayed his rookie season when he went .287/.360/.402. It is much to the relief of WTP that DeJesus has finally stopped being asked to steal bases. He might have above average speed, but his base stealing instincts are terrible. He’s only attempted one steal since May 11 (he was thrown out of course.)

But the time is right to move him back into the leadoff spot. He has the ability to get on base and seems to have rediscovered what it took for him to be so successful in 2004. That and he's a much better option than Berroa.

MIKE SWEENEY


DateAVGOBPSLG
4/4 - 5/10.333.380.628
5/11 - 6/13.241.259.304

The only Royal regular to have regressed over the last month. Is it coincidence that this is the exact time when he began missing games due to injury? He’s missed 10 of the last 29 ballgames with the mysterious “strained oblique” that was apparently reinjured while taking extra batting practice in San Francisco. I’m not buying that. I hope I'm wrong, but I don’t think he was fully recovered from when he initially hurt himself in mid-May.

It is somewhat comforting to know the Royals’ best stretches of baseball have come with their captain sidelined. If he’s ever healthy enough where the Royals are able to flip him for a couple of prospects, you would get no argument here.

EMIL BROWN

DateAVGOBPSLG
4/4 - 5/10.208.305.361
5/11 - 6/13.330.392.557

Given the everyday job in RF, Brown’s turnaround is nothing short of stunning. Comparisons are being drawn to another Allard Baird reclamation project: Raul Ibanez. While we caution jumping the gun a bit with any kind of exuberant comparison, it is a pleasant sight to see a corner outfielder produce these types of numbers.

Speaking of corner outfielders…

TERRENCE LONG

DateAVGOBPSLG
4/4 - 5/10.200.236.306
5/11 - 6/13.329.373.447

If he continues playing like this the Royals might actually be able to get something of value for him at the trading deadline.

MATT STAIRS

DateAVGOBPSLG
4/4 - 5/10.247.345.466
5/11 - 6/13.290.476.532

The man we will give credit to for starting the Royals offensive renaissance. He went on a base on balls tear immediately after Pena quit, walking 12 times in six games, scoring nine runs in the process.

Stairs led by example, and his teammates took notice. Since May 10th the Royals have bumped their walk rate from 2.5 BB/G to 2.9 BB/G. It’s not a coincidence that the Royals have been scoring more runs since that time.

JOHN BUCK

DateAVGOBPSLG
4/4 - 5/10.163.209.256
5/11 - 6/13.319.368.507

Another amazing turnaround. These slow starts are killing him.

The fact that he’s an above average defensive catcher helps his cause tremendously. The guy is a leader, who you can tell has the respect of his teammates, most importantly the pitching staff.

MARK TEAHEN

DateAVGOBPSLG
4/4 - 5/10.250.325.361
5/11 - 6/13.265.294.388

Teahen is included here as part of the lineup, but due to an injury the first month of the season, gets an incomplete.

He’s started to come alive since Bell took over as manager, posting a .326/.356/.395 line over the last 12 games. Teahen has been very solid defensively while looking more and more comfortable at the plate. Expect him to continue to improve as the season progresses.

RUBEN GOTAY

DateAVGOBPSLG
4/4 - 5/10.200.235.289
5/11 - 6/13.315.407.534

Gotay, who is supposed to be better with the bat than with the glove was roundly awful in all aspects of the game the first month and a half of the season. Despite his improvement, he’s still in and out of the lineup too much to get totally comfortable. Much of that has to do with the fact no Royal is getting on base more than Tony Graffanino (.438/.471/.547) over the last month. It’s difficult to sit a guy who’s playing like that, but Graff is the ultimate utility guy. If Sweeney is still hurt when the Royals return home, look for him and Stairs to trade off between 1B and DH.

CONCLUSIONS

If you made it this far, thank you. The point is not to bore with statistics, but to illustrate how almost every player on this team has improved since Pena quit. In this case the numbers don’t lie. The Royals are a better team today than they were a month ago.

We are seeing the tangible results from a change in philosophy. Batters have gone to the plate with an aggressive, not a reckless, attitude. That means more runs, which means more wins.

Are the Royals as good as their numbers over the last 29 games indicate? No.

Are the Royals as bad as their numbers over the first 33 games indicate? No.

The answer to that question probably lies somewhere in between. But this last month has been a helluva ride for Royals fans. WTP is going to enjoy it while it lasts.

10 Comments:

At 3:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dejesus is hitting better, because Berroa is on base. the right side of the in-field opens up when there is a man on first. Dejesus would not have as many hits if the infield was straight up. He is one heck of a #2 hitter, Berroa needs to be more consistant at getting on base.

 
At 12:23 PM, Blogger ME said...

Nice article, do you also know the era splits?

 
At 2:32 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

I don't know about DeJesus hitting better because Berroa is on base -- because Berroa really isn't on base.

Berroa either has a 2-hit or more game, or does absolutely nothing. It'd be great if his feast/famine plate appearances could be moved to the 7th or 8th spot in the lineup where they'd be more useful.

I think DeJesus is just a solid hitter, and what is happening with the hitters around his spot in the lineup doesn't have much to do with it.

 
At 3:25 PM, Blogger Craig Brown said...

Rush - Thanks for the kind words. I was thinking about pitchers toward the end of my entry. I'll probably tackle that in the next couple of days. But something tells me any difference in numbers won't be as dramatic as we see from the batters.



Daniel makes a good point about Berroa. You never know what you're going to get.

Berroa not getting on base was kind of the point I was trying to make with his entry. Of the nine guys I broke down, Berroa ranks 7th in OBP over the last month.

DeJesus, like the rest of the team, looks totally different at the plate. Is he more relaxed at #2 and able to perform better in that slot? I'm not sure. But the way to find out is to move him back to leadoff and see what happens.

 
At 7:46 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

I had a bit too much faith in DeJesus' power spike his last year in Omaha. I was hoping he could approach 200 ISO SLG points, but as DDJ's nearing a full year's worth of plate appearances, it looks as if the best he'll probably put out is around 120 to 150 points above his batting average.

While DeJesus is the Royals best leadoff option, I do think he is much more suited to the 2 spot in the order.

 
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