60 games can be pretty random
The Royals have gotten off to a slow start offensively, and the pitching looks thin, especially with Brad Keller and Jakob Junis out to start the season. But with the expanded playoffs, you have to think they’re in the hunt until they aren’t. Plus, 60 games can be pretty random.
Example: George Brett, 1990:
April 9-June 16 (60 team games): .259/.314/.340 (.654 OPS) in 250 PA
July 21-September 22 (60 team games): .388/.426/.662 (1.088 OPS) in 237 PA
If you got the best of George that season, you had a man playing like he was ten years younger. If you got the worst, he was completely washed up. The short season puts a lot of pressure on impending free agents, and sets the stage for some unexpected outcomes.
I put together the best and worst of the Royals’ 60-game performances to give us an idea of the parameters of performance that could be possible. Disclaimers: Obviously, these are selected endpoints, so it’s unlikely to be one or the other. These are team games, not player games.
C Salvador Perez (2018): +/- 255 OPS
May 4-Jul 10: .195/237/.350 (.586) in 241 PA
July 11-September 18: .266/.299/.543 (.841) in 211 PA
I start off by going to 2018 for Salvador Perez, since he didn’t play last year. He actually finished stronger than he started that year. He had a whole 2020 season’s worth of a .237 OBP, which, of course, would be disastrous for the team. But he also slugged at better than a 40-HR pace in his better 60-game stretch (in which he only started 49).
1B Ryan O’Hearn: +/- 98 OPS
.April 7-June 12: .174/.280/.311 (.591) in 193 PA
July 27-September 29: .204/.274/.415 (.689) in 157 PA
O’Hearn was supposed to be in a “soft platoon” with Ryan McBroom, but he’s currently on the virus list. His 2018 performance (.262/.357/.597 in 170 PA) was over 57 team games. He was consistently bad last year, but his 2018 season was 363 points above his worst 60-game performance, so there’s still a wide range here.
2B Nicky Lopez: +/- 132 OPS
May 25-July 31: .207/.239/.272 (.511) in 226 PA
July 23-September 27: .253/.286/.357 (.643) in 157 PA
It’s safe to say that if Nicky hits like he did over his bad stretch, we’ll be seeing a lot of Whit at 2B and more of Franchy, Bubba, and/or Maverick in the outfield. But the hope is that he can improve even on the modest performance of his best 60.
3B Maikel Franco : +/- 300 OPS
May 25-July 31: .189/.239/.290 (.529) in 180 PA
June 24-September 3: .289/.346/.482 (.829) in 127 PA
Franco missed 24 games in the middle of his best stretch. He also had a really good April, finishing the month with an .844 OPS. But, whoa, was the bad truly awful.
SS Adalberto Mondesi : +/- 167 OPS
May 7-July 16: .255/.279/.359 (.638) in 203 PA
June 24-September 3: .285/.320/.485 (.805) in 260 PA
Mondesi started hot, then cooled off, then broke down with injuries. He has the potential to be even better than the best here, if he really gets hot and can maintain it over a bit longer.
LF Alex Gordon: +/- 274 OPS
June 9-August 17: .230/.296/.309 (.605) in 240 PA
March 31-June 6: .290/.365/.514 (.879) in 244 PA
I started tooling around this thinking about Gordon. He certainly had highs and lows last year. What I learned is that a lot of his teammates were just as streaky.
CF Whit Merrifield: +/- 199 OPS
July 20-September 25: .276/.314/.374 (.687) in 257 PA
May 7-July 16: .328/.376/.510 (.886) in 274 PA
Whit is thought to be the picture of consistency, but he really had a big variance here. If he matches his best 60-game stretch, he’s one of the top players in the league. If he matches his weakest stretch, he’s very pedestrian and a weak hitter for an outfielder.
RF Hunter Dozier: +/- 185 OPS
July 23-September : .265/.315/.487 (.802) in 254 PA
March 28-May 30: .314/.398/.589 (.987) in 216 PA
Dozier was in the middle of a hot streak when he missed time starting at the end of May, 56 games into the season (following a slow start). Even still, he was more consistent than I remembered, even his worst wasn’t that bad, and his best was really great.
DH Jorge Soler: +/- 185 OPS
July 23-September : .225/.276/.485 (.761) in 246 PA
March 28-May 30: .292/.395/.653 (1.048) in 259 PA
Soler finished the season on a hot streak that made him one of the most dangerous hitters in the league. It was such a great stretch that it made us forget that his home runs were about all that he was doing well earlier in the season.
The total for the worst stretch was: .227/.277/.365 in 2057 PA
The total for the best stretch is: .284/.345/.514 in 1909 PA
(For reference, the Royals would have 2,251 PA in 60, prorating last year’s total)
Filling in the extra plate appearances with last year’s team totals, it looks like this:
This is a huge difference, from one of the worst offenses in memory to easily the best the Royals have ever had. This is more a fun exercise than any sort of serious analysis, but it does show why a bunch of players catching fire at once and a team completely coming out of nowhere is possible. It also makes me wonder if the Royals have a larger range of outcomes than other teams, or if you’d see the same thing if you did any team.
Just for fun, here are a few pitchers:
Worst: 11 GS, 5.29 ERA, 66.1 IP; 5.7 k/9; 4.2 bb/9; 0.5 hr/9
Best: 13 GS, 3.58 ERA, 78 IP; 7.3 k/9; 2.8 bb/9; 1.3 hr/9
So if he traded strikeouts and fewer walks for more home runs last year.
Worst: 13 GS, 5.63 ERA, 72 IP; 8.3 k/9; 3.5 bb/9; 1.5 hr/9
Best: 13 GS, 4.00 ERA, 78.2 IP; 8.7 k/9; 2.4 bb/9; 1.5 hr/9
Not a big difference in the rates. Better not to walk people.
Worst: 12 GS, 5.89 ERA, 65.2 IP; 8.6 k/9; 3.3 bb/9; 2.2 hr/9
Best: 7 GS, 4.05 ERA, 40 IP; 7.4 k/9; 3.2 bb/9; 0.9 hr/9
Duffy obviously missed a bunch of starts over that better stretch. Key for him is keeping it in the park.
Worst: 14 G/4 GS, 6.67 ERA, 29.2 IP; 6.1 k/9; 3.3 bb/9; 2.4 hr/9
Best: 12 GS, 4.06 ERA, 63 IP; 7.3 k/9; 3.0 bb/9; 1.6 hr/9
Montgomery was much better as a starter and with the Royals, but it still wasn’t all that great.
Worst: 5.06 ERA, 21.1 IP; 9.7 k/9; 2.5 bb/9; 0.8 hr/9
Best: 1.99 ERA, 22.2 IP; 9.9 k/9; 3.2 bb/9; 0.0 hr/9
It would be great if Kennedy didn’t allow a home run all year!
And now, the coup de gras...
Worst: 9.74 ERA, 20.1 IP; 12.4 k/9; 5.8 bb/9; 1.8 hr/9
Best: 2.01 ERA, 31.1 IP; 9.8 k/9; 5.5 bb/9; 0.0 hr/9
Barlow’s k/9 was better when he was giving up more than a run per inning, probably because that was the only way he got anyone out. They were hitting him really hard in that stretch. In the good stretch, he stuck out 25.8% of the batters he faced in the good stretch, and 27.7% in the bad stretch, so there wasn’t much difference. He gave up 28 hits in the 20.1 IP in the bad stretch, and 22 in 31.1 IP in the good one.
So what do you think? Do you think these guys are going to be closer their best or their worst this season?