By In Baseball

Royals and Spiders

Now, of course, we are dealing with a small sample size — you should always make the small sample size point when you are talking about barely a quarter of a baseball season — but I still want to show you something:

The Cleveland rotation has a 3.49 FIP. For those of you who have forgotten or never cared to know, FIP — Fielding Independent Pitching — is essentially an ERA based entirely on the three things that many believe are greatly within a pitcher’s control: Walks, strikeouts and home runs.

The Spiders lead the world in strikeouts, and they are right around league average when it comes to walking hitters and allowing home runs. Because of this, the Spiders staff has the lowest FIP in the American League — more on this in a minute.

And, yes, I know that you didn’t read any of that because I kept calling them “Spiders.” I’m just trying it on for size.

So the Spiders have a 3.49 FIP.

The Kansas City Royals have a 3.85 FIP. This is still pretty good, but obviously not AS good. Cleveland leads the American League … the Royals are sixth in the league.

Now, let’s look at offense — again using FIP. So once again, we are only talking about walks, strikeouts and home runs.

Best I can tell doing some quick calculations, the FIP against Cleveland is 4.34.

The FIP against Kansas City is 3.91.

In other words, Cleveland hitters walk more than the Royals (they actually lead the league in walks), and they homer more than the Royals. Kansas City strikes out less than Cleveland or any other team in baseball, but all in all by Fielding Independent Pitcher numbers Cleveland has both:

(a) a more effective pitching staff and

(b) hitters who are winning the pitcher-hitter battle more often.

And yet, somehow, Kansas City is WAY BETTER than Cleveland. It’s not even close. The Royals have the best record in baseball at the moment and Cleveland has among the worst.

— The Royals have scored 28 more runs.

— The Royals have allowed 52 fewer runs.

— The Royals have a plus-69 run differential while the Spiders have a minus-11.

— The Royals have a nine-game lead over the Spiders in the American League Central.

Is this Spiders thing distracting?

So what gives? I’ve been thinking about this a lot since my buddy, Chardon Jimmy, went through the Cleveland and Kansas City 25-man rosters and basically determined that, player-for-player, Cleveland’s talent was every bit as good. I’m not sure I can go with him all the way on that one, but I will say that Corey Kluber is better than any Royals starter. By those FIP numbers I mentioned earlier, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer are also better than any Royals starter.

I said above that I had something to add about FIP — the Cleveland starting rotation FIP is 3.26, best in the league. This is because they, as a group, strike out 10 batters per nine innings and have a crazy four-to-one strikeout to walk ratio. Those are legendary numbers — it’s likely that no starting rotation has ever been that overpowering.

On the offensive side, I will agree that Michael Brantley is ridiculously great, I don’t think I would trade him straight up for any Kansas City player. And Jason Kipnis is a fantastic player having another fantastic year — the Royals don’t have anyone hitting the ball the way he’s hitting it overall. Of course, those are only two players.

Which leads to the obvious statement: Baseball is more than FIP, and it’s more than having a couple of top-end hitters. If Moneyball made so many of us fall in love with the idea of hitters who walked and pitchers who stuck people out, Daytonball can help us fall in love with hitters who do not strike out and fielders who go out there and catch baseballs.

Of course, that’s oversimplifying the differences between Kansas City and Cleveland. But what the heck — let’s oversimplify.

The defensive contrast is striking; it seems to be the biggest difference between the two teams. By John Dewan’s runs saved statistics, the Royals defense has saved the team 33 runs while the Spiders defense has cost the team 22 runs.

That’s a 55-run difference which, you will note, is almost exactly how many fewer runs Kansas City has allowed this year (52).

But let’s break it down a little bit more.

Kansas City this year has allowed 1,076 balls in play — and they have turned 796 of those into outs. That’s 74% of the balls hit become outs. That’s fantastic, the best number in baseball.

Cleveland this year has allowed just 981 balls in play — so they’ve allowed 100 fewer balls in play than Kansas City. It’s one of the lowest totals in baseball. But the Spiders have turned only 658 of those balls into outs. That means they’re recording outs only 67% of balls in play, the lowest percentage in baseball.

Is this all defense or is part of it that when Cleveland pitchers do allow balls in play, they allow harder-hit and better-placed balls than anyone else? Yeah, I suspect it’s mostly defense: Cleveland is a TERRIBLE defensive team by almost any measure you can use. If you want to use the old fashioned error-based system, Cleveland has allowed 20 unearned runs this year, second-most in the league behind Oakland. Kansas City has allowed nine unearned runs.

If you want to use Total Zone numbers, the Royals are 29 runs better than average. Cleveland is 27 runs below average.

If you want to use UZR — Ultimate Zone Rating — the Royals are by far the best defensive team in baseball (28.7 UZR) and Cleveland is among the worst (-11.1 UZR).

We talk often about the difficulties of quantifying defense, but I think the technical way to say it is this: The Royals are super good at catching baseballs and the Spiders are mega-stinky.

Then there’s the offensive side of things: I have spent about as much time as anyone lamenting the Royals’ consistent and frustrating inability to draw walks. I’ve written this before: The Royals have been below league average in walks every single year for 25 years. Every year. They finished last in the league in walks last year and are so far last this year. They just don’t draw walks and, to be honest about it, I’ve never really believed they were even trying. Royals manager Dayton Moore has made a point of saying he sees the value of walking, but (and I say this with affection) I think he’s just said that to shut people like me up.

In truth, I think Moore has always believed much more in putting the ball in play. I think he believes that putting balls in play creates tension for the defense, gets the action going, puts pressure on teams. He’s consistently gotten players who put bat on ball, players who don’t strike out too much. He has always been somewhat enamored by Omar Infante, who has had that bat-hit-ball knack, and he has been a believer in the offensive potential of Alicides Escobar because of his ability to make contact, and so on.

This year, like last year, the Royals have struck out much less than any team in baseball (their 225 strikeouts is 22 less than Atlanta and 100 plus less than their rival Detroit Tigers). And it just so happens that wWe live in the age of the strikeout — hitters, as you know, are striking out much more than ever before —and the Royals figure that putting the ball in play more than any other team is a winning strategy.

And it’s working. The Royals lead the league in batting average, are second in runs scored, second in doubles, second in triples and tops in slugging percentage even though they don’t hit home runs.

Now, you could argue — and many would argue — that they have been extremely hit lucky so far this year. Their .322 batting average on balls in play is second only to the Tigers. Meanwhile Cleveland’s .287 batting average on balls in play is much closer to the bottom. Are the Royals just having a lot of balls drop in, bleed through, plop over? Is this a sustainable pace?

I don’t know … but I’m not really questioning it anymore. The Royals seem to hit the ball plenty hard. They have a lot of extra-base hits. And, at some point, you start believing what you see. Look, I don’t believe it’s possible for a guy like Mike Moustakas, almost overnight, to learn how to hit the ball the other way but, dammit, he’s hit 100 balls already this year up the middle or to left field, that’s double what he did ALL LAST YEAR. He had two opposite field hits last year, he has 14 this year. This feels miraculous, like some sort of X-Men green screen thing, but like I say, at some point you have to believe what you see.

I think the Royals play the game this way: They will put the ball in play more often than you do. They will reach more balls than you can an turn them into outs. And they will shut down the late innings with their absurd bullpen, led by the indomitable Wade Davis who has allowed one extra base hit (a double) all year.* I just can’t find a whole lot to doubt about that strategy right now.

*Wade Davis has not allowed a home run since August 24, 2013. I say that reluctantly, knowing that people are always ready to jump on the stupid “You jinxed him” meme, but this statistic is so ridiculous that he deserves special mention. Wade Davis was not particularly skilled at avoiding home runs when he was a starting pitcher. He gave up 64 home runs in 513 innings, which ain’t all that great. Put him in the bullpen, give him one inning to pitch, and he turns into Bugs Bunny. 

I liked that Cleveland team a lot before the season began. Cleveland might have more a more dominating starting rotation than anyone, but the Royals more than make up for this with the genius of Lorenzo Cain in center field and generally above average defenders at every single position. Cleveland might have a couple of terrific hitters in their lineup (and I expected more from Carlos Santana, Lonnie Chisenhall and Brandon Moss) but the Royals batter you with nine guys who put the ball in play and stretch your defense.

Yes, the season is only a quarter done, and a lot will happen between now and October. Still: the other day, I saw that Las Vegas oddsmakers have now made Kansas City the favorites to win the World Series. That’s a long way off. But, I had this strange thought when I saw it. Seriously, at this moment, who else would you bet on?

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97 Responses to Royals and Spiders

  1. Tom Hitchner says:

    The Nationals, I think.

    • jalabar says:

      The Nats… bad start with a lot of injuries, but they are getting healthy and we are seeing what they are. KC may have the best record in baseball right now, but I’m betting it’s the Nats at season’s end. I’d also bet on their rotation over Cleveland’s by season’s end.

      Great article. So yeah, my pick would be Washington over KC if you asked me right now.

  2. jczernicki says:

    The spiders… Love it Joe. Great post.

  3. Jack says:

    You forgot to put down Ned Yost, Joe. You’re slipping.

  4. Tony Gandini says:

    Joe, I miss you in Kansas City. I always have a special affection when you write about the Royals. As a life-long KC sports fan I struggle with the Royals being good, I keep waiting for this dream to turn into reality. But maybe the reality is the Royals are actually good and I’m already awake.

  5. albanate says:

    I’m not a fan of teams having racially insulting names. I fully support anyone not wanting to use certain team names. But I find the use of “Spiders” in this post very distracting. Perhaps it’s something I’d get used to eventually, but I’d prefer for you to just refer to them as “Cleveland.”

    • DKH says:

      Agreed. I wish Joe wouldn’t allow his opposition to a team’s nickname allow his articles to become confusing and unfocused (this also occurs when Joe writes about the Redskins). I was trying to figure out the relationship to the 19th century Cleveland team.

      He should write an article making a direct case against the nicknames if that’s how he feels, but it’s distracting when it creeps into unrelated articles.

    • John Neill says:

      I would prefer Cleveland to just change their mascot to “The Spiders”

  6. ibrosey says:

    Love the Spiders substitution. Being a Cleveland native, is there any particular reason you chose spiders?

    • The Spiders were Cleveland’s NL team in the 1890’s that went 20-134 or something one year and folded. I thought Joe’s readers all knew that.

    • Kendell says:

      There was an old team called the Cleveland Spiders. They set some kind of a “record” for the all time worst record for a major league team. The last year before they folded as a franchise their home attendance was so bad they quit playing home games and played all their games on the road.

      • John says:

        Everyone remembered the original Spiders for their disastrous 1899 season, but they were actually pretty good for most of their existence. IIRC, they only went downhill when their ownership bought another team in a bigger city and shipped all the Spiders’ talent there, which is why there’s now a rule against anyone owning a share of more than one team.

      • largebill says:

        There should be an asterisk next to the Spiders 1898 season about 50 times the size of the ones some people want in record books next to Bonds’ home run record. The Spiders were owned by guy who owned another team (Cardinals?) and he “traded” all their good players to the other team.

        • Gegse says:

          Correct, the Cardinals, then called the “Perfectos”. The folks who owned the Spiders also bought the Perfectos and sent all Cleveland’s good players, including Cy Young, to St. Louis.

          Prior to 1899 the Spiders were actually pretty good, consistently finished in the upper half of the standings.

    • Personally I find Spiders creepy, and wouldn’t want to root for any, particularly since it’s a reference to the worst team in baseball history.

      I’m fine with the Cleveland Indians. Chief Wahoo, however, needs to go.

  7. Moneycoach says:

    Perhaps “Mooreball” instead of “Daytonball” Ditto Tony’s comments. I still feel like I’m living a purple dream & K-State will anyday return to the pre-Snyder embarrassment. Same feeling surrounds me like a Royal blue haze.

  8. The Warezwolf says:

    So, the word “Redskins” is awful. I think most people without a dog in the fight would agree to that. Especially since it takes two seconds to rename them the Pigskins, which is two seconds more than Snyder can spend thinking about someone other than himself.

    The Cleveland Indians’ logo is the most racist caricature still floating around out there in the world. I think that sometimes people my age are desensitized to it, but every once in a while I’ll see someone wearing a shirt or hat with it in public and you have to take a step back. Good grief.

    And sure, if I owned the team I’d change the name to the Cleveland Spiders and the mascot would be this gangly, terrifying, fuzzy camel spider that would drop down from the upper decks and scare the crap out of kids below and cause way more outrage than that logo ever did, which sort of says it all about how we marginalize Native Americans in this country…

    But is the word “Indians” racist? Awful? Insensitive? Is this something the rest of the world came to a consensus on, while I’m like a grandfather leaving 10 cent tips at restaurants looking forward to voting for FDR for a fifth time? Maybe that’s the overwhelming opinion of Native Americans and I am an oblivious idiot who needs to change with the times. That’s fine. This is the first I’m hearing of how “Indians” is not acceptable.

    • cclh says:

      What I don’t understand is who gets to decide which teams should be pressured to change their names and which teams get a bye. The example that always come to my mind that I’ve seen written about is Notre Dame. Personally, I don’t think Fighting Irish is as insensitive as Redskins but it’s a lot more offensive than Indians. But I don’t see much outrage over that name. There are probably other college names that I don’t pay attention to that are also on the spectrum. Thinking about it, I’ve been to places where Yankee is also an insult; should we start writing articles that say New York Bombers? Except that’s a militaristic term, and I know people who would be even offended by that. But don’t listen to me; I still won’t call the Angels anything except California or Anaheim. (Are atheists and agnostics offended by calling a team Angels, I wonder.) And now you’ve got me wondering — how did a team from Cleveland, of all places, get a nickname of Indians to being with? I’ll look forward to your article where you can sort all of this out.

      • dasein says:

        “Personally, I don’t think Fighting Irish is as insensitive as Redskins but it’s a lot more offensive than Indians. But I don’t see much outrage over that name.”

        That’s because the Fighting Irish was a moniker embraced by Notre Dame’s Irish from the start. The story goes that it’s a reference to William Corby, but either way, the name was sanctioned by Fr. Matthew Walsh in 1927. Notre Dame has always had a huge Irish Catholic population, and numerous Irish presidents over the years. If the name was offensive to the Irish, there were countless opportunities to change the name.

        Native Americans, on the other hand, had no part in founding Cleveland or Washington’s teams, or had any say in the matter since then. Context is important: if some school named, let’s say, Cromwell University had a team called the “Fighting Irish” and their mascot was an inebriated, belligerent Irishman, then I think it’s safe to say that would be offensive on a level that Notre Dame’s mascot is not.

        “Thinking about it, I’ve been to places where Yankee is also an insult; should we start writing articles that say New York Bombers? Except that’s a militaristic term, and I know people who would be even offended by that. But don’t listen to me; I still won’t call the Angels anything except California or Anaheim. (Are atheists and agnostics offended by calling a team Angels, I wonder.)”

        This isn’t 1/100th as clever as you think it is.

        • Biff says:

          I’m Irish and I don’t recall Fr. Walsh asking for my opinion. I also don’t recall authorizing Fr. walsh to speak for me.

          • Tom Hitchner says:

            If you have a sincere problem with “Fighting Irish,” you’re welcome to try to start a movement against it, see what kind of traction it gets. I don’t think you will, because the odds are that, like 99.9% of people who bring up this example, you have no actual problem with “Fighting Irish” and are just looking to argue counter-argue on “Indians” and “Redskins,” which people do have a legitimate problem with.

          • Dan says:

            I’m Irish (by descent), I don’t recall Fr. Walsh asking my opinion, and frankly I’ve always been fond of the name. Even when I was a kid I thought the pugnacious little cartoon guy was funny.

        • NevadaMark says:

          Are not the words “Fighting Irish” a compliment? How are those words insulting? Would “Fighting Germans” or “Fighting Russians” be bad? What am I missing? And where does drunkenness come in?

          • John says:

            Uh, if you want to argue that “Fighting Irish” is not particularly offensive, that’s one thing. I’m Irish, and I don’t have an enormous problem with it. But are you seriously trying to suggest that stereotyping an ethnic group as violent is a “compliment?” That’s actually a lot more offensive than the nickname (mostly, I’m offended because I feel like you’re insulting my intelligence). Just stop while you’re behind.

          • Textile Monster says:

            I’m assuming he’s thinking “Fighting” as in “don’t back down/fight well and win”, not as in “inherently violent”. Like how they used to refer to brigades who fought particularly bravely as “the Fighting 47th” or what-have-you. They were saying they were brave and reliable, not looking for fights.

        • Textile Monster says:

          Thing about context makes me think, especially, of that Red Mesa High School that calls themselves the “Redskins” despite a student body that’s 95% Native American. If anybody should change their name, it’s them, because they will continually exist as something pro-“Redskins” people can point to.

          • buddaley says:

            You are probably right, but those who point to it are using a lazy argument. There were Black slave owners in pre-civil war south. There were German Jews who voted Nazi. There were Black citizens who opposed integration. There are women who are aroused by rape or simulated rape. None of that makes any of those policies or actions justifiable.

            Redskins is a pejorative. There may be situations when it is acceptable to use the term just as there are situations when ethnic slurs may be acceptable. But it has no place as the name of a team any more than pejoratives for Italians, Jews, Mexicans, Japanese, Arabs, Russians or any other ethnic, religious or racial groups have.

      • Section 405 says:

        The one I’ve always wondered about is the logo of the Boston Celtics — looks too much to me like the stereotype negative images put forth by 19th century “No Irish Need Apply” nativist bigots. But then again, I majored in history, I’m not Irish, and I have *never* heard a single objection to that logo in my life. I live in the DC area, so I hear a lot of comment about the Washington Ethnic Slurs….

      • buddaley says:

        But suppose they were called the “Fighting Micks”? Wouldn’t that be objectionable? That is closer to a proper analogy. While there is some controversy over the name Indians (as opposed to Native Americans or some other name), in ordinary usage, it is not a pejorative. But Redskins always has been.

        I doubt few would object to a team called “The Americans”, but might get upset it it were called “The Gringos”. Or if “The Conquistadors” were called the “Spics”.

        • sourcreamus says:

          Redskins is not and did not originate as a pejorative term. It is what some Indians used to call themselves hundreds of years ago. Why would Indians use a pejorative to identify themselves?
          Obviously, it was meant as a tribute since no team would name themselves after a pejorative phrase.

      • I’m Irish. The idea of the “Fighting Irish” is not offensive. It’s meant to convey their fight during athletic contests. The word Irish is not offensive to any Irishman. It’s what we are. Our heritage is from Ireland. It’s not the IRA Terrorists. It’s the Fighting Irish. Native Americans have decided that they prefer to be called what they are, Native Americans. “Indians” was a moniker given to them by the European explorers who thought they landed in the West Indies. It stuck, but wasn’t what the Indians chose to be called. Ever. Redskins obviously is worse. Their skin isn’t even red.

        I’m bothered by your red herring that because Native Americans are offended by the names “Redskins & Indians” that somehow everyone should be offended by whatever other mascots there might be. I should note that the Florida State Seminoles apparently aren’t offending the Seminole Indians… either because they’re just relaxed about things, or because they’re being paid to be relaxed (not sure). But since they’re not offended (even if they are being paid to not be offended), then the name is fine. The group that is having their likeness emblazened on a teams jerseys has the right to weigh in. They decide. What white people, like you, think about other non-white groups is irrelevant.

        • Biff says:

          Um, isn’t “America” also a moniker bestowed by Europeans?

          I don’t see how “Indians” is any different than “Native Americans”.

          Bigger picture, it’s darn near impossible to avoid offending someone. Unless we want to name all the teams after colors (even then, someone whose uncle died fighting Communists might be offended by “Reds”) or plants, then someone will be offended.

          This country needs to stop being so sensitive. I’m Irish and I don’t care if you call me a mick or a ginger (red-headed too).

      • Just Bob says:

        I got this email a few years ago, and am posting it, just for fun.

        The National Football League recently announced a new era. From now on, no offensive team names will be permitted. While the owners of the teams rush to change uniforms and such, the National Football League announced, yesterday, its name changes and schedules for the 2015 season:

        The Washington Native Americans will host the New York Very Tall People on opening day.

        Other key games include the Dallas Western-Style Laborers hosting the St. Louis Wild Endangered Species, and the Minnesota Plundering Norsemen taking on the Green Bay Meat Industry Workers.

        In Week 2, there are several key matchups, highlighted by the showdown between the San Francisco Precious Metal Enthusiasts and the New Orleans Pretty Good People.

        The Atlanta Birds of Prey will play host to the Philadelphia Birds of Prey, while the Seattle Birds of Prey will visit the Phoenix Male Finches.

        The Monday night game will pit the Miami Pelagic Percoid Food Fishes against the Denver Untamed Beasts of Burden.

        The Cincinnati Large Bangladeshi Carnivorous Mammals will travel to Tampa Bay for a clash with the West Indies Free Booters later in Week 9.

        And the Detroit Large Carnivorous Cats will play the Chicago Large Mountain Mammals.

        Week 9 also features the Indianapolis Young Male Horses at the New England Zealous Lovers of Country.

    • invitro says:

      Agree with cclh. I’d like to see Joe, or anyone, answer the question of who gets to decide whether a nickname is offensive.

      • Obviously the group being caricatured. This doesn’t seem particularly difficult to understand. I gave the example above of the Seminoles. If they were offended by being the mascot of Florida State, they get to say so. So far, they have some sort of deal with Florida State, so they aren’t officially offended.

        Even when the Washington Bullets were pressured to chang their name to the Wizards, because the citizenry (especially elected officials) felt the name Bullets cast their city in negative terms because they were also the murder capital of the country at the time. That’s fair too, even though it had nothing to do with ethnic groups.

        • largebill says:

          Strongly disagree. Worst thing we have done societally over the last half century was this nonsense of “if anyone is offended” then others have to change to avoid offending them. BS! If they are offended they can choose not to patronize the team/product/whatever. Problem is journalists (sadly even sports writers) tend to lean far left and are prone fall for that nonsense.

          • Karyn says:

            The question was not ‘who decides if should they change?’ The question was ‘who decides if the name is offensive?’

            Those are two hugely different things.

          • Nathan says:

            The people that reminisce about what they use to be able to say before times got more politically correct, are mostly older white dudes. They are the people that lost something when people got more politically correct.

            White privilege covers a lot, but not as much as it used to and that is good. Mind what you say. Now days, you cannot and should not say somethings or name your team some things because it hurts people. It is not a bad thing, it is a good thing. It is more inclusive and more welcoming.

            When you find out something is offensive to a group of traditionally marginalized people, how about, “oh, sorry.” and not “No it isn’t!”

            Hey white people, we lost a team name. Sucks doesn’t it? It is also mostly insignificant. A whole lot of people lost a heck of a lot more than that. Being politically correct isn’t bad. It is good.

        • JonW says:

          Reminds me of a Leno monologue joke at the time: The Washington Bullets will be changing their name to one that doesn’t evoke an image of crime. From now on, they will be known as The Bullets.

    • stratobill says:

      Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with the nicknames such as Redskins, Indians, Fightin’ Irish, Seminoles, Braves, etc. The team that have those nicknames don’t use them out of any ill-feelings or prejudice against ethnic groups. They use them because those are the names that the teams have used for years and years and years.

      Even if the people who originally chose those nicknames WERE intentionally tring to offend certain groups, those people are no
      longer associated with the teams and are probably long dead in the grave. The names have taken on a life of their own.

      Think about the nickname “Dodgers”, which has been used by the Brooklyn/Los Angeles baseball franchise for about 100 years. Few
      people today even know where the term originated (it had something to
      do with dodging trolley cars, I believe).

      When people today say “Dodger”, they’re thinking about the team that
      plays ball in Chavez Ravine, not trolley cars.

      Likewise, when sports fans hear the word “Redskin” they think about the
      NFL team that plays in Washingtno D.C., not about a bunch of half naked native americans raiding a wagon train.

      And one of the most offensive words in our nation’s history, the “N___” word, has been adopted by many blacks for use in casual conversation. That prooves that the words themselves aren’t necessaritly offensive, it’s the context in which the words are used that determines whether they are offensive.

      The bottom line is that words evolve and can have multiple meanings.
      Just because some people don’t like a particular word doesn’t mean that
      the rest of us have to give up using it.

      • wjones58 says:

        Kind of like when the Minneapolis team took their lake to Los Angeles, and the New Orleans team took their jazz music to…..Utah?

    • Jay Stevens says:

      Well…it is weird that a sports team thinks it’s cool to take a group of people bonded by heritage and ethnicity and make a mascot out of them. It shows a certain…er…disrespect? Certainly it shows we don’t give a rat’s ass about them, if we think we’re free to commercialize their identity.

  9. Andy B says:

    The eye test and old fashioned stats can sometimes show that the metrics can be somewhat off. The metrics claim that Wade Davis is only the 13th best reliever in baseball, the Royals pen overall is just 8th best in MLB, and Eric Hosmer defensively is below an average replacement player. Also, the saber guys claim there is no such thing as an RBI guy. This can be refuted just by watching Kendrys Morales this year.

    • doncoffin64 says:

      “Also, the saber guys claim there is no such thing as an RBI guy. This can be refuted just by watching (insert player name here) this year.”

      In his career, 17% of the runners on base when he’s been batting have scored. In his best full-time (400+ PA) season, it was 19%. This year, he’s at 15%. This looks more like a small-sample, random fluctuation to me. I’d expect some regression as the season continues.

    • Spencer says:

      The idea that there is no such thing as an RBI guy cannot be refuted by watching one guy for 2 months. You have a fundamental misunderstanding of how things work

  10. It’s a good thing the Atlanta Crackers are no longer around. Sheesh.

  11. Biff says:

    The funny thing is that while all the “sophisticated” members of the media were bashing Dayton for not following the Moneyball blueprint of high OBP hitters / high strikeout pitchers, Dayton was actually doing the most Moneyball-esque thing of all. He was building his team around players with skills (defense) or positions (bullpen) that were underpriced in the marketplace.

    Perhaps when everyone else starts bidding up defense, Dayton will find a high OBP player to sign…

    Or maybe Dayton was just a blind squirrel that found a nut. I don’t know…

    • Dan says:

      Excellent points, all of them.

    • Jay Stevens says:

      Excellent point — but then this is they GM who signed Bentancourt and Francoeur. And you could argue that the wealth of talent in the system was the result of years of losing, not necessarily due to the superior scouting and drafting strategy of the team under Moore.

      But those are great points. Defense and contact hitting became undervalued as the game changed recently and strikeouts started spiking.

      Personally, I think Moore’s like the dude who stubbornly clings to the clothing fashion that was popular when he was 16. He just waited around long enough for it to come back into style…

  12. EnzoHernandez11 says:

    The Spiders thing is a bit distracting. I could probably get used to it, but it would take a while.

    I don’t know what to make of the whole nickname/mascot thing. I pull for a team whose mascot is a goofy send-up of a Catholic, presumably Latino, clergyman. If that offends anyone, I’ve never heard anything about it. I’m not sure how I’d feel if I did. I’d be fine with losing the mascot, but it would definitely hurt to lose the nickname. I can’t imagine cheering for the San Diego Sunsets.

    Let’s start, then, by putting Washington’s football team in its own category. Their nickname is a racial slur. It should be changed. I would hope that I’d still feel that way even if I had grown up spending my Sundays at RFK Stadium.

    Second, it probably wouldn’t hurt anyone too much to get rid of the offensive mascots and a few of the sanctioned stadium practices. Yes, Cleveland, I’m looking at you, but I’m also looking at the tomahawk choppers in Atlanta and Kansas City (and Tallahassee, too, but there’s so much more to hate about FSU). I mean, I know it’s kind of fun and almost nobody means anything disrespectful by it, but it’s not central–I assume–to anyone’s identity as a fan, at least not the way the nickname is. It’s not my place to suggest this, I suppose, but if the Padres were doing something like that, I’m pretty sure I’d be ok with getting rid of it.

    After that come the nicknames. Without the tomahawks and Chief Wahoo and all the rest, I don’t see anything inherently offensive about Indians or Chiefs or Braves (and let’s be honest: if we’re going to call one team the Cleveland Spiders, then we’d better make room for the Kansas City Fountains and the Atlanta Heatwaves, as well, because the principle is exactly the same). I’m a little less sanguine about team names that identify individual tribes (you guys again, FSU), but that’s just me.

    This is a tough one for me, because there’s really no ethnic slur you can use against a white, Anglo-Saxon male that really stings (I guess “white trash” comes the closest, but that’s more classist than racist). So I realize it’s hard for me to identify with or understand how this sort of thing feels. I don’t think we should be knee-jerk PC about it, but I do think we should try to honor and respect other people’s feelings. I’m not sure where that leaves me…

    • Spencer says:

      Now, if you’re white and you don’t admit that it’s great, you’re an asshole. It is great. And I’m a man. How many advantages could one person have? I’m a white man. You can’t even hurt my feelings! What can you really call a white man that really digs deep?

      “Hey, cracker.”

      “Uh. Ruined my day. Boy shouldn’t have called me a cracker. Bringing me back to owning land and people, what a drag.”

      ~Louie CK

    • belmontbill says:

      If we’re going to eliminate words that can be used as slurs then we’ll all have to stop using the word ‘boy’, since it can be used to demean a black man. And we’ll have to stop using the word ‘girl’, since it can be used to demean a working woman.

      While we’re at it, I guess we can’t use the words ‘slant’, ‘frog’, and ‘monkey’ either, since they can also be used as slurs.

      • Jay Stevens says:

        Maybe just use the words to describe, you know, what they actually are? Don’t call a woman a “girl,” a black man a “boy” or “monkey.” A red-faced, screaming racist logo an “Indian.” I mean, it’s not that hard, right?

        • belmontbill says:

          You make a reasonable point but it doesn’t address words that have two or more meanings. For instance, the word redskin (uncapitalized) usually refers to a native american. It may or may not be a slur, depending on the context and the intent of the person using it.

          The capitalized form, “Redskin” usually refers to a football player for the NFL team that plays in Washington D.C. If I’m walking down the street and happen to meet one of their players and refer to him as a Redskin, who is hurt? Even if I was accompanied by a native american friend, I doubt that they would be bothered.

  13. I find it amusing that certain people make so much over BABIP—that most players are .300 hitters on the at-bats in which they make contact—while at the same time underplaying the negative consequences of a strikeout—it’s just another out, it’s not a double play, etc. Essentially, they’re saying that strikeouts are really important for pitchers, and not that important for batters. I’m no logician, but it seems to me that those points can’t both be true.

    I’m glad that the Royals have found that old-school baseball can be winning baseball. I also think they are playing out of their minds. Had they won the World Series last year, I don’t think they would have been as good this year. By coming so close last year, learning to believe in themselves, and feeding off the excitement and adoration of a long dormant, long suffering fan base, they came into this year with something to prove and the wind at their backs, a helluva combination. It’s not something you can put into numbers.

    For instance, my favorite year as a Mets fan was not 1986, when they won it all, but 1985, when they fell just short of the pennant. Like the Royals, they had been godawful for a long time, playing second fiddle to the Yankees (like the Royals fans to the Cardinals). They started to get better in 1984, but in 1985, as their young cast of unknowns started to mature, they found themselves in the pennant race to the very end, a real dogfight with the Cardinals. Mets fans were so grateful to see good, meaningful baseball played in Shea Stadium again, that on the day they were finally eliminated, Mets fans gave the team a standing ovation, just like the ovation KC fans gave their Royals when they fell just short after their own heroic efforts against the Giants. I can’t tell you what kind of good karma this gave the Mets coming into 1986. Now the fans and the team expected the Mets to play well, and they did, becoming a juggernaut that won an incredible 108 games and the World Series. They also got into their share of on-field brawls that year (Ray Knight clocked Eric Davis at one point), as they were feeling their oats and other teams were out to get them. This only brought them closer together, a trial by fire that proved invaluable for the epic playoff comebacks of 1986.

    After that, however, it all turned sour for the Mets. The fans, who once were grateful if the team played .500 ball, now were expecting—nay, demanding—a World Championship. No more applause for coming in second after a good effort. Meanwhile, the team spent as much time fighting amongst themselves as they did against other clubs, and the Mets self-destructed among a clash of egos and substance abuse. All that good karma went bad in hurry, and they never won another championship.

    So enjoy the ride while it lasts KC, for this too shall pass.

    • NevadaMark says:

      No kidding. It passed for 30 years, remember?

    • Spencer says:

      Those 2 points can’t be true and the simple answer is they’re not. It’s not true that most hitters are .300 hitters on balls in play. It IS true that most pitchers give up a .300 batting average on balls in play.

      Hitters vary widely. Guys like Richie Sexson (slow, right handed, fly ball guys) can hit around .250 on balls in play. Guys like Ichiro (speedy, left handed, line drives) can hit around .350 on balls in play.

      The strikeout thing has become an acceptable consequence of putting a good swing on the ball and hitting it harder, which results in higher babips.

      • Jovins343 says:

        Also walks and strikeouts have a positive correlation. People who never strike out very rarely walk very much; those that do tend to be great players.

      • Richie Sexson had a BABIP of .293 against a BA of .261. Ichiro had a BABIP of .343.against a BA of .317. I guess it states the obvious that when you start out with a higher batting average you are likely to have a higher batting average on balls in play.

        But does swinging harder really increase BABIP? Your own example would seem to belie this. To name a guy with a famously violent swing, Reggie Jackson had a .298 BABIP against a .262 BA. Level swinging Wade Boggs had a .344 BABIP against a .328 BA. All in line with what you might expect. BABIP is simply a way of reminding people that putting the ball in play results in hits more often than you might think.

        Hits are not the only advantage gained by making contact, however. Putting the ball in play generates productive outs—sacrifice flies or run scoring ground balls or outs that advance the baserunners. Balls in play generate errors. Things that strikeouts don’t do.

        Finally, making contact energizes the crowd, a precious commodity in sports. It is the heart of the homefield advantage. I just watched a game that was a parade of strikeouts for both teams. A capacity crowd was sitting on its hands the whole time. Fans want some action.

  14. Shanthi says:

    Holy crap, Joe comes not to bury Caesar but to praise him!

  15. Triston says:

    Why don’t I ever hear about Charles Curtis? He was a Native American Vice President (under Herbert Hoover; he was Senate majority leader before that). And he wasn’t even just “incidentally PART” Native American, like 1/16 or something; he was raised by his Kaw grandparents on a reservation. I only found out about him because I was researching Vice Presidents.

    • Gegse says:

      How much do you expect to hear about a man who was Vice President over 80 years ago?

      • Triston says:

        He was the first minority to be Senate Majority Leader or Vice President, the first to be elected to a national office of any sort. I’d think that he’d be on the list of Important Minority Firsts. I’d expect a blurb, the “occasional” mention that we’ve had a Native American Vice President, as opposed to… absolutely nothing whatsoever.
        I mean, whenever somebody is elected/appointed and is the first minority/specific combination of minorities today, they’ll mention it: “So-and-so is the first African-American female Undersecretary of Agriculture,” even if there have already been female and African-American Undersecretaries before, and the current Secretary of Agriculture is also an African-American female. But because I *literally never* hear about Curtis, who was a heartbeat away from being President, it makes me think that these people DON’T EVEN KNOW about him.
        And I think that’s a shame.

  16. Chris H says:

    If I did the math right – someone can check me – the Cuyahogas* have allowed 138 fewer batted balls than the Royals, but have allowed 43 more hits (or errors) on those batted balls. That’s pretty astounding. It’s also an indictment of the Cleveland front office; everyone knew they were the worst defensive team in the league last year, and they addressed that by (1) continuing to not have Asdrubal Cabrera at short; (2) signing a right fielder who is as bad as the right fielders they had last year; and (3) um, hoping everyone else somehow gets better?

    *I’d change the name to “Cuyahogas”; as an Indian name, it connects to the long history of the team but without reducing a race of people to the status of mascot or explicitly appropriating cultural symbols in ways that might be problematic. Also, endless numbers of headlines like “Cuyahogas Catch Fire; Burn Sox.” I recognize the lineage of the Spiders name, but that team was terrible, and also spiders creep me out.


  17. John says:

    Joe, with all due respect, I am boycotting any and all articles that refer to the Indians as “Spiders,” which is the worst non-offensive name in the history of professional sports (which seems appropriate, since the 1899 edition of that team–which by the way is an *entirely* different franchise than the Indians, so there is no connection whatsoever–was also the worst team in the history of baseball). Just refer to them as “Cleveland” if you must.

    I’m not opposed to a name change per se (yes, Wahoo has to go). I think there are plenty of fine names that they could go with. Personally, I like “Knights,” which I think is the best name not used by any current major professional team. But not Spiders. No. In fact, despite the fact that I’ve been a fan of the Indians for 20 years, I will quickly abandon them if they change their name to Spiders (I’m not from Cleveland, so I don’t have a local connection to the team–I grew up in Nebraska and New Mexico, which have no pro teams), and I will find a new team.

    I’m not joking. A World Series drought of nearly 70 years and some truly heartbreaking moments (Jose Mesa being the most obvious, though the collapse in the 2007 ALCS is right behind) amidst mostly general mediocrity is not enough to phase me. For better or worse, this is my team. But “Spiders” is a bridge too far.

    • vlock1 says:

      You don’t like Spiders? I think Spiders is a terrific name. Hell, I own a Cleveland Spiders t-shirt.

  18. KHAZAD says:

    Coincidentally, the home run you mentioned Wade Davis allowing was in his last major league start. Since then he has made 97 relief appearances pitching 101 innings. His ERA is 0.80 and his WHIP is 0.79. He hasn’t allowed any unearned runs either. Hitter’s slugging percentage against him is .170. He not only has a 4.4 K/BB ratio, he has a 2.3 K/Total Bases ratio.

    It is a joy to watch.

  19. Hamster Huey says:

    I’ve wondered for a long time why we talk about BABIP but not SlgBIP, which would better measure how hard a batter hits a ball, or a pitcher allows it to be hit. Wouldn’t it stand to reason that someone like Maddux might do better than average on that, even if not on BABIP? Anyway, 2015 came around and things have progressed even farther than that. From, “A baseball’s exit velocity [off the bat] is roughly 5 parts hitter, 1 part pitcher”… and THAT makes more actual sense.

  20. trad66 says:

    Indians, Indians, Indians, Indians, Indians, Indians, Indians, Indians, Indians.

    Is that distracting?

    Redskins, Redskins, Redskins, Redskins, Redskins, Redskins, Redskins.

    Orwellian newspeek – phooey.

  21. Brad says:

    At a time when colleges are preaching nonsense such as micro aggressions and triggering, perhaps we’ve all become to sensitive. As a person whose lineage is primarily Irish (with a little Cherokee) mixed in, I have no problems with Fighting Irish. In fact it pretty accurately describes young Irish men. I also have no problem with Fighting Sioux, Chiefs, Braves, Indians, Dirtbags and yes, Redskins. Being called a Cracker does not cause me to lose sleep or the desire to protest or riot. Blacks seem to have no problem using the N word and hearing Dave Chappelle call someone a nigga is usually good for a few belly laughs. Bellweather had a solid point in an earlier post. Maybe some groups are not as offended as the PC police are, or perhaps they are being paid enough to not be offended?

    • Karyn says:

      A little historical context is useful.

      I often wonder, when white folks say ‘black folks call each other that all the time!’ are those white folks just really butthurt that they can’t use the n-word?

      • Biff says:

        Somehow white people convinced minorities that names (n-word, redskins, etc etc) are what they should waste all their time and energy being offended about. All it does is distract minorities from what’s really important.

        Case in point….what got more attention: 1) the Oklahoma frat chanting the n-word on a bus or 2) Jim Boeheim effectively guaranteeing his (black) players didn’t get an education?

      • invitro says:

        More likely that they’re “butthurt” about the double standard. Most people get upset about double standards, you know. Including black people, and white people. Especially in the US where we have a history of not caring much for class distinctions… not as much as every other society does, anyway.

        • Karyn says:

          Have you ever heard of ‘reclaiming’ words, and why that happens? It’s a real thing, and pretty powerful.

  22. Jon Kopplin says:

    Comment sections are funny. People get uptight. Lol.

  23. Gegse says:

    “Spiders” is a great, great nickname. Although I’m pretty sure Joe is writing tongue-in-cheek here as he’s written before about how much he hates the nickname “Spiders”.

  24. Berto says:

    The Royals bullpen is only as good as how deep their starters can go. See the KC Royals of 2012-2014 as prime examples.

  25. Kent Morgan says:

    An Indian I mean Aboriginal I mean First Nations hockey team in Saskatchewan called themselves the Wagonburners and a hockey team of French-Canadians that a friend played for called themselves the Frogs. I decided that if the nicknames were their chocie, it wasn’t going to bother me. The NCAA forced the University of North Dakota to drop its nickname, Fighting Sioux, but to the best of my knowledge the Sioux logo is still in place in the hockey arena.

    • heavy c says:

      Except, you don’t get to decide and the Cleveland and Washington teams aren’t teams of First Nations players, just as you wouldn’t call a team by the N word. even though some black people call themselves that in attempt to take back the word. I forget who said, but I go by these words. If you are a (insert ethnicity, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, etc..) you get to call yourself whatever you want and own it, if you aren’t you don’t get to.

      • David says:

        Yeah, that’s a pretty dumb rule to live by. Here’s a better one:

        If someone is saying something in order to offend, then take offense. If they don’t intend to cause offense, then don’t take offense.

        • Karyn says:

          No, that’s pretty ridiculous. People say hurtful things all the time out of ignorance, or complete self-centeredness or what have you. Doesn’t make their remarks not offensive.

  26. Zach Walters says:

    Reposted from a discussion on Baseball Primer, because it’s that amazing:

    Watching [the Indians] play the Royals has been a real eye opener.

    Figure a strikeout an inning, so that 18 balls in play have to get converted to outs.

    18/.641 (Indians DER) = 28 balls in play to get those outs.

    18/.735 (Royals DER) = 24.5 balls in play.

    That’s a hit every three innings!

  27. The Spiders were a different franchise. Why not the Naps or the Bronchos?

  28. Dan W. says:

    I look forward to Joe writing about the Highlanders.

  29. ebhaynz says:

    Aaaaannnddddd the Royals haven’t won since Joe posted this of course. KC’s longest losing streak of the season.

    Joe Posnanski, Destroyer of Worlds!

  30. Spiders much better than Naps. This Tribe team reminds me of Indians of 60s. Great arms. Few bats and fewer gloves. Competitive but can’t challenge for a pennant.
    As for Royals, aren’t they built same way as Giants around pitching, defense and putting the ball in play? Remember reading an interview years ago with Sabian in which he said he was putting priority on defense and pitching. Don’t understand why Indians place so little value on defense and bullpen.

  31. […] years, had the original super bullpen. A little more on Cleveland and its defense. Joe Posnanski compares Cleveland to Kansas City and tries to figure out why the Tribe is so much worse when they have a better FIP, walk more, and […]

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