Friday, August 4, 2023

Newsletter Excerpt, August 4, 2023 -- "Third Third Previews, Pt. 1"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider.

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23. Kansas City Royals (35-75 (.318, 29th), 423 RS, 580 RA, fifth in AL Central)

The Kansas City Royals are the hottest team in baseball, on a six-game winning streak after not even winning three in a row over their first 100 games. Who knew it was Nicky Lopez holding them back?

This big step backward, to a sub-.400 team, was one nobody saw coming. Clearing out much of the management team, including despised pitching coach Cal Eldred, was supposed to unlock the talent that was already in place. Instead, the Royals are 29th in wRC+, 25th in FIP, 20th in Outs Above Average. They’re 29th in batting walk rate and 24th in isolated power. Their pitchers are 26th in strikeout rate, 27th in K-BB%, 25th in barrel rate allowed.

The Royals want $350 million in public funding as part of their ballpark district plans.

I think the Royals are the current best example, perhaps even more than the A’s, of the way baseball franchises operate now. The play on the field just isn’t primary anymore, not the way it was for at least 120 years of the sport’s professional history. A team can do nothing right on the field and still hold out its hand for hundreds of millions of dollars in public money. The Royals don’t exist to win championships. The Royals exist as the ticket to a $2 billion real estate project. They’re not alone, they’re just the team with its hand furthest out at the moment.

The Royals should really focus on not having another 28-year stretch of missing the playoffs before they go asking for subsidies.

Reasons to WatchBobby Witt Jr. is reminding us that not every prospect emerges fully formed as an MVP candidate. Witt, 23, is headed for a four-win season, and maybe a 30-30 campaign, behind much-improved defense at shortstop, a better strikeout rate, and exceptional batted-ball quality. He is one of the fastest players in the sport. Witt has an expected batting average of .292 and an expected slugging of .534. He’s going to start the All-Star Game at shortstop in a couple of years. The teams we’re covering today are going to be off-radar now, but Witt is a player to make a point of watching.

One Stat: Since coming into existence in 1969, the Royals have never had a season with a team OBP under .300. Their low mark was .305, set in 2018. The current Royals have a .297 OBP.