Series Preview in Blog: Kansas City Royals (4/04-4/06)

I asked the question in the gamelog on Tuesday about the Twins particularly struggling against groundball pitchers, which was very ably answered by ubelmann, saying that it seemed there were enough batters in the lineup who had better numbers against groundball pitchers that there shouldn’t be too much of an effect. That was the data I was looking for at the time, but after the first series it seems undeniable that the Twins offense has shown an amazing ability to create outs on the ground. In games 2 and 3 the Twins generated 35 outs on the ground compared to 12 in the air, while scoring 1 run. In the other games the Twins scored 7 runs with an even 20:20 ratio of groundouts to aerial outs. It’s only four games, and I didn’t look hard enough to include hits in these counts, so it may not mean anything, but it’s something I’ll definitely keep an eye on.

While the Twins were winning one of four against LA, the Royals were sweeping the Detroit Tigers, projected powerhouse of the AL Central, in three games. So now the Twins must regroup and prepare themselves for a showdown with the AL Central leading Royals (I’m not going to lie, it feels weird to even write it). Understandably, feelings are generally positive right now for Royals fans.

[EDIT] Trivia Question: Can you name the last team to start 3-0 and win the World Series? (Note: the last team to win the World Series after starting 1-3 was the 2003 Florida Marlins)

One of the big changes that seems to bode well for continued success is the new manager, Trey Hillman. He’s apparently quite the perfectionist:

On possible lineups in spring training:

We’ve actually have 20 already done but I haven’t typed the other five up and I have to redo the ones that have misspelled names. I hate misspelling people’s names.

Of those twenty lineups, Hillman has chosen a few that he plans to go with, but Royals Review went and ran the numbers on a whole bunch of different lineups to find out what the optimal lineup is, and how much of a difference it actually makes. I thought the post was really interesting, and has some pointers for constructing your own lineup at home.

An interesting approach in lineup theory is avoiding the totally lost cause inning … Automatic out-machines are bad, but having two of them back to back can really short-circuit things.

Machine Parts
At last, all the parts are in place for the Punto-3000 (Picture from flickr)

But the ultimate conclusion is that the actual difference betwixt reasonable batting orders is miniscule at best, so it’s good fodder for discussion, but it’s certainly not the most important factor for a team’s success.

If the Royals continue their strong play throughout this season, it could conceivably start the ball rolling on a run of success for the organization. While this would certainly reward those Royals fans who have suffered through some extremely lean times, perhaps most importantly it would allow them to stop resorting to trickery and mind games to recruit new fans.

Probable Pitchers for this series are as follows:

John Bale v. Scott Baker

The season debut for both pitchers, and while for a short time Baker was being discussed as a possible opening day starter, no one is really sure who this John Bale is. A little research shows that Bale is a young, unknown lefty who doesn’t inspire confidence in Royals fans. I think I speak for all Twins fans, when I say: *gulp*.

Gil Meche v. Livan Hernandez

Two opening day starters take the mound in their second starts of the season. Meche got a no-decision in the Royals extra inning win, and he pitched relatively well. Although it wasn’t quite the statement game like last seasons opening day start. Since Livan has 1 win to Meche’s 0, I’m going to just assume the Twins have the pitching advantage in this one.

Brett Tomko v. Boof Bonser

Tomko makes his first start, although he appeared in relief of Meche and promptly blew the Royals lead by allowing a run in two innings. I would say that confidence is even lower in Tomko than it is in Bale, so here’s hoping the Twins can hang some runs on at least one of the two.

By the way, I kind of like this idea, a confidence index on the team, based on commenters ratings of a few criteria on a numerical scale. Of course to implement such a system you’d have to have a broad base of knowledgeable fans willing to share their opinions in a somewhat orderly fashion.

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