Wednesday, March 6, 2013


...but you can't take the Mittel-West out of the boy. (In the little world of sabermetrics, this little homily is beyond truth.)

And we are reminded of this today, as we peruse Joe P.'s latest p(r)oof positive.

It's what we call "yack-at-her" (which is how you'd pronounce YACATR if you could actually pronounce it).

What is YACATR? It's "Yet Another Column About The Royals."

"Joe...the way you've been moving around lately, it makes me worry about your heart,
your kidneys, your now, pay later, Diner's Club!!"
Oh, yes. If our old pal Jack Kruschen (the great character actor who was Oscar-nominated for his role as Dr. Dreyfuss in Billy Wilder's classic The Apartment) were here, he'd be dusting off one of his signature lines:

"Mildred!!! He's at it again!!!!!"

This behavior on Joe's part almost...but not quite...makes us think that he's actually tuned in to our periodic chronicling of his woeful and increasingly wayward homerism.

What's his latest reason to keep that over-exposed sad sack team from the western edge of the Mittel-West in black type? Well, the Royals are on fire in spring training. They've won eleven in a row.

But, you know, the Mariners are 10-2 thus far in the spring. No one is using it as a reason to write about them in the sportswriting equivalent of soft-focus lighting.

As we noted in an earlier post, if it were the Pittsburgh Pirates (the Royals' NL doppelganger of decrepitude over the past two decades) who were doing this, good ole Joe (on his--what, fifth? sixth?--employer in the past fourteen months...) would have produced nary a squib about them.

Joe is careful at this stuff, of course. He readily acknowledges that spring training records don't have much correlation with regular season results. But he really wants to work himself up into a reasonable facsimile of a lather anyway. When all is said and done, this is simply an excuse to trot out some more hopeful hokum.

Now he could have done some research, just for fun, to see exactly how teams with excellent spring training records fared in the regular season. That would have provided a bit more of a smokescreen for what he was up to here. And it would have been a lot more interesting than what he wound up writing as well.

So, Joe, we'll do our part and provide a look at the last seven years' worth of outcomes for teams who've had at least a .625 WPCT in spring training games.

That data is in the table at left. There have been twenty-eight teams who qualify over the past seven years. Fourteen teams have had a better season than in the preceding year; fourteen have had a worse season. Six teams have made the playoffs (as shown by the "x" marking the spot) after having missed the post-season in the previous year; five have missed the playoffs after having been in the post-season the previous year.

The overall average change for these teams in the season during which they've played well in the spring  in terms of the previous year's performance: an improvement of slightly more than one game.

All types of teams are on the list, from 100-game winners to 100-game losers. The type of team that has improved in the season where spring was sweet is split evenly between those who leap up from sub-.500 ball and those who've played over .500.

It's an interesting list, even if it offers us no predictive clue. The Royals have two teams on the list already, from 2006 and 2011. They improved their record from the previous season each time, but they were poorer teams in the previous year than the 2013 squad's predecessors were last year. (In the case of the 2010 team, however, not all that much better.)

Joe would be better off looking at the road ERAs of James Shields and Wade Davis (when he was last a starter...), and remembering that even though the Royals have developed what looks like a solid bullpen, you still have to hand over the game to relievers while the games are within sufficient reach to really benefit from it (as was the case for the O's and A's last year).

The bad news for those with Mittel-West blood coursing feverishly through their veins is that the teams from their region have had a dismal regular season on the heels of their spring sproing: those ten teams have combined for an overall -51 over the past seven years. Now that's what we call a depressed region...

[EDIT: One of our readers pointed out that the teams on the above list who were under .500 in the previous season did markedly better than the overall results we reported. While that's an even tinier sample size, it's a good point and deserves to be mentioned.

We looked at the teams that played under .500 in the previous year (10 teams) and those that won 71-76 games, the range in which the '12 Royals reside (6 teams). The result was virtually identical in each case: these teams improved markedly in the next season after their solid spring. The average improvement: 11 games.

So, if the Royals should hit in the middle of that improvement range, they'd wind up with 82 wins at the end of this season.

We're sure that Joe and the cadre of Royals fetishists within the clique du nombre will be ecastatic with that. Should that happen, prepare yourself for what could be record levels of heavy breathing in the 2013-14 offseason. Stay tuned!]