There are two methods for predicting a baseball team’s record.
1. Go with your gut. As in, the Royals have added a few pieces, everyone’s a year older (and hopefully better), ergo the Royals’ record will be a little better.
80-82, creeping into the world of respectability.
2. Think your way through everything. This takes much longer.
Zach Greinke, by some accounts, is ready to bust out and become a truly elite pitcher. I would temper that a little—I think the Royals’ offense will be improved, so he’ll win a couple more games (16) while keeping his ERA in the mid-threes. Solid stuff.
Gil Meche’s career has a large enough sample size to know what he is: a legit #2 starter. He will bring about 15 wins with an ERA in the high threes. Again, solid.
Now it’s dicey. Which Brian Bannister do we get? By statistical measures, he was incredibly lucky in 2007…and incredibly unlucky in 2008. Logic dictates that he’ll land somewhere in the middle. Call it 11 wins and an ERA around 4.50.
Kyle Davies—the optimist in me wants to believe what he showed in September is something he’ll build upon. The rational human being in me says it’s not. I don’t see it with Davies. He will regress to being an innings-eater at best; I’ll go with 10 wins and a high-four ERA.
Luke Hochevar is a mystery as well. At times, his stuff looks really good, but he never seems to dominate. I’ll predict 9 wins with one trip to Omaha. I base this upon gut, not numbers. He will never live up to fan expectations for someone selected as the first overall pick. Otherwise, this is Horacio Ramirez's spot...and I'd predict the same win total for him.
Conclusion: Starting pitching will be marginally better than 2008.
Joakim Soria was the second-most unexpected treat of 2008. The numbers dictate that he will slip a little from last year…but that’s okay considering how great he was. Still the unquestioned closer and one of the 5 best in the AL.
Beyond that, the bullpen is going to be shaky. Kyle Farnsworth is a big scary guy who throws hard. He’s never been all that effective. Ron Mahay is...Ron Mahay. We'll miss Leo Nunez more than you'd think.
Conclusion: Relief pitching will be marginally worse than 2008.
Catcher – Miguel Olivo is purportedly the starter, and John Buck the backup. They’re the same player, so I don’t care either way. Production outlook: same as last year.
First base/Designated Hitter – Warning! Logjam ahead. Mike Jacobs and Billy Butler will likely be the DH/1B combo most of the year. That’s the best combination we’ve had in a while. Both players are incredibly one-dimensional, but that one dimension is offense. Jacobs will basically be a sane, left-handed Jose Guillen (bad OBP, good power numbers, absolutely zero mentions of how much the fans suck). I’m not sold on Butler, but he’ll be a little better than last year. If one guy goes down, Kila Ka’aihue awaits. Who knows what we’ll do with Shealy and Gload. Outlook: Significantly better numbers than last year.
Second base – Alberto Callaspo is average defensively, can’t run, and has no power. He’s the type who can hit .300…and slug .350. Yet the biggest question about Callaspo doesn’t touch on his baseball limitations—it’s whether he’s enough of an adult to stay in shape and not get a DUI during the season. Unfortunately, he’s the best they’ve got. He’ll be a marked decline from Grudzielanek last year. If only they could have gotten Orlando Hudson… Outlook: Worse than last year.
Shortstop – It’s Mike Aviles or bust. He came from nowhere to hit .325 and play a decent shortstop. I don’t see him getting any better, but that’s okay--he’s miles ahead of Tony Pena Jr. Outlook: Slightly better than last year, if only because Aviles will play all year.
Third Base – Alex Gordon’s numbers will improve slightly over last year. Sorry, but I can’t see him ever being the superstar we hoped he’d be. His swing has too many holes. I hope I’m wrong.
Outfield – David DeJesus is in his prime and will put up solid numbers again. Like many Royals fans, I absolutely despise Jose Guillen. He’s harder to root for than Neifi Perez. That said, with Jacobs in the lineup he’ll get a few more pitches to hit. Coco Crisp will be great in centerfield. I’m afraid he won’t hit…a leadoff man with an OBP around .300 is dreadful. Outlook: About the same overall outfield numbers as last year.
Add it all up, and you figure they’ll be marginally better than last year. So…
80-82. Just like I said before I wasted all this time thinking.
What’ve you got?