So: Should the Braves model themselves after the Royals?

Kansas City Royals’ Alcides Escobar watches his RBI single against the New York Mets during the fifth inning of Game 2 of the Major League Baseball World Series Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Kansas City Royals' Alcides Escobar watches his RBI single against the New York Mets during the fifth inning of Game 2 of the Major League Baseball World Series Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Alcides Escobar puts the Royals ahead in Game 2. #EskyMagic, as it’s known. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

In yesterday’s missive regarding the 2015 baseball playoffs and what they might augur for the rebuilding Atlanta Braves, I mentioned the importance of young pitching and deft drafting and daring dealing. One thing I didn’t mention was building a lineup of contact hitters, which the Kansas City Royals have done.

Seeing that the Royals are playing in their second consecutive World Series and are leading this one 2-nil, and seeing that the Braves made a concerted effort to cut back on strikeouts under new administration, this omission might have seemed an oversight by yours truly. It wasn’t. I didn’t include the contact-hitting stuff because I’m not sure contact hitting – at least the way the Royals do it – will work long-term for any team but the Royals.

Here’s what I mean. The Royals had the fewest strikeouts of any team in baseball and won 95 games. The Braves had the second-fewest strikeouts and lost 95 games. Putting the ball in play is a noble enough concept but, in and of itself, it’s not enough. The Braves cut their strikeouts by 262 from last year to this – and scored the same number of runs (573). They went from being the second-worst offense in baseball to the absolute worst.

Even as we marvel at the Royals’ capacity to string together hits – “Keep the line moving,” is their slogan; it’s also something Fredi Gonzalez and presumably every manager preaches – we should note that the inability to avoid striking out doesn’t a mighty offense make.

Sabermetricians differ over what the most important offensive stat is: Some say on-base percentage; others say, duh, runs. The Royals were only pretty good at both. They ranked sixth in the 15-team American League in runs, seventh in OBP. And being skilled at putting the ball in play doesn’t mean the Royals were selective: They were last in the AL in walks. They don’t necessarily wait for good pitches to hit – Alcides Escobar, of whom we’re about to hear more, swings at almost anything – but they hit the ball when they swing.

What the Royals have done is maximize an offense that lacks power (next-to-last in the AL in homers ), but I wouldn’t deem it a new paradigm. They’re very good at what they do — Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs dubbed this the best contact-hitting team ever — but some of what they do defies rational thought.

Case study: The aforementioned Alcides Escobar. The sabermetric set has spent the postseason scratching its collective head over the thought of deploying a guy with an OBP of .293 as leadoff man. (In 2014, the player then known as B.J. Upton had an OBP of .287 for your Atlanta Braves.) As Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus wrote today: “Sometimes it’s important to remember that Alcides Escobar is one of the very worst hitters in baseball.

And yet: He’s hitting leadoff for a team that’s two games from a World Series title, and he was MVP of the ALCS. He led off Game 1 of the Series with an inside-the-park home run — should have been scored an E-8, not that you asked — on Matt Harvey’s first pitch; he had the biggest hit of Game 2, an RBI single after falling behind Jacob deGrom 0-2, the two strikes having come on fouled bunt attempts.

In this postseason, Escobar hasn’t just kept the line moving – he’s the line leader. But I’m not sure the Braves should model themselves on a team that has its worst everyday player (going by WAR value) hitting first. As the stat guys would say, that’s not sustainable.

Reader Comments 0

54 comments
FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

PR wise the Braves have handled this so call rebuild or what ever you want to call it in the worst way possible. IT does not help that they remain profitable putting together a garbage team like they did & we are supposed to believe in this so called master plan


FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

The worst thing they could do is bring Mike Minor back he is a waste. 



Jpace
Jpace

I have no confidence in Braves top management to either model the Braves reconstruction after anyone...much less figure it out for themselves. I also think that you (as much as I enjoy reading just about everything you write about Atlanta sports) are giving the 3 Johns AND Liberty Media a huge pass for what's happened to the Braves. Suggestion - Go do an extensive interview of John C. Malone, Liberty Media Chairman. Ask him some simple questions about the team that his company owns...like "Can you name 3 players on the Braves team?". I'd like to see that interview video published under the headline "Meet the Braves Owner". I don't know the guy and he might be a superstar in a lot of ways but he doesn't live here and there is no evidence that he cares about the Braves. We deserve better.

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan



Malone and Maffei do not care about you or the local area


richbrave
richbrave

In this order, the BRAVES need to: 


1 - secure a starting catcher, and get what they can for BETHANCOURT, Re-sign PIERZYNSKI and don't expect such excellent results in 2016 as he gave in 2015.


2 - secure a bat for the four hole ahead of OLIVERA, then hope his will support who we get offensively.


3 - make some organizational 'pen moves by signing VIZCAINO before arb, take FOLTY to the pen, see if CHRIS WITHROW, SHAE SIMMONS, and MO CABRERA have sufficiently recovered to become solid righties there, if PETER MOYLAN has another year left as an effective pitcher, then fill in from the free agent market with necessary geezers to give us a year of good play. We need three solid lefties for the 'pen. JASON GRILLI's under contract, but I'm pretty sanguine of a stellar return from him.


4 - solidify the starters behind TEHERAN, MILLER, and WISLER. Find two lefties for the rotation from within the organization, or go to the market by trade of a righty or FA. MANNY BANUELOS needs to pan out for one LH slot. Don't expect a return of MIKE MINOR for the second. If he is successful great, but to me that would be a surprise.

Mora-less-Petrino
Mora-less-Petrino

Ned Yost and Dayton Moore. Aren't the Royals modeled after the pre-Wren Braves?

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

I said the EXACT same thing on the other blog MB put out about the Braves. Only difference is the PASSION that the Royals have; something the Braves have lacked since they were young, stupid and fun to watch.

sh11
sh11

We should pattern ourselves after the Royals to a certain degree.  Pitching, defense, contact hitting, and speed on the base paths is absolutely what we should be going for in Atlanta.  However, the Braves do not play (nor will they play) in a stadium that perfectly designed for that.  We still need a guy or two that can hit 20-30 hrs per year.  And the Royal's Escobar should NOT be be our prototypical lead off guy.  He was hot during the playoffs but his on base % is way too low to be able to rely upon that kind of production at the top.  But I love the way KC plays the game.  I love the speed and the aggressiveness on the base paths.  And I would love to see the Braves emulate that part of their game.

LEWWHEEL
LEWWHEEL

I am old and don't know squat about saber metrics, but I know that if a team makes contact instead of striking out, more hits are recorded. Not just the Royals, but almost every team in baseball has proved the point to the Braves this years.  Ok one last dig ... if the Braves wanted to emulate the Royals, they should have hired  Ned Y and Clayton Moore a few years ago... Go Braves!

scottylovesthetitans
scottylovesthetitans

@LEWWHEEL  We should pattern ourselves after the Royals.  It has only taken Moore nine years to get where they are.


AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

Why hire then when they BOTH worked here and took the Braves model to KC.

Peachs
Peachs

Bradley finally wrote an article that equals the reality of Georgia.  Claims he had been on that trend the whole time but I beg to differ.  I can't figure out if we just mail things in and occasionally take a real look at what we are writing or if he is part of the PR machine and cannot write a even handed article anymore.  Braves are the best thing this town has had in my lifetime and they never get the benefit he has given the Dawgs for years. 

mthomas
mthomas

Mr. Bradley, you say the Braves had the second-fewest strikeouts and still lost 95 games. They lost 95 games because 1) they had a terrible bullpen, 2) even though they didn't strike out much, they couldn't score many runs and 3) their starting pitching was bad (except for Tehren , post-All-Star break , and Miller).

The Royals, on the other hand, have an excellent bullpen, they score enough runs, and have good starting pitching.

sh11
sh11

@58Supersports @mthomas a good manager that fans were trying to run out of Kansas City even as late as last summer.  But look what happens when you get all the pieces of the puzzle together on a team - the manager suddenly looks good.

AcrusaderO
AcrusaderO

The Braves need to sign a number one starter and a good bullpen. The offense is going to be ok. Freddie missed half the season it seems due to injury.

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

Scroll down and read "EXTREMUS" post and he has it about spot on! Let me add something to it. I cant remember how long ago but the KC/GM guess where he came from? If I am right he came from none other than the Braves! The Manager who runs that team...guess where he came from. Go head say it! The Bravea!

Here is the deal the "KC Model" that Bradley speaks off is not the KC model! It is the Atlanta Braves Model of the first team they put together a long time ago when Justice, Gant, Lopez , Klesko and others were here! Yep the Braves had pop back then just like KC has now and they had pitching, a bullpen, defense, a good manager, and timely hitting!

Here is the difference Braves fan! The thing that KC has that the Braves do not have and have not had for almost 20 years is PASSION. They been playing this game like they go into a bankers office; no passion, no drive, no nothing! All the talent in the world cant replace passion. Passion can make a young stupid team who is not supposed to win actually win for a long time...ask the Braves and the Red Sox and the Royals and the Mets and a lot of teams who have left the Braves in the dust for years!

The missing thing here in Atlanta is passion...no amount of talent can replace that! Dont believe me look at our talented first baseman! All the talent in the world...where is the passion?

GeorgeJetsen
GeorgeJetsen

Nothing likely to change around here regarding WS titles so long as tweedle dee and tweedle dum aka Scheurholz and Cox are stil calling the shots. Even with 3 future HOF pitchers these guys could only muster 1 WS title in 5 trips (20% win percentage for those bad at math) including going winless in their last 8 WS games- yes I said eight!- from game 3 in 1996 through game 4 in 1999. As far as I'm concerned these guys should have been given their walking papers following the 99' season but true to ATL form their still hanging around today some 16 years later.

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

Note that the Braves no longer have a middle of the road payroll -- they have a low budget payroll now -- bottom third in MLB for this yr


And I do not believe Liberty will increase it much when the new palace and village comes around


I get a laugh when some apologists say LM makes no decisions -- who do you think makes the business decisions such as budget with the team  

reckingball
reckingball

Comparing KC's offense to the Brave's offense is kind of absurd, being as, one team is a WS contender, and the other is a gutted to the bone, burnt to the ground, rebuild project.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@reckingball 

I think Bradley's point in comparing the Braves and Royals is comparing the 2015 Braves to the 2011 Royals.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@VeryDisgusted @reckingball 

Pitching depth is pretty good in the system, if they all recover from their Tommy John Surgery. But are the system is pretty thin on quality position players. 

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

@Buschleaguer 


Maybe one or two of them will recover from TJ surgery -- how good they will be at the MLB level is anyone's guess


As for Fried -- I cannot see him really being MLB ready till maybe 2018 and you have to figure a learning curve when he gets here


He really has not pitched much in professional baseball to date so he really is a project

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@reckingball

Actually all I was comparing was the records of the two teams the 2011 Royals lost 95 games similar to what the 2015 Braves did. That is the only comparison between the two teams I could find.

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

@reckingball 


The Braves will not get better till they get better players -- the approach of putting the ball in play is fine if you have a lineup of balanced line drive hitters


Doubles are important too -- I am a fan of doubles which is why I still like NIck Markakis


I think he can hit 10-12 HRS again not having to recover from surgery this off season and he is not that old


Another point is the everyday players in the system are either in the very low minors or not impact guys at the higher level of the minors


Cannot reiterate the lack of talent all over the system

reckingball
reckingball

@Buschleaguer ......I must of missed it, but I didn't see any mention of the 2011 Royals in MB's writeup. There is no point in comparing last season's Braves with the last season's Royals. 

Kenny Powers
Kenny Powers

This team will not get any better until it gets a manager that can help develop young talent. Sorry Fredi lovers he ain't the guy. Name me one guy that fully developed into an all-star, from debut onwards under Fredi. In fact a lot of his guys come up and flatten out with no progression whatsoever.

mgunter
mgunter

Line drive hitters are what we need......bet we could get a couple of em for Simmons. His defense is wasted on this team. We are two .300 hitters away from competing.

DrTruth
DrTruth

@mgunter Starting pitching ERA was 20 out of 30 & bullpen was 29 out of 30.  Can't compete with anyone until that's fixed.  Maybe Kimbrel's available?  I hear he's pretty good...

scottylovesthetitans
scottylovesthetitans

@Jetiredo  At the very least. It took Moore eight years to get the Royals contending. I would say it will take us about the same.

Hammerman
Hammerman

Light years away from the WS,why bother speculating.

RangeRover
RangeRover

Bradley,

Please tell me you're not this dumb?  It's not just avoiding strikeouts, it's about hitting the ball were they aren't!

Geez!


extremus
extremus

It's a bit ironic that this article is suggesting the Braves emulate the Royals' approach to team-building when the foundation for their run of success during the 1990s involved bringing in John Schuerholz from Kansas City to be their GM.  That was about where the Braves started seeing success and the Royals, who'd been perennial contenders, dropped off the map.


Of course by now Schuerholz and Bobby Cox...the "Old Guard"...may well be part of the problem that's pretty much dismantled every remaining vestige of the glory those Braves teams reached.  Eventually the well, or in this case the person/people who were responsible for your success at one point, runs dry and you need to move on.  The "rebuild" will likely take a lot longer than anyone in the organization wants to admit because they need a COMPLETE restructuring with new blood and new, better expectations, from top to bottom (a human ownership wouldn't hurt either, of course).


Until it happens, the Braves new stadium will be a pretty, shiny new landmark that'll remind their fans more of a mausoleum than a ballpark...because the exterior and all the "rebuilding" rhetoric can't hide the fact that the product inside has decayed beyond recognition or hope of recovery.  At least not while the current regime reigns.

jdcigar
jdcigar

The Braves brass has no interest in winning a championship.  As long as they turn a profit, Liberty Media is happy.  Now with the new stadium and concessions, etc. they will be fine for years as long as they can appear competitive.  They will be a middle of the road club with a middle of the road payroll.

seminoleking
seminoleking

As long as yall buy season tickets at the new stadium..............the braves could care less how the team is built........

DawginLex
DawginLex

You mean like go hire Tony LaRussa?


Yes, I would agree with that

Ersatz
Ersatz

Even Royals fans, whose team actually wins games, think that barves fans have an embarrassment of riches, what with the 29-story Applebee's in barvesworld.  The barves front office hogs and cobb political fat cats eat and drink like kings as they stuff their regally fat faces with all the brewskis, tater skins, and babyback ribs that the cobb taxpayer peons' money can buy.  The billionaires appreciate having such quiet and gullible subjects, even while they're getting royally screwed.  It's good to be king.

RangeRover
RangeRover

@Ersatz

Just vote for Hillary, STFU, and know that people like me will still support you.

DrTruth
DrTruth

This is exactly why John Hart's Moneyball is about to fail in epic fashion:  "That guy can't hit because the numbers say he can't hit so he shouldn't be playing at all.....Release him"  So the diamond in the rough is stepped over for a player whose numbers say "he will be the next Cuban defector superstar in MLB.  Sign him, no matter what the cost."


A professional baseball TEAM is not a collection of numbers on the latest spreadsheet.....And that's all John Hart & Coppy see when they see the Braves players and prospects:  numbers.  Numbers don't pitch, numbers don't field, numbers don't hit and they sure as hell don't manage.


John Hart is building a team of robots to play baseball, interchangeable cogs (to him) in an emotionless machine.  Look at the 2 teams playing the WS.  They aren't mindless robots.  They're teammates who believe in each other and give everything they have every time they take the field.  Of course they're also talented players.


Look at the Braves down the stretch this season and you see the exact opposite of those two teams.....Thank you John Hart, once again.

SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

@DrTruth 

Yeah, Frank Wren and his collection of sub .200 "sluggers" should have been given another season to make it work.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@DrTruth

Doc,

As for a low price ,low risk replacement for Fredo the Braves might want to try Marty Pevey. He has managed the Cubs AAA team in Iowa and has helped to develop the young talented position players that are now on the major league team. His team has also averaged around 80 wins a season Not too bad for around a 140 game schedule.

DrTruth
DrTruth

@Buschleaguer  Honestly, I'm so sick of hearing him stutter through post-game pressers where sometimes he can't even remember if they just played in ATL or some other city, if he pulled a pitcher in the 3rd or 6th inning or if the winning run was driven in by a single or double that I'd settle for Patrick Star replacing Fredi.


But it's just more silly dreaming until Bobby Cox is dead and buried.  That's truly what it will take for Fredi to be fired from this organization.

DrTruth
DrTruth

@SaveAmericaFromItself   Aw, come on man!  Why don't you tell us how you REALLY feel?


SaveAmericaFromItself 1 hour ago

Where did I say the 2015 Braves under John Hart were relevant?



There, that's much better.....Couldn't have said it better myself.