This is certainly not the most interesting thing that happened around the Royals yesterday, and before we go any further we should acknowledge that the Royals have now won five of seven since the All-Star break and despite that miserable weekend in Cleveland finish up a 20-game stretch against nothing but playoff-caliber teams at .500.
By SAM MELLINGER
The Kansas City Star
It’s enough that the Royals are probably not going to sell before next week’s trade deadline, no matter what I say, and the second half will be about whether they can win enough games to put a positive spin on a critical season for general manager Dayton Moore.
But, I wake up this morning thinking about manager Ned Yost finding a new way to ask for patience last night. Ned has a tough job, you know. His contract expires after this season and must remain positive no matter what. The Royals have made an organizational decision that, especially with Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, the message is one of patience and positivity and nothing else.
I think we all understand why he’s doing this, and to be clear, I think it’s the right thing for Yost to say publicly. I also think it puts him in an awkward spot of pushing two messages that at least on the surface butt heads: patience for Moustakas and Hosmer, AND that it’s “time to go” and start winning more games in the second half.
Anyway, the positive stuff is being pushed to an extreme that creates moments like Yost answering a question about George Brett and tangent-ing into this about Moose and Hosmer:
“It takes time. It really does. It takes time. We lose sight of that fact. I did a comp yesterday because I wanted to see what the numbers would come out to be, because I was interested. I (compared) Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, George Brett, Andre Dawson, Robin Yount, Barry Larkin, Mike Schmidt, and Ryne Sandberg. You’d be amazed how relatively close the numbers are in each of those players’ first three years. Mike Schmidt had a bunch of homers, but Hos and Moose play in a big ballpark. You know? They talk about not seeing enough pitches. Nobody on that list, they were walking like six and seven percent. Except for Mike Schmidt. He walked 15 percent. But he also struck out 25 percent. So it just goes to show you, when you match up these kids with five Hall of Famers in their first three years, their numbers are fairly comparable. You have to give these kids to grow, to learn these lessons, to get the confidence. To get to know the opposition.”
Now, I think we all know that numbers can be twisted to prove different points but Ned’s curiosity made me curious so I looked it up, too. And, well, I think our standards of amazement about how “relatively close the numbers are” is just different.
When comparing different players over different periods of time, it’s often best to look at OPS+, otherwise known as “adjusted OPS.” Basically, OPS+ takes a player’s on-base-plus-slugging percentage and adjusts it for league and ballpark factors. An OPS+ of 100 is exactly average; 110 is 10 percent above average, 90 is 10 percent below average, and so on.
So, well, here are the numbers (age during the last season we’re comparing, total games, plate appearances, batting average/on-base/slugging, and OPS+):
George Brett, 1973-75: 22, 305 G, 1,224 PA, .291/.329/.408, 106.
Andre Dawson, 1976-78: 23, 320 G, 1,318 PA, .264/.309/.446, 108.
Barry Larkin, 1986-88: 24, 317 G, 1,309 PA, .275/.328/.404, 99.
Ryne Sandberg, 1981-83: 23, 327 G, 1,392 PA, .265/.313/.360, 85.
Mike Schmidt, 1972-74: 24, 307 G, 1,169 PA, .247/.366/.472, 130.
Robin Yount, 1974-76: 20, 415 G, 1,661 PA, .257/.294/.335, 82.
Now, let’s leave Hosmer out of this. He was terrible last year, his first full season in the big leagues, so it’s easy to miss that he’s been otherwise very good. He drove in another last night, is hitting .311/.351/.532 since June 1 – basically, Adrian Beltre – and overall is at .286/.336/.435.
His OPS+ this year is 112, second on the team, and good enough that his career mark is back in the black (103). He needs to continue to improve to be what the Royals hope, but the concern level on Hosmer is down to at least orange, maybe yellow.
So this is mostly about Moustakas, which is a critical point, because if the Royals are wrong about him or Hosmer, most everything else this front office has done will be wasted.
And right now, Moustakas – who turns 25 in September – is hitting .223/.282/.345 – and that’s after a much better last two months.
Overall, nearly three years into his career: .324 G, 1,302 PA, 243/.296/.383, 86 OPS+.
Right off the bat, you can see that Moustakas is a ways behind Schmidt^, Dawson^^, and Brett^^^.
^ Led the league in homers and slugging in his second full season, at the age of 24.
^^ Rookie of the Year in 1977.
^^^ Hit .308 and led the league in hits and triples in 1975, the year he turned 22.
Larkin hit .296, stole 40 bases, made the All-Star team and won the Silver Slugger award in his second full season, as a 24-year-old. Yount was 18 when he played his first game, but by the time he turned 24 he hit .293 with 23 homers and led the league with 49 doubles in 1980.
Sandberg … well, this one is Ned’s best piece of evidence. But the year after what our little exercise here covers, Sandberg broke out and won the MVP at the age of 24, so…
Anyway, I’m not trying to pick on Ned here. Like I say, he has a tough job and he’s being put in a position to make a stretch or two to further the cause. I think we all understand this. Moustakas may very well turn into a productive big leaguer, still. The tools are there. He’s in a much better place than two months ago.
But he is behind schedule, and significantly so. It’s OK for Ned to say otherwise. It’s OK for the rest of us to know the truth.