Opinion

These statistics show impact of Joakim Soria’s struggles on Royals

Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Joakim Soria.
Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Joakim Soria. jsleezer@kcstar.com

This is the continuation of a weekly stats column to examine how this year’s Royals compare to the 2015 World Series champions. All numbers through Tuesday’s game.

Joakim Soria couldn’t come through in his latest high-leverage situation Tuesday night, letting in three runs during the Royals’ 5-4 loss to the Athletics at Kauffman Stadium.

So how much have Soria’s struggles actually cost the Royals? As you might guess, there’s a stat for that.

In this instance, it’s Win Probability Added, which “credits or debits the player based on how much their action increased their team’s odds of winning.”

No surprise, but Soria’s WPA has been awful the last two weeks. In fact, he’s had four instances where he dropped the Royals’ expected win percentage in a game by at least 20 percent.

Aug. 30 (negative-30 percent)

  

Sept. 4 (negative-45 percent)

  

Sept. 7 (negative-23 percent)

  

Sept. 13 (negative-61 percent)

  

There are a few different ways to look at this. In the last seven days, Soria’s negative-0.75 WPA is last among 481 MLB pitchers. Over the last 14 days, his negative-1.04 WPA is second-worst out of 514 (Miami’s Fernando Rodney is at negative-1.05).

For the season, Soria has some company at the bottom when it comes to WPA. Among 298 relievers, Soria ranks second-to-last with a negative-2.10 WPA, leading only the Chicago White Sox’s Matt Albers (negative-2.64). In Royals’ history, Soria is seventh-worst among 480 relief pitchers.

The numbers also show Soria is not being used like other un-clutch relievers. “Average leverage index” or gmLI, lets us know how pressure-packed a situation is when a pitcher enters the game, with anything above 1 being considered above average.

Soria’s 1.44 average leverage index ranks 36th among 138 qualified relievers. Among the top 40, only four players have negative WPAs: Cory Gearrin (negative-0.28), Steve Cishek (negative-0.31), Erasmo Ramirez (negative-0.84) and Soria (negative-2.10).

What does it mean? For this season at least, no other manager has put as poor of a reliever as Soria in as many clutch situations as Yost.

Given the importance of Tuesday’s game as it relates to the wild card chase, Yost appeared to have other options, even with Wade Davis unavailable. For example, Baltimore’s Zach Britton — the leader in WPA at 5.03 — came in for a four-out save in the Orioles’ 6-3 victory over Boston on Tuesday.

The shame of it all might be this: Britton is not the best in WPA over the last month. In fact, his 0.51 doesn’t come close.

Instead, that title belongs to the Royals’ Kelvin Herrera, who has posted a 1.24 WPA over the last 30 days.

Let’s take a look at this week’s team numbers.

Hitting

2015 — .269/.322/.412 (Batting average/On-base percentage/Slugging percentage)

2016 — .262/.314/.399

Last 7 days — .249/.305/.373

The Royals continued their offensive struggles this week, hitting 20 percent worse than league average according to the all-encompassing Weighted Runs Created Plus. That ranked 22nd in the majors and fourth-worst in the American League.

Hitting with runners in scoring position

2015 — .282/.347/.426

2016 — .268/.330/.400

Jarrod Dyson perhaps doesn’t get enough credit for his hitting with runners in scoring position. In that situation, he’s hit .304 with a .403 on-base percentage, with an overall battling line that is 34 percent better than league average according to wRC+.

Starting pitching

2015 — 4.34 ERA, 16.8 K%, 7.6 BB%

2016 — 4.57, 20.1, 8.2

Last 7 days — 4.67, 18.2, 9.5

The Royals’ starters have improved to the point where they are no longer chasing history. KC’s rotation is now allowing 1.54 home runs per nine innings, which is eighth-worst all-time but well behind this year’s Reds, who are on pace to set a new MLB record (1.65).

Relief pitching

2015 — 2.72, 22.9, 8.7

2016 — 3.33, 22.7, 8.1

Last 7 days — 9.35, 18.4, 10.3

How rough was the week for the Royals’ relievers? They allowed 18 earned runs over the last seven days, which is more than they surrendered in all of August (17).

Defense

2015 — 51 defensive runs saved (.315 per game, 2nd in MLB)

2016 — 35 defensive runs saved (.243 per game, T-4th in MLB)

The Royals are excelling in one spot defensively: the outfield. KC’s outfielders have combined for 46 defensive runs saved, which is the best mark in the MLB. Houston is second in the stat at 40 DRS, while Baltimore is worst at negative-51.

Top 5 in Fangraphs WAR

2015 — Cain 6.6, Moustakas 3.8, Hosmer 3.5, Gordon 2.8, Ventura 2.7

2016 — Duffy 3.1, Cain 2.5, Perez 2.4, Dyson 2.1, Herrera 2.1

Dyson’s 2.1 WAR ranks 18th among 42 center fielders this season. His combination of strong plate discipline, defense and base-running have made him an underrated player and one the Royals should keep around in 2017 even if his $1.725 million contract doubles (or more) in his final year of arbitration.

Bottom 5 in Fangraphs WAR

2015 — Infante -0.9, Guthrie -0.9, Almonte -0.4, Gomes -0.3, Coleman -0.2

2016 — Young -1.2, Mondesi -0.5, Pounders -0.5, Gee -0.2, Burns -0.2

Though Chris Young is having the worst season of his career, Yost has limited the damage by keeping him out of high-leverage spots. Young’s WPA is only -0.14, which is much better than Soria’s number above (-2.10). The difference is that Young, after struggling early, was not given future opportunities to cost the Royals close games.

Jesse Newell: 816-234-4759, @jessenewell

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