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August 26, 2014

Baseball Therapy

How Billy Beane Built the Royals

by Russell A. Carleton


Yes, I know.

***

It’s downright amazing what Billy Beane has done with the Kansas City Royals this year. They play in the sixth-oldest stadium in baseball and in the second-smallest media market. The Royals also play in the same division as the Tigers, who, despite already having two Cy Young Award winners on their staff, traded for David Price. Yet despite these major handicaps, the Royals are in first place in the AL Central.

Billy Beane is a genius! How did he do it? He followed simple sabermetric principles and thought differently about how to build a team. By doing so, he was able to find hidden value to power his team’s run at the playoffs.

The first part is a rather boring, tried-and-true method for building a winner, but it should be pointed out that the Royals' core is homegrown. Aaron Crow, Eric Hosmer, Greg Holland, Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Yordano Ventura, Kelvin Herrera, and Salvador Perez (get well soon!) were all either signed internationally or drafted by the Royals. And by locking up Alex Gordon to a team-friendly deal early in his career, Beane banked significant value and could add around it. (Gordon is on his way to another six-win season, his third in four years, and is making $10 and $12.5 million this year and next.)

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18 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

jfranco77

Bravo!

Aug 26, 2014 04:35 AM
rating: 5
 
garciamckinley

Well done.

Aug 26, 2014 04:43 AM
rating: 0
 
JoshC77

Beautiful!!!

Aug 26, 2014 04:52 AM
rating: 0
 
Taldan9
(107)

Is this Beane fella available to replace that de Podesta kid in Toronto?

Aug 26, 2014 06:52 AM
rating: 2
 
bisanders
(329)

"The trick is to make sure that if the wind starts to blow, your sail is unfurled to catch it."

Awesome line! Thanks.

Aug 26, 2014 07:53 AM
rating: 1
 
gjhardy

"In 2011, he tried a new approach in which he stopped being as passive with pitches out of the strike zone and began to swing at more of them." Is this correct? Or should it read "in the strike zone"?

Aug 26, 2014 07:59 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

Look at his O-Swing rates around that time. He started swinging more at stuff on the edges. It apparently worked.

Aug 26, 2014 08:15 AM
 
tbwhite
(361)

"There are no stupid general managers."

Kindly explain Ruin Tomorrow Jr then.....

Aug 26, 2014 08:14 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

It's easy to pile on a guy when he's down and when you don't have complete access to all of the info. There are things that I would have done differently than RAJ, but that doesn't make him an idiot.

Aug 26, 2014 08:22 AM
 
MattDavis

He may not be an idiot, but he IS a stupid general manager, or at least a bad one. He took over one of the best teams in baseball, with a good farm system, favorable contracts and more financial strength than all but a couple of teams, and turned it into a laughingstock in just 5 years, gutting the farm system and paying (hundreds of) millions for mediocre-to-bad players. Even if he was just following management's orders, that's not good enough.

Aug 26, 2014 08:31 AM
rating: 2
 
ethanwitte

But isn't the purpose of the farm system twofold: 1) to have cheap, replacement level talent freely available, 2) to use as market assets to upgrade your major league roster. While Amaro hasn't done well in part 1, he has leveraged his farm into Cliff Lee in 2009, Roy Halladay in 2010, and Hunter Pence in 2011, all three of which led to playoff appearances. That's what a farm system is for. He needs better luck with drafting players (though his 2013 and 2014 drafts are well regarded), but I'm not sure he's totally stupid.

Aug 26, 2014 10:37 AM
rating: 0
 
Tarakas

First Billy Beane wrote a book about how smart he is, and now he is writing a column to brag again!

But seriously, well done.

Aug 26, 2014 08:33 AM
rating: 7
 
jeffk393

But, you know who is stupid? That old Atlanta assistant GM Dayton Moore. Wonder what happened to him?

Aug 26, 2014 09:49 AM
rating: 1
 
kcboomer

Highly humorous. I knew that there had to be guidance from a "Higher Entity" for what is going on in KC.

The Royals analytics department is a joke. They hired these extremely bright guys only to lock them in the basement. They trot them out once a year when BP come to town. You will notice that even in the dead of summer none of those guys has a tan.

Aug 26, 2014 09:55 AM
rating: -3
 
touchstoneQu

While I applaud the roasting of narrative and agree with the conclusion, context does matter. Moore's had the team 8 years and produced an 86-win season and an August division lead. He put together the best farm system seen in recent memory (and I don't think all those early picks were slam dunks), but hadn't shown much ability to put together a major-league team. I'm assuming SSS and luck until we see prolonged and repeated success.

(Not calling Moore dumb, just maybe outmatched by his peers.)

That said, after how many games do we need to see from a GM before we draw any conclusions about skill?

Aug 26, 2014 12:18 PM
rating: 4
 
ofMontreal

Moore has had some things not work out, which is normal. Having your 3 stud hitters all fall flat on their faces is tough to overcome. I thought the Royals were a little too obvious with their program(tanking) but mostly it was exacerbated by how poorly previous regimes had done.

Aug 27, 2014 11:20 AM
rating: 0
 
ddietz2004

(There are no stupid general managers.)

Well, Ruben Amaro Jr. is still employed by the Phillies.

Aug 26, 2014 12:34 PM
rating: 1
 
Florko

Great article PizzaC- The Royals are projected as the 10th best/6th worst AL team ROS. Its very possible this team is more of a mirage than the real deal.

Aug 27, 2014 08:39 AM
rating: 1
 
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