The surprising playoff run of the Kansas City Royals invokes images and reminders of the 2007 National League Champion Colorado Rockies. Like the Royals, the Rockies shocked the baseball world, making it to the postseason after wallowing at the bottom of their division for many years. Colorado finished fourth or fifth nine straight seasons prior to their World Series run, and the Royals have not sniffed the playoffs in nearly three decades.
The path to the pennant was similar for both teams, as neither lost any playoff games prior to the World Series. The Rockies swept the Phillies three straight games, and then beat the Diamondbacks in four games, making it to the World Series a crisp 7-0. Likewise, the Royals beat the Athletics in the one game Wild Card showdown, then swept the Angels three straight in the American League Divisional Series. They then went on to silence the Orioles taking four more in a row, winning the pennant on an impressive 8-0 run.
The similarities do not end with the hot streak each brought with them into the World Series — the numbers tell us the 2014 Royals and 2007 Rockies are far more similar than different, something Royals fans may not want to hear considering the irrelevance of the Rockies since their unlikely playoff success.
|Team||Pitcher fWAR||Starter fWAR||Starter ERA-||Starter FIP-|
In 2007, the Rockies starting pitchers ended the season with a 96 ERA- and 97 FIP-. The Royals starters as a whole had a slightly better ERA- at 93, but a worse FIP- at 101. The Colorado staff was led by Jeff Francis, the Rockies' most productive pitcher, who was worth 3.8 fWAR. Similarly, the Royals had one excellent starter in James Shields. Shields was worth 3.7 WAR, and had an 83 ERA- and a 94 FIP-. Overall, Colorado's starters were worth 12.3 fWAR to the Royals' 12.9, and both teams had only one starting pitcher accumulate more than three wins above replacement.
|Team||Pitcher fWAR||Bullpen fWAR||Bullpen ERA-||Bullpen FIP-|
The KC relievers have shut down hitters this postseason after accumulating an 5.9 fWAR via an 85 ERA-, and an 86 FIP- this season. Comparatively, the ‘07 Rockies' bullpen was good for an even better 80 ERA- and an equal 86 FIP-, though they trailed KC by one additional win above replacement, ending the year with a 4.9 bullpen fWAR.
The Royals accumulated their 6.8 WAR from their ‘Big Three' of Wade Davis (3.1), Greg Holland (2.3) and Kelvin Herrera (1.4), which mitigated the under-replacement performances of Aaron Crow (-.9) and Louis Coleman (-.5). The Rockies accumulated their bullpen value in a different way. Only Manny Corpas had a WAR above 1.0, though 12 pitchers amassed positive value coming out of the bullpen.
|Team||Positional Player fWAR||wOBA||wRC+||HR||SB||CS||BB%||K%|
Although the Rockies and Royals created runs and accumulated value in different ways, their positional player fWARs are almost identical. Neither team had a potent offense — by wRC+, the 2007 Rockies ranked 14th in MLB and this year's Royals finished 18th in the majors. Despite hitting nearly twice as many home runs, the Rockies offense was only 3% better than the 2014 Royals when compared to league average. The Rockies hit more home runs, doubles, and triples, but did not steal as many bases. KC netted 153 stolen bases on 189 attempts, an 80% success rate, while the Rockies stole 100 bases on 131 attempts, at a 76% success rate.
The Royals not only play in a pitcher's park, but in a pitcher's era - vastly different than the 2007 run-environment of Coors Field. When the numbers are park-adjusted, and when the current run-scoring environment is accounted for, the teams amassed similar offensive value. The numbers may look different, but each process resulted in a nearly identical number of created runs compared to the rest of their respective leagues.
The biggest difference between the two clubs is in defensive value. By UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) and DEF (‘fielding runs above average' + applying a positional adjustment), the Royals outfield created tremendous value. The entire Royals outfield of Alex Gordon / Jarrod Dyson / Lorenzo Cain amassed a collective 53.5 DEF, 60.3 UZR and 65 defensive runs saved. For the Rockies, Troy Tulowitzki and Kaz Matsui were the only players with a 10+ UZR for a team that had a negative DEF and a vastly inferior UZR, when compared to this year's Royals team.
Diving into the numbers shows the two teams are quite similar on the pitching and hitting side, and both got hot at the right time. Each club went undefeated to win the pennant to represent their leagues in the World Series.
In 2007,the Rockies ultimately were swept by the juggernaut Boston Red Sox, and won only 74 games the year after their World Series run. Even if the second wild-card had existed, they would have been outside the playoff picture in 2008. Royals fans are hoping their magic ride becomes the norm, and that they can overcome the potential ‘one-year wonder' label. While an additional wild-card increases their odds of making it back to the postseason, the ‘07 Rockies demonstrate history is not in their favor - though perhaps we will get a glimpse of excellent defense propelling a team to something special.
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All statistics courtesy of Fangraphs.
Steven Martano is a contributing writer at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @SMartano.