There appears to be a large amounts of positive buzz surrounding the Kansas City Royals defense this off season. Multiple articles have been written to praise the Royals defense, while other stories referencing the Royals pitching staff make sure to compliment the defenders. Below is a sample of quotes I pulled from writers talking about the Royals defense.
(The Royals) see their defense as being as good as any in the American League.Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2012/10/06/3850839/royals-only-real-offseason-priority.html#storylink=cpy
Rick Porcello, for instance, would be a much better fit in front of the Royals' athletic defense than he is in Detroit.
There's a lot to be said for Kansas City's defense. Mostly because less is being said about it.
The Royals soon could become the first team in the history of the Gold Glove award, which started in 1958, to have five winners on the same team.
All of the articles taken together paint the picture that the Royals have a defense that is the toast of the league. While the Royals have some nice defensive pieces and could improve their defense from last season, it is pretty much impossible to claim that the Royals had an elite defense last season; on the contrary, Kansas City played below average defense last year. Furthermore, having a good defense should not be used as an excuse to justify pitchers Dayton Moore acquires this off-season, especially since the Royals will not likely field a high-quality defense next season.
Below is a table of the Royals' defensive statistics last season, some traditional, same advanced.
The statistics suggest that the Royals were below average to awful last season, depending on which statistics you want to use. Ironically, the more advanced UZR and Plus/Minus suggest the Royals were better than the more traditional Fielding Percentage and Defensive Efficiency claim.
I tend to trust team defensive statistics more than I trust individual defensive statistics. It's still important, however, to examine the Royals as individuals to see misconceptions between perception and reality, as well as to search for improvements.
A few thoughts about the Royals individual defensive statistics:
When I talk to people who are proponents of this "Royals have a great defense" myth, they like to point out how dominant the left side of the field performed. Even if granted this dubious claim, these same proponents do not enjoy to acknowledge how terribly the right side of the infield played last season.
While I believe the Royals will have a better defense this season than last season, it's not likely to be a significant improvement. It seems reasonable to project the Royals to have an average defense in the American League next year, but that is probably at the higher end of an accurate projection. The starting lineup will mostly look the same in April, so it's foolhardy to assume they will suddenly make a leap to become a great defense.
Furthermore, the Royals should not believe that their defense will off-set some the of the weakness in their starting rotation. If anything, the Royals needed starters last season that could hide some of their defensive deficiencies. Acquiring low strikeout starting pitchers that rely on their defense is a risky strategy for any team, but is an outright foolish one for a team that doesn't own a good defense.
The Royals cannot bank on having a strong defense next season; based on last season's statistics, they should assume the defense will be below-average and hope that it turns out average. Anyone who believes the Royals had one of the best defenses in the American League last year is basing their opinion on hype and wishful thinking rather than fact.