Monday, January 31, 2005

Who are these guys? - Outfield

Last stop for position players. Just looking at the vast wasteland of pitching talent is making me a little nauseous, so I hung around with the outfielders longer than I intended. I also had to do a bit of ‘work’ at my day job, which is highly disappointing, because I thought they’d forgotten I was here. Oh well.

In other news, I’ve been looking through the newly-released 2005 PECOTA projections over at Baseball Prospectus. Looks like we’ll be okay on the offensive side of the ball this year and for pitching… ugh. Later. Royals Nightly has begun listing some of the numbers and their implications. I’ll probably throw in my two cents a bit closer to spring training.

On to the outfield!

Aaron Guiel
OPS+ 49

Guiel spent most of his early career working his way up through the Angels and Padres minor league organizations, showing some ability to get on base and occasionally hit for power (he slugged .600 at the AA level in 1997). A few injuries and low batting averages kept him from ever sniffing the major leagues, so he followed the Jake Taylor career path and wound up in Mexico.

Allard Baird brought the Canadian back stateside and he finally broke into the big leagues in 2002 at the age of 29. Vision problems put Guiel on the DL and into the minors again last year. He’s had several eye surgeries and hopes to be back on track for a roster spot in 2005.

Guiel’s best traits are getting on base and trying hard, which are admirable in a fourth outfielder, which is what he is. All he is. Got that, Tony?

David DeJesus
OPS+ 103

After struggling in his first call-up of the season, DeJesus was solid in replacing Carlos Beltran after the trade. He won’t put up Beltran’s power numbers, but he has above-average range in center field and his 400 plus OBPs from the minors seem to have translated well to the majors.

Oh, there is this one other thing: He can’t steal bases. Not even a little bit. Sure, it’s unfair to compare anybody’s stolen base ability with Beltran, but there isn’t anyone who can argue that getting thrown out at a 58% rate is anything but counterproductive. I mean, even Mike Sweeney managed to steal more bases than times he was caught last year, and his back is made out of kindling.

Terrance Long
OPS+ 101

I checked, even his platoon numbers aren’t that good over the last three years. My only guess is that Allard figured he would counteract Darryl May’s unique ability to give up home runs by swapping it out with Long’s unique ability to avoid hitting home runs. (3 total last year).

I wager that Long gains 3 home runs this year by moving from PetCo Park in San Diego to the second-worst park for power hitters, Kaufman Stadium. May, meanwhile, will probably give up half as many long balls, walk five people all year, and win the National League Cy Young award.

Eli Marrero
OPS+ 129

Marrero is another guy who’s been a part-time player his whole career, either through injury or platoon splits. He only racked up 274 plate appearances last year, putting up the best numbers of his career despite some early injury trouble with a strained rib cage and respiratory infection.

Aside from last year and 2002, Marrero has never been anything but a below average offensive player. He has managed to find time to field both outfield and shortstop, so if the Royals can find an inning or two of second base time for him, he might make the Craig Biggio hall of fame.

Abraham Nunez
OPS+ 64

Not to be confused with Abraham Nunez, Nunez was picked up from the Florida Marlins late in the season for Rudy Seanez. He started his career brilliantly, posting an OPS of 1.019 in his first three games, only to tailspin past mediocrity straight into the depths of very, very bad… very, very quickly.

He’s a little bit older than you’d like your young prospects to be, but then again, that’s what makes him a Royal. His last two seasons of minor league ball yielded lines of 250/329/477 in 2002 and 311/398/547 in 2003, so I guess the hope is that he was just fooling around with everybody last year and he’ll start hitting the ball “for reals” this season.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Prospectus Triple Play: Kansas City Royals

BP spends a few paragraphs discussing run deflation at Kauffman Stadium (yes, even with Messrs. May and Anderson having gopher ball contests every 4th and 5th day) and the chances that Big Cal (whom I am contractually obligated to always refer to as "Big Cal") will start.

You can read for yourself here.

They throw out the idea of trading away Mike Sweeney to get Pickering more time at DH. I'm not as high on this idea as most. Sweeney is a great marketing tool in the midwest, and he's proven himself as a big leaguer. He may be injury prone, but Pickering hasn't exactly put in a full 150 at the major league level yet.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Who are these guys? - First Base

More than just a peck on the cheek, achieving first base status means that your relationship has advanced beyond adolescent hand-holding, flushed cheeks and fervent glances. You’re in the big leagues now, and you’d better have your hands ready.

Below are the men who hope Tony Pena sees fit to flash them a little tongue this season, because they certainly won’t be flashing much leather.

All stat lines are for 2004. Designated hitters are considered first basemen in this study, as are fourth outfielders, fifth outfielders and Calvin Pickering.

Mike Sweeney
OPS+ 123

For all the disparaging talk about Mike Sweeney’s attitude, he finished fifth among all first basemen in Value Over Replacement Player (VORP), and led the team in OPS (not counting the dear departed Carlos) and Runs Created. Of course, he did most of this on EA Sports MVP Baseball 2004 while nursing a sore back.

When healthy, there is no doubt that Mike Sweeney is the class of the franchise and one of the best hitters in baseball. When not healthy, Mike Sweeney becomes the most-expensive cheerleader in Royals history.

To that end, he has been working with a new trainer out of Los Angeles in the off-season on a variety of trunk strengthening programs. I’m hoping he can manage to stay healthy enough to play 130 games this year. It’s a pipe dream for sure, but that’s pretty much what the off-season is for.

Also worth noting, there is a parallel universe where Sweeney has done quite well for himself.

Ken Harvey
OPS+ 101

Harvey took the Memorial Mike Sweeney All-Star Slot last year for the Royals, based largely on his batting average hovering above .350 for the first few months of the season. He finished the year on the disabled list and with two terrible months of batting that drug his season numbers down to league average.

Ken is entering what should be his statistical peak season as a 27 year old. Throughout college and the minors, he has shown the ability to hit for good average and little power. That’s a great combination for a second baseman, or a shortstop in the eighties, but Ken really needs to take some of Jon Daly’s advice this season, or else he’ll be stuck making millions of dollars a year from some sucker team that sees him as a ‘contact guy with clutch ability.’

Sadly, those suckers will probably be us.

Matt Stairs
OPS+ 110

Have bat. Will travel.

Stairs has been a consistent 265/360/490 guy for most of his career. While his defense as a first basemen/outfielder has been most-kindly described as “atrocious,” he does rake against right-handed pitchers (278/369/512 over the last three years). He even managed to go one for one on stolen bases last season, but to be honest, the stolen base came against Tampa Bay and they suck at everything.

As spare parts go, Stairs is a useful player to have around. Last year, injuries forced the Royals to use him much more often than intended. Ideally, he will be platooned this year with Ken Harvey and/or Calvin Pickering, providing the Royals with more than adequate production from the DH/1B slot.

More likely, a Spring Training mishap involving David DeJesus, Aaron Guile, Eli Marrero and Terrence Long will force Stairs to be the opening day center fielder. Should be fun.

Calvin Pickering
OPS+ 120

“What’d you do last year?”

“I hit 35 home runs for the Royals.”

“That’s fantastic. Why don’t I know who you are?”

“‘Cause it was the Omaha Royals.”

Big Cal became an underground sensation after he started the year at AAA by hitting 12 home runs in 12 games. He continued to terrorize pitchers in the Pacific Coast League, and was finally given a chance to join the big league club when Ken Harvey, Mike Sweeney and Wally Joyner all went on the disabled list at the end of the year. All he did for the big club was draw walks and hit home runs. Unfortunately, that is all he does, period.

A born designated hitter/“first baseman” in the same mold as David Ortiz of the Red Sox, Pickering’s biggest obstacle in his career has been a penchant for getting hurt. Injuries to his shoulder and leg kept him off the field for significant time in 2002-03. The other obstacle is, of course, being listed fourth on a depth chart that contains a slap-hitting big man, and an aging veteran outfielder.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Who are these guys? - Second Base

Tony Graffanino
OPS+ 79

Graffanino has only cracked 100 games twice in his career, but has always proved to be a useful utility infielder. He heads into spring training this year as the leading candidate for second base, after Desi Relaford signed a contract to provide positive music and many ground balls in Colorado.

Tony kept his on-base percentage respectable last year, but did suffer a dip in power, which may be attributed to arthroscopic knee surgery in the early part of the season. He was slugging just over .400 (which still isn’t very good, but more in line with his career numbers) before the injury and finished the year at .335 which is, technically speaking, terrible.

After a full off-season of recovery from a second surgery on the knee in August, T-Graf (as all the cool kids call him) should be ready to put his pluck and veteran leadership to use in 2005.

Fun Fact: Tony and Jeremy Affeldt share the same birthday, June 6. The sixth is an off-day for the Royals, so I bet they both get wasted!
Ruben Gotay
OPS+ 83

Like Blanco at short, Gotay was one of many youngsters who got thrown into the fire last year. Another player who has demonstrated good on-base ability with little power, his walk rate took a big hit when faced with major-league pitching – once every 17.89 plate appearances versus 1/8.61 in the minors.

A new stat that The Hardball Times began tracking last year is line drive percentage (LD%). By this measure, Gotay was 10% better than league average at hitting line drives, which gave him a 15% better batting average on balls in play (BABIP). While the correlation between hitting line drives and increasing batting average has yet to be sufficiently researched, it will be interesting to see if young Ruben can continue to improve his plate discipline while spraying frozen ropes into the valleys of Kauffman Stadium.

Donnie Murphy
OPS+ 26

You’ll notice from the AVG/OBP numbers that Donnie didn’t bother taking any walks in his cup of coffee with the parent club last season. 27 at bats in seven games are too small of a sample to really tell us anything about his ability, but I will note that three of his five hits were doubles. Should he keep that pace up over an entire season, he would best Earl Webb’s single-season record for doubles by two.

I have sincere doubts that Earl’s heirs are concerned at the moment.

Murphy also stopped stealing bases in 2004, grabbing just two at all levels after swiping 15 in A ball the year before. I’m sure there is a very good reason for the 86% drop-off in stolen base attempts, but I haven’t the time or the inclination to find out what it is.

They probably weren't that bad, you say? Yes, they probably were...

David Pinto over at Baseball Musings has just posted aProbabilistic Model of Range for the 2004 season.

The Royals came in second to last in overall defense by this method of ranking. It is unknown at this point if the ranking is a result of Ken Harvey's various adventures around the infield, or if Ken being drilled in the back by his outfielders is simply an inherent side effect of such poor defense.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Who are these guys? - Shortstop

Ever since David Howard was priced out of the Royals range in 1997, the team has been desperately trying to replace his slick fielding and prowess on the mound, turning to luminaries such as Rey Sanchez, Mendy Lopez and he who shall not be named to fill the hole at shortstop.

Here are the gentlemen who will be watching Brian Anderson throw batting practice this year. Stat lines are for 2004.

Angel Berroa
OPS+ 83

After winning the Rookie of the Year Award – often abbreviated as ROY and I believe pronounced “wa” – the not-so-young Berroa had a disappointing season in 2004, missing time due to migraines and being briefly demoted to the minors to “work on his fielding.” The Royals have committed to Berroa as their shortstop for the next several years and are hoping that last season’s drop in power is just a little hiccup on the developmental curve.

On the other hand, Berroa has been among the top ten leaders in getting hit by pitches the last two years, so there's a good chance he winds up in a hospital somewhere while Allard Baird tries to get Buddy Biancalana on the phone to see if he wants to try a comeback.

As a side note, one of my favorite things about watching baseball in Los Angeles is listening the Wonder Dog provide color commentary during Angels games when the Royals are in town and struggle mightily with the pronunciation of “on-hell” Berroa.

Andres Blanco
OPS+ 112

Still somewhat of a raw talent, Blanco held his own at the major-league level in 19 games last year. Though he hits for very little power (only 30 doubles and no home runs in about three full-seasons of minor-league ball), he has shown an ability to get on base in the minors and won’t turn 21 until the start of the season this year.

Blanco was the second-youngest player in the league last year, and with Zack Greinke, gave the Royals two among the ten youngest. Of course, Tampa Bay had three in the top ten (two of the top four), so we can at least thank God we aren’t rooting for the Devil Rays.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Who are these guys? - Third Base

Continuing ‘round the horn, let’s take a look at the deadbeats… er, I mean ‘prospects’ that might be manning the hot corner this year. Now that Joe Randa is keeping Austin Kearns in the outfield in Cincinnati, these fine gentlemen will be competing for time in the Royals infield.

Stats lines are for the 2004 season. Oh, wait. None of these guys even played in the majors in 2004, so never mind.

Chris Truby

The Royals wanted a stop-gap and they got Chris Truby. Truby showed some promise as a rookie in 2000, hitting 260/295/477 with 11 home runs in half a season with Houston. He has mostly bounced around the minors, though, last appearing at the major league level in 13 games with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays during April and May of 2003.

In AAA last year, Truby hit 300/367/558 with 25 home runs in 130 games and a noticeable improvement in his power numbers. Whether this improvement marks a genuine step forward in the learning curve of a late bloomer, or just a career minor leaguer beating up on pitchers who aren’t ready for prime time, we’ll have to wait and see.

Chris Clapinski

Clapinski hasn’t been in The Show since he collected 105 at bats in 1999 and 2000. Those at bats resulted in 5 doubles, 3 triples, 1 home run and 9 RBIs. He also stole a base, for which I’m sure his parents are quite proud.

His minor league numbers have been respectable the last few years in AAA, where he’s posted solid 300/375/495 type lines for several organizations, most-recently Clevland’s Buffalo affiliate. The depth chart has him slated as a back-up option at third, short and second base, so he’ll be a busy guy come February.

Mark Teahen

Teahen is another pick up from the Beltran trade of ought-four. He made the move to AAA in Oakland’s farm system last year and stayed there with Kansas City. Allard Baird has said publicly many times that he hopes Teahen will be ready by the mid-point of the season. However, local sportswriters keep asking if he might win the job in spring training.

I’m not sure how those questions make Chris Truby and Chirs Clapinski feel, but I’m guessing it’s not very good.

Fun Fact: Mark's middle name is Thomas!

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Who are these guys? - Catcher

In order to bide time until spring training and fill space, I’m going take a look at the Royals current roster, position by position. I am using the positions as listed on the depth chart and current 40-man roster from

I will list the 2004 season line and then make pithy comments about each player. Since I lack the ability either throw a curve ball or recognize one that is pitched to me, this is how I choose to enjoy the sport of baseball.

First up: catchers.

John Buck
OPS+ 84

Buck came to the Royals from the Houston Astro’s farm system as part of the Carlos Beltran trade. Since Benito Santiago and Kelley Stinnet were both injured, and because Tony Muser decided a few years ago that the only position Mike Sweeney fielded worse than first was catcher, Buck got the call.

After some initial struggles at the big league level, Buck managed to hit a respectable 263/298/513 in August and 274/299/562 in September. Tony Pena coached buck when he was a manager in the Astro’s minor league system and pushed for his inclusion in the Beltran trade. At least, that’s what I read. I don’t have insider information or anything.

Alberto Castillo
OPS+ 98

A ten-year backup catcher, Castillo managed to hold his own in 89 at-bats with the Royals last season. He is the leading candidate to back up Buck (say that five times fast) in 2005.

Notable career achievement: In 1995, he led all catchers in stolen-base percentage by going 1 for 1 for the New York Mets. Unfortunately, he buckled under the media pressure of Kansas City and was thrown out in both of his attempts.

Paul Phillips
OPS+ 48

Never heard of him.

Justin Huber

An Aussie catcher who was filched from the Mets during the 2004 trading deadline, Huber was once considered the heir apparent to Mike Piazza at catcher. He is currently spending time in a pre-spring training mini-camp with George Brett learning how to play first base, so that he may contribute to the glut of players at that position.

A Note About Stats

I will get the majority of my stats from Baseball-Reference.

All batter lines will be listed as AVG/OBP/SLG

AVG = Batting Average on balls in play
OBP = On Base Percentage, measures a players ability to get on base via hits, walks or hit-by-pitches
SLG = Slugging Average, measures a players ability to hit for power (in AVG, a home run and a single count the same; in SLG a player is credited for each base reached, 1-single, 2-double, etc.)

Another metric that I will often use is OPS+, which looks at a player’s ability to create runs, while adjusting for park and league factors, and comparing that player to the rest of the league.

For example: an OPS+ of 100 means the player was league-average at creating runs, 95 means the player was 5% worse at creating runs, and 110 means the player was 10% better at creating runs.

By the same token, I will also use ERA+ for pitchers, which indexes the pitchers ERA against the league average, taking into account park and league factors.

For a more detailed look at how statistics can enhance our understanding and evaluation of the game of baseball, please check out the Baseball Prospectus Basics Series.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Long Cold Winter

Currently, the umpteen or so people who still care about the Kansas City Royals are in a tizzy about Mike Sweeney's mild criticism of the Royals payroll.

I kind of agree with Posnanski's take on it, but I certainly don't think Sweeney was out of line. He may not understand the nuances of salary structure vis a vis winning percentage (the Seattle Mariners fought the Royals for the worst record in baseball last year while paying they're players roughly $81 Million), but he wants to win, and it's hard to see the return of Lima Time and the addition of a few fourth outfielders doing much to help the Royals capture the American League Central.

In the meantime, pitchers and catchers report a month from now, and I am planning to stay as optimistic as possible until Mathematical Elimination Day. May it be staved off until at least late August.

Monday, January 10, 2005

I work in Flushing

Well, Mr. Beltran has finally made it to New York. I wonder if his agent told him the Mets were a different team than the Yankees.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Brave New World

Well, at least it was four or five years ago.

The national press has spoken, and "bloggers" are now considered the most influential people in the world, just after the Tool in the White House and Hindu cows. Never one to miss a trend, I have decided to expand my website - - in order to more effectively provide content to my supporters (Mom, Kevin... thank you).

I have created three distinct blogs in order to put the incoherent thoughts spewed from my addled brain into some sort of order:
  1. The H.G. Miller Blog - This will be a 'catch-all' for general observations on my life and popular culture
  2. H.G. Miller Sports Blog - The focus here will be the Kansas City Royals, but I will also include commentary on the Chiefs and Jayhawks
  3. H.G. Miller Political - When I feel the urge to go all 'Blue State,' I'll do so here

More information about this new setup can be found on the main website. The main page will also contain links to each of the new blogs.