Thursday, December 21, 2006

Royals Continue to Pick Up Pitchers

Originally Posted to OTB Sports.

The Royals added veteran set-up man David Riske to their bullpen today.

From the Kansas City Star:

Riske, 30, has made a name for himself as one of the better setup men in baseball. He is 18-14 with a 3.59 ERA in 328 appearances in a seven-year career with Cleveland, Boston, and the White Sox.


Riske appeared in a total of 140 games in 2003 and 2004, and since has seen his strikeout totals diminish. He struck out 76 batters in a combined 116 2/3 innings the last two seasons.

This makes six pitchers General Manager Dayton Moore has signed this off season who will likely make the opening day roster, completely overhauling what was the worst pitching staff in 2006, a season in which the Royals allowed seventy-two more runs than the second-worst team in the majors.

The Royals also signed Zach Day to a minor-league contract. Day fell of a cliff the last two seasons after showing promise early in his career, though part of that may have been due to a shoulder problem.

Day is 28 and missed the last half of 2006 after undergoing surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff. He went 2-5 with a 6.75 ERA in eight starts for Washington and Colorado and made $600,000. He is 21-27 with a 4.66 ERA in his career. His 2.25-to-1 ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio is baseball’s seventh highest since 2002.

Groundball pitchers tend to do well when they have good defenders playing behind them. Mark Grudzielanek may have won the Gold Glove last year, but Angel Berroa did not, so we'll have to wait and see if this proves to be a steal for the Royals.

Of course, if Day's shoulder is healed, then it certainly can't hurt to have another pitcher with actual major-league experience on the team.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Breaking down Sisco for Gload

So, all that stuff I said about Sisco returning to form. Yeah, um, forget about that.

Since it's getting to be old news already, I'll just throw my two cents in here.

First, a look at the pertinent stats:
Andy Sisco
Year Games ERA+
2005 67 139
2006 65 68

Ross Gload
Year Games OPS+
2004 110 115
2006 77 107

Gload put up a 364/416/657 line at AAA in '05.

Oh, and then there's this: Sisco is going to be 24 years old in 2007, whereas our boy Ross will be 31.

So, the Royals trade a young power pitcher with proven upside (albeit with a bit of an attitude problem) for a position player who has proven to be slightly above average playing the field at 1B/OF, where the team is already overloaded.

Not to bead a dead horse, but the Royals already HAD this guy:
Aaron Guiel
Year Games OPS+
2005 33 114
2006 63 102

The general consensus on the web seems to be that GM Dayton Moore is sending a message by shuttling off underachievers like Runelvys and Sisco, and generally I agree with the philosophy. However, Ross Gload, while of comparative value to Sisco from a numbers standpoint, is older and unnecessary.

I'm trying to hold off on judging the off season activity until we get closer to Spring Training, as it looks like Moore has no intentions of slowing down.

For all we know, Reggie Sanders, Emil Brown and Justin Huber will all be on other teams by the time pitchers and catchers report to the desert. However, this trade certainly looks like a bad one to me at the moment.

With Billy Butler, Alex Gordon and Justin Huber all performing well in the minors, I have to believe the focus should be on stockpiling as many live arms as possible, rather than sending them to rival teams.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Pitching Picture

Wow. Fifty-five mil for Gil?

I don’t know if Big Money Meche is going to lead us to the promised land in this year, or the next, but I do feel like the offense will continue to improve and any, ANY move towards mediocrity by the pitching staff will be a step in the right direction.

Here’s a quick look at where we were and where we might be going.

2006           2007
Player ERA+ Player *ERA+
Hudson 95 Greinke 101
DeLaRosa 93 Ban'ster 101
Elarton 91 Meche 97
O. Perez 86 Hudson 93
Redman 85 O. Perez 86
Elvys 75 DeLaRosa 74

2006          2007
Player ERA+ Player *ERA+
Peralta 110 W’meyer 110
Dessens 108 Peralta 110
Gobble 94 Nelson 93
Burgos 88 Bale 92
Sisco 68 Ray 92

*Please note: The ’07 ERA+ number is simply the player’s 2006 ERA+ divided by their career ERA+. ERA+ is a quick-read stat that compares a pitcher’s ERA to the league average. Above 100 is good, below 100 is bad.

My projection is not grounded in any proven sabermetric theory, just something I could do quickly while whiling away the hours at work.

Of course, the staff is not set in stone, and there will be a variety of other pitchers who grace the mound at Kaufman stadium next year, most notably Octavio Dotel, who sports a career ERA+ of 121 from his pre-injury days.

If someone like Andy Sisco can find his form again, or Rule 5 pickup Joakim Soria can build on his stellar showing in winter ball (I make the bold prediction that he will NOT throw a perfect game for the Royals in 2007), then there really is hope for a shot at winning some of the closer games next year.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Please... say it again, Jeanne

Congrats to the Cards for winning the World Series. Now that the curse of Donnie Dek has been avenged, I am looking forward to the Royals getting into the post season and kicking ass next year.

On another note, it's beginning to get uncomfortable how many times Jeanne Zelasko keeps asking the owners and players to say "World Champion St. Louis Cardinals." She keeps repeating the phrase, then asking whoever she is interviewing to repeat it, then they ignore her and thank their teammates and the fans.

Ahh, the value of TV personalities.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Finishing Off the Season

Now that the team has “achieved” the 100 loss plateau, I suppose it’s time to recollect on the season.

I will be getting married in a week, so I wish to purge myself of these trifling, depressing thoughts before a few weeks in Tahiti with my new wife set my mind straight and get me ready for next year.

To start with: a few tables for you.

Diff G W L W%

1 38 14 24 36.8%
2 34 17 17 50.0%
3 19 6 13 31.6%
4 18 8 10 44.4%
5 16 6 10 37.5%
6 11 5 6 45.5%
7 8 0 8 0.0%
11 5 0 5 0.0%
8 4 2 2 50.0%
10 3 1 2 33.3%
13 2 0 2 0.0%
9 1 0 1 0.0%

This is the Royals’ record depending on the difference in final score. As you can see the team has played more one-run games than any other kind and has only managed to win 36.8% of the time.

Don’t read too much into this. If they just flipped a coin at the start of each game to determine a winner in the close contests, then our boys would have gone 19-19 and still been 35 games under .500 at this point in the season.

What I find most interesting is that the team has played in more games decided by 11 runs than eight. They’ve been blown out by seven eight times and crushed by THIRTEEN twice!

Imagine where we’d be if the team didn’t at least put up a fight in those two, four and six run contests?

Now… where to lay the blame?

This next chart is taken from Baseball Prospectus’s VORP numbers, short for Value Over Replacement Player. This number is designed to give you an idea of how many runs a player is worth above or below the average AAA journeyman who may or may not be playing first base for the Yankees tonight.

Player   PA   AVG   OBP   SLG   VORP   VORP/PA
German 313 326 420 455 25.1 .080
Teahen 439 290 357 517 29.3 .067
DeJesus 533 292 362 433 24.0 .038
E. Brown 583 287 358 455 28.0 .036
Grudz 586 297 331 409 19.2 .033
Stairs 262 261 352 429 6.3 .024
Guiel 59 220 339 460 1.3 .022
Mient 361 283 359 411 7.0 .019
Shealy 210 280 338 451 3.7 .018
Graffy 250 268 346 409 3.6 .014
Sweeney 242 240 339 409 2.6 .011
Costa 251 271 301 403 1.0 .000
Buck 403 244 306 397 -8.0 -.002
Sanders 358 246 304 425 -2.5 -.007
Gathrght 245 249 319 315 -4.7 -.019
Berroa 488 235 260 337 -15.6 -.032
Bako 167 209 261 229 -13.3 -.080

Using my mad math skills, I have taken the VORP of each player with more than 100 plate appearances and divided it by the number of PAs to see who produces the most value per time at the dish.

(Okay, so I cheated and kept Guiel in there just because he was my favorite player and I want the front office of the team, who I KNOW read this, to see what value they just dumped for nothing.)

What’s encouraging is to see a few of the younger guys at the top of the list. Teahen and DeJesus are going to be the cornerstones of a very good offense over the next couple of years. It is obvious that German has been woefully underused, but who knows, maybe he would have lost some effectiveness from the wear and tear of playing everyday.

There is, of course, an obvious sink-hole at catcher, but Buck has a mean-looking goatee and since he’s got the balls to take on Elvys in a fight, I say his gumption is worth the eight runs he’s given to the enemy this year.

And then there’s Berroa. Ahh, Angel. You’re going to make some mad cash in the coming seasons and my hope is that you’ll be doing so while striking out in picturesque Coors Field or a nice, homey place like Wrigley. If Dayton Moore isn’t prepared to eat your salary (and I mean ALL of it) this off season in order to trade you for some kind return value, then I hope he at least makes you go to Mike Sweeney’s back doctor for some off-season training advice.

I won’t show you the pitching numbers. I think we all know how that story goes.

Maybe Roger Clemens will take $12 Million from us next year to pitch in the games we play against the Rangers.

Maybe Zachary has his head on straight, and maybe Hochever is worth the year out of organized ball.

Maybe Elvys can keep the ball down, and maybe Joe Nelson is for real.

Maybe I’ll be so happy in Tahiti that I never come back and start learning the rules of soccer or cricket or whatever it is they play out there, and I find a new team to obsess over.

Nah… if moving to LA hasn’t killed the Royals fan in me (and Lord knows the losses haven’t), then I guess I’ll always be thinking about the maybe.

Have a good off-season, everybody.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Adam Bernero - My New Hero?

So, if you follow the Royals (and, if you’ve found this blog, then you probably do), you are probably asking yourself something along the lines of “Who in the hell is Adam Bernero?”

Maybe you saw something like this.

Year  IP    ERA
2000 34.3 4.19
2001 12.3 7.30
2002 101.7 6.20
2003 133.3 5.87
2004 32.3 5.57
2005 47.0 6.51
Then, you would have rightfully thought, “Man, Adam Benero sucks!”

Of course, then you would have gone back to what brought you here in the first place:

Date IP  H ER BB K  
8/16 6.0 5 0 0 6
8/11 5.2 7 1 0 5
Well, then… now you don’t know what to think. Does he suck, or is he the kind of K-an-inning guy that the Royals so desperately need in their starting rotation?

Here are his career minor league stats, along with his splits from this year.

In parts of six seasons in the minors, Bernero has given up about a hit an inning, while posting a k/9 of 7.13, which is above average, but not great.

In 80 innings with Omaha this year, his numbers look like this:

79.3 63 23 47 1.08 5.33 2.84
Again, nice, but not fantastic. Especially for a guy who’s a few years older than most of the competition.

My guess is that Adam will have one of those patented eight-run innings that all Royal pitchers are contractually obligated to have, and his ERA will end up in the 4-5 range… giving us one more guy who “might” be a solid fourth starter next year.

I do hear that Grienke is finally pitching well, so hip-hip-hooray for that.

Friday, July 28, 2006

What is Dayton Doing?

As today's trading deadline nears, I thought I might take a quick look at Dayton Moore's first real action since he sent J.P. Howell to Tampa Bay for Joey Gathwright.

To the uneducated observer, the motivation for Moore's moves may be hard to pin down, but I'm guessing that after he took over as general manager, he did a google search on the Royals farm system and found a page that looked like THIS.

What that list shows is that the best pitcher the Royals have drafted over the last ten years is probably David DeJesus, whose 7 outfield assists this year show the kind of velocity and accuracy that Jeremy Affeldt can only muster when he isn't allowed to pitch more than one inning at a time.

And so, Moore has jettisoned a couple of middling veterans (Tony G and Everyday Elmer) and one of our most oft-injured pseudo-superstars (Mac the Ninth) for the following collection of live arms:

Odalis Perez - 126, 127 ERA+ in '02 and '04. Needed out of LA in a bad way.
Blake Johnson - 3.33 ERA in A ball last year. 4.92 this year.
Julio Pimentel - Over a K an inning in A ball this year.
Jorge de la Rosa - A good track record in the minors. Hasn't put it together in the bigs yet.
Tyler Lumsden - Basically, J.P. Howell (A better ERA, but fewer strikeouts).
Daniel Cortes - A strikeout pitcher who's still learning the strike zone.

Hmm... seems like Moore thinks the team might need some pitching.

The Gathwright acquisition was mostly about defense (he also draws quite a few walks) and the Gotay for Keppinger swap was pretty much a crap shoot move. All of the trades from the past week have had one clear goal: improve the rotation in next year and 2008.

With big boppers like Billy Butler, Justin Huber and Alex Gordon waiting in the wings, this may be an exciting team to keep track of in the next couple of years.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Devil Feels a Draft

Last night, Angel Berroa was given two free passes by Ervin (not "Magic") Santana.

I don't want to overplay the magnitude of this information, but it was perhaps the worst pitching performance against the Royals ever.

Seriously, how do you walk Angel twice? Don't you know his stats? Last night's two unintentional walks now represent twenty-two percent of his total for the entire year!

I mean, if you think you're on the verge of walking Berroa a second time in one game, don't you just plunk him instead? He gets hit by pitches all the time. Nobody would suspect that. I say you groove one right between the rib cage and the hip. A nice soft breaking ball that puts him on base and saves your reputation.

Ervin? Are you listening to me?

In other news, the Royals traded Ruben Gotay to the Mets for Jeff Keppinger. Both players have put up similar career numbers, but Keppinger is a little bit older, so I don't really know what the point of this trade is.

Probably the biggest news in Keppinger's past is that he was included in the trade that sent Kris Benson from Pittsburgh to the Mets and unleashed the Anna Benson publicity firestorm upon the world. No word yet on whether Keppinger is married and if his wife is a semi-attractive publicity whore.

I guess we all can dream.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Joe Torre is an Idiot

Let's get one thing straight: I hate the Yankees. It's been hardwired into me since I was a kid and the annual Royals/Yankees tilt in the postseason was something people expected.

However, there is one Yankee player I will root for with gusto the remainder of this season: Aaron Guiel.

Guiel deserves to play for a winner. To play on a team where he'll rack up RBIs and runs scored because everybody surrounding him is a future hall of famer.

I wish Aaron nothing but the best in his new opportunity with the Yanks.

Today was Guiel's third game with the pinstripes and through the first seven innings he went 2 for 2, with a walk and a home run.

Than, according to Yahoo! the following happened:

- A. Rodriguez singled to left 
- M. Thornton relieved J. Contreras
- J. Posada singled to left, A. Rodriguez to second
- B. Williams walked, A. Rodriguez to third, J. Posada to second
- A. Phillips hit for A. Guiel
- B. McCarthy relieved M. Thornton
- A. Phillips struck out swinging

What the hell!

A man is killing the ball and comes up with the bases loaded. He's playing in a stadium built for left-handed hitters, and you pull him for some dude hitting 250/277/405?

Joe Torre is an idiot. That righty/lefty match up he put so much effort into creating evaporated as soon as the White Sox made a pitching change.

Aaron Guiel earned the chance to drive in some runs in that at bat.

Man... why am I writing about the Yankees?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Winning Baseball? What!?!?

With the All Star break approaching, I thought I’d take a quick look at the improvement our lovable Royals have made.

To do this, I’m going to take a look at the Pythagorean Record of the team, which is based on runs scored and runs allowed. (For a further explanation of the formula, please click here and here.)

For those so interested, I’m using the ^1.83 model.

Currently, the team’s pythag winning percentage is 37%, which puts them on pace for just over 100 losses this season.

However, on a month by month basis, the boys in blue have made incredible strides towards becoming a respectable team.

Month  Pyth %
April 28%
May 29%
June 46%
July 59%
July’s results are of a negligible sample size, but the improvement for the month of June is certainly encouraging. That’s a 75-87 team over the course of the season, which is far from fantastic, but much closer to the league-average expectations many of us had heading into the season.

The chart below shows the winning percentage as a ten game rolling average.

Man, did April and May suck.

A 4-0 loss to the White Sox on April 19th had the Royals looking at a 14% winning percentage over the previous ten games. That’s a 23-win season. That’s beyond bad.

Luckily, the schedule requires teams to actually play the rest of their games. By May 2nd, the team seemed to have turned things around, posting a ten game pythag percentage of 43% despite losing to Detroit 4-1.

This being the Royals, though, they promptly lost 14 of their next 18 games and hit another low point on May 23, playing like a 30-132 team (18%) and losing to Detroit 8-5.

Thankfully, all has not been lost. From that point forward, we have seen a steady climb to mediocrity with a high point of a 65% pythag record over a ten game stretch from June 16th through the 27th (capped off by a 9-8 victory at Cincinnati).

Heading into the All-Star break, the Royals have managed to impersonate an above average major league baseball team. Over the last 30 games, the numbers say the Royals should be winning 53% of the time. That’s an 86-76 ball club only needing a few more pieces to contend.

That’s a team that’s fun to root for.

Enjoy Pittsburgh, Mark Redman.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

J.P. Traded to the Devil Rays

Looks like Dayton Moore is finally on the job.

J.P. Howell (Career ERA+ 70) for Joey Gathwright (Career OPS+ 72) plus a minor leaguer with a line of 280/336/358 in five minor league seasons. I guess that sounds about right.

Gathwright is a speedster with good on-base skills and plus defense in the outfield (way plus when compared to some of the guys we've thrown out there this year). At 25, there's still a chance he'll improve on his career numbers.

Howell was one of many, many, MANY young arms the Royals have been shuttling between Omaha and the bigs in an effort to build a respectable major league pitching staff. A strong K rate in the minors hadn't translated to big league success for J.P. and he's been having shoulder problems lately. At 23, he still has some potential in the tank, though.

My guess is that Moore has some deals on the table for Emil Brown, Reggie Sanders or both. Gathwright and DeJesus would make for some nice table setters at the top of the lineup, so I think I like this deal.

It also looks like Moore may not be too high on Baird's scouting of pitchers. Might Grienke be next?

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

RIP Allard Baird

The Royals finally fired Allard Baird today.

Baird talked a good game for a few years, and I think he made tremendous strides as a GM with the Royals, but this was a move that had to be made. The Royals need a complete overhaul of their management structure. Let's hope Dayton Moore is up to the task.

I will say this, though: Moore's request for complete control over baseball operations makes me think that there is a lot less blame on Baird's shoulders for this mess.

My guess is that in the inner circles of Major League Baseball, everybody knows that his hands have been tied and a lot of moves couldn't be made. I wouldn't be surprised to see Baird get picked up quickly by another team (probably Atlanta now) and put in a high-ranking Assistant GM position.

His knack for finding above average fringe players will be very useful.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

What Would You Have Done?

Anthony Giacalone at Baseball Think Factory gives a pretty good rundown of the Royals offseason moves and how they really did have a decent plan going into this season.

It's easy to knock the Royals these days, but there have been some moves that have worked out this season.


KC 10, Cle 8

Sure, we gave up runs late to let Cleveland back into it, but the pitchers K'd nine in nine innings and Guiel hit another homer to put the good guys in front for good.

Burgos has done a good job of not getting fazed by trouble and the fans get to eat some more free donuts.

Today is a good day.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

So, You Can't Hack it as a Royals Fan

What a pu$$y.

This guy.

Two or three hundred loss seasons and he's selling his "fandom" for a few hundred dollars. I hate to tell it to the people who put up the cash for this transaction, but that "loyalty" ain't worth the eBay server space it was loaded on.

I hate to break it to all the naysayers out there, but every owner wants to make money. Every General Manager is trying to put a winning team on the field. Every player thinks that they should be getting paid more than the other guys.

And, every fan has a right to bitch and moan as long and loudly as they want to about the failings of all of these people.

But, no one has the right to call themselves a loyal fan if they are willing to give it all away for a few hundred dollars.

Rooting for the Royals takes balls. If you can't take the pain, then we don't want your sissy-ass hanging around here anyway. Everybody knows going into the season that an incredible amount of things must go right for us to have a chance at even breaking 500.

The true fan accepts that the following things will happen:

Mike Sweeney's back will go out on him. The pitching staff will be disabled, ineffective and oftentimes both. The young hitters will be overmatched. The veterans will be past their prime because anyone really worth a damn can make a lot more money on one of the coasts.

For Christ's sake, Paul Byrd took LESS MONEY to play for a team that wasn't the Royals, did you really think that this was the year things would be different?

Look, I hate watching this team lose games in ways previously unimaginable (Future headline: "Royals Pitchers Walk Nine Straight Batters, Lose Five-Run Lead, Game"), but I'm sticking around.

I'm watching the minor leagues. I'm wearing my powder blue Bo Jackson jersey. I'm going to drive through three hours of rush hour traffic to watch my boys play the Angels in June.

I'm a Royals fan because it's about the past thirty-seven years, not just the past ten.

To steal a line from J Rob: Go Royals! 143-19! You're the best!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Wow... This Sums it Up

From today's KC Star:

"Singles by Mark Grudzielanek and Sweeney marked the first back-to-back hits this season by the Royals in the first inning."

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Keep Ya Head Up

You know it's hard out here for a Royals fan
When he tryin' to help his team to get one little win
For the Yankees got the money and the Rays got a plan
And a whole lot of columnists keep on talkin' shit

So, I'm trying to find something positive in the Royals sorrowful start to the season, and Estaban German putting up an OPS over 1.000 doesn't seem to cut it since most of his playing time is going to Tony Graffanino, anyway.

Instead, I'll point you to an awesome site called Fan Graphs, which has a cool Win Probablility feature that shows which team has the best chance to win throughout a game based on similar score/inning/runners on base scenarios from the last season.

The first thing you'll notice is that it's bad form to spot your opponents five runs in the first inning, but you probably knew that already. What I'm trying to focus on is this:

In Seven of the 12 games played so far this year, the Royals have had a better than 50% chance to win the game in the sixth inning or later.

Now, true to form, the Royals have found many ways to lose games late (wasn't our bullpen the only GOOD thing from last year?), but if you look at their season on a game by game basis, the team has actually been competitive.

I won't lie to you. Losing eight in a row hurts. But, it is too early in the season to get bogged down by some bad breaks. EVERYBODY is underperforming for the Royals right now. The playoffs were never a real possibility for this team, but I still think a run at .500 is possible.

Hang in there.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Sucking of Sisco

Andrew Sisco had another poor outing for the Royals today.

I'm wondering if it isn't best to handle Sisco this year the way he was handled last year. Only bringing him in during non-critical situations. Let him build up his confidence and control. Then start trusting him in tight spots.

I admit, up three runs isn't a tight spot, but he was obviously shaky after the first couple of batters. The dude needed to be lifted and fast.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Guiel Gets Cut

Shane Costa won the 4th outfielder job with the Royals.

This isn't that big of a deal, but Guiel is one of the guys I like to root for. I hope he gets a call earlier this year than last if anybody goes down (Laverne, I'm looking at you).

My man AG was having a great spring, putting up a 351/479/622 line in 37 at bats.

Joe McEwing was also cut after posting 436/500/667 in 39 ABs. Super Joe put up a fuss (I haven't seen any Guiel quotes yet).

Let's take a quick look at each player's OPS this spring against last year, along with those of the guys who stole their jobs, and see who has more right to complain.

Player  Spring  2005
J-Mac 1167 558
Graffy 712 791
AG 1101 805
Costa 738 621

I'm sure they'll both have plenty of time to debate their merits while waiting at the bus station in Omaha.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Graffy's Back

The Royals picked up Tony Graffanino today.

OPS+ 161

I'm a big fan of this move. Graffy has a solid track record as a utility infielder and the Royals are only obligated to pay for him this year.

Hopefully, this move will keep Joe McEwing in Omaha and give Estaban German a chance to prove he can do something.

For all of the bitching I keep seeing on the internet about the Royals pickups this off-season, I don't see anybody offering a better solution. Last year, the team was derided for bringing up young players too soon.

What the moves from this off season have done is given every prospect more time to develop in the minors and avoided crippling the team with long-term contracts.

I, for one, am excited to have at least semi-competent big leaguers to watch this season while following the progress of guys like Alex Gordon and Billy Butler in the minors.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Who are These Guys? - Outfield

Our final installment for the position players will look at the men patrolling the vast amount of turf at The 'K' this year.

David DeJesus
OPS+ 114

David’s biggest drawback as a professional ballplayer has been his susceptibility to injury. A shoulder injury kept him out for the last month of last season and he missed significant time early in his minor league career.

The Royals just inked DeJesus to a long-term deal that will buy out his first year of free agency. If he can stay healthy, then this will be a really good move by the team, as he has maintained both his patience and his pop at the plate. The key will be getting Buddy Bell to realize that he is not a natural base stealer so that his times on base are not all wasted.

Reggie Sanders
OPS+ 126

Reginald, or Laverne as I like to call him, is the kind of power hitting corner outfielder Allard Baird has been trying to get for years. The problem is, he needed to get Sanders several years ago.

At 38, the Royals will need to be careful with the slugger from South Carolina. When he’s in the lineup, he will be a definite threat behind Mike Sweeney, but he needs to get more than the 295 at bats he cobbled together with St. Louis last year while battling leg problems.

Here is another fun site that shows how Sanders stats compare against the league. You can see that he is an average on-base guy, but almost always bests the league in power.

Emil Brown
OPS+ 113

Why did Emil Brown spend so much of his life languishing in the minor leagues, only to explode (if hitting .286 can be considered “exploding”) as a thirty-year old sensation with the Royals?

Let’s just say that last year wasn’t Emil’s first crack at the majors:

OPS     Min    MLB
1996 900 DNP
1997 DNP 588
1998 895 575
1999 865 357
2000 891 635
2001 974 583

’98 and ’99 were cup of coffee call ups, but Brown received significant opportunities to prove his metal in the Bigs before he was labeled a quadruple-A player and languished as a spare part for the Tampa Bay, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Houston farm systems.

The hope for this season is that Emil doesn’t fade back from his first real progress as a major-league hitter. If he can post solid numbers for the Royals in left field (and maybe catch just a few more balls), he will help provide some extra pop behind Sweeney and Sanders in the lineup.

Aaron Guiel
OPS+ 114

Another player who languished for years in the minors before finally getting a chance with the Royals, Guiel was derailed by the cruel hand of fate when he developed vision problems during spring training in 2004.

A few laser surgeries later, he spent most of 2005 tearing up triple-A (OPS of 909) while luminaries such as Terrance Long (699) and Eli Marrero (563) manned the outfield of Kaufman stadium.

Aaron is one of my favorite Royal players, and while I know I should want them to give the 4th outfield job to the younger Chip Ambres, I really hope that one more Canadian makes the team.

Chip Ambres
OPS+ 88

Acquired in the Tony Graffanino trade from the Red Sox last year, Ambres is a high OBP guy with a little speed and some power. His rate stats have held up well in the minors over the last few years, but Chip has not had a great spring so far and was only so-so in his first bit of major-league action last year.

Given the fragile nature of the Royals outfield (Sanders rarely plays a full season and DeJesus pulled a hamstring the other day), Ambres will definitely have an opportunity to prove himself this year.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Who are These Guys? - Middle Infield

Mark Grudzielanek
OPS+ 92

Alphabet Soup #2, or “Grudzie” as I like to call him, has been brought in to ensure that yet another year is added to the streak of consecutive seasons with a different starting second baseman. (who would have imagined that Carlos Febles from ’99 through ’03 would be considered stable?)

Mark is a better than average line-drive hitter (his 23.6% rate ranked 21st among qualified batters last season) which helps him hit for a good average despite his low walk rate. Buddy Bell has already inserted Grudzie into the second spot in the batting order, so it’s likely his line-drive ability will be quickly neutralized by many requests to bunt people over.

Angel Berroa
OPS+ 81

Angel will be making some real money this year, the second of his five-year contract. The hope is that the 2003 Rookie of the Year can find some of the patience that allowed him to get on base at a 338 clip that season. If he can also manage to hit 20 home runs and throw the ball anywhere near Minkie’s glove, then he'll start to be worth the two million dollars he’s getting in ’06.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Who Are These Guys? - Third Base

Mark Teahen
OPS+ 82

Marky-mark was slated to begin the 2005 season at Omaha when Chris Truby (who has probably gained more notoriety from this running gag at Baseball Think Factory then his actual ability to play baseball) broke his wrist.

Teahen, who was never considered a power threat, lost even more value in the majors when he failed to maintain the high on-base percentage that had served him so well in the minors (and bore him special mention in the book “Moneyball”).

Check out Teahen’s numbers over the course of last season:

April 15 200/294/333
May 80 250/286/388
June 85 282/322/353
July 86 233/320/384
Aug 82 159/258/232
Sept 95 295/346/505

If you take out the sinkhole that was last August, Teahen would have ended the season with a 266/322/408 line with improving numbers every month. Teahen needs to keep showing this improvement if he wants to keep manning the hot corner when first round draft pick Alex Gordon gets the knack of big league ball.

Esteban German
.750 .750 1.000
OPS+ 354

Don’t get too excited by those 2005 numbers, they were compiled over 4 at bats in junk time last September. German hit 313/400/423, which are decent but not great numbers for the Texas League, at the Rangers AAA affiliate in Oklahoma.

The Royals picked German up in the Rule 5 draft earlier this year and he’s currently listed as the utility infield candidate to give time off to Teahen and Mark Grudzilanek at second.

Baird has had some luck with the Rule 5 draft in the past (Andy Sisco looks like a steal), so the jury is still out on German. At age 27, he’s a little too old to be considered a prospect any more, but then again, so was Emil Brown last year.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Who are These Guys? - First Base

Allard Baird has made it sort of a hobby to stockpile guys who can’t field very well, but do mash the ball a bit. The staggering amount of offensive talent the Royals have jammed at the wrong side of the defensive spectrum would cripple most fans’ spirits. I prefer to refer to it as “depth.”

Mike Sweeney
OPS+ 127

Sween-dog is officially listed as the third-string first baseman behind Doug Mientkiewicz and Matt Stairs. Setting aside the injury risk associated with playing in the field, here are Sweeney’s fielding percentage stats against the league over the last four years:

Sween League
2002 .991 .993
2003 .990 .993
2004 .992 .994
2005 .998 .994

Sweeney has consistently bested the league in range factor and ranks as above average over the last four years using David Pinto’s probabilistic model of range (admittedly, barely).

Look, I’m not saying I’d rather have Sweeney digging Angel Berroa’s throws out of the dirt instead of Minky (as I have decided I shall call he who cannot be spelled correctly), I just want it to be noted that the conventional wisdom about Sweeney being a terrible first baseman is over-hyped.

As for batting, Mike is still the best stick in the clubhouse and even with a decline in productivity will probably lead the team in a variety of categories.

Doug Mientkiewicz
OPS+ 91

The human scrabble test brings his gold glove to Kansas City with high hopes on improving what was a horrible defense in 2004.

Along with the defensive rep, Minky also brings the baggage of having been demoted to a defensive back-up for the 2004 Red Sox and struggling through nagging injuries with the Mets last year.

While he’s never been much of a power threat, Doug has been a good on-base guy who doesn’t strike out that often. According to this fun toy from SG at Replacement Level Yankees Weblog, they Royals would benefit the most from having Minky lead off the lineup. Unfotunately, I have a feeling that his 11 career stolen bases will keep the team from doing something so radical.

My Best Guess: David DeJesus continues to get thrown out at a 50% rate on the base paths while Minky keeps taking walks after Angel Berroa strikes out.

Matt Stairs
OPS+ 118

My second-favourite Canadian returns to the team this year and finds himself listed as the number two option at first base, right field and designated hitter. Over the last three years, Stairs is a 285/373/496 hitter against right-handed pitchers, which makes him a very valuable commodity on a team with injury risks like Reggie Sanders and Mike Sweeney.

The big worry this year is that Stairs will be blocking a young talent like Justin Huber from having a chance at steady playing time at the big-league level. This is really the tip of the iceberg for the Royals, who have prospects like Huber, Billy Butler and Alex Gordon who are all piling up in the minors with big sticks and concrete gloves.

Fun Fact: Stairs placed 17th in MVP voting in 1999, probably coming up short because the voters were unimpressed with his two stolen bases.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Who are These Guys? - Catcher

Now that Spring Training is in full swing, I thought I'd bring back one of the more popular features from last year.

I'll be listing the 2005 batting line for each player (AVG/OBP/SLG) along with their OPS+, followed by some brief commentary.

Please check the Note About Stats for information about these numbers.

We’ll start with the men behind the plate.

John Buck
OPS+ 79

The good news is that Johnny boy increased his on-base percentage a whopping seven percentage points last year. The bad news is that this ranked 26th in the American League for catchers (you don’t want to know how he did for MLB).

Once Buck finagled his way onto the base paths, he proved to be of little threat, going two for four in stolen bases.

While Buck managed to cut down on his strikeout rate from the year before – whiffing 22% of the time versus 31% in 2004 – when he did hit the ball, it wasn’t very hard. His line-drive percentage (courtesy of The Hardball Times) for ’05 was a paltry 16.9%, ranking 20th among AL catchers.

The Positive Spin: If Buck can continue to cut down on his strikeouts and guess right on a few more fastballs this year, he may get that slugging percentage back into the .400 stratosphere those other catchers in the league are always bragging about.

Paul Bako
OPS+ 81

Behind Buck is a guy named Paul Bako, who has a career 239/313/330 line over eight seasons with seven teams. In 2000 alone, Bako played for Houston, Florida and Atlanta.

The Royals’ MLB site cites Bako’s game-calling abilities and possession of “tricks of the trade.” That’s code speak for what the numbers above already tell us: light-hitting career backup.

Royals Connection: Bako hit a two run homer for Atlanta in the third and deciding game of the 2001 Division Series against the Houston Astros. The runner on base ahead of him? Former Royals shorstop Rey Sanchez!

Paul Phillips
OPS+ 77

Phillips has looked like a useful part in the Royals’ system for a while now. Injuries forced him out for all of the 2001, ‘02 and almost all of ’03 seasons, killing what had been steady progress, and he’s now spent the last two years waiting in Omaha for the September call-ups.

Phillips numbers at AAA dropped from 312/358/431 in 2004 to 268/317/401 last year, which is the wrong direction for a prospect who will turn 29 years old this year.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Royals New Promo Spots

I'm digging the new campaign for the Royals this year. You can view the spots by clicking here.

I'm guessing the latter two spots will get the bulk of the rotation, but I find the first spot hilarious. Instead of just pretending that nobody knows how bad the team has been recently, they have some fun with the possibility that 2003 lightning will strike again.

Here's hoping.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Chop Gets the Call

The Royals have invited a guy with the same nomenclature as one of my groomsmen.

This Chad Allen is a lifetime 269/321/389 hitter and on the wrong side of thirty. Nonetheless, I'll be rooting for him to make the team, if only so I can compare Allen's success to that of Heath Miller of the Steelers and talk some trash to my buddy.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Me and My Pal, Ronnie

Baseball Prospectus just posted their 2006 PECOTA projections, and I plan to peruse them post-haste.

In the meantime, I don't have anything important to say, so I am going to throw up this picture of me with Hall of Fame Defensive Back Ronnie Lott at the LA Auto Show.

As this photo was taken a day after Texas beat USC in the Rose Bowl, I decided not to ask him if he thought Pete Carroll had done a better job coaching with the Jets in '94 or currently with USC.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Why I'm Rooting for Pittsburgh in Two Weeks

King Kaufman, the resident sportswriter over at often refers to a complex calculus of teams that he roots for. This idea has fascinated me for a while, as I am often watching national sports broadcasts (and postseason contests in particular) without one of my hard-wired favorites participating.

Rather than turn off the television, I find myself relying on my own twisted matrix of fandom in order to pick a side, so that I may enjoy the glory of victory or agony of defeat when the contest ends.

What follows is the now-dubbed H.G. Miller Fan Funnel. In essence, this chart puts into perspective how exactly I jam the various sports teams of the world into my rootin’ heart and thusly illuminates who gets the love when I turn on the tube.

The chart can be read from left to right and top to bottom in terms of importance. There are several easy factors in terms of who I root for, and they become more complicated as you move through the morass:

  1. Home Teams Come First – The Royals, Chiefs and Jayhawks are the kings of this particular heap, for no other reason than I don’t know what life is like to NOT root for them.

  2. Secondary Home Teams – The next level is populated by those teams I saw a lot of on TV. The Cubs and Bulls can thank WGN for my support. The Braves fit into this category. K-State football was a worthwhile endeavor during my formative years. My parents lived in Dallas for a few years and that Mark Cuban is a kook, so the Mavs also make the list.

  3. Rivals' Opponents – One of the easiest emotions to muster when lazily flipping channels on TV is pure, unadulterated hate. Thus, I’ll throw my cheers towards whoever is playing the Broncos and Raiders, or whatever Division II school is giving Missouri a run for their money.

  4. Relatives – If my team isn’t playing, I at least want the bloodlines to do well. Whether it’s a fellow conference school (except Mizzou), an assistance coach done well (say, Bill Cower) or a former graduate riding the pine (“Look! A clip of Wayne Simien during pre-game warm-ups with Shaq!”), I’ll feign interest to the point of an excited intake of breath when something goes right for “my team.”

  5. Geographically Relevant – I live in Southern California, so if the Angels or Dodgers are doing well, I’ll applaud them. If I cared about hockey, I’d be all about the Kings, and I’ll accept a free pair of Clippers tickets when their offered (they aren’t that hard to come by).

  6. The Cram Down – When there are no connections to be found, I generally default to whoever the underdog team happens to be. Whether it’s Alcorn State getting throttled by Miami (the one in Florida) in football, or the Tampa Bay Devil Rays mounting a late-inning comeback against the Red Sox, I’ll cheer them on. And, when it’s two mid-major schools playing college basketball at midnight on ESPN2, I’ll just flip a mental coin and put my interest into whoever has a more-pleasing jersey color, funnier mascot, or star player with a hopelessly-unpronounceable last name.

So, there you have it. I’m glad we cleared this all up.