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.