Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Dayton Can't be Done

The most famous Royals optimist out there, Rany Jazayerli, has hypothesized that the Jose Guillen deal is but one domino in a long chain of moves that General Manager Dayton Moore plans over this current off season.

It had better be.

According to Dan Szymborski’s early projections for next year, the best lineup the Kansas City Royals can produce in 2008 is this:
Name     P   Age  AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS
Butler dh 22 288 360 471 831
Gordon 3b 24 264 339 453 792
DeJesus cf 28 287 355 431 786
Teahen rf 26 279 351 431 782
Gload 1b 32 292 332 447 779
Guillen lf 32 262 327 432 759
German 2b 30 284 364 383 747
Buck c 27 232 301 394 695
Pena ss 27 270 294 354 648

Running the numbers through the lineup analysis tool on Baseball Musings, the most this lineup could hope to produce is 4.90 runs a game.

In 2007, the Royals averaged 4.36 runs a game.

If these projections were to hold true, the Royals would end up with approximately 89 more runs in 2008 then they had in 2007. The quick and dirty rule is that 10 runs equal one win, so let’s say that through the addition of Jose Guillen and the projected improvement of other young players, the Royals will be tacking on nine extra wins next year.

That would put them at 78 wins... 83 if you want to go by Pythagorean record.

83 wins will not get it done in the American League Central.

Dayton needs to do more.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Royals "Win" Bidding for Guillen

Eager to continue the fine pharmaceutical heritage that began with Ewing Kauffman, the Kansas City Royals signed outfielder Jose Guillen to a 3-year, $36 million deal on Tuesday.

The potential steroid suspension aside, are the Royals spending David Glass's new found money wisely? How about some charts!

Below are two charts showing Guillen's On-Base Percentage (OBP) and Slugging Average (SLG) by age. The difference between the top chart and the bottom chart is that Guillen's partial years have been removed (in '99, '01, '02 and '06, Jose appeared in fewer than 100 games for the season).



By removing the partial seasons, we can see that the Dominican fellow has followed a pretty standard career path, peaking at age 27-28 in the power department while maintaining some positive growth in the ability to get on base.

Walks as a percentage of plate appearances:



Again, Guillen has shown an improved eye at the plate over the course of his career.

Extra base hits as a percentage of hits and plate appearances:



Here is where it gets sketchy for the Royals. At first glance, Guillen appears to have a somewhat erratic ability to hit the ball hard when he makes contact, but overall looks like he is trending upward.

However, when you remove the years most likely to be affected by small sample size blips, he begins to look like any typical player. In terms of full-season ability, Guillen's power potential seems to have peaked when he was 27.

The Royals have just "fixed" their middle order power problem with a guy who looks to be on the decline in terms of hurting the baseball over the next three years.

The good news is that while Guillen now becomes the highest-paid player in team history, his contract is not exorbitant in the current market. Three years is a short enough time frame that Kansas City can cut their losses if Guillen fails to find rejuvenation in the fountains at Kauffman stadium.

That said, I'd still rather see them go after Miguel Cabrera.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Sports - Royals Hire Hillman to Manage

I don't know what a Ham Fighter is, but there are several things I like about this hire.

1.) We may have actually beat out the Yankees on getting this guy. It always feels good to beat the Yanks.

2.) Beyond the track record of success, there are stories about Hillman being able to adapt his style to the players he has. He went to Japan as a walks and homers guy, and found out he had a speed team, so made it work with good pitching and defense.

3.) It's nice to have the team do something a little out of the box. Rather than hire another retread manager, they went and got a guy who is on his way up.

Hillman may eventually crash and burn, but it's better than watching Buddy Bell get burned night in and night out when you already KNEW he was going to struggle because that's how it had been the time before and the time before that.
clipped from www.kansascity.com
Trey Hillman, manager of the Japan Series champion Nippon Ham Fighters, will be the next Royals manager.

Hillman interviewed last year with Texas, San Diego and Oakland after leading the Fighters to their first title in 44 years. He managed 11 years in the Yankees’ minor-league system before heading to Japan.

That connection to the Yankees prompted the Royals to accelerate their negotiations Thursday after New York’s managerial job came open when Joe Torre rejected a one-year extension offer.

“He’s won at every level of the minor leagues,” Moore said. “He’s been manager of the year at every level. He took a team over there in Japan that had never won and in year No. 4, they won the Japan series.

“This year, they’re back in the Japan series with a team that’s last in basically every offensive category.”

Hillman becomes the 15th full-time manager in the club’s 40-year history.

 blog it

Monday, August 27, 2007

Re-signing Mike Sweeney

While traveling for business last week, I missed this little item in the Kansas City Star: “Royals could re-sign Sweeney if Butler proves capable of playing first.”

The reasoning goes something like this: The Royals have very little power in their lineup. Signing a free agent with power will be expensive. Mike Sweeney has power and is already here.

I am curious about two specific aspects of this story. 1.) Does Mike Sweeney still have power? And 2.) How much should the Royals pay him for this?

I am leaving out the question of Billy Butler’s ability to man first base, because I think that he can certainly play it as well as Ken Harvey and... er... well, Mike Sweeney did.

Does Mike Sweeney still have power?
Joe Sheehan made a comment in a chat at Baseball Prospectus the other day that I found interesting: “[Y]ou should consider extra-base hits together as a group (or in a rate like XBH/H, XBH/AB, ISO) as opposed to isolating one category of hits. Guys can see doubles turn into homers one year and back the next for no real reason.”

Let’s see how the original $11 million Royal has done at hitting for power consistently over his career.
Year  AB   XBH  XBH  ISO
/H /AB
1995 4 0% 0% 000
1996 165 30% 8% 133
1997 240 26% 6% 121
1998 282 36% 9% 149
1999 575 37% 12% 198
2000 618 29% 10% 190
2001 559 44% 13% 238
2002 471 35% 12% 223
2003 392 30% 9% 174
2004 411 38% 11% 217
2005 470 43% 13% 217
2006 217 41% 11% 180
2007 204 36% 9% 162
CAREER 36% 11% 194

Not bad. Sweeney has lost a bit of isolated power the last few years, but his extra base hit percentages are still in line with his career numbers.

Before his latest trip to the disabled list, Sweeney had 7 home runs in 204 at bats. That put him on pace for 15 round trippers if he could have managed to stay healthy enough for 450 at bats. Don’t look now, but that would put him one behind John Buck for the team lead.

I’ll go out on a limb and say that the power is still there for Mike. A healthy Mike Sweeney could put 25 dingers on the board in a season, and while that won’t get him into any Barry Bonds debates, it would certainly help a team as anemic as this current Royals squad has been with the long ball.

Of course, the phrase “a healthy Mike Sweeney” is akin to “I want a pony” for most Royals fans. But, the fact is Sweeney is playing rehab ball in the minors right now. He will be able to play baseball next season and somebody will sign him.

How much should the Royals pay him for this?
Using some quick and dirty math along with the Play Index over at Baseball Reference, I cobbled together the following list of players I felt were having comparable seasons to Sweeney.
Name    PA  OPS+ Age HR BA  OBP SLG  Salary 
Erstad 274 80 33 2 272 331 354 $ 750,000
Redmond 270 86 36 1 289 344 350 $ 950,000
Zaun 285 79 36 6 228 310 378 $3,500,000
Blum 255 83 34 2 256 327 352 $ 900,000
Graffy 260 83 35 9 238 315 390 $3,250,000
Piazza 247 93 38 5 276 316 405 $8,500,000
Valent 192 88 31 2 290 339 409 $3,800,000
Cora 200 84 31 2 254 309 395 $2,000,000
Gomez 203 94 36 1 305 338 390 $ 850,000
Conine 253 85 41 6 268 325 411 $2,000,000
Delluc 196 83 33 4 234 301 389 $3,750,000
Pod’nik 170 84 31 2 257 323 382 $2,900,000
Cirillo 193 86 37 2 254 326 373 $1,500,000
Clark 176 82 35 11 230 278 453 $1,034,000
Barajas 141 86 31 4 214 343 376 $2,500,000
Valentin183 79 37 3 241 302 373 $3,800,000
Mientk 141 80 33 4 226 292 379 $1,500,000

AVERAGE 214 84 35 4 255 319 386 $2,557,882

Sweeney 225 82 33 7 245 307 407 $11,000,000

It’s good to know the Royals aren’t the only team overpaying for below-average production and disabled list time.

Taking a quick average of Sweeney’s last three years, how does he stack up with your average older, oft-injured player?
        PA  OPS+ Age  HR BA  OBP SLG  Salary 
AVERAGE 214 84 35 4 255 319 386 $2,557,882
3 Years 326 102 30-33 12 268 334 454 $?,???,???

And some of this year’s numbers just for fun...
Player  Age OPS+
Sweeney 33 82
Gload 31 99
Brown 32 65
Costa 25 77*

*Costa’s OPS+ is from last season, when he spent significant time at the big league level.

Gload and Costa are relatively cheap. Emil Brown is getting paid $3,450,000 for his contributions this year. The Oakland Athletics have paid Frank Thomas and Mike Piazza $500,000 and $8,500,000 respectively over the last two years to man the designated hitter post with varying levels of return.

It’s funny to say it, but if the Royals can get Mike Sweeney’s average production from the last three years for Emil Brown money, I say they make that deal.

Friday, August 10, 2007

If We Can Only Avoid Playing the Yankees

On Tuesday, May 8th, the Kansas City Royals lost to the Oakland Athletics by a score of 6-1. Jorge de la Rosa took the loss, giving up 10 hits in just over four innings of work, and the Royals season was already over with the team sporting a 10-23 record, on pace for 100 losses yet again.

The Royals managed to eek out a 3-2 victory the next day, but dropped the series finale in style, giving up 17 runs to the A’s while Luke Hudson, the team’s best pitcher in 2006, took a beating in his only outing of the year before heading back to the disabled list.

A few more losses to the White Sox followed, but that May 8th game signaled a turning point in the season. From that point forward, the Royals have put up a win for every loss. In their last 80 games the team stands on even ground at 40-40.

A .500 record won’t win you any medals in the American League, but for this Kansas City team, it shows real progress over an extended period of time. For half a season, the Kansas City Royals have been a respectable ball club.

Is it the Offense?
The Royals have scored 4.96 runs a game during this stretch, against a league-average of 4.90.

Joey Gathright has been getting on base at a .415 clip since his first call-up on June 6th. Here are the team leaders in this category:
Gathrgt 415
German 373
DeJesus 365
Teahen 360
Grudz 345
Butler 342
LEAGUE 341

The people who are supposed to be getting on base are, and the people who are supposed to be driving them in? Here are the team leaders in slugging:
Buck   494
Gload 467
Grudz 445
Butler 439
LEAGUE 422

John Buck has come crashing down after his hot start, putting up a 218/283/400 line in July, but Ross Gload has filled in the sink hole that was Ryan Shealy by posting a 320/330/490 line since coming off the disabled list in mid-July.

Young Billy Butler has been swinging a big stick since his return from the minors, going 309/365/.478 since his second call-up.

Is it the Pitching?
The team has been giving up 4.86 runs a game, against an American League average of 4.79.

Brian Bannister leads the starters with a 3.32 ERA, followed by Million Dollar Gil at 3.96. New pick up Kyle Davies looked like a world beater in shutting down the Twins on Thursday, but the good money says he’s probably somewhere between that outing and the gas can he was for the Yankees last Saturday.

The relief corps continues to be outstanding. A quick look at the ERA leaders:
Soria  2.22
Riske 2.34
Gobble 3.13
Peralta 3.72

Odalis Perez (5.87), Jorge de la Rosa (5.46) and the rotation of random fifth starters has been the biggest culprit in keeping this team from being a winner.

The deal for Davies is one of many in which general manager Dayton Moore has brought young arms into the Kansas City system. Every player on these leader lists will be with the team next season, and most of them are under obligation for much longer than that.

A strong finish to this season will speak volumes about how stable the foundation of this team is. The push for a title begins in earnest in ’08.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Royals Trade Dotel for Davies

The Salary number is a little rough, but for approximately $2.5 million, the Kansas City Royals got this from Octavio Dotel:

23 Innings Pitched
11 Saves
29 Strike Outs
3.94 ERA
Kyle Davies from the Braves

Who is Kyle Davies? There are two ways to answer this questions. First, with the quick and dirty stats: 4-8 record, 5.76 ERA, 6 strikeouts a game (decent), 4.4 walks (not good).

The other answer is simply "a right-handed version of Jorge De la Rosa."

To illustrate, I'm going to use a favorite stat called "Game Score."

From Baseball-Reference.com:
"This is a value created by Bill James that evaluates how good a pitcher's start was. Start with 50 points. Add 1 point for each out recorded, (or 3 points per inning). Add 2 points for each inning completed after the 4th. Add 1 point for each strikeout. Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed. Subtract 4 points for each earned run allowed. Subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed. Subtract 1 point for each walk."

The idea is that 50 is average, above 50 is a good start and below 50 is a bad start.

In descending order, here are the game scores for Davies and De la Rosa this season:
       De la
Davies Rosa
67 73
64 69
63 68
62 67
62 64
58 55
50 55
41 52
40 49
39 44
39 44
35 39
35 39
29 35
26 30
24 23
15 20
13
10
AVERAGE
44 45

For what it's worth, Davies is also about 3 years younger than De la Rosa and at 23, has plenty of potential left in his arm.

Like De la Rosa, it all comes down to control. If the Royals coaching staff can manage to keep the new guy around the plate, he has the potential to be a strong contributer to the team.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Royals Week in Review - 7/20/07

After sticking it to the Red Sox, the Kansas City Royals prepare for a showdown with evil next week. But, before the Yankees come to Kauffman stadium, the boys in blue must first vanquish the front-running Detroit Tigers in the Motor City.

Ivan Rodriguez’s ninth inning homer must be avenged!

Month by Month
Thanks to the hard work of people like Sean Forman, hacks like me can find stats like this almost instantly:
       W   L   RS   RA   WP
April 8 18 99 132 .308
May 11 17 112 159 .393
June 15 12 145 117 .556
July 7 6 74 56 .538
Courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com


God, I love the internet.

As you can see, the Royals have turned into a winning ball club over the last two months. The results for July are difficult to judge, as the team hit a lucky stretch playing in Boston against two of the Beantowner’s lesser pitchers.

Playing on the road against the division leaders and then against a New York team that smells blood in the water should be a truer test of the progress the team has made.

Trading Deadline
Thanks to the internet age, pretty much every major leaguer can count on his name coming up in a trade rumor about this time of year. Both of my dead grandmothers have been linked to talks with the Cubs about a mid-level prospect.

The fact is, only Octavio Dotel is likely to get any serious scratch back for the Royals this season.

Dotel has a 3.15 ERA in 20 innings with the team this year, and it looks like bringing him back is not an option. If Dayton Moore can flip the Dominican for some top-level farm help, then his one-year contract will have been worth the gamble.

Future Stars
A quick refresher on some common stats I use.

AVG – Batting Average. Most people are familiar with this metric.
OBP – On Base Percentage. This takes into account walks and hit-by-pitches to give a better look at ability to get on base.
SLG – Slugging Average. This accounts for a player’s power by giving credit for each base reached with a hit. 1 for a single, 2 for a double, etc.

Currently, the American League is batting 269/340/419 (AVG/OBP/SLG).

Here is how some of the young players on the Royals stack up:

Billy Butler – 348/400/580 since being called up June 20th
Alex Gordon – 303/358/434 since the first of June
Mark Teahen – 366/487/548 with runners in scoring position
Joey Gathright – 315/390/370 before being sent down when Reggie Sanders came of the disabled list

Reggie Sanders is 377/450/623 on the season. AVAILABLE NOW!!! DIRT CHEAP!!!

Of course, Reginald is a career 267/343/489 hitter, which is nothing to sneeze at, but lends one to believe his current numbers may not hold up.

On the pitching side, there are several players to be excited about.

Brian Bannister – 3.87 ERA Ambriorix Burgos, whom the Royals traded straight-up for Bannister before the season, has put up decent numbers with the Mets as a reliever, but is currently on the disabled list.

Joakim Soria – 1.98 ERA Don’t forget, this guy through a perfect game in winter ball. Here’s hoping he won’t be relegated to the bullpen forever.

Jimmy Gobble – 2.67 ERA It’s easy to forget that Gobble is only 25 years old. His splits are heavily favored against left handed batters, but there’s something to be said for finding a role for a player who failed to meet expectations with regularity over the last four years.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Royals Week in Review - 7/14/07

Kansas City Royals come out of the All Star Break with a ton of momentum and a killer schedule. A few minor moves this week show that General Manager Dayton Moore may be warming up to be a player as the trade market heats up this month.

All Star Game
The Royals sent their $55 Million Man to San Francisco to represent this week. Mr. Meche's line:

DNP

Good work, Gil.

For a rundown of recent Royals in the mid-summer classic, check out Royals Review.

Perception vs. Reality
Now at the halfway point of the season, let's take a look at how the main players have compared to their pre-season projections.
OPS     Curr  Proj  Diff
Gthrght 796 665 19.70%
Buck 872 739 18.00%
Pena 668 573 16.58%
Grudz 749 709 5.64%
German 768 745 3.09%
DeJesus 783 786 -0.38%
Butler 767 786 -2.42%
Teahen 765 810 -5.56%
Gload 681 817 -16.65%
Gordon 679 834 -18.59%
Brown 608 781 -22.15%

ERA Curr Proj Diff
Soria 2.21 6.21 64.41%
Riske 2.21 4.36 49.31%
Gobble 2.70 5.17 47.78%
Banny 3.71 5.84 36.47%
Meche 3.54 4.90 27.76%
Peralta 3.64 4.50 19.11%
Dotel 3.50 4.17 16.07%
dlaRosa 5.16 5.55 7.03%
Greinke 4.63 4.76 2.73%
Perez 5.68 4.75 -19.58%

As you can see, the pitching staff has blown away the projections so far this year. There will most certainly be a regression to the mean for most of these pitchers, but the staff has already proven to be a bigger strength than most people expected.

The offense is a more of a mixed bag. John Buck has been in breakout mode for most of the year, still hitting for power even though his average has gone down. Tony Pena Jr. will most certainly come crashing back to earth, but the rest of the batters should be able to improve their stats as the second half rolls along.

Thug Royals
The GM started the trading season with a couple of minor moves, but both will affect the big league roster soon.

Aside from his pending charge for felonious assault, Roman Colon has put up decent stats in the minors and with Atlanta and Detroit. Out of options, he will need to be put on the 25 man roster next week.

Colon was used as a starter often early in his minor league career. One has to wonder if a few more bad outings by some of the team's lesser starters will put him in the prime scoring card location soon.

Jason Smith has already taken over the role of utility infielder on the team since being picked up from the Diamondbacks organization earlier this week.

Aside from a good season at AAA Colorado Springs last year, Smith has been exactly what you'd expect from a journeyman utility player.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Projecting the Second Half

As Independence Day nears, the Kansas City Royals have passed the midpoint of the season looking remarkably like a good baseball club the past month.

There will probably be many moves in the next month -- injured players returning, veterans getting traded, Buddy Bell giving Tony Pena Jr. a ten game shot at batting cleanup -- but for the moment, I want to focus on four numbers:

68, 72, 77 & 79

Sixty-Eight Wins
If you simply take the current winning percentage of the team and put it against 162 games, the final record will be 68-94.

Avoiding 100 losses is an accomplishment unto itself given the recent history of the franchise, but doesn't this team feel like it should win more than 68 games? After winning 62 games last year, a six game swing would be quite disappointing.

Seventy-Two Wins
I use the following formula to calculate "Pythagorean" wins:

(RS*2)/(RS*2)+(RA*2)

Statheads generally look at Runs Scored (RS) and Runs Allowed (RA) as a "truer" picture of how well a team has played.

People much smarter than me have suggested that a factor of 1.78 is more accurate, or even a factor that changes depending on the scoring environment of a particular season. Me? I'm happy to just square everything up and go with that.

What that gives us is a team that is actually good for about 72 wins on the season. Still not remarkable, but markedly better than the 62 of Ought-Six.

Seventy-Seven & Seventy-Nine Wins
The team has been playing much better lately, and I wanted to give them credit for that. Luckily, I have way too much free time today because the whole world is already on vacation for the 4th of July, so I decided to look at the pythag record for the last ten games and the last twenty five.

This chart shows the season so far in terms of real wins and the various calculations.

As discussed in an earlier post, the "10 Day Py" line shows those stretches when the team really plays well (and when they don't). In contrast, the "25 Day Py" line is perhaps a better predictor of future performance as it takes into account a larger sampling of games.

Now, 10 and 25 are purely arbitrary numbers. I still think this provides a good snapshot as to how the season has really gone for the team. Two really good stretches, culminating in one of the better months the team has had since 2003.

If the team finishes out the year winning 53-55% of their games (as they have for the last 10 and 25, respectively), they will finish the season with 77-79 wins.

Those totals won't bring home any hardware, but they'll come from a young team that will remain intact and improving for the next several years.

That's something to cheer about.


Friday, June 29, 2007

Royals Week in Review - 06/29/07

Having swept the California Angels of Southern Antiqua, the Kansas City Royals look to the Chicago White Sox, a team that is one bad weekend away from taking over the cellar position the Royals have held for so long.

As this weekend will mark the halfway point of the season, let's take a look at some of the notable stats from the first 79 games.

Offense & Defense
Mo   RS   RA   OPS  ERA
Apr 3.8 5.1 700 4.32
May 4.0 5.7 699 5.27
Jun 5.4 4.5 730 4.30

The offense has shown dramatic improvement in the last month, while the pitching has come back strong after an off month in May. Even the defense has stepped it up from the first month of the season, with only 5% of runs allowed being unearned in June, compared to 17% in April.

Leaders

Reggie Sanders will probably end the season as the team leader in OPS (On-Base Percentage + Slugging Average) as long as his sore hammy keeps him on the disabled list. These are the top three players looking to take over his 1.059 showing.
Buck      907
Gathright 851
Teahen 795

Even better for the Royals, the hot hands in June all look to play a significant role in the team's future.
OPS June
DeJesus 885
Gordon 885
Buck 880
Gathright 851

Joey Gathright has been getting on base at a .446 clip since his call up on June 6. While he does only have three extra base hits, the speedster has also stolen five bags while only getting caught once.

From a pitching standpoint, the relief staff has an overall ERA of 4.06 compared to the starters at 4.95.

A look at June ERA shows that while the bullpen has really been heating up, the rotation still needs some serious work.
ERA June
Soria 0.00
Riske 1.42
Peralta 2.08
Dotel 2.53

Banny 3.00
Meche 3.98
DL Rosa 6.41
Perez 6.66
Elartn 11.15


Gil Meche has slipped a little, but still looks like a win for Dayton Moore, while Brian Bannister has held his own.

De La Rosa is a fantastic pitcher to have if the game were still being played without stadium lights (a 3-0 record in day games); Odalis Perez is looking a lot like the devil, and Scott Elarton can stay in Omaha forever as far as I'm concerned.

Winners & Losers
Thanks to the wonderful stats over at Fangraphs (track a game live and see how your emotions look in a line chart), we can see who has contributed the most to the Royals wins and losses this year.

The stat Winning Percentage Added (WPA) gives credit for every play made that increases or decreases a teams chance at winning a game. As such, it puts greater importance on plays made late in a game, where the outcome of the game becomes more certain.

Team WPA
Offense -5.43
Starters -2.15
Relief +1.08

Most observers believed that Kansas City getting a reliable bullpen would be a sign of the apocalypse. No four horsemen yet, but keep your eyes peeled.

Individual WPA
Soria 1.40
Grienke 1.27

Meche 0.95

DeJesus 0.54
Teahen 0.52

Elartn -1.18
Pena -2.04


After some poor outings as a starter, Zack Grienke has ratcheted up his WPA by getting some big strikeouts as a reliever. Soria has been an absolute steal for the team, and one wonders if they shouldn't begin stretching him out to be a starter like Minnesota did with Johan Santana.

The two guys who have hurt the team most have one distinct difference: fielding. While TPJ may flail away at the plate like a tee baller facing the high school kids, he has flashed some pretty good leather this season, something that isn't accounted for much in these numbers.

Scott Elarton just stinks. One good outing in AAA will not convince me otherwise.

A young offense is coming around, and the bullpen has been a revelation. Dayton Moore must continue adding to the starting rotation. That is the key to this team becoming a threat in the American League in the very near future.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

MLB Piques My Interest in Women's Apparel

First of all, let me say that I love my wife.

Let me also say that it is easily apparent this is a photoshop job, as I found the same picture for all MLB teams with the logo switched out.

Lastly, for the record: I don't care. As somebody who grew up on "Who's the Boss," watched "Charmed" in spite of the ridicule from my roommate, and recorded the episode of "Spin City" when Alyssa Milano played the mayor's daughter (watch, and you'll know why), this photo is a dream come true.

Now, if I can only win the contest without my wife leaving me.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Royals Week in Review - 6/22/07

Something happened to the Kansas City Royals bats around June first. I don't know what it is, but after losing seven in a row, the boys in blue have pretty much taken Pythag out behind the woodshed the last few weeks.

The following chart has two lines:

The RED line represents the Royals running pythagorean record based on runs scored and runs allowed as the season progresses.

The BLUE line is a rolling ten game snapshot of their pythagorean record.



Basically, the blue line spikes whenever the team has a particularly good stretch of games (e.g. putting 17 runs on the board in the space of five days), and drops when they struggle (the aforementioned seven game losing streak).

The Royals are currently riding their second wave of sustained success. It's good to see the team bounce back after that disheartening stretch in May, but the real key to sustained improvement lies in the moves General Manager Dayton Moore makes between now and the trading deadline.

Addition by Subtraction
Whoever kicked Scott Elarton in the ankle is this month's MVP if you ask me. 2-3 with a 9.17 ERA in eight starts? I watched him pitch against the Cardinals the other night and I'm pretty sure I could have taken him yard, his stuff was so bad.

Despite Joe Posnanski's push for a four-man rotation, the Royals have signed John Thompson to take Elarton's place in the rotation.

The Royals opted for Thomson after choosing to keep Zack Greinke and Joakim Soria in the bullpen. They also resisted any inclination to promote any of their three top pitching prospects: Billy Buckner, Luke Hochevar and Tyler Lumsden.

While I'd like to see Grienke get another shot at the rotation, I'm okay with this move right now, as Zack seems to have found a groove coming out of the bullpen.

Thompson is your standard issue fourth starter, with a career ERA of 4.69 with four different teams. As seems to be the case with many of Moore's moves, he had some success in Atlanta, going 14-8 with a 3.72 ERA in 2004.

Sweeney Out
I'm done with jokes about Mike Sweeney's ailing back and annual trips to the disabled list. He will leave as one of the most productive hitters in Royals history and one of the most frustrating. I think big Mike's heart really was dedicated to making the Royals a better team, but his body could not shoulder the strain.

Thus, young Billy Ray will be getting another chance to taste the bright lights and lavish buffets of big league baseball. The Royals have officially taken the glove away from their top prospect, but plan to give him an opportunity to impress with the stick.
Butler will pinch-hit the next five games and then DH every day until Sweeney returns. KC considered other players but Butler was the only option who was on the 40-man roster that could be called up and then sent back to Minors without passing through waivers.

Now that Alex Gordon is hitting like the hype (333/361/507 since June 1st), the Royals young offense may be exciting to watch the next few months.

All Star Voting
Personally, I'd like to see John Buck named as the Royals representative at the upcoming All-Star game. He has been the team's most productive hitter, looks like a bad-ass with his new hair do, and maybe it would force the team to stop making their All Star split time with Jason LaRue.

As it is, the Royals will probably have to settle for one of their pitchers milling around the bullpen in San Francisco, waiting for the chance to serve up a Barry Bonds homer in front of the home crowd.

If that's the case, then Jim Leyland would have to give Gil Meche his top consideration. Despite last night's wobbly start, Meche has been everything the Royals could have hoped for so far this year, and thanks to his contract, he is a name some people might have heard of.

I could see Leyland giving the nod to David Riske. He's go an ERA under three and was nice enough to serve up that game winning homer to Ivan Rodriguez on April 8th.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Royals Week in Review - 6/8/07

The Kansas City Royals decided to take a week off from playing baseball, reflect on the lives they’ve led and generally kill any positive momentum from taking eight of ten contests before their big slide.

How badly did the recent seven game losing streak suck?

Here it is in sparkline form (Black bars are games decided by more than two runs):



On May 23, the Royals stood at 19-28, on pace for 65 wins and looking like a team with a future.

After failing to play even a close game for a week, they had a 19-35 record and were once again staring down 100 losses.

We won’t examine the run differentials during the losing streak because some people read this blog over lunch.

On to the week that was.

The Draft
Royals Authority has a nice breakdown of the Royals picks from the first day of the draft.

Dayton Moore’s focus was mostly on high school pitchers. Given that the roster he put together for this season is currently running neck in neck with Texas and Cincinnati for the worst record in baseball, I think it’s fair to say that Dayton has a strong affinity for young boys.

Transactions
RIP: Angel Berroa’s Career.

While it’s true that the hack master may clear waivers and put enough balls in play at AAA to get another call up, I’m still willing to put good money on Berroa’s career with the Royals being over.

to replace the former rookie of the year.

Gathright has been an on-base machine at Omaha this year, getting on at a .456 clip. He has already stolen two bases in two games with the Royals, so it looks like Buddy Bell is planning to use his new toy often.

Joakim Soria has also returned from the disabled list. The plan for now is to have him set up closer Octavio Dotel, but if OD keeps putting 2.5 runners on for every save he gets, the young Mexican may soon find himself finishing ball games again.

John Buck
The Hardball Times has a nice look at the big catcher’s season so far. Conclusion: Buddy Bell is an idiot for sitting him two out of every five games.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Royals Week in Review - 6/1/07

There's nothing much you can say about getting outscored 856 to 12 or whatever it ended up being while losing seven games in a row, so let's just drop it for this week.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Royals Week in Review - 5/25/07

The Kansas City Royals once again stunned the world by putting together another winning week. The overall record stands at 19-29, on pace for 64 wins, which still sucks but at least shows signs of improvement.

The last two weeks have seen the Royals go 7-3, giving them an 11-11 record for the month of May.

Most encouragingly, the bats of Alex Gordon and Ryan Shealy have both started to come around, while John Buck continues to play at an elevated level.

Baird’s Signature Trade
On June 24, 2004, the Royals, Astros and Athletics swapped some players in what was widely viewed as Allard Baird’s biggest move as general manager. Here is what the Carlos Beltran Trade looks like today:
   Belt  Buck/Tea
Yr VORP VORP
05 17.6 0.7
06 68.5 26.9
07 19.0 28.1

Of course, Carlos has been putting those numbers up for the Mets, not the Astros, and at a significantly higher rate than what Buck and Mark Teahen are costing the Royals.

“Gil Gauge” Replaces “Meche Meter”
Craig Brown at Royals Authority is going to use the classic “game scores” stat to keep track of how Gil Meche is paying off for the Royals.

In my opinion, tonight’s start is going to be a true barometer for Meche. The team covered his terrible start last week against Colorado by pulling out several comeback wins.

Unfortunately, getting spanked by Cleveland last night is the kind of thing that can turn a couple of good weeks into a bad month.

This is what your number one pitcher is required to do: Win games like tonight. Stop the bleeding and fast. Not just keep the team in the game, but shut down the opponent and let the offense know that they aren’t required to drive in five runs in the late innings every night.

Meche can really put his stamp on the season by shutting down the Indians tonight.

Other Stuff
Mike Sweeney has expressed interest in continuing his career as a catcher. Hey, stop laughing. I think he’s serious. No, you’re right. That is laughably ludicrous.

Club officials revealed plans for stadium renovations. Work will begin in the off season and the final product will debut in 2009. Among the plans are seats along the outfield fountains. I think this will be cool until the first strong wind starts blowing mist into the faces of a few wealthy patrons.

All Star voting is open. Next week, we’ll take a look at who might be the Royals most worthy representative.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Royals Week in Review - 5/18/07

The Kansas City Royals are winners. There’s just no other way to put it. Check out the week-by-week record.
4/2  – 2-4
4/9 – 1-5
4/16 – 3-3
4/23 – 2-5
4/30 – 2-5
5/7 - 2-4
5/14 – 3-1

It has taken seven weeks to make it happen, but the Royals are finally a winning ball club.

Pitching
Million-dollar Gil has been earning his dollars so far. Take out his horrid start on April 7, his numbers look like this:
G IP   H  R  ER BB SO HR ERA
8 54.1 49 14 7 14 43 3 1.16

Even adding in those seven unearned runs only puts his RA at 2.33 over that period.

Hitting
Last week, we pointed this out about John Buck.
Dates       G  AVG OBP SLG OPS
4/2 – 4/20 14 429 529 893 1422
4/22 – 5/10 14 175 286 300 586

Apparently, John reads this blog, because he went on a six game hitting streak with three homeruns and seven RBIs. Mr. Buck, duly noted.

Transactions
It’s getting to that point in the season when a lot of players are shuffled between the big league roster, the minor leagues and the disabled list.

Here are some of the notable transactions from this past week.

5/10 – Reinstated RHP Luke Hudson from the 15-day DL
5/13 – Placed RHP Luke Hudson on the 15-day DL


Two innings, four walks and five runs allowed. Thanks for stopping by, Luke.

5/13 - Recalled SS Angel Berroa from Triple-A Omaha and placed INF Ross Gload on the 15-day disabled list with strained quadriceps.

The out machine is back. Here is how Angel Berroa and Tony Pena, JR stack up after 41 games.
    YR AVG OBP SLG Fld%
TPJ 07 250 285 340 957
AB 06 238 248 331 969

Range stats are still an inexact science, but most scouts will tell you that Pena is getting to a lot more balls than Berroa would have. From an offensive standpoint, TPJ will keep the advantage as long as he keeps slapping those triples.

5/16 - Recalled 1B Ryan Shealy from his injury rehabilitation assignment and activated him from the 15-day disabled list; Optioned OF Billy Butler to Triple-A Omaha.

It’s being commented elsewhere that Billy Butler is getting the Justin Huber treatment, but I don’t think that’s fair. The team called him up because he was ready and has been upfront about the fact he rode the bench to avoid injury as soon as they knew that he would be sent down when Shealy came back.

If Reggie Sanders isn’t on the DL, I think Emil Brown is touring Triple-A facilities for some other team right now. Alex Gordon playing first base isn’t anything we want to see for an extended period of time and putting Mike Sweeney there everyday is a ruptured disc waiting to happen.

Shane Costa can fight it out with Emil for the corner outfield spot until Reggie Sanders comes back, and it won’t be the organization’s top prospect getting sporadic playing time. I imagine Butler will be back sooner rather than later and at season’s end, the average age of the Royals lineup will be sitting somewhere south of 30.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Royals Week in Review - 5/11/07

Rather than try to comment upon a week that saw the Kansas City Royals get outscored 34-11, let’s just pull out some notable stats. These and many more can be found at Baseball-Reference, The Hardball Times and Fan Graphs.

Offense

Line Drive Percentage
Butler  25.9%
LaRue 25.0%
Pena 21.9%

Young Mr. Butler has been putting some good wood on the ball so far in his pro debut. Not shown is LaRue whiffing 38% of the time and Pena pounding 52% of his hits into the ground.

Plate Appearances / Outs
        PA   OUTS
DeJesus 157 102
Pena 132 101

Pena has ended his at bats with an out as many times as DeJesus in 25 fewer chances. Expect that gap to widen over the next 127 games.

BA/RISP
Teahen  407
German 375
Sweeney 367

One thing to credit Buddy Bell, he has managed to get German into 26 of the team’s 35 games this year. Esteban has responded well after missing four straight games in late April, hitting 286/423/571 in the last nine games.

HR/F
Buck  24.8%

Just thought I’d point out that 1 out of every 4 times John Buck hits the ball in the air, it goes out of the park.

OPS
Sanders 1059
Buck 930
Teahen 821
German 816

Of course, Reggie Sanders is on the disabled list and John Buck… Well…

John Buck
Dates       G  AVG OBP SLG OPS
4/2 – 4/20 14 429 529 893 1422
4/22 – 5/10 14 175 286 300 586

Since forcing Buddy Bell to make him the number one catcher, Buck has gone back to hitting like John Buck. Unfortunately, Jason LaRue is hitting like my grandmother, God rest her soul.

Sweeney
Dates       G  AVG OBP SLG OPS
4/2 – 4/20 14 229 309 292 601
4/22 – 5/10 15 296 350 537 887

It’s good to have you back, Mike.

Winning Percentage Added (WPA)
Sanders .53
Gload .52
Teahen .45

Over the course of the season, these are the only hitters who have a net positive effect on the outcome of games.

Pitching
WPA
Soria      .85
Meche .81
De la Rosa .27
Ducky .11

Soria gets high marks here because he pitches in the situations with the most leverage. Meche has been more than solid as a starter. Now, if we could only run him out there every day.

ERA
Gobble    1.35
Meche 2.15
Duckworth 2.18
Soria 2.87

With Greinke joining Duckworth in the bullpen, there may be a chance yet for the Royals to close out a few games. Of course, if Luke Hudson continues to give up five runs every two innings, Ducky and Zack G may find themselves back in the rotation.

LD% vs. K/9
Meche   14.3% 7.4
Peralta 30.6% 8.5

Gil Meche is striking people out and keeping them from hitting the ball hard when they do make contact. Joel Peralta is striking people out, and providing a rocket launcher to opposing hitters when he doesn’t.

Back next week with good news from the road.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Royals Week in Review - 5/3/07

The Kansas City Royals front office decided to shift attention from the poor on-field performance of the team by executing several questionable roster-management decisions this week.

The ploy seems to have worked, as nobody noticed the Royals winning two games in a row for just the second time this season as the weekend creeps upon us.

Standings
Heading into game 30, the boys in blue have put up a 10-19 record, which projects to 106 losses. Things aren’t quite that bleak, though. Over at Baseball Prospectus, they project a team’s “real” level of production based on stats that I am not nearly smart enough to understand, and they peg the Royals expected record at 13-16.

Those three wins would work out to a 73-89 record by season’s end, which is what any reasonable person should expect from a young team getting better.

Of course, the team is really 10-19 and warrants a 5% chance of making the playoffs in BP’s latest standings.

Trends
Below is another way of looking at the season, courtesy of The Hardball Times Sparkline Generator. Every up tick is a win, and those marked in red are games decided by two runs or less.



Half of the Royals games this year have been close contests, including three of six losses in a brutal mid-April stretch.

Comparables
Here is how the Royals bats match up against the rest of the American League.

   R/G  BA  OBP SLG P/PA LD% BABIP BA/RSP
KC 3.86 250 325 390 3.86 17% 305 243
AL 4.67 256 331 405 3.83 18% 291 258


After starting the season about as offensive as a litter of kittens cuddling up to a sleeping Saint Bernard, the team is catching up to the league in rate stats, although runs per game are still woefully low. The big culprit appears to be batting average with runners in scoring position.

Roster Construction
The hamstring bug caught the Kansas City Royals this week, sending first baseman Ryan Shealy and right fielder Reggie Sanders to the disabled list. Despite a glut of corner outfielders, the Royals called up top prospect Billy Butler and everyone’s favorite Cal
State Titan, Shane Costa.

Clark Fosler over at Royals Authority has a look at the teams current roster set up. He notes that with Shealy and Sanders on the disabled list alongside Octavio Dotel and Dayton Moore’s Plan for the Future, the team has a very odd configuration.
[N]o backup shortstop or backup centerfielder, three leftfielders, a utility man who can’t play defense but hits like a DH and six, soon to be eight starting pitchers.

My guess is that Costa will be asked to spell DeJesus in centerfield, or perhaps cover for Teahen if he goes over there. Emil Brown is looking more and more like the odd man out and may only get a reprieve from outright release because of Sanders torn hammy.

Oh, and Gil Meche is still earning his money.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Butler Called up from AAA

The Kansas City Royals have called up Billy Butler from Triple-A Omaha to replace Ryan Shealy, who in typical Royals fashion, was injured while trying to score in last night's game against the Angels.

Butler has been considered the best hitting prospect in the Royals system for a few years, with only his defense keeping him from a big league roster spot. Through 25 games in the Pacific Coast League, he has a 337/445/584 line with six home runs against 12 strikeouts.

A look at his splits so far this year shows that his only problem has been some bad luck on balls in play against left handers.

Justin Huber would seem to have been the most likely candidate to replace Shealy, but he is off to a very poor start in Omaha, hitting a paltry 200/294/333 so far.

Ennuipundit provided this scouting report on Butler earlier this year.

Unless this move is just to give Butler a taste of the big league life while Shealy rests his hammy, one has to believe that the kid will be given some significant playing time in the next two weeks. Hopefully, his bat in the lineup will help to spark Alex Gordon. The two combined for 44 homers and 197 RBIs with Double-A Wichita last year.


Yeah, I played a pretty good second base in pee-wee ball...

I'm saving this link forever.

"Heath Once Subbed for Frank White."

Friday, April 27, 2007

Royals Week in Review - 4/27/07

This is the time of year when it gets difficult for Kansas City Royals fans. When the tough losses start piling up and all of the pundits are proved right for predicting another miserable year for the Kauffman Faithful. When the boys in blue have lost five one run games and the training staff still can't get Octavio's oblique to oblige.

When somebody puts their fandom up for auction and scathing editorials like this get posted to the internet.

Anyway, on to the big questions from the week that was.

How Bad are They?
Here is the Royals record for each of the first four weeks of the season:
4/2  – 2-4
4/9 – 1-5
4/16 – 3-3
4/23 – 1-3


The current record of 7-15 translates to a 52-110 season. Using runs scored and allowed as a measure, the team should be at 8-14, staring down a 102 loss season, which is certainly nothing to brag about.

So far, 12 games have been decided by two runs or less, with the Royals sporting a 4-8 record in those contests.

Is Anybody Doing Well?
David DeJesus leads the team in plate appearances with a cool 100 going into tonight’s game against Seattle. With a line of 315/390/517, David is giving Buddy Bell no reason to remove him from the top spot in the lineup.

Bell has quietly increased John Buck's playing time, giving the nod to the catcher in four of the last five games. Buck leads the team in most statistical categories a month into the season.

Reggie Sanders is still playing only half of the time, despite having the second-highest on base and slugging percentages on the team. At least he's taking it like a man.

On the pitching side of things, Gill Meche has been worth his paycheck so far and Zack Greinke came back from two poor outings to put up seven scoreless innings against the Twins last night.

Brandon Duckworth has been taken out of the rotation to solidify the bullpen, which is a lot like Britney Spears using a three dollar platinum wig to distract from her new nose job. That is, effective but still a three dollar wig.

How Bad is It?
Well, the Royals are starting to lose games in creative ways, which is always a bad sign. For example, this is the play by play with two outs in the ninth inning against the White Sox on Tuesday night:

Walk
Single
Infield Single due to throwing error – One run scores
Wild Pitch – One run scores


The bats have finally started to come around, but the relief corps is desperately inadequate. If anybody besides Joakim Soria can step up (10 Ks per nine innings), then the bullpen may become less of a liability and losing fewer than 100 games may not be such a pipe dream.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Twins' Hunter Keeps Promise, Breaks Rule

Minnesota Twins center fielder Torii Hunter has found himself in a little bit of hot water for making good on a promise he made to the Kansas City Royals after thier sweep of the Detroit Tigers gave the Twins a Division Title.

Hunter had four bottles of Dom Perignon delivered to the Royals clubhouse in response to some comments from Royals designated hitter Mike Sweeney before the two teams played earlier this week.

Of course, there is no opportunity for bad press that MLB will let slide by.

From ESPN.com:

[B]aseball has rules about this sort of thing.

Namely, rule 21-b, which proclaims "Any player or person connected with a Club who shall offer or give any gift or reward to a player or person connected with another Club for services rendered ... in defeating or attempting to defeat a competing Club ... shall be declared ineligible for not less than three years."

The Twins have asked the Royals to return the bottles so as to negate the "reward" from Hunter. As if losing out on the number one pick in this year's amateur draft isn't reward enough.

This will be an interesting case for the commissioner.

While it's pretty clear from this article about the Twins clinching the division last year that Hunter made the offer in jest, the offer was made.

Minnesota Twins center fielder Torii Hunter, running through their raucous clubhouse celebration Sunday afternoon, vowed to not only win the World Series but to deliver a present to his newest best friends. "Kansas City is going to get a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne from me," Hunter screamed.

Does the ghost of Joe Jackson haunt Hunter for the next three years, or will Bud Selig's better PR instincts kick in to keep this incident from exploding?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Royals Week in Review - 4/20/07

The Kansas City Royals did win a game this week, which may not sound like a lot, but means something to their loyal fan base, so I wanted to bring it up. Here's a quick look at what else happened.

The Beginning

Despite Zack Greinke's horrendous start against the Tigers, the Royals starters have a 3.55 ERA three weeks into the season, placing them square in the middle of the major league pack.

Million Dollar Gil and Zack G are leading the way, with five quality starts out of seven so far.

The Middle

Dismal Run support has been a problem. Kansas City is averaging only 3.4 runs a game and has below average numbers across the board. The best hitters have been John Buck and Reggie Sanders, two guys who are only playing in half the games.

The team leads the league in strike outs, while sitting at fourth-to-last in walks.

The End

The relief staff has kept Buddy Bell hooked on Rolaids, sporting a 5.74 ERA and blowing leads late in four games this season.

Joakim Soria has been given the closer's job until Octavio Dotel returns from the disabled list. Soria picked up his first big league win by striking out four batters over the last two innings Thursday against Detroit. On the season, Soria has 11 Ks against 4 walks in 8.3 innings of work.

The Rest

Forbes has released its latest franchise valuations, including this scathing article about David Glass hording money from revenue sharing.

The club is currently valued at $282 Million if you would like to make an offer. My guess is that with some shrewd negotiating, you can get the boys in blue for about $250M if you throw in a new black cloak for the Emperor to wear.

Craig Brown at Royals Authority shows that Mark Teahen has reverted to his old habits of taking the ball the other way. Fond followers of the fellow will recall that once he started pulling the ball more, his power numbers jumped way up last year.

Finally, Mike Sweeney knows his bat is slow, so you can stop making fun of him.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Royals Week in Review - 4/13/07

Holiday travel meant a week off for the Kansas City Royals Week in Review, or KCRWIR, as I’m hoping the kids start calling it. That means this will be a season in review for the team as we prepare for week three of the young MLB season.

The Money Man

A quick recap: One earned run against Boston on opening day. Dayton Moore is a genius! Gil Meche is the greatest steal of the off season! Wait… 6 runs in seven innings against Toronto. Meche sucks! This is the worst contract ever – an albatross that will surely sink the Royals for good. Hold on… five Ks and no runs against Baltimore yesterday. Hmm… maybe Meche is a good pitcher.

All of the praise and panic aside, Meche has a 3.10 ERA with a 3.75/1 strikeout to walk ratio after three starts.

The KC Star is running a great feature now called the Meche Meter.

It basically assigns a dollar value to certain counting stats Meche puts up in each start. It may not be the most sabermetrically sound method of measuring a pitcher, but it’s not a bad way to look at the results a major league starter should be expected to post.

The Saviors

The nicest surprise so far has been the pitching of Zach Greinke. In two starts he has 12 strikeouts and only one walk to go with a 1.38 ERA. Any stats from so early in the season are to be taken with a grain of salt, but young ZG looks good so far.

Of course, the other future star hasn’t had it so great. Alex Gordon, he of the golden locks and the level swing, has managed just two singles and a home run so far, while striking out in a third of his plate appearances.

At the moment, the media vultures seem to be giving AG a chance to find his footing, but don't be surprised if talks of shipping him to Omaha start up if he has a bad weekend. (My money is on Flannigan firing the first shot)

Having watched most of the games so far, Gordon doesn’t look completely overmatched to me. He’s averaging 4.08 pitchers per plate appearance and at least making pitchers work to strike him out.

The Rest

It’s starting to look like those 15 strikeouts in Spring Training are all that Royals fans will get to see from Octavio Dotel for a while.

In sad news for Greinke, both of his maternal grandparents passed away. He expects to be back with the team for his scheduled start this Sunday.

Joakim Soria’s six Ks in six innings have garnered him a shot at the closers role.

Standings

Ten games into the season, the Kansas City Royals are at 3-7, last in the American League Central, 3.5 games back of Detroit and Minnesota.

A look at the sparkline for the season so far (thank you THT) shows that three losses have been by only one run, so there is no reason to sell all of your Jimmy Gobble memorabilia on eBay just yet.



Currently, Baseball Prospectus gives the team a 1.18% chance at making the playoffs based on their current record and projected results.

This is compared to the no chance that most people gave the team at the start of the season. The pitching has been league average so far. It’s time for the offense to step up.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Suck It, Sox! - BOS 1, KC 7

Look, I don't know what river the Red Sox pulled Manny Ramirez out of before the game, but it didn't matter. Shilling looked terrible and Gil Meche looked like a legitimate major league pitcher today.

Tony Pena, Jr. will probably never hit another triple in the major leagues, but I think the core of the Royals line up can be reasonably expected to have more games like today’s than not.

Grudzielanek, Teahen and Sweeney all had hits in the heart of the order. DeJesus was just off and put up an 0-fer, but John Buck decided to pretend it was September and jacked a home run to the deepest part of Kaufman Stadium.

Defensively, the Royals threw out two Red Sox trying to advance, both by wide margins, which says more about the Red Sox on the base paths than the Royals in the field, but I'll take it.

All in all, a good day for the team and the beleaguered fans.

For one day, the Royals are tied for first in the American League Central, and the literati can shut up about Gil Meche and his millions of dollars.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Royals Week in Review - 3/30/07

A look back at the week that was for the Kansas City Royals.

Roster Decisions

The opening day roster has been set. These are the twenty-five men Kansas City will take into battle against the Red Sox on Monday.

Rotation (5): Jorge De La Rosa, Brandon Duckworth, Zack Greinke, Gil Meche, and Odalis Perez

The great news here is that Zach Grienke came out of camp with his head screwed on straight and slotted in as the #3 Starter.

This spring, he’s been striking out over a batter an inning. My prediction is that Zach will be the #1 stopper by the end of the season. If Meche and Perez can keep their ERAs in the fours, then it gives the Royals three legitimate starters (not superstars, mind you, but quality guys).

Of course, anybody with a rudimentary understanding of baseball statistics can tell you that the days De La Rosa and Duckworth take the mound will be long ones for the KC bullpen. How quickly the farm system can develop solid starters to fill in the back of the rotation will dictate how long it takes for the Royals to truly be a competitive team.

Bullpen (7): Ryan Braun, Octavio Dotel, Jimmy Gobble, Joel Peralta, David Riske, Joakim Soria and Todd Wellemeyer

Dotel got roughed up near the end of Spring Training, but has been throwing bullets since he got to Arizona. I think the days of him putting up a 231 ERA+ are over, but he should be a solid player at the end of games.

The rest of the pen is a mish-mash of average to better-than-okay-but-not-great guys. The wild card is Soria, who has the potential to be the next Johan Santana of Rule 5 picks.

Catcher (2): John Buck and Jason LaRue

Mediocrity took on mediocrity and in the end, it was a battle that neither could win.

The good news is that both backstops have played well enough to be named the starter. Ideally, you’d like to see the younger Buck given a chance to blossom, but if a platoon arrangement keeps both players healthy and productive, it will be hard to complain.

Infield (6): Esteban German, Alex Gordon, Mark Grudzielanek, Tony Peña Jr., Ryan Shealy and Mike Sweeney

While the younger Peña gets his chance to check out the Kansas City MILF scene, perennial underachiever Angel Berroa has finally been sent to AAA.

This quote from Joe Posnanski’s terrific blog pretty much says it all about Berroa. Joe is quoting an anonymous scout:

“He’s awful. Horrible. I wouldn’t have him as a backup. … He still can’t recognize a slider, and he’s so spooked by that he will just watch fastballs go right down the middle of the plate. He has lost about three steps too.”


Outfield (5): Emil Brown, David DeJesus, Ross Gload, Reggie Sanders and Mark Teahen

Speedster Joey Gathright is the loser here, as the Royals have been unable to find any takers for Reggie Sanders, despite a professed willingness to eat most of his contract.

I feel a little bad for Sanders, because I think he can still be a productive major league player if he stays healthy. Unfortunately, he’s just too old for a team like the Royals to justify playing him over younger guys.

A quick story about Sanders from my trip to Surprise this spring:

Mark Teahen was starting the game in centerfield, with Sanders manning right. When somebody for the Diamondbacks hit a towering fly ball to deep center, Sanders ran over and began shouting directions to Teahen.

“BACK BACK BACK… okay, come in a little bit. You got it. You got it!”

Sanders was helpful and encouraging to the very person who was taking his job away. It doesn't say much about his ability to hit a chest-high fastball, but it says a lot about his character.

Postseason Odds

So, what does this group get us? Baseball Prospectus has published their first Postseason Odds report, based on projected stats and playing time of all major league teams. After running the simulations, the Royals Currently have a 3% chance of making the post season.

The End of Spring Training

The Royals will take on the Astros in Houston for something called the Wal-Mart Cup this weekend.

They finished Cactus League play at 11-16, though the team was second in hitting.

Ross Gload led the regulars with a 1.126 OPS. Billy Butler hit 419/514/774 and is set to terrorize pitchers in the Pacific Coast League until the outfield situation clears up.

Ryan Braun pitched his way onto the roster by only giving up 2 runs in 9.2 innings. Zach Grienke had the best ERA among starters at 3.32.

Now, it is time to put all of those numbers away and play some games that really matter. The Royals will take on the Red Sox in Kansas City at 4:10 p.m. EST on Monday, April 2nd.

Play ball!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

One More Arm for Omaha

The Kansas City Royals traded minor league catcher Maxim St. Pierre to the Milwaukee Brewers for right-handed pitcher Ben Hendrickson today.

Despite having a kick-ass name, St. Pierre was one of a bevy of backup catchers clogging the Royals minor league system.

Of course, any trade that doesn’t involve the names Emil Brown or Reggie Sanders isn’t likely to make Royals fans happy in the near future, but for now, let’s take a look at what they got.

Ben Hendrickson has been working his way up through the Brewers farm system since 2000. A few brief stints with the big league club in ’04 and last year haven’t gone so well for young Ben, but in the minors, his numbers look solid if unspectacular.

His best talent seems to be avoiding the long ball, giving up only 0.57 home runs per nine innings over his minor-league career. He appeared to wear down over the course of the season last year, his key stats rising with each passing month until September, when every batter he faced looked like Roy Hobbs swinging a magical wood bat.

Hendrickson will start out the season with AAA Omaha, but he looks like another young arm that general manager Dayton Moore is stockpiling for when Jorge De La Rosa continues pitching like he did today.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Royals Week in Review - 3/23/07

A look back at the week that was for the Kansas City Royals.

Notable Stats

Record: 9-12
Spring training records have little to no correlation for the regular season, but it’s worth noting that the Royals current pace would give them a 69-93 record over 162 games.

OPS:
Butler 1.288 (37 Plate Appearances)
Gload 1.257 (40 PA)
LaRue 1.233 (26 PA)

Billy Butler has been hitting in the last half of most games this spring, which means that production has come against mostly minor-league competition. Still, the boy can hit.

Ross Gload has been getting starts and looks like a lock to keep Justin Huber from getting out of Omaha this year, while Jason LaRue appears to have found his stroke this spring. John Buck is not far behind, but LaRue has proven he can hit in the big leages… Johnny Boy? Not so much.

ERA:
Dotel 0.00 (6 Innings Pitched)
Soria 2.57 (14 IP)
Grienke 3.86 (14 IP)

Assuming he doesn’t wet his pants when a game that means something is on the line, it looks like the Royals may have found a bullpen solution with Dotel.

With Luke Hudson heading to the DL and Brian Bannister sucking in his last two starts, both Zach Grienke and Joakim Soria may begin the season in the starting rotation. Grienke is still giving up the long ball on occasion, but both of the young pitchers are striking out a batter an inning, which is a welcome sight.

Position Battles

Angel Berroa may have finally worn out his welcome with the big club. He has put up a 263/300/342 line this spring, mirroring his career stats, which are terrible.

BREAKING NEWS:The Royals just picked up Toney Pena Jr. from the Atlanta Braves.

Pena is a good fielding shortstop who doesn’t get on base much and doesn’t hit for any power. His best OPS in the minors was 671. Basically, the Royals have just replaced Angel Berroa with Angel Berroa.

At catcher, both John Buck and Jason LaRue have made good cases for themselves at the plate. I wouldn’t be surprised to see LaRue get the opening day nod over Buck due to his experience, but my guess is they will split time evenly this season.

In other shocking news, Alex Gordon was named the starter at third base, beating out the ghost of George Brett and Phil Hiatt’s flash in the pan.

2007 Predictions
Nearly everybody is predicting the Royals to finish dead last in the American League central with between 92 and 97 losses.

The Hardball Times puts them at 67-95, one game back of Tampa Bay for the worst record in the league.

Arm Chair GM has them at 70-92.

Replacement Level Yankees ran four projection systems through the Diamond Mind simulator to get these results.

CHONE: 64-98
Diamond Mind: 65-97
PECOTA: 66-96
ZIPS: 65-97

This comment puts it bluntly: “[In 4000 simulations, the] Royals are the only team who failed to make the postseason at least once.”

BoDog.com puts the team at 85/1 odds to win the world series.

Place your bets now.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Pine Tar Videos

This Video Dog post from Salon.com collects a couple of different videos about the famed George Brett "Pine Tar" Incident from 1983.

A few brief comments.

1.) God, I love You Tube.

2.) I'd never seen the entire sequence like this before. It really is funny to watch. Could the two announcers have been any bigger homers for the Yankees?

3.) Rick Dempsey as George Brett. This Rick Dempsey. High-larious.

4.) I feel like a 7-Up.

23 days 'til Opening Day!

Royals Week in Review - 3/9/07

A look back at the week that was for the Kansas City Royals.

Grudzie Goes Gimp

The Esteban German experiment at Short took a break this week when Mark Grudzielanek went down with torn cartilage in his left knee. German will take over the starting job at second base until the gold glover is ready to return, which according to reports is anytime between next Thursday and 2009.

Leaving defense aside, German projects as a much better choice at second than Grudzielanek. Last season, he was worth three more runs a game, according the classic formula developed by Bill James.

Of course, German was worth 5.5 more runs than Angel Berroa, who is thus far having a decent spring.

Other Injuries

Joe Nelson has injured his labrum again. Similar injuries kept Nelson from becoming a major league regular in the past. As noted here, Nelson faded badly in the second half for Kansas City last year after pitching brilliantly at the start of the season. The competition for bullpen roles is a lot tighter this year, though, so Joe may find himself hanging out in Omaha for a long time if he makes it back from this latest surgery.

Position Battles

Spring statistics are about as useful to us as J. Howard Marshall’s money is to Anna Nicole Smith, but like Smith, they are fun to look at sometimes.
Player AVG OBP SLG
Buck 600 750 1400
LaRue 400 400 1300

Jason LaRue has shown some nice power in his first healthy Spring Training since knee surgery last year. John Buck has been taking a few walks.

Both players look like locks to make the opening day roster and we may see Buddy Bell use his catchers in tandem like NFL teams are starting to use running backs.
Player AVG OBP SLG
Butler 667 714 1083
Gordon 353 450 588

Billy Butler is treating baseballs like Ron Artest treats his women. Unfortunately, he’s doing so at the plate and in the field.

Alex Gordon looks more like the real deal every day.
Player AVG OBP SLG
Berroa 333 375 533
Blanco 467 467 667

Neither shortstop has taken a walk this spring, though Berroa has been plunked already.

Craig Biggio has made a pretty good career for himself getting on base via the ol’ HBP. Of course, he also hits for power, fields at an adequate level and has that cool tar stain on his helmet.

Other News

Garth Sears rounds up a who’s who of Royals baseball writers for a discussion at Baseball Think Factory.

Bob Dutton discusses options, and reminds us all that crappy players will always make the team so that they don’t go stink it up for some other franchise.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Royals Week in Review - 3/2/07

A look back at the week that was for the Kansas City Royals.

Games!

It’s been five cold months since the Kansas City Royals gave up the first pick in the 2007 draft by winning the last game of the season in Detroit. Finally back on the diamond, the Spring Training schedule started with a loss to the Angels and a win over Texas.

We won’t get into much heavy analysis over a couple of exhibition games; especially since ten players who weren’t even good enough to get profiled in the Spring Training Preview series took the field.

In the first game alone, 18 different players had at bats, and seven pitchers were used.

Of note: Mark Teahen started in right field for the Royals, allowing Alex Gordon to fight for the starting spot at third base in the same way President Bush had to fight his way into Yale.

Top Prospects

Baseball America released their 2007 Top 100 Prospects list on Wednesday. The Royals placed three players on the list, with Alex Gordon landing the number two spot behind Daisuke Matsuzaka, the shiny new Japanese pitcher the Red Sox plunked down $100 million to get in the off season.

Here's how they ranked:
2. ALEX GORDON, 3b, Royals
College Player of the Year in 2005, Minor League Player of the Year in 2006 . . . Rookie of the Year in 2007

25 BILLY BUTLER, of, Royals
His bat will have to carry him, but it can--he's a career .344/.417/.564 hitter in pro ball

32 LUKE HOCHEVAR, rhp, Royals
After a celebrated holdout, he improved his stock in indy ball and went first in the '06 draft

The Rockies and Devil Rays had 8 and 7 players on the list, respectively, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Dayton Moore is talking up the fresh mountain air or the booming real estate market in Florida to Reggie Sanders.

Other News

Jorge De La Rosa has the inside track on the #4 spot in the rotation. His 3.33 ERA in the last month of the season made an impression on manager Buddy Bell.

Mike Sweeney won’t be allowed to visit Tucson this spring. Fans of the Diamondbacks, Rockies and White Sox must be disappointed, but it’s their own fault for always trying to get horsey-rides from the major leaguers who come into town.

Finally, the players are all a bunch of ninnies when it comes to wearing synthetic polyester hats.

Friday, February 23, 2007

"Who are These Guys?" 2007 - Relief Pitchers

Previous Installments: C - 1B/DH - 2B/SS - 3B - OF - SP

And here we are. The end of the line for the Kansas City Royals Spring Training Preview series. It’s fitting, then, that today we look at the men who will be tasked with finishing the games.

Last year, the Royals were abysmal in the final innings.
Rk Tm  Save%
1 MIN 80.00
2 LAD 79.37
3 DET 74.19
League 65.88
29 KC 53.03
30 CLE 51.06

Kansas City blew 31 saves in 2006, more than any other team in baseball.

If the team had been able to convert saves at the league average rate, they would have added another eight wins, and while that still would have left them well out of the playoff chase, it would also have kept every single team preview this year from leading off with the “KC has lost 100 games or more in four of the last five years” stat.

Granted, it’s a moral victory, but one worth achieving.

Since these guys don’t play as many innings in a game (and since there are so damn many of them), they get shorter player profiles.

Octavio Dotel
0-0, 10.80, 2.90
ERA+ 41

Don’t let the stat line scare you. Those numbers were compiled over just ten innings last season. Dotel has only thrown 25.3 innings in the major leagues the last two seasons due to injury (that is the stat that should scare you).

Throwing out last year, Dotel hasn’t had an ERA+ lower than 123 since 2000. If he’s truly mended, he should be a stable force at the end of ball games this year.

Todd Wellemeyer
1-4, 4.14, 1.51
ERA+ 114

Wellemeyer put up a 3.63 ERA in 57 innings after the Royals picked him up off of waivers last year. He’s always had strong strike-out-to-walk ratios in the minors, but that has yet to translate to the major league level.

If he can give away a few less free passes this season, he will have been a steal for Dayton Moore.

Joakim Soria

n/a

After the Royals made Soria the second pick in the Rule V draft this off season, he responded by pitching a perfect game in the Mexican Pacific League.

Solid stats are hard to come by for Soria, who has spent most of his time on the disabled list or pitching in the MPL, but according to this Wikipedia entry, he was 9-0 with a 1.77 ERA in 11 starts last season, striking out over a man an inning.

Jimmy Gobble

4-6, 5.14, 1.48
ERA+ 94

Gobble has always been a finesse pitcher with decent control. Last year, he led the team in strikeouts, a stat that probably says more about the Royals than himself.

He also led the team in wild fluctuations in performance month to month.
Mth  G   ERA
Apr 10 6.75
May 9 3.00
Jun 12 2.25
Jul 5 6.85 (5 starts)
Aug 12 1.64
Sep 12 12.00

Only turning 25 this season, Gobble still has a chance to decide who he wants to be... the ace from August, or the September schmuck.

Joel Peralta

1-3, 4.40, 1.24
ERA+ 110

Peralta spent a long time in the Angels farm system, putting up good K/BB ratios and decent ERAs. Unfortunately for him, the Angels have been loaded with talent in their relief corps, so he was waived and picked up by the Royals.

He was solid if unspectacular with the team last year and is one of many arms that will have a shot at a set up role going into this season.

Ryan Braun

0-1, 6.75, 1.50
ERA+ 72

A high strike out guy, Braun was moving up through the Royals farm system nicely until he lost 2005 to injury. Last season, he put up ERAs of 2.21 in AA and 2.16 in AAA.

The numbers above are from his cup of coffee call up in September last year and are skewed by a particularly bad outing against Detroit.

Ken Ray

1-1, 4.52, 1.54
ERA+ 97

Does that name sound familiar, Royals fans? It’s because Ray pitched 11.3 innings for the team in 1999.

Since that time, he’s bounced around the minors as organizational filler for the Giants, Brewers, White Sox and Braves.

Dayton Moore has brought him to Kansas City because he saw something he liked in Ray while he was with the Atlanta organization.

Leo Nunez

0-0, 4.72, 1.50
ERA+ 102

Nunez was jumped from AA to the big league club in 2005 after showing a few flashes of brilliance for the Wichita Wranglers. Those flashes turned out to be the “in a pan” kind and he struggled with the Royals that year.

Last season, he came up briefly in the summer, posted some promising stats, and spent the rest of the year progressing from AA to AAA, where he posted a 2.13 ERA in 38 innings with Omaha.

Turning 24 this season, Nunez still has a chance to grow into a fine MLB pitcher.

John Bale

n/a

A solid pitcher in the minors for several organizations, Bale could never make his big league opportunities stick and wound up pitching in Japan the past three years.

His walk rates have been declining along with his ERAs while in Japan, so he may have finally figured something out in the Far East.


David Riske

1-2, 3.89, 1.30
ERA+ 120

A solid relief pitcher, Riske was signed in the off season to give the Royals at least two guys in the bullpen with proven major league success (Dotel being the other).

He pitched 3.7 innings of scoreless baseball in the 2001 postseason while with Cleveland, so he’s got way better clutch stats than A-Rod if the team can make it past the regular season.

Joe Nelson

1-1, 4.43, 1.37
ERA+ 109

Another one of those guys who was on track to become an MLB regular until injuries derailed him in 2000 and 2003.

Last year was the first time Nelson saw sufficient action at the major league level. After a strong start to the season (1.11 ERA in his first 22 games), he tired towards the end of the year, posting an ERA of 8.41 in his last 21 appearances.

The feast or famine nature of Nelson’s season pretty much sums up the entire Royals squad going into camp this year. Every player on the roster has had moments in their career in which they looked like a superstar on the verge of breaking out, and most of them have had soul-crushing reality checks.

Over the next month and a half, Buddy Bell and his staff will need to do their best at sorting out the true talents of each player and assembling a team that can produce results, not just hope for them.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Denny Matthews to Enter Hall of Fame

Fantastic news for Kansas City Royals fans today: Denny Matthews has been announced as the winner of the Ford C. Frick Award by the Baseball Hall of Fame.

From the Royals website:

Matthews has been with the Royals since the franchise's inception as an American League expansion team in 1969. He initially won the job after beating out more than 250 applicants for the No. 2 announcing position alongside veteran Bud Blattner.

I first started listening to Matthews calling Royals games when I was mowing the lawn as a kid. When I moved to Los Angeles seven years ago, I began listening to the Royals games over the internet and really discovered what a great play by play man he is.

Here are my two favorite Denny moments:

1.) During a Royals-Rangers game, the announcers were discussing Nolan Ryan and his accomplishments as a player. They talked about the strike outs and the no hitters and then Matthews finally chimed in that his favorite moment was when Robin Ventura charged the mound and Ryan put him in a headlock and basically showed him who the boss was.

Matthews doesn't sugar coat things. That's everybody's favorite memory of Nolan Ryan and he didn't pretend otherwise.

2.) During the magical run towards respectability in 2003, the Royals were about to lose to the Seattle Mariners in the second game since coming back from the All Star Break. Mike MacDougal had come in to save a 3-1 lead in the ninth inning, but walked a few batters, gave up a few singles and was facing Ichiro Suzuki with the bases loaded.

Ichiro drove the ball to right field and Matthews started yelling, "Come on wind! Come on wind!"

It was a grand slam and the Royals lost the game.

Matthews is most often criticized for not showing enough emotion during a game. To me, this is his greatest quality. Routine grounders are treated like routine grounders. Likewise with lazy fly balls and singles over the second base bag.

When it really counts, Denny's voice will rise, and he will shout at the wind to help his team win, just like a great flagship announcer should.

Congratulations, Denny. You belong in Cooperstown.