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.

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.

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.” 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 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.
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.
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.
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.


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.