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
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.

Million-dollar Gil has been earning his dollars so far. Take out his horrid start on April 7, his numbers look like this:
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.

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.

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.
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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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."