Thursday, July 7, 2011

Two in a row!

And lest you think that title is thinly veiled sarcasm, I will remind you that it's not just two wins in a row, it's two wins in a row over the Chicago White Sox.

That sort of changes everything, you know?

I've got the growing sense that the Royals will need Bruce Chen in 2012, and possibly even 2013. While 34 year-old journeyman pitchers without great stuff are everywhere (I almost hit a couple on the way to work every morning), ones that know how to pitch aren't so common. You wouldn't want a staff full of Bruce Chens, but having one, especially on a starting-pitching starved team like the Royals, isn't bad at all.

I wouldn't want to offer him a two-year deal, but I'm thinking if he's able to more or less perform like this the rest of the season, he'll get some nibbles in the offseason -- a couple of which might be in more attractive locales. Normally I wouldn't mind letting him go, but Danny Duffy's up-and-down beginning (mostly down) in addition to the setbacks for Mike Montgomery and John Lamb sort of dictate the Royals wanting to hang onto someone reliable.

As a side note, with another good start, I imagine Dayton Moore will get some calls on him prior to the trade deadline. I can't really imagine the Royals getting enough in return for Chen considering their lack of depth in the rotation, but I think he'll draw some interest considering he's so cheap.

It's going to be an interesting few weeks, as the Royals have several players that will draw at least a small-to-moderate amount of interest in the trade market. Here's to hoping that whatever moves Moore makes, he has an eye towards helping the team in 2012 or 2013.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The legend just grows, doesn't it?

From's game recap of the Royals 5-4 loss last night to the Chicago White Sox:

With Dunn up and facing a 1-0 count, Pierzynski noticed Crow's front shoulder move after he saw it, Pierzynski alerted the umpires and that prompted the players in the White Sox's dugout to jump up and plate Ed Rapuano then called a balk, giving Chicago the win.

"He just came up a little bit," Pierzynski said. "It wasn't much, but I've seen it called a lot of times. I just saw his front shoulder (move), and then he realized and stepped off and didn't think anyone saw it. No one reacted. It took a second for everyone to finally realize what he had done. It was a good way to win. Good comeback. I'm happy for Adam. It's got to feel great for him, and Mark pitched well. It's a big win."

Alright, so first things first -- it would have to be A.J. Pierzynski, the most annoying player in baseball to point this out, wouldn't it?

(well, perhaps not, but he's my most hated by far)

Secondly, why is a player pointing this out to an umpire to prompt a call? The umpire sees it, or he doesn't. If the motion is finished, by the time the White Sox players start jumping up and down, pointing it out, the moment has passed -- any balk that may have occurred has escaped the notice of the umpiring crew and it should not be called.

Well, unless you're the Royals, and you have some more losing to do -- and also have to have what's likely to be your lone All-Star representative promptly blow the first game he pitches after his selection was announced. Ick.

So...let's move onto positive-ish things, shall we?
  • Eric Hosmer has raised his OPS by 47 points in the last 9 games (.710, his lowest point of 2011, to .757). His homer in the 9th to tie last night's game was on the first pitch.
  • Brayan Pena is finally making a pretty solid case that he should get the lion's share of the playing time at catcher. I like Matt a backup catcher. If you want to get into stats, Pena's got Treanor beat in most of them, offensive and defensive.
  • Both Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur are heating up (Frenchy's 4-strikeout game notwithstanding). I don't know if the Royals should trade both of them (although I lean towards "yes" on that), but they'd better trade at least one. Their value won't get appreciably higher than it is now.

The break can't come soon enough for KC -- and when it does, Dayton Moore better be working those phones. He's got definite commodities in the trade market, and with so many teams still at least pseudo-in their respective division races, he should also have suitors.

Monday, July 4, 2011


As the Royals were able to finally claw out a mercy win against an NL West opponent yesterday and ended a 5-game losing streak, I thought it'd be an enlightening thing to look at how the Royals have streaked this season.

Winning -- three (3) streaks of 4 wins or more:
  • April 1st - 5th, 4 wins, outscored opponent(s) 26-20
  • April 13th - 16th, 4 wins, outscored opponent(s) 28-11
  • April 29th - May 3rd, 4 wins, outscored opponent(s) 31-13
Those streaks weren't against anyone playing good baseball at the time, but beating up on teams playing poorly is what you're supposed to do if your team is any good. In April (and just a bit of May), the Royals were pretty good overall. But after that, the well dried up as far as lengthy win streaks.

Losing -- six (6) streaks of 4 losses or more:
  • April 22 - 28th, 6 losses, outscored by opponent(s) 46-22
  • May 13th - 18th, 5 losses, outscored by opponent(s) 37-9
  • May 21st - 26th, 5 losses, outscored by opponent(s) 32-18
  • June 2nd - 5th, 4 losses, outscored by opponent(s) 26-6
  • June 18th - 24th, 6 losses, outscored by opponent(s) 31-19
  • June 27th - July 2nd, 5 losses, outscored by opponent(s) 30-12
The lesson? I think what highlights the losing streaks is the combination of poor pitching and poor hitting at the same time -- none of those streaks were just a product of bad luck, they were a product of horrible baseball all around. The lowest scoring average of opponents in any of those streaks was 6.5 runs/game, while the highest scoring average for the Royals was 3.67 runs/game.

Here's a breakdown of the Royals scoring through the first three months:
  • April - 5 runs/game
  • May/June - 3.9 runs/game
Of course, they broke out quite a bit in these last two games, but the fact is the Royals don't have a "good" offense at all (Jeff Francoeur's statement after Sunday's game notwithstanding) -- 3.9 runs/game would just be a bit higher than the 3.6 runs/game that the much maligned San Francisco Giants offense scores. And I think I'm going to take the results of two months over one month for a proper indication of offensive competency.

Friday, July 1, 2011

I somehow feel responsible for this

So, my other favorite team, the San Francisco Giants, are in 1st place in the NL West.

The Royals play every NL West team this season except the Giants (and the LA Dodgers, but they don't count, because they suck and they're broke).

The Royals are, so far, 0-6 vs. the NL West.

I mean...come on, already.

So now they finish up their interleague schedule for 2011 against the Colorado Rockies playing in their home-run happy, offense-inflating park.

Yes, I see this ending well. I mean, what could go wrong?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

There's always the Royals

As some articles have crept out in the last week or so about how dominant the AL is over the NL again in interleague play, NL teams can take some solace -- that particular dominance in no way extends to the Royals, who are now 4-10 against the National League.

Way to carry the torch, fellas.

Ned Yost tried to play with matchups in yesterday's game against the San Diego Padres like he did for Monday's game, stacking some of his right-handed hitters at the top of the lineup against lefty Clayton Richard (he stacked left-handed batters against the right-handed pitching Matt Latos on Monday).

It didn't work. Perhaps having guys that don't really get on base at a high percentage at the top of the lineup doesn't work? Nah, that's crazy talk.

In theory, this kind of ballpark (Petco Park) should play similarly to Kaufmann Stadium, thus playing to the Royals' doubles-hitting, aggressive-baserunning ways, but the Royals' offense has sputtered. Not totally surprising, given that Petco is a hard place to score, but there's a couple of things going on here:
  • The Royals are 2-17 with RISP in the first two games of this series.
  • The Royals are 4-of-5 on stolen bases in this series, and they should be 2-of-5.
The Padres seem to be highly aware of the Royals baserunning tendencies. Chris Getz stole two bases in last night's game (and whatever else I've said and will say bad about Getz, I will say that he is an impressive fellow running the bases), but both Matt Treanor and Jeff Francoeur were picked off.

Frenchy, however, beat the pick-off relay throw from 1B to 2B, which resulted in a stolen base.

He did the same thing Monday, too. So, 4-of-5 in steal attempts for the Royals in the series total, but again, it should be 2-of-5.

Given this, any attempts to steal in the final game of this series need to be a bit more measured, or the Royals are going to lose baserunners. Although, if they're going to continue to bat .118 with runners in scoring position, it may not matter much.

Sidenote: I did my duty yesterday in casting my allowed 25 All-Star ballots. It's usually a bit of a blur, for me, what with my particular set of rules in picking players.

1) Yes, I look to my favorite teams first.
2) If there are no worthy candidates at a position from my favorite team, I try and take a stab at the next worthiest, as long as they are...
3) Not New York Yankees
4) Not Boston Red Sox
5) Not on the cusp of their 153rd consecutive All-Star appearance

So, I almost couldn't tell you who I voted for if you just asked me casually. I definitely voted for Alex Gordon, although no other Royals. Of course, Dick Kaegel on the Royals official site seems to think that it's Jeff Francoeur that needs All-Star voting help more than Alex...otherwise, why title your article that way?

I know an easy way to get Frenchy into the All-Star game -- buy the man a seat. Otherwise, I'm thinking that type of article needs to go away. It's that type of idiotic thought process that leads to Derek Jeter leading the AL voting at SS despite being possibly the worst starting SS in the American League...oh, and being hurt.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Don't have to be a sabermetrician for this one, Yost

You're managing a major league ballclub in a major league baseball game. You're in the 9th inning, and you're down by one run. In comes the other team's lights-out closer, a nasty right-handed pitcher. You have the pitcher's spot up in the order, so you want a left-handed batter to pinch hit.

Do you go for:
  1. A guy hitting .185/.313/.185 with little major league experience who is striking out 1 of every 4 plate appearances in 2011 and has no power.
  2. A guy hitting .286/.343/.407 with a good amount of major league experience, who is striking out 1 of every 4 plate appearances in 2011 and has some power. (Also, this guy is a switch hitter, batting .305/.361/.454 from the left side)
  3. A guy hitting .317/.440/.439 with some major league experience who is striking out 1 of every 5 plate appearances in 2011 and has a little power.

It isn't a trick question -- these were the choices that lay before Ned Yost in the top of the 9th inning in the aforementioned situation last night vs. the San Diego Padres. Seems pretty easy, huh?

#1 - Jerrod Dyson
#2 - Wilson Betemit
#3 - Mitch Maier

He chose to go with option #1, which has to be one of the stupidest pinch-hitting choices I've ever seen. It's not difficult, and it's not debatable. He had a 66.7% chance of getting it right if he pulled the names out of a hat.

Would hitting Betemit or Maier instead have worked? Probably not...pinch-hitting is an imprecise science, at best. But it doesn't take a brain surgeon to go, "Gee, seeing as how there is no possible doubt that Betemit and Maier are better hitters than Dyson, let me at least eliminate Dyson as a possibility."

I understand Yost would want Dyson's speed on the bases, but why wouldn't your plan be what you've done all year -- wait until somebody gets on base, then pinch-run Dyson? You'd rather not use up that much of your bench in one move, sure, but those extra guys aren't going to do you much good if you never tie the game in the first place.

I haven't been on Yost much this year, but this was simply asinine, insipid -- whatever word meaning "dumber than a bag of rocks" you'd like to use.

Monday, June 27, 2011

When you're hot you're hot...when you're not, you're hot

If your name is Chris Getz, that is.

He has been hot lately, hitting safely in 9 of his last 10, with 4 multi-hit games thrown in for good measure. The boxscores tell me so, and who am I to argue with the stats?

Oh. I'm me, that's who.

The problem is, to me, is twofold:

  1. The thing Getz was doing in April was getting hits and drawing walks -- when his hitting started to plummet, he was still drawing some walks. Now he's heated up at the plate, but the walks have almost disappeared. He draw 11 walks in April, six in May, and in June? Just four (with three games to go).
  2. Many of the type of hits he's getting are, quite simply, weak. He seems to make solid contact so seldomly, I have trouble watching his plate appearances (despite this, his Line Drive % is 21.7, so perhaps I'm only seeing things). I've also seen a few at-bats this year where he gets in a two-strike count and fouls a ton of pitches off, and this gave me the impression he sees a lot of pitches. Truth? No, he doesn't...3.87 pitches per plate appearances isn't bad, but it isn't that good, either.
Some of this, especially point #2, I'm sure, stems from what Getz tries to do at the plate -- I don't think he tries to get solid contact often, because many of his swings are really just him throwing the head of the bat at the ball to make any sort of contact. Honestly, he reminds me a lot of Ichiro in the box, except...well, Ichiro makes solid contact often (not as much this season, though he is heating up now), and is still faster than Getz so that when he doesn't, he stands a better chance of getting infield singles.

Oh, and also, Getz has never and will never sniff a .300 average over a full season. Ichrio's done it 10 seasons in a row.

So, essentially, Getz reminds me of Ichiro without the skill. Yep, that made a lot of sense.

In any case, what I do like about Getz is that I am certain he's giving it his all out there -- it's just unfortunate that when he's at the plate with a man on 2nd base and 2 outs, there's a decent chance that even if he gets a hit it may not score the runner. He's doing well enough lately and I'm happy for him, but I just cannot get myself to the point where I think it's any sort of sustainable.

His OPS is .630 right now, and at a position where one generally doesn't see a ton of offense. Also, this season is down offensively -- yet still, Getz is 51 points behind the average OPS at 2nd base (.681). It doesn't matter this season, but for 2012 and beyond, the Royals have to consider if Getz is doing enough defensively to make up for the lack of offensive production.

Royals Ticket Contest!*

*This contest is sponsored by StorageMart - Daniel

Going to baseball games can get pretty expensive but fun for everyone. StorageMart of Kansas City wants to help you out by giving away tickets to see the new look Royals throughout the 2011 Season.

Simply visit the StorageMart Kansas City Facebook page, Like It, and post who you think will win and your registered. A winner will be chosen from those who posted. It is that simple!

Here are the dates and opponents of the tickets StorageMart will be giving away. They will soon be giving opening up for the July 10th giveaway.

July 10, 2011 Royals v Detroit Tigers
July 24, 2011 vs. Tampa Bay Rays
August 7, 2011 vs. Detroit Tigers
August 21, 2011 vs. Boston Red Sox
September 4, 2011 vs. Cleveland Indians
September 18, 2011 vs. Chicago White Sox

Free always sounds good and with all the great prospects being called up, why not check out Eric Hosmer or Mike Moustakas before tickets are hard to come by!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

More Positivity

Joakim Soria in June:
  • (9 games): 11 IP, 3H, 2BB, 11K, 0ER
That beautiful to see, and what I've mentioned a couple of times before may just be coming true for the Royals -- any hope they could have of trading Soria and getting the value they would've gotten if they traded him over the offseason would come from letting him close, and praying he comes back to form. While the Chicago Cubs aren't exactly an offensive juggernaut, Soria still mowed them down pretty well last night.

Of course, it could be that the Royals intend on keeping Soria (hint: they probably shouldn't), in which case it's nice to see that the first couple of months was likely a fluke.

Besides that, I was very encouraged by Danny Duffy's start -- only a couple of strikeouts and he gave up a couple of solo home runs, but still, it was a well-pitched game. He kept his pitch count under control all night and only gave up one walk. The strikeouts will happen, but he'll have to figure out how to achieve that balance between the number of pitches he's throwing and missing bats.

I also liked the dual 1-for-3 with a walk games by Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, although I cringed at the trio of pop-outs in foul territory they threw in there. Still...that's a good day at the plate overall.

More things that made me smile:
  • Alcides Escobar continues to rip. One of the two hits he had yesterday wasn't exactly awe-inspiring, but the triple he had wasn't a cheapie at all -- it was smoked into the gap in right-center, which is exactly the type of hit he wasn't getting prior to his smoking hot June OPS of .861.
  • Greg Holland continues to quietly mow down opposing hitters. While I would prefer Aaron Crow to be considered as a candidate to be a starter, between Crow, Holland, and Louis Coleman, the Royals definitely have the arms capable of sliding into the closer and setup roles should Soria be traded.
No real feeling of why this would be, but I'm starting to look for the Royals to score more consistently. While they're not totally a punch-and-judy club (they lead the AL in triples and are currently 2nd in doubles), they've still hit the 4th least amount of homers in the American League. Now that we're into Summer, I'm thinking we'll probably start seeing a few more fly over the fences for the Royals.

...that means that a few more for the other teams, too, but remember, this is another positive post. Focus!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Positive Rant

I thought it a good time, what with all the negativity surrounding the Royals' recent slide back into irrelevancy, to talk about Alex Gordon and his arrival as a Good Player.

He's been hot lately, and I was thinking we'd see a bit of this sooner or later. Of course, we all remember his scorching April -- an unsustainable .979 OPS and good times, right? But I think what's most telling about his season thus far isn't April; it's May.

"But Daniel!" you say, eyebrow arched. "How can that be? His numbers in May weren't good!"

Ah, and you're correct. But something about May stands out to me -- it wasn't bad, either.

We've seen a few Royals hitters regress to their hitting talent levels this year after a hot start -- Jeff Francoeur, Chris Getz, Wilson Betemit, for examples -- but when Alex had his slump after his hot streak, it wasn't a crash, it was simply that he didn't do as well for a while.

Some things to note about May:
  • Alex never went on an extended slump -- he had 3 games in a row once where he didn't get a hit, but it was a total of 9 plate appearances. Other than that, he never went more than two games without contributing.
  • The lowest point his OPS reached was .779
  • He slightly increased his walk rate, and his isoP remained level
  • He only had 3 of 27 games where he failed to either get a hit or draw a walk, and one of those three games was only a pinch-hit appearance.
Sure, May was still Alex's regression to his talent level, but it also showed that even while slumping, he found ways to contribute and still was a useful hitter in the lineup.

Now he looks to be heating up again, and who knows? If he's capable of running an OPS well over .900 for a full month once, he could do so again this year. But even moreso than the hot streaks, what convinces me that Alex Gordon has finally arrived is his first slump of the year wasn't him becoming a bad hitter for a while, it was him only being a mediocre hitter for a while.

If only he could find a way to hit better on the road...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

It doesn't get any simpler than this

My favorite teams are: 1a) the Kansas City Royals, and 1b) the San Francisco Giants.

Today, a series starts between the Royals, last place in the AL Central, and the Arizona Diamondbacks, 2nd place in the NL West.

Another series starts between the Giants, 1st place in the NL West, and the Minnesota Twins, 4th place in the AL Central.

I'd like the Royals to not be in last place. I'd like the Giants to remain in 1st place.

Okay boys, just head out there and sweep 'em. G'head. You can do it. Never mind that the Diamondbacks look genuinely decent, and thus are better than the Royals. Never mind that the Twins are red-hot, and have been playing much better than the Giants lately.

Do it for me, but mostly, do it for yoursel...ah, screw it. Do it for me, damnit.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Billy Butler, Gold Glover

Billy Butler leads the Earth in UDP/9 (Unassisted Double Plays per 9 innings) with 3. As there is no possible way Eric Hosmer, Wilson Betemit, or even an unholy defensive union between Keith Hernandez and J.T. Snow could possibly beat that defensive stat, Billy needs to be installed at first base.

...and as I'm being sarcastic about that, Alcides Escobar hits his first home run of the season, a mammoth shot, and reminds me that unbridled, unchecked sarcasm will often lead one to look silly.

I'm hoping I get a chance to look silly again in that same way in the next couple of innings. Who's up? Butler? Jeff Francoeur? Betemit? Psh, just NO WAY that ANY OFF THOSE THREE hits a GAME WINNING HOME RUN today.

*update* And just after I posted that, something else I wrote was made to look silly -- I talked about teams likely testing Francoeur's arm less since he's thrown out so many this season just a few days ago, and then he throws out a runner trying to stretch a single into a double.

*2nd update* And then Skip Schumaker ends the game with a home run that was probably about as likely as Escobar's was to tie it. The Royals now have sole possession of last place in the AL Central.


Friday, June 17, 2011


I've seen a few comments hither and yon about yesterday's game, and I saw a particular comment repeated in a few different ways about Eric Hosmer. They went something like...

"blah, blah, blah, BEST HITTER ON THE BENCH, blah, blah, blah..."


"blah, blah, blah, CAN'T EXPECT TO WIN WITH YOUR PHENOM NOT PLAYING, blah, blah, blah..."

At the risk of sounding like...well, like an asshole, I offer this -- Hosmer isn't the best hitter on the team, and saying so is really silly. He's not hitting poorly so far, having a hot start that has been tempered by a slump, but he's played about 25% of a season, and he's 21 years old.

We don't know what he'll be, but I think it's not too bold of a statement to say he'll eventually be the Royals best hitter. Right now, though? It's not even close, and it should be semi-truck-bearing-down-on-you obvious that Billy Butler is still easily the best Royals hitter. He's the best statistically on the team right now, and here's the capper: he's been the best Royals hitter since 2009.

I'm not sure why this type of talk riles me up -- as fans, we're impatient by nature, so I have no problem understanding why someone, wrapped up in hope of what Hosmer could become, would want to label him the Next Big Thing and foist the weight of the franchise on his shoulders immediately.

But...just make some sense before doing so. None of the wonderful things he's done in the minors are guaranteed to happen in the majors, and definitely not right away. Hosmer's been struggling lately, and his manager, in a move done 1,000's of times throughout a major league season, gave him a day off Thursday to rest and clear his head a bit.

Also, the Royals lost to the Oakland A's by 4 runs, so unless you were penciling Hosmer in for a 4-RBI day -- which, last I checked, doesn't happen often -- then the Royals still would have lost.

The flipside to this is Butler. This is an odd year for him -- he's the established guy, and he's been around. People have...well, sort of ignored him this season for the most part. When they've paid attention, it's been, "Why isn't Billy 'breaking out'? Why isn't he hitting more home runs?" All sorts of other players have grabbed attention: Alex Gordon and Jeff Francoeur with their torrid start, the starting rotation with their troubles, Joakim Soria's struggles, all the prospects debuting...

Meanwhile, Butler is quietly walking more than he's struck out (43 to 33), running the highest on-base percentage of his career (.405), and generally being productive. Sure, he isn't hitting for as much power as you might want, but Billy is 25 years old -- many out there are still waiting for Chris Getz and Francoeur to magically "get it" while being one or two years older than Billy and with no statistical indication that they'll ever "get it", yet are ready to trade Billy because he hasn't become Edgar Martinez yet.

You're entitled to your opinions, but let's look at something really quickly:

Billy Butler 2011 (age 25): 301./.405/.442
Edgar Martinez 1991 (age 28): .307/.405/.452

Gee, whaddya know? Fun fact: Martinez didn't even have a 20+ home run season until he was thirty-two years old.

So, the essence of this post is...simmer down with the Billy Butler trade murmuring. I find it kind of stupid, really. Whenever Eric Hosmer does become the Royals best hitter, whether that's later this year, next year, or perhaps the year after, anybody with their head attached to their shoulders would want Butler hitting somewhere around him in the Royals lineup.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


I was planning on attending last night's game, and then Life interfered, which was quite inconsiderate of it. I will, however, be attending this afternoon's game, so hopefully I have enough mojo to pull out a series victory -- or, failing that, at least cheer the Royals on to scoring more than a single run.

  • He still finds ways to contribute, but make no mistake -- Jeff Francoeur is the exact same player he's always been. Considering the Royals aren't going anywhere, it's fine, but for those who were considering signing Frenchy to another couple of years, take a gander at his slashline; it's been steadily falling for over a month, now (.980 OPS on May 4th, .764 now). I'm not wanting to get him replaced in the lineup (I mean...who would they replace him with?), but he does need to moved back down in the order again.
  • Alcides Escobar is apparently trying to get a month's worth of hits (well, at least, for him) crammed into a week and change. It's too bad nobody besides him and Melky Cabrera hit last night.
  • Luke Hochevar, solid 5th starter...does that have a ring to it? Of Hoch's 15 starts, 6 of them have been very good (55+ game score), 3 have been acceptable (in the 40's), and 6 have been poor (below 40).
  • I wonder at how Matt Treanor continues to draw walks at an insane rate, especially given he's hitting .218 -- it's one thing for a feared hitter like Jose Bautista to draw a ton of walks, but I'm going to guess Treanor doesn't quite inspire the same kind of fear in opposing pitchers. Treanor should continue to play almost every day while he's getting on base at a .370 clip.

Sidenote -- Francoeur's reaching that point in the season where it will be a little more difficult for him to get outfield assists, because teams are going to stop testing his arm. I would love a throwing contest between him and Nate Schierholtz of the San Francisco Giants, who also has an unfairly accurate howitzer disguised as a mild-mannered human arm.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Chatting with Danny Duffy's Dad

Well, besides Danny Duffy pitching 6 strong innings and the Royals getting a victory, I ended up with an unforeseen bonus to the game last night.

I got to speak with Danny Duffy's dad.

I'm writing more on it over at Royals Review, so if you'd like to read up on it, please head there using the following link:

In the meantime, here's a picture.

Besides that, I was impressed with Duffy's composure on the mound. He did walk four, but never really in situations that hurt him directly, and I also believe there are strike calls he didn't get in this game that he would have in others (of course, you can say that in just about any baseball game, but you get my point). Let's be honest -- at this point, the Oakland A's were just about the perfect team for Duffy to pitch against; struggling offense in a pitcher's ballpark. But the point is, he got it done, and hopefully this will work as a confidence launchpad for him. He's obviously got the stuff.

I'll also spaz out a bit. Did...did Jeff Franceour walk twice in one game, or did I just have one too many beers? Oh, wait...I didn't drink any beers. Bugger that. Onto the bullet points.
  • Well, Alcides Escobar, I'm glad you found the correct bat -- you know, the one with hits in it. Dump those other ones, please. Or, donate them to the Detroit Tigers.
  • Chris Getz keeps making me arch my eyebrow at him in the field; another easy play that he ended up making difficult. Yo, Chris, you do know Johnny Giavotella is playing well at Omaha, right? You might want to stop doing those things...defense is supposed to be your strong suit.
  • If Billy Butler wants to hit a few more home runs, I have some simple advice -- you might want to swing at some 3-0 pitches, Billy. Get greedy. Please. If you're Matt Treanor, fine. Otherwise, try and get both cheeks into one, will ya?
  • Okay, so now Joakim Soria is starting to look more like Joakim Soria, instead of...oh, I dunno, Joakim Noah.
Have a good day, everyone.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Quick hit on realignment

I'm sure somebody has brought this up somewhere, but I'm a little confused by the proposal for realignment, especially in the Amercian League -- or whatever the American League would become after realignment. Specifically, I'm speaking on the no-division, top 3-teams make it, 2-teams play a one game playoff proposal.

Do they really want to set up a format where the top three teams record-wise make it? Let's look at something really quickly:

  • In the 9 seasons from 2002 to 2010, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox have both finished in the top 3 a total of five times.
  • In the 4 seasons in that period where they both didn't finish in the top 3, one of them did.
  • In 2011, the teams with the best two records in the AL currently are: gee, the Red Sox and the Yankees.
  • With the no-division format, the only year from 2002-2010 that both the Yankees and Red Sox do not make the postseason is 2006, where only the Yankees make it.
So yes, if they were running that format from 2002-2010, out of 18 chances to make the postseason outright, the Red Sox and Yankees would have made it 17 of 18 times.

I'm not going to get into East Coast biased or anything, but I will get to some common sense -- while to me it's unfair that those two teams are able to spend tons more money than everyone else in order to compete, that factor is mitigated by two things: 1) it is their money, and most importantly, 2) they have to compete within the same division with each other, playing a ton of games against one another.

Do away with the divisions, all of a sudden the thing that keeps the teams with two highest payrolls in check (and thus, the two teams with, every year, the best chance to make the postseason) will be eliminated. Sure, it's not like Red Sox/Yankees won't be a feature on the schedule, but with a fair scheduling system, they would play each other less on average.

They play a few less games against each other, then what happens? Well, they play a few more games vs. teams spending a lot less, and likely without quite as much talent...which would likely result in an extra win or two each year for those teams, and a slightly better chance to end up with a top-3 record.

C'mon, now. Who wants that?

If you want to realign, fine, but the only way a division-less format would really, really work is if baseball instituted a salary cap.

Look for me...I'll be in the Royals gear

I'll be at the next three Royals games, as they're making the trip to the Bay Area to play the Oakland Athletics in one of those scary-although-we-should-be-optimistic series.

Optimistic? As bad as the Royals have been lately, the A's have been worse.

Scary? Well...the A's have to win sometime, don't they?

Tonight's and tomorrow's game I should be behind the visitor's dugout, as close as I can get (which is usually the first to the third row), but on Thursday I haven't the slightest clue where my seats are, beyond knowing that they're pretty good. I'd love to live blog the game or something cool like that, but I'm thinking that's a bit ambitious for me.

I'm loud and annoying enough many of the games I attend to get a bottle cap or three thrown at me from the upper deck (usually coinciding with whether or not the Royals are winning), so we'll see how many "clinks" I hear from the seats around me, and/or how many A's fans they hit despite aiming for me.

Yes indeed, I'm afraid some of the...ah, more colorful...Raiders fans also happen to be A's fans. Go figure.

So, if you see a brown, bald guy clapping it up and generally making a nuisance of himself to A's fans, there's a good chance that'll be me.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Relief appearances

Before I say anything about anybody, I want to mention I'm extremely...I mean, extremely...happy for Vin Mazzaro.

With his recent outings, he had to have a ton of pressure on him in this game, and he also likely realizes the Royals just don't have a lot of alternatives for starting pitchers right now. Still, in a very real sense, he probably couldn't afford another bad outing.

So what does he do? Go out and throw 7 shutout innings, of course.

This was far from a stellar outing, though, despite the results -- Mazzaro only gave up 5 hits, but also gave up 5 walks, and really only avoided giving up any runs because of 5 double plays. In 102 total pitches, Mazzaro threw only 53 strikes. Also, the Los Angeles Angels can't seem to hit their way out of a wet paper bag right now, despite their mini-outburst on Saturday.

Let's appreciate the win, appreciate that Mazzaro found a way to scuffle through it, but realize the next time he toes the rubber we probably shouldn't expect the same results.

Who else is making me breathe a sigh of relief?
  • Chris Getz is, that's who. He's hitting some again...although it comes with the caveat that I would like him to stop botching double play balls, which he did on Sunday and he's done a couple other times this season. His OPS for June is still at .394, though, so if he's not going to do all the fundamental things he's supposed to be good at, he'd better hit.
  • Blake Wood continues to be dependable, which isn't something anyone probably expected.
  • Alcides Escobar -- perhaps he heard me anguishing over his lack of hitting a few days ago?

It looks like Ned Yost is making a concerted effort to get aggressive again on the basepaths, as perhaps is evidenced by the two attempts to steal 3rd base with 2 outs in the game on Sunday. I heard them questioning the moves on the television broadcast, but I'm going to hope the attempts were prompted by how erratic Angels starting pitcher Tyler Chatwood is in general, and specifically on Sunday. The ideas that stealing 3rd is easier with an erratic pitcher, and that if he throws a wild pitch your team can pick up a run for free aren't bad ones, but making the 3rd out trying to steal 3rd base isn't generally good baseball.

And right about now I'm going to leave you with a question -- if you knew Melky Cabrera was going to have this kind of production for the next 4-5 years, would you still trade him and bring in Lorenzo Cain, or would you instead trade Cain?

Melky has enough history to suggest this is about as good as it's going to get for him and he's not likely to sustain it, but the flipside of it is that baseball history is filled with guys that do pretty well in triple-A and don't pan out in the majors. Cabrera hasn't really changed as a hitter, except this year he's hitting for more power than in any previous year. His numbers aren't great, but they're decent for a centerfielder.

Personally, I would still pull the trigger on trading Melky, and I've got to imagine he's going to draw a good amount of interest. But while he's still frustrating in a couple of ways, overall he's having a pretty good season, and he's only 26 (soon to turn 27) -- so it's something to think about.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Well, lookee there

While it would be much easier to notice if the Royals were still in the race a few people may have missed that the Cleveland Indians have run into the same brick wall the Royals already have. They ran into it later, and they ran into it after they had given themselves quite a cushion, but run into it they have.

I wondered if the Indians were going to have some troubles leading up to the AL East-heavy schedule they were due to embark on just prior to the Memorial Day weekend; a schedule that outside of the AL East included teams like the Texas Rangers and the Cincinnati Reds. I knew they wouldn't continue to win at the .600+ clip they were on at that point, but I was thinking they would get through it somewhere close to a .500 record, rather than the 8-13 record they've put up (and they started it off w/ four wins in a row, too).

What's probably surprising to me more than the record is that they've really played worse than that -- they're 4-1 in 1-run games during that period, and in the other 16 games during this stretch they've been outscored by 45 runs.

I suppose it's that special brand of pessimism that allows many of us Royals fans to see the Royals and Indians get off to good starts, and simultaneously find every reason the Royals won't continue to do well while being easily convinced of why the Indians were about as good as they looked.

The real reason the Royals are out of it while only 7 games back isn't really the Indians -- it's the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox. Are the Indians better than the Royals? Probably, but with recent events I don't have a ton of problem seeing the Royals and the Indians ending up having around the same record, even if I doubt it. What I don't see, however, is the Royals ending up with a record above .500 and having a better record than the Indians, Tigers, and White Sox.

So how many wins will the Royals end up with? Their current record (28-36) -- which is, by the way, the same record as their Pythagorean record suggest they should be at -- projects out to 71 wins; a few less then I was thinking when they started off hot, as I was guessing 74 to 76. A couple of realities about their situation are:
  • The Royals have already played a home-heavy schedule, and about 60% of their remaining games are on the road.
  • The starters are already the worst in the league and really can't get appreciably worse
  • They don't really have any hitters hitting appreciably above expectations, but they do have a few hitting below
  • Joakim Soria has personally slashed the Royals tires on the way to having a better record
Taking those factors in and thinking a bit, I think 71 wins is fine and doable. The roster will likely change some more as a few pitchers come off the DL and the Royals get busy in the trade market, but by the time that's all said and done the Royals' fate will be set in stone.

71 wins. Not lots, and not what many of us hoped for, but it's a sight better than 62 wins, which would mean the Royals would have "met expectations" for a 100-loss season.

And as for the Indians? While it's easy to say they're falling back to Earth and now the teams most assumed would contend for the title will now take over, I'm not so sure...the Indians won quite a bit for a two-month period of time, not just a month like the Royals did. They won't continue to lose like this, and also, the Tigers and the White Sox really shouldn't inspire that much awe and confidence. They, like every team in the AL (and MLB, for that matter), are very flawed.

Moves made at/before the trading deadline could mean a lot more this season than many others, since so many teams are finding ways to hang around and stay at least semi-relevant in their respective division races.

I'm going to project this:
  1. Detroit Tigers: 91-71
  2. Cleveland Indians: 87-75
  3. Chicago White Sox: 84-78
  4. Kansas City Royals: 72-90
  5. Minnesota Twins: 70-92
If I'm right, someone buy me a beer, damnit.

Friday, June 10, 2011

How did this thing pass muster...?

Whoever designed this hat originally should be made fun of.

However, whoever approved it to be manufactured...well, that person ought to be kicked. I'm so, so sorry, Angels fans, this is a swing-and-a-miss. I know it's nostalgic and all, but egads, it's horrid.

Muchas Gracias, Mr. Moustakas

...yeah, just ignore my lame attempt to modify Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto.

In any case, you heard it here 52nd, the Royals are calling up Mike Moustakas and have sent down Mike Aviles. Moustakas will start at 3rd.

This will set up the following things to happen:
  • The Royals will probably just start Chris Getz at 2nd base everyday.
  • Wilson Betemit will likely be seriously shopped, and I think it likely Aviles will be, too.
It might be wise to hang onto Aviles a bit longer unless they think 2B prospect Johnny Giavotella is about ready, otherwise an injury to Getz could screw with things a bit. However, if a team wants Aviles, the Royals should definitely listen.

I'm not certain who else the Royals could be shopping, although certainly Melky Cabrera would seem to be a candidate -- again, depending on the Royals' thoughts on how close Lorenzo Cain is. But, like with Aviles, they really shouldn't be afraid to deal Melky if a team wants him...there would be nothing wrong with Mitch Maier starting in CF for a while, especially since he's looked decent in very limited duty.

While of course it sucks sweaty llama fetlocks that the Royals won't make any noise this year besides the bit they made in April, this is nonetheless the interesting by-product of that realization -- the farm system is now being tested, and Dayton Moore has yet another chance to show some small amount of competency in the trade market.

His best bet will be a package of some sort -- none of the players the Royals are likely to try and trade will be worth much on their own, so some two or three player combination is probably their best bet at bringing something back. Personally, I think taking a stab at a catching or shortstop prospect that's within a year or two of being ready would be their best bet, but a starting pitching prospect would also be something to look out for.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


All it took was a couple of scoreless outings by Joakim Soria to put him back into the closer role, eh? Okay, so...

A) If the Royals are planning on shopping him this Summer, good move.
B) If the Royals are planning on keeping Soria, questionable move.

"A" is simply because if the Royals want to get more than a slightly-used Justin Bieber CD in return for Soria on the trade market, they'll have to hope Soria can string together some good outings and a closer/bullpen-desperate team will consider his struggles this year a fluke.

"B" is simply because if you're going to remove somebody from a role because of struggling, I think more than two outings is needed to prove he's back.

And as I'm writing this, he's teetering on the edge of blowing another one. Oh, the drama!

UPDATE: I don't care that he got the save -- needing 28 pitches to get through the bottom of the Toronto Blue Jays order isn't really encouraging.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Where to begin?

I've missed a lot of Royals baseball these last couple of weeks while up in Oregon for work. But it doesn't have to be a bad thing, necessarily -- on the plus side, I got to work with some wonderful people, do a few outdoors-y things, and...

...well, I've missed a lot of bad Royals baseball.

Luckily I ended up not having time to write anything just prior to the series with the Minnesota Twins, because what I was likely to write was something like: The Royals Offense is Back, which apparently wasn't true at all.

To put it plainly, this has become a punch-and-judy offense. The Royals get plenty of hits, but just cannot generate any power. Earlier this season, that wasn't necessarily a bad thing because they were supplementing the lack of power with stolen bases. That ain't happenin' any more, so now the Royals' chances for offense are essentially the hope that one of their few extra-base hits are well-timed, or that they get lucky and bunch up their walks and singles in the same innings.

Of course, offense in general and power in particular are down across major league baseball (well, except for Jose Bautista), but with the Royals, these offensive struggles can really be pinned on something definitive: the bottom of the order.

Chris Getz has had a recent small surge where he's collected a few hits, so even though almost none of those hits were impressive and I still cringe when he's at the plate, I'll leave him alone -- Mike Aviles hasn't done anything to separate himself from Getz, and even though I'd much rather have Aviles in the lineup than Getz, Aviles' feast-or-famine plate appearances to this point can't generate much confidence.

Really, who I want to focus on is Alcides Escobar.

Let's cut the crap -- he's a black hole offensively. He's done absolutely nothing well, and I'll be the one to say it if no one else has; he's totally cancelling out his defense with how horrible he is at the plate. He doesn't hit for average, he doesn't walk, he doesn't hit for power, he isn't a good baserunner when he is on name it, offensively Escobar doesn't do it.

Some people are perhaps not bothering to look, so just to make sure it's known, I'll bold-face it: Alcides Escobar is the 2nd worst hitter in all of major league baseball. Yes...not just the AL, but all of MLB. Let's look and cringe together:
  • Worst SLG at .241
  • Tied for 3rd worst OBP at .241
  • Tied for 7th worst in batting average
  • He has one more walk than Yuniesky Betancourt, who, by the way, has Escobar out-OPS'd by about 120 points
  • His stolen base % is at 63%, which isn't very good at all
  • There are 11 NL pitchers with 20 or more plate apperances that have a higher OPS than Escobar

For the other hitters in the Royals lineup that haven't been good in 2011, each of them has found some kind of way to contribute in at least a small way -- Getz with the walks and good baserunning, Matt Treanor with his OBP and a couple of HRs, Brayan Pena and Aviles with decent power.

The question has been brought up before, as far as how bad Escobar would have to be with the bat to render his very good defense null and void? Well...this bad. Of course, this isn't a call to remove Escobar -- the Royals aren't winning anything this year and they don't really have anyone in the minors to replace him with. However, this is a call for the Royals to begin acknowledging that this guy probably isn't it, and if he continues to flirt with a .500 OPS into the Summer, any trade discussions the Royals have should include shortstop as a "need" position.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Really quickly...

I'll say that I understand the move to take Joakim Soria out of the closer's role, but I do hope the Royals realize this is unlikely to solve the problem with him.

There has always been (and will probably always be) the mystical and magical significance to the closer's role. That's all well and good, but there's a truth to things that I don't think can be ignored.

If Soria's going to give up a lead or blow a game in the 9th inning because he's not right, he's fully capable of giving up a lead and blowing the game in the 8th, too. If he can't "handle the pressure" of the 9th inning (when, I'll remind you, nobody is usually on base when he begins the inning), then how is he going to react if called upon with two men on and one out in the 7th?

Can anyone reasonably expect a different result? Sure, it's possible, but again -- if he's not right, we should expect the same results, no?

So what does this mean? Well, truth be told, if the Royals are going to remove him from the closer's role because they don't trust him, the only role for him right now is mop-up duty...which, with the Royals starters, will be a necessary role and one that should afford Soria enough opportunity to fix things, if indeed they can be fixed.

I wasn't really expecting Soria to just tank in this fashion -- I was thinking he'd still waffle for a while longer until something definitive could be seen, sort of like he had done through the first month and a half of baseball. Even though I think the logic behind simply pitching Soria in a different, possibly high-leverage inning other than the 9th is flawed, I do understand the Royals feeling a need to try something in order to shake things up.

One thing is for certain -- it's indeed a bitter pill to swallow to think that the player we all likely would have picked as Most Reliable before this season started has turned out to be anything but. We could probably put the Royals at about a .500 record if Soria had kept up his Mariano Rivera-like consistency, but what-ifs are what all losing seasons are made of. On the bright side, it's better that this happened this season than in 2012.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Did that really happen?

If anyone wants to tell me what Brayan Pena was thinking as he made no attempt to apply anything other than a chest-high tag while standing on the plate to Mike Napoli in the bottom of the 9th inning of the Royals loss today to the Texas Rangers, please let me know.

I've watched plenty of baseball in my life and offhand, I don't think I've seen a more singularly stupid baseball play than Pena's besides Ruben Rivera's brain-bleed-inducing attempt to run the bases while he was with the Giants in 2003 (personally, I believe Rivera simply forgot everything he knew about the game of baseball on that particular play).

In any case, Pena's lack of understanding of what a catcher does on a play at the plate beyond catching the ball ranks, for the moment, a distant yet clear 2nd place on my list. I believe Napoli was prepared for a collision with Pena, but when he saw Pena both make no attempt to come up the line nor to squat in front of the plate despite having time, he simply decided to do a normal feet-first slide to avoid the lame tag attempt by Pena.

Game over.

Not to be ignored, Joakim Soria continues to try and convince the Royals organization to trade him as soon as possible. I'm not sure if the Royals would have chosen to try and trade Soria this Summer if he'd have had something approaching a Soria-like season so far, but he's getting near the point where he's going to destroy his trade value.

As I said several days back, the Royals don't have much choice but to keep running Soria out there for a while longer, for either: 1) to establish beyond a doubt that yes, something is seriously wrong with him and he needs to be fixed, or 2) to see if he can right the ship enough to where he'd be worth it to keep or be worth more than a bag of baseballs at the trade deadline.

In addition, the Royals will want to get more of an idea what they have in someone like Aaron Crow. With Soria's struggles I'm sure many would like to dub Crow the closer, but the reality is that he's pitched for two months in the big leagues, and anyone claiming to project how good Crow will be in any role from his performance in 2011 is, quite honestly, full of crap.

Besides, if Crow really is as good as his 29-ish innings of work suggest, he should be a potential starter-of-the-future, not the closer-of-the-future. But before any of that can happen, the Royals should look for more data to evaluate. And remember, the reason Soria was in a position to blow the Royals' lead this afternoon was because Crow allowed the Rangers to tie it in the 8th.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

11 hits, 3 walks, and...just 3 runs?

I didn't see the game last night. Usually when it's a win, I'll actually read the recap. When it's a loss, however, I go straight to the boxscore.

You know, so I can lay some blame, rant and rave -- all w/o the nuisance of actually knowing what happened. I mean, why would I need to know that? The stats are there...I see an 0-fer, and I mark that guy for death rays of baseball-hatred and curses of inconvenient dandelion growth. Never mind that the 0-fer could've been the result of four consecutive highlight-reel catches made by Adam Jones, or a nasty gnat cloud that only seem to populate the home base area when that particular hitter was at the plate. Hey, real men hit 450ft. home runs when gnats are buzzing in their face, right?

But this game is one of those head-scratchers. I see there's 11 hits (a double and a HR among them), 3 walks, and only one GIDP. How does a team avoid scoring that 4th or 5th run with all that action?

And if you're wondering, no, I'm not really avoiding talking about Joakim Soria blowing another save -- it's more like I'm wondering why he was given the ball with only a 1-run lead in the 9th. Of course, you'd hope your closer can hold that lead down more often than not, but the overriding theme in the losses these last couple of weeks is the offense letting down the pitching staff. It's a simple fact that the Royals will need to outscore their opponents for most of their wins, so when the Royals leave 10 on base and lose by a run or two, I look at that as the main culprit.

So...what else?
  • The Blake Wood haters are pretty quiet right now. Although me saying I thought he was a stud or something would be a outright lie, I didn't mind his callup -- there wasn't a lot to suggest he'd be much good, but in a let's-see-what-we-have-for-2012 type of season, I didn't see a lot of harm in it. Still a very small sample size, but his numbers look good right now, especially the almost 3-to-1 k/bb ratio and the .674 OPS against. And since all it'd take is one bad outing to wipe all that out, he'd really have to throw another 40 innings like that before I'd call him legit. To this point, however, he's been pretty good.
  • With this outing from Soria, by the way, I can literally ~feel~ the Aaron-Crow-for-closer conversations starting. The conversations are fine in a hypothetical scenario where Soria is traded, but if Soria is on the team, he'd need to be this poor for a while longer to seriously consider this. Talk to me in July.
  • Despite whatever missteps led to them only scoring 3 times in last night's game, 11 hits is nothing to sneeze at, and with the scoring breakout against the St. Louis Cardinals Sunday in a losing effort, the Royals offense could be getting back into gear...and none too soon, as this is very likely about their last chance to stay relevant -- the Cleveland Indians aren't letting up, and the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox have woken up.
This week will suck hairy goat testicles for me as far as both blogging and catching Royals games, and possibly next week as well...I'm in the middle of Oregon for work, and working longer hours, at that.

Odd thing I found out today, though -- apparently the Bend, Oregon area is consider the local market for...wait for it...the San Francisco Giants, a team that is in another state and 500+ miles away. At least, that's what told me when I tried to stream their game last night. And I don't blame them, either. You should SEE the frenzy of Giants fandom up here -- sure, the locals don't mention it to your face, but I'm certain there's a bevy of Tim Lincecum and Pablo Sandoval jerseys floating around here most days, not to mention a ton of "Fear the Beard" t-shirts.

Or, it could just be that I got hosed.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Hmph. Figures.

Yay, the Royals offense got untracked! the same time Sean O'Sullivan reminds us why he didn't pan out as a starter for the LA Angels. the same time the Royals bullpen reminds us what can happen when a bullpen is comprised almost entirely of rookies.

But, as I've said before, although it really isn't accurate to say one team "deserved" a win over another, this is a game that the St. Louis Cardinals should have won. As a pitching staff the Royals have two problems, one of which they can't do much about, the other of which they need to try and address:
  1. Lack of strikeouts (2nd to last in the AL) - they can't do much about this, since the portion of the staff that has the most impact on this are the starters, and the Royals don't have any strikeout pitchers on their starting staff.
  2. Abundance of walks (2nd most in the AL) - this is the rub. If you're not a strikeout pitcher, that's fine, but if you're not a control pitcher, either, then there's a problem. For the Royals to remain competitive, they seriously need to cut down on the walks.
For some perspective, the Cleveland Indians are 3rd to last in strikeouts in the AL...however, they also issue the 2nd fewest walks.

Also, it'd be nice to go through a game without a silly baserunning mistake. Billy Butler saw fit on Wilson Betemit's game-tying single to round 2nd base, stop about 4 steps after the bag, then go for 3rd base when he saw the throw go to the plate -- forgetting, I suppose, that he has all the footspeed of a sleepy sloth.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I'm a bad way

I don't think I've seen a worse display of baserunning by a team over a short span than what the Royals have been doing these last few games. It likely cost them a game vs. the Texas Rangers, and it stands a good chance to cost them a game vs. the St. Louis Cardinals this afternoon. Again, a caught stealing is one thing, but getting picked off this much is silly, especially for a team that's currently struggling to score.

Update: Gee, that was prophetic -- Matt Holliday hits a bomb minutes after I said that. Feel free to cuss me out in whatever language you choose.

Solo homers - update

Something I looked into earlier this year was what seemed to be a propensity for the Royals to give up solo home runs. What I found out was the Royals were having some good luck in this regard -- despite giving up what was at the time the most HR in the AL, they were mostly solo home runs, so Royals pitching wasn't stung as badly as they could've been.

I went ahead and looked again, because I'm consistent like that. And because I know the percentage of solo home runs hit against Royals pitching is a scintillating topic of discussion, likely taxing Google's servers with the sheer weight of inquiries on this very topic.

Rumors that I did this out of sheer boredom are unfounded. Anyhow, here -- Royals pitchers, the home runs they've given up, and how many have been solo home runs:

Bruce Chen: 7 HR given up, 7 solo shots

Kyle Davies: 6 HR given up, 6 solo shots

Luke Hochevar: 13 HR given up, 11 solo shots.

Sean O'Sullivan: 3 HR given up, 2 solo shots.

Jeff Francis: 6 HR given up, 4 solo shots.

The bullpen: 14 HR given up, 8 solo shots.

So, the Royals have given up 49 home runs so far in 2011, and 38 have been solo shots for a 77.5% rate, which is well above the usual league average rate of about 55-60%. What that boils down to is that the Royals have avoided about 9-11 multi-run home runs so far this year off of a normal clip for the league, so in essence have avoided giving up about 14-18 more runs than they "should" have.

As you can see, though, a few pitchers have been particularly "adept" at avoiding multi-run shots...Chen, Davies, and Hochevar in particular.

Royals hitters have hit 33 home runs this year, and 24 have been solo shots for a rate of 72.2%, so they've had slightly bad luck in this department. They're about 4-5 multi-run shots off of a normal clip for the league, so they're about 6-8 runs shy in that department.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Walk (off) like an Egyptian...

Another day, another walk-off win. Ho-hum.

This one came equipped with Interesting Things, though. Things such as:
  • Luke Hochevar being dominant. I'm a huge pessimist, but let me tell you this much...despite his penchant for giving up solo home runs (11 of the 13 total HRs Hoch has given up this year have been solo shots), he had the Texas Rangers hitters looking like they didn't have much chance -- it'd be different if he was pitching against, say, the Minnesota Twins. It's really starting to be that Hoch's only issue this season is the longball -- other than that, he's pitched pretty well.
Also, I'm going to laugh for a second at the similarity between the lines of Hochevar and Madison Bumgarner, who both started for my respective favorite teams last night and are both sinkerballers:

8.2 IP, 6H, 1R, 1ER, 2BB, 4K for Hoch
8.2 IP, 6H, 1R, 1ER, 2BB, 3K for MadBum

  • Yesterday's lineup is what I consider the best the Royals can put out on a daily basis, and with the exception of essentially flipping Wilson Betemit and Melky Cabrera in the order, should be pretty close to an optimal setup. Despite only scoring 2 runs, that lineup cranked out 14 hits and drew 2 walks, which will score more than 2 runs the vast majority of the time. Part of the reason they only scored 2 was...
  • Overaggressiveness on the basepaths, which cost them in game #1 vs. the Rangers, and could have cost them game #2. Getting caught stealing happens, but Melky's caught stealing was really just him getting picked off, and picked off in an 0-2 count at that. Jeff Francoeur's reckless attempts to stretch singles into doubles finally caught up to him. Also, Alex Gordon was caught stealing. Aggressive is fine, reckless is not.
  • Alcides Escobar still isn't hitting well, but at least he's contributing a bit more lately.
  • Can somebody clone Matt Treanor's batting eye? It's getting to be mind-boggling how he almost never offers at something outside of the strike zone.

And now it's time for a 3-game series again -- gotta say, I've had quite enough of the 2-game series this year, and I'm glad the Royals won't have another one until September. A sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals would be real nice, right about now, don'tcha think?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hostile Hosmer

Hooray for first-pitch, game-tying home runs.

Eric Hosmer dingers off of Neftali Feliz are great, but only when the Royals retain a modicum of baserunning competency afterward. Aggressive baserunning doesn't mean reckless baserunning.

Things I spy with my eye:
  • I can see it now -- Chris Getz won't ever be truly out of the lineup, because Mike Aviles just doesn't have sense enough to not have bad days at the plate when Getz is out. And then Getz will play the next day and draw a walk or get a hit, and we start the whole thing over again. That being said, good game for Chris, he did have a couple of very, very nice plate appearances.
  • Danny Duffy. Well, he's here, and boy, did he look nervous. The Rangers just didn't square much of anything off of him, and even without Duffy having any real control, their hitters still flailed quite a bit. But 6 walks in 4 innings was still the storyline, here.
  • Warning track power? Billy Butler. Billy Bulter, warning track power. I'm sure you two will get along just fine.
  • It still shocks me when Jeff Francoeur draws a walk. It's happened 11 times this season so far, and each time my eyes have widened, my eyebrow has arched, and dogs in the neighborhood have cocked their heads to the side.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Barometers and self-induced slumps

Firstly, a good indication of how momentus a callup is can be determined by ESPN. If their player profile page goes up fairly quickly but with no photo, or if it takes a couple of days before it's even created, then the callup is likely considered of little overall import.

But if it's done within hours of the callup, like say, Eric Hosmer and Danny Duffy, well...there's probably a bit of anticipation there. While Duffy's impact would have been interesting against the new Royals nemesis, the Cleveland Indians, it's almost as interesting against the Royals other big tormentor this season, the Texas Rangers.

Since manhandling the Royals at the softBallpark at Arlington in a sweep April 22nd - 24th, the Rangers have went an unimpressive 8-13, going from a .667 winning percentage down to .524 -- also from 2.5 games in front of the LA Angels to tied with the Oakland A's.

Also since that time, the Rangers scoring has dipped severely, as they only averaged about 4 runs/game during that stretch, whereas previously they averaged over 5.5 runs/game.

This is an interesting series -- the Rangers trying to get away from .500 again and back into first place, and the Royals trying to get back to and over .500 and back into the division race. Undoubtedly the Rangers want to beat up again on the Royals pitching and re-establish themselves, while the Royals just want to remember how to score and want to avoid spiraling into irrelevance.

For the Royals to score, however, it will take the breaking of several slumps -- key among them, Alex Gordon. He still has solid numbers overall, which shows just how hot he was early, but the strikeouts are really starting to become a problem. Any changes in his approach won't matter if he can't put the ball in play more often.

Right now he's striking out esentially once every 5 plate appearances, and is tied for 16th in the AL for most strikeouts. Of the 18 other guys on that list, there are only 4 of them that can be considered doing well (Ben Zobrist, Kevin Youlkilis, Howard Kendrick, Curtis Granderson), and you'd be hard-pressed to say that each of the other 14 wouldn't considered to be struggling in some way.

Alex is unique of those players in the sense that he isn't underperforming, per se, but considering the lofty heights from whence his OPS came, his current slump has taken on that connotation. But consider this -- while it's still a small sample size, the simple facts are:

Gordon is striking out more often this year vs. his career (once every 5.0/pa as opposed to roughly every 4.4/pa) while walking less often (once every 13.5/pa this year as opposed to roughly every 10.1/pa).

So whatever changes Alex may have made in order to have such a hot April, to put up numbers approaching that again, he'll have to give himself a chance to get a hit more often.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Boy, that Vin Mazzaro is a heck of a hitter

I'm imagining he really had the Royals fooled, wearing a Kansas City uniform and masquerading as one of their pitchers.

This is definitely not the way I wanted Kyle Davies to be removed from the starting rotation, if indeed he was going to be removed at some point. Injuries are not cool.

I was going to say that Vin Mazzaro's performance is the kind that can end careers with a ballclub, then I checked around a bit to find that the Royals didn't even wait out the day to make a move -- they optioned Mazzaro to Omaha the same day he "pitched" 2 1/3 innings, giving up 11 hits, 3 walks, and 14 ER.

In any case, pitching is not currently the problem; injuries and lack of offense have that distinction. After Bruce Chen went down, it was bad enough -- as much as I have to take deep breaths before I say it, Chen is the Royals best starting pitcher. Davies isn't good, but had been finding ways to navigate his games, pitching acceptably in 4 of his last 5 starts.

Now comes the uncertainty of what the Royals will do to fill this void.

Bringing up Danny Duffy is the bold move, of course, the move that says, "We really are going for it this year". It wouldn't be the smartest move, but it would be the most exciting one. If he is indeed ready for the show (and it's hard to argue he's not), this would be a huge upgrade for the club, at the probable expense of an arbitration year.

Jeff Suppan is the cringe move. It's the move that says, "pleaseohpleaseohplease just get us through 3 starts". Suppan is striking out batters in Omaha to the tune of 4.0/9 innings, which in layman's terms means he's a "pitch-to-contact" guy in the minors, and would likely end up a "too-much-contact" guy in the majors. But, you know, he's crafty, he's got guile, he's the salty veteran -- so the Royals might be able to squeeze one decent start out of him.

Everett Teaford would be the head-nod move -- it's the most interesting move, the one that says, "Give us a reason to let you stay with the big club". He numbers at AAA are impressive so far this season, but he's pitched in limited innings with only 3 starts total. It's difficult to predict what the Royals would get from this.

For me, I think Teaford would be the safest move in terms of both helping the ballclub some now, if he's able to hold his own, and helping the ballclub in the future by allowing Duffy to stay with Omaha a few more weeks to delay his service clock.

Besides, the place where the Royals actually need the most help right now is would do no good to bring Duffy up unless he's going to throw no-hitters right away, since the offense has simple ceased producing.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The most pivotal series since the last pivotal series

Hello, good pitching.

Goodbye, Royals offense.

Leading up to the series with the Minnesota Twins on April 29th, there hadn't been many games where the starting pitching had come through, only to be let down by the Royals offense. It was the exact opposite, as a matter of fact.

But in these last 14 games, the tables have turned -- the Royals are losing games where the starting pitching is competent, but the offense isn't bothering to show up. In their last 6 losses, the Royals have only given up 20 runs for a 3.3 runs/game clip, but themselves have only managed 8 runs in those games, for a 1.3 runs/game average.

I'll maintain what I said last week -- the Royals cannot let a ton of games like this go if they want to stay in this. Possible minor-league help notwithstanding, the Royals starters will likely suck a lot more often than they're good, so they'll need to hold their own in some of the low-scoring contests.

So far, in games where there's a total of 6 runs or less scored, the Royals are 4-8. So sure, the starters have coughed up several losses, but we can see that 8 of the Royals 19 losses (or 42%) can be placed squarely on the offense going AWOL at the wrong time. You're going to lose a lot of games like these during the course of the season, but they'll have to do better than a .333 winning percentage in the low-scoring games in order to stay in the race.

So now comes two straight two-game series against the two teams that first put a hitch in the Royals' giddy-up this season: the Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians. Except this time, the Royals get them at home vs. on the road, so one would hope the home run derby that occurred last time (you know, the one the Royals apparently weren't invited to) won't happen again.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Were you nervous? Yeah, me neither

I'm laughing quite a bit at the similarities between my two favorite teams, the Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants, who both won 4-3 games last night.

The results speak for themselves. Observe:
  • One-run games: Royals - 15 total, 10-5 record, Giants - 14 total, 11-3 record
  • Overall record: Royals - 19-17, Giants - 20-16
  • Big-time 1B prospects who hit their 1st major league HR against teams I hate: Royals - Eric Hosmer (vs. Yankees), Giants - Brandon Belt (vs. Dodgers)
  • Stupidly fast pinch-running, base-stealing, all-defense, close game-changing CF: Royals - Jerrod Dyson, Giants - Darren Ford
  • Home runs that can get wet: Royals - Water Spectacular, Giants - McCovey Cove
  • Two-letter city nicknames, six-letter team nicknames: KC Royals, SF Giants
  • ...
  • Alright, now I'm just kind of reaching.
We might not have to wait until 2012 for the world to end -- if Alcides Escobar takes a walk in the same game that Melky Cabrera takes three again before then, the fabric of reality could very well be ripped and the space/time continuum could explode. Or implode. Or just 'plode.

Every time Chris Getz doesn't make a tough-but-makeable defensive play, he makes Ned Yost look sillier and sillier for continuing to play him almost every day (goodness, and that rhymed, too). His dropped exchange on what would have been a very routine double play late in last night's game does not count as an error, but it should, since it could very well have cost his team the game.

It's mind-boggling that Kila Ka'aihue just had to go because of underperformance, yet Getz is allowed to play almost every day with a worse slashline and just as questionable defense as Kila.

It feels like it's about time for one or both of these teams to break out offensively...I'll just sit here and clench my teeth and hope it's the Royals.

The story goes ever on...

Well, so much for yesterday's hope of rendering Derek Jeter ineffective for the series.

I'm a sarcastic person by nature, and also a pessimist. So like I mentioned yeterday, when I saw Jeter had hit a couple of home runs on Sunday, those things combined to give me a vision of Jeter having a wonderful series against the Royals in helping the New York Yankees sweep this series, getting his slashline back to Jeter-like levels, and all becoming Right & Good in the Yankees' world... the expense of the Royals.

While that story indeed starting writing itself yesterday, I will take one bit of hope -- the Yankees were lucky to win that game. Like the loss vs. the Oakland A's last Friday where the A's were essentially outplayed but had the good fortune of bunching their hits together in one inning to score enough runs to win, last night's game had some of the same flavor.

The Yankees got a hit with the bases loaded, and the Royals didn't. Both of the Yankee hits to drive in the 3 runs they scored were essentially seeing-eye singles...which, when you think about it, seems like a depressing way to lose to a team that leads the league by far in home runs.

In any case, the Royals are going to be in deep trouble if they don't start scoring -- the Royals last 4 losses were caused by them scoring a total of 7 runs in those games. It's going to happen to all teams, of course, but given how the Royals are currently comprised, they can't really afford to squander too many opportunities to win when their pitching staff does well.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A small, mean thing to wish for

As the Royal Nation* collectively grinds their teeth in anticipation of Something Bad happening against the New York Yankees (an optimistic take is the Royals getting swept...but just not getting swept that badly), besides the obvious hope that Kansas City comports themselves well out there on the field, I have a little side hope:

Keep Derek Jeter from doing anything important.

I freely admit I hate the Yankees and hate Jeter...but only in the sports sense. In the real-life sense, the Yankees are a fine organization (even if the deck is stacked in their favor every year) and Jeter is a great player (even if his career is magnified tenfold simply because of where he plays).

But I've been following the Jeter saga this season -- at least, if by "following" I mean that I read the headlines, and if there's a Jeter story, I avoid it. When I saw he hit two home runs on Sunday, I cringed, having absolutely no doubt what would would be a top story, major headline, etc., and of course it was.

Here's the issues: 1) it mattered not one whit whatsoever to the game. The Yankees won by 7 runs, and Jeter hit two solo shots, 2) in that context, since the Yankees would have won anyway, it didn't affect the standings -- and the Yankees weren't even playing the Tampa Rays or the Boston Red Sox to thicken the plot, it was the slumping Texas Rangers.

None of this is to say that a resurgent Jeter wouldn't be a story worth telling. But since every single game of his is overanalyzed, the rest of us that aren't Yankees fans can't even have a trend develop before getting hit with what Jeter did in the last game.
  • Did he hit more groundballs? Did he hit flyballs? Were they well-struck?
  • Did he look frustrated? Did he look happy? Was he stoic? Did that twitch of his upper lip indicate impatience?
  • What does Hal Steinbrenner think? Okay, today is Wednesday, so what did he think on Tuesday? What will he think tomorrow?
  • What effect does Jeter's Gatorade drinking habits have on his swing? Is his defense slipping because of the direction he cuts his toenails?
I've just had it up to here, and of course I'm now exacerbating the problem by writing to the 30 or 40 of you that will read this post.

Writing on Jeter isn't a's expected, especially when ESPN forces all things New York down our throat on a daily basis with the added content from their "city" satellite sites (ESPN New York) that for some reason needs to be featured on their main baseball page.

But please, for the love of Pete, wait until a trend happens before reporting. If Jeter had that great game, then went on to torch the Royals over this 3-game series...okay, you've got a story. Run it.

I must admit, though, for purely selfish reasons, I hope Jeter has an 0-fer series and forces the media (read: ESPN) to stop the presses on all the pre-written Jeter stories they want to run in anticipation of his resurgence. Hopefully the inevitable is delayed for a few more days.

*first and last time I will use any expression referring to a fanbase as something "nation". I hate it, and was just being sarcastic. It's all types of overused -- not sure exactly what team started it, although I suspect it was the Oakland Raiders. Let them keep it. It's their word.