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 MLB.com 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!

...at the same time Sean O'Sullivan reminds us why he didn't pan out as a starter for the LA Angels.

...at 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 impressed...in 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 offensively...it 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...

...at 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 happen...it 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 problem...it'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.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Deep breath, and...

Damn New York Yankees. Or, I could call them by their nickname...

Damn Yankees.

That "damn" can have two interpretations: 1) damn them and all they stand for (but only a sports damn, not a real one, of course), and 2) as in...damn, it's the Yankees.

The Royals are about to have their schedule balanced out some. One thing that can quickly temper enthusiasm about the Royals competitive start to the 2011 season is noticing they have played 23 home games, most in the majors. One might go on to notice that they sport the 2nd best winning percentage in the majors.

The team with the best home winning percentage thus far? The damn Yankees.

Who are the Royals going to play first on this 6-game road trip? The damn Yankees.

This is why we can't have nice things.

It isn't just about thinking the Royals are outclassed by the damn Yankees (even though currently, they are), but there are two facts that are likely to prove problematic for the Royals in this series: the Royals pitching staff gives up a lot of home runs, and the damn Yankees have hit the most home runs...by far.

One thing interesting to note, though, is that while offhand I would also groan at this game being played in the new damn Yankee Stadium, so far this season it hasn't been a haven for home run hitters -- it's playing pretty even in comparison to the league as far as home runs hit there, and actually is 20th in the league in terms of runs scored there.

Of course, the makeup of that is telling: the damn Yankees are outhomering their opponents 31-14 in the new damn Yankees Stadium.

One wouldn't expect that the opponents' bad luck to hold up, given that it played as a pretty extreme hitters park just last season, but the Royals aren't a team geared to change that -- they'll likely have to find a different way to beat the damn Yankees other than winning a home run derby.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Interesting loss

Just quickly on last night's game:
  • Eric Hosmer looked good in walking twice, and even in striking out...he wasn't overeager, and instantly displayed the good batting eye and selectivity so many have bragged about...and that his minor league stats confirmed. His steal of 2nd was very eye-opening...good instincts in getting as nice of a jump as he did.
  • The Royals are now 5-2 on this homestand, both losses by a single run. In last night's game, the Royals were really the victims of bad luck. The Oakland A's only left a single runner stranded, because they had the good fortune of bunching together most of their hits in the same inning, and twice avoiding double plays that would have limited the runs they did score in the 5th inning to two instead of three. The Royals, on the other hand, stranded six. I think in most scenarios the Royals would win a game like this.
  • Melky Cabrera has held his own to this point, although he's maddeningly somewhat feast-or-famine from game-to-game. But rather than him having a decent chance to kill rallies before they start with his well-developed out-making abilities, he should be moved to the bottom of the order, where he would then turn into a dangerous bottom-of-the-order hitter. Should he feel he can handle it, Ned Yost could put Hosmer there -- if not, then Alex Gordon should be able to thrive in that spot and Hosmer can get things established around 5th or 6th in the order. Remember, Yost, you hit your better hitters higher in the lineup so they can get more plate appearances...
  • Mike Aviles is approaching a .300 isoP -- wow. He just seems like an extra-base hit waiting to happen right now.
  • Royals ace, Sean O'Sullivan! What...where are you guys going? Come back!
  • I badly want to attend a Royals game for the specific purpose of sabotaging the bullpen phone, so Yost's incessant calls for Tim Collins might go unanswered for a game or two. Yost, give the kid a break, please, he's walking almost a batter per inning.
For the game today, the Royals approach may have to change a bit. Whereas Gio Gonzalez is bound to issue a walk or three (or more) during a start as he tries to control his stuff, Brandon McCarthy is walking very few hitters so far this year.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Let the arguments begin!

Dayton Moore has called up Eric Hosmer, replacing Kila Ka'aihue.

Alright, here we go...I think the move is premature.

**braces for the hit**

HOWEVER, I can see it being done in a few more weeks if Hosmer had continued to destroy opposing pitching at Omaha.

**braces for the hit**

Let's look at the different points of contention:
  • Too early for Hosmer: This is something I generally agree with, and why I think the move is premature. Hosmer's had just north of 300 plate appearances at the AA and AAA levels. That's half a season, and that's not a lot. That being said, running an 1.100 OPS is a good way to prove that perhaps he's ready now. Still, I don't see what the harm would've been in waiting another 3-4 weeks, and seeing if Kila could do enough to bring back something in a trade, or slightly enhance a trade package over the Summer.
  • Too soon to give up on Kila: Yes, it is...but that's not to say that Kila just might not be very good. But this is the problem...Kila is going back to Omaha, where Clint Robinson is tearing it up. Let's say Kila does what he's done enough of before, and tears it up down there, too. Great...now you have two 1B/DH quasi-prospects who haven't shown anything at the major league level, and thus aren't worth much of anything in a trade. Not saying it's the wrong move for this current Royals team, but it is the wrong move from an organizational standpoint.
  • Bring up Hosmer, the Royals are contending and he can help: This goes back to the first bullet point -- we don't know squat about what Hosmer will do at the major league level, and of course, we should be skeptical of the Royals chances to contend this year. So if this is the thinking behind bringing up Hosmer, it's faulted.
  • Argh, Hosmer's service clock is starting early: To me, this thinking is generally correct, in line with my prior point. But while this is an important point, focusing on it isn't something I'm going to do. I'll get into more detail on why this shouldn't be the main focus of not bringing Hosmer up in a second.

Alright, so...while again, I think the move was premature, and starting Hosmer's service clock early wasn't really necessary, I'm not worried about it.

2018 is very far from now -- which is the extra year the Royals would have Hosmer under their control if they could only wait until next year to bring him up. Again, it's very far away. There will be so many questions about that year...when it arrives...that I think worrying about it too much a silly thing to do.
  1. Will Hosmer be good in the majors, as well? We just don't know. Should he prove a bust, of course, 2018 means absolutely nothing.
  2. If Hosmer is indeed good, then they'll have to sign him earlier, meaning he'll eat up a chunk of their 2018 money. To this, I ask...2018 money spent on what? Do we know the Royals are going to be good that year? Do we know if Hosmer, who is a Scott Boras client, will even be able to be signed by this organization? Do we know what the other bevy of prospects the Royals have will do, and what kinds of contracts they'll need and how much money of the 2018 Royals payroll they'll take up? Do we know what the Royals team needs will be in 2018, and what the free agent market will look like? Are you dizzy yet? Are you tired of me asking you questions that you can't answer? Shouldn't I be tired of asking them by now? When will it stop?
  3. Well, if they can't sign him, at least they would get 2018 for free, then: If he's that good? No they won't, because if he's that good and they can't sign him (likely...again, Scott Boras), then they'll want to trade him earlier than 2018 anyway to get max value in return. And part of that max return value they can look for could be...wait for it...a 1B prospect to replace Hosmer.
Now, to answer to all of point #2's questions...well, the ones prior to me going off on a tangent, anyway...are no, we do not know. So in that vein, we simply cannot be too concerned with the disposition of one player for one particular year -- a year that is 6 1/2 years from now.

If Hosmer's service time/contract status seriously impairs this organization's ability to contend in 2018, then so be it. But with the literal ton of variables between now and then, I don't think it's a stretch to think that it won't.

Let's remind ourselves of two things -- the Royals now have quite a number of prospects, and I would hope by then that Dayton Moore can stumble his way onto another 1B/DH prospect by then. Prospects as highly touted as Hosmer do not grow on trees, but that being said, 1B/DH hitting prospects are among the easiest ones to find. In six years, I would hope Moore can reload at that spot.

So, in summary, I would not have brought Hosmer up were I in the shoes of Dayton Moore. Of course, if I were in his shoes, I'd probably be thinking, "These aren't my shoes" or something along those lines...but I digress.

I would not have brought Hosmer up, but I'm not Dayton Moore, and the Royals are not my team. Since Moore has indeed made this move, I may as well stuff my reservations into a bag, and get excited about seeing this guy play!


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Battle for the Crown

I'm a big Royals fan. I also like the The Game of Thrones, both the series of books and, so far, the HBO series.

There's just no way that's a coincidence. Based on those two facts, I must surmise the Royals will contend all season in the AL Central.

You should believe me. After all, I'm levitating as I type this.

Reality is a bitch, but one that gives you good advice -- even if you'd rather ignore it. So far, the Royals are 4-0 on this 9-game stretch I've referred to a couple of times; a stretch that can tell us something about the Royals, but isn't necessarily a test.

The Minnesota Twins are hurting, although of course no-hitters tend to help things.

The Baltimore Orioles has been competitive to this point, but probably aren't very good.

The Oakland A's do have good pitching, so let's call this one a semi-test.

But right after that stretch of games, there really isn't a break the rest of the month. The Royals do play the Orioles again, but that will be outside the friendly confines of the K. There will be:
  • 3 games vs. the New York Yankees in New York...the Bronx Bombers vs. a starting rotation that loves to supply the ammo
  • 5 games vs. the Texas Rangers, 3 of which are back in Arlington...and we know what happened there last time
  • 3 games vs. the St. Louis Cardinals...and Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, and the suddenly-rejuvenated Lance Berkman, who have hit 20 HR between them
  • 2 more games vs. the Cleveland Indians
  • 3 games vs. the Detroit Tigers on the road
  • 2 games vs. the LA Angels to finish the month
Now, it isn't as if I'm looking at those 18 games and predicting an 0-18 performance. The Tigers have been helter skelter, the Royals have already proven they can beat the Angels, the Rangers aren't playing as well lately...

However, what I am saying is this 9-game stretch is a most opportune time to maybe beat up on a few teams during this home stand, because wins will likely be much harder to come by for the rest of May.

Other things:
  • The whole musical position chairs thing Ned Yost is doing between Mike Aviles, Chris Getz, and Wilson Betemit is starting to become silly. After sitting at .391/.462/.435 after the game on April 8th, Getz has went 12-for-68 in putting up a .176/.272/.235 line. Sit Getz, get Kila Ka'aihue back in the lineup, install Aviles at 2nd, and let Betemit, the guy who's only went hitless in 2 of the 21 games he's played, bungle around at 3rd if it means keeping that bat in the lineup.
  • Not sure what kind of longer-term future Betemit or Jeff Francoeur, have with the Royals, but I will tell you this much -- they will be great trading chips if they keep putting up slashlines like they currently have.
  • I keep waiting for Alcides Escobar to have a superlative day at the plate. You know, have a couple of extra-base hits in the same game, go 3-for-4...something. Right now, though, his plate appearances are an exercise in bleugh.
  • I no longer cringe at the thought of Melky Cabrera patrolling centerfield. I wouldn't say confident...but it no longer causes me extraneous consternation.
Speaking of consternation...Kyle Davies will toe the rubber today. I'll go out on a limb and predict that after getting ambushed vs. the Indians in his last start, he will again get us to throw up our hands in confusion by pitching a good game.

The Prediction: 7IP, 7K, 2BB, 2ER*

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Wow. I didn't even know that. Wow. **YAWN**

From the MLB website on Billy Butler:

Billy Butler, with a homer and a double, extended his string of consecutive series in which he's hit safely to 112, second most in the Majors.

Let me just preface what I'm about to say with one little fact -- sometimes, I'm an asshole. The vast majority of the time I'm really nice, but you know, every once in a while...

I'm sorry, the tracking of this is starting to annoy me (it's also mentioned by Ryan Lefebvre on the television broadcast...not sure if Denny is doing the same on radio). Whenever some type of streak is tracked and mentioned at every opportunity, I tend to think it should be one for which at least 1-in-10 baseball fans know the record.

Can anybody, off the top of their head, name the record for most-consecutive-series-hit-in-safely? Perhaps Ryan has mentioned it at some point and a few of you have remembered it, but if that's the case, it just proves my point...you wouldn't have known the record unless you heard about it first.

Can anybody, off the top of their head, name the player with a longer active streak than Billy? Same thing -- we wouldn't know unless Ryan or Denny mentioned it, and that's because it's probably not very important.

I love Billy Butler, and I'm a huge Royals fan (in case that had slipped by you), but I don't give a box of stale Cracker Jacks worth of care about this streak. When I want to remind myself that Billy's a good hitter, I'll just take a gander at his slashline.

I'm pretty sure I know why it's being tracked -- the Royals have been poor offensively and without an All-Star caliber hitter for several years, now, so I'm sure there's sort of a drive to find something the fans can talk about, and I suppose one can use it to commend Butler's consistency. But really, this particular streak is almost pure luck...if there had been some two-game series along the way in which Billy went hitless, I'm going to doubt my opinion of him as a hitter would be any different.

And that concludes my needlessly sarcastic viewpoint for the day.

"Mr. Smith, your sarcasm is currently at a here: [..............................], and we're gonna need it at a here: [...]."

Monday, May 2, 2011

You goin' solo, bro?

Royals pitchers, the home runs they've given up, and how many have been solo home runs (through May 1st):

Bruce Chen: 7 HR given up, 7 solo shots

Kyle Davies: 5 HR given up, 5 solo shots

Luke Hochevar: 10 HR given up, 8 solo shots.

Sean O'Sullivan: 1 HR given up, 0 solo shots.

Jeff Francis: 4 HR given up, 3 solo shots.

The bullpen: 8 HR given up, 4 solo shots.

So in total (if my math isn't jacked up and I haven't missed anything), the Royals have given up 35 home runs, 24 of which have been solo shots for a solo home run rate of 68%. If I remember correctly, the average % for solo home runs vs. multi-run home runs in MLB usually is between 55-59% on average (I haven't looked it up in quite a while, though).

But the Royals starters have given up 27 of those 35 home runs, and 23 of the 27 have been solo shots for an 85% solo home run rate.

Basically, the Royals starters have been a bit lucky to this point to not give up more runs than they already have, but at this point in the season, that's only about 6-7 home runs off of the mean. I can't remember what the average runs per home run in MLB is anymore, but I think it's safe to say the Royals could have given up another 8-10 runs than they have to this point.

Again, meaningless at this early juncture, but interesting...er, at least to me.

On the flipside, it looks like Royals hitters have had about even luck in this category -- they've hit solo home runs 62.5% of the time they've hit a home run (15 of 24 total...I could be off by one, here, but I'm not going to through those box scores a 2nd time).

Sunday, May 1, 2011

That worked out well

I'm no where close to calling the Royals a good team. Not even within shouting distance. I am prepared to go out on the most slender of limbs to say they're definitely not horrible, however.

Yes, you heard it here first (or 27th). The Kansas City Royals are not horrible. What can I say? Fortune favors the bold, and I'm just a guy calling it like I see it...while also not wanting to overstate things and look stupid two weeks from now.

I figured, like probably we all did, that the 6-game losing streak was a deathknell. Basement-dwelling couldn't be too far behind, right? Then I paid attention to the schedule and realized...okay, there were some winnable games coming up. The Minnesota Twins were hurting -- any team playing them right now should feel confident, and sure enough, the Royals beat up on them for a three-game sweep.

The Baltimore Orioles are a little different animal. No, they're not good, either. But when you look at their wins & losses, you realize the losses are concentrated against three teams: the New York Yankees, the Texas Rangers, and the Cleveland Indians...or, the 3 teams with the best records in the AL. The Royals also had trouble with the Rangers and Indians, although they have yet to play the Yankees.

Another similarity -- the Orioles started hot (6-1), hit a rough patch (lost 11 of 13, only beating the Twins during that stretch), and then managed a sweep of a struggling team: the Chicago White Sox. The Royals also started hot (12-7), hit a rough patch (lost 6 in a row), then managed a sweep of a struggling team in the Twins.

So what does all that mean? Absolutely nothing. Aren't you glad you read all that?

But from a fluff standpoint, it means they're both teams wondering about themselves a bit -- yes, so far they've beat either bad teams or teams playing badly at the time, but have struggled against good teams or...whatever the Indians are (although it's hard to think they're a fluke...they're not exactly winning a bunch of 1-run games, here).

In essence, no, this isn't an "important" series -- at least, not any more important than any of the others ones to this point -- but it is an interesting series between two teams that are trying to prove to themselves and their fans that they're something more than "not horrible".

The standings were weird to look at after the game, by the way:

It isn't about the standings of the teams, per se -- sure, it's almost the opposite of what the vast majority were predicting for this division, but I'm talking more about the losing streaks of the bottom three teams: 6 in a row for the Twins and Detroit Tigers, 5 in a row for the White Sox. And remember, the Royals just came out of a 6-game losing streak. At this juncture, the Indians longest losing streak is 3 games.