Saturday, May 12, 2007

Mike Sweeney Fun Facts! (Back To Negativity)

OK, I post this not to dog on Mike Sweeney. I think he's a good clubhouse presence and a once very good, now average, baseball player.

Royals' record with Sweeney in lineup since 2002: 202-320 (.387)
Royals' record without Sweeney in lineup since 2002: 119-179 (.399)

Still a bad team, but you would expect some noticeable improvement with a big "thumping" bat like Sweeney's in the middle of that lineup.

I post this hoping to make two points.

a) Sweeney has really been no more productive than an average #5 or #6 hitter since 2003.

b) Sweeney has no business being "captain" of this baseball team, who, like perennial contenders the Yankees and the Red Sox, happen to actually have a captain to begin with.

I love me some Sweeney, but his designation as captain is a spit in the face from ownership and management.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

My Royal Ramblings (See! I Can Be Optimistic, Too!)

I wanted to share my sentiments with members of the forum as well.

What would really be cool is if we invented some nicknames for our players, like "Billy The Kid" (Billy Butler) or "Mr. Incredible" (John Buck) or "Cool Hand Luke" (Hudson or Hochevar).

I watched Billy play tonight. He looked a little slow getting a jump on the ball in left field, but that was the only negative. He ripped the ball a couple times, getting two base hits. He also made an incredible on-the-money throw to John Buck from left field. I was telling my dad that, despite our 8-19 record, I really think we're on our way to developing some cornerstone players - maybe like our very own version of guys like Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Johan Santana, etc. (OK, maybe without Santana, but you catch my draft). As for Butler, I think the kid's here to say. I'm really excited to see a Teahen-Gordon- Butler middle of the order for many years to come.

And what also looks promising is that the Royals will have about $25-30 million opening up this winter for free agent money. My thinking is that the Royals should try to sign another top-notch starting pitcher (a guy entering his prime, like Gil Meche). I wouldn't devote so much money at free agents that it would make us unable to keep our young guns.

Greinke has good stuff, but, man, just about every ball the Angels hit tonight was hit hard. He just simply got rocked. I don't think he's hurt - he hit 95mph a few times. Greinke's still only 23, and is still younger than Buckner, Hochevar, and Lumsden. He still has plenty of room for improvement. Even in 2010, he'll still only be barely 27.

I really think that this team will improve offensively. I'm an emotional fan - I get upset after losses. But after tonight I'm really not phased - I know this ballclub can get better this year. They have plenty of young talent in that lineup. We have been getting quality starts in the rotation like we haven't gotten since the mid-'90s. The bullpen needs the most improvement, but with Hudson and Elarton returning, that probably means Bannister will be sent to the 'pen. Hudson also might start out in the 'pen. Bale and Dotel will be returning soon. Help is coming.

Did you know that the Royals actually had just about the same record as the Cardinals after June 15? If they can begin playing .500 ball around mid-May, it really will be a fun summer at the ballpark.

That said, it was still rather frustrating to see Buddy Bell *not* pinch-hit the .348-.434-.587- hitting Reggie Sanders or the .280-.325-.413- hitting Mark Grudzielanek for the .208-.255-.302- 19 K-hitting Tony Pena, Jr. in the bottom of the eighth inning with one out and two on base against Anaheim's top set up man. That was actually rather ridiculous.

Wait a minute. I got negative again. Somebody slap me.

(Fire Bell!)


My 2008 Royals 25-man roster projection:

Starting Lineup

CF - David DeJesus (hopefully, our leadoff man for several years to come)
2B - Mark Grudzielanek (if he performs above expectations this year, let's keep him next year
RF - Mark Teahen
3B - Alex Gordon
DH - Billy Butler
1B - Ryan Shealy
C - John Buck
LF - Mitch Maier / Shane Costa
SS - Angel Sanchez

C - Gregg Zaun
IF - Esteban German
OF - Shane Costa / Mitch Maier
OF - Joey Gathright

Starting Rotation
SP - Gil Meche
SP - Mark Buehrle (one of 2 major offseason pickups)
SP - Zack Greinke
SP - Luke Hochevar
SP - Jorge De La Rosa

LRP - Brian Bannister
MRP - Ryan Braun
MRP - Neal Musser
MRP - Gabe DeHoyos
SU - Jarod Plummer
SU - Joakim Soria
CP - Mariano Rivera (a man can dream, can't he?)

Royals' Reputation: A Team That Won't Retaliate?

The Royals have been plunked 23 times this season. Twenty-three! That is EASILY the most number of HBP in baseball! (Leading the Phillies, who have 18). They have hit a total of 5 opposing hitters. One must be thinking - well, the Royals' pitchers, generally, since 2003, have had far more control than opposing pitchers, right?


In 2007, Between the Royals and their opponents, each side has drawn exactly 50% of the walks in those ballgames.

In 2006, the Royals' pitchers walked 637 men, good for most in the American League. The Royals drew a stunningly low 474 walks. Yet Royals' sluggers were still hit the majority of the time - getting plunked a total of 64 times over the season - 4th most in the AL, compared to the 60 plunkings the opposition received.

Throughout the past five seasons, 2005 was the only year that Royals pitchers plunked more oppositing hitters than the numbers of times the Royals' offense got plunked.

In 2004, Royals pitchers issued 518 walks - 53% of the walks either issued or received by the team. The Royals' offense drew 461 walks - 47%. Yet our hitters were plunked 20 (!) more times than the opposition!

In 2003, it was no better. Despite the fact that our pitchers were (as always is the case) wild as molasses, our hitters were still plunked 9 more times than the Royals' opponents!

Of course, Angel Berroa accounts for a significant percentage of HBP. He was plunked 47 times from 2003-2006.

In total, from 2003-2007, the Royals have been hit by a pitch 301 times. The Royals' notoriously wild pitchers have hit 261 total - that's 40 fewer batters!

Our notoriously wild pitching staff has obviously not been as notoriously wild as our opponents.

Year / Total HBP / Total BB / % walks / % HBP
2007 HBP: (Hitters) 23 85 walks 50% 82%
2007 HBP: (Pitchers) 5 85 walks 50% 18%
2006 HBP: (Hitters) 64 474 walks 43% 52%
2006 HBP: (Pitchers) 60 637 walks 57% 48%
2005 HBP: (Hitters) 63 424 walks 42% 46%
2005 HBP: (Pitchers) 74 580 walks 58% 54%
2004 HBP: (Hitters) 76 461 walks 47% 58%
2004 HBP: (Pitchers) 56 518 walks 53% 42%
2003 HBP: (Hitters) 75 476 walks 46% 53%
2003 HBP: (Pitchers) 66 566 walks 54% 47%

Study the numbers above. Have the Royals developed a reputation as a team that gets plunked, but won't retaliate? The numbers above suggest that it is so. Not that it's necessarily a bad thing. Or is it?

Pythagorean W-L and Other Notes

First off, great win for the Boys in Blue today.

Secondly, our pythagorean W-L is 13-16, a full 3-games better than our 10-19 record. One could interpret the pythag. W-L two ways. Either our manager is not putting our players in the best situations to succeed, or the Royals have flat-out been unlucky and will improve over the course of the season. I think it's a combination of both, although the latter will likely be the greater factor over 162 games.

Some positives:
- In the league, the Royals are in the middle of the pack in terms of singles and doubles. They obviously lead in triples (with 8).
- Even though the Royals haven't been *too* impressive in this category, they are much better than last year at drawing the walk. They've drawn 85, or almost 3 a game. That's not where we should be, but it's not bad.
- The Royals have a 4.30 team ERA. That's surprisingly low considering the number of runs our bullpen (Wellemeyer, Peralta, Riske) have choked up this year.
- The Royals K:BB ratio is exactly where it should be. 85 walks to 160 K's. Again, both categories are a *significant* improvement over what we've seen in years' past.
- The Royals' pitchers have also only given up 22 HR's this year (29 games). Again, a marked improvement ("The K"'s park factor would certainly be a factor in this. However, it's still an improvement.)

Some negatives:
- Opponents are still hitting .281 against our pitchers.
- We need to improve our strikeout numbers, as hitters. 226 strikeouts is *head and shoulders* above anyone else in the league.
- We're only hitting .248. Gload, Sweeney, Grudz, Buck, DeJesus, and Teahen are all performing about as expected this season. If Gordon and Pena step it up, this number could improve slightly.
- Buddy Bell has cost us 2 games thus far and possibly (although not likely) 1 more.

I really think Bannister should be sent to the bullpen when Hudson & Elarton return. Hudson should also move to the bullpen. Elarton won't be useful in the 'pen because of his fly-ball tendencies and atrociously low K/9, K:BB levels. Plus, Huddy at least has some experience as a decent-to-average big-leaguereliever.

We can't mess with what's working, and simply taking Greinke out of the rotation would be a vast, vast, vast mistake. Not that I'm expecting Moore to do that.

Don't forget about John Bale.

Here's my rotation and bullpen after their returns:
SP - Meche
SP - Perez
SP - Greinke
SP - De La Rosa
SP - Elarton
LRP - Bannister
MRP - Duckworth
MRP - Hudson
MRP - Bale
SU - Gobble
SU - Riske
CP - Soria

However, I have one question. Does Peralta still have options left? If so, I say we send him to Omaha, at least for a couple weeks until Elarton gets back. Wellemeyer gets DFA'ed. Musser gets sent back to Omaha. What does everyone think?

(Although, honestly, I think we'd be better off without Elarton on the team. Although it is very, very, very encouraging that he has gone from our #1 pitcher to our #5 guy, even if the injury aided him there a little bit).

Optimists Beware! Excessive Negativity Lies Ahead!

Refuting The Excuse: Buddy Bell

I had planned on writing a serious article chastising Bell for using his new mancrush Wellemeyer on consecutive evenings, both of which were games we were either barely in the lead (on Friday) or reasonably within striking distance (on Saturday). I also pondered a dissection of Moore's now well-known trades. However, I decided to keep it short and simple.

While Buddy Bell has proven to me his (in)capabilities of handling that margin of error he had (or did not have) this season, perhaps his explanations and rationale for certain decisions are what irritate me the most. Other than lamenting the demotion of Standridge because it withdraws "experience" from the team, or forcing Ryan Shealy to ride the pine because "it wouldn't be fair to Gloady" (OK, I blatantly made that one up), perhaps it's his rationale for the Royals' 7-5 loss to the Twins on Saturday that *really* bugged me. When asked about the Royals' failure to execute offensively as well as the Twins did in Saturday's loss, Buddy Bell claimed that the Twins were simply the more experienced baseball team.

Not true. Not true at all.

The facts:

Player - Total MLB At-Bats - MLB Seasons - Age
Castilla 21 2 22
DeJesus 1389 5 27
Punto 1093 7 29
Grudzielanek6201 13 36
Mauer 1170 4 24
Teahen 889 3 25
Cuddyer 1613 7 28
Sweeney 4449 13 33
Morneau 1528 5 25
Gload 526 6 31
Hunter 3945 11 31
Brown 1518 8 32
Rodriguez 314 3 26
Kubel 316 3 24
Redmond 1691 10 35
Gordon 51 1 23
LaRue 2252 9 33
Pena 101 2 26

Total AB - Team - Total - Age - Avg Seas. - Avg Age
11691 MIN 52 5.78 27.
117376 KC 60 6.70 29.6

In the 4-21 lineup, the Royals collectively had 6000 more MLB at-bats, or 60% more AB's than the Twins. The Royals' average age in that lineup was 2.5 years older than the Twins, and averaged almost a full Major League season more than the Twins. And that doesn't even include Reggie Sanders.

Buddy Bell could have said that the Twins just drafted better than we did and made better trades. Because the Twins obviously had the better offense, and they are much younger and much more inexperienced.

So there you have it. I promise to not only post negative spins on this website. Positive ones are coming soon as well (that is, if the Royals can win a few more here in April). Here's a shameless but hearty "Cheers" to the possibility of the Royals winning their home stand! :)

No Margin For Error For Bell In '07

Emerging youngsters or proven veterans. Sticking with the hot hand or going with the chosen 9th man? All are vital decisions Bell must make once again.

Once again, in 2007, Buddy Bell will have very little margin for error in his in-game decisions and leadership off the field. Although Bell has, thus far, demonstrated he can handle the somewhat offbeat personalities of players like Zack Greinke, Jose Lima, and, yes, Angel Berroa, and by all accounts the players generally enjoy playing for him, he has made more than a handful of questionable in-game decisions that have undoubtedly led to a handful of Royals losses since he took the managing job in 2005.

Bell needs to learn that the future of the ballclub does not coincide with his tenure as manager. He needs to capitalize off of, and prove, his "old-school" mentality by playing rookies, youngsters, and players entering their prime, because they are who deserves to play for the 2007 Kansas City Royals. It's consensus among sports writers, fans, scouts, and the franchise itself that we are building for winning championships in the future. The only way to build for future championships is by playing legitimate young players (those who have proven worthy of an everyday MLB spot). I can understand giving Shealy one off-day every two and a half weeks, but I simply cannot accept benching him because Ross Gload is simply the better player. Like it or not, simply playing the most talented nine players in a lineup isn't part of the game anymore, and it never should have been. Bell has made too many mindnumbing decisions in the past for me to feel comfortable with who he decides to play and not play.

We all remember the Justin Huber fiasco of the early summer 2006. Benching the #100 prospect in baseball for Doug Mientkiewicz simply cannot be accepted. I realize only five games of 2006 have surpassed, but I'm worried. I'm very worried. Dayton Moore has proved that he has a reasonable (at the surface) philosophy intact. It's his duty 24/7 to communicate that philosophy to his staff and, perhaps more importantly, his manager. If Bell continues to sit players like Teahen and Shealy for Sanders or Gload, I'll be even more worried.

Are there other examples of Bell's refusal to play emerging young studs, you ask? Why, yes, I reply. Using Tony Graffanino as designated hitter and third base instead of Esteban German. Continuously playing Angel Berroa, defending him, and telling him shortstop is his job to lose two weeks before Opening Day. (While refusing to acknowledge his .259 OBP and -19 VORP was downright terrible on historical levels). Refusing to play Shane Costa or Reggie over-the-hill Sanders. Letting Jose Lima pitch the entire 2005 season (although I wonder how much of that could be attributed to..*gasp*...Allard Baird). There are many more examples, but should I continue? OK, maybe I will.

Another continuous Bell faux-pas these past two years has been managing by the book, and, sometimes, yes, overmanaging baseball games. I definitely do not agree with the moves to pull the young Joakim Soria in games two and four. In game two, Joakim Soria threw 19 effective pitches to bail Odalis Perez out of a jam in the sixth inning. Bell then immediately proceeded to pull the young talent for a pitcher who, by all means, should be excommunicated from entering a 40-man roster. That man is Todd Wellemeyer, who recorded all three outs in the seventh inning at the warning track. There were some doubles and even a towering 420-foot blast thrown in-between. In the fourth game, David Riske entered in the ninth inning. Sure, Riske recorded the save, but was it wise to pull Soria after he worked ahead of hitters and entered into no trouble in the 8th? Much like my father, I prescribe to the "stick to the hot hand" theory. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. If it's workin', why mess with it? No time for excuses, just keep on doin' whatcha doin'. (OK, putting cliched phrases on hold for now).

There, I think I've beaten this dead horse for a time or two.

What will I whine about next?
This offseason, Dayton Moore demonstrated philosophy of acquiring depth in pitching. But was it enough?Even aside from the expectedly controversial hoopla surrounding the signing of Gil Meche to an "unprecedented" five-year, $55 million contract in December, this off-season was particularly active for the Royals. While the Royals certainly didn't overpay for Meche's services, many true Royals fans questioned the move because of Meche's history of elbow injuries, the fact that he had never thrown more than 200 innings in one season, or the fact that he had never posted an ERA over 4.48 or WHIP above 1.34 in his entire career with the Seattle Mariners. While that contract's "weight" dominated the mainstream sports media, and the Kansas City sports media to an extent, Dayton Moore might have obtained at least one dozen more starting pitchers capable (but in many cases, not likely) of posting better-than-average Major League numbers.

Despite the fact that the Royals gave Gil Meche more money than any free agent signing in the team's history, he is one of at least a dozen acquisitions who could prove worthy in K.C. in 2007.

Among the additions this offseason were the additions of former Major Leaguers Wayne Franklin, Leo Estrella, Dewon Brazelton, Zach Day, Mark Woodyard, Jason Shiell, and Jason Standridge. Although none of these pitchers will likely see time at the big-league level in 2007, each hurler has obtained enough service time at the Big League level to give credibility to our Minor League system, and hold back our more prized prospects like Luke Hochevar, Tyler Lumsden, Carlos Rosa, and Billy Buckner. Moore added to the Big-League level by trading away pitchers former G.M. Allard Baird heralded, such as Runelvys Hernandez, Andrew Sisco, and Ambiorix Burgos (as well as trading Jeremy Affeldt and Denny Bautista) for more proven Big-League talent. What Moore knew about the Royals was that the Minor League system under Allard Baird was suffering badly. Whether luck or simple lack of development was to blame, injuries occurred regularly, and many of "Baird's" pitchers simply couldn't maintain success and confidence at the Big-League level. Ineffectiveness, and in many cases, bad attitudes, surfaced among many of Baird's boys. Dayton Moore observed this, and brought in his own men. Except, unlike Allard Baird, Moore signed a quantity of men - Ken Ray, Joakim Soria, David Riske, John Bale, Daniel Christensen, Brian Bannister, and Octavio Dotel each had legitimate chances of breaking camp with the Royals in Spring Training.
However, in Spring Training 2007, injuries and ineffectiveness are already beginning to occur. Jorge De La Rosa has surrendered 11 runs and 15 hits in 11 1/3 innings. His control, as it was many times last year, has been spotty, although he has walked a rather unalarming 5 batters. Brian Bannister has performed even worse - compiling a 10.03 ERA in 11 2/3 spring innings. Minor League signings Dewon Brazelton and Wayne Franklin likely won't provide any help with the parent club anytime soon, as they have struggled as well. Brandon Duckworth has been successful in Surprise, yet his Big League success has been extremely limited. Even more alarming? He is 31. Scouts are skeptical about Todd Wellemeyer - his control has regressed further from the end of last year. His mechanics are unsound. His 2006 ERA, which was a mere 3.63, has all the signs of a fluke, because his strikeout-to-walk ratio was exactly 1:1.
Among the Royals' pitching "casualties" of this spring, Leo Nunez, Joe Nelson, and Luke Hudson will likely be placed on the 15-Day DL to begin the season. Odalis Perez has experienced ineffectiveness mixed with blister problems which limited his final Spring Training start to three (3!) innings. Gil Meche has struggled with ineffectiveness, surrendering 13 runs and 22 hits in 16 innings. The only consistently good starting pitcher has been Zack Greinke, who has arguably been the best pitcher this spring - posting a 21:2 K:BB ratio.
With all the injuries and ineffectiveness among the experienced - but unproven - pitchers this spring, one must beg the question. With all the starting pitchers still available after he signed Gil Meche, did Dayton Moore do enough? Did Dayton Moore sign enough starting pitchers to give us, the fans, confidence that this pitching staff will allow significantly fewer runs than the ungodly 971 allowed in 2006?
The Royals appeared to be frontrunners for signing Miguel Batista and Tony Armas.
Here is a list of starting pitchers available as of January 4. Listed alongside are which teams they signed with.
> Tony Armas (Signed 1-year contract with PIT)
> Bruce Chen (Signed MiLB contract with TEX)
> Ryan Franklin (Signed 1-year contract with STL)
> Tomo Ohka (Signed 1-year contract with TOR)
> Ramon Ortiz (Signed 1-year contract with MIN)
> Chan Ho Park (Signed 1-year contract with NYM)
> Mark Redman (Signed MiLB contract with ATL)
> John Thomson (Signed 1-year contract with TOR)
> Steve Trachsel (Signed MiLB contract with NYM)
> David Wells (Signed 1-year contract with SD)
> Paul Wilson (Re-Signed to MiLB with Cincinnati)
Should the Royals have attempted to re-sign Mark Redman for an inexpensive and, perhaps, incentive-laden contract? It couldn't hurt, considering the Royals had guaranteed a rotation slot to the less successful (5.88 career ERA, career 114:108 K:BB ratio) Jorge De La Rosa before he even threw an inning in a Spring Training game? At the very least, it would have allowed the Royals to bump Jorge down to the fifth slot or even release him outright if he did, in fact, struggle. Re-signing our '06 All-Star would have not been difficult, and, although I have no evidence to prove this, I can assure you that the Royals could easily convince Redman to return to the city - for less than, say, $1 million - which in the preceeding year guaranteed him the #2 slot in the rotation before Spring, all the rope in the world for posting far-below-average results and earning a trip to Pittsburgh in mid-summer. If Redman wouldn't re-sign, dozens of more capable pitchers than De La Rosa were available.
I attribute to the tried-and-true baseball slogan: You can never have enough pitching. And signing one or two of these pitchers would have been a smart idea for Dayton Moore. Now it appears the Royals will have to trade Emil Brown, Reggie Sanders, or perhaps a young prospect for an inexpensive, short-term pitcher to add depth - and experience - at the Major League level.
Some Royals fans "pooh-pooh-ed" the idea of signing a pitcher because, while the pitcher would be guaranteed a Major League spot out of camp, they could block the development of young pitchers like Greinke and Bannister. However, these fans didn't account that young pitchers would actually struggle. Also, we don't exactly have a plethora of young pitchers to begin with - at least rookies or prospects - ready to pitch at the Big-League level. Other than Greinke, we have no pitcher who is under 25. De La Rosa and Hudson are in their late-twenties, and have accumulated Major League playing time in at least three different seasons before 2007.
No, you can never have enough pitching. Now, with the inconsistencies, struggles, and injuries among many of our pitchers this spring, was Dayton Moore's choice to pass up more pitching a wise idea? Or simply a painful reversion to the inadaquacies of the Allard Baird Era (R.I.P.)?