Tuesday, March 31, 2009

MtRoyals: Raw

Blogger and message boarder extraordinaire 'MtRoyals' joins us in this week's segment of 'Raw.' Antonio, or "The Great M.T.", as I deem him, permeates RoyalBoard like perhaps no other blogger. Although he has posted slightly less frequently, recently, he possesses the greatest non-virus infected post count for a poster over at that website. He also contributes at the Royals blog Royally Speaking, which contains Major and Minor League analysis. He began as an uber-controversial blogger, frequently proving conventional baseball wisdom and its followers wrong with the utmost of new-school sabermetrics. He reigned controversial over at RB, although his attacks seldom, if ever, became personal. He has feuded with several bloggers in the past, but since elevating himself to moderator status has become quite non-confrontational, despite rigidly holding to a bold and uncompromising writing style.

Forewarning: The views of the interviewee do not necessarily reflect the views of the interviewer. The 'Raw' series of this blog is simply an opportunity to interview uncompromising, bold, and at often times controversial members of the Royals blogosphere. MtRoyals has drawn ire and praise over at RB and RS, among other forums.

Recently, I had a chance to sit down in the The Royal Treatment megastudio with 'Mt'...business suit and all. Without further ado....


TRT: Introduce yourself. How did you become baseball-obsessed?

MtRoyals: Obsession seems to come very naturally to me. If you love something, why not love it with the entirety of your heart and soul? As far as non-baseball related things, I have read the book It 15 times. I've read a ton of books devoted to the Beatles, and even to individual Beatles. I'm currently reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich because I LOVE things related to WWII. But to baseball, I left the US when I was eight and I had just really got interested in baseball when I left. When I came back in June of 90, George Brett was in the middle of winning his third batting title (he missed about a week when I came back and he was batting .259--amazing that he got up to where he did) and I lived as close to Royals Stadium as I ever had before. And there was finally someone wanting to take me to the games. (I remember the game well enough that I was able to look up the exact game on B-R, which isn't bad considering I was in the fifth grade.) My brother had already started a small baseball card collection and I started adding to it as well. Ahhh...1990 Donruss, what a fantastically appealing and ugly card! Considering that I was really "coming" to the game "late", I wanted to waste zero time catching up.

TRT: Some Royals fans claim that Jose Guillen had a successful year in 2008 because he hit .264 with 20 home runs and 97 RBI's in 153 games. Why and how can you prove this argument false?

MtRoyals: A successful year shouldn't be restricted to any small group of bland statistics like .260-20-97. Making outs matter. A lot of people, for a nonsensical reason, want to detach not getting out (OBP) and hits of any kind. Being on the base paths matter. Getting on base, whether via a walk, a single, double or a dropped third strike doesn't transfer your pressure as a hitter to your teammate hitting next but to the pitcher. You can sacrifice one way or the other, of course, as long as the proper value is assigned to each. Getting on base isn't just for the top 1-2 hitters. It's important for the at least the first six, but the further down the line it goes, the better, of course. Comparative stats matter in this game because the rules of the game are not uniform. What the environment does to affect the game is not uniform. Basketball/football, these sports exist in controlled settings of time/field and court dimensions/set heighth for hoops and field goal posts. Other than what the crowd does for the local team, the stadiums/areanas are neutral. And when the control is as variable as the baseball field, you have to adjust the stats. Hitting 40 in the 1980s was much harder than hitting 40 in the 30s. You have to adjust.

TRT: Over at RoyalBoard, there seems to be a growing rift between the "sabermetric" and "non-sabermetric" crowds, for lack of better terms. You obviously identify with the former group. You have managed to bridge the gaps - or communication barriers - between the two groups quite well. Question: Which elements of traditional, or conventional, baseball wisdom do you still embrace to this day?

MtRoyals: Let's talk about the growing rift a bit. The first question that comes to mind is: why does it matter to the point of ditching the sites/trashing on the people? Right now, I'm at my dad's and he's watching Fried Green Tomatoes with his wife. I watched Saw IV last night and Rocky Balboa the night before that. I like When Harry Met Sally and I like Swingers and I like Johnny Dangerously. Is it that bad to be different? To have different ideas? To make suggestions contrary to ideas held to be true? The things that we enjoy and the way we choose to enjoy them are a part of our individuality. If you say something "positive" that I think is more delusional than positive, I'm going to call you on it. If I say something "negative" that you think is more cynical than probable, I need to be called on it. When I write about baseball, I put my allegiances to the side because it is too often subjective.

As far as traditional and conventional baseball wisdom, I haven't turned my back on any of it other than the things that really don't matter. The Face: Alex Rodriguez is a fine looking guy and his personal life is in a state of disarray. It hasn't affected his baseball ability. Colt Griffin threw the ball crazy hard and he wasn't ever close to making it to Omaha, let alone Kansas City. Some things are just beyond reasonable thought. Asking a scout how good a player will be is asking a bit much. Yes, Alex Gordon was a phenomenal talent and did every thing right but there's at some point a difference between personality and ability. Did George Brett become a Hall of Famer because of his tenacious personality? Or because of his talent? It's because of both but mostly because of talent. And how do I know that? Because plenty of tenacious guys fall short. Plenty of jerks succeed. Plenty of good guys are nothing more than Ross Gload. Scouts are good at getting an idea of whether a player is a hard worker, commited to his craft and bettering himself, but people change. Trying to decide whether a player is capable of learning the strike zone, of doing this, doing that and whatever other imagining/daydreaming/hoping/praying/predicting a player can/will do is nothing short of a false assumption. There are too many individual personalities. Now statistics cannot predict that stuff and they're actually worse at predicting it than a person would be because a person can get to know a person, stats cannot. Stats can not predict Josh Hamilton picking up a habit, but obviously, neither could the scouts. But the stats were right about Josh Hamilton. The stats said that, if given opportunity, Josh Hamilton will beat the shit out of the ball. And he does. Neither method is perfected on its own but when it comes to predicting what a player will do, the stats are going to hit more on a player with good stats than a scout will hit on a player with lagging stats. How much leeway to give either side isn't an exact science because again, it's always down to the individual.

TRT: You have cited the book Moneyball as a primary influence to your baseball expertise today. Which theme of the Michael Lewis book ("biography" is probably too loose a term) do you readily embrace the most? Which elements of the book (if any) no longer apply in current baseball front office work?

MtRoyals: The theme that I most embrace isn't any one particular statistical idea, but more of a way to be economically sound. If you're buying a car and the most you can spend is 3500 dollars, you don't keep bidding when it's at 4200 dollars. It's not like you're looking through the crap bin at Wal-Mart. How many times have the Royals spent entirely too much on replaceable talent? What is it that Ross Gload really brings? TPJ was arguably a worse player than Angel Berroa. Scott Elarton? Mark Redman? Bringing in players that are slightly less talented but many multitudes cheaper creates opportunities to spend better money at other places. If you're commited to a player that's going to hit .285/.315/.375, why not get a minor leaguer and save a few million dollars? And not money to be put into the owner's pocket, but back into the team some way or another. Yes, let's celebrate spending 10 million on the draft, but let's also ask why people were questioning me for saying it should be doubled or tripled when we were spending 5.5-6.0 million on the draft. Ramirez and one of the catchers and Farnsworth equals Orlando Hudson, financially speaking. And we couldn't "make due" with Shealy/Brayan/reliever like Musser/Colon/Rosa? The Royals restrict themselves by being closed-minded about a lot of things. As far as people that are positive, positive, positive and questions the fandom of people that aren't of the mindset take things entirely too far. Yes, Dayton knows more than most of us (and I am in that group), but that doesn't mean that you can overlook something you disagree with. No, complaining about it isn't going to change it but as I've said many times, what fun would a blog/message board be if you just agree with things over and over again no matter what happens. I'm a surly bastard if you ask many posters, yet this surly bastard is guessing 83 wins. And I've been close in my past guessing.

TRT: You have mentioned on several occasions that you would like to become professionally involved with baseball in some way. What are your top three "dream jobs" with regard to working in a baseball-oriented profession?

MtRoyals: I wouldn't want to be the GM and I wouldn't want to be over many (or maybe any) people. I'd want my opinion to be considered and valued. I don't want it take as gospel but as another man's opinion. Assistant to GM

If I could get paid for Royally Speaking (and if my computer was working so I could actually post on there) or if it lead to a gig that didn't have to pay much but paid enough to have it as my primary source of income, that would be pretty ideal. I do a lot of writing outside of baseball and I'm confident that I could write any thing about any point of view. Baseball scribe

I'm a pretty big fan of analysts and I love being at the park. I would hope that if/when given proper training on what a team is looking for, that I'd be good enough at it to get paid. I love ballpark food. It would be great if I could be able to give the team what they needed/wanted without selling my own ideas of what really makes a successful ballplayer short. Baseball scout

TRT: You're a contributor over at the informative Royals blog Royally Speaking. What can this site offer that another blog cannot?

MtRoyals: That is kind of hard to say because there are so many good Royal blogs out there. What Royally Speaking brings to the huge collection of blogs is a chief writer who is upbeat and positive and a moderate on the stats/scouts issue and mixes that with someone who is a very good writer and does a lot of in-depth information on the prospects and adds a dash of MtRoyals, someone who was once described as, "Blogger and message boarder extraordinaire" and "The Great M.T." haha It's kinda hard for me to honestly say what I bring to Royally Speaking because of two reasons: one, I like to come off as modest (which is quite the task) and two, I really haven't been able to stretch my legs there as much as I would want due to some things in my personal life (roommate moved out and took a functioning computer). Jeff Parker knows that I don't pull any punches. I deal with a lot of "what if" scenarios that are meant to challenged the established view of Royal fans. I want to not only think outside and inside and all around the box, but I want to encourage people to do that as well. As long as I'm not accepting regurgitated crap that they've been saying about baseball and its teams over the many decades, I think I'm doing quite well. A cliche, I was once told, is a cliche because it is true. Not so. A cliche is a cliche because it's been repeated so many times that perception often makes it true.

TRT: You have responded on several occasions at perhaps the most fervently anti-"Mother's Basement" Royals blog, Hapless Royals. How can you bridge the gap between, say, a "Dr. Thunder" and a "Jobber", if it is possible?

MtRoyals: Hapless Royals is great fun, first and foremost. He doesn't see things that way I do and that's what I need out of my baseball entertainment. I want people to be real and to be able to back up what they say, and I'm like that in all walks of life, when they are trying to pass off something as fact. Dr. Thunder and I are night and day, but I've never really had a problem with him even though I've been under his skin.Jobber types things that lean towards sabermetrics, but I find myself disagreeing with a lot of the things he says. Mostly because I see it being very contradictory.As far as being able to bridge gaps, I'd first have to say to both that it should occur to them that the friction is personality, not fandom. To Dr. Thunder and his attitude, I'd have to ask why does he let differing opinions piss him off to such a huge degree. To Jobber, I'd say, yes, OBP goes a long ways towards what you're saying it does, but you treat it like an end all of statistics. The question isn't "when does it end", the question is "why should it end"? Do the message boards die when a team like the Royals win? Because as they slowly get better, more and more of the elated group are getting pissy about ANY dissent. I'd like to tell the elated group that fandom isn't just being happy about progress, just as I'd tell the gloom and doom weary group that fandom isn't just about fretting over every single move. I'm not a fan of the Mike Jacobs trade and I'm questioning the Coco Crisp trade, yet I see clearly what each deal gives the Royals. And at the same time, progress isn't enough for me. Securing a dynasty is what I selfishly want and I will not apologize for that. I have more to add here but I see another question that is more suiting for where my mind is going.

TRT: Joe Morgan. Tim McCarver. Murray Chass. Jon Heyman. What thoughts come to your mind?

MtRoyals: Closed-minded. What have they brought to the discussion of baseball themselves? Where is any evidence that they've thought about the game? Why have these men neglected their jobs to the point that it doesn't even occur to them that there MIGHT be a better way to analyze and report on the game than what their daddies told them in the 50s and 60s? I found something that I wrote someone and it pairs well with both this question and the question about Guillen and it also kind of goes with the question about conventional stats: But I've been at odds with the BBWAA (not that I know any of them or communicate with any of them) for quite some time. Well before I became aware of many of the stats that are available, I could never figure out why they were so intent on basing their voting on RBIs. I was talking about this with some people on a Royals message board in regards to Mike Sweeney. Years ago, when Sweeney was good (can anyone remember such a time?), Mike set a team record with 144 RBIs. WOW! But then next year, he wasn't as good *cough* and only had 99 RBIs. What the heck happened to Mike? Nothing really. He was as good or pretty close to it. When you look deeper into the numbers, you'll see that Mike only had 99 RBIs because the team OBP dropped from .348 to .318. It's kinda hard to knock people in when your teammates aren't doing their job. So it takes more numbers than the basic .290-25-100 to decide if a player has had a good season. I emailed that to someone about 18 months ago. And that's how these men and the people that say Guillen had a good season see the game. It is a team sport, of course it is a team sport. But unlike basketball and football, it's built upon nine guys mostly doing individual things collectively. It doesn't have the same level of cohesion that football has.

TRT: How would you rank G.M. Dayton Moore's job performance thus far in his tenure? What are his primary strengths and what are his primary weaknesses; in other words, what aspects of management does he need to improve upon?

MtRoyals: B- (I'm so negative!) His primary strength would be bull pen construction. This isn't the only one he has, of course, and had he not signed Cruz, his esteem in this regard would have gone down a bit. A strength would be drafting young pitchers in general and high school hitters in the first round. A strength would be front office hiring: Picollo, Francisco, Arbuckle, Medina. I'm not really a fan of Dean Taylor yet. A weakness would be draft strategy, which most of your readers will take as an insult. When he took over the team, many would have said he took over a farm system with the best top three prospects in the game. But they were all about to graduate (and all sent time in KC in '07). But he's only drafted and signed players that were at least four years away from Kansas City. You can't exactly call him a failure in drafting but he doesn't seem to alter his draft philosophy to fit the organizations immediate needs very well. He traded Dotel for a young player that had a lot of unsucessful time accured in the bigs when we needed a prospect that was almost ready and had zero time on his clock. He let Riske walk and took the draft picks when the players that will be ready in '09/'10 needed another teammate. He takes Moustakas/Hosmer (GREAT picks) instead of Wieters/Smoak (GREAT picks that will be ready much sooner than Moose/Hosmer). That's not to say that Moustakas/Hosmer are bad picks or will falter or that I don't like them being with the team. It's just that Wieters/Smoak would have better served the teams needs at the time of those respective drafts. Drafting should never be about high school versus collegians or about positional need. It should always be about the best player ... unless ... there are several "best players" and some of them will get to the bigs much, much sooner. The more you restrict your options when making a decision, the more often you're going to make the wrong decision. (Again, Dayton didn't fail by going the way he went.) Another weakness would be loyalty. Loyalty is great and I see myself as a very loyal person, but it is very possible to be loyal to a fault.

TRT: Which, if any, times have you been proven demonstrably false in the Royals blogosphere?

MtRoyals: People seem not to realize this about me, but I take so many shortcuts to allow myself to never be wrong. I can currently argue in favor of the Meche deal or against the Meche deal. I was against it and thus far (thus far being one of those key things you can use to get away with things), I have been wrong. However, all I have to do is slightly shift the argument/question and ask, "was the risk one that the Royals of that offseason should have taken" and you can continue arguing the position because there is no real, factual answer to that question. Yes, Meche has done quite well, but "what if he hadn't" was a very strong possibility. The Royals beat the odds, but they really can't afford to play those risks too often or they'll get Guillened, I mean, burnt.

TRT: Quick: Give a profile of yourself as a baseball player. Which MLB player - current or all-time - do you mirror the most? Or which player would you compare yourself to?

MtRoyals: I'll e-mail you my home address so you can laugh in my face: Ross Gload. I don't deserve to be on the diamond, but relative to my peers, I am Ross Gload. I get a decent hit here and there, rarely with any power (especially considering my position--first base), and I play pretty good defense. Actually, relative to peers, I'm a better defender than Gload since I'm the best in my leagues. Also, I take walks. I used to play on a co-ed team and there was this girl that wasn't very good when she started out but was doing her sister a favor. I would always tell her, "Be Hatteberg when you're up there." I never made her baffled look go away.

TRT: "Sabermetric junkies cling ruthlessly to 'made up' statistics' and are nothing but Mother's Basement types." How would you respond to this statement?

MtRoyals: First, musclehead, high school is well over. Second, my mother is dead and I don't get along with my step-mother too well sometimes. Third, what is a made up stat exactly? Fourth, who is Harry Chadwick (without looking it up)? Fifth, which player/executive/manager came up with the "non-made up statistics"? The only real made up statistics are the ones that don't get reported on. If you come up with some kind of metric that says that Tony Pena was the best hitter in Royal Blue last year, that one is made up. If you come up with a metric that says Dom DiMaggio was the best DiMaggio the game has ever seen, that one is made up. The thing is that these so-called made up statistics are tested again and again to discover and faulty material. It's not that I necessarily blame the "muscleheads", most of which are PROBABLY as visually unappealing as us Mother Basement types, because when you take something that we love and make it confusing and over our heads, we as people tend to get defensive. If you tried to explain a moment of history, which I love, to me and used a let statement from a geometry textbook, I'd probably get a bit bent out of shape too. But, for me, it still goes back to my obsession for baseball. I have always loved the numbers of the game, though I don't really like complex math, and when I first started reading about stats more advanced than the typical 99 year old stats, I was excited to learn more about the game I obsess over.

As I once read, why do people get so bent out of shape about VORP, but QB-rating seems to be perfectably acceptable? It's no crazier than some of the baseball stats that get railed on. How about saves? How did they become acceptable? They have only been counted since 1969. How about IBB? And if you don't want new stats because they change the perception of the game, what about the changes to the game itself? Shouldn't those against the new stats be against the DH, the 60'6 distance to the mound, the batting helmets, the rise and fall of the mound, the AstroTurf?

As long as you're not bending the numbers to come up with something fallacious, it should be encouraged to explore many new ways to state how good a player is. Going just by HR means Barry was without a question better than the Babe. That Rickey was better than Cobb. You need more than the crude numbers that is BA/HR/RBI/SB The year Rickey stole 130, he was tossed 42 times. That's only a 75% success rate. Was it really worth going for it that many times?

And for the record, http://www.firejoemorgan.com was HILARIOUS!


As a side note, 'Mt' and I have held quite a few exchanges over on RoyalBoard. For instance, we debated fervently about the signing of Jose Guillen, at the time. In essence, I supported the decision, while 'Mt' did not. I was wrong. 'Mt' would deem himself one of the more pessimistic (and certainly bold and uncompromising) posters of RoyalBoard. Several similar posters throughout Royals Blogosphere exist, I think. (NYRoyal from Royals Review comes to mind). Nonetheless, thanks to 'The Great Mt' for agreeing to discuss baseball among other things with The Royal Treatment.

Late Spring Training Odds 'N' Ends

My apologies about not churning out posts on a more routine basis, especially after this blog officially became my Internet "full time job." Nonetheless, I might churn out several posts at once this evening. Attached are some odds and ends...some recent news surrounding our beloved K.C. Royals, and some brief analysis from yours truly.

- Luke Hochevar has been optioned to AAA. At first glance, this move upset me, especially because I assumed Royals management would proceed with a 5-man rotation, possibly opening the season with Sidney Ponson and Horacio Ramirez in the rotation. While that is certainly a (moronic) propensity, I can understand this move taken out of context. Granting Hochevar more time in AAA could help his development - remember, he had yet to master the AAA level in a meaningful sample size. Also, Hoch's Free Agency clock could be delayed another year. He has accrued 1.019 years of MLB service time, and if the Royals do not recall him before May 19, he will be Free Agent eligible after 2014 (instead of '13), giving the Royals the vast majority of his prime (or through his age 30 season). As I wrote on RoyalBoard, the fact that Ponson and HoRam are still legitimate possibilities for the rotation is a damning indictment of our front office's ability to evaluate talent - even starting pitching talent, which has evidently been one of Dayton Moore's strenghts as a General Manager.

- That said, there are certainly better pitching options available. Here is a list of pitchers who have been non-tendered by their respective clubs late in Spring Training camp. (Hat-tip to RoyalsRetro at Royals Corner). Some intriguing names are Ryan Rowland Smith (Mariners / mentioned in Shealy trade rumors by Schaum early in the month), Chad Gaudin (fell out of favor for a Cubs rotation slot this month), and moderately effective but low-K guy Kyle Kendrick (the butt of a Phillies preseason 2008 prank).

- In Minor League news, final roster cuts and official rosters for each of the full-season affiliates have yet to be finalized, but when they are, expect them to be posted on The Royal Treatment. I know former Idaho Falls Chukar Devery Van De Keere - a good friend of my "boss" Greg Schaum of 610 Sports - has been cut. Certainly more are to come.

- In further news, Rule 5 (V?) selection Gilbert De La Vara, a soft tossing lefty who pitched last season in Northwest Arkansas, has been returned to the Royals by the Houston Astros. I understand Spring Training statistics are essentially meaningless except for determining playing time among equal opportunity candidates, but scouting reports certainly aren't in small sample sizes, I think. De La Vara looked utterly hittable when I watched him pitch against the Florida Marlins (hat-tip, MLB Network).

- The Tigers have released Gary Sheffield, eating the $14MM they owed to him in '09. I understand the DH/1B logjam is....well, a logjam, but I wonder if picking him up for several months in hopes of trading him, by letting him pinch hit, get spot starts at designated hitter, and letting him spot-start in right field, wouldn't be a terrible idea. Keep in mind that I believe Butler should be granted an everyday opportunity at the big-league level, but at $400K, why not?

- According to Baseball America, the Royals have signed Korean catcher Jin-Ho Shin. The Mariners also signed a Korean catching prospect. Here is a humorous interpretation of the event that I posted over at Royals Review:

The M’s signee:

Choi Ji-man: Proficient at playing Diamond Mind Baseball (three time online league champion), lived in Mother’s Basement for 14 years, recurring acne problem, hates bunting and Joe Morgan, wears glasses, loves math, never before played a sport

Projected upside: .230/.420/.580, +20 defender at first base, slow as molasses, strikes out a TON

And now the Royals signee…

Shin Jin-ho: Professional bodybuilder, Christian, and excellent clubhouse character. Never used a computer. Excellent bunter and excellent speed. Approximately 150 misdemeanors, all against Mother’s Basement types. Excellent track record.

Projected upside: .290/.310/.320, -5 defender at shortstop but has good hands, excellent range, and good glove, potential RBI-guy, knows how to make things happen, productive out-guy, clutch hitter, EXCELLENT bunter, can proficiently pin Alex Gordon against a wall and motivate him to hit .350.

Royals Corner poster mloe68 had an extended conversation with Dayton Moore at Spring Training camp, recently. He posts a synopsis over at Royals Corner. Several tidbits: it appears Pena and Gload are both making this roster, Horacio Ramirez isn't necessarily making this rotation simply because he is a lefty, and David Glass is grossly misinterpreted throughout Kansas City (and, evidently, throughout MLB). I wonder if Dayton Moore still proudly doesn't know what VORP is.

The Royals will be guaranteed a winning record for Spring Training 2009 if they can win one more game. They currently stand at 16-12, good for seventh place in the Cactus League.

Coming soon.....'RAW'.....part troix.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Poll Results, Week 2: "The Brain" = Odd Man Out

Here are the poll results for Week 2 of the feature on the full-time version of this blog:

Who will be the odd man out in the starting rotation?

Brian ("The Brain") Bannister: 8 (47%)
("Cool Hand") Luke Hochevar: 2 (11%)
Horacio ("HoRam") Ramirez: 7 (41%)
Other: 0 (0%)

The club has made it increasingly apparent that Sidney Ponson is a viable candidate for one of the two final open spots. Luke Hochevar appears a near-lock to make the club. However, the club may start him in AAA, considering his relative injury history and the fact that arbitration could be delayed by yet another year. Horacio Ramirez appears to have effectively pitched his way out of the rotation with a (predictably) putrid Spring, but with this rigidly dogmatic at times front office, who really knows?

I still feel the rotation needs to consist of the following:


The five pitchers with (by far) the most upside of any candidate. Bannister has gotten lit up this spring, so I might read arguments for either Ponson or HoRam to occupy his slot (while he begins the year in Omaha - he is not out of options, you know). However, it will appear especially frustrating to see a) Trey Hillman slowly realize what 90% of the rational blogosphere already knows - that Ponson and HoRam are both terrible options as starting pitcher, and b) a damnation that certain dogma (lefties MUST be in the starting rotation!!!11) still permeate this front office.

We'll see. I hope the right decision is made.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My 2009 Fantasy Baseball Team: The Westport Stingers

2009 marks Year III of the Royals Nation Fantasy Baseball Keeper League over at ESPN.com. Keep in mind that the league recently expanded by 4 teams. It is a head-to-head league that now contains 4 divisions - each named after Royals Hall of Fame members - and 20 teams, overall. Therefore, it is a rather deep league, leaving much less room for error. Not to brag, since I created it, but I think it is the quintessential ultra-competitive baseball league. Being a devoted Royals (and baseball) fan, I like it that way, of course.

We operate using 17 categories, or statistics. We use an odd number of categories to prevent ties in weekly matchups.

9 hitting categories: H, R, HR, TB, RBI, BB, SB, AVG, OPS

8 pitching categories: BB, K, W, L, SV, HD, ERA, WHIP

Below is my team, as well as CHONE projections for the 2009 season, using my categories. I realize CHONE is only one projection systems, but I'm not going to devote the time to average the four (or five, or six, or more) systems together.

Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy!

Starting Lineup:

C - Jorge Posada 115/433 67 16 67 188 62 1 .266 .797
1B - Mike Jacobs 124/479 60 23 60 227 36 2 .259 .787
2B - Kelly Johnson 477/134 80 14 62 215 65 9 .281 .822
SS - Troy Tulowitzki 491/140 80 15 69 221 52 7 .285 .808
3B - Ryan Zimmerman 514/152 78 19 78 251 53 6 .296 .852
OF - Matt Kemp 498/149 84 16 84 237 39 26 .299 .829
OF - Justin Upton 435/112 69 16 69 193 57 8 .257 .793
OF - Carlos Beltran 545/148 101 27 101 265 79 17 .272 .852
UT - Milton Bradley 392/117 71 21 66 204 67 7 .298 .927


OF - Jay Bruce 493/136 78 27 77 251 40 10 .276 .843
OF/DH - Luke Scott 455/116 63 21 69 210 57 3 .255 .805
3B - Eric Chavez 473/117 67 19 67 204 58 3 .247 .758
1B - Gaby Sanchez 449/120 67 12 68 190 52 10 .267 .770
OF - Ryan Church 395/102 54 14 54 169 46 4 .258 .770

Starting Rotation:

SP - Tim Lincecum 154.0 130 60 175 10 7 0 0 3.21 1.23
SP - Adam Wainwright 124.0 123 52 36 85 8 6 0 0 3.77 1.28
SP - Edinson Volquez 166.0 138 78 170 11 8 0 0 3.58 1.30
SP - Erik Bedard 126.0 108 48 128 8 6 0 0 3.36 1.24
SP - Manny Parra 124.0 125 58 53 105 7 7 0 0 4.21 1.44


RP - Mariano Rivera 63.0 56 20 11 60 - - 2.86 1.06
RP - Rafael Perez 79.0 70 28 24 80 - - 3.19 1.19
RP - Manny Delcarmen 75.0 67 28 28 70 - - 3.36 1.27


SP - Scott Olsen 176.0 197 97 65 116 0 0 4.96 1.49
SP/RP - Robinson Tejeda 57.0 53 25 29 56 - - 3.95 1.44
RP - Ramon Ramirez 64.0 58 25 27 61 5 3 - - 3.52 1.33

Keep in mind that neither saves nor holds are included in the CHONE projections. I assume that each of the starters won't accumulate either, since they're all pegged at starting almost every single game they play.

Any thoughts? I think I have a nice combination of power and speed in my starting lineup, with Jacobs carrying the former, Kemp providing the latter, and Beltran providing both. I have batting average (Youkilis), OPS (Bradley), walks (both), and good production up the middle, as I hope Tulo can rebound from an injury-plagued '08 and Johnson can continue to provide a little bit of every category.

As for my pitching, I traded both Scott Baker and Chris Carpenter away. Baker was one of my 9 keepers, and I selected Carpenter in the first few rounds of the draft. I traded with Gordon Will Rule The A.L., a divisional rival whom I feel will contend again in '08. Here were the trades.

Scott Baker and Ronnie Belliard to Gordon Will Rule The A.L.
Kevin Youkilis and Rafael Perez to Westport Stingers (me)

Chris Carpenter to Gordon Will Rule The A.L.
Mariano Rivera to Westport Stingers (me)

I'm sure several TRT readers (and several RN members, as well) are reading this post, as I speak. I'm always seeking an upgrade, gentlemen (and lady). So, shoot me an offer if you so choose.

Pitching-wise, I have K/9 (Lincecum and Volquez) and a strong bullpen, with one closer and several competent to very good setup men. Tejeda gives me added emergency value on both sides, but even I'll admit he's a gut-based selection. Scouts rave about his potential, so I took the necessary advantage. The ERA for 4 of my 5 starters projects well into the 3's, and the WHIP could use a bit of improvement. I'm banking on Parra to really step through for Milwaukee and their somewhat depleted rotation this year. We'll see.

Any thoughts?

Likely 25 Man Roster Candidates & Projection Averages

Below is a compilation - or average - of four projection systems for our beloved Kansas City Royals in 2009. Later, I might use advanced statistics such as wOBP or FIP. I want to link this project, which I worked on earlier today. Hope you enjoy. Contrast these with my projections, which I compiled months ago.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS - Probable 25-Man Roster Candidates
2009 Projection Averages
Using CHONE, ZiPS, Marcel, and Bill James

In my opinion, and in the opinions of bloggers I read from daily over at Royals Review, CHONE is probably the most accurate. Bill James, for whatever reason, is usually the most optimistic of the four. Marcel is the most pitcher-friendly, from what I have seen.

- Regarding the "percentages", I did the process scientifically. For example, I added up the average at-bat total and divided by 4....I didn't simply add the average total and then divide by 4.

Not all projections use games total, and none use 'games started' total. So that has been negated. Because sacrifice flies (necessary for the OBP calculation) were not given for several of these, I decided to simply take the averages of on-base percentage and slugging percentage directly. In other words, I simply added up the four percentages and divided by 4.

- Players with no options remaining - Brayan Pena, Ryan Shealy, and Shane Costa, have not been included. These players have little or no chance of making the roster, in my opinion. Tony Pena, on the other hands, stands a realistic chance, as he remained on the roster last year.

C Miguel Olivo 401 99 14 54 6/3 .247 .277 .418
C John Buck 368 86 13 49 1/2 .234 .308 .398
1B Mike Jacobs 468 123 24 79 2/1 .263 .318 .490
1B Billy Butler 520 151 15 78 1/1 .290 .351 .443
1B Ross Gload 291 82 5 36 3/2 .282 .328 .403
2B Alberto Callaspo 342 96 3 34 4/3 .281 .337 .377
2B Willie Bloom... 234 63 2 19 12/4 .269 .337 .332
SS Mike Aviles 532 154 12 66 9/4 .289 .327 .441
SS Tony Pena 325 78 3 27 5/3 .240 .267 .323
3B Alex Gordon 507 134 17 65 11/3 .266 .348 .445
LF David DeJesus 515 146 10 60 8/5 .283 .357 .417
CF Coco Crisp 452 122 8 49 20/7 .270 .332 .391
CF Mitch Maier 361 99 7 42 7/3 .274 .320 .399
RF Jose Guillen 536 144 19 84 3/1 .269 .319 .437
RF Mark Teahen 523 142 13 63 8/3 .272 .340 .427

*For ERA, the earned runs total wasn't available for the Bill James projection system. Therefore, I decided to add the ERA totals and then divide them by 4 to get the average ERA. Also, for ERA, the ZiPS projections gave partial innings (example: 194 1/3 IP) for pitchers. I simply added the IP totals and then divided by 4, and rounded to the nearest 1/3 inning.

*I omitted saves, as it was only available on the James and Marcel projection systems.

^Also, note that John Bale's projection does *not* include the Bill James projections. I looked on the Internet and tried to find the James projection for Bale, but could not find it. It's in the handbook, I know, but I would have to order it.

*Sidney Ponson has not been included, as he isn't on the 40-man roster.

SP Gil Meche 11 11 194.1 4.13 69 154
SP Zack Greinke 10 9 165.0 4.01 48 140
SP Kyle Davies 7 11 133.2 5.15 59 90
SP Luke Hochevar 6 9 131.2 5.00 48 83
SP Brian Bannister 8 11 159.1 4.80 51 95
^RP John Bale 2 3 42.1 4.33 14 31
RP Horacio Ramirez3 4 59 4.83 21 28
RP Doug Waechter 3 3 55 5.09 18 33
RP Joel Peralta 3 3 63 4.44 18 48
RP Robinson Tejeda4 5 72 4.62 40 59
RP Kyle Farnsworth 3 3 59 4.60 25 55
RP Ron Mahay 3 3 61.2 4.17 30 49
RP Juan Cruz 4 3 63 3.51 32 74
CP Joakim Soria 4 2 63.1 2.57 18 64

- The projections for certain players, like Juan Cruz or Willie Bloomquist, might be slightly different if every projection system projected these players as *Royals* rather than their old teams.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The All Pre-Arbitration Position Player Team: A Competitive Squad?

Note: I just realized that many loyal TRT readers probably still aren't familiar with statistics such as R150 and wOBA. I hope to create a glossary that readers of the blog can reference when reading my scribblings. ~RN

*Edit* I WILL expand upon this post at a later time, analyzing the bench players and then posting Major League equivalencies with regard to defensive statistics. Hat tip to devil_fingers at Royals Review for posting the following:

Pena might be a decent hitter, but he gives a lot away on defense, according to what I hear
Shealy = Jacobs
Callspo is better than Tug, they are both better than Bloomquist
Aviles is the best SS, obviously
GOrdon is better than whomever
Lubanski is by all accounts horrible at this point
MITCH isn’t close to DDJ or Crisp, but even average defense in CF makes him probably more valuable (straight up) than Guillen.
Same for Costa.
I think the “real” roster is better, but not that much better.

Last week, while we were eating at a subpar Chinese cuisine restaurant in Arizona, I posed a conundrum of a question to my father and uncle. If the Royals employed only pre-arbitration eligible players at each offensive/defensive position, and implemented their current starting rotation and bullpen, what would their final record for 2009 look like? Assume all of those players remain healthy over a course of an entire season. Needless to say, they immediately dismissed the idea that such a hypothetical roster would ever result in a team as competent as I predicted. In fact, both predicted that roster would finish with 50-55 wins, or so. I also posed this question to two prominent local media figures last night, and they essentially responded that we would finish no better than a 100-loss team.

My question to the readers of this blog. How would a roster consisting of the following players impact a team's won-loss record over the course of an entire season? Just for your information, CHONE projected the current (real) Royals roster to finish with 71 wins, and PECOTA, the Baseball Prospectus projection, projected a 76-86 finish for the regular season. Although I don't exactly interpret projection systems as gospel, these two seem to be the most realistic options.

Below is the pre-arbitration-eligible roster.

Starting Lineup

C - Brayan Pena
1B - Ryan Shealy
2B - Alberto Callaspo
SS - Mike Aviles
3B - Alex Gordon
LF - Chris Lubanski
CF - Mitch Maier
RF - Shane Costa
DH - Billy Butler


C - J.R. House
1B/DH - Kila Ka'aihue
2B - Tug Hulett
UT - Tommy Murphy

Now, here is each player's CHONE projection (hat-tip, Baseball Projection). I've compared such projections for each minimum-maker to that of a millionaire. It's important to assume that such projection systems peg each player with limited playing time. It's highly important that Trey Hillman implement the starters to their full value by giving them more playing time. Hypothetically, because each offensive player does not represent an "everyday" player, they would have to maintain such performance over the course of far more plate appearances (and, thereby, games played).

Catching Starters:

Brayan Pena (C): .284/.335/.402, .326 wOBA, -6 R150 (Out of options, unlikely to make MLB roster)

Miguel Olivo (C): .243/.271/.406, .294 wOBA, -26 R150 (Named MLB starter)

Winner: Brayan Pena trumps Olivo.

TRT Analysis: Brayan Pena is actually out of MLB options, so if he isn't to make the final cut for the 25-man roster, he will have to be placed on waivers, where he would have to clear waivers, and then accept an assignment to AAA Omaha. Such a scenario - him clearing waivers - is highly unlikely to happen, considering his Minor League history. In my opinion, the organization would be passing up a potential beneficial long-term opportunity in Brayan Pena - an opportunity with slight defensive deficiencies but an obviously better offensive candidate for the catching position - for two mediocre at best catching opportunities in Olivo and Buck. Also, Olivo and Buck are costing the Royals nearly $5 million for this year, while a House/Pena tandem will cost dollars over $800,000, the MLB league minimum.

John Buck (C): .233/.307/.396, .311 wOBA, -14 R150 (Likely MLB backup /

J.R. House (C): .275/.339/.422, .336 wOBA, -1 R150 (Already optioned to Minors)

Winner: J.R. House clearly emerges victorious here.

TRT Analysis: The R150s, though negative, are substantially different. Defense is more difficult to quantify, but it's clearly been House's weakness over the course of his lengthy Minor League and short Major League career. That said, a platoon with Pena might boost House's offensive numbers to negate the difference yet further. We're discussing a value here that could eclipse Buck's, if given an opportunity. Let House work 50 games and 200 plate appearances behind the plate this season, platooning with Pena. Sadly, House has already been optioned to AAA Omaha in Spring Training camp. Buck and Olivo are both locks to make the roster, barring an injury or trade. (DFA'ing them now would be silly, as the March 19 deadline for cutting arbitration candidates has passed).

Ryan Shealy (1B): .251/.326/.422, .330 wOBA, -3 R150

Mike Jacobs (1B): .259/.313/.474, .340 wOBA, 2 R150

Winner: Arguable either way. Jacobs clearly emerges victorious *if* he receives substantial playing time at designated hitter in '09.

TRT Analysis: Because Jacobs' work at first base is so historically bad, defense is a vital topic, here. Jacobs had a RZR of -10 last year, and has not posted a positive WAR since 2006. On the contrary, Shealy hasn't proven anything substantial at the big-league level, other than he can perform competently in a meaningful sample size and can perform flukishly well in extremely limited Major League action. Shealy's career average RZR is 7, 6 points higher than Jacobs' career average in this metric. Consider the value differences - Jacobs is making $3.275 million, while Shealy will make $400,000 plus optional "bonuses." Keep in mind that it is possible - in fact, even likely - that Jacobs receives significant playing time at designated hitter this season. If Butler accumulates much playing time at first base, the RZR for KC/'09 in that position won't be much better (at best), but it will help Jacobs' value tremendously. In fact, he could easily post a 2 or greater WAR if he gets - say - 100 or more games sitting on the bench most of the game.

Alberto Callaspo (2B): .284/.344/.387, .326 wOBA, -6 R150

TRT Analysis: I still believe Callaspo, ultimately, emerges victorious as starting second baseman. It's worthy, considering the salaries and upsides. I realize we're in "Win Now" mode, but just consider Willie Bloomquist's comparisons. There is some additional value in Bloomquist in that he can play a multitude of positions, but the value added likely overrules his versatility significantly. Callaspo posted a WAR of 1.1 and a RAR of 11 last season - he's 26 and on his way up. There's an upside here. Callaspo should start at least 110 games this season, assuming Bloomquist is his only rational competition. (I wrote in the Spring Training analysis that there is no way a defensive-minded organization like Kansas City would grant Teahen substantial playing time at second base, as he has looked putrid there, defensively, this month).

Willie Bloomquist: .264/.333/.331, .307 wOBA, -16 R150

TRT Analysis: See above. Bloomquist's skill set would be best implemented by starting him in games where ground-ball specialist in the making (hopefully) Hochevar is pitching. Also, we might want to start him when Bannister is pitching, although Banny is more fly-ball oriented (career 40.7 FB% versus a 37.5 career GB%).

Mike Aviles (SS): .280/.317/.425, .324 wOBA, -8 R150

TRT Analysis: Aviles, obviously, will make $400K plus (minor) additional cash this season, and he's the clear starter. There's no reason in delving much deeper, verbally. He'll accumulate 550 PA's, if healthy, with Willie Bloomquist and (hopefully, NOT) Tony Pena receiving occasional sport-start duty. And even that will be highly occasional. Aviles turns 28 this season and has no significant history with regard to injuries. On the contrary, TPJ of the -2 WAR in 2008 should not make this roster, even as a backup. How scary would the AAA Omaha roster look with both Pena, Jr. and Luis Hernandez in the same lineup? For the record, I've provided Pena's numbers below. He's a +15 or so player, defensively. (Meaning he saves 15 runs or so, a season, at least according to my BA Handbook from 2008).

Tony Pena (SS): .242/.270/.329, .266 wOBA, -40 R150

Alex Gordon (3B): .265/.349/.440, .350 wOBA, 5 R150

TRT Analysis: Well, although he's experienced back problems especially recently, Gordon has no substantial injury history, and he'll likely accumulate 140-145 games and 550 plate appearances at third base, this year. Other than Mark Teahen stepping in on an interim basis, the Future of the Franchise has zero competition in this area. I'd like to see him batting third this season, and anywhere from 3-5 for the remainder of his prime (2010 and forward). (And where's that long-term contract?)

Chris Lubanski (LF): .239/.303/.388, .305 wOBA, -20 R150

David DeJesus (LF): .279/.354/.406, .339 wOBA, 0 R150

TRT Analysis: Lubanski has trimmed down this offseason, losing approximately twenty pounds. According to manager Trey Hillman, he looks quicker in the field in camp and looks more athletic, overall. DeJesus still outweighs Lubanski both offensively and defensively, for 2009 and for the forseeable future. I previously noted that Lubanski's best case scenario, at this point, is still that of a Russell Brayan. A platoon hitter with some isolated power and decent plate discipline, who can play both corner outfield positions competetently. Lubanski, of course, can't play infield and has a bit quicker fleet-footedness in upside.

Mitch Maier (CF): .268/.313/.393, .311 wOBA, 15 R150

Coco Crisp (CF): .271/.334/.398, .328 wOBA, -7 R150

TRT Analysis: Crisp clearly emerges victorious, although if he posts RAR of 4 or 8, as he did in '06 or '08, respectively, much more competition would, hypothetically, exist. Consider that Crisp will make $5.75MM, this year, and has averaged a WAR of 1.8 the last three years. Consider that Maier will (obviously) make roughly 1/12th Crisp' salary, to post a wOBA 17 points less. 17 points is a significant number, don't get me wrong, but it's not as if there is a night and day difference between the two. Crisp is a legitimate everyday center fielder, whereas Maier's upside is likely no better than a placeholding starter on a mediocre or rebuilding baseball team, and a fourth outfielder on a competitive baseball team. Maier is regarded as the best defensive center fielder other than Crisp, whereas Crisp posted a +32 defensive runs saved in 2007, which was near Andruw Jones-in-his-primean levels.

Jose Guillen (RF): .265/.317/.428, .327 wOBA, -3 R150

Shane Costa (RF): .279/.333/.420, .332 wOBA, -3 R150

TRT Analysis: Costa is projected to be the better player! How about that? I thought his '08 season was an unquestionable success considering he hit 20 home runs and drove in 97 runs. Total zone isn't kind to Guillen, typically, as he posted a -11 in 2007 and 2 in 2008. If he could return to his 2007 level of production (2.5 WAR) then he would be less of a liability, but as it stands, he possesses an above average arm but well below average range and glove in right field. How is Shane Costa, defensively? Unfortunately, he hasn't accumulated enough big-league playing time to really gauge his strengths and weaknesses at this level. However, total zone is friendly to him (6 and 5 in '06 and '07, respectively) in extreeeeemmely limited time. Well...let's just say that the fact that Guillen will get paid a dozen - or perhaps two-dozen, if Costa clears waivers and accepts an assignment to AAA Omaha in his seventh year in the organization, and playing almost exclusively in the Minors for the last four seasons, after he made his MLB debut - more dollars than Costa...well, you get the idea. The offensive production is a toss-up, and the defensive production actually gives Costa (probably, maybe) a slight advantage. Unbelievable...but I'm selecting Costa over Guillen in this regard, especially with regard to value added.

Billy Butler (DH): .289/.356/.444, .353 wOBA, 9 R150

TRT Analysis: Butler's value will likely be hurt if he accumulates significant time at first base this season, but consider his mobility will likely only decrease after age 25 or so (especially given his moderate old-player skills). The Royals would serve themselves best determining whether Butler can play first base sooner rather than later. Butler should have received more P.T. at the (other) hot corner in 2007 and 2008, but that's water under the bridge.

Conclusion: I understand teams want to increase their payroll, and I have long stated that MLB payroll is an area David Glass and the Royals needed to vastly improve upon as we move toward a more competent administration in Dayton Moore & Company. However, Moore clearly needs to further understand the concept of what constitutes replacement value. Also, he needs to do a better job in distributing Glass' precious payroll, by handing only significant cash to the true superstars, or players with legitimate upside. Guillen, for example, probably has more offensive upside than Shane Costa, overall, even in 2007 - however, the fact that Guillen will make $12MM and Costa might very well not be a Royal on April 5 - is still rather damning. I've stated this before, but it's important that, in a small to mid market like Kansas City, we spend money only where appropriate. I'm not slamming the Jacobs and Crisp trades - I see the rationale behind both - however, there is a legitimate chance a team of primarily pre-arbitration players actually outperforms our current squad. That is the point I was trying to conclude with this rather long-winded blog post.

J.R. House. Brayan Pena. Shane Costa. Ryan Shealy. These are names that, under even the best circumstances, will not overwhelm offensively (or even defensively). However, these players deserve consistent opportunity in this market, and deserved opportunities in the past, especially over players like Ross Gload and Reggie Sanders.

My father and cousin said that 100-plus losses was a likely scenario, with this roster. I say that 70-plus wins is actually extremely likely. (Of course, pitching is significant in determining a team, as well, so the Meche-Greinke-Davies-Soria et al, et al, et al lineups will help this hypothetical position player element of the roster substantially). However, didn't CHONE project 71 wins for the current (actual) Royals roster? Isn't there a good chance this roster of young studs (Butler, Gordon) and relative no-names (B. Pena, Shealy) actually guides the team to a more respectable record? I say "yes."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Poll Results - Zack Greinke Reigns Supreme

The first weekly TRT Poll revealed a fairly self-explanatory result. The Zack Greinke contract^TM extension was clearly the highlight of the offseason. The hiring of ex-Philadelphia Phillies executive Mike Arbuckle - who has worked with the organization since 1992 and is credited as an instrumental force in the Phightin' Phils' recent World Series championship - finished a rather distant second. Arbuckle serves now as Senior Advisor to the General Manager and Head of Scouting and Player Development. 'Other' (whatever that means) and Moore's numerous Minor League depth acquisitions pull up the rear.

Because the implications of the question were so subjective, we likely won't know the true 'answer' until many years from now, unless others eliminate themselves by default. (In essence, if Greinke suffers a career-ending injury, none of Moore's Minor League moves this offseason pan out, and 'Other', well....you catch my drift. By the way, will the voter for 'Other' care to explain his or her casting?)

As a celebratory gesture, let's unravel Greinke's contract, per Cot's Baseball Contracts (linked above).

Zack Greinke rhp
4 years/$38M (2009-12)

2009: $3.75MM
2010: $7.25MM
2011: $13.5MM
2012: $13.5MM
[signed extension with Kansas City 1/26/09 (avoided arbitration, $4.4M-$3.4M)]
[Limited no-trade protection in 2009, 2010]

Kansas City celebrated the move. Virtually every blog reported. The message boards went berzerk. Thank you, David Glass.

Gordon? Butler? You're next.

25-Man Roster Breakdown: The Catchers

I'm making a concerted effort to compensate for lost time, as The Royal Treatment went approximately 100 hours without revealing a new post. I will compensate by churning out several posts within the next couple days, including the last post and this one. Not too long ago at Royals Nation, I predicted the final Royals 25-man roster, and then submitted my own 25-man roster (or what the roster should look like if Jack Dempsey were in Moore's helm).

I'll break down the positions by organizational depth charts. As a blogger-extraordinaire, I'll fantasize about actually holding the authority of General Manager and making these decisions. I'm an armchair G.M. at heart, ladies and gents. I won't describe the probable Moore selections, but will describe my own choices in limited detail. I might delve further into this subject in a future post.

Here is the Opening Day roster as I see it for 2009. Unfortunately, the "usual suspects" remain. Olivo and Gload are back. At least Pena's gone. To counter with some positivity, though, the defense looks better. And the front of the rotation and back end of the bullpen look awfully solid, don't they? And Trey Hillman has established that Joakim Soria's role will be somewhat expanded in '09.

Catcher: Miguel Olivo-starter, John Buck-backup
First Base: Mike Jacobs-starter, Ross Gload-backup
Second Base: Alberto Callaspo-3/5 starter, Willie Bloomquist-2/5 starter
Third Base: Alex Gordon-starter, Willie Bloomquist-backup
Shortstop: Mike Aviles-starter, Willie Bloomquist-backup
Left Field: David DeJesus-starter, Mark Teahen-backup, Ross Gload-backup
Center Field: Coco Crisp-starter
Right Field: Jose Guillen-starter, Mark Teahen-backup, Ross Gload-backup
Designated Hitter: Billy Butler-starter
Starting Rotation: 1. Meche, 2. Greinke, 3. Davies, 4. Ramirez, 5. Bannister
Bullpen: CL - Soria, SU1 - Cruz, SU2 - Mahay, MR1 - Farnsworth, MR2 - Tejeda, MR3 - Peralta, MR-4 - Waechter

Here is my proposed 25-man roster. Note that certain players (notably backups) have been repeated. I understand that Teahen can also play first, third, and possibly second base. However, for all intents and purposes, I included backups in positions where they might receive, say, 100 innings or more of playing time (barring extended injury). Notice that I have pegged Billy Butler as my starting first baseman against right-handers, and starting designated hitter against lefties. This enables a) Butler to play every day, b) the minimization of Jacobs' defensive woes, and c) an opportunity for Ryan Shealy to give us a plus-bat and plus-defense against his greatest offensive strength: left-handed opposing pitchers. Although Shealy would accumulate less than 200 PA's likely, total (in this hypothetical scenario), the difference is more than worth it. Gload's defense and ability to play two corner outfield positions in mediocre fashion is overstated. Shealy provided a TZ* of -1 in 188 PA's in '09. Gload? A -9 in an entirely too high 414 PA's at three different positions. Cut Gload. Also, implement Bloomquist as your starting second baseman, but only behind hopeful groundball specialist-in-the-making Luke Hochevar and probable "defensive specialist" Brian Bannister (let's hope he rebounds from 2008, where nine Craig Nettles' couldn't have prevented a Banny implosion). Limit Bloomquist's exposure by monitoring the Banny situation closely. If Bannister rebounds to 2007 levels or begins posting the Greg Schaum/Craig Brown-predicted 2007-8 'mixture' levels, then give 'Bert' the green light on those days. Use Callaspo and his upside of league-average defense as the primary second baseman, otherwise. Gordon is the starting third baseman. Aviles is the starting shortstop. Bloomquist essentially backs up several positions, with middle infield being his primary exposure. Mark Teahen platoons with Jose Guillen in right field (Yes, dejesus9, you've finally won me over). DeJesus, Crisp, and Butler, and voila, there is your offensive roster.
(Total Zone - a measure of defensive range based on analysis of retrosheet play by play data)

As far as pitchers are concerned, keeping HoRam out of the rotation should be the utmost priority. Why do we need a lefty in the rotation? Such a notion is overrated. Moore & Co. have performed solidly at not entrenching themselves in this particular mindset in the past, as Perez, Bale, and De La Rosa were all reasonable options for the rotation, competition include. However, Ramirez - isn't. No upside there. More on this to come. Just go with the 5 pitchers that rounded out the rotation for much of last summer, and leave the rest behind. Option Waechter to AAA Omaha, and reinvent the closer term and implement Soria as 'designated bullpen ace', designed to enter the game in the most crucial situations (usually in the later innings, admittedly). Extend Soria to 90-100 innings this season, where he can provide yet more value. The rest is history. Cruz and Mahay as prime set-up men are fairly self-explanatory. Farnsworth should be limited in high leverage situations. Tejeda should be a multi-inning middle reliever and possible set-up man should Cruz and/or Mahay falter. And Peralta and Ramirez rounding out the final two slots.

Catcher: Brayan Pena-starter vs. RHP, J.R. House-starter vs. LHP
First Base: Billy Butler-starter vs. RHP, Ryan Shealy-starter vs. LHP
Second Base: Alberto Callaspo-3/5 starter, Willie Bloomquist-2/5 starter
Third Base: Alex Gordon-starter, Willie Bloomquist-backup
Shortstop: Mike Aviles-starter, Willie Bloomquist-backup
Left Field: David DeJesus-starter, Mark Teahen-backup
Center Field: Coco Crisp-starter
Right Field: Jose Guillen-platoon, Mark Teahen-platoon
Designated Hitter: Mike Jacobs-starter vs. RHP, Billy Butler-starter vs. LHP
Starting Rotation: 1. Meche, 2. Greinke, 3. Davies, 4. Hochevar, 5. Bannister
Bullpen: BA* - Soria, SU1 - Cruz, SU2 - Mahay, MR1 - Tejeda, MR2 - Farnsworth, MR3 - Peralta, MR-4 - Ramirez
*BA = Bullpen ace

With regard to catcher, I understand Brayan Pena has reportedly had numerous communication problems with pitchers in Spring Training, especially during the practices and intrasquad games. However, he is generally regarded as an average defensive catcher. Don't let his pudginess fool you, as he is listed as 5'11" and 247 lbs. over at royals.com but appears more like 5'9" and 250 lbs. He is a rather fast runner and, as I observed in Spring Training, particularly fast when running from home plate to first base. (It is difficult to gauge a catchers' "range", as such a term only questionably exists, in the first place). Pena is a switch hitter with a career Minor League quartet of .313/.362/.411/.763 with only 193 strikeouts in 2,184 plate appearances. His career caught stealing rate is hovering at 50%, so it would be wise not to implement the running game for B. Pena this season in a hypothetical starting role at Kauffman II. CHONE believes Pena will post a .285/.338/.408/.746 line in K.C. over 365 at-bats. That likely translates to approximately 1 WAR, which is excellent for $400K in value. Pena has actually mashed lefties to the tune of a .931 OPS. However, the BABIP is a flukishly high .406. He's likely still a better right-handed hitter (unlike most switch hitters), so implementing him as such would be relatively wise in '09. More or less, the other Pena epitomizes the "Moneyball mentality", something which many members of Moore's former organization are evidently not particularly fond of. Exercising the most value of a $400K player with upside as an everyday MLB player is essential in this market. Pena should start most days. Cut Miguel Olivo's horrific on-base percentage and get rid of Buck, while we're at it.

CHONE projects a more-than-respectable .275/.339/.422 line for J.R. House in 2009, as well. At age 28, can House still be considered a prospect? He has demonstrated tremendous hitting potential in the Houston, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh organizations throughout his Minor League career, but thus far that production has translated to a measly 63 big-league plate appearances? Like Pena, he has scored a MiLB OPS of .939 against lefties, and has still hit righties well, although not nearly *as* well. The Royals must exercise their Jack Cust-Beane-P.T. abilities and "break the mold." Although his defense could grade as mediocre at best in the Major Leagues, I think House could serve as a legitimate backup, and could post a positive WAR, overall. Again, for $400K? Excellent distribution of your resources. Scope his 2009 projections - and give him a chance to duplicate John Buck's upside for 1/10 the price.


Explanations for my picks for first base, second base, third base, and so on will be prominent features of The Royal Treatment from now until Opening Day. In the meantime, be on the lookout.

And I wanted to conduct 'Raw' Interviews with Scout.com posters rock8888 and Duraflame, but have yet to hear back. Come on, guys, I know you want to unleash your fury on another Royals blog, and now is your chance!

Spring Training Wrap-Up, Recent Royals News & Notes, and More

For those of you who have yet to figure it out, I at often times get zealous with my Spring Training observations and remarks. Hey, it's a once-a-year experience. The weather is second to none, the scenery is beautiful, and after five months of cold miserable midwestern/Missouri mayhem (how is that for alliteration?), I get to experience my quintessential life passion and joy, like I did when I was 7? Nonetheless, with regard to the photo-distributing, it gets frustrating when I churn out several hundred photos in a particular day, and then Wireless Internet - a wonderful technological endeavor, but not without its flaws - prevents me from posting them on Facebook or on this website in a time span somewhere south of 3 1/2 hours - extending well into moonlight hours.

Below are links to each Spring Training photograph album that I planted on Facebook. I hope these links work. I'll list them linear-ly: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, and, finally, Part 8. You have to be a registered Facebook member to view, and there's always a chance you could be the second coming of Charlie Manson, but my life is an open book, anyway. At least through Internet sources.

Anyway, Season #8 (I attended Baseball City, FL in 1997 and 1999, and attended Surprise Spring Training in 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, and now 2009, respectively) was a resounding success. I met some Jennifer Love Hewitt and Britney Spears lookalikes along the way, so that was an added bonus. Just kidding (and, yes, Britney is still slammin').

I've offered the Royals Nation admin-job to skillset, but have yet to read a reply. If you're interested, skills, let me know. I think there is quite a bit to work with, myself. The board seems to have a loyal following without me. But I'm an Internet perfectionist, at heart. It was all or nothing - and as I stated earlier, I felt I wasn't reaping benefits for the time I was devoting to the board. and I'm a relatively busy guy. That's probably difficult to agree with, given the amount of times you read from 'Royals Nation' on several Royals blog/sites, but I'm like 1984 Rickey Henderson on these late-20th century devices. It gets the best of me, sometimes.

In other news, several Major and Minor League transactions have taken place in the last several days.

The Royals released southpaw/shoulda-been coulda-been 2003-2006 and 2008 LOOGY (left handed one out guy) Yimmy Yobble on Wednesday. As mentioned by Drew Silva in MLBTR, the Royals will shave roughly $1.1MM off the 2009 payroll with this release. It's a crying shame Trey Hillman couldn't have exercised his career splits more in the pitcher's (and the team's) favor last year. Gobble fell somewhat out of favor with casual fans after posting a career-high 8.81 ERA, and being used in an all-too high Game Leverage Index (gmLI) of 0.75. He posted a VORP of -10.6 in '08, costing the team approximately 1 1/2 wins. Nonetheless, his projections for 2009 don't appear too bad. And, correct me if I'm wrong, but projections don't account for situation implementation among relievers.

CHONE: 4.21 FIP, 4.73 ERA, 59 IP
Marcel: 4.60 FIP, 4.88 ERA, 47 IP
ZiPS: 4.41 FIP, 4.74 ERA, 49.1 IP

OK, rather pedestrian numbers, overall. But consider that lefties hit .200/.246/.323/.569 against him overall, in 2008, and .241/.325/.398/.724 against him in 2007. Eliminating the curve-ball likely hurt him, last year. I consider this a plus-pitch for Gobble, and if he could re-implement it for another club, he could likely add to his apparent success as a LOOGY for that particular team. (Note that many people believe that small to mid market ballclubs like the Royals cannot afford the luxury to devote an entire million dollars - and a roster slot on the 25-man - to a situational pitcher like Gobble. I disagree with this notion. In 2007, Gobble pitched 53.2 innings - a sizeable chunk for any relief pitcher making roughly twice the league minimum. Approximately 60% of the batters he faced in this season were left-handed. I understand cherry-picking should be avoided, but if he can post a 3.02 ERA, then he could prove as an asset. (And, yes, I understand the ERA was somewhat artificially small - his FIP this year was 4.23, which indicated that the defense played flukishly well against him in '07. His LD% was 79.9% this year - an amazingly high number despite his low result). Still, if implemented correctly, he is still worth devoting a roster spot to - especially over the likes of Ross Gload (1.6 WAR in 2008) and Tony Pena (-2.0 WAR in 2008).

In other news, the Royals have signed Sidney Ponson of Aruban/Dutch influence to a Minor League contract. Sir Sidney now reigns supreme as heaviest current Royal in Spring Training (watch out, Phoenix-area buffet-lines!) but I think his chances of making the 25-man roster out of camp are slim to none. In fact, they're probably less than 1%. Greg Schaum (tanana) described the situation best at Royals Corner, when he stated that Ponson, a la Jamey Wright, will simply audition this spring for a permanent spot on any 25-man roster that will take him, even if that team is not named 'K.C.'

Here is my mini-analysis of the acquisition, posted directly at Royals Corner:

This is a 'bleh' move. I'm indifferent to it, overall. It's worth noting that Ponson has little, if any, upside, anymore, as a starting pitcher. The K:BB numbers have been too dangerously close to 1 the last several years. His career high ERA was 3.85 and his career high FIP was 3.67 (no other year did he have an ERA or FIP under 4). CHONE, Marcel, and ZiPS all project ERA's over 5 and FIPS over 4.8 for him this year....which makes him a borderline #4 and a decent #5. The problem with that is nobody seriously wants to pursue a #5 pitcher with upside that limited. That is why young pitchers with potential usually grab this role. His bit of success with the Yankees was a fluke - brief spouts of success like such happen more than occasionally b/c of the "book syndrome" (there's a real term for this, but I don't remember what it is).

He reminds me a bit of Horacio Ramirez. Similar OK-ish groundball-inducing ability, both are FB-SL-CB guys, similar K:BB ability. Maybe he'd fit in the bullpen. Who knows? More than likely Omaha fodder. OK move, though. Worth a flier on a MiLB contract, I guess.

As I mentioned, whatever upside Ponson had vanished sometime in the early 2000's. He is now seeking to eat innings in any fashion he can stomach (two puns in one sentence!)

Another "Minor" move occurred today. As mentioned in the MLBTR-linked Gobble blurb above, the Royals have signed ex-Atlanta Brave Anthony Lerew. You're probably thinking, "Why sign another ex-Brave, Dayton? Weren't the first 50 low-risk Minor League acquisitions enough?" The subject of ex-Brave acquisitions and their impact on the success of the ballclub is a valid one, and it is a subject likely worth tangling on TRT on another instance. Lerew has spent the majority of the last two seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he is worth a flier. I see no potential downside in this move*

*Of course (as always), if the player is implemented correctly.

Here are his projections for 2009, for what they are worth (and it's not much, given his recent injury history).

CHONE: 5.18 ERA, 43:32 K:BB, 66 IP
Marcel: 4.58 ERA, 44:23 K:BB, 56 IP
ZiPS: 6.49 ERA, 37:38 K:BB, 61 IP

J.J. Picollo originally signed him back in 2002. He has almost exclusively started games in the Atlanta farm system, so I assume Moore will implement him as a starter for this organization. However, Minor League experts might know better in this regard. The Braves evidently eliminated his curveball last year, although it was in limited duty. I described him as a fastball-change pitcher. His fastball ranges from 90-93 miles per hour, roughly, which is a tick above average velocity-wise. How have Lerew's secondary pitches progressed since undergoing "the knife"? It's strange the Bravos released him, as some upside appears to be remaining. In limited big-league time, he didn't appear ground-ball oriented, but has limited opposing batters to just 33 home runs in 763 innings pitched throughout Atlanta's system. Not too shabby.

Numbers-wise, his career Minor League ERA still stands at 3.41, and his K:BB ratio is a quite Kyle Davies-upside like 2 1/2 to 1.

Below are some pictures of Lerew. Hat-tip to none other than Dave Sanford at Royals Corner for providing these photos in the thread dedicated to the signing.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Spring Training Trip: Final Day (3/14)

Today marked our final full day in the blissful comfort of the 70+ degree weather in the Arizona desert. It featured an early rising from yours truly, as I (once again) traveled to the practice fields to witness the players up close and take pictures. I was sent on assignment to deliver photos for three Royals' Minor Leaguers, but I could only find two. At first, I was puzzled why pitchers were mysteriously missing from camp, but they stood in the outfield virtually the entire time to shag fly balls and gap hits from the hitters' batting practice. That doesn't make for many Kodak moments, especially considering how far away I stood and how the sun beamed down upon the hitters virtually all morning.

Anyway, as far as pitchers went, I snapped several photos of Carlos Rosa, whom I assumed had been reassigned permanently to MiLB camp. He threw several fastballs, and appeared to be popping the ball quite well into the catchers' mitt. The Royals' officially announced the transaction today, and this has sent the blogosphere abuzz, somewhat. The forecasts don't appear too friendly on Rosa, as CHONE, Marcel, and ZiPs project FIP's of 4.72, 4.20, and 4.13 respectively. These projections don't exactly mirror that of a bullpen ace, but I think Rosa's "1, 2 punch" - his fastball and slider - are Major League bullpen ace-caliber. Obviously, the K/9 rate forecasts are modest considering they essentially rate him as a starter (two of the projections peg him as tossing more than 100 innings). The Royals have announced that Rosa will pitch exclusively out of the 'pen in '09. I would personally rather them implement Rosa as a starter in the Pacific Coast League, and then act accordingly from there. However, I'm not sweating, as he does not possess a plus tertiary pitch and has an abundant history of injuries.

In the Minor League camp, I caught several groups of players conducting batting practice. Prospects Shawn Griffin, Carlo Testa, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Jeff Bianchi, Jamar Walton, Devery Van De Keere, among many others took B.P. in the cages. I was quite impressed with Moustakas and Hosmer, who were shooting the gaps extremely well. Shawn Griffin also impressed, notably. Patrick Norris appeared to have a more ground-ball oriented swing, which is okay, in my book....I have heard rants and raves about his speed, for what it's worth.

Here are some general notes for the day. It was an otherwise bleak Royals game - virtually no hitting to speak of.

- Brian Bannister looked, once again, like the Brian Bannister of 2008. Just simply falling behind too many hitters and surrendering big hits. His lack of an "out pitch" helped induce many batted balls.

- With the above said, it did seem that the Diamondbacks were incredibly lucky with their batted balls this year. They found the holes and hit many dunkers that scored as hits.

- Brandon Duckworth looked gritty, once again. Unfortunately, he demonstrated why he'll likely spend the vast majority of '09 in Omaha. 3 earned in 2 IP.

- Yasuhiko Yabuta's circle change cost him in terms of a three-run home run. Yowza!

- Ryan Shealy made a nice diving/sliding play at first base. He also went 2-for-2, overall.

This could be characterized as blasphemy around these parts, but I started feeling excessively tired around 3:30, to the point of where the Sandman froze me for roughly an hour and a half until we felt an urgency for Asian food. The Chinese restaurants out in Arizona do not hold a candle to the 'straunts (new word) in Springfield, MO. Oddity of location be damned, those places are incredible.

By the way, as I was writing this blog post, I chatted online extensively with a Royals Minor Leaguer. This is completely unrelated, but Minor League cuts will likely occur soon. I realize cuts are inevitable - this week must be one of the single most difficult ones for Minor League players in every organization. One day, you're a professional ballplayer, with obvious job security. The next hour, you are unemployed. Needless to say, I hope to see this person playing again this year.

Anyway, today marked a rather short synopsis, but what can I say? It was a bleak Royals game that featured little hitting and suspect pitching. The Minor League practices consisted mostly of B.P. rounds, shagging in the outfield, and the intermittent infield drills.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Spring Training Trip: Day Five (3/13)

Unfortunately, the second consecutive Friday the 13th marked an overnight (roughly 12 a.m. until 10 p.m.) of tumultuosity between being awake, being pseudo-asleep, and being involved in an extremely deep sleep. I slept in the same room as my father, who somehow obtained ridiculous nasal-related problems which forced him to snore incessantly most of the overnight. I *loathe* the idea of snoring, as I never sleep. Anyway, push came to shove, and I did not sleep soundly until roughly 8:30 in the morning. I finally woke up around 10:30, and scrambled to get everything ready in order to take an appropriate amount of pictures at Minor League practice fields before they departed, which ultimately was approximately 11:45.

Anyway, I ended up snapping six or seven dozen photographs throughout the day - at the practice fields and game alike - so it was work well done. Sometimes, I feel that when conversating with my father about the particular Minor League players of choice, I'm yaking at thin air - or a wall which either stares at me blankly or ignores me entirely. My uncle and father are dedicated Royals fans, to be sure, but I doubt my father could tell you first hand who pitcher Tim Melville is. Neither could tell you who David Lough is. Certainly, neither one of them would devote their fanhood to snapping pictures of practices, or for that matter - even calling into radio programs more than once a week. However, both of them share a profound interest in the game, and probably know more about historical aspects of the game - especially, analytically, as they obviously attended games from as early as the 1960s - than I do.
As a side note, sometimes I feel that the verbage that gets circulated routinely throughout the blogosphere sounds awkward in real life. In other words, I often stumble when saying 'VORP' when describing a particular player. At first, I stumbled when using the "trio" (as I call it) of a particular player. When I'm reading blogs aloud, reading the batting average, followed by the on-base percentage, followed by the slugging percentage, sounds awkward to me. Does the 6 belong in the previous percentage or the next percentage? Where do the numbers end and begin? And trying to ignore the 'RBI' chatter....I'm sorry, but it is very well possible for a 90-RBI guy to have a subpar year, as Guillen did last year. Anyway, I digress.
Fortunately, despite my late arrival, I captured a couple dozen pictures of Minor Leaguers in action. I found that mostly batting practice - with sets of fielders standing at their respective positions - was taking place. The players walked by me at an amazingly close level. Anyway, I've been sent on a particular assignment for Saturday's morning practice field excursion, so at least I'll have one purpose (I crave these, by the way).
I caught the catchers - notably, Salvador Perez, Sean McCauley, Josh Vittek, and Jose Bonilla - hitting in the cages. I wouldn't say any particular catcher dazzled, but the sample size is (as always) extremely limited. I was impressed with Perez' ability to hit in the gaps and Bonilla snapped a few long gap hits, as well.
In one of the photos at the bottom, you'll see the several hundred minor leaguers filing off to the Surprise Stadium clubhouse. To see the players' mass exodus - so soon - took me by surprise, no pun intended.
Here are several notes from the Major League game. By the way, we attended the Surprise, AZ 4-1 victory today. Not the 5-1 beatdown over in Phoenix, where the Milwaukee Brew Crew call home.
- My father noted that the dominant aspect of every game we have seen thus far, including the game that I witnessed on Tuesday, has been fantastic pitching, notably the starting pitching. Meche, HoRam, Davies, Hochevar, Tejeda each surrendered three earned runs or less in multiple innings. (I feel that HoRam's earned run in the first inning of Thursday's game should have been unearned - Teahen completely botched that play).
- Another aspect of the game was that even I'll admit that Ross Gload looks thoroughly fantastic at the plate, in this limited playing time. I believe Gload is a near-lock to make the final roster cut. Tony Pena will likely end up in AAA, with Buck, Bloomquist, and Teahen making those final three bench roster slots. Again, that's just my opinion and gut feeling. For the record, Bill James projects a .294/.340/.423/.763 line for Gload this year, which isn't entirely awful for a backup.
- Luis Hernandez looks slick around the bag at shortstop. I forsee a Tony Pena, Jr. lookalike playing at Omaha virtually the entire season (sans, possibly, September). His career .245/.289/.316/.605 line in the Minor Leagues looks positively TPJ-like. I hope the organization doesn't make the mistake of running him out there for a -1.2 WAR for two consecutive seasons.
- Covelli Crisp continues to work the count well. He covers quite a spell of ground in center field, as does DeJesus in left (although he lost a ball in the air today). I predict very good things defensively for the left side of the diamond in '09 (i.e. Gordon, Aviles, Crisp, and DeJesus).
- John Buck hit a towering 2-run opposite field shot. Essentially a no-doubter.
- Billy Butler looked fooled on breaking pitches. He has looked fooled on these in games prior.
- Robinson Tejeda's stuff looked thoroughly dominant. Unfortunately, he worked himself in a few strong hitters' counts - and issued a few walks - but he struck out seven. The heat - and slider - was clearly functioning today.
- I captured several photographs of the Royals management team, including "interim" manager Mullet.

My uncle noted yesterday that at certain times, a player's contributions on the field transcended numbers or statistical data. He emphasized that at certain times, a player's willingness to work or hustle hard, or have positive personality attributes that can rub off on teammates well, the team could be considered better. He said that Gload and Bloomquist's reputation as "winners" in the clubhouse helped - and could help - their respective teams perform better on the field. He said their situations mirrored those of average people, who can use personality and hard work to achieve what they want and rub off positively on everyone around them, making everyone around them better. In baseball terms, I won't delve into my opinions - but it's food for thought. He basically insinuated that the Royals are modeling themselves under this philosophy - that "clubhouse" men can help. What does the TRT audience think about said scenario? Should we now ignore the statbook? (TRT says "NO!") (TRT also says, "but paying those guys millions and overplaying them over more deserving cost-controlled youngsters is an anti-progressive move for a low-budget organization nowhere close to contention!") The rest of the majority of the blogosphere agrees, while Hapless Royals probably wants to shoot me right now.

Unfortunately, we had to leave at approximately 3:10 p.m. - or the beginning of the Seventh Inning Stretch - to go hot air ballooning. I say 'unfortunately', although this activity also would have been fun. Because of a looming storm and some high wind gusts, the adventure was cancelled. We essentially drove one hour and then drove in a van for thirty extra minutes, and waited another twenty minutes, to get let down, but que sara, sara. And, yes, I probably mispelled that grossly.