Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Next Baseball Era?

What has characterized baseball throughout its 150-plus years has been the separation of eras. For example, much of the early 1900s was called the "Dead Ball Era" because of the abundance of "small ball" that took place, lack of power, overall, as well as the dimensions of ballparks, which were much larger than they are today. In contrast, around the turn of the 21st century, balls were flying out of ballparks at an unprecedented rate, as dimensions were much smaller, the ball was juiced, and players themselves were "juicing."

Now that baseballs are being stored in humidors prior to games and there is extensive testing taking place in attempts to eliminate performance-enhancing supplements from being used, what era - and, more specifically, what characteristics of that particular era - will baseball embark upon next?

Before we delve into what will characterize the unknown era in which we appear to be beginning, we must delve back into eras past, and what constituted those time periods.

19th Century Era - 1876 - 1900

This era consisted of rules which were drastically different than those used today. Bases on balls typically required more pitches, pitching distances were much smaller, home plate was shaped differently, and starting pitchers almost exclusively finished all of their games. Also, foul balls were not strikes. Power during this era was almost nonexistent, and the National League was rivaled only by the American Association and, briefly, the Union Association and Players League.

Dead Ball Era - 1901 - 1919

The American League joined the National League to form Major League Baseball. The Federal League also existed for a short period of time. Home runs and runs, overall, were scarce. Pitchers at often times doctored the baseball and much "small ball" - bunting and stealing bases - was used. Ballpark dimensions were enormous.

Lively Ball Era - 1920 - 1941

Pitchers were banned from using trick pitches or altering baseballs with foreign substances. During this period, home runs and batting average skyrocketed. Starting pitchers did not even complete 50 percent of their games, and baseball played under the lights - or at night - was introduced. Games began to be broadcast on radio and television.

Integration Era - 1942 - 1960

Many players from the Negro Leagues were recruited to Major League Baseball. Jackie Robinson, whose number 42 is now retired throughout baseball, became a monumentous and influential figure, as he broke the color barrier. This era was characterized slightly more by pitching than the Lively Ball Era, although home runs continued to rise as ballpark dimensions were shortened. Starting pitchers completed slightly over one-third of their games.

Expansion Era - 1961 - 1976

Offensive output declined significantly as the strike zone was decreased. Several new teams, including our Kansas City Royals, emerged during this era. Each league split into two divisions and pitching began to dominate as the pitching mound was lowered. The American League adopted the designated hitter, and starting pitchers completed roughly 25 percent of their games.

Free Agency Era - 1977 - 1993

Players began to have the right to become Free Agents after their sixth Major League season, and players began to move more often from team to team. Player salaries also skyrocketed. The era consisted of much parity, as many teams - especially during the 1980s - went to the postseason and won the World Series. Artificial turf fields became prevalent among a handful of teams, and starting pitchers completed much fewer of their games. Offensively, small ball was implemented more often.

Long Ball Era - 1994 - 2005

Baseball became bigger, as players began to use illegal performance-enhancing supplements. Home runs and strikeouts skyrocketed as ballpark dimensions shortened yet further. The league was split into three divisions, with a Wild Card team from each league making the playoffs every season. Interleague play was instituted, and pitching strategy became much more specialized, as starters rarely completed their games, and set-up roles and the single inning closers role in the bullpen were introduced.

What era will we embark upon - or have we embarked upon - for roughly the middle to later part of this decade? Home runs and extra base hits have certainly decreased and performance-enhancing supplements are now, for the most part, banned in baseball. In my opinion, this era will comprise of fewer and fewer home runs hit, but little to no implementation of the "small ball" that dominated much of the Dead Ball and Free Agency eras. Teams will not hit-and-run, bunt, or steal as even often as during the Live Ball Era. Instead, players will continue to sacrifice strikeouts for walks. Home runs will not be eliminated entirely, as league leaders will probably still hit around 35 to 40 in a single season. Players' careers - notably, those of position players - will not last nearly as long as players do not artificially defy their age progressions.

Statistics will be further implemented in this era as the influence from books such as Moneyball (Michael Lewis) will continue to be profound. Notably, definitive defensive statistics - better than those like range factor, error total, and fielding percentage - will arrive, and teams will jump on them almost universally like they did with the new-found significance of on-base percentage in the early 2000s. Managers will be far more creative with their usage of relief pitchers, as the closers' role will expand to two or more innings, and closers - by roughly 2015 - will begin to toss multiple innings routinely, and will be used for roughly 100 innings in a particular season.

Doubles and triples will increase, and teams will continue to operate by the old strategy of defense up the middle and power on the corners. Baseball will become more of a worldwide sport, as players from non-traditional baseball continents such as Europe and Asia will enter the big leagues at even greater numbers. Organizations will exercise talent-building abroad, and might set up institutions in other locations than Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.

Also, unfortunately in the eyes of Royals fans, baseball will continue to demonstrate a lack of parity, as large-market teams will continue to rule the roost more often than not as the Players' Union dominates the business aspect of the game. As a result, no league expansion will take place, and the structure of the league will remain nearly identical. The designated hitter will finally be implemented in the National League at the end of the era, much to the dismay of baseball traditionalist fans. The arrival of blogs will continue to revolutionize the game, and sabermetrics instituted by these blogs will become much more influential and widely understood by the majority of even the most casual of baseball fans. Individual teams will celebrate their beautiful new ballparks or relics, as each ballclub will likely have their "ideal" ballpark to call home by 2015. (The Rays, Marlins, Athletics, and Twins are currently in the works on new ballparks, which will likely be completed by then). Attendance will drop because of economic conditions, which could last for several more years, and prices at ballparks will drop in terms of value.

As far as implications for our Royals, this era, economically, promises more of the same, as the budget will likely be no greater than that of an average mid-market team for most years. However, the dimensions of Kauffman Stadium will play into our advantage as fewer and fewer longballs are hit throughout the league. Fortunately, salaries will likely finally even out as economic conditions become worse. (No, I'm not an economic expert, as this is pure rational-thinking speculation). The new ballpark will yield dividends, as resentment toward not building a ballpark downtown wanes, and communities east of Kansas City - notably, those in Lee's Summit and communities east of Johnson County - like those in Downtown K.C. - emerge yet further.

We know the Longball Era (R.I.P.) did not exactly treat Kansas City well, as many of its elements - like the offensive explosion - seemingly bypassed the team entirely, as Steve Balboni's rather dubious home run record of 36 set in 1985 still stands. (I never would have thought, in 1998, as Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire were dueling it out at an unprecedented power pace, that I could still say that in 2009). Hopefully, this new era will be characterized by much winning in the nation's heartland, as the Royals become perennial contenders, or at least competitors.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hillman, you're on notice

Words cannot describe the idiocy that took place in the mind of our skipper today. How on earth can you bypass Joakim Soria not once but twice - at the very least? He brings in Jamey Wright in the eighth inning, and after the game is tied, he calls upon Kyle Farnsworth - who was warming up minutes ago alongside Joakim Soria - who promptly surrenders the game winning blast?

Someone defend Hillman's handling of the bullpen today. Someone defend Hillman's handlings of the bullpen in games' past. Someone convince me why Hillman should not only NOT be the manager of the future, but the manager of the present, as well?

Delaying Soria for the game is absolute idiocy. It's a thousand other negative adjectives. Going with Farnsworth - loser of now three games - again - in such a critical situation is priceless. Utterly priceless.

I liked Hillman. I still like Hillman, but not as a manager. I wanted to believe in him. But far as I'm concerned, he has lost ALL credibility.

*Edit* I'll rescind my clamor to fire Hillman now. Unfortunately, so many managers are so much the same. They're all quite mediocre with regard to game strategy. However, he should be on a short leash.

34.........and counting.

Booooooom. Bom. Bom.

Ohhhh, yeahhhhhh......









Game over, man!!!!!

Game over!!!!!!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Royals Organizational Update

Two Royals' Minor Leaguers, Wilmington (A+) catcher Joe Billick and Burlington (A) infielder Juan Rivera, have been suspended 50 games apiece for testing positive for performance-enhancing supplements. Billick has demonstrated solid plate discipline since being drafted in the 19th round of the 2007 amateur entry draft out of the University of Georgia, but hasn't hit, otherwise. At this point, he is a non-prospect and organizational player, as he has posted a career .195/.332/.260 line thus far in 154 plate appearances. He turns 24 in May.

Juan Rivera was obtained late last summer in the Angel Berroa trade. He possesses plus-speed and a good glove up the middle, but can't hit much, otherwise. He has been listed as a darkhorse prospect and a Minor Leaguer to watch by a number of sources, but his career .247/.309/.280 line, thus far, is more than a bit underwhelming.

It's disappointing that any player - let alone Minor League players - are using such supplements. They know they'll get caught. As Royals Corner, or Dave Sanford, stated on his website, I would probably buy any excuse they made surrounding the use of these PED's. Any prospect status they ever had, though, has decreased marketedly. They join outfielder Jarrod Dyson, who has already been suspended for illegal drug usage (as has infielder Jason Taylor, though in his case, not for steroids, and his usage violated team policy rather than league policy).

Anyway, down on the farm....

The AAA Omaha Royals are currently 5-4 and in third place in the Pacific Coast League American Division North. They are 1 1/2 games out of first place.

The AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals are 4-4, and tied for first place in the Texas League Northern Division.

The High-A Wilmington Blue Rocks are 5-4, and tied for second place in the Carolina League Northern Division.

The Low-A Burlington Bees are 2-6, and tied for last place in the Midwest League Western Division.

For our Hot & Not Segment, we'll focus on one affiliate at a time. We'll start with Omaha Royals.

Who's Hot:

- Omaha outfielder Chris Lubanski, drafted in the first round of the 2003 amateur entry draft, has been white-hot as of late. He is hitting .406/.486/.688 through the first week of Pacific Coast League action. Throughout the past couple years, his prospect status decreased significantly because of his diminishing range, speed, contact ability, and inability to play center field. However, he arrived at Spring Training camp in 2009 in slimmer shape. It would be nice to see Lubanski, who has not been protected on the 40-man roster the past two seasons, finally regain his prospect status. He has always been slow to adjust to each level, so we'll see.

- Starting pitcher Luke Hochevar, who had one option season remaining, has made two starts, thus far, and has allowed three earned runs in 11 innings pitched. The organization opted to send him to AAA Omaha and instead use offseason acquisition Sidney Ponson, who signed a Minor League contract in March, and even Horacio Ramirez in the rotation over the former #1 overall draft pick. A faulty decision indeed, says yours truly. If they recall Hochevar before he has accumulated enough time to buy an extra season before Free Agency, then the decision will have been a complete waste, in my opinion. Regardless, I'm no scout, but hopefully Hoch has built his stamina and has worked on his sinkerball and his stamina, which needed work, according to the organization.

- Outfielder Mitch Maier, who was recalled to Kansas City a couple days ago, was hitting .370/.419/.667 through his first six games in Omaha. He was 10-for-27 overall with two home runs. Maier is a left-handed hitter who is a plus-plus defender in the outfield, a plus-runner, and a decent contact hitter. Although, much like Hal Morris offensively, he provides little other than a probable .270 or so batting average, I like him as a potential injury or off-day fill-in and permanent fourth outfielder. Hopefully, he will receive the vast bulk of the playing time in Kansas City in right field until Jose Guillen (gulp) returns from the 15-Day Disabled List.

- Infielder Luis Hernandez is essentially the clone of MLB SS Tony Pena, Jr., in that he provides stellar infield defense but can't hit his way out of a paper bag. Nonetheless, the 2008-9 Spring Training invitee and Minor League signee is hitting .407/.429/.519 through his first 27 at-bats. He has three extra base hits, overall, on the season.

Who's Not:

- First baseman Ryan Shealy should have been placed on the 25-man roster at the beginning of the season. He could potentially spell Mike Jacobs and Billy Butler at first base, provide some pop off the bench, provide as a formidable late-inning defensive replacement at first, and could platoon with Jacobs, hitting against primarily left-handed pitching, against whom Jacobs struggles immensely. Nonetheless, Shealy was passed through waivers and was sent to Omaha, and he has hit only .257/.297/.314 and is 9-for-35 in his first eight games.

- First baseman Kila Ka'aihue, whom I ranked as our #3 prospect prior to the season, is only hitting .152/.333/.364 through his first 33 games. Nonetheless, he is still leading the O-Royals in walks (10) and has hit for some pop, hitting two home runs and one double, thus far. I'll chalk Ka'aihue's performance up to small sample size. The walks and isolated power are still there. Maybe Ka'ahiue can gun for Balboni's home run record next season, if Jacobs doesn't break it this year (hopefully, God willing, he will).

Poll Results, Week 5: Trey Hillman's Job Performance

This poll was begun at a somewhat conspicuous time, as the Royals were seemingly still fresh off their heels of blowing Opening Day in Chicago, mainly because of a certain relief pitcher that Trey Hillman decided to use in an inappropriate time. Yes, Kyle Farnsworth has drawn boos and jeers throughout the blogosphere, and perhaps for good reason. However, Farnsy has always been a sufficient reliever for noncrucial and middle relief roles. He is precisely not the pitcher to implement with the game on the line. However, stubbornly, Trey Hillman decided to use him in the most critical situation in the game, against a left-handed power hitter who loves right-handed fastball hurlers, and in a hitters' park. Wrong move. Farnsworth promptly blew the Royals' one-run lead, surrendering a 3-run, 440-foot jack to straightaway center. Moves like these typify many managers, who stubbornly ignore statistical evidence and instead act according to their at times irrational gut feelings. Royals manager, especially Tony Pena and Tony Muser, have done this. Damn the splits!

Beyond his implementation of our offseason, $9+MM signee, Trey Hillman has made many questionable moves in his still brief tenure with K.C. He mishandled the rotation and bullpen at times in 2008, using Brett Tomko in crucial situations, using Hideo Nomo early in a middle relief role, refusing to call in Joakim Soria for the save because "he wasn't available", pulling the string too early with Gil Meche, and many more. His overuse of Ross Gload was also a detriment to this ballclub, costing Billy Butler development and forcing Ryan Shealy, who according to the Baseball Analysts' league adjustor, would have performed significantly better than Gload offensively last year had he received as many plate appearances in Kansas City. Shealy's plus-defense also would have provided a greater boost.

Regardless, I gave Hillman a 'D+' for his performance for the season. Mainly, Opening Day in Chicago reinforced my belief that Hillman should not be the "Manager of the Future" for this ballclub. It's unfortunate, and I had such high hopes when Hillman assumed helm in the 2007-8 offseason. I felt he demonstrated a vague open-mindedness toward new-school statistics, understood sample size, and had a formidable reputation, having managed in the New York Yankees' farm system and in Japan. I felt - and still feel - he is a nice guy. However, he probably needed more seasoning in Major League Baseball other than at the managers' helm. Although he didn't implement the small-ball game to an arduous degree last season, Greg Schaum has told me that he loves bunting and the hit-and-run, two grossly outdated forms of strategy, in my opinion. Hillman's handling of the running game was poor, last year, as the Royals stole merely 68% of bases successfully - a net loss of a handful of runs. So the Royals would have been better off not stealing at all in '08. (Actually, I disagree with this number slightly, because it doesn't take situations into consideration, but that's another argument for another time).

As for your responses, the average (median) score was 5.8125, which rounds up to a 'C', which I consider slightly below average (average score is a 'C+', because it's halfway between an 'A+' and an 'F'). Regardless, there were 4 votes for 'F', meaning - as sometimes is the case with home team managers - Hillman has bordered on angering many blogosphere fans, and perhaps (in some situations) rightfully so. Hillman received 1 vote apiece in the 'good' grade categories. Either way, it's food for thought. Our skipper certainly hasn't fared well in his first year with the club. He can improve, but improvement involves refining his tactics in a number of different facets. Notably, in my opinion:

- Using Joakim Soria more liberally and using our better relief pitchers more often in high-leverage situations
- Implementing the running game to a greater degree - notably, stolen base efficiency
- Limiting bunts and hit-and-run to close and late situations, primarily when we're ahead, or in National League parks when pitchers are batting
- Knowing which position players to use and in which times

Obviously, a successful manager not only must use proper tactics in strategy - during in-game decisions - but must provide all those intangibles that separate the Earl Weavers, Whitey Herzogs, and Sparky Andersons from the Tony Musers. He must handle the different personalities accordingly, must provide as a 'leader' in the clubhouse, and must handle practices and drills - notably, those prior to ballgames and during Spring Training - competently. He also must be willing to listen to other coaches on the team, taking their advice and acting accordingly with use of player personnel.

Regardless, it will continue to be an uphill battle for our skipper. I noted previously - and on the 610 AM Royals' postgame show with Robert Ford and Greg Schaum - that the best method of "outperforming the expectations" is distribution of playing time, and perhaps more importantly in some cases, distribution of playing time where it counts. Farnsworth must accumulate more non-high leverage innings, Willie Bloomquist and Tony Pena must be late-inning defensive replacements and, in the case of the former, must receive spot-starts only occasionally. Our best hitters must receive the most plate appearances. And much more.

Interesting poll results. I'm going to continue this as a prominent feature of the blog. Don't be afraid to make your opinions known. Hey, as bloggers and's usually all we have.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Talking Points Memo

I've started another feature of the blog, not dissimilar to a daily feature of the #1 leading Cable News Network program (phrase used ironically) The O'Reilly Factor with uber-sensitive guy Bill O'Reilly. Essentially, in "Talking Points Memo", I will discuss several topics which are not directly game-related, but topics which I feel are relevant in Royals discussion.

#1. Joakim Soria should gradually be moved to the starting rotation.
I used to advocate strongly for Soria's move, but now only moderately do so. I feel the organization should at least remain open about committing to moving him in the future. For one, I believe Soria should not be deemed a 'closer', which nowadays implies that he is essentially a 1-inning and sometimes 1+ inning pitcher. I believe we should deem him 'bullpen ace', only to be implemented in the highest leverage of situations and a pitcher who should receive multiple innings in the 'pen. I would be satisfied if Soria could eventually pitch 100+ innings in a season, even in the bullpen, where he would likely still dominate. If his arm does not fatigue, he could then be experimented in a starting rotation role, either piggybacking with other pitchers (the Jamey Wrights and Robinson Tejedas of the world - longmen capable of pitching multiple innings). If things go well, a #2/#3-caliber starter is still more valuable than a 70-inning closer, which is the role the Mexicutioner currently occupies. I think the advantages to shifting Joakim to the rotation far outweigh the disadvantages.

Reasons Soria should move to the rotation:
- He started in the Minor Leagues, and pitched a perfect game in the Mexican Leagues
- He has a slender build, but still possesses a height advantage as he is 6-foot-3.
- He possesses four plus-pitches, including an uber-nasty fastball, curveball, and change up.
- The Royals are always in need of more starting pitching
- A 3.5-4.2 ERA starter is more valuable than a closer. If Soria could exceed this, then great. If he can't, then shift him back to the bullpen ace role, with the capability of pitching multiple innings and in high-leverage situations
- An extremely team-friendly contract presents not an overwhelming amount of risk

Reasons Soria should not move to the rotation:
- If his arm fatigues or he injures himself pitching 100+ innings in the bullpen, it would severely effect our future win total
- The 'risk factor': he *could* injure himself permanently
- Despite being 6'3", he still has a slender build
- He only throws 91, which means his fastball will likely diminish by 1-2 mph. in the starting role. Does an 89 mph. fastball really translate to super successful starting pitchier more often than not in the starting role?

Don't you feel Soria, if the transition is successful, can provide more value in the starting five? Note that Dayton Moore has performed admirably at acquiring a quantity and quality in the bullpen. I am confident that a pitcher such as Juan Cruz or even Ron Mahay could fulfill the 9th inning role. I understand there is a nostalgic, "feel good" factor about having the Mexicutioner enter games to shut down the opposition for one inning, and he is certainly a fan favorite in that role. However, I maintain the position that closers and saves are overrated, and starting pitchers with ERAs of 4-4.2 are slightly underrated. In fact, I might be underrating Soria by stating he would only post ERAs of 4-4.2. At the very least, in the bullpen role, let's stretch him out, a bit. As a former starter, I think he could handle it. Any thoughts?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

7 Games Complete

Several notes, as the Royals wrap up their first week of baseball with a 4-3 record.

I have noticed several defensive lapses in the team, notably on the right side of the infield. Willie Bloomquist starting in right field could not have helped, and (although I, unfortunately, did not see it) Captain Grit slid early for a baseball and let the ball bounce behind him last Saturday evening. The Royals obviously ended up losing that game 6-1, so any defensive (or pitching) lapses did not particularly prove costly. Bloomquist's error also did not cost the Royals any runs in that particular instance. However, it is worth noting that Mike Jacobs has already committed one error and has not exhibited exactly ideal range even for a first baseman the first month into the season. This is cause for concern, and the defensive metrics still believe Billy Butler could perform slightly more adequately than the man with the amazing chin-hair.

Over on Royals Review, I proposed beginning a community project where us fans merge heads and estimate - as scientifically as possible - how many runs particular defenders cost the Royals throughout the season. As the various defensive metrics, as well as basic defensive statistics like error total and fielding percentage, are still highly questionable, I wanted to encourage the blogosphere to keep attempting to reach that zen where we can ultimately quantify defense in terms of runs allowed vs. runs cost - and by doing so gauge how important defense truly is when evaluating a ballplayer. It seems that on the back of any baseball card, on any baseball website, or even on websites such as Fangraphs, defense is highly overlooked and is often taken for granted. Such an oversight takes place among casual and diehard fans, and traditional and new school-oriented fans alike. Bringing defense to among the forefront of baseball discussion: one of TRT's goals for 2009.

Below are some various statistics worth chewing on as we proceed into the second week, and hopefully winning our second series of the season against the Cleveland Indians this evening at Kauffman Stadium.

Category: Total (League Rank [T means Tie])

HR: 4 (13/14)
BA: .198 (14/14)
OBP: .275 (14/14)
SLG: .566 (14/14)
RS: 18 (14/14)
OPS+: 56 (14/14)
SB%: 66.7% (T10/14 the break even point is roughly 72%, according to Baseball Prospectus)

F%: .992 (2/14)
E: 2 (T10/14)
Ugh - I know these are faulty statistics. Anyone want to provide defensive efficiency ranking totals or something of that nature?

ERA: 3.05 (1/14)
K: 65 (1/14)
BB: 22 (4/14)
ER: 21 (2/14)

Obviously, the pitching and offense are two different stories. I was surprised the Royals had only made two errors thus far in the season. With several gaffes by Aviles, Jacobs, and Bloomquist, I'm surprised we didn't have more. It just proves how faulty that statistics is, in general. Whatever improvements Kevin Seitzer was supposed to make clearly haven't been made, yet. And I understand pitching coaches aren't terribly significant - and most are probably only minimally significant - at the Major League level. Pitching coaches are, and I happen to be a rather fervent fan of ours, Bob McClure. Although that might have been because he lived directly across from me last year.

I digress. No wOBA, no tRA, no fancy statistics this time around.

For those who are wondering, I'm helping compile summaries and synopses for the website Left of the Foul Pole, the new 610 Sports AM website dedicated to the Royals. I'm helping out most significantly with the game summaries, whereas Greg Schaum and Robert Ford compile the Blue Collar Plays of the Game, the Hot and Cold Players of the Game, the Diamonds in the Rough, and more.

Call into the postgame show sometime. It is on 610 Sports immediately following the game.

Let's grab a 'V' for victory, tonight!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Poll Results, Week 4: Dayton Moore's Job Performance

Ladies and gentlemen, whe week four poll results are in. I am currently unsure as to how to access blog readership at Blogger, but a plentiful amount of you have participated in my weekly polls. I now have 10 followers, and I suspect that more and more people are tuning into the statistical and scouting analysis and yet more incessant babbling that takes place once every few days. I digress.... but in the latest poll, I asked you how you felt Dayton Moore has performed as General Manager - overall - throughout the first 2 1/2 years of his tenure.

A+: 0 (votes)
A: 2
A-: 4
B+: 2
B: 4
B-: 5
C+: 3
C: 0
C-: 1
D+: 1
D: 1
D-: 1
F: 1

To calculate the average score, I simply used a 1-13 scale, with '1' being F and '13' being A+. I then multiplied those coefficients by the number of votes used for that particular grade (coefficient). I then divided by the number of total votes to obtain the average score.

The average score was '7.8', which is roughly a C+ or B-, depending on how you round. If you round up, the score is above 7.75, which is roughly between a C+ and B-. Because there were far more scores in the upper tier, I decided to round up to a B-. Overall, followers of The Royal Treatment believe Moore has performed slightly above average.

Several months ago, I might have agreed with this score. However, I now feel that Moore can effectively be deemed no better than an average General Manager. He's probably a C-caliber G.M., at this point. His strengths have, unfortunately, been outweighed by his weaknesses thus far. However, if his successful 2007 and 2008 drafts (in my opinion) can eventually manifest at the MLB level, churning out two or three prospects every season, then the opposite effect will take place. Although I feel some of the low assigned grades - one F, D-, D, and D+ - are too harsh, I feel one can make an argument for anywhere between a C- and B that I would eventually agree with.

Below, I have outlined several of his strengths and weaknesses, and the degree of significance, 1-5, for each of those strengths and weaknesses.


- Scouting and player development. He has hired arguably excellent player development team in J.J. Picollo, Scott Sharp, and Mike Arbuckle, proving that even small-market organizations can attract names of formerly prominent organizations such as Arbuckle. The latter was instrumental in building the successful Phillies teams of recent time. Picollo had experienced sucess with the Braves and seems to be building a solid Minor League nucleus.

- Bullpen and starting pitching evaluation. Although this has cooled somewhat recently, with the acquisition of players such as Ponson, re-acquisition of Horacio Ramirez, and Kyle Farnsworth, he seems to understand the concept that bullpens can be built and rebuilt successfully season after season, using different personnel. He has clearly won the Dotel-for-Kyle Davies trade of June 2007. The Meche signing, thouigh uncompromisingly bold, can be deemed a success, thus far. We have gained relief help from unexpected and unglamorous places, such as the Rule 5 draft (Soria), trades involving Players to be named (Ramon Ramirez), and 1-year rehabilitation contracts (Octavio Dotel).

- Understanding and application of building organizational depth. Hiring a quantity - as well as quality - of players is important, as players often become sidelined with injuries throughout the course of the grueling 162-plus game baseball season. Also, Minor League signings, participation in the Rule 5 draft, and Spring Training invitees have been plentiful on his part. After all, there is almost no downside to Minor League and cost-controlled acquisitions, unless there is a significant opportunity cost with implementing those signees in the incorrect fashion (such as with Sidney Ponson).


- Offensive/position player talent evaluation. Tony Pena. Ross Gload. Jose Guillen. Mike Jacobs. Possibly Willie Bloomquist. All near-replacement caliber players who have received significant playing time under Dayton Moore's tenure. Also, in the first 33 innings of the Royals baseball season, we have scored a grand total of 7 runs. Through the first three games of the season, the Royals drew only one more walk than last year. The Royals have placed near last in the last three seasons in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and home runs. We went through epic stretches in 2007 and 2008 where the offense did nearly nothing. Moore must improve in this area, which is as important as pitching and much more important than defense (although it is arguably whether the area is more important than both combined).

- Understanding of replacement value. Bill Shanks, the author of the book Scouts's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, once proclaimed proudly that Moore did not, in fact, know what VORP (Value Over Replacement Player), a Baseball Prospectus statistic, meant. Now, VORP has become slightly outdated, in my opinion, because of statistics such as WAR which evaluate a player on both offense and defense (VORP evaluates solely on offense), but Moore has demonstrated through numerous acquisitions that he does not emphasize on-base percentage and other plate patience statistics such as pitches per plate appearances and not making outs nearly as proficiently as he should. Many of his trades and acquisitions have involved getting players with little ability to get on-base. Scout's Honor was essentially a reply to the book Moneyball, written by Michael Lewis in 2003. Scout's Honor implied that there are multiple ways to build successful ballclubs, and that Moneyball was essentially not all it was hyped up to be. Shanks is correct in that there are multiple ways to build a successful ballclub. However, I happen to believe that it is easily the most successful route for a small-market ballclub. I could literally write about this for days, but let's stop here.
5 (would be smaller in other markets)

- Inability to demonstrate keen understanding and implementation of sabermetrics and statistics. See above. It's fairly obvious that Moore does not fully implement fielding metrics, on-base percentage, among other unconventional statistics.
5 (although a '10' or '20' would also be applicable scores)

- Overemphasis of High School pitchers in the draft. A rather small flaw, in comparison. However, what's with the abundance of High School pitchers in early rounds? Draft them in later rounds, as high school pitchers are still so difficult to project at early stages. Rany and Rob Neyer have written about this.

Keep in mind this list is far from incomplete. More is entailed in managing a ballclub than simply those philosophies. Some of his strategies can be deemed 'neutral.' In other words, they aren't necessarily strengths or weaknesses.

I believe Moore has, overall, made strides to build the organization from reportedly below expansion franchise-caliber to the respectable franchise that it is now. He has built the Minor League system and scouting and player development departments through successful drafts and simply hiring the best connections. He added a Minor League affiliate in the Burlington Royals. The organization has expanded its Latin American and overseas influences (hiring teenage Korean and South African players over the offseason). However, he has much work left to do at the Major League level. It remains to be seen whether he is the General Manager who can push the Royals into a contender, let alone a consistently competitive franchise. He has misallocated much money, already, despite convincing Glass to finally open his pursestrings and act like a dedicated owner.

Any thoughts on Moore's job performance thus far, or any reaction to my comments or explanations for your grades?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Opening Day Has Arrived

At long last, Spring, Opening Day, and the green grass has arrived.

*Checks weather outside*

.....Or not. Regardless, baseball is back. After a grueling offseason, which consisted of prototypical midwestern wildly transitional weather, usually involving bitter cold, deadness outside, and continuously bracing yourself before walking outside in your jumpsuit, mittens, and face mask. Now, it may be overcast and 40 degrees early April....but you can't win 'em all.

Let's check the latest Royals news.

The 25-man roster has been finalized. There are obviously several surprises, and several position players and pitchers that I, bluntly, never would have thought to be stationed on the roster at the beginning of the offseason. In my opinion, several positive or potentially beneficial moves took place - placing Brayan Pena on the roster, trading Ross Gload, getting Ryan Shealy to remain in the organization, demonstrating necessary creativity in letting Teahen and his evidently improving second base defense remain at that position, and proceeding with a 5-man bench to begin the season. Unfortunately, it seems the negatives outweighed the positives, though. Tony Pena and his heiling -2 WAR will backup shortstop (and possibly second base), Kyle Farnsworth will be our primary setup man to Joakim Soria, Sidney Ponson made the roster, Ryan Shealy has been sent to AAA Omaha, and the Opening Day lineup is, well, a little bit funky.

Side Note: I have posted incomplete Royals Minor League rosters at Royals Corner. It appears plenty of players - mostly pitchers - will remain in Arizona for extended Spring Training. As a guideline, this appears to be a good idea. Building depth in the Minor League system - even in quantity, if not quality - never hurt. The Wilmington rotation could potentially be loaded, with arms like Santiago, Gutierrez, Duffy, Montgomery, and Fisher hopefully stationed there by midseason. Also, the Omaha Royals could provide some (possibly well) above replacement-caliber talent in Ryan Shealy, Tug Hulett, J.R. House, Mitch Maier, Kila Ka'aihue, and Shane Costa. One minor complaint is that several players appear to be repeating particular levels - Chris Hayes in particular. I understand the organization wanting to transition Jeff Bianchi to shortstop, and thereby letting him repeat Wilmington for another year. Last year wasn't an exactly great year for the 22-year old, anyway. The Wilmington offense is loaded with worthy top 25 prospects: Mike Moustakas, Derrick Robinson, Jeff Bianchi, and Johnny Giavotella, to name four.

As I implied, Royals Message Board Nation has literally been topsy turvy in the last few weeks, with the negative backlash perhaps outweighing the positive. Opinions have been altered somewhat, even among the most cynical at heart of Royals bloggers. Bold declarations have been made. Regardless, perhaps the fact that Jason Smith - who made the Astros' Opening Day 25-man roster - would be our best power-hitting bench threat should reveal something telling about our front office. Defense - notably defense up the middle - takes a dominant priority over offense, especially on-base percentage and power-hitting. As far as probable backups go, why sign Bloomquist when Tony Pena is already on the roster? Why retain Pena, if we have Bloomquist? These are questions that need to be answered if we are to outperform our projections in 2009, and (hopefully) compete in a division that CHONE, PECOTA, and general consensus claims is wide open for the season.

Bullpen - and, to perhaps a lesser extent, starting rotation - construction has been one of Moore's primary strengths as General Manager, in addition to raw scouting potential and drafting and Minor League player development. Moore has made several optimal signings to both areas, such as Gil Meche, Joakim Soria, David Riske, Ron Mahay, and possibly Juan Cruz. However, deeming Kyle Farnsworth primary set-up man and positioning Sidney Ponson and Horacio Ramirez to be our #4 and #5 starters are puzzling, at best. Very, very puzzling.

Here is the final 25-man roster:

Catchers: John Buck, Miguel Olivo, Brayan Pena
Infielders: Mike Aviles, Willie Bloomquist, Billy Butler, Alberto Callaspo, Alex Gordon, Mike Jacobs, Tony Pena, Mark Teahen
Outfielders: Coco Crisp, David DeJesus, Jose Guillen
Starting pitchers: Kyle Davies, Zack Greinke, Gil Meche, Horacio Ramirez
Relief pitchers: Juan Cruz, Kyle Farnsworth, Ron Mahay, Joakim Soria, Robinson Tejeda, Doug Waechter, Jamey Wright

Let's examine that Opening Day lineup, proposed by Trey Hillman. Keep in mind that the lineup will obviously face a left-handed pitcher in Mark Buehrle.

1. Crisp, CF
2. DeJesus, LF
3. Teahen, 2B
4. Guillen, RF
5. Jacobs, 1B
6. Butler, DH
7. Gordon, 3B
8. Olivo, C
9. Aviles, SS

For the record, I don't place much stock in lineups, let alone Opening Day lineups. Roster transactions will soon take place - players such as Brayan Pena, Jamey Wright, and Tony Pena could very well be off the roster, soon, once Sidney Ponson (and, later, perhaps John Bale) is activated.

However, why is Aviles batting 9th? He destroyed left-handed pitching to the tune of a .348/.392/.574 line last season, and (small sample size alert) hit .359/.388/.531 against the Chicago White Sox last year. For the matter, why is Teahen batting third, against the lefty? Guillen is obviously still fourth, but I think a reasonable argument could be made that he should bat lower. I've come resigned to the fact that Crisp will remain in the leadoff hole virtually most of the season, barring a slump or unexpected decline in performance. If he steals efficiently and posts around a .340 OBP, I'll be content with that move. Olivo does hit lefties much well, and throws runners out at a decent clip despite residual complaints about his defense among pitchers. (Unfortunately, that has always been Olivo's reputation. As a pitcher, I, personally, was not picky with regard to catchers).

For the record, here is just one optimal Baseball Musings' Royals lineup, using the 2009 CHONE projections. Holy Cow, I've contradicted myself with regard to Mark Teahen. Keep in mind that this is a generic lineup, not against lefties or righties. That is one particular flaw in CHONE - as far as I can recall, it does not implement splits.

LF Dejesus
DH Butler
2B Teahen
1B Jacobs
3B Gordon
RF Guillen
SS Aviles
C Olivo
CF Crisp

Here is my optimal lineup, using our nine starters.

vs. RHP:

LF - DeJesus
SS - Aviles
3B - Gordon
1B - Butler
DH - Jacobs
RF - Guillen
2B - Teahen
CF - Crisp
C - Olivo

vs. LHP:

LF - DeJesus
SS - Aviles
1B - Butler
DH - Jacobs
RF - Guillen
C - Olivo
3B - Gordon
CF - Crisp
2B - Teahen

But enough about lineups. From what I have read, isn't the difference between a 'good' and 'bad' lineup, using the same players, about 40 runs over the course of a season, anyway? Significant, indeed, but definitely not as significant as filling out an optimal 25-man roster (or, hell, for that matter, a 40-man roster).

You know what? I'm looking forward to tomorrow, and hopefully competing this season in a possibly wide open division. I'm looking forward to interning for Greg Schaum of 610 Sports this summer, working for the postgame show, and (soon) writing for another blog, in addition to this one. More on those stories later....stay tuned.

Monday, April 6, 2009

TRT 2009 MLB Predictions

Below are predictions for each team, preceeding (well, by two days) the 2009 season. My postseason and award predictions are below. In the parentheses, I've provided my prediction for "Team Most Valuable Player (M.V.P.)", or the top Dempsey-predicted WAR player and pitcher for 2009. Also, I've provided predictions for my awardees, including basic statistics and sabermetrics alike.

* = Wildcard Team

AL West:
1. Los Angeles 92-70, - (Vladimir Guerrero, John Lackey)
2. Texas 84-78, 8 GB (Josh Hamilton, Kevin Millwood)
3. Oakland 78-84, 14 (Eric Chavez, Joey Devine)
4. Seattle 71-91, 21 (Ichiro Suzuki, Felix Hernandez)

AL Central:
1. Minnesota 86-76, - (Joe Mauer, Scott Baker)
2. Cleveland 84-78, 2 (Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee)
3. Kansas City 79-83, 7 (David DeJesus, Zack Greinke)
4. Detroit 77-85, 9 (Curtis Granderson, Justin Verlander)
5. Chicago 76-86, 10 (Carlos Quentin, Mark Buehrle)

AL East:
1. Boston 95-67, - (Kevin Youkilis, Josh Beckett)
*2. New York 93-69, 2 (Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia)
3. Tampa Bay 89-73, 6 (B.J. Upton, Scott Kazmir)
4. Toronto 80-82, 15 (Vernon Wells, Roy Halladay)
5. Baltimore 69-93, 16 (Nick Markakis, Jeremy Guthrie)

League Record: 1153-1115

NL West:
1. Los Angeles 92-70, - (Matt Kemp, Chad Billingsley)
*2. Arizona 90-72, 2 (Justin Upton, Brandon Webb)
3. San Diego 78-84, 14 (Adrian Gonzalez, Chris Young - Peavy gets traded mid-season)
4. Colorado 74-88, 18 (Chris Iannetta, Ubaldo Jimenez)
5. San Francisco 73-89, 19 (Aaron Rowand, Tim Lincecum)

NL Central:
1. Chicago 93-69, - (Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Zambrano)
2. Cincinnati 83-79, 10 (Joey Votto, Edinson Volquez)
3. Milwaukee 79-83, 14 (Ryan Braun, Yovany Gallardo)
4. St. Louis 73-89, 20 (Albert Pujols, Adam Wainwright)
5. Houston 72-90, 21 (Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt)
6. Pittsburgh 69-93, 24 (Ryan Doumit, Paul Maholm)

NL East:
1. New York 94-68, - (David Wright, Johan Santana)
2. Atlanta 87-75, 7 (Chipper Jones, Derek Lowe)
3. Philadelphia 85-77, 9 (Chase Utley, Cole Hamels)
4. Washington 70-92, 24 (Elijah Dukes, John Lannan)
5. Florida 66-96, 28 (Hanley Ramirez, Ricky Nolasco)

League Record: 1278 - 1314

ALDS: Minnesota over New York (in 5)
ALDS: Los Angeles over Boston (in 5)
NLDS: Arizona over Chicago (in 4)
NLDS: New York over Los Angeles (in 4)
ALCS: Los Angeles over Minnesota (in 5)
NLCS: Arizona over New York (in 7)
WS: Los Angeles over Arizona (in 6)

AL MVP: Grady Sizemore, Cleveland (Prediction: .285/.372/.501/.873, 30 HR, 84 RBI, 31/7 SB/CS, 128 OPS+, +7 defender, 6.0 WAR)
NL MVP: Albert Pujols, St. Louis (Prediction: .336/.440/.615/1.055, 40 HR, 112 RBI, 4/3 SB/CS, 164 OPS+, +8 defender, 9.4 WAR)
(for the first time in a long time [it seems, I think], two MVP's for non-playoff clubs in the same season....I think Pujols is hands down THE best player in MLB).
AL Cy: Felix Hernandez, Seattle (stretch, I know - Prediction: 15-11, 3.27 ERA, 211.2 IP, 74 BB, 179 K, 33 GS, 130 ERA+, 4.1 WAR, 3.66 FIP)
NL Cy: Brandon Webb, Arizona (Prediction: 18-9, 3.22 ERA, 231.0 IP, 63 BB, 186 K, 34 GS, 141 ERA+, 5.6 WAR, 3.73 FIP)
AL ROY: Matt Wieters, Baltimore (Prediction: .276/.345/.446/.791, 13 HR, 67 RBI, 2/1 SB/CS, 107 OPS+, +1 defender, 2.3 WAR)
NL ROY: Dexter Fowler, Colorado (Prediction: .283/.351/.412/.763, 8 HR, 63 RBI, 23/11 SB/CS, 102 OPS+, +0 defender, 1.9 WAR)
AL Manager: Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota (Twins exceed many expectations again, riding an excellent pitching staff to another October)
NL Manager: Bobby Cox, Atlanta (Bobby Cox, former G.M., works the magic again)
AL Fireman: Mariano Rivera, New York (Prediction: 5-3, 2.17 ERA, 67.2 IP, 13 BB, 51 K, 67 G, 42/46 SV/SVO, 155 ERA+, 2.9 WAR, 2.75 FIP)
NL Fireman: Francisco Rodriguez, New York (Prediction: 3-4, 2.65 ERA, 74.2 IP, 23 BB, 77 K, 70 G, 46/51 SV/SVO, 148 ERA+, 2.5 WAR, 2.77 FIP)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Poll Results, Week 3: Royals Win Total

A record forty (40) people cast their (final) votes for the Royals win total in 2009, and the results were roughly what I expected. It's worth noting that PECOTA projected 75 wins (and a fourth place finish) for the Royals in 2009, while CHONE projected 71 wins for this year. How did The Royal Treatment readers and followers feel?

Less than 70: 0 (0%)
70-71: 0 (0%)
72-73: 1 (2%)
74-75: 1 (2%)
76-77: 1 (2%)
78-79: 7 (17%)
80-81: 6 (15%)
82-83: 8 (20%)
84-85: 10 (25%)
86-87: 0 (0%)
88-89: 2 (5%)
90 or more: 4 (10%)

How I calculated the average prediction was add the middle of each vote. For example, I counted each vote for 78-79 victories as a vote for "78.5" wins. As for "90 or more", I decided to simply project 90 wins. Bluntly, it's quite a stretch to predict the Royals are going to win much more than 90 games this year. I understand some fan bias (and homerism) is to be expected - among yours truly, included - but it's just a little far-fetched to predict we beat the odds by more than 20 or so games. I'm not trying to downplay anyone's (optimistic) votes, but it would certainly be well above and beyond initial expectations.

Nonetheless, here is how the scores stack up:

Average score = 82.45 wins. So rounding down, that's 82 wins. Their first over-.500 season since 2003.

Question: Will the recent pitching moves of Ponson and HoRam being placed in the rotation and Hochevar and Bannister being sent to AAA Omaha affect the season win total at all?

More questions:

  • How can Trey Hillman distribute playing time differently to overcome the (somewhat) disappointing CHONE and PECOTA projections for 2009?
  • Can we expect Mark Teahen to fulfill (possible) expectations and approach his 2006 level of hitting?
  • Will Olivo and Buck truly combine for over 500 plate appearances again, this season?
  • Will Ryan Shealy, Brayan Pena, and Tony Pena, Jr. make the club and receive significant playing time?
  • Will Kila Ka'aihue even come remotely close to replicating his monster Minor League numbers of 2008, earning a possible call-up sooner than expected?
  • Will Billy Butler get extended playing time at first base, displacing Mike Jacobs to a more valuable role in designated hitter?

All worthwhile questions worth pondering. Those questions might significantly affect our win total in 2009.

Here is some more recent news:

- Gload sent to the Fish for a Player to be Named. An obvious move. Too bad we owe a significant amount of his salary, although if we could trade Tyler Lumsden for a player even of Jordan Parraz' caliber, then I'm anxious to see what we can net in return for the gritty utilityplayer.

- Joel Peralta released. His HR/FB rate was flukish in 2008, and I expect him to fulfill an organization's need as an effective 5th or 6th middle reliever, soon. I think a 4.5-5 ERA certainly isn't out of the question, this season.

- Here is the complete list of Minor League players who have been released by the organization:

RHP Joe Augustine, RHP Casey Feickert, RHP Paul Raglione, LHP Anthony Bradley,
LHP Jesse Carver, LHP John Foster, LHP Steve Gilgenbach, LHP Tim Huber, LHP
Orlando Rada, LHP Josh Ruhlman, 1B Devery Van De Keere, OF Brett Bigler, OF
Steve Boggs, OF Brad Correll, OF Warren McFadden

Here is what I posted over on Royals Corner about the cuts:

A little surprised at the release of Raglione, who was the #50 ranked prospect on Royals Corner prior to the 2008 season. Some of these guys were obviously well older for the levels (such as Foster & Van De Keere). A little surprised at the Bradley release...the random Omaha promotion of '07 was a little bizarre. Bigler, I thought, held his own at an advanced level last year. Correll hit well, although he was old for the level. I read some snippets about Huber following last year's draft. Other than that, I remember reading little to none about these guys. This *has* to be difficult for them, though.