Friday, May 15, 2009

Poll Results, Week Six: Ryan Shealy NOW!

Judging by the poll results from last week, it would appear that the Royals fanbase would like to see Ryan Shealy recalled from AAA Omaha. Here is how the results break down:

Which position player would you most like to see recalled from Omaha? (List compiled on 5/2)

Ryan Shealy: 10 votes (47%)
Tug Hulett: 3 (14%)
Kila Ka'aihue: 3 (14%)
Travis Metcalf: 1 (4%)
Chris Lubanski: 1 (4%)
Other: 3 (14%)

Yes, it's true. Through 25 games and 87 at-bats in AAA Omaha, he has now connected for a .345/.454/.425 clip. He is homerless, though, and we all know that if he is to provide some value as a pinch-hitter and part-time player (a compliment to the left-handed hitting DH/1B Mike Jacobs), he is going to need to hit for power. In his Minor League career, Shealy has a .302/.406/.615 line against lefties, with 23 home runs in 291 at-bats. He is, on the contrary, .296/.369/.510 against right-handers. In parts of his last four seasons, he has contributed for a net gain of three runs at first base.

Although his BABIP is insanely high this year (.484), his FB% does not correlate at all with his mere seven extra base hits (and zero home runs). It is 48.1%, so the HR output is flukishly low.

I'm not going to sugercoat it. Shealy needs to be on the 25-man roster above Luis Hernandez, who provides as nothing more than an excellent late-inning defensive replacement. Hernandez contributes negatively as an offensive player, and will likely do nothing to earn anything more than Sunday starts, even with a slumping Mike Aviles. Get Shealy on this roster, start him at first base against lefties (against whom Jacobs struggles immensely), and let him pinch hit late in games, in crucial situations or no.

Shealy has not played since Friday, May 8th, though. He has not yet been placed on the 7-Day Disabled List, though, so what's the deal? The Royals organization is notorious for keeping Minor League information secretive and withheld. Regardless, I think Shealy would be a formidable option at my stated positions on the big-league roster.

Question: Which players would fit in the 'other' category who one could argue would be worthy of a promotion? Tommy Murphy? Brayan Pena (again, and even more so assuming a DFA/release/trade of one of our existing two catchers)? Brian (Pitcher Fill-In) Buchanan? I'd love to know.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Nightmare in Springfield

Draft prospects review from the LSU-Arkansas games I attended last weekend coming in a few days. In the meantime, enjoy my writeup on the two games I witnessed in Springfield on Wednesday afternoon.

OK, so I attended both Northwest Arkansas Naturals-Springfield Cardinals games this afternoon at Hammond Field in Springfield. As usual in posts like these, I'll try to avoid making this long-winded. Here are some general thoughts from both games. As for the title ("nightmare"), the second game epitomized the Game From Hell. Other than an early offensive explosion, virtually everything went wrong for the Nats today.

I sat in proximity - actually, four seats away from - an obvious die-hard Cardinal fan who was cheering on his team to a ridiculous, obnoxious degree each time they scored or something positive happened on his side. He was obviously baiting me, as I was the only Naturals (Royals) fan in the packed house. I, for one, hate these fan exchanges during the game, because a) what happens on the field is entirely out of control, b) it encourages blind homerism, c) it's flat-out obnoxious, and d) it epitomizes what it means to be a poor baseball fan. Needless to say, this clown was a poor baseball fan. Cheering on the ejections of Suomi & Poldberg (which I will highlight later), screaming each time his team scored, and more. He pulled so much bushleague crap....crap that I've actually never witnessed before at a baseball game, even an away game. I overheard him making notes like "This guy is throwing 89...he sucks" and openly questioning whether you can steal a base on a foul ball.

It was strange, because this man looked like a kid. However, he talked and carried himself like he was middle-aged. He was with a much older woman, who could have been his girlfriend. I overheard him asking her if she was married, at the time. In conclusion, I really wonder if this fan was mentally stable.

Anyway, this man is a clown...and he gives Turdburds fans (you read that correctly) an even further bad if their reputation as pompous could have ever even been overcome. I ignored him intentionally the entire time, but when I did speak, I was polite. I'm paraphrasing in the quotes, here, but he told me "fans at Kauffman Stadium would be treating me this way, so don't take it personnally." He epitomizes pitiful blind homerism in fans. Enough said.

My seats were wonderful. Front row seats, directly behind the net, and approximately 20 feet from the dugout. I snapped about 20 photos with my camera, and another 50 or so with my cell phone. I'll share them later.

As for the game itself (which was largely overshadowed by this clown), catcher John Suomi was ejected in the first game. Of course, I couldn't hear the words exchanged between him and the umpire (and I arrived at the beginning of the second inning), but I'm guessing the exchanges were mostly silent, lacking outward emotional expression. Suomi was nonchalantly tossed, much to his shock and dismay. The manager, Brian Poldberg, then rushed out the dugout and threw a tirade before the umpire, and he was tossed. From my perspective, Suomi getting ejected looked completely like bushleague crap. There might have been more to the story, but if anyone has questions, ask.

It took the attendants at the ice-cream shop about 5 minutes per person to make their ice-cream. Their service was appalling. I snapped a couple photos, so I can post them here and possibly on Cardinals message boards to remind them never to conduct business with these slugs. This sounds like a jerk's move on my part, but I cut through the line to pay for my ice cream (I had to pay separately) before it melted, sitting there in the sunlight. At least I think I cut...I'm not sure. Regardless, their business was piss-poor. Talk about horrifically disorganized and a cluster-what. I recommended everyone in line leave before conducting business with them.

Anyway, back to the game....John Bale entered his rehab assignment and was pulled after recording two outs and surrendering one line drive single in roughly 7 or so pitches. He was hitting 85-87 with his fastball on the radar gun, so I knew something was either wrong, initially, or he was extremely rusty. Looks like it was the former. The trainers and a couple other members of the dugout emerged and instantly yanked him in the 6th. He wasn't signaling toward anything, so I'm not sure what the aggravation might have been.

First game starter Blake Wood was dominant, using four pitches and locating them effectively. His fastball topped out around 93, and was 91-92 most of the game. He surrendered two solo home runs - both no-doubters - in the final inning, but it was good work on his part, overall. He was visibly frustrated after that final inning, though.

Second game starter Matt Kniginyzky, as the box score displays, endured a Hellish outing, and could not make it to four outs in the contest. He was not locating at all effectively, and they were tattooing the pitches that he did throw in the strike zone. I thought the game was safe after the first 1 1/2 inning, but he proved otherwise.

Gilbert De La Vara, who usually has to rely on spotting his pitches, endured a microscopic strike zone this afternoon. He didn't walk anyone, but they were connecting quite well with his pitches, as they were with Dan Cevette and Kyle Crist, when they weren't walking batters.

I thought bringing in reliever Chris Hayes was a possibility, given that he hadn't pitched in several days. Then again, ok...he pitched 6 (dominant) innings not too long ago. (No Chris Nicoll either, though).Springfield/Cardinals fans cheering on the ejections and the meaningless sacrifice bunts early in the ballgame, as expected. Best fans in baseball!!!!!!!!11111!!11one

Despite hitting a home run, Lisson looks lost at the plate. Athletic build and good defense today, but too many swings and misses. His home run was a no-doubter, though, so hopefully it's a sign of things to come.The Cardinals' first game starter, Brandon Dickson, was absolutely untouchable today. He reminded me of Scot Shields of the Angels, except Dickson dominated in multiple innings. He was only hitting 87-89 on the radar gun, but the deception appeared to be there, and his explosive delivery made it appear yet faster.

The AA Cardinals are a loaded ballclub, offensively. Brett Wallace, last year's #1 amateur draft selection, agreed to a humungous signing bonus, as noted several times by several fans I was sitting with. Their #7 prospect, Daryl Jones, was also in the lineups, as well as the first round draft selection of '07, Pete Kozma. The middle of their lineup was huge, physically. Just huge.Several of the Cards' relief pitches showed odd deliveries. Williams' stretch resembled that of a windup. During the stretch, he only had one foot on the rubber, and his body was facing home plate instead of first base. Very deceptive for runners on first. Another reliever, Degerman, came directly overhand on his pitches after dipping. It looked like Tim Lincecum, except it was a directly (180-degrees) overhand pitch. Very bizarre and deceptive.

If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask, as I observed quite a bit from the games, despite my distractions to my right.

Monday, May 4, 2009

2009 Royals Attendance

2009 Royals attendance, total: 257,325 (24/30)

2009 Royals attendance, average per game: 19,794 (28/30)

These figures have actually decreased from where we were at this time last year through 13 home games.

We need a large crowd tonight against Greinke. I think tonight should be the ultimate test. A weeknight, in which the Royals have had continuous struggles in selling tickets. A divisional rival, and perhaps slightly more importantly, a hated divisional rival in the Chicago White Sox. Beautiful weather (forecast calls for 70 degrees and sunny by gametime). Beautiful new ballpark, for which Jackson County residents paid $250 million. Excellent new amenities and scenery. Vastly improved ballclub, that has improved by at least six games each of the past three seasons, and is now 14-11 and in sole possession of first place in a highly winnable division. One of the best pitchers in recent memory, and perhaps one of the best Royals pitchers *ever*, starting this evening.

If we still draw 10-13K or so, then it will a damning indictment as to just how much farther the Royals need to go in order to draw respectable crowds.

Thus far, I have read these excuses:

- Drawing large crowds is difficult because kids in Kansas City attend school. Therefore, families aren't motivated to attend. (Evidently, they don't in other outdoor/northern cities).

- The weather has been terrible in Kansas City. (Evidently, the weather in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Cincinnati has been continuous with 70+ degree weather and sunshine).

- Economic hard times. (But hasn't this affected all of MLB? Perhaps it's affected K.C. more than other markets....)

- The ballpark does not have restrooms and cannot sustain large crowds. (OK, fair enough).

Which excuse is it? Or is it a combination of all of these?

It seems every time I raise this topic, either directly in person or on the medium of a computer, the topic is always downplayed completely or I'm shouted down by a myriad of excuses.'s time the Royals start to substantially increase their attendance. I believe that attendance will go up if the Royals are in a divisional race until late in the season (or, obviously, after). However, it's fair to be disappointed this early. To get so defensive over this issue is even more of a damning indictment than the issue itself. This is evidently an overtly sensitive topic in the hearts, minds, and eyes of many Royals fans.

By the way, Todd's conclusion that a major reason for lack of attendance is that K.C. is a "small market" (essentially) is by far the best explanation, in my opinion. And when I discussed the greater area (I won't take the time and filter through for direct quotes), I was talking about the entire region....South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, north Arkansas, etc. etc. For the record, I wouldn't necessarily agree with the insinuation that K.C. isn't a baseball town, because it's largely unquantifiable. I think that conclusion is what many fans fear or dislike when people like myself vent my frustrations on the form of the Internet.

At the places where I work, many people know that I am a devoted Royals fan, and very few are interested in the Royals. Very few are interested in sports, at all. It's unfortunate....I have lived in the heart of K.C. for almost 23 years....but I can tell you that they still have a reputation as a sad-sack ballclub. Take it from Greg Schaum of 610 Sports....that is why attracting businesses to promote is so difficult. And yet they have improved substantially each of the past three years and appear to have improved yet again this year, at least in the standings. So perhaps the Royals' marketing and sales department deserves criticism, as well.

Perhaps it's the city's fault. The organization's fault. Perhaps we're just small. I just can't agree with these conclusions based on weather or "it's early" or something along those lines. But who knows the real reason? Perhaps it's a combination.

If you were to ask me to generate every possible reason for stagnant (or even moderately decreasing) attendance, here are the arguments I would formulate:

- We're a small market...therefore, we won't compete consistently with the Chicagos and New Yorks and Bostons. (70%)

- The organization has not promoted its product adequately or well. (30%)

People *should* have taken notice. The fact that the Royals aren't yet a .500 ballclub shouldn't be an excuse. Attendance moves like a ship...but it's never this slow. It wasn't in Milwaukee. And now they're drawing 3+ million, easily.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Trip to Northwest Arkansas, Part One

I traveled to AA Northwest Arkansas this weekend, and caught Saturday's contest against the Arkansas Travelers (Angels' affiliate) on Saturday. I will travel out to the ballpark for Sunday's game (4:00 p.m.).

Several notes from Saturday's game:

- Daniel Cortes demonstrated some composure problems (which he had had in the past), shouting and hurling his glove against the bench following a frustrating performance. Cortes allowed three earned runs in 5 2/3 innings....not a bad performance but a particularly frustrating one given walks and defense. It was probably a 'B' or 'B-' performance, overall. His velocity appeared to taper off as the game progressed, and he did not consistently throw strikes, especially early.... It was a cold evening at the ballyard, for the record. Nonetheless, he'll need to improve to advance to AAA and eventually K.C. (hopefully, he'll get a cup of coffee in September).

- '09 Spring Training invitee and third baseman Corey Smith committed two errors, both of which were obvious routine plays. He missed a towering popup and then later let a ball go between his legs.

- The offense looked stale. They drew six walks but struck out ten times, stranded ten runners, and only scored two runs.

- Relievers Victor Marte - a hard-thrower who I thought resembled Octavio Dotel - and Kyle Crist looked good, pitching 1-2-3 eighth and ninth innings.

- The crowd was rather prolific and into the game despite the fact that there were northerly winds blowing, and it was in the mid 50's, overall.

- Tonight was Kila Ka'aihue bobblehead night. Unfortunately, though, I had to blow quite a bit of money on a Naturals hoodie sweatshirt. It was coooold, and I only brought short-sleeve shirts, thinking that Mays in Arkansas were a little more "Sling Blade"-like and a little less "Fargo"-like. (Two good 90's movies).

- Arvest Ballpark is beautiful, although it's seemingly in the middle of nowhere. I encourage everyone with spare time and money to visit the yard.

Pictures and extensive analysis of '09 draft prospects from the LSU-Arkansas game to come. For the record, I attended the final four innings of the LSU-Ark. contest, and plan on witnessing Sunday's game, in addition to the Nats-Travelers game. So stay tuned!!!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

TRT Live From Springdale

The Royal Treatment has traveled to Northwest Arkansas this weekend where "we" will take in two games between the AA Naturals and the state rivals Arkansas Travelers will engage in ballgames. We were originally going to assist in interviewing players, but because of rainshowers and other plans which were later cancelled, those plans were postponed. Regardless, I'm going to try to give a direct "scouting report" on each player that I encounter while watching baseball games on this trip.

B.A.-ranked #3 prospect Daniel Cortes will start this evening, and Anthony Lerew will start on Sunday.

More information coming stay tuned.

Poll Results, Week Five: The Next Pitcher

First and foremost, all apologies for not updating this blog - and, therefore, the poll, sooner. We all know that Brian Bannister was recalled from AAA Omaha shortly after the most recent TRT poll was assembled, so rather than delve into the results - for the record, the virtual consensus was that Luke Hochevar would be recalled before Bannister and would be the next non-current rotation candidate to make that start - let's delve into Brian Bannister's splits and metrics.

Thus far, it would appear he has been rather lucky, especially when you look at the strikeout-to-walk ratio. His

GS: 2
ERA: 0.69 (1 ER in 13 IP)
K/BB: 3/8
K/9 / K/BB: 2.08 / 5.54
BABIP: .129
LOB: 92.3%
FIP: 4.58

The FIP doesn't look terrible - it's probably about that of an average #3 starter, in fact - but he has been flukish with regard to left on base percentage and batting average on balls in play. That will almost certainly regress sooner rather than later. The strikeout-to-walk ratio, which Bannister has done a good job with in terms of keeping to a respectable ratio throughout the course of his Major and Minor League career - will almost certainly improve, as well.

Let's hope Banny can tame the Twins' suddenly hot bats - what with the return of catcher/All Star Joe Mauer - for this Saturday night. We'll need it, or else we'll likely have to avoid the sweep on Sunday, always an arduous task against a divisional rival who seemingly overcomes talent and uses that ridiculous ballpark - with all its nuances, inconveniences, odd bounces, and obnoxiously loud fans - to its opaque advantage.