Thursday, September 17, 2009

Kansas City Royals - The All-Time 9

On the official Royals website, fans are invited to vote for Royals "All Time 9". The headline at the top of the ballot reads: "What's your dream lineup in Royals franchise history? It's time for you to decide. Vote for the best single-season hitting performances by position in Royals franchise history." It is an interesting promotion that proposes an interesting question, which Royals player had the best season in franchise history at their position. But if there is one thing I've learned in 30 years of being a high school teacher it is this; an interesting question doesn't guarantee an intelligent answer. If the early returns of the voting are accurate, Royals fans are going to completely miss the mark.

According to writer Dick Kaegel's update posted on 9-15,"Mike Sweeney is doing a good job of staving off John Mayberry [at first base] as fans mull over their best single seasons. Sweeney's 144 RBIs in 2000 have convinced a lot of voters and he has a lead of about 2,000 votes."

I understand that considering only the raw numbers presented on the website the argument can be made that Sweeney is the choice. But when the statistics are placed in context of the season in which they were produced, John Mayberry's 1975 season was nothing short of remarkable and far superior to what Mike Sweeney did in 2000.


Fans are given the following information on the ballot:

PLAYERYEARAVGHRRBIRUNSSB
Mayberry1975.29134106955
Sweeney2000.333291441058

If the numbers presented in the table above are the only consideration, the argument can be made that Mike Sweeney was better in 2000 than John Mayberry was in 1975. Sweeney's batting average is 42 points higher and he drove in 38 more runs. But 1975 numbers mean something completely different than those from 2000. When the accomplishments are placed in the context of the season in which they occurred, John Mayberry's 1975 season was superior to what Mike Sweeney produced in 2000 and it isn't even close.

In 2000, Mike Sweeney finished in the top 3 of American League hitters in 2 statistical categories. Sweeney finished 11th in the voting for the American League Most Valuable Player award.

MIKE SWEENEY - 2000
STATAL RANK
Hits3rd
RBI2nd
MVP VOTE11th

Mike Sweeney had a nice season in 2000 but it should be noted he wasn't even the best 1B in the American League. Jason Giambi, who won the AL MVP award in 2000, and Carlos Delgado both had better seasons than Sweeney. So before Royals fans anoint this season as the best ever by a Royals first baseman, they should consider what John Mayberry accomplished in 1975.

John Mayberry was the best 1B in the American League in 1975 and one of the league's top three players. As the table below shows, he was one of the most feared hitters that season and finished in the top 3 of 11 statistical categories. Mayberry also finished second in the voting for the AL Most Valuable Player.

JOHN MAYBERRY - 1975
STATAL RANK
OBP2nd
SLG2nd
OPS2nd
TB2nd
DBL2nd
HR3rd
RBI2nd
BB2nd
MVP VOTE2nd

John Mayberry dominated American League pitching in 1975. Not only was he the best hitting first baseman in the league that year he was one of the American League's top two or three players. John Mayberry's 1975 season is the best individual season by a Kansas City Royal not named George Brett and it is a shame that it is not being remembered or acknowledged by Royals fans.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Steve Physioc and Rex Hudler

Most readers of this blog know that I closely follow the Los Angeles Angels and I watch several Angels’ games on television each week. Recently Angels’ play by play announcer Steve Physioc has come under fire from posters on message boards and bloggers. Some of those posts are full of ignorant venom. Sadly, the individuals responsible have no understanding of the role of the local MLB play-by-play announcer.

One of the common criticisms of the Angels Steve Physioc and his partner Rex Hudler is they are "homers" who do not highlight mistakes and struggles by the players or point out the team’s shortcomings. In one respect the critics have it right, both Physioc and Hudler are cheerleaders for the Angels, that is what they should be. The role of the local play-by-play announcer is not to be an objective journalist but to be part of the team’s public relations department. I like the positive tone Physioc and Hudler have when announcing a game. They have the same high energy from first pitch to last and their positive approach makes the game enjoyable to watch. In many ways a baseball telecast is a 3-hour infomercial designed to attract fans to the ballpark, encourage people to buy the team’s caps and jersey’s, and to watch more of the games on television. This means the broadcast is geared toward the causal, and not the hardcore, fan. The hardcore fan is going to watch the majority of the telecasts and attend several games a year regardless of who the announcers are. But the casual fan is going to enjoy baseball for the entertainment value. Having the local announcer constantly pointing out what is wrong with the team is not going to give the casual viewer a reason to follow the team.

I understand when Steve Physioc uses CERA to show that Jeff Mathis has value to the Angels that he is spouting nonsense. And, like most hardcore fans, I cringe a little when he goes on about productive outs and clutch hitting. But it is wrong to expect Physioc to point out Mathis is an automatic out at the plate and Mike Napoli would provide the team with more offense. The casual fan could care less about any of that. This fan wants to know that if they buy a ticket to a game they will be seeing a good product and it is Physioc and Hudler’s job to sell him on that idea. Physioc and Hudler are a part of Angels baseball to me and I miss them when they are not on the television broadcast. If the hardcore fan does not like their positive approach to the Angels and wants objective commentary, they need to look at other sites and in newspapers.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Yuniesky Betancourt - Neifi Perez Part II

Earlier today the Kansas City Royals acquired shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt from the Seattle Mariners. I understand that Betancourt will be an upgrade over Tony Pena Jr. but most high school junior varsity shortstops would be an upgrade over Pena. I am sure the Royals fans that believe Dayton Moore walks on water will be excited and view this trade as a good move. But intelligent Royals fans will see this deal as another of Moore's misguided attempts to improve team.

Dayton Moore is quoted in the Kansas City Star as saying "His [Betancourt] on-base percentage is something that’s lacking, but he’s a career .279 hitter." Obviously Moore doesn't understand the importance of on-base percentage while at the same time overvaluing batting average. What should be distressing to Royals fans is the club has been down this road before. Neifi Perez's career statistics before being traded to the Royals are almost identical to Betancourt's.

PlayerABAVGOBPSLGAB/K
Neifi Perez2728.279.309.3969.5
Y. Betancourt2206.279.302.39311.9

In fairness to Moore, it should be pointed out he didn't give up a valuable Major League player like Jermaine Dye to get Betancourt. But regardless of who Moore gave up in the trade, it should bother Royals fans that his way of improving the team is trading for the second coming of Neifi Perez.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Time for a Realistic Look at the Royals

For more than two years I have been listening to the Dayton Moore defenders tell me the Royals are improving. These defenders of Dayton Moore say the ship is being righted and the Royals are on their way to being a playoff contender. But the first half of the 2009 season is in the books and the Kansas City Royals are no closer to being a playoff team than the day Dayton Moore was hired. It is time for Dayton Moore to be held accountable for the debacle the Royals have become.

The list of Moore's failures and misjudgments is long but to me nothing stands out more than the Mike Jacobs trade. Before the trade was officially announced I make this comment on Rounding Third, "If trading for a player like Mike Jacobs is general manager Dayton Moore's idea of improving the team, the Kansas City Royals will never be a contending team in the American League Central Division." That was a strong statement then and I stand by it now.

Currently, Mike Jacobs is hitting .223 (.188 against left-handed pitching) with an OBP of .299. Because of his lousy fielding at 1B, Jacobs is now nothing more than a DH. In an effort to build a competitive team, Dayton Moore traded a decent relief pitcher for a player with no plate discipline, who cannot play in the field, and has to be platooned against left-handed pitchers. Keep in mind too that Jacobs is burying Kila Ka'aihue at Omaha. Ka'aihue is once again putting up decent numbers at AAA and I have no doubt would provide the Royals more value than Jacobs is.

When the Jacobs trade is added to the three year contract given Jose Guillen and the two year contracts given to Willie Bloomquist, Juan Cruz, Kyle Farnsworth, and Yasuhiko Yabuta it becomes clear the blame for the Royals' current struggles can be placed squarely on the shoulders of Dayton Moore. I realize it is not possible to fire Moore right now. But if he continues to make poor decisions, the Glass family is going to have to realize Moore is not the GM the Royals need and show him the door.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Alberto Callaspo Trade

Yesterday, Angelswin.com Executive Editor Chuck Richter posted his thoughts on Royals 2B Alberto Callaspo: "Despite his [Callaspo] off the field issue, the dude can hit. He has a 94 percent contact rate and a great batters eye. He's hitting .358 and that's after an 0-5 game last night. His 10 walks to 5 strikeouts is pretty solid too. His minor league track record was solid before being jerked around by the D-Backs. In 2005 he hit .304 with 29 doubles, 2 triples, 11 homers and 80 RBI in 139 games. In 2006 he hit .337 with 24 doubles, 12 triples, 7 home runs and 68 RBI in 114 games. Along the way, Callaspo walked 229 times while only striking out 145. Just for fun, is Callaspo > Bulger and Aybar?...perhaps we [Angels] traded the wrong MI a couple years ago?"

Alberto Callaspo is an interesting topic to discuss because the Royals and Angels open a three game series tonight in Anaheim and Alberto Callaspo is a key player for the first place Royals. Callaspo is also a former member of the Salt Lake Bees and I have closely followed his career. I don't believe Chuck was being critical of the Angels for trading Callaspo but the trade is a timely topic for discussion.

Chuck's question is in regard to the February 2006 trade where the Angels sent Alberto Callaspo to the Arizona Diamondbacks for relief pitcher Jason Bulger.
In evaluating the Angels' decision to trade Callaspo, fans should keep in mind the state of the Angels organization when the trade was made. At the Major League level the Angels were set with Orlando Cabrera, Chone Figgins, Macier Izturis, and Adam Kennedy ready to man the middle infield positions. Eric Aybar and Howie Kendrick were coming off great years in Double A and were ready to take over SS and 2b for the Bees. One level behind Aybar and Kendrick was Minor League Player of the Year Brandon Wood who had a monster season in 2005. Callaspo had a good year at Salt Lake in 2005 but he was blocked from moving up and the Angels had what appeared to be better players behind him. It is unfortunate that Jason Bulger has yet to work out for the Angels but moving Callaspo for pitching depth made perfect sense in the winter of 2006.

From the Royals perspective, GM Dayton Moore deserves credit for acquiring Callaspo. Callaspo is exactly the type of pickup the Royals will have to make if they are going compete for the playoffs. Callaspo is a solid contact hitter with excellent strike zone judgment and plate discipline. He is currently hitting .359/.417/.565 and is second in the American League in doubles. I don't believe anyone expects him to keep up this pace for the entire season, but Alberto Callaspo should remain a productive part of the Royals lineup.

This blog also appears at Angelswin.com, the best Los Angeles Angels site on the web.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

John Lackey Update

Help is on the way for the Angels pitching staff! John Lackey looked very good last night pitching for the Salt Lake Bees and it appears he is close to rejoining the Angels. Limited to 60 pitches, Lackey pitched into the 5th inning for the Bees. Putting up a line of 0 runs, 1 hit, 3 strikeouts, and 1 walk, Lackey did an effective job of mixing his pitches and keeping the Tacoma hitters off balance the entire night. Responding to the ovation from the Salt Lake crowd as he left the game, Lackey smiled and tipped his cap. Lackey is scheduled to pitch for the Bees again this weekend in Portland. If that start goes well he will join the Angels. Based on what I observed last night, he is almost ready to resume his role as the Angels #1 starter.

Having a Major League All Star like John Lackey in Utah was not the only highlight of the evening. The Salt Lake Bees became only the third team in the history of the Pacific Coast League to hit two grand slam homeruns in one inning. Outfielder Brad Coon and catcher Bobby Wilson both hit bases loaded bombs in the 4th inning off of former Bees pitcher Steve Shell. I felt bad for Shell because he is one of the truly nice guys in baseball but it was an impressive performance by the Bees hitters.


video

Monday, April 27, 2009

Wood Rot

This entry is written by Eric Denton and was originally posted on the blog at Angelswin.com, the best Los Angeles of Angels of Anaheim site on the 'net. A big thanks to Angelswin senior writer Eric Denton and executive editor Chuck Richtar for allowing it to be posted here. Eric does a good job of pointing out the Angels mishandling of top prospect Brandon Wood.


By Eric Denton - Senior Writer - Angelswin.com

Brandon Wood was recalled for what seems to be the 100th time in his brief major league career. Despite his hot hitting at AAA Salt Lake and Erick Aybar's sub-par play thus far he is on the bench yet again for tonight's game against Seattle.

Scioscia believes Aybar has All Star potential, but frankly it seems the only ones who see it is Mike, his coaching staff and maybe Tony Reagins.

Scioscia keeps saying Wood's "time will come" to the local media. He reiterated this stance this afternoon on "The Drive with Jeff Biggs"

"The offense needs some things not just power, on-base percentage and working counts." he said.

"Right now he isn't the end all, be all answer to our offensive problems." he said.

"We want to see some lineup consistency with Izturis and Aybar" he said.

How does anyone know if he isn't the answer to both on base and power issues?
How is there line up consistency if Aybar and Izturis end up playing 80 games a piece?

Brandon has sat since Wednesday and wont play until Sunday. Is anyone honestly expecting Wood to come off the bench cold and go 3-4 with a home run or is it more likely that he'll take an 0-4?

I don't want to say he's being set up for failure but Wood is not being groomed to be a utility player. If the number one hitting prospect in the organization isn't going to play everyday when he is on the big league roster then it's best just to keep him in the minors. Sean Rodriguez is much better suited for a bench role and while he's shown potential in the minors, he certainly hasn't captured the fans excitement to see him in the lineup everyday.

It would be refreshing if Scioscia would just say what he believes, that Brandon Wood is not a major league short-stop on a team with Erick Aybar and Macier Izturis on the roster. He's capable as a fill in but long term he's a third baseman and when he says "his time will come" he means only if Chone Figgins moves to the outfield, second-base or leaves via free agency in 2010.

Unless Mike changes his view on the defensive aspect of the game (like he has regarding starting Mike Napoli over Jeff Mathis) fans should get used to Wood riding the pine for nine or move to Salt Lake City if they want to see him play regularly, because it's not going to happen in Anaheim anytime soon.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

MLB Blackout Need to Be Changed

I was watching the Royals game this afternoon when the announcer mentioned that Giants pitcher Randy Johnson had a no-hitter through 5 innings. I immediately switched to the Giants game only to discover the game was blacked out in Utah. The reason for the blackout is the Giants were playing the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Diamondbacks have territorial rights to broadcast its games in Utah. MLB Extra Innings cannot broadcast a game in the market where a team has territorial rights. The frustrating part of it all is, even though the Diamondbacks have territorial rights to broadcast its games in Utah, Arizona games are not available in the Salt Lake City market. The FSN station that is available on Directv in Salt Lake broadcasts the Colorado Rockies games but the Diamondbacks games are unavailable. Looking at the MLB blackout map below, it becomes clear that Major League Baseball needs to rethink its blackout policy.

click on the map for larger image

I'm lucky living in Utah because the only team I cannot see play is the Diamondbacks. In Iowa, the Cardinals, Royals, Cubs, White Sox, Brewers, and Twins are not available to MLB Extra Innings subscribers. If one of the local stations does not carry the game, the fans of these teams living in Iowa are unable to see their favorite team play. In Las Vegas, the Angels, Dodgers, Giants, A's Diamondbacks, and Padres games are all blacked out.

There is no way these types of blackouts are in the best interest of baseball. Baseball needs to make the broadcasts of its games more available. The solution is simple, if a station in a local market is not carrying the broadcast the game should be available on MLB Extra Innings. Bud Selig has made an effort to grow baseball's popularity and making more games available for fans to watch is a way to do this.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Horrible Turn of Events

The best part of being a Bees fan is watching players that have played for Salt Lake perform well in the Major Leagues. Last night, I cheered on every pitch thrown by former Salt Lake Bees pitcher Nick Adenhart as he shut out the Oakland A's for six innings. Watching his confidence grow with each inning left me with no doubt that he was taking a giant step toward realizing his outstanding potential. Sadly, last night's outing against Oakland was Nick Adenhart's final appearance. Hours after the game he was tragically killed in a auto accident.

I got to know Nick Adenhart a little bit while he was pitching for the Bees. He was a highly rated prospect and he struggled in the second half of the 2008 season. But he never lost his determination or dedication. He was a great kid and you couldn't help but root for him. A young life was tragically lost last night. My prayers go out to his family and teammates.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Baseball Prospectus on the Royals

If you are more than a casual baseball fan the one site you should subscribe too is Baseball Prospectus. BP contains the most thorough, intelligent baseball analysis on the web. Baseball Prospectus'annual publication and podcasts are essential to all baseball fans that are looking for a deeper understanding of the game. I don't always agree with what is published by BP, but it is always an interesting read.

In his
Hit and Run column today, BP writer Jay Jaffe gives his view of the American League Central. To read the entire article requires a subscription, but Jaffe characterizes the Royals off season and 2009 club as "the good, the bad, and the ugly." Taking the same view as me, Jaffe rates the trade for Coco Crip as good and the signing of Mike Jacobs and Willie Bloomquist as ugly.

Jaffe nails it when he describes Jacobs as an
"OBP-challenged, defensively inept first basemen." He goes on to say first basemen like Jacobs "don't just grow on trees, they grow like weeds in Triple-A-sized ditches across the land, and at least when you pluck those weeds, they're not arbitration eligible."

But Jaffe saved his most astute observation for the Willie Bloomquist signing.
"We've made an off-color joke at his [Bloomquist] expense before, but at least the Mariners weren't paying free-agent prices for the privilege of catching the disease, whereas the Royals are: $3.1 million over two years for a guy whose contribution can be equaled by just about anyone in the phone book." Jaffe won't get any argument from me, or anyone else that understands baseball, about his analysis of the Bloomquist signing.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

PED Users in the WBC?

Last week I received this email from Fred, a regular reader of this blog.

"Here's one to ponder in a blog. If J.C. Romero should be able to pitch in the MLB sponsored World Baseball Classic. I say no that if steroid users are able to play in the World Baseball Classic then MLB should pull their sponsorship since he will be serving a 50 game suspension for steroids. Come on MLB lets gets serious about the steroid issue."

Before I comment on the issue Fred raises I want to say a word about J.C. Romero. If I made a list of my favorite all time baseball players J.C. Romero would be near the top. In an entry posted last fall, I discussed my view of J.C. Romero. It was extremely disappointing when it was reported that he tested positive for a banned substance and was being suspended for 50 games. I am not going into detail about the circumstances of Romero's suspension. If you are interested in what happened, I recommend you check out Peter Gammons' report from January.

The World Baseball Classic is an endeavor of Major League Baseball. The coverage of the event on MLB.com and MLB Network is extensive and Commissioner Bud Selig never misses an opportunity to discuss the merits of the WBC. Given Major League Baseball's commitment to the WBC, the question Fred raises deserves an answer. If Bud Selig and Major League baseball are serious about eliminating the use of performance-enhancing-drugs in the sport, why is a player who is suspended from baseball for PED use allowed to participate in one of baseball's high profile events? Does Commissioner Selig want to avoid bad publicity relating to one of his pet projects? Is MLB trying to avoid an international incident by not dealing with a player from Puerto Rico? Is there a loophole in the drug testing agreement with Players Association that needs to be closed? I don't have the answers to this questions but Commissioner Selig and Major League Baseball owes every fan an answer. Until the answers are provided, the shadow of doubt that performance enhancing drugs have cast over baseball will remain.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Unbelievable!

What a game tonight! The Netherlands beating the Dominican Republic 2-1 in the World Baseball Classic didn't have the political implications of the 1980 USA v Soviet Union "Miracle On Ice" Olympic hockey game, but the magnitude of the upset is just as amazing. This game was one of the biggest upsets I can think of. A vaunted Dominican team, loaded with Major League all-stars and future Hall of Famers, falling to a team made up of players from Holland, the Netherlands Antilles, and Aruba can only be described as unbelievable.

The report on ESPN SportsCenter highlighted the make up of the two teams.

Dominican Rep.
Netherlands
23
Current MLB Players
2
$83 million
MLB Salaries
$.4 million
4
2008 All Stars
0
518
Career MLB Wins
95
1801
Career MLB HR
82
Note: Sidney Ponson has 90 of the 94 wins and Randell Simon has 49 of the 82 homeruns for the Netherlands.

The two teams squared off last Friday with the Netherlands winning 3-2. This was a shocker but most believed it was a one time event and there was no way the Netherlands would be able to advance. "That was a team we should have trounced 9-0," Dominican Republic manager Felipe Alou was quoted as saying after the game. To be honest, I agreed with Alou. Even though the Netherlands beat the Dominican Republic and put up a great fight before losing to Puerto Rico on Monday, I didn't see a way they could beat the Dominican again.

Because I am a baseball fan and enjoy having competitive games to watch in mid-March, I tuned in last night. Tension rose each scoreless inning as the Netherlands matched the Dominican pitch for pitch. Finally the Dominican pushed a run across in the bottom of the 11th and I don't think I was alone in believing the game was over. But the Dutch battled back and scored twice in the bottom of the 11th to win. Jose Reyes, Miguel Tejada, Jose Guillen, Miguel Olivo and the rest of the Dominican Republic looked on in stunned silence at a group of players, described by KMOX radio host Kevin Wheeler as "a team of has-beens and never-weres - whose best hitter is remembered more for his hit on a racing sausage than for his big league career" widely celebrated.

I've watched a lot of the World Baseball Classic games so far this year. Unlike a lot of baseball fans, I believe the Classic is a good idea and I enjoy it. I know there are flaws but, thanks in part to the 2009 team from the Netherlands, the WBC is on its way to fulfilling Bud Selig's vision when he began the WBC in 2006.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Some Hope From Royals Camp!

In a previous entry I wrote that I was convinced that Ross Gload, "at the expense of better players with more potential," would play a "significant" role for the Royals in 2009." But after reading Bob Dutton's report in today's Kansas City Star, I am now cautiously optimistic I might have been wrong. Is it possible that Dayton Moore and Trey Hillman finally realize that Ross Gload, a player who's only "skill" is making a so-called productive out, has no value to the Royals?

At the time I wrote the entry mentioned above, I didn't believe that Moore would consider releasing Gload and eating his nearly $2 million salary. Ross Gload is Dayton Moore's boy. Moore signed Gload to a two year contract when every other Major League team would have given him a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. But the headline over Dutton's report, "Gload battling the odds to keep spot on Royals’ roster" is a clear indication that Moore and Hillman are, at the very list, thinking about admitting the Gload signing was a mistake and cutting their losses. It is far from certain the Royals will waive Gload but knowing that Moore and Hillman are considering the possibility should make every Royals fan smile.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Forgotten Catcher: Bobby Wilson

Bobby Wilson is an "odd man out" for the Angels. Currently, Wilson is blocked by the Angels Major League catching tandem of Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis and approaching from behind is Angelswin.com #1 ranked prospect Hank Conger. Baring an unforeseen trade or injury, Wilson will return to Salt Lake for a third straight season and it appears circumstances will prevent Wilson from ever being a part of the Angels Major League roster. This is unfortunate because Bobby Wilson is a better player than Jeff Mathis and he would do a good job as the Angels #2 catcher in 2009.

Bobby Wilson's strength is his defense and I rate his defensive skills as Major League ready. Behind the plate he displays excellent footwork and does a good job of blocking balls in the dirt. He has a strong, accurate throwing arm. For the Bees in 2008 he threw out 43% of runners attempting to steal. He handles the pitching staff well and the Salt Lake pitchers seem to have a great deal of confidence in him. I have seen the majority of home games that both Jeff Mathis and Bobby Wilson have caught in AAA and I would give the edge to Wilson as a defensive catcher.

Wilson is not a spectacular hitting prospect. He is a line drive type of hitter with little power. But he does make solid contact and he hits the ball with authority. Wilson's 2008 hitting line of .312/.386/.435 was better than any season Jeff Mathis had for Salt Lake. In my observation, Wilson has more hitting potential than Mathis.

It is highly unlikely Bobby Wilson has much of a chance to make the 2009 Angels squad in 2009. Jeff Mathis is familiar with the current Angels pitching staff and Mike Scioscia has a lot of faith in him. This entry is not a knock on Jeff Mathis and I believe he will have a nice rebound season in 2009. But in terms of baseball ability, Bobby Wilson is a better player than Mathis. It will be nice to have Wilson back in Salt Lake this year but I hope he is soon able to move to another organization. There are several teams who could use Bobby Wilson to fill their #2 catching slot.

This entry is also posted on the Angelswin.com blog. Angelswin.com is the best site on the 'net for fans of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Opening Day 25 Man Roster

I promise everyone this is my last entry lamenting that Willie Bloomquist and Ross Gload are members of the Kansas City Royals. The battle is lost and I surrender. After reading Dick Kaegel's latest column on kcroyals.com, I am convinced that both Bloomquist and Gload, at the expense of better players with more potential, are going to play "significant" roles for the Royals in 2009.

Frequent visitors to kcroyals.com are aware that Dick Kaegel is an unofficial member of the Kansas City Royals PR department masquerading as a journalist. Fans seeking in depth reporting and unbiased analysis of the Kansas City Royals will waste their time reading much of what is posted at kcroyals.com. But Kaegel's work has value because he provides clues to what Hillman and Moore are thinking. In his latest column, Kaegel reports how the Royals roster might look when the team breaks camp. Unfortunately for Royals fans, it appears that the team is going to begin the regular season will not be the best possible team the Royals could field.


In theory, the biggest question mark for the Royals in 2009 is second base. The Royals are giving the perception that Mark Teahen, Alberto Callaspo, and Willie Bloomquist are all candidates for the job and each has a chance to win the position. But after reading Kaegel's column I am convinced the competition is an illusion and the decision has already been made.


"Willie Bloomquist, Alberto Callaspo and Mark Teahen are in a rumble around second base...Bloomquist might have an edge. He's got more experience than Teahen at second base and more range than Callaspo...Bloomquist was signed to a two-year contract which also might work in his favor."


Unless something has changed since the website went online, Kaegel would not post this if he didn't have the scoop from Hillman or Moore. So even though Callaspo has the potential to be an above average Major League hitter and Mark Teahen is athletic enough to possibly play the position, the Royals are going to compound a horrible free agent signing by handing him a starting job. Bloomquist might have a little more range than Callaspo and more experience than Teahen. But he is still the same player that isn't strong enough to hit the ball in the air to the outfield and isn't good enough to start for the AAA Salt Lake Bees.


Kaegel also commented on Ross Gload and Ryan Shealy's chances of making the team.


"Ross Gload, probably the best-fielding first baseman, can also play the outfield. His glove offers nice late-inning protection at first."


"Ryan Shealy logged a lot of time at first base in September and cranked seven homers, putting himself back in the mix. He's facing a numbers crunch although he has a good glove, too, and could be a big bat off the bench."


Gload is presented as a good glove who can play multiple positions while Shealy is facing a numbers crunch. Kaegel does point out that Shealy has a good glove, but there is no doubt Gload has the edge. This is another red flag for Royals fans. Ross Gload is a good defensive first baseman and he can play the outfield. But the Royals have a surplus of outfielders and Shealy blindfolded can hit better than Gload. There is no reason for Ross Gload to be anywhere on the Royals 25 man roster but I have no doubt he will be.


As spring training moves forward, I will post no more entries about whether Bloomquist and Gload should make the club. They are going to make it and it is time to move on to other issues. But if Willie Bloomquist is in the lineup and Ross Gload is on the 25 man roster on opening day, it is more proof that Dayton Moore is not the general manager that is going to assemble a contending team in Kansas City.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The First "Game" of the Spring


It was great to read the reports from Royals spring training this morning. After an active winter, there is finally on the field action to discuss. It was only an intrasquad game but Dick Kaegel's report that is posted on kcroyals.com and Bob Dutton's piece for the KC Star offer Royals fans first hand accounts of the action. Although both Kaegel and Dutton's reports accurately detail the happenings of the scrimmage neither offer any analysis. So, in the interest of fans that like to look below the surface, I will offer some random thoughts on the Royals first "game" of the spring.

Ryan Shealy and Ross Gload, players competing against each other for one of the final roster slots, hit homeruns. But, while Ross Gload was allowed to circle the bases after his ball left the yard, Ryan Shealy was held at first base to set up a runner on first-no out situation. According to Kaegel, "

"You don't see that every day," Shealy said....Normally you get to circle the bases. Instead, I had to try to break up a double play...." Sure enough, when Alex Gordon followed by rapping into a double play, Shealy had to slide into second base.

Even though it worked out and Shealy was able to work on breaking up a double play, the question remains why did manager Trey Hillman do this with Alex Gordon at the plate? This would have been the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the abilities of Willie Bloomquist. In order to practice breaking up a double play the hitter must hit a weak ground ball or two-hopper to an infielder. Willie Bloomquist is one of the best in the Major Leagues at hitting these types of balls and yet Hillman chose to use Gordon. Not the wisest use of personnel.

Former Salt Lake player Alberto Callaspo had two hits. Hillman described Callaspo's performance this way:

"He [Callaspo] had a couple of nice ABs," manager Trey Hillman said of Callaspo. "Bert can hit. I think he's one of those guys who can just hit getting out of bed."

The 2008 Royals finished 12th in the American League in runs scored and 12th in on-base-percentage. Heading into 2009 they have a player in Callaspo that is under contract for near the Major League minimum and the manager of the team says he can "hit getting out of bed." Yet Dayton Moore felt the need to sign Willie Bloomquist to a two-year contract to battle him for the position. I'm still waiting for an intelligent reason for the Bloomquist signing.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Royals Rotation - Luke Hochevar

Last spring, the Royals were deciding whether former #1 draft draft choice Luke Hochevar was ready to be a part of the Royals rotation or needed more time in the minor leagues. A year later, Hochevar's future with the Royals is not much clearer. Hochevar is more of an enigma than Major League pitcher. 2009 is a make or break year for Hochevar and the Royals need to give him every opportunity to establish himself.

The first time I saw Luke Hochevar pitch was in a AAA game in 2007. The Omaha Royals were playing the Salt Lake Bees and Hochevar did not demonstrate any of the talent or skill that a Major League pitcher should possess. In a previous blog entry I described Hochevar's performance this way:

Even though he [Hochevar] was the winning pitcher I was unimpressed. His box score line was okay, 6 IP, 2 earned runs, 8 hits, 4 strikeouts and 2 walks. Even though his numbers were average, Hochevar was very lucky. The Bees hit line drive after line drive that were either hit directly at an infielder or ran down in the outfield. Salt Lake stole four bases and all of them were the result of Hochevar doing a lousy job holding the runners. The 4th inning of the game raised a big red flag to me. With two outs the runner on second base steals third, arriving at the bag before Hochevar's pitch was in the catcher's mitt. The Omaha pitching coach visits the mound in what I assume was an effort to get Hochevar to do a better job of holding runners. On the next pitch, Hochevar drills the Salt Lake hitter in the middle of the back. I viewed this as immature and bush league. Perhaps Hochevar has grown up since last July [2007], but the Royals need to be completely sure before entrusting him with a Major League job.


Hochevar made 22 starts for the Royals in 2008 and over all he looked nothing like a #1 draft choice. Most knowledgeable baseball fans know that ERA is usually not a true measure of a pitcher's ability and performance. But Hochevar's 5.51 ERA, along with a 1.54 K/BB ratio, paint an accurate picture of how mediocre he was. Most disappointing is Hochevar displayed little to give Royals fans hope that he will be able to improve and be a productive member of the rotation. Unless there is a drastic change, the Hochevar I saw pitch in Salt Lake in 2007 will be a true picture of him as a Major Leaguer.


The Royals have no choice but to put Hochevar in the rotation and hope he can establish himself as a Major League pitcher. If Hochevar does develop into a serviceable Major League pitcher the Royals will have another piece in their effort to build a contending team. If Hochevar continues to struggle, the Royals are going to have to bite the bullet and add Hochevar's name to the list of #1 draft choice busts.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Royals Rotation - Kyle Davies

Spring training is here and every Major League team can make a case this is their year to compete for a division title. Optimism among Royals fans is running high as most believe Dayton Moore is building a contending team in Kansas City. Even a skeptic like me sees the progress the team is making. The farm system is strong, locking up Zack Greinke to a long term deal was the best move the Royals have made in years, and 2009 could be the year that Alex Gordon and Billy Butler establish themselves as quality Major League hitters. But if the Royals are going to finish above .500 in 2009, the pitchers that follow Meche and Greinke in the rotation are going to have to be at least Major League average. According to the depth chart on the Royals website, Brian Bannister is listed as the #3 starter, Luke Hochevar is slotted in the #4 sport, and Kyle Davies is penciled in at #5. This post is going to take a look at Kyle Davies and how he will help the Royals in 2009.

Kyle Davies could turn out to be one of Dayton Moore's moves as Royals GM. Davies will not turn 26 until September and one scouting report describes Davies in the following way:

His [Davies] fastball sits in the low-90's but he can spot it anywhere. It is supplemented by a great change-up and strong curve.

Davies established himself as above average Major League pitcher in the second half of the 2008 season.

PLAYERIPWHHRSOBBERAH9HR9SO/9BB/9SO/BB
Davies64.0662546233.668.7.706.53.22.0

Davies' walk rate was a little higher than desired but in the second half of 2008 he demonstrated the ability to strike hitters out and keep the ball in the ball park. Another telling stat is Davies' 40/29 ground ball/fly ball ratio for the entire 2008 season. A pitcher with three quality pitches that makes hitters hit the ball on the ground has the make up to be good Major League starting pitcher.
After the 2008 All-Star break, Royals fans witnessed the real Kyle Davies and he is going to be a valuable member of the 2009 Royals rotation.

Hopefully Dayton Moore and Trey Hillman will realize what the Royals have in Kyle Davies. He is a far better pitcher than Brian Bannister and Luke Hochevar still has some growing to do. If the season began today it is Davies who should be the #3 man in the Royals rotation.

Next up, Rounding Third will take a look at former #1 draft choice Luke Hochevar.

Monday, February 16, 2009

What to Expect from Brian Bannister

Sunday evening I was visiting with my younger brother about the Royals in 2009 and the subject of Brian Bannister came up. My brother was telling me what Joe Posnanski's Projecting the Best for the Royals in 2009 said about Bannister and as I listened I couldn't believe there are still people holding out hope for him to be a productive member of the Royals rotation.

All the projections expect Bannister to rebound somewhat after last year’s rough, rough season (9-16, 5.76 ERA). Most expect him to have an ERA somewhere around 5.00, and to win eight to 10 games. I tend to see it like Bill James does; I see Bannister having a nice bounce-back season and settle in as a solid third or fourth starter. But I’ll admit that I see this one entirely with my heart; Banny is my favorite player in the game.

I will give Posnanski credit for being honest about why he sees the glass half full when discussing Bannister. I have already written several times about Bannister and I am not going into all of the statistical data again. But most knowledgeable analysts, including Bill James, project Bannister to have a 2009 season that reflects his mediocre ability.
Publication
IPWLSOERAWHIP
Baseball Prospectus
160812905.301.50
The Sporting News
1839161135.761.49
Baseball HQ
145713865.031.43


There is justification for Bannister being a part of the 2009 Royals rotation. Occasionally things do break right for him and he ends up on the winning end of the final score. Bannister can eat innings and rest the bullpen. By all accounts, Brian Bannister is an intelligent young man who handles himself with a high level of class. But Dayton Moore and Trey Hillman are making a mistake if they look at Bannister as a young prospect who still has the chance to develop into even an average Major League starting pitcher.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

What to Expect from Joe Saunders

This idea for this entry began with a recent discussion on Angelswin.com that centered around left hander Joe Saunders. But before I discuss Joe Saunders I am going to revisit an exchange I had with Kansas City Royals fans on the message board at kcroyals.com because it directly relates to what I am going to say about Joe Saunders.

At the end of the 2007 season, the Royals believed they had struck gold with a young pitcher named Brian Bannister. Pitching for the last place Royals, Bannister won 12 games with an ERA of 3.87. Most Royals fans hailed GM Dayton Moore as a genius for acquiring Bannister and believed Bannister would be a top of the rotation starter for the Royals for many seasons. At the time I believed Bannister's 2007 season was more a product of luck than pitching skill and ability and in October 2007 I posted the following on the Royals message board:


"I do not share the excitement of other Royals fans about Bannister. I know he had a decent ERA in 07 but he didn't strikeout many hitters while walking too many batters. I see a huge drop off in his performance in 2008. I know pitchers like Paul Byrd don't strikeout a lot of hitters, but they don't walk many either. Bannister has average stuff and his positive performance in 2007 had as much to do with luck as anything else. I hope I am wrong, but my thought is Royals fans that are expecting Bannister to improve or even maintain his 2007 numbers are going to be disappointed....I believe there is a lot of merit in using the Batting Average of Balls in Play
(BABIP) statistic to analyze the performance of pitcher. Since the overall AL BABIP in 2007 was .305 and Bannister's BABIP was .264, I would consider his 3.87 ERA in 2007 to be, in large part, attributed to his good luck. I hope I am wrong about Bannister, but I don't see him as any tougher or smarter than most Major League pitchers and I think he will come down to earth in 2008 and we will see a significant increase in his ERA and over all performance."

These comments regarding Bannister were met with hostility from Royals fans.

"How do you figure it had to do with luck? What I saw was a kid who, even when he did put too many guys on base, always found a way to get himself out of jams. He is extremely tough and smart in that regard"

"As for the rest of your BABIP talk - that all sounds great. I watched him pitch a lot of games. And I saw him work himself out of a lot of jams. I suppose you can call that luck if you want. I saw it as making good pitches when he needed to, and being tough enough to make those pitches in pressure situations."

"Did you actually watch him pitch any? If you did, then I dont' see much of a way that you can argue that he didn't show the ability to battle when in a jam - regardless of what the stats show."

"I see Bannister in this rotation longer than I see Greinke or Meche because he will remain consistent"

Even before the 2008 season ended I was completely vindicated. Bannister's season was a total disaster and he was no longer a part of the Royals' rotation. Comparing Bannister's 2008 performance with 2007, it is easy to see what happened. He struck out more hitters in 2008, his walk rate remained consistent, yet his ERA jumped almost two runs a game and he was ineffective pitcher.

yearplayeripwinsh9so9bb9so/bberawhipbabip
2007Bannister165128.514.202.401.753.871.21.264
2008Bannister183
910.595.572.861.955.761.49
.315

The big reason for Bannister's collapse in 2008 is that he wasn't as lucky as he was in 2007. The hard hit balls that were outs in 2007 were base hits in 2008. When his BABIP returned to a more normal .315 his deficiencies as a pitcher were revealed.


This brings us to Joe Saunders and the recent discussion about him on Angelswin.com. The posters on Angelswin.com were in agreement that Saunders had arrived as a Major League pitcher in 2008 and he was only going to get better in 2009. Then a poster named ModernFaulkner posted the following:

"His [Saunders] atypically low .269 BABIP (batting average of balls in play) last year would suggest he's in line for worse core numbers in 2009 (ERA etc)"

Astute observation but, in the same way Royals fans responded to my comments about Brian Bannister, ModernFaulkner was quickly taken to task and mocked for using the BABIP statistic in his observation of Saunders.

"it [low BABIP] could suggest he's getting better"

"not buying it. If Pitcher A consistently hits the low corners and batters put those balls into play, i'm sure his BABIP will be lower than Pitcher B who throws straight average fastballs down the middle of the plate."

"The guy was solid as a rock all year. To me that means he didn't just have a good run to luck into those numbers, he figured it out and did a good job on the mound every fifth day."

Plus his moon is rising over Mars, and we all know that means he's in for a difficult year.


Because the comments and responses were so similar, I thought it would be interesting to compare Saunders' 2008 season with the one Bannister had in 2007. It is striking how similar the results are.

yearplayeripwinsh9so9bb9so/bberawhipbabip
2007Bannister165128.514.202.401.753.871.21.264
2008Saunders
198
17
8.504.682.411.943.411.21
.269

I am concerned Joe Saunders will have a drop off in 2009. His 3.87 ERA in 2008 was a result of good fortune rather than him finally "figuring it out" or "pitching smarter." It is likely Saunders' BABIP will regress to the league average in 2009. This will result in a significant increase in his ERA and runs allowed and Angels fans will be disappointed. I hope I am wrong about Saunders. I hope his good fortune continues and he makes the All-Star team in 2009. But I am not confident this will happen.


This blog entry also appears at Angelswin.com The best site for Angels baseball on the 'net.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Willie Bloomquist-What is Dayton Moore Thinking?

According to the club's official website, the Royals have signed Willie Bloomquist. The Bloomquist signing is another entry on the list of poor moves by Royals GM Dayton Moore. With each free agent signing and trade, Dayton Moore is proving to Royals fans that he is completely clueless on how to go about building a playoff caliber team. Despite Moore's "best" efforts the Royals are no closer to being a contending team than when he assumed the position of Royals GM.

In Dick Kaegel's report on the Royals website, Moore describes Bloomquist as "an on-base guy." Anyone that describes Willie Bloomquist as an "on-base guy" is not qualified to hold the GM position of a Major League baseball team. During the past three seasons the average American League OBP has been in the neighborhood of .335. Bloomquist's career OBP of .322 is well below the American League average. Bloomquist did post an OBP of .377 in 2008 but, given his over all career performance, this was an anomonoly.

Moore describes Bloomquist as "speed-type player and a hustler....a Craig Counsell-type who really plays hard, hustles and knows how to play." This sounds good but the Royals need players that can actually play the game at a Major League level. Willie Bloomquist is not such a player.