Thursday, May 27, 2010

Playing the Game the Right Way???

Yesterday afternoon I watched the Royals play the Rangers and was disappointed to see the type of baseball the Royals are still playing. Behind Luke Hochevar's outstanding performance the Royals did win the game, but the Royals approach showed me they are mired in a philosophy that will not consistently produce runs or victories.

In the third inning with the score tied 1-1, Mike Aviles lead off with a double and the 3-4-5 hitters were coming up. The Royals were in position to have a big inning but they chose to implement a strategy that prevented them from scoring multiple runs, all in the name of "playing the game the right way."

Billy Butler followed Aviles. Butler has mashed the ball all season, posting a .358/.395/.511 line. But Butler did not try to drive the ball or hit it hard. His goal was not to get a base hit. Instead, Butler shortened his swing in an effort to push the ball to the right side of the infield. The result was a weak ground out to first base which advanced Aviles to third. The moment the ball left Butler's bat, Royals television announcers Ryan Lefebvre and Frank White began to praise Butler for "getting the job done." They talked about Butler "giving himself up" and doing a good job of "rolling over and hitting the ball to the right side." Lefebvre and White's babble was enough to make any intelligent baseball fan ill. The reality is the Royals had one of their top hitters make a weak out for the sake of advancing a runner that was already in scoring position.

Jose Guillen followed Butler and hit a routine fly ball to left field scoring Mike Aviles. As Aviles was crossing the plate Lefebvre exclaimes "that was GREAT situational baseball by the Royals." Alberto Callaspo grounded out to end the inning and the Royals scored one run.

I'm sure Dayton Moore and Ned Yost viewed that inning as Ryan Lefebvre and Frank White, as a huge success. The truth is the Royals are continuing to ignore valid statistical research in a attempt to play their misguided version of fundamental baseball. I'm sure Texas manager Ron Washington was grateful that Butler didn't try to drive the ball and was willing to weakly ground out. I'm sure Texas pitcher Scott Fieldman, looking at facing Butler, Guillen, and Callaspo with a runner in scoring position and no outs, was thankful to get out of the inning allowing only one run.

There is a time to play for one run. If a near automatic out like Chris Getz or Willie Bloomquist is coming to bat or late in a ball game when one run decides the outcome. But the third inning of a 1-1 game with the heart of the order coming up is not the time. Sadly, the inning I described is Kansas City Royals baseball and an indication the Royals are basing their philosophy on old-school mythology.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Does Anyone Still Believe in Dayton Moore?

Royals GM Dayton Moore fired manager Trey Hillman yesterday. This entry is not to criticize Moore for firing Hillman. It has been well chronicled in the mainstream media and in the blogs that Hillman was in over his head as Royals manager. But to place more than a fraction of the blame for the Royals struggles on Trey Hillman is wrong because Dayton Moore is the one responsible for the continued downward spiral of the Royals. As long has Moore has control over the operation of the Royals, Kansas City will not have a contending team.

It would not matter if Mike Scioscia, Sparky Anderson, or Earl Weaver were managing the Royals, the result would be the same because the Kansas City Royals are a lousy team. Trey Hillman was forced to manage the club assembled by Dayton Moore. Trey Hillman was not a good manager, but the blame for the continued failure of the Royals does not rest with him. The blame and responsibility for what the Kansas City Royals are today belongs squarely on the shoulders of the inept, yet arrogant Dayton Moore.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Is There Hope for Luke Hochevar?

As long as Dayton Moore is the GM, I am not optimistic about the Royals chances of being a contending team. Time and time again, Moore has proven he has no idea how to go about building a competitive team. But I am not so cynical about the Royals that I don't see the few bright spots, even when they are not obvious. One of these bright spots is former #1 draft choice Luke Hochevar. Many Royals fans will look at Hochevar's 2010 5.65 ERA and write him off as another failed Royals draft pick. But if Hochevar can begin to limit the number of walks he is allowing he could establish himself as a reliable Major League pitcher because he is displaying some solid skills.

Hochevar's current 4.91 BB/9 is alarming but I'm going to assume this is an anomaly and that his true ability is closer to the 2.90 BB/9 he produced in 143 IP in 2009. If Hochevar can begin to find the plate, a lot of his woes will vanish.

A look at some of Hochevar's 2010 numbers shows, in many ways, he is not pitching poorly but has fallen victim to bad luck and poor defense.


If you are not familar with the BABIP statistic, I would suggest you read my previous entry on Angels' pitcher Joe Saunders or the BABIP overview presented on the Sabermetrics Library website. Hochevar's BABIP of .347 shows that he has pitched in very tough luck in 2010. The 49.2% ground ball rate shows that he is doing an excellent job of keeping the ball down in the strike zone and many of those ground balls are getting through the infield. Not much any pitcher can do about that. Unless bad luck follows Hochevar the entire season, things should begin to even out and the ground balls that have been hits will start to become outs.

Hopefully Dayton Moore and Trey Hillman will looked beyond a meaningless statistic like ERA and allow Hochever the opportunity to work out his control issues. If Hochevar can begin to throw strikes and continue to make hitters to hit the ball on the ground, he will a valuable pitcher for the Royals.