Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Browsing Posts published by Clark Fosler

I have been watching.  I have been cheering.  I have been agonizing.  I just haven’t been written.  I am sure many of your lives were greatly diminished due to my lack of sage input……or not.

There is not much to offer about last night’s game, other than the rather obvious observation that if the Royals continue to win two of every three games, they will make the playoffs.   That said, Ned Yost – always paranoid about being short arms in the bullpen – will now be forever super-ultra paranoid from here on out after finding himself with only Bruce Chen, Scott Downs and an unavailable Wade Davis to start the 10th inning last night.  You watch, Yost and the Royals will break camp in 2015 with a NINE man bullpen coupled with a back-up catcher and Jayson Nix as the only bench players.

Ah, Jayson Nix.  Acquired off waivers yesterday, Nix can pretty much play any position but catcher and has never really hit playing anywhere.  I don’t mind him for a September stretch run when the Royals might well employ two pinch-runners and two pinch-hitters when the rosters expand to 40 in three days.  Since Kansas City is in first place, I will not, for now, wonder if giving Ned Yost multiple options is a good thing.

When Eric Hosmer returns, for better or worse, the Royals will have one of Hosmer, Butler or Josh Willingham on the bench every night, along with Raul Ibanez, Christian Colon and whomever is the fourth outfielder is that night.  There is the thought that speedy Terrance Gore might get a September call-up specifically to be just a pinch-runner and almost certainly Francisco Pena to be a third catcher.  Having a guy like Nix who can field any position allows Yost, whether we trust him or not, to pinch-hit and pinch-run multiple times late in a close game.  Now, if Nix is ever allowed to pick up a bat, then we’ll have something to complain about.

What does the acquisition of Nix mean for a potential playoff roster?  That’s right, I just went there and said it: playoffs.

The rules are pretty simple:  any player on the 25 man active roster OR the disabled list on August 31st is eligible to be on the 25 man post-season roster.  If a player is on the disabled list on August 31st AND still there at the end of the season, he can be replaced by anyone that was in the organization prior to August 31st.

What that means for Kansas City is that Luke Hochevar and Michael Mariot, both on the 60 day disabled list right now, are eligible for the post-season roster and, more importantly, can be replaced by anyone as they won’t be pitching in the post-season.

Eric Hosmer is on the 15 man disabled list and eligible for the post-season as well and, of course, WILL be on the post-season roster.  In the end, Kansas City has 28 post-season roster spots to turn into a 25 man roster, with two of those spots (Hochevar and Mariot) capable of being filled by anyone.

So, when Jayson Nix joins the team today or tomorrow and Christian Colon (as speculated) is sent to the minors, it does not necessarily mean that Nix is your playoff utility guy and Colon is out.  Kansas City could simply elect to put Luke Hochevar on their 25 man post-season roster and then immediately replace him with Colon or Aaron Crow or Tim Collins or Brandon Finnegan or whomever.   Obviously, that would mean that someone on the 25 man active roster on August 31st (kind of looking in your direction Scott Downs and Bruce Chen) won’t be allowed to join in the post-season fun.

In the end, adding Jayson Nix today only makes him eligible for the post-season, not a lock for it.  He’ll be handy to have around in September when one can, if so desired and not dead set on the idea that Mike Moustakas will hit something other than .200 and that Omar Infante is clutch, maximize the flexibility of expanded rosters to get favorable match-ups at the plate and on the basepaths.

Used properly and in conjunction with other players, Jayson Nix is a handy little pick-up and does not have any earth shattering consequences when looking at the post-season composition of the Royals.

 

Well, today is exactly why Dayton Moore traded for James Shields.

There has been a good deal of snark directed at Shields’ nickname, some of it with a firm foundation in fact, but when you trade your best hitting prospect (by a mile at the time) and one of the best prospects in the game, one is pretty much expecting James Shields to take the mound late in the summer with first place on the line.   And one is pretty much expecting that James live up to his nickname.

After a rough three start stretch at the end of June (14 runs allowed in 19 innings), Shields has been – dare we say it? – a number one starter.  He has gone seven innings or more in five of seven starts and allowed two runs or less in six of those seven starts.  That includes going eight innings on August 3rd while allowing just four hits, no walks and two runs and going the distance in a four-hit shutout on August 9th.

The Royals have gone 3-1 in Shields’ last four starts, despite scoring a combined total of just 12 runs.

Yeah, this is pretty much the guy you want out there when facing the Oakland A’s and Jeff Samardjiza on a Thursday afternoon with your team holding a half game lead in the A.L. Central.

We can debate whether Shields is really ‘Big Game James’, but I don’t believe you can debate that today’s non-televised businessman’s special is indeed a Big Game.  The Royals need Shields to be his nickname…or at least do a Jason Vargas impersonation.

You read that headline right.   Although to be fair, it should continue to include ‘and his Tommy John surgery’.

Despite some rumblings to the contrary in the early stages of spring training, the Royals had pretty firmly decided to make Luke Hochevar their eighth inning guy.   While using a former number one overall pick as a set-up reliever is not the ideal end result, many/most of us were expecting good things from Luke in his new role.

I strongly doubt, however, that anyone would have willing to predict that Hochevar would strike out over 13 batters per nine innings or only allow a hit every other inning or allow ONE extra base hit (only a double at that) in his first 51 innings of work.  That would have been crazy talk.  No one does that.

No one except Wade Davis.

Within a day of the Royals discovering that Hochevar was lost for the season, they abandoned all thought of Wade Davis as a starter.  What happened and is happening since that point in time has been a spectacular success.  You can apply and debate the value of a pitcher who only pitches the eighth inning when his team has a lead, but I do not know that you can debate that Wade Davis is better in that role than anyone else in baseball this year.

Now, I’ve been jaded by years of organizational stubbornness when it comes to ‘their’ players. It took the Royals five years to allow themselves to use Hochevar out of the pen.  It took them just this side of forever to give up on Kyle Davies.  You do the math:  if Luke Hochevar is healthy in 2014, does Wade Davis take up space in the starting rotation?

In 2013, the Royals were 10-13 in games started by Davis.  In 2014, Kansas City is 12-10 in games started by Yordano Ventura and 9-9 in those started by Danny Duffy.    We don’t know and they don’t know, either, what the Royals would have done with regard to Davis with a healthy Hochevar in the picture, but I have a sense that he’s in the rotation to at least start the year.

Assuming Davis was, he might well have taken Bruce Chen’s spot and quite possibly have been roughly equal in effectiveness.  Does that really sound like something Dayton Moore and Ned Yost would have done in April?  After their team has surged back into first place, maybe we should give them the benefit of the doubt, but you almost have to believe that there was a better than even shot that Chen would stick in the rotation with Davis taking the spot of Yordano Ventura.

Anybody want to trade Ventura’s five April starts (the Royals went 3-2 in those) for five Wade Davis starts?  Anyone?  Bueller?

Carry it a bit further.  When Bruce Chen went on the disabled list in late April, that might well have triggered a Ventura promotion, but then when would Danny Duffy have been granted his first start?   Instead of May 3rd, where would Kansas City be if Duffy did not get the nod until mid-June?

Complete and total speculation on my part with regard to 97.3% of everything above. It is quite possible that the Royals would have broken camp with the exact rotation they did, called up Duffy exactly when they did, and done so even with Hochevar AND Davis in the pen.  It might have happened that way.

I wish no ill will on Luke Hochevar.  I was looking forward to him being an effective, if overpriced, weapon out of the bullpen this season.  However, I am not sure a healthy Hochevar would have equaled a better team record for the reasons listed above.

It is August 12th and the Kansas City Royals are in first place.  Tough break, Luke, but I’m digging this reality.

 

 

 

 

It is August 10th, or if you went to be early, you are waking up on August 11th and the Kansas City Royals are a game and one-half in front of the pack for the second wild card berth.  Even more, they find themselves just one-half game behind the injured riddled Detroit Tigers.

What the hell is going on here?!!

Weird things happen when a team with a great bullpen gets good starting pitching at the same time Billy Butler and Alex Gordon hit.  Baseball things happen.

Winners of 14 of their last 17, the Royals have benefited greatly from the fact that Billy Buter (by chance or by because he is getting to play in the field) has 11 extra base hits over that span.  A third of Butler’s extra base hits have come in the last three weeks while his fellow hold-over from the Allard Baird era (Alex Gordon) has hit seven more extra base hits and walked eight times.

That combination makes baseball seem easy.   It won’t always be that way.

I’ve done some statistical analysis and have come to the conclusion that the Kansas City Royals, nor any other team, is going to maintain a 14-3 pace for the rest of the season.  I know, who would have thought?

That said, the Royals control their own destiny with just 47 games left to play in the regular season.  They have a real chance to overtake Detroit and win the Central Division.  They have a very good chance of hanging onto that second wild-card spot.  They should make their chances even better.

This playoff race almost certainly seems to be headed to a final week conclusion, the margin to get into post-season might well be one game.  Dayton Moore (and David Glass) should do whatever possible to find one or two more wins.  Sure, you can look forward to the return of Eric Hosmer, but that is likely three weeks away at least and I just don’t think teams routinely get to the playoffs by playing Raul Ibanez at designated hitter…not with Mike Moustakas playing third (he’s surged ALL the way to .200!).

Three weeks is a long time: long enough for Toronto or New York or Detroit or Seattle to get just as hot as the Royals are.  It is also long enough for the Royals to endure some tough luck or revert to the team that not very long ago could not score any runs.

Adam Dunn.

He does things the Royals don’t really understand, like take walks, and he also does things they are only a little familiar with, like hit home runs.  He strikes out a ton and doesn’t hit much of anything else besides home runs, but he is a tremendously more effective hitter than Raul Ibanez or Eric Kratz.

Who do you want to be your designated hitter for the next 21 days?   Who would you have more faith in helping to continue this freakishly fun ride?

I have a hard time imagining you have to give up a ton for seven weeks of Adam Dunn, certainly not any of your top five prospects and probably not even your top ten.  I have not heard that Dunn has cleared waivers and it would seem possible that he might not, but it certainly is something worth exploring if you are the Royals.

The Royals may find that Dunn is unavailable or that the White Sox don’t want to be reasonable in a trade (although it would seem odd they wouldn’t take something) and if that is the case then they should be ‘aggressively pursuing the waiver-trade market’ as they claimed they would do on July 31st.

Winning baseball games should not have changed that mindset.  In fact, it should only make the Royals’ organization more intent on improving this team.

Even if the improvement is just one game.

Dayton Moore is laughing at us.

Blasted for doing nothing at the trade deadline.  Lampooned for discovering that Eric Hosmer had a broken bone just hours after the deadline. Chided for carrying a three man bench.  Winners of two of three against one of the best teams in the league.  Go figure, man, go figure.

While I would not say the Royals played great baseball this past weekend, they played good enough to not waste two outstanding pitching performances.  That is really the recipe for this team: get good pitching and cobble together just enough quality at-bats (they are few and far between with this lineup) to get the game to the back end of the bullpen.  Can they do that enough to overtake Toronto for the second wild-card spot?  I’m skeptical, but we’ll have to give them credit for taking two of three on the road from a team that is really, really good.

Some random thoughts:

  • For the thirteenth time this year, James Shields pitched seven innings or more and also for the thirteenth time  this season he allowed two runs or less in a start.  Yes, we all miss Wil Myers and we all know how good Jake Odorizzi has been of late, but perhaps we can maybe not make fun of Shields’ nickname every time he gives up a two-run homer?   You can lay all the blame for The Trade on The Process Master and do it all day long, but let’s give James Shields credit for being exactly what the Royals thought they were getting.
  • I can barely tolerate a seven man bullpen, much less EIGHT.  Yet, the Royals – fed by Ned Yost’s absolute hysteria about overusing relievers – carried eight pitchers in the pen through the weekend and might continue to do so for the coming week.  After all, you the world would probably stop spinning if you lost Scott Downs, Francisely Bueno or Bruce Chen to a waiver claim.
  • Of course, the flipside to the above is who should the Royals actually call up?  There are roster implications to be sure, but perhaps the overriding factor is the ‘who’.  Justin Maxwell has been up and down and out and in and up and down with one constant:  he never hits like you think he should.  Francisco Pena?  Intriguing.  Matt Fields?  A feel good story. Whit Merrifield? Versatile.  Johnny Giavotella?  Okay, just stop it.  Let’s face it, can’t you just feel a Ryan Howard acquisition coming?
  • With regard to the above, the Royals have called many of the names in mentioned ‘org guys’.  I know what that means, but what does it mean? Aren’t the ‘org guys’ who you turn to for a few spot starts when you’re regulars are hurt?  Almost unquestionably none of the org guys are long-term solutions, but they might give you a good week or two (remember ‘org guy’ Aaron Guiel?) or maybe even a BABIP-fairy fueled great half-season (remember ‘org guy’ Mike Aviles?).  A team that is batting Eric Kratz, Mike Moustakas and AARP member Raul Ibanez in the six hole can probably take a flyer on someone against a lefty starter.

The Royals relax in Arizona today before starting a three game set against a not very good Diamondbacks team.  They return home for seven against the Giants and A’s before finishing off the month with 12 of their next 16 against Minnesota, Colorado and Texas.  You can do the math on that:  hold your own over the next ten games and then do damage against a soft schedule.

I think it is okay to be excited about the playoff race and simultaneously disgusted by 80% of what this organization does (or doesn’t) do. That’s pretty much what following the Royals is all about.

 

 

 

The trade deadline just came and went. Guys like Lester, Lackey and Price were dealt. So were the likes of Denorfia and Drew and Austin Jackson and Allen Craig. Young guys like Cosart and Marisnik and Smyly, too.

The Royals? Not involved. Not interested. No upgrades necessary.

If one player or even two, as some speculated, would not be enough to get Kansas City in the playoffs in the final year of James Shields’ tenure as a Royal, then the organization needed to sell and make sure next year’s team would not be another 83 win ballclub.

Nope.

Just hope. Everyone will get better.

Dayton Moore cannot bury his head in a bucket and do nothing in the next seven days.  His team is not good enough and will not get hot enough and will not improve enough to be neither a buyer or a seller at the trade deadline.BtOtpgvIcAA8-DdIt was fun to have Mike Moustakas hit two home runs in a game and threaten the Mendoza line.  It’s also a great thing when your manager actually uses his three best relief pitchers to get four innings of work and Bruce Chen – freaking Bruce Chen – came through with a nice effort.   Winning’s fun, the Royals should do more of it.

Let’s look in the mirror, however, Mr. Moore and realize that this team you have so patiently constructed in eight/nine years of service is what it is.  The Kansas City Royals right now are going to win about 81 games.   With rare exception, winning between 78 and 84 games in a season is about the worst thing you can do in baseball:  good enough to be respectable, close enough to not sell off pieces, but not enough wins to be a post-season participant of any relevance.

If this is a ‘go for it year’ and it sure seems like it was supposed to be, then Dayton Moore needs to buy and buy big.   On the other hand, if Alex Rios, Ben Zobrist and Ian Kennedy still doesn’t get this team into more than a one game play-in, then swallow your pride and sell.

To be honest, I know in my head that the Royals need to sell.  Take a look at the Dodgers’ bullpen:  what would they give for Wade Davis or Greg Holland or, hell, even Aaron Crow at this point?

My heart, if only to keep things exciting for a while, kind of leans toward buying.  Some of that comes from my skepticism of the Royals being able to consistently develop prospects.  Is the return on James Shields better than a compensation draft pick? I don’t care, I am weary of coveting draft picks.  Basically, I’d rather have someone else’s Sean Manaea from two years ago than our Sean Manaea.

What I fear the most and, frankly, expect the most is for Dayton Moore to neither buy nor sell.  We will be told that there just wasn’t the value for value trade out there.  That this group is good enough and ‘we like are team’ and whatever clumsy rhetoric this organization will toss out to us.

The Royals will have a nice little hot streak, get close, and then fall back: probably end up 84-78 and be set up in 2015 to win 84 or 85 wins again.   It’s better than losing 100 games a year, but it will get really, really annoying three or four years in a row.

Buy or sell.  Pick one, but for godssake do one or the other in a big way.

 

“We’re not playing good situational offensive baseball” – Ned Yost, courtesy the Kansas City Star.

I think I will start every post (however sporadic they have become) with a quote from Ned Yost.  Perhaps I’ll even begin each meeting in my office with a quote from Dayton Moore.  Hey, if the Royals are going down, I’m taking all of you with us.

We have been fed the company line for a long time with regard to how the Kansas City Royals just need to hit better with runners in scoring position.  Many of you have already figured out just how absolutely whacked out that line of reasoning is, but if not (and that means you are NOT spending enough time in your Mom’s basement!) let’s boil it down.

Overall, your Kansas City Royals – the team you have been waiting for, mind you – is hitting .263/.313/.374.   That is good for fourth in the American League in batting average, but only 12th in on-base percentage and 13th in slugging percentage.  Apparently, it is not only impossible to hit home runs in Kaufmann Stadium, but also difficult to walk as well.

The problem, remember, is not a .313 on-base percentage: it is how poorly they perform with runners in scoring position.  In those scenarios, Kansas City is hitting just .262/.324/.386.    Those numbers are good for 5th in batting average, 11th in on-base percentage and 9th in slugging.

So….the Royals offense is good enough, they just need to hit better with runners in scoring position, but yet they ARE better hitters with runners in scoring position then they are overall.  Wait.  What?

To put it another way, the Kansas City Royals have put 2,229 runners on base this season (not counting solo home runs) and scored 14.67% of those runners.  In the American League, only Texas, Oakland, Detroit and the Angels have scored a higher percentage of runners.   That’s right, your situationally deficient Royals are fifth in the league in actually scoring runners they put on base.

The Royals, from coaches to manager to general manager to team president to team owner, always have an explanation.  They will be happy to explain to us why this team is not quite good enough, while also making us aware of just how much smarter they are than the rest of us.  Listen, kid, you may have your numbers and stuff, but WE know how the game of baseball really works.

Well, guess what?  Baseball is not all that complicated.  In fact, it is not complicated at all.  It is hard, yes, but not complicated.

If you hit about the same with runners in scoring position as you do as a team, then I am going to wager that if I could get more runners on base, I’m going to score more runs.  If, by the way, I happen to find a guy or two who actually can perform the impossible and hit a ball over the fence at Kaufmann, then I will score even more runs.

The Royals are not going to the moon here.  They also are not going to the playoffs.

 

“I outsmarted myself” – Ned Yost

It may well be the defining moment of what is appearing to be a disappointing 2014 season by the Kansas City Royals.

With Kansas City clinging to a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the sixth Friday night, Ned Yost trudged to the mound and pulled his starter, James Shields.    The Royals’ ace had given up a two run homer, followed by a double, but had then struck out David Ross for the second out of the inning.  Jackie Bradley Jr., at the time posting a .225/.303/.309 line, was about to bat.

Shields had already thrown 112 pitches – a laboring 112 at that – and I frankly thought it might be time to make a change.  After all, with the addition of Jason Frasor, Yost could go to the pen early in games and still put in a quality pitcher.  You know, a guy like Frasor or Aaron Crow (who looks a lot better in the sixth than the eighth) or, I don’t know, how about Kelvin Herrera who was already warming in the pen.

Instead, the Royals’ manager opted for lefty Scott Downs to face the lefthanded hitting Bradley. It is probably important to note that Bradley is not a good hitter versus right or left-handers.  It is also relevant to note that Downs, released from a team with a bad bullpen, is at this point in his career ONLY effective versus left-handed hitters.

Enter Downs.

Enter Jonny Gomes.

Were you surprised that Red Sox manager John Farrell used a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning?  If you were, then you did not check Baseball-Reference and note that Gomes had been used as pinch-hitter twice in the sixth already this season and four other times in the seventh.  Now, you have school or work or kids or friends or read or watch too much television or a hobby or an X-Box, so if you did not know that it’s okay.  On the other hand, it is kind of Ned Yost’s job to be aware of that sort of stuff.

While Jonny Gomes  became something of a joke on Twitter as the series progressed –  courtesy of some ‘odd’ defense and the idea that Gomes success against the Royals would certainly lead to him be traded for immediately – he was not the guy you wanted to see facing your sixth best reliever with a one run lead on the road.

What followed was a two run homer and the Royals managed just one run and nine hits over the next 21 innings in Boston.  Over the course of the weekend, we say Nori Aoki get more at-bats than Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson.   We saw Danny Valencia bat clean-up, Salvador Perez miss a game with ‘groin thing’ and Raul Ibanez pinch-hit.

Not all of that paragraph is Ned Yost’s fault.  He is not in charge of player acquisition.  His options to pinch hit on Saturday  were the slumping Lorenzo Cain (0 for his last 20), the 42 year old AND slumping Ibanez, Brett Hayes and the only-hits-lefties Danny Valencia.    All this, in year whatever of Dayton Moore’s process.

The Royals’ GM has labored all these years to give us a basically .500 ballclub and put a manager in charge who (and you can debate how much a manager can do, but he can do something) is not going to make this team any better than its base talent level.

So, what can you get for James Shields these days?

Francisely Bueno probably should have made it out of last night’s eighth inning unscathed.  He fumbled a bunt single by a fast guy (that what speed do) – hardly the first pitcher to have that happen.   Then he got a groundball for a possible double play only to have his Gold Glove caliber shortstop make a little league decision to not get any outs at all.

Bueno might have deserved better.   That does not mean Ned Yost’s decision to go to Bueno in the eighth was right.

Let’s ignore for a moment, Yost’s steadfast and defiant refusal to use Wade Davis when his team is trailing.  There is another guy out there, Kelvin Herrera, who has not thrown since June 30th:  that’s SEVEN DAYS OFF.  No, let’s go with Francisely Bueno.

To be clear, Bueno has pitched quite well of late.  Heck, he has thrown 5.2 innings of shutout baseball in his last two appearances.  Both of those appearances having occurred SINCE the last time Herrera appeared in a major league baseball game.  What am I missing here?

We all know that Ned is paranoid about overusing his bullpen.  Sometimes seven relievers is simply not enough.  I am pretty sure they would have eight pitchers in the pen now if the team was not absolutely convinced that Raul Ibanez was going to wake up one of these mornings and be five years younger.

Still, Herrera – on pace to pitch 70 innings this year and idle for a week – stood and watched as the Royals gave up two runs in the eighth inning.  They were somewhat meaningless runs until Kansas City connected for two runs themselves in the following half inning.

It’s hardly all on Bueno, but it should have been Herrera simply because this is was a close game, he was rested and Kelvin is a better pitcher.  If not him, then Wade Davis.

Down one run with your offense getting hits (no runs, but hits – law of average stuff has to start coming into play) and Escobar then the top of the order coming up in the ninth, one almost has to stop being a stubborn by the book manager and go with your dominant eighth inning guy.

Let’s also keep in mind that other than the last week of the season, this is the one week when you can really push your guys – especially your best guys.  You have four days off coming up, so if Davis, Herrera and Holland pitch in five times this week, they’ll have time to recover over the All-Star Break.    One could even get real crazy and use Greg Holland for more than inning this week.  Theoretically, the world would not implode.

Of course, if Tim Collins and Louis Coleman had not forgotten how to get people out or Luke Hochevar had not gone under the knife, this bullpen might be Ned-proof.  Instead, however, the vaunted depth is really not there.  Assuming Herrera might have a tweak or something that makes the team hesitant to use him right now and knowing that Wade Davis simply cannot be used (because – NED), then Bueno was far more palatable than Bruce Chen or Scott Downs or any of the six other pitchers who have appeared for the team this season.

The bullpen depth is not there and the imagination of the man who handles it is lacking.

 

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