Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Browsing Posts published by Clark Fosler

Eric Hosmer had four ground ball singles in a meaningless game two nights ago.  He walked three times yesterday in a game the Royals really needed to win.  That’s a whole lot of on-base for two games and exactly what the Royals’ offense needs.

Let’s face it, Hosmer has been flailing at the plate for much of this season and done so batting either second or third in the batting order.  Ned Yost, the master of dome management, has steadfastly refused to move Eric down in the order.  Will his faith start paying off?

Hosmer’s triple slash by month for his career:

  • April: .250/.323/.365
  • May:  .253/.290/.381
  • June: .254/.308/.390
  • July: .303/.360/.454
  • August: .295/.356/.442
  • Sept/Oct: .294/.339/.453

Yes, month’s are arbitrary marking points, but I think it’s safe to say history might be on the Royals’ side when it comes to increased production out of the guy who, quite honestly, is supposed to be the best hitter on this team.  Given that Eric Hosmer was quite possibly the worst hitter in the lineup in June (and that includes Mike Moustakas), he really has nowhere to go but up.

The Royals need Hosmer to go up in a big way right now.  Two games in Minnesota does not a hot streak make, but it sure doesn’t hurt.  Especially with Kansas City heading into two three game sets against teams with losing records before coming home for four against the division leading Tigers.

 

When most of us were at lunch, things happened:

  • The Royals designated Justin Maxwell (again) and Pedro Ciriaco for assignment
  • They called up Christian Colon
  • They signed RAUL IBANEZ…..ten years too late.
  • And Bruce Chen and Yordano Ventura got called out for being cheap by a stripper.

Where are we?  New York?

Drafted as a shortstop, Colon has played 27 games at second, 12 at third and 33 at shortstop this year.  His call-up might well be a sign that the Royals’ infatuation with Danny Valencia as a platoon partner for Mike Moustakas is ending (as is there general infatuation with Moose) and certainly is an indication that they view Colon’s future as a utility infielder.  Hey, anytime you can use the number four overall pick on a utility infielder, you do it!

Ibanez?  Well, he’s hit home runs recently, just not this year and comments from the Royals seem to indicate they will use him in right, left (really?) and first.  Perhaps they will play Billy Butler at first and Ibanez at DH part of the time as it is possible the Royals just noticed Eric Hosmer’s on-base percentage.  I don’t know, gang.  Ibanez has been written off as ‘done’ at least three times in his career…..

The stripper?  I don’t care.  Does anyone really care?  Does anybody really know what time it is?

Before the Royals headed out on the road to Chicago and Detroit a few weeks back, I wrote an article advocating Dayton Moore do something should he find his team at 42-39 on the morning of June 30th.  Should the Royals win two of three this weekend, they will be exactly 42-39.

Now, how Kansas City got there was a much more eccentric ride than I anticipated, but they will be pretty much exactly where a lot of us thought they would be: a few games over .500, in the thick of the wild card race and trailing Detroit.  Should the Royals actually get to 42-39 or limp to the end of June at 41-40 does not really matter much.  Either way, this is a .500 or touch better team with not a lot of hope of being any different without its General Manager doing something.

Certainly one could point to the following:

  • Eric Hosmer has real talent, has to get better and could (as he did in 2013) get really hot.
  • Mike Moustakas has shown signs of moving from horrific to just below average.
  • Billy Butler is returning to form.
  • Lorenzo Cain is healthy.
  • Danny Duffy is stringing together some consistently good (maybe a little lucky) starts.

I would counter with the ‘this is baseball and things tend to balance out’ argument and state that as all or some of the above happen or continue to happen, they might well be accompanied by:

  • Alcides Escobar could slump at the plate.
  • The starting rotation really might not be this good all season long.
  • Wade Davis or Greg Holland could prove to be human.
  • Lorenzo Cain could get hurt.
  • Rightfield could become a giant black hole of suck.

They are who we thought they were and they need to be better.  One player?  Two players?

Let’s go to the basement and talk WAR:  fWAR specifically.  I’ll digress for a moment and inform everyone that in the modern age, utilizing a statistic that you cannot readily figure on your Texas Instruments calculator does not make one a nerd.   Like batting average, RBI, ERA or any other stat, Wins Above Replacement is not perfect, but it comes closer to defining a players overall offensive, defensive and baserunning ability than anything else.   We have smartphones, computers, tablets and brains, stop thinking you’re cool because you don’t believe in anything after the slugging percentage column in a statistical table.

Okay, where do the Royals regulars rank in fWAR among the rest of baseball?

  • LF – Alex Gordon 4.3 fWAR – NUMBER ONE…..by a lot.
  • CF – Lorenzo Cain 2.2 fWAR – 6th
  • RF – Nori Aoki 0.9 fWAR – 12th (yeah, I thought it was worse, but it’s still not good)
  • 3B – Michael Moustakas 0.3 fWAR – 20th out of 24, all because of defense.
  • SS – Alcides Escobar 1.8 fWAR – 6th
  • 2B – Omar Infante 0.6 fWAR – 18th (Omar is better than this, but maybe not that much better, anymore)
  • 1B – Eric Hosmer  -0.8 fWAR – 26th out of 27th (gross – to be fair, Fangraphs does not like Hosmer’s defense, which is probably one of those defensive metric weird thingys)
  • C – Salvador Perez 2.4 fWAR – 3rd
  • DH – Billy Butler -0.6 fWAR – 8th (which is last among qualified full-time designated hitters)

As I wrote earlier this week, one can solve a little bit of the issue by simply playing Jarrod Dyson most of the time in place of Aoki.  The Royals, moving forward, would be wise to not get stuck on the idea that Infante is here for the next three years and ‘we still believe in Moustakas’ theory.  Would it be totally stupid to get a half year rental at second and restart with Infante next year?  If there is a big bat who takes time from Hosmer and/or Butler and/or anyone else not named Gordon or Perez, should Dayton Moore thumb his nose at the idea just because ‘Eric Hosmer is the future’?

The BP event is this weekend, make sure to buy Craig a danish if you see him.

It has taken me a long time to get onboard the Jarrod Dyson bandwagon.  I spent a lot of time grimacing at his subpar reading of fly balls and his once a month adventures fielding routine two hoppers to center.  The former 50th round pick’s approach at the plate would often irk me.  Irk me!  I tell ya!

No longer.  Give me more Dyson and I’m talking about more Dyson particularly when Nori Aoki comes back from the disabled list.

There is no doubt in my mind that Lorenzo Cain is a more gifted defensive centerfielder than Dyson, but I am even more certain that Cain is much better in right than Dyson (were Dyson to ever actually play an inning at that position).  My thought is based on a) The Royals love Lorenzo Cain’s defense and still move him to right when Dyson is in the lineup and b) Cain simply reads the ball better than Dyson and that ability makes him more suited to play ‘out of position’.

To be clear, both are exceptional defenders.   For his career, Cain has been credited with saving 41 runs over 1865 innings in center.  Dyson, in 1769 innings, has saved 31 runs (DRS via Fangraphs).  Their UZR/150 is equally as impressive:  Cain at 20.1 and Dyson at 22.0.   In the alternative, one could just watch those two play and see that they get to just about everything hit in the air these days.

The metrics (and we’re in small sample size territory here) show that Cain is quite possibly even better in right, with a UZR/150 of 33.9 and 12 Defensive Runs Saved in just over 400 innings.  You are going to have a hard time convincing me that an outfield of Gordon-Dyson-Cain is not the best defensive alignment in the game.

Offensively, check the career numbers of Aoki and Dyson versus right-handed pitching:

  • Dyson: .274/.341/.364   wRC+ 95
  • Aoki: .269/.346/.377  wRC+ 101

Right there, given Dyson’s ability in the field, should be all the evidence you need that Jarrod Dyson should be in the lineup against right-handed pitching every day for the rest of 2014.  There’s more, however.   Dyson appears to be getting better with his wRC+ progressing over the last three years from 89 to 104 to 101, while Aoki is regressing over the same period of time (125-98-64).

Let’s head down to the basement and check the two players’ fWAR:

  • Dyson 2012: 102 games, 1.4 fWAR
  • Aoki 2012: 151 games, 2.4 fWAR
  • Dyson 2013: 87 games, 2.4 fWAR
  • Aoki 2013: 155 games, 1.7 fWAR
  • Dyson 2014: 51 games, 2.0 fWAR
  • Aoki 2014: 68 games, 0.9 fWAR

No matter how much you love the idea of inserting Dyson as a pinchrunner onto the basepaths at a critical point in a game (which on this team with this manager, means whenever Billy Butler is on first in the 8th or 9th inning), you have to be willing to say Jarrod would be much more valuable playing all nine innings any time a right-hander appears on the mound.

Barring a hot streak from Justin Maxwell (which two different organizations have been waiting five years for) or a better-than-what-we-have-seen Aoki, I am inclined to think Dyson should play against left-handers as well, based solely on his defensive ability.  That is not ideal, of course, as Jarrod has never and probably never will be an effective hitter against southpaws, but it might be the best option for now.

Some/many of you might already be onboard the Dyson train.  My apologies for being late.

I fully understand those who get frustrated this time of year with all the trade rumors.  There is no real way to tell when a writer or commentator is just making stuff up (like I do sometimes), has actual inside knowledge or is being fed a line by a front office or agent to drum up interest.  I know of some who just get driven bat blank crazy over it all.

Hell, even when rumors turn out to be true (yes, the Royals once had Mike Sweeney traded for Casey Kotchman and Ervin Santana and yes, they almost picked Chris Sale instead of Christian Colon) there are those who simply refuse to believe it.   That’s fair.   If you are in that pack, don’t read on:  you’ll get frustrated, say something mean and make me sniffle.

First off, if you’re not having fun being a Royals’ fan right now, you need to start.  Even if you don’t believe this team is going to contend all year, have some freaking fun.  Winning baseball is fun and you can have fun, be excited and still be logically realistic.  It’s okay.  Hell, you can even listen to Nickelback if you want on the way to the ballpark tonight.

However, let’s get realistic (for one sentence).  Dayton Moore can say all he wants, but if he really believes this team is set to make a playoff run ‘as-is’ then he’s not doing his job.  Can this exact Royals’ team win the Central or, at least, get into the Wild Card game?  Maybe.  I don’t see it winning a seven game series in the playoffs.   That said, I don’t think this version of the Royals is terribly far away from being a team that could win a real playoff series.

Back to happy fantasy land….

Last week I proposed trading from Scott Van Slyke and Ben Zobrist.  I still like the idea of Zobrist as you can slot him into at least four positions.  That said, MLBTrade Rumors (rumors!  rumors!) has a report that the Rangers might be a seller if they continue to be wracked by injuries.  Alex Rios is a name that popped up – when hasn’t Alex Rios popped up at trade time? – and he has some warts.

Rios (33 years old) has been caught stealing eight times this year and grounded into FIFTEEN double plays.  He has been known to be pout or maybe even quit, but it is hard to believe he would do so playing everyday on a contender.   Rios, however, has a .319/.350/.462 line with 26 extra base hits.   He is expensive ($12.5 million this year with a $13.5 million team option for 2015) which is probably as much a blessing as a curse when it comes to working out a trade for him.

You want to dream a little?  What about trading for Rios to play right and Joakim Soria:  turning a very good bullpen into a silly great bullpen.  With the organization correctly concerned about how many innings Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy throw this year, how’d you like to line up Soria, Davis and Holland (with Kelvin Herrera in reserve) and limit both Ventura and Duffy to six innings or less per start for the next couple of months?

Pure, ridiculous speculation, but the thought intrigues me.   Now, what of the cost?

Again, Rios is due a bunch of money next year if the Rangers want to keep him.  If Texas determines they are out of it, what would there level of interest be in a 34 year old rightfielder with some issues and a closer who will be 31 years old next year and due $7 million (another team option)?  The Rangers are not dumb and they will demand value in return, but they also might not need ‘major league ready value’.

If the Royals could do a deal that did not involve anyone on the current major league roster, would you be onboard?  How in love with Kyle Zimmer (who has not thrown a pitch this year) or Raul Mondesi (who is A ball) or really anyone in the system?  My untouchable is Hunter Dozier.  After that, I am not sure I have a player that is not part of the discussion.

I know, I know – let’s enjoy the fun.  The FIRST PLACE Royals are going to play in front of  a full house tonight.  That is the focus.  I guy can do a little dreaming while he watches though, right?

 

The Royals lost a pitching duel this afternoon, just a day after winning a pitching duel.  Those two games were preceeded by nine games in which Kansas City basically bashed their way through opposing teams.  Baseball’s fun when you score seven runs or more in seven of nine games.  It’s easy, even, when you are on a roll like that.

Now, my friends, is when the real games begin.

Three runs scored in two games is going to make the hands grip the bat a little tighter.  Maybe that guy hitting behind me isn’t going to drive in the baserunner if I don’t.  Maybe I can’t give up three runs and win.  Maybe…

The Royals lost a game and are still in first place, that’s cool.  They will return home for a nine game homestand that will likely see the biggest crowds since opening day.  THIS is why we watch baseball.   While a ton of past Royals’ roster may not have realized, THIS is why you play baseball, too.

Friday night will be a test as the Royals face Hisashi Iwakuma, who I think might be the most underrated good pitcher in the game right now.   No Royal has faced him more than seven times:  you can decide if that is good or bad.  On Saturday, they face Chris Young, who no Royals has faced more than six times.  Young, you’ll remember, had his best start of the year in early May against Kansas City.   The series will conclude with the Mariners sending Roenis Elias to the hill.  The Royals roughed Elias up for five runs in five innings in May and since then he has been touched for four runs in more in four of seven starts.  Beware, however, as in those seven starts, Elias also has a complete game shutout and another outing in which he allowed just three hits and a run over seven innings.

You want to be a division winner?  You take two of three from the Mariners in your home ballpark.

A couple of other notes:

  • Last week, I suggested that Ben Zobrist should be a potential trade target for the Royals.  This week, national media rumors suggest that the Royals are indeed looking at Zobrist.  Not sure why Dayton Moore hasn’t called me, but then he never calls.
  • Hunter Dozier was promoted to AA this week.  He plays third base (pushing Cheslor Cuthbert to first in the Naturals’ lineup).  Makes you wonder what might happen next spring if Mike Moustakas and the Mendoza line remain close friends all season.
  • Soren Petro on WHB has been beating the ‘trade for David Price’ drum lately.  At first, I paid little attention, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t make some sense.  The market for an impact bat acquisition seems a little thin, so perhaps making the starting rotation that much better might be an option to adding a bat that may or may not make this team better in 2014.  The price for Price (chuckle) might be too extreme, but the Royals would be getting him for this season and next.  Here’s what I know, if you could trade prospects for David Price, Kansas City would absolutely be better THIS year.  I’ve pretty much become a THIS year kind of guy.

Why not?

James Shields will be a free agent, Billy Butler will be expensive as will Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer and Greg Holland and especially Wade Davis.  Kansas City is getting a career year out of Jason Vargas and a rookie of the year campaign out of Yordano Ventura.   Danny Duffy is, at least part of the time, getting people out and Lorenzo Cain is hitting and healthy (for now, knock wood!).   The Royals are not really a young team anymore.

So, go for it.

Kansas City won 86 games last season, but dug themselves such a hole in May that it did not really matter.   They danced with the idea of contention, but never really contended.  Playing catch-up is for suckers – or really good veteran teams that have won before.  This is not a sit back and see what happens year:  this is the year that Dayton Moore has been telling us to be patient for since the five year plan became a seven year plan and then an eight to ten year process.

So, go for it and do so immediately.

There is a reason most trades happen closer to the July 31st deadline.   Sellers often don’t know they are sellers until late July and, even if they do realize it sooner, want to wait for the best and final offer before pulling the trigger.  Buyers may or may not know they need help (or be willing to admit they need help, because Eric Hosmer is surely going to hit 12 home runs in July right?).  It takes two willing partners to execute a trade, not just one guy in boxers sitting in his Mom’s basement.

That said, if you want to make a trade to improve your team, doesn’t it make sense to do so in June and get four months of production from said player than to wait until July 31st and get just two months?  In a race where the margin for the post-season might be one game would it not be worth a bit of an overpay to get the trade done now?

Ahh, what trade?  What magic bullet have you discovered within the tortured thoughts of your twisted mind, Mr. Fosler?  Well…nothing great.

Listen, unless Eric Hosmer hits, Gordon continues to hit, Infante gets better and Escobar and Cain continue to play well, no trade is going to put this team over the top.  If Vargas regresses substantially, Duffy loses whatever it is he has found and Ventura starts looking more rookie than rookie of the year, nothing will get the Royals to the playoffs.  I can make up all sorts of trades for Giancarlo Stanton or Matt Kemp, but they are not going to happen.   Trade speculation is mostly fantasy, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have to add in some measure of realism.

So, with that in mind, my first move is a very, very, very, very modest one.

Nick Evans was designated for assignment by the Arizona Diamondbacks yesterday.  If you don’t know who Nick Evans is, you are like most everyone else.  He is 28 years old, hits right-handed, plays all the corner spots (or has been reported to have stood in all four corner positions at various times in his career) and has 11 major league plate appearances since 2011.  Oh yeah, he was DFA’d by a team that is already out of it.

Evans, however, has always hit for power in the minors, generally gets on-base at a good clip and would certainly seem to be the kind of guy that a team with a third baseman that can’t hit, a rightfielder that falls down a lot, a 28 year old DH who suddenly looks old and a first baseman with three home runs might want to stash at AAA just in case.  He’s pretty much Matt Fields, but I’d rather have two of them than one of them.

My second move is partially stolen from Jeff Zimmerman from back when both of us were over at Royals Review.  This spring, Jeff proposed a Johnny Giavotella for Scott Van Slyke trade.  I liked it at the time, even though Van Slyke and Justin Maxwell seemed redundant.   Since then, Dee Gordon has played well for the Dodgers, so their zest for a AAAA second baseman is probably gone (if it even existed).  However, Jamey Wright is in their bullpen and the shell of what used to be Chris Perez.  The Royals have a bunch of relievers, the fourth best of which is Aaron Crow.

Aaron Crow for Scott Van Slyke.   Maybe an overpay, maybe not.  Van Slyke is already 27 and, while decent in a part-time role this year, did not light the world on fire during his previous two stints in the majors.  He has, however, torched minor league pitching for the past three seasons.    Of course, it is important to note that the bulk of the Dodgers’ minor league affiliates play in hitter friendly environments and you need to keep that in mind when you note Van Slyke’s career AAA of line of .330/.425/.584.  All things considered, Van Slyke is better than Justin Maxwell and likely better (at least right now) than Nori Aoki.   I might try him every day in rightfield, but would be equally as happy platooning him with Jarrod Dyson.

Finally, I look to our old trading partners in Florida, the Tampa Bay Rays.  Ben Zobrist is making $7 million this season for what is currently the worst team in the league.  The Rays hold a team option on the 33 year old for $7.5 million in 2015.  While Zobrist is not a high average guy, he gets on-base and has shown power.   Once a full-time shortstop, Zobrist has spent much more time at second and in rightfield (although he has even played a few innings at short this season).

There are warning signs associated with Zobrist.  He slugged just .402 last season and is scuffling along with a .246/.325/.367 triple slash this year.  Over his career, Zobrist has established a .262/.352/.431 line and, in his five previous seasons, has posted an fWAR of 8.5, 3.7, 6.3, 5.8, 5.4.   Even this year, with a low line drive percentage pushing down his BABIP, Zobrist is likely to be at least three wins above replacement.

To me, it seems that Zobrist is a reasonable gamble to be better the rest of 2014 than he has been thus far.  He’s not getting younger and likely never going to be as good as he was even a couple of years ago, but how would a .350 on-base percentage with at least some power look in this Royals’ lineup.

Where you ask, does Ben fit?  Everywhere, my friends, everywhere.

You can play him in right – especially if you don’t acquire Scott Van Slyke – and at second.   Sure, the Royals are paying Omar Infante a tidy sum of money, but not so much that you absolutely have to play him every day (and he has not been the picture of health as it is).  You can give Zobrist time at DH if Billy Butler (who has been swinging better as of late) scuffles.  If you want to be bold, you can put Zobrist and his 13 career games at third (minors and majors combined).  While it would be a defensive downgrade from Moustakas, I like the chances of a player with Zobrist’s skill set to not embarrass himself at third.  I mean, Ben Zobrist at third seems more plausible than Danny Valencia at second.

Essentially, the Royals are hoping a lot of guys in their lineup start to hit and stay healthy, but it is impossible to truly determine which of the current group will actually do so.  The acquisition of Zobrist would give Ned Yost the flexibility (which is something of a scary thought) to plug a number of spots, depending on who’s hot and who’s not.

To acquire Zobrist, we have to start with the assumption that the Rays have reconciled themselves to being out of the race this season.  We also have to assume/hope that Tampa does not want to pay a 34 year old who may be in decline $7.5 million in 2015.   It’s a gamble:  Zobrist could be on his way to done.  Of course, he could be Raul Ibanez, too.

What would it take?

Bill Hall was once traded from Casey Kotchman,  Scott Brosius was dealt for Kenny Rogers and Dave Hollins for Tomas Perez.  In their current situation, I doubt the Rays are looking for any veteran talent and, if the Royals are in ‘go for it’ mode, they won’t be dealing any, either.

I bet you Kyle Zimmer gets it done, but even me and my ever growing distaste for coveting prospects cannot make that leap. Would you go so far to trade John Lamb, Miquel Almonte and Jorge Bonafacio?  Would the Rays hang up the phone on that offer?  Here is where trade scenarios get hard, because we really don’t know.  Keeping in mind that the Royals would have to overpay some to make a trade happen now instead of a month from now, it seems to me that the deal mentioned above would be enough and quite possibly too much.

Would this make the Royals better?  Yes.  Would it make them good enough? Maybe.  Is it worth the risk of trying?  I think so.

 

In an aerial dogfight, the furball is the very middle of the battle.  It is also just about the last place you want to be if you are a fighter pilot.  Get in, get out and get clear is how you successfully survive aerial warfare, no matter the era.

The Royals, thanks to a nifty four game winning streak, are in the furball.  Four American League Central teams, including Kansas City, have 33 wins and the Twins are right there with 31 victories.  Eight teams in the American League are within three games of the .500 mark and constitute the current battle for the final wild card spot.

That’s a furball.

Given how the team struggled through May, it is actually nice to be part of the mess right now.   However, a team or two or three will eventually put together a big winning streak or simply start playing better than .500 ball and leave the furball behind.

For the Royals, they need to hope that no team separates themselves from the pack too soon.  You see, our boys in blue have a little bit of a journey in front of them starting with three games at Chicago and followed by four more in Detroit.

You can all do the math:  seven games against A.L. Central opponents, one of whom (Tigers) has lost 8 of their last 10 games and all on the road.   Four wins?  I think we would all take that right now and move on.

After those seven, the Royals get a nine game homestand, but the adversaries are Seattle, the Dodgers and the Angels.  Five wins?  Have to get that many or this team reverts to pretender status.  More?  That’s a tall order.

Kansas City could arise on the morning of June 30th, coming off a 9-7 run through the above and certainly be in the thick of it.  At 42-39 and having played even with half the teams in the furball with them, Kansas City could be poised to go on a hot streak, separate from the pack and be a real contender.

What would Dayton Moore do then?

Will he sit back with his ‘smartest man in the room’ smirk and assume all is well?  The process has worked, his team is in contention, you just watch:  we don’t need to do anything.  Or, for once, will Moore worry less about justifying his past moves and more about results right now?

What if Mike Moustakas (one good game does not a recovery make) is still hitting .160?   What if Billy Butler is still shuffling along as a DH with a .320 slugging percentage?  The Royals could win 9 of the next 16 based solely on their pitching, Alex Gordon and Alcides Escobar, but they won’t make the playoffs doing that.

My prediction is that Moustakas will still be struggling, but Billy Butler won’t.  I have no real feel for what Eric Hosmer will be doing or Aoki or Infante or Cain….   Truthfully, if the Royals get to 42-39 and Dayton Moore thinks all is well and just ‘has to get value for value’ in any trade, then he should be ripped without reserve by media, fans and his boss.

This team might be a contender, but it is not a playoff team.  It is closer to the latter than in any year since 1994, but I am pretty sure professional sports is not played to ‘get close’.

Make this team better, Mr. Moore.  The sooner the better.

What would I do?  Well, you’ll have to tune in tomorrow…..

 

I have been out of the country, out of the loop, off the grid – whatever – I have not been paying attention lately.   Sure, you can keep up with the world from almost everywhere, but I was on a beach with a drink in my hand and while I would catch the score most evenings that was about all.  You want my attention when on vacation Mr. Moore?  Get a team ten games over .500.

Back in the real world, mostly, I find that very little has changed:

The Royals Are a .500 Baseball Team

6-4 in their last ten games, 9 -11 in their last twenty, 15-15 in their last thirty.  After years of just wishing Kansas City could at least be respectable, I now remember that respectability is boring.  Contention, my friends, THAT’s fun.   Really, do you see this team suddenly surging forward?   I feel as though the anticipated hot streaks from Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler might well be accompanied by a simultaneous regression from the starting rotation: particularly from Jason Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie.

 

Hey Genius, the Royals are only 3.5 games behind the Tigers

Indeed they are, thanks to Detroit deciding not to run away with the division and winning just six of their last twenty.  Thank you, Tigers, but no thanks to the Indians, who went hog wild in my absence (who’s job was it to watch the Indians?!!!) and streaked into second place.

While we wait for Hosmer and Butler to heat up, don’t you imagine that Cleveland is expecting the same from the likes of Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana?   Do you imagine Detroit assumes Justin Verlander likely won’t end the season with an ERA north of four?  Hell, Minnesota signed Kendrys Morales while I was gone!   I had no real desire to see Morales in Kansas City, but they at least did something.

Oh yeah, I forgot, the Royals fixed Mike Moustakas via 34 Omaha plate appearances.

 

The Wild Card

Is a mess.   Depending on how you define contention, HOUSTON is in contention for a Wild Card spot.  It’s nice there are two spots and it is nice that the Royals are just three games out, but how optimistic are you about chasing down the Angels, the Mariners, the Orioles, the Indians, and holding off the rest of league as well?

 

The Lineup

Craig wrote about this yesterday and it begs the question:  Do you construct your lineup to follow the hot streak or to project for the perceived talent level going forward?

I’m a bit of a short-term hot streak chaser, particularly when guys you might move down in the lineup are names Infante and/or Aoki.    It gets a bit tricky when a hitter with proven past performance (Billy Butler) or definite upside (Eric Hosmer) start getting moved, but would the world end if the bounty Lorenzo Cain paid to the BABIP Fairy continue to pay off for two weeks AND Hosmer hit four home runs out of the six spot?

Here is an easy one, however.  Alex Gordon is both hot and has a past record of performance:  seems as though getting him an extra at-bat per game might be helpful for the rest of the season.

 

Going Forward

So, they draft happened and with its completion, baseball GM’s traditionally turn their full attention to the trade market.   Just a little heads up, the Dodgers sure seem to have a lot of outfielders….just sayin.

Now, where is that third baseman tree planted?

 

Well, Ned Yost did, but that’s not the point.

However, I think there is a plan when it comes to Mike Moustakas.   I am not saying it is a good plan, but Mr. Moore might have an idea.  Hell, Moustakas is hitting – more accurately not hitting – to the tune of a .152/.223/.320 triple slash:  there needed to be some kind of plan for something!

One would assume the Moore plan is based on the Alex Gordon model that eventually turned a spiraling downward third basemen into a Gold Glove All Starish left fielder.  That excludes a couple of key facts:

  • When Gordon was sent down for real in 2010 (he was demoted in 2009 as well, under the guise of injuries/rehab), Alex was hitting just .194/.342/.323 on May 1st.  For his career, 1,399 plate appearances, Alex sported a .249/.311/.360 triple slash.  (Yes, I’m using triple slashes here – you don’t get advanced metrics Mr. Moustakas until you routinely top the Mendoza line).   Moustakas has been worse that Gordon, even in his best year, at least offensively.
  • When Alex Gordon came back later in 2010 as an outfielder, he managed to hit just .218/.311/.360.  Two months in Omaha where he hit .315/.442/.577 did not a major league hitter make.
  • Only after an off-season of a complete swing rebuild (this remains Kevin Seitzer’s most valuable contribution to the Kansas City Royals) did the player we see now actually emerge.

The more accurate ‘plan’ would be the Mark Teahen experience.   Teahen was floundering as well when sent down in May of 2005 with a season mark of .195/.241/.351 and career line of .237/.297/.369 in just under 600 plate appearances.   He proceeded to smack AAA pitching around to the tune of .380/.500/.658 in just under 100 plate appearances and then just kept on going in the majors.

For one beautiful summer, Mark Teahen was tremendous, hitting 50 extra base hits in just 82 starts (including 16 home runs) and raking to the tune of .313/.384/.557.   Of course, Mark went into decline after that, but 2014 is the ‘go for it year’, so who cares about 2015 right now?   Could Moustakas do the same as Teahen?  I could see it, sure.  Sadly, I could see him come back no better as well.

He could be Andy Marte.

You might remember Marte as the 2004 #11 prospect in baseball.  And #9 in 2005 and #14 in 2006.  Trust me, Mark Teahen was miles better in the majors than Marte and Mark doesn’t have a job anymore.

Maybe there is not a plan.   There’s a chance that Yost and Moore just got fed up with Moustakas and wanted a change of scenery for all involved.   However, as this whole string of words started out, my guess is they are hoping for a big month in Omaha out of the former star prospect while Danny Valencia rides a hot streak in the majors, followed by a triumphant return to KC for Mike (maybe they’ll have a parade, too).

Reasons and plans, or lack thereof, aside:  this was an actual big boy baseball move.  One that admits that the Royals pinned their hopes on a guy who simply was not getting the job done.   In a small way, it makes the Royals seem like an organization thinking first of getting better instead of making themselves appear to be the smartest kid in the class.

 

As an aside, great to be back here at Royals Authority.   While I had fun over at Royals Review, a more casual and less corporate environment made all the sense in the world to both Craig and myself.  We are, after all, just a couple of grumpy old men, sitting in the lobby of Authority HQ smoking cigars and leering at the receptionist.  

 

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