Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Browsing Posts published by Craig Brown

A few weeks ago, Clark, Nick and myself learned that Will McDonald of Royals Review was going to be turning in his Hot Pockets, exiting his mom’s basement and entering the real world. He was leaving the blog he founded many years ago. How did we know this? The powers that run the SB Nation baseball blogs approached us about joining their network. The idea was to bring our group to the SB Nation platform, get together with the remaining writers at the Review and form a larger, stronger collective to deliver the ultimate Royals website.

We accepted.

So you are reading our final post at Royals Authority. We’re closing up shop and moving down the street to Royals Review. It’s a larger neighborhood with a pretty damn strong infrastructure.

The move is not without some trepidation. Will McDonald is a force. A talent. We’re not going to Royals Review to replace him. His style is incredibly unique. We are going there to be ourselves. To use our voices to continue to cover the Royals the only way we know how. It will be fun. And maddening. And sometimes a little strange.

Change happens. It’s necessary. Sometimes it takes a little bit of time to get used to the new order. We are not going away… The only thing that’s changing is the name of the website and the URL where you will find us. That’s it. Our content isn’t going to change. I suspect a large number of you visit Royals Review daily. Consider this our effort to make your life easier. One bookmark, all the info you’ll need. In the off chance you’re not aware of Royals Review, we urge you to follow us down the road and see what it’s all about. You’ll like it.

The three of us have been a team at Royals Authority for a long time. We’re still a team. This is really about changing our address and joining forces with three outstanding writers that love the Royals. If this was an ad, at this point, I’d tout this as being “50 percent more!” With the amount of writers on staff, the goal moving forward is to post several times a day. With our roster, I’m thinking that won’t be a problem. So if at Royals Authority you’ve been visiting once a day knowing you’ll likely be reading that day’s output, at Royals Review we’ll have several stories each day as well as game threads and recaps. You’ll want to return again and again.

Our hope is to provide you with the best landing spot on the internet for Royals news and views.

Making a move like this isn’t easy. In the last couple of years, we’ve been fortunate enough to build a community of our own. We have countless commenters whom I immediately recognize. (I don’t want to name names, because I’ll inevitably forget someone.) Your comments and efforts at community have been greatly appreciated. We hope you will hop on the moving van and join us at the new digs. The commenting system may be intimidating at first glance, but if you jump in I think you’ll find it welcoming. Plus, the comments are threaded. Threaded! This provides a great opportunity to have an actual internet conversation.

Yes, it will take some getting used to. For all of us. For the last week or so, Clark, Nick and myself have been wandering around the inner sanctum of Royals Review, learning the software and trying to get comfortable with the new platform. If you aren’t a member of the Royals Review community, I suggest you head over there and sign up so you can start commenting. If you don’t want to comment, sign up anyway… Each time you visit the site, it tells you how many “new” comments have been posted since your last visit. It’s so damn easy to follow along with the community. And they’re constantly evolving the software to make things better. It’s a great landing place for us and for the blog.

Still, this move is bittersweet.

In 2005 I started a Royals blog and called it Warning Track Power. At the exact same time, a couple hundred miles away, Clark opened shop in his corner of the internet with a blog called the Royals Op-Ed Page. In July of that year, we were approached by Evan Brunell, the owner of the now-deceased Most Valuable Network. The idea was to join forces and create a Royals blog for his network.

Royals Authority was born.

We opened for business July 14, 2005. (Holy crap… We’ve been doing this for almost seven years. That’s an eternity in internet years.) I don’t remember our first post or any of the details of the first couple of weeks. It seems I’ve blocked out entire years. (Just like Dayton Moore.) I do know that we’ve grown our daily readership from the hundreds to the thousands. That’s pretty cool. And it’s something neither of us dreamed was possible when we started.

Thank you.

Still, this being the internet, we haven’t been standing still. After a few years, we jumped from MVN to Bloguin to be their featured Royals blog. After around a single year on that platform, we added Nick to our lineup and angled our way into the arms of ESPN and their fledgling SweetSpot Network.

In the meantime, we tried to host a bulletin board, self-published two books – the second of which was really good, but nobody bought – and learned how to design our own site. It’s been fun. Believe me, if it wasn’t fun, we wouldn’t be doing this.

We owe Evan a great deal of gratitude. He’s told me on more than one occasion that bringing the two of us together was one of his better success stories in the time he operated MVN. That’s pretty cool. There have also been a ton of great writers along the way who have encouraged us and motivated us. Joe Hamrahi at Baseball Prospectus has been a huge champion of this site and I personally owe him a ton. I’ll try to pay it off the entire All-Star weekend. Marc Normandin at SB Nation has been instrumental in our move. He’s another guy who has done far too much in helping us advance our work. Geoff Young of the recently departed Ducksnorts has always been ready to help with advice and provided the motivation for the Royals Authority Annuals.

And the mainstream media in Kansas City has always been extremely welcoming to us. Joe Posnanski wrote the foreword to our first Annual. Sam Mellinger has been fantastic to exchange emails with from time to time. Bob Dutton is always available to answer a question… We probably don’t bother him enough. Kevin Kietzman at WHB has become a huge champion of this blog. So has Todd Leabo. It’s possible one of these guys directed you to our blog. They didn’t have to do that, but they did. And we appreciate it.

Thanks also have to go out to Rob Neyer, who was instrumental in bringing us on board at ESPN. As you probably know, he’s since moved to SB Nation as well. We’re stalking you, Rob. Also, thanks to David Schoenfeld, who took over the reins as ESPN’s lead SweetSpotter. Both guys have been instrumental in championing our work, linking to it with regularity and helping drive our audience.

And of course we have to thank you, the readers. Every day we get countless comments, emails and Tweets. It’s astounding to the three of us that we have created something that has become part of a daily ritual for so many. Too cool. There’s something about this Royal fanbase… We’ve been beaten down for so long, we need each other to survive. Yet we remain strangely hopeful that someday this team will turn it around and will get back to the summit. Personally, when that happens, I’m going to blow the internet up. I can’t wait.

What will happen to Royals Authority? We own the domain, and I suppose I’ll keep renewing it. The writers and commenters have wrung our hands and occasionally celebrated for the last couple years at this spot. It’s been our hangout. Our little corner of the Royals web. I have no clue how often our archives are visited, but I figure it’s worth it to keep those open. Plus, maybe I’ll get around to updating the Payroll tab at the top of this page and this site can continue to be a resource.

But we’re moving on… To a new look Royals Review

This isn’t the end. It’s a beginning. One that we’re excited about. We hope you are, too.

We are looking forward to working with Jeff Zimmerman, Old Man Duggan, Royals Retro and the entire community of Royal Review. And we wish Will the best of luck in his endeavors in the real world.

This new beginning is going to be great. I hope you’ll join us.

Reports are Sal Perez is on his way to Kansas City.

About time.

It’s strange to think this way, but it just feels like the Royals are already Sal’s team. He’s the guy. The one they can’t afford to have out of the lineup.

I mean, we’re talking about a guy with 158 career major league plate appearances. How the hell can he be the big kahuna on a major league team with so little experience?

All I know is what I’ve read and heard discussed from various players and team officials. The guy oozes professionalism and commands respect.

As a writer with a SABR bent, I’m supposed to mock the leadership angle. (Francoeur? Too easy.) But there is no denying that something really cool started last summer when the young guys were brought up to the majors. And it kind of feels like it’s been placed on hold while Perez has been rehabbing. It’s been interesting to me to see the amount of respect he holds within the realm of the clubhouse. Leadership won’t get you wins, but there’s something about it that makes it crazy fun to watch.

Is Sal the Savior? I don’t think so. Defensively, he’s going to be awesome. As long as his knee holds. And I seriously doubt the Royals would be putting him behind the plate if he wasn’t 100 percent ready.

I know many of you are excited by his offensive performance from last season, but there was nothing in his minor league history to indicate he was capable of that. He finished with a line of .331/.361/.473, which was just insane. Yes, he was hitting .340/.365/.380 in Omaha, but I really don’t think we can insert him into the lineup and expect those kind of numbers.

He will be a huge upgrade over the Pena/Quintero tandem, though. And that’s good enough for me.

If Sal is behind home plate tonight, it will feel like Opening Day, Part 2. Welcome home, Sal.

The Bases Are Drunk. A lot.

Jonathan Sanchez has faced 15 batters with the bases loaded – defined as “grand slam opportunities” by Baseball Reference. That’s the second most in the American League this year. The Rangers Yu Darvish has the most in the AL with 16. Interesting. Especially given the fact that Sanchez has thrown 36 innings. Darvish has twirled 89 innings.

Fortunately, in each grand slam opportunity, Sanchez has kept the ball in the yard. Still, 15 opportunities in 36 innings… And you thought Jonathan Broxton pitched on a tightrope.

Sanchez has contributed the lion’s share of the Royals league leading total of pitching with 74 grand slam opportunities. Fortunately, they’ve surrendered just a single slam.

The Twins – with the worst pitching in the league – have faced just 42 grand slam opportunities.

I have no idea what this means…

High Leverage Pen

Not only is the Royals bullpen really good, they’ve been doing it under tremendous pressure. According to Baseball Reference, the bullpen’s average Leverage Index (aLI) is 1.094, which is tops in the league. In fact, only three bullpens have an aLI greater than 1, which is “average” pressure.

Royals – 1.094
Tigers – 1.058
Orioles – 1.054

The Orioles have the best bullpen in the league, according to ERA at 2.38. I’m thinking the high leverage combined with the quality of performance is a huge reason the O’s are leading the uber competitive AL East. The Tigers bullpen ERA is 3.89, which is the second worst rate in the league, better than only the Indians. So I’m thinking the high leverage combined with the poor performance (relative to the league) is a reason the Tigers are scuffling.

The Royals may blow that hypothesis out of the water. Their bullpen ERA of 2.93 is seventh best in the AL, yet they’re nipping at the heels of the Tigers.

It boils down to the offense. The Royals are plating just 3.88 runs per game, while the tigers are scoring 4.4 per contest. That difference of 0.5 runs per game may be enough to offset the Royals bullpen advantage.

I still think the Tigers are the favorites in the Central. But they’ll need their pen to improve. Meanwhile, in a weak division, it’s the pen keeping the Royals in the hunt. If they can get their offense to pick up, they’ll be able to prevent the Tigers from gaining separation.

It’s a simplistic analysis, but sometimes the simple things help you gain the most clarity.

I may be coming around on this whole contention thing.

Knowing that Luke Hochevar was on the mound for the Royals in their second game of the Astro series, I prepared two leads:

Luke Hochevar was awful on Tuesday.

Or…

Luke Hochevar was brilliant on Tuesday.

It just seems like there’s no middle ground with this guy.

And by now, you know he was brilliant. Brilliant, as in, best start of the season, brilliant.

His curve was just outstanding. While his fastball was averaging 92 mph his curve was the perfect compliment, coming in at 79 mph with a ferocious break. Hochevar weaved both pitches in and out, throwing 33 fastballs and 32 curves. He got 22 strikes with each pitch. Excellent. Just excellent.

Hochevar is featuring his curve more than ever. It’s accounted for 16 percent of his pitches this year, compared to around eight percent two seasons ago.

In his post game presser, Yosty said that Hochevar was “getting back to being the pitcher we know he can be.” Yosty stressed Hochevar has three “core” pitches: Fastball, change and curve. And with those three working, Hochevar can be nasty.

Then, Yosty dropped this nugget: “He was relying too much on his cutter which was burning him.”

Oh, really?

I know we want to believe and buy into the “New and Improved” Hochevar, but please… The Royals keep throwing crap against the wall and hoping it sticks.

From the “he’s tipping his pitches” claim to the issues with runners on base, the Royals have identified (or made up) myriad reasons for why Hochevar has been awful. Have they addressed how his eyelids get jammed? It’s hysterical how many different ways the Royals have approached the guy.

So about that new, over-reliance on the cutter…

In Hochevar’s start for the Royals in the home opener – you know, the one where he stunk up the joint in the first and exited after giving up seven runs in four innings – he threw 70 pitches. Seven cutters.

In his start on May 1 against the Tigers where he allowed nine runs in four innings – and finished with a Game Score of 1 – he threw 75 pitches. Four cutters.

And in his start in his next turn in the rotation where he was knocked around by the Yankees in 2.1 innings to the tune of nine runs, Hochevar threw 51 pitches. Five cutters.

Look, I was fooled too. I thought it was his slider and his arm slot when throwing said slider. He’s not doing that anymore and seems to have moved away from his slider in his recent starts. He’s done pretty well in a couple of those. Hell, Hochevar has frustrated me so much, I don’t know what to think anymore.

And neither do the Royals.

What just kills me about this organization is that they think they can throw some BS out there and just because Yosty or GMDM says it, it’s true. Cutters? My ass. That has as much to do with Hochevar’s struggles as the financial problems in Greece and Spain.

(Although I would love for Yost to say something like, “Hochevar’s really been troubled by his investments in the Euro zone, particularly the south. Hell yes, it’s affecting his performance.” Don’t think that can’t happen.)

Hochevar has been fixed more times than Joan Rivers’ face.

Yet the Hochevar fix is never permanent. Rivers is frozen in time. Both scare the hell out of me.

I’ve come to accept Hochevar for what he is: A maddening starting pitcher where he’s liable to be brilliant in one start and awful in the next. On Tuesday he was brilliant. His best start of the season. It saved the bullpen and got the Royals the win, pulling them closer to .500. Huge.

And he did it on the back of 17 cutters.

He gets the gold star, but don’t try to sell me that he can do this on a consistent basis. Because he can’t.

On contention

Shortly after the final out was recorded, my Twitter feed exploded with celebratory notes about being 4.5 games out of first.

Hold on…

I understand where we’ve come from with this team. All these years of losing baseball wears you down. When you’re within sniffing distance of first, you tend to get giddy.  Excited. However, there’s a couple of issues we have to deal with before we can discuss contention.

For starters, the Royals current .455 winning percentage is the third worst in the AL. Yes, the Central sucks, but there’s a certain crazy amount of parity going on in the league. That will happen with the unbalanced schedule and the three division setup.  They have to leapfrog three teams. Not an easy task. Besides, entering play on Tuesday, the Royals playoff odds stood at 0.8 percent. There’s still a ton of baseball to be played.

Also, the starting pitching still has a long, long way to go. If you are throwing Sanchez, Mazarro and Mendoza out there you’re fighting an uphill battle. We’ve beaten this dead horse until it became reincarnated and died again, but this is a huge issue. You can’t win without decent starting pitching.

And finally, the offense has been… Not good. They rank ninth with a .318 OBP and ninth with a .394 slugging percentage. They’ve brought home 13 percent of all baserunners, among the worst rates in the league. They’ve also run into 28 outs on the bases, the most in the league. The Royals are scoring 3.9 runs per game, second worst in the league. I know everyone thinks Sal Perez is going to be some sort of offensive savior, but that’s not likely. Nor is it likely Wil Myers can rake in Kansas City the way he’s doing in Omaha. At least initially.

There are some serious holes with this club. Yes, they are 4.5 games out despite these problems. But baseball has a way of leveling the field, so to speak. Teams can’t survive the full 162 games on smoke and mirrors.

So ask yourself… Is this team developing, or are they built for contention? Answer honestly.

The stakes are enormous. You can’t afford to be wrong in your assessment. Most of us should remember 2003 when the Royals effectively went all in. We convinced ourselves we were close. Allard Baird was convinced. David Glass was convinced. Turns out we weren’t so close. And it set us back in a bad way. We thought they were built for contention.

Myself, I think this team is still developing. They need to get Wil Myers up sometime in July and – this is tremendously important – they need to get some starting pitching. Internal, free agent, trade… Whatever. This has to happen. If Dayton Moore attacks the market this winter (a prospect that makes me tremendously nervous) the timetable could be bumped to 2013. If Moore chooses to wait on his internal options (which appear to be shrinking) the timeline moves to 2014.

I still have the Tigers as the prohibitive favorites in the division. They’ve won seven of their last 10 and are showing signs of life. Someone is going to go on a roll and move ahead of the rest of the teams in this division. That team will have to have power and starting pitching. I don’t think that team will be the Royals. My money is still on the Tigers.

I know my opinion won’t be popular with some of you. Don’t confuse my thoughts of contention with a dislike of this team. I love the way they’ve battled back recently. And I love the way they’ve seemingly erased the brutality of that 12 game losing streak. There’s plenty to like on this team. But there’s still some epic holes.

I’m still with my team. I just think they’re still a year or two away.

Mitch Maier leads off the inning against John Axford and makes like a cricket batsman.

Axford threw a wicked googly. A little too wicked.

Really, no clue what Maier was doing, but whatever… Down a run in the ninth you have to do whatever it takes to reach base. That qualifies.

Mike Moustakas follows with a rocket down the first base line that first baseman Cody Ransom kicks and his only play is at first. Not an error because he got an out, but it had the makings of a 3-6-3 double play. Moose hit it hard enough and Ransom could have stepped forward to make the throw – he’s left handed, so it would have been a quick transfer – and returned to the bag in time to get Moose. Maybe, maybe not.

So the tying run moves to scoring position. Wednesday’s hero, Alcides Escobar can’t do it two nights in a row and strikes out on a nice slider.

That brings up Jarrod Dyson. I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: Dyson is a nice player if he’s your 25th man on the bench. I can live with him as a pinch runner and a defensive replacement for a Melky-like outfielder. The dude is striking out looking in 54 percent of his strikeouts. Not good. Tells me the guy isn’t seeing the ball worth a damn. Or isn’t confident in his abilities to make contact.

Thankfully, the bat didn’t leave his shoulder. I mean, if I’m a Brewer fan, that would kill me. Axford has to throw strikes in that situation and the game is over. No way Dyson is making contact and the odds are strong he won’t even attempt to swing. And Axford wasn’t even close.

Which is key because the Royals speed merchant is the winning run.

Thankfully the Royals pinch hit Brayan Pena for Quintero. Pena swings at a high strike, then goes with a fastball and lines it into right left. Maier scores easily, but Pena is going to get hung up between first and second. That was going to be a base running blunder to send the game to extras. Except the Brewers second baseman can’t handle the throw… Dyson had stopped at third and breaks for home. Late throw…

Pandemonium.

Awesomeness.

(I had a moment of clarity this morning on my daily run… There were two outs in the inning and Pena’s run didn’t mean a thing. Maybe the correct play there is for the shortstop to put the ball in his back pocket. To not force the play. Sure, they could have gotten the out, and sure the top of the order was due up for the Royals, but the risk was going to be there that they couldn’t make the play. Which is exactly what happened… However, with first base open, the Brewers could have walked Gordon to pitch to Getz. Pena forced the issue… As I’ve always said, there’s a fine line between aggressive and stupid. There wasn’t going to be any grey area on Pena’s going to second. Turned out aggressive worked… For once.)

It’s possible the end overshadowed a fine performance by Luke Hochevar. I’ve dissected and given up on Hochevar, but give credit where credit is due… His performance was outstanding.

And he did it without his slider. According to PITCH f/x, Hochevar threw a total of three sliders on Thursday. Three. It was his curveball that did the heavy lifting.

He threw 23 curves, 17 for strikes. Five of those were put in play and he recorded three ground outs (one was a double play), one fly out and one lonely single. Yes, he coughed up a couple of home runs, but I’m going to cut him some slack. He was pitching so well and keeping runners off the bases that those bombs were solo shots.

In innings one through six, the most pitches he threw in an inning was 13. The model of efficiency.

His final line:

7.1 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO

That 7.1 innings pitched represents the longest outing by a Royals starter this year. Five times had a starter thrown seven innings (Bruce Chen has done it three times. Felipe Paulino and Hochevar each have one outing.) That’s unreal. This rotation…

And now that the bats have gone back into hibernation, starts like Hochevar are necessary to keep this team in the game. Yeah, I’m Captain Obvious, but if Hochevar has one of his patented meltdown innings, this walkoff doesn’t happen.

But it did.

So there.

Sweep.

The Prodigal Greinke returns and on paper it’s a mismatch. One Cy Young Award winner against one PCL pitcher of the year. One who was dealt in a blockbuster in exchange for four players against one who was acquired for cash considerations. One who is one of the best starters in the NL against one who is an emergency starter used only because everyone else is hurt.

Yet it was Luis Mendoza who was the starter of the game.

Baseball is funny sometimes.

Mendoza finished with a Game Score of 68. That’s tied with almost every Felipe Paulino start this season for sixth best this season. (Seriously, Paulino has made three starts with a Game Score of 68. He’s awesome. He’s also hurt.) Here’s the top starts by Game Score:

It was a great start from Mendoza. It’s one off his best Game Score ever. Set back in 2008 when he was pitching for the Rangers and struck out eight in six innings. You won’t be surprised to learn that those eight strikeouts are the most he’s ever had in a start.

What may be surprising to you is that Mendoza’s four strikeouts on Tuesday, was tied for second most in a start in his career. Hey, he’s made just 22 starts, but still… Wow.

(By the way, according to Game Score, Greinke had the better start. It was 69-68. Because Greinke strikes batters out.)

So we basically saw the best that Mendoza had to give. Not bad, really. His two seam fastball was really diving on both sides of the plate. He recorded six ground outs to go along with his four whiffs. Perhaps more key was the fact he got three pop-ups. Maybe the Brewers were thinking a dropping two-seamer was on the way and they got under a four-seamer. Whatever, Mendoza’s pitches were working. And working quite well.

These kind of starts are always welcome.

– Yes, you have to include the obligatory, “Greinke doesn’t get any run support at The K, no matter what uniform he’s wearing.”

– If you’re looking for an alternate player of the game, you’d have to give the nod to Alex Gordon.

I mean, how sweet was it for him to lead off the game for the Royals with a bomb? And then the throw to gun down Braun to keep the 1-0 lead? That’s the guy I remember from last year.

In our daily installment of “Fun With Arbitrary Endpoints,” I note that since Yosty stopped shuffling Gordon around and let him be in the leadoff spot, he’s hitting .306/.424/.429 with six doubles, three home runs and nine walks against nine strikeouts. Too damn bad Yosty freaked on Gordon after his slow start. His overall numbers would be a little better than where we are now. Just a suspicion I have.

– On BUNTS… Yosty attempted two sacrifices on Tuesday. The first one was in the fifth inning following a Moose leadoff double. With The Shortstop Jesus at the plate, he bunted foul. Now, long time readers know, this play drives me insane. You have a runner at second with no outs and you give up an out to get him to third. Moving that runner doesn’t appreciably add to your run expectancy enough to justify giving away the out.

Escobar lined out on the next pitch on a bullet up the middle that Greinke speared. Good work, good effort as they say in Miami.

Naturally, the next batter, Jarrod Dyson flies out to center. That would have scored Moustakas. Although I think there’s no way Greinke puts that pitch in a spot where Dyson can get it in the air. You may disagree, though.

Then in the eighth, Gordon doubles to leadoff and Getz moves him to third. That free out was rendered useless by the Billy Butler single up the middle that would have scored Gordon from second.

I hear all the damn time that Getz “plays the game right” and “does all the little things.” Fine. If he’s so hot, why can’t he take a full swing and put the ball on the right side? It could ultimately end with the same result – an out and an advanced runner – but at least in that case there’s the possibility that something like a base hit could happen. Again, moving the runner to third while surrendering one of your final six outs just isn’t a smart percentage play. And it didn’t work because Gordon would have scored anyway.

Oh, one last thing. From Fangraphs, the Royals Win Expectancy before the Getz bunt? 74 percent. The Royals Win Expectancy following the Getz bunt? 74 percent.

Exactly.

– The Jonathan Broxton Highwire Thrill Ride is kinda starting to piss me off. Single, strikeout, single, strikeout and a fielder’s choice. Never mind the cheap hits. Never mind the first pitch balls. It’s the pace that is just maddening. Pitch the ball, Jonathan.

According to the PITCH f/x data at Fangraphs, Broxton is the third slowest reliever in the game this year.

Must be something about having a first name that starts with a “J.”

Anyway, I’m with Denny Mathews when it comes to the pace of the game. I don’t mind the overall three hour contest. It’s the pitchers that just bring the game to an absolute halt that drive me nuts. Whatever. It’s a pet peeve of mine. I’ll live.

But it makes me dislike Broxton even more.

– Great win. Greinke got me nostalgic and A1 snapped me back to the present, while Broxton made me want to fire up my flux capacitor and look at the future where he’s closing games for another team.

From what I understand, there were some great Greinke quotes following the game. I’m sure we’ll have fun with those tomorrow.

On Thursday, with the Royals off, those of us with Metro Sports in Kansas City were fortunate to get a viewing of the Omaha Storm Chasers. It was a Triple-A marquee matchup as Jake Odorizzi squared off against Roy Oswalt.

Plenty of subplots, too… Sal Perez joined the team for his first rehab start as a designated hitter. And Chris Getz. (Yeah, I know.) Then there was the continuing saga of the Wil Myers Electric Power Show.

It was an opportunity for Kansas City based Royals fans to get a glimpse of the future. And it looks promising. Still.

So, when will the Royals call up Myers and Odorizzi? I know, I know… We’ve all been pondering that very question.

Let’s address Myers first.

Adding a grand slam to his prodigious power totals he now has 39 extra base hits (16 doubles, 2 triples and 21 home runs) in 212 at bats. Roughly an extra base hit every five at bats. Which could work out to roughly one a game. Awesome.

(Please… Don’t be extra impressed that the kid hit his slam off Oswalt. He’s not even close to being in “game” shape. Just be impressed that he hit another bomb. Good enough.)

In 35 games in Double-A, Myers hit .343/.414/.731. In his first 20 games since moving to Triple-A, he’s posted a line of .324/.375/.703. He hasn’t missed a beat in making the climb up the organizational ladder.

I think the “Super Two” status is a non-starter. It has been an issue because the new collective bargaining agreement expands the pool of super two eligibles from 17 percent to 22 percent. That pushes the date later in the season. According to MLB Trade Rumors, the cutoff for super two status in 2012 is going to be 134 days. Last year, it was 146 days. By my calculations, today is the 64th day of the 2012 season. A full season generally lasts 183 days. That means if a player makes his debut on Friday and stays in the majors the rest of the season, he will accrue 119 days of service time. (As a measuring stick, the Braves Tommy Hanson made his debut on June 7, 2009 and accrued 120 days of service time.) It looks like we’re past the cutoff. Although that cutoff wouldn’t apply to players called up this season. For a new callup, it comes into play in two and a half year’s time.

The Super Two date changes from season to season. Is two weeks a big enough pad? Who knows. I do know that waiting another couple of weeks to be safely past the cutoff would be smart business.

(I’m not fully at ease with the latest collective bargaining agreement. It’s important, though. If I got the previous graphs wrong, let me know in the comments and I’ll correct.)

I got into a discussion about this with David Lesky of Pine Tar Press and Michael Engel of Kings of Kauffman last night on Twitter. They both think the cut off for Super Two is early to mid July. If that’s the case, it’s nuts to call up Myers within a month of the cutoff date. I’ve never been about gaming a player’s service time, but for a small market team close to the deadline, it’s about fiscal prudence. You need to save money where you can. If that means a prospect is called up a month later, so be it.

Again, this whole Super Two thing in the new CBA is very confusing.

If Myers were to be called up, the Royals would have to place him on the 40-man roster. It’s currently full, so the Royals would have to designate someone for assignment to remove him from the roster.

Some interesting trivia… With Clint Robinson activated for Friday’s game, the Royals have had 38 players on their major league roster this year. (Ryan Verdugo didn’t make an appearance before getting farmed out.) That’s astounding. The only players on the 40-man roster who haven’t been in KC this year are Noel Arguelles, David Lough and Derrick Robinson.

Fortunately (or probably not) the Royals could make a move with Danny Duffy. He’s on the 15 day DL, so they could slide him to the 60 day DL and remove him from the 40-man roster. But then you face a roster issue when Sal Perez is ready to be activated as he’s currently on the 60 day DL. That problem is solved by sending Humberto Quintero back to Houston as his own PTBNL. Or just cutting him.

Myers has been playing center, so that solves an outfield puzzle. Sort of. Really, he projects more as a corner man. We know Alex Gordon isn’t going anywhere, so that leaves Jeff Francoeur. I suppose he could slide to center – his audition is this weekend – but really… You don’t move a below average right fielder to center. That’s defensive malpractice. Reports are Myers is passable in center. Not a butcher, but he’s not going to cover a bunch of ground. Passable. The Royals did play Melky Cabrera out there last summer. Myers can’t be much worse. He can stay there for a couple of seasons until Francoeur is inevitably named player-manager for the 2014 season.

Myers looks to be ready. This season has been easy for him. Almost too easy. I’d bet the blog that the Royals are waiting to see if he hits any kind of a slump. Just to see how he will handle it. Because when he gets to the majors, it’s not going to be this simple.

Yes, we look at the standings and see the Royals six or seven games out. But be realistic… This team isn’t contending this year. Calling up Myers isn’t going to help the Royals sneak into a pennant race. Unless he can pitch two or three times a week.

Myers needs to be up, but the Royals have the luxury of waiting. Today, there’s no need to force the issue. But as long as he doesn’t go in the tank, he should be up by the All-Star Break. For The Process to roll along, I think a key component is to bring the rookies up in mid season (like they did with Hosmer and Moose) let them get a feel for the league, and then turn them loose for a full season the next year. Of course, it doesn’t always work. Hosmer has struggled. Moose has raked. That’s baseball. But I’d sure feel better about 2013 if Myers had 250 plate appearances this summer.

Now on to Odorizzi…

He made his fifth appearance in Triple-A on Thursday, striking out 10 and walking 1 in 6.2 innings. In 27 innings for Omaha, he’s struck out 27 and walked 9. A 3:1 SO:BB ratio and a 9.0 SO/9? I like.

But Odorizzi has been in Triple-A for less than a month. Yes, he pitched great for Northwest Arkansas with a 3.32 ERA and a 11.1 SO/9 and 2.4 BB/9, but he struggled in his first turn through the Texas League in 2011. In 12 starts last year, he finished with a 4.72 ERA, a 7.1 SO/9 and 2.9 BB/9. It’s great that he made adjustments, and yes, he’s pitching really well in the PCL, but the majors are a different animal.

The control is something to get excited about. In his start on Thursday, I saw an explosive fastball that had late movement. To me, it looked like he was locating extremely well. That will play in the bigs.

I’m excited about Odorizzi as a future Royal, but I think he needs more seasoning in Triple-A. Like Myers, lets see him struggle and make the necessary adjustments. But like Myers, we need to see him in Kansas City sometime in August so he can get a taste of the bigs.

There’s also the roster crunch in play here. Who do you remove from the 40-man? Lough? Derrick Robinson? Since the Royals have used every pitcher on their 40-man not named Arguelles, I doubt they’d remove an arm. I just don’t think the Royals have the roster flexibility to bring up Odorizzi. Sure they can cut The Yunigma or ship Getz to Omaha, but let’s be realistic… That’s not going to happen. It will probably take a trade to free up a roster spot. And that will likely happen at the end of July.

What would you do if you decide both are ready? You’d have to promote Odorizzi, right? We’re desperate for starting pitching, so he’d fit the bill. I suppose it’s possible he arrives in KC ahead of Myers.

Either way, I expect both to make their debuts this season. Yet I’m content to be patient. For now. But I expect some movement in about a month. Keep the revolving door of youth moving along. And maybe next year will be Our Time.

What can we say about Bruce Chen?

The guy is simply a freak of nature.

Yeah, the Twins offense is dreadful (except on Monday when it was pretty good) but whenever a starter puts up a line like this…

7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 SO

You’re thrilled.

Chen threw 88 pitches and 62 of them were strikes. He was cruising.

And they were largely low stress innings. The Twins put a couple of runners on second, but both reached there with two down – a double by Dozier and a single and a steal by Mastroianni.

I was surprised Yosty didn’t send him back out for the eighth inning. At only 88 pitches and with Chen being a low effort kind of guy (not exactly a flamethrower who runs out of gas) and with those low stress innings, it seemed like an opportune time. Save Greg Holland for another night and let Chen go eight before turning it over to the ninth inning guy.

Shows you what I know when Holland comes on and simply punches out the side.

Nice.

– The Royals gave their free baserunning out away early in this one when Alex Gordon was picked off first in following his first inning walk.

– Chen evened the ledger when he scored a pickoff of his own. Looked extremely close to a balk to me where the lefty isn’t allowed to bring his right leg past the pitching rubber, but it wasn’t called so good enough. Dozier was going on movement, so nice job by Chen to get the ball to first to start the out.

– The Royals seemingly had an opportunity to tack on an insurance run in the eighth when Gordon laced a one out double. Although he was the giver of the Royals Free Out on the bases in the first with his pickoff/caught stealing (that’s how it’s scored) I can’t hang a baserunning blunder on A1 in this situation. The ball was sharply hit, Gordon was going on contact when he saw it wasn’t hit to the left side of the infield, took two steps and was caught in a proverbial no man’s land. Maybe the proper play was to freeze until you saw the ball get by the pitcher, but I’m betting Gordon was thinking about getting a good jump so he could score on a single up the middle. With one out and Butler up, maybe he should have played it safe, thinking Butler could at least get him home with a fly ball. Dunno.

– The Jonathan Broxton highwire act came on in the ninth. Really, the only true scoring opportunity for the Twins all night came in the ninth inning. Antacid time. A double and a walk with one out and he gets a pair of fly balls to end the game. The Dyson grab was a little unnerving. He hasn’t exactly inspired confidence out there when asked to run far to make a grab.

Whew.

– The Royals now have three wins on the homestand. More importantly, they are still on track to win six of their nine games against the A’s, Twins and Pirates.

– Speaking of Pirates, with the glory of interleague the Royals will be forced to play Eric Hosmer in right, slide Jeff Francoeur to center in order to keep Butler’s bat in the lineup at first.

Seriously, with an interleague game scheduled every day of the season next year with the Astros moving to the AL, it’s time to put the DH in the National League. It’s laughable that the Royals construct their team the way they do and then are told they can’t use it in that fashion.

Fix it, Bud.

Just like last year, the 2012 draft was turned upside down. In 2011, it was the Mariners selecting a starting pitcher with the second overall pick. This time, it was the Astros passing on a starting pitcher.

By the time the Royals were on the clock, two college arms they thought to have targeted remained on the draft board – Kyle Zimmer and Mark Appel.

Appel was the one generally thought to be the top selection overall, so it looked as though the Royals struck gold… Yet they selected Zimmer. The Royals say he was their top pitcher in the draft all along. So if that’s the case, good for them.

Surely some of this has to do with Appel, his agent (Scott Boras) and his demands. Under the new rules, the Royals have a total budget of $6.1 million for their selections in the top 10 rounds. That includes $3.5 million budgeted for the fifth overall pick. Had Appel been selected number one overall, the Astros have $7.2 million to spend. Or $1.1 million more for that pick than the Royals have for the entire first 10 picks. Do you think a Boras client will happily accept $3.7 million less? Don’t think so.

(Appel went to the Pirates who have a total draft budget of $6.5 million and $2.9 slotted for their top pick. Good luck, Pittsburgh.)

Anyway, congrats to Lonnie Goldberg and the Royals scouting department, who got the arm they coveted. Under the new rules he should be signed by July and hopefully the Royals will have him start his professional career later this summer.

Game on.

The Royals return to The K where they look to build on their league worst 5-17 home record. Just about the most bizarre split I can remember since Brian Bannister dominated the day. In 22 home games, they’ve allowed 122 runs, or 5.5 per game. In 27 road games, they’ve allowed 97 runs, or 3.6 per game.

They’re scoring more on the road (4.3/g vs 3.8) but the spread isn’t as extreme. As always, it’s all about the pitching.

A couple of notes following an off day where we popped the champagne on a winning record in May…

Decisions, Decisions

The Royals will be looking to make a couple of decisions with their 25-man roster in the coming days. Both Yuniesky Betancourt and Jonathan Sanchez are rehabbing in Omaha and look close to being activated.

For Sanchez, there’s no question… He’ll be slotted into the rotation as soon as humanly possible. Not because he’s anything great, but because he’s making $5.6 million and the Royals are still desperate for starting pitching. Like ugly girl in a bar at 2 am desperate. Neither scenario is something worth waking up to in the morning.

Sanchez threw 5.2 innings (of course he did) and struck out five while walking one in his first rehab start. He’s likely to get one more start before rejoining the team. Sanchez’s return still leaves the Royals with just four “definites” in the starting rotation: Chen, Hochevar, Paulino and Sanchez… That means your option for the fifth starter is either Will Smith, Luis Mendoza or Vin Mazzaro. Or they can add another starter from the minors.

Either way, this rotation is a hot mess.

Yosty seemed to be keeping his options wide open when he said Sanchez will “probably” make one more rehab start. If he stays in Omaha, it looks like Mazzaro will get the start on Sunday.

I’m not sure either option is a good one.

Then there’s Betancourt. He has progressed to Omaha after a brief stint in Northwest Arkansas and went 2-4 with a home run in his lone appearance for the Storm Chasers. According to Ned Yost, he could be activated this weekend.

This is where things will get interesting.

Do the Royals keep Johnny Giavotella with the big club? Or do they ship Irving Falu back to Triple-A? Since the Royals have need eight pitchers in the bullpen, they have a three man bench. It’s possible they ship a pitcher out and keep all three, but that seems really unlikely. In my heart, I’d like them to keep Giavotella and just let him play second. Yeah, he’s unimpressive with the glove, but just give him a couple of months and see what the kid can do. Betancourt isn’t a long-term solution. (God help us all if the Royals seem him that way.) Neither is Falu. Is Gio? Maybe… Maybe not. But while we’re certain about the futures of the other two players, the jury is still out on Giavotella. At least it should be.

I’d keep Falu, too. He has proven his value as a utility player. And he could provide the Royals with a late inning defensive replacement for Gio.

Of course, I never would have signed The Yunigma is the first place. So maybe I’m biased. Biased against bad ballplayers.

We’ve covered this topic at length. And after all the bandwidth we’ve filled, I still haven’t a clue as to what the Royals will do. I know what I hope they’ll do. This situation is beginning to feel like Christmas morning when I was 10… Full of hope and anticipation, but ultimately a day of disappointment when I opened a gift from Radio Shack.

Numbers

The Royals have used 20 pitchers through the first two months of the season. Nine of them have started a game. By comparison, last year the Royals used 23 pitchers and 10 starters.

Here are the top five teams ranked by bullpen innings:

Royals – 190
Orioles – 174.2
Twins – 172.1
Rockies – 165.2
Brewers – 163.1

It’s a damn good thing this bullpen is a strength of the team. Their collective 3.13 ERA is tied for the seventh best mark in baseball. Right now, if you asked me to name the Royals Pitcher of the Year, I would vote for “Bullpen.” Quantity and quality.

A1 Back On Top

According to Dutton’s notes column, Alex Gordon feels like the leadoff spot in the lineup is a “fit.” That’s cool. I don’t think lineup position matters at all, but I do understand that some players have a certain approach and state of mind when it comes to hitting leadoff. Hey, if Gordon is able to focus a little better because he’s feeling it in the leadoff spot… More power to him.

In the last four games since Yosty returned him to the top spot, A1 has added 10 points to his average and eight points to his OBP.

Works for me.

Winning The Month

About that winning month of May. The Royals finished two games above .500 at 15-13 despite scoring and allowing the exact number of runs. The offense crossed the plate 117 times while the pitchers surrendered the same amount. We don’t need an advanced degree in sabermetrics to know that the Royals Pythag record in May was 14-14.

Their overall Pythagorean record stands at 22-27, just a game off their actual record of 21-28. Remember during their losing streak how they were something like five games off their Pythag record? Over the course of a long season, these things have a way of finding a balance.

Time To Win

The Royals next six home games are against Minnesota and Oakland. You can’t find two worse run scoring offenses in the American League. (They follow this homestand with three against the Pirates. Their offense is dreadful. Like deadball era bad.) This is a chance to pick up some wins. Success will be defined as six wins in their next nine, including four out of six on the homestand.

I’m still not a believer in contention. I am a believer in development. And development, like contention, means winning ballgames. This is a real chance for the Royals to inch closer back to the ever elusive .500 mark. If they’re going to make a move at any time this season, it has to be over the next week and a half.

Play ball.

Last Friday, I went around the infield and looked at how the Royals offensive production at each position compared to league average. Today, it’s time for the outfield (and DH) to get the similar treatment.

Left Field
League Average – .243/.320/.412
Royals – .230/.324/.364, sOPS+ 85

Alex Gordon’s numbers look very much like the ’09-’10 version of Alex Gordon. That’s the version we thought we’d left behind. At least, we had hoped that version had been left behind after the Royals penned him to a contract extension just ahead of the season opener.

If you’re into arbitrary end points, Gordon did have a fine stretch of 19 games where he hit .321/.398/.487 from April 25 to May 16. That was when we collectively exhaled. Great. Except in the 11 games since then, he’s hit .146/.255/.220.

Although Gordon won’t admit it, I wonder if he’s been unsettled by Yosty’s Revolving Lineup Card. Gordon opened the year as the leadoff hitter (where he had most of his success last year), but when he was slow out of the gate, he was dropped to second, then third, then cleanup and even spent a few games in the sixth spot. In the last three games, he’s returned to the leadoff spot and has picked up four hits in 13 plate appearances. There’s still time for him to salvage his season, but it’s been much more of a grind.

Center Field
League Average – .268/.333/.432
Royals – .236/.312/.322, sOPS+ 70

Aside from the DH spot, the most productive position in the American League so far this year has been center field. And it’s where the Royals have struggled to get any production at all. Jerrod Dyson has seen the most appearances in center, with Mitch Maier with the second most. Lorenzo Cain and Jason Bourgeois have also seen time at the position.

Dyson’s production has been solid as far as reaching base. With a .252/.328/.331 line, he’s proven himself adept at working the count and drawing the base on balls. He still doesn’t hit enough to justify the leadoff spot in the lineup, but like I said… He’s pretty close to league average when it comes to OBP. That makes him a decent fourth outfielder to have on your roster. Look out, Mitch.

Still, this feels like a lost season for Cain. He was supposed to get most of the reps in center, but the injury bug bit him hard. Cain is in extended spring training rehabbing from a torn hip flexor. He’s probably a good three to four weeks away from returning. At which time, the Royals will have a decision to make: Will they hand him back his everyday job in center, or will they write off this season and rotate him with Dyson and/or Maier? Maier is buried so far on Yosty’s bench, he could be the odd man out.

Oh… At this point, I’m supposed to ask, “Got Melk?”

Right Field
League Average – .258/.326/.434
Royals – .276/.320/.443, sOPS+ 96

We know from watching the Royals several certainties: Ned Yost will call for myriad sac bunts in situations where they won’t help his team. The Royals will give the opposition at least one free out per game. And Jeff Francoeur will hit fifth.

Like most of the Royals, The Frenchman got off to a slow start, but picked up the pace of late. In May, he’s hit .327/.371/.582. Most impressive have been his seven walks this month. Currently, he’s walking in 6.2 percent of his plate appearances, which is the highest rate of his career. I think it has something to do with the Mayans. Or a Kardashian. And with five home runs this month, he’s knocking one out of the yard about every 36 at bats, which is very close to his career mark of 32 AB/HR. And this for a guy who didn’t hit his first bomb until May 13 and didn’t hit his second until May 21.

Nice road trip.

Designated Hitter
League Average – .259/.333/.450
Royals – .290/.345/.505, sOPS+ 118

The Royals have utilized two designated hitters all year: Billy Butler and… Johnny Giavotella. Ummm, OK.

We all know about Country Breakfast. And long time readers will know about my affection for the man. Dude can rake. And he’s the only thing – the only thing – that you can count on in the Royals lineup. He will show up every year, drill line drives to the gaps and put up a line around .300/.370/.470.

Except this year, he’s hit a few more home runs.

The party line from the Royals is Butler is finally hitting for more loft. Sounds great, except he’s not. His fly ball percentage is 32.2 percent which is the lowest of his career. The lowest. Yet, the ball is flying out of the part and he’s become the number one threat to wipe Steve Balboni from the Royals record book. How? Maybe it’s because he’s stronger. It doesn’t look like he’s changed his approach as the Royals would like you to believe. He’s swinging at pitches at roughly the same rate. It’s just that the fly balls have a little more charge in them this year.

It’s a nice development.

And as I Tweeted a few weeks ago, if you don’t like Billy Butler, I don’t have a lot of time for you. Sorry. I think he’s a great hitter. And the kind of guy you need on your team.

Country Breakfast is awesome.