Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Browsing Posts published by Nick Scott

Spring Training. Is it over yet?  We really need some actual games. Here are a variety of things on my mind in these closing hours of fake games in what seems to be the fake Arizona sun.

 

  • Getz and Yuni at 2nd base? Really?  Ugh. The Royals have been steadily eating away at their run scoring potential during this off-season. The only player who had a lower walk rate than Yuni with more than 270 plate appearances in 2011 was Humberto Quintaro. Both will feature prominently in the lineup.

 

  • I keep hearing about how Chris Getz has a new offensive approach. No, just no. Players don’t just change their offensive ability in an off-season. Getz will be Getz. He’ll be an average defender with a well below average bat. He’ll also get a ton of plate appearances along with Yuni, who also can’t hit.

 

  • How about something not completely depressing…check out this video of Cheslor Cuthbert. He’s one of my favorite Royals prospects and the video is a good example. He’s a solid defender with a sweet swing. This is the guy to keep your eye on this season.

  • Then there’s Lorenzo Cain’s swing. I’m a big fan of Cain. I think he’ll provide a big defensive improvement in center field and so far it looks like he’ll posses a decent bat. I’m just scared at how long his swing is. He is about to fall over when he swings. It allows him to swing really hard, but it will also open up some holes which pitchers can exploit. I’d like to see him shorten up a bit more like Cuthbert in the above video if at all possible.

  • I was convinced that the Royals would have Mendoza in their rotation and Duffy at AAA to start the season. I don’t see any reason to change my mind now. I don’t think it’s what I’d go with, but I can’t put up too much of a fight. We all know that we will see a number of starters get their chance, I can’t be too annoyed.

 

  • You all know that I hate the trade to acquire Jason Bourgeious and Humberto Quintaro for Kevin Chapman and a PTBNL. One of the things I kept hearing from the defenders was that we were not going to see Chapman this year. My first response is: so? My second response is that the Royals used 17 different relief pitchers in 2011. Why again is it that Chapman had no chance to help the team in 2012? And for his and PTBNL’s services we got two players that could be available for nothing as camp ends. Just watch the waiver wire. We’ll see better catchers and outfielders released.

 

  • Remember when everyone was going bananas over the fact that Aviles couldn’t play 2nd base good enough for the Royals? Well, it seems like he’s in the hunt to start at shortstop for one of the best teams in baseball over in Boston. He sure would be nice to have right now instead of Getz, right?

 

  • To those of you thinking “What about Teahen?” – I say, no. Stop it.

 

  • Losing Soria seriously blows. However the loss of a reliever, even one of Soria’s caliber is pretty easy to replace considering you use laddering with relievers. It’s not like his innings will be replaced with the worst reliever. They will be taken over by the 2nd and 3rd best relievers or possibly the 1st and 2nd best if Soria isn’t his old self. It’s why relievers are over-valued.

 

  • It seems like this entire Spring Training has been one depressing event after another. Has anything good happened? Let’s just get the team out of Surprise and back to Kansas City before any more crappy things happen.

 

- Nick Scott



 

Dear God,

I’m not sure You exist, but if You do I have little doubt that You spend some of Your time reading Royals blogs. My primary question for you is as follows:

Seriously, what the hell?!

I ask it in all due respect, considering You are possibly the most powerful being in the universe other than the Koch brothers. What is it that us Royals fans did to make You so mad? No playoffs since 1985. Kyle Snyder. Injuries to Jose Rosado, Salvador Perez and now Joakim Soria. It’s all too much to be mere coincidence, the only logical conclusion is that You are somehow involved.

Soria is a fan favorite, a guy who has provided a large portion of the Royals enjoyable moments these past few years. He was someone we could be proud of and he was proud to be a Royal. Now, as things are coming together his arm in injured again. Did You smote his arm in vengeance? Why? Is it something we did?

I know there are a number of potential reasons that the Royals and their fans are not on your good list. Yes, the Royals hired Rush Limbaugh, but how could they have known who he’d become? Jose Offerman just kind of seemed like an odd-duck and he put up 5.0 fWAR in 1998. Did you hate the Jermaine Dye for Neifi Perez trade too? Look, that was the old regime and none of us supported it, we’ve all learned to let it go.

You can’t be that mad, right? You let the Yankees win all the time and they have no souls. If anybody needed a smiting, it’s them! I know that Mr. K would do anything to win, but I just am not ready to believe that he sold the team to the devil for a championship in 1985. Sure they weren’t the best team that season, but they won when it counted. Sure there was the whole Denkinger…..wait, that’s it, isn’t it?

You stepped in during Game 6. It was YOU who made Denkinger call safe. You were rooting for the Royals, weren’t You? Look, I get it. Being God is a heavy business, what with all the deaths and prayers and what not. Sometimes an all-powerful creator needs to sit back and watch a baseball game. Clearly no being as caring and thoughtful as you would root for the Cardinals so you gravitated towards the upstart ballclub from Kansas City. Things seemed like they might not be going well for Your team so you slipped in a safe call. Who can blame you? Heck, imagine if the Royals had lost. We’ve read the bible, you have a pretty nasty streak in you. Nobody needed to see that again. Brimstone free since 500 B.C. right?

The Royals win, You’re happy. Then you feel a little bad for usurping that whole free will thing. But it was just one call, and it didn’t even really matter anyway. If Jorge Orta was out, the Royals would still win. Don’t be so hard on Yourself. We all make mistakes.

I think 26 years without being in the post season, the Ross Gload era and two different Yuniesky Betancourt stints is enough. You’ve pretty clearly handed the Cardinals a couple of World Championships and given them Pujols too. Can we just draw the line at this Soria injury and consider it all even? You seem to have lost some of your anger anyways, I mean if you were really mad you would’ve smoted Greg Holland’s arm (please don’t do that). The Royals bullpen is still strong and can overcome this injury, and maybe with another surgery we can have Soria back in a year or so.

Look, we’ve been wandering in this desert long enough. Our trial surely must be finished. We don’t need you to part the sea for us, just get off our backs for awhile. Let nature take it’s course. It looks like You’ve kind of moved Your vengeance to the Dodgers lately anyway. We’re totally cool with that. I mean, leaving Brooklyn, pffft, what was THAT, am I right?

I hope You finally consider our penance paid, it sure feels like it is. If you can put a little magic into Soria’s arm when it’s on the operating table, it would be kind of a nice gesture. Anyway, thanks for reading the blog, that is if you exist. If You don’t, well then….

Dear Vishnu……

- Nick Scott


The Royals aren’t in quest of a bullpen, no they’ve been working on THE bullpen, a Super Bullpen. This is the Justice League of bullpens. Sure, Superman and Batman can handle some pretty big threats by themselves. But if they team up with each other and the likes of Wonder Woman, Aquaman and the Green Lantern, well that changes things. It’s the combination of quality which creates dominance. While it still remains to be seen if the Royals can actually put together a Super Bullpen, let’s assume that they have. Should they change their strategy to suit it?

In general, a bullpen seems to consist of one or two very good pitchers, a specialist or two and then just some guys. While it isn’t likely to happen, let’s say the Royals have 5 or 6 very good pitchers and a couple of “some guys”. Does this change the equation? Is it possible to use that to the teams advantage? Does it even matter?

Somewhere along the lines, baseball has adopted almost completely the fact that you have 5 starting pitchers and 7-8 bullpen pitchers. The starter does his damnedest to get through 5 innings and the manager in general will let him get there unless he’s completely blowing up. Somewhere around 100 pitches he is removed and replaced with a reliever. The relief pitcher is picked almost exclusively based upon an inning/score combo with his recent usage determining if he’s available or not. If it’s early in the game, almost regardless of score the team will bring in one of The Guys. As the game progresses, and if it’s still close better pitchers are brought in. Then if the team is up and ONLY if they’re up and by 3 runs or less they will then bring in their best reliever.

While there are some major flaws in this system, in general it is very effective. Bullpen utilization is possibly the best it’s been in the history of baseball. But with a Super Bullpen the strategy might need some tinkering.

There are two ways to get more value out of the bullpen. You can increase the number of total innings they pitch or you can increase the number of important innings they pitch. Let’s start with the first one.

Simply increasing the number of innings a bullpen pitches will allow you to get more total value out of the bullpen. It’s a pretty simple equation. If you can put your Super Bullpen in the game more then you’re getting more out of them. In 2011, Joakim Soria, Aaron Crow and Greg Holland combined had fewer innings on the mound than Jeff Francis. If you could have replaced one of his 1.47 WHIP innings with one of their combined 1.20 WHIP innings then you’ve just improved your team.

There is a risk of diminishing returns, however. There is a reason, presumably, that Soria and Holland are not starters. They are not equipped to pitch as many innings as Jeff Francis. The nearly unanswerable question though, is how many can they pitch? Is 60 the perfect number? Is it actually 50 or 80 or 90? My gut says that it’s more than 60, but it’s not my job on the line if a $4m arm explodes from over-use.

The other way to get more value out of your bullpen is to get them into more important innings. Quite simply, important innings are those where your team has a good but not great chance to win. A 0-0 game in the 9th is important, a 3-2 game in the 7th is important, a 9-6 game in the 9th is somewhat important and a 15-0 game in the 8th is not important.

There are two ways to skin this particular cat. You can create more important innings or you can try and slot your best pitchers into the most important innings. In general, though they get a lot of flack, teams do a pretty good job of having the best pitchers in the most important innings. They seem to underrate the importance of a one-run game in the 4th and overrate the importance of a 3-0 game in the 9th. Beyond that they seem to do a fair job. Of course the first thing is to completely ignore the save statistic and stop using your best pitcher with a 3 run lead.

For example in 2011, Joakim Soria came into games 24 times when the Royals were either up or down by 3 runs or more. 40% of his appearances came in games that the outcome was nearly already determined. Whether it was Soria or one of The Guys, it wouldn’t have made a huge amount of difference.

One reason we see this happen is that pitchers need some regular usage. If there aren’t important innings late in games for a week, then you have to get your closer in there at some point. What most managers ignore is that when they have a day where one of their top relievers needs to be used, there is always at least one inning where the score is close: the 1st. You’ve been blowing out or have been blown out for a week. Joakim Soria absolutely has to get in a game. So you start him. Let him pitch 1 or 2 innings. They’re likely to be low pressure, but yet important. Managers obsess about “shortening the game”, well shorten it from the front end. After he is done, bring in the regular starter for his 5 innings.

The second option is to produce more high leverage innings overall. It would be great if the Royals could just take a 12 run lead in the 1st and never look back, so what we’re really talking about is the reduction of large deficits. Improving the offense or defense ways to get this done, but that’s not the scope here. The other is to avoid allowing a pitcher to go longer than he should. If a starter is struggling in the 3rd and the game is within a run or two, then have a quick hook. Put the Super Bullpen in immediately and without hesitation.

For example, if some inter-galactic army of shape changers is attempting to destroy the earth and the only person fighting them is Batman, the Justice League isn’t going to wait until the earth is in ruins before they jump in. No, they get in there as soon as they’re needed.

Baseball is slow to change and the risk for a Manager or General Manager is great if they go outside the commonly accepted strategy to win games. They’re likely to get less credit for the wins and more credit for the losses. So, I don’t expect the Royals to do anything different to utilize their Super Bullpen. I don’t know that I would do it if I were in Ned’s shoes either. Being the manager of a team is a pretty awesome job. I don’t believe that they have to go all-in on this strategy though. Just do a few more things to get the bullpen (if it is indeed Super) more innings and more important innings. Nudge that slow-moving boulder just a tiny bit. It just might mean the difference between a good season and a great one.

 

- Nick Scott


Yesterday Yuniesky Betancourt hit a home run during a Spring Training game. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, he has been known to deposit the spheroid outside the boundaries from time to time. Heck you can’t discuss the portly middle infielder without someone bludgeoning you over the head with the fact that he tied for the team lead in 2010 with 16.

So the amazing thing about a Yuni-Bomb isn’t exactly that it happened, but the feelings it stirs up amongst different segments of the Royals fanbase. What follows is my sweeping generalizations about people and what I believe they felt in their heart of hearts when they heard that Yuni had gone yard.

Casual fan: “Wait, didn’t we trade that guy?”

Blinded by loyalty fan: “That Dayton Moore, he just doesn’t make mistakes.”

Blogger fan: “Oh, now I remember why I didn’t hate Yuni. He gave me good stuff to write about.”

 

Royals Employee: “This will be helpful in my job requirement to talk up Yuni 80+ times this season.”

 

Optimistic fan: “If he can show some of that pop off the bench. Maybe he will be a decent guy to have around.”

 

Stat obsessed fan: “Still doesn’t make up for his inability to get on base.”

 

Pessimitic fan: “F*#$^ing great. This means we’re going to see this a$&@#$e five times a week now.”

 

A certain scout: “Those plus-plus hands in motion. Yum yum.”

 

Facebook fan: “He hitted a home bomb!!! He’s only signed for 2 yearz?  LOLZZZZ!!! This team suxors and will until they can sign guys like him for there entire career.”

I could go on. Baseball is entertainment. That really is the bottom line. Winning is the best entertainment that a team can provide. However having a guy like Yuni makes all of the meta-entertainment surrounding baseball a bit more fun. Being at a game when Yuni hits a home run and my freiends look at me like “Come on, you like him now right?” and admitting that for that one moment, yes I do like him and then having it all go away when he can’t get to a ball a step away from him, well it’s all part of the entertainment.

Sure I wish that the Royals had a better player than Yuni. Yes it makes me want to punch a wall when I look at how terrible he’s been for his ENTIRE CAREER, but I can’t control that. It wasn’t my call. I just have to deal with it the only way I know how. Snark, jokes and occasionally admitting that the chubby guy is kind of fun to have around.

 

- Nick Scott
Follow @brokenbatsingle

While the Royals are trotting out their “Our Time” slogan, on the streets of Kansas City you’re more likely to hear “If only they had a better starting rotation”. Less snazzy. More Accurate. Not really the balance a marketing professional is looking to strike. However the refrain is grounded in truth and it is almost certain that the Royals will only go as far as their starting rotation will take them. So then why is it that the Royals, when faced with two free agent pitchers selected what appears to be the lesser one?

Going into this offseason the Royals had both Jeff Francis and Bruce Chen entering free agency. When the dust settled, the Royals gave Bruce Chen a 2-year contract worth $9m and Jeff Francis is with Cincinnati on a Minor League contract that might be worth $800.000. Why?*

*I’m going to pause here because I know that most of you are going to look up their numbers and attempt to come to your own conclusion. Those of you who are about to say “But his Wins and his ERA!” I will re-direct you back to your Delorean and suggest you return to your original time of 1985.

Jeff Francis is a 31 year old pitcher who just came off of his worst full season in his career which came just after a major surgery. At one point in his career, he was looked at as an Ace. His 2007 fWAR was equal to Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez. Bruce Chen is a 35 year old pitcher who just came off of his best season in his career while pitching only 155 innings due to a mid season injury. So, maybe it seems that Francis is on the decline while Chen is on the incline. Follow the trend, right?

Let me tell you something about 35 year old pitchers: they’re not getting better. It just doesn’t happen that way. Bruce Chen’s story has been a fascinating one and I really like the guy so I wish him all the success in the world. However, if I were laying down $9m of my own cash, I’d bet it on the don’t pass line.

Let’s take a look at some numbers:

Games Started:

Jeff Francis 180

Bruce Chen: 169

If experience on the mound is what you believe Chen brings, then he actually loses out to Francis in terms of starting pitching experience. Actualy in terms of total innings, Chen has a mere 99 more in his much longer career. Bruce Chen is new to being a starting pitcher, maybe that’s not a detriment but I don’t know that fewer starts is somehow to his benefit.

2011 ERA:

Jeff Francis 4.82

Bruce Chen: 3.77

This is the key number that people will bang you over the head with to prove that Bruce Chen is a better pitcher. Look at that, over a run every 9 innings. That is significant. What it was significant in was the fact that Chen got over 10x more than Francis in pay. However, I’m not sure it signifies one was better and certainly does not suggest one will be better. Why?

2011 xFIP:

Jeff Francis: 4.29

Bruce Chen: 4.68

Pitchers can not control what happens once balls leave the bat of an opposing player. Thus their ERA depends heavily on things out of the control of the pitcher. Thus ERA introduces a whole lot of information which tells us nothing about the actual pitcher. xFIP is designed to give us a better look at the true talent and effectiveness of a pitcher. In 2011, xFIP is telling us that Francis was actually better than Chen or at least much more  similar than their ERA suggests.

2011  K/BB:

Jeff Francis: 2.33

Bruce Chen: 1.94

Chen struck out more batters than Francis, but he walked significantly more as well. Jeff Francis was one of the stingiest pitchers in baseball in terms of walks. With an improving defense, giving up walks become even more onerous. Striking a player out is the best out come for a pitcher, but walking guys is one of the worst. If Francis can get even stronger with another year to recover from surgery, then maybe his strikeout totals jump. Then again, maybe not.

2011 IP:

Jeff Francis: 183

Bruce Chen: 155

I don’t want to gloss over the tendinitis that Francis had last season, but the bottom line is that he started 6 more games for the Royals than Bruce Chen did. Injuries will happen to pitchers and they’re somewhat unpredictable. But one of the highest areas of correlation is age. The older you are, the more likely you’ll have to hit the DL. This difference in innings is one of the main reasons that Francis had a higher fWAR last season. You aren’t adding value to a team when you’re hurt.

2011 BABIP:

Jeff Francis: .316

Bruce Chen: .278

This is the batting average for balls that are put into play. Basically this is what happens to pitchers when they have no control. The vast majority of research suggests that there is little to nothing that a pitcher can do about this number and an abnormally low or high one cannot be sustained. Let’s just assume that it’s possible that somehow Bruce Chen has been able to find a way to limit the damage done by balls in play. Maybe he has beaten the odds. If that’s the case then he just might be more valuable, but everything suggests that he cannot keep his BABIP that low.

 2011 Contract Signed:

Jeff Francis: $800,000 if he makes the roster

Bruce Chen: $9,000,000 guaranteed

I don’t have all of the information. Maybe the Royals doctors took a look at Francis and decided that his arm was shot. In fact, that seems to be the most logical reason for them to have passed on him completely. Since he was willing to accept a Minor League deal, I hope that there was a significant reason to pass on him.

The fact he signed a Minor League contract is the most interesting thing in all of this. Why wouldn’t the Royals have signed both Chen AND Francis. It’s not like the starting rotation is perfect or incapable of being injured. From the outside looking in, the Royals passed on the superior pitcher at a bargain basement price in order to sign an aging soft-tossing lefty who by all indications won’t provide the same value in 2012.

I don’t believe Jeff Francis is the key to unlocking the playoffs for the Royals, but having him around couldn’t hurt. It certainly wasn’t expensive.

 
- Nick Scott
Follow @brokenbatsingle

 

- Nick Scott
Follow @brokenbatsingle

Yesterday afternoon, the Royals announced that they had signed catcher Salvador Perez to a guaranteed 5 year and $7m dollar contract, with 3 additional option years for a possible total of $26.75m.

Those contract details can only mean one thing: the Royals got an awesome Groupon for Salvador Perez. That contract is just silly. The Royals have only guaranteed the 5 years which Salvador Perez would be under team control and Perez could bring $7m in value by the All-Star Break. I find it nearly impossible that Salvador would not surpass $7m in arbitration dollars. This my friends is the best team deal I’ve seen the Royals sign…well, ever.

Some folks are saying that the Royals are taking a risk here, but they’re wrong. There is almost no risk whatsoever in this deal for the Royals. The absolute worst case scenario is that Perez doesn’t play a single inning again and they are on the hook for $7m. It would be like stepping to the roulette table and getting paid on every single number except 0. This deal is as risky as sitting on your couch. Sure a satellite could crash into your living-room and kill you, but it’s not very likely.

I’d be pretty happy with this signing if Salvador Perez was merely an alright catcher, it gets even crazier if he can actualize the talent I believe he has. I’ve seen a top notch defender who can hit for some average and a lot of power. He has every chance of being one of the best catchers in baseball and he’ll be paid $1m less per year than Miquel Olivo made last year. I am really high on Salvador Perez and I believe he will be more than capable as a front line starter and he’s getting paid like a backup. If I were Salvador’s agent, I’d suggest that he pass on this opportunity and go through some arbitration. However, nobody has ever offered me $7m for anything and saying no to that, especially after only 39 games has to be difficult.

So the signing itself was fantastic, but the way it went down was pretty genius as well. It started with emails to media members which said that the Royals would be announcing a contract extension and would have a press conference at 5:30 central time with an unnamed player. This unnamed player business did exactly what it was supposed to do, it made everyone think that an agreement had been signed with Alex Gordon.

Twitter began to explode with bloggers and national writers alike pumping the #RoyalsAnnouncement. Craig Brown said that he would set me on fire if it wasn’t an Alex Gordon signing and I was taking guesses on what the Gordon contract looked like.  There were some people who thought that since Danny Duffy, Salvador Perez and Eric Hosmer were still unsigned that it could be any one of them in addition to Alex Gordon. However we all kind of assumed that a big announcement with an unnamed player didn’t really make sense for any of them except possibly Hosmer. It had to be Gordon.

As I and many thousands of Kansas Citians were driving home in our cars, we tuned into the local sports talk radio stations to hear the big announcement. Then when the Royals announced that it was Salvador Perez, I became a tad bit disappointed and then extremely excited. Then I paused and realized that the Royals just pulled off an amazing coup.

They got both local sports talk stations to completely ditch discussion of the epic Mizzou vs ku basketball game – during drive time. As I and every other sports loving Kansas Citian was cruising home from our jobs we were inundated with Royals talk rather than what was clearly a much more important story. It was an absolute stroke of marketing genius to time things that way and it’s one of the few times that I think there was some tangible benefit to the DEFCON 8 level lockdown they have at One Royal Way.

Yesterday was a big success for the Royals. They just made a crazy cheap signing of a potential star and they dominated local sports talk. Both moves were intelligent, smart, well-thought out and executed to perfection. Whoah, I just used all of those words to describe the Royals. Maybe things really are starting to come together.

 

- Nick Scott
Follow @brokenbatsingle

Slogans. They are a part of modern baseball. Teams spend precious off-season hours working with crack marketing teams to come up with a slogan that will capture the essence of the team in an effort to sell more tickets. I doubt any actual research has been done on whether or not these typically cheesy slogans actually increase a team’s revenue, but that’s not really the issue here. My concern is over the accuracy of this year’s Royals slogan – “It’s Our Time.”

The nature of advertising slogans is to enhance the positive image of products and downplay or ignore the negative. They are designed deceptive and manipulative, but have enough truth that they are not outright lies. The key is to typically make claims which cannot be verified or proven.*

* This brings to mind my absolute favorite slogan of all time. In 1994 the San Diego Padres were coming off of a 101 loss season and were not going to be any better. They trotted out the most accurate and awesome slogan in the history of baseball: “Hey, it’s baseball.”

I’m here to just see if it is “Our Time” or not. First, we need to define the phrase. Sure it could mean that it’s Our Time to be together and make people want to go to the games to spend time with their fathers, mothers, sisters and friends. Time which will be Ours. That’s a cute thought and I’m sure it will be part of the marketing campaign.

However, what it more likely means is that its Our Time to win, since so often the commercials have the players saying “Our Time” and not a dad hanging with his son. The Royals are suggesting that we’ve gone long enough without winning, we are due, finally to have a good season. It is finally Our Time to bring a championship back to Kansas City.

So if there really is some process where a team’s time is up and they’re due to win a championship, is it really the Royals Time? First, lets take a look at the longest current World Series Championship droughts in the MLB.

Seasons  Team  Last championship won 
103 Chicago Cubs 1908
63 Cleveland Indians 1948
51 Texas Rangers (Washington Senators) Never – 1961
50 Houston Astros (Houston Colt .45s) Never – 1962
43 Milwaukee Brewers (Seattle Pilots) Never – 1969
43 San Diego Padres Never – 1969
43 Washington Nationals (Montreal Expos) Never – 1969
35 Seattle Mariners Never – 1977
32 Pittsburgh Pirates 1979
28 Baltimore Orioles 1983
27 Detroit Tigers 1984
26 Kansas City Royals  1985
25 New York Mets 1986
23 Los Angeles Dodgers 1988
22 Oakland Athletics 1989
21 Cincinnati Reds 1990
20 Minnesota Twins 1991
19 Colorado Rockies Never – 1993
18 Toronto Blue Jays 1993
16 Atlanta Braves 1995
14 Tampa Bay Rays Never – 1998
10 Arizona Diamondbacks 2001
9 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 2002
8 Florida Marlins 2003
6 Chicago White Sox 2005
4 Boston Red Sox 2007
3 Philadelphia Phillies 2008
2 New York Yankees 2009
1 San Francisco Giants 2010
0 St. Louis Cardinals 2011

I would never have guessed that eleven teams have longer current World Championship droughts than the Kansas City Royals. Heck, six teams have exactly zero trophies in their World Series cabinet. Clearly if any team is due, it’s the Chicago Cubs, and then the poor teams which have never tasted the World Series nectar. The Royals are kind of due, I mean 26 years is a long time between championships, but nothing that decrees the gods take time out and ensure that they get theirs.

What about in history. How long is this 26 year current drought in historical context? Below is a table showing each franchise’s longest World Championship drought:

Seasons Team Prev. Title Next Title
103 Chicago Cubs 1908
87 Chicago White Sox 1917 2005
85 Boston Red Sox 1918 2004
77 Philadelphia Phillies 1903* 1980
63 St. Louis Browns/Baltimore Orioles 1903* 1966
63 Cleveland Indians 1948
62 Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins 1924 1987
55 New York-San Francisco Giants 1954 2010
52 Brooklyn Dodgers 1903* 1955
51 Washington Senators/Texas Rangers 1961*
50 Houston Colt .45s/Astros 1962*
44 St. Louis Cardinals 1882* 1926
43 San Diego Padres 1969*
43 Seattle Pilots/Milwaukee Brewers 1969*
43 Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals 1969*
42 Boston-Milwaukee Braves 1914 1957
41 Los Angeles-California-Anaheim Angels 1961* 2002
41 Philadelphia-Kansas City-Oakland Athletics 1930 1972
38 Milwaukee-Atlanta Braves 1957 1995
35 Seattle Mariners 1977*
34 Pittsburgh Pirates 1925 1960
34 Cincinnati Reds 1940 1975
32 Pittsburgh Pirates 1979
32 Detroit Tigers 1903* 1935
26 Kansas City Royals 1985
25 New York Mets 1986
22 New York Yankees 1901* 1921
19 Colorado Rockies 1993*
18 Toronto Blue Jays 1993
14 Tampa Bay Rays 1998*
10 Arisona Diamondbacks 2001
8 Miami Marlins 2003

* – Indicates start of franchise, not last WS won.

The Royals have one of the shortest World Championship droughts in all of baseball history. Yes, 26 years is a long time to wait, but tell that to nearly every other franchise and you’ll get little sympathy. A 26+ year break between winning titles isn’t abnormal, for eight teams, that’s not even half way between their next championship. If it comes down to divine providence, then Our Time may be a long time in our future.

The good news is that World Series rings are not doled out to teams which are due or whose Time has come. It’s the reason I really dislike this slogan. It completely glosses over the fact that championship teams are built through hard work, smart decisions, money, patience and some luck. It minimizes all of the smart things that this franchise has done in the past few years. However it also ignores all of the poor ones. It’s suggesting that what decides winners from losers is whose Time it is.

The Royals weren’t a good franchise in a slump. They were a good franchise who became terrible. They made bad decisions, wasted money and sacrificed wins for other goals. They haven’t been in a 26 year drought because before it wasn’t Our Time, but because they did a poor job of running a baseball team. I’m optimistic that the Royals can be competitive this year and in the years to come.

If accuracy and not marketing were the real goal of a slogan, the Royals would probably ditch “Our Time” and go with something like:

“We’re finally doing some things right after being the worst professional sports team in modern history, we might even win more games than we lose, finally!”

There is one other way to look at it. Maybe the slogan is meant for fans of the team who enjoy winning baseball. We’ve endured 26 seasons of futility. We’ve bought tickets and watched games on tv both of which have helped line the pockets of ownership. We’ve paid the dues. We’ve suffered. We’re still here. Finally, we just might have waited them out. We’ve forced them to finally try and be competitive. In that sense maybe it really is Our Time.

 

- Nick Scott
Follow @brokenbatsingle

 

Pardon my daliance with terrible headline writing, I don’t take the paper any more and so I kind of miss the too easy and groan-inducing, pun-laden headlines. Regardless, today’s topic is Ned Yost, the manager of the Kansas City Royals. It’s a timely topic as the Royals announced that they had picked up the option on his contract for the 2013 season. I for one, say huzzah!

The manager of any baseball team is a lightening rod. He is there to answer questions from dogged journos every single day of the season both before and after games. If things are going wrong, he is there. If things are going well, he is there. He is likely to be there in a slightly different posture and attitude, but there nonetheless. The best managers can draw much more lightening and allow his charges to escape with fewer wounds.

However, that doesn’t mean that he has to allow the players to get away without taking responsibility. He just channels it away from the media and fans and dishes it out himself. In other words, he’s the champion of the players in public and a champion of the fans and media internally, assuming the desire of the fans and media is for a team of hard-playing, talented men who score more runs than their opposition.

So the question we all have and try to answer is whether or not Ned Yost is able to accomplish this and do so in a better way than his counter-part in the opposite dug out. The answer: Hell if I know!

I’ve spent a little time around Ned Yost. I’ve seen him in pre-game and post-game interviews. Personally I think he seems like a pretty good guy. He’s funnier than you’d expect and he doesn’t have tolerance for stupid and inane questions, although his idea of stupid and inane is quite a bit bigger than most. That’s merely a window into his personality and gives little clue to his effectiveness as a manager of young millionaire athletes. Though I do believe an effective manager should have humor and a disregard for stupidity and inanity. He is, after all dealing with young men in an all male locker-room environment. Getting them to be “professional” and being able to speak to them is key. I’m sure humor is helpful in the latter and the anti-stupidity good for the former.

So we’re stuck with an opaque window looking into what I personally believe is 80% of a managers job: The preparation, motivation and inspiration of 25 atheletes. Yet as fans, analysts, bloggers and escapists we need to be able to comment to our dads, brothers, sisters, aunts and co-workers on our opinion of the manager of the team, lest we be outed as know-nothings. So, what then?

Then, we have to look at what we can see in regards to the manager: his in-game decisions. In baseball these decisions are few and far-between, particularly those that have a meaningful impact on a game that is itself meaningful. So we evaluate pitching changes, bullpen management, the rare American League pinch-hit and so on.

We’re more often than not harping on a non-move because of course we would have done something  and it would have certainly worked out better than doing nothing. We would have pulled that pitcher before he gave up the homerun, it was obvious! We would have pinch-hit for the guy that struck out, because everyone knew he was going to strike out.

Not to say that we always manage post-facto, but there is an element which is inherent in all analysis. It’s part of the fun. And often, we would have made the change and it gives us a bit of satisfaction for being “smarter” than the guy being paid the big money to look odd in that uniform that never gets dirty. Professional managers know this, they in general accept it and they know in their hearts that you are not smarter than them, because they have the job.

And thus the cycle continues, managers believing they are making the right moves because they were hired to make that move. We as fans get angry and call for his head. We all agree we could do a better job and then we go do the jobs that we are paid to do, probably with the same assumptions as the manager does. All of this based on my wild-ass guess of about 20% or less of the actual performance of the job at hand of managing a team. Let’s also not forget the importance of managing up, and being a good employee of the General Manager, since he pulls the strings.

So, let the debate rage on regarding Ned Yost’s handling of the pen and his penchant for stealing bases. He’s here for at least two more years, and I for one am happy. I think he’s a great manager because in general I like his moves and because he provides what we all are really pining for: Someone to blame when things go wrong.

 

- Nick Scott
Follow @brokenbatsingle

There are a lot of interesting things about Bruce Chen:

  • He’s 5 years older than the next oldest guy on the 40 man roster.
  • He’s played for 10 different teams.
  • He’s of Chinese descent, but he’s from Panama with a Panamanian accent.
  • He’s hilarious and he has a Will Ferrel moment.
  • His middle name is Kastulo which means “beaver”, according to the internets.
  • He’s the biggest off-season free agent acquisition that the Royals have made in their quest to win the World Series in 2012.

The last of those is both as good and bad as it sounds. In 2011 he was the third most valuable starting pitcher in what was a pretty terrible starting rotation. He was effective when he was healthy, but he missed a large chunk of the season on the disabled list. He ended up being better than I predicted and even with the time missed he was a solid asset.

However it says something about the intentions of Royals management when this is the centerpiece of their free agent acquisitions. Clearly the Royals, given their budget should probably avoid spending too much money on free agents, but I’m not exactly convinced that they made the best use of it this off-season.

That’s not to say I don’t like the signing of Bruce Chen. It’s a low risk signing for a guy that the team is comfortable with and has shown that when he’s on the mound he can contribute positively. I think the roster is better with him on it, but do they really have enough talent through trade and development to sign Chen and call it good?

The simple answer is no. But it gets significantly more complex when the budget and market are taken into account. The relevant question is whether the Royals have acquired the most talent for the money they’ve been allocated, my gut says no, but that’s really a separate point. We are supposed to be talking about Bruce Chen.

What I don’t get about Chen is that he averaged more walks and fewer strikeouts than Luke Hochevar, yet is considered by many to be the superior pitcher. Sure, he’s a crafty lefty, but in the end, he’s just a pitcher. He doesn’t have anything special and I don’t believe that he has found something unique this late in his career. At the risk of repeating my error before last season, I just don’t believe Chen can be effective in 2012.

That’s not to say he can’t be a benefit to the team or that he was a bad acquisition. However, he isn’t the late blossoming miracle that fans and some analysts think he is. He’s also not anywhere near the free agent acquisition that this team needed int he off season.