Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Browsing Posts in Bullpen Meltdowns

For those of you keeping track (and who isn’t?) that was the fourth time this season the bullpen has coughed up a lead in a Zack Greinke start.  Four times in nine starts.  Unreal.  And the Royals are now 2-7 in Greinke’s starts in 2010.

On Tuesday, it was Blake Wood’s turn to gack the lead.  Wood’s been with the team for what, a week?  He earned his stripes tonight, blowing Greinke’s game.  You aren’t a full fledged member of the Royals bullpen until you contribute to the destruction of a Greinke quality start.

So for that matter, Bryan Bullington got his membership papers as well.

Brutal.

Thoughts… Some random… Some not… All with a point…

If you’re Zack Greinke, are you pissed when the new manager rolls out a lineup that excludes Mike Aviles?

There are three hitters who have carried the Royals to their six wins this month.  Three.

Billy Butler – .367/.418/.517
Mike Aviles – .377/.377/.509
Alberto Callaspo – .303/.313/.485

Let’s identify some tangible ways these three have effected the Royals this month.

May 1 – Callaspo hits a double in the top of the 11th, scoring two.  Royals beat the Rays 4-2.
May 4 – Aviles collects three hits, including a home run.  Butler and Callaspo chip in with two hits each.  Royals beat White Sox 7-2.
May 13 – Callaspo hits a three-run home run to tie the game and Butler adds a run scoring double in the two run seventh to get Greinke his first win of the year.  Royals beat the Indians 6-4.
May 14 – The stars of this game were actually Yuniesky Betancourt and Mitch Maier.
May 16 – Aviles and Butler each reach base in rallies in the fourth and fifth innings as the Royals erase a 2-0 deficit to beat the White Sox 5-2.
May 17 – Butler singles to drive in the first run of the game, then doubles home an insurance run in the seventh.  The Royals need it as they edge the Orioles 4-3.

Key roles in five of the six wins.  It’s no surprise to us… We’ve seen these guys play.  They are clearly the three best hitters the Royals have.

So why wouldn’t you play them in games where your best pitcher is starting?

And the only time Jason Kendall should ever hit second is if they start cloning humans and we end up with eight Betancourts by mistake.

——————————————————————————————

Speaking of Greinke, his strikeouts are down this year.  He was whiffing 9.5 batters per nine innings last year and is down to 7.5 per nine this season.  We’re a quarter of the way through his season, so for him to be down two strikeouts a game qualifies as big news.

Greinke’s five most common plate appearance outcomes, through his first eight starts in 2009:

Strikeout – 28.6%
Fly Out – 17.2%
Ground Out – 16.7%
Single – 11.9%
Double – 5.3%

Zack Greinke’s five most common plate appearance outcomes, through his first eight starts in 2009:

Strikeout – 19.6%
Fly Out – 19.6%
Single – 16.4%
Groundout – 15.9%
Walk – 4.6%

So what’s the difference?  Hitters are really laying off his slider.  We all know about Greinke’s devistating slider – how it breaks down and away, out of the zone.  It’s a great strikeout pitch, because it can rarely be touched.  That was the case last year, when the opposition offered at 54% of all sliders Greinke threw and missed on 25% of those swings.

This year, hitters aren’t taking as many swings at his slider, moving the bat only 44% of the time when Greinke throws that pitch.  And since he’s getting a miss on only 12% of those swings, I’m guessing most hitters have an idea when that slider is going to fall out of the zone.

Greinke struck out six tonight.  His season high for strikeouts in a game this year is eight, which he’s reached twice.  Last year at this time, he had struck out eight or more in a game six times.

——————————————————————————————–

Ned Yost has shown a couple of things that I liked since he became manager.  But it was almost as if the Ghost of Trey Hillman was piloting the ship on Tuesday.  First, as noted above, the lineup was destined for failure.

Second, the “by the numbers” use of the bullpen meant Wood was the eighth inning guy based on his past week of strong work.  Really, he’s been great since his call-up.  But this was his third day of work in a row and he’s now appeared in five of the seven games since he arrived.  That seems a little excessive.  And a little SABR Trey-esque.  SABR Ned?

Third, the bullheaded resistance to using your best pitcher in a tie ballgame.  Honestly, when you’re on the road and the game is tied in the late innings, forget about the freaking save opportunity.  Think about keeping your team in the game.  Please.

Fourth, the stubborn refusal to use the bench.  Basically, I never, ever want to see Chris Getz or Yuniesky Betancourt with a bat in their hands in the late innings of a tie game.  Please.  Yost should have pinch hit Mike Aviles for Betancourt with one out and if he had reached, he could have brought up Brayan Pena.  Then defensively, he could have left Aviles in at short and bought Wee Willie Bloomquist in to play second.

How in the hell can you go down in a one run game to the worst team in the AL and not use your hottest hitter?  Frustrating.

The four items I outlined above were all hallmarks of Hillman’s failed tenure.

I know I wrote an article last week, knocking Yost as being more of the same.  I was hoping he would prove me wrong.  (Although, let’s be honest… Most managers are going to manage a ballgame exactly the same way.  There’s little room for free thinkers or innovators in dugouts across the country.  I was hoping he would do more things like pull Gil Meche when he was clearly out of gas.  That was nice.  More, please.)

There’s still time, but Yost is going to have to do some heavy lifting to bring me on board.

In this game:

- The Royals fell into a 8-0 hole after three innings.

- Scott Podsednik hit one into the upper deck.

- Jason Kendall drove one to the base of the wall in right-center.

- Yuniesky Betancourt walked.  Twice.

- After a Rangers pitcher walked back to back hitters, Willie Bloomquist took two cuts at pitches out of the zone and then looked at strike three right down the middle. (OK, that wasn’t crazy.)

- Dave Owen almost caused Mike Aviles’ hamstring to explode by doing a funky stop and go kind of thing as he was rounding third. (That wasn’t crazy either.)

- KILA MONSTER.

- Joakim Soria gave up back to back home runs for the first time since forever.

- Neftali Feliz is disgustingly filthy.

It was like some crazy heavyweight title fight.  I half expected the ghost of Howard Cosell to make an appearance.  It would have been appropriate.

Even though the Royals lost in just a horrific manner, that was the most fun I’ve had watching a game since last May.  (Remember when they came back against the Indians with four runs in the ninth?  Remember how they then lost 16 of their next 20?  Sorry.)

Personally, I think Trey was guilty of a little over management by not letting Good Robinson Tejeda finish the eighth.  It’s not second guessing… I brought it up in the ESPN Baseball Tonight chat the moment he pulled Tejeda.  It’s difficult to argue that bringing in Soria at any point is a bad move, but Tejeda had thrown only 14 pitches.  I’m not going to scream and carry on that Hillman cost the Royals the game – he didn’t – Soria made the pitches.  I’m just saying I don’t understand why he felt a need to bring his closer in at that particular moment.

We’ve been agitating all year that Hillman needs to use Soria more in key (or high leverage) situations.  Two outs in the eighth with a one run lead on the road certainly qualifies.  However, there was no danger at that point and time… No runners on, and you had a pitcher who was dealing.

Hillman gets second guessed in some quarters (which I suppose I’m doing now) but that’s because many of his moves are indefensible.  All managers come with a certain amount of goodwill and trust.  When that gets frittered away (like it has in Hillman’s case) even the right moves come under scrutiny.  It’s a large part of what makes Hillman a lame duck.

He went with his best pitcher and got burned.  It happens to managers all the time.  But when you’ve lost the trust of the fanbase, you’re going to catch heat no matter what.

The bullpen wasn’t the story on Thursday.  Kind of difficult when the starter coughs up nine runs on 11 hits in just under three innings.

How do you think Luke Hochevar reacted when he saw who is right fielder was?  Here’s another thing I can’t figure… Conventional wisdom holds that when you have a player with a history of leg issues, you keep them off the artificial turf.  At this point, I just shake my head, give a Frank White-like chuckle and say, “That’s Trey Hillman.”

Anyway, if you’re following me on Twitter, you may recall a Tweet from last week about my good fortune.  I was knocking around a used bookstore in Westport, where I discovered a no less than five copies of The Bill James Baseball Abstracts from 1983 to 1988.  (Missing is the 1986 edition, featuring a recap of the Royals World Series title.  Damnit.)  So, I’ve been revisiting these books and decided I’d start with the oldest and work my way forward.

It’s surprising how relevant this material remains after almost 30 years.  I’m going to probably glean three or four posts from this… At least.  Here’s number one…

In his section recapping the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers, James ponders the importance of bullpens and exactly how often a game is decided in the late innings.  That Brewers team had future Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers in the back of the bullpen for most of the season.  (He missed most of September with an injury.)  James discovered that the Brewers actually lost some ground the longer the game progressed.  Through six innings, the Brewers were ahead 90 times and behind on only 50 occasions (with 23 ties) giving them a +40.  As James pointed out, had the Brewers split the ties, they would have finished with over 100 wins.  They did not and actually lost ground after the sixth inning.  Their final record was 95 wins and 67 losses, giving them a +28.  Looking at their position following every inning, we come up with a graph that looks like this:

The Brewers were a good offensive team, jumping out to early leads – they were ahead 65 times after the second inning and 80 times after the third – and had a bullpen that generally held those leads.

The ’82 Brewers were a playoff team.  The ’10 Royals most assuredly are not.  Fortunately, James studied a bad team to see how they fared in the later innings. In this case, the ’82 Reds ahead 60 times and behind in 89 contests (with 13 ties) through six innings, which gave them a -29.  They finished with 61 wins and 101 losses for a final score of -40.  That year, Cincinnati’s bullpen wasn’t very good, but neither was their rotation.

There’s an interesting dip from the fifth to the sixth inning, but that wasn’t the fault of the bullpen.  Reds starters threw an average of 6 innings per start.  Don’t get me wrong… The ’82 Cincinnati bullpen wasn’t that good, but they weren’t horrible either.

Remember, James did this exercise to see if he could determine when games were decided.  And his study at this point was admittedly cursory.

I just think the graphs are interesting.  On the surface, it certainly looks as though the majority of games are decided by the sixth inning.

That leads us to the Royals.  Here’s their chart:

This boggles the mind.  The Royals are playing over their heads offensively but they should at least be above .500 for April.

Here are the raw numbers.

This isn’t anything new. To those of us who have followed this disaster of a team, it’s quite obvious.  As the bats begin their drift to hibernation (and make no mistake – they’re headed for an extended drought) the graph will shift south in the early innings and the Royals will lose their positive marks.

I suspect by the end of the year, the 2010 Royals graph will look really close to the 1982 Reds.  At least by then, the bullpen is largely irrelevant.

What can you say anymore?

The bullpen stinks.  How’s that?  Oh, we’ve already said that…

The latest transgression was a doozy.

Zack Greinke, after a couple of wobbly starts, threw just a brilliant game.  Six hits through seven innings where he seemed to gain strength as the game progressed.

I thought the Mariners got their best swings at Greinke in the first.  That was when Ichiro led off with a deep fly to center and Franklin Gutierrez went the other way deep to right.  Both balls had warning track power, and fortunately both balls died in the gloves of the outfield.

The Mariners, like almost every other team this year, were laying Greinke’s slider.  They swung at that pitch just under 32% of the time.  He made up for that by getting swings 78% on both his curve (which just had some wicked break last night) and his change.  While I say the curve had wicked break, it was up in the zone enough that the Mariners were able to foul that pitch off (or pop it up.)  His money pitch was the change.  He threw it nine times, got two swinging strikes and only one batter put it in play all night.  And all of them were strikes.

Courtesy of Texas Leaguers, here’s how Greinke’s pitch selection looked last night:

You know what Greinke’s issue was last night?  Foul balls.  The Mariners fouled off 29 of his 119 pitches.  If just a handful of those pitches are put in play, his pitch count stays manageable and he is in the game in the eighth before he hands the ball to Soria in the ninth.

The Mariners aren’t a good offensive team at this point in the season.  They battled, though.  They didn’t always get good swings and were off balance most of the night, but they were difficult to put away.  I’m fairly certain that was the game plan.  Why wouldn’t it be?  Work the count by any means so you can get to the Royals bullpen.

So on to that bullpen…

It’s fairly clear at this point SABR Trey is just kind of an automatic kind of guy when it comes to his bullpen.  He desperately needs guys to have roles, so he can look at a chart in the dugout, apply the situation, and make the decision.  The problem is, he doesn’t have anyone to cover the “2-0 lead in the top of the eighth” situation.

The latest reliever who has garnered Trey’s affections is Josh Rupe.  He is the candidate for the simple fact he made three appearances in four days when he first joined the club and didn’t surrender a run.  I’ll admit, he did look good in those appearances.  However, you have to be leery of such decisions given the fact the Royals felt he wasn’t good enough to make the team out of spring training.

Then again, SABR Trey changes his favorite set-up reliever like a 13 year old girl who can’t decide which Jonas Brother they like.  (Is that a relevant pop culture reference?  I ask because my knowledge of such things pretty much ended in 1995.  The first draft of this article had a Hanson reference.)

Rupe looks good to start, getting Adam Wilson to strike out.  Then Ichiro reaches on a bunt single.  We’re still OK, but Rupe gets freaked out by Ichiro on first. (His run is really inconsequential.  I mean, you don’t want him to score, but he’s not the tying or lead run.)  Predictably, focus is lost and Chone Figgins walks on four pitches.  In my mind, that was just unforgivable.  Figgins is LOST at the plate.  The man is in a horrific slump, hitting .183/.322/.239 in his first 21 games.  He’ll certainly take a walk though.

After Rupe loads the bases, SABR Trey decides to go to his bullpen.  I know we’ve had just a ton of debate about when to use Soria.  Apparently, I’ve taken some heat from a certain corner of the interweb for advocating his use in the seventh inning.  (I’m a realist.  That’s not going to happen.  The conclusion drawn from that article was incorrect, anyway.  Hillmanesque in the way it missed the mark.)

However, if there’s ever a time to use your closer, your best pitcher out of the bullpen, it’s with the bases loaded and one out after your Cy Young award winning pitcher throws his best start of the year.

Instead, we got Robinson Tejeda.

Worst loss of the year.

The Royals bullpen is not good.  I know this.  You know this.  SABR Trey and Dayton Moore know this.

Today, the Royals and their brain trust decided to shake things up by releasing Juan Cruz.  Also cut loose was Luis Mendoza.  (Mendoza never should have been on the roster in the first place.  Therefore, there’s no need to discuss this move.)

The Royals have eight relievers in the pen.  By releasing Cruz (and Mendoza) aren’t the Royals essentially saying they are the seventh and eighth best pitchers on the staff?  As noted, Mendoza makes sense.  He’s awful.  End of story.  But what about Cruz?  The guy the Royals are paying $3.25 million this year?

Here are the raw numbers for 2010:

5.1 IP, 9 H, 4 BB, 7 SO, 3.38 ERA, 2.438 WHIP

Let’s just walk through this…  First, we’re dealing with a small sample.  It’s about a tenth of his season.  Having said that, the ginormous negative is the plethora of base runners he’s allowing.  That WHIP is just horrendous.  He’s never been a control pitcher, but the walks are high for the low number of innings.  The real issue is the base hits.  He’s projecting at 15 H/9.

Here’s where the Royals have fallen into the small sample trap.  Opponents are hitting .391 against Cruz with a .528 BABIP.  Those numbers are obscenely high.  If you give Cruz the work, they’ll come down.  They have to.  It’s simply the law of averages.  For his career, Cruz has allowed opponents to hit .238 with a .298 BABIP.

Cruz owns a 2.66 FIP and has whiffed 11.6 batters per nine.  This indicates he’s pitched better than his numbers would lead us to believe.  Maybe the Royals should have been a little more patient with Cruz.  After all, he’s earning some serious coin.  Had they kept their finger off the trigger for another month, he may have regressed to the mean, which in this case would have meant improvement.

It just feels like Cruz is being made a scapegoat for the bullpen.  I get the feeling they are making moves to appease the fan base. (“See? We’re making changes.  Given his salary, no one is safe.  Seriously.  No… Seriously!”) Unfortunately, when you act in this manner you rarely help the team.

Would Cruz have rebounded and pitched like he did in 2008 with Arizona?  Maybe not, but he certainly wasn’t as bad as his raw numbers suggested in 2010.

The Royals are making changes just for the sake of making changes when it comes to Cruz.  Except who else are they going to push out?  They want two lefties so Parrish and Hughes are safe.  Tejeda was dominant in his last outing.  Farnsworth makes even more money than Cruz. Rupe just got here and has done well enough he’s seemingly vaulted to the head of SABR Trey’s bullpen.

Someone had to go, so in the Russian Roulette that has become the Royals bullpen it had to be Cruz.

Here’s the nail in his coffin:  Cruz inherited six base runners and allowed all six to score.  Yeah, that’s not good.  But know this… He allowed those inherited runners to score in three of his five appearances.  Yet in only one appearance did those runners scoring directly lead to a Royal loss.  April 13 when Cruz entered the game with two outs and the bases loaded in that disastrous seventh inning trying to protect a two run lead.  A walk and a double cleared the bases and turned that lead into a deficit.

The Royals had been winning that game 5-0 entering the inning.  Brian Bannister had pitched well to that point, but a parade of Roman Colon, Dusty Hughes and Cruz couldn’t seal the deal.  Colon was the first domino to fall and now Cruz.

Left-handed or not, Hughes had better watch out.

Remember, back in Spring Training, when I presented a Daily Hillmanism?  Just random nuggets of knowledge from our fearless leader.  It had pretty much run its course and I was prepared to let it go.  Then he unleashed a doozy.

Asked by the traveling reporters if he considered bringing closer Joakim Soria into Tuesday’s seventh inning, Hillman offered this:

“There’s a thought there but, No. 1, it’s a very unusual time for Joakim Soria to pitch in a ballgame. No. 2, you’ve still got those same bats coming up in the ninth in a higher-leverage situation — because it is the ninth, even if there are no runners on base.”

I added the emphasis because Hillman’s use of term “high leverage” is impressive.  It would be more impressive if he knew what the hell he was talking about.

Following his logic, the higher the inning number, the higher the leverage.  Sometimes, it actually works that way.  Other times, like Tuesday, not so much.

To prove this, I’ll present to you the game log, courtesy of FanGraphs.  The bars at the bottom of the graph represent the leverage of that particular plate appearance.  The larger the bar, the greater the leverage.  The red bar means WARNING! high leverage situation.

You’ll see the inning with the highest leverage index was the seventh.  When the bullpen spit the bit.  The top of the ninth had some decent leverage, but it wasn’t even as high as the eighth inning leverage.  This is because in the eighth inning the Royals had more chances to win the game.  There were still six outs remaining.  By the time the ninth inning rolled around, the leverage index dipped just a bit because there were fewer outs, meaning fewer chances for the Royals to take the lead.  Fewer chances meant less pressure on the Tigers to close out the game.

Hillman’s assertion that the ninth inning brings the highest leverage because it’s the ninth inning is just absurd.  Even when Soria nails down a save, the ninth inning doesn’t always bring the highest leverage.  Case in point, Wednesday’s game:

Again, the seventh inning brought the highest leverage.  It was Miguel Cabrera’s at bat with two runners on in a 5-3 ballgame.  He grounded out to end the threat.  The leverage was lower in the eighth in a similar situation because the Royals tacked on another run in their half of the inning.  Leverage is fluid and is dictated by the score and situation of the game.  Two things Hillman has shown an inability to grasp.  No wonder he couldn’t discuss it properly.  Unfortunately, to the casual fan, it probably sounded intelligent.  Kind of like when Dayton Moore says he values on base percentage.

Soria faced a high leverage situation the first week of the season, protecting a one-run lead.  Even then, it wasn’t the highest leverage of the game.  The highest leverage occurred in the eighth, when the Royals rallied for two runs off Hideki Okajima and Daniel Bard thanks to a Rick Ankiel single.

There were two outs in the inning when Ankiel came to the plate and the Sox were nursing that one run lead.  I wonder if Terry Francona considered bringing in Jonathan Papelbon?

Maybe I should be concerned that SABR Trey doesn’t understand the concept of leverage.  What does it say about my opinion of him when I’m not the least bit surprised he doesn’t get it.  He just doesn’t get it.  And there’s plenty of evidence he never will.  He’s more concerned about Scotty Pods laying down a sweet sac bunt in the first inning, than he is about leverage.

This brings me to a great side point:  The Royals bullpen is currently stocked with eight pitchers.  Eight!  Do you have any idea how absolutely insane that is, to have a total of 13 pitchers on a 25-man roster?  And only a handful of them are worth anything.  It’s almost as if GMDM and SABR Trey realized they don’t have the quality, so they went with the quantity.  Exactly how is that a solution?

“Hey, most of our relievers suck, what should we do?”

“I know… Let’s add more!”

Finally, I’ll again point this out in defense of the manager:  Hillman had no idea that what conspired in the seventh inning of Tuesday’s game would turn out to be the highest leverage situation of the game.  No one did.  We certainly knew it was important, and quite possibly pivotal to the outcome of the game.  But we couldn’t know that a similar situation may evolve in the ninth inning – because we can’t see the future.

However, this is the trap too many managers fall into – they don’t manage the moment, the manage for the future.  They give up outs and sacrifice a big inning for a single run.  Or they keep their closer in the bullpen just in case they need him in the ninth.

Hillman is worried he’ll burn Soria in the seventh (and probably eighth) inning and nursing a one run lead in the ninth, he’ll look to his bullpen and see… Kyle Farnsworth.  Yeah, that should scare the hell out of you.

More from Dutton (who has to thank the newspaper gods everyday for covering the Royals, and not some boring team like the Astros):  Jose Guillen says he almost died from blood clots in his legs last winter.

This is an amazing story, but I have a couple of questions.

– Why did he develop these blood clots?  Were they related to his other injuries from last year? Clearly, this isn’t something that normally happens to an athlete in his mid 30s.

– Guillen didn’t return to the Dominican until late December and his weight dropped to 180 pounds.  He’s listed at 215 pounds and reported to camp on time at the end of February.  I’m assuming he needed a little time to recover before he started what would amount to a rehab.  He didn’t hit for any power this spring, but what did he do to get in shape so quickly?

– Guillen says he was dying and says the doctor started talking about dying (Derrick Thomas is invoked in the story, which is indeed frightening) but I’d like some more context.  I’m sure Guillen felt like he was dying, but was he really on death’s door?  In other words, do we need to look at 2010 as Guillen’s “miracle season?”

I don’t doubt Guillen was ailing and had blood clots.  And I don’t doubt the situation was serious.  It’s just his version of the story just seems… dramatic.

Just another off day for the Royals.

Who do you blame?

Do you blame Trey Hillman?

Roman Colon isn’t a guy to bring in to a game in a pressure situation, but he was handed a 5-1 lead and asked to get two outs.  That’s not exactly pressure.  I get what Hillman is doing here, which is basically throwing a guy to the lions (or Tigers) while hoping, against all odds, that he survives.  Unfortunately, this isn’t any kind of a strategy.

Three batters later, Hillman tries to employ a platoon strategy, so enter Dusty Hughes to face Johnny Damon.  Hillman is playing the percentages here – lefty vs. lefty.  But in his brief time in the majors, Hughes allows a higher average against hitters from the left side (.250) than the right (.223).  In the minors, here are his splits:

Vs LHB – .263
Vs RHB – .272

Yeah, it’s a difference, but in reality, Hughes isn’t a LOOGY.  Hillman should know this.  He should also know John Parrish likewise doesn’t own crazy platoon splits.  Here’s how he’s done in his major league career:

Vs LHB – .253
Vs RHB – .269

Again, not a huge split.  Not enough to bestow upon him LOOGY status.  However, all things equal, who would you rather send to the mound to protect a two run lead in the seventh?  Hughes, who has all of 17 major league innings under his belt and has yet to prove he can get hitters out at this level?  Or Parrish, a ten year veteran who’s logged 275 innings in his major league career?  And Parrish has been the second best reliever on this team in the first week.

Yeah, Hillman chose wrong.  I’m sure Hillman didn’t want to use Parrish because he threw 20 pitches the day before, but what’s the harm in letting him face Damon – one batter?  Parrish has been summoned from the pen five times this year and before Monday, faced exactly one hitter each time.

When Hughes can’t retire Damon, that has to be the end of his afternoon.  One batter, that’s it.  There’s no way you can let him face Magglio Ordonez.  Yet, our fearless leader does just that.  Would you be surprised to hear that Ordonez slugs 60 points higher against left handers?  Or that he owns an OBP 15 points higher against leftys?  I wonder if Hillman knows.  This was set up for fail, but the only good thing that happened in the Ordonez plate appearance was the fact he didn’t swing the bat.  Five pitches, four balls.  By walking Ordonez, Hughes very generously allowed Hillman to dodge a bullet.

I would have brought Juan Cruz in to face Ordonez.  That’s probably the proper strategy, but when Hillman finally goes to him one batter later, he coughs up a walk and a double.

Bye-bye five run lead.  Here’s how Fangraphs saw it:

Herein lies the issue:  Hillman is damned if he does and he’s damned if he doesn’t.

I’m not a Hillman apologist.  Far from it.  He mismanaged the bullpen in this game.  It wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last.  Yet, the moves he got correct, still blew up in his face.  That’s the way it seems to always go with SABR Trey.  The guy can’t catch a break. Nevermind, most of the time this happens because his previous bad decisions put his team at a disadvantage in the first place.  You’d think a little dumb luck would fall in his favor once or twice.  I guess you could say the same for us Royals fans.

Of course… And this is the killer… As the Tigers rallied in the seventh, the Royals had one guy in the bullpen who had a better chance of anyone to stop the carnage.  One guy who could have stepped up and slammed the door on the Tigers.

Yet Joakim Soria never got the ball.

Sure, it’s unorthodox strategy to bring your “closer” into a game in the seventh inning, but I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to beat this drum… Why wouldn’t you put your best pitcher out there with the game on the line?  I’d make a bigger issue out of this, but this is the state of baseball today.  It probably never crossed SABR Trey’s mind to use Soria in the seventh… Because it would have meant a seven out save!  Ahh… but I’m not talking about doing that.  I’m talking about using the closer as a “fireman.”  Remember those days?  It sounds so easy, except then what do you do for the remaining outs?  Because you can’t clone Soria.

Luis Mendoza in the eighth?  That’s like waving the white flag.  Somehow, he was the best reliever of the day.  That’s not a good thing.

Do you blame Dayton Moore?

Remember back when we thought GMDM’s best attribute was his ability to cobble together a bullpen out of spare parts and castoffs?  Yeah, that’s not working so well anymore.

Kyle Farnsworth, Hughes, Mendoza, Colon?  This cast of characters would have difficulty against a run of the mill Triple-A team.  Cruz has been horrible since jumping to the AL.  Just dreadful. I don’t trust Robinson Tejeda.  Don’t trust him at all.

The Royals have eight relievers.  Only one of them can be described as better than average – Soria.  I’ll give Parrish the benefit of the doubt and call him average.  The rest of this motley crew?  Below average.  Way below average.

And that has to be on the general manager.  He built a bullpen, tore it down for some bats, tried to restock via free agency and lately has dipped into the minors and the free agent scrapheap in hope he can recapture his past success.

He’s finding it’s a little more difficult than he probably thought.

Last year, I was worried a shaky bullpen and an inept manager would cause the starters to be overworked.  Now, I have to worry the Royals will carry 13 pitchers all year because 10 of them are disasters.  Three years into the Moore/Hillman regime and we have yet to find a balanced roster.

So my answer to the blame game is, I blame both.  I blame Dayton Moore for building this craptastic bullpen and I blame Trey Hillman for failing to figure out how to put his pitchers in the best situation to succeed.  The losers here?  Us.  Most of us have stuck with this team through thin and thin the last 20-plus years.  We deserve better than this.  I wish I could offer some encouraging words and tell you there is some promise on the horizon.  That things are looking up.  But I can’t.

My advice is to stock up on your drink of choice.  It’s going to be a cruel summer.

%d bloggers like this: