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Deconstructing The Process

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So the schedule maker got a little freaky. The Royals just finished a seven game west coast swing a couple of weeks ago. Now, they head back to California for three games and a short road trip.

They’re headed to Anaheim, former home of Steve Physioc, Rex Hudler and Jason Vargas. They will face an Angels team that is hot, winners of 18 of their last 30.

This is a pretty complete team. They lead the majors in team WAR and has an offense that ranks among the top of the AL.

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The Angels offense is all about Mike Trout. And that Albert Pujols guy is close to being that Albert Pujols guy. And Josh Hamilton is on the disabled list. Basically, this is the team you figured the Angels could be at the start of the season. This is how MLB Depth Charts sees the lineup:

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Of course Mike Scoscia would hit one of his lowest OBP guys first. David Freese is struggling and Raul Ibanez is eligible for carbon dating. So, like any lineup there are some holes. But the weapons are pretty powerful. The bench is useful, too.

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The pitching isn’t too shabby, either.

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A few more walks than league average, but sweet strikeout numbers and the xFIP is looking good. This is a team that if they keep their crap together will be in the mix for the postseason. Oh, yeah. The Royals will face their top two starters this weekend.

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I’m probably most excited to see the opening game. Just to see how Danny Duffy follows up his last outing that was so great.

Finally, it’s all about the runs. The Royals are hanging around because of their pitching. But you knew that. The Angels? Based on what I’ve shown you above, their run differential is positive and spectacular.

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It’s going to be a difficult series for the Royals, but one that comes at a good time for this team.

Have a great holiday weekend. Thanks for the warm welcome back. I said in the comments last night, it’s great to see so many familiar names pop up in the last couple of days. There may be a post this weekend, but don’t count on it. We’ll talk to you again on Tuesday.

 

Well, let’s be nice to the blogger… I was off on my trade odds.  By just a bit.

So the Alberto Callaspo to the Angels rumor was pretty darn accurate as the Royals ship their starting third baseman to LA for Sean O’Sullivan and Will Smith. (No, I’m not going to make a joke about his name.)

I had a couple of reactions to the news the Royals were losing Bert:

- Dayton Moore really should have shopped him last winter when his trade value was highest.  Today, it’s probably as low as it’s been in his tenure with the Royals.

- This trade is basically a deal where the Royals are sending a player who will earn a raise by being eligible for arbitration next winter, for a pair of cost-controlled arms.  Callaspo isn’t part of the future here.  Not by a long shot.  Short-term, this doesn’t help the team, but who cares if this is the difference between fourth or fifth.

- Kind of makes one wonder if the Royals should have gone to all that trouble moving Alex Gordon to the outfield.  Again, short-term this hurts.  Long-term, who cares… Mike Moustakas is going to be playing this position within a year and a half.  Maybe sooner.

- I really like the Callaspo deal when Dayton made the trade a couple of years ago.  Love the contact.  He was really good last year, but this year his walks are down and his strikeouts are static.  He lost a little power – which was expected – and overall, he’s much less valuable as an offensive player this year.  If the Royals were trying to win games (because they were in contention) they would have been better served by playing Gordon at third and putting Callaspo on the bench.

-  O’Sullivan was once Baseball America’s number five prospect, so there’s that.  Clark doesn’t really like him (and proposed Trevor Bell) and I’ll defer to his opinion of lacking potential.  Plus, his Triple-A numbers: 3.3 BB/9, 6.1 SO/9 and a 4.76 ERA seem to back that up.  Fifth starter who will wear out I-29 until he’s out of options.

- Smith is the definition of “fringe” and has appeared at just about every level of the minors for the Angels this year.  He was pitching for the Double-A team and the Royals will assign him to High-A Wilmington.

Thoughts?

That was a tidy ballgame.  You don’t often see 6-3 games clock in under 2:15 like Tuesday’s.  I hate to go all Denny Mathews on you, but I do enjoy the quick ballgame.  Credit to both starters who kept the game moving at a great pace.

Whenever I watch Brian Bannister pitch, I’m looking for groundballs.  Last night, he got a ton.  Eleven of his 16 outs came via the ground ball.

The runs he gave up in the second were soft.  I mean, they came on batted balls that weren’t struck especially hard.  Soft or not, they were line drives and those tend to fall for hits.  What was really frustrating about that inning was it came immediately after the Royals jumped ahead.  Is it just me, or does it seem like Bannister gives back his runs almost immediately?  I don’t have any numbers or stats to back this up, but it sure feels like everytime I watch him pitch and his bats give him a lead, Bannister immediately goes out and coughs it up.

He tried to give it back in the sixth inning (immediately after the Royals scored four runs in the fifth) when Macier Izturis led off with a home run.  Seriously?  Then Torii Hunter laced a single to right and Hideki Matsui launched a bomb that just missed tying the game by inches.

Time for the Good Tejeda-Wood-Soria Triumverate to bare it’s fangs once again.  This time, they retired 11 in a row.

Good Robinson Tejeda was simply electric.  When he uncorked his first pitch that was about helmet high, I worried that he wouldn’t be on his game.  Ha.  Once he got rolling, the Angels were helpless.  He couldn’t get his slider over for a strike and the Angel hitters weren’t biting, so he just brought the gas.  Hey, whatever works.

Brought in with runners on second and third and one out, to get out of that fix without allowing a run… That’s a save in my book.  A shallow fly and a strikeout got the job done.

Then Blake Wood… He threw his first nine pitches for strikes and only tosses his first ball after he jumed ahead of Torii Hunter 0-2 with two outs.  He’s still pitching to contact I suppose – his strikeout of Hunter was only his second this year and he’s faced 35 batters – but he’s jumping ahead.  He’s thrown a first pitch strike in over 70% of all plate appearances.  Major league average is 58%.  Nice.  If you’re going to let hitters get the bat on the ball, you may as well tilt the battle to your advantage as much as possible.

Finally Joakim Soria.  The 68 mph curveball he broke off to punchout Juan Rivera following a pair of 93 mph cutters was pure poetry.  I don’t think I’ve seen that pitch from him this year.  Then poor Mike Napoli couldn’t even get the bat off his shoulders, looking at five pitches and striking out to end the game.

Yost’s bullpen plan has mostly been letter perfect.  If Hillman had been so insightful (or fortunate) he’d probably still be employed.

Scott Podsednik hit leadoff for the 20th time last night.  Entering the game, he was hitting .286/.349/.351 at the top of the order, which isn’t horrible, but his sOPS+ of 89 indicates his performance there is below average.  You probably already knew that.

Last night he saw a grand total of seven pitches in his four plate appearances.  Seven pitches!  I really wish the Royals had someone else who could bat at the top of the order.

I suppose I’d prefer DeJesus at the top of the order, but Yost seems to have hit on something by dropping him to the third spot where he’s caught fire and hit .361/.451/.443 in the 16 games since he’s made the move.  Obviously, you’d like more power out of your number three, but I’m not going to be so picky.

In his short tenure, Yost has largely been golden.

I joked on Twitter before the game that the order that featured Betancourt, Getz, Podsednik and Kendall hitting eight through second could be called the Gauntlet Of Suck.  Ha.  All four hitters came through big… Kendall hit a double in the first that was probably the hardest ball he struck all year and scored the game’s first run.  Then Betancourt opened the fifth with a triple to left, scored on a Getz single and Podsednik kept the rally rolling as the Royals broke the game open with a four spot.

So maybe Gauntlet Of Suck was a bit harsh.  I dunno.  If you stack those four in a lineup 10 times, they’ll have a game like this maybe once.  Like I said… Golden Yost.

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