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The weather is cooling here in Kansas City and there is no baseball being played. So step over here by this hot stove and warm your hands upon the pyre of rumors. Few of these logs will be around long and many are merely invented out of thin air, but occasionally there is some smoke and the discussions become reality. Today’s bit of wood comes from the great white north and therefore we have a bit of music to listen as we contemplate.

Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun dropped this nugget in his column yesterday:

The Kansas City Royals will start with Lorenzo Cain in centre, but with concerns about whether the 25-year-old (42 career starts) will hit has the Royals looking at Colby Rasmus of the Jays

My initial reaction on this rumor is “YES, YES, YES, YES, OH PLEASE YES!”

The gist of the column referenced above is the fact that the Blue Jays are looking at Heath Bell to be their closer. While it isn’t mentioned is who, if anybody the Royals have offered for Colby Rasmus, if the Jays need a closer then Joakim Soria should be floated.

Everyday players are more important than relief pitchers. This is an inescapable fact. It doesn’t matter how good Joakim Soria is, his 60 innings of work are never going to be as valuable as a decent everyday player. Colby Rasmus is not just a decent everyday player.

Rasmus has played three seasons at the Major League level. In his first as a 22 year old rookie he posted a line of .251/.307/.407 with 16 home runs and a fWAR of 2.8. It’s not something to go crazy over, but he played a solid defensive center field taboot. Rasmus really took a huge step his second season with the Cardinals by hitting .276/.361/.498 with 23 home runs and an fWAR of 4.3. If you’re wondering that’s a superior season to the one that Melky Cabrera posted as a Royal in 2011.

It seemed as if Rasmus was really starting to hit his stride and could be on the verge of becoming an elite player. Then things tumbled hard in 2012. Everything seemed to be off. His walk rate of 9.5% was the one thing that was even close to his output of 2010.

The most glaring thing that happened to Rasmus was Tony Larussa began to despise the kid and the media jumped on the bandwagon. Rumors swirled about Rasmus’ dad being too involved and telling the coachign staff what to do. I don’t know what exactly happened there, but I do know that Tony Larussa and subsequently his players are some of the most petulant children in the sport. Larussa had been trying to get rid of Colby Rasmus since the off-season and finally got his wish as he was traded to the Blue Jays late in the season.

Rasmus is a very talented player, and possibly one that comes with a bit of baggage and had a drop in production last year. I don’t believe that the problems are anywhere near as bad as the Cardinals organization made them out to be, and that rough season could provide just enough drop in value to make him somebody the Royals can acquire. He has the potential to be an elite center fielder, and you ALWAYS trade a relief pitcher for that if you can.

The other part of the equation here is Lorenzo Cain. I think the Royals would be ok with him in center. I believe he is a plus outfielder with the upside of an average to slightly above average bat. He’s the kind of player that will help a team be competitive. Rasmus is the kind of player that helps a team be dominant. So, I’m not concerned at all about Cain and I’m very happy to see the Royals looking to upgrade when they can.

I’m not convinced that Dayton Moore has the cajones to pull the trigger on a Soria for Rasmus trade, nor do I know if the Blue Jays would accept it. But I’ve been trying to convince my Cardinal fan buddy Kyle to take a Soria for Rasmus trade for 3 years now. I always thought it was a dream scenario, but it just might happen in reality. I really hope it does.

Edit: The Royals signed Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton to a one-year contract. This seems really odd unless the Royals are really considering moving Joakim Soria. Sh&t just got real, yo.

 

 

Nick Scott hosts the Broken Bat Single Podcast and writes a blog for the Lawrence Journal World. You can follow him on Facebook or email him at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.

 

 

 

In part 1 of this series, I looked at the offense and came to the conclusion that it’s not the teams biggest problem, but rather it’s their inability to prevent runs. In part 2 I looked at the defense and found it to be missing some pieces but again not a huge problem. That leaves us with the pitching. This isn’t really a shocking conclusion. We all knew it was leading us there, but I think it’s instructive and helpful to get there step-by-step. The pitching neatly breaks up into two distinct parts: starting and relief. Today we’ll focus on relief.

Here is a chart showing the Royal relieves ERA and the league rank for the past few years.

Year ERA AL Rank
2011 3.69 5th
2010 4.46 14th
2009 5.02 14th
2008 4.26 10th
2007 3.89 6th

The Royals have clearly had a contending level relief core this year, but history shows that it’s a fickle thing. One year you can have a great bullpen and the next year it can be putrid. There’s a number of reasons for this phenomenon. Bullpens have high turnover, small inning sample sizes can skew the numbers, more players means more possibility for injuries or other changes and pitching is just a fickle art.

With all of these different possibilities it’s hard to make any concrete conclusions on whether or not the Royals will continue to have a contention level relief corps.  However, there are some things that can help guide us. Primarily age and team control. Here is the list of the important relief pitchers this season for the Royals and the year that they become a free agent

Player Free Agency Season
Joakim Soria 2015
Blake Wood 2017
Tim Collins 2017
Aaron Crow 2017
Louis Coleman 2017
Nate Adcock 2017
Greg Holland 2017
Everett Teaford 2017
Jeremy Jeffress 2017

Why am I just now realizing that other than Joakim Soria (and Mitch Maier of course) every relief pitcher of note is a rookie this season? The chart should make it clear that the bullpen shouldn’t turnover much based on free agency. That doesn’t mean that injury, trade or a move to the starting rotation won’t change things, but based on the results from this season and the youth, we can for the near future rule out the bullpen as a major area where the Royals should focus in order to improve their ballclub to make it a contender.

Next time we’ll get into the heart of the matter and discuss the starting pitching, and more importantly how to fix it.

 

 

Nick Scott hosts the Broken Bat Single Podcast and writes a blog for the Lawrence Journal World. You can follow him on Facebook or email him at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.

In this series, I’ll be trying to look at what the Royals need in order to become contenders and how they should go about getting it. In part one of this series, I looked briefly at the Royals offense and came to the conclusion that it’s not the teams biggest problem, and isn’t likely to be in the near future. Just look at last nights 18 hit barrage the Royals put to the Tigers for an example. No, we have to take a look at the other side of the game to find the Royals true weakness: pitching and defense.

I see preventing runs as three distinct components: starting pitching, relief and defense. All three are naturally tied together and if one is improved the other two are improved. Teasing out exactly how much each component plays into the overall number of runs given up is difficult, so any statistical analysis here will be of the quick and dirty variety.

Let’s start with the defense. It’s extremely difficult to measure defense and even with the advances made recently, the numbers for a single season are not the most reliable. Looking at UZR, the Royals rank 8th among American League teams in defense. From what I’ve seen watching this season, that sounds about right. I think they are an average team defensively. Going position by position based solely on what I’ve seen and heard I’d go with something like this.

Catcher – With Sal Perez, this position has improved and is in very good defensive hands in the future.

1st Base – Eric Hosmer is very good with the glove and could become an elite defensive first baseman.

2nd Base – Johnny Giavotella is probably a step down from Chris Getz (who seemed a bit over-rated defensively) and is likely a slightly below average defender who could be average.

3rd Base – Moustakas has a very good arm and some good instincts, but his range isn’t the greatest. I don’t see him becoming average defensively, but he is here for his bat not his glove.

Short Stop – Alcides Escobar is Shortstop Jesus. He’s about as good as you can get at the most important defensive position on the field.

Left Field – Alex Gordon has improved noticeably defensively. He still relies on athleticism to make up for mistakes that better defenders don’t make, but he has a great arm and has performed very well. He’s above average now and could get better.

Center Field – Melky Cabrera is a well below average center fielder. He doesn’t make a ton of mistakes, but he can’t get to balls that other guys get to since he just cant cover that much ground.

Right Field – Jeff Francoeur has done a very good job in right field and has the arm to play the position. He’s at worst an average right field defender.

So adding that up we have 5 average to above-average defenders and three below average defenders. The reason that adds up to an average defense is that they have below average defenders at some key positions like 3b,2b and CF.

It’s pretty close if not on par with any contending level defense other than a significant upgrade at center field. and possibly 2nd base. The future of Melky Cabrera isn’t exactly clear and he’s only under team control for one more season. Behind him is Lorenzo Cain who is hitting very well in AAA and is a significant upgrade defensively. Johnny Giavotella is an all-around solid player who can hit the ball well. If he continues to hit, the Royals will be glad to live with his below average defense. However if he were to struggle, or the Royals felt that defense was more important they could look to converted shortstop Christian Colon to take his place.

This was a very rudimentary look at the defense, but the numbers and my eyes tell me that the team is adequate defensively and if it needs improvement then the pieces are available. It wouldn’t make sense for Dayton Moore and the Royals to spend significant (or any) resources in trying to improve the defense in the quest for a pennant.

 

Nick Scott hosts the Broken Bat Single Podcast and writes a blog for the Lawrence Journal World. You can follow him on Facebook or email him at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.

 

  • Bubba Starling signed last night for $7.5m. It’s  ridiculous that the Commissioners office won’t let over-slot deals through until the last moment. As one of my friends put it “That’s a lot of cheddar for an 18 year old.”  Yep. I hope he’s worth it. At first, I wasn’t completely thrilled with the pick, but as I learned more I’m fully supportive of it. I like the high-risk, high-reward thought process. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
  • Johnny Giavotella has four extra-base hits in 44 plate appearances, Chris Getz had 8 in 396. Why wasn’t this move made sooner?
  • Jim Thome hit his 600th home-run last night. While it seems like he’s hit about 550 of them against the Royals, the actual numbers surprised me. Here are the teams Thome has hit the most home runs against.

1. Detroit Tigers (65)

2. Minnesota Twins (57)

3. Kansas City Roayls (48)

4. Chicago White Sox (43)

5. Boston Red Sox (35)

  • You know what’s really frustrating? The fact that the Royals have scored more runs per game and given up fewer runs per game than the Minnesota Twins, yet they are still below them in the standings.  I can’t believe for one second that the Twins are better than the Royals. This is a mirage at the moment, and I think the Royals have a great shot at surpassing them before the end of the season.
  • One problem is that the Royals lead the American League in walks allowed. They’ve given up 432 walks this season. Compare that to league leader Cleveland who has given up only 309. I wouldn’t make a one-to-one relation on walks allowed to wins, but there certainly is some relation. You can’t give out free passes, it’s the worst thing you can do as a pitching staff.
  • Now that a good portion of the future is occupying spots on the Major League roster, guys in the Minors have been kind of over-looked. Wil Myers is likely the top position player in the Royals system, so how’s he doing?  His current slash line is .251/.350/.368. It’s nothing to go crazy over, but it’s good to see him have a high on-base percentage. Myers has an advanced approach and he has no problems taking a walk. I saw him walk at least four times in back-fields spring training games. He’s continuing to do that at AA, however I’d like to see a higher slugging percentage. If he’s laying off pitches until he gets a good one, I’d like to see him drive it out of the park.  Either way, I’m not concerned. The kid is still very young and very good.
  • The top pitching prospect in the minors is Jake Odorizzi, who has made 8 starts at AA after being promoted. He’s had an up-and-down go of it for the Naturals, but he’s still showing flashes of talent. The jump to AA is the second hardest in the game next to the jump to the Majors. It’s not unusual for a guy to have some struggles as he learns to pitch to a much higher level of competition. In his 8 starts, he has posted a 4.57 ERA while striking out 32 and walking 17.
  • Felipe Paulina pitched his worst game as a Royal last night against the New York Yankes, but he still holds a 3.76 ERA in blue. I hear lots of chatter about the Royals not trying to get starting pitching, yet they made one of the best starting pitcher acquisitions in baseball this season.
  • I wanted to mention the podcast hiatus I’ve been on recently. Basically, my life has been super-duper crazy lately and I just flat haven’t had time to do one. It pains me to not do them, but with all of my other responsibilities, it’s taken a back-seat. I’d like to find a way to do them more often, but for now it’s not feasible. They’re will be more, I promise.

 


Nick Scott hosts the Broken Bat Single Podcast and writes a blog for the Lawrence Journal World. You can follow him on Facebook or email him at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.

Consistency. It’s probably the most over used and therefore worthless term used in the baseball lexicon. “If only pitcher X could be more consistent, then he’d really be something.” When used, it’s also the most obvious. Yes, if a pitcher could pitch as well as his best game, every game, then he’d be Roy Halladay. Not surprisingly, there’s only one Roy Halladay because pitching, by it’s nature is an inconsistent art. What can happen from time to time is a pitcher will increase the number of games where he is highly effective and also limits the damage when he isn’t. Luke Hochevar last night pitched another example of his “A” stuff and since the All-Star break, he’s been pretty, well, consistent (seriously, I’m not using that word again, starting…….now).

During the All-Star break there was some rumblings about Luke Hochevar making some adjustments that would make him more effective. The rightly-skeptical public greeted this with a believe-it-when-we-see-it mentality. I’ve been calling Hochevar “Big-Inning Luke” for years now, because that’s exactly what he’s produced. He’ll be cruising along, just mowing down batters and then WHAM, five runs in an inning out of nowhere.

The arm-chair Freud’s out there posited that Luke Hochevar was a mental case. Everyone without a better explanation thought it sounded reasonable and so it became accepted. Many people believed and stated out loud that a guy who had pitched his way to a top College program and then into the Major Leagues, was a mentally strong pitcher until he decided to freak out on the mound in front of the same 30,000 fans he’d been pitching in front of for the four previous innings.

I had gone along with this same thinking until I decided to look for more logical and rational reasons for these big-inning collapses. My thoughts ran like this: In order to give up a big inning, you have to allow a lot of base runners. When you allow base runners, you completely change your motion from the wind-up to the stretch. Small adjustments can make a big difference in the effectiveness in the pitcher.  Viola! Luke Hochevar isn’t good at pitching out of the stretch!

Granted, I have as much evidence at this point to prove this hypothesis than those who claim he’s a crazy-person. But when forced to choose between mental issues and mechanical, I’ll go mechanical every single time. So, let’s see if Luke Hochever is worse than the average pitcher with runners on base.

  Empty Men On %Diff
Luke Hochevar .711 .834 17.30
AL Average .704 .731 3.84
Luke Career .716 .873 21.93

So Luke Hochevar is significantly worse with runners on base than he is when they are empty. This doesn’t lead us to a cause, but it does support the hypothesis somewhat. One piece of anecdotal evidence that contributes to my theory is that I’ve seen him on a couple of occasions go to the wind-up when there is a runner on third and no other runners on. That tells me that he’s willing to give up the slight advantage to the runner so he can be more comfortable and possibly effective out of the wind-up. It’s a small sample size but in 2011 with a runner only on 3rd, Luke gives up an OPS of .708. Could mean nothing with only 24 plate appearances, but it’s something to ponder.

Back to the adjusments that were alluded to over the All-Star break. Since that time Luke Hochevar has started five games and posted an ERA of 2.41 with an OPS against of .582. It’s only five games, so it could just be a hot or lucky streak.

Whether Luke Hochever continues to pitch like the top-of-the-rotation starter that the Royals believed him to be is unknown. For now, he’s been effective since the Royals claimed he made an adjustment. Sure, maybe he went on prozac and had an intimate 0ne-on-one conversation with Dr. Laura to cure his mental instability. I think it’s more likely that he improved the way he pitches out of the stretch and has been able to limit the big innings he was known for. Regardless of the fix, the question is whether he’ll be more consistent (damnit).


Nick Scott hosts the Broken Bat Single Podcast and writes a blog for the Lawrence Journal World. You can follow him on Facebook or email him at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.

We’re beyond the half-way point in the Major League Baseball season, but the All-Star break is a great time to take a breather and see where the Royals stand. What I’ve done is take a look at the Royals wOBA position-by-position and compared it to their American League Central opponents and the rest of the AL. I’m using wOBA because it’s a simple and powerful offensive measuring tool. If you’d like to take a look at the nuts and bolts of the metric you can check out FanGraphs, but all you really need to know is that a higher number is a better number.

It’s valuable to measure the Royals against the AL Central because in reality that is their only competition. To be in the playoffs, the Royals don’t have to be better than the Yankees, Red Sox or Rangers, they just have to be better than the Twins, White Sox, Tigers and Indians.

The first chart is a list of every American League Central team’s position and it’s sorted by wOBA. So as you can see below the Tigers first-basemen (no surprise) is the most productive offensive position in the division. The colors in the chart sort each column from best (red) to worst (green) so you can get an idea of where some of the outliers are. The numbers are the total of all plate appearances for that position.

 

Some of the interesting things that stick out at me with this chart are the fact that no team is immune from having a low ranking offensive position. The Tigers have a 2b and 3b that are performing worse offensively than Alcides Escobar. Somewhere along the way there is this crazy idea that all playoff contenders have top-level talent at all 9 positions, which just isn’t the case.

Now, let’s break it up into individual positions. Again the numbers are sorted by wOBA and this time I’ve added the rank of the team in the American League at that position. So in the below chart, the Royals are 4th in the AL Central and 8th in the AL in regards to catcher wOBA.

 

The AL Central is pretty stacked in terms of offensive catchers. The combination of Matt Treanor and Brayan Pena is roughly an average offensive unit. Yep, that kind of shocked me too. Also, Alex Avila is really good.

First base is also a position of strength in the division. While the Royals are near the bottom offensively they’re still weighed down by the terrible start that Kila Ka’aihue had. Eric Hosmer is posting a .323 wOBa and would put the Royals as an average team in the AL. Not to bad for a very good defensive shortstop who is barely able to legally buy a beer.

So Chris Getz might not actually be as big of a problem as we all think. He’s received the lion’s share of playing time at second and the team is sitting at roughly league average offensively for the position. I agree with Craig that he probably isn’t as good with the glove as he’s touted, but he’s actually a fine player at the position compared to his peers in 2011. I do believe that teams aren’t getting enough offense out of this position in general though.

Third base isn’t exactly a position that fans will want to keep their eye on in this division. There just isn’t much offensive talent in the American League central there. It surprised the hell out of me that the Royals are getting the most production of of the position within the division. Playing Mike Moustkas right now over Wilson Betemit is dragging the number down, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the right move.

The Indians are getting a whole lot of production out of their shortstop and it’s a big reason they’re an ok offensive team. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Alcides Escobar rounds out the bottom of the division, but it’s encouraging that there are teams struggling even more than the Royals. Defense is not included in this breakdown at all, but if it did, I think we’d find that Escobar is at worst an average shortstop.

Alex Gordon is dominating.

This is very illustrative of why Melky Cabrera is a valuable trade chip. He’s one of the top 5 offensive center fielders in the American League. He’s no great defender, but his game will play on a number of contending team. His contributions at the plate are also a big reason the Royals offense is league average right now.

I bet you thought that this position would rank higher. Jeff Francouer had a hot start to the season, but he has cooled off significantly. That’s not to say he hasn’t provided some value. He’s solid defensively and holds his own offensively. For a team struggling to get to 82 wins, they could use a lot more league average players on their roster than they’ve had in the past.

Now here comes Billy Butler. The guy that so many believe isn’t good enough to be a DH, yet he’s one of the top 5 in the American League. Someone on Twitter told me that he was no Edgar Martinez. After looking at the numbers, I completely agree. This is Billy Butler’s age 25 season and he’s played in 622 games with an OPS+ of 119. Edgar Martinez played in 27 games through his age 25 season and if you add in the 65 games he played when he was 26 his OPS+ was 93.

 

Finally, I like to put together this radar graph because it looks cool. You’ll see the positions around the circle and then a color coded line representing each team. If the line is on the outside of the graph that means the team had the highest wOBA in the league at that position and then lower for each rung going to the middle. It’s just a way for me to have all the information in one picture so you can see where teams are in terms of each other.

 


Nick Scott hosts the Broken Bat Single Podcast and writes a blog for the Lawrence Journal World. You can follow him on Facebook or email him at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.

When Thomas Gray wrote “where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise” in his poem Ode On A Distant Prospect of Eton College, he was ruminating on how blissful his years were prior to becoming wise. In my life as a Royals fan, I’ve been blissfully ignorant of the true joy of watching an elite defensive shortstop. I wasn’t completely ignorant, I knew that Angel Berroa, Tony Pena Jr. and Yuniesky Betancourt weren’t great defenders, but I didn’t really know, not until I got to see Alcides Escobar. It may be folly to be wise, but it sure is a hell of a lot of fun. Especially when for the moment, Alcides Escobar is the best player on the planet.

When we talk about players who were the best in the game, we’re talking about in a certain period of time. Maybe it’s a decade, a season or the dead-ball era. I know that it’s an absurdly short period of time in baseball terms, but for the past two weeks, the best player on the planet has been Alcides Escobar.

I have a statistical interest in baseball, so I’m fully aware of sample sizes. But the results are the results. Whether they come from luck or an anomaly only matters in the context of future prediction. It’d clearly be folly to predict Escobar will continue hitting this well, but that’s not the point. Exactly how well has Escobar hit in the past 14 days? His triple-slash line in super-duper sized font for emphasis:

.468/.500/.681

 

Those are absurd numbers, the kind that only exist in short time-frames. But still, this is Alcides Freaking Escobar we’re talking about. His slash line after the first game of this time period was .207/.241/.240. So after 60 games of being absolutely woeful at the plate, Escobar goes all bizzaro-Escobar and starts getting hits in about half of his at-bats. In fact, lets watch a video of one of those hits just to prove that it actually happened:

That video is illustrative, because Alcides Escobar hasn’t been just collecting singles–seven of his 22 hits over this span have been for extra-bases.

But even with all of that, it’s not enough by itself to make him the best player on the planet for the past two weeks. Prince Fielder and Paul Konerko have both hit 7 homeruns and Adrian Gonzalez has taken walks and hit for power. Those three players are the only ones in baseball with a higher wOBA than Alcides Escobar. However there are two things that they don’t do which he does: steal bases and play defense. The stolen base thing is minor and nearly negligible, but Escobar has 6 of them over this span and has been caught just once.

The defense is a whole other story. Again, lets role some tape:

and

and

and because I can’t get enough of these, one more:

This is far from an exhaustive display of amazing plays he’s put together.  I can (and someday will) go on at length on the breadth of spectacular plays he’s made. In going back to the previous three players who have hit as well or better than Escobar in the past two weeks, it’s not going out on a limb to say that they don’t have those plays in their repertoire.

This offensive output is going to end, but it does provide a glimmer of what Acides Escobar may be. I was adamant in saying that he would eventually become a better hitter. Whether or not he does improve or goes back to his TPJ impression, he is the best player on the planet…for now.


Nick Scott hosts the Broken Bat Single Podcast and writes a blog for the Lawrence Journal World. You can follow him on Facebook or email him at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.

 

 

I don’t think I ever truly appreciated Paul Splittorff, the ballplayer.

Kind of funny, actually. Because growing up in Kansas City in the 1970s, I could have been mistaken for mini-Splitt. Left-handed, glasses almost larger than my face, pitching to contact in the Johnson County 3&2… Really it was only natural I have Splitt as a hero and a role model. My mom used to always bring up the comparison. As if it was cool being compared to a major leaguer. It was cool, but Splitt just didn’t excite me. Besides, I liked hitting better, so why couldn’t people associate me with Amos Otis or John Mayberry? Those guys kicked ass. Splitt… He didn’t kick ass as much as he survived.

As I got older and grew to appreciate the history of the team and it’s players, I learned that to be compared to Splitt was a high honor. When you talk about Splittorff being a competitor or a bulldog, that’s not being cliche. It’s being truthful. The guy didn’t have all the talent in the world. Hell, he was often overshadowed on his own team… First by Busby, then by Leonard. But the guy battled and often was successful.

Look at his stats… These days we’re all about the strikeouts. After the 1972 season, his high strikeout rate was 4.4 SO/9. That’s so low, it’s insane. He was in line to win the decisive Game 5 of the 1977 ALCS and did pick up the win in the clinching Game 3 of the 1980 ALCS. That gained him the reputation of being a Yankee killer (even though it wasn’t really true) and we loved him for it. His best season was probably 1978 when he finished with a 3.40 ERA in 262 innings. But he struck out only 76! And walked just 60. But he had 12 complete games. (Seriously, the game 35 years ago is unrecognizable today.) Splittorff was 31 years old and a key figure on three consecutive division champions.

One of the great things about sports is when a player becomes synonomous with a team. We were lucky in Kansas City in the heyday when the Royals were winning… Brett, Leonard, White, McRae and Splitt. Those guys were the core, the foundation. They were the team. We hope this new group of guys will emulate the old timers. We hope…

In many ways, Splitt was the Kansas City Royals. Drafted in the 25th round of the 1968 draft – before the Royals played a game – the guy was the ultimate lifer. Upon retiring from the game in 1984, he soon moved to the broadcast booth where he remained until earlier this month. That’s where the younger generation of fans will remember Splitt – as a no-nonsense broadcaster who didn’t hold his punches. He explained what was happening on the field in a way you could understand and appreciate. No flash… Just the facts. He called a game like he pitched… He got the most out of his abilities.

I appreciated Splitt the announcer because he lived for this team. There is always a debate about whether or not people want their announcers to be “homers.” I never felt Splitt was that way, but you could tell the often crummy play of the last 20 years irritated him. That was perfect. He was just like those of us sitting on our couches, watching the game. We felt great on the rare occasions when something went right for the team… And we were disappointed too often when something went wrong. You could tell, Splitt was right there with us.

It’s difficult when a team loses someone like Splitt. Because, as modest and understated as he may have been, he’s really irreplacable. Someone else just can’t fill those shoes. Not with the mileage acquired being around this franchise and this city. Frank White will always be the favorite son, working on the construction crew at the Stadium and going through the Academy. And George Brett is… George Brett. But Splitt was here longer than either of them.

His final game in a Royals uniform came at the Stadium on June 26, 1984 against the Oakland A’s. Splitt pitched most of the season in relief, but I assume that because it was a doubleheader, he was summoned for what was supposed to be a spot start. He retired the A’s in order in the first and the Royals scored four in the bottom of the frame. Then, Splitt surrendered two in the second and two in the third to tie the game. Then, in the top of the fifth, the A’s scored three runs, the final score crossing the plate on a Davey Lopes triple. It was Splittorff’s last batter.

In that game, Splitt was relieved by a 20 year old Bret Saberhagen. And the baton was passed…

Thanks for everything, Splitt.