Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

You thought this post would be about the bullpen, didn’t you? I mean we all saw the game on Thursday. Wade Davis and Greg Holland. Damn.

But, no. This is about Yordano Ventura. And his valgus.

Ventura returned to the mound after missing a start with elbow discomfort. (I guess it was “discomfort.” Ned Yost said, “It wasn’t an elbow issue.” Umm… OK?) I don’t know about you, but I was damned nervous. Not that I thought the Royals would send a damaged pitcher back out to start. They obviously thought he was OK. No, my concern was over the idea of a “what if.” What if he lost velocity in the third inning? What if his command was helter-skelter from the start? What if he experienced the same issues that derailed his last start?

Pitchers are scary creatures. Anymore it feels like each pitch could be their last. It’s nauseating. And when you have a stud like Ventura… Yeah. Scary.

According to Brooks Baseball, Ventura uncorked a 101 mph fastball. Cool. Even better, he found a comfort zone and maintained his velocity throughout the contest.

Ventura_Velo65

Yost pulled him after six innings and 91 pitches. The right move after the issues of the last two weeks.

While the velocity was positive, there were still some bumps along the way to the win. His command wasn’t all that great. He also had a helluva time closing out innings. In the first, he got two outs on six pitches. Then needed 18 more pitches to get the third out. In the second, he got the first batters out, then coughed up a single and a triple before getting the third out. And in the fourth, he got the first two outs on three pitches. Then allowed a single, a walk and a single before getting the third out. He did settle down in the fifth and sixth, working what you would term efficient innings. Although Yadier Molina helped out by running on Alex Gordon after another two-out single.

For the game, Ventura stuck out one batter. He got only seven swings and misses. That’s not the Ventura we saw pre elbow discomfort. But the velocity was there. I’m not ready to move past the elbow discomfort, but I do feel better about how he’s doing moving forward.

And finally, from gifsection, your latest gif of Nori Aoki losing his battle against baseballs.

aokihead

Happy Friday. Be careful out there.

14 al centr sp thru 6-4

That’s a mess of numbers trying to compare the performance of the starting rotations in the Central so far this year. The Royals numbers are schizophrenic, from good to ugly. Their big issue has been giving up dingers, something that should not be happening so frequently when they play half their games at Kauffman Stadium. Jeremy Guthrie, James Shields, and Jason Vargas are the main culprits, having already yielded 13, 12, and 11 homers respectively. It would be nice to say it has been purely fluky, but all three have struggled to limit home runs in their careers. Shields kept the ball in the park better over the last three seasons, but no such luck so far this year. For Guthrie and Vargas, this is only slightly worse than par. The staff as a whole has watched 11% of fly balls allowed sail over the fence, third highest in the AL. That’s probably a combination of poor pitching and a little bad luck, so hopefully more fly balls will fall in gloves instead of seats as the season trudges on.

Other than the homers (which pull down the FIP and attending fWAR numbers) things are going decently. Fantastic team defense allows the ERA to legitimately out-perform the fielder-independent numbers, though the ERA is only barely better than average. The Royals starters have been the most consistent at getting quality starts and going deep into games. But best of all, they are actually limiting walks for a refreshing change. The starters have not had such a low walk rate over a full season since 1996.

Here are the top 10 starters in the division by an average of fielder-independent WAR and runs allowed WAR:

1. Corey Kluber – CLE – 2.2
2. Chris Sale – CHI – 2.1
3. Max Scherzer -DET – 2.0
4. Anibal Sanchez – DET – 1.7
5. Jason Vargas – KC – 1.5
6. Jose Quintana – CHI – 1.4
7. Yordano Ventura – KC – 1.2
7. Justin Verlander – DET – 1.2
7. Rick Porcello – DET – 1.2
10. James Shields – KC – 0.8
10. Kyle Gibson – MIN – 0.8

The Royals – yes, the Kansas City Royals – survived a slugfest in St. Louis and vanquished the Cardinals by a 8-7 score on Tuesday. The game capped a successful road trip that saw the Royals take four of six from the Blue Jays and then the Cardinals. Call it the Running of the 1985 Gauntlet.

Bookending a mini-slump where the Royals scored two runs in the final two games in Toronto were games where Kansas City scored eight and six runs. Add everything together and since May 29, the Royals have scored 30 runs in six games and pocketed the aforementioned four wins.

Dale Sveum, hitting whisperer, indeed.

On Tuesday, James Shields wasn’t exactly Big Game as he walked four and allowed nine hits while striking out a single hitter. He allowed two home runs for good measure. Not to be alarmist following a solid stretch of baseball, but Shields just hasn’t been himself of late. In his last 18.1 innings, he’s allowed 17 runs. That’s courtesy of seven (seven!) home runs.

I suppose at this point, I should point east and laugh. Suck it, St. Louis and all that. Maybe it’s misguided on my part, but beating the Cardinals doesn’t move me any more than beating the Marlins. A win is a win. It’s good when the Royals can shutout a team one night and turn around and score eight and win by a single run the next. I mean, St. Louis is still a wannabe east coast city that I avoid at all costs, but they just don’t matter so much to me. I’m aware their fans are spectacular or whatever. Best fans EVAR!!!!!1! Eh. I tend to ignore the self-absorbed. It’s a character flaw.

I read much hand-wringing of the ESPN treatment on Monday night. “How disrespectful they don’t know this team!” “Why can’t they talk about something other than 1985?” “It’s like they’ve never seen the Royals play!” Uh, hello. This is the Kansas City Royals ESPN is talking about. Is there really any reason for ESPN – or any other national sports outlet – to discuss this team over the last 25 years? Three decades of losing will render your favorite team irrelevant. It happens. But the 1985 is our World Series and when the Royals and Cardinals meet, it’s as good a reason as any to revisit some history. It gives the national guys a news peg. Fortunes have kind of diverged since those late October nights in 1985.

Did you read the Bob Nightengale article in USA Today about the Royals? It contained some wonderful quotes from Dayton Moore As I do from time to time, I’ll do a little translation. Moore is a wonderful quote machine. He speaks like the guy who writes those inspirational posters you find in sterile corporations who haven’t updated their decor from 1993. I can’t resist.

“It’s been a frustrating year,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. “But the frustration I feel is no greater than the players, or (manager) Ned (Yost) or the coaching staff. We’re all in it together.

“Yeah, we expected more out of our players, but they expect even more out of themselves. We’re making some very honest evaluations.”

Oh, spare me. Notice he didn’t mention the owner. I wonder if David Glass is frustrated? Out of sight, out of mind. Maybe Glass hasn’t brought up the fact his team and their record payroll is underachieving. Maybe a better quote would be something along the lines of, “I thought everyone would get better. Isn’t that what happens?”

And the “honest evaluation” line is pretty funny. I imagine him saying it the way Neidermeyer put Delta house on “double secret probation.”

“You wonder how we can underachieve offensively the second year in a row,” Yost says, “with the talent we have. The pitchers are giving us chances to win, but we have to score runs.”

No, it’s really not that puzzling. When you do something more than once, it’s a trend. And when it’s a trend, you’re not underachieving. You are what you are. Now there’s interpretation that can be done as to why your team has turned into an offensive pumpkin. (Perhaps the revolving door of hitting coaches has been counterproductive and perhaps you had a good one on your staff but turned him loose.) Why is Billy Butler’s ground ball rate above 50 percent for the second consecutive season and rising? Why has Eric Hosmer returned all his gains he realized from last season and hit just one home run? Why has Mike Moustakas regressed every season since his debut? Why has Salvador Perez suffered the same fate? Read through those names again. That was supposed to form the nucleus of this team. That’s the way the master plan was drawn up when Dayton Moore circled 2014 on his ten-year day planner. The only guy who is worth a damn is Alex Gordon. Moore loses points because Gordon is an Allard Baird refugee. But he gains points for moving him off the hot corner and to left field. And inspired last-ditch move that saved a career and should be worth some goodwill.

How about this for a wonderful tidbit: Since 2011, Alex Gordon has collected 18.1 fWAR. That’s the highest total among regular left fielders in all of baseball. Yeah, that’s right. Awesome. This guy is criminally underrated because he’s surrounded by so much damn offensive dead weight. Do you want to think about this team without Alex Gordon? I answer for you: No. No, you don’t.

Back to the USA Today article. Did you catch this:

Certainly, there’s enough blame to be shared throughout an organization that has run through several failed regimes.

If anyone deserves the most blame, Hall of Fame manager Whitey Herzog said, it’s owner David Glass.

He was the one who was offered by Commissioner Bud Selig to move the franchise to the National League in 1998. Glass declined. The Milwaukee Brewers accepted. The rest is history.

“That’s one of the most major mistakes in the history of ownership,” said Herzog, who managed the St.Louis Cardinals and the Royals. “It was natural to go to the National League. They would have had a natural rivalry with the Cardinals. The Cubs would be sellouts. People would come from Denver. And they wouldn’t have to worry about their offense.

“When I talked to David about it, he said, ‘Everybody wanted to see the Yankees.’ I said, ‘Was there anyone complaining if you went to the NL?’ He said, ‘We got about a hundred letters.’

“I said, ‘Jesus, you’re running Wal-Mart and you let 100 letters change your mind? What a screw-up.’

I remember that time well. I was still a season ticket holder and the Royals polled us about the potential move. Myself? I wasn’t for it. I thought it was foolish to move from the American League. Kansas City had always been an AL city. The World Series title – at that point, not so much a distant memory – was won in the AL. I guess the irony is, the Yankees will visit Kansas City between three and four times a year now thanks to the unbalanced schedule. Instead of the bandwagon Yankee and Red Sox fans for six to eight dates at The K, you would have 20 dates with the Cardinals and Cubs. Equally obnoxious fan bases.

Maybe it was a mistake not to move, but a bad offense is a bad offense. Just spitballing here, but since National League pitching has been superior, wouldn’t that render our tepid attack even more impotent? We’d be wallowing in the muck with the Padres. Carry a negative run differential and it’s difficult to contend.

As much as I enjoy Herzog and as much as I enjoy Herzog ripping on Glass, it’s revisionist history at this point. Besides, if Tampa can hang with the Yankees and Red Sox (although not so much this year) the Royals should be able to find a way to get past the Twins and the Tigers.

Nightengale mentions free agent Kendrys Morales as a potential match. Let’s play a little game of internet telephone. I bet Nightengale picked up this nugget from a certain Tweet.

And I wonder where Heyman heard this? Hmmmm. Morales has a certain agent who has been known to feed info to Heyman in the past… Hmmmmm.

Anyway, does it make sense for the Royals to sign a guy like Morales at this point in the season? After he’s missed two-plus months. Stephen Drew signed a couple weeks ago with the Red Sox and spent 10 days in the minors to get game ready. That would put a potential Morales arrival a little after mid-June. That’s great and he would certainly represent an upgrade, but what do you do with Billy Butler? He’s making $8 million this year, so the Royals aren’t going to keep him around as a right-handed bat off the bench. Besides, you think he would accept any kind of demotion? So you have to trade him, but to whom and for what? His market is limited as a designated hitter. His contract is on the high side for a one dimensional player and you’d be selling at his absolute low point.

No, it looks like the Royals are stuck with Butler. If anything, it should be fun watching them decide what to do with that $12.5 million option for next year.

And by next year, the narrow window of opportunity may be closing.

herrera

RHP ∙ 2011—present

Kelvin Herrera signed with the Royals in December, 2006 as a 16 year old kid in the Dominican. Dayton Moore had just started as GM in June of that year, and immediately began ramping up scouting and signing in international markets. He hired Rene Francisco to lead international operations in August, 2006, and Francisco and his scouts have had success with signings including Herrera, Salvador Perez, and Yordano Ventura. The team tried Herrera as a starter in rookie league and Class A ball between 2007—10 before converting him to a reliever for the 2011 season. Herrera’s wicked fastball, now unleashed with max effort, carried him all the way through Classes A, AA, AAA, and then two September innings in the show that 2011 season.

He made the bullpen out of spring training in 2012, and in his second appearance of that season lit up the gun with a 103. He was excellent for that entire year, being used mostly in the seventh and eighth innings and relying on that incredible fastball about two-thirds of the time and complementing it with a nasty 86 MPH change-up. Since Herrera has never been given the mystical position of “closer,” manager Ned Yost feels more freedom on when he can call on Herrera, so Herrera actually leads the team in relief appearances and innings pitched since the start of 2012.

Herrera suffered a set-back in the early going of 2013 when his command went AWOL and he yielded eight homers during a stretch of 14 innings. Towards the end of June, his ERA had ballooned to 5.20 and he was sent down to Omaha to get his groove back. He returned to KC a few weeks later and has been back to cruising ever since. In his career to date, Herrera has struck out nearly one-fourth of the batters he’s faced, and that fastball has averaged 97. He’s definitely the hardest throwing Royal since the advent of PITCHf/x, and probably the fastest in team history. Other than that hiccup in 2013, Herrera has been a fantastic weapon for KC in the late innings.

Sunday morning, the Royals made some transaction news when they shoved Danny Valencia to the disabled list and recalled Mike Moustakas from him Triple-A sojourn.

Moustakas played seven games for Omaha. Overall, he hit .355/.412/.548 in 34 plate appearances. Solid, no? Or you could dive a little deeper inside the number and see that most of that damage was done in his last two games when he went 6-8 with a pair of doubles. Either way, it’s semantics. We’re parsing the smallest of sample sizes. He got off to a slow start in Omaha, went on one of his patented mini hot streaks and got a recall when the Royals disabled Valencia.

What exactly is going on in the front office? You have a player who has seen his production slip for three consecutive seasons. This player has the fourth worst wRC+ among American League hitters with at least 130 plate appearances. A player who was hitting .153/.225/.323 in 130 plate appearances at the time of his demotion. And apparently, all he needed was seven games in Triple-A.

I get that no one is saying he’s “fixed.” Because you can’t wash away 1,600 subpar major league plate appearances with a handful of at bats in the minors. But if you’re going to send down a guy who has struggled nearly every single day of his major league career, why on Earth would you do such an abrupt about-face? What purpose was the demotion supposed to serve?

The only thing I can think of was the demotion was meant to be a wakeup call to Moustakas. Maybe the Royals thought he needed a kick in the ass. A fire lit under his attitude and motivation. Because I can’t imagine why else he would be down to Omaha and back just 10 days later. It just makes no sense.

Christian Colon and Johnny Giavotella are options. Both are on the 40-man roster. Pedro Ciriaco is already here. Or you could recall recently demoted Jimmy Paredes. None of the above are what you would consider good – or even acceptable – options. The cupboard is bare. There is no depth. Which is another story altogether.

The Moustakas demotion was long overdue. His promotion was premature. There are no winners in this. So very Royals.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

On Friday, Dayton Moore gave Ned Yost a sort of vote of confidence:

“Here’s the bottom line: It’s not Ned, it’s not Pedro (Grifol), it’s me,” Moore said. “I’m responsible. It’s all on me. At least that’s the way I feel about it.”

“It’s my job to give the managers and the coaching staff the right players to succeed. I have to be able to give them the tools to win. So if we’re not succeeding, ultimately the responsibility comes back to me. No one else.”

We have a tendency to parse everything Moore says. Especially when he says stuff to Jeff Flanagan, who gets some of the more choice quotes from our favorite general manager. But this… I don’t know. It doesn’t seem particularly noteworthy to me. It’s a general manager who remains under fire from a fan base fed up with eight years of underachieving baseball. He’s saying what he’s supposed to be saying.

And here’s the (not really) funny thing: He hasn’t given his staff the tools to win. Ever. Or more importantly, he’s hired the wrong guys who are supposed to shape and mold the players that are supposed to make up the pipeline of major league talent. There has been a systematic failure of player development, bad drafts and regression at the major league level. Moore hired the coaches and scouts who have brought us this debacle. Moore is responsible for all of this.

It’s on him. Duh.

I stand behind what I wrote nearly a year ago at Royals Review.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

And finally, Nori Aoki. Yeah. We all thought he would be a little better than this. But there is entertainment. I’m all for entertainment.

aokinuts

From our friends at Fansided. Very nice. Have a good Monday. And wear a cup.

click to embiggen

updated July 14, 2014

drabowsky2

Moe Drabowsky, left, celebrates with Joe Keough, Jackie Hernandez, Roger Nelson, and Ed Kirkpatrick after the Royals first-ever regular season game.

#101 Moe Drabowsky

Moe Drabowsky was no stranger to KC baseball fans when he was selected in the 1968 expansion draft by the Royals. He had pitched for the KC A’s from ’62—’65. Drabowsky credited A’s pitching coach (and later manager) Ed Lopat with resurrecting his career by teaching Moe some finer points of pitching after an elbow injury weakened his fastball. Drabowsky was one of the few original Royals who had been around for a while in the big leagues, and at 33 years of age qualified as ancient compared to most of his baby-faced teammates. His first appearance with the Royals came in the 12th inning of their first ever game, where he sat down the Twins in order. When the Royals scored in the bottom of the inning, Drabowsky earned the distinction as the first winning pitcher in team history.

His first 16 innings that season were spotless, and he remained the most reliable bullpen arm for that ’69 team, leading the way in appearances, saves, and ERA, all while pitching in the highest leverage situations. Drabowsky continued succeeding in the same role in 1970, with the exception of some time missed to illness. His career with the Royals ended in June of ’70 when he was dealt to the Orioles for utility infielder Bobby Floyd. The team felt some of the younger arms behind Drabowsky were coming into their own, and Drabowsky didn’t fit into the team’s long-term plans since he was not a safe bet to stay productive for as long as it would take the expansion team to become competitive. The Royals did guess correctly that Drabowsky’s time as an effective reliever would come to an end before the Royals were ready to fight for a division crown, but Floyd never did provide much value off the bench. It might not have hurt to have had Drabowsky’s steady hand in the late innings for a couple more years.

Drabowsky was known as much for being a prankster as he was for his pitching. One of his famous pranks occurred during his time with the Royals: When his former Baltimore teammates made the ’69 World Series, Drabowsky hired a plane to fly over game one trailing a banner reading “Beware of Moe.” The next day, a package containing a “large and thoroughly irritated blacksnake” was delivered to the Baltimore clubhouse (April 18, 1970 The Sporting News).

102. Jim Eisenreich

103. Mike Moustakas

104. Luke Hochevar

105. Rusty Meacham

106. Eric Hosmer

107. Lou Piniella

108. Brian McRae

109. Felipe Paulino

110. Pat Sheridan
Sheridan

Pat Sheridan was the Royals third round draft pick out of Eastern Michigan University in the ’79 draft. He got about half a cup of coffee in KC in September, ’81 as a late-inning replacement in three games, coming to the plate just once (where he struck out). After pulling a hamstring in the spring of ’82, he got in just 41 games with Omaha and none for KC. He started ’83 in Omaha too, but after an injury to Jerry Martin, Sheridan got the call up in mid-May. He made a dramatic impact in his first game back when he blasted a game-tying homerun in the bottom of the ninth for his first MLB hit. He often sat against left-handed starters, but was the most-used right fielder by KC in ’83 and ’84, providing steady, league average value at bat, in the field, and on the bases. He was the starting right fielder in all three ALCS games in ’84 and managed to reach base on three walks but failed to get a hit in six at-bats.

The ’85 regular season was frustrating as he battled another pulled hamstring, a dip in his hitting, and some time riding the bench. He ended up getting into just 78 games, but things got better in the post-season. Pinch-hitting in the ninth inning of the ALCS game two, he drove a game-tying home run. Then in probably his finest day as a Royal, Sheridan scored three runs in the ALCS game seven. The second run came on a solo shot to put the team up 2-0. Sheridan said afterwards, “I was one shovel load away from being buried. Now I’m back from the dead.” Platooning with Darryl Motley throughout the playoffs, Sheridan saw the bulk of playing time in right in both the ALCS and World Series. He didn’t have a particularly memorable World Series individually, but holds a special place in Royals history along with all of the ’85 champs.

But during spring training in ’86, the Royals no longer had a spot for Sheridan on the roster and released him. Sheridan said the release “was like opening a door and somebody throwing a knockout punch in your face before they say, ‘Good morning.’” He caught on with the Tigers and then the Giants before rejoining the Royals for spring training in 1990, but did not make the team.

On May 17, Danny Duffy threw what was among the best starts of his still-young major league career. Remember that? A 1-0 Royals victory over the Orioles?

I ask because in the haze of Wednesday’s debacle at the hands of the Houston Astros, it may be difficult to summon that outing from the memory bank.  Duffy was, in his own words, “hogwash,” against the former worst offensive team in the AL. (The Royals, in addition to being swept by the Astros, also seized the opportunity to supplant them as the worst offense in the American League. Victory cigars for everyone!)

Anyway, it wasn’t about the miserable performance from Duffy. We’ve seen plenty of those. What we saw on Wednesday was much more alarming. Duffy’s fastball averaged 92.8 mph while his sinker clocked in at 90.1 mph. In the start against the Orioles referenced above, his fastball was 94.9 mph and his sinker averaged 93.8 mph. Simple math: Duffy’s fastball was two mph less than in his best start of 2014 and his sinker was almost four mph less. This is not good.

(I don’t want to look at Duffy’s seasonal velocity average because it will be skewed by his time in the bullpen.)

Maybe we can dismiss the velocity on his sinker since that’s a pitch he doesn’t use that frequently. Perhaps more notable was his usage of his change-up. In his start on May 17, Duffy mixed 10 change-ups among his 97 pitches. Wednesday, he threw his change once in 83 pitches. Maybe that’s another reason the Astros were banging the ball around the yard. They were sitting fastball and adjusting slider. There was no in-between.

Speaking of his slider, he was throwing that like normal. The break was close to his usual movement, accounting for the fact it was averaging about three mph less than his May 17 outing.

Perhaps more alarming was how Duffy was losing velocity through those 83 pitches. From Brooks Baseball, here’s the ugly velocity chart:

Duffy_Velo528

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compare that to the May 17 game.

Duffy_Velo517

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Duffy always loses a little off his fastball the deeper he goes into the pitch count. But Wednesday’s game was something we haven’t seen in some time. Post-game, it was revealed Duffy was battling a “dead arm.” I suppose that’s possible. It’s fairly common. I just wonder how common for a pitcher who has thrown 35 innings in the season’s first two months to have a dead arm. With eight of those innings coming in relief.

I’m still not sold on Duffy being anymore than rotational filler. But with the uncertainty of Yordano Ventura, the Royals rotation is already stretched. (Yeah, there’s uncertainty around Ventura. Do you believe anything the Royals say when it comes to injuries? How many starters leave a start with elbow pain and are back a week and a half later?) Last I saw, the Royals starter for Ventura’s turn on Saturday was “TBA.” Because there aren’t any palatiable options. Lose Duffy at the same time… Let’s put it this way: The offensive struggles won’t be the only thing we’re discussing.

We’ve been over this before. At four games under .500, the season isn’t lost. But with a corpse-like offense that is showing no signs of a pulse, the season is slipping away. Lose two guys from your rotation and this team becomes a runaway freight elevator heading for the basement.

colborn

RHP ∙ 1977—78

Jim Colborn was not a Royal for long, but he made a significant impact in his one full season with the club. After eight seasons in the bigs, highlighted by an All-Star season in 1973, Colborn and catcher Darrell Porter were sent from Milwaukee to KC in the winter of ’76-’77 in exchange for Jamie Quirk, Jim Wohlford, and Bob McClure. The Brewers were disappointed with both Colborn and Porter’s recent play, but the Royals perhaps saw that Colborn had been much better than his losing record in ’76 indicated, and that the Brewers were selling low on Porter after a down year. The trade turned into a steal for KC GM Joe Burke. Porter became a star for the Royals for four years and Colborn anchored the ’77 rotation with Dennis Leonard and Paul Splittorff.

Colborn’s stint with KC got off to a good start with six shutout innings in his first game of the year. He cruised to a 2.61 ERA through his first seven starts before putting together his signature game on May 14 at Royals Stadium when he no-hit the Texas Rangers while facing just 28 batters. Two Rangers reached base: Jim Sundberg walked but was doubled off, and Toby Harrah was hit by a pitch (one of Colborn’s MLB-leading 13 hit batters in ’77). Colborn recorded six strikeouts, and his game score of 92 is tied for fourth best in Royals history (see table below). He was modest after the game, saying, “Something like this takes a lot of luck—luck and good fielding.”[i] Al Cowens in centerfield and Tom Poquette in right made several spectacular catches in the big Royals Stadium gaps, but Colborn of course deserved plenty of the credit too.Porter, who caught Colborn more than anyone else, said after the game, “He had a good fastball, a strong fastball, best he’s had for awhile.”[ii]

Colborn got shelled next time out, but then settled back into a nice rhythm for the rest of the year, ending up with a tidy 3.62 ERA (88 ERA-) in 239 innings. He is an under-appreciated member of that tremendous 1977 team that was the best regular season club KC has ever seen. So it’s a little curious that Colborn never saw the mound in the five game ALCS. Manager Whitey Herzog no doubt felt more comfortable starting lefties against the lefty-heavy Yankees line-up, but Colborn never even got the call in relief. Colborn had not faced the Yankees during the season either, so something about the match-up may have really scared Herzog.

The Sporting News reported that KC attempted to sign Colborn to a three-year contract to hold on to him through ’80, but a deal was never reached, meaning he would become a free agent after ’78. He ended up being demoted to the bullpen and spot starts at the beginning of ’78, and after three starts and five relief appearances that did not go great, Colborn was traded to the Mariners for Steve Braun. Colborn retired after the ’78 season, but has stayed in the game in various capacities. He has been with the Texas Rangers since 2008 and currently holds the title of Senior Advisor, Pacific Rim Operations.

 

Rk Player Date Opp Rslt App,Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR GSc
1 Dick Drago 1972-05-24 MIN L 0-1 CG 12 ,L 12.0 6 1 1 1 13 0 98
2 Kevin Appier 1995-09-15 CAL W 5-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 3 0 0 1 13 0 93
3 Roger Nelson 1972-08-23 BOS W 3-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 1 0 0 1 9 0 93
4 Bret Saberhagen 1987-05-09 CLE W 4-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 2 0 0 0 9 0 92
5 Jim Colborn 1977-05-14 TEX W 6-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 0 0 0 1 6 0 92

[i] Bordman, Sid. “Glove Gems Help Colborn Pitch Royal Masterpiece.”The Sporting News (May 28, 1977): p. 30.

[ii] Ibid.

fiore

1B ∙ 1969—70

Mike Fiore came to the Royals via the Orioles in the 1968 expansion draft, played 107 games in their inaugural season, and hit the first home run in team history. The solo shot came in the team’s fifth game, and broke a 0-0 tie in Oakland with Blue Moon Odom on the hill. Fiore ended the season with 12 homers.

But his time with the Royals is most remarkable for his walk rate and on base percentage in 1969. At .420, his OBP was .066 points higher than the next guy on the team. His OBP in the minors had been around .400, so it appears to have been a real skill for Fiore. Out of players with 400 PAs in team history, Fiore’s walk rate of 19% remains by far the highest. Few people, if any, were taking note of such a useful skill in 1969 however, and after Fiore started 1970 with a poor average and no power—but still taking his walks—he was sent to the Red Sox in exchange for Tommy Matchick after playing just 25 games.

Bill James had this to say about Fiore’s short stint with the Royals:

There was NO understanding or appreciation whatsoever of the value of his walks. On the contrary, he took a lot of static for failing to drive in runs. He was a first baseman and hit third/fourth; he was supposed to drive in runs, not take walks. When he started slowly in 1970 they gave up on him in two weeks. I think it is unlikely that Fiore was really as good as his 1969 stats. I think it is likely that, given more playing time, he would have hit .250 with a .390 on base percentage, not .274 with a .420 on base percentage, as he did in 1969. But I also think it was foolish for the Royals to give up on him when he had a little slump early in the 1970 season.*

Fiore was never given a chance to play on a semi-regular basis in the majors other than in ’69. In very limited time with the Red Sox, Cardinals, and finally the Padres, he did not do well. But he kept piling up walks in Class AAA through 1978. His 1969 season remains one of the strangest and most under-appreciated by a Royal. I’d love to hear from Fiore about his approach, what he thought about the value of walks at the time, and what feedback he got from his hitting coaches and managers. He may not have ever been a star, but in today’s era, he probably would be better appreciated at least to the point where he could have gotten more of a shot.

*James, Bill. “Hey Bill.” http://www.billjamesonline.com/hey_bill/?Year=2011&Month=6#29226 (June 20, 2011).

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