Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

The Royals enjoyed a nice, if not a little more thrilling than necessary, win last night over the White Sox to take the series.    It was one of those ‘go figure’ games in which Kansas City plated seven runs despite resting two of their three best hitters (DeJesus and Aviles) and batting major league journeyman Wilson Betemit fifth.  

They also saw a cruising Zack Greinke, having tossed just 87 pitches over seven innings of one-run ball, give up five straight hits in the top of the eighth inning.   Seriously, can anyone remember five runs being scored without the benefit of a home run in a shorter period of time?

We also saw Jose Guillen, YES JOSE GUILLEN, make a great running catch in the top of ninth that ended with him crashing into the wall.   Truly, it was a great catch which capped off a night that saw Jose being booed early in the game, only to be cheered as he slammed a three run homer later.   A typical Jose Guillen kind of night.   Speaking of which….

It is no longer quiet on the Jose Guillen front.   Jeffrey Flanagan at Fox Sports posted a story last night with a boatload of quotes from the Royals’ quotemaster.   I had just been thinking the other day how Guillen had said so very little this year and pretty much just gone about his business.   Well, no more.

I am not going to go into the comments themselves as they are either of the ‘Jose being Jose’ variety or, frankly, dead-on right.    You also are treated to the standard organizational cover provided by Ned Yost, who is quick to point out that ‘Jose always plays hard’.     I will leave the reaction to the commenters on all of this.     What is noteworthy about this outburst is what it might do to the Royals’ chances of trading Guillen.

Now, it is fashionable amongst Royals fans and observers to discount all Guillen trade speculation as a ‘waste of time’ as their ‘is absolutely no way anyone will want Jose’.   Maybe, maybe not.   It is very easy to dismiss all trade speculation as wrong and make yourself look astute, given that 99% of what is written or heard never comes true.   That said, in a world where the Rays have tried Pat Burrell and Hank Blalock at DH, only to release both of them, and where the New York Yankees’ primary designated hitter is hitting less than .200, I find it hard to believe there is not some market out there for Guillen.  

After all, we are talking about a guy who is posting a .281/.342/.472/.814 line, which would be good for a tie for 30th in baseball among all outfielders (I know, ‘outfielder’ is a stretch).   That mark ties him with Andres Torres, Carlos Gonzalez and Jonny Gomes: not exactly elite company, but still three regulars on teams that believe they are contenders.

With the Royals reportedly willing to take on a chunk of Guillen’s remaining salary and hoping (or at least they should be hoping) to merely clear a roster spot for Kila Kaaihue and not so concerned about what they might get in return for Jose, I thought a trade was a real possibility.   Thought being the operative word here.

You see, Guillen was posting numbers in line with some of his better seasons and was quietly going along with the team’s wish of playing him mostly at designated hitter, despite his own personal distaste for the idea.   Aside from a ‘blister issue’, Guillen had been relatively healthy as well.   Everything was adding up to making Guillen marketable in July until he decided to open his mouth.

Again, there is a lot that Jose is quoted as saying in Flanagan’s article that I flat-out agree with.   The Royals are fundamentally bad, they have lacked leadership and they do act like babies at times:  there is really no denying any of that.   Still, did you have to come out and say it thirty-one days before the trade deadline, Jose?

These quotes might well be every bit as damaging as Reggie Sanders’ conveniently exploding hamstrings that kept the Royals from trading him for Melky Cabrera twice.   

The Royals needed to trade Guillen this summer, if only to finally force management into giving Kaaihue a couple hundred at-bats to either prove or disprove he belongs in the majors.   I am okay with letting Alex Gordon spend the summer in Omaha perhaps realizing that half of fair territory lies to the left of second base, but I am not willing to enter next spring with the same debate that has raged over Kaaihue since 2008.

Truth is, the only way we avoid that debate is to have a rival general manager give Dayton Moore enough in return for Guillen so that Moore’s ego will be soothed sufficiently to allow him to portray the deal as ‘value for value’.  Truth is, Jose’s untimely comments might well have scuttled any such hope.

flickr/lambachialpha

This whole Jeckyll and Hyde thing with Brian Bannister cracks me up.  The day and night splits… It’s something that’s been going on for a long, long time.  Just for fun, here are his career splits:

Night – 5.43 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 1.68 SO/BB
Day – 3.87 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 2.00 SO/BB

And his splits from this year:

Night – 7.66 ERA, 1.75 WHIP, 1.65 SO/BB
Day – 2.37 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 2.25 SO/BB

I love it that people (i.e. reporters) feel the need to get to the bottom of this anomaly.  Just because Bannister is a smart guy, he’s supposed to have the answers.  Hilarious.

I’m not a smart guy, but here’s my guess at the answer:

It’s a strange coincidence.  You know, sometimes things just happen.  Did you know that Bannister has been much better at home this year than on the road?  Look at this:

Home – 3.45 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 2.56 SO/BB
Road – 7.30 ERA, 1.72 WHIP, 1.47 SO/BB

So he struggles at night, yet he was at home where he’s thrived this year.  Someone needs to figure this out!

This is just a bunch of noise.  Pick your split to fit your game story.  I suppose if Bannister had dominated the White Sox, we would have read something about how he likes sleeping in his own bed.

Look, Bannister is a back of the rotation starter.  His xFIP is 4.62, which is right in line with his career mark of 4.82.  He generally allows a bunch of base runners and has difficulty keeping them from crossing the plate.  A full 31% of all runners are scoring against him this year.  And that’s among the best rate of his career.

Last year, he kept the ball down and enjoyed some success.  This year, he’s elevating a bit more and has been touched for about three home runs for every two games. That’s not good.  Not good at all.  His strikeouts are down.  His walks are up.  He’s not having a good year.  Yet, he’s having a Brian Bannister kind of year.

He’ll have good starts.  He’ll have bad starts.  Some will come during the day.  Some will happen at night.  Based on his skill set, he’ll have more bad than good – no matter the time of day.  Not by a ton.  But a few to make a difference.  Enough to keep him in the back of a rotation.

Let’s quit trying to pinpoint Bannister’s issues with meaningless splits.

– Speaking of meaningless splits, did you know the Royals are something like 1-10 this year on Saturday.  Did you know if Bannister starts a night game on Saturday on the road, the universe could explode?

– Kendall Watch:  Fair is fair, so I’m obligated to point out Kendall has strung together a handful of decent offensive games and is now hitting .222/.301/.259 as a number two hitter.  Maybe I should give him a break since his OBP is above .300.  Plus, he only has one fewer extra base hit than Jose Guillen since June 3.

– Apparently, Guillen’s power has been suffering due to a blister on his foot.  So he’s been playing more outfield.  Makes sense.

– Blake Wood is getting a swing and a miss in around 7% of all strikes thrown.  Yet he enticed Paul Konerko to flail at three pitches last night.  That was kind of fun.

It’s been awhile since I did some bullets.  Since my time is stretched very thin this week and I am stuck in Red Sox land, I figure it is a perfect time to load the chamber.

  • We all know the Royals love singles (not the movie with Bridget Fonda) however, they aren’t the biggest offender in that department. Both the Orioles (72.8%) and the Mariners (72.5%) have a higher percentage of their hits become singles than the Royals (72.4%).  However, there is clearly a correlation between no power and teams that are not winning lots of games.
  • The Royals are still tied with the Rangers for the highest team batting average in the majors at .283.  They are the only team in the top 7 in that stat category to not be in either 1st or 2nd in their division.  (see bullet point above)
  • Lerew and Chen combined have 58.2 IP, 3.83 ERA  and 1.79 K:BB ratio.  I don’t think you can ask for more out of two replacement starters.  If these guys had started the season in the rotation and pitched this well, the Royals would possibly have 5 more wins.  Sorry, Luke and Gil.
  • Chen and Lerew also have the lowest BABIPs in the rotation, and their FIP is higher than their ERA.  Translation from baseball nerd terms: give them enough time and they probably won’t keep up this production.
  • If you listen to my podcast, you know that I like to discuss the Hero and Goat of the week using the WPA statistic.  Based on most WPA added and subtracted, the guys who take home the award at this point in time are:
    • Heroes: Zack Greinke and Billy Butler
    • Goats: Kyle Davies and Alberto Callaspo
  • Not sure if you saw this a couple of weeks ago but the Royals are a terrible base running team and I doubt that has changed in the past two weeks.  What is doubly frustrating is that since the Royals have so many singles, then base running becomes much more important because they have further to run to score.  They are absolutely shooting themselves in the foot.  What is also funny is that the Angels are below the Royals, a team which people (a-hem stat hating announcers) gush all over because of the way they run the bases.
  • If you haven’t peeked at the standings (I can’t blame you), then you might not have noticed that the Twins are no longer in 1st place. They were passed by the Tigers.  However, the White Sox are also back in the race and have shown the Royals how to get back in it.  They just need to rattle off 11 wins or so.
  • There are fifteen, FIFTEEN! teams with a worse bullpen ERA than the Royals.  I need to fire up the flux capacitor and tell the me from April not to get too down on the bullpen, they will get it figured out.  Oh yeah, and lay money on Ghana vs U.S. in the World Cup.
  • This isn’t exactly Royals related, but I think it is hilarious that Joba Chamberlain has a 5.29 ERA.  And yes, the Yankees are one of the fifteen teams below the Royals in relief ERA.
  • Over 15,000 fans showed up to the ballpark last night to see the Royals Vs White Sox.  It was a Monday night following a sell-out weekend and the team was 9.5 games out of first and hasn’t been to the playoffs since 1985.  Seriously, this is a baseball town filled with fans ready to win ball games.  It is going to happen, someday.
  • I keep hearing one question regarding the 2012 All-Star game.  Is it going to be affordable?  The answer: No.
  • I’ve been wanting to do a reader Q&A either in written form or podcast form.  However, in order to do that I need questions.  Send me your Royals related (if only slightly) questions to brokenbatsingle @ gmail dot com.  They can be serious, ridiculous, stat-based, SABRTrey or SABRNed related or whatever.

No, not really.  

Mike Moustakas should not be promoted to the major leagues, at least not right now.   It is simply too soon, too quick and not worth the risk at this point.   That said, Mike Moustakas should be promoted to AAA Omaha sooner rather than later.

I touched on this last Thursday and this column may seem odd in its timing given that Moustakas is currently in an zero for fourteen skid.   However, I don’t really see the point of keeping Mike in AA and one step further removed from a big league team that needs a power bat any longer.

Despite the recent slump, Moustakas is still posting a line of .338/.406/.676/1.082.  Most of us know that the Texas League is considered a hitter friendly association and hence might say that those numbers are inflated.  Well, keep this in mind:

  • Mike’s .338 batting average has him leading the league by TWELVE points.
  • His on-base percentage is second in the league (Aaron Luna of Springfield leads at .417) and is thirteen points better than the next player and fifteen better than teammate Clint Robinson, who is fourth.
  • Okay, here’s the number that really clinches it.   Robinson is second in the league in slugging percentage, lagging behind Moustakas by ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-EIGHT POINTS.      Third place Wilin Rosario and fourth place Koby Clemens have slugged .505 and .504 respectively.

It is also worth noting that Moustakas was coming off a 15 for 30 streak before the recent zero for fourteen slide (during which he has struck out just three times).   In fact, after striking out 90 times in 129 games last year, Mike has struck out just 37 times in 57 games thus far in 2010.   While that is more incremental improvement than dramatic improvement, he has upped his walk total at the same time (23 right now, versus just 32 all of  last season).  

Rany wrote a week ago about how Alex Gordon and Kila Kaaihue are putting up numbers so big that the Royals may simply not believe it is possible and hence ignore them.    Given that Chris Lubanski is tearing up the same league as Gordon and Kila, I can almost understand the logic, but no one in the Texas League is doing anything like what Moustakas is accomplishing.     His dominance is such that I have to wonder if the two slumps he has endured in June that have led to a monthly line of just .293/.333/.566  is in part attributable to simply being bored with the competition.

Now, the decreased production in June is one reason to argue against the promotion to AAA.   I can see that and frankly would be fine with waiting for the next hot streak (which is probably all of two games away) before moving Moustakas up.   When Mike gets hot again, there would be only two reasons not to move him and I don’t agree with either.

First, the Royals can fall back to the ‘gain experience playing with a winning team’ argument.  You know, the one that worked so well for Gordon, Butler, Greinke and the rest of the very good Wichita team of several years back.      The concept of develop players together and bringing them up has merits on a theoretical level, but simply does not work in real life.   To begin with, a small budget team like Kansas City simply cannot have all its young players reach arbitration and free agency at the same time.    Not if they want to compete year in year out, which is supposedly the end result of The Process.

The second reason is the argument that Alex Gordon tore up AA pitching and ‘look how he’s turned out’.   Well, Moustakas is not Gordon.   Other than they have played the same position on the diamond and sign autographs with the same hand, they actually have virtually nothing in common developmentally.    A closer comparison is Billy Butler, who also tore up AA, spent the next two seasons bouncing between Omaha and Kansas City and now is legitimate middle of the order major league bat.

Doesn’t it make sense to move Moustakas to AAA in early July and preparation for letting him get thirty or forty big league at-bats in September?   Maybe he competes for a major league spot next spring or maybe he returns to Omaha for a couple more months of seasoning.   Either way, with any luck, the Royals would have Moustakas ready to be in their everyday lineup by June of 2011.  

If the goal is to compete, really compete, in 2012, then you don’t want a rookie Mike Moustakas batting fourth behind Butler, you want a second year Moustakas in that slot.   

Don’t be stubborn because another number two pick has not yet panned out.   Move Moustakas now.

This was quite possibly the most insane sports week ever.

That World Cup game against Algeria was massive.  A tennis match that lasted for three days…

And then Brian Bannister outdueled Stephen Strasburg.

How much cash would I have won if I had the foresight to parlay the USA winning their World Cup group, with a tennis match going over 160 games along with the Royals handing the phenom Strasburg his first major league loss?  That would have been better than the Publishers Clearing House.

A few quick notes as the Easterners prepare to invade:

– I’ve dabbled in the nostalgia of ’85 from time to time, but I’m pretty much done with that.  Maybe because it’s been 25 freaking years, I’m just kind of bored with the whole “We Haven’t Been Relevant For Decades, But Come Celebrate Our Lone Championship” meme.  This weekend’s series against the Cardinals is just another made-up inter-league rivalry.  Just another three games on the schedule where visiting fans will outnumber the locals and the Royals can charge a premium on tickets.  I care as much about the Angels as I do the Cardinals.

The only time this was a rivalry – the only time – was in 1985.  And since that was 25 years ago, who cares anymore?  Mellinger nails it in today’s column.  You have to win to have a rival.

Suggested slogan for these games with premium ticket prices:  “The same crap at almost twice the price!”

– Continuing my take-down of Jason Kendall:
He is five of 12 on stolen base attempts.  His 12 attempts are the most since 2006 (16).  It’s possible this isn’t entirely his fault.  The Royals aren’t exactly known for smart baseball, so it’s entirely possible he’s gotten the steal sign 12 times.  I’d be a bigger fan if he came out and said something like, “Yeah, I had the steal sign, but I’m old and I’ve caught every freaking game of the year so I’m kind of slow.  I realize the Royals think I’m the same player I was in 1998, but I’m not.  So I ignored the sign.”

Working against him, Kendall has also made an additional three outs on the bases and has been picked off once.  Kendall has made 11 outs on the bases and scored 16 runs.

According to Bill James Online, Kendall is a -21 in Net Gain on the bases.  That’s the worst rate on the team.

Why?

– Quiz: The league average walk rate for an American League hitter is 8.8%.  Guess how many Royals are better (higher) than league average.  Answer in a bullet point – or two.

– Did you know that Mitch Maier leads the team in RBI%?  I prefer that metric because it doesn’t penalize a player who lacks RBI opportunity because of the ineptitude of his teammates when it comes to reaching base.  Maier has brought home 17% of all base runners.

Maier has done extremely well in place of Rick Ankiel.  Yes, extremely well.  Qualify the adjectives here given that Ankiel would have undoubtedly been a drag on this team.  Both offensively and defensively.  We should be extremely hopeful that Ankiel’s recovery takes another couple of months.

– Yuniesky Betancourt, who surprised many of us by not epically sucking in the first couple of months of the season, is hitting .247/.278/.397 in June.  Give a hitter 162 games and he’ll reveal his true talent level.  The bottom awaits, Yuni.

– Red Sox beat writer Nick Cafardo reports the Royals “love” shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias.  Although the Royals have taken shortstops aplenty in the last few drafts, they still have a huge hole at this spot in the organization.  More on that in a moment.

Take the Royals love affair with Iglesias with a grain of salt.  Cafardo mentions an Allard Baird (currently an assistant GM for the Sox) and DeJesus “connection.”  OK, makes sense on some level.  Although DeJesus has been around long enough that teams know what he does… No “connection” is necessary.  Then, Cafardo brings up the “connection” and says Baird was instrumental in bringing Ryan Shealy to the Sox Triple-A club.   Uhhh, Baird was gone from KC when Shealy was traded for.  That was one of GMDM’s early trades.

– According to Peter Gammons (what’s with all these Boston writers scooping the KC guys?  Come on, locals!) the Royals signing of first round draft pick Christian Colon is imminent.  He’s a shortstop, but won’t stick there.  Hence the need for a guy like Iglesias.

– Answer to the previous quiz: One.  Only David DeJesus has a better than league average walk rate.  He’s at 9.1%.  The Royals have four of the 25 lowest walk rates in the league.  The culprits?  Betancourt (3.8% BB rate), Callaspo (4.0%), Guillen (6.5%) and Kendall (7.2%).  Mitch Maier leads the team with a 11.2% walk rate, but he doesn’t have enough plate appearances to qualify for the leaderboards.  He’s about 30 plate appearances shy.

– Final question: Who should be the Royals All-Star representative?  Do they deserve more than one? Fire away in the comments.

The Royals get the day off following a defeat of Stephen Strasburg and a day when even I was interested in soccer.

Brian Bannister vs. Stephen Strasburg

After getting national publicity for his brain, Brian Bannister bounced back from two horrific starts to hold the Nationals scoreless through six innings and out duel rookie sensation Stephen Strasburg.   It was not exactly a pretty game as Bannister had Jason Kendall bouncing all over behind the plate to block pitches and the Royals actually got out of an inning with runners on first and third, no one out and Billy Butler boxing a ground ball.   There was some curious baserunning by the Nationals, who themselves were not very good defensively either, but in the end a 1-0 win is always nice.  

Kudos to Ned Yost for staying with Robinson Tejeda in the 8th inning after he took just eight pitches to get through a 1-2-3 7th inning.   It’s not that I don’t like Blake Wood, it is simply my tendency to refer back to an old baseball saying: ‘the more pitchers you use, the more likely you are to find one that doesn’t have it that day.’

Aviles Gets a Rest

While I liked Yost’s handling of the bullpen yesterday, this ‘need’ to rest Mike Aviles is just getting stupid.   Against a crazy tough righthander like Strasburg, I can see the logic of wanting to get a left-handed bat in the lineup – even if it is in the person of Chris Getz, but do you really bench the guy who has the THIRD HIGHEST AVERAGE VERSUS RIGHTHANDED PITCHING IN BASEBALL?

Aviles is currently hitting .362 against righties, trailing only Robinson Cano and Josh Hamilton.

Is the club/organization/manager so absolutely certain that Mike’s arm is going to actually fly off when he uncorks a throw from short that they cannot sit Yuniesky Betancourt to get Getz in the lineup?   Perhaps there is a fear that Aviles playing his natural position of short will start to remind people just how good he played in the field there in 2008.     Such an occurrence would further point out that the Betancourt (even with him playing tolerable baseball this year) was a panic trade by a general manager who was miffed that Aviles hid an injury from them early in 2009.

And yes, if the above paragraph did not confirm it for you, I do own a Mike Aviles jersey.

Jose Guillen to the Yankees?

Okay, nobody go running to MLBTradeRumors for the source on this as I am just theorizing here, but what about Guillen to the Yanks?  

First off, New York has not settled on designated hitter so far this year, using twelve players there and none for more than twenty starts.   Combined they are hitting .239/.363/.395 with most of that on-base number coming from Nick Johnson’s bizarre ability to walk without hitting a lick.   As usual, Johnson is injured once more, further creating a hole in the lineup.

Money is not generally an issue with the Yankees, but let’s say that there are enough variables when it comes to Jose Guillen that the Royals have to pick up half or a little more of his remaining salary.   Right now, Jose is due about $6.6 million, so the Royals might pick up say..$4 million.

In return, the Yankees could send Chad Huffman back to the Royals.   Huffman has shown some power, but was waived by San Diego this spring and picked up by the Yanks after that.   As such, it is not like the New York organization would have any real attachment to Huffman.    In essence, New York would give up $2 million and a player they barely know to get four months of Guillen.   Probably a decent risk on their part.

On the Royals’ side, I don’t have much expectation that Huffman will be anything, but that’s not really the point of trading Guillen, is it?   This deal finally opens a spot for Kila Kaaihue to play.

Unless the organization is so paranoid and insecure to be proven wrong about another Allard Baird guy (as Mike Aviles did to them in 2008 and again this spring), there is absolutely no reason at all to make a move with the sole purposed of opening an everyday lineup spot for Kaaihue.   I swear I have written this line a thousand time already:  play Kaaihue and find out if he can produce instead of just wondering and blathering crap like ‘slider bat speed’.

 Colon Signed?

Reports are swirling that the Royals have or are on the verge of signing their first round pick, Christian Colon.   I could care less what the signing number is as long as the shortstop is truly signed.   Scouts outside the organization speculate that Colon could reach the majors as early as next year, so getting him signed and playing is critical.

These same reports indicate that Colon will start at High A Wilmington once he passes a physical (again, assuming an agreement actually is in place).   My guess is the Royals would love to see him play well for the Blue Rocks and move him up for a month of work in AA Northwest Arkansas.

Time For a Moustakas Promotion?

Mike Moustakas is hitting .359/.426/.718 for Northwest Arkansas.  He has eighteen home runs and twenty-two walks versus just thirty-four strikeouts.  Exactly what are we waiting for him to prove at this level?

Since the Royals demoted Alex Gordon, moved him to the outfield and handed Alberto Callaspo the third base job, Callaspo has hit .264/.279/.389.   That is not panic mode territory, especially for a player who hit so well last season, but it certainly is no reason to delay moving Moustakas another step closer to the majors, either.

And Just for Fun…

Royals lineup on September 5, 2011:

DeJesus LF, Aviles 2B, Butler 1B, Kaaihue DH, Gordon RF, Moustakas 3B, Colon SS, Kendall C (because it is just freaking inevitable) and Robinson or Lough or Maier CF

Episode #023 – Nick briefly reviews the series with the Nationals, he discusses the 2012 All Star Game, his trip to see the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, potentially trading Dejesus, previews the series with the Cardinals and has a brilliant new idea for the Royals to implement.

:http://www.livekc.com/podcasts/bbs023.mp3|titles=BBS

How to Get the Podcast:

Click here to be taken to the site to download directly.

Subscribe via iTunes

Subscribe via Zune

Podcast RSS Feed

The Ned Yost Bump is officially over.  Part of it is the team’s natural regression.  They aren’t a .500 team.  They just aren’t.  It was nice of them to win 17 of Yost’s first 32 games in charge or whatever, but that wasn’t going to last.  They’ve now rolled off five straight losses to teams from the National League East.  I thought the Royals kicked NL ass.  Guess not anymore.

– I was mildly impressed by Anthony Lerew on Tuesday.  He gave up a couple of solo home runs (which apparently is how the Royals plan to handle the Nats in this series) but worked out of his only real rough patch in the fourth by allowing only one run. I wouldn’t want him making 30 odd starts for this team, but he did a nice job in a spot start.

He threw 71% of his fastballs for strikes which was setting up a few swing and misses on his change.  He mixed in a handful of sliders, but otherwise he relied on his fastball/change combo.  His fastest pitch on the night was his second to last offering – a 93 mph fastball to Alberto Gonzalez that was fouled off.  Mix a rain delay in, and it was a good start for Lerew.

The Royals have been lucky.  They’ve received some quality starts from Bruce Chen and Lerew while Luke Hochevar and Gil Meche have been on the DL.  OK… I’ll point out the obvious:  Chen and Lerew have outpitched the guys they replaced.

That’s what you would call a bonus.

– Kendall Watch: In 77 plate appearances since assuming the number two spot in the lineup on June 3, Jason Kendall is hitting .176/.237/.191. The 12 RBI are nice, but he’s made three outs on the bases during this time and scored only three runs.

If Ned Yost wants me to turn against him, his diabolical plan is working.

There is just no reason for him to a) play Kendall every freaking day and b) hit him second.  Enough.

– Jose Guillen picked up a pair of hits on Tuesday and has now hit in 17 consecutive games.  If you follow the Royals PR people and the beat writers on Twitter, they’re always quick to point out these hitting streaks.  For some reason, that’s annoying me these days.

Look, I appreciate that Guillen has raised his batting average almost 30 points this month.  It’s great that he’s getting on base at a .385 clip during this streak.  However THE STREAK glosses over a very important fact:

Guillen’s power has once again disappeared.  Vanished.

Yes, he’s swinging a hot bat.  A hot singles bat.  This month he’s collected just five extra base hits – two doubles, a triple and a pair of home runs.  His last extra base hit was back on June 11.  His last home run was June 6.

So while it’s great that Guillen is stringing together a bunch of hits, we need to keep this in perspective.  Something is sapping his power.  I’m thinking he won’t start on Wednesday (day game, Strasburg pitching… all that) but playing in the field for five consecutive days is going to take a toll as well.  Is it a coincidence that his power took a vacation when Guillen started playing in the field?  I don’t know about that, but in this case, the numbers don’t lie.

I still think the impending Guillen Winter is going to be particularly harsh.  I figure once his streak ends, he’ll go completely into the tank.  If there are any trade offers out there after the Royals have “showcased” him in right, they have to pull the trigger.  Take whatever you can get and move on.

– Wednesday is Strasburg day.  I’m looking forward to this game.  I’ve watched a couple of Strasburg’s starts and the hype is justified.  It will be interesting to see how the Royals fare.  Let’s keep expectations low.

This past weekend I took the family on a little jaunt down to Fayetteville, Arkansas  to see some friends and catch a Naturals game at Arvest Ballpark.  It wasn’t my first trip down to see the Royals AA affiliate, I made the same trek last year but this time there was a little bit more to see.  What follows is my trip report, hopefully it provides some information about the team and some hints on making the trip yourself.

The Trip

From Kansas City, its roughly a 3 hour drive south on HWY 71 nearly the whole way.  I don’t consider 3 hours to be too bad of a length, so I always say it is an easy trip to make for Royals fans.  If you haven’t driven the route in quite a while, it is multi-lane the whole way, so it is both easier and shorter than in years past.  I wish I knew of some good stops on the way, but I don’t.  Mostly gas stations, fast food restaurants and farmland.  I’d welcome some suggestions of places to stop on the way.  Once you get into Arkansas and particularly once you hit 540, the traffic picks up considerably.  And, no, people in Arkansas don’t understand what the left lane is used for any better than Kansas Citians do.

The Area

I really like Fayetteville and the surrounding area.  The University of Arkansas is there, and they have an absolutely gorgeous baseball stadium that the Razorbacks play in.  The area is growing fast and there are tons of great places to eat, have a beer, play golf or whatever you want to do.  Dixon Street is where the local college bars are, and is a nice place to grab a bite to eat before the game or a drink after the game.

The Ballpark

The ballpark is new and its great.  Parking is $3 which is reasonable, and I don’t think there are any other options.  The ballpark is kind of by itself on a road by some houses, so there isn’t any parking or places to go within walking distance.  I would bet that in a few years that will change.  Everything is clean and nice, which it should be considering it is a new ball park.  There are some inflatable things out in left field for the kiddies and they have the Johnny Damon-like mascot Strike the Sasquatch running around.

The Team

On the night I was in attendance, the Naturals clinched the Texas League first half championship.*  The week prior, 9 players were named to the All-Star team and 5 will be starters.  So the team is very good, and not just because it is a collection of good players, but they are good in nearly all facets of the game.  They have speedsters, power hitters, dominant starters, great bullpen arms and solid defense.  Its a spectacularly fun team to watch, and they always have a very good chance of winning.

*Minor Leagues have first have champs and then reset the records for the second half to keep the standings competitive and to compensate for the often changing rosters.

I absolutely had my eye on Moustakas whenever he was on the field.  The physical descriptions that I have heard were all accurate.  He doesn’t have an athletic build, and from what I saw he isn’t as trim as Billy Butler is these days.  Pitchers seemed to try and pitch him away and particularly with off-speed stuff which was working pretty well. The guy can absolutely rake though.  His first hit was a double by the 2nd baseman, which was hit extremely hard.  Later in the game, the Springfield Cardinals had a right handed submariner who was throwing in the low 70′s.  I thought there was no way the manager would let him stay in to face the left handed Moustakas, but alas I was wrong.  However, I was happy to be wrong and anticipated something big.  I told my wife and friends “watch, watch, watch this, Moustakas is going to hit a homerun”.  First Moustakas was way, way too far out front and provided the crowd down the first base line with some high velocity souvenirs.  Then he got his timing right and blasted a ball  to left that hit the wall about 4 feet shy of going over the quite tall fence.  It was one of those balls that was almost hit too hard to be a homerun, it needed more loft to clear the fence.  Either way, it was impressive and I nearly called the shot.

In the field it is hard to judge a guy on one game.   Heck it’s hard to judge a guy after a dozen games.  He fielded three balls that I recall.  One was to his left which he showed good range and then had a weak throw to first which was in time for the out.  The second was right at him and he rifled a throw to 2nd to start a double play.  The third was to his right which he dove and was unable to get and it went into left field.  So, I don’t know what that means.  I hear people say they don’t think he can stick at third, but he seemed fine on this one night to me.

I’d had a chance in spring training to see Johnny Giavotella, but he continues to impress.  He just gets hits, and plays hard.  He is an easy guy to root for and probably has the upside of a major league average player.  That is a good thing though, no teams are made up of 25 stud players.  You need a stud or two, some above average guys, some average guys and you likely have some below average guys.  If Giavotella can be one of the average guys, he is an important cog.

I have to admit, I really like fast guys.  Even though I know the stolen base is over-rated as a statistic, I love stolen bases.  I really like to see guys swipe a bag or cover tons of ground in the outfield and Derrick Robinson is just that kind of guy.  He got under two balls in left center that I was sure were going to fall for hits and he nearly got to another but pulled back to take the safer play.  He only went 1 for 6, but on the season he is hitting .294.

Brandon Sisk came on in relief for the stuggling Blake Johnson and was electric.  He is a tall left hander who hit mid 90′s with his fastball and low 80′s with his off-speed stuff.  He struck out his first 6 batters in a row before walking a couple of guys and surrendering a couple of runs in the 9th.   I am really high on this guy as a solid bullpen arm with the potential to be a setup man or closer.

There were lots of other solid performances and guys I am hopeful about in the future like Clint Robinson, Tim Smith and Nick Van Stratten.  However, I still think these are fringe guys with holes in their games.  But don’t take my word for it, last year I said that Anthony Lerew was a non-prospect and he was the starter for the Royals this weekend.  What do I know?

Extras

The Naturals had The Famous Chicken do his thing the night we were there, which I was pretty excited about.  I remember when the Chicken was making his rounds of MajorLeague stadiums, I was a young lad then and my parents would always get us Royals tickets when The Famous Chicken was in town.  So there is a more than a little nostalgia for me when I see that orange and yellow bird clad in his powder blue top.  From about 2000-2008, I was an avid hater of mascots at baseball games.  I felt they were distracting, silly and unnecessary.  Since then, I’ve come to accept them and even enjoy them from time to time.  They don’t really bother me, and I don’t really bother them.  The kids really do like them and there are other aspects of the baseball game atmosphere which annoy me much more.  However, the Chickens routine is awesome.  It hasn’t changed much in the last 20 years, but it is still hilarious.  I went in wondering if I would still like his act, but there were moments I was laughing hysterically which rarely happens at a baseball game.  Of course since he is THE Famous Chicken, he gets to do things other mascots could only dream of, like coach 1st base during the actual game, throw water balloons at the opposing team and pretend to urinate on the umpire.  Before the game I told my wife and friends that he would be at the game and none of them knew who he was, I was more than a little shocked.  I guess the Chicken will likely slide into a mere nostalgic memory like the light bulbs on the old crown scoreboard someday.  But for one night, it was fun to be a kid again.

The Royals are trying to trade Jose Guillen.

Sure, the rumors are currently swirling around a far better player with a chance to still be a valuable contributor when the Royals might contend in a year or two:  David DeJesus.   It makes sense to test the market, given DeJesus’ contract status and potential value right now.   However, here is a quote from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe via MLBTradeRumors with regard to this:

“The Red Sox, Yankees and Padres are possible bidders, but the Royals are asking for more in return than is acceptable to suitors.”

Again, DeJesus has always been an ‘average-plus’ player who happens to be having the best season of his career.   While he is beginning to cost the Royals real money (in baseball terms), his contract is not so onerous that it demands a trade at all costs.   The Royals should be asking for a lot, not only because DeJesus has actual value, but because is might just trigger a team to move onto cheaper alternatives in the outfield.

Of course, all of us who follow the Royals would pretty much fall all over ourselves to trade any outfielder not named David and while the front office is probably not quite as eager, they are certainly willing to talk.   Que the Jose Guillen hype machine, a.k.a Ned Yost, via the Kansas City Star:

“You watch him play out there and it is a legitimate comparision to any other right fielder out there.  There’s no difference.  I’m going to start playing him more when we get home in the outfield.   He’s proven to me he can do it.”

In other words, ‘attention National League, Jose Guillen can still play in the outfield’.  

Come mid-July, Guillen is going to be owed something less than six million dollars and has no real future with the Kansas City Royals.   Whether Dayton Moore is ever willing to give Kila Kaaihue a chance or not, nowhere in  his ‘things to do so we can have a parade in the Plaza’ notebook is there anything about having a 35 year old Jose Guillen being the Royals’ designated hitter (or right fielder) in 2011.

Given the preceding paragraph, there is absolutely no reason NOT to trade Jose Guillen.    Start the conversation with David DeJesus and when your demands for one of the opposing club’s best position player prospects, plus a major league ready bullpen arm with upside, prove to be too much, switch the conversation to Guillen.   Sure, we will kick in a fair portion of his remaining salary and sure, we will be happy to accept one of your failed prospects in need of a change of scenery in return.

It all seems quite logical, doesn’t it?

It won’t happen.

Dayton Moore will not let it happen unless he ‘gets value in return’.     We need look no further than Ron Mahay to know that.

There were offers out there last summer for Ron Mahay.  Not good offers, not even close to good offers, but offers nonetheless.   Moore’s comment at the time was something along the lines of ‘we are not going to trade just to trade – we have to get value for value’.    Many in our writing community echoed the sentiments with a ‘what’s the point?’ sort of argument.   I don’t buy it.

Ron Mahay was an aging veteran in the last half-season of his contract on a team going nowhere.   I don’t care if the return was something along the lines of Anthony Seratelli or Ed Lucas (sorry guys, you are good organizational soldiers, but you know what I mean), you make the deal.   Once in a great while, players like that turn into Mike Aviles.  If nothing else, we would have gotten a better look at a Dusty Hughes, Victor Marte or the like and found out it in late 2009 what it took two months (and exposure to Bryan Bullington, Luis Mendoza and Roman Colon) in 2010 to realize.

The casual fan may view trades of veterans for marginal return as business as usual for the Royals.  They will grumble and moan, but it won’t effect whether they show up in August or not.  It sure as heck won’t matter if Kansas City is in first place on June 1, 2012.

It is not a fire sale, nor is it an admittance of failure by the general manager, to dump veterans for less than what you perceive to be their value, in order to free up playing time for younger players you simply need to figure out.   A fire sale would be giving up on Alex Gordon and trading David DeJesus for a 27 year old AA first baseman.   Smart trading with an eye towards the future and, dare we say it, THE PROCESS, includes moving Guillen for something and likely doing the same with Scott Podsednik (given Rick Ankiel’s ability to destroy whatever trade value he may have once had).    You can throw Willie Bloomquist in there, too.

You see, the Royals have Gordon to replace Podsednik, Kaaihue to replace Guillen and Irving Falu to take Bloomquist’s role.  It is possible that all three may fail badly in the majors and the Royals finish in fifth place instead of fourth.   At least, we will all know at that point.

Make the moves, Mr. Moore.   Stop trying to prove to us that you are the smartest kid on the block.   If you want us to trust the process, than you have to trust it yourself.

%d bloggers like this: