Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

The Royals just couldn’t scuffle along forever.  Even with Zack Greinke on the mound, they had to score more than a few runs against Ryan Rowland-Smith… Didn’t they?

(Of course, this is the Royals and we have been taught to expect the unexpected.)

Greinke was in cruise control for the entire game.  The Mariners felt it was necessary to squeeze home their run in the third.  It was small ball all around as the runner took second on a throwing error by Mike Aviles and moved to third on a ground out before scoring on the bunt.  SABR Trey would have been impressed.

I liked everything about Grienke’s performance.  He changed speeds, he located his pitches… Everything was working.  His slider featured some nice tail and those curves on the outer half of the plate to left handed batters was devastating.  And in the seventh inning, when he got into trouble, he kept the ball low against Michael Saunders before punching him out on a slider in the dirt.  That pitch was set up by a 1-2 fastball up and out of the zone – the only pitch Saunders saw above his knees in that at bat.

Easy cheese.  Love it.

My favorite match-ups were against Russ Branyan. High fastball after high fastball.  The guy just had absolutely no chance.

Blake Wood did his best to blow the game with his pitch to contact strategy, but was bailed out by the stupidity of a Seattle fan who interfered with what surely would have been a run-scoring, game tying double off the bat of Branyan.  The best part?  The guy (possibly) realizes what he’s done and drops the ball back on the field.  DeJesus is over there and picks the ball up and gives it back to him with a wave of thanks.

Someone from the Royals should give that fan some tickets for Wednesday’s game.  At least give him a save in the box score.

That overshadows the fact Wood really isn’t to be trusted in late inning situations.  Yost is going to get burned.

Offensively, it was all about Wilson Betemit.  Is this the time the guy finally realizes his potential?

I’m not holding my breath.

For starters, his batting average on balls in play is an insane .394.  There’s just no way that’s going to continue which means his batting average is going to fall.  It was at .350 entering Tuesday’s game.  If the Royals continuing giving him at bats, it’s going to drop below .300 within a month.  I’m not knocking the guy… He’s riding a hot streak.

One reason his average (and OBP) will tumble is because he just doesn’t put the ball in play enough.  The average major league hitter puts the ball in play 70% of all plate appearances.  Betemit is around 64%.

Of course, where he’s excelling these days is bashing the extra base hits.  He homered yesterday and over 18% of all his plate appearances have gone for extra bases.  That’s sick.  In a good way.

My hope is Betemit’s emergence gives the Royals the confidence to deal Jose Guillen.  Not that holding on to him could be justified for any reason, it’s common knowledge the Royals are reluctant to let him go because he’s the lone power option (when he’s not evolving into a singles hitter) in this lineup.  I know, it’s crazy… But that’s how they operate.

However, if they think Betemit can slide into that role… Maybe we can ship Guillen somewhere.  Sure, the return will basically be nothing, but I can live with that.  I defended Guillen when he arrived in ’08, didn’t care about him in ’09 and now just want him gone in ’10.  I said the other day, he’s a lame duck… The sooner everyone moves on, the better.

Of course, as soon as I write this, Guillen pulls up lame going down to first trying to avoid a double play.  You know… plays like that just burn me.  I know the guy was hurt, but if he crawled to first, he would have been safe.  Crawled.  Instead, he just stopped.  Oh well… The lame duck just got lamer.

And then the Royals compounded the issue of the inning by getting Betemit thrown out at home for the third out.  Eddie Rodriguez doing his best Dave Owen impersonation.  How many times this year have the Royals threatened to blow the game wide open, only to make one or two outs on the bases in a single inning?  Maddening.

So if Guillen misses the rest of the season (given his *cough* history, we know two things: 1) He’s injury prone, and 2) He is slow to heal.) who gets the call?  Do the Royals dare to bring up Kila Ka’ahuie and hand him the DH at bats?  That would make too much sense, so I doubt that happens.

We’ll see Rick Ankiel instead.  Sigh.

The All-Star game is a funny thing.  It is an exhibition game, so it has no real importance yet it is one of the most debated games in all of baseball.  In fact, I would imagine that in terms of a single game, it is by far the cause of the most debates in baseball.  Oh, and don’t tell me that it actually has importance now because of the home field advantage thing.  There have been 80 All Star games and the American League has won 2 more games than the National League, so basically having home field advantage based on who wins the game is exactly the same as a coin toss.  So, there still is no more “meaning” attached to the All Star Game than previously, and I like that.

I am a huge fan of the All Star game.  It livens up the middle of the season, provides lots of new discussion points and lets me get a good look at some players I don’t usually see on a regular basis.  Also, since I always have and probably always will root for the American League, it gives me a chance to root for guys who I don’t normally get to root for.

One of the great things about the game is the debates it sparks.  Should there be ties (yes), should the pitchers bat(no), should every team get a representative (yes), should the fans vote (yes) and so on.  Locally, the debates rage on regarding which player is more deserving of an All Star spot, and this year in Kansas City is no exception.

By now you have probably heard that relief pitcher Joakim Soria has been named the Royals lone representative to the All Star Game.  Whether or not he is the most deserving Royal depends on how you select players for the game.  So who are the viable Royals All Star Candidates?

Billy Butler

Why he should be an All Star:

He is currently 10th in batting average (.321)  in the American League, 7th in hits (100), tied for 2nd in doubles (25) , and is a rising star.  He is one of the best hitters on the team and has a very good case to make as the best offensive player on the Royals. He is a young talent which would provide a very interesting story for the Royals and for the MLB.

Why he shouldn’t be an All Star:

He still has a lower batting average than two other AL first baseman, leads the league in GIDP (21), and he is fifth in wOBA for his position in the AL.  So while he is a good offensive player for the Royals, he isn’t near the top at his position. He hasn’t really been a DH that much so it would be kind of odd to select him as the teams DH.   Also, he isn’t having the best offensive season on the team….

David Dejesus

Why he should be an All Star:

He is 7th in the league in batting average (.329), 6th in OBP (.396), 6th in hits (102) and 9th in WAR (3.2).  He has been in the league for seven full seasons now and has played very well in all seven.  He is having a career year and it isn’t a complete fluke. He is a solid player having a great season and is having the best offensive season on the Royals.

Why he shouldn’t be an All Star:

His wOBA is 9th among AL outfielders and frankly he hasn’t been as hyped.  The guys on the team like Josh Hamilton (the drugs), Vernon Wells (the not being sucky any more), Ichiro (the legend), Torii Hunter (the HR Robber) all have some sort of hype surrounding them which helps them land on the team.  Carl Crawford and Jose Bautista are having good seasons, and a case could be made for either of them as well.  Frankly, if the Royals were a better team I think Dejesus makes the squad over someone on this list. The biggest problem I have is the fact that Delmon Young is one of the guys on the list for the final fan vote.  Nobody can make a case that he is more deserving than Dejesus or Shin-Soo Choo.

Joakim Soria

Why he should be an All Star:

He leads the league in saves (23) and is one of the best closers in baseball and an All Star team needs relief.  There really aren’t many big name closers in the AL this season and Soria can certainly be argued as one of the best.  He is one of the few Royals most likely to make a solid contribution in the game.  Also, this is obviously the only way the national media will figure out how to pronounce Joakim (hint: nobody except Joakim Noah pronounces it Joe-Kim).

Why he shouldn’t be an All Star:

Its been sort of a rough year in Soria terms.  His ERA is tied for the highest he has had in his career (2.48), but it still isn’t high.  Frankly, as I scan the numbers they aren’t as bad as I had assumed.  It just seems like he is always pitching out of trouble, but he is still a very good pitcher.  I think that he is so good, that we expect more out of him than we should.  Relievers tend to be over-rated in general and I think their value is a little inflated.

Zack Greinke

Why he should be an All Star:

His 2009 season was so dominant that a case could be made that it is worth getting him into the All Star game again this year.  He is also nationally recognized and one of the few Royals that fans of other teams would like to get a look at since he is never on national television.  I would really like to see what the fan votes for pitches would look like, I feel like Greinke could have been voted in.  He is pretty much universally liked and widely known.  He also has the 4th best K/BB ratio in the league (4.6).  The main reason I feel like he should be an All Star is that he really is the best player on the team.  If I could keep one guy from this roster I wouldn’t need a moments hesitation to pick Zack.

Why he shouldn’t be an All Star:

He isn’t near the top in many important categories like SO (12th), ERA (24th), WHIP (14th) and xFIP (10th).  He is still an amazing pitcher but isn’t putting up dominant All Star like numbers.  If he hadn’t been the teams representative last year, then it would be a travesty if he wasn’t selected this year.  As it stands, his first half numbers just don’t force the hands of the people selecting the pitchers.

Before I did this exercise, I kind of thought that Soria was the least qualified of the group to be the teams All Star representative.  However, after looking at all the factors I think I have completely changed my mind.  In many ways he is the best representative for the Royals.  He is having one of the best seasons on the team, he is one of the best if not THE best at his particular position and possibly most importantly the AL team needs his skills.  Who do you think the Royals representative should have been?

Nick podcasts about the Royals at www.brokenbatsingle.com and for some unknown reason roots for the Portland Trailblazers.   He welcomes your questions and comments.  You can contact Nick via email at brokenbatsingle [at] gmail [dot] com, via Twitter @brokenbatsingle and facebook.

A few quick thoughts as we head out the door for a long holiday weekend…

Apparently, the Missouri Department of Transportation destroyed a tree along I-70 that was planted to honor Dan Quisenberry.  This, as these things do, has created quite an uproar.  First, we need a little clarification.

– Quisenberry had a tree planted to honor his memory?  Seriously?  When did this happen?  Am I the only person in Kansas City – other than MODOT employees – who did not know this?

– There are just a ton of green spaces in Kansas City.  Why would they plant a tree like this along an interstate right-of-way?  Were all the trees in the parking lot at the Independence Center claimed?

Quiz loved gardening.  He kept plants and assorted green things in the bullpen.  I think he grew tomatoes or something out there. I guess that’s why he has had a tree.  It’s a nice thing for someone to do, but why wouldn’t they have planted the thing on the grounds of the stadium?

–  Obviously, now is the ideal time for the Royals to step up and do something nice to honor Quiz.  I’m not talking about a statue or retiring his number… Instead, maybe they could plant a tree in the space between the fountains and the stairs in right field.  Maybe at the top.  That way, they could have a plaque (you know, so it won’t get bulldozed in the next round of stadium renovations in 2030) and it would be where everyone in the stadium could see it.

Sounds good to me.

– The Royals head to the West Coast and will make an appearance on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.  That’s a rare event, but I don’t need to tell you.

Although I do love how the game is on July 4.  This has to be the lowest rated Sunday Night game of the year, regardless of the teams.

–  Now that almost everyone with access to the internet has weighed in on Jose Guillen’s comments (or should it be outburst?  Or rant?) let me throw out my two cents and say I agree with Clark.

There.

Otherwise, I should probably add I’m glad Guillen decided to shoot his mouth off.  It’s been a relatively quiet 18 months.

However at this point, Guillen carries a lame duck status.  He has three months left here – hopefully less.  Anything he says carries little or no weight.

Move along… There’s nothing to see.

– Alex Gordon and Kila Ka’aihue were named to the PCL All-Star team.  I have no clue who those guys are.

– Kyle Davies last start where he gave up fewer than four runs came on May 22.  Over his last 30 innings, covering six starts he has an 8.70 ERA and batters are hitting .306/.400/.508 against him.  That includes a start against the Astros, for crying out loud.  Oh, I should probably add that during this time he has struck out 15 while allowing 19 walks.

I like to see how many swinging strikes a pitcher gets as a percentage of all strikes thrown.  The best pitchers miss the most bats, generally speaking.  Since his start at the end of May, Davies has gotten a swing and a miss in just 7% of all strikes.  That’s abysmal.  Even more alarming, only 16% of his strikes have been called.

In other words, hitters are just making a ton of contact against Davies.  He’s fooling no one.

Except maybe management.

– Have a great – and safe – holiday.

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

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