Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Kyle Davies finally had a decent spring outing on Saturday and, in a weird way, somewhat clarified the bullpen situation for the Royals. Bob Dutton, who is always on the case, touches on this subject as well in his Sunday article in the Kansas City Star.

When you read the club’s comments on Davies, you can clearly see how desperately the Royals want Kyle to have the fifth starter spot. He has teased the Royals for two years: sprinkling a good start, sometimes even a good month, in amongst a collection of pretty painful outings. After three basically awful appearances to start the spring, Davies came up with a nice one on Saturday and is suddenly the ‘clear frontrunner’ for the job.

We can discuss this calamity another day (my personal over/under on the number of pitchers who will occupy the 5th starter spot this season is 4), for now though we are talking bullpen.

Given the Royals’ predisposition to lean towards Davies, the fact that he is out of options and my own personal horror of seeing a player with Kyle’s control problems and propensity to mentally implode come out of the bullpen, let’s assume that he will be given the fifth starter role to start the season.

That pushes Robinson Tejeda, who is also out of options, into the pen as well as Kyle Farnsworth, who is too expensive to just drop. The Royals have to keep Tejeda, if only because Davies will eventually pitch his way out of the rotation, and because Robinson goes through stretches where he is pretty dominant. As for Farnsworth, the idea of ‘Bradeen Loopering him’ is intriguing, plus someone has to pitch in blowouts.

Also given a courtesy look at the number five spot was Rule 5 draftee Edgar Osuna. He has not been spectacular this spring, but he has not been horrible, either. Considering his Rule 5 status, the fact that he is only twenty-two and left-handed, Osuna is an almost certain lock to make the team. All things being equal, it certainly makes more sense to keep a young lefty who might help you in the future as opposed to an aging righty (or lefty) who might help you a little now.

While on the subject of virtual locks, we can add Ramon Colon to that list. Whether it is organization hype, spring training skewed optimism or really the result of finally being healthy, Colon is on the verge of locking down a primary set-up role. He is throwing harder than last season and has a new and improved slider that has thus far eluded spring training bats. Those of you longing for ‘good character guys’ won’t enjoy it, but I could really care less as long as he gets people out while simultaneously staying out of jail.

So, at this point, here is the bullpen:

  • Closer: Joakim Soria
  • Setup 1: Ramon Colon
  • Setup 2:
  • Middle 1: Robinson Tejeda
  • Middle 2:
  • Middle/Long: Kyle Farnsworth
  • Long: Edgar Osuna

Barring a trade and there have been rumors of such, Juan Cruz gets one of the two remaining spots. In Cruz and Farnsworth, the Royals are obligated to pay over six million this year, which is another topic for another day. For the purposes of this discussion, all that means is both their names will be on the 25 man roster come April 5th.

As for the trade rumors, I would be delighted if the Royals could move Cruz for a minor league position player, even if it meant picking up all of his salary. The money’s gone, let’s get someone that might help the team down the road or, at least, be around down the road. Given that Dayton Moore and David Glass do not seem to think that way, I doubt a deal gets done as the Royals will be looking for payroll relief more than anything else.

Frankly, despite his dismal 2009, has a far better track record out of the pen than anyone else on the roster not named Soria, so keeping him around is no big deal.The best case might be having Cruz excel as a setup man in the first half of the season and flipping him for a prospect in July.

The brings us down to one final opening in the bullpen with the following realistic contenders:

  • Blake Wood- The former third round pick is kind of the sexy choice for this last spot right now and has had an excellent spring to date. Wood throws hard and there has long been rumblings of his eventual destination being the back of the bullpen, despite having started 68 of 73 minor league games. That said, Wood has never pitched above AA and has struggled at that level more than succeeded. While there is certainly some allure to having Wood break camp with the Royals, the wiser course of action would be to give him a couple of months in AAA to get some more seasoning as a reliever.
  • Dusty Hughes- With 606 minor league innings under his belt, there is little left for Dusty Hughes to prove in the minors. Last year, the southpaw got a September look with the Royals: doing okay, but missing time with an injury, too. In AAA last year, Hughes held left-handed hitters to just a .208 average, but over his career Dusty has not had such a dramatic lefty/righty split. Trey Hillman has professed a need for a lefty specialist in the pen, which is laughable considering he had one in Jimmy Gobble two years ago and not a clue as to how to use him properly.
  • John Parrish- Another lefty, Parrish is 32 years old with a 174 major league games under his belt and three season ending injuries over the last eight years. He can post some strikeout numbers (7.3K/9 over his career), but also struggles with control (6.1BB/9). Another pitcher who has had a nice spring, the Royals are a little concerned about Parrish’s ability to pitch on back to back days.
  • Josh Rupe- The 27 year old right hander posted a 6.67 ERA in AAA for the Rangers last year, although it is noteworthy that his FIP was just 4.12. When he is keeping the ball down and inducing ground balls, as he did when Josh was a legitimate prospect back in 2004-2005, Rupe can be pretty effective. When he is not, opponents beat him up. Prior to a tough outing this weekend, Rupe had been lights out in spring. Like Parrish, he is another guy with a skepticism inducing K/BB career ratio of just 1.17. Unlike Parrish, this pitcher is not a strikeout artist by any means.
  • Brad Thompson- Resume wise, this 28 year old right hander brings the most to the table with 185 career major league appearances that include 32 starts with the Cardinals. Thompson averages just over four strikeouts per nine innings, but counters that by allowing only two walks per nine innings and inducing twice as many ground balls as fly balls. You have to like his versatility and experience, but you wonder how much Thompson will suffer going from the NL to the AL and pitching in front of the Royals’ infield defense as opposed to that of the Cardinals.

Roster-wise, there is no problem with any of these guys. Hughes and Wood are both on the 40 man roster and both have options. While Parrish, Rupe and Thompson are non-roster invitees, the Royals have a 40 man spot in their pocket as all they have to do is put Jeff Bianchi on the 60 day disabled list to free up a spot.

Of course, there are some other guys floating around camp with an outside shot, too. Notably Anthony Lerew and Gaby Hernandez, each of whom is out of options. I get the sense, however, that the real competition is between the five we detailed above.

As is often the case, the last spot in the bullpen is traditionally the last spot secured when a team breaks camp. I do not envision the Royals doing much to even thin the competition before the first week of April, so we have a couple more weeks to analyze this battle a little further.

While some may find this spot mostly irrelevant the battle mostly boring, I might remind you that Jamey Wright was probably the ‘last guy in’ in 2009 and ended up effecting the outcomes of a lot of games during the regular season.

With yesterday’s off day it feels like we’re at the midway point of the Spring Training schedule. I have no idea if this is factually correct, but I don’t really want to spend the time counting exhibition games.

Anyway, now seems as good a time as any to see where some of the guys are as far as their performance. I don’t place any value in spring performances… small sample sizes and pitchers and hitters working on their approach and all that. Still, there have been some interesting developments this spring.

Let’s recap:

Stock Up: Alberto Callaspo

I’ve said it all along, any Royals lineup that doesn’t include Callaspo is a bad lineup. The Alex Gordon injury has simplified SABR Trey’s job in a manner of speaking in that it opened a position for Callaspo. A slash line of .448/.469/.586 in 29 at bats is sparkling – even if it is spring training.

Stock Way Down: Kyle Davies

There’s not a ton of competition for the back end of the rotation, but Davies is doing his level best to pitch himself out of a job. He can’t get anyone out – in his last appearance ten of the 18 batters he faced reach. That was seven hits (including four doubles) and three walks. This has become a dysfunctional relationship where It’s best that both parties go their separate ways before someone has to call the cops. Let him abuse another fan base.

Stock Up: Mitch Maier

He’s just reminding Dayton Moore that he’s younger and less expensive than the free agent retreads the Royals signed this winter. Like the Gordon injury opening the door for regular Callaspo time, the Rick Ankiel injury has presented Maier with an opportunity he wasn’t otherwise likely to have this spring. He’s responded by hitting .455/.478/.818 in 22 at bats.

I figured with the off season outfield shopping spree, Maier would be the odd man out. Now, I’m thinking Ankiel is a new version of Jose Guillen (i.e. On the downward side of a career where the injuries are going to pile up.) and will miss plenty of time this year, giving Maier some at bats.

I’m glad, because I root for Maier.

Stock Down: Josh Fields

I had hope that he could recapture his power stroke from a couple years ago, but now I’m not so sure. When you’re swinging a slow bat in spring training, that’s just not a good sign. Plus, he’s just leaving a ton of runners on base. A ton. And striking out. And not hitting for the power he was supposed to possess. He has potential to be Mike Jacobs, Version 2.0. That’s not a compliment.

Stock Up: Mike Aviles

He hasn’t seen a lot of action, but he does have seven hits in his 14 at bats. Encouraging progress for someone who wasn’t expected to be ready for Opening Day. The Royals could still keep him in extended spring training to open the year, but he’s close. That’s good news because we’re going to be calling for him by mid-April after watching a couple weeks of Betancourt.

Stock Up: Aaron Crow

It’s official: I’m excited to see this kid in Kansas City.

That said, I hope the Royals do the prudent thing and keep him in the minors all year. No need to rush him, and after setting out all of last year, he needs to get some low pressure innings on his arm. Double-A is absolutely the best place for him to open the year. If he tears it up in the first half, promote him to Omaha. If he tears it up in the second half, give him a courtesy call in September.

Let’s focus on him for 2011. It will be worth the wait.

Stock Down: Rick Ankiel

I know we have a new training staff, but didn’t you have a little deja vu when he was pulled from a game on Friday, said he felt better on Saturday and was shut down for a week on Sunday? Speaking of which…

Today’s Hillmanism is on Ankiel:

He just needs to have some consistency offensively. Occasionally, you’re going to see him swing out of the zone. Hopefully, he gets his discipline tamed a little bit before we get into the season.

This gets nominated for understatement of the spring. Last year, Ankiel offered at pitches out of the strike zone over 34% of the time. Of the 252 players who accumulated over 350 plate appearances, he had the 17th worst discipline. For his career, he’s swung at 33% of all pitches he’s seen out of the strike zone.

If I were a betting man, I’d bet against Ankiel discovering the magic of discipline.

While there may not have been a consensus last spring, I think it is safe to say that there was at least a majority opinion that the position player who was likely the key to a successful 2009 was shortstop Mike Aviles. After all, Aviles had been in the running for rookie of the year in 2008 and had done so at arguably the weakest position both depth and prospect wise in the Royals’ system.

Of course we all know what happened. Aviles was injured in spring training, tried to play through it and didn’t tell the team that he was hurt.It was a horrific year that ended mercifully in May when Mike went under the knife. The lack of options within the organization were once again exposed and seemingly panicked Dayton Moore into trading two minor league pitchers (including former top prospect Dan Cortes) for Yuniesky Betancourt.

Just how good was Mike Aviles in 2008? Well, let’s use Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement Level, which incorporates offense and defense, as our measuring stick and look back at the Royals’ position player leaders in this category over the last six years.

Wins Above Replacement Level

2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
David DeJesus 3.3 Mike Aviles 4.4 David DeJesus 2.6 David DeJesus 3.9 David DeJesus 4.2 Joe Randa 3.1
Alberto Callaspo 2.8 David DeJesus 2.6 Mark Grudzielanek 2.5 Mark Teahen 3.2 Mike Sweeney 2.1 Carlos Beltran 2.6
Billy Butler 2.5 Alex Gordon 2.4 Mark Teahen 2.1 Emil Brown 3.1 Emil Brown 1.6 David DeJesus 1.1

That’s right, Mike Aviles was arguably the Royals best position player in the LAST SIX YEARS. You have to go back to 2003 and Carlos Beltran (6.1 WAR) to find a position player with a better ranking than Aviles posted in 2008. That brings up several questions.

First, was Aviles really that good? Or did he benefit from a high balls in play batting average and a fair amount of rookie luck? Well, yes and no.

No player will consistently post a .357 BABIP year after year, so Aviles almost certainly would have to regress some. That said, this is a guy who popped 41 extra base hits in just over 100 games. There were certainly a few ‘Texas Leaguers’ in those doubles, but by and large it is hard to hit that many extra base hits and chalk it all up to just good fortune.

Additionally, Aviles as a rookie got his hacks in and walked sparingly. While there is nothing in Mike’s long minor league track record to make one believe he is suddenly going to walk 100 times per year, it would seem to make sense that he would walk more than he did in his rookie year. Which, in some part, would make up for not being as lucky with his BABIP. Look at the chart above once more:Mike Aviles could regress at the plate and likely still be one of the team’s better offensive weapons.

The big question at this point, of course, is can Aviles play shortstop again? To date, Mike has only played or even practiced as far as I know on the right side of the diamond.The Royals traded for Chris Getz (who I like) and already had Alberto Callaspo, a fine hitter in his own right, and could find themselves in the position of having three guys who play the same position being among the best nine hitters they possess.

Everything looks a whole lot better if Mike Aviles can still make the throws from shortstop. His value defensively is obviously higher at short than at second (although he might be the best defensive second baseman of the bunch right now) and his bat is so much better than anyone who has played shortstop since…well…Freddie Patek.

Keep in mind, this is a team that in Yuniesky Betancourt, Tony Pena Jr and Angel Berroa has trotted out a string of shortstops that have had NEGATIVE value to their team. Not only that, with Jeff Bianchi going down with arm woes this spring, the void to the next possible shortstop candidate in the system is huge.

The Royals are not contenders in 2010 with a healthy Mike Aviles playing shortstop, but they are certainly in a better position with him than without him. You want 2010 to be at least interesting? Then Mike Aviles, as he was last spring, is the key to that happening.

People are always telling me statistics can be made to show anything, but I completely disagree. Since statistics are numerical representatives of some actual thing, they are merely facts. However, I think I know what those people mean. They’re saying that people can pick and choose stats to support their particular argument, and that I actually agree with. This is why we should all be fully armed with statistical facts to counter the next naysayer who decides to throw something out that’s wrong or misleading. Something like Alex Gordon has been one of the worst Royals ever. My goal is to help build your arsenal of statistical facts.

Spring Training stats have to be the leader in the category of misused stats. They’re wrought with so many problems that It’s hard to know where to begin.

1. The sample sizes are usually very small.

2. The outcome of Spring Training games is meaningless.

3. Players often use Spring Training to work on a particular pitch, batting stance or scenario.

4. Arizona is a pretty good hitting environment.

5. Coming off a long winter break, the players are just getting warmed up

6. The sheer number of players being rotated in and out for evaluation doesn’t allow a player to get into a groove.

7. Spring Training rosters are overflowing with less than MLB talent.

I could go on, however I think these seven are sufficient. The paradox of Spring Training stats though, is that they can be extremely important. For the Billy Butlers of the world whose position on the team is assured, they aren’t that big of a deal. However, to someone like Blake Wood, Kyle Davies or Josh Fields stats can mean the difference between a spot on the MLB team or a spot in AAA the difference between a starter or a bench player or the end of your career.

Spring Training stats are also the first pieces of information that eager fans and media get their hands on. Who’s looking good? Who’s rusty? Which pitcher has the line on that 5th spot in the rotation? And so on. Arguments are made on behalf of guys, and careers are deemed to be over based on a handful of innings or at bats with the ever present problems outlined above. So people refute the arguments with something like Spring Trainings stats are worthless.

So then the real argument begins over whether Spring Training stats are completely worthless or a harbinger of what is to come. To be honest, I believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle. We all know that a bad Spring Training does not necessarily mean that a player will have a bad season forth coming. There are literally hundreds of stories of players who had terrible Spring Training stats and then tore it up in the regular season. Of course there are just as many stories on the flip-side, where the player with the bang up spring couldn’t find his way in the regular season.

Statistics do have some value to them. With all of the caveats above, we need to be aware that what we are dealing with are very flawed stats, but flawed does not mean worthless. Take them with a grain of salt. In every stat there is a story to be told, and just like any other story, it could be completely misleading or an indicator of a larger truth.

So with all of that said, let’s take a look at the Royals Spring Training stats*. What you will find below is a standard table of statistics, but with various colors. If you’ve read many of my blog posts at Broken Bat Single you know that I love heat charts. More likely you will be reading my work for the first time here at Royals Authority, so I want to take a quick second to explain the heat charts. In each column the red colored item is the best on the team in that category, green is the worst and yellow is in the middle. For example, the position players chart below is sorted by most to least AB, so you can see Butler has the most and his square is red, while Moustakas has the least and is green. As the numbers decrease the shade of color changes to reflect the players rank in that category. The idea is to give some visual clues as to who is doing well at what without having to look at each individual number or having to sort each column.

*Stats include all games played through March 15th

First, lets take a look at the position players. The chart is sorted by AB, and I cut off the # of players at 25.

Billy Butler, David Dejesus and Alberto Callaspo have some of the best hitting stats on the team, which is the first indication that spring stats are not completely worthless. However, on the other hand Yuniesky Betancourt has an OPS of .921. The thing that really jumps out at me is how good of a spring Mitch Maier and Kila Kaaihue are having. Podsednik having a 50% success rate at stealing bases is another interesting, but not surprising item. Wilson Betamit and Irving Falu have been in the most games this spring.

Now the pitchers. This table is sorted by IP. For SO/BB I assumed that zero walks were one walk, so that I could avoid dividing by zero.

Greinke leads the royals in nearly every pitching category, so again it means that Spring Training numbers do mean something. However the sample size for pitchers is even smaller than for the position players so these are even less representative of accurate numbers. Davies and Tejeda are getting the most innings so that the Royals can try and figure out who should be the 5th starter, and so far neither has been good. However Tejeda has been striking guys out and has a better overall ERA than Davies so far. Bannister has yet to walk a guy, which is good considering he relies on his control more than any other pitcher on the staff. Ramon Colon is putting up some fantastic numbers in his time on the mound. Lerew (a personal favorite of mine), has a great SO/BB ratio, but has been torched.

I love finding the stories hidden in the statistics, and Spring Training stats are no exception. I hope the heat chart helped you visualize the information in a new way. Are there any particular numbers that stand out to you? Let me know in the comments below.

Nick blogs and podcasts about the Royals at Broken Bat Single and welcomes feedback via Twitter (@brokenbatsingle) and e-mail (brokenbatsingle [AT] gmail [DOT] com)

After a fair amount of hard work and some tremendous contributions from some guest writers, Craig and I are pleased to announce that the 2010 Royals Authority Annual is now available for purchase. Once again, we are publishing through Lulu.com, where you can order the book for $12.95 (plus shipping) or you can download a PDF version for $8.95.

You can order either the book or the PDF by clicking right here.

2010Cover

If the cover alone did not get your order started, take a look at what you will find inside:

  • Jeff Zimmerman applies Pitch F/X data to the Royals.
  • Matt Klaassen previews the 2010 Royals and the rest of the AL Central.
  • Minda Haaschronicles the prospects she has seen come through Omaha over the past few years.
  • Max Rieper returns to reexamine the Royals’ 2000 season.

In addition to those outstanding contributions, the hacks that run this site are back with a game by game review of the 2009 season, minor league hitter and pitcher summaries, a breakdown of the Royals’ breakdowns on the basepaths and Craig’s extensive look at the 40 man roster.

Here’s a sample of what you will find for the position players:

Betancourt_Sample

While Yuniesky Betancourt may not be your favorite position player, my guess is that the following sample of what you will find for the pitchers is one that might be of interest to you:

Greinke_Sample

We hope you enjoy this year’s annual….and, we apologize in advance for the shipping costs.

Tuesday’s buzzword: Command.

As in lack of.

That would apply to Robinson Tejeda and Kyle Davies. Both couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat to borrow a phrase from Crash Davis.

Tejeda faced 12 batter, walked three, and allowed four hits, including a moon shot to Jack Cust. He also didn’t record a ground out, retiring three A’s on fly outs, two via the strikeout and one on a pickoff at first.

Although we don’t want to go down the road of freaking out over two spring innings, weve been through this before with Tejeda. When he’s on, he’s really, really good. When he’s not You get games like we had on Tuesday. This is exactly the kind of start we will get from Tejeda on occasion during the regular season if he makes the rotation. It’s extremely dangerous to hand the ball to such an erratic pitcher in the first inning.

And would it have killed him to entice just one A’s batter to hit the ball on the ground? On a gusty day, why not try and give yourself a sliver of a chance of succeeding.

Davies was just as rotten. He faced 16 batters and allowed seven to reach – five hits and two walks. He struck out a pair and got five ground ball outs. And he kept the ball in the park – no small feat with the wind blowing out to right at 30 mph. Although the elements did seem to come into play on a couple of fly balls that turned into doubles.

It is slightly insane to get bent over a handful of innings in the Cactus League. Sure. But in this case we’re not talking about Zack Greinke or Gil Meche working on a new pitch or tinkering with their delivery. This isn’t a couple of veterans getting in game shape. We’re talking about two pitchers who are competing for a spot in the rotation. Big difference. These guys have to throw. They don’t have the luxury of working on a new pitch or whatever. They’re pitching for life in the majors.

Not that I’m expecting greatness – or even mediocrity – from either Davies or Tejeda in the rotation. But I’d at least see them do something worthwhile given they’re fighting for a job.

Davies insists It’s not about his stuff. It’s his command that’s killing him. Money quote from Davies:

“It was all about consistency and command for me, that’s all it is. It’s never been about stuff. If I had Greinke’s command, I’d have his stats.”

Holy cow, was he serious? A couple of things are wrong with this statement. First, Davies doesn’t have Greinke’s stuff, so there’s no point in worrying about how Greinke’s command is better. And second, if I had Greinke’s stuff and command, I’d be pitching for the Royals instead of sitting in my basement, writing about them. (Although I probably wouldn’t be pitching for the Royals. I’d hire Boras as my agent and we’d be kicking some serious ass. No hometown discount here.)

Davies had better see the trainer. Delusion is apparently contagious in the Royals camp.

Today’s Hillmanism:

This is inspired by a friend of mine who has taken a large measure of delight emailing me daily pearls of wisdom from the Royals manager. Needless to say, it hardly ever makes sense.Hillman2010

Like this gem on Aaron Crow’s first outing:

“I’m glad he did what I thought he would do, but I thought he would do what he did. That make sense?”

Today is a bonus. You got an example of a Hillmanism and you get today’s on Davies and his lack of command…

“(Davies has) got great stuff, he typically holds his stuff very well. But it’s a matter of being more consistent in the strike zone. Kyle’s really competitive — it doesn’t have anything to do with his competitiveness or have anything to do with stamina or stuff.

Davies is competitive, but it doesn’t have anything to do with competitiveness. Got it?

A baseball team’s farm system is without question its most important asset. Home grown talent from a club’s minor league system is under team control for six years, which provides stability. Because players are paid close to the league minimum for the first three years, they are also cost effective. In addition, those players are usually young and near their athletic prime. So, It’s imperative for any major league team to draft and sign talented young players in order to compete. It’s even more important to smaller market ball clubs, like the Royals, since acquiring that talent on the free agent market can cost upwards of ten times more. This fact is not lost on the Royals GM Dayton Moore. He has said on multiple occasions that he wants ten to twelve home grown players on the roster.

So, I decided to take a look at how the Royals have built their rosters. Looking at every Royals team dating back to 1994, I counted just how many players were home grown versus acquired. For this exercise a player was home grown if he was drafted by the Royals or signed as an international free agent. But what about the player who was home grown, but left and came back via free agency? In the most technical sense, that player should be homegrown when he arrived and classified as acquired when he returned. However, it just didn’t seem right to classify guys like Joe Randa or Brent Mayne as acquired, so I gave them their own class which you can put in whatever category you like.

I also only counted the nine hitters who got the most plate appearances at each position, the five pitchers who got the most starts, the closer and the four relief pitchers with the most innings. So for the sake of this exercise, the roster is 19 players.

The following graph takes a look at the roster construction for 1994 through 2010 (projected). The axis on the left is the number of players. The purple area represents the players who were home grown but re-acquired. The green area represents players acquired via free agency or trade. The red area represents home grown pitchers and the blue represents home grown hitters.

You can see a large drop in homegrown talent exactly at the time that Moore arrived as the General Manager in 2006 and has been on the incline since. The high-water mark for homegrown players was in 1996 when the royals had 10. So for Dayton, getting to the 10-12 mark would match or surpass the highest mark in the past 15 years. Now, I know that Moore had said he wanted 10-12 on the roster, and what I have represents 19 of a potential 25 roster spots, but I highly doubt that he wants very many of those guys to be unproductive bullpen guys or bench players.

We all know that it isn’t just the raw numbers of players on a team that matter. What matters is how they produce. So I went back and used Wins Above Replacement (WAR) data for every team going back to 2002* to see where the production was coming from.

*WAR is a stat which attempts to quantify a players contribution to a team, it is defined here. I also chose 2002 because that is how far back www.fangraphs.com has WAR values.

The Position Players

The following is a chart showing the WAR totals for the position players each year. The first column is the home grown players, the second is the acquired players and the third is those guys that left but came back via free agency.

YR

Home Grown

Acquired

HG Returned

Total

2002

9.7

-2.8

3.4

10.3

2003

5.9

6.5

2.4

14.8

2004

3.5

-0.3

3.1

6.3

2005

5.5

3.2

0

8.7

2006

4.4

15

0

19.4

2007

4.6

9.5

0

14.1

2008

9.4

1.6

0

11

2009

5.5

3.4

0

8.9

Total

48.5

36.1

8.9

93.5

Now a pie chart showing what percentage of the WAR each group contributed over the course of those eight years.

So as a group the home grown hitters put up over 50% of the production for the team, and rises to 61% if you count the home grown players who came back via free agency. I really don’t know how that compares to teams across the rest of baseball, but if Moore stresses 10-12 players on the 25 man roster then I would think that a goal of 50% contributions from home grown is right in the ballpark for what he would want to achieve. As an organization, at least in the past 8 years the Royals have been at least decent at developing position players who contribute to the major league club.

The Pitchers

YEAR

Home Grown

Acquired

Total

2002

4.3

9.6

13.9

2003

6.8

7.7

14.5

2004

5.4

14.0

19.4

2005

7.8

3.7

11.5

2006

-0.3

5.3

5.0

2007

3.0

14.4

17.4

2008

6.5

14.9

21.4

2009

11.0

9.5

20.5

44.5

79.1

123.6

This is a very different looking chart from the position players. The Royals have only gotten 36% of the pitching production from home grown players and that includes Zack Greinke. I don’t think this graph is too shocking to longtime Royals fans.

There has been a serious lack of home grown pitching talent in the last decade. What this graph could also mean besides the fact that the Royals did not have a lot of pitching talent is that they didn’t really give home grown players much of a shot, instead relying on free agency. Maybe they didn’t trust the guys they had in the system and didn’t believe in them and did not promote them or got rid of them early. J.P. Howell comes to mind. He has put up 4.0 WAR for the Rays since the Royals traded him away. But I think more than anything it says a lot about the scouting and development of pitching for the Royals organization. To have so little pitching produced from your farm system is a killer. However, over Dayton Moore’s tenure the WAR contributed by home grown pitchers has been on an upward trend, Greinke being the largest contributor.

I want to show one last graph. The following shows WAR contributed each year and where it came from.

The general trend so far under the Moore regime is better teams overall with increasing production coming from home grown talent. As a reference point, the Twins in 2009 had a WAR of 39. What really amazes me is that the Royals always are able to find the equilibrium of being a bad ball club. In 2006 and 2007 the acquired talent was very productive but the home grown talent was completely anemic. In 2008 and 2009 the home grown talent was contributing, but the acquired talent didn’t produce as much as in the past.

It is still early in Dayton Moore’s tenure to truly evaluate how much of the talent which his regime brings into the system will contribute to the team. Not one player he has drafted and developed has made it to the majors yet. So whatever home grown talent that is currently contributing was acquired under Allard Baird. I have been pretty critical of Dayton Moore, but if the real way to build a ballclub is through home grown talent, then it is way too early to judge him.

Nick blogs and podcasts about the Royals at Broken Bat Single and welcomes feedback via Twitter (@brokenbatsingle) and e-mail (brokenbatsingle [AT] gmail [DOT] com)

Well, this was not exactly the best weekend in the history of the Royals, was it?

We will start with the good news from the weekend, which you can basically boil down to more good pitching. After Greinke’s outstanding start on Friday, Gil Meche pitched a healthy and effective two innings on Saturday (albeit taking 41 pitches to get through two innings). He was followed by a two inning-three strikeout performance from last year’s first round pick, Aaron Crow.

Saturday’s game also saw shutout appearances from Blake Wood, Rule 5 pick Edgar Osuna and non-roster invitee Josh Rupe. We will ignore the almost total lack of offense, for now, as we have plenty of other ‘not all that positive’ news to discuss. The old baseball adage is that pitchers start out ahead of hitters, so we will just rely on that for another few games in hopes of seeing some sort of production with the bats.

Of course, it was injury news that caught all the headlines this weekend; especially since the Sunday game was rained out, taking with it a ‘B’ game that was going to be Joakim Soria’s spring debut as well as that of Willie Bloomquist (we were all waiting for that, I’m sure) and Mike Aviles.

Injury number one did not make a lot of news. To make room for newly acquired Gaby Hernandez, the Royals placed reliever Henry Barrera on the 60 day disabled list. Barrera’s 2009 was washed out with Tommy John surgery and he is still in “rehab” mode. Barrera can post seriously ridiculous strikeout numbers when he’s on and is eligible to come off the list in early June. All this really accomplished was to get Hernandez on the 40 man roster without having to drop anyone.

This weekend, we learned that prized left-handed prospect Danny Duffy is being shut down for the time being due to elbow stiffness. The Royals claim he is ‘medically sound’ and they are just being cautious. Other than being jaded by past history, I have no reason toquestion the team statement. Still, how many times have we heard a player ‘just needs a little rest’ and nextthing you know he’s under theknife?For now, we will simply have to hold our breath and hope we see Duffy ready to goin Northwest Arkansas this April.

While the seriousness of Duffy’s injury is in question, there is no doubting the injury to 2005 second round pick,Jeff Bianchi. After struggling with a back problem in his first two professional seasons andfighting some wrist issues in 2008, Bianchi finally broke out in 2009. He made the40 man roster and there was talk of him opening the season in AAA.Scratch all that: Bianchi is done for the season with reconstructive elbow surgery.

The silver lining here is that Bianchiwill likely be moved tothe 60 man disabled list any time, which opens up a40 man roster spot. While that does not help the Royals with the many players on the bubble who are out of options, it doesgive them the ability to add a non-roster player whoimpresses enough to make the 25 man roster or evensnag one last free agent at a bargain price without having to worry about dropping acurrent member of the roster. I know, I’m reaching here for something positive, but it is ‘something’.

The big news of the weekend was the broken thumb of Alex Gordon. Instead of talking about Alex getting a Saturday start at first base, we instead have this to discuss.

Gordon broke the thumb slidingheadfirst into second base (what are going to hear more on the Royals’ broadcasts this year? Broken bats or headfirst slides discussions?)and will be out three to four weeks. During that time, Alex will not be able to swing a bat or throw, so while he may be healthy in four weeks, he will not be baseball ready.

Here’s the silver lining.

I wrote just last week that Gordon may need a good spring training more than anyone else on this team in hopes of rebuilding his confidence. While missing all of spring training goes against that statement, having a couple of weeks of extended spring training and a few more on a rehab assignment in Omaha might be just the ticket. That assumes, and it is a big assumption, that the Royals don’t rush Gordon back to the majors. They have the luxury of time here and should use as much of April as possible getting Alex healthy and confident before bringing him back to the majors.

In addition, this injury gives Alberto Callaspo a regular playing spot to start the season. I fully believe that Dayton Moore made the Teahen for Getz/Fields trade fully intent on flipping Callaspo in the off-season. The offers, if there truly were any, did not meet expectations and hence the Royals have a crowded roster (not all bad, mind you).

With Callaspo playing third, presumably, to open the season, that allows the Royals do showcase him and Jose Guillen in the month of April. While it may be a longshot, it certainly cannot hurt one’s ability to move either player by having both playing everyday to start the season.

Worst case, the Royals reach the end of April with Gordon back on the roster with Callaspo and Guillen fighting for at-bats: basically right where they started off this spring. Best case, Guillen hits a little and Callaspo looks good at third base, increasing their marketability, however slightly.

Gordon going down is certainly not the best case scenario, but there are some minor benefits, too. Overall, for a non-contending team like Kansas City, this is not the worst thing that could happen. It buys them some time and flexibility in trying to improve the team.

Just a quick update from this afternoon’s Rangers-Royals contest….

Zack Greinke – 3 innings pitched, 1 hit allowed, 0 runs, 3 strikeouts, TWENTY-SEVEN PITCHES!

Other worthy notes:

  • DeJesus in the lineup in right, batting third.
  • Getz playing shortstop
  • Kila Ka’aihue getting the start at first base.

We have been waiting all winter for the Royals’ to take the field, and yesterday they did. Given the 13-3 pasting they received at the hands of the Texas Rangers, maybe we were too hasty to be wishing for the off-season to end. After taking an early 1-0, lead the Royals ended up losing the ‘major league’ portion of this game 6-2. From the sixth inning on, the teams were generally AAA and AA players, but the results were no better; with the Royals falling 7-1 in that portion of the contest.

Now, some will make the case that the results of any spring training game are irrelevant. I am not so sure about that, but I am reasonably confident that the outcome of the first spring training game is certainly not very important. Given that last spring it became fashionable in the Royals’ blogosphere to discount any mention of spring training results or statistics (I wrote a column last spring on Greinke and Meche’s poor spring training numbers, which basically concluded that those numbers did not mean much of anything, AND WAS SKEWERED FOR EVEN DISCUSSING IT) I am somewhat hesitant to even bring up individual performances from yesterday, but here are some observations anyway.

The Process had a shining moment to start the game as Scott Podsednik singled, stole second and took third on the throw. Jason Kendall then hit a ground ball to drive him in.

I have reconciled myself to the fact that Podsednik is going to be the Royals’ lead-off hitter this year. We can throw stats and facts at the issue, but I have yet to see a lineup come out of the musings of Hillman/Moore that does not begin with Scotty Pods. I have also come to accept that Jason Kendall is going to be the everyday catcher. As one of my business partners pointed out ‘Did you really want to watch Olivo swing and miss breaking pitches by FEET for another summer?’. However, I will not accept Podsednik AND Kendall at the top of the Royals’ batting order.

Jason was a heckuva a guy to have at the top of your order….six years ago, but now he has no power and his on-base ability is below average. I also don’t buy into this ‘he can handle the bat’ crap that we often associate with number two hitters – it simply does not come into play anymore at the two spot than anywhere else in the lineup.

Podsednik might have a fine year and regularly use his speed to steal second, but save for the two or three times per year that the catcher throws the ball into the outfield on a Podsednik steal attempt, he is going to be on second base, not third, as he was yesterday. Under that scenario, Jason Kendall might be the least likely member of the lineup to be able to consistently drive him in from second and that includes Yuniesky Betancourt.

I have a sick feeling that the primary memory that Trey Hillman will emerge from spring training with is that first inning run yesterday. Now, you can say that ‘there goes Royals Authority being all negative, again’, and maybe you are right. Call me on Opening Day when Kendall is the second hitter up.

Alex Gordon doubled.

In my mind, the one player who will benefit most from a good spring training is Alex Gordon. After an injury plagued, demotion riddled season in 2009, Gordon needs to get that swagger (however unfounded it may have been in 2007 and 2008) back. I was discouraged as he once more pulled the ball on the ground to the first basemen his first time up, but encouraged by the double. Spring training stats may not matter, but feeling good out of spring training would be huge for Alex.

No Royals pitcher did himself any favors yesterday.

Kyle Davies was not very good, neither was Robinson Tejeda, but the guys who really hurt themselves (even if it is just spring training game number one) were Anthony Lerew and Matt Herges.

Lerew was kind of a sleeper pick for the number five starter spot, but I did like what I saw late last year when he hung in well against Boston and New York in back to back starts. That said, Anthony figures to get just a few chances to show what he can do in the crowded battle for the final starting spot. Yesterday, he gave up five hits in two innings to a lineup of basically AAA hitters.

Forty year old lefty Matt Herges might well have given up the inside track to one of the two open bullpen spots yesterday. Pitching in the ninth inning, Herges was horrendous: giving up three hits, a walk and four runs (albeit one of the unearned). Given that the other lefties are Dusty Hughes and Rule 5 pick Edgar Osuna, Herges still has a chance, but that was an awful outing.

Mitch Maier, Kila Ka’aihue……

A little visit here to the ‘beat the dead horse’ section. Both players singled yesterday and simply reminded me that signing Brian Anderson (and maybe one of Podsednik or Ankiel) and last year’s trade for Mike Jacobs were completely unnecessary. Yes, that’s right, I AM basing that on two spring training at-bats in the first game of the pre-season. Sometimes I am just that cynical.

Now, onto bigger and better things.

A guy named Greinke pitches this afternoon and on Saturday we will see Gil Meche and Aaron Crow go back to back. Who isn’t looking forward to that? I guess, after all, I really am glad the Royals are back on the diamond.