Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

I’ve been in Kansas City all winter. It’s been brutal. Cold, snowy, sub-zero wind chills. I hate winter.

Today winter is over. Today, the Royals play their first game of the SPRING.

About time.http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3054/2323207446_d93bb55ed5.jpg

SABR Trey posted his opening spring lineup. It looks like something we could see during the regular season.

LF Scott Podsednik
C Jason Kendall
1B Billy Butler
CF Rick Ankiel
RF Jose Guillen
DH Alberto Callaspo
3B Alex Gordon
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
2B Chris Getz

Don’t think I’m endorsing this lineup. I’m most certainly not. However, I did previously state that I think Hillman sometimes needs more trial and error to figure things out. Granted, you would think most of these things should be fairly obvious, but I guess It’s better late than never.

Anyway, this isn’t an especially good lineup. Kendall should never hit above seventh. And Guillen should lose his glove for the good of the team and just decide if he’s going to play, he’s going to DH. And Podsednik isn’t the best leadoff hitter.

To me, It’s good news that Hillman is trotting this lineup out during the Cactus League. It gives him an opportunity to see that It’s not really the best use of his resources.

Pitching-wise, it will be Kyle Davies, Robinson Tejeda, Phillip Humber, Anthony Lerew and Matt Herges. Of this group, I’m probably the most interested in seeing how Humber fares. I don’t have especially high hopes, but it would be nice if he could pitch consistently enough that he could be a long man out of the bullpen. I’ll also be keeping an eye on Tejeda. Not because I think he can be a starter. Rather, I just want to see if he can get through a couple of innings without walking more than two batters.

The Royals made a minor move yesterday, claiming Gaby Hernandez off waivers from the Red Sox. He had been claimed by Boston just a few weeks ago after spending all of last year in Triple-A Tacoma as a starter in the Mariner organization. He finished with a 5.23 ERA with 3.0 BB/9 and 6.0 K/9 in 146 innings. The K/BB ratio isn’t the best, and It’s been dropping a little too sharply since he made his professional debut as an 18 year old in 2004.

He’s been a starter for his entire career, but he could probably be a candidate for the bullpen for the Royals this year.

However, this is really just a move to create some depth. He’ll likely remain as a starter and open the year in Omaha. But anytime you can pick up a 24 year old pitcher who’s enjoyed even a little bit of success in the minors, you have to do it.

The temperature rose above 45 degrees this week in Kansas City and the Royals are playing ball.

Finally.

The other day, we hinted of some big announcements that would be hitting this site in March. The first comes today as we are pleased to announce that Nick Scott of Broken Bat Single will be joining Royals Authority. Hopefully, you’re familiar with excellent work Nick has done at his own site. The position reviews he did this winter and the corresponding heat charts was some of the best Royals analysis offered during the hot stove season. He brings some serious analytical skills to Royals Authority and will be a great addition. We’re pleased to have him on board.

Join us in welcoming Nick. His debut post follows…

There has been lots of gnashing of teeth and bucket loads of digital ink spent in regards to the Jason Kendall signing. In the past, Dayton Moore has suggested that fans are just not smart enough to understand the subtle genius behind some of his moves. I have to say, I didn’t really believe that there was a good reason for making many of the moves. On the surface, they made no sense. Like most fans and members of the media, I dismissed the signing of Jason Kendall immediately.

Any guy in his mother’s basement could tell you that Kendall hasn’t hit above .250 since 2006, or that he is 36 years old, or that he hasn’t had an OPS+ over 100 since 2004. That’s all easily looked up on the internet. However, the Royals general manager is not some guy in his mother’s basement. He is a highly intelligent baseball man who has to balance the sometimes conflicting ideas of making his owner more money and helping the team on the field win more games. Not only does he have to think about the runs and RBIs a guy creates, but also how many fans he can get to fill the seats in an effort to release more cash from the tight fisted owner.

When you look at the signing of Jason Kendall through that lens, the signing makes a lot more sense. How? Well, remember when Barry Bonds was chasing a certain home run record? Did you see many empty seats in San Francisco that year? Nope. How about the day that legendary Orioles SS Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gehrig’s iron man record? The stands were packed, right? It was a windfall for the owners of those clubs and brought in much needed resources that could have been spent to acquire talent on the free agent market.

So you are still asking: Mr. Blog man, what are you talking about? Well, let me tell you a story. It’s a story about one of the oldest records in baseball, a record that has stood for over 100 years. It’s a record that is held by a Hall of Famer named Hughie Jennings, a guy who managed Ty Cobb. It’s a record that in its pursuit Jennings was rendered unconscious for 3 days. It’s a record that Jason Kendall has a shot at surpassing, and it is surely the genesis behind his signing.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/5e/HughieJennings.jpgI am talking about the storied hit-by-pitch record of 287 held by Hughie Jennings. That magical number of 287 which is forever etched in the hearts and minds of baseball fans everywhere. Right now Jason Kendall is sitting in 5th all time with 248. The man is simply prolific at not getting out of the way of pitches coming directly at him. Since Kendall is signed for 2 years, he only needs 20 HBP each of the next two seasons to surpass the historic mark and he has been hit with 20 or more pitches in 5 different seasons. Now, granted Kendall isn’t getting plunked at the rate he was in the past, but he did get hit 17 times last season. I also have to imagine that when he gets close to the record, his instincts will step in and he will get back to his old ways of not avoiding baseballs coming in his direction.

Just think of the fans that will pack the stadium night after night in hopes that they will see HBP 288. The Royals are not likely to be playoff bound in the next season or two, so every extra fan that buys a ticket in hopes of seeing number 288 will be one extra fan to help the bottom line of the ballclub. It could be the few extra dollars that allow Dayton Moore to bring in the next Jose Guillen or Yasuhiko Yabuta to help this team compete in the future. In exactly the same way that fans packed Giants stadium in 2007 and made it a playoff atmosphere for a team that was 20 games under .500, Kendall can bring fans back to the K. And just like the Giants parlayed that revenue into a huge free agent signing with Barry Zito, so could the Royals.

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)/

With Ron Mahay, John Bale and Horacio Ramirez gone from the bullpen scene, It’s no secret the Royals are scrambling for a left-hander to pitch some relief innings. Theyve assembled a group to compete for what’s likely to be a lone job in the pen. It’s a thin group.

Dusty Hughes pitched well enough in a September audition, throwing 14 innings with 15 strikeouts with a 5.14 ERA. He made 7 relief appearances (one start) and really had just one poor outing. He’s progressed through the minors and had a 3.50 ERA in Triple-A last summer, splitting his time between the rotation and the bullpen. He could be a swing-man for the Royals.

Another potential swing-man is Bruce Chen. I know, I know Do we really need to give this guy another shot? At 33, he should be finished as a rotation candidate, but perhaps he can help out of the pen. He’s not a power arm, but has decent control – his walk rate was 3.6 BB/9 last year which was right in line with his career rate. The problem with Chen is, the guy doesn’t miss enough bats. Last year the league hit .301 against him and made contact on 85% of his strikes. His contact rate and batting average against has been climbing steadily over the last several years. Pass.

Once upon a time, John Parrish was an effective reliever for the Orioles. From 2003 to 2005 he appeared in 84 games throwing 119 innings with a 3.10 ERA. That was despite walking over six batters per nine innings. But he kept the ball in the park (0.5 HR/9) and struck out roughly 8.5 batters per nine. The walks keep him out of high leverage situations, but he could chew up an inning or two. Parrish missed all of 2009 after undergoing shoulder surgery.

The most intriguing name bandied about is Danny Duffy. Duffy, Baseball America’s eighth rated prospect for the Royals, has yet to pitch above high-A ball, but that hasn’t dampered enthusiasm for the young lefty. He projects as a starter, but the Royals could break him in through the bullpen. I’m as excited as anyone for the minor league pitching pipeline to start to produce, but I’m thinking that Duffy – who is 21 and in just his fourth professional season – needs a little more minor league seasoning. I have no problem with putting him on the fast track, but give him some time in the high minors before bringing him to the K.

Edgar Osuna was the Royals lone Rule 5 pick last December, which probably gives him the inside track on a bullpen job. Osuna has largely pitched as a starter and had a 3.72 ERA with a 2.33 SO/BB ratio in Double-A Mississippi last year. He’s just 22 and in his fifth season, which puts him slightly ahead of Duffy in the experience category. Osuna has outstanding control. In 350 minor league innings, he’s walked just 78 batters. In the lower levels of the minors, he simply blew hitters away, but as he’s risen through the ranks his strikeout rate has dropped. Last year he struck out 6.9 per nine in High A ball and 5.7 per nine following his promotion to Double A.

None of the guys the Royals have in camp profiles as a LOOGY (the left hander brought in only to face a single left handed batter). None of them own dominating platoon splits to be counted on for that role. That’s OK I guess, if SABR Trey can figure out how to juggle the match-ups and bring his lefty in at the proper times. You know, Jim Thome is still in the division…

A couple of other notes:

– The Tigers announced their pitching match-ups against the Royals for their first two games of the year. As expected Justin Verlander will start opposite Zack Greinke on Opening Day. They’ll be followed by Gil Meche and Max Scherzer in game number two.

Opening Day is great for a number of reasons. At the top of my list is it always features the top pitchers in the game. I can’t wait for the Greinke/Verlander match-up. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate.

– Today is a huge day for those of us who enjoy a video game from time to time as it’s the release day for MLB 10: The Show. Speaking of which, you absolutely have to watch this footage from the game. It starts off with a Betancourt error and features Kendall and Ankiel both striking out in a 12-1 pasting at the hands of the Rangers.

– We’ll have info soon on the 2010 Royals Authority Annual. You know Issues like cost and release date. Soon.

I’m in the best shape of my life.

Last year, there were times when my wrist hurt. Some days, my fingers were stiff. Frankly, from about July on, it was painful to type.

So this winter, I dedicated myself to getting fit. I bought one of those hand-grip things to build strength in my wrists and I ve been lifting tiny little weights with my fingers.

I m eating better, too. I hired a nutritionist. Did you know that french fries, fried motzerella sticks, buffalo wings and beer are bad for you? I thought it was fuel for blogging. Turns out it was just fuel for getting fat. I ve completely overhauled my diet. Instead of eating that stuff every day, I cut it back to five days a week. Hey, cold turkey is a bitch.

Last year, I blogged at 180. This year, I m going to blog at 165. I figure that by carrying less weight, I ll be a little faster at the keyboard. Maybe my words per minute will go up. Last year, I was at about 65 WPM. Although I don t pay attention to stats like that. I leave that to the geeks.

I m also getting plenty of sleep. Building up my reserves so I can stay up late to catch the pivotal A s-Royals tilts on the West Coast. I can t lie Last year there were times I ran out of gas by the fifth inning. This year I m going to make sure I can go the full nine.

When I broke in five years ago, I had no idea the level of commitment this took. As I moved up the ranks, it was all so easy high school english, freshman comp in college but now I m a veteran and I know what I need to do to stay healthy and inspired for a full season. This year is gonna be huge.

Let s blog.

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So, Sluggerrr pegged a fan in the eye with a hot dog and the fan is suing? Obviously, there are just a ton of jokes to make about this and since it s the Royals, it s even more hilarious. If it s not players shooting reporters, it s the mascot gunning down fans.

Let s step back a moment and imagine how this could have occurred at other ballparks:

– If it happened at a Yankee game, the problem would just magically go away. No one would hear from the plaintiff ever again.

– If it happened at a Met game, Omar Minaya would sign the mascot, slot him into the rotation in place of Oliver Perez and declare himself the winner of The Contest.

– If it happened at a Brewer game, the item of assault would have been a bratwurst.

– If it happened at a Phillies game, the rest of the crowd would have extracted their revenge on the mascot. Then, their thirst for violence only partially quenched, they would have turned on the injured fan.

– If it happened at a Dodger game, no one would have cared because Dodger Dogs are the best and it s an honor to get maimed by one.

– If it happened at a Red Sox game, John Henry would invite the injured person to be his guest in his private suite at Fenway for a playoff game, Theo would show him the company spreadsheets used to evaluate players and Terry Francona would let him be an honorary captain for a three game series against the Yankees.

– If it happened at a Giants game, the fan would have been struck by sushi.

– If it happened at a Marlins game, the hot dog would have landed in an empty seat.

– If it happened at a Cardinal game, Tony LaRussa would have logged a protest with PETA on behalf of the fan for getting hit with a meat product.

– If it happened at a Rays game, it would have hit a Yankee or Red Sox fan.

– If it happened at a White Sox game, Ozzie Guillen would have called everyone involved wimps and then would have demonstrated the proper hot dog throwing technique while aiming at Kenny Williams. Yeesssssssss.

In all wiener seriousness, this sucks for the guy who got injured. No one expects to go to a Royals game and get pegged in the face by a flying hot dog courtesy of some goof in a lion costume. If you think about it, it s surprising a serious accident hasn t happened with that compressed air launcher they normally just to turn food into missiles.

I hope the Royals do the right thing and help the guy out. Although since this has landed in court, I wonder if we re past the point where the Royals would do anything on their own.

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Some random notes while I m still in the best blogging shape of my life.

-If you re not on Twitter, you re missing some great Royals Authority tweets. However, I m now prepared to announce that Ozzie Guillen on Twitter is the best thing to ever happen on the internet. Yeeessssssss.

-Greg Schaum launched his new website last week, Royals Prospects. If there s someone who knows more than Greg about the Royals minor league system Let s just say no one knows more about the Royals minor league system than Greg. He s already got just a ton of content. Do yourself a favor and bookmark it.

-We’ll have a couple of really cool announcements coming soon about the direction we hope to take Royals Authority for the upcoming season. Really cool announcements. Stuff where everyone wins. Stay tuned…

Jose Guillen is in camp, in shape and healthy after two off-season surgeries (neither done by Jose himself, this time).

On the one hand, good for Jose. He showed up ready to go, saying all the right things about helping the team and, at least on the first day, seems to be motivated to have a good year.

On the other hand, Guillen is ‘not about to concede’ his outfield spot and become the full-time designated hitter. Anyone see some clubhouse outbursts down the line?

Guillen’s prickly personality aside, my real concern lies in what Trey Hillman might do.

Last year, we saw several occasions where Hillman sat David DeJesus against lefties (who David hit 13 points higher against than right handers last year) in favor of Willie Bloomquist. What is he going to do with Jose Guillen, who for all his faults is a better hitter (when healthy and right) than Willie?

Rick Ankiel was promised the centerfield job and Dayton Moore did not go out and sign Scott Podsednik to have him sit the bench. So that leaves DeJesus on the firing line, along with Alberto Callaspo. How long into the season will it be before the Royals trot out a lineup that does not include those two players? Players that just happened to be and probably still are the team’s second and third best hitters.

It is certainly not bad to have options and competition in spring training. Who knows? A market might yet open up that allows Moore to make a move involving one of the above. Right now, however, the thought of Trey having more options to ‘mix and match’ mostly makes my head hurt.

Perhaps, as someone is sure to comment, this is too much worrying about something that has yet to happen. Here’s a better question, which trade would you make on say, March 20th:

  • Guillen for a mid-level (somewhere outside of an organization’s top 15) prospect
  • Callaspo for an untested but near major league level position player (probably outside of an organization’s top 10) and another minor prospect
  • DeJesus for a real prospect emerging from AA and another mid-level prospect from about the same level

Are any of these trade options really realistic? I am frankly not sure, go ahead and comment on that, too. At same time, however, assume that the deals are out there and tell me which one you would do.

One of the first Spring Sunshine stories comes via Brian Bannister who reports his shoulder feels great and he s in top physical condition.

It really shouldn’t be a surprise his shoulder is feeling good. Once it was determined (by a doctor outside the Royals organization) that he didn’t need surgery, it was fairly obvious that a winter of rest followed by a conditioning program would whip his shoulder back into shape. He was suffering from a dead arm. When that happens during the season, the pitcher normally takes a start or two off from the rotation – and in extreme cases can land on the DL for a couple of weeks – before returning as if nothing happened. When the dead arm occurs at the end of the season, like it did with Bannister, the rest period can be followed by conditioning to build strength and stamina.

It really wasn’t a surprise Bannister ended the season on the shelf. Thanks to Trey Hillman s Starting Rotation Chainsaw Massacre, Bannister was pushed to the limit last year. In five starts beginning July 10, he averaged over 111 pitches per start. Previously, he had averaged 95 pitches per start.

I doubt it was coincidence that in his two starts following his stretch of five where he was overworked, he threw a total of 10 innings and allowed 14 runs on 16 hits while striking out only four batters. Hillman didn’t notice anything was amiss or he was negligent as hell as he kept sending Bannister out to work long outings while getting his brains beat in. Bannister finally reached his breaking point on September 2 when he lasted only 1.1 innings. That was four days after he threw a season high 119 pitches in a start in Seattle.

Bannister has exhibited what we ll call a lack of stamina in the past. In his rookie season in 2007, he simply ran out of gas in September when he posted a 7.30 ERA and struck out only six batters while walking eight in his final 25 innings. In 2008, he was pitching OK through June 23 when he had a 4.47 ERA, allowing 11 home runs in 99 innings to that point. However in that start in late June he threw 113 pitches. That came just two starts after throwing a career-high 127 pitches against the Rangers. From that point on, he wasn’t the same pitcher. Over his final 84 innings, he had a 7.29 ERA and allowed 18 home runs.

I could be way off, but I really think the accumulation of starts with high pitch counts hurts Bannister. Say what you will about how pitchers are treated, but understand that not all pitchers are created equal. While someone like Zack Greinke can throw 120 pitches and feel fine, someone like Bannister can throw 100 pitches and feel exhausted.

It s an indictment against the Royals that they apparently haven t figured this out.

More notes:

– Jose Guillen arrived late to camp due to the death of a sibling. Never an easy situation, but apparently the death was unexpected, which can make it even more difficult to deal with. Positive thoughts go out to Guillen and his family.

– Apparently, we’re going to get a new lineup everyday from SABR Trey and the Royals. Maybe they’re using us as a focus group. Here s the latest as reported by Dutton:

Podsednik – LF
Kendall – C
DeJesus – RF
Butler – 1B
Ankiel – CF
Callaspo – DH
Gordon – 3B
Betancourt – SS
Getz – 2B

Honestly, that makes my head hurt.

Hillman just seems kind of slow, doesn t he? No reasonable follower of baseball would construct a lineup like that. However, Hillman will throw that order out for a couple of games in April, the Royals will score less than two runs a game and we ll never see it again.

It s kind of like when he hit Mike Jacobs and Miguel Olivo back to back early last year. That lasted a handful of games before Hillman realized he was short-circuiting any kind of potential rally with a couple of out machines together in the lineup.

He gets it. Eventually.

With the Royals’ position players officially reporting today, the excitement of spring training games looming on the horizon is starting to build. (I mean that sincerely, not sarcastically, by the way)

I don’t intend to rain on that parade and let me preface this very short column by saying I like Chris Getz and really hope he becomes a fixture at second base for the Royals, but how easily could the names that are due to report today be different? And, if so, might the Royals be better if they were?

Of course, I am not talking ‘contender’ better, but certainly ‘intriguingly’ better. There are players out there right now, without jobs or who recently just got them, that one could realistically see fitting into the Royals lineup this year. It is a nasty game of hindsight as no one could really predict how the free agent market would go this year, but we’ll play it anyway.

What if Dayton Moore had not traded Mark Teahen for Chris Getz and Josh Fields? Or signed Scott Podsednik and/or Rick Ankiel?

Instead, what if the Royals had signed Felipe Lopez in their thirst to not have to watch Alberto Callaspo attempt to field ground balls? What if they had signed Russell Branyan and Johnny Gomes?

Currently, Gomes has yet to come to terms with the Reds. No one seems to want Lopez and Branyan just finally found employment last week.

Sure, Gomes is a butcher in right field, although certainly no worse than Jose Guillen. Would an outfield of Teahen-DeJesus-Gomes and an infield of Gordon-Betancourt-Lopez-Butler, with Branyan as your DH be more or less likely to win than what is probably going to take the field in April?

By the time you are reading this, the first workout of the pitchers and catchers could be underway. Awesome.

Time for the first edition of spring notes.

Let s start with a little old news. Hopefully, it s a semi-fresh take. Anyway, here s Trey Hillman s top choice for a lineup as reported by the Star s Bob Dutton:

Podsednik – LF
Getz – 2B
DeJesus – RF
Butler – 1B
Ankiel – CF
Guillen – DH
Gordon – 3B
Betancourt – SS
Kendall – C

A few random, knee-jerk thoughts:

– Any lineup that fails to feature Alberto Callaspo who was the team’s second best hitter last summer is a bad lineup. There can be no debate about this.

– The outfield alignment is screwed up, but we knew this was going to happen.

– Podsednik won’t get on base enough to justify a high position in the lineup. In writing about him for the Royals Authority Annual (on sale soon!) it was obvious he s entirely dependent on a high batting average on balls in play to elevate his OBP. He walks in less than 8% of his plate appearances.

– If you re going with Getz in the lineup, I suppose he s fine at second. He makes plenty of contact and won t kill a rally with a double play. Last year in 76 double play opportunities (when he was at bat with a runner on first and less than two outs), Getz hit into only four double plays. Nifty.

– There are three guys who are made for the number nine spot in that lineup and there really isn’t a number four hitter in the bunch.

– I don’t get why SABR Trey is looking to slide Butler down to the cleanup spot. He seems perfect for the number three.

Here’s my ideal lineup:

DeJesus – CF
Getz – 2B
Butler – 1B
Ankiel – RF
Callaspo – DH
Gordon – 3B
Kendall – C
Betancourt – SS
Podsednik – LF

The best hitters on the team occupy the number 1, 3 and 5 spots in the order which gives the Royals the best chance at a big inning – Something that s going to be rare with this offense. Ankiel is probably the best long ball threat at this point, so he gets the cleanup spot by default, although if Gordon shows some thunder, I wouldn t have an issue with flip flopping them in the order. I also wouldn’t be adverse to a Gordon/Josh Fields platoon at third.

I’m not happy with putting Kendall and Betancourt back to back in the lineup, but what else can you do? Cross your fingers and hope they make the final outs of the inning (which will happen over 70% of the time) and then Podsednik can be a de facto second leadoff hitter.

– Player Inventory is the catch phrase of the spring. Holy crap, I wish I were making this up.

This new buzzword comes to us thanks to the previous season when the Royals lost Mike Aviles, Alex Gordon, Gil Meche, Coco Crisp, Brian Bannister and Kyle Davies for extended periods due to injury. Look, the Royals weren’t contenders last year, no matter what. Take the starting left side of the infield, the starting center fielder and three-fifths of the starting rotation of any team in the league and they aren’t going to have the depth necessary to cover all the loses. No way.

It s a nice idea, but if a similar scenario happens this year, the Royals would again lack the proper depth to replace all those parts. The Royals always seem to be trying to close the barn door after all the animals have escaped.

– I prefer to play what I call roster math. As Dutton points out, there are several players on the 40-man roster who have options remaining that may ultimately come into play when it comes closer to Opening Day.

For example, there s the heated battle for the backup spot in the Royals outfield. Mitch Maier doesn’t have any options left while Brian Anderson does. Of course, Anderson has a major league contract that will pay him $700k while Maier will make only around $420k. It would have been great if someone noticed this early in the off season.

Chris Getz also has an option left, which could come into the equation if he struggles badly this spring. Although it would be an epic upset if he didn’t break camp with the team.

– One related roster math note that received considerable attention was this take on Betancourt:

Something to remember: Betancourt has options remaining. While he has sufficient service time to refuse the assignment and become a free agent, he would void whatever remained of his $9 million contract through 2012 by doing so.

If Betancourt struggles, and Aviles returns to form, the Royals won t hesitate to make a switch. That won t likely happen by opening day, but the way each plays this spring bears watching.

I really wonder about this. We re talking about the same organization that gave Tony Pena, Jr every opportunity to prove his worthlessness before they finally gave up. Do we really think they would be quick to option Betancourt, a player who costs much more money and who cost them a prospect in the trade that brought him to KC? Besides, there s a ton of evidence that GMDM coveted Betancourt for years. Years. No, I don t think he s going to cut the cord on Betancourt so quickly.

Although it would be great if Betancourt was optioned and he declined and voided his contract. Unfortunately, stuff like that doesn’t happen to the Royals.

– The Royals slogan for 2010 is It All Happens Here. What, exactly is it? Bad fundamentals? Buck nights? Zack Greinke shutouts? Drunken nights on the party porch? The possibilities are endless. I suppose that’s the idea.
KCR_Happens_Primary_wbg

There’s a TV commercial that goes along with this slogan and can be viewed here. When you watch it, it’s apparent that they’re de-empahsizing baseball and instead trying to sell all the other periphery that goes on at the stadium. By my count, there were roughly 35 cuts in the commercial – three of which featured actual baseball being played by actual Royals. The same number of cuts that featured food.

Yesterday, Clark posted his over/under scenarios for the regular season. Today, I present some questions I have as camp gets set to open. We ll find out some answers almost immediately and others will take a bit longer to sort out.

Hey, the good news is, baseball is in the air. About damn time. On with the questions.

Are Gil Meche and Brian Bannister healthy and ready to make 32 starts for the Royals?

Although both pitchers were felled by Trey Hillman’s Starting Pitcher Chainsaw Massacre, Meche’s troubles began in his first spring training start last year when he reported a stiff back following a one inning outing. If both are healthy and Meche returns to the form he flashed in his first two seasons with the Royals and Bannister can continue to refine his cutter he developed last year, this team has the foundation of a quality starting rotation. As many have pointed out, the CHONE projections have the Royals rotation ranked as the 6th best in baseball.

Take those projections with a grain of salt. Zack Greinke has the highest projected WAR among all pitchers and CHONE is making the assumption that both Meche and Bannister are healthy and at the top of their game. Certainly, the potential is there, but let s not get carried away just yet.

Where will Alberto Callaspo play?

Did you see the Star’s rundown of the 40 man roster on Sunday. Nothing huge, just little capsules on each player along with a one-liner about how they fit on the team. For Chris Getz, the line read, Second base is his job to lose.

Really?

I know Callaspo leaves a lot to be desired with his glove, but this is a team in desperate need for offense, which is something Callaspo provides. If Getz is the starting second baseman, will the Royals slide Callaspo over to DH? I’d be fine with that, but then what happens with Jose Guillen? Honestly, I could care less about what happens with Guillen, but do we really want to hear the inevitable stories about how he’s pissed off? Oh well, this is his last season here, so he may as well go out with some fireworks.

Speaking of Guillen, is there any chance the Royals will get some production out of him in 2010?

I’ve heard various reports about his health and fitness this winter. It’s ranged from good to bad to horrible, so how he’s doing health-wise is anyone s guess.

My hope is, he reports to camp fat and hurt and the Royals decide to immediately end the Guillen era and give him his unconditional release. Hey, we’re out $12 million for 2010 anyway.

Has anyone heard if the Royals found someone to play the part of Sluggerrrr? Maybe the Royals can get their money s worth by having Guillen don the costume. That would be great, but can you imagine the liability when he s performing at a birthday party, drops a handful of f-bombs and then tears his groin while shooting hot dogs?

Is Billy Butler still motivated?

The knock on Butler prior to last season was he lacked a certain amount of maturity that would push him to realize his potential. All he did to dispel that notion was to work all winter on his defense and report to camp in excellent shape.

My question then, did he do something similar this off season? Sometimes, success creates a comfort level and some athletes aren’t able (or willing) to push themselves to maintain that success.

I m not saying Butler is a candidate for regression. There s no evidence he decided to take the winter off and rest on his laurels. I m just saying I hope he’s still working just as hard as he worked last year. I just get the feeling he could have a monster year if he put in the proper work this winter.

Who will set-up Soria?

The Dayton Moore era has been marked with bullpen uncertainty almost since day one. Sometimes, it all works out like it did in 2008. Other times not so much, like last year. Juan Cruz will be looking to bounce back but with Kyle Farnsworth and Robinson Tejeda auditioning for a starting role, there aren t many known commodities currently residing in the back of the bullpen.

(Hopefully the Royals understand Farnsworth isn’t an option to be a set-up man. I fear when it becomes apparent he can t start, the Royals will undoubtedly try him in this role once again.)

Will Alex Gordon be ready for the season?

Last year was supposed to be his breakout year, but now like his free agency, it s been delayed a season.

With newly acquired third baseman Josh Fields in the fold, is it possible the Royals picked him up to apply some pressure to Gordon? The parallels between the two are interesting in that both were highly touted prospects coming out of college and have yet to come close to that potential in the majors. Fields represents a true alternative should Gordon once again falter (through injury or poor performance.) That s something the Royals have never really had at third. Certainly, Teahen could have been that but during his last three years with the team, his services were needed at other positions. This year, Fields doesn’t really fit anywhere on this team.

I think it would be super cool if they threw the third base job wide open. Fields versus Gordon, may the best man win. It’s not like your going to piss Gordon off more than you already have. Besides, competition is healthy. That alone would make spring training infinitely more interesting.

There you go. A few questions for you to ponder as the equipment trucks and players roll into Surprise to get ready for the season.

There have been some over/under type topics on other websites and comments, so apologies to anyone who thinks I stole their idea (it’s possible that I did!).

Here are ten numbers that I think will have a very distinct impact on what the Royals’ 2010 season might become. Hitting the overs on these would, without question, surpass all expectations anyone has for the team this coming season.

  • Zack Greinke’s Win Total

Wins are a horrible indicator of how good a starting pitcher really was (see Zack Greinke circa 2009), but if the Royals are going to have at least an acceptable season, Zack will need to pitch well and be rewarded for it. How many games did he leave last year after giving up two runs or less in six plus innings of work and not get a win? EIGHT.

The over/under for Greinke wins: 18

  • Gil Meche’s Innings

Another key to the Royals’ in 2010 is simply a healthy Gil Meche. You can spin it anyway you want to (and there is major portion of the Royals’ fanbase that simply refuses to believe Meche is good), but not a lot of pitchers can match Meche’s two year run through 2007 and 2008 for innings and performance. Comfortably settled in as the number two pitcher and hopefully healthy, Meche grinding up major innings with an earned run average in the upper threes is a necessity and a very real possibility.

The over/under for Meche innings: 200

  • Alex Gordon Home Runs

Will 2010 be the year that Alex actually breaks out? If not, the chances that there ever will be a breakout season will pretty much be gone. There are a lot of factors that define ‘break out’: on-base percentage, lower strikeouts, a decent average, but if Gordon hits with power and posts a big number in this area, I have to believe all those other things will have fallen in line, too.

The over/under for Gordon home runs: 27

  • Mike Aviles Games Played

Unlike so many other players, Aviles will not get to play unless he is actually performing (a novel concept, I know). Plus, playing in a number of games will mean he is truly healthy. Given that a number of organizational favorites that are between Mike and playing time, he will truly earn whatever appearances he is granted. The more Aviles the better, in my book.

Over/under on Aviles games played: 105

  • Chris Getz On-Base Percentage

I am on the Getz bandwagon, for better or worse. Assuming he is the everyday second baseman, which I think is almost pre-ordained, his ability to get on-base is key.

Over/under on Getz OBP: .360

  • Rick Ankiel Slugging Percentage

Ankiel is going to play, barring injury, and his calling card will be power. I don’t care if it’s doubles or home runs and I think we would be be delusional to believe whatever power Rick hits with would be accompanied by batting average and on-base percentage.

Over/under on Ankiel’s ‘Slug’: .500

  • Joakim Soria’s Saves

Again, in the world of pitching, saves is not a tremendous indicator of performance. When taken in terms of the team concept, your closer getting major numbers of saves is an indicator of good starting pitching, solid setup and at least enough offense to keep you in the game. In this case, Soria getting enough save opportunities (that he converts them is as safe a bet as there is) will mean that void that existed in innings seven and eight last year has been filled.

Over/under on Soria’s saves: 40

  • Billy Butler’s Doubles

We expect a lot out of Billy this year and with good reason. He might have ‘batting title’ potential. He might hit a ton of home runs. He might be the total hitting package. In the end, if Butler has a ton of doubles, everything else will likely take care of itself.

Over/under on Billy’s doubles: 55

  • Luke Hochevar’s ERA

How nice would it be for Hochevar to simply become solid? I’m not asking for the moon here, just for the former number one pick to settle as a nice middle of the rotation guy. We will assume that Hochevar will get the ball every fifth day this year, so posting something reasonable in this category would be big for the Royals.

Over/under on Hochevar’s earned run average: 4.30

  • Jose Guillen’s Games Played

You can hope that Jose is healthy, content and gets off to a good start, making him tradable or at least tolerable. However, since I tend to live in the real world, I think the best thing that can happen is that Jose simply does not play a lot for whatever reason. Unlike the other nine over/unders, this one is all about hitting the under.

Over/under on Guillen games played: 24

Make the first nine overs and hit the last under and Kansas City might not be a contender, but they at least will be interesting.