Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

We are already underway in Detroit this afternoon with Luke Hochevar about to toe the rubber in the bottom of the first.   The big question with Luke this year deals not with his ability to have a good start now and then, but instead in his ability to string several good starts together.

Last year, Hochevar had three truly great outings, each of which was followed by a clunker…or two.  Have a look:

  • June 12th versus the Reds.   Hochevar throws just 80 pitches in a complete game that saw him allow just three hits and a run.   He followed that outing by getting lit up for six earned runs in just four innings.
  • July 25th versus Texas.   This was the game that we saw Hochevar fan 13 batters in seven innings of work, allowing just five hits and two earned runs.   In his next start, Luke allowed seven runs in six innings.
  • September 18th at Chicago.   Hochevar fired a complete game, three hit shutout.   He gave up six runs in five innings in his following start.

After throwing seven shutout innings in his first start of 2010, can Luke be effective again today?

I began doing a podcast about the Royals over at www.brokenbatsingle.com prior to Clark and Craig inviting me to join Royals Authority.  I’ve continued to do the podcast over there and it will continue to be the podcast homepage.  However, I will be posting a link to the show here every time a new one is up,  which has been about once a week.  The description of the show and links on how to subscribe and listen are below.  I hope you enjoy it.

Episode #010 – Nick recaps the first week of the regular season against the Detroit Tigers and the Boston Red Sox.  Aviles is sent to AAA, Meche has a bad outing, the bullpen and the number of bathrooms at the K. All of that plus a look around the minors and the heroes and goats of the week.

Click here to download the show directly

Click here to subscribe via iTunes

Click here to subscribe via Zune

Click here for the podcast RSS feed

There are a number of blogs out there that provide extensive, everyday coverage of the Royals’ minor league system with far more expertise than I.   In particular, I highly recommend checking in with Greg Schaum’s Royal Prospect site each morning for up to date happenings.  However, we like to check in periodically and hit some of the high points of what is going on down on the farm.  

Today, we are going to give you links to the full rosters of the four full season affiliates who kicked off their seasons on Thursday, with some hopefully noteworthy observations.

The AAA Omaha Royals have several players a lot of us would just as soon see in Kansas City right now.   Without question and, for one of the few times in recent years, the O-Royals will be in a position to offer some real help when the big club needs it.

Nine of the twelve pitchers currently on the active roster have pitched in the majors, four of whom I would consider veteran major leaguers.  The three who have not:  Gaby Hernandez, Greg Holland and Blake Wood, might just be the three with the most potential.   Wood threatened to make the big league roster this spring and might well be the first to get a callup.   

Offensively, Kila Ka’aihue (who homered on Thursday night) returns once more to AAA, where his ability to get on-base will continue to be ignored by the organization.   Veteran Wilson Betemit provides insurance and a little bit of pop at all the infield positions should catastrophe or potential trade opens up a spot in KC.   The outfield is stocked by Jordan Parraz (who also homered on Thursday), legitimate prospect David Lough and Hillman favorite Jarrod Dyson.   Dyson will begin the season on the disabled list, along with submarining blog hero Chris Hayes.

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals already sport two members of the 2009 draft class: starter Aaron Crow and reliever Louis Coleman.    Both could see the majors by September, maybe sooner.   Rule 5 pick Edgar Osuna ended up with the Naturals, too, after the Braves did not want him back.   Keep an eye on reliever Blaine Hardy also, who had a sensational year in A ball.    Looking for our old pal Rowdy Hardy?  He is on this roster, too, but starts the year on disabled list.

Johnny Giavotella is the biggest prospect active right now on the offensive side of the ball.   The second baseman might be poised for a big year in the Texas League.   Hopefully sooner rather than later, Johnny will be joined by Mike Moustakas, who is also starting the year on the DL.   A couple of big boppers, Clint Robinson and Ernesto Mejia will alternate at first base and designated hitter, while speedster Derrick Robinson will patrol centerfield and hopefully hit….for once.

Looking for a couple of potential sleepers?   Why not outfielders Nick Van Stratten, who has hit everywhere when given a chance, and Paulo Orlando, who I like far better than anyone else.

Alex Gordon began his rehab assignment by going one for two with a walk and hit by pitch for the Wilmington Blue Rocks.  He followed up on Friday night with two more walks, a hit and another hit by pitch.  While the organization is certain that Gordon’s time in Wilmington will be brief, they are likely hoping that Eric Hosmer is ready to move quickly, too.   Eric had a pretty mundane 2009, marred by finger and vision problems, and will be looking to live up to the hype in 2010.   Nineteen year old catcher Salvador Perez is worth watching as well.

You want an exciting minor league rotation?  Check out the Blue Rocks’ top three combo of Mike Montgomery (who dominated on opening night), Tim Melville and Chris Dwyer.   Add to that the possible arrival in May of Noel Arguelles and it gets really interesting.  Out of the bullpen, I love Barry Bowden, who has simply gotten everyone out everywhere since being signed as an undrafted free agent.

The big name on the Burlington Bees roster is catcher Wil Myers.  While you watch his progress, also take note of outfielder Hilton Richardson who was drafted as a toolsy, but raw, prospect two seasons ago and may be ready to take a big step forward.    Joey Lewis, a 41st round pick last year clubbed two home runs on Friday.

Two pitchers returning from injury will be in the Bees rotation:  Kelvin Herrera and Matt Mitchell.   Both have been impressive when healthy.   They are joined by Tyler Sample, who made impressive improvement in his second year of rookie ball in 2009 and John Lamb.

Some names you might be looking for that do not appear on the above rosters include Shane Costa and Mario Lisson (both injured).  In addition, Jason Godin, Matt Kinginzyky and Gilbert de la Vara, among others were released prior.

You know, SABR Trey is just never going to get how to use his bullpen.  Leading by one run with six outs to go, you hand the ball to a waiver claim from the previous week who rumor has it, will be placed on waivers again to activate Gil Meche on Saturday?

Why wouldn’t you go with Juan Cruz or Roman Colon in that situation?  I’m not saying they would be better than Luis Mendoza – although if you want to go by history – they should be better.  The whole issue with the bullpen is it’s loaded to the brim with crap.  There are going to be a ton of games this year where they can’t hold a lead for Soria.  Hell, Soria himself couldn’t seal the deal in game two of the series. (Although that was one of the more insane at bats I’ve ever seen.)

Hillman will always be under the microscope when it comes to his handling of the bullpen.  Some of it will be unjustified because quite frankly, they don’t have the quality arms in relief.  However, I’m a firm believer that you put your players in the best position to bring them and your team success.  I just don’t see how using Mendoza in that situation does that.  That’s why I would have preferred Colon or Cruz.  (I’m assuming Robinson Tejeda was unavailable after throwing the night before.)

And then sending Mendoza back out there in the ninth, down a run, just feels to me like Hillman was waving the white flag.

Three games in and Hillman is already on the defensive:

“It’s disappointing, but I’ve seen a couple of other games on TV. There have been some other bullpens blow up with a lot higher payroll than ours and with a lot more guys established in the roles that they’re in.”

Really?  Are we supposed to care about “other bullpens?”  Hillman always says some crazy things, but when managers start deflecting, that’s trouble.

So here we are… three gems tossed by the starting pitchers and one win to show.  Groundhog year, anyone?

–Brian Bannister generally followed his 2009 script on Thursday afternoon.  Remember last year, how Bannister started to throw a cutter and a power change?  Turn to the Bannister entry in your Royals Authority Annual for a breakdown of how often he threw each pitch.  Nevermind… Here’s how often he threw each pitch last summer:

Fastball – 17%
Cutter – 52%
Change – 20%
Curve – 11%

Yesterday, his pitches broke down like this:

Fastball – 49%
Cutter – 26%
Change – 14%
Curve – 8%

The power change and the cutter are pitches with a lot of downward bite and the result last year was a 1.26 AO/GO ratio.  That was the first time in his career the majority of his outs came on the ground.  That’s why he was having such a strong year until he fell victim to Hillman’s Starting Pitcher Chainsaw Massacre.

Bannister turned more to his fastball on Thursday, but still mixed in plenty of cutters and change-ups.  However, the results couldn’t have been more different.  Here’s how he recorded his outs.

Strikeout – 3
Caught Stealing – 1
Ground Ball – 1
Fly Ball/Line Drive – 14

Whoa.  That’s less than ideal.

The Tigers got good wood on the ball a few times, but most of those were hit directly at the outfielders.  The wind was blowing strongly from right to left, but I don’t think the wind knocked anything down.  Magglio Ordonez’s home run in the sixth was the real deal.  A bomb.

As we know, Bannister is a student of the statistical side of the game, so I’m sure he’ll figure out luck played a major factor in his performance.  It will be interesting to see how he adjusts going forward.  Against a better lineup that the Tigers, his outing on Thursday could have been disastrous.

A couple of other thoughts from the series finale…

FREE MIKE AVILES

Really… Why bother putting him on the 25 man roster if he’s going to spend the first three games exercising his glutteal muscles on the bench?  There have literally been a ton of opportunities for him to be used as a pinch hitter.

If it’s all about building strength and confidence in his elbow, then shouldn’t he be in the minors to, you know… play?  And if you’re worried about his elbow, why not use him as a DH?  Or as a pinch hitter?  Instead, he enters Thursday’s game as a pinch runner.  With Wee Willie and Mitch Maier on the bench.  Jeez.  If I’m the manager, I bring in either one of those guys as the runner and use Aviles as a pinch hitter.  Don’t you think his bat would have been preferable to Yuniesky Betancourt’s in the eighth?

So frustrating…

–Speaking of Betancourt, him swinging at the first pitch with one out and the tying run at third in the bottom of the eighth is just a horrible, horrible approach in that situation.  Exhibit #4,396 of why Betancourt may have the tools the scouts rave about but he’ll never be anything but a terrible player.  His muff of the ground ball earlier in the inning is Exhibit #4,395

–After Getz stole second in the bottom of the fifth, why would SABR Trey have DeJesus bunt?  In other words, given the situation (no outs and a two run lead in the middle innings against a below average starter who has thrown 80 pitches) why would you play for one run?  I worry that this “small ball” mantra is clouding better baseball judgement.  When I say that, I’m thinking about Podsednik’s bunt attempt in the bottom of the first inning with no outs in the home opener.

We need a happy small ball medium here.

–I’m going to keep track of Dave Owen’s boneheaded coaching moves this year.  After his sending of the runner down four runs in the seventh inning with only one out, he’s left me with no choice.  The situation only partially describes how foolish that move was.  The runner he was sending was Jason Kendall.  And if he held Kendall at third, that would have brought up the tying run – Billy Butler.  The man simply has no feel for the situation. (No wonder he’s a FOST – Friend Of SABR Trey.)

More shenanigans from the third base coaching box on Wednesday when Kendall gets caught in a rundown to end the seventh – fortunately after the run crosses the plate.  But that wasn’t the worst – or the most bizarre.

In the 11th, after Callaspo tied it with his jack, Butler lines a single.  Wee Willie comes in to pinch run and the next batter, Rick Ankiel laces one to the gap in right-center. Wee Willie should score easily, but Owen puts on the brakes.  After his mistake in Game 1, he suddenly developed the yips in Game 2.  Ugh.  Fortunately, Bloomquist looks back to the ball while rounding third (something all good baserunners should do – pick up the location of the ball.)  When he does, he sees the Tiger second baseman fumble the cutoff and he sprints home with the winning run.

Heads up base running by Wee Willie.  And it turns out he did it all on his own.  Replays showed Owen, after he put up his arms to prevent Bloomquist from scoring, standing with his hands on his knees and his mouth closed during this sequence.  He gave no indication that Bloomquist should advance.  How was that possible?

Anyway, Owen emerged from Thursday’s matinee rather unscathed.  His body count for the 2010 season remains at two.

I started to write this column during the game last night, but after I had rewritten the opening paragraph three times and watched the Royals go from one strike away from a win to almost certain defeat back to winning, I decided a mental break was in order.  

We will start at the beginning and recap last night’s 3-2 extra inning win.

An effective Luke Hochevar is one of the top three keys to the Royals doing anything more than just keeping their heads above water this year.    Last night, we had a very effective Hochevar on the mound.    Now, we have seen this act before:  the one where Luke pitches so well that we all just know that he has finally turned the corner, only to see Hochevar stumble back into ineffectiveness.   What was different last night was the velocity with which Luke threw.

The Royals have seemingly been tinkering with the 2006 number one overall pick since the moment he signed on the dotted line.   They continued to do so this spring and were rewarded with an average fastball velocity of 95.2 mph on Lukes four-seamer and 94 mph on his sinker/two-seamer.   Last season, Hochevar’s average fastball velocity was 91.8 mph.   Now is the time to insert the obligatory ‘do we trust the gun?’ reference, but let’s believe until shown evidence otherwise.

Perhaps more important than raw velocity, was Hochevar’s ability to keep the ball down.  Sixteen of the twenty ‘in-play’ outs he recorded were ground balls.   Not only that, but all sixteen were fielded flawlessly by the Royals’ infield:  noteworthy simply for the rarity of that event last season.   

More of this from Hochevar and a healthy start from Gil Meche on Sunday will start to get me excited this year.

We here at the Authority certainly have dished out our share of criticism of Trey Hillman, but I have to give him a little credit for two pitching moves on Wednesday night.   First, Trey went to Joakim Soria for the final out of the 8th inning.   I liked this move for several reasons, not the least of which was that Hochevar was at 89 pitches in his first start of the year and  his velocity was slipping.    Secondly, Austin Jackson was in just his second major league game and probably has never encountered the likes of Soria in his entire life.    Third, I don’t trust another reliever in the bullpen.   It was the right move in a close game where his team really needed a win.

Miguel Cabrera is good, not lucky.  Let’s face it, two inches to the right or eighteen inches lower and Cabrera does not tie the game with two outs and two strikes in the ninth inning.   That said, Cabrera knew that Soria could not get a grip on his breaking pitches last night and simply stood in and fouled off fastballs until he could get one in play.   For whatever reason (cold/rain/wind), Joakim simply could not get his curveball within four feet of the strike zone and it eventually caught up to him against Cabrera.

The second kudo to Hillman, goes for his replacement of Robinson Tejeda with lefty specialist John Parrish in the top of the tenth.    Not only was it a lefty on lefty matchup, but Johnny Damon was one for fourteen lifetime against Parrish.   Again, the proper move at the proper time:  noteworthy only because it seldom happened last season.

Why Kyle Farnsworth?  When the Royals trotted out Kyle Farnsworth to start the eleventh, I pretty much figured Hillman had decided it was too early in the year to play more than eleven innings.   Sure, Farnsworth had pitched an effective inning in the meaningless ninth on Monday, but we all know what the bespectacled one does in a tight game late.   If you don’t remember, check last night’s play by play:  three straight hits and the go ahead run.

I know there are really no options beyond Soria in the bullpen, but in a tie game Farnsworth is the worst option and we have history, stats and scouting reports to prove it.

A good night for The Process.  Dayt0n Moore had to be smiling after seeing after seeing his off-season acquisitions account for nine of the Royals’ twelve baserunners on the night.    Sure, it was Alberto Callaspo who tied the game and Billy Butler who (in the person of pinch-runner Willie Bloomquist) accounted for the game winning run, but there was Rick Ankiel bashing a double to the wall that triggered the winning run.    Jason Kendall and Scott Podsednik each walked twice, Chris Getz drove in the first run of the night and bunted what could have been the winning run over in the tenth.   I am skeptical of all those guys except Getz, but on this night it was hard to argue with the results.

Overall, had the Royals lost, we could have gone negative pretty easily.  Why not a pinch hitter at some point in this game?    Why, after he made the last out of the tenth, not replace Podsednik and his awful arm with Mitch Maier for defense (magnified when the Tigers scored their run in the 11th on a single to left)?    

For today, however, the Royals did win on a night when their All-Star closer blew a save and Kyle Farnsworth pitched when it mattered.   While I have long ago given up on the idea of momentum in baseball, you simply have to take like that the Royals managed to pull this one out.

So the big announcement promised on Monday comes a few days late… The cat is already out of the proverbial bag at this point.  Anyway, just in case you didn’t hear:

Royals Authority has joined ESPN’s Sweet Spot Network as their Royals blog.

Clark, Nick and I are really pumped about this opportunity to partner with ESPN.  We have to thank Rob Neyer and the gang at ESPN for pulling everything together.  Rob made the announcement on Tuesday and kind of gave a State Of The SweetSpot laying out the reasons behind forming this network and his vision for the future.

Just because we’ve “gone corporate” doesn’t mean our coverage of our favorite team is going to change.  We are going to continue to break down The Process, piece by piece and while providing the same Royals coverage you (hopefully) enjoy on a daily basis.  It may sound corny, but you guys are the reason for our success.  We can’t thank you enough for reading and commenting.

Since the network is brand new, we’re still not sure about the total role we will play.  They’ll link to us from time to time and they’ve already used us for their Power Rankings.  We may get into an ESPN chat when the Royals are on the network.  (Not holding my breath on that one.)  If you are a basketball fan and you know about their True Hoop network, that is what we’re hoping to emulate.

One change you may have noticed is the navigation bar at the top of the site.  The pulldown menu features other bloggers on the network.  We also feature them on our sidebar. Visit them.  It’s a quality group.

In other site news, as part of our goal to be a one-stop for Royals information, we’ve added a few new pages at the top of the site.  The first link is 2010 Payroll, which breaks down the contracts of the 25 players on the roster and the three currently on the DL.  There’s also a graph that charts the Opening Day payroll going back five years to 2006.

We also added a page dedicated to Dayton Moore and the moves he’s made as General Manager.  It’s a resource that lists every trade, waiver claim and free agent he’s brought to Kansas City.  It will continue to be updated throughout the year.  It’s not meant to be a commentary, rather it’s a reference.  If you can’t remember who was involved in his first ever trade (Brandon Duckworth) or who his most frequent trade partner is (White Sox – 4 deals) you can hit his page and see for yourself.

Finally, on a personal note, I am currently writing about fantasy baseball at Baseball Prospectus.  I’m just as excited and enthused about this development as I am our partnership with ESPN.  Plus, I get to talk about RBI.  My latest piece is about cleanup hitters.

It’s been quite a month at Royals Authority.  Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…

Luke Hochevar vs. Max Scherzer on Wednesday. We’ll get to see how Hochevar fares after taking that comebacker off his ankle in his final spring start.  There’s also the matter of his new changeup.  Should be interesting.  It always is.

There is no regular season game in baseball more watched, attended and therefore dissected than Opening Day.  For most baseball writers, the story the next day writes itself.  If your team wins, then you write about how it’s important to get off to a good start.  If your team loses, then you write about how the season is a marathon and not a sprint.  Both statements are equally true, so the stories are fine for most teams.  However, what happened yesterday was for Royals fans just another in a long line of disappointing games.  I know that the baseball season is a marathon and not a sprint, but it seems this marathon has been going on for decades and at some point it has to end.

As Royals fans we can curse our lot in life.   We can blame the fact that the team is in one of the smallest markets in baseball.  We can blame the fact that the team is at a disadvantage because of the way baseballs revenue system is structured.  Yes, those things have an effect, but they are not the sole cause of the current state of Royals baseball.

I am sure by now most if not all people reading this blog know what happened yesterday.  If not, then you can check out a great graph of the game here.  Greinke was Greinke and held the Tigers to only 2 runs in 6 innings.  However in the 7th, the bullpen came in and gave up 6 runs which effectively destroyed the Royals chances to win and dashed thousands of fans hopes for a decent season.

But it didn’t have to be this way.  When SABR Trey was running out the bullpen parade yesterday, I was thinking to myself about the 2009 offseason.  It was in that offseason that Dayton Moore made two extremely short-sighted and ill-fated moves which compounded into more problems in 2010.  In 2009 the Royals traded Leo Nunez and Ramon Ramirez for Mike Jacobs and Coco Crisp respectively.  Nunez and Ramirez were young bullpen arms who were very good, cheap and under team control for a few more years.  In 2008, both guys had sub 3.00 ERAs in a combined 116 appearances.  Mike Jacobs and Coco Crisp amounted to rent-a-players who were neither young nor cheap.   In a way the moves symbolize everything that I think the current front office is doing wrong.

The Royals seem to value tenure over talent.  Somehow the Royals expected Crisp’s experience in the Big Leagues to somehow translate into wins on the field for the Royals and overcome the potential loss of one of the best young relievers in baseball.  This tenure over talent mantra is manifesting itself again in the 2010 ballclub.  It was apparent when Mitch Maier, who has been one of the hottest hitters this spring, was on the bench in favor of Ankiel and Podsednik.  It also showed up when Kendall was signed, started Opening Day and was even at bat in a crucial late game situation.

The Royals also seem to ignore metrics in favor of intangibles and avoid playing their best players.  Those poor trades in 2009 showed clearly that the Royals were not really evaluating the talent they were receiving.  Mike Jacobs was a strikeout machine who hit with some power but couldn’t reach 1st base if he had to.  The current Royals roster is again filled with guys who can’t get on base and they don’t seem to mind.  They seem to think a guys gritty determination or his veteran leadership can somehow overcome his inability to actually do things during the game to help his team win.  Again, this problem wasn’t just evident in the Mike Jacobs acquisition.  In 2010, the Royals got Mike Jacobs pt 2 in Rick Ankiel and promised him center field.  He is probably the 4th best center fielder on the team and like Jacobs he can’t get on base.  Either the Royals don’t care or they are unable to properly analyze the situation.    It was also obvious yesterday when Kila Ka’aihue was unavailable to pinch hit because he was on his way to Omaha.

The last thing that those moves symbolized to me was that the front office doesn’t understand exactly how damaging a couple of poor moves can be.  Destroying the bullpen meant the Royals had to go out into the free agent market and pick up Juan Cruz and Kyle Farnsworth.  They had to spend a pretty penny to get those guys and are hamstrung financially in 2010 when both guys are still on the roster.  Crisp and Jacobs are both gone, which meant they also had to be replaced this year.  In the meantime the bullpen in 2009 was a complete disaster and from the looks of yesterdays game might be so again in 2010.

It was still only one game.  There are 161 more this season and maybe I am overreacting.  Maybe if the Royals had Nunez and Ramirez yesterday, they still would have lost that game.  I know it’s easy to use hindsight to judge the decisions made by Dayton Moore.  There were some positives coming from the game yesterday and I still have some hope that this team can have a decent season.  It is just frustrating to see a bullpen come into the game and destroy what could have been an amazing Opening Day, and think to myself “It didn’t need to be this way.”

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

I will be providing up to the minute analysis of the Royals Vs Tigers Opening Day game.  Refresh this post in your browser for the most up to date entry (F5 button).

Final Score: Tigers 8 – Royals 4

6:18 – Pods grounds out.  Game over Royals lose.  0-1 on the season.  Very disappointing afternoon.  I said earlier the bullpen would decide the game and so it was.  Thats the end of the live blogging folks.  I hope you enjoyed it somewhat, even with the way the game turned out.  161 more games to go.

6:17 – Full count on the Pod.

6:16 – Anyone wish Kila was available to pinch hit for Pods?

6:15 – Dejesus advances runners with an infield out.  First base open, I would love to see pods take a walk and get Billy up with the chance to tie with one swing.

6:12 – Concrete wall be damned.  I have hope.

6:11 – Now Getz reaches and Kendall grits his way to second by taking out the 2nd baseman.  Top of the order coming up.

6:10 – Kendall takes a walk, only the second of the day for the Royals.

6:07  – Betancourt hits a ball hard down the third base line, but he is thrown out.   And Kendall comes to bat, of course he does.

6:05 – That Betancourt HR seems like it was a long time ago.  With Kendall and Getz set to bat in the 9th will Hillman pinch hit?

6:04 – Pretty good outing by Farnsworth.  He actually had a decent 2009 eyond the epic failures he had in the first week or so of the season.  I wouldn’t be shocked if he was one of the best relievers for the Royals this season.

Midle of the 9th Inning: Tigers 8 – Royals 4

6:01 – The Farns is in.  He gets Ordonez to ground out, he strikes out Cabrera and gets Guillen to ground out.  Everybody gets some innings today.  With an off day I guess that makes sense.

End of the 8th Inning: Tigers 8 – Royals 4

5:58 – Bloomquist strikes out.  Callaspo chats with Mitch maier on the bench.

5:58 – Guillen grounds out.  Kila books ticket to Omaha

5:56 – Ankiel grounds out going 0-4 on the day.  Mitch Maier has a nice view of the action.

Middle of the 8th Inning: Tigers 8 – Royals 4

5:51 – The bullpen parade continues with Parrish getting into the game.  The Royals had a solid lead going into the 7th inning and their best Reliever and arguably three of their best bats remain on the bench.

5:49 – I am still in shock over what I’ve been seeing.  I know I shouldn’t.  Before the game I think on 610 AM, they were talking about how Bloomquist said something like “Insanity is banging your head on a brick wall expecting a different result.”  At the time I didn’t realize how that quote would define the day.

End of the 7th Inning: Tigers 8 – Royals 4

5:43 – So let me recap.  Dave Owen waves Kendall home on a ball that was barely out of the infield when the Royals were down by 4 runs and Butler is on deck.  Genius.

5:40 – Pods with a Texas Leaguer and Kendall makes an out at home with 1 out and down 4 runs.  He had absolutely no business trying to score on that play.  Am I the only person who realizes the Royals are down by 4 and not 1?

5:38 – For the love of Whitey, why is Dejesus squaring to bunt here?  We need 4 runs not 1.  Then an infield fly.

5:36 – Getz reaches base.   The Royals can rally.  We can’t let the Opening day optimism die.

5:34 – The Royals bullpen gave up 6 runs and the best relief pitcher in the AL is sitting on the bench.

5:33 – The first five innings just flew by, now everything has slowed to a crawl.  Maybe Einstein was right about time being relative.

5:31 – Kendall still in the game.  I guess it was too much to ask to get Pena in the game.  I know managers hate having no catchers on the bench.  Then Kendall makes me look stupid and reaches.  It ain’t over folks.

Middle of the 7th Inning: Tigers 8 – Royals 4

5:29 – Royals finally out of that disaster of an inning.

5:28 – Hey, it’s still a good day here at Royals Authority.  Has anyone noticed the top of the page today?  You should still buy a Royals Authority Annual and check out the Broken Bat Single Podcast.  /pitch

5:26 – I am not going to lie.  Live blogging is much more fun when the Royals are winning.  But I am going to grit it out and keep giving you my thoughts.  Although I imagine the vast majority of the audience has hit the whiskey by now and isn’t sitting at an interweb machine.

5:24 – Inge strokes a double scoring another run.  Royals down by 4 with two of their best bats on the bench.  I am now watching to see how Hillman manages his bench.  My intuition suggests “poor to quite poor”.

5:23 – First batter to face Cruz gets a hit.  Still only 1 out.  Did Inge always have this many tattoos on his arms?

5:22 – Fangraphs now has the Tigers with a 29.7% Win Expectancy.

5:20 – The Tigers score their fourth run of the inning on a Cabrera single.  Juan Cruz is in the game.  It’s a bullpen parade.  It all really happens here.

5:16 – The Royals are going to need some offense.  Aviles and Callaspo are on the bench.  They need to get into this game and soon.

5:15 – And Damon drives in two runs.  Tigers take the lead.  Sigh.  Still no outs.  Greinke gets screwed out of his 1st win of the season.

5:14 – Royals still don’t have an out yet.  I really, really miss Ramon Ramirez and Leo Nunez.

5:12 – Tejada replaces Colon.  Immediately he gives up an Austin Jackson single which leads to a Tigers Run.

5:10 – Colon leaves the game after the first two men he faces reach base.  I am starting to wish I had drank something more calming than all of that Mountain Dew this afternoon.

5:08 – If it were April 1st, I wouldn’t believe it but apparently the MLB blackout rules have changed.  This could be very good news for Royals fans in Iowa and Arkansas.

5:06 – Colon walks Sizemore on 5 pitches.  My nerves begin to start.

5:03 – Greinke done.  Colon in.  Greinke’s line: 6ip 6h  1er 1 bb 4so.  Parrish and Tajeda now warming up.  Tajeda might be the setup guy.

End of the 6th Inning: Tigers 2 – Royals 4

5:01 – I blinked and missed that half inning. Royals only saw 7 pitches.

5:00 – Joel Zumaya in for the Tigers.

4:58 – According to Fangraphs Royals Win Expectancy is 83.7%

Middle of the 6th Inning: Tigers 2 – Royals 4

4:55 – Parrish now warming up in the pen.  Bloomquist with another solid play to end the inning.  Is Greinke done?  He has 96 pitches.

4:53 – Bloomquist continuing his redemption with a nice play at third to get the lead runner.  There is lots of people upset with Bloomquist getting as much playing time as he does, but he really is a solid guy to have on the bench for occasions just like this.  Remember he is plan D for third today: A: gordon B: Callaspo C: Fields D: Bloomquist.

4:50 – Roman Colon warming up in the pen.  I guess my prediction of him being the setup man was wrong.  I guess Cruz is the setup guy then?  Is it too much to think that the Royals aren’t going with that kind of strict bullpen jobs and instead are getting ready to bring in their best non-Soria reliever for an important situation?

4:47 – Three straight Tigers hits with no outs leads to a Tigers Run.

End of the 5th Inning: Tigers 1 – Royals 4

4:43 – Ankiel strikes out to end the inning.  It isn’t going to be the last time that happens.

4:41 – Royals score 2 on Butler single!  Is it to early too predict Buter gets 3,000 hits in his career?

4:40 – Zumaya warming up in the pen.  With Verlander hitting 100mph, I don’t see the Royals having to adjust much to his heat.

4:38 – Butler up with bases loaded and two outs after The Pod takes a walk.  First walk of the day for the Royals I believe.

4:36 – Pods up to bat with 2 outs and two men on.  This is why I like to have a very good hitter in the 2 hole, not just a guy who can move runners by making “productive outs”

4:33 – Everett snags a ball up the middle that not very many SS get to and saves a run.  It’s plays like that which makes UZR a great stat.  The only way to tell how many guys get to that ball is by watching every play in the majors, which is what the UZR folks do.

4:31 – I think that Getz is wearing the Xprotex base running glove.  It looks odd, but had Gordon been wearing it he would be playing instead of Bloomquist today.

4:30 – Finally another man on base for the Royals.  Getz with a nice single up the middle.  I think we are going to like Getz at 2B as long as it doesn’t keep Callaspo on the bench.

4:27 – Kendall should have leaned into that pitch.  He needs to get a quick start to get the record.

Middle of the 5th Inning: Tigers 1 – Royals 2

4:23 – Greinke with another strikeout.  I am running out of adjectives to describe him.   He is scrumtrulescent.

4:21 – Greinke strikes out Everett on a nasty slider.  That pitch is unhittable.

4:18 – If you are wondering about the weird yellow gloves that Sizemore is wearing, I am pretty sure those are the Xprotex gloves.  They will be the next big thing in the majors.

4:16 – Robert Ford and Sam Mellinger remarking on Twitter about the number of beach balls at the stadium.  There are lots of things at the game that can annoy me, but I like beach balls.

End of the 4th Inning: Tigers 1 – Royals 2

4:15 – Royals go 1-2-3 to end the inning.  The pitching battle has begun.  This game will be won/lost by the bullpens.

4:12 – Any Pro Fishing fans out there?  Ankiel is Mike Iaconelli’s doppelganger, right?

Middle of the 4th Inning: Tigers 1 – Royals 0

4:09 – It seems like every year there is a new baseball phrase which gets over played, this years: Slider Bat Speed.  Geinke gets his second K.  He is still nasty.

4:08 – A little redemption for Bloomquist.  He starts a nice double play.  Excellent play by Getz too.

4:05 – Royals showing off the latest giveaway Jersey.  Those things are nice.  They have to be the best giveaway in the MLB.  Get there early to get one.

End of the 3rd Inning: Tigers 1 – Royals 2

4:03 – Butler grounds out.  Another quick inning for Verlander.  Is it just me or is this game flying?

4:00 – Dejesus strikes out.  Podsednik is wearing high socks.  If I were a team owner that would be the first team rule.  Everybody wears high socks.  No pajama pants on my team.  In Surprise, I noticed that the vast majority of the minor leaguers wore high socks.  Pods strikes out.  Maybe the bunt wasn’t such a bad idea after all?

Middle of the 3rd Inning: Tigers 1 – Royals 2

3:55 – Very quick inning for Zack.  Only 10 pitches.  Is it possible that Greinke is underrated even amongst Royals fans?  I mean we are clearly watching the best pitcher in the history of the ball club right?

3:52 – Good to hear Split back in the booth.  I have really missed his excellent commentary.  Just once, I would like to hear Denny on TV.  Vin does it.   Greinke gives up another fly ball to Damon, but its caught for out number 1.

End of the 2nd Inning: Tigers 1 – Royals 2

3:50 – Getz flies out, but the Royals are ahead!

3:48  – Well I’ll be damned.  Betancourt with a HR to take the lead 2-1. Gotta give credit where credit is due.  That was a great at bat by Betancourt.

3:46  – Commenter TJ says “Last year, on pitches 1-15, OPS against of .691. On pitches 61-75, OPS against of .461. Don’t worry yet.” I feel a little better now. Thanks.  Yuni with an epic at bat right now, already seen 8 pitches.  Not bad.

3:42 – Verlander hitting upper 90s with the fastball regularly.  I don’t think anyone would be out of line if they picked him as the AL Cy Young winner.

3:41 – On cue, Guillen gets a single up the middle and makes me look smart, kind of.

3:40 – Guillen up to bat.  Call me crazy, but I am cautiously optimistic about him this season.

Middle of the 2nd Inning: Tigers – 1 Royals – 0

3:37 – Greinke with a short inning, but still lots of wood on his pitches.

3:35 – Greinke so far only has only induced one swinging strike.  Am I being unnecessarily nervous?

3:32 – Somebody please explain to me why the Royals bunted in that scenario.  Why do you give a free out to the other team?  If you could start an inning with one out and a man on 2nd or no outs and a man on 1st, do you really take the former?

End of the 1st Inning : Tigers 1 – Royals 0

3:29 – Butler grounds out and Ankiel grounds out to end the inning.  I am shocked that the bunt didn’t work out. 

3:27 – Podsednik bunting away in the 1st inning down by 1 run.  Old timers rejoice, guys living in their mothers basements cringe.  By the way, where is she with my meat loaf?  I am hungry.

3:26 – Dejesus being Dejesus.  Nice base hit up the middle.  Having the leadoff man on base is a very good thing.

3:25 – Greinke threw 23 pitches in the 1st.  I don’t think we see a CG coming today.  Oh wait…Hillman is still the manager?  Nevermind, my bad.

Middle of the 1st Inning: Tigers 1 – Royals 0

3:23 – Greinke strikes out Inge for the first K of the season.  End of Inning

3:22 – Mark it down.  First time Ryan Lefebvre gushes about Kendall for blocking a ball in the dirt.  It won’t be the last, that I can promise.

3:19  – Oh dear lord.  Bloomquist misses an infield fly ball.  Five players were right by it.  The wind does not seem that bad here at my house.  That was pathetic.  Tigers score making it 1-0. That was the third out of the inning.

3:17 – Greinke with what looked like a non-intentional intentional walk to Cabrera with 1st base open.  I hope that is the case, since those balls missed the zone quite a bit.

3:15 – Ordonez smacks a double off of Zack.  He hasn’t missed many bats yet today.

3:14 – Jackon flys out to Dejesus in LF, Damon get some boos and grounds out to Getz.  Now the sun arrives.  Looks like a beauty at the park.  Why did I decide to live blog this again?

3:12 – And we are off.  First pitch for a ball from Greinke.

Top of the 1st Inning

3:09 – Time for a quick plug.  Check out my latest podcast which went up this morning if you are into that kind of thing.

3:07 – Not Royals related, but seriously:  watch the play Buehrle made today.

3:06 – David Cook with the National Anthem.  This guy actually won a singing competition?

3:05 – Sam Mellinger just tweeted that Farnsworth was booed.  Seems a tad premature for that.

2:59 – Royals will be rocking the powder blue uniforms with the new powder blue hats.  I like the look quite a bit.  I still think going full on powder blue with pants and all would be great.

2:57 – The big board is now showing a very digi intro with various stats for things surrounding the franchise.  Like amount of dirt on the field, length of fountains, number of World Series and such.  That was really well done.

2:55 – I do like seeing the Royals embrace the teams history though.  There really is a lot of history within this franchise that people should be aware of.

2:53 – Just checked Jamie Blumas stats.  He pitched in 17 games in only 1 season for the Royals.  He did have an ERA+ of 141 though.

2:52 – The Royals are bringing out former players to represent past eras and they start with Jamie Bluma?

2:50 -Oh my, what is this.  There is a band using autotune playing and wearing Royals outfits.  This might be the worst song I’ve ever heard in my life.

2:49 – Video board montage.  Smooth guitar music, interspersing old time vs modern footage.  Reminds me of a wedding slide show.

2:47 – Pitchers are of course Greinke vs Verlander.  Best pitching matchup of the day.

2:45 – Royals Lineup

D. Dejesus – RF
S. Podsednik – LF
B. Butler – 1B
R. Ankiel – CF
J. Guillen – DH
W. Bloomquist – 3B
Y. Betancourt – SS
J. Kendall – C
Getz – 2B

2:43 – Tigers Lineup

A. Jackson – CF
J. Damon – LF
M. Ordonez – RF
M. Cabrera – 1B
C. Guillen – DH
B. Inge – 3B
G. Laird – C
S. Sizemore – 2B
A. Everett – SS

http://backporch.fanhouse.com/2010/04/05/mark-buehrle-makes-the-play-of-the-year-on-baseballs-first/

Best Case

Eighty-eight victories might be enough to win the AL Central, so no team can truly be considered a non-contender.  Another Cy Young season out of Zack Greinke coupled with a once more healthy and effective Gil Meche would go a long way towards a successful 2010 for the Royals,   They will also need break-out years from two former first round picks:  Alex Gordon and Luke Hochevar.   While the return of Mike Aviles somewhere on the infield would be a bonus the Royals were not counting on, the club will be most dependent on GM Dayton Moore being validated by the acquisitions of the likes of Yuniesky Betancourt, Jason Kendall and Rick Ankiel.

Worst Case

The Royals could take a huge step backwards in 2010 if Zack Greinke reverts to being a mere mortal, while Gil Meche and Alex Gordon can never get healthy for an extended period of the season.   Should the signings of Ankiel, Kendall and Scott Podsednik blow up in Dayton Moore’s face and Jose Guillen blow up the Royals clubhouse (all legitimate possibilities), this team could pack it in early.   While much was made of improving the team’s defense during the off-season, it is possible that none of the off-season moves truly did so.   An already weak offensive team could also be inept in the field and a patchwork bullpen could doom the Royals to another disasterous season.

I am going to try and live blog the Opening Day game on Monday against the Tigers. That, plus the coming announcement means you should be sure to stop by Royals Authority on Monday and stick around the whole day. Consider us your digital companion for Opening Day.

%d bloggers like this: