Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Hang on everyone, we are finally, FINALLY in the final week of spring training.  It is a good feeling to know that next Monday I will have actual regular season games to write about!  I am pretty sure that there is not a Royals’ fan out there who isn’t tired of debating roster moves, nicknames, and what spring training really means, so let’s have a little fun today and throw out some over/unders for the coming season.

Eric Hosmer Home Runs

Anyone not think Hosmer is the real deal?  We have all fallen prey to overestimating the potential of more than one prospect over the years, but I am not sure any one player has seemed so destined for stardom in a Royals’ uniform since we saw Carlos Beltran come up.   There has been a lot of talk about Hosmer threatening Steve Balboni’s club record of 36 homers and I think that one year either Hosmer or Mike Moustakas probably will bust through that long standing number.  However, I don’t think 2012 is going to be the year.

The over/under on Hosmer homers is 29.

Alex Gordon’s OPS+

I know some of you are not all that keen on sabermetrics, but it is a tidy way to quantify a player’s offensive contributions relative to the rest of the league.  Last year, Gordon posted a rather impressive OPS+ of 140.   For reference, his OPS+ from his rookie season forward were: 90, 109, 87 and 84.

Was 2011 a freak occurrence or the long awaited realization of Gordon’s potential?  I think the latter, but I also know that Gordon had a little bit of good fortune when it came to the beloved BABIP.   He might regress, but not a lot (at least I sure hope it is not a lot!).

The over/under for Gordon’s 2012 OPS+ is 129.

Luke Hochevar’s Innings Pitched

A couple of things come into play here.  The first is that 2011 was basically the first year Luke managed to go through the entire season without an injury.  The second is that unless you are the late Jose Lima, it is hard to pile up a lot of innings if you are not effective.   In my mind, the number of innings Hochevar throws will be a direct correlation to his effectiveness.

Last season, Luke threw 198 innings, using a strong second half to get his ERA to a marginally tolerable 4.68 by season’s end.  The Royals expect and quite frankly really, really, really need Hochevar to build on the success he enjoyed after the All-Star Break in 2011.  I’m cautiously optimistic.

The over/under on Hochevar’s innings pitched is 208.

Greg Holland’s Saves

Ned Yost has yet to commit to a full-time closer to replace the injured Joakim Soria and looks to be headed towards an early season combination of Holland and Jonathan Broxton.  I don’t mind that, but I think we may see Holland simply take the role over by sheer overpowering effectiveness sooner rather than later.  You have to give Dayton Moore credit on this one:  he drafted Holland in the 10th round with the idea that Greg would get to the majors quickly and be a possible closer.    You have to love it when a plan comes together.

The over/under on Mr. Holland’s saves is 31.

Billy Butler’s Extra Base Hits

I don’t agonize over Butler’s home run total like many do and I quite possibly could be wrong to not do so.  I do, however, monitor Billy’s overall extra base hit total.  Last season, Billy hit 63, the year before 60 and in 2009 he smacked 73 extra base hits.  The Royals could certainly use a big number in this category as Billy should see Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer on base when he comes to the plate with great regularity.  My hunch says that Billy amps it up this year.

The over/under is 71.

The Royals Starting Pitchers

Last season, Kansas City had 11 different pitchers start a game.  Let’s eliminate the September call-up situation to get to the crux of the issue.   How many pitchers will start a game prior to September 1st this year and, quite frankly, is it good or bad to have a higher number? 

There will certainly be an injury or two along the way, so you know Felipe Paulino gets some turns which puts you at six out of the gate.  Do we see Mike Montgomery?   Does Everett Teaford get a start or two or ten? 

The over/under is 8.

Alicdes Escobar’s on base percentage

With Salvador Perez out until June or so and not a single second baseman in the organization can seem to, you know, hit the ball, the Royals really need Escobar to improve his offensive game to keep the bottom of the order from becoming the ‘now’s a good time to go to the bathroom and get some nachos’ part of the game.   Escobar is never going to be Troy Tulowitzki at the plate, but he has to do a little more than get on base at a .290 clip.  We saw some signs of improvement over the latter half of the season, although much of that was due to one magical hot streak.

If Escobar focuses at the plate like he does in the field, stays within himself and goes with the pitch, he could emerge as at least a ‘hold your own’ type of guy at the plate.  The Royals really need him to do so.

The on-base percentage over/under for Escobar is .322.

Salvador Perez

Could the Royals have taken an injury hit in a worse area?  With Perez out with knee surgery, Kansas City will struggle at the catching position.  Imagine the boost if the Royals can hang around .500 into the summer and then have Perez return healthy to the lineup.

Nothing is better than being young and in shape, so I am hoping for a quicker than expected return out of Perez.

The over/under on the number of games Salvador Perez will catch in 2012 is 81.

And Finally, The Only Number That Matters

How many games will Kansas City win in 2012?  A lot of projections this spring put that number anywhere in the seventies.   We are all certainly hoping for better, but is that logical?   This is a young team with sketchy starting pitching and one that has already suffered two big injuries.    Almost everyone seems to think the Royals will hit, but truthfully Billy Butler is the only offensive player who is truly proven over time.   We all think the bullpen is lockdown solid, but relievers are just plain unpredictable.

Craig was optimistic on Friday and it has rubbed off on me.

The over/under on 2012 Kansas City wins is set at 82.

xxx

 

For the last couple of seasons, March has been… Well, it’s been a testy month here at Royals Authority. Maybe it’s the change of seasons. Maybe it’s the grind of meaningless spring training baseball. Whatever it is, this has been a month where everyone is on edge.

They say spring is a time for optimism. I’ll freely admit I’m not an optimist. Can’t do it. Not after lo these many years. But I’m not a pessimist either. I consider myself a realist. (Right now, there are people reading this paragraph at 1 Royals Way and coughing, “Bulls#!t.”) It’s true. I’m a realist at heart. You may disagree, but I like to think I call things like I see them. It’s an honest take of the team I love. It’s just that the negative sometimes outweighs the positive.

That’s unfortunate.

We’re so caught up in the Chris Getz Story and the knowledge that somehow the Royals are going to find a way to give Yuniesky Betancourt 500 plate appearances that we tend to overlook a few things. It’s the nature of the beast. We know Eric Hosmer is going to play and play well. What is there to say about him? He’s great. On the other hand, we have someone like Getz. Why? Sadly, the Royals have given us plenty of ammo.

Please don’t get caught up in my previous paragraph. You want to bitch about Getz today. Go someplace else. You want optimism? This is your place for Friday.

Here are some things I’m looking forward to in 2012…

– The continuing development of Eric Hosmer. When was the last time the Royals had a player with a ceiling of MVP?

– The possibility that Luke Hochevar truly turned the corner in the second half of 2011. For some reason, I’m irrationally bullish on Hochevar. By altering his arm angle ever so slightly, he’s added the deception – and movement – necessary to be a quality starter.

– The SS Jesus. Can’t wait for him to range to his left to snare a grounder up the middle, plant, spin and throw to beat the runner by a couple of steps.

– Brayan Pena smiling and giving his teammates high fives. If this was basketball, we would be describing Pena as a “glue guy.”

– The Lorenzo Cain Show. I am thrilled that this guy, who was buried all of last season (justifiably so, given the performance of the Royals outfield), is kicking ass in Surprise. I hope he brings some of those hits north with him next week.

– A1. Domination. The Sequel.

– Johnny Giavotella tearing up Triple-A pitching.

– The continued development of Danny Duffy. I just have this feeling that he’s this close to putting everything together. Needless to say, we can expect improvement over his 4.4 BB/9 and 4.82 FIP. There will be moments where the kid is going to struggle again this summer, but it won’t be as frequent. And the lows won’t be as low.

– The young arms of the bullpen. I thoroughly enjoy watching Aaron Crow, Everett Teaford, Louis Coleman and Kelvin Herrera pitch. It helps that they could be pretty good relievers. (Side note: I’m not upset that Coleman was sent to Omaha. Surprised, but not upset. The bullpen is a fungible beast. He’ll be back. Probably before the end of April.)

– The return of Salvador Perez. I’m counting down the weeks. So is every other Royals fan.

– Our Mitch. Because it wouldn’t feel like the Royals without him.

– Billy Butler’s annual pursuit of 50 doubles. Quite simply, Butler is the most consistent hitter on this team. And it’s not even close.

– Jeff Francoeur punching his teammates in the nuts after a walkoff. Crazy eyes!

– The late game tandem of Jonathan Broxton and Greg Holland. Holland is nails and you know I’m bullish on Broxton. It’s probably just my wide-eyed optimism that I think Broxton can be a servicable closer.

– The development of Mike Moustakas. He’s not the “sure thing” Hosmer is, so there’s a bit of a risk here, but we really need him to be the Moose of September and not the Moose of every other month.

Those are my positive thoughts heading into 2012. Fire away in the comments. Although in the spirit of optimism, I’ll ask that you only leave positive comments. Thanks.

In the blink of an eye, the Royals solved another of their roster mysteries yesterday by placing Felipe Paulino on the 15 day disabled list.  With that, Luis Mendoza became the fourth starter and Danny Duffy secured a roster spot and the role of fifth starter.

Paulino, who had been anything but sharp this spring, might be eligible to come off the disable list as early as April 10th.   The way the Royals’ early season schedule flows, he could theoretically return in time to take the fifth starter’s second turn, but it seems unlikely he will return that quickly.

To begin with, Paulino was put on the disabled list with the rather mysterious ‘sore elbow’, which we have seen could be anything from ‘just a little sore and we don’t like how you’re pitching and anyway we really want time to look at these other two guys’ to ‘sorry, you’re having surgery’.   My guess is the Royals really are not sure why Paulino’s elbow is sore and hence have no desire to rush him back.   

The benefit of this hopefully mild injury is that is delays having to send Danny Duffy to AAA or figuring out what to do with the out of options Luis Mendoza (Paulino is also out of options). 

Although he has struggled mightily this spring, Duffy probably has the best stuff on the current rotation and I really want to see if he has figured out how to a) throw more strikes and b) get strike three against major league hitters.   In Mendoza, even us critical, jaded spirits here at Royals Authority are now curious as to what this guy can really do in real major league games that are not played when the leaves are falling off trees.

Listen, as Craig mentioned yesterday, while spring training stats don’t mean much, Mendoza’s are so good that, coupled with his excellent AAA season in what is basically a hitters’ league, the Royals almost have to see what he can do.   I will be curious to see how long the leash is on Mendoza.   Do the Royals really, really believe in him now or, like many of us, do they remain skeptical that Luis has turned himself into a legit major league starter?

xxx

 

The whole Opening Day starter thing is waaaaay overblown. Who really cares? I mean, other than the starter?

There is one thing that kind of bugs me about Chen getting the ball for Opening Day. One would assume it’s a reward handed to the best pitcher on your staff. In the Royals case, there isn’t exactly a stand out starter in the rotation. Fine. All winter the Royals have said there were three locks for the rotation: Hochevar, Chen and Sanchez. Understandable. Those three represent the three pillars of roster building: The high draft pick. The big money free agent.* And the big trade.

Given the pedigrees and the financial commitments, it’s no wonder these three guys were “locks.”

*Please bear with me here. When I say “big money” free agent, it’s relative. Although Chen did represent Dayton Moore’s most aggressive foray into the free agent market since 2008 when he splashed the cash on Kyle Farnsworth. So yes, Chen was a big free agent signing. And yes, that’s sad.

So what bothers me about Chen as the Opening Day starter is the fact he’s been horrible this spring. (At least before his start on Tuesday when he pitched six strong innings before faltering in the seventh.) It’s part of baseball’s caste system I suppose, where a guy like Johnny Giavotella has to battle Chris Getz and Yuniesky Betancourt for a roster spot – and is ultimately demoted for a sub-par spring. Meanwhile, Chen owns an 11.25 ERA in 18 innings where batters are hitting .405 against him and he gets the Opening Day carrot. Ahh… the luxury of being the veteran.

Big picture, it’s not a huge deal. We’ve seen Chen pitch the last two summers and while he’s not overwhelming, he’s at least been adequate. And I really can’t concern myself with spring stats for veteran pitchers. They work on certain things and pitch to prepare for the season. Completely different mindset as opposed to the real games. His command has been fine – just two walks with 12 strikeouts – so I’m not too worried about Chen. He’ll be underwhelming, win a few games and everyone will think he’s awesome.

And is it me, or does the whole “stack the rotation so it goes LHP-RHP-LHP-RHP-??? not really make a huge difference. I suppose there will be series where you throw a pair of lefties against a weaker side of a platoon, or vice-versa, but I just don’t really see how this matters. Really, what difference does a rotation make at all? Ideally, you want your best starters to make the most appearances. So if your each member of your rotation didn’t miss a single start all year, starters one and two would make 33 starts while three through five would toe the slab 32 times. Ho-hum. Certainly, at some point a manager could juggle the rotation to make sure his best two starters gained those extra starts.

And you have to love the people who worry about matching up their number one starter with the other team’s top guy. Because it doesn’t always happen that way.

Quick example: if the A’s decide to use a fifth starter in the first week of the season (anything can happen with the A’s since they’re opening the season Wednesday in Tokyo) that pitcher would match-up against Chen. In his second start of the season.

See what I mean?

It’s understood that Yosty is stacking his rotation so Hochevar gets the home opener against the Indians. That’s cool, I suppose. Personally, I’d much rather pay to see a Hochevar start instead of Chen. At least while I’m still intrigued to see if Hochevar can carry over his second half success from last season.

Somebody has to start Opening Day. Might as well be Chen.

More pressing is the same question we’ve been asking all spring: Who will hold down the fourth and fifth spots of the rotation? The fact the Royals and Dayton Moore obviously crush on Luis Mendoza – not to mentions that the dude is out of options – means he gets one of the two. I’d like to disagree, but damnit, he’s pitched well enough to earn a shot.

My hunch is the fifth spot goes to Felipe Paulino. I will stand by this prediction: Put the guy in the rotation, let him make 30 to 32 starts and at the end of the season he will have been the best starter on the staff. I truly believe that. Like Mendoza, he is out of options. This is a case where the option situation will save the Royals from doing something foolish. Yeah for rules!

So that leaves Danny Duffy as the odd man out. Sucks for Duffy, but I would bet that he goes down to Triple-A, dominates, and is back in the Royals rotation by May. He can take the place of Chen.

Spring Training. Is it over yet?  We really need some actual games. Here are a variety of things on my mind in these closing hours of fake games in what seems to be the fake Arizona sun.

 

  • Getz and Yuni at 2nd base? Really?  Ugh. The Royals have been steadily eating away at their run scoring potential during this off-season. The only player who had a lower walk rate than Yuni with more than 270 plate appearances in 2011 was Humberto Quintaro. Both will feature prominently in the lineup.

 

  • I keep hearing about how Chris Getz has a new offensive approach. No, just no. Players don’t just change their offensive ability in an off-season. Getz will be Getz. He’ll be an average defender with a well below average bat. He’ll also get a ton of plate appearances along with Yuni, who also can’t hit.

 

  • How about something not completely depressing…check out this video of Cheslor Cuthbert. He’s one of my favorite Royals prospects and the video is a good example. He’s a solid defender with a sweet swing. This is the guy to keep your eye on this season.

  • Then there’s Lorenzo Cain’s swing. I’m a big fan of Cain. I think he’ll provide a big defensive improvement in center field and so far it looks like he’ll posses a decent bat. I’m just scared at how long his swing is. He is about to fall over when he swings. It allows him to swing really hard, but it will also open up some holes which pitchers can exploit. I’d like to see him shorten up a bit more like Cuthbert in the above video if at all possible.

  • I was convinced that the Royals would have Mendoza in their rotation and Duffy at AAA to start the season. I don’t see any reason to change my mind now. I don’t think it’s what I’d go with, but I can’t put up too much of a fight. We all know that we will see a number of starters get their chance, I can’t be too annoyed.

 

  • You all know that I hate the trade to acquire Jason Bourgeious and Humberto Quintaro for Kevin Chapman and a PTBNL. One of the things I kept hearing from the defenders was that we were not going to see Chapman this year. My first response is: so? My second response is that the Royals used 17 different relief pitchers in 2011. Why again is it that Chapman had no chance to help the team in 2012? And for his and PTBNL’s services we got two players that could be available for nothing as camp ends. Just watch the waiver wire. We’ll see better catchers and outfielders released.

 

  • Remember when everyone was going bananas over the fact that Aviles couldn’t play 2nd base good enough for the Royals? Well, it seems like he’s in the hunt to start at shortstop for one of the best teams in baseball over in Boston. He sure would be nice to have right now instead of Getz, right?

 

  • To those of you thinking “What about Teahen?” – I say, no. Stop it.

 

  • Losing Soria seriously blows. However the loss of a reliever, even one of Soria’s caliber is pretty easy to replace considering you use laddering with relievers. It’s not like his innings will be replaced with the worst reliever. They will be taken over by the 2nd and 3rd best relievers or possibly the 1st and 2nd best if Soria isn’t his old self. It’s why relievers are over-valued.

 

  • It seems like this entire Spring Training has been one depressing event after another. Has anything good happened? Let’s just get the team out of Surprise and back to Kansas City before any more crappy things happen.

 

- Nick Scott



 

So, anything happen this weekend?

I know, it was hard to keep track of everything, what with Nebraska hiring a new basketball coach and all…

In all seriousness, you have to give Ned Yost and Dayton Moore some credit for not being afraid to make a decision, and make it early.   The due determined their position players – starters and bench – with ten spring training games left to play.  

Second base?  That will be Chris Getz and Yuniesky Betancourt in the Hillman-esque ‘mix and match’ scenario.   Fifth outfielder?  Well, we all are going to have to learn how to both say and spell Jason Bourgeois as Jarrod Dyson was sent down before Sunday’s game as well.

Now, on the Dyson front the reason was not so thinly veiled by Ned Yost:  “He still hits too many fly balls.”  To me, that is a pretty obvious indication that the Royals want Dyson to slap and run and Jarrod still wants to swing away.   Some guys never get it, some guys turn into Willie Wilson (and it took Willie a good two years to figure that out as well).  While Bourgeois does not bring that late inning, game changing ability that Dyson does in the role of pinch runner extraordinaire, he theoretically gives the Royals better bench flexibility (right handed hitter and some idea where to stand at second or third base).

We are talking the fifth outfielder and pinch runner on a team that is hoping to win half its games this year:  not a big deal one way or the other.

The stunning news, of course, was the demotion of Johnny Giavotella.  Over the past week to ten days, I had the feeling that someone other than Johnny was going to man second base to start the season, but I was surprised that the decision came this early.  We can micro-analyze/criticize Yost’s public comments on this, as they are conflicting at times, but that is not going to get us anywhere.

The truth is, the Royals opted for defense over potential.   Sure, Chris Getz has a new approach at the plate and looks like a different ballplayer and, well, who doesn’t love Yuniesky Betancourt?   The truth, however, is that Getz still has just one extra base hit this spring and Yuni’s on-base percentage is still a very reminiscent .283.   While Giavotella posted similarly uninspiring offensive numbers, Yost himself said that ‘there is no question Giavotella will hit’.

This all came down to defense.   And let’s not get carried way here:  we are talking about just competent defense.  Chris Getz is an average second baseman in the field, who committed a couple of noteworthy gaffes turning the pivot on late inning potential double plays early last season.   I can find a metric that says Getz is below average and another that says he is a little above.   We all watch the games (contrary to what some might believe) and Chris Getz, to the untrained eye, is a very average defensive second baseman.

Few of us have seen Yuniesky Betancourt play second, but he has impressed Yost at that position.  He would certainly not be the first poor defensive shortstop to move across the bag and become a good second baseman (Mark Grudzielanek anyone?), so I am going to assume Yost is not just blowing sunshine in this respect.   The fact remains, Yuni better be a good defender because that .280/.290 OBP is going to suck the life out of the lower third of the batter order no matter how many grand slams he hits. 

Therein, lies the bottom line:  Dayton Moore loves pitching and defense.   The Royals are going to be extremely solid up the middle defensively.  We know what Alcides Escobar can do and Humberto Quintero is an excellent defensive catcher.   Nothing has happened thus far to lead us to believe that Lorenzo Cain will not be an upgrade in the field over Melky Cabrera and, at minimum, Getz/Betancourt should be average at second.   That’s great, except that all four have to bat as well.

Lorenzo Cain has mashed this spring and sports a minor league resume that would support that the man can hit.  That said, there is concern that Cain has long swing and long swings have holes and holes get exploited (get your mind out of the gutter) at the major league level.   I have high hopes for Cain, but how comfortable are you banking on the fact that he is the surest thing offensively of the four up the middle defenders?

Like me, the Royals are looking for Cain to hit and Escobar to hit better than he did.   Like me, they are prepared to live with Quintero’s bat to get his glove behind the plate until Salvador Perez comes back (I have to believe that Quintero will be playing a lot more than Pena by the time we get to May).   Unlike me, the Royals have placed enough of a premium on defense at second to not get another potential offensive bat into their lineup in Giavotella.

Listen, I understand the arguments against Giavotella and I will not really dispute them.   The guy might just be THAT horrible defensively and yes, he has yet to show he can hit major league hitting.  Quite frankly, neither has Getz or Betancourt, but I digress.  What I will disagree with is the general theory behind it all.

The 2012 season was going to be a tenuous flirtation with contention, if the Royals even sniffed it all, but whatever hopes were based on this young team scoring a lot of runs.   It is assumed that Alex Gordon will be who he was in 2011 and that Eric Hosmer will blossom into a star.  You can pretty much bank that Billy Butler will hit .300 with an on-base percentage pushing towards .400.  It was assumed that Jeff Francouer will maintain the production he gave the team last year and that Mike Moustakas will add pop.

That is a LOT of assumptions before you even get to Escobar, Cain and Giavotella, but if you are going to assume to have offense, why not go the entire way?  If you have a suspect rotation and a great bullpen, as the Royals do, that bullpen can have a lot more impact if your offense has five runs on the board by the sixth inning.  That is really the scenario that gets the Royals on a winning record:  score enough runs to be in the game when it goes to the bullpens and get the game to the other team’s bullpen as soon as possible.

The Phillies can plan on winning 3-1 games with regularity, the Royals cannot.  They need to play (and win) 7-5 games.  If that is the way to win games for this team, this year, then it would make sense to put your best offensive potential onto the field as often as possible.   I will freely admit, that Johnny Giavotella is ALL potential at this point and has yet to offer any ACTUAL production, but he does offer potential.

The upside to letting Giavotella try to hit major league pitching somewhere into mid-summer (and potentially help the Royals ‘hang around’ the top of the division) would seem to outweigh the downside of his poor defense.   If the Royals get to July with Cain hitting, Moustakas hitting, Escobar not flailing and Perez coming back,  and Giavotella is still floundering along at .231, then they could opt for defense at that position, but it seems odd to make that move now.

Getz has an option and Betancourt was going to be on the team no matter what, so there were no roster considerations in this scenario like there are when it comes to the starting rotation.   The Royals could have found out about Giavotella’s bat and maybe it would have helped them catch lightning in a bottle to start the year and still have Getz and Betancourt as fallback options this summer.

Certainly, sending Giavotella to Omaha to work on his defense is not the worst thing in the world, but the Royals are banking heavily on the bottom four of Moustakas, Getz, Quintero and Escobar being able to produce something..anything.   If 2012 is all about potential and building for 2013, it would seem that not giving Johnny Giavotella a shot to start the season is counter to The Process.

xxx

 

 

Big news this week as Forbes released their annual look at the valuations of baseball teams. I know, I know… Financials, dollars, blah, blah, blah. This may not be the most exciting post you’ll read this week, but to me, how the Royals (and other teams) go about their business is as important as the prospect rankings. We’re a small market. This stuff matters.

Anywho, included in the report was something that should have made you sit up and take notice, no matter how you feel about ledgers and spreadsheets. Here, according to Forbes, were the most profitable teams in baseball in 2011:

So the Glass family banked a cool $28.5 million last year. Wow.

As always, we need to have a little perspective. How does that number compare to past seasons? Here’s a table going back the previous five years.

Why the huge leap? According to Forbes, revenue went up only a million dollars last year. From $160 million in 2010 to $161. Most of it has to do – as Clark mentioned yesterday – with payroll. The Royals saw their expenditure on player contracts nose dive thanks to the trade of Zack Greinke, the retirement of Gil Meche and the overall youth movement which featured cost-controlled contracts. And like Clark said, they didn’t go cheap. They went young. Big difference.

What’s interesting, there’s very much a plan in place about the amount of money ownership would like the Royals to post in the Operating Income side of the ledger. It seems extremely obvious the Glass family would like to hit an operating income number somewhere close to $10 million. Hey, I’m a free market capitalist. Glass owns the team, it’s his right to make money. It’s a good thing he’s turning a profit. As long as he sinks that windfall into an area of the team. Maybe hire a few more scouts. Or beef up the Latin America academy. Hell, he could reseed the Little K.

Besides, where ownership really makes their money is in the value of the team. About 10 years ago – when Glass officially bought the club – the Royals were valued at just under $100 million. Glass paid $96 million. Of course, there’s the whole situation with the Kauffman Trust and the question of whether or not the Glass family can make a profit, but throw that out for just a moment. Under normal circumstances, if Glass put the team up for sale right now, he could expect a profit of at least $255 million.

For 12 years of ownership. That’s $21.25 million per year. The value of his initial investment has returned over 350%. You know how everyone thinks they should have bought Apple stock 12 years ago? If you couldn’t get in on Apple, you should have bought yourself a baseball team.

Payroll

Looking ahead to 2012, I don’t expect the Glass family to rake in a similar profit. If only because the payroll is going up. Thanks to Cot’s Contracts, here are how things stand with my mythological 25 man roster.

My roster has 12 pitchers and 13 hitters. I left Chris Getz and Danny Duffy off the list, as I think both open the year in Omaha. The more I think about it, Bourgeois and Maier are backups in the outfield, Betancourt is the super utility guy (ick) and Pena/Quintero are the catching tandem. I’ll also go out on a limb and hypothesize that the Royals will assign specific catchers to each starter like they did last year. It seemed to work well enough. That gives Pena three starters and Quintero two. Or vice versa. Giavotella opens the year as the starting second baseman, but loses his job to Betancourt in May.

For the rotation, while I still have serious doubts, Mendoza has certainly earned a shot. The starting five looks like Hochevar, Sanchez, Chen, Paulino, Mendoza. Your bullpen has Broxton as the closer and Holland as the set up man. I’d flip-flop that, but you know that the Royals love Broxton’s pants experience. Crow is in the setup mix. Mijares is a definite lefty and Collins is forcing his way into the conversation, but for now I’m leaning Teaford. The pen rounds out with Coleman.

Or the Royals could deal for a 5th outfielder and blow up my whole roster.

(By the way, the payroll also includes Sal Perez and Joakim Soria, who will open the year on the DL. Players with guaranteed contracts who start the season on the DL are counted as part of the Opening Day payroll.)

So it looks like the Royals Opening Day payroll will be right around $60 million. That’s up from last year’s $36 million. And pretty darn close to their all time record of $72 million set on Opening Day 2010. See how that works? Low payroll means increased profits. And I don’t even have an accounting degree.

So if we’re still thinking about profit, by boosting payroll by $24 million, most of that will go away. If I were a betting man, I’d say that at this time next year, Forbes will peg the Royals at around $8 million for Operating Income in 2012.

In other words… Back to normal.

A good writer creates an interesting topic, fleshes it out with solid research, expands on it with creativity and presents it with fluid prose.  Today, you get none of that.  NO SOUP FOR YOU!

I have an assortment of topics, which either are not quite robust enough to warrant a column on their own or which would require research and thought beyond my appetite.  

The Royals Made A Lot of Money Last Year

Forbes reported that the Kansas City Royals turned a $28.5 million profit last season, second only to the Cleveland Indians in all of baseball.  At best, that is an educated guess by Forbes, if not just a straight out shot in the dark.   I have no doubt that this revelation will stir up a bit of outrage among certain portions of the fanbase.

The truth is, however, that the Royals did not go cheap last year:  they went young.   If you believe David Glass and the team roughly broke even in past years with higher payrolls, then the Forbes’ number makes some sense.   It is nothing that should be used as an indictment of the Glass ownership, but simply a profitable portion of a very logical business cycle.

Now, the test is whether that $28.5 million (or whatever it actually was – my guess is something a little less than that) comes into play next off season or the season after that.  If Glass did make $28.5 million in 2011 and basically breaks even when the Royals’ payroll is around $70 million, then will a hopefully talented and contending Royals’ team in 2014 or 2015 be able to carry a payroll somewhere north of $80 million?   Basically, did David Glass bank the $28.5 million or, as my wife certainly would do, did he go on a bunch of really nice vacations and get four new cars…and a jet…and a boat?

Do Sabermetrics Undervalue Relief Pitchers?

In 2011, Craig Kimbrel had the highest WAR (according to Fangraphs) of any reliever in baseball:  3.2.   Thirty-eight starting pitchers posted an fWAR higher than Kimbrel’s.  In fact only seven relievers in the game would appear in the top 74 fWAR posted by pitchers in 2011.  One of those was the Royals’ Greg Holland, by the way.

Now, WAR has a lot to do with ‘showing up’.  A position player can have tremendous stats, but if he missed 25 games with an injury, his WAR will take a hit.   We may all disparage the ‘Replacement Player’, but not even Albert Pujols is better than Mr. Replacement if Albert is sitting on the bench.   When it comes to pitching, innings matter.

Jeff Francis was more valuable (in WAR terms) than any Royals’ relief pitcher last year based almost completely on the fact that Jeff ground his way through 183 innings of work:  nearly three times what any reliever pitched.  Now, the argument exists and I cannot really dispute the general theory, that a run in the third inning is really the same as a run in the ninth inning, but it sure does not feel that way.

I don’t think anyone would argue that a good starting pitcher is more valuable than a good reliever.   In fact, one can pretty effectively argue that an average starting pitcher is more valuable than a good reliever and, quite possibly, more valuable than even a great reliever.  However, WAR really tells us that a below average starting pitcher (Jeff Francis) is more valuable than almost every reliever in the game.

My current allotment of grey matter does not properly equip me with the ability to dive into the internal mechanizations of fWAR and debate that fact.   Nor does the fact that my gut disagrees with the above assessment invalidate the value of WAR as a statistic.   Baseball is certainly a game of numbers, but it is also a game of feel.

I know, I know, we are dancing our way into the world of intangibles where Jason Kendall and Dayton Moore sit amongst the clouds and lord over the baseball world, but there is something to it.   Baseball players and fans, as well, are conditioned that they will give up runs.  A starter gives up three runs and leaves the game tied after six innings and we applaud the effort.   The team feels good:  he gave them a chance to win, after all.   Everyone’s happy, until a reliever gives up a solo homer in the bottom of the 8th and the Royals lose.    Of course, if the starter had stranded on of those three runs in the fourth, the solo homer would not have triggered the loss, but in the clubhouse, the starter did his job and the reliever did not.

That run in the eighth inning may not be statistically different than a run in the fourth, but it certainly feels different and, I have to believe, it affects the team differently.  If your bullpen does that on a regular basis it can tremendously batter the collective psyche of the team.   Conversely, if your bullpen is truly a lock-down unit it can buoy that same team is a tremendously positive way.   

WAR may never truly love a good bullpen, but I have to believe that a good bullpen is more valuable than the sum of it’s WAR.

Catchers, Catchers, and More Catchers

Should Brayan Pena or Humberto Quintero every bat after the seventh inning? 

As Craig detailed yesterday, Quintero is a legendarily poor hitter and as I pointed out in the comments and on Twitter, Brayan Pena has spiraled into something that more closely resembles Quintero at the plate than Mauer.  The Royals are hoping for more offense out of Alcides Escobar (and I think they will get it), but one can only expect so much and the team may not get a whole lot of punch out of the second base position, either.   Given that, should the Royals take a big step outside of the box and plan on pinch-hitting for the catcher almost every night?

Now, I know this won’t really happen and I also admit that this theory falls back on the possibly flawed idea that a run in the eighth is more important than a run in the third, but let’s take a quick look anyway.

I don’t care what the score is, just plus or minus five runs either way (basically any situation short of a Mitch Maier getting ready to pitch scenario), but what if the Royals simply assumed that any time the catcher came up in the sixth inning or later, they would pinch-hit for him?   Pena starts, his turn comes up in the sixth, and Maier pinch hits.   Quintero enters the game, comes up in the eighth, and Bourgoeis pinch hits, but then what?

Ah, you need to carry three catchers.  To do that AND pinch hit for said catchers, the Royals would have to carry three catchers AND a five man bench.  That forces them into breaking camp with just six relievers, which I know sounds like disaster when the starting rotation is what it is.   Except, given there is really nothing to prevent Kansas City from pitching the hell out of Louis Coleman and Tim Collins for three weeks, then sending them to Omaha to pitch sparingly while Kelvin Herrera and Everett Teaford come to KC to throw for two or three weeks.

The whole concept is dicey, unconventional and truthfully won’t work for any extended period of time.  Not to mention that the Royals’ options for pinch hitters are only slightly more productive than letting Pena, Quintero and even Cody Clark hit.  Right there, is the real problem with virtually any scenario that heavily involves using the Kansas City bench players.

Option 2013

With Joakim Soria headed towards a second Tommy John procedure, the question of whether the Royals should pick up Soria’s $8 million 2013 option will be a recurring theme throughout the season.   Personally, that eight million looks a lot better put toward an Eric Hosmer contract or, for that matter, even an Alex Gordon extension.

Sure, the Royals are on the hook for Soria’s six million this year, but does knowing that they might have an extra eight million available next year grease the wheels to getting Gordon locked down and out of the way?  Let’s also keep in mind that no one is going to be throwing money at Soria next winter.   Unless Joakim gets offended by the Royals turning down his option, there is nothing that says he could not come back on a lesser deal.  It seems like a no-brainer at this point.  I feel bad for Soria, but the game is a business and the Royals cannot afford to gamble with eight million bucks.

xxx

 

With Sal Perez and Manny Pina both having knee surgery this spring, the Royals found themselves in the market for a catcher. Starter, backup… didn’t matter. They needed a catcher.

And by now we should all know how General Manager Dayton Moore operates. He sees a hole in his roster; he immediately tries to fill it. The dude doesn’t wait around. In recent days we’ve heard the Philadelphia Phillies and the Tampa Bay Rays are in the market for a backup backstop as well. That only accelerates the fire of impatience that burns within the Royals GM. He wasn’t going to let another team steal his thunder backup catcher.

So Tuesday afternoon he dealt Kevin Chapman and a PTBNL in exchange for catcher Humberto Quintero and outfielder Jason Bourgeois.

Let’s deal with the target man first…

Quintero is probably what you would look for in a backup catcher. Backup. Basically, the guy plays really good defense. With a cannon for an arm, he’s the kind of catcher who can alter the opposition’s running game. We know the Royals place an enormous amount of emphasis on defense behind the plate and that’s just good baseball sense. Which is why losing Perez for any length of time really hurts this team… Because there’s nobody on this roster who can call and catch a decent defensive game on a nightly basis. Sorry, Brayan Pena fans. I’m nice when I call his defense atrocious. And Max Ramirez fans… He’s worse behind the dish than Pena.

Offensively, however, Quintero a train wreck. He has a career .269 OBP in over 1,100 plate appearances.

(I’ll give you a second to process that.)

I kid you not… Among major league players with more than 1,100 plate appearances since 2000, Quintero has the second worst on base percentage. Second worst. He beats only Jeff Mathis! How about this… His career OPS+ is 58. 58! This time, he’s only the third worst since 2000. He laps Peter Bergeron and the aforementioned Mathis. Yippee. Basically, Quintero hacks at everything. He swung at 60% of all pitches he saw last year – an insanely high rate.

Seriously, how does Dayton do it? It is a gift.

Fortunately, Quintero’s defense makes up for most of those offensive shortcomings. He’s been between 0.8 and 0.5 fWAR the last three seasons on the power of his glove. I could live with that once a week. Twice may be pushing things. We’re talking about backup material.

Look, this is a short-term deal. Duct tape meant to hold until Perez comes back. Quintero is beyond awful with the bat, but the defense will help for the time being. You just aren’t going to find a catcher you’re happy with at this point of the spring.

Now, let’s look at Bourgeois…

My first reaction…

GMDM just can’t help himself. He just freaking can’t resist speedy outfielders who can’t hit a lick.

Bourgeois is another in the mold of Gathright, Dyson and Freel. The guy can’t drive the ball, doesn’t take a walk (which, you know, might be useful given the fact speed is his only tool) and basically makes a bunch of outs. He’s good with the glove and uses that speed to cover a ton of ground in the outfield.

And here’s the best part… With Maier and Dyson already in the fold, the Royals don’t need an outfielder like Bourgeois. Why was he even included in this deal?

Was this some sort of an impulse buy? Did new Houston GM Jeff Luhnow look at the “Dayton Moore Profile” and try to convince him he needed Bourgeois?

“Say, while you’re here shopping for a backup catcher, why don’t you take a look at this speedy outfielder?”

“No, we just need a catcher and… Speedy? Did you say speedy outfielder?”

“Uh-huh. Speedy. Very fast. Like the Road Runner.”

Well played, Luhnow. Well played.

With Maier positioned as the fourth outfielder and Dyson cast as the late inning “game-changing” speed guy, it would seem the backup cast for the Royals was set. Bourgeois makes sense only if you’re going to lop both Maier and Dyson off the major league roster. Strange.

But wait… There’s more!

It seems that Bourgeois was drafted as a middle infielder and has played a whopping 13 innings at second base in his major league career.

Of course he has. GMDM is already talking up his versatility.

And all this for the low price of Kevin Chapman. The guys at Pine Tar Press are high on Chapman, listing him as the Royals top left-handed reliever. He lives in the mid-90s with a decent slider and just murders left handed batting. He punched out 90 in 62 innings last year, split between High-A and Double-A. He owns a career 1.6 ground out to air out ratio. So the guy misses bats and gets ground ball outs. Strong. Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus says his fastball can get “straight” at times which probably explains why he allowed so many baserunners, but if you’re looking at a LOOGY, Chapman seems a solid candidate.

Hey, I like the thought process… If you’re going to swing a deal for a backup catcher, minor league relief pitching is a decent place to start. We all know about the volatility of the bullpen and the Royals certainly have a plethora of young arms. This is how you use guys who aren’t exactly top tier prospects. Deal them to fill a need. In this case, it’s the execution that doesn’t make a lot of sense.

It just seems like a classic Dayton Moore overreach… for a temporary catcher and an outfielder you don’t need.

And I’m not finished. Shortly after the deal was announced, Houston beat writer Brian McTaggart sent this Tweet

Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said PTBNL will be “key component” of trade.

We can infer two things from this statement. One, the player to be named later has already been agreed upon. This leads to inference number two, which is the PTBNL is a member of the 2011 draft class. Rules say a draftee has to be with the organization for a year before he can be packaged in a trade. If this is what is going down, we can expect the deal to be “officially” completed in mid-June.

And a “key component.” Does that mean this deal could get worse?

Oh, Dayton…

Dear God,

I’m not sure You exist, but if You do I have little doubt that You spend some of Your time reading Royals blogs. My primary question for you is as follows:

Seriously, what the hell?!

I ask it in all due respect, considering You are possibly the most powerful being in the universe other than the Koch brothers. What is it that us Royals fans did to make You so mad? No playoffs since 1985. Kyle Snyder. Injuries to Jose Rosado, Salvador Perez and now Joakim Soria. It’s all too much to be mere coincidence, the only logical conclusion is that You are somehow involved.

Soria is a fan favorite, a guy who has provided a large portion of the Royals enjoyable moments these past few years. He was someone we could be proud of and he was proud to be a Royal. Now, as things are coming together his arm in injured again. Did You smote his arm in vengeance? Why? Is it something we did?

I know there are a number of potential reasons that the Royals and their fans are not on your good list. Yes, the Royals hired Rush Limbaugh, but how could they have known who he’d become? Jose Offerman just kind of seemed like an odd-duck and he put up 5.0 fWAR in 1998. Did you hate the Jermaine Dye for Neifi Perez trade too? Look, that was the old regime and none of us supported it, we’ve all learned to let it go.

You can’t be that mad, right? You let the Yankees win all the time and they have no souls. If anybody needed a smiting, it’s them! I know that Mr. K would do anything to win, but I just am not ready to believe that he sold the team to the devil for a championship in 1985. Sure they weren’t the best team that season, but they won when it counted. Sure there was the whole Denkinger…..wait, that’s it, isn’t it?

You stepped in during Game 6. It was YOU who made Denkinger call safe. You were rooting for the Royals, weren’t You? Look, I get it. Being God is a heavy business, what with all the deaths and prayers and what not. Sometimes an all-powerful creator needs to sit back and watch a baseball game. Clearly no being as caring and thoughtful as you would root for the Cardinals so you gravitated towards the upstart ballclub from Kansas City. Things seemed like they might not be going well for Your team so you slipped in a safe call. Who can blame you? Heck, imagine if the Royals had lost. We’ve read the bible, you have a pretty nasty streak in you. Nobody needed to see that again. Brimstone free since 500 B.C. right?

The Royals win, You’re happy. Then you feel a little bad for usurping that whole free will thing. But it was just one call, and it didn’t even really matter anyway. If Jorge Orta was out, the Royals would still win. Don’t be so hard on Yourself. We all make mistakes.

I think 26 years without being in the post season, the Ross Gload era and two different Yuniesky Betancourt stints is enough. You’ve pretty clearly handed the Cardinals a couple of World Championships and given them Pujols too. Can we just draw the line at this Soria injury and consider it all even? You seem to have lost some of your anger anyways, I mean if you were really mad you would’ve smoted Greg Holland’s arm (please don’t do that). The Royals bullpen is still strong and can overcome this injury, and maybe with another surgery we can have Soria back in a year or so.

Look, we’ve been wandering in this desert long enough. Our trial surely must be finished. We don’t need you to part the sea for us, just get off our backs for awhile. Let nature take it’s course. It looks like You’ve kind of moved Your vengeance to the Dodgers lately anyway. We’re totally cool with that. I mean, leaving Brooklyn, pffft, what was THAT, am I right?

I hope You finally consider our penance paid, it sure feels like it is. If you can put a little magic into Soria’s arm when it’s on the operating table, it would be kind of a nice gesture. Anyway, thanks for reading the blog, that is if you exist. If You don’t, well then….

Dear Vishnu……

- Nick Scott