Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Browsing Posts tagged Jason Kendall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Gordon doubled.

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

No Royals pitcher did himself any favors yesterday.

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

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

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

Mitch Maier, Kila Ka’aihue……

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

Now, onto bigger and better things.

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

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

Join us in welcoming Nick. His debut post follows…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This morning, I am going to run through a quick exercise in constructing the Royals’ twenty-five man roster for the coming season. My guess is that almost everyone who reads any Royals’ blog has already done this in one form or another, but I have serious doubts that the Royals’ front office has.

Okay, sure, we know that is total sarcasm, but seriously I think the Royals have a firm idea on the 40 man roster, but only a vague ‘things will work themselves out’ idea as to the 25 they will break camp with. You can make an argument that this is the perfect way to go into spring training and I would generally agree, but I do wonder if a ‘small budget’ club like the Royals can assemble and pay for 30+ guys to compete for their 25 spots?

The catching position is pretty simple: Jason Kendall starts, Brayan Pena watches. The hope is that Kendall is an upgrade defensively and in handling the pitchers, while not just destroying you at the plate. If he can get on base at even a .340 clip, throw runners out and get along with Greinke and Meche, he might be tolerable. In Pena, the Royals have a switch-hitter who might log some time at DH. I wish the team had given Pena two months of everyday duty last year to find out if he really is THAT bad behind the plate, but that ship has sailed. Manny Pina, acquired from Texas last year, is the next in line, but his bat is not ready for the bigs (and may never be). He is, should everything go to hell, probably the best defensive catcher in the organization. At any rate, it’s Kendall and Pean: that’s two.

The corner infield positions are pretty clear: Billy Butler and Alex Gordon. What happens after that is a mystery. The Royals acquired Josh Fields as part of the Mark Teahen trade, making rumblings about Fields playing a corner outfield spot, but that has gone by the wayside with the signings of Podsednik and Ankiel. Out of options, Fields will be on the 25 man roster come April, likely as the backup third baseman and part-time designated hitter. That’s three more guys, for a total of five.

We will jump out to the outfield at this point. I shudder to think how the team is going to actually arrange David DeJesus, Rick Ankeil and Scott Podsednik defensively, but we all know that those will be the three outfielders and that they will play everyday. The signing of Ankiel brought out the semi-public announcement that Jose Guillen would be the club’s primary designated hitter – something Jose probably has not yet heard and won’t like when he does. While the ‘just cut him’ plan of action is certainly appealing and maybe even logical, it is hard to see the Royals doing so. There’s four players, four veterans mind you, that will be on the team in April, bringing us to a total of nine on our roster.

Okay, middle infield will be…deep breathe…Yuniesky Betancourt at shortstop and somebody else. Of course, the Teahen trade also brought Chris Getz over and the expectation is that he will be an upgrade defensively at second over Alberto Callaspo. However, with Guillen moving to DH (not to mention Fields), playing Getz at second leaves few places for Callaspo to play. As much as I hate watching Alberto field, I do love watching him hit. The other glaring problem is that keeping Betancourt, Getz and Callaspo leaves no room for Willie Bloomquist. We all know that’s not going to happen (besides, Willie is the only one who can play short). The wild card in this equation is Mike Aviles. My guess is that Aviles will not be ready at the start of the season and will open the year on the disabled list.

We will assume that the Royals will open the year with a 12 man pitching staff or move to that sooner rather than later. Although he has options left, it is hard for me to believe Dayton Moore traded Mark Teahen for a bench player and a guy who is going to play in Omaha. That leaves Getz on the roster, with Callaspo and Bloomquist who, for all his faults, can fill the role of both fourth outfielder and utility infielder. With Betancourt, that makes four for a total of thirteen.

That means Brian Anderson, all $700,000 of him, is in AAA and Mitch Maier, out of options, might be somewhere else come April. The schedule might allow the team to open with eleven pitchers, so it could be Mitch and the organization a couple of weeks to sort out what to do, but by the end of April, barring a trade or simply cutting bait with Guillen, Mitch will be off the Royals’ big league roster.

Now, onto the pitching staff. The starting rotation right now will be Greinke, Meche, Bannister, Hochevar and either Kyle Davies or Robinson Tejeda. There are rumblings about the Royals fishing for a veteran, which would likely be the end of Davies and push Tejeda back to the pen. Right now, though, my money is on Tejeda as the number five starter. At any rate, that’s five guys, so we are up to eighteen total, now.

The bullpen will have Joakim Soria and Juan Cruz at the backend, with Kyle Farnsworth available for blow-out work (what a fine use of funds, by the way). Rule 5 pick Edgar Osuna is all but guaranteed a spot, which fills four of the seven spots.

I would be pretty amazed if veteran journeyman Matt Herges does not get a spot. Just a hunch, but I think he will trade it that number 77 for a real baseball number by April. I am also hoping beyond all hope that the Royals give and Carlos Rosa earns a spot in the bullpen this year. Rosa, performing as I hope he might, is the guy who makes what Juan Cruz and Kyle Farnsworth do irrelevant.

That leaves one final spot (assuming Tejeda is the fifth starter) up for grabs between Ramon Colon, Victor Marte, Dusty Hughes and all the non-roster invitees. Throw Herges into this mix if you want and say this group is fighting for two roster spots. It doesn’t much matter how it ends up, but that’s seven relievers, twelve pitchers and a 25 man roster.

Now, in reading all this, how likely do you think it is that all of Chris Getz, Jose Guillen and Alberto Callaspo break camp with the Royals? You could throw David DeJesus into that mix as well as he is likely the most tradable of all the Royals’ position players. Barring trades or another free agent signing, I would put pretty good money on the 25 players outlined above.

Part of me is pretty certain Dayton Moore has two more moves on his agenda that will make the real 25 man roster different from the above. All of me is hoping that is the case.

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