Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Browsing Posts tagged Josh Rupe

What can you say anymore?

The bullpen stinks.  How’s that?  Oh, we’ve already said that…

The latest transgression was a doozy.

Zack Greinke, after a couple of wobbly starts, threw just a brilliant game.  Six hits through seven innings where he seemed to gain strength as the game progressed.

I thought the Mariners got their best swings at Greinke in the first.  That was when Ichiro led off with a deep fly to center and Franklin Gutierrez went the other way deep to right.  Both balls had warning track power, and fortunately both balls died in the gloves of the outfield.

The Mariners, like almost every other team this year, were laying Greinke’s slider.  They swung at that pitch just under 32% of the time.  He made up for that by getting swings 78% on both his curve (which just had some wicked break last night) and his change.  While I say the curve had wicked break, it was up in the zone enough that the Mariners were able to foul that pitch off (or pop it up.)  His money pitch was the change.  He threw it nine times, got two swinging strikes and only one batter put it in play all night.  And all of them were strikes.

Courtesy of Texas Leaguers, here’s how Greinke’s pitch selection looked last night:

You know what Greinke’s issue was last night?  Foul balls.  The Mariners fouled off 29 of his 119 pitches.  If just a handful of those pitches are put in play, his pitch count stays manageable and he is in the game in the eighth before he hands the ball to Soria in the ninth.

The Mariners aren’t a good offensive team at this point in the season.  They battled, though.  They didn’t always get good swings and were off balance most of the night, but they were difficult to put away.  I’m fairly certain that was the game plan.  Why wouldn’t it be?  Work the count by any means so you can get to the Royals bullpen.

So on to that bullpen…

It’s fairly clear at this point SABR Trey is just kind of an automatic kind of guy when it comes to his bullpen.  He desperately needs guys to have roles, so he can look at a chart in the dugout, apply the situation, and make the decision.  The problem is, he doesn’t have anyone to cover the “2-0 lead in the top of the eighth” situation.

The latest reliever who has garnered Trey’s affections is Josh Rupe.  He is the candidate for the simple fact he made three appearances in four days when he first joined the club and didn’t surrender a run.  I’ll admit, he did look good in those appearances.  However, you have to be leery of such decisions given the fact the Royals felt he wasn’t good enough to make the team out of spring training.

Then again, SABR Trey changes his favorite set-up reliever like a 13 year old girl who can’t decide which Jonas Brother they like.  (Is that a relevant pop culture reference?  I ask because my knowledge of such things pretty much ended in 1995.  The first draft of this article had a Hanson reference.)

Rupe looks good to start, getting Adam Wilson to strike out.  Then Ichiro reaches on a bunt single.  We’re still OK, but Rupe gets freaked out by Ichiro on first. (His run is really inconsequential.  I mean, you don’t want him to score, but he’s not the tying or lead run.)  Predictably, focus is lost and Chone Figgins walks on four pitches.  In my mind, that was just unforgivable.  Figgins is LOST at the plate.  The man is in a horrific slump, hitting .183/.322/.239 in his first 21 games.  He’ll certainly take a walk though.

After Rupe loads the bases, SABR Trey decides to go to his bullpen.  I know we’ve had just a ton of debate about when to use Soria.  Apparently, I’ve taken some heat from a certain corner of the interweb for advocating his use in the seventh inning.  (I’m a realist.  That’s not going to happen.  The conclusion drawn from that article was incorrect, anyway.  Hillmanesque in the way it missed the mark.)

However, if there’s ever a time to use your closer, your best pitcher out of the bullpen, it’s with the bases loaded and one out after your Cy Young award winning pitcher throws his best start of the year.

Instead, we got Robinson Tejeda.

Worst loss of the year.

Kyle Davies has a strong game. The box score doesn’t look like he had a strong game, but he did.

Davies mixed his pitches on Tuesday. His totals broke down like this:

Fastball – 41
Change – 12
Slider – 12
Curve – 11
Cutter – 11

That’s a nice array of pitches Davies has developed. The change and curve come in at similar velocities, but have radically different breaks as you would expect. Same for his cutter and slider. Courtesy of Brooks Baseball, here’s how his pitch movement looks from the bird’s eye view:

He had some deception working on Tuesday. Of the 41 fastballs he threw, he didn’t get a single swing and miss. However, he got a total of eight swings and misses from his 46 other pitches. That’s good. Try and jump ahead with the fastball and then finish them off with one of four other pitches. For the most part, it worked.

(By the way, what’s up with Vernon Wells? I thought we wrote his career obit after last year. Two doubles and his seventh home run of the year? Wow.)

Davies has now had Game Scores of 50, 50 and 46 in his first three starts. Certainly, nothing great, but he’s been consistent. Isn’t that something we’d like from the number five starter? Of course. If Davies can throw six innings and give up three or four runs in every start, that’s absolutely something we’d take. Consistency has always been an issue with Davies, so we’ll see how he fares in his next several starts.

Another good thing Davies can take from this game was the fact he gained strength as the innings progressed. His final fastball was 92.2 mph. It was his fastest pitch of the night.

One other thing before we move on… Nice outing from Josh Rupe, who wriggled his way out of a bases loaded jam in the seventh with a strikeout and a double play. You absolutely have to go out of your way and make sure you tip your cap to the bullpen when they do well.

Weird game…

David DeJesus needs to discover the wonders of pine tar. By my count he’s released and helicoptered the bat four times. Unofficially.

Entering Tuesday’s game, Blue Jays starter Dana Eveland had faced a total of six left handed hitters (out of 51) in his two starts. Not really sure why that’s the case, because he’s been hittable from both sides of the plate throughout his career. Ever the one to spit in the face of trends, Trey Hillman kept DeJesus at the top of the lineup. That’s probably because with Scott Podsednik still absent, the Royals skipper has only 11 bats to choose from. And given the fact he’s not going to start Brayan Pena two nights in a row, Hillman’s only decision is if he’s going to play Wee Willie or not. Of course he’s going to play Wee Willie!

See how nearly everything about he lineup is a direct result of the Royals decision to carry 13 pitchers? Has anyone in the Royals front office notice how the roster is currently constructed? Are they aware of the impact it has on a nightly basis?

Then Bloomquist reached base five times. Five times! In addition to his three hits, he got on base once on an error and once via a walk. Unfortunately, Billy Butler couldn’t do anything with Wee Willie in front of him as he grounded into two double plays.

So the nightly Unbelievable Recap looks like this: Yuni Betancourt is hitting .333, Jose Guillen is hitting .368 and Jason Kendall has at least one hit in every game this season and is batting .360. And the Royals have won five of 14. Ugh.

Greinke tomorrow. Hope you have the MLB Network. It’s not on FSKC.

Royals’ fans probably do not need any extra incentive to be enamored with Joakim Soria, but just in case, yesterday produced another moment.    

This moment has nothing to do with Soria retiring Justin Morneau with two out in the eighth and Joe Mauer on first in a two run game – although that was certainly big.   Instead, it has everything to do with what happened in the inning after that.

By then, of course, the Royals were comfortably in front 10-5 thanks to Alberto Callaspo’s second three-run homer of the day, so the pressure was off.  You can insert your ‘Trey Hillman leverage analysis here’.   Soria took to the mound in the bottom of the ninth and did something that every member of the pitching staff should have taken note of:  he didn’t mess around.

Facing Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Delmon Young, the Royals’ closer threw twelve pitches, ten of which were cut fastballs and eight for strikes.   Basically, Joakim simply said, “I’m going to throw cutters for a strikes and I am pretty sure I’m good enough that you cannot string together enough hits to beat me.”   

What’s this?  Throw strikes?   Believe in your stuff?  Every member of this pitching staff from Greinke down to Mendoza (and that’s a long journey, my friends) would be wise to remember that simple mantra.

Of course, the biggest offenders are those that pitch in relief that are not named Soria.   As a team, and this includes Soria’s numbers, the Royals bullpen is dead last in baseball when it comes to throwing the first pitch for a strike:  tossing strike one just under fifty percent of the time.      When the bullpen throws a ball out of the strike zone, opponents take a cut at them just 20% of the time – again, dead last in baseball.

Does it come as any surprise that Joakim Soria and John Parrish both induce swings out of the strike zone 35% of the time, while no other reliever tops 20%?    Suppose it has anything to do with Parrish throwing 63% of his pitches for strikes and Soria tossing strikes at a 71% clip?

Yesterday was a big win for the Royals as they try to stay within hailing distance of .500.   They hit the ball well, Luke Hochevar battled and Josh Rupe did just enough to squelch the fire lit by Dusty Hughes (who has thrown 53 balls and 50 strikes this yea) to get the game to Soria.   I will also, once again, give credit to Trey Hillman for being willing to go to Soria in the 8th.   Overall, a good day when the team really needed one.

That said, the Royals have wasted two weeks of good hitting mostly because their bullpen has hurt more than helped.   Dayton Moore cleaned house in the pen after his arrival with the intention of getting strike throwers and yet, somehow, has ended up with a relief crew that is eerily similar (albeit better behaved) to that he inherited from Allard Baird.   Is twelve games into a 162 game schedule too early to clean house?  I don’t think so.

The Royals may end up being a better offensive team than most of us expected, but they are not going to hit like this forever.   Dropping Colon and bringing up Josh Rupe is a start, but more changes need to follow.  

I heard a comment on talk radio last week referencing potential bullpen help that went along the lines of ‘the guys in the minors obviously didn’t show enough to make the team in the spring, can we expect them to help now?’   Well, ‘the guys’ who decided who should make the team broke camp with Roman Colon as the primary setup man.   Perhaps it is time to reevaluate the evaluation.

Rumors are out that Dayton Moore is looking to trade Juan Cruz and Kyle Farnsworth and eat some/most of their salaries along the way.  Hey, it’s worth a try, but better pitchers have simply been released in the last couple of weeks so I am not holding my breath.

Truth is, Cruz has been incredibly hittable this season and Farnsworth cannot pitch in any situation with any sort of leverage (actual or Trey Hillman imagined).    They are a waste of time and, sadly, a waste of games, too.  

You want to make a statement about throwing strikes?   Drop Cruz, Farnsworth, Hughes and Mendoza and pull up Bryan Bullington, Matt Herges, Blake Wood and Brad Thompson.   Truthfully, does anyone think the bullpen would be any worse?   If it turns out being so, then the Royals still have Carlos Rosa, Greg Holland and Chris Hayes to try after that.

Basically, Dayton Moore and the Royals can sit and talk about throwing strikes and getting better production or they can actually make some moves to give this team a chance at respectability.  The time is now.

The first bullpen domino has tumbled…

Colon was always a fringe guy in my mind.  (Aren’t they all?)  He wasn’t helped by a low strikeout rate and the fact he evolved into a fly ball pitcher the last couple of years.  He was designated for assignment.  That was a poorly spent $665,000.  Based on the dollars, it seems surprising Luis Mendoza is still around.

Josh Rupe was signed by the Royals as a minor league free agent last November.  He had thrown five scoreless innings for Omaha, allowing just two hits and a walk while striking out four.  Rupe, like Colon, carries a low strikeout to walk ratio, but keeps the ball in the park.

This isn’t a bullpen fix, but something had to be done.  This is a welcome change from last year where the team seemingly refused to address the bullpen issues by dipping into the minors.  And the Royals are still carrying 13 pitchers.

In other news today, Alex Gordon was moved to Omaha to continue his rehab.  He hit .235/.548/.412 in Wilmington.  His lofty OBP is the result of nine walks and four HBP in 31 plate appearances.  He had four base hits – three doubles.  Hopefully, he’ll get an opportunity to swing the bat in Triple-A.  He could return by the end of the month.

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