Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Browsing Posts tagged Kyle Davies

Episode #032 – In this episode Nick welcomes Adam back to the studio to talk about reasons to continue watching the Royals this season. They talk about some of the Minor League accolades to players like Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, a hot Mike Aviles, good beer and whatever else seems to pop in their heads.

:http://www.livekc.com/podcasts/bbs032.mp3|titles=BBS

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Music used in this podcast:

Hank Williams III – 3 Shades of Black

Freddie Hubbard – Red Clay

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Another September and another strong finishing kick from Kyle Davies.  Although he’s made just two starts this month, he did have a fine outing (8.1 IP, 2 ER, 6 SO) on the final day of August, this isn’t the first time Davies has made a mad dash for the finish.

September, 2008
31.2 IP, 22 H, 8 ER, 7 BB, 24 SO
2.27 ERA, 6.8 SO/9, 2.0 BB/9

Three of Davies best starts of the 2008 season were his final three starts of the season.   This is where an urban legand was born, as it’s always easy to see how a player finishes and hope (and project) similar results for next season.  It’s “he’s turned the corner” disease.  It happens.

A close look at the numbers (Danger: This is where sabermetrics meets a small sample size.  If I make a false move, that will explain the mushroom cloud over Midtown.) reveals Davies had a touch of luck on his side the final month of 2008.  He posted a .244 BABIP (against a .308 BABIP for the full season) and a 3.70 xFIP (against a 4.82 xFIP for the entire year) in September.  The fact those September numbers are so far off his full season numbers (even with the small sample size) can point to a certain amount of good fortune being involved.

Of course, we can’t always look at divergences in numbers and claim “luck!” was involved.  Sometimes it’s something else a little more subtle… A change in mechanics, weaker opposition, unjamming his eyelids… Whatever.  I’m simply pointing out how Davies’ last few September’s have been far from the norm.  Whether it’s luck or something he’s doing on purpose, the results aren’t exactly carrying over to the following season.

The next season, Davies made only three September starts before the Royals shut him down with soreness in his shoulder.  In 2009, two of his best three starts came in the final month. (His best start of the season was his first, a three hit, seven inning lockdown of the White Sox.)  Here are his numbers:

September, 2009
17 IP, 10 H, 2 ER, 14 BB, 10 SO
1.06 ERA, 5.3 SO/9, 7.4 BB/9

Although there was a ton of ink spilled about how Davies was finishing strong, how can you be walking seven batters a game and be considered good?  How about when you’re limiting base hits thanks to a .178 BABIP?  Again, it’s a small sample.  There’s no way Davies is walking batters at that rate for a full year – although he did have a 4.8 BB/9 in 2009.  Just like there’s no way he’s going to have such a low batting average on balls in play.  So if we’re going to discount his walk rate and BABIP, we have to do the same with his ERA.  Yes, he didn’t allow any runs and that’s certainly the goal here, but his 5.92 xFIP gives us a sense of a chance for correction, as it were.

And now this season…

September, 2010 (so far)
12 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 5 BB, 9 SO
1.50 ERA, 6.8 SO/9, 3.8 BB/9

The smallest of sample sizes, but again, you can’t ignore some of the same trends we’ve seen in the past.  Namely, a crazy low .200 BABIP and an elevated 4.89 xFIP.  Of course, those two September starts rank among his top four for the entire season.

As long as Davies doesn’t implode over his final three starts of the season, he could finish with a sub-5.00 xFIP for only the second time in his career.  That’s good – for Davies, at least.  Although his current ERA+ of 83 says this year is his worst full season as a Royal.  Baseball Ref’s WAR says it’s a toss-up between this year and last.

I feel certain that this year we’ve seen the true talent level of Davies.  A guy who will post an ERA around 5, will walk about four batters per nine innings and will strikeout about six per game.  It’s not that this is horrible… It’s just you can pull guys like this off the scrap heap for minimal cost.  (I’m looking at you, Bruce Chen.)

It’s funny how this works… Davies is OK because even though he stinks, he’s been a Royal for most of his major league career.  We traded for him.  That means he was worth something.  It wasn’t like he was a minor league free agent or some waiver claim.  We thought differently of Chen when the Royals signed him.  “Bruce Chen?  That bum?  Really?”  This was because he wasn’t our guy.  He was a castoff from more than one organization.  It turns out, they’re both roughly the same pitcher.  This year, at least.

Davies is eligible for arbitration for the final time this winter and I’m sure the Royals will tender him a contract and will eventually bring him back for around $2 million to fill out the back of the rotation.  That’s the safe move.  It’s also a move with zero long term implications.  It’s fairly obvious when the pipeline to the minors open and this influx of young talent begins arriving in the next couple of years, Davies won’t be good enough to shine their shoes.  He’ll be long gone.  A faded memory.

Nick thinks we may be focusing on the negative with Davies.  Perhaps.  But if the Royals want to do something bold, they’ll avoid resigning Davies and go fishing for a cheap arm this off season to drop in the back of the rotation.  Heck, they could try Bryan Bullington or Phillip Humber or any of the other journeymen that will undoubtedly cross their radar this winter.  Maybe they’ll strike gold.  It’s unlikely, but it could be worth the effort, simply because you may not know what you will discover.

Unlike with Davies.  We know exactly what he brings to the rotation.  Since we know about his true talent and we know it’s not good enough, why continue?  Hopefully the Royals will be bold and will go for some new blood in the back of the rotation in 2011.  It really couldn’t hurt.

There are many factors that make up a contending team and lots of different ways to build that team as well.   Last week, I reviewed how the Texas Rangers built one of the more formidable lineups in the American League.    In doing so, I was reminded that Ian Kinsler was a 17th round draft pick.

Certainly, Kinsler in the 17th round certainly qualifies as a hidden gem as did Mike Piazza, drafted as a favor to Tommy Lasorda and, of course,  the biggest jewel of them all, Albert Pujols.    Being the inexact science that the amateur baseball draft is, the game is full of middle to late round players who made it big.   It is really not all that uncommon.

What is uncommon, however, is for a contending team to not have at least one ‘hidden gem’ in it’s lineup.   Take at look at the American League contenders:

  • New York – Jorge Posada, 24th round
  • Tampa Bay – John Jaso, 12th round (116 OPS+)
  • Boston – Kevin Youkilis, 8th round
  • Minnesota – Jason Kubel, 12th round
  • Texas – Ian Kinsler, 17th round

The White Sox are the only team that does not have a player in its everyday lineup that doesn’t qualify for this admittedly vague category.   Given that Oakland is a game under .500, I didn’t feel they truly could be called a contender, by the way.

So, among the many things the Royals likely need on their way to contention, it appears that having that ‘hidden gem’ (i.e. lucky pick) is one of them.   If you are willing to call the 2003 Royals contenders and not just a fluke, they had that guy in Mike Sweeney, a 10th round pick in the 1991 draft.   That however, seems like a long time ago.

Back in 2008, it appeared the Royals had found their guy in Mike Aviles.   A 7th round pick in 2003 (which the way the Royals were spending back then was probably the equivalent to about a 20th rounder for most teams), Aviles threatened rookie of the year honors and had appeared to solve one of the organization’s biggest holes.   Now, after arm surgery, Aviles is back as .289  hitting second baseman with very little power.  

The other immediate candidate, of course, is former 15th round pick Kila Ka’aihue.   Currently plodding along at .190/.267/.305, Kila has some work to do before he becomes the team’s hidden gem.

Keeping in mind that a ‘hidden gem’, at least for today, is a player drafted lower than the 5th round, not acquired via trade nor signed via free agency (which eliminates Paulo Orlando, Salvador Perez and the like) and is not a pitcher, who do the Royals have in the system that might become an everyday player at least as good as Jason Kubel or John Jaso and maybe even better than that?

  • David Lough.    Drafted in the 11th round of the 2007 draft, many of us thought we might see Lough in the big leagues this summer after he vaulted into the organization’s Top 10 prospect list last winter.    David got off to a tough start in AAA, walking only 10 times from April through June, but rebounded to hit .380/.453/.522 in August and walk 30 times in July and August.   Lough sports modest power (15 doubles, 12 triples, 11 homers this year) and the ability to play all three outfield spots.  
  • Jarrod Dyson.  If Dyson makes it in the majors, there is an archaeologist somewhere that deserves the credit for digging him up.   Buried deep in 2006 draft’s final round, Dyson has made it to the majors on blazing speed and defense.  His minor league career line is .278/.344/.343 with 131 steals in 305 games and that pretty much sums up who Jarrod Dyson is.   It is conceivable that Dyson may cover so much ground in centerfield that he could be an everyday above average player if he can duplicate those minor league numbers in the majors.   Somebody has to be the next Otis Nixon and Otis was a good player on some good teams.
  • Nick Francis.  After losing 50 games this year for violating the drug policy, the former 15th round pick came back to hit 24 doubles and 16 home runs in just 84 games in Wilmington (no small feat considering the park).   A whole bunch of swings and misses are part of Francis’ game and at 24, he was plenty old for A ball, but he is a guy that one can easily see putting up big numbers next year in Northwest Arkansas.
  • Alex Llanos.  I joined a bunch of others on the Hilton Richardson bandwagon a couple of years ago and have been driving the Paulo Orlando bus forever (but he does not qualify for this column), but I am now back on the Alex Llanos train.   He posted pedestrian numbers for the rookie Burlington club this summer (.259/.308/.362 with 17 steals), which probably do not excite anyone given that 2010 was Alex’s third season in rookie ball.      However, Llanos was drafted as a 17 year old in the 6th round and will play the entire 2011 season as a twenty year old.   He is all tools and all projection right now.
  • Whit Merrifield.  The College World Series hero and 9th round pick just this past June, Merrifield was tossed immediately into Low A ball and responded with a solid .253/.317/.409 line after starting out just 8 for 46.  
  • Clint Robinson.  How long have you been yelling his name at this column?  You can believe me or not, but I actually included Robinson in a column of ‘lower round guys to watch’ after the 2007 draft.   Picked in the 25th round out of Troy, Clint has proceeded to hit 74 home runs in four minor league seasons – marching up the chain one level per year.   This season, he won the Texas League Triple Crown with a line of .335/.410/.625 with 29 home runs and 41 doubles.    We have all heard how Northwest Arkansas plays in a hitter friendly park, but Robinson was good on the road, too (.285/.348/.532, 14 HR, 19 2B).   There was a one game dalliance in the outfield late in the season, but at 6’4″, 225 lbs, you wonder if Robinson can make that transition.

There are just a handful of possible gems from the Royals’ system.  You might have five or six other names, or none at all if you woke up in a pessimistic mood.   Having just one of these guys (and that includes Aviles and Ka’aihue), turn into an impact everyday player would be a huge boost towards moving the team to contention.

As Royals fans, we can look at Moustakas, Hosmer and Myers with great anticipation and remain hopeful about Butler and Gordon (not to mention the young arms), but slide the next Kevin Youkilis into the mix as well and the Royals suddenly get some unexpected and much needed help.   

That statement sounds a little crazy, but it happens more often than one might think.   The Royals certainly need it to.

Craig Brown got a nice shout-out in the Kansas City Star for coming up with the nickname Yunigma for Yuniesky Betancourt, but while the nickname works, he isn’t the biggest mystery on the team. That award belongs to Kyle Davies. Just when I am about to write him off, he comes out and does something like last night and throw an absolute gem against a very good offensive team like the Texas Rangers.*

*Speaking of performances last night.  Mike Moustakas went 4 for 6 with a double,3 homeruns and 11 RBI last night for the Omaha Royals.  All this came in AAA after he was named the Texas League Player of the year in AA.

I spent a few hours in a car with some fellow Royals fans this weekend and inevitably the topic turned to baseball, and specifically which players on the team were any good. One argument that got discussed was whether Kyle Davies should be a starter for the Royals next year.  Honestly, I have that debate with myself, so I can’t really argue strenuously that he should be part of the 2011 Royals rotation. However, I believe that he is better than he gets credit for.

The main argument I hear against Kyle Davies is that he has a high ERA, which is true. He currently has a 5.29 ERA which is certainly nothing to write home about. If that were all the information you had at hand, it would be pretty simple to just dismiss Kyle Davies, luckily that isn’t all we have. ERA can be a nice guide to tell you how well a pitcher has pitched, but it can easily be skewed.

One way to judge a metric is to take some extreme examples. Let’s say a pitcher had two 9 inning games and gave up 0 runs in game 1, but gave up 100 runs in game two. His ERA would then be 50. If another pitcher gave up 50 runs in game 1 and 50 runs in game 2, then he would also have an ERA of 50. If I had to pick one of those pitchers and live with his two games, I’d take the first pitcher every time. There is no way a team could win with a 50 run deficit, but give me 9 innings of 0 runs and my team would have a chance. Clearly its an extreme example, but it should illustrate the point. Since ERA is by definition a stat based around an average, a few outliers can really skew the results.

Looking back at Kyle Davies starts this season he has had a few big blowup starts, or as Rob Neyer would call them “disaster starts”.  I wondered what would happen if we started removing his disaster starts.  How much effect do a few starts have on the ERA of someone like Kyle Davies?

His worst start came on May 6th against the Texas Rangers, when he gave up 7 earned runs in 3 innings pitched. If we take that game out of his numbers, his ERA drops to 4.82. Removing just one extremely bad start and almost a half run drops off of his ERA. The Royals ended up losing that game 13-12, so even though Davies had a terrible start the team was still given an opportunity to win.

Davies’ second worst start game on August 24th against the Detroit Tigers.  He once again gave up 7 earned runs, but lasted 4.2 innings. If we were to drop that start and the previous one from his numbers, his ERA drops to 4.53.  The Royals ended up losing this game as well by a score of 9-1.  The Royals offense never came alive in this game, so unless Davies pitched a complete game shutout, they were still likely going to lose this game.

Getting rid of just one more start; June 15th against the Houston Astros which was 3 innings 6 earned runs, then his ERA would be 4.24.  The Royals actually ended up winning this game 15-7.  So, not only did Davies have a complete disaster start, it actually didn’t even hurt the team.  The offense showed up and carried the day.

I know that the numbers are what they are and you can’t just magically drop numbers, but I think this is pretty instructive. If Kyle Davies were a pitcher with a 4.23 ERA, he would be considered a very valuable asset, particularly at only 26 years old. So in an odd way, I think that we may be judging Kyle Davies on three particularly terrible starts. What is crazy about those three starts is that the Royals won one, lost by only 1 run in another and didn’t have a chance in a third.

ERA is a funny stat.  It’s actually one of the better “traditional” stats, so it doesn’t get torn down as hard and often as RBI or Wins.  That in turn, means more emphasis is probably put on it than it should.  With any average stat, particularly one where its possible for the player to have an outing of infinity, things can get skewed.  One bad inning or one bad game can really change peoples perception of a player.  One of the big knocks on Kyle Davies is he needs to be more consistent and I would agree with that.  However, I think we just might be judging Davies a tad too harshly based on three games out of the twenty six in which he has started.

Contact Nick Scott via email at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com, via Twitter @brokenbatsingle or via Facebook .  If you would like to receive his daily Royals system boxscores via email, just drop an email and request it.

There has been a ton of discussion about the offense at this point in the season.  With the team jettisoning dead weight like Rick Ankiel, Scotty Pods and Jose Guillen, this club has experienced a pretty thorough lineup makeover.

But what about the rotation?

I ask because on Tuesday in Anaheim, Bryan Bullington went six innings in his first major league start since 2008 and pitched well.  His final line:

6 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO

He threw 91 pitches and finished with a Game Score of 53.  Solid, if unspectacular.  In other words, just what the Royals needed from Brian Bannister’s spot in the rotation.

Bullington pitched well as a starter for Omaha this season.  Appearing in 20 games (15 starts) he posted a 2.82 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP – strong numbers for your PCL fantasy team.  In 105 innings, he had a 4.06 FIP and whiffed 6.2 batters per nine innings.  He gets a ground ball 49% of all balls put in play and was probably a little lucky as his BABIP in Omaha was a tidy .268.  However, he walked just 2.4 batters per nine.

Command has always been Bullington’s strong point.  He’s never had a walk rate higher than 3.0 BB/9 in the minors.  The issue with him has always been his hittability.  Bullington works around the plate so much, his mistakes are over the heart of the plate.  However, because he’s a ground ball pitcher, he doesn’t give up an extreme number of home runs, rather his mistakes seem to be big innings where opposing hitters string together a series of singles and doubles.

Bullington turns 30 at the end of the season.  I don’t think I’m understating it when I say he’s no longer a prospect.  However, with the maturity he’s gained and with the proper coaching (to continue to make the right adjustments) there’s no reason to think (hope?) he can’t be a contributor to the back of the rotation.

The same could be said for Philip Humber, who came on in relief of Bullington and threw two scoreless innings on Tuesday.

While Humber has never possessed Bullington’s command, he flashed excellent control in Omaha this year, walking just 20 batters in 118 innings.  That works out to a 1.5 BB/9.  Nice.  The other numbers weren’t so great, though.  His strikeouts are down, from 7.8 K/9 in 25 Triple-A starts in 2007 to 6.1 K/9 in 20 starts this year.  He’s also prone to the home run, allowing 17 this year.  Over the last four years (all time spent in Triple-A, mostly as a starter) he’s coughing up a 1.3 HR/9.  That’s a bit much.

This year for Omaha, Humber posted a 4.47 ERA and 1.27 WHIP.  He had a .302 BABIP, so it would seem his numbers haven’t been touched by luck – either good or bad – and that’s reflected in his 4.62 FIP.

So while the Royals lineup has been overhauled, I advocate slotting these two in the rotation for a couple of turns.  Let’s kick the tires, so to speak.

Bannister has moved to the bullpen, ostensibly to work on his mechanics.  Or maybe he’s just working on not sucking.  That would be nice.  Whatever he’s doing, it’s time he stays out there.

Because Bannister has pretty much been an outright disaster this season.  Next year, he will be eligible for his third year of arbitration and will land a contract in the neighborhood of $2.5 million.  That’s not a horrible amount to pay – if you’re paying that to a serviceable fifth starter.  Bannister seems to be more in the mold of a sixth or seventh starter.  (No, I don’t know what that means.  Except that he’s really not good enough to be in the rotation.)

Davies needs to take a trip to the pen as well.  Whatever it is he thinks he’s doing, it’s not working.  Not working at all.  His control is just miserable.  Then, when he falls behind hitters he just grooves one because he doesn’t want to give up another walk.

He has made 76 starts for the Royals covering parts of the last four seasons.  It’s not working.  It’s not going to work.  He’s going to make around $2 million next year, while giving you nothing.  Seriously, Dayton… Time to punt.

A rotation of Greinke, Chen, O’Sullivan, Bullington and Humber?  Sure, that puts a knot in my stomach, but why not?  It makes as much sense as hitting Kendall second or playing Bloomquist in right.

I know Bullington and Humber really don’t have a future for the Royals.  Still, why sit through another Davies five walk epic or another Bannister night start where he coughs up six runs?  We’ve seen Davies and Bannister and we know what they can’t do.  There is really no reason to start them over the last month and a half of the season and there’s no reason to offer them a contract this winter. Put the new guys in and see how they fare.  See if they can give us a fifth starter at a quarter of the cost for the 2011 season.  We’re really talking placeholders here.  Guys who can slot into the rotation until the young arms in Double-A and Single-A are ready.  Isn’t that what Bannister and Davies are?

The revolving door needs to keep revolving.

Prior to the 2010 season, many of us thought that the starting rotation might one of the Kansas City Royals’ strengths.   With the reigning Cy Young Award winner heading the staff and a healthy Gil Meche returning, it seemed that the Royals would have a one-two punch on par with anyone in the division.

Behind Greinke and Meche, there was a very reasonable chance that Luke Hochevar would take the next step and become a reliable number three starter while Brian Bannister was likely to remain a serviceable number four starter.   Plus, maybe this was the year that it all came together for Kyle Davies.   Even if Davies continued as he had been, he was still just the number five starter, anyway.

Well so much for that…

At our annual Royals Authority winter meetings in Bora Bora, we discussed that Zack Greinke’s ERA could go up an entire run and he still could be the best pitcher in the American League.   At the same time, we doubted that Zack would regress that much.   As it turned out, Zack’s ERA has gone up by just under two runs this year and while he is still a force to be reckoned with, Greinke is not dominating as he did in 2009.

That said, Zack is hardly the major issue with the Royals’ rotation.  Gil Meche started all of nine games and now, if he ever pitches again as a Royal, will do so out of the bullpen.   Luke Hochevar, who had shown signs of progress, was sat down for ‘a start or two’  on June 12th and has not been seen since.   Brian Bannister is currently sporting an ERA of barely under six and Kyle Davies remains Kyle Davies.

How bad has it been for the rotation this year?   Well, Bruce Chen, who found no takers for his services over the winter is arguably…not even arguably..IS the team’s number two starter and recently acquired Sean O’Sullivan, who has been tagged for 11 runs in 16 innings of work seems like an improvement over Bannister and Davies.

Of course, as I have often written, the end result of 2010 is not so important as building this team for the future.   In that respect, the Royals have plenty to look forward to when it comes to the rotation.   The AA level of the system boasts Mike Montgomery, John Lamb, Danny Duffy and Chris Dwyer – all potential Top 100 prospects by the time those rankings come out this winter.   Behind them is disappointing, but still talented, Aaron Crow, who is joined by another slew of good young arms in Tim Melville,  Tyler Sample, Brian Paukovits and Will Smith.   The system is positively bubbling with potential major league starters.

Here’s the bad news:  if you throw out Crow’s 119 innings of work at Northwest Arkansas and Will Smith’s bizarre trip through three levels of the Angels’ system this season, the rest of the guys we just named COMBINED, have 60 innings of experience above A ball.      That’s no one’s fault, just a result of some minor injuries, a two month ‘retirement’ and the simple fact that these pitchers are all very young.

Sixty innings of combined AA experience makes it highly unlikely that we see any of these hurlers in Kansas City before September of 2011.    That bodes well for the rotation in 2012 and beyond, but it doesn’t do much for next year’s starting five.

Here is what we know about the 2011 rotation:  Zack Greinke will be the number one starter and Gil Meche won’t be in it.

Long pause….

Chances are, and given the Royals’ recent performance/luck at getting major league starting pitchers healthy, it is just a chance, Luke Hochevar will be in the rotation, too.      Before he went down in June, Luke had shaved over a run and one-half off his 2009 ERA (and yes, I think ERA is still a decent if somewhat crude measurement of the effectiveness of  a starting pitcher) and gone six or more innings in nine of his thirteen starts.   Should Hochevar make it back for even just a handful of starts yet this season, we could once more make a reasonable assumption that he might be able to take that ‘next step’ and settle in as a legitimate number three or number four starter.

After that, the Royals’ options to fill out the rotation are Bruce Chen, Brian Bannister, Sean O’Sullivan and, sigh, Kyle Davies.  

Chen’s a guy that will be interesting to watch the rest of the year.   After moving into the rotation, Bruce allowed 16 earned runs in his first 39 innings, but has been tagged for 20 runs in his last 25 innings.   That is a bad trend, which if not reversed means Chen is not a realistic option in 2011.

Bannister’s performance has degraded to the point that the Royals are skipping his next turn in the rotation.   Getting skipped in a rotation that includes Chen, O’Sullivan and Davies is not exactly a good trend, either.   I don’t know what you do with Bannister, I really don’t.   He is pretty much posting the worst numbers of his career across the board and getting worse as the season goes on.  

Kyle Davies now has 641 innings on his major league resume and they pretty much all look the same.  He is not horrible – well, not in comparison to Bannister or that guy who was wearing Gil Meche’s jersey earlier this year – but he is not anywhere near good, either.   Frankly, I think you could put Kyle’s game logs for the last couple of seasons next to those of Odalis Perez during his Royals’ career and not be able to tell them apart.  I don’t really view that as a ringing endorsement.

That brings us to Sean O’Sullivan, whose best asset at the moment is that he is just 22 years old.   What we have seen out of Sean to date is in line with what the scouting reports indicated:  a competitor, decent stuff and control, lacks a true out pitch and loses effectiveness the second and third time through a batting order.  As many have pointed out, O’Sullivan is not the picture of physical conditioning, so it may be a case of simply maturing and getting in better shape.     Frankly, I like O’Sullivan and could see him developing into a real number four starter (i.e. better than Bannister or Davies), but that might just be the ‘we always like the new guy syndrome’ at work there.

The options in AAA right now are pretty much Philip Humber, Gaby Hernandez and Edgar Osuna.  Of the three, Osuna is intriguing, having pitched extremely well in AA with a 2.95 ERA and a 1.162 WHIP.   He was pounced on pretty good in his first AAA start, but is worth watching in August.   If Chen or Bannister continue to crumble or Ned Yost just gets as bored with Kyle Davies as I am, it might be worth three or four starts in September to get a feel for what Osuna has to offer.

So, what do you do in 2011 if you are running the Royals?   Do you hold the line, trust the process (no sarcasm intended…for once) and wait for your truly impact arms to reach the bigs in 2012?   Probably that is the smart course of action.

If Greinke rebounds from simply good back to dominant, Hochevar comes back healthy and effective (yikes, that probably jinxed him right there!), O’Sullivan matures and improves and you find two guys who are this side of awful out of Osuna, Chen, Bannister and Davies, then you have an ‘okay’ rotation.   I don’t think the Royals can contend with that rotation, but those thoughts might not be realistic for next season, anyway.

Now, if you cannot tolerate a season of that rotation or you believe contending is a real possibility in 2011, then one has to look to free agency.   The list of free agents this off-season can be found here, and there are a number of interesting names on the list.   That said, how many that are upgrades can the Royals reasonably afford?  

As you can see, projecting the 2012 starting rotation will be a lot more fun than doing so for 2011.   What would you do?

So, we’re about 10 days from the trade deadline, so why not handicap the Royals and the chances they’ll be moved in the next week and a half.

Kyle Farnsworth – 35%

Kerosene Kyle has been effective out of the pen this year and teams are always looking for relief.  He could get dealt for a grade C prospect.

Jose Guillen – 5%

It’s not that Dayton Moore won’t trade him.  It’s that he can’t trade him.

Alberto Callaspo – 20%

Reports on Tuesday had the Angels offering Sean O’Sullivan and a fringe prospect.  Once upon a time, O’Sullivan was the Angels fifth rated prospect, but has struggled since moving past Single-A.  I don’t blame Dayton – if the reports are true and he turned this offer down.  However, if that’s the best bounty Callaspo will bring, he’s not going anywhere.  Although the Angels seem like a fit.

Willie Bloomquist – 15%

He would return a PTBNL.  At most.

Zack Greinke, Brian Bannister, Kyle Davies – 0%

The rotation is thin with Gil Meche and Luke Hochevar on the DL.  There’s absolutely zero chance Dayton guts his rotation.

Joakim Soria – 5%

He’s signed at to a club-friendly deal and is a closer.  Both points matter a great deal to management.  Those Soria to New York rumors (and for Jesus Montero!) were so laughable, I’m not even sure they need to be addressed.

Bottom line: This is baseball’s silly season.  I get the feeling there are a few national writers who scour losing teams for quality players on low dollar contracts.  In other words, bargains.  And those writers immediately throw those names into the trade cauldron.  We get it… The Royals are the chum and the Yankees are the sharks.  It’s lazy and unprofessional and total B.S.  It’s like closing your eyes and throwing a dart and guessing where it will land.  So the Yankees covet Soria.  Really?  If I had to guess, I’d say there are 28 other teams who covet the guy.

Soria isn’t going anywhere. Yet.

David DeJesus – 20%

This is the one guy who the Royals are willing to part with (although no one on this team should be “untouchable”) and he’s the one who would net the greatest return, so his odds are the highest outside of Farnsworth.

I could see him headed to Tampa or the Giants.  And yes, I could see him in Boston.  The Royals will have to lower their asking price though.  No, he’s not a fourth outfielder, but he’s much more valuable to the Royals than he would be to say the Rays.  That’s not a knock on DeJesus, it’s just a fact.  And because that’s the case, teams aren’t going to want to give up a ton.  Although if Jeff Passan’s report that the Royals are seeking a major league ready prospect and a mid level prospect is accurate, that seems fair to me.

It will take a savvy GM to get a team to pony up what the Royals are looking for.  I don’t think we have that GM.

The Field – 15%

Overall, I think the odds that GMDM and the Royals make a trade is around 15%.  I just don’t see much happening at the deadline.

I hope I’m wrong.

—————————————————————————————————————

Really not much to analyze in a 13-1 beatdown.

– It was one of those nights when Anthony Lerew looked like a Triple-A pitcher and the Blue Jays looked like the team leading the AL in home runs and second in slugging.  The Jays were ripping Lerew all over the park.  It was the Laser Show prelude to the Lightening Show.

It was only a matter of time before someone lined one up the middle and off the pitcher.  Honestly, Lerew was throwing BP out there – he probably should have had the screen in front of him.  At the time, I thought that was the last thing the Jays wanted to do… Why knock out the pitcher who has nothing?  Turns out it didn’t hurt as Kanekoa Texeira wasn’t any better, allowing both inherited runners to score before allowing two more to plate in the third inning.

Early word on Lerew was a bruised rib cage and bicep.  I bet.  He’s feeling the pain right about now.

– Speaking of BP, that was exactly what Blake Wood was throwing.  That 95 mph on a string… No way a slugging team like the Jays doesn’t just crush the ball against a pitcher like Wood.  And crush him they did.  Bautista smoked a double off the Royals reliever and Lind hit a liner that bounced off the top of the wall for a home run.  In both instances, the hitters were sitting fastball.  In both instances, Wood obliged.

– If you were a major league player and your best chance at getting on base was to make like a fastpitch softball player and execute a swinging bunt, would you be embarrassed?  Just asking…

–  There was a Brayan Pena sighting as he entered the game in the eighth as a pinch runner for Jose Guillen with the Royals down by 10 at that point.  Love the strategic maneuvering.  Gotta keep Guillen fresh.  And it was muddy out there, too.  Gotta keep him safe.

–  If you love spectacular defensive plays, this was your game.  The Jays had Web Gems all around the infield on Tuesday.  And Alberto Callaspo turned in a couple of nifty plays to his left as well.

– The Blue Jays had 16 hits, while the Royals had 11.  Yet the Jays scored 13 runs, while the Royals could only muster a run.

Perhaps the difference was that the Jays had 10 extra base hits to the Royals one.

That seems to be the story of the Royals offense in a nutshell.

When I hear someone say Kevin Seitzer has done a great job with this team, I just shake my head.  Not that he’s done anything wrong or horrible… But he hasn’t done anything to really make a bit of difference with this offense.

The point of the offense is to score runs.  The end.  I could care less that the Royals are leading the league in batting average.  They’re second to last in walks and their 4.37 runs per game are 10th.  They rank seventh in OBP (at .335, which is actually a surprise given the lack of walks… And a good thing) and 11th in slugging at .402.

It’s not like Seitzer can teach guys power, so I’m not going to dock him points for the Royals team slugging percentage.  But when you depend on guys to string together three singles to score one run, it’s going to be difficult to get the runs across the plate.

The Royals pitching hasn’t been good this year.  Fact.  Oh, there have been some quality performances here and there.  And the bullpen is certainly improved following their disaster known as April.  Still, you can’t ignore the numbers.

The Royals are allowing 4.97 runs per game.  Only Cleveland (5 R/G) and Baltimore (5.3 R/G) are worse.

Their collective WHIP is 1.43.  Only Cleveland (1.51 WHIP) and Baltimore (1.51) are worse.

The Royals collective SO/BB ratio is 1.84.  Only Baltimore (1.7 SO/BB) and Cleveland (1.43 SO/BB) is worse.

Royal pitchers have surrendered 100 home runs.  Only Baltimore (101 HR allowed) is worse.

The Royals ERA+ is 89.  Only Cleveland (86 ERA+) and Baltimore (86 ERA+) are worse.

Get the idea?

This is supposed to be the year of the pitcher, but the Royals didn’t get the memo.

(Do you want me to blame Jason Kendall for this?  Because I can.)

(That was a joke.)

Actually, I’m surprised the numbers are so negative.  I know the starters haven’t been that great and the bullpen didn’t start the season well, but I thought the pitching had been a little better.  The numbers say otherwise.

Let’s start with the rotation to see how things grade out in the first half of 2010…

Zack Greinke
1.7 BB/9, 7.6 SO/9, 1.0 HR/9
113 ERA+

No one expected to repeat his stellar 2009 season… That would just be too much to ask.  However, we sure expected him to at least come close.

My main concern with Greinke has been his decline in strikeouts.  Last year at the break, he owned a rate of 9.1 SO/9.  Losing a strikeout and a half from one season to the next is kind of a big deal.  It hurts a little less because Greinke’s rate was so high to start, but this isn’t really something that should go unnoticed.

Why the change?  For starters, hitters began laying off his slider, which was his huge strikeout pitch.   At this time last year, Greinke was getting a swing and a miss 25% of the time when batters offered at his slider.  This year?  He’s getting a swing and a miss just 16% of the time.  (Just 16%?  That’s still a sick number, but compared to last year, it’s not so impressive.)

I’m not bringing up Greinke’s declining strikeout rate to bag on the guy or anything… I’m merely pointing out the biggest difference between this year and last.  He’s still the ace and is still one of the top 10 pitchers in the AL.

Thankfully, Greinke’s xFIP has improved as the season has chugged along.

April: 4.30 xFIP
May: 4.39 xFIP
June: 2.88 xFIP
July: 2.18 xFIP

Of course, that July number is based on seven innings of work since he didn’t make his scheduled start on the Sunday prior to the break.  Still, that outing was vintage Greinke… Probably his best one of the year:

7 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 SO

I think Greinke is poised for a big second half.  Pay attention to those strikeouts, though.  They’ll let us know how he’s doing.

GRADE: B+
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Brian Bannister
3.0 BB/9, 5.3 SO/9, 1.6 HR/9
75 ERA+

I’m glad Bannister is a smart guy because his numbers this year are just a freaking mess.  His decent April (3.48 ERA) was built on the back of an unsustainable strand rate of almost 85% (meaning just 15% of all base runners scored while he was on the mount.  League average is around 25%.)  He posted big – for him – strikeout numbers in May and June, but hitters pounded him for a .325 batting average.

Through everything, he’s surrendered 18 home runs.  Ick.  Even worse, 11 of those allowed the opposition to either tie or take the lead.

GRADE: D+
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Kyle Davies
4.2 BB/9, 5.7 SO/9, 1.0 HR/9
75 ERA+

Davies can’t seem to pitch deep into games and he can’t seem to find any consistency.  The good kind of consistency, I mean.  He’s been pretty awful for most of this season.  Again, though, he’s sprinkled just enough decent starts – one hit in six innings against Seattle in April or one run in seven plus innings against the Angels in July – to make the Royals think he’s one bullpen session from putting it all together.

Uhhh… That’s never going to happen.
He and Bannister don’t belong in the rotation.

GRADE: D+
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Luke Hochevar
3.2 BB/9, 6.6 SO/9, 0.7 HR/9
85 ERA+

Hochevar is quietly having the best season of his career.  I say quietly, because I’m certain you were hoping for more than a 1.39 WHIP and a 4.23 xFIP from our former number one draft pick.  Still, it’s an improvement.

Last year, hitters put up a line of .364/.422/.649 against Hochevar with runners in scoring position.  This year, he’s allowing a line of .333/.425/.486 in the same situation.

As you can tell from the difference in the slugging percentage from one year to the next, he’s finally figured out how to keep the ball in the park.  It’s been kind of frustrating to watch a sinker ball pitcher get taken deep with alarming regularity.  And in previous seasons, a lot of those bombs came with runners on base.  Eleven of his 23 home runs last year came with runners on, to be precise.  This year, not only is he allowing fewer home runs – just six all year – only one of those have come with a runner on.

If he keeps this up, he could develop into a solid number three starter.  If I recall correctly, that seemed to be his upside when he was drafted.

GRADE: B-
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Gil Meche
6.3 BB/9, 5.5 SO/9, 1.3 HR/9
63 ERA+

Just an absolute disaster.  When Bruce Chen takes your place in the lineup and people are thankful… Well, you’ve pretty much stunk up the stadium.

I know, I know… It’s not really his fault.  He’s hurt and remains the $55 million victim of Trey Hillman’s Starting Rotation Massacre.  If only Hillman had the guts to tell Meche he was out of a game…

GRADE: F
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Bruce Chen
4.7 BB/9, 7.4 SO/9, 1.0 HR/9
110 ERA+

So the only Royal starters with an ERA+ of over 100 is Greinke and Chen?  Who would have guessed that at the start of the season.

Wanna know why he’s been successful (relatively speaking) this year?  Check out these two graphs from texasleaguers.com.  First, features his release point from the entire 2009 season.  The pitch classifications aren’t important.  Just the single big blob.

Here’s the chart illustrating his release point for 2010.  This year, he has two blobs.

For Chen, it’s all about the release point.  By alternating – and throwing all his pitches – from different angles, he’s been able to keep hitters off balance.  His strikeout rate is the highest it’s been since 2003 when he was primarily a reliever.

A couple of concerns though:  For some reason, in his last start, he was only throwing his slider from the lower arm angle.  That’s probably why he struggled and was pulled so early.  Also, he’s still a fly ball pitcher.  Over 50% of all batted balls are fly balls against Chen.  His home run rate is almost certainly going to go up in the second half.  And he’s walking too many batters.

Still, he’s been the surprise in the rotation.  I’m still shaking my head over this development.

Come on, Chen!!!

GRADE: B-
——————————————————————————————————-
Anthony Lerew
2.5 BB/9, 5.8 SO/9, 2.9 HR/9
56 ERA+

Yes, Lerew has thrown more gopher balls than walks.

His two good starts have been at home.  His three bad ones have been on the road.  I’m sure the guy who gets to use the lone computer at the K has this one sorted out.

GRADE: D

OK, now to the relief corps…

Blake Wood
3.6 BB/9, 2.9 SO/9, 0.7 HR/9
107 ERA+

Double check that strikeout rate again… Make sure I didn’t mess that one up.  Nope… He really has whiffed just eight batters in 25 innings.  For some reason Yost has been using him primarily as an eighth inning guy in close games.  He’s blown a couple of games and coughed up a few runs in a tie game a few weeks back, but otherwise he’s done what the manager has asked.

It’s one of the biggest mysteries of the year.  Once it’s solved, it’s not going to end well.

GRADE: C-
——————————————————————————————————-
Dusty Hughes
3.7 BB/9, 5.5 SO/9, 0.9 HR/9
106 ERA+

Lefty, but not just a LOOGY.  Hillman used him in tight games, but Yost doesn’t trust him.  Since Yost took over, Hughes has made 16 appearances and pitched just once with a lead – and that was with seven runs.  He has entered two tie games, though.

He gets a higher grade than Wood because he can actually strike a batter out.

GRADE: C
——————————————————————————————————-
Kyle Farnsworth
2.4 BB/9, 7.2 SO/9, 0.5 HR/9
175 ERA+

His strikeouts are down (he whiffed 10 batters per nine last year) but Kerosene Kyle is having his finest season since 2005.  Really.

I give him grief for not being able to pitch in pressure situations and the Royals have done a fair job of keeping him out of the fire.  According to Baseball Reference, he’s appeared in 14 low leverage situations, five medium leverage situation and 10 high leverage situations.  Here are the results:

High Leverage: .259/.286/.407
Med Leverage: .212/.297/.242
Low Leverage: .231/.302/.346

Keep bringing him into the game in the sixth or seventh inning.  I’m fine with that.

Currently, the most likely Royal to be dealt at the deadline.

GRADE: A-
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Robinson Tejeda
4.9 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9, 0.2 HR/9
126 ERA+

Tejeda will spend the entire season digging out of his miserable April where he held a 12.96 ERA through his first 10 appearances.  Since then, he’s been awesome… A 0.84 ERA, 30 strikeouts in 32 innings and he’s limiting hitters to a .171 batting average.  He’s faced 124 batters and allowed four extra base hits.

He’ll still walk a guy – or three – and that will always keep him from being the top of his class.

GRADE: B+
——————————————————————————————————-
Joakim Soria
2.3 BB/9, 11.1 SO/9, 1.0 HR/9
182 ERA+

Stud.

Should have appeared in the All-Star Game.

He’s also another reliever who’s improved since Yost took over as manager. (I know… there’s been a ton of talk about how the bullpen is improved because Yost keeps guys in their assigned roles.  And Soria was always the closer.  Still, the numbers are what they are.)  Soria has a 1.35 ERA since mid-May and hasn’t allowed a home run since May 11.

GRADE: A

There you go… Time to have your turn in the comments.

A few quick thoughts as we head out the door for a long holiday weekend…

Apparently, the Missouri Department of Transportation destroyed a tree along I-70 that was planted to honor Dan Quisenberry.  This, as these things do, has created quite an uproar.  First, we need a little clarification.

– Quisenberry had a tree planted to honor his memory?  Seriously?  When did this happen?  Am I the only person in Kansas City – other than MODOT employees – who did not know this?

– There are just a ton of green spaces in Kansas City.  Why would they plant a tree like this along an interstate right-of-way?  Were all the trees in the parking lot at the Independence Center claimed?

Quiz loved gardening.  He kept plants and assorted green things in the bullpen.  I think he grew tomatoes or something out there. I guess that’s why he has had a tree.  It’s a nice thing for someone to do, but why wouldn’t they have planted the thing on the grounds of the stadium?

–  Obviously, now is the ideal time for the Royals to step up and do something nice to honor Quiz.  I’m not talking about a statue or retiring his number… Instead, maybe they could plant a tree in the space between the fountains and the stairs in right field.  Maybe at the top.  That way, they could have a plaque (you know, so it won’t get bulldozed in the next round of stadium renovations in 2030) and it would be where everyone in the stadium could see it.

Sounds good to me.

– The Royals head to the West Coast and will make an appearance on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.  That’s a rare event, but I don’t need to tell you.

Although I do love how the game is on July 4.  This has to be the lowest rated Sunday Night game of the year, regardless of the teams.

–  Now that almost everyone with access to the internet has weighed in on Jose Guillen’s comments (or should it be outburst?  Or rant?) let me throw out my two cents and say I agree with Clark.

There.

Otherwise, I should probably add I’m glad Guillen decided to shoot his mouth off.  It’s been a relatively quiet 18 months.

However at this point, Guillen carries a lame duck status.  He has three months left here – hopefully less.  Anything he says carries little or no weight.

Move along… There’s nothing to see.

– Alex Gordon and Kila Ka’aihue were named to the PCL All-Star team.  I have no clue who those guys are.

– Kyle Davies last start where he gave up fewer than four runs came on May 22.  Over his last 30 innings, covering six starts he has an 8.70 ERA and batters are hitting .306/.400/.508 against him.  That includes a start against the Astros, for crying out loud.  Oh, I should probably add that during this time he has struck out 15 while allowing 19 walks.

I like to see how many swinging strikes a pitcher gets as a percentage of all strikes thrown.  The best pitchers miss the most bats, generally speaking.  Since his start at the end of May, Davies has gotten a swing and a miss in just 7% of all strikes.  That’s abysmal.  Even more alarming, only 16% of his strikes have been called.

In other words, hitters are just making a ton of contact against Davies.  He’s fooling no one.

Except maybe management.

– Have a great – and safe – holiday.

It’s been awhile since I did some bullets.  Since my time is stretched very thin this week and I am stuck in Red Sox land, I figure it is a perfect time to load the chamber.

  • We all know the Royals love singles (not the movie with Bridget Fonda) however, they aren’t the biggest offender in that department. Both the Orioles (72.8%) and the Mariners (72.5%) have a higher percentage of their hits become singles than the Royals (72.4%).  However, there is clearly a correlation between no power and teams that are not winning lots of games.
  • The Royals are still tied with the Rangers for the highest team batting average in the majors at .283.  They are the only team in the top 7 in that stat category to not be in either 1st or 2nd in their division.  (see bullet point above)
  • Lerew and Chen combined have 58.2 IP, 3.83 ERA  and 1.79 K:BB ratio.  I don’t think you can ask for more out of two replacement starters.  If these guys had started the season in the rotation and pitched this well, the Royals would possibly have 5 more wins.  Sorry, Luke and Gil.
  • Chen and Lerew also have the lowest BABIPs in the rotation, and their FIP is higher than their ERA.  Translation from baseball nerd terms: give them enough time and they probably won’t keep up this production.
  • If you listen to my podcast, you know that I like to discuss the Hero and Goat of the week using the WPA statistic.  Based on most WPA added and subtracted, the guys who take home the award at this point in time are:
    • Heroes: Zack Greinke and Billy Butler
    • Goats: Kyle Davies and Alberto Callaspo
  • Not sure if you saw this a couple of weeks ago but the Royals are a terrible base running team and I doubt that has changed in the past two weeks.  What is doubly frustrating is that since the Royals have so many singles, then base running becomes much more important because they have further to run to score.  They are absolutely shooting themselves in the foot.  What is also funny is that the Angels are below the Royals, a team which people (a-hem stat hating announcers) gush all over because of the way they run the bases.
  • If you haven’t peeked at the standings (I can’t blame you), then you might not have noticed that the Twins are no longer in 1st place. They were passed by the Tigers.  However, the White Sox are also back in the race and have shown the Royals how to get back in it.  They just need to rattle off 11 wins or so.
  • There are fifteen, FIFTEEN! teams with a worse bullpen ERA than the Royals.  I need to fire up the flux capacitor and tell the me from April not to get too down on the bullpen, they will get it figured out.  Oh yeah, and lay money on Ghana vs U.S. in the World Cup.
  • This isn’t exactly Royals related, but I think it is hilarious that Joba Chamberlain has a 5.29 ERA.  And yes, the Yankees are one of the fifteen teams below the Royals in relief ERA.
  • Over 15,000 fans showed up to the ballpark last night to see the Royals Vs White Sox.  It was a Monday night following a sell-out weekend and the team was 9.5 games out of first and hasn’t been to the playoffs since 1985.  Seriously, this is a baseball town filled with fans ready to win ball games.  It is going to happen, someday.
  • I keep hearing one question regarding the 2012 All-Star game.  Is it going to be affordable?  The answer: No.
  • I’ve been wanting to do a reader Q&A either in written form or podcast form.  However, in order to do that I need questions.  Send me your Royals related (if only slightly) questions to brokenbatsingle @ gmail dot com.  They can be serious, ridiculous, stat-based, SABRTrey or SABRNed related or whatever.
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