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Deconstructing The Process

Browsing Posts tagged Sean O’Sullivan

A few years back, Sean O’Sullivan was somebody.

As a 19 year old in the Midwest League, the rotund righty threw 158 innings, allowed just 136 hits, walked only 40 and struck out 125 on his way to a 2.22 ERA (3.04 FIP).   Baseball America named him the fifth best prospect in the Angels’ system.

The following year, O’Sullivan pitched the same number of innings, walked ten more batters, struck out 14 less and, thanks in no small part to pitching in the hitter’s Shangra-La known as the California League, was tagged for a 4.73 ERA (albeit with a still decent 3.61 FIP).  For those of you who remember the days of Royals’ prospects spending the summer in High Desert, you will note that overall it was far from a disaster for O’Sullivan.

Then along came 2009, when the Angels decided to give Sean a whirlwind tour of America.   He started three games in AA: giving up one run over six innings in his debut and then a combined 10 runs over 12 innings in his next two.   That was apparently enough for the Angels to send him to AAA, where O’Sullivan made nine starts with varying degrees of success before earning a promotion to the bigs.

In his debut against the Giants, O’Sullivan allowed just one run over seven innings of work.   The Angels gave Sean three more starts (two okay, one not so hot) before returning him to AAA before the All-Star Break.  O’Sullivan was lit up in a single AAA start on July 9th and did not pitch again until being recalled to face the Royals on July 21st, holding our boys to two runs over five plus innings and getting the win.

Returned to AAA immediately thereafter, O’Sullivan then threw a complete game no-hitter on July 28th (facing just one over the minimum).   Quite obviously, that was enough to get him back to the majors where Sean was basically awful in four August starts.   That earned him a trip back to AAA for one start and one relief appearance, followed by three more big league outings in September (one start, two relief appearances).

Overall, 2009 saw Sean O’Sullivan post ERA’s of well over five at each of the three levels he threw at.  His strikeouts went from 6.75/9 in AA to 5.05 in the majors and his home run rate went from 0.48/9 in AA to 1.17/9 in AAA to 2.09 in the majors.   The best thing about O’Sullivan’s 2009 was that he managed to grind out 138 total innings.

Back in AAA to start 2010, SOS started 13 consecutive games and went six or more innings in nine of those contests.   He was called up to Anaheim in late mid-June to make four relief appearances (allowing just one run), returned to AAA for two starts in July and then back up to pitch in Yankee Stadium on July 20th.  He held the Yankees to two runs over six innings to get the Angels a win.

As you know, O’Sulllivan and Will Smith were then traded to the Royals for Alberto Callaspo (whose lack of ability to act as a civilized human being outside the white lines outweighed his ability at the plate) and Sean found himself in a different uniform facing that same New York team in the same stadium just five days later.  He was tagged for five runs in five innings in what would be a very representative start for him over the next eight turns through the rotation.  

Only in late September would O’Sullivan show much as he ‘Kyle Davied’ his way through three straight six inning starts at the end of the year:  allowing two runs, then one, then none.   Even with those three good starts, O’Sullivan ended up with a combined big league 5.49 ERA (4.98 xFIP) and struck out just 4.63/9, while walking 3.3/9 and allowing home runs at the rate of 1.61/9.    

In a surprise move, the Royals broke camp in 2011 with O’Sullivan in the bullpen and Vin Mazzaro in AAA waiting for the time when Kansas City would need a fifth starter.   O’Sullivan allowed five runs in four innings over two relief appearances, but thanks to Mazzaro walking seven in his AAA tune-up start, Sean was given the fifth starter spot on April 16th and responded by throwing five shutout innings against Seattle.

Following that, O’Sullivan allowed just two runs over six innings against Cleveland, only one earned run against Minnesota the next time out (although he walked 7 in 6 innings) and then only three runs over eight innings against Oakland despite not striking out a batter the entire game. 

Smoke and mirrors?   Apparently.   In O’Sullivan’s next five starts he allowed 4, 6, 7, 10 and 7 runs and was thankfully banished to AAA until making a September 27th start against Minnesota where he allowed six runs in five innings.

By the time 2011 was said and done, Sean O’Sullivan had thrown 58 big league innings, being tagged for 78 hits (10 homers), while walking four batters per nine innings and striking them out at a rate below THREE.   Earned run average seldom gives us a truly accurate picture of a pitcher, but Sean’s 7.26 seems pretty much on target to me.   

While O’Sullivan had a nice run in AAA (4.22 ERA, 6.6k/9, 1.9 BB/9) he is a pitcher who, against big league hitting, struggles to throw strikes and can’t keep the ball in the park when he does.  

On paper, you have a pitcher who averages between 91 and 92 mph on his fastball, has a sometimes pretty good curve and can offer a change-up in the mid-seventies, but none of that translates into success.   Without one really good pitch or the ability to consistently throw a couple of decent pitches for strikes, O’Sullivan does not really strike this writer as a relief option (particularly given the number of better options the Royals currently possess) and he certainly is well down in the pecking order when it comes to getting another shot at starting.

For 2012, I imagine O’Sullivan will be part of the Omaha starting rotation where he might see some major league action if the Royals need someone to step in for a couple of weeks and don’t want to disturb the progress of more prized prospects.  When it comes to the long-term, it is tough to see where O’Sullivan fits in and, honestly, it is probably for the best that he does not.

xxx

 

 

 

 

On to the pitchers…

We know the starters have, taken as a whole, been horrible. And we know the bullpen has been one of the strengths of this team. I don’t know how the rotation can improved in the second half. Aside from Danny Duffy, these guys pretty much are who we thought they were. Which is not good.

The bullpen, on the other hand, has overachieved. Many of the relievers have outperformed their xFIP and have incredible batting averages on balls in play and even more incredible strand rates. That points to the volatility of the bullpen. It’s still a strength of this team, but I’m not certain it will be as strong in the second half.

One area where you notice the chasm is in strikeouts. The Royals starters couldn’t pitch their way out of a paper bag. (When I talk about the “starters,” know that I’m excluding Duffy. He’s the Chosen One adrift in a sea of batting practice pitchers.) Meanwhile, the bullpen is full of flame throwers who have made missing bats a habit. There may be some regression to the bullpen mean in the second half, but the strikeouts will cushion the blow.

Luke Hochevar
2.9 BB/9, 4.6 SO/9, 5.46 ERA, 4.22 xFIP
0.6 WAR

Key Stat: Allowing opponents to hit .300/.379/.461 with runners on base.

I don’t know if it’s fair to call Hochevar “frustrating.” That would imply we have expectations that he could actually be… good.

Instead, we’re teased with a pitcher who retires three or six or nine batters in a row and then implodes in a spectacular fashion. Read that key stat again… there’s something happening when Hochevar pitches from the stretch. Even more frustrating, when runners reach base, Hochevar slows to the game to a speed that resembles Billy Butler running the 100 yard dash… Stand. Still.

I read somewhere that the KC Star’s Sam Mellinger thought Hochevar is a victim of heightened expectations that come with being the team’s Opening Day (read, number one) starter. I just can’t buy into this theory. Mainly because I haven’t thought about Hochevar as the Opening Day starter since… Opening Day. I mean, even Hochevar has to know he was the “number one” starter only because there wasn’t anyone else.

Grade: D

Jeff Francis
1.7 BB/9, 4.4 SO/9, 4.60 ERA, 4.01 xFIP
1.8 WAR

Key Stat: His average fastball is 85 mph.

Francis was always one of the softer throwers in the game, but he’s lost a couple mph off his alleged fastball since returning from shoulder surgery. Having said that, he’s compensating by featuring the best control of his career. The issue with Francis – and it will always be an issue – is that when he catches too much of the plate, it’s easy for opposing batters to make solid contact. His line drive rate hovers around 20% and his BABIP is always north of .300, meaning his WHIP will always be elevated, even though his walks are under control.

Despite the warts, he’s having a pretty decent season.

Grade: B-

Bruce Chen
3.0 BB/9, 5.6 SO/9, 3.26 ERA, 4.37 xFIP
0.7 WAR

Key Stat: Chen has a 76.5% strand rate.

If you’re looking for a reason for Chen’s solid ERA, look no further than his strand rate. It’s about three percentage points better than his career rate. If he regresses to the mean, the second half could be a bit bumpy, but given the way he’s turned his career around, I’m not certain I would bet against him.

Bringing Chen back for 2011 was a good piece of business by Dayton Moore.

Grade: B

Kyle Davies
4.0 BB/9, 6.3 SO/9, 7.74 ERA, 4.78 xFIP
0.2 WAR

Key Stat: Has thrown three quality starts in 11 overall starts. The Royals have lost all three of those games.

Dreadful.

Grade: F

Sean O’Sullivan
4.4 BB/9, 3.0 SO/9, 6.92 ERA, 5.59 xFIP
-0.5 WAR

Key Stat: His 0.69 SO/BB ratio is the worst rate among pitchers who have started more than five games this season.

Double dreadful.

Grade: F

Danny Duffy
4.3 BB/9, 7.3 SO/9, 4.85 ERA, 4.20 xFIP
0.0 WAR

Key Stat:

Duffy is just a few adjustments away from moving to the front of the rotation. Really. It all comes down to location and an economy of pitches. These are things he can adjust. The successes have been there… there will be more in the near future.

Grade: C

Aaron Crow
4.2 BB/9, 9.1 SO/9, 2.08 ERA, 3.15 xFIP
0.5 WAR

Your 2011 All-Star!

There’s going to be a ton of talk over the next couple of months about moving Crow into the rotation. Personally, I’m on the record saying that everyone from the bullpen should be given a shot at starting. Seriously, the rotation is dreadful so something needs to be done.

Now, having said that, I don’t think that Crow will ever transition back to the rotation. Part of my reasoning has to do with his performance this season. He’s walking too many guys to be a middle of the rotation starter. Also, his success this year is built around an unsustainable 90% strand rate. Then, there’s also his track record from the minors. Don’t forget, he was demoted as a starter after getting raked to the tune of a 5.66 ERA in Double-A. He followed that with a 5.93 ERA in Single-A. Yikes.

Crow seems to have found his groove as a reliever and has emerged as a dependable set-up man. Why mess with a formula that’s been successful?

Grade: A-

Tim Collins
6.6 BB/9, 7.7 SO/9, 3.74 ERA, 4.86 xFIP
-0.1 WAR

Key Stat: Lefties are hitting .215/.381/.354 against Collins. Right handers are batting .193/.316/.301.

Collins is an enigma in more ways than one. To start, there’s his reverse split described above. Then, there’s the fact he’s walking a metric ton of batters. No pitcher who has thrown more than 30 innings has a walk rate higher than Collins.

Sadly, those walks are going to catch up with Collins. And that’s probably going to happen in the second half.

Grade: C+

Blake Wood
2.7 BB/9, 8.0 SO/9, 2.89 ERA, 3.08 xFIP
0.4 WAR

Key Stat: Wood is getting a swinging strike in 9.8% of all strikes thrown.

I don’t know how he’s doing it… With a fastball straighter than a piece of dried spaghetti. But Wood has become a dependable reliever out of the bullpen. It helps that his slider is much improved as well. Still, I can’t help but worry… I’m a Royals fan.

Grade: B+

Louis Coleman
4.3 BB/9, 10.9 SO/9, 2.01 ERA, 3.80 xFIP
0.0 WAR

Key Stat: Opponents are hitting .167/.280/.361 against Coleman.

Coleman is off to a great start and has been a versatile arm out of the pen for the club. He’s pitched multiple innings in 12 of his 27 appearances and has thrown anywhere from the sixth inning on. With the lead, in a tie game, or with the Royals down… Yost is using him in just about any situation.

His BABIP is .200 and his strand rate is a whopping 96%. There’s no way he can keep those numbers for the second half. His xFIP suggests he’s had luck on his side.

Grade: A-

Felipe Paulino
2.3 BB/9, 8.9 SO/9, 3.38 ERA, 3.24 xFIP
1.3 WAR

A revelation…

Interesting story… At the Baseball Prospectus event at the K last week, Jin Wong talked about how one of the things his job entails is to identify potential talent. Basically, looking at fringe players and deciding if there’s some upside there. If there is, and that player becomes available, they pounce. According to Wong, the club identified Paulino early in the year as a potential guy for them because he throws 95 mph (on average), strikes out a fair number of hitters and can keep the ball on the ground. So, when Paulino struggled in 18 appearances out of the pen for the Rockies, and they let him go, the Royals were ready.

Great story… You hope it’s true. Paulino has never had an ERA lower – or even close – to his xFIP, so he was always a guy with upside. Good for the Royals for grabbing him off the scrap heap when the Rockies were ready to let him go.

The Royals will need to find a few more gems in the rough like Paulino. Capable middle of the rotation guy.

Grade: B+

Nate Adcock
3.7 BB/9, 5.9 SO/9, 4.91 ERA, 4.11 xFIP
-0.1 WAR

Key Stat: Only 2 of 12 inherited runners have scored against Adcock.

Adcock was the Rule 5 pick and the Royals have been treating him with kid gloves. He completely disappears for extended stretches. Like right now… He last pitched on July 1.

I’d like for the Royals to use him a little more frequently, especially when their starters spit the bit in the early innings. Adcock isn’t doing exceptional, but when you consider he had never pitched above A-ball prior to this year, the Royals have to be pleased with the results.

Grade: C

Greg Holland
2.2 BB/9, 10.8 SO/9, 1.08 ERA, 2.35 xFIP
0.8 WAR

Key Stat: Only 60% of all plate appearances against Holland end with the ball in play.

Many felt Holland should have been in the bullpen at the start of the season. Many were correct. He’s been lights out. Like Crow and Coleman, his strand rate is north of 90%.

Easily, the best reliever in the Royals pen.

Grade: A

Vin Mazzaro
5.5 BB/9, 3.3 SO/9, 9.25 ERA, 5.97 xFIP
-0.1 WAR

Key Stat: The Royals sacrificial lamb.

It is the seminal moment of the 2011 season… Ned Yost leaving Mazzaro to get his brains beat in by the Indians, allowing 14 runs in 2.1 innings.

Grade: F

Jeremy Jeffress
6.5 BB/9, 7.6 SO/9, 4.70 ERA, 4.40 xFIP
0.0 WAR

Key Stat: A 1.50 WHIP in 15 innings of work.

Jeffress has the potential, but until he finds his control, it will remain potential. It’s not going so well in Omaha as he’s walking 6.6 per nine.

Grade: D+

Everett Teaford
3.4 BB/9, 4.0 SO/9, 2.30 ERA, 4.56 xFIP
-0.2 WAR

Key Stat: Has a 100% strand rate.

Teaford is pitching out of his mind. A .195 BABIP and that strand rate… That’s why his xFIP is over two runs higher than his ERA.

Grade: B

Joakim Soria
2.8 BB/9, 7.8 SO/9, 4.03 ERA, 3.57 xFIP
0.2 WAR

I maintained all along that Soria would be OK… It took a “demotion” for him to find his closer mojo. That, and losing one of his cut fastballs.

Whatever, it was an ugly start. Can’t deny that. He’s already matched his career high for home runs allowed (five) and is still down about two whiffs per inning on his strikeout rate. This serves as a cautionary tale that you should never, ever overvalue your closer. Unless his name is Mariano Riveria. Had the Royals dealt Soria last winter, his value would have been at it’s maximum. According to reports, the GMDM is still asking for everything under the sun when teams call inquiring about Soria.

Hopefully, he can pitch lights out in the second half and restore some of that trade value.

Grade: C

Over the break, Dayton Moore made the proclamation that the Royals were still in the race for the AL Central. I had no idea he was an outpatient at the Menninger Clinic. The bats are in decent shape and the bullpen is strong, but the starting pitching will continue to drag this team to what will be a top three pick in next year’s draft.

Sean O’Sullivan remains Exhibit A as to why The Process cannot be fully trusted. How can you believe in an organization that sees the value in a pitcher of his caliber? Enough value that they traded one of their everyday players for him last year?

This is a question that has to be asked: What was Dayton Moore thinking when he decided he would like to add O’Sullivan to his team?

Remember, the Royals unloaded Alberto Callaspo to acquire O’Sullivan. The thinking at the time was someone needed to be moved because Mike Moustakas was tearing up the minors. To the Royals, Callaspo was the obvious candidate because he would be in line for a first year arbitration deal of $2.5 million (he signed for $2 million). The company line was, the more expensive the contract, the more difficult it would be to make a trade.

Here’s what GMDM had to say about O’Sullivan:

“We got a young pitcher we think can be part of our future.”

As my blogger brethren know from attending a couple of those behind the scenes events, GMDM specializes in speaking, yet saying nothing. That quote is quintessential Moore.

Callaspo had no future on this team. Solid hitter who made contact, but his defense was a serious liability. And the Royals figured with the young bats developing, they could jettison an older one who was below average with the glove. Can’t find fault with that. Besides, everyone in the universe knew the Royals number one priority as last year wound down was to get stronger up the middle defensively. Can’t fault the idea.

We can fault the execution. The fact is, by being “proactive” and unloading Callaspo before he became eligible for arbitration the Royals sold low and came away with a lemon of a pitcher.

On Thursday, O’Sullivan blamed his poor performance on introducing a change in his delivery where he shortened his stride. Apparently, he’s only tried this in one bullpen session. Wow. That’s a great idea… Change your delivery and try to get major league hitters, not to mention little leaguers like the Minnesota Twins, out. That’s probably not a way to be successful. And when you are “talent challenged” to start… It’s just not going to end well. If this was truly the case, I can’t believe that Bob McClure or Ned Yost didn’t notice and put a stop to it. If you want to work on mechanics during a game, there’s a place in Arizona in March…

I can’t speak to his change in mechanics, but the one thing I noticed from his outing was O’Sullivan was really missing his spots. Coach Treanor would set up inside, and he’d deliver several inches outside. Coach Treanor would call for a low pitch and it would be at the letters. And so on, and so on. Also, it just seemed that none of O’Sullivan’s called balls were close to the zone. Brooks Baseball confirms he was locating his pitches like a drunken blind man throwing darts.

Looks like he was getting squeezed a bit on the low strike, but he compensated for that by elevating several pitches. Not a good night.

We’re still going to get the postmortem that the Royals didn’t have anyone else to turn to for their rotation. Yes, we are aware the starting pitching is thin. Yes, we know injuries have played a factor. No, we don’t want to endure another O’Sullivan start.

– Good to see Joakim Soria enter in mop-up duty and pitch two effective innings. He needed just 19 pitches to get six outs and threw 15 strikes. One thing to note: He didn’t get a single batter to swing and miss at a pitch. Of his 15 strikes, six were called, three were fouled off and six were put in play for outs.

For those interested, he threw three curves. And he only threw those when he was ahead in the count. Two were put in play and one was fouled off. It was a good outing, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There’s still work to be done.

The first day of June and the fact we’re already a third of the way through the season seems like as good a time as any for a quick review of how the season has gone so far.

Thumbs up…

To Eric Hosmer. His recall energized the fanbase, even if it was only for a few games. With a line of .274/.314/.505 through his first 102 plate appearances, he’s doing just fine, thank you. He spent the first month plus of the season in Omaha, but with five home runs, he’s closing in on Jeff Francoeur and the team lead of nine. He’ll get there. And stay there. For years.

Thumbs down…

To Joakim Soria as the closer. It’s been dissected and deconstructed by every Royals site in the universe – including this one – so there’s no reason to rehash it here. Although I will say I don’t agree with the decision to demote him. I’m of the thought there is something physically wrong. And that’s with the manager saying he doesn’t know if it’s mechanics. (I’m working on process of elimination here of the possible issues. That, and a declining strikeout rate and doubling walk rate.) It’s not going to serve the Royals and Soria any purpose in having him throw a few innings in mop-up duty. He needs some rest and a mental break from the closing grind.

Thumbs up…

To Alex Gordon’s start. The month of April was his best month as a major leaguer. Through his first 27 games, he posted a line of .339/.395/.541. It was fun to watch.

Thumbs down…

To Alex Gordon’s slump. From May 3 to May 21, he went into a tailspin that had many of us mutter to ourselves about the Old Alex Gordon. He hit an anemic .169/.250/.262 which included several horrific plate appearances. It was vintage 2007 Gordon. That was a very bad year.

Thumbs up…

To Alex Gordon’s recovery and power surge. His on base percentage has stabilized for now, but the impressive thing is he’s found a home run stroke. On Tuesday, he blasted his fifth home run in his last nine games. The power was something that was missing from his hot start, so it’s good to see it’s return.

Thumbs down…

To the starting rotation as a whole. Yes, there have been some solid performances, but that’s been the exception, rather than the rule. Their starters ERA is a whopping 5.22, which is the highest in the AL and it’s not even close. They also don’t strike anyone out. Their 184 strikeouts as a staff is, again, the worst in the league. They’re the only rotation with fewer than 200 strikeouts.

Thumbs up…

To Danny Duffy. Yes, he’s struggled at times with command, but we can all see why he’s up in Kansas City well ahead of schedule. He’s struck out 14 batters in 15 innings, making him the Royals starter most likely to get three strikes on a hitter.

Thumbs down…

To Dayton Moore’s recent trades. Sean O’Sullivan’s starts make me want to skin baby seals and Vin Mazzaro’s relief appearance where he was allowed to get sodomized was the stuff of legend. O’Sullivan and his 3.0 SO/9 strikeout rate would be the lowest since Chien-Ming Wang finished with a 3.1 SO/9 back in 2006. I want to wholly buy into The Process (really, I do) but when the GM is actively acquiring pitchers like O’Sullivan and Mazzaro to round out a pitching staff, you have to wonder.

I’m almost certain the Royals will trot out the “they were the only pitchers available” defense. That was the same justification they used when they foisted the awfulness that was Yuniesky Betancourt. Sorry, it doesn’t work. Not every trade needs to be a home run. We only ask they don’t make history for being awful.

Thumbs up…

To the bullpen. For the most part, they have kept this team in games, which is why so many contests have gone extra innings. Their 3.92 bullpen ERA is close to league average and has them in the middle of the pack in the AL. The fact this happened with Soria struggling is nothing short of a miracle.

Thumbs down…

To John Lamb visiting Dr. Lewis Yocum. While the prospect of Tommy John surgery isn’t the end of the world – or a pitching career – it’s a cold reminder that The Process and our stocked minor league is no guarantee of future success.

Thumbs up…

To Jeff Francoeur and his late inning performances. He’s come to the plate 67 times from the seventh inning on and is hitting .346/.448/.577 with eight extra base hits and 10 walks. Several of those plate appearances have come in extremely high leverage situations.

He can still frustrate the hell out of me, expanding the strike zone at the most inopportune times, but he’s been much better than I thought he would be. Since we’re this far in the season, he can still go in the tank, but we’ll have fond memories of at least his first two months.

Thumbs down…

To Kila Ka’aihue’s performance. Come on, dude… As one of your biggest advocates, I took this personally. And now that Hosmer is here, you’ll probably never wear a Royals uniform again.

Thumbs up…

To Alcides Escobar’s defense. The guy is simply electric with the glove. Part of the fun of watching him play the field are the plays he makes on instinct. After being force fed the dreck that was the Yunigma, this is an extremely refreshing change.

Thumbs down…

To Alcides Escobar’s offense. A .258 on base percentage and 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio isn’t helping. I’m not asking for a world class bat, but this is crazy. His glove will only take him so far.

Thumbs up…

To the Royals base running game. They are much improved on the bases, giving away fewer outs as a team. Still, there are moments… But for the most part, they’re doing a good job.

Thumbs down…

To cancer. Nice tribute by the RoyalVision crew at Monday’s game honoring Splitt. He will be missed.

Quite a series in Yankee Stadium. Haven’t seen anything like it since I started doing this blog thing six years ago. That’s because the last time the Royals won a series in New York was in 1999. 1999!

What we saw from Sean O’Sullivan was typical of this Royals rotation this season – Solid for a stretch and then hammered for a potential big inning. After holding the Yankees hitless through four innings, they were scorching the ball off O’Sullivan in the fifth. A 24 pitch circus act. Even the outs were hard hit. As I watched the game, it felt like Yost was playing not for the Royals to win, but for O’Sullivan to get the win. There’s a difference. Too often in the fifth inning of a game like we saw on Thursday, the manager will give his starter a longer leash in an effort to allow him to pick up the win. As most of us know, the win is an empty, meaningless stat. And in this case, it almost cost the team the win.

Somehow, O’Sullivan survived. And Yost not only sent him back out for the sixth, he was out in the seventh as well. That’s like the degenerate gambler who’s made a career out of getting his ass kicked at the tables suddenly playing with house money. Yost was fortunate his luck held. So was O’Sullivan.

Hey… it worked on Thursday, but let’s not kid ourselves. O’Sullivan is fifth starter fodder.

According to Brooks Baseball, O’Sullivan had exactly one swinging strike. One. And somehow that came in the fifth inning when Derek Jeter missed on a slider. There’s simply no way a pitcher can be successful in the long term if he doesn’t miss bats. Entering the game on Thursday, he was getting a swing and miss in 11 percent of all strikes. Major league average is 15 percent. And with two walks and no strikeouts on the night, his SO/BB ratio is now less than one. Sure, it’s impressive he didn’t implode at Yankee Stadium (and I honestly thought that was going to happen in the fifth) but don’t kid yourself… The guy isn’t a major league caliber starting pitcher.

O’Sullivan (and Kyle Davies and Vin Mazzaro) are reminders that as much as the Royals like to think they can contend in a weak Central, the rotation isn’t going to allow that to happen.

– Before the series in the Bronx, I predicted that Eric Hosmer would hit his first career home run at Yankee Stadium. Figured it was pretty much a sure thing, given the jet stream that screams out to right field. Hosmer did me right, homering not once, but twice in the series. How great is it that one of our top prospects comes up and starts producing immediately?

– Hosmer led off the second with a home run on the first pitch and that opened the floodgates as the Royals batted around. That was as fun an inning as I’ve seen all year. Naturally, part of that is because it was the Yankees that were imploding… Errors, passed balls, dumb plays. It was like watching a Royals game from 2009.

– The most surprising thing of the night was the Alcides Escobar double. Not really… It was probably the Hosmer double on the check swing. The dude hits even when he doesn’t mean to.

– Six games into Hosmer’s career and there’s already talk of a contract extension. I don’t know why we would talk about that. Hosmer should just retire tomorrow and the Hall of Fame will waive the five year wait period. Because he’s awesome.

I suppose the Longoria deal has kind of become the benchmark for future extensions for the elite of the elite prospects. It would be cool if the Royals were able to do something and it would generate a metric ton of goodwill. But how about Scott Boras already posturing, claiming he won’t negotiate with the Royals about an extension. What else would he say? No agent worth a dime would say they would like to talk about that, just six games into his client’s career. And Boras is worth a few million dimes.

Don’t let the fact that Hosmer is a Boras client get you down… Boras represents Carlos Gonzalez who inked an extension with Colorado last winter. See… It can happen. But damn… If we’re already talking about this, it could be a long couple of years.

– Congratulations to those who were called for the Blog at the K event. The Royals continue to dip their toes in the social media pool, even though they’re still wearing a life vest and deathly afraid of sharks. For the record, neither Clark, Nick or myself applied, so Royals Authority won’t be represented. Sounds like a good group, though. I look forward to reading their reports.

Sean O’Sullivan is the 5th starter. Again.   Dick Kaegel over at Royals.com is reporting that the Royals will leave Vin Mazzaro in Omaha after his disaster start and instead use Sean O’Sullivan as the 5th starter this weekend.

What is it about Sean O’Sullivan? He had a couple of season of success as a teenager in the low minors with the Angels and hasn’t been anywhere near as effective since. That’s not a unique story in professional baseball. Plenty of pitchers get exposed when they reach a certain level in the minors. The odd thing about O’Sullivan is that he kept on getting promoted.

He wasn’t a miserable pitcher at the double and triple A levels of the minors, but he wasn’t someone who screamed out that he should be promoted to the Major Leagues at the age of 21. But that’s exactly what the Angels did in 2009. He pitched in 12 games and had an ERA of 5.92. In 2010 he was again brought up to the Major Leagues and put up a 5.49 ERA in 19 games and was traded to the Royals.

In 2010 with the Royals he posted a 6.11 ERA in 14 games. He struck out 37 and walked 27. There wasn’t really anyone beating down the door to join the starting rotation so the Royals just kind of endured Sean O’Sullivan. They really didn’t have much choice.

During the off-season the Royals traded David Dejesus to the Oakland Athletics for Vin Mazzaro and Justin Marks. It seemed like almost immediately the Royals had a rotation upgrade in Mazzaro. In 2010 he posted a 4.27 ERA and had a strikeout rate of 5.0 per 9 innings. He didn’t seem like a star, but he seemed to be a decent pitcher who still had some upside.

Coming out of Spring Training the Royals made it clear that Vin Mazzaro was going to be the 5th starter and would go to Omaha to stay on track to be ready for when he was needed. Everything was going according to plan until Mazzaro went out and did this:

2.1 IP | 2 H | 5 ER | 7 BB | 3 K

That’s not a line that exactly inspires confidence in a Major League General Manager. Now granted, we don’t know the whole story. Maybe he was working on something, maybe he’s slightly hurt and maybe he was getting really pinched by an umpire and he didn’t adjust. Regardless, it’s nearly impossible to call a guy up with that kind of line at AAA and put him in a rotation spot.

The decision makes sense, but I’d still lean towards going with Mazzaro. I’m of the opinion that his bad outing was merely a blip on the radar. Yes, it was a very large blip, but nothing more. I’m also really selfish and I’ve seen what Sean O’Sullivan has done. Vin Mazzaro is shiny, new and unseen. I’d like to see him pitch and hope for a different result.

You can follow Nick Scott on Twitter @brokenbatsingle, on Facebook or reach him via email brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com. He also writes a weekly post at The Lawrence Journal-World.

Avoiding 100

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Hooray for 63 wins!

It’s come to this.  A celebration of avoiding 100 losses.

Sigh.

Don’t blame me if I kept the champagne on ice last night.  The Royals have never really been in danger of hitting the century mark this season.  In fact, the Royals will really have to go into the tank if they are to match last season’s total of 65 wins.

For a quick refresher, here are the team winning percentages since Dayton Moore took over:

2007 – .426
2008 – .463
2009 – .401
2010 – .414

For the team to match ’07, they will have to win six of their last ten.  Come on, boys!  Or something.

– Sean O’Sullivan got the “win” (which if you’re spending any time on the baseball internets these days means he pitched a better game yesterday than Felix Hernandez) but wasn’t exactly sharp.  He put the leadoff man on base in five of the seven innings he started and threw a total of 92 pitches in six innings.  His final line:

6 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 3 SO

O’Sullivan was bailed out by an inept Indian offense.  Philip Humber came on in relief and allowed both of his inherited runners to score.  Of course, it would help if Billy Butler could catch a pickoff throw.

– Why did it take 12 days to get Humber some work?  Is it any wonder he struggled to find his rhythm? Of course, he’s not that good to begin with, but still…

– If you’re looking for something to do today, head to Royals Prospects and check out some of the videos Greg uploaded from his recent trips to Northwest Arkansas and Burlington.  Watching guys like Johnny Giavotella and Eric Hosmer, you can’t help but get excited.

– Minda Haas at Royal Blues had an interesting post where she looked at the Royals win to save ratio and found it to be the highest in the majors this season.  I’m not surprised.  The Royals have one of the top three closers in the game in Joakim Soria.  And they have been involved in 55 one-run games, which is the most in baseball.  For awhile, they had the most wins in one-run games, but a late season run of futility has dropped them to fourth – behind the Rays, Twins and Rangers.

– In Dutton’s Friday notes article, he reports the Royals won’t make any changes to their coaching staff with the exception of replacing first base coach Rusty Kuntz who resumed his role as special advisor to the GM for player development.  Following GMDM for the duration of his tenure, this doesn’t come as a shock.  He values loyalty and continuity on his staff.  Obviously, the coaches (particularly the Kevin Seitzer and Bob McClure) haven’t had a ton of talent at their disposal.

Seitzer’s accomplishments this year would include leading the league in total hits and finishing last in strikeouts.  Their 84% contact rate (a percentage of swinging strikes that are either fouled off or put in play) is the best in baseball as well.  On the negative side of the ledger would be the fact Royal batters see an average of 3.73 pitches per plate appearance, which ranks them 26th and their 7.5% walk rate is 27th.

As for McClure, this year has been kind of a disaster.  Kyle Davies and Brian Bannister have been stagnant in their development.  Royals pitchers posted a 1.85 SO/BB ratio, second worst rate in baseball, their team ERA of 5.04 is the highest in the AL and the same goes for their ERA+ of 84.  Looking for positives there were some minor individual success stories… Luke Hochevar was showing improvement before he missed most of the second half of the season with injury.  Kyle Farnsworth improved to the degree GMDM was actually able to get value in a trade.  Bruce Chen became a serviceable starter.

We all know the influx of youth will begin next season and will roll into 2012 and beyond.  GMDM obviously has confidence in his staff and their ability to work with young players.  I’ve seen enough from the pitching and hitting coaches to think they at least deserve a chance. The successes were limited this year because the talent was limited.  This is an area where we will simply have to trust The Process.

After two rain delays and three losses in New York, how many of you are tired of hearing that song?  Anyway….

On Sunday afternoon, Royals’ fans got their first look at newly acquired Sean O’Sullivan:  five innings, seven hits, five runs, no walks and three strikeouts.   O’Sullivan was a bit unlucky in the four run Yankee third inning as Mark Teixeira’s desperation reach went from foul ball to infield single and Scott Podsednik struggled with a ball in the left field corner that combined to lead to two more runs.   Of course, O’Sullivan also surrendered three early shots to the warning track in deep right center as well that happened to stay up long enough to be caught.

I saw a lot of what prospect reports had indicated we might see out of O’Sullivan.   Baseball America two years ago wondered if Sean’s lack of an ‘out pitch’ would make it difficult for him to succeed at the higher levels and there were several reports recently that O’Sullivan’s stuff becomes less effective the second and third times through a batting order.  We saw evidence of both on Sunday.

That said, O’Sullivan has some decent movement on all three pitches and seemed willing to throw fastball, curve or change in just about any count.   His fastball topped out at just under 93 mph and he tossed in some off-speed offerings as low as 74 mph, so O’Sullivan has the ability to mess with a hitter’s timing (his change-up averaged 78 mph, twelve less than his average fastball).   Keeping in mind that he was facing the Yankees for the second time in a week, Sunday’s performance was not totally discouraging.

However, Sunday was another discouraging outing for reliever Blake Wood.   As Craig astutely called about four weeks ago, Wood was simply not getting enough swings and misses to survive in the bigs and yesterday he could not find the strike zone either.   In his last ten outings spanning just over eight innings, Wood has allowed 17 hits and 11 runs, while walking 5 and striking out just 4.   Excluding the intentional walk to Jeter, Wood threw sixteen pitches on Sunday and fifteen were fastballs.    Nobody has that good a fastball.

With three young relievers pitching well in Omaha (Blaine Hardy, Louis Coleman and Greg Holland) it may be time to give Wood some time to work on a secondary pitch in AAA and give one of those three a chance in the bigs.   Such a move would also allow the Royals to stagger the experience of their future bullpen so they don’t suddenly find themselves relying on three rookies in the middle innings or, in the alternative, spending money on a veteran middle guy because they don’t want to rely on three rookies in 2011.

Onto the curiosity of the afternoon.   Ned Yost played Yuniesky Betancourt for the tenth consecutive game since coming out of the All-Star Break, while sitting Billy Butler and resting Mike Aviles on Saturday.   In doing so, he managed to basically play three of his four infielders out of position.   Now, Wilson Betemit is fine at first if you want to give Butler a rest, but why not Getz at second (his natural position) and Aviles at third (given that Mike has not played his natural position of shortstop more than a handful of games as it is)?     Just me being critical, I’m sure.

Okay, if you get all agitated about trade rumors and the fact that most never come true, then stop reading now.  

MLBTradeRumors had some juicy morsels this weekend starting with the Royals interest in Jeff Francouer.    That then expanded into a crazy jumble of Mets-Royals potential dealings that I am simply calling ‘five guys I hate and Gil Meche’.   In some combination, the Mets were reportedly discussing Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez and Francouer while the Royals were talking about Jose Guillen, Kyle Farnsworth and Gil Meche.      Some of the commenters over at Royals Review were trying to make some sense of how all that might work out, but I decided to just start drinking instead.

Also out in the wind is some Zack Greinke to Tampa talk.    If you look at the haul that the THREE Cliff Lee deals and the Roy Halladay deal generated (not to mention Erik Bedard a few years back), then this gets interesting.  However, the rather modest bounty paid by the Angels for Dan Haren certainly put a damper on any speculation that this is something the Royals should pursue.

Another nugget that has been rumbling around put got some more juice early this morning was Jon Heyman’s note that the Yankees made a ‘major proposal’ in an attempt to nab Joakim Soria.   I don’t know what to make of this other than New York’s top prospects are mostly all catchers (if you are willing to believe Jesus Montero can actually stick there) or pitchers who certainly would not crack the top five in the Royals’ system.     

Speaking as a guy who has written a trade Soria column or two in the recent past, it would seem to me that the Yankees would have to offer someone off their current major league roster in addition to Montero or Romine, plus an arm for this deal to make sense to the Royals.   That is a hefty price to pay for a closer, even one as good as Joakim Soria.

Without question, this will be a wild week of speculation and rumors.   It will be interesting to see what actually ends up happening by Saturday.

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