Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Browsing Posts published by Clark Fosler

And the Royals missed an opportunity because of it.

Kelvin Herrera had not been charged with an earned run since June 24th and got tagged with two last night when Wade Davis allowed a three run triple.   Herrera allowed three baserunners and got just two outs in an uneven outing that spanned the last of the sixth inning and the first of the seventh.  Obviously, he was out of his element pitching in an inning that was not his own, right?

Let’s be clear here – and I’M TALKING TO YOU NED! –  that had nothing to do with it.  Herrera may be the ‘seventh inning guy’, but he hadn’t actually pitched in the seventh since September 3rd.  His previous four outings before last night all began in the eighth inning (it’s madness I tell you).  This was actually the sixth time Kelvin has begun an appearance in the sixth inning in 2014 and the very first time he was charged with a run.

I have some faith that most fans realize that pitching in the sixth did not cause ‘dome issues’ for Herrera, but I have very little faith that Ned Yost won’t revert back to the ‘Herrera pitches the seventh’ doctrine citing last night as the primary reason.

Speaking of THE DOCTRINE, we saw Wade Davis come on in the seventh and, as we are all painfully aware, blow apart his scoreless inning streak as well.  Davis had not been tagged with an earned run since June 25th and he had not allowed an inherited runner to score since July 31st.  He had allowed two doubles all season, no triples and no home runs.  Nobody is that good. These things happen.

Now, if you want to get all ‘mental’ about something, keep in mind that last night was the very first time all year that Davis has pitched in the seventh inning and just the eighth time in 65 appearances that he entered with runners on base.  If you are hell-bent on defending Yost and his rigid approach to reliever usage, here is your banner.  Wave it if you must, but I think you’re grasping at straws.

I don’t buy in to the idea that a major league reliever is so fragile that pitching an inning early causes him to be ineffective.  It should also be noted that two of Davis’ seven previous outings in which he entered the game with runners on base occurred earlier this month and he kept those runners from scoring.  It was a tough situation last night to be sure, but the result was more just a case of the inevitability of baseball than an unfamiliarity of the scenario.

It is likely I am preaching to the choir with this column.  The problem is, Ned Yost is not a choir member.

“There’s no focus issues.”

Royals’ manager Ned Yost rebuffed any thoughts that his team was not focused last night after a big win to salvage the Detroit series the night before.

Everyone on the infield except Omar Infante had an error last night, but there are no focus issues.

It could be true:  some nights teams just don’t play well.  Errors sometimes come in bunches.  Even Alex Gordon has crappy plate appearances sometimes.  Hell, Josh Willingham of all people, swung at a first pitch on Thursday night.  It was just a plain old awful game.

Still, Ned, really?  Could you be any clumsier in public?  And, while you’re at it, would you mind maybe having a pitcher warming up in the bullpen behind the unpredictable Aaron Crow when you are down by just a single run in the top of the eighth? I mean, you have a 16 man pitching staff right now.

Ughh.

I guess if you are going to play bad defense and not hit, doing so on the night when Liam Hendriks is pitching is likely good timing.

Some random notes:

  • Eric Hosmer committed his 10th error last night.  Now, errors is a poor indicator a player’s defensive range and what he does when he gets to those balls, but they are a very good indicator of how one handles routine plays.  In the last ten to twenty years, it has gotten pretty hard to get tagged with an error in the major leagues.  My guess is that if you were scoring your local slow-pitch game you would be far harsher towards the 43 year old guy with a tallboy in the dugout trying to play third because the college kid (ringer) you brought in didn’t show up than official scorers are towards a major league third baseman.  That said, Hosmer’s 10th error ties him for second in the majors with the Cardinals’ Matt Adams.  Hosmer gets to balls a lot of first basemen don’t.  He does a nice job of handling errant throws to first.  Still, he has too many mental gaffes and, particularly in the last week, has simply booted two easy grounders. Do better, Eric.
  • Omar Infante is going to bat second for the bulk of your natural born life.  If you ask me who I want hitting second instead of Infante my answer would be ‘everyone except Moustakas.’
  • Billy Butler sat again last night.  Yes, Billy is 1 for his last 20, but he was 4 for 13 with two walks and two hit by pitch before that and hit .288/.347/.450 in the month of August.  You can make a case for playing Hosmer and Willingham in front of him, but when you case starts with the phrase ‘Billy has been awful’, well….
  • Alex Gordon is 0 for his last 15 and 1 for his last 22 (although he does have 7 walks over that time).  Until last night, I generally saw Alex having good plate appearances, but he looked pretty bad last night.  Anyone else feel Ned contemplating moving Gordon in the order?  Of course, Infante has to stay at second, but otherwise…..

Well folks, you wanted a pennant race and this is what one feels like:  agony and jubilation every night.  Stop trying to be cool and calm (it may make you feel superior, but it pretty much just makes people think you’re a bit of a douche).  Get on the roller coaster and enjoy the experience.

The Royals dropped into a tie for first last night with a dreadful ninth inning gaffe courtesy of Jarrod Dyson.  Craig detailed it perfectly last night/early this morning and you don’t need me to pile on.

Instead, let’s go back to the fifth inning against Max Scherzer.  The Royals, enjoying a rare night where Omar Infante actually got on base, had runners on first and second with one out.  Alex Gordon strode – yes, he strides now, because he’s earned it – to the plate.

Gordon takes two fastballs, one for a strike and one for a ball and then jumps on a curveball over the plate and misses a three run homer by about two feet.  Gordon thought it was out, so did Scherzer.  It was majestic and, sadly, it was foul.  It was after that, however, that Alex did a very un-Royal like thing:  he walked.

Against a pitcher like Scherzer, after missing a home run like that, taking three pitches and jogging to first is a hell of a plate appearance.  It looked like this:

5th Inning Gordon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, bases loaded, on out and your four and five hitters coming up.  That’s exactly how a real baseball man anticipates his lineup working.  Surely Billy Butler and Josh Willingham, two professional hitters, will drive in some runs, right?  Oh, that’s right, Ned Yost manages the Royals, so it is Salvador Perez (a very good player who has no business batting fourth) and Eric Hosmer who bat.

Perez hits a ball out of the dirt relatively hard, but really?  His plate ‘appearance’ looks like this:

5th Inning Perez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then up comes Hosmer, who has been in the lineup each and every day since returning from the disabled list.  Every…stinking…day.  He strikes out on a pitch that never once was headed towards the strike zone.  It looked like this:

5th Inning Hosmer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The above details just one inning in just one game, but it is sadly representative of way too many Royals’ innings this year.  All this, and Omar Infante still bats second, because changing that would just be ‘kind of dumb’.

 

With the return of Aaron Crow, Christian Colon and Liam Hendriks from Northwest Arkansas today, plus the introduction of Terrance Gore from there as well, the Royals have a dugout full of players.  More options for the manager who loves to ‘mix and match’.  If that last sentence didn’t make your stomach a little queasy, then you haven’t been watching Ned Yost manage.

That said, here is a quick guide to all the many options now at the fingertips of the Ned.

CATCHER

  • Salvador Perez
  • Eric Kratz
  • Francisco Pena

Yost has played Perez just about as close to everyday as one can for a catcher and there is no reason it won’t continue in September.  Kratz is a nice back-up, who has some quality at-bats from time to time.  The addition of Pena, who hit 27 home runs in Omaha this year  (but also posted a .280 OBP), allows the Royals to pinch-run for the heavy footed Perez and not worry (and listen, Ned does worry) about being down to no back-up catchers on the bench.  Yost could also use Kratz, if so desired to pinch-hit, but just a heads up:  Kratz actually hits right handed pitching better than left.

INFIELD

  • Eric Hosmer (L)
  • Billy Butler
  • Jayson Nix
  • Omar Infante
  • Johnny Giavotella
  • Christian Colon
  • Alcides Escobar
  • Mike Moustakas (L)

Escobar is going to play short everyday and Infante is going to play second most days and bat second, just because.  What happens at first base and designated hitter is going to be interesting.  If you were asking me – and no one has, shockingly – I would play Hosmer at first and Butler at DH against right-handed pitching and Butler at first and Willingham (bad back willing) at DH versus lefties.  My assumption, jaded as it may be, is that Yost will find a myriad of other options to employ as well, many of which are based on a) keeping Eric Hosmer’s dome all rosy and b) a given batter’s performance in five at-bats against the starting pitcher.

One would like to think that with Nix and Colon on the roster that pinch-hitting for Mike Moustakas would become almost a nightly occurrence, but I am skeptical of that as well.  Also, as mentioned above, Omar Infante is going to play most nights, which I don’t hate as I have given up on Johnny Giavotella and not sold on Christian Colon in the heat of a pennant race.  That said, could we please, please, please NOT bat Omar second?!!!!

 

OUTFIELD

  • Alex Gordon (L)
  • Lorenzo Cain
  • Nori Aoki (L)
  • Jarrod Dyson (L)
  • Josh Willingham
  • Raul Ibanez (L)
  • Terrance Gore
  • Lane Adams
  • Carlos Pegeuro (L)

That is a whole bunch of guys, but we already discussed the Ibanez/Willingham situation.  Other than to add that neither should set foot in the outfield grass this month.   It is no secret that Gore was called up exclusively to be a pinch-runner and that is mostly Adams’ role as well.  Pegeuro, who got a start last night, really should not take at-bats away from any of the top four guys on this list.  Pinch-hitting against a right-hander now and then?  Sure, I’ll take a few of those from Pegeuro – he just might ‘Justin Maxwell’ one over the wall, but no more than that.

Gordon, obviously, plays everyday.  The odd and often unpredictable rotation of Dyson, Cain and Aoki is likely to continue and I don’t hate it.   Submitted without further comment:  Aoki’s on-base percentage versus LHP this season is .410, but his OBP versus RHP is just .300.

All these shiny new toys are going to tempt Yost to be extra-creative.  Truthfully, he should settle on a first base/designated hitter rotation and do the same for center and right and limit the creativity to pinch-running for Butler and Perez and pinch-hitting for Moustakas and Infante.   Anything more is likely to do as much harm as it does good.

I have been watching.  I have been cheering.  I have been agonizing.  I just haven’t been written.  I am sure many of your lives were greatly diminished due to my lack of sage input……or not.

There is not much to offer about last night’s game, other than the rather obvious observation that if the Royals continue to win two of every three games, they will make the playoffs.   That said, Ned Yost – always paranoid about being short arms in the bullpen – will now be forever super-ultra paranoid from here on out after finding himself with only Bruce Chen, Scott Downs and an unavailable Wade Davis to start the 10th inning last night.  You watch, Yost and the Royals will break camp in 2015 with a NINE man bullpen coupled with a back-up catcher and Jayson Nix as the only bench players.

Ah, Jayson Nix.  Acquired off waivers yesterday, Nix can pretty much play any position but catcher and has never really hit playing anywhere.  I don’t mind him for a September stretch run when the Royals might well employ two pinch-runners and two pinch-hitters when the rosters expand to 40 in three days.  Since Kansas City is in first place, I will not, for now, wonder if giving Ned Yost multiple options is a good thing.

When Eric Hosmer returns, for better or worse, the Royals will have one of Hosmer, Butler or Josh Willingham on the bench every night, along with Raul Ibanez, Christian Colon and whomever is the fourth outfielder is that night.  There is the thought that speedy Terrance Gore might get a September call-up specifically to be just a pinch-runner and almost certainly Francisco Pena to be a third catcher.  Having a guy like Nix who can field any position allows Yost, whether we trust him or not, to pinch-hit and pinch-run multiple times late in a close game.  Now, if Nix is ever allowed to pick up a bat, then we’ll have something to complain about.

What does the acquisition of Nix mean for a potential playoff roster?  That’s right, I just went there and said it: playoffs.

The rules are pretty simple:  any player on the 25 man active roster OR the disabled list on August 31st is eligible to be on the 25 man post-season roster.  If a player is on the disabled list on August 31st AND still there at the end of the season, he can be replaced by anyone that was in the organization prior to August 31st.

What that means for Kansas City is that Luke Hochevar and Michael Mariot, both on the 60 day disabled list right now, are eligible for the post-season roster and, more importantly, can be replaced by anyone as they won’t be pitching in the post-season.

Eric Hosmer is on the 15 man disabled list and eligible for the post-season as well and, of course, WILL be on the post-season roster.  In the end, Kansas City has 28 post-season roster spots to turn into a 25 man roster, with two of those spots (Hochevar and Mariot) capable of being filled by anyone.

So, when Jayson Nix joins the team today or tomorrow and Christian Colon (as speculated) is sent to the minors, it does not necessarily mean that Nix is your playoff utility guy and Colon is out.  Kansas City could simply elect to put Luke Hochevar on their 25 man post-season roster and then immediately replace him with Colon or Aaron Crow or Tim Collins or Brandon Finnegan or whomever.   Obviously, that would mean that someone on the 25 man active roster on August 31st (kind of looking in your direction Scott Downs and Bruce Chen) won’t be allowed to join in the post-season fun.

In the end, adding Jayson Nix today only makes him eligible for the post-season, not a lock for it.  He’ll be handy to have around in September when one can, if so desired and not dead set on the idea that Mike Moustakas will hit something other than .200 and that Omar Infante is clutch, maximize the flexibility of expanded rosters to get favorable match-ups at the plate and on the basepaths.

Used properly and in conjunction with other players, Jayson Nix is a handy little pick-up and does not have any earth shattering consequences when looking at the post-season composition of the Royals.

 

Well, today is exactly why Dayton Moore traded for James Shields.

There has been a good deal of snark directed at Shields’ nickname, some of it with a firm foundation in fact, but when you trade your best hitting prospect (by a mile at the time) and one of the best prospects in the game, one is pretty much expecting James Shields to take the mound late in the summer with first place on the line.   And one is pretty much expecting that James live up to his nickname.

After a rough three start stretch at the end of June (14 runs allowed in 19 innings), Shields has been – dare we say it? – a number one starter.  He has gone seven innings or more in five of seven starts and allowed two runs or less in six of those seven starts.  That includes going eight innings on August 3rd while allowing just four hits, no walks and two runs and going the distance in a four-hit shutout on August 9th.

The Royals have gone 3-1 in Shields’ last four starts, despite scoring a combined total of just 12 runs.

Yeah, this is pretty much the guy you want out there when facing the Oakland A’s and Jeff Samardjiza on a Thursday afternoon with your team holding a half game lead in the A.L. Central.

We can debate whether Shields is really ‘Big Game James’, but I don’t believe you can debate that today’s non-televised businessman’s special is indeed a Big Game.  The Royals need Shields to be his nickname…or at least do a Jason Vargas impersonation.

You read that headline right.   Although to be fair, it should continue to include ‘and his Tommy John surgery’.

Despite some rumblings to the contrary in the early stages of spring training, the Royals had pretty firmly decided to make Luke Hochevar their eighth inning guy.   While using a former number one overall pick as a set-up reliever is not the ideal end result, many/most of us were expecting good things from Luke in his new role.

I strongly doubt, however, that anyone would have willing to predict that Hochevar would strike out over 13 batters per nine innings or only allow a hit every other inning or allow ONE extra base hit (only a double at that) in his first 51 innings of work.  That would have been crazy talk.  No one does that.

No one except Wade Davis.

Within a day of the Royals discovering that Hochevar was lost for the season, they abandoned all thought of Wade Davis as a starter.  What happened and is happening since that point in time has been a spectacular success.  You can apply and debate the value of a pitcher who only pitches the eighth inning when his team has a lead, but I do not know that you can debate that Wade Davis is better in that role than anyone else in baseball this year.

Now, I’ve been jaded by years of organizational stubbornness when it comes to ‘their’ players. It took the Royals five years to allow themselves to use Hochevar out of the pen.  It took them just this side of forever to give up on Kyle Davies.  You do the math:  if Luke Hochevar is healthy in 2014, does Wade Davis take up space in the starting rotation?

In 2013, the Royals were 10-13 in games started by Davis.  In 2014, Kansas City is 12-10 in games started by Yordano Ventura and 9-9 in those started by Danny Duffy.    We don’t know and they don’t know, either, what the Royals would have done with regard to Davis with a healthy Hochevar in the picture, but I have a sense that he’s in the rotation to at least start the year.

Assuming Davis was, he might well have taken Bruce Chen’s spot and quite possibly have been roughly equal in effectiveness.  Does that really sound like something Dayton Moore and Ned Yost would have done in April?  After their team has surged back into first place, maybe we should give them the benefit of the doubt, but you almost have to believe that there was a better than even shot that Chen would stick in the rotation with Davis taking the spot of Yordano Ventura.

Anybody want to trade Ventura’s five April starts (the Royals went 3-2 in those) for five Wade Davis starts?  Anyone?  Bueller?

Carry it a bit further.  When Bruce Chen went on the disabled list in late April, that might well have triggered a Ventura promotion, but then when would Danny Duffy have been granted his first start?   Instead of May 3rd, where would Kansas City be if Duffy did not get the nod until mid-June?

Complete and total speculation on my part with regard to 97.3% of everything above. It is quite possible that the Royals would have broken camp with the exact rotation they did, called up Duffy exactly when they did, and done so even with Hochevar AND Davis in the pen.  It might have happened that way.

I wish no ill will on Luke Hochevar.  I was looking forward to him being an effective, if overpriced, weapon out of the bullpen this season.  However, I am not sure a healthy Hochevar would have equaled a better team record for the reasons listed above.

It is August 12th and the Kansas City Royals are in first place.  Tough break, Luke, but I’m digging this reality.

 

 

 

 

It is August 10th, or if you went to be early, you are waking up on August 11th and the Kansas City Royals are a game and one-half in front of the pack for the second wild card berth.  Even more, they find themselves just one-half game behind the injured riddled Detroit Tigers.

What the hell is going on here?!!

Weird things happen when a team with a great bullpen gets good starting pitching at the same time Billy Butler and Alex Gordon hit.  Baseball things happen.

Winners of 14 of their last 17, the Royals have benefited greatly from the fact that Billy Buter (by chance or by because he is getting to play in the field) has 11 extra base hits over that span.  A third of Butler’s extra base hits have come in the last three weeks while his fellow hold-over from the Allard Baird era (Alex Gordon) has hit seven more extra base hits and walked eight times.

That combination makes baseball seem easy.   It won’t always be that way.

I’ve done some statistical analysis and have come to the conclusion that the Kansas City Royals, nor any other team, is going to maintain a 14-3 pace for the rest of the season.  I know, who would have thought?

That said, the Royals control their own destiny with just 47 games left to play in the regular season.  They have a real chance to overtake Detroit and win the Central Division.  They have a very good chance of hanging onto that second wild-card spot.  They should make their chances even better.

This playoff race almost certainly seems to be headed to a final week conclusion, the margin to get into post-season might well be one game.  Dayton Moore (and David Glass) should do whatever possible to find one or two more wins.  Sure, you can look forward to the return of Eric Hosmer, but that is likely three weeks away at least and I just don’t think teams routinely get to the playoffs by playing Raul Ibanez at designated hitter…not with Mike Moustakas playing third (he’s surged ALL the way to .200!).

Three weeks is a long time: long enough for Toronto or New York or Detroit or Seattle to get just as hot as the Royals are.  It is also long enough for the Royals to endure some tough luck or revert to the team that not very long ago could not score any runs.

Adam Dunn.

He does things the Royals don’t really understand, like take walks, and he also does things they are only a little familiar with, like hit home runs.  He strikes out a ton and doesn’t hit much of anything else besides home runs, but he is a tremendously more effective hitter than Raul Ibanez or Eric Kratz.

Who do you want to be your designated hitter for the next 21 days?   Who would you have more faith in helping to continue this freakishly fun ride?

I have a hard time imagining you have to give up a ton for seven weeks of Adam Dunn, certainly not any of your top five prospects and probably not even your top ten.  I have not heard that Dunn has cleared waivers and it would seem possible that he might not, but it certainly is something worth exploring if you are the Royals.

The Royals may find that Dunn is unavailable or that the White Sox don’t want to be reasonable in a trade (although it would seem odd they wouldn’t take something) and if that is the case then they should be ‘aggressively pursuing the waiver-trade market’ as they claimed they would do on July 31st.

Winning baseball games should not have changed that mindset.  In fact, it should only make the Royals’ organization more intent on improving this team.

Even if the improvement is just one game.

Dayton Moore is laughing at us.

Blasted for doing nothing at the trade deadline.  Lampooned for discovering that Eric Hosmer had a broken bone just hours after the deadline. Chided for carrying a three man bench.  Winners of two of three against one of the best teams in the league.  Go figure, man, go figure.

While I would not say the Royals played great baseball this past weekend, they played good enough to not waste two outstanding pitching performances.  That is really the recipe for this team: get good pitching and cobble together just enough quality at-bats (they are few and far between with this lineup) to get the game to the back end of the bullpen.  Can they do that enough to overtake Toronto for the second wild-card spot?  I’m skeptical, but we’ll have to give them credit for taking two of three on the road from a team that is really, really good.

Some random thoughts:

  • For the thirteenth time this year, James Shields pitched seven innings or more and also for the thirteenth time  this season he allowed two runs or less in a start.  Yes, we all miss Wil Myers and we all know how good Jake Odorizzi has been of late, but perhaps we can maybe not make fun of Shields’ nickname every time he gives up a two-run homer?   You can lay all the blame for The Trade on The Process Master and do it all day long, but let’s give James Shields credit for being exactly what the Royals thought they were getting.
  • I can barely tolerate a seven man bullpen, much less EIGHT.  Yet, the Royals – fed by Ned Yost’s absolute hysteria about overusing relievers – carried eight pitchers in the pen through the weekend and might continue to do so for the coming week.  After all, you the world would probably stop spinning if you lost Scott Downs, Francisely Bueno or Bruce Chen to a waiver claim.
  • Of course, the flipside to the above is who should the Royals actually call up?  There are roster implications to be sure, but perhaps the overriding factor is the ‘who’.  Justin Maxwell has been up and down and out and in and up and down with one constant:  he never hits like you think he should.  Francisco Pena?  Intriguing.  Matt Fields?  A feel good story. Whit Merrifield? Versatile.  Johnny Giavotella?  Okay, just stop it.  Let’s face it, can’t you just feel a Ryan Howard acquisition coming?
  • With regard to the above, the Royals have called many of the names in mentioned ‘org guys’.  I know what that means, but what does it mean? Aren’t the ‘org guys’ who you turn to for a few spot starts when you’re regulars are hurt?  Almost unquestionably none of the org guys are long-term solutions, but they might give you a good week or two (remember ‘org guy’ Aaron Guiel?) or maybe even a BABIP-fairy fueled great half-season (remember ‘org guy’ Mike Aviles?).  A team that is batting Eric Kratz, Mike Moustakas and AARP member Raul Ibanez in the six hole can probably take a flyer on someone against a lefty starter.

The Royals relax in Arizona today before starting a three game set against a not very good Diamondbacks team.  They return home for seven against the Giants and A’s before finishing off the month with 12 of their next 16 against Minnesota, Colorado and Texas.  You can do the math on that:  hold your own over the next ten games and then do damage against a soft schedule.

I think it is okay to be excited about the playoff race and simultaneously disgusted by 80% of what this organization does (or doesn’t) do. That’s pretty much what following the Royals is all about.

 

 

 

The trade deadline just came and went. Guys like Lester, Lackey and Price were dealt. So were the likes of Denorfia and Drew and Austin Jackson and Allen Craig. Young guys like Cosart and Marisnik and Smyly, too.

The Royals? Not involved. Not interested. No upgrades necessary.

If one player or even two, as some speculated, would not be enough to get Kansas City in the playoffs in the final year of James Shields’ tenure as a Royal, then the organization needed to sell and make sure next year’s team would not be another 83 win ballclub.

Nope.

Just hope. Everyone will get better.

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