Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Browsing Posts published by Clark Fosler

Who knew he had it in him?

Royals GM Dayton Moore has a reputation for getting the off-season started in a hurry.  It had become common for Moore’s ‘big move’ of the winter to happen about thirty seconds after the final out of the World Series, but not this year.  Not unless the ‘big move’ was trading Aaron Crow.

Thus far, the Royals off-season has consisted of resigning reliever Jason Frasor, trading reliever Aaron Crow and resigning RELIEVER Luke Hochevar. I don’t buy the conversation that Hochevar will be in the starting rotation, if only because that sounds too much like the ‘old’ Royals and not the ‘we played in game seven of the World Series’ Royals.

If Moore was actually truthful when he speculated yesterday that the Royals might carry 13 pitchers in 2015, you might as well carry good ones. With an array of Greg Holland, Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, Jason Frasor and Luke Hochevar, an imaginative manager could really shorten a game and do so night after night.  I’m just going to the leave that there and let you ponder.

At any rate, it has been a busy off-season…for other teams, but I am not sure there are a lot of deals that have gone down that make you say ‘I wish the Royals would have done that.’

Quite obviously, the Royals are not in need of a big name reliever, but even if they were would you give Andrew Miller four years and $36 million or David Robertson four years and $46 million?

Bats?  They aren’t cheap, either, and a lot of them are old.

I don’t think anyone but Detroit was really in on Victor Martinez, but four years and $68 million?  Yikes.  Russell Martin signed a five year deal for $82 million, Nick Markakis went for four and $44 million, Nelson Cruz for four and $58 million, Billy Butler for godssake got three years and $30 million and the carcass of Torii Hunter got a $10 million to play another year.  A lot of people like Markakis, by the way, but put his numbers up next to those of Nori Aoki and tell me you want to write the check the Braves just did.

Those deals, by the way, at least made me give a couple of minutes of thought.  Hanley Ramirez?  Pablo Sandoval? Adam LaRoche?  Didn’t even take the time to look of the stats on those.

Listen, when the two ‘best’ deals of the off-season are Michael Cuddyer at 2/$21 million and a draft pick and Yasmany Tomas at 6 years/$68 million and hope he can hit major league pitching, being not in the news is not a bad thing.  Frankly, I think Tomas would have been worth the gamble and the money, but I can see the logic in not making that leap, too.

Trades?

Would you trade for one year of Jeff Samardzija?  Well, given the price, maybe, but I don’t know who is the Royals’ equivalent of Marcus Semien.  Let’s face it, I don’t know what Billy Beane is doing, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Oakland won 90 games again with Billy Butler and bunch of guys none of us thought were any good.

Josh Donaldson? Yes, but then I don’t know that anyone besides Oakland and Toronto knew that he was available.  Besides, Brett Lawrie is better than Mike Moustakas, which means the Royals’ package going to Oakland would not make the prospect hounds comfortable.

The other deals that have been completed are hard to see where Kansas City would fit or why they would want to.

Starting Pitching?

….crickets….

It would not be uncommon for Dayton Moore to be the first in the pool when it comes to signing a free agent starter, but the current demands (I think/hope) may be convincing him to slow play the market.  I like Ervin Santana, but I don’t like five year of him and he, along with most of the ‘second tier’ guys, probably aren’t coming down from their demands until they see what the losers of the Lester deal decide to do.

Anxious for a big winter move?  Sure, we are all.  Hell, Dayton, get an extra check blank from Mr. Glass and sign Melky Cabrera AND Santana!  In lieu of that, however, patience might serve the Royals well this winter.

Of course, there is a fine line between being patient and being paralyzed.

The Royals were 90 feet from playing extra innings to become champions.  There is no diminishing that accomplishment.

The 89 win 2014 Kansas City Royals would have also missed the playoffs by three games in 2013, four in 2012 and by a game in 2011 (if the current two wild-card system was in place back then).

As well suited as the Royals were for post-season play, they were just an okay regular season team.  By some statistical measures, your 89 win Royals were really more of an 84-78 team (Pythagorean) or even an 81-81 squad (Base Runs). Read what you want into those numbers.   If you want to make the case that the 2014 Kansas City Royals’ true talent level was 89 wins, I would not argue too hard against you.

All of that said, whatever your perception of the American League Champions, you cannot dispute that at this very moment they are not as good as they were when Salvador Perez insisted on swinging at high fastballs from the surreal arm of Madison Bumgarner to end the season.  James Shields and his 227 innings and 3.7 fWAR is gone.  So is Billy Butler, who according to either bWAR or fWAR provided virtually no wins above replacement level, and Nori Aoki.  Everyone will remember the comic and eclectic stylings of Mr. Aoki, but might forget he was worth 2.3 wins (per fWAR) and posted a .349 on-base percentage.

Dayton Moore has work to do, even if ‘everyone does improve’.

Thus far, he has slow-played the off-season.  As Craig detailed earlier, Moore resigned Jason Frasor, who we would all think is pretty good if not for the immense shadow of Holland, Davis and Herrera.  He shipped off Aaron Crow, who had no value, for two minor league arms:  debunking the theory that one could not get a bucket of balls for him.  Moore signed another utility infielder in Ryan Jackson.   All solid, if minor, baseball moves.

And today (or last night), Moore resigned Luke Hochevar for real cash money (2 years/$10 million).  I am assuming the Royals have a better idea as to Hochevar’s health than any of the other 29 teams and outlaying this kind of contract indicates to me that the organization thinks Luke will be ready to pitch sooner rather than later.  As already speculated by many already, it might also indicate a future trade of one of the ‘big’ bullpen arms.

Either that, or the Royals have suddenly gone cutting edge and are planning on getting five innings out of their starters and going to the bullpen day after day for four innings of dominance.  That’s a tongue in cheek sentence there, but would it work over the course of a 162 game schedule?

All said, the Royals need to do more than just ‘replace’ Shields, Butler and Aoki and cannot rely upon the current group to improve enough to make up the difference.  Let’s have some fun and say that Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain are going to be the guys they were in the post-season for all of 2015 AND let’s say Danny Duffy will parlay 150 innings of very good pitching into 210 innings of the same AND let’s say the bullpen is just as good as last year:  that still feels like about 89 wins.  All that might not be enough to get back to the playoffs, much less the World Series.

For all the ‘stuff’ Dayton Moore has done, we have to give him credit for parlaying Zack Greinke into Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain and, let’s face it, he traded Wil Myers with the sole intention of getting the Royals into the playoffs and it worked.  It took him longer than we wanted (or probably that it should have, too), but that was pretty much Dayton Moore’s team that was one game from a really cool trophy.

The hardest part of Dayton Moore’s job started THIS off-season and all of us would be wise to remember that while Kansas City ended the year as the second best team in baseball, they spent the bulk of it somewhere in the middle of the pack of the American League.  There’s no World Series without first making the playoffs, and 89 wins usually doesn’t get you to the post-season.

I still wake up in the middle of the night screaming ‘Don’t swing at the high fastball, Sal!’

The last at-bat by any Royal of the year was the disaster that saw Salvador Perez continuing to swing as Madison Bumgarner (who is pretty good, by the way) just kept throwing fastballs above the strike zone. It was agonizing and, sadly, it was really nothing new.

Perez swings at pitches.  Most all the pitches, really.

This is courtesy of Brooks Baseball and the chart is from the catcher’s point of view:

 

Perez Swing Rates

 

 

All the pitches.

Now, Perez has managed to put a pretty successful career line at the plate (especially for a catcher) of .285/.315/.433 with a wOBA of .325 and a RC+ of 104.  With his defense and, dare we say it, presence, Perez has certainly been a valuable piece of the Royals puzzle.

That said, the Royals’ stated desire to get Perez some rest from behind the plate but ‘still keep his bat in the lineup’ seems to lack any real standing in reality.  Starting with his partial 2011 rookie season and moving forward, tell me if you see a trend here:

  • Batting Average: .331 to .301 to .292 to .260
  • On-base Percentage: .361 to .328 to .323 to .289
  • Slugging Percentage: .473 to .471 to .433 to .403
  • wOBA: .363 to .340 to .329 to .303
  • wRC+: 126 to 114 to 106 to 92
  • Games Played: 39 to 76 to 138 to 150

Two things and they are obvious:  Perez’s numbers have declined with the more games he played in a season AND the longer he has played in the majors.  I think rather obviously, Salvador’s steadily eroding offense is a combination of the league figuring out that he will swing at pretty much anything thrown between the two dugouts and also with Ned Yost’s obsession with having Sal behind the plate pretty much every day.

As the ultimate free swinger, Perez’s basic offensive numbers will be tremendously effected by BABIP.  The real difference between a solid 2013 and a less than stellar 2014 at the plate can be traced to an unlucky .278 BABIP.   While Sal’s line drive percentage was actually higher in 2014, his ground ball rate plummeted and while we grimace at the Mike Moustakas popup machine, take note that Sal’s infield fly percentage has jumped from 5% as a rookie to over 17% in 2014.

The chart above is the percentage of pitches Perez has swung at (career), here is one that shows those that he swung at AND missed:

Perez Whiff Rates

Perez has a pretty good ability to put the bat, in some fashion, on the ball pretty much anywhere, but seriously, 57 pitches up and away from him, Perez swung 18 times and he only missed once!  Can’t be all bad, can it? Can’t be all good, either.

One last chart (as charts are easier than writing and have pretty colors).  This one shows Sal’s batting average in the same zones:

Perez Batting Ave

Let’s go back to the up and away corner of the zone:  Sal swung at 18 pitches up there, missed one, fouled off eight more and hit .444 on the remaining nine he swung at.  Like I said, he can put the bat on the ball…sometimes.

All of this is not a take down of Salvador Perez.  I love having Perez as the Royals’ everyday catcher for the foreseeable future.  Even if his contract was not so team friendly, I would still love having him back there for years.  I have no real desire to ever see him DH.

There is nothing in the numbers or the charts that should make you lust for multiple games with Perez at designated hitter when those games would be much better served by having Perez completely rest.

If Perez is red hot – as he gets now and then – and you have a day game after a night game – then, sure throw him in at DH a couple (THAT’S TWO, NED!) times a season, but no more.  The Royals and Perez would be much better served by having Salvador behind the plate 130 games per year and live without his bat in the lineup for most of the other 32 contests.

That and reminded him that trying to hit the ball before it hits the dirt is likely not a positive swing thought.

 

 

 

 

 

This is not your time of year if you deal strictly in black and white, hard facts and pure fiction and generally have somehow managed to wander through the world dealing only in absolutes.  Good for you if you have, I guess, maybe.

This is speculation and here say and conjecture and flat out random guessing season.  I love it, frankly, because the discussions (sans those that are just offended by the whole idea of anything not 100% factual – yes, I have an ax today) are both interesting and entertaining.

Ryan Howard to the Royals?  Really?  Listen, I think it is highly likely that the Royals did ‘internally discuss’ the fading Phillie’s slugger.  I think it is highly likely they have also discussed, Torii Hunter, Jon Lester, Evan Gattis, net-neutrality, Obamacare, ebola, the latest episode of ‘How To Get Away With Murder’, several Koreans, a Cuban, the weather and Oxford commas.  Did I use one? I don’t care and I don’t know why anyone does.

Ryan Howard is not the guy we all wanted on our fantasy teams five years ago.  He’s not even Billy Butler (the 2014 Billy mind you, not the 2011 guy that was so good).  He has no positional flexibility, which is something the Royals seemingly crave this off-season.  Discussed?  Probably, in a ‘hey did you see that rumor that we are supposedly looking at Ryan Howard?’ way.

More likely real discussions, but only slightly better than actually discussion Howard, have probably centered around Torii Hunter. We all know Dayton Moore’s desire to have good clubhouse leaders and no doubt he sees a void with the departure of James Shields, but one would like to think a good leader is only worth it when, you know, they are still valuable on-field contributors as well.

Hunter, who put up 17.5 fWAR with the Angels – who outbid the Royals and others back then – was worth just 0.3 fWAR last season for Detroit.  Don’t like the fancy new-fangled numbers?  How about a .319 on-base percentage, which was his lowest since 2003.  His defense, both sabremetrically and via the vaunted eye-test, has at worst declined and might have gone directly into the dumpster out back.  It would have been fun to have Torii Hunter back in 2008, not so much in 2015.

The interest in Hunter, other than the good clubhouse guy thing which I put some but not a ton of stock in, is his affordability.  At thirty-nine, he likely won’t demand nor get more than a two year deal.  A more interesting target like Melky Cabrera is likely set to get more years and more dollars.  Michael Cuddyer just got $21 million for two seasons with the Mets.   Hunter will be cheaper, Cabrera longer and more expensive.

To be honest, I’m not sure I’m on board with any of those options.  Of course, I have an off fascination with Alex Rios, so take what I say with a grain of salt.

The other big ‘conversation’ centered around Ervin Santana.  I like Santana, if only because I thought he would have a bounce back year for the Royals in 2013 and he did, feeding my need for validation.  He followed up his 2013 with a very similar 2014.  His strikeout rate was much higher for the Braves in 2014, but he had some bad BABIP luck.  In the end, Santana was worth 2.8 fWAR in 31 starts for Atlanta last year and 2.9 fWAR in 32 starts for Kansas City in 2013.

Turning thirty-two shortly, Santana will not get Shields money, but he will get multiple years.  If I’m a 32 year old starting pitcher who has pitched for three teams in three years, I would give up a little per annum for a contract that spanned past the following Christmas.  Would he fit with the Royals on a three year deal?  Do we want him to fit with the Royals?

Quite obviously, Kansas City needs to add an arm to the rotation.  Even if you believe in Ventura and Duffy, you almost have to accept some regression from the combination of Vargas and Guthrie.  Those four combined for 9.2 fWAR in 2014 (Shields was worth 3.7, by the way) and those four combining for a tremendous amount more  than that number in 2015 is probably not a logical expectation.

With Kyle Zimmer nowhere close, Brandon Finnegan and all 30 innings of professional pitching experience the next best option and then, well, then who?  The Royals need another starter first and foremost.   Rushing to sign Torii Hunter because he’s a great guy and then being hamstrung when it came to adding a quality arm to the rotation would be a horrible mistake.  Particularly when you could find a platoon partner for Jarrod Dyson and be just as good in the outfield in 2015.

Of course, all of that discussion might just be speculation.

A.J. Burnett wants to play for a contender and, for the first time since I had hair, that does not eliminate the Kansas City Royals from consideration.

Now, I don’t have any inclination positive or negative that the Royals should actually pursue Burnett, it’s just nice to not be automatically out of the running.  This is going to be a different kind of winter than we are used to.

Many of the options and perceived targets have been discussed here, there and everywhere, but I’ll throw my two cents in for some Friday distraction.  You didn’t really want to work today anyway, did you?

A qualifying offer was made to James Shields and lip service given to trying to resign him: standard baseball stuff.  The Royals want the draft pick that comes with Shields signing somewhere else and probably are not and definitely should not be serious about throwing five or six years at over $100 million at Shields.  That’s not a knock on Shields, a great guy and excellent pitcher.  It’s just common sense.

Turning thirty-three and coming off EIGHT straight seasons of over 200 innings, you have to wonder just how much James has left.  If the baseball world was turned upside down and you could get Shields for two years, that would make sense.  That ain’t happening.  How comfortable are you about a five or six year deal for Shields and the type of pitcher he might be in years four, five and six of that deal?  Pull up Roy Halladay’s page on Baseball Reference and then answer the question.

Hometown discount?  You want to know the one thing that would make me NOT like James Shields?  Giving a hometown discount, that’s what.

Sure, Shields has made $40 million playing baseball thus far and people will say ‘how much money do you need?’.  Why not sign for $85 million to play for the Royals as opposed to $125 million with the Yankees?  What’s $40 million when you already have that much?  Well, it’s forty freaking more million dollars!  It’s the difference between every kid in your extended family getting to go to the college of their choice and every grandchild of every kid in your extended family picking the college of his or her choice.

Not feeling giving?  It’s the difference between decadence and crazy, stupid, fun decadence.  Forty extra million allows you to routinely use the phrase “Call the jet, will ya?”  Don’t underestimate the ability to say that ten times a month and never once worry about the cost of fuel.

James Shields does not strike me as an idiot.  He won’t and should not take a hometown discount.  Besides, you really should not want him to, either.

Okay, Billy Butler is a free agent as well.  His option was in an amount that did not make any sense.  The Butler we knew from 2009 through 2012 is not the Butler we see now.  There are a number of minor annoyances that the organization has with him, not the least of which is that he can only play first base and only do that marginally.  On a team known for its athleticism, Butler sticks out like a sore thumb.  Maybe he comes back on a sweetheart deal and tries to rebuild his value as a hitter – there’s still time for Billy to get one more big contract – but I don’t think that is Plan A or B in Dayton Moore’s notebook.  The Royals want flexibility and like the current hip and happening ‘rotating DH’ idea.

That leads us to the outfield, where all indications are that Nori Aoki is not coming back.  Aoki ended up being the exact player the Royals thought they were getting and he has value, but he is also replaceable as well.   Especially if the Royals actually allow themselves to commit to playing Jarrod Dyson any time a right handed pitcher starts a game.

I have come around on Dyson as he defense has become more than a fast guy who can outrun mistakes to an outfielder who is simply excellent.  He is not a better centerfielder than Lorenzo Cain, but Cain is almost certainly a better rightfielder than Dyson, so if the Royals want to continue that little dance, so be it.  Pair Dyson with a right hand hitting (preferably power hitting) guy who can mash lefties makes good sense and, quite frankly, won’t cost tons of money, either.

In a perfect world, the Royals sign a player who not only platoons with Dyson in the outfield, but who can also handle right handed pitching well enough to be the designated hitter when Dyson is playing.  On days when a southpaw starts, the Royals could rotate their regulars into the DH spot.  Of course, the more said player (Michael Cuddyer for example) can do that, the more he costs.

How about Alex Rios on a one year deal to rebuild his value?   Motivated to get that one last big contract, could we get the ‘good and interest Rios’ instead of the lollygagging guy that played for the Rangers this past season?  LOLLYGAGGERS!!!!

In the end, this off-season comes down to the obvious:

  • A starting pitcher – go big for a front of the rotation kind of guy or put your faith in Ventura/Duffy and add another Vargas/Guthrie type to the back end?
  • Rightfield/DH – one player or two?  Big money or on the cheap?  Established or the next Melky Cabrera?
  • HDH – should they stay or should they go now?

It’s fun to be thinking about getting BACK to the World Series.  It’s intriguing to think about building from 89 wins instead of 73. If Dayton Moore thought the off-season was nerve wracking trying to build The Process, he has not seen anything yet.

The best player on the field this World Series was not a Kansas City Royal.  That, my friends, pretty simply sums up why the Giants won and the Royals lost.

You are not supposed to be able to do what Madison Bumgarner did.  Maybe in 1924, but not in 2014. It is not a criticism of the Royals’ players at all.  Bumgarner was the best player on either team and the team with the best player won the World Series.

Last night’s Game Seven really came down to a pretty mundane fourth inning two strike flair off the bat of Michael Morse with Panda Sandoval and Hunter Pence on base, because, well, they were always on base.  It came off one of the Royals’ big three relievers, Kelvin Herrera, who turned in an outstanding performance nonetheless.

Both teams were firmly in their bullpens by then:  a situation generally thought to be an advantage for the Royals.  We just didn’t realize that the Giants had some sort of android named Bumgarner that can throw for apparently days on end.

Once Bumgarner was in, the game really came down to two moments in time.  The first was immediately upon his entrance into the game.

Omar Infante singled and Alcides Escobar came to the plate.  Escobar immediately looked to bunt, but took two pitches for balls (he really had not choice – even Salvador Perez thought those were well out of the zone).   A 2-0 count, with Bumgarner not yet settled in?  I don’t give up an out there.  Escobar remained steadfast in his belief that a bunt was in order, laid one down and moved Infante to second.

After the game, Ned Yost said that Escobar was bunting on this own. Okay, fine, except Yost had two pitches to give whatever sign the Royals have that means ‘cut that the hell out!’.  But anyway…

Nori Aoki followed the bunt by lashing a ball to left.  Baseball is all about second guessing and speculation (see below), but I can pretty much guarantee that Travis Ishikawa does not catch that ball and the game would be tied.  Problem was, Bruce Bochy didn’t start Ishikawa and instead opted for his more defensive minded left-fielder: Juan Perez. You know what happened and you also know that Bruce Bochy has managed a few games in his lifetime.

The Royals only other real chance came with two outs in the ninth.  Up comes Alex Gordon (my GOD, he comes up a lot with two outs in the ninth, doesn’t he?), who had driven in one Royal run and scored the other almost my sheer force of will. Gordon had looked hopeless against Bumgarner the other 4,000 times he had faced him in the World Series, but not here.  A sinking liner to left-center.

I was pretty sure the ball was going to get down, but it was either going to be a clean single or a nice running catch by Blanco.  Gordon would be on first and hope, however small, would still be alive. Except suddenly the ball skips by Blanco and bounces to the wall.  Gordon turns and heads to second and rounds the bag as the ball is fumbled once more.  He will easily make third.  Mike Jirschele has the stop sign up well before Gordon is to the third.  The ball is in cut-off man Brandon Crawford’s glove as Alex hits the bag.

Without question and without debate, stopping Gordon at third makes all the sense in the world.  In that situation, sending him home probably means he is out by 25 feet.  Except…Bumgarner.

Here’s the thing, if Jirschele is giving him the go sign as Gordon is on the way to third, Alex is likely three or four steps past the bag when the ball hits Crawford’s glove.  Sending him is still a likely out.  Chances are, Crawford makes a good throw – even an okay throw is probably good enough – and Posey probably makes the catch and applies the tag.  Even with Gordon further around third than he actually was, he’s still out nine times out of ten.

That said, the Giants had just fumbled the ball twice on that play and Perez’s throw to Crawford nearly short-hopped the Giant shortstop.  Bad plays have a tendency to perpetuate themselves and the very risky move of sending Gordon would have, at minimum caught the Giants by surprise.  Crawford has to make the throw from the outfield, Posey has to catch it and get the tag down.  Nine times out of ten, they’ll get the out easily.

One time out of ten, something happens and Gordon scores.  About the same odds of Perez getting a hit off Madison Bumgarner, in my opinion.

Listen, this is not saying the Royals did anything wrong here.  In fact, they handled that play the right way.  Still, Bumgarner was pitching and let’s face it, taking a stupid, crazy risk with the very final out of the World Series might have been Kansas City’s best shot.

Don’t agonize over it, because there is no right or wrong on that play.  Hell, don’t bemoan Salvador Perez’ swinging at the same pitch out of the strike zone over and over to end the season:  the Royals would not have made it past Oakland without Sal (or been there in the first place).

Have a beer, debate the play with your friends and think about next year.

This year, by the way, was one hell of a ride.

 

One game from disappointment.  Two games from glory.

For the thousandth time, if had told you back in March that the Royals would be at this point, you would have taken it in a heartbeat, right?  Well, here we are.

The Royals’ hopes are pinned to a 23 year old rookie tonight:  probably the exact guy almost all of us want on the mound in a situation like this.  Kansas City has won 16 of the last 19 games started by Yordano Ventura.  He is better at home (2.97 K/BB) than on the road (1.83 K/BB).  He is better at night than during the day.  He has been better in the second half of the season than in the first half of the year.  Let’s face it, Yordano Ventura (next year’s opening day starter) is better than anyone else the Royals could send out to start tonight and I think, he is better than Jake Peavy.

After being bedeviled by double bullpen meltdowns in Games Four and Five, not to mention the nuances of the National League game, Royals’ manager Ned Yost finds himself back in his comfort zone.  You know what the lineup will be and, if all goes well, that we will see Jarrod Dyson come in for Nori Aoki in the sixth or seventh inning.  If all goes well, we will see Kelvin Herrera in inning number seven, Wade Davis for inning number eight and Greg Holland will hopefully get to participate as well.  We know/hope/pray that we won’t see Jayson Nix and, if we do, that we won’t see him hit.  If all goes well….

While it hardly mattered with Madison Bumgarner doing whatever it is he does (I hesitate to call it pitching because that makes it seem human), but Wade Davis was tagged with a run in Game Five.  It was technically unearned, but possibly the best reliever in baseball gave up a shot off the centerfield wall to most likely the worst hitter on the Giants team, so let’s call it what it was: a freaking disaster.

Anyway, what is Davis’ track record after an outing in which he gives up a run?  Well, now that you asked:

  • Davis gave up a run on March 31st, followed that up with a perfect inning with a strikeout.
  • Two runs on April 5th, followed by a no-hit inning with one walk and three strikeouts.
  • Another run on April 23rd, followed by a perfect inning with two strikeouts.
  • One run on June 25th, followed by a perfect inning with two strikeouts.
  • All the way to September 16th before another run was assessed to Davis and he had the audacity to surrender a run the very next day.  That outing, however, was followed by a four appearances in which he allowed no hits, one walk and struck out seven.
  • Davis then was tagged for a run on September 26th, his final regular season appearance, but then pitched a scoreless inning in the Wild Card game.
  • A run was allowed in Game Three against the Angels, followed by two perfect innings (four strikeouts) in Game One with Baltimore.

Basically, I like the odds of Wade Davis being unblemished tonight in Kansas City.  Oh and Kelvin Herrera?  After being tagged for runs in back to back outings on April 9th and 11th, Herrera has not allowed a run in back to back outings since.   I like those odds as well.

You want one final bit of ‘feel good’?  It is virtually guaranteed that Billy Butler will get more at-bats than Jayson Nix tonight.  You couldn’t say that when the Series was in San Francisco.

The Royals really should be in the World Series more often, don’t you think?

Like hopefully many of you, i was able to attend both Games One and Two in Kansas City. A sold out Kaufmann Stadium with the crowd hanging on every pitch was simply out of this world.

The defining moment of Game One, to me, was the bottom of the third inning.  Down 3-0, the Royals managed to put runners on second and third with no one out thanks to a Brandon Crawford error and a Moustakas double.  The Royals then proceeded to swing at SEVEN straight pitches and eight of nine before Lorenzo Cain realized that you don’t have to swing at all the pitches and took four straight balls.  Eric Hosmer, however, swung at the first pitch to end the scoring threat and, truthfully, any real hope that the Royals would make a comeback.

Madison Bumgarner is good, but the Royals helped him out with a swing at everything approach. In Game One, Lorenzo Cain was the only hitter who seemingly had an idea of what to do.

The defining moment of Game Two came early on as well.

After Gregor Blanco (freaking GREGOR BLANCO – you know, the guy who used to be a Royal when we could not beat anyone and we let him go because he wasn’t good enough?  At least that’s what the 24 ounce Miller Lites told me) shocked the crowd with a lead-off home run off Yordano Ventura, the Royals got a lead-off single from Alcides Escobar.   Sadly, after a two pitch Aoki at-bat, Escobar was caught stealing (by roughly one-half of a mile) leaving the Royals with two out and no one on.  However, THAT MAN, Lorenzo Cain doubled on the seventh pitch of his at-bat.  Let’s take a moment and note that Lorenzo Cain is seemingly getting better before our eyes as an all around ballplayer.

Then Eric Hosmer, deciding that swinging at everything is, after all, a bit silly, takes a four pitch walk, bringing Billy Butler to the plate.  Now, Billy tried to hit a three run homer on Jake Peavy’s first offering (an 88 mph cutter), but recalibrated himself and singled sharply on the next offering, another cutter, to tie the game.  I thought that hit was absolutely huge from a mental standpoint for the Royals.  While a one run deficit after one inning is hardly reason to panic, it felt like there was just a bit of ‘here we go again’ rippling through the cosmic strands.  Coming right back to tie the game immediately after two outs had to be a weight off the shoulders of most in the dugout.

Bottom line takeaway from Games One and Two:  anytime  you high five and hug strangers at a sporting event, it is a helluva time.

The lineup for tonight is out and Craig’s suggestion of earlier today was not off by much:

Escobar SS

Gordon LF

Cain CF

Hosmer 1B

Moustakas 3B

Infante 2B

Perez C

Dyson CF

Guthrie P

Just when you think Ned Yost was on auto-pilot, something like this happens.  I don’t hate it, not at all, but it is a pretty bold shake up for a manager who is consistently worried about his players’ collective domes.  Alex Gordon has not had great at-bats as of late, so it will be interesting if the move up gives him a little boost.  Moustakas?  Hey, why not go with the hot hand at this point and ditto for Infante.

Let’s face it, with the Royals putting Moustakas, Infante and Perez in a row, that could be a black hole of suck and free swings at balls that bounce first.  However, that might well be the three players with the biggest hits as of late.  A big hit from just one of those three might be enough for the win.

I expect a quick hook for Guthrie if he struggles, but also have this feeling that Jeremy might well put up some zeroes this evening. I could see Brandon Finnegan and Jason Frasor each getting work to bridge the gap from Guthrie to HDH.  With three games in three days, I have to imagine Yost would prefer to keep from using Herrera and Davis for multiple innings.

Game Three.  Game On.

 

 

Pitching and defense wins championships?  Who knew?

There are a myriad, tangible and intangible, reasons why the Kansas City Royals are in the World Series for the first time in 29 years, but foremost among them is the fact that this team simply caught and converted into outs, well, basically everything that was put in play this post-season.  That may be an exaggeration, but not a huge one.

Defensive metrics are what they are:  way better than when all we had was errors and fielding percentage.  However, about the time we started to really believe in them, along came all the shifting and, at least in this small mind, skewed the numbers again. The metrics love Jarrod Dyson, Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon, they are not as kind to Alcides Escobar.  Take them for what they are worth and, sabremetricians cover your ears, you might have to just trust your eyes.

At least for a small sample size like the post-season, my eyes tell me that the Royals are playing as good a defense as I have seen a team play (and I’m old….and jaded…and pretty certain Cookie Rojas and Freddie Patek were gods).  The opposing batters have eyes, too, and likely not a lot of knowledge of UZR/150.  Are the Royals playing tremendous defense?  Ask Nick Markakis and Steve Pearce.

The second part (or first maybe) of the equation is pitching and, when it comes to the Royals specifically, relief pitching.  Kansas City is tailor made for playoff baseball with all it’s off-days and rest between series.  They can go to Herrera, Davis and Holland for nine outs on Tuesday and ELEVEN more on Wednesday.  They can, quite simply, give the opposing team 18 outs to score, while taking the full 27 to manufacture some runs themselves.  The Royals can do that without even having to use Brandon Finnegan, Jason Frasor and Danny Duffy.

In their eight post-season games, the Royals have gotten one, maybe two, really quality outings by their starting pitcher, but thanks to a dominant bullpen, have outpitched the opposing team.  You do that in the regular season and your bullpen will come apart after a couple of weeks.  You do that in the post-season and you start buying flagpoles.

Some other bits and pieces:

  • Zack Greinke has been part of seven post-season games since demanding a trade from Kansas City.  That’s one less than Alex Gordon.  Greinke has yet to be on a team that gets to the World Series.  Maybe he can demand a trade to a winner this off-season.
  • Darryl Motley was my favorite Royal the last time the team was in the World Series.  His game seven home run remains one of my most vivid Kansas City baseball memories.
  • Count me as one who is glad the Royals are playing the Giants and not the Cardinals.  I am from Nebraska (I have yet, by the way, noticed any difference between natives of Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Iowa – I hate to break to you guys who are all about which state/region is better, but we’re all pretty much the same bunch) and don’t have that intense Kansas City versus St. Louis hatred.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I travel a lot and St. Louis is one of my least favorite cities, I mean it’s pretty freaking awful, but as an ‘outsider’ coming to the Series, I just don’t need the KC-St.Louis crap getting in the way of my drinking.
  • We will talk rosters over the weekend – I love to talk rosters – but just how healthy is Yordano Ventura and, more specifically, Danny Duffy?  If Ventura is good to go as a starter and the Royals think they can go to Danny Duffy for multiple innings more than once in a seven game set, they could well drop Tim Collins and add another position player. With National League rules looming in games three and four, Jayson Nix would seem to be far more useful than Collins, IF Duffy is really healthy.

Finally, I did not tweet, not even once during Game Four against the Orioles.  I was not in a great situation to utilize technology (driving a combine with scattered data coverage).  I listened to the game on the radio, just like in the olden days.  To be honest, it seemed right.  Everything seems right when you win.

The baseball world is becoming well acquainted with Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland and rightfully so.  Could those three be one of  the best back of the bullpen combination in history?  That will take more research than time allows today, but certainly in a post-season full of good bullpens (not you, Detroit), I don’t think many would trade those three for anyone else.

That said, last night, the sixth inning belonged to Jason Frasor.  Acquired in mid-July in a not very noteworthy move made at a time when many of us were demanding big moves, Frasor has been around.  Eleven full seasons of ‘being around’.

Frasor debuted in the majors at age twenty-six way back in 2004.  Since then, Jason has made one trip to the minors: a pretty impressive feat for a non-closer type reliever.  He spent most of his eleven year career in Toronto, spread over two stints.  He was traded by the Blue Jays to the White Sox in a deal that involved Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahen, then traded by the White Sox back to the Blue Jays a year later.

The right-hander has not been awarded a save since 2010.  He has never made more than $3.7 million in any one season.  He could sit down at the airport bar next to you and you would have no idea who he was.  Well, you might now, but you would not have a month ago.

Six hundred and forty-seven regular season appearances.

After facing 2,620 major league hitters and having struck out more of them than he allowed base hits to, Jason Frasor finally made his first post-season appearance in the Wild Card game against Oakland (a game in which he was awarded the win).   Eleven years and 619 innings worth of being ‘one of the other guys in the bullpen’ before pitching when it really, really mattered.

Now, cry not for Jason Frasor. That is a heck of a gig to be a reliever and made just one shuttle to the minor leagues in eleven years.  Few of us would turn down an 11 year run that yielded $17 million in total salary.  In the baseball world, however, Jason Frasor is just ‘one of the other guys’ and on the Royals he might well be the FIFTH best reliever in the bullpen.  There is a decent chance that somewhere in the excitement of the past month, you might well have forgotten – however momentarily – that Jason Frasor was a member of your Kansas City Royals.

Last night, however, in just the fourth post-season appearance of the 36 year old’s career, Jason Frasor came on in the sixth inning of a tie-game and mowed down the heart of the Oriole order as he bridged the gap between Jeremy Guthrie and the three-headed cyborg monster cerebus inadequately nick-named trio that dominates the later innings on behalf of the Kansas City Royals.

It was a big appearance when it really, really mattered.  A minor move by Dayton Moore back in July that paid off in October. Nice work, Dayton Moore.   Good for you, Jason Frasor, you earned it.

 

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