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Reports surfaced over the holiday weekend that Omar Infante underwent surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow.

The news was broken by Jon Morosi of Fox Sports.

The Royals, who made no announcement of Infante’s procedure at the time it occurred, are confident the surgery will alleviate the shoulder issues that hampered Infante throughout his first two seasons in Kansas City. The team believes Infante altered his throwing motion to compensate for the elbow pain, thus creating the shoulder problem.

To anyone who has watched Infante play second base the last couple of seasons, this is not a surprising revelation. His shoulder issues have been well documented since arriving in Kansas City. He missed part of his first spring training with the club with what was termed “elbow and shoulder inflammation.” The shoulder issue didn’t seem to get any better for Infante and he missed a few games here and there in 2014. He also spent time on the DL with an irritated disk in his lower back.

There was speculation he would have shoulder surgery following the Royals postseason run in 2014, but the team and Infante seemed to think his elbow and shoulder issues would subside with rest. The shoulder felt better when he opened spring training last year in Arizona, but his elbow still bothered him. And with the repetition at second base, it wasn’t soon before his shoulder started barking again.

This was a bit of a big deal because the Royals are paying Infante what for them amounts to big money. He is on the third season of a contract that totals four years and $32 million. Who felt more pain last summer? Infante playing with a bum shoulder and elbow or the Royals, who trotted out his carcass for 455 plate appearances in exchange a .552 OPS and 44 wRC+? I thought his defense was better last year (and the metrics back this up) but there’s no way any amount of defensive brilliance can cloak the stench of a .238 wOBA. According to Fangraphis, Infante was worth -0.9 fWAR in 2015, which made him the seventh worst regular in baseball last year.

In fact, the injuries hampered Infante enough the previous season, he was worth only 0.5 fWAR. This was not what the Royals were expecting. He averaged around 3.0 fWAR in his two seasons before coming to Kansas City, which was his peak output, but he was heading in to his age 32 season, and second basemen have not traditionally aged well. I’m aware of the fact the Royals have played in the World Series in each of the last two seasons, but the Infante contract was bad business from the moment the pen was put to paper. It’s simply the kind of deal a team like the Royals can’t afford to make.

If your New Year’s Resolution is to look at the positive, I suppose we should be thankful the Royals grabbed Ben Zobrist ahead of the non-waiver trade deadline. Zobrist filled the hole caused by Alex Gordon’s injury, then was able to slide over to second once Gordon returned. From August 28 to the end of the season, Infante made only six starts. An oblique injury suffered in mid-September assured he would miss the entire postseason run. The right move all along would have been to either bench Infante or keep him off the roster entirely. His injury prevented the Royals from having to make that decision. Injuries, injuries. That’s the real story of the Omar Infante era in Kansas City.

Infante will have the opportunity to redeem himself in 2016, but that’s only because at this point with $18 million left on his contract, he’s the immoveable object in the Royals middle infield. If he can stay healthy.

Earlier today, it was Alex Gordon and his wrist.  Just a few hours later, it has become Alex Rios and his hand.  Broken, you know.  Out indefinitely.

Lots of speculation with this news, not the least of which was the removal of Terrance Gore from his AA game today.  In combination with the speedster already being on the 40 man roster, one would be led to believe that Gore will take Rios’ spot on the 25 man roster.  I don’t hate it.

After all, it took six games and an injury to get Jarrod Dyson into live action and, far as we can tell, neither Eric Kratz or Christian Colon really exist.  This is not a team or a manager that is going to utilize the bench very much. Quite frankly, if you want strategery, Gore is probably more likely to see action than say a Whit Merrifield or someone of that ilk.

In the regular lineup, it appears that Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando will platoon and likely do so in right field with Lorenzo Cain staying in center. Dyson, I assume because he is small and fast, is perceived as not having a good arm.  Truthfully, Dyson’s arm is no worse than average, probably not a lot different than that of Cain.  I like the idea of the guy playing everyday (Cain) staying in one spot, where he might be better than Dyson anyway.  So, keeping Lorenzo in center and leaving rightfield to Dyson and Orlando makes sense to me and likely leads to better overall defense than the Royals were getting out of Rios.  That is, by the way, not a criticism of Rios’ early season defense, but more a compliment for the amount of ground Dyson can cover.  It should also be noted that Orlando is considered a superb defender with a very good arm.

The Royals are not blessed with a ton of major league ready depth, but they actually were assembled to, at minimum, get by with an injury to the very player who got hurt.  Write this down, because I’m sure it has never been said before, are part of the game.  This is as good a time and as tolerable a position to take the hit as the Royals could hope for.  It’s not the best situation, but it is far from the worst.

Remain calm, everyone.  Don’t panic.


On May 17, Danny Duffy threw what was among the best starts of his still-young major league career. Remember that? A 1-0 Royals victory over the Orioles?

I ask because in the haze of Wednesday’s debacle at the hands of the Houston Astros, it may be difficult to summon that outing from the memory bank.  Duffy was, in his own words, “hogwash,” against the former worst offensive team in the AL. (The Royals, in addition to being swept by the Astros, also seized the opportunity to supplant them as the worst offense in the American League. Victory cigars for everyone!)

Anyway, it wasn’t about the miserable performance from Duffy. We’ve seen plenty of those. What we saw on Wednesday was much more alarming. Duffy’s fastball averaged 92.8 mph while his sinker clocked in at 90.1 mph. In the start against the Orioles referenced above, his fastball was 94.9 mph and his sinker averaged 93.8 mph. Simple math: Duffy’s fastball was two mph less than in his best start of 2014 and his sinker was almost four mph less. This is not good.

(I don’t want to look at Duffy’s seasonal velocity average because it will be skewed by his time in the bullpen.)

Maybe we can dismiss the velocity on his sinker since that’s a pitch he doesn’t use that frequently. Perhaps more notable was his usage of his change-up. In his start on May 17, Duffy mixed 10 change-ups among his 97 pitches. Wednesday, he threw his change once in 83 pitches. Maybe that’s another reason the Astros were banging the ball around the yard. They were sitting fastball and adjusting slider. There was no in-between.

Speaking of his slider, he was throwing that like normal. The break was close to his usual movement, accounting for the fact it was averaging about three mph less than his May 17 outing.

Perhaps more alarming was how Duffy was losing velocity through those 83 pitches. From Brooks Baseball, here’s the ugly velocity chart:















Compare that to the May 17 game.















Duffy always loses a little off his fastball the deeper he goes into the pitch count. But Wednesday’s game was something we haven’t seen in some time. Post-game, it was revealed Duffy was battling a “dead arm.” I suppose that’s possible. It’s fairly common. I just wonder how common for a pitcher who has thrown 35 innings in the season’s first two months to have a dead arm. With eight of those innings coming in relief.

I’m still not sold on Duffy being anymore than rotational filler. But with the uncertainty of Yordano Ventura, the Royals rotation is already stretched. (Yeah, there’s uncertainty around Ventura. Do you believe anything the Royals say when it comes to injuries? How many starters leave a start with elbow pain and are back a week and a half later?) Last I saw, the Royals starter for Ventura’s turn on Saturday was “TBA.” Because there aren’t any palatiable options. Lose Duffy at the same time… Let’s put it this way: The offensive struggles won’t be the only thing we’re discussing.

We’ve been over this before. At four games under .500, the season isn’t lost. But with a corpse-like offense that is showing no signs of a pulse, the season is slipping away. Lose two guys from your rotation and this team becomes a runaway freight elevator heading for the basement.

I am a Royals fan.

That’s a rather straightforward declarative statement. Not a surprise, either. This is a Royals blog, after all. On the scale of “shocking development” to “no duh,” it gal

The last 25 years or so (I’ve lost count and really, it’s not all that important) the Royals as a team have presented us with little to be happy about. A nice run of games here or there – That 15-5 run from last year was pretty insane – but largely we are talking about some really dreadful teams. It’s been a struggle finding reasons to watch. Thankfully, there have been some individual performances of quality in the midst of some awful team efforts.

Happy Greinke Day was born in a season where the Royals lost 96 games and had Jose Guillen in the lineup. Horrible team. A great individual season gave us reason to watch at least every fifth day.

The 2011 team had 325 doubles, which was the second highest total in the league. It featured four guys – Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur – who all hit at least 44 two-baggers. They lost 91 games, but the offense could be kind of fun to watch.

Eric Hosmer’s second-half renaissance was equal parts amazing and enjoyable. Even if it wasn’t enough to rescue the Royals from the hole they dug for themselves in May.

Your mileage may vary on the positives above, but the point is, when you’re a fan of a dreadful team, you need to search for those kind of things. You need something to pull you to tune into the game. A favorite player. A good player. A sustained performance of the highest quality. Something. Anything. It’s about finding something fun to watch on an mediocre to poor baseball team.

For me thus far in 2014, it’s been all about Yordano Ventura.

Ventura has been Must-See TV. The fastball, the change and the curve. I can’t wait for every fifth day to roll around so I can watch him start. He isn’t as dominant as early ’09 Greinke, but that electric stuff is so fun to watch. The Royals offense is awful. Their pitching is keeping them around .500. And Ventura is the most entertaining of the bunch.

As I said above, this is just my personal preference. You may like James Shields. Or Greg Holland. Or Wade Davis The Reliever. Any of those (and others) are acceptable. But for me, Ventura has become my favorite Royal.

It was immediately obvious something was wrong with Ventura on Monday. Diminished velocity. Location was all over the place. He just wasn’t right.

This is his confrontation with Dexter Fowler, the third hitter in the game for the Astros. Gameday doesn’t do justice to how badly Ventura missed.












And the saddest image of all, Ventura’s velocity chart from Brooks Baseball:



That decline after around pitch 33. Oh, jeez.

The Royals announced during the game Ventura left with lateral elbow discomfort. He’s going for an MRI on Tuesday. A quick Google says lateral elbow discomfort is basically tennis elbow. Tennis elbow is treated with rest and anti-inflammatory medication. At this point, we can consider this the best case scenario. If the Royals were incorrect in their initial diagnosis (or decided to float a smoke screen) and it’s the medial portion of the elbow… Yeah. We’re all baseball fans. We know what’s happened this year to basically every decent young pitcher. And we’re Royals fans, too. Total doomsday scenario.

I’m reserving my total freak out for when the announcement is made, but let me put it this way: I’m stockpiling like it’s Y2K. You can’t be a Royals fan without a touch of fatalism. What happened to Ventura on Monday is simply another notch on the bedpost of bullshit we have to endure as Royals fans. I’m not going to type the words, but I fear it’s coming. It’s just better to be prepared.

To add insult to injury, the same game Ventura leaves with elbow discomfort, the Astros young phenom George Springer goes 4-4 with five runs scored and a monster jack into the fountains in left. Sometimes, baseball just isn’t fair. Sometimes, it’s three decades of crap.

Nobody said baseball was fair. As Royals fans we’ve become accustomed to abuse. What happened Monday was just cruel. It’s not about Ventura pitching this team to October. He’s good, but he’s not that good. For me, it’s about watching a potentially great pitcher do his thing every fifth day. It’s about looking forward to a game. It’s about electricity. It’s about excitement. It’s about fun.

Hey… Looks like Alex Gordon is warming up.

A good writer creates an interesting topic, fleshes it out with solid research, expands on it with creativity and presents it with fluid prose.  Today, you get none of that.  NO SOUP FOR YOU!

I have an assortment of topics, which either are not quite robust enough to warrant a column on their own or which would require research and thought beyond my appetite.  

The Royals Made A Lot of Money Last Year

Forbes reported that the Kansas City Royals turned a $28.5 million profit last season, second only to the Cleveland Indians in all of baseball.  At best, that is an educated guess by Forbes, if not just a straight out shot in the dark.   I have no doubt that this revelation will stir up a bit of outrage among certain portions of the fanbase.

The truth is, however, that the Royals did not go cheap last year:  they went young.   If you believe David Glass and the team roughly broke even in past years with higher payrolls, then the Forbes’ number makes some sense.   It is nothing that should be used as an indictment of the Glass ownership, but simply a profitable portion of a very logical business cycle.

Now, the test is whether that $28.5 million (or whatever it actually was – my guess is something a little less than that) comes into play next off season or the season after that.  If Glass did make $28.5 million in 2011 and basically breaks even when the Royals’ payroll is around $70 million, then will a hopefully talented and contending Royals’ team in 2014 or 2015 be able to carry a payroll somewhere north of $80 million?   Basically, did David Glass bank the $28.5 million or, as my wife certainly would do, did he go on a bunch of really nice vacations and get four new cars…and a jet…and a boat?

Do Sabermetrics Undervalue Relief Pitchers?

In 2011, Craig Kimbrel had the highest WAR (according to Fangraphs) of any reliever in baseball:  3.2.   Thirty-eight starting pitchers posted an fWAR higher than Kimbrel’s.  In fact only seven relievers in the game would appear in the top 74 fWAR posted by pitchers in 2011.  One of those was the Royals’ Greg Holland, by the way.

Now, WAR has a lot to do with ‘showing up’.  A position player can have tremendous stats, but if he missed 25 games with an injury, his WAR will take a hit.   We may all disparage the ‘Replacement Player’, but not even Albert Pujols is better than Mr. Replacement if Albert is sitting on the bench.   When it comes to pitching, innings matter.

Jeff Francis was more valuable (in WAR terms) than any Royals’ relief pitcher last year based almost completely on the fact that Jeff ground his way through 183 innings of work:  nearly three times what any reliever pitched.  Now, the argument exists and I cannot really dispute the general theory, that a run in the third inning is really the same as a run in the ninth inning, but it sure does not feel that way.

I don’t think anyone would argue that a good starting pitcher is more valuable than a good reliever.   In fact, one can pretty effectively argue that an average starting pitcher is more valuable than a good reliever and, quite possibly, more valuable than even a great reliever.  However, WAR really tells us that a below average starting pitcher (Jeff Francis) is more valuable than almost every reliever in the game.

My current allotment of grey matter does not properly equip me with the ability to dive into the internal mechanizations of fWAR and debate that fact.   Nor does the fact that my gut disagrees with the above assessment invalidate the value of WAR as a statistic.   Baseball is certainly a game of numbers, but it is also a game of feel.

I know, I know, we are dancing our way into the world of intangibles where Jason Kendall and Dayton Moore sit amongst the clouds and lord over the baseball world, but there is something to it.   Baseball players and fans, as well, are conditioned that they will give up runs.  A starter gives up three runs and leaves the game tied after six innings and we applaud the effort.   The team feels good:  he gave them a chance to win, after all.   Everyone’s happy, until a reliever gives up a solo homer in the bottom of the 8th and the Royals lose.    Of course, if the starter had stranded on of those three runs in the fourth, the solo homer would not have triggered the loss, but in the clubhouse, the starter did his job and the reliever did not.

That run in the eighth inning may not be statistically different than a run in the fourth, but it certainly feels different and, I have to believe, it affects the team differently.  If your bullpen does that on a regular basis it can tremendously batter the collective psyche of the team.   Conversely, if your bullpen is truly a lock-down unit it can buoy that same team is a tremendously positive way.   

WAR may never truly love a good bullpen, but I have to believe that a good bullpen is more valuable than the sum of it’s WAR.

Catchers, Catchers, and More Catchers

Should Brayan Pena or Humberto Quintero every bat after the seventh inning? 

As Craig detailed yesterday, Quintero is a legendarily poor hitter and as I pointed out in the comments and on Twitter, Brayan Pena has spiraled into something that more closely resembles Quintero at the plate than Mauer.  The Royals are hoping for more offense out of Alcides Escobar (and I think they will get it), but one can only expect so much and the team may not get a whole lot of punch out of the second base position, either.   Given that, should the Royals take a big step outside of the box and plan on pinch-hitting for the catcher almost every night?

Now, I know this won’t really happen and I also admit that this theory falls back on the possibly flawed idea that a run in the eighth is more important than a run in the third, but let’s take a quick look anyway.

I don’t care what the score is, just plus or minus five runs either way (basically any situation short of a Mitch Maier getting ready to pitch scenario), but what if the Royals simply assumed that any time the catcher came up in the sixth inning or later, they would pinch-hit for him?   Pena starts, his turn comes up in the sixth, and Maier pinch hits.   Quintero enters the game, comes up in the eighth, and Bourgoeis pinch hits, but then what?

Ah, you need to carry three catchers.  To do that AND pinch hit for said catchers, the Royals would have to carry three catchers AND a five man bench.  That forces them into breaking camp with just six relievers, which I know sounds like disaster when the starting rotation is what it is.   Except, given there is really nothing to prevent Kansas City from pitching the hell out of Louis Coleman and Tim Collins for three weeks, then sending them to Omaha to pitch sparingly while Kelvin Herrera and Everett Teaford come to KC to throw for two or three weeks.

The whole concept is dicey, unconventional and truthfully won’t work for any extended period of time.  Not to mention that the Royals’ options for pinch hitters are only slightly more productive than letting Pena, Quintero and even Cody Clark hit.  Right there, is the real problem with virtually any scenario that heavily involves using the Kansas City bench players.

Option 2013

With Joakim Soria headed towards a second Tommy John procedure, the question of whether the Royals should pick up Soria’s $8 million 2013 option will be a recurring theme throughout the season.   Personally, that eight million looks a lot better put toward an Eric Hosmer contract or, for that matter, even an Alex Gordon extension.

Sure, the Royals are on the hook for Soria’s six million this year, but does knowing that they might have an extra eight million available next year grease the wheels to getting Gordon locked down and out of the way?  Let’s also keep in mind that no one is going to be throwing money at Soria next winter.   Unless Joakim gets offended by the Royals turning down his option, there is nothing that says he could not come back on a lesser deal.  It seems like a no-brainer at this point.  I feel bad for Soria, but the game is a business and the Royals cannot afford to gamble with eight million bucks.



Don’t panic!  It’s just a headline.

Prior to yesterday’s game, Royals’ catcher Salvador Perez tweaked a knew.   That is the entire extent of what anyone currently knows: a ‘tweak’.  While he could still crouch, Perez left the field with a ‘noticeable limp’.   After examination today, we should know whether this is a minor day to day thing, a semi-minor week or two rest thingy, a somewhat major but not season altering might-effect-opening-day event or a gut wrenching see-you-later-this-year-maybe catastrophe.

Modern medicine has turned knee injuries into almost routine surgery.  What was once career ending might now wash out less than a season.  What was once season ending might only take six weeks.  That Salvador Perez is just twenty-one years old and a physical specimen can only help shorten the time frame of any recovery.

But, don’t panic.   For all we know, Salvador Perez need a night’s rest, some ice and an aspirin and will be behind the plate tomorrow.

Of course, besides the general excitement about the upcoming season fueling speculation on pretty much any news about anything regarding anyone at rates we are not used to here in Royalland, an injury to Salvador Perez is going to generate a pretty high level of anxiety.  This is the guy who was slated to catch 140+ games this year, just signed a long-term deal and was already perceived to be a leader on the club.   We get fairly snarky here in the blogosphere when it comes to terms like presence, leadership and intangibles, but Salvador Perez seemed to have his share of all of those.

So, yeah, pardon us if we get a little jittery when he limps off the field in March.

While an injury to Eric Hosmer would be a catastrophic public relations nightmare, not to mention the hole it would create in the lineup, the Royals were likely better prepared for an injury there – or anywhere else on the diamond – than they are for any extended absence by Salvador Perez.

Brayan Pena is the back-up catcher, but the prevailing thought was that should an injury strike Perez, another defensive whiz (Manny Pina) would probably take most of the innings.   The problem, as you well know, is that Pina is himself injured and not likely to get back on the field until around the time the Royals break camp.  

That brings us back to Pena: a great guy, a switchhitter and, sadly, a borderline terrifying defender.   His back-up, right now, would by Max Ramirez (“did you hear he’s hit 4 home runs this spring!”), who is a catcher in the sense that he knows how to put on the equipment and owns a catcher’s mitt.   

Quantifying defense is still the greatest challenge in the sabermetric world.   Defining catching defense is somewhere beyond that.  Undeniably, however, we all know (basement dwellers, small children, elderly mothers and true baseball men) that what the guy behind the plate does when his team is in the field is tremendously important.    Define it however you want, but Salvador Perez does it behind the plate.  Brayan Pena and Max Ramirez, by most accounts, do not.

So, let’s panic a little and go doomsday scenario.   We find out this morning that Salvador Perez is out for the bulk of the season, what do you do?  Should Dayton Moore just grit his teeth, remind himself that the 2012 Royals probably were not really contenders anyway, and watch Pena/Ramirez/Pina not field and maybe not even hit for a season?   Do you, gulp, suit up Jason Kendall and see if there are any fumes left in an already empty tank?  Or, do you go out and make a trade for someone to catch?

I don’t know who this year’s Matt Treanor is (maybe it’s Treanor), and I think it would be bad luck to look until we have to, but if Perez is out even until the All-Star Break, does Dayton Moore maybe have to go into the market and get one? If Lorenzo Cain can really hit, Hosmer becomes a star, Moustakas slugs home run after home run and the starting pitching suddenly becomes competent, the Royals might still be able to hang around even without Perez if they just had some level of moderate competency replacing him.

Without question, you are not going to find anyone close to what the Royals expected to get out of Perez, but it might be possible to get a veteran guy who can handle pitchers and maybe throw out the occasional baserunner.   Would you give up a reliever to get him? 

But, don’t panic.

Maybe Salvador Perez is jogging without pain into the clubhouse as we speak.    Maybe everything is fine…..but what if it’s not?

Okay, panic just a little.


This weekend’s tilt in Cleveland has become a pivotal series in the battle for fourth in the AL Central.  Win two of three and the Royals will extend their lead to four games with about a month remaining.  If the Royals somehow stumble and get swept, the two teams will be tied and then it’s game on.  With 10 games remaining between this pair between now and the end of the regular season, this promises to be quite heated.

Hooray, made up races for position in the standings!


It won’t help the Royals cause that it appears Billy Butler may sit for the entire Cleveland series.  Butler has inflammation in his right hand, which the Royals believe has affected his swing and limited his power.  Perhaps.  Apparently, he’s been bothered for the last month or so, but his power has been on walkabout since the start of July.   His ISO over his last 200 plate appearances is .126 compared to a .158 ISO in his first 337 plate appearances of the season.

There’s been a ton of talk about Butler’s lack of power development, and it’s talk that’s justified.  Here’s a graph of his ISO covering his four year career.  We all know his bump last season was very real… A hearty increase in both doubles and home runs.  This year, both numbers have declined.


After homering once every 29 at bats last season, Butler is homering once every 43 at bats in 2010.  Yeah, this is a concern.

Unfortunately, Butler’s decline in power has been coupled with an increase in double plays as Butler has ground into a league leading 26 twin killings this year.  His rate of grounding into double plays is also the highest among hitters with at least 100 double play opportunities (runner on first, less than two outs). The leaders:

Butler – 25%
Adrian Beltre – 22%
Michael Cuddyler – 18%
Mike Young – 17%
Torii Hunter – 17%

Wow.  Butler is hitting into a double play a full quarter of his opportunities.  (That almost matches Yuni’s on base percentage.)  And has quite a bit of distance between himself and second place.  The gap between first and third place is enormous.  Butler himself remains philosophical about this – he understands this is what happens when a guy hits a ton of grounds balls (which he does) and is slow (which he is.)

About those ground balls… Butler’s batted ball rates have remained incredibly static from one year to the next.

Last season’s bump in ISO and slugging was a mirage… It was going to be extremely difficult for Butler to repeat that power performance if he didn’t cut some percentage from his ground ball category and paste it into the fly ball side of the ledger.  While we could expect his power numbers to decline, the amount of decline is larger than we would have hoped.  (Again, the injury may have something to do with this.  Despite the new training staff, the Royals remain a difficult team when it comes to deciphering injury info.  They say it’s been a month his hand has been bothering him.  The numbers say his power has been in decline for over two months…)

The increase double plays, though… This is kind of a surprise.  Obviously this is always going to be part of Butler’s game.  Last year, he grounded into 20 double plays in 131 opportunities.  That works to a 15% double play rate.  (Plus, those raw numbers are in about 150 fewer plate appearances.)

So, while there’s an air of inevitability when Butler comes to the plate with a runner on first and less than two down, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.

The Royals are eighth in the league in OBP.  That sounds OK, I guess, but there .327 OBP is lower than the league average of .329.  Because this team doesn’t walk, as their team batting average has declined, so has the team OBP.  So while it can be difficult for the Royals to find base runners, it doesn’t help that Butler is doing his level best to erase those runners.

Kevin Seitzer has taken a fair share of credit for the Royals increased batting average, but that’s empty praise.  For a hitting coach to truly make a difference, he needs to work with players on an individual basis to get the most out of their abilities.  This year, Butler has fallen short of his potential.  He and Seitzer need to get together and work on refining his swing so he can generate more loft.

More loft equals more power.  More power equals fewer ground balls.  Fewer ground balls equal more runs.

Simple, isn’t it?

I’m here to write the epitaph on Gil Meche’s career with the Royals.

Yes, he’s only out for the season and he’s signed through next year, but you can’t honestly expect him to pitch again for this team.  I think he’s done as a Royal.

(It’s possible I could be jumping the gun on this. Nobody will know exactly his timetable for return until he goes under the knife and the surgeons poke around.  Given his history though, and past recovery times, I’m betting his days in Kansas City are over.)

If, in fact, Meche has thrown his final pitch as a Royal, he will always be remembered for his start on June 16, 2009 – A 132 pitch shutout against the Arizona Diamondbacks.  It’s fitting he’ll be remembered for that game, because it was his finest start as a Royal.

9 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO

It was worth a Game Score of 84.  Hell, according to Game Score, it was the best game of his career.

We’ll always have the Diamondback game.

Ironic isn’t it, that the best game of Meche’s career was the beginning of the end.  He was shelled in his next start.  And again…  Then came the fateful “dead arm” and subsequent 121 pitch outing just two days after a bullpen session.

Here’s how Meche fared in his career as a Royal.  I’ve broken them down in two parts.  One, Before Shutout (BS) – which actually includes that start. The other, After Shutout (AS).

I’ve said it before, so I’ll say it again.  It wasn’t the 132 pitch outing that spelled doom for Meche. That 132 pitch outing on June 16, 2009 was borderline insane, but it wasn’t the nail in the coffin.  The nails were pounded in over the next several starts when Meche couldn’t pitch past the fifth inning.  The final nail was on July 1 when, just two days removed from throwing a bullpen session to test his “dead arm” Meche was allowed to throw 121 pitches in a start against the Twins.

I won’t fault Dayton Moore for spending big to bring Meche to Kansas City prior to the 2007 season, signing him to a five year deal.  It was derided by many, including famously by JP Riccardi the then General Manager of the Toronto Blue Jays. “When a guy talks about coming to our place where he has a chance to win… and then he goes to a place like Kansas City, that’s an eye opener.” (Ha! I’ve said the same about Rick Ankiel.)

The 2007 season was Meche’s age 28 season.  He wasn’t a great – or even good – pitcher at that point, but his strikeouts were rising, his walk rate was falling and so was his hit rate.  Couple the improvement with his relative youth and you’re signing a guy like this based on potential.  It’s a gamble.  Probably no more of a gamble than any other free agent signing, but still… The Royals have little margin for error.  Remember, this was back in the day prior everyone learning The Process would take eight to ten years.  Most of us figured it would be four years.  Maybe five.  If that was to be the case, then inking Meche to those kind of terms was the kind of gamble that could pay huge dividends.  By his final year of the contract, he would be 32.  With the proper care and usage, it was possible he could be in the prime of his career.

Sometimes the best laid plans…

Don’t get me wrong.  The blood is on everyone’s hands.  No one gets out of this with a clear conscience.  Blame Dayton Moore for not stepping in following the 132 pitch shutout and making sure his field staff handled him with care.  Blame GMDM again for not doing the same following his “dead arm” that came several starts post-shutout.  Blame the medical staff for failing to grasp the gravity of the issue.  Of course you can blame Trey Hillman.  I couldn’t believe what I saw in the game following his “dead arm” bullpen session when Meche was allowed to return to the mound after throwing 99 pitches through five innings.  I thought then that what Hillman did that afternoon was a fireable offense. Oh, you can also blame Meche for all of this.  I get the feeling he was less than truthful with the Royals medical staff and management.  Sure, it’s one thing to be a “warrrior” who “takes the ball every fifth day,” but Meche – who had missed two full seasons with shoulder ailments in the early part of the decade – should have known better.

Fangraphs has a nifty little formula where they assign a dollar amount to a player based on his performance for the season.  Kind of the opposite way MLB contracts work – they pay based on past performance.  Here’s how Meche has done in his time with the Royals.

According to this formula, Meche has been worth $46.8 million to the Royals over the last three and a half years.  He’s roughly $8.2 million short.  Maybe GMDM, Hillman and Meche can divide the bill three ways to make amends.  If only it were that simple…

Many of us will wonder why it took the Royals and Meche so long to come to the conclusion that surgery was the only option.  The numbers make it clear he had been hurting for quite some time.  By delaying what seemed inevitable, the Royals and Meche have almost certainly assured he’s thrown his last pitch as a Royal.  The Royals termed surgery as a “last resort.”  It usually is.

I’m not a doctor (I didn’t even take biology in college) so I’m not in the position to be overly critical here, but I certainly understand wanting to avoid surgery.  The recovery will be long and painful.  The Royals are paying Meche a princely sum, so they want something – anything – from their starter. Losing days to the disabled list isn’t a way to recoup your investment.  Still, you have to wonder if the Royals were just deluding themselves in this situation.  Hoping for the best when all the evidence points to the worst does a disservice to everyone involved.

What a shame.  What a waste.

Another series, another salvage of the final game.     Just a note for those that admire the grittiness of the Royals for hanging in:  teams that continually salvage the final game of a series end up with a 54-108 record.   Anyway, a lot did happen this weekend as the Royals dropped two of three to the Twins, so let’s get right to it.

The End of the Luis Mendoza Era

Okay, maybe not.   Mendoza, who was designated for assignment, will likely clear waivers, pitch in Omaha and likely end up back in Kansas City in the seemingly never ending cycle of never giving up on pitchers who have never shown any reason to warrant such consideration.

At any rate, Craig covered the designation of Mendoza and the release of Juan Cruz expertly was it happened last Friday, so I won’t waste a lot of time with it here other than to say that the release of Cruz was unexpected.    Outside of Joakim Soria, one can make a pretty good case for the release of everyone else in the bullpen, but Cruz did have a better track record (at least prior to coming to KC) than the others and was/is getting paid over three million this year.

That said, Trey Hillman had pretty much viewed Cruz as the pitcher of last resort most of the year and Juan had done little to change that mindset.  Perhaps this move was a ‘statement’ to the fans by Dayton Moore or a ‘wake-up call’ to the other members of the staff of maybe, simply, Hillman and Moore were tired of watching Cruz allow inherited runners to score.    I cannot say that releasing Cruz was a bad move, just a surprising one.

As far as the recall of Brad Thompson and Bruce Chen, it seems to point that the club wants veteran guys that it believes will throw strikes.   I assumed we would see Thompson at some point this year and he’s worth a look, but Bruce Chen?  Again? 

Gil Meche and the Mystery of Control

We have seen Gil have a three start stretch where he really struggles, but nothing like the first three starts of 2010.   Currently, Meche is averaging a walk per inning and sporting a robust 11.37 earned run average (most of it deserved).  You can analyze all the peripherals inside and out, but the simple fact is that Gil currently cannot consistently throw strikes.

Trey Hillman ‘does not see any mechanical or physical issue’ and my untrained eye sees Gil throwing hard with good movement (maybe he’s falling off to the first base side a bit?), so you have to pretty much just pray that Meche is still rounding into form from a sluggish and sporadic spring.  

One ray of hope is that Meche was pretty awful in April of 2008 (7.22 ERA, 15 walks in 34 innings) and was the ‘Meche of old’ the rest of that season.    Of course, he could simply be ruined, too.

An Ugly Saturday

Sure, it was an exciting 12 inning 9-7 loss for the Royals in the mist and rain, but this was not a pretty game.   Kansas City was tagged with three errors (one on a blown pop-up and another that cost them a double play).   The Royals also missed another pop-up and blew another double play that were not called errors.    Glad we focused on defense in the off-season.

Luke Hochevar pitched well early, but gradually (with some defensive ‘help’) let the Twins grind their way back into the game, but left with a two run lead with two outs in the seventh.   John Parrish came on to walk two hitters and surrender a Justin Morneau (he’s pretty good, by the way) home run.   After a great start, Parrish is suddenly looking like…well, a Royals reliever.

Kudos to Trey Hillman, by the way, for going to Soria at home in a tie game and letting him pitch two innings.   In doing so, he gave the Royals a two inning window to score a run while the one reliever the team can count on was shutting down the opponent.   The Royals, of course, did not score, but still it was worth a shot.

By the time umpire Greg Gibson had decided he was too wet and cold to be bothered to do his job correctly, the Royals had collected 18 hits and 5 walks, which was not enough to keep pace with the Twins.    An unearned run off Bruce Chen in the 11th was answered, but two more courtesy of an ineffective Robinson Tejeda in the 12th was too much.

As bad as Gibson’s call was – it may have been the worst I have ever seen – how many of you really thought the Royals were coming back in this one? 

Getz and the Roster

Chris Getz is about to begin a rehab stint in Omaha with all indications being that the Royals will activate him as early as Friday.   After watching Alberto Callaspo play second base, can you blame them?

The discussion in the Kansas City Star was that the Getz activation might signal an Alex Gordon demotion to the minors.  Like me, Dayton Moore may have grown weary of watching Gordon pull outside pitches on the ground to the second baseman, so the move actually might make sense.

With Jose Guillen hitting and Alberto Callaspo doing the same (although both have played similar defense – Jose has just played his without actually taking the field), there is no regular spot in the lineup for Alex.   As much as Kansas City needs another bench player, you probably do not want Gordon playing two times per week. 

All things being equal, I would advocate activating Getz, sending Gordon to Omaha (unless he goes 8 for 16 this week), paring the bullpen down to seven pitchers (I don’t care who goes, I really don’t) and putting Wilson Betemit on the bench.   Betemit is a veteran guy, can play everywhere and has a little pop.  It makes more sense to have Betemit playing sporadically than to have Gordon cooling his heels on the bench.

The Salvage

Brian Bannister had a nice outing, the bullpen was shaky but just good enough and Jose Guillen went yard again as the Royals came away with the win on Sunday.    Kansas City committed two more errors, but did just enough to overcome those on Sunday.

We also learned that Josh Fields is out for the year with hip surgery.   It was hard to see where Fields fit on this roster so missing 2010 is probably good for everyone involved.  

Ever Onward

The Seattle Mariners come to town for three games starting tonight.    Felix Hernandez versus Kyle Davies:  who could ask for a better matchup?

The first bullpen domino has tumbled…

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

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

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

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

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