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Kyle Davies left the game last night in the first inning with anterior shoulder soreness and will undergo an MRI today to determine the severity of the injury. In related news, karmic retribution rains down upon Royals fans rejoicing at an injury to one of their own in the form of a 19-1 annihilation at the hands of the Cleveland Indians.

I don’t believe in karma or any other type of supernatural phenomenon, but last night’s game certainly gave me a bit of skepticism. The much-maligned pitcher Kyle Davies is removed in the first inning, only to be replaced by a parade of pitchers surrendering an unprecedented number of runs. It was the ultimate “be careful what you wish for” moment.

Before anyone could utter the phrase “Does this mean we’ll see Danny Duff..” the scoreboard was being changed so fast it looked like the dashboard of Doc Brown’s DeLorean. I think any Royals fan began to instantly question whether or not wishing for the downfall of Davies was in reality the best course of action.

I’ve long argued that while Kyle Davies isn’t a great pitcher, he’s a fine back of the rotation guy on a large swath of Major League teams. Yes, I know that Craig posited that he was the worst pitcher in history, and the numbers do bear that out. However, what I took away from those numbers is that he’s just been given a significantly longer opportunity than most back of the rotation guys. Part of that has to do with getting to the big leagues at such a young age that, combined with his above average stuff and ability to stay healthy lets him rack up a large number of innings.

I believe that a lot of the anger directed towards Kyle Davies and the resulting wishes for “someone, anyone else” are due to wanting something different. We know what Kyle Davies is, we can no longer project something onto him and as fans we want to project. Guys we don’t know, players we’ve barely seen are people we can project onto. We can dream them into a diamond in the rough, or a future ace. We know so little about them that anything is possible. With Davies, we know too much.

Last night, his health failed him and with it went his stuff. Over the past few outings, Davies had been keeping the Royals in games. Three of his last four starts were of the quality variety. Beyond that, he had completely changed his approach. He was posting career high strikeout numbers and career low walk numbers. He was finally trusting his stuff and pitching in the strike zone. It lead to a significant increase in the number of hits he allowed, but that’s to be expected. With an improved defense behind him, it was the right decision for Davies.

It’s unclear now whether he will get to prove he was a new pitcher, that will all come down to what the doctors say. Initially it was announced that he would be replaced by Robinson Tejeda, but that was premature. We’ll know more today.

But what of Vin Mazzaro, the pitcher that came to the Royals from the Oakland Athletics and was thrown to the wolves that had taken the form of Indians? In the ultimate insult added to injury, he was demoted to Omaha.

There’s little question over whether or not a Major League pitcher should be able to do better than Mazzaro did last night. He was already sitting in the bullpen, so it’s almost certain he knew he was coming into the game at the first sign of trouble from Kyle Davies. That trouble did come, and then Nate Adcock entered the game to give Mazzaro some extra time to get ready.

The game was inching out of control before Mazzaro even got in, but once he toed the rubber he threw grenades on a bonfire. Or did he? The two and a third innings he pitched didn’t really seem as bad while it was happening. The Indians didn’t crush every pitch they saw, there were lots of bloop hits and seeing eye singles –the bad-luck portion of the Batting Average on Balls in Play statistic (BABIP). The Royals weren’t making errors either, there were a few balls hit to the outfield that a speedier player might have gotten. I can remember one to each of left, center and right that someone like Jarrod Dyson would have ran down. But those happen all the time.

What I believe we witnessed last night wasn’t just a pitcher being dominated. It was a combination of bad luck, poor pitching and poor preparation. It just compounded in a historic way.

As human beings we want to try and make sense of these things. We ask ourselves what all of this means. Does it mean that the Royals are the team we thought they were before the season? Does it mean that Kyle Davies is better than we thought? Does it mean that the Dejesus trade was a bad one?

The questions are numerous, interesting and what makes baseball discussion so great. But in the end, they’re kind of pointless. The 19-1 loss to the Indians means one thing: there is one more L on the record book. I guess it also means that Kyle Davies might be on the D.L. and there will be some roster movement to get a starting pitcher. But all in all, it’s just one loss. As fans we can project whatever we want on that historic loss last night, that’s just what we do.

Update: It’s being reported that Danny Duffy will be promoted and make the start for the Royals on Wednesday.

Nick Scott hosts the Broken Bat Single Podcast and writes a blog for the Lawrence Journal World. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook or email him at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.

In honor of Good Friday, I’m going to take the easy route here and put together some bullet points. I really should think of something Royal or monarchy related instead of “bullets”, maybe you can suggest something. I like to start bullet posts off with a little music. So in honor of the Royals making a come back and also possibly in honor of some people predicting this would be the worst team in history admitting they were wrong here is some sweet smooth 70’s sound.

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  • What great game last night that nobody got to see. I’m kind of shocked that a Thursday night game prior to a holiday was not televised. Fox Sports Kansas City is probably kicking themselves for that decision right about now. The ratings likely would have been fantastic. Below is the game graph from Fangraphs for a demonstration of how exciting the game really was.
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  • If you add up all of the records of the teams in the Kansas City Royals organization from the MLB down to low A, their combined record is 42-32. That’s pretty darn good. If you’d like to get an almost daily email of the boxscores, and top performers each night from the organization, drop me an email and I’ll put you on the list.
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  • If you missed Craig Brown on 810WHB this week, you can check out the podcast here.
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  • The Royals are one game out of first place in the American League Central and they have a half game lead in the American League Wild Card. The latter is more impressive, if you ask me. They are trailing the Texas Rangers, who host the Royals for a three game set starting tonight.
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  • Am I the only one who feels like the team is walking a tightrope concerning the starting pitching? I feel like at any moment the whole thing is going to come crumbling down to earth on the back of the starters. Luckily, I think there’s plenty of help if needed. It’s one thing that I felt was a real strength even before the season started.
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  • One of my favorite things in all of baseball is watching guys make their Major League debut. Last night it was Louis Coleman. I didn’t get to see it live, but I did watch some of the highlights. He looked pretty good and I hope the former LSU Tiger can stick.
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  • I’m not above shameless self-promotion, so if you’re interested, I posted an article at the Lawrence Journal-World yesterday on Kila and the difference between organization and team needs.
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  • What else is on your mind out there in Royals land? Predictions for the Rangers series? How long this can last? Let it all out in the comments. You know you’re not working today anyway.

Nick Scott hosts the Broken Bat Single Podcast and writes a blog for the Lawrence Journal World. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook or email him at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.

The Royals recently released their promotions schedule, and it should come as no surprise that it’s completely filled–71 of the 81 home games feature some kind of promotion. The Royals have made a habit of having to lure fans to the park with free tchotchkes, discounted tickets, cheap food and other various promotions. Clearly they haven’t been bringing in fans with good baseball, so they have to resort to something.

Honestly, the promotions don’t bother me much. At worst, there is a line at the gate while people wait for their free item. I’m fine with keeping the promotions schedule, it’s the in-game “entertainment” and other distractions which I’d prefer to see thrown overboard. I’m still not convinced there is a single person on the planet who goes to the Royals game because they have mini-golf or a between-innings game show.

As I perused the lengthy promotions schedule, there was one thing that stuck out at me.

“INK Local Music Showcase: Catch a free concert on us. Every Wednesday Student Night will feature live local music prior to the game in the Outfield Experience. And you can satisfy your appetite with a $7 hot dog and beverage special at the Crown Classic concession stand in the Outfield Experience. For details, visit www.royals.com/studentnight.”

I really like this idea. The Royals are an institution in this city, even when they’re not good they are important to the identity we all share. It’s a gathering place for people on summer nights, be they young, old or families. I really like the idea of the Royals helping to showcase what makes Kansas City great. Whether it’s with local restaurants in the concourse, spotlighting great Kansas Citians through the Buck O’Neil Legacy Seat and now by showcasing local bands prior to a game. I’m even impressed by some of the bands, the ones that I know are really good. Oh, did I mention you can also get a beer and a hot dog for $7 that night? Win-win.

Going to a baseball game should give people an idea of what that city is all about. For many people, their only taste of Kansas City will be a weekend baseball series. I think it is important that their experience be a Kansas City one, not a corporatized one that attempts to appeal to the lowest common denominator. In some ways this is even more important at Kauffman Stadium since the complex is not near the urban center. It’s very possible that someone can come to see some ball games and never come close to some of the great institutions this city has. So we have to take it to them.

Having local bands, rather than washed up national acts perform at the games is a great step in that direction. I think it’s an inspired idea and there should be more like it.  How about bringing some works from the Kemper Musem of Modern Art out and displaying them in the Hall of Fame or one of the suites for people to peruse? Or better yet, showcase some local artists in conjunction with First Friday. I’d like to hear some of your ideas on what we could do tie in our city with the promotions in the comments.

Here is a schedule of the INK Student Nights and the bands that will be playing.

You can follow Nick Scott on Twitter @brokenbatsingle, on Facebook or reach him via email brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.


In my last podcast, I answered a question from a listener regarding why he can’t watch the Kansas City Royals even if he pays for the MLB.tv  package. He expressed frustration and dismay that is probably familiar to many of you.. I know that this question comes up each off-season and so I’m going to try and shed some light on why the Royals will let someone from Florida see their games, but not someone who is a couple of hours away from the stadium.

The whole issue begins with the territory map which is shown below.

Click to enlarge. Created by Dan Werr of Baseball Think Factory.

If you enlarge the above picture you can see that each color represents an area that is controlled by one or more Major League Baseball teams. The Royals control all of Missouri (except the part in yellow), Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa.

What that means is that the only way someone can watch a game featuring a team in the controlled area is if the game is broadcast by a local rights holder. In other words, if you live in the Royals prescribed area and don’t get Fox Sports Kansas City, it’s not possible for you to watch the Royals.

So, why do the Royals and the rest of Major League Baseball want to keep people who actually want to pay for their content from accessing it? The answer, unsurprisingly is money.

Fox Sports pays the Royals and every other team which they broadcast a certain amount of money annually for the exclusive broadcast rights. To make a profit they then sell advertising and extract fees from local cable operators to have access to their channel. The fees are paid on a per subscriber basis. So for every Time-Warner Cable customer in Kansas City who pays for cable a certain amount of money is sent from Time Warner to Fox. According to some 2009 research the  cost for Fox Sports was $2.37 per subscriber.

If people were allowed to just buy MLB.tv wherever they wanted, then Fox Sports would not have the leverage to be able to force local cable providers to pay them that $2.37 for every household they have. Sports in general and baseball in particular are premium content. Having exclusive rights to broadcast that content is as good as it gets. The bottom line is that it’s much more lucrative to get $2.37 from every single person whether they watch baseball or not than to get $119.99 from people who only want to watch baseball.

It’s pretty clear why baseball as a whole would want to have these territories. However, in the Royals case, I believe they’d be best served to blow the whole thing up.

In 1990, the Royals had the highest payroll in baseball. They paid $14m more for their roster than the team at the bottom of the list. In 2011, the Yankees have the highest payroll and the difference between them and the Royals will be around $200m. In the past three decades, there has been a growing disparity between the large-market and small-market teams. That’s not news. The reason behind it has to do with the change in revenue streams over those decades.

In the 80’s and early 90’s the primary revenue stream for a baseball team was ticket sales. So while it was easier for a team in New York to sell out games and charge a higher ticket price, they weren’t at much of an advantage over a team like the Royals. Then came cable television. Local games began to be broadcast and draw high ratings. Suddenly a Yankee game could be seen by millions of New Yorkers on any given night. Advertising revenue and rights fees exploded.

The size of the market suddenly became exponentially more valuable than it ever was in the past and due in no small part to the exclusive territory map. The money which is distributed from the local rights holders to the teams as we’ve already pointed out is artificially inflated due to forcing every single subscriber to pay for the content whether they want it or not.

If suddenly there was a way to watch only the things you want without cable, then the playing field would suddenly become a whole lot more level. That exists, it’s called the internet. The MLB has created a company called Major League Baseball Advanced Media that runs the MLB websites, MLB Channel and MLB.tv. The important caveat is that the money from that venture is split evenly to all 30 teams. If a Yankees fan in Wyoming pays MLB to watch his teams games on the internet, the Royals get 1/30th of that.

If somehow the territory maps were to destroyed, then the leverage that the local rights holders have diminishes overnight. Fans who spent $50 or $100 a month on cable would suddenly consider getting rid of their subscriptions because they can watch their team on the internet or an internet-enabled device. Overnight, there would be fewer people paying the $2.37 but more paying the $119. More importantly there would be less money flowing into large market teams and more into the smaller ones.

These territory protection schemes also artificially prop up larger markets more than is reasonable. It’s one of many reasons that it’s comical when the owner of the Yankees Hank Steinbrenner calls the baseball system socialism or communism. It’s a plutocracy if it’s anything. The few teams with the vast amounts of money set up the system to benefit them the most and convince the smaller market teams that they’re also benefiting.

In the end, there are people who want to watch a baseball game, but due to archaic and backwards thinking rules, they are prevented. The Royals should be fighting to open up territories and then the poor fans in Iowa would get to watch a baseball game, a Royals fan in Arkansas would get to see his team and a nation of fans would suddenly be overjoyed at the ability to pay for something that they actually want to pay for.

You can follow Nick Scott on Twitter @brokenbatsingle, on Facebook or reach him via email brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.

This is the latest post in this series reviewing the Kansas City Royals offensively, position by position.  You can go back and read the posts on catcher (including a series preview),  first base, second base and third base.

First, let’s take a look at some of the players who played shortstop and how they hit while they played the position.

Willie Bloomquist got one game at short and Mike Aviles got thirteen, but the real story of the position is Yuniesky Betancourt.  Betancourt played the position day after day and he was never put in any other spot.  The numbers that we’ll see below come almost exclusively from Yuniesky, so he’s the one guys stats above.  The case of Betancourt is extremely interesting.  His existence on the team is representative of so many different things depending on who you ask.  Some people will tell you that he represents the absolute failure of Dayton Moore at the Major League level.  Others believe he is representative of the absolute trainwreck that the shortstop position has been for the Royals.  Still others will tell you he’s one of the best players on the team and and they’ll be countered with arguments that are nearly the polar opposite.  Those discussions will rage on as long as he’s on the team, and they’ve been analyzed at this site as well.  So, let’s just try and look at the numbers without the bias of our feelings towards the Yunigma.

One thing you can say is that Betancourt was durable.  He played 151 games at a position which gets a lot of work during a season.  Sometimes I forget about the durability issue with players, and I think that as a whole we underrate it.  The ability to stay healthy, whether it’s luck, conditioning or some combination could be in my mind the 6th tool for a baseball player.  Beyond durability, Yuniesky showed decent homerun totals for a shortstop by mashing 16 bombs.  He still doesn’t get on base at a rate which is respectable, and the combination of a burst of power and his lack of getting on base translated into an average offensive shortstop.    Lets see how the Royals shorstops compared to the rest of the league.

Clearly, with 151 of 162 games Yuniesky’s numbers mirror those of the entire Royals shortstop corps.  The numbers rank right about in the middle, not spectacular but not terrible.    What’s odd are that the very stark differences in the Royals numbers with those surrounding them.  Yuniesky is an extreme hitter, which makes the extreme as well.    The Royals shortstops had the lowest strikeout rate in the AL (shocked me), and the second lowest walk rate (didn’t shock me).  That clearly translated into a low OBP (11th) and an ok batting average (8th), but the one skill which propelled the Royals to the middle of the pack was the SLG (4th).

I’d imagine even the most die-hard Yuni supporter will admit that the power he showed in 2010 was likely an aberration, and therefore unsustainable.  The Royals are on the hook for $1.62m to Yuniesky in 2011, so it’s an almost certainty that barring injury he gets nearly the same number of games in 2011 that he got in 2010.  Mike Aviles’ arm has likely fully healed from his Tommy John surgery and could pick up some more time at SS as the Royals attempt to work out the third base and second base situations.  Christian Colon was drafted in the first round in 2010 and had a solid debut in his first professional season.  He’s unlikely to be ready to play in 2011, but he could be in the mix for 2012.

I admit, there is something nice about a regular contributor at shortstop who can hit for some power and who can play every day.  I don’t believe that Yuniesky is anything more than a stop-gap and what happens in the post-Yunigma era will be a very important decision for Dayton Moore.

There’s nothing left to play for, unless the a battle for fourth place is your idea of fun.  (After the Carnage In Cleveland over the weekend, I’m not even certain a battle exists)  The Chiefs are undefeated and the final week of the baseball season brings two teams with a history of postseason appearances on modest payrolls built through the draft and canny trades in for a final visit.  It’s OK to have Twin or Ray envy.  These are two teams who know what they’re doing.  We can only hope the Royals resident sabermetrician is taking copious notes.

(Side note:  Is the Rays attendance situation crazy, or what?  If the Royals were playing meaningful baseball in September, not only would the stadium be packed, everyone would be wearing blue and hospitals would have an increase in parents naming their newborn boys Yuniesky.  This city would be insane.  I get the economy sucks – especially in Florida where there are apparently more vacant houses than occupied – but still… In a metropolitan area that large, it doesn’t make sense.  It’s easier to understand that the stadium is a poorly-located dump.  Traffic in the Tampa area is a bitch and there’s basically one way to get to the stadium.  Imagine if the only way to approach the K was from I-70 from the east.  Not making excuses here… Somethings are worth the effort.  Or the drive.

Now they’re giving away 20,000 tickets.  Talk about marketing fail… Way to devalue your product, Rays. But I digress…)

Anyway, there are just a few days left in the 2010 season, but there are still some questions that remain about the Royals.  This post is inspired by Dodger Thoughts who posted 10 questions about the LA Dodgers that will be solved by the end of the season.  I began this post with the aim of finding 10 for the Royals, but they are so damn uninteresting I could only come up with five.  Here goes…

Will the Royals team leader in HR finish the season in San Francisco?

Current leaders are the Yunigma and the dearly departed Jose Guillen each with 16 home runs and Billy Butler is nipping at their heals with 15.  Thankfully, Ed Kirkpatrick’s record of fewest number of home runs to lead the team is safe for another season.  He clobbered just 14 home runs to lead the ’69 Royals.

Can the Yunigma stay above replacement level?

According to Fangraphs’ WAR formula, Betancourt currently owns a 0.5 WAR, placing him ahead of Alcides Escobar and Cesar Izturis in the pantheon of criminally horrible shortstops.

But he has a bunch of RBI!!!

(But he also has the second most plate appearances on the team.  Opportunity does not equal quality.)

Do you remember the Yost Effect?

Guess who the worst team in baseball is, post All-Star Break:

Royals — 26-43, .377
Mariners — 26-43, .377
Pittsburgh — 26-43, .377
Dodgers — 28-42, .400
Nats — 29-40, .420

The Pirates have the number one spot locked up for next June’s draft, but the Royals can pick anywhere from second in the draft to seventh. As they sputter to the finish line, I’m betting they get passed by a resurgent Oriole team and finish with the third pick in next year’s draft.

Can Billy Butler set the season record for grounding into double plays?

The record for the most GIDP in a season belongs to Jim Rice, who hit into 36 twin killings in 1984.  He followed that up with 35 in ’85 and owns the top two spots on the leaderboard.  Butler has hit into 30 double plays this season, and if he hits into three more, third place on the all time list will be his, and his alone.

Will any Royals starting pitcher finish with an ERA+ of 100 or better?

Zack Greinke’s fiasco start in Cleveland dropped his ERA+ to 99 on the season and meant that all Royals starters were below the 100 threshold. The last time the Royals failed to have a starting pitcher with an ERA+ of above 100 was in 2006 when Luke Hudson and his 5.12 ERA led the staff with an ERA+ of 92.  I don’t have to remind you, that was the year Mark Redman was an All-Star.

Are you excited yet?

The end of the season is really sneaking up on me.   There are only six games remaining for the Royals in the 2010 season.  I admit, even for a Royals blogger it gets harder and harder to really watch a lot of Royals games at this point in the season.  I tend to drift to some football games, some more important baseball games or a TV show like Mad Men to fill my time rather than a Royals game.  I doubt I am alone in this, it’s only natural.  The team is currently in line for the 4th overall draft pick (that’s my glass half full mindset), and while I thought that the teams coming into the K to end the season would be playing for something important, it seems that the playoff picture is nearly complete in the American League.  However, there are still interesting things happening on the field and with the team.

Jarrod Dyson hit his first Major League homerun last night.  It’s always a cool moment for a rookie to get  that under his belt.  However, it was extremely unlikely that it was going to happen for Jarrod Dyson last night.  Why?  Dyson hit one homerun in 1,245 plate appearances in the Minor Leagues.  It didn’t happen until his 5th season when he was in AAA.  He even had 315 plate appearances with AA Northwest Arkansas, where he played at one of the most homerun friendly parks in the Texas League, and had zero homeruns.  I seriously doubt that Dyson has found his power stroke, and his limiting factor in being an everyday player for the Royals is his bat.  However, stranger things have happened than a guy figuring out how to improve his hitting at the Major League level.  I am a big Jarrod Dyson fan and I sincerly hope he figures it out.

I remember once-upon-a-time there was some chatter about how great Yuniesky Betancourt is, particularly compared to other shortstops.  Oddly, that kind of talk has been quiet.  It probably has to do with the fact that the only player that has played for the Royals this year with a lower OBP is rookie catcher Luke May.  Or it possibly could be some of the following ranks he holds among qualified shortstops:

Batting Average: 15th of 22
On Base Percentage : 21st of 22
Slugging Percentage: 10th of 22
wOBA: 16th of 22

I know that you have to put someone at shortstop and there are possibly worse options than the Yunigma, but if you are going to feed me crap, just tell me it’s crap.  Don’t cover it in flower and call it a donut.

Joakim Soria is the best reliever in baseball.  He is better than Mariano Rivera, and I don’t even think its debateable.  He notched his 42nd save last night to match a career high.  The Royals as a team have won 64 games.  A little quick math tells me that Soria has saved two thirds of the Royals wins this year.  Two thirds, think about that.  Soria needs three more saves to get into a tie for the Royals single-season lead.  Here are the top 5 Royals seasons for saves:

1.(tie) Jeff Montgomery (1993) – 45
1.(tie) Dan Quisenberry (1983) – 45
3. Dan Quisenberry (1984) – 44
4.(tie) Joakim Soria (2008) – 42
4.(tie) Joakim Soria (2010) – 42

I think it would be really cool if Soria could end on 45 and the trio of great Royals closers could all share the single-season lead.

Billy Butler raised his batting average by a point last night to .321 by going 2-for-4.  That ranks him 5th in the Major League.  Yes, he isn’t a good defender and yes, he hits into a lot of double plays, but the kid can flat out hit the ball.  It’s not just his ability to hit the ball either.  Butler has been getting on base to the tune of a .390 OBP which ranks 6th in the American League.  I hear a lot of people bemoan his lack of power, but from day one, I’ve been beating the drum that Billy Butler is a hitter, not a masher.  I think he has the ability to become Tony Gwynn-esque, I don’t think anyone would quibble with that.

Kila Ka’aihue has struggled since being called up from the Minors, but there are indications he is starting to find his way.  He has hits in 7 of his last 9 games.  Since being called up, Kila has 2 more walks (19) than Mike Aviles (17) and is only two shy of the Yunigma (21).  Ned Yost continues to give him time to get acclimated and I believe will do so throughout the 2011 season.  Kila is a cheap player who has a great opportunity to produce in areas the Royals are sorely lacking, OBP and power.  I don’t get it, but there is a segment of Royals fans who seem to get giddy when Kila struggles.  I don’t know if it is some kind of odd desire to see Mike Jacobs come back, or if in Kila they have found some way to channel their anger at people who like the statistical side of baseball.  Either way, it confuses the heck out of me.

Finally, I will continue sending out the Royals Organization Report throughout the Fall.  I’ll be including the Arizona Fall League and the Pan Am Qualifying tournament, so drop me an email at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com and I will add you to the list.

Contact Nick Scott via email at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com, via Twitter @brokenbatsingle or via Facebook .  If you would like to receive his daily Royals system boxscores via email, just drop an email and request it.  He will be sending out boxscores for both the Pan Am Games and the Arizona Fall League.

Thursday was the Royals final off day in 2010.  It’s really difficult to believe this season is almost complete.

For the final two plus weeks of the year, I’d really love to see Ned Yost play guys like Kila Ka’aihue and Alex Gordon everyday.  Wilson Betemit, too.  Of course Billy Butler.  Why not just lock those four into the third through six spots in the order and see what happens?  So far, the Royals have used 92 batting orders in 144 games.  That’s actually pretty stable.  They’ve used two different lineups on 10 occasions.  Unfortunately, both those lineups had Scott Podsednik at the top of the order.  Since the August purge, there hasn’t been a ton of lineup stability.

I’d like to see some over the final handful of games.  Just for fun.

It’s never too early to think about next year.  Especially since we’re Royals fans.

— Have you noticed Yuniesky Betancourt has the exact same OPS+ as the recently departed Wee Willie Bloomquist?  Where have all my favorite Royal PR tweeters?

— Two of the top three Royals in WAR have had fewer than 375 plate appearances.  And three of the top five aren’t even on the active roster.  That’s kind of depressing.

— As long as we’re talking about Royals no longer on the active roster, let’s check in with some of our departed favorites:

Kyle Farnsworth
Kerosene Kyle has a 5.40 ERA, but that’s deceptive.  He’s still throwing gas, striking out 19 in 15 innings.  However, the Braves quickly learned you don’t trust the guy in high leverage situations.  He hasn’t pitched in a pressure situation since allowing a pair of inherited runners to score on August 25.

Rick Ankiel
Ankiel has been predictably awful, hitting .207/.311/.304 in 106 plate appearances.  His 36 strikeouts for the Braves is pretty much on pace for what he did with the Royals.  The Braves are battling for their postseason life, so they’ve wisely pulled back on his playing time the last couple of weeks.

The Braves had a 3.5 game lead over the Phillies in the NL East when they made the trade.  They’re now three games behind the Phillies, although they have a half game lead over the Giants in the Wild Card.  We will fondly remember this pair when Little Timmy Collins is throwing gas at the K.

Jose Guillen
Speaking of the Giants, Guillen has posted a line of .280/.318/.366 since joining San Francisco.  He has just five extra base hits in 88 plate appearances and three walks against 21 strikeouts.  New zip code, same old approach.  Except the Giants have to play him in the field where his defense has been exactly as bad as you would imagine.

Alberto Callaspo
My old favorite contact hitter is batting .273/.314/.341 since being the first domino to fall.    He’s making more contact (94% of all swings meet the bat) but his power is down since joining the Angels.

Scott Podsednik
We knew it couldn’t possibly last.  We knew it.  It didn’t.  Pods hit just .262/.313/.336 for the Dodgers with just five steals in eight attempts.  He somehow grounded into five double plays in 20 opportunities.  He’s out for the rest of the season with plantar fasciitis.

The Dodgers were in third place six games out when Podsednik arrived.  They’re now 10.5 games back and in fourth.

— MLB released their 2011 master schedule this week.  The Royals open at home on March 31 (a Thursday) against the Angels.  That’s a good Opening Day opponent.  To wrap the season, 23 of their final 30 games will be against AL Central opponents.  That’s not really a big deal for 2011.  Someday… It will matter.

For the interleague, the Royals will travel to St. Louis, Colorado and San Diego. I thought the idea behind interleague play was to give teams some variety of opponents.  I understand the “natural” rivalry with the Cardinals, but this is the second year in a row we’re facing off against the Rockies.

The Yankees and Red Sox make their only trip to Kansas City in the same week in the middle of August.  Good, get that out of the way in one homestand.  In all seriousness though, I’m happy to see the way the schedule worked out on this one.  We know the Yankees and Red Sox with their midwestern based bandwagon fans fill the K when they come to town.  It seems like the last several seasons, the Royals have had opening day against either one of those teams basically combining two big attendance days in one.  And since the number of seats are limited… You don’t have to be an economist to figure this one out.

Because of their interleague trip to San Diego, the Royals will be making three West Coast swings instead of two like they had this year.  Keep those frequent flyer accounts updated.

Of course the huge news is the Cubs are coming.  Again, this is good for attendance figures and the bottom line, but bad for my psyche.  Why?  Because I don’t like the Cubs, that’s why.  And I don’t like the people who will invade the K that have never been to Chicago, yet claim to be Cub fans.  We get that enough when the Yankees and Red Sox come to town.

Oh well… If I want it to be different, the Royals will need to start winning again.

On Thursday, Maury Brown posted the latest average attendance figures at the Biz of Baseball website.  It’s not really difficult to figure who is doing well and who isn’t.  If you win, they will come.  (Unless you’re in Tampa, where apparently they aren’t coming no matter what.)

The Royals, predictably, are down this year by roughly 2,800 people per game.  That represents the sixth largest average decrease from the 2009 season.  The numbers have been available all season, but seeing them online and in a table format got me to thinking…  Last year, the Royals had their best year at the gate since 1993.  A total of 1,797,887 fans hit the turnstiles in 2009, representing a 13.8% increase from the 2008 season.  That was the largest increase (percentage-wise), in all of baseball.  Given that overall attendance at all stadiums was down about 6.8% for the year, that was quite impressive.

Of course, the primary driving force behind the increase in paying customers was the spectacle of the renovated Kauffman Stadium.  In addition to all the shiny accoutrements that came with the renovated K, it also fueled the team’s record Opening Day payroll of $70.2 million.  “(The payroll increase) represents, in part, a good-faith response to the public’s support in funding $225 million in renovations to Kauffman Stadium,” Glass said in an article in the Star just ahead of the home opener.  It’s nice to give something back to the taxpayers who have been so generous.

Perhaps another reason for fans to flock to the stadium was to watch the starting pitching stylings of one Zack Greinke.  The Royals averaged 24,730 fans in Greinke home starts.  That’s a good theory, but I think we’re giving fans too much credit.  Four of the top five attendances in Greinke starts came on Buck Night.  It’s not only possible, it’s probable, that fans love their dollar hot dogs and peanuts more than watching a Cy Young candidate pitch.  He also started on two Hall of Fame Figurine nights that drew around 28k.

(Sorry to bust your bubble on that one.  Once you really dive into the attendance figures, it’s pretty clear that fans did not come to the stadium last summer with the express purpose to watch Greinke pitch.  They came for cheap food and freebies.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  But maybe we shouldn’t pretend fans come out to watch great individual performances.)

Back to the topic at hand:  Attendance is down.  Since the Royals figured they would get a bounce from the renovations – and the “wow” factor of a new or renovated stadium quickly wears off (especially if you aren’t winning) I thought it was time to look at how the Royals compared to other teams who opened stadiums since 2000.

A couple of things before I unleash a table.  First, for the most part we are comparing a renovated stadium with a bunch of new stadiums.  Second, I expanded my scope to include the Angels, who opened their renovated stadium in 1998, because they are the only major league team to perform something similar to their home park.  And third, the numbers presented here are largely presented without comment.  It’s just an exercise to see how the Royals compare.  As I said, the comparison may or may not be fair.  Several factors (economic climate, team status, etc.) need to be considered when evaluating anything with attendance numbers.  This is painting with a broad brush.

The table follows.  It lists the team’s average attendance in the first year in their new home and the average attendance for the second year.

* Renovated stadiums.
** Thru games of 9/8.

— The Cardinals and the Yankees are the only teams to post gains the year after opening their new park.  The Cards got a bounce from a World Title (2006) and the Yankees were fairly aggressive in cutting costs of some premium tickets.

—  It’s interesting that the Royals and Angels are pretty close in their second year declines.  When the renovations were unveiled at the Big A, the Angels were a team scuffling for relevance in the AL West and finished last in the division in their second seasons in their refurbished home.  Sound familiar?

OK… For fun, let’s look at how the attendances stacked up for the Royals by adding the prior two seasons into the mix:
2007 – 19,961
2008 – 19,986
2009 – 22,473
2010 – 19,987

Apart from that bump in ’09, that’s a pretty steady fan base.  Uhh… The Royals are averaging exactly one more paying customer this year than in 2008?  That’s crazy.

So the honeymoon with the renovated K is history.  $225 million in taxpayer funds bought a merry go round, a party deck and a one year bump of about 2,500 more fans per game.  And nobody gives a damn about the deck and the carnival in the outfield anymore.

This is a once proud franchise that drew over 2 million fans for five consecutive years back in the glory days.  They haven’t really come close to that since the dark days arrived.  Hopefully, the Royals will see a bump in attendance soon.  Because they’re winning.

In this game:

– The Royals fell into a 8-0 hole after three innings.

– Scott Podsednik hit one into the upper deck.

– Jason Kendall drove one to the base of the wall in right-center.

– Yuniesky Betancourt walked.  Twice.

– After a Rangers pitcher walked back to back hitters, Willie Bloomquist took two cuts at pitches out of the zone and then looked at strike three right down the middle. (OK, that wasn’t crazy.)

– Dave Owen almost caused Mike Aviles’ hamstring to explode by doing a funky stop and go kind of thing as he was rounding third. (That wasn’t crazy either.)

– KILA MONSTER.

– Joakim Soria gave up back to back home runs for the first time since forever.

– Neftali Feliz is disgustingly filthy.

It was like some crazy heavyweight title fight.  I half expected the ghost of Howard Cosell to make an appearance.  It would have been appropriate.

Even though the Royals lost in just a horrific manner, that was the most fun I’ve had watching a game since last May.  (Remember when they came back against the Indians with four runs in the ninth?  Remember how they then lost 16 of their next 20?  Sorry.)

Personally, I think Trey was guilty of a little over management by not letting Good Robinson Tejeda finish the eighth.  It’s not second guessing… I brought it up in the ESPN Baseball Tonight chat the moment he pulled Tejeda.  It’s difficult to argue that bringing in Soria at any point is a bad move, but Tejeda had thrown only 14 pitches.  I’m not going to scream and carry on that Hillman cost the Royals the game – he didn’t – Soria made the pitches.  I’m just saying I don’t understand why he felt a need to bring his closer in at that particular moment.

We’ve been agitating all year that Hillman needs to use Soria more in key (or high leverage) situations.  Two outs in the eighth with a one run lead on the road certainly qualifies.  However, there was no danger at that point and time… No runners on, and you had a pitcher who was dealing.

Hillman gets second guessed in some quarters (which I suppose I’m doing now) but that’s because many of his moves are indefensible.  All managers come with a certain amount of goodwill and trust.  When that gets frittered away (like it has in Hillman’s case) even the right moves come under scrutiny.  It’s a large part of what makes Hillman a lame duck.

He went with his best pitcher and got burned.  It happens to managers all the time.  But when you’ve lost the trust of the fanbase, you’re going to catch heat no matter what.

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