Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Alex Gordon is off to a 1 for 16 start and that one hit was a seeing eye roller up the middle that was not exactly mashed.  There has been some mock-snarky panic, some actual concern and an occasional casual fan wondering if they shouldn’t play ‘that kid’ Orlando more.  Hey, Paulo Orlando is a great story.  A guy I touted highly as a prospect long ago and then gave up on.  A guy who did something that had never been done in baseball by hitting triples for his first three career hits.  Let’s not get carried away, however.

Quick aside.  With Orlando’s triples this year and Brandon Finnegan’s College World Series to actual World Series in the same season feat last year, Kansas City has had two guys in two years do something that has not been done in baseball ever before. It is hard to find something that has not already been done in this game these days – especially something good.  Just kind of a cool side note.

Anyway, back to Gordon.

In a rather amazing trick, Gordon has a .348 on-base percentage despite having just one hit in five games.  That number is courtesy of three walks (one intentional) and four hit by pitch. Getting on base half the time via the hit by pitch is a hell of a way to make a living and, check the math on this, likely not a sustainable model.  Rickey Henderson posted on-base percentages of .400 and .410 in back to back seasons despite hitting below .250 both years.  In one of those (1997), splitting time between Seattle and Anaheim, Rickey hit just .183 in 144 plate appearances but still got on base at .343 clip.  I am not comparing Gordon to Henderson (Alex does not refer to himself in the third person and seems to be aware of who his teammates are and even knows their names), just another fun set of numbers to go with a quirky early season line from the Royals’ Gold Glove left-fielder.

Early is the key word in the previous sentence.

Seven games into 2014, Gordon was sporting a triple slash of just .231/.276/.308 with no home runs. I believe you will note that 2014 turned out alright for Alex. He started hot in 2013, but in 2012, Gordon began the season 0 for 16, didn’t get over the Mendoza line until April 26th and wound up hitting .294/.368/.455. Even in 2011, Gordon started 2 for 13 before notching 11 hits in his next four games on his way to his best triple slash line of his career and tying for his best WAR season of his career.  The point of this is that a) Gordon has a bit of a slow start history, b) five games is JUST FIVE GAMES and c) a player in Gordon’s physical condition who has put up fWARs of 6.6, 5.5, 3.7 and 6.6 the last four years suddenly does not lose it.

Let’s also keep in mind The Wrist. Is it healthy? I don’t know – Ned has not called me this morning (weird, right?), but as cautious as the Royals were throughout the spring, it is hard to believe Gordon is out there playing in pain. And they were cautious this spring.

Gordon only appeared in 10 Major League spring training games, logging just 35 plate appearances:  basically half of the other regulars.  That is also not the entire story, either.  The wrist surgery had to interfere with Alex’s off-season workouts.  We have all heard tell of Gordon’s dedication to working out and while he certainly did not let himself go, the sore wrist and eventual surgery certainly changed the regimen this off-season.  Let’s not underestimate the impact of a change of routine to a creature of habit.

While I am not privy to how many times Gordon steps in a batting cage during the winter, but I would wager the wrist kept him from doing it as much as in prior years. Even after getting back into physical shape, Gordon was still not cleared for actually swing a bat until spring training games were already underway.

Bottom line of all this: Alex Gordon is more than 30 spring training at-bats behind. I don’t know that it’s a stretch to say the Alex likely doesn’t quite feel like he is ready and may feel a tad behind. The wrist may not be, or at least feel quite as strong as it has before. True or not, it would be human nature to have at least a sprinkling of those thoughts going through Gordon’s head right now. Hell, who knows? None of that may be happening and it all may simply be that Alex Gordon is 30 at-bats behind the rest of baseball.  If that is all there is to this story, then Alex is a couple of games from being right where the Royals need him.

If a 7-0 start means nothing, then a 1-16 start from a hitter means even less.  I’m leaning towards Alex Gordon getting more hits this weekend against Oakland than Billy Butler collects against the Royals.

By the way, 7-0 is kind of fun, isn’t it?

The Royals failed to notice the calendar said April as they played as if it was October in sweeping away the first week of the regular season. Six games. Six wins. No problem.

They’ve done it with quite a bit of panache, clubbing nine home runs, swiping seven bags and outscoring their opponents by a 40 to 15 margin. Along with two cramps.

To say the Royals are firing on all cylinders may actually be selling them short. This team is locked in, charging forward and winning everything in sight.

For the second start in a row, Yordano Ventura was cruising, only to see his start short-circuited by a cramp. In the opener, it was his thumb. In his start on Sunday, it was a calf that ended his afternoon. It was too bad his day ended prematurely, as he has the Angels largely off balance all day, whiffing seven and touching 99 mph with his heater while spiking his curve. The Angels were hopelessly overmatched. Maybe they should have come to the plate with white flags instead of bats.

Ventura made one mistake in the first when he left a fastball middle in and Albert Pujols did his thing and deposited the pitch into the left field seats. Mike Trout and Pujols combined for the Angels second run on a couple of hard hit balls. It was Trout’s hit that set off the first Royal controversy of the season.

Why did Ventura feel the need to stare at Trout after the base hit? Who knows. Was it wrong? No. Ventura can look at whomever he wants to look at. Was it something you don’t see everyday? Sure, but Ventura is a little different. As Yost said following the game, he’s a confident guy and is difficult to rattle when he’s on the hill. I suppose the timing was a little weird. Whatever. What we know is that Trout took exception.

The pair had a chance to further discussion when Trout scored on Pujols’s double. And, as happens in this situation, the benches clear. I swear when Pujols broke for home from his spot on second base, that was the most agile he looked all weekend. Credit to Salvador Perez for removing his pitcher from what could have escalated into an ugly scene. And credit all the Latin ballplayers on the roster for rallying around Ventura to get his mind back on the game. And credit to the bullpens for getting in some light jogging. A minor kerfuffle.

That leads me to something I’ve been thinking about since the start of the season: The Royals are setting themselves up as a major target. Look, I’m not passing judgement here. I enjoy the enthusiasm and the brotherhood of the dugout they have working. These guys are winning, they’re fired up, and they are enjoying themselves. There’s a little ’86 Mets swagger about them. When Mike Moustakas leaves the dugout after every home run to perform a handshake ritual, that’s going to rub the Unwritten Rules Mob the wrong way. And we all know about the unwritten rules usually include some baseballs thrown with intent.

Speaking of Moustakas, he was hit by a pitch. Again. So far Royal batter have been plunked a league-leading 10 times. Coincidence? Random statistical noise? While there have been a couple of unintentional plunkings to be sure, there have been a few that could be classified as mysterious. On the flip side, Moustakas is getting drilled with such regularity Craig Biggio should start to worry his name may be wiped from the record books. Although pitchers are trying to pitch Moustakas inside to get him to pull the ball so he will hit into the shift, which makes sense. Yet I doubt some of these guys are upset if one runs just a little too far inside.

Whatever. This unwritten rule stuff bores me. The Royals play the game with a passion. As someone who has followed this team for close to 40 years, that makes me happy. We saw more than enough Royals teams sleepwalk through an entire season. This team is a blast to watch, although I can understand how the Angels and their fans don’t like it. Getting swept in the ALDS and then in the season’s first week doesn’t go down well. The Royals are still the scrappy upstarts that America (outside of Orange County) loves. If they are able to keep this run going, they will quickly shed the scrappy upstart label and will be called something a little less respectful. I’ll be OK with that, too. Because I love this team.

A couple of other notes:

— I enjoyed Pujols’s attempted steal of third being down five. Angels free out.

— The Royals bullpen has thrown 16.1 innings of scoreless relief. They are the only team in the majors whose bullpen has yet to surrender a run.

— The Royals were also the last team in the majors to be charged with an error this season. Lorenzo Cain earned their first one of the year on the play where Trout scored in the fifth when he failed to cleanly field the ball in center.

— Paulo Orlando collected a pair of triples on Sunday. As far as the record books go, he’s the first player in the history of the game to have his first three big league hits as triples. That’s something. That’s so Royals.

— Eric Hosmer saw his five game hitting streak come to an end, but Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain and Kendrys Morales all extended their streak to six games. The only other players in the AL to have collected a hit in every game are Trout and Billy Butler. Forever Royal.

— The Royals flew to Minnesota after the game and will play Monday afternoon in the Twins home opener. This would be an ideal time to get Perez a day off behind the plate. Yeah. I’m certain that is an option.

It’s as if 2014 never ended. We are suspended in time, just before the clock strikes midnight on December 31, 2014. In sweeping the Chicago White Sox for their first three wins of the new season, the Royals proved they haven’t lost their touch from last October.

The Royals polished off the Sox in myriad ways. They won the blowout (Monday), the comeback (Wednesday) and the pitching and defense special with the timely hit (Thursday). They say there is more than one way to skin a cat and likewise, there is more than one way to win a ballgame. The Royals provided three days of evidence of that.

On Thursday, it was newcomer Edinson Volquez who provided the quality start. In his Royals debut, Volquez spun eight innings of . He mixed equal parts sinker, change and knuckle-curve to keep the Sox off balance all afternoon. And the spotty command that has plagued him in the past? Didn’t happen on Thursday. Volquez issued a lone walk all day. It came in the seventh just after he hit Adam LaRoche with two outs. Lots of hit batters and LaRoche was the guy Duffy threw behind on Wednesday. Bad blood brewing.

Anyway, on Volquez, all his pitches were working and he was keeping the ball down in the zone. He threw first pitch strikes to 20 of the 29 batters he faced and with his sinker, he collected eight ground ball outs. And on those times he gave up fly balls, Lorenzo Cain had Jackson County covered.

Pitching and defense. Defense and pitching.

My concern about Volquez has been his history of poor command which has plagued him for pretty much his entire career. (Although a certain illustrator for the Kansas City Star will tell you career stats don’t carry as much weight as your last eight to ten days.) Prior to his start, I set his over/under for walks at 4.5. As I mentioned above, he walked one. For a guy who, just two seasons ago was walking over five batters per game, that’s an outright success.

I remain skeptical about the long-term success of Volquez, but after watching Ervin Santana and Jason Vargas come to Kansas City and pitch with a relative amount of success, maybe Dayton Moore and the Royals brain trust have indeed found a magic formula in regards to starting pitching. Hell, he’s done it on defense.

— The Royals have five home runs in three games. It’s inevitable that this will draw comparisons to last year’s power-averse club. So for reference, last year it took the Royals five times longer to hit five home runs. (That’s 15 games for the mathematically challenged.)

It was Salvador Perez who drove the bus to DongTown with a blast to left that plated Kendrys Morales in the sixth that knocked out starter John Danks.

I don’t think you will find a Royals fan (a rational one, anyway) who will claim the Royals are the second coming of the ’27 Yankees, but this qualifies as a notable development. And a good one.

— Paulo Orlando made his major league debut and collected his first hit with a triple in the bottom of the fifth. How can you not root for this guy? Grinding for 10 years in the minors, acquired for the long forgotten Horacio Ramirez in August of 2008, he’s paid his dues. Good for him. I saw on Twitter that Orlando went home to third in under 11 seconds. He will fit right in with this team.

Lorenzo Cain went yard with authority last night to give the Royals a second straight win.  Four home runs in two games?  What the hell is going on here?

While the home runs are a pleasant early surprise, there are pleasantly no surprises when it comes to the bullpen.  Four innings last night, two hits, no runs, no walks and five strikeouts. Jason Frasor did allow an inherited runner to score, but walking into a first and third/no out situation and allowing just the one run to score is really about all you can hope for.  He’s not Wade Davis, after all.

In addition to a big three run homer by Eric Hosmer to erase an early 3-1 deficit and, of course, Cain’s absolute rocket shot in the bottom of the eighth to put the Royals ahead, finally for good, Kansas City drummed out 12 other hits and even sprinkled in a couple of Alex Gordon walks to pretty much litter the bases with baserunners all night.  Neither starting pitcher had a stellar night and the Duffy/Perez combination seemed to outthink themselves on at least a couple of occasions when it came to pitch selection: notably the Flowers home run on a changeup.

The preceding, however, is only criticism I have for Salvador Perez from last night.  All the Royals’ catcher did was rap out two hits, throw out two runners and frame some balls into strikes.  Perez has generally not had a good reputation for framing pitches.  In my mind, there is plenty of background noise when it comes to pitch framing metrics, but the statistical consensus (and, yes, the eye test) indicate that Salvy has not been particularly good in that area of the game.  Last night, I thought he brought several pitches smoothly into Hunter Wendelstedt’s strike zone.

Have a look at Brooks’ Baseballs strike zone plots from last night:

April 8 Strikezone vs LHH
April 8 Strikezone vs Rhh

Red squares are called strikes when the Royals are pitching, while red triangles are called strikes for the Sox pitchers.

These plots are from the umpire’s point of view and confirm what I thought I was seeing last night: that Perez and the Kansas City pitchers were getting most of the borderline strike calls.  Particularly those calls on the left edge (Wendelstedt’s left) of the zone and more calls then Flowers and the Chicago pitchers were getting.  One game, one umpire, one night out of 162, but an encouraging sign.

Mostly because the graphs, plots and information at Brooks’ is so fun, we’ll end with one last plot regarding Danny Duffy last night:

Duffy Speed April 8

Danny’s velocity was way up at the start of the game, touching 98 once and lingering at 97 mph, but declined with each inning.  Perhaps, as has been an issue in the past, Duffy was just a little too amped and paid the price as the game went on.  It was not horrible outing, as there were at-bats where Duffy was simply overpowering, but certainly not a performance anyone wants to see on a consistent basis.  Like Perez’ pitch framing, watching Duffy’s early (and late) velocity will be interesting in the coming weeks.

Today, a businessman’s special with Edinson Volquez making his Royal debut.  I’m curious to see what Ned Yost does with the bullpen this early in the season.  Will he pitch Davis and Herrera for the third time in four days or back off that pace?  I would be tempted to avoid using either, simply because it is – not sure if you’ve heard this yet – a long, long season.

It’s just two games, but damn it is nice to win them isn’t it?

After a little damp, but tolerable and overall enjoyable Opening Day, the Royals may or may not play tonight. It has been a while since we had one of ‘those’ Aprils, but it happens.

Should Kansas City take the field tonight, we will get our first look at the 2015 version of Danny Duffy. He is looking to get 200 innings this year.  I’m not greedy, 190 innings will do just fine. In my mind, Duffy is the key to this year’s rotation.  If he can parlay his performance of last year into a full starter’s workload, this rotation can absorb a sub-par year from one of the remaining three starters that fill out the backend.  If Danny struggles to get through five innings – as happened in 2014 – things could become the bad kind of interesting.  Especially with another high pitch count per inning guy in the rotation right behind Duffy in Edinson Volquez.

Some random notes, likely covered by others already, from Monday’s win:

  •  Kendrys Morales had a full day’s worth of quality at-bats.  He looked nothing like the flailing mess of a hitter that he was the past couple of seasons. I am not even sure that was THE Kendrys Morales.  Whoever it is, I like his approach…at least for one day.
  •  There are European soccer players who think Yordano Ventura overreacted to his thumb cramp. I have no doubt it hurt and was a shock, but I am also not sure it should send you to the ground. Thankfully, it turned out to be only a cramp and not an elbow or a shoulder or a knee or a gunshot.
  •  It turned out to be nothing, given the 10-1 result, but the decision by third base coach Mike Jirschele to hold Alex Rios at third in the bottom of the second seemed overly cautious.  Now, next to the manager changing pitchers, what the third base coach does is easily the most second guessed action in baseball and it was just the second inning of the game.  That said, if the Royals are an ‘aggressive’ team on the bases, then act like it.  In this instance, I was sitting up the right field line and had essentially the entire play in front of me.  The throw from the rightfielder Garcia was obviously coming in too high for the first cutoff man and too low to the second cutoff man and Rios was at least 20 feet around third and at full speed.  It was wet, Juan Abreu – no defensive wizard – was going to have to take a low throw or short hop, pivot and make a good throw to the plate, and Omar Infante was the next hitter.  Send him. Send him every time.
  •  Wade Davis:  still filthy good.

While a day or two late, here are my predictions for the year:

I have the Royals at 86 wins.  I think Ventura will be great, Duffy will be good and two of the three other starters will be ‘good enough’.  The bullpen will be dominant, the defense very good and either Hosmer or Cain will be outstanding.  That’s enough, in my mind, for 86 wins, but likely not enough to get in the playoffs.

AL CENTRAL:  Detroit, Kansas City, Cleveland, Chicago, Minnesota

AL EAST: Boston, Baltimore, Toronto, New York, Tampa

AL WEST: Seattle, Oakland, Los Angeles, Texas, Houston

NL CENTRAL: St. Louis, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Milwaukee

NL EAST: Washington, New York, Miami, Atlanta, Philadelphia

NL WEST: San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Colorado, Arizona

 

AL Wild Cards: Baltimore and Toronto

NL Wild Cards: Los Angeles and Cincinnati

World Series: Seattle and San Diego (Can you hear the national media bemoan this ‘boring matchup’?)

I have zero faith in any of these.  Although, once again, it should be noted that I was dead on my Royals’ win prediction last year and missed by one game the year before.  Gut and grit over logic and stats, right?

 

 

 

Thumb cramps, pennants, rings and a blowout victory. That about sums up Opening Day, 2015.

The pregame ceremony was pitch perfect. The organization honored nearly everyone associated with the day to day responsibilities of the players which was nice to give them a moment of recognition. We watch these guys play everyday and it’s not often you think about the behind the scenes guys. Another nice touch was bringing players in who were part of September and October and who have been assigned to the minors to open the year.

And of course, old favorite Bruce Chen was back at The K. The Royals last 10-5 guy deserved to walk back onto the field one last time to collect a ring. The one guy I missed at the ceremony: Raul Ibanez. He will get his moment, for sure.

It’s always good to see Royals alumni at the game, but probably my favorite moment of the entire ceremony was when they had a season ticket holder from 1969 raise the American League pennant. Just a brilliant touch to recognize the fans. It’s amazing. After so many years of bumbling around, the Royals are suddenly an organization that gets it. Forgive me if it takes me some time to adjust to this new reality. Either way, it’s really nice.

— Yordano Ventura threw fire – but he didn’t hit triple digits on the radar gun all afternoon – yet he was steady and kept the White Sox off balance all afternoon.

Ventura_040615_Velo

He only whiffed two, but scattered just four hits and a walk. He was around the zone all day, throwing 81 pitches, 56 of them for strikes. The low number of strikeouts isn’t really notable. The Sox swung and missed at 11 of his offerings, so he was missing plenty of bats.

The really scary part was when he hit the ground after delivering a pitch to LaRoche in the top of the seventh. Fortunately, it was diagnosed as a cramp in his thumb. The telltale sign that is could have been a cramp was his delayed reaction to the pain after delivering his pitch. His hand (or thumb) just seized up. A bummer that Ventura left after just 81 pitches. Fortunately, it was just a thumb cramp. I don’t need to tell you, Ventura is absolutely indispensable to this rotation.

According to McCullough, he is ok and will make his next start.

— Not sure what to make of Kendrys Morales and his three walks. This is a guy who has walked 6.8 percent of the time in his career. His plate appearance on Monday were the paragon of patience. He saw 20 pitches in his five PAs.

— This whole Mike Moustakas as a number two hitter seems horribly misguided, but damn if it didn’t work on Monday. Remember how I told you to get Ned Yost to a casino last October. Apparently his hot streak is intact. While I encourage bunting against the shift, I would like to veto the idea of him sacrifice bunting. The moment when he sacrificed in the third inning following an Alcides Escobar double was as predictable as XXXX. I was glad I wasn’t on Twitter because I would have said something negative and then when Escobar scored on the Lorenzo Cain bloop down the right field line, I would have had a ton of, “See, it worked!” responses. I don’t have time for that.

Sac bunt aside, the most impressive moment of Moustakas’s afternoon was his opposite field home run. Entering 2015, exactly two of Moustakas’s 52 home runs have landed to the left side of center field. And those two weren’t exactly opposite field shots. They were just a few feet to the left of center. From Hit Tracker, here are his home run landing points from the last two seasons. 2013 is on the left.

MoosePull

For Moustakas to go that far to left is huge. And something we have never seen. (Bruce Chen called it on the broadcast. I’m not looking to dump Uncle Hud, so maybe a three man booth in the future.)

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know I’m highly skeptical about this latest transformation of the Royals third baseman. We’ve been down this path before. But damn if he doesn’t have me scratching my head. Maybe, just maybe, he has become a different hitter trying to take the ball to all fields. Maybe, just maybe, he’s becoming some kind of better hitter because he’s staying within and going the opposite way instead of trying to yank everything. I don’t know. I need more evidence than one game. But that’s a much more promising start than doing it in Arizona.

— A very bad look from Smardzija to hit Cain on the next pitch after the Moose Oppo Taco. A very bad look.

— The Royals defense looks ready. I mean, is there really anything else to say? Poor Alexi Ramirez hit the ball on the screws a couple of times and had nothing to show for his efforts. And the double play in the fifth was a thing of beauty.

— My player profile on Alex Rios described him as an enigma with an injured thumb. Basically, we don’t know what we are going to get. A 3-4 day with a pair of singles and a home run to go along with a steal is a pretty good start. As those guys who pay attention to day one stats will tell you, Rios has already matched a quarter of his home run production from 2014.

The new guys got the job done.

— Quality starting pitching, a lockdown bullpen, a couple of steals, stellar defense and a sacrifice bunt. Royals baseball is back.

The Royals last played a meaningful baseball game on October 29, 2014. It’s been a shorter than usual offseason, but still… Winters are long. And harsh.

Nevermind all that. Baseball is back today. The Royals open their defense of the American League pennant at 3:10 against Central Division rival Chicago White Sox. Yes, baseball is back.

Happy Opening Day.

(Brief side note – This is the 10th year of Royals Authority. Clark started blogging back in February of 2005. I picked up the virtual pen a month later. We joined forces around June or July and have been going ever since. Ten years of blogging together. Damn, that’s a lot of time spent writing about this team. I do know I won’t check my bank balance to see how profitable this venture has been.)

The Royals set their 25-man roster by adding Franklin Morales as expected, and, in a bit of an upset, Ryan Madson. I thought the Royals felt Madson needed more time before he could be subjected to the rigors of the regular season, but it looks like he was going to get a major league offer from another team, which forced Dayton Moore’s hand. They had a “gentlemen’s agreement” in place allowing Madson to leave for a major league job if he wasn’t going to make the Royals. Rumor was, there was at least one team interested, so Madson gets the job over Brian Flynn who has options left and will travel to Omaha to open the year.

It’s become a bit of a tradition (at least in my mind it’s a tradition) that I ask readers to make their predictions in this space. I do that for posterity. Think the team is going to go nuts and win 95? Post it here. Feeling pessimistic and think a 90 loss season is in the cards? That’s what the comment section is for, so use it.

Here are my picks:

I think the Royals will win 83 games. A solid season, but ultimately they will fall short of October. I think the Central will be tight once again. It’s difficult to find a favorite here. All teams have their strengths. (Except for the Twins.) All teams have their weaknesses. (Especially the Twins.) There are arguments to be had for the Royals, Indians, Tigers and White Sox for making a run and outlasting their rivals.

Here is my order of finish:

AL Central
Detroit
Cleveland
Kansas City
Chicago
Minnesota

AL East
Toronto
Boston
Baltimore
Tampa
New York

AL West
Seattle
Los Angeles
Texas
Oakland
Houston

NL Central
Pittsburgh
Milwaukee
St Louis
Chicago
Cincinnati

NL East
Washington
New York
Miami
Philadelphia
Atlanta

NL West
Los Angeles
San Diego
San Francisco
Colorado
Arizona

Wild Cards
Boston
Los Angeles

New York
San Diego

World Series

Toronto and San Diego

These are unscientific, yet binding. So binding. And hopefully not boring. I’ve seen too many Washington picks for the World Series. One thing we know, at least one Wild Card team will probably make a deep run. Why not San Diego this year?

Bookmark this and feel free to throw it in my face at a later date. And if you’re so bold, leave a prediction or two in the comments. I’m specifically interested in your guess at the Royals win total and where they will finish in the Central. Although if you want to predict the entire league, I’m good with that.

Play ball.

Happy Opening Day

Defending American League champs.

I was attempting to write my 2015 season predictions, but continue to struggle with how I believe the 2015 season will play out.  Hey, internal struggles are tough to overcome when you have six to ten voices in your head at any one time.  Plus, I find myself burdened by the fact that I pegged EXACTLY the number of wins by the Royals in 2014 and missed by ONE (1) win in 2013. That’s a lot of pressure.

Anyway, ground down by a Spring Training that was as mundane as any in recent memory (perhaps that is the byproduct of a successful prior season?) and not too fired up to even go into the renewed idea of carrying eight relievers to avoid the apparent catastrophe that losing Ryan Madson might be or, for that matter, whether the final roster spot goes to Orlando, Sierra or Merrifield (or Madson), I thought I would offer nothing to society today.

My First Week of Real Baseball Predictions:

  • Alcides Escobar will attempt to bunt in his first at-bat of the season.
  • We will wake up on the morning of April 13th and Yordano Ventura will lead the American League in strikeouts.
  • Someone will mention Famous Daves or Dickey’s and Twitter will explode with righteous indignation.
  • Alex Gordon AND Eric Hosmer will each homer twice in the first week of the season.
  • Greg Holland will blow a save.  (He always blows a save in the first week…always.  It means nothing, but we will wonder if it means SOMETHING).
  • There will be mention of a liking of some national beer and Twitter will explode in defense of Boulevard Beer.
  • Omar Infante will sit out at least one game in the first week as a ‘precaution’.
  • Craig will wonder why I didn’t get him tickets to Opening Day and I will respond “Get back to work, Craig.”
  • Alcides Escobar will attempt to bunt for a hit, again….and bunt as a sacrifice at least twice.
  • Edinson Volquez will not make it out of the fifth inning in his first start.
  • The Royals will have a winning record on the morning of April 13th. NOTE: The most disappointing season in my recollection (2004) started with a 4-2 record.
  • Hang on to this one, kids:  Salvador Perez will NOT start one of the first six games!
  • A guy who looks a lot like me will be seen playing craps at Harrah’s.
  • Kendrys Morales will have at least two at-bats that make us think Salvador Perez has better plate discipline than we thought.
  • Wade Davis will not allow a run.  Not. One. Run.
  • Kendrys Morales will hit a home run and someone on Twitter will tweet ‘I still miss Billy’.
  • A guy who looks a lot like me will be seen slinking to the ATM to get more cash….again…at Harrah’s.
  • Lorenzo Cain will have exactly as many hits as strikeouts during the first week. It might be a big number or it might be a small number and, no, I don’t know where this prediction is coming from.
  • Yordano Ventura will hit 100 mph in the first inning on Opening Day.

Whether you like it or not, I will follow up sometime before first pitch on April 6th, with actual predictions.  I want to be optimistic, but there is a ton of logic that is pulling me in the other direction.  Opening Day, beer in hand, wife at my side, surrounded by 40,000 other Royals’ fans, you can bet I’ll be optimistic…if only for a day.

Forbes came out with their annual valuations of major league baseball teams and your Kansas City Royals rank 28 out of 30 in overall value.

Poor David Glass.

But, wait! There’s more! It turns out that while the Royals rank near the bottom of the valuation list the overall value of the franchise is $700 million. That is a whopping 43 percent gain over last year when the team was $501 million.

Read those numbers again. Because they are mind-blowing.

Apparently, owning a major league baseball team is quite the money-making venture. I’ve been tracking these numbers from Forbes for some time. While they should not be considered gospel since major league baseball refuses to open their books, by looking at the big picture you can certainly grasp trends. For example, here’s the estimated overall franchise value going back to 2006.

Total Value 2015

That’s pretty incredible. Value grew steadily for about seven years before skyrocketing in 2013. In 2012, the Royals were valued at $354 million. They have doubled in value in three years.

This increase isn’t unique to the Royals. All of major league baseball is rolling in the dough. The Royals 43 percent increase from last year was only ranked them 21st among the 30 teams. The Washington Nationals gained 83 percent from the previous year. The hated San Francisco Giants doubled in value from last year. I’m fairly certain these numbers and this trend put to bed the trope that “baseball is dying.” It’s not. Not even close.

While team’s values are ballooning across the game, it wouldn’t be farfetched to think part of the increase on the Royals part was fueled by their October run. That was certainly reflected in their revenues.

Revenues

They have been on the uptick for years, but last October really put money in the coffers at The K. Tickets, merchandise, parking and concessions for eight extra home games certainly help. Especially at special October prices.

The increase in revenues led to near-record profits.

Operating Income

Quite the turnaround from the 2013 season when the Royals lost money according to Forbes. The profit has always been a little uncertain, again thanks to baseball owners refusing to open their books. The Royals maintain they do their best to break even each season. Forbes, the 2013 season aside, disagrees. Although it’s certainly not a stretch to assume their operating income wouldn’t have been so elevated without postseason baseball.

Going forward, we know the Royals will raise payroll to record levels. (Around $113 million, which will be the topic of another post around Opening Day.) They will also certainly experience a postseason hangover of sorts where merchandise and ticket sales will remain strong at least for the first half of the season, no matter how the season goes. The Royals are playing in one of the smallest market in the majors and that postseason financial bounce was certainly received with open arms.

The Royals will continue to talk budgets and financial constraints relative to market size. That’s to be expected and that’s wholly acceptable. The profits may find extremes from one year to the next, but they will likely set out to hover around the $5-10 million mark when those budgets are set. I remain skeptical their goal is to break even, as they so often say, but as long as they continue to inject money into a competitive payroll, I have no issue with their words.

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