Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

I hope you’ve had a moment to read one or two of the player profiles we published this week. It’s something we’ve done in the past to help us get through the winter, usually on Mondays through Thursdays. Since today is Friday, I thought I’d take a little break and look at a former Royal.

If you haven’t noticed, we are now down to a single, Big-Name free agent. The guy who led the Royals rotation the last two years and culminated his tenure in Kansas City as an integral part of a pennant winner, can’t find work.

It’s difficult being James Shields.

We are less than 30 days away from pitchers and catchers reporting and Big Game James is still looking for a team. I’m pretty certain this wasn’t supposed to happen. We knew the market for starting pitching would be slow to develop, but when Jon Lester signed with the Cubs, I figured Shields would be the next to go. It just seemed like smart business to get his money while Max Scherzer (and Scott Boras) took his time. To hell with Scherzer setting the market. Let Lester get paid and then Shields could jump on the same train.

Not happening that way.

For those thinking of a short-term impact, at Fangraphs, Jeff Sullivan ran some numbers and figured out how much Shields would improve each team. Dan Szymborski did the same at ESPN. I urge you to visit both sites (although you’ll need Insider for Dan’s post at ESPN) because the results are interesting.

Sullivan has Shields improving the Royals rotation by about 2.1 fWAR which places the Royals in the lower third of teams who would benefit from signing Shields.  Szymborski says ZiPS has the Royals as currently constructed in the low 80s for wins and figures adding Shields would throw them back into contention for the Wild Card.

Looking at the Royals payroll – which will be around $112 million – it’s difficult to find the wiggle room to add Shields. Especially when you figure the arm he would be pushing out of the rotation in Jeremy Guthrie, is due to earn $9 million next year, making him the highest paid pitcher on the roster. Kind of difficult to shove a guy making that much cabbage into a long-relief role. (Obviously the $9 million Guthrie will earn isn’t enough to land Shields. It’s not a straight-up proposition. But we are talking about a payroll structured so a number five starter is the top earner. That was always going to cause budgetary issues. Remember things like this when GMDM signs his next mediocre player to a three or four year deal.)

Moore was on MLB Network radio on Thursday and the subject of Shields naturally was discussed.

We can parse this several different ways. I would assume that if Shields is open to returning to Kansas City, his agent and the Royals have been in touch at various times throughout his free agent process. But still… I would put the Royals chances at less than 10 percent at this point. Although we can dream, can’t we? A couple of weeks ago, it was mentioned that Shields had received an offer of five years at $110 million, but turned it down. What? Maybe it’s not always about the money.

If you’re going to turn down $110 million for a team you don’t want to play for, you are still feeling confident you can at least come within $10 million of that offer. Right?

If you read the articles at Fangraphs and ESPN, the teams that would benefit the most from adding Shields are teams that aren’t in the best shape to contend. Although the Tigers could get a significant bounce now they’ve lost Scherzer. The consensus is the White Sox, Giants and Marlins would all benefit from a Shields signing in that it would solidify their October aspirations. Those are teams who are close to contention and Shields would seemingly put them right in the pack.

Shields isn’t an ace, but he is good enough that he can make a positive difference for a team looking for postseason baseball. Let’s look at some of the teams Shields has been linked with during the winter:

— He was considered a “fall-back option” in October if the Cubs failed to land their top target Lester.

— In early November, Joel Sherman of the New York Post speculated Shields was a fit for the White Sox, who were lurking under the radar and ready to spend. Instead, they signed Jeff Smardjia.

— Don’t forget the Fish.

— At the Winter Meetings, Shields was linked to the Diamondbacks, Red Sox, Dodgers and Rangers, with the Giants thought to be the frontrunners.

The Diamondbacks denied their interest. The Red Sox acquired Wade Miley, Rick Porcello and Justin Masterson for their rotation. The Marlins got Mat Latos. And the Dodgers paid big bucks for the high risk of Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson. The Rangers rumor just kind of fizzled.

— By the new year, the Giants were out of the Shields market.

— Oh, hey… The Rockies have his agent’s phone number.

Boston checks back early in the new year, but they’re playing the waiting game.

— Don’t forget about Toronto. But the price needs to drop.

Marlins. Again.

— The Padres have been busy on the trade front and have upped their payroll, so the chances they could spend on Shields is “very remote.”

— Maybe the Marlins could do something, but they would have to trade Dan Haren. Who wants to be traded anyway.

— As late as last week, Diamondbacks were still “in the mix.”

— The Tigers popped up on the Shields radar around the same time Scherzer jumped to the Nationals.

— Once the Brewers unloaded Yovani Gallardo, they emerged as a potential candidate.

— There have also been random rumblings the Astros and the Cardinals have interest.

Whew.

By my count, 16 teams (including the Royals) have been linked to Shields in varying degrees of interest. Over half of baseball. And we are still no closer to resolution that we were when you began reading this post.

So what happened? Were teams scared off at a price tag of $100 million. Was it a 33 year old pitcher asking for five years. Was it all the innings he’s pitched in his career? Was it his less than stellar postseason performance? Was it all of the above?

At any rate, I don’t think anyone expected we would be late in January without Shields on a team. That hurts his market as a number of clubs have budgeted for their arbitration players and have pretty much set their payrolls going forward. That’s not to say someone who thought (or said) they were done can’t jump in at this point. As time ticks, the price drops which has the effect of allowing more teams to enter. But supply and demand has its limits. He’s not going to get $100 million. And he’s not going to get five years.

I’ll take a stab and guess Shields ends up with a four-year deal around $80 million. And I’ll go one step further and say it’s the Tigers who land Shields, with the Red Sox lurking around the periphery should they get wind of the negotiations that could take him north of the border. You don’t want to hear that (hell, I don’t want to write that) but it just makes too much sense for Detroit. They have Price for one more year. Shields gives them extended depth with Verlander and Sanchez. Plus, the Tigers have been known to make the stealth free agent signing. They have the means and it appears adding Shields would make them the prohibitive favorites in the Central once again.

Although at this point, it’s anyone’s guess. Which is what makes this kind of fun.

I love Jarrod Dyson’s story.

Fiftieth round draft pick. The 1,475th player selected in the 2006 draft. He opened his career with the Royals Rookie League club in Arizona and hit .273/.358/.373 as a 21 year old in his first taste of pro ball. A raw talent with speed to burn, Dyson glided through the Royals system. A ball in 2007. Double-A in ’08. Triple-A called in 2009 and 2010. He got the call to the majors when rosters expanded in September of 2010. He got a few starts, played decent defense, stole a couple of bases and was largely overmatched at the plate.

He seemed destined, in a best-case scenario, for a role as a fourth outfielder. In fact, I remember arguing he was surplus to requirements on the Royals. He would be better utilized on a team with true outfield depth where he could act as a late inning defensive replacement or a pinch running assignment sprinkled among a few spot starts here or there. The Royals of 2010 (and 2011 and 2012) were not that team.

But the Royals love their athletes and that, ultimately, is what Dyson is. He’s a supreme athlete.

Four years after his debut, Dyson was a key component to the Royals march to the AL title.

Baseball is kind of like that.

As the 2015 looms on the horizon, Dyson again looks to be cast in the role of the fourth outfielder. Alex Gordon is the mainstay in left. Lorenzo Cain has center. And the Royals didn’t give $11 million to Alex Rios so he could sit on the bench. But at this point in his career, Dyson has evolved from a fringy speedster on a second division squad to a legitimate asset on a team with sights on October.

As a hitter, Dyson lacks the discipline at the plate to be a consistent offensive threat. His career walk rate is 8.8 percent (and has declined in each of the last two seasons.) He should be north of 12 percent if he was to be an effective leadoff man where he could use his speed tool with abandon.

When he puts the ball in play, it’s on the ground roughly two-thirds of the time. That’s an excellent ratio for Dyson. Again, it’s all about leveraging his speed. He lacks even gap to gap power, so if the ball is going in the air, odds are strong it will settle in a defender’s glove. On the ground, his legs give him a chance. Over 11 percent of his hits last summer stayed on the infield. That was just a shade under his career infield hit rate of 12 percent. From Texas Leaguers, here is Dyson’s spray chart from 2014:

Dyson2014Spray

A cluster of bunt hits down the third base line, a few “tweeners” on the right side and some grounders up the middle. His game is about singles, so when he’s in the lineup, he’s practically the conductor of the Royals Singles Train.

Here are the top five outcomes of a Dyson plate appearance in 2014:

Groundout – 25.2%
Single – 20.3%
Strikeout – 18.1%
Flyout – 8.7%
Walk – 7.7%

The above totals add up to 80 percent. Meaning four out of five of Dyson’s plate appearances end in one of five ways. I haven’t crunched the numbers, but that seems like a thin cluster outcomes. I’d wager most players are around 70-75 percent on their top five outcomes. (I did a quick check and Alex Gordon is at 75 percent. So is Lorenzo Cain.) This isn’t an indictment of Dyson’s offensive game. Just an observation. These are the most common outcomes for most players. Baseball is a game of failure, right? It just so happens that Dyson’s cluster of outcomes is a little more narrow than the average batter.

Let’s just get one thing out of the way: Dyson’s offense is not good. His slash line of .269/.324/.327 doesn’t profile as a mainstay in any lineup. His wRC+ was 85 in 2014, just a couple of points above his career average. Now we don’t have the same kind of sample size for Dyson as we do a guy like Mike Moustakas, but Dyson has been very consistent offensively over the last three years. He is who he is with the bat. A singles hitter who doesn’t take enough walks to play everyday.

The thing with Dyson is once he gets to first base, if second base is open, he’s going for it. I mean really going for it. Singles and walks can turn into doubles and triples, which can turn into runs. Such is the Royals mantra. This is Jarrod Dyson. And that’s what speed do.

We all know Dyson is a burner. But he truly leverages his speed. Last year, Dyson took advantage of stolen base opportunities more than any runner in baseball. Baseball Reference defines stolen base opportunities as a plate appearance where the runner was on first or second with the next base open. Makes sense, right? Dyson, according to BR, had 116 stolen base opportunities. He ran on 43 of those, a rate of 37 percent. Basically, if he had the chance, he was running a little more than one-third of the time. That’s a massive amount of stolen base attempts given the opportunity. That made him the most likely runner (minimum of 100 opportunities) to attempt to swipe a bag in the AL last summer. By far.

DysonSBA

Wow. Seven percentage points ahead of the runner with the second highest stolen base attempt average. And 14 percentage points ahead of fifth place. That is impressive.

Not only was Dyson running often, he was effective swiping that bag. His success rate on steals last year was 84 percent, swiping 36 bags in 43 attempts. The accepted baseline for stolen base success rate is 75 percent. Below that, you’re hurting your team. Above it and you’re helping. If you’re nearly 10 percentage points above it… That’s exceptional.

There can be no question; the speed is a weapon. And it seemed like Ned Yost figured the most optimal way to deploy this weapon late in the year and throughout the postseason. Dyson appeared in 120 games, made it to the field in 108 of them and started 66 times. That’s about the perfect mix for a player of Dyson’s skill set.

Of those 108 games he made it to the field, he patrolled center in 106 of them. According to the Fielding Bible, Dyson saved 14 runs in center. That’s an amazing number of runs saved for a part-time defender. He ranked fifth among all center fielders in runs saved! Apologies for the exclamation point, but damnit, that deserved one. He was in the field for 678 innings, or less than half of the innings the Royals played defense in 2014 and the guy still was the fifth best defender according to the Runs Saved metric. Let that soak in for a moment.

Dyson does it by making the plays he should make. Here’s data from Inside Edge on Dyson’s range in center field.

DysonRange

Broken down into raw numbers, Dyson made over 99 percent of the “routine” plays and over 93 percent of the “likely” plays. My eye tells me he doesn’t always run the best routes, but his speed makes up for an error in judgement from time to time. The guy is a damn good defender. Also, his arm is above average for a center fielder. I think that took some fans by surprise given his build and makeup as an offensive player. You know, slight, fast guys aren’t supposed to have strong arms. They’re supposed to be more Johnny Damon and less Alex Gordon. Either way, his arm has been an underrated aspect of his defense.

With Lorenzo Cain a better all around player than Dyson, it makes sense to start him ahead of Dyson. I absolutely loved how Yost used Dyson in center in late game situations, moving Cain to right. Loved it. In a single move, he upgraded his defense from really good to freaking amazing. An outfield of Gordon-Dyson-Cain is without a doubt the best defensive outfield in the game.

Dyson is the fourth player I’ve profiled who is eligible for arbitration. He asked for $1.6 million. The Royals countered with $900,000. Major League Trade Rumors estimated he would earn $1.3 million. With a midpoint between asked and offered at $1.25 million, it stands to reason this case won’t go to a hearing the and the sides will be able to settle. Dyson’s defense alone is worth millions, but arbitration hasn’t evolved past the counting stats like home runs. Steals just aren’t as impressive. Neither is his role as a fourth outfielder. Dyson was worth 3.1 fWAR last year, which Fangraphs calculated as worth nearly $17 million dollars. Yeah, that’s not a typo. Nearly all of that value comes from his base running and his glove.

It will be interesting to see how the Royals use Dyson in 2015. I’ve heard rumblings the Royals think enough of Rios in right, they won’t lift him for a defensive replacement late in games. That’s disappointing for a couple of reasons. One, Rios has been worth negative runs saved in right the last two seasons, indicating a loss of range with his age. And two, because when you have a defensive weapon on your team like Dyson, it’s incredibly wasteful if he spends his time on the bench. He won’t provide near as much value if he’s only called upon as a spot starter and occasional pinch runner. He needs to get on the field as often as possible, without exposing his bat. That’s why he’s the ideal fourth outfielder.

For a year, Royals fans heard a refrain: Just wait until Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura are in the starting rotation and contributing. That was when the club would truly turn the corner and contention would finally be reality. The damnedest thing… That actually happened in 2014. Last season Danny Duffy indeed enjoyed his finest season as a major league professional. And the Royals actually played in October.

Mission accomplished.

You have to admit, you were surprised how it all worked out. There’s no way you could have seen this coming.

In spring training in 2014, Duffy insisted he wanted to be in the Royals bullpen. Huh? Aren’t starting pitchers, you know… Supposed to want to start? Apparently, not Duffy. At least not in March, 2014. Duffy lost the competition to be a starter to Ventura and the Royals shipped him to Omaha. Just days later, the Royals obliged Duffy’s wish and he was recalled to throw out of the bullpen. And Duffy was quite good. In his first four relief appearances, he threw 8.1 innings, struck out 11 and walked just two without allowing a run to score.

Then, he hit rock bottom.

In a tie game in Baltimore on April 26, Duffy was summoned in the tenth inning of a 2-2 game. He walked the first batter on four pitches. The next batter bunted on the first pitch (remember in October, how Buck Showalter was a managerial savant of some kind?), Duffy fielded and threw it away. The next batter also bunted. Also to Duffy. And again, Duffy threw the ball away. He exited with the bases loaded and the Royals lost game two batters later on a Markakis single.

Four days later, Duffy relieved Ventura in the sixth inning in a game against Toronto with the Royals leading 2-0. Again, he hit the leadoff batter. Then he walked the next man. Ned Yost pulled him after just six pitches thrown. And one strike.

But with Bruce Chen sidelined, the Royals needed another starter. Relief issues aside for Duffy, he was summoned to the rotation. And for four months, he thrived.

Overall, Duffy appeared in 31 games for the Royals, made 25 starts, threw 149 innings, struck out 113 batters and walked just 53. He finished with a 2.53 ERA, a 4.42 xFIP and an ERA- of 56.

From May 2 to August 31, Duffy threw 133 innings, struck out 97, allowed hitters a .203/.277/.314 line. His ERA was 2.44. He was magnificent.

The underlying positive for Duffy in 2014 was his command. Entering the season, he had a career walk rate of 4.7 BB/9. The falling behind in the count, the failing to put hitters away after hanging two strikes on them, and the walks were a cumulative issue that threatened to hold him back from his potential. Factor in his recovery from Tommy John surgery where the last thing pitchers typically recover is command and you can see how it was a concern.

In 2011, in 250 plate appearances where Duffy got two strikes batters, he them a .263/.324/.452 line with 20 walks and 84 strikeouts. By comparison, in 2014, Duffy had 304 plate appearances where he had at least two strikes on a hitter. In those instances, he approved to a .149/.211/.206 line with 113 strikeouts and 20 walks. His sOPS+ (split relative to the league’s split) went from an obscene 197 (with 100 league average and a lower number better for pitchers) to 65. Basically, he went from having two strikes on a hitter as a liability to where it should be – a point of strength.

He also finally started to jump ahead of hitters. In 2014, he threw a strike with his first pitch 59 percent of the time. Going back to 2011 and 2012 (before the Tommy John) he was around 52 percent. That improvement of seven percent is massive. To give you some perspective of how awful his first pitch strike rate was, consider that even at 59.1 percent, Duffy was still 1.5 percentage points below league average in the AL. Had he thrown enough innings to qualify, his first strike rate would have been the 31st best in the AL out of 40 starters. So let’s not treat his improvement as though he’s running with the big strike-throwing dogs now. But let’s do acknowledge he needed to improve that rate and he figured out a way to accomplish that.

It all added up to improved command and a career-best walk rate of 3.2 BB/9. I know Duffy has a legion of Royals fans who have always believed in him, but I’m not sure any rational analyst saw that kind of improvement in the cards for his walk rate.

Time to stare at the elephant on the blog and that is Duffy’s health. He exited a start in Yankee Stadium at the start of September after throwing just a single pitch. The Royals medical staff diagnosed it as inflammation in his rotator cuff. I’m not a doctor, but the words “rotator cuff” make me cringe. Duffy missed a couple of starts and returned to throw 96 pitches in six innings in a 2-0 shutout of the Indians. In his final regular season start, Duffy lasted just two innings before exiting with what the Royals initially thought was a strained intercostal muscle.

In October, Duffy made just three appearances for the Royals in their 15 games. He pitched the bottom of the 10th inning for Kansas City in Game One of the ALDS against the Angeles, throwing 19 pitches before sending the game to the 11th where the Royals eventually won. Duffy didn’t make another appearance for 18 days, finally making it to the mound for some mop-up duty in the Game One shellacking in the World Series. Another appearance followed in the fifth inning of Game Four and Duffy was done for the year.

For September and October, Duffy made six appearances, threw 250 pitches in 12.1 innings. After the postseason, it was revealed Duffy’s alleged intercostal muscle strain was actually a stress reaction in his ribcage; a hairline crack on the outside of a rib where the discomfort would limit him to two or three innings per outing. Basically, there was no way he could start. And looking back, Yost was clearly nervous about using him.

As exceptional as Duffy’s turn as a starter was for four months of 2014, there are signs regression is lurking around the corner. He allowed a .239 BABIP, his career-best rate and nearly 60 points lower than league average. Part of that can surely be attributed to the Royals defense. However, know that of the other four Royals starters, none had a BABIP lower than .288. If you’re going to credit the Royals defense for Duffy’s BABIP, why didn’t that carry over to the other starters?

His strikeout rate was down. He whiffed 18.7 percent of all batters, off his career pace of close to 20 percent entering the 2014 season. The Royals will tell you his strikeout rate was down because he was harnessing his command by taking something off his pitches and locating the ball with purpose. They will also tell you strikeouts aren’t a huge deal for the Royals because they have a phenomenal defense behind their pitchers. Don’t believe them. It’s usually not a good development when a 25 year old pitcher sees his strikeout rate decline. Although in this instance we have the caveat of the Tommy John surgery and the fact this was his first full season of pitching since his rehabilitation from that surgery. Perhaps the strikeout rate will bounce back in 2015.

Also, there’s the fact he morphed into an extreme fly ball pitcher. Among starters with at least 130 innings, Duffy had the sixth-highest fly ball rate at 46 percent. His HR/FB rate was a low 6.1 percent. If he keeps allowing so many fly balls and his HR/FB rate normalizes, his ERA is going to increase. The defense can’t make a play on a ball over the fence. The fly ball rate, the HR/FB rate, his decline in strikeouts and BABIP all contribute to his 4.42 xFIP, which was almost two full runs higher than his actual 2.53 ERA.

When I hear talk about James Shields and how great of a leader he was to the Royals pitchers, I inevitably think of Duffy. Leadership gets the shaft in the sabermetric community, but it shouldn’t. Baseball is an incredibly difficult game chock full of ups and downs. Some players need a little guidance from time to time. Not only about how to handle the failures, but the successes, too. That’s where Shields supposedly played a part in the maturation of Duffy. Remember, this was a guy who never tasted failure until he turned pro and then at one point became so frustrated that he walked away. He was also the guy who, as I mentioned, asked to be a reliever. It’s OK to say there were some makeup and maturity issues with Duffy. He’s a young guy. That’s why a mentor like Shields is so valuable. If he can get through to someone like Duffy, he can absolutely make a difference. And by all indications, that’s what happened. Good for Duffy for accepting help. Good for Shields to being the guy in the clubhouse. And good for the Royals for enduring the ridicule that comes with trading a prospect for a “leader” and making a positive difference in a young man’s career.

There were positives. There are warning signs for some regression. And James Shields isn’t around to dispense advise. How will it affect Duffy. That’s a good question. Steamer projects Duffy to finish with a 3.95 ERA while seeing an increase in both his strikeout (7.4 SO/9) and his walk rate (3.7 BB/9). They have him making 25 starts and throwing 144 innings, which would be low obviously, but not so low if he misses time due to injury again.

I side with Steamer in thinking his ERA is going to increase, but I’m not so sure it’s going to approach four. A correction is coming, but that’s one rude adjustment. I’ll be happy with an increase in his strikeout rate, if he can induce a few more ground balls and if he can keep his ERA in the 3.50 neighborhood. If you want to be the optimist on the projections, Steamer really only has a few months of Duffy as a starter to work with.

Duffy is eligible for salary arbitration for the first time in his career. He’s asking for $3 million. The Royals countered at $1.75 million. Major League Trade Rumors projected Duffy would play for $2.6 million. If he can build upon last year’s 2.2 fWAR and give the Royals something around 2.5-3.0 fWAR for a full season, he will be quite a bargain and a true number two starter. He’s probably going to be a bargain no matter how much he makes next year.

Yesterday, I opened with Tim Collins. Today, I turn the spotlight on Louis Coleman.

Coleman is the other bullpen arm eligible for arbitration the Royals settled with just prior to the deadline for parties to exchange figures. MLB Trade Rumors figured him to earn $700,000 in 2015. His actual salary will be $725,000.

Coleman made his major league debut in 2011, has made 148 appearances for the Royals, throwing a total of 174 innings, yet has never survived a full year in the majors. Still, he’s been a semi-valuable short man in the bullpen for the Royals.

The best way to show you would be to just throw some raw numbers out there.

ColemanStats

I know, I know… ERA isn’t the best measure. But for a reliever, I don’t mind so much. The small sample size and all of that. What I do like is the left on base percentage that’s represented in the final column. By that number alone, we can see some of the reasons of Coleman’s success in the past. He’s generally been difficult to hit. Except last year, he lost some of that mojo. Like his bullpen mate I profiled yesterday, Coleman missed fewer bats in all situations in 2014 and the averages went up.

Now I’m going to commit the cardinal sin of saber metrics and look at batting average against. Again, this isn’t meant to break any new ground, simply an attempt to understand what happened to Coleman last year.

ColemanGraph

As I alluded to earlier, his whiff rate was down to 10 percent last summer, compared to 17 percent the year before. His contact rate increased from 65 percent in 2013 to 77 percent in 2014. That’s huge. And that’s why his batting average allowed increased. Further, the more hits he allowed means he’s not going to strand those baserunners. What we basically saw was a nasty correction for Coleman. He isn’t as good as his 2013. Jeez, he’s no Wade Davis. But is he as mediocre as his 2014?

Coleman is strictly a fastball/slider pitcher, though he will feature a two-seamer with some solid sink. The right-hander throws with a low arm slot, making his pitches extremely difficult to track for right-handed batters. Against lefties, he’s less effective. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work. Last year, same-side batters tuned up Coleman with a .315/.400/.571 slash line. Lefties hit him for a line of .233/.327/.302. That goes completely against his career M.O. where he’s tougher on right-handed batters.

What was different? He relied on his sinker a little more, but not really enough to make a difference. His slider was his “go-to” pitch when he was ahead in the count to both lefties and right-handed batters, just the same as he used the pitch in the past. But hitters posted a .422 batting average and a whopping .867 slugging percentage against his four-seamer in 2014. And right-handed batters crushed him to the tune of a .469 batting average and 1.067 slugging percentage on fastballs. Yikes.

Sometimes, regression happens in a manner that will make your head spin like a top. And I’ll be damned if I can’t find an underlying reason why Coleman plummeted to Earth and smashed right through to the inner core.

If I were to speculate (we’re all friends, right? I can speculate) I would say it had something to do with his arm slot. As a pitcher with a crossfire delivery, he’s been inconsistent with his release point throughout his career. From Texas Leaguers, here is how his arm slot looked in his exceptional 2013 season:

ColemanRelease13

Compare that to last summer:

ColemanRelease14

The same cluster exists, but the 2014 release point actually goes off the chart. The difference in mechanics when delivering his four-seamer meant his average pitch drifted further to the outside to the right-handed batter. That gave same-side hitters just a fraction more time to get the barrel out ahead to get the sweetspot of the bat on the ball. If Coleman had been able to keep the ball inside on the hands of right-handed hitters, he wouldn’t have experienced such misery.

Here’s the frustrating thing: The data from Texas Leaguers backs my hypothesis. It looks like Coleman’s fastball ran away from right-handed hitters more in 2014 than it has before. However, the data at Brooks Baseball has the difference as negligible. Damn.

Coleman is a sidearming enigma. He wasn’t good last year and there’s nothing obvious that jumps out as the underlying cause of his struggles. So if you don’t know what’s broken, how do you fix it?

If Coleman has lost his effectiveness against right-handed bats for good, he’s of no use to the Royals. The gamble is to see if he can rediscover his past success. Anyway, with the stacked bullpen, it’s not like he’s going to be counted on in high-leverage situations. Although he could team up with Collins to form some sort of short-man combo (unintended pun using Collins there and Coleman stands 6’4″) in games where the Royals have to go to their bullpen after five innings or Ned Yost needs to keep a deficit manageable in the later innings. Basically, we have a question as to which Coleman will appear this season. The luxury of the current bullpen is, it’s a low-risk, moderate-reward proposition.

As mentioned at the top of this post, Coleman will make $725,000 next summer. Major league minimum will be above $510,000. We’ve seen Coleman be effective before. While it would be a stretch to expect something along his 2013 numbers, it’s worth the extra quarter of a million to see if he can up the strikeout rate, tinker with his arm slot, rediscover the effectiveness of his four-seamer and recover to something along his 2012 performance.

On Friday afternoon, the Royals announced they reached agreements with relievers Louis Coleman and Tim Collins. Coleman, who qualifies as a Super Two, will earn $725,000 in 2015, while Collins will cash checks totaling a sum of $1,475,000. Going by the estimates from MLB Trade Rumors, these amounts are pretty much spot-on. They had Coleman at $700,000 and Collins at $1.5 million. These contracts seem relatively fair.

Collins, of course, will have to step up his game in 2015. He made two sub-par appearances in April of last year before landing on the DL with a flexor strain in his elbow. One of those appearances was in Detroit the second game of the year when Ned Yost inserted him into a tie game in the bottom of the 10th where he walked a pair of batters before giving up a two-out, game-winning single to Ian Kinsler.

After being sidelined for a month, Collins pitched better upon his return. Over his next 16 outings, he posted a 2.20 ERA over 16.1 innings with 10 strikeouts. Nevertheless, he was the odd man out in June when fellow lefty Bruce Chen came of his stint on the disabled list. At the time, the Royals said they wanted Collins to go to Omaha to work on his secondary pitches. The team said he was throwing too many fastballs and ignoring his change and his curve. The funny thing was, Collins was throwing fewer fastballs in the time leading to his demotion that at any time in his tenure with the Royals. While there was some validity to the claim, it wasn’t like his pitch selection was completely out of whack. He just wasn’t all that effective compared to previous seasons.

CollinsPitchType

Batters have has a modicum of success against Collins’s fastball in previous seasons, hitting around .300 against his heater, which averages around 93 mph. In 2014, he lost about a mph off the pitch and opposing batters posted a batting average of .333 with a .524 slugging percentage. His change and curve are his definite bread and butter pitches. Last summer he limited hitters to a .167 average off his change and a microscopic .077 batting average off his curve. Neither pitch yielded an extra base hit.

Why was he going to his fastball so much in the first part of the season? Good question, especially given how successful his secondary pitches were.

Perhaps part of it stems from a lack of confidence. Perhaps part of it stems from an uncertainty in how to deal with an injury for the first time in his career. Whatever the reason, hitters were able to set Collins up like never before. Command has always been an issue with the lefty. He has a career walk rate of 5.2 BB/9. In 2014, hitters could take a pitch or two, get ahead in the count and then look dead-red fastball. He threw fastballs 91 percent of the time after falling behind in the count to left-handed batters. To right-handers, it was a whopping 84 percent.

This dovetails to another concern about Collins and that is his declining strikeout rate. Entering the 2014 season, his lowest whiff rate as a Royal was around 8 SO/9. In 2014, his strikeout rate tumbled to 6.4 SO/9. Naturally, throwing so many fastballs meant his swing and miss rate would decline, and it did. But his rates tumbled across the board, on all pitches. He was down about 4 percent across the board. Here’s a look at how Collins has missed bats in his major league career.

CollinsWhiff

As you can see from the table, Collins posted career low marks in swing and miss percentage for every pitch type in 2014. That’s not a positive trend for a reliever entering his age 25 season.

Collins was recalled after the Triple-A playoffs and made four appearances for the Royals down the stretch. Three of them were in low-leverage situations. He made the postseason rosters and made a memorable appearance in Game One of the ALDS against the Angels, where, after hitting his first batter, he got the first two outs of the ninth inning in a 2-2 game. With Yost leaning on his Big Three in the bullpen, he didn’t make another appearance until the World Series. Overall, he saw action in three games of the Fall Classic, all of them in mop-up roles.

With Greg Holland, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera in place, Collins profiles as a useful left-handed arm in the Royals bullpen. The temptation for Yost has been to use Collins as a LOOGY, but Collins doesn’t have extreme splits that make him suited for that role. Last year, lefties hit .240/.346/.364 while right-handers posted a line of .231/.361/.353. For his career, same-side batters hit .219/.341/.362 while righties hit .224/.328/.347. See? There’s nothing in his performance to suggest Collins is a lefty-specialist. He can actually be more valuable because when he’s mixing his pitches and missing the bats, he’s equally effective against all batters.

Collins had a rough season, but provided positive value for the Royals in both 2012 and 2013. Steamer projects Collins at a 3.49 ERA to go along with a 8.7 SO/9 and 3.7 BB/9. If he’s going to match those projections, he will need to rediscover some of his swing-and-miss mojo and he will have to get away from throwing so many fastballs when he falls behind in the count. If he can do that, his $1.475 million salary will give the Royals another useful arm in the bullpen. Maybe Yost will hit bullpen nirvana and declare Collins his sixth inning guy.

Happy “Let’s Exchange Salary Figures Before We Go To Arbitration Day!”

(That’s not really a holiday. I just made that up.)

Today is the day major league teams and their arbitration-eligible players trade salary figures for the upcoming season. The Royals have nine players eligible for arbitration. As of this writing, all nine are still unsigned.

A quick primer on arbitration: A player with at least three years of service time can make his case before an arbiter for an increase in salary. Those unfortunate souls with less than three years of service are at the mercy of their teams, who have the right to renew their contracts at a dollar value they see fit. (This is ignoring the Super Two designation, which gives a percentage of players who have played for less than three seasons, but very close to that amount, the same opportunity for arbitration.)

Today is the deadline for players and teams to submit their respective numbers. That also means we should expect a flurry of announcements in the coming hours about players reaching deals with the Royals.

Let’s look at what happened last season. The Royals had eight players eligible for arbitration. On the deadline day to exchange figures, three of them (Eric Hosmer, Luke Hochevar and Emilio Bonifacio) reached deals for 2014 the Royals announced around the noon hour. (Two of them – Tim Collins and Brett Hayes – had previously settled.) With nine players still unsigned for 2015, I expect an even larger flurry of deadline signings today.

For those who don’t sign, the next step will be to exchange figures. Which is what this day is really all about. Let’s look again to last year. Greg Holland was a first year arbitration-eligible player who made it to this step. He told the Royals he thought he was worth $5.2 million. The Royals countered with $4.1 million.

At this point, players and teams can still negotiate. Consider the exchange of numbers simply the opening salvo of a negotiation. The team and the player can come together and reach a deal. In the case of Holland, they settled at $4.675 million. Or $25,000 above the midway point.

Should the player and team fail to reach an agreement, they would head to an arbitration hearing sometime in February. At that point, there is no middle ground. Player argues for his salary offer. Team argues for their salary offer. The arbiter picks one. There is no middle ground.

Of course, you are likely aware Dayton Moore has never gone to the final step in arbitration as a general manager. This will be brought up as if he’s some sort of contract wizard. In this case, he’s really not. Arbitration is just something that has become increasingly rare in today’s game. Everyone knows they’re going to get paid and they just want to avoid the acrimony.

Thankfully, we have Major League Trade Rumors and Cot’s Contracts to help us sort though the gory finances. Using the arbitration estimates from Trade Rumors and the contract information from Cot’s, I’ve compiled a spreadsheet of how the Royals finances look at this point for the next two seasons.

RoyalsPayrollEstimate2

I currently have the Royals at close to $113 million. On Thursday, Jeff Passan from Yahoo.com tweeted a list of payroll estimates. This number puts the Royals at the 15th highest payroll among 30 teams. That’s up from number 19 last year. Keep in mind though, with Max Scherzer and James Shields still on the market, the Royals ranking could drop a few spots before the dust settles on the offseason.

This is a good payroll. Or I should say, this is an appropriate amount of money to spend given the Royals market size and revenue streams. I’m not sold they have allocated their funds wisely (I’m still a little perturbed by Kendrys Morales), but that’s for another post.

Some other notes:

— Alex Gordon’s original player option for 2016 is $12.5 million. His contract had salary escalators built-in for things like All-Star selections and Gold Glove awards, pushing it to $14 million.

— Don’t miss the bottom of the table. The Royals owe $1 million each to Bruce Chen and Billy Butler.

— This number will move a little higher when the Royals open the season with Kris Medlin and Luke Hochevar on the disabled list. I could be wrong, but I believe those players on the DL count toward Opening Day payroll. Figure their spots will be taken by someone making close to the major league minimum which will be around $510,000.

— The salary figures for the last four guys on the list are estimates. They will all earn close to the major league minimum. The $525,000 figure is used simply for rounding purposes.

— Yes, I know Brandon Finnegan isn’t going to make the Opening Day roster. His name is simply on the list as the 25th man. Whomever gets that spot will make close to the major league minimum.

— The Salvador Perez contract remains – and will always be – a thing of wonder. As long as Ned Yost doesn’t play him 162 games this coming summer.

— Six current Royals have mutual options in their current contracts. Yes, it’s a meme in Kansas City. Despite Jin Wong’s protestations.

— My pledge to you: I will update this table as the signings and salary updates hit the interwebs.

A few years ago, I attempted to make this site something of a clearinghouse for Royals information. Not stats and such – you can find that anywhere. Maybe something more arcane. I don’t remember where, but at one point I found a site that did a family tree for the team they followed. The idea is simple – trace the roots of the current roster. How was it built? Who were players “related” to?

Finally finding some inspiration to get off my winter ass and do something semi-productive, I rebuilt the Royals family tree.

The table is fairly straightforward. It lists the players – pitchers first, then hitters – and how they were acquired. (Draft with round, trade, free agent, amateur free agent, etc.) It also includes the year they landed with the team. The next column is the “Root” which is the initial player they were exchanged for. Click to enlarge:

Royals Family Tree 0113

Some fun facts (your mileage may vary):

— The Royal with the deepest roots is Wade Davis. He can be traced all the way back to Billy Brewer, making him a sixth generation Royal. That’s something else. Brewer was drafted by the Montreal Expos in 1990 and the Royals nabbed him in the Rule 5 draft ahead of the 1993 season. He pitched for three seasons in Kansas City out of the bullpen, made 144 appearances and posted a 3.95 ERA with a 6.1 SO/9 and 4.1 BB/9. He was flipped to the Dodgers for Jose Offerman, who has the distinction of having the highest batting average (.306) and on-base percentage (.385) in Royals history.

After Offerman departed after the 1998 season, the Royals gained the Red Sox first round pick which they used to select Mike MacDougal. MacDougal was then shipped to the White Sox in one of Dayton Moore’s earliest trades in exchange for Dan Cortes. We know about MacDougal, but we never got to know the guys he was traded for when the Royals shipped him to the White Sox in one of Dayton Moore’s earliest trades.

Cortes was on the move a couple of years later as the “key” to the Yuniesky Betancourt deal. Ahead of the 2009 season, Baseball Prospectus had Cortes as the Royals third best prospect, behind two guys you may know: Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. Cortes had a few off-field issues and never fulfilled his prospect potential.

You probably know the rest of the story: Betancourt was packaged with Zack Greinke to the Brewers, bringing back Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and Jake Odorizzi. Odorizzi was later shipped to the Rays as part of the deal for James Shields and Wade Davis.

And there you go.  The seeds of Heroic Bullpen Arm, Wade Davis, were sewn in the Rule 5 draft in 1993 when the Royals plucked Billy Brewer from the Montreal Expos.

— The current 40-man roster is built like this:

Trade – 10
Draft – 15
Free Agent – 8
Amateur Free Agent – 6
Rule 5 – 1

That’s 21 players who would qualify as home-grown.

— The Billy Brewer to Wade Davis thread isn’t typical. I’ve been searching for some other long branches of the Royals family tree. While I haven’t found any as long, I did find a couple of interesting roots.

The Royals selected Danny Jackson in the 1st round of the 1982 draft. He was traded to Cincinnati for Kurt Stillwell in 1987. When Stillwell departed as a free agent, the Royals gained a supplemental pick in the 1992 draft which they used to pick Johnny Damon. The Royals sent Damon to Oakland in a three-team trade where they acquired Angel Berroa. The thread dies when the Royals dumped Berroa on the Dodgers for Juan Rivera.

And of course, there’s the famous Carlos Beltran root that fizzled out when the Royals parted with Chris Getz last spring.

— Turns out my old BP editor Woj, who runs the A’s Sweetspot blog at Beaneball, has been doing the same thing. But since his team has the original Mad GM, Billy Beane at the controls, there are a few more branches on the A’s family tree. Four players can trace their roots six generations. Three of them (R.J. Alvarez, Sam Fuld and Jesse Hahn) can claim Johnny Damon as some sort of demented great-great-grandfather.

Just something to compare.

— I have no idea when I last updated the Royals Family Tree. That version just has a 25-man roster. There were just three players on that list who are still around, so it’s be a little while. I’ll leave it for a few more days if you want to jump into the time machine. And ridicule me for calling Greg Holland “Derek.”

In the least-surprising news of this Royals winter, on Tuesday it was announced the Royals extended manager Ned Yost for another year. His contract now runs through the 2016 season.

There was a little grumbling about a one-year extension for Yost. After all, he led the Royals to the promised land, didn’t he? Doesn’t he deserve more? Not so fast, says the man himself.

“Dayton’s got this year and next year, and that’s all I wanted,” Yost told The Star in a telephone conversation. He added, “One extra year, I’m happy with that. And we’ll just play it out, and see what happens after that.”

Move along. Nothing to see here. Please, move along.

Seriously, there’s no controversy about this. Yost took the team this close to the summit. He has other interests – and more deer to kill. The man strikes me as someone who doesn’t really care too much about his own future because he has confidence he can do whatever the hell he wants. It’s no longer Nervous Ned. It’s Gunslinger Ned. He just doesn’t give a damn.

A rolling contract makes sense in his situation. He has the trust of ownership and upper management and presumably a job for as long as he would like. Clearly, his players like and respect him. Why not take it a year at a time and reevaluate on an annual basis?

I’m sure Yost will take just a game or two in the 2015 season to frustrate the fanbase all over again. That’s just his style. I’m interested to see if he applies the lessons he learned down the stretch last year and in the postseason. Winning is a beautiful thing, so he’s earned a certain level of goodwill for 2014. And when he orders a sac bunt, remember, Yost isn’t really all that different from every other major league manager.

Yost has been at the helm for the Royals for 775 games, the most in franchise history. He passed Dick Howser late last year, who managed Kansas City for 770 games before stepping down at the All-Star break in 1986. With 373 wins in his Royals tenure, Yost has the third most wins. The top five:

Whitey Herzog – 410
Dick Howser – 404
Ned Yost – 373
Tony Muser – 317
John Wathan – 287

It’s interesting that Yost will pass both Howser and Herzog by mid-season. Those two were gods of the Royal dugout. I’m pretty sure most Royals fans have never placed Yost in that class.

As you would expect from the manager near the top with the most wins in franchise history, Yost will also take over the top spot for losses early next year. The top five:

Tony Muser – 431
Ned Yost – 402
Dick Howser – 365
Whitey Herzog – 304
Tony Pena – 285

I bring up that list only to have the opportunity to throw Tony Muser’s name in a post. What a dreadful manager.

Yost’s .481 winning percentage as Royals manager ranks 10th in franchise history. He will have to win 25 more games than he loses over the next two seasons to even his win-loss account.

The off-season is always full of hope….and angst.  Let’s face it, Dayton Moore’s off-season has come down to having faith in comeback seasons from Kendrys Morales and Alex Rios, competence from Edinson Volquez and the idea that great defense and a dominating and deep bullpen can get the Royals back to the post-season.  It might work, maybe, but you know what would make it all a lot easier?  If the title of this column is a realistic conversation come August.

I bring this topic up because in a random (i.e. didn’t feel like working the other day) scan of Eric Hosmer’s Baseball Reference page an interesting comp comes up at the top of his Age 24 similarity score:  Keith Hernandez.

Comparisons and similarity scores and projections and whatever are what they are:  interesting, but certainly not concrete indicators of what a player will become.  Humans, it seems, are kind of hard to predict.

That said, let’s have a little fun.

Hosmer got his career started basically a year sooner than Hernandez, logging 128 games as a 21 year old rookie.  Hernandez had played 78 major league games over two seasons before logging 129 games in his age 22 season.   In each of their first nearly full major league season, both guys were pretty good:

AVG OBP SLG OPS+ wRC+
Hosmer 293 334 465 118 113
Hernandez 289 376 428 127 130

As we know, Hosmer followed up his 2011 rookie season with an abysmal 2012 (80 wRC+) and an encouraging 2013 (120 wRC+), but let’s take a little liberty and skip over that 2012 campaign and match our two subjects up age to age.  Why can we do that?  Because I said so.

As indicated in the preceding paragraph, Hosmer had a good age 23 season (2013) and so did Hernandez:

 

AVG OBP SLG OPS+ wRC+
Hosmer 302 353 448 118 120
Hernandez 291 379 459 125 124

Then both of them fell on some hard times during their age 24 season:

 

AVG OBP SLG OPS+ wRC+
Hosmer 270 318 398 98 99
Hernandez 255 351 389 108 107

If you’re into awards, both players won Gold Gloves that season.  If you like counting stats, Hosmer had 35 doubles and 9 home runs.  Hernandez had 31 and 11, plus 64 RBI:  6 more than Hosmer.

Without questions, Hernandez up to and through age 24 had enjoyed a better and more consistent career than Eric Hosmer has, but they are not dramatically far apart.   A system devised by far smarter folks than me has designated Hernandez as the most similar player to Hosmer at this data point in their careers.

So, and I bet you saw this coming, what happened to Keith Hernandez in his age 25 season?  MVP, baby.

Twenty-five year old Keith Hernandez hit .344 in 1979 with a .417 on-base percentage and slugged .513.  His OPS+ was 151, his wRC+ a robust 156.  He slashed 48 doubles and had 11 triples, 11 homers and 11 steals.  All told, Keith Hernandez was valued at 7.4 fWAR that season.  There was debate that year as to whether he was the true MVP, but that is one hell of a season.  Not only that, but Hernandez was a remarkably similar player for the next seven years.

Pretty sure we would all be pretty happy with Eric Hosmer becoming Keith Hernandez.  Quite frankly, that is exactly what the Royals will likely need to make it back to the post-season in 2015.

 

The Royals have released their team hall of fame ballot, on which fans have a small part of the vote. Like just about every baseball fan, I’ve become ambivalent about that other hall in Cooperstown, but the Royals Hall of Fame remains what a hall of fame should be: a fun honor and celebration of the best and most important people in a given history. The voters have done an excellent job in selecting the 17 players, two owners, two managers, one GM/president, one announcer, one scout, and one groundskeeper to receive a pre-game induction ceremony and plaque in the Hall of Fame building beyond Kauffman Stadium’s left field. Curt Nelson, the hall’s director, has done a fantastic job with the physical museum portion, the website (where you can find video of almost all the induction ceremonies), and making the voting process transparent and fan-inclusive.

As part of my rating system for my top 100 Royals list I’ve come up with a “hall rating” for each player. My rating system is patterned after Adam Darawoski’s work at his Hall of Stats, the basis of which is taking a player’s wins above replacement and wins above average and turning them into a single number called their hall rating. 100 or above means they’re in the Hall of Stats, under 100 means they’re out. (If you want all the messy details about the formula I use for the ratings, see here.) It’s an especially satisfying approach for the baseball hall, which I personally think should be about on-field greatness and little else. I’m undecided if the team hall selections should skew so heavily towards on-field production, and how much things like popularity or how much of the team’s “story” a person embodies should enter into induction. So far, the inductees have been the statistically elite in team history, with the exception of Cookie Rojas, whose stats are unimpressive but was (I gather) a big fan favorite. I can get too caught up in not being able to see past the statistics and sometimes miss a broader context of a player’s story, but the stats are what I can wrap my head around.

Here are the 10 players on this year’s ballot, from lowest to highest hall rating, and my thoughts on their hall worthiness. You can weigh in with a “yes” or “no” vote for each player’s RHOF-worthiness too.

Angel Berroa ∙ 9

Berroa’s story is unfortunately one of disappointment. He earned Rookie of the Year honors in that bizarro 2003 season and became the latest hope that the Royals had finally found a long-term solution at shortstop (a position that has haunted the Royals through most of their existence). But that modestly good season was the high water mark for Berroa’s career. He continued to play almost every day for KC for three more seasons, but something had robbed him of his potential.

Yes
0 Vote
No
89 Vote

 

Brian Bannister ∙ 22

Banny has the fan-favorite aspect down. Unfortunately a torn shoulder put an end to his career before he could get the longevity and production needed for hall consideration. (I wrote more in-depth about Bannister’s time with the Royals here.)

Yes
4 Vote
No
81 Vote

 

John Wathan ∙ 35

Wathan is one of those organizational soldiers who has put in so much time in so many different roles that I can understand a case for his induction. His 10 year playing career was spent only with the Royals, and was framed nicely by the team’s first playoff appearance in 1976 and the title in 1985. (Until 2014, there had never been a Royals playoff team without Wathan on it.) After his playing days, he managed the team to a 287-270 record between ’87-’91, and has continued to work for the team in various capacities off and on ever since. But for someone as production minded as me, it’s tough to vote for someone who was mostly used as a back-up/utility player. He averaged just 86 games played a year. He’s the kind of guy it’s nice to have around all these years, but not quite hall-worthy.

Yes
28 Vote
No
55 Vote

 

Bo Jackson ∙ 36

Along with Darrell Porter, Bo is one of the two on the current ballot that are tough decisions for me. If you subscribe to the idea that the hall members should be the ones who tell the team’s story, Bo is a lock. He was a myth come to life and invigorated baseball in Kansas City for a short time. His career is right in my sentimental wheelhouse too, having played in KC when I was ages seven through 11. I was fully swept up in Bo hype and he’s a big part of why I love baseball. So I’d be happy to see him inducted.

But it’s hard to get past the fact that he didn’t contribute that much to actually winning baseball games. He was the biggest tools freak of all time, making him possibly the most entertaining athlete to watch ever, but what we got to see in Kansas City was the slow process of Bo’s baseball skills growing into those crazy tools. It’s true that even his outs were exciting to witness, but it’s also true that he made outs way too often in the beginning. But he was just too talented, and he steadily improved every season until his production actually caught up with the tools and the hype in 1990 when he had his one truly excellent season. He would have had a glorious peak for many years after that if not for football. Being a two-sport all-star was of course a big part of Bo’s appeal, but it’s also a big negative when it comes to his place in Royals history. The violence of football crosses a line from acceptable brutality into an activity that robs people of their basic health and often even their mental well-being, and by playing football, Bo risked and ultimately lost the years that could have been the grand payoff of his baseball learning pains. He’s one of the best stories in team history. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to become one of the best players.

Yes
73 Vote
No
24 Vote

 

Al Cowens ∙ 56

Did you know Cowens finished second for the 1977 AL MVP? Wow. He had a fantastic year, the only season his hitting was way above average. His other five years in Royal blue were merely good, which all adds up to a nice, underrated career for AC. Sort of like David DeJesus after him, Cowens was subtly good, with no stand-out skill to make him as appreciated as he could have been. A fine career deserving more recognition than it gets, but not a team Hall of Fame career.

Yes
9 Vote
No
73 Vote

 

Gil Meche ∙ 58

Meche is almost unique in Royals history as a big professional free agent signing that actually worked out. (Steve Farr and David Cone went on to more success as free agent signings, but Farr wasn’t a big signing at the time considering he was 27, had just half a season in the big leagues, and the Indians had just released him outright. Cone’s signing was definitely a big one, but it also pre-dated the era when the Royals generally couldn’t or wouldn’t spend with the richest teams in free agency.) The Royals blew the market out of the water giving Meche a rich five-year deal heading into the 2007 season, and it paid off handsomely for the first two years as Meche piled up quality innings. The team may have let him pile up too many innings though, as his health, innings, and effectiveness diminished greatly in ’09 and ’10. Meche shocked the house by retiring before the ’11 season, leaving his Royals legacy built mostly on those two excellent first years. Not enough for the hall.

Yes
4 Vote
No
81 Vote

 

Al Fitzmorris ∙ 81

Fitzmorris was a huge get for the Royals in the ’68 expansion draft, and he pitched admirably for them all the way until KC lost him, ironically enough, in the ’76 expansion draft. Some of his raw numbers rank surprisingly high in team history, such as his 3.46 ERA (fifth in team history for pitchers with 500 IP) and .593 winning percentage (first in team history). Drilling down a little deeper though, Fitzmorris falls down the lists a bit. His adjusted ERA+ is 106, which is good, but right around other good but not great guys like Doug Bird, Jeremy Guthrie, and Jeff Suppan. Fitzmorris had no strikeout power to speak of, but learned to limit walks and home runs as his career progressed. His spot in team history is probably a little under-appreciated, but I regard him in a group of the best pitchers who aren’t quite hall worthy along with guys like Tom Gordon, Danny Jackson, and David Cone.

Yes
15 Vote
No
66 Vote

 

Kevin Seitzer ∙ 89

Seitz is similar to Fitzmorris in that group of the very best Royals careers that fall just shy of hall-worthiness. My silly hall rating is anything but definitive, but Seitzer has the highest hall rating of any player under 100. He put together four strong offensive seasons between 1987-90, accomplished by hitting lots of singles and doubles and actually taking something called “walks,” a foreign concept for most Royals throughout team history. His .380 OBP is best among the 39 humanoids who have 2,000+ plate appearances for KC. That alone is enough to make him a strong candidate for the hall, and I’d be happy to see him elected. But he really only had two truly excellent seasons, and overall probably ranks around the 15th most productive hitter in team history on a counting basis. Very good, but not quite enough in my book.

Yes
51 Vote
No
35 Vote

 

Darrell Porter ∙ 106

I go back and forth on Porter. He’s hard to judge because his time with KC was so short (four seasons) but so good. He possessed a wicked bat that would have played at any position, but Porter didn’t play just any position. He’s the only catcher the team has ever had to be a well above average hitter. Stats like WAR peg him as hall-worthy, but unfortunately it’s tough to place too much trust in WAR for catchers. Getting the positional adjustment and especially defensive contributions of a receiver factored into WAR is a tricky thing. I think Porter is a guy I really would have had to have watched for myself to judge properly. I gather his defensive reputation was fair, known for having a terrific arm but average “receiving” skills. I don’t know. I’d yield my vote to people who both saw his career with the Royals and give credence to advanced hitting stats. This is a weird way to look at it and probably shouldn’t enter into it, but I think if Porter were still alive I would really hope to see him honored. As it is, I’m on the fence.

Yes
45 Vote
No
35 Vote

 

Mike Sweeney ∙ 108

Sweeney is a pretty clear choice for the hall. There was plenty of disappointment revolving around his struggles to stay healthy and lack of team success, but overall, he gave the team everything he could for more than a decade. That included a long stretch as one of the AL’s elite hitters from 1999-2005 and an even longer stretch as the face and leader of the team.

Yes
93 Vote
No
4 Vote
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