Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Episode #052 – In which I take a look back at the Cleveland Indians series, discuss lineups, the inability of the pen to get out lefties and preview the series with the Minnesota Twins. Aaron Stilley drops by to talk about Jeff Francoeur’s approach and Alcides Escobar’s bat.


Follow Nick on Twitter @brokenbatsingle or on Facebook

Follow Aaron on Twitter @kc_baseball and check out his articles on Francoeur and Escobar

Music used in this podcast

Phish – Wilson

Arcade Fire – Wake Up

RJD2 – Smoke & Mirrors

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I struggled with a topic today:  one of those ‘many ideas, none of them very good’ sort of things.   The thought of tempering the despair that is swirling around a .500 team that has dropped eight of its last ten games came to mind, but I pretty much did that earlier this week.   The idea to take a jab at the mainstream media for its inability to distinguish between random comments and actual bloggers was appealing as was a jab at some of our own who have quickly determined that, once again, there is likely no hope.   Of course, maybe they are just being contrarian or (gasp!) maybe they are just plain smarter than I and actually right.    That couldn’t be, could it?  Even if they are smarter, I bet the paneling in my mom’s basement is nicer than theirs!

None of the above topics get us anywhere.   The discussion around Alcides Escobar’s bat and glove has gone to such levels that I simply cannot offer one more sentence (other than this one) on that subject.  Ned Yost did insert both Mike Aviles and Wilson Betemit into the lineup last night, as I had hoped, benching Chris Getz and Kila Ka’aihue.   The Royals need offense, right now, and those two guys have a chance to bring them some.

Aviles, who became the fans’ whipping boy for having a bad six game stretch to open the season, gets to prove himself all over again (for the third time) and Betemit has hit so well since Kansas City called him up last summer that he has earned the right to prove whether he can keep doing it.  How long Yost stays with those two guys remains to be seen.   The public comments seem to indicate that last night’s lineup change was not a one and done sort of deal.

I would not have moved Alex Gordon out of left to play first base, opting instead to play Butler at first and DH Melky Cabrera.   Billy is not a good first baseman, he’s not even an average first baseman, but he has played there much more than Gordon and really, really wants to play in the field more.   To date, Gordon has played an excellent left field – albeit making some diving plays because of poor reads, but making them nonetheless – and it seems as if the Royals took a good fielder and put him at an unfamiliar position to keep, at best, a similar fielder in Melky Cabrera in his spot.

All that said, for a few games, I am not going to sweat the move.   Long term, Kansas City needs to stick Gordon in left and leave him be.   Short term, if they want to play Jarrod Dyson (who swung at eight of the first ten pitches he saw last night, by the way) and let Kila Ka’aihue sit, no big harm there, either.    Any reader to this site knows I was a huge proponent for Kila to get a legitimate shot in the majors, but even I could use a four or five game break from watching the big guy take pitches down the middle of the plate and flail at those diving away from him outside the zone.

When can discuss lineups all you want, but the truth is that Ned Yost does not have a lot of options.   Alcides Escobar will play shortstop every day this season and likely every day next season, no matter what he hits.   Neither Matt Treanor nor Brayan Pena has hit much at catcher and my call to upgrade the offense was based on getting Mike Aviles, currently hitting .234, into the lineup.   You do the math.

As discussed earlier this week, getting a couple of wins in Cleveland would have gone a long way towards launching the Royals on a positive start to what is going to be a rugged month of games.   That has not happened, obviously, and right now 2011 is beginning to feel a lot like 2010.   If juggling the lineup, even in a somewhat odd fashion, stops the bleeding however temporarily, then it’s worth a shot.

There is a pretty good chance the shake up will have little effect.   The possibility that Jarrod Dyson makes us all think that Alcides Escobar and Matt Treanor are not so bad at the plate is very real.   An infield that includes Betemit, Aviles and Gordon might be a defensive house of horrors and, frankly, unless the starting pitching reverts to early season form none of it will matter.

I give credit to Yost for trying something different.

After the Indian home run barrage on Tuesday, Royal pitcher now have served up 29 home runs… Most in the American League. Bruce Chen and last night’s starter, Luke Hochevar are responsible for more than half that total.

It took a few weeks, but as the team drifts closer to the .500 mark, it seems safe to say that this pitching staff is what we thought it would be as far as performance. However, while the bullpen has been a strength, it seems as though it is teetering as well.

It’s time to examine Ned Yost’s pattern of bullpen usage.

— Through the first 23 games of the season, Tim Collins has appeared in 13 games. That’s simply a workload that is unsustainable. At his current usage level, the diminutive left-hander will appear in 92 games. 92! That would have tied for the major league lead last season.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of Collins, but there’s absolutely no reason to use (and abuse) a 21 year old rookie like that.

So I’m a little confused why he entered the game last night.

I understand that the Cleveland portion of the lineup featured two left-handed hitters in Hannahan and Brantly. But in a 7-3 game, would Yost play the match-ups? (Probably best not to answer that.)

Plus, Collins is far from being a lefty specialist. With his delivery and stuff, he’s been much more effective against right-handed bats than those who bat from the left.

— Then, there’s Joakim Soria. Has anyone seen the Royals closer? Of course, there haven’t been any save situations in the last week. So the last time Soria appeared was way back on April 19th when he needed 23 pitches to lock down the save. This is something that could actually work in the Royals favor, as Yost leaned extremely heavily on Soria over the season’s opening two weeks. In the Royals first nine games, Soria threw seven times.

I don’t know what Yost is saving him for at this point. He needs work. The way the starting pitching has been going, there aren’t going to be many save opportunities around the corner.

— Has Aaron Crow done something to fall out of favor? I ask because he’s thrown a grand total of 20 pitches since April 18. Kind of weird after Yost leaned on him so heavily at the start of the season.

— Perhaps he’s been replaced in the pecking order by Louis Coleman. He’s looked great since his recall from Omaha on April 21 – that home run from Tuesday aside. Yost has called on Coleman to throw in three of the five games he’s been with the team.

— Nate Adcock finally got into a game last week… A mere 16 days since his last appearance.

I understand that Adcock is the Rule 5 guy and as such, must remain on the 25 man roster for the entire season. What I don’t understand is why you would burn a roster spot on a guy you don’t trust. He’s made three appearances on the season. Why wouldn’t Yost use a guy like this in a game like Tuesday? The Royals are down 7-3 in the eighth inning on the road… Seems almost tailor made. A perfect opportunity for the rookie to get some work. At the very least, you save a truly valuable guy like Collins.

This is going to sound like second-guessing (never done that before…) but I wasn’t happy to see Collins enter the game last night. It just seems like he’s Yost’s go-to guy, no matter the situation. Every manager is going to have favorites, especially in the bullpen where players run excruciatingly hot and cold. A good manager will resist the temptation of bias and will effectively balance a bullpen. Looking at the long view and all that.

It’s only April, but it really looks like Yost is failing this portion of his job description.

For a variety of reasons, we don’t typically do series previews here at Royals Authority. One reason is that there haven’t been a whole lot of important series in the past few years that are worth previewing. The upcoming series with the Cleveland Indians could be quite the turning point in the season, so I think it’s valuable to take a peek at what’s to come.

The series with the Indians is a battle for first place in the American League Central. The last time the two teams met, the series ended in a 2-2 tie. This one is a three gamer, so there will inevitably be a winner and a loser. Both teams are also currently on  three game losing streaks so, something has to give.

Who’s hot?

The Indians’ Travis Hafner is hitting .348/.395/.580 on the season so far. He’s gone hitless in only 3 of the 19 games he’s played in this season.

The Royals’ Alex Gordon is currently in the midst of a career long 18 game hitting streak. His off-the-cuff remarks in the off-season about “dominating” seem to be coming true for the moment.


Game 1

Time: 6:05

TV: Fox Sports Kansas City

Probable Pitchers:

Luke Hochevar

2011 27 KCR AL 2 2 .500 5.12 5 5 31.2 27 21 18 6 7 0 20 79 1.074 7.7 1.7 2.0 5.7 2.86
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 4/26/2011.

Justin Masterson

2011 26 CLE AL 4 0 1.000 1.71 4 4 26.1 21 5 5 0 9 0 15 218 1.139 7.2 0.0 3.1 5.1 1.67
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 4/26/2011.

Game 2

Time: 6:05

TV: Fox Sports Kansas City

Probable Pitchers

Jeff Francis

2011 30 KCR AL 0 2 .000 4.06 5 5 31.0 36 15 14 4 4 0 16 99 1.290 10.5 1.2 1.2 4.6 4.00
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 4/26/2011.

Josh Tomlin

2011 26 CLE AL 3 0 1.000 2.33 4 4 27.0 17 7 7 3 7 0 15 160 0.889 5.7 1.0 2.3 5.0 2.14
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 4/26/2011.


Game 3

Time: 6:05

TV: Fox Sports Kansas City

Probable Pitchers

Kyle Davies

2011 27 KCR AL 1 2 .333 6.23 5 5 26.0 34 19 18 1 9 0 19 65 1.654 11.8 0.3 3.1 6.6 2.11
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 4/26/2011.

Fausto Carmona

2011 27 CLE AL 1 3 .250 5.76 5 5 29.2 29 20 19 4 11 1 21 65 1.348 8.8 1.2 3.3 6.4 1.91

Provided by View Original Table
Generated 4/26/2011.

What are your thoughts on the upcoming series?

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

I have to imagine every Royals’ fan that read the above title instantly thought ‘Alcides Escobar’ and probably a vast majority then had the name ‘Chris Getz’ pop into their head shortly thereafter.  No trickery here, that is exactly who we are going to talk about this morning.

Let me preface the discussion by admitting I have not done an in-depth analysis of this topic.    Two reasons:  a) time and b) I wanted to not prove a point, but continue a long running Twitter discussion and get the readers’ semi-unjaded thoughts on the issue.  Yes, you’re right, item b is a writer’s way of justifying limited research.

Anyway, I have yet to find anyone who has not been wowed by the defense of Alcides Escobar at short.   To date, he has simply been outstanding:  making great plays often and making the routine plays look, well, routine.   For Kansas City, where every infield pop up since the turn of the century has been an adventure, routine looking routine is refreshing.

Now, it remains to be seen if Escobar can maintain this level of play throughout a full season and also if the defensive metrics come around to supporting what our eyes (and maybe our hearts) are telling us, but for the purposes of today, let’s assume that Escobar is somewhere between a very good defender and an elite defender.

According to Fangraphs, the best fielding shortstops of 2010 were (using RAR):

  • Alexei Ramirez – 10.8
  • Cliff Pennington – 9.9
  • Stephen Drew – 8.7
  • Troy Tulowitzki – 7.1

Given that Alcides Escobar was widely considered to be inconsistent at best in the field in 2010 and still posted a +3.5, I think it is safe to assume that his defense (to date) would have to be considered up among the league leaders.   Now, Tulowitzki and Drew can, you know, hit the ball and hence their overall Wins Above Replacement is aided greatly by their offense.

Pennington (-0.5) and Ramirez (-2.2), however, were not deemed to have contributed much offensively using this system.  However, both posted wOBA numbers that I think all of us would gladly accept out of Escobar.   Pennington checked in with wOBA of .315 (.250/.319./.368 standard line), and Ramirez had an wOBA of .322 (.282/.313/.431).   I can affirm completely that if Alcides Escobar matches either one of those lines, he will definitely be hitting enough to justify keeping his defense in the lineup.

However, we are trying to determine the minimum scenario under which Escobar can be an overall positive and in that scenario it is worth looking at the bottom portion of shortstops using their 2010 wOBA:

  • Cesar Izturis – .248
  • Alcides Escobar – .270
  • Erick Aybar – .288
  • Orlando Cabrera – .292

One could make the case that if Escobar hits as he did last year (when his overall WAR was +0.6) and fields at a higher level, he might be doing enough as is.   Remember, Alcides hit a very putrid .235/.288/.326 in 2010, which is sadly well above his current 2011 line.    

The Royals, however, are surely looking for more than a 1 WAR shortstop to come out of the Greinke trade, or at least they should be.   Is something more than 2 WAR acceptable?   For now, in my mind, the answer is yes.   In working our way up the wOBA list to find the lowest ranked shortstop to post a plus two WAR, we conveniently find another Escobar.

Yunel Escobar posted a wOBA of .301 in 2010, hitting .256/.337/.318 and fielding at 4.3 Runs Above Replacement.   I will move out of my mom’s basement if the Royals’ Escobar gets anywhere close to a .337 on-base percentage this year, but if he can field at a better clip than Yunel and hit a little less maybe Alcides could still be a major positive overall.  Erick Aybar’s line of .253/.306/.330 for a wOBA of .288 would do it.

So, in a very unsophisticated look at the subject, it appears that Alcides Escobar could duplicate his 2010 hitting and be basically replacement level (i.e. not helping, but not killing his team, either).   Above that line, Escobar begins to add some juice to the Royals’ overall WAR equation.   An Aybar like line would turn Alcides into the first truly impactful positive overall Royals shortstop since Mike Aviles had his glorious rookie run in 2008.

Now, using the above imperfect logic, what would second baseman Chris Getz need to do to also be something more than ‘just above replacement level’?   Easy answer: more.   Second base is an important defensive position, but not as important as shortstop.   Additionally, while Getz would appear to be a good defender at second, I am not ready to label him as more than simply ‘good’.

Rightly or wrongly, instead of looking at the top defenders as we did with shortstop, let’s take a look at the next tier down of second baseman in 2010:

  • David Eckstein – 6.2
  • Freddy Sanchez – 5.9
  • Aaron Hill – 3.7
  • Clint Barmes – 3.6

Both Eckstein and Sanchez posted an overall fWARs over two.   Sanchez, while not a great hitter, would seem to be a different kind of hitter than Getz, but Eckstein, with a line of .267/.321/.326 with a wOBA of .296 seems very ‘Getz-like’.  

Of course, David Eckstein was an excellent defensive shortstop who moved over to second and I have to believe, despite his age, that he played better defense at second base than Getz will.   Admittedly, I think Mike Aviles should be playing second base right now for the Royals and hence may have a jaded view of Getz’s defense – while better than Aviles, I do not think it is THAT much better.

You can debate the above statement, but I have to think that anything less than something resembling Eckstein’s 2010 offensive output would put Getz underwater when it comes to his overall WAR and hence, overall contribution to the team.  Probably something on the order of a Chone Figginsish .259/.340/.306 (wOBA .302) would do the trick – assuming plus five defense or thereabouts.

Okay, now what do you think?  How much offense do you need to keep Alcides Escobar on the field?   How about Chris Getz?

While is is cliche to say an off-day came at a good time, this Monday break in the schedule came at  a good time for the Royals.    Fresh off a sweep at the hands of the Rangers, who were playing without Josh Hamilton and Neftali Feliz, and losers of six of their last eight games, this young Kansas City team needs to check itself before it wrecks itself.

More than anything, I am hoping this off-day allows the team to truly take a breath and realize it still has a chance to be much better than virtually all of us thought they could be.    Certainly, the Royals are not going to win ten of every fifteen games as they did to start the season, but they should not perceive themselves as a team that is going to lose six of eight, either.

In those six losses, only one was a true beat down (the 11-6 loss to open the Texas series).    In every other game, even yesterday, Kansas City was a key hit or a key hold away from tying or winning.   That is not the sign of a team with no hope.   It is, however, a sign of a team with five rookies in the bullpen and whose best player this year was widely regarded as bust last year.    There is not a whole lot that the organization can do about those facts, other than keep playing and get enough good fortune for the team to continue to believe.

I know, belief is one of those touchy feelly things that we tend to discount, but there is some merit to the simple fact that a player thinks something is going to happen to help his team win as opposed to thinking something is going to happen to make his team lose.    We have been on the losing side of that equation with a number of Royals teams this century.   Thus far, and it is early, the 2011 Royals seem to be avoiding the ‘loser mentality’.   Doing so, warranted or not, going forward will certainly not hinder this organization’s drive back to respectability.

You wonder if Ned Yost is going to spend a considerable amount of his off-day time thinking about his lineup after seeing Mike Aviles go three for five yesterday with two home runs and a steal.    Aviles, who is ninth on the team in plate appearances has gone 10 for 27 after starting the year 3 for 28 and currently has a slugging percentage greater than everyone on the team not named Francouer.

The snag is that the two guys in direct competition with Aviles for playing team, Wilson Betemit and Chris Getz, each had two hits yesterday.   Getz, who was in a 3 for 31 stretch prior to yesterday, would seem to be playing his way out of the lineup….if we applied the same principals to his performance as the Royals applied to that of Aviles to start the year.

Quite obviously, you cannot take Wilson Betemit (.364/.424/.509) out of the lineup anytime soon and the organization is going to give Kila Ka’aihue more at-bats whether you like it or not, so the equation comes down to this:

  • Aviles – .236/.271/.527 with 4 steals and 9 extra base hits
  • Getz – .240/.330/.280 with 5 steals and 2 extra base hits

You make the call on this one, but I go with Aviles based on the above and the fact that he has two seasons worth of hitting decently well on his resume.

Speaking of Betemit (sort of), there has been discussion around whether he should be hitting fifth instead of Jeff Francouer.  My gut reaction when Yost moved Ka’aihue down in the order was that he should, but it is a very minor issue at this point given how Jeff Francouer is hitting.   Currently on a .325/.370/.566 run, I don’t think you do anything to mess with Frenchy right now.

Now, Francouer has had streaks similar to this before.   After being traded to the Mets in 2009, Jeff hit .311/.338/.498 over a 75 game run.   Those numbers are not at all dissimilar to those of his rookie season, albeit with a less power.   While this is likely just another hot streak in a notorious hackers career, I will point out that with 7 walks in 21 games, Francouer is on pace to walk over 50 times this year:  well above his career high.   Right now, Jeff’s early numbers in a very small sample size bear a distinct resemblance to his 2007 season.   I would take that year’s result of .293/.338/.444 with 40 doubles and 19 home runs, wouldn’t you?

The off-day has also allowed or caused Ned Yost to skip Sean O’Sullivan in the starting rotation this time around.  Normally, that would all make perfect sense to me, but O’Sullivan is coming off two good starts.   In addition, is it wise to go out of your way to get an extra start for Luke Hochevar, who has never pitched more than 143 major league innings in one season, and Jeff Francis, who admittedly wore down last year?

Finally, if you would rather think about baseball instead of work on this Monday, check the Royals’ schedule through the end of May and give us a guess on what their record will be over the next thirty-three games.   Also, if you happen to see any series in there that we might consider ‘a break’, please let me know.   From my perspective, this team is about to embark a pretty rugged stretch of games.

Episode #051 – In which Nick discusses the callup of Louis Coleman, reviews the Rangers series, previews the Indians series and takes a look at who’s doing well for the Storm Chasers in Omaha.


Follow Nick on Twitter @brokenbatsingle or on Facebook

Music in this podcast:

Son Volt – Flow

Charles Mingus – Fables Of Faubus

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


  • What great game last night that nobody got to see. I’m kind of shocked that a Thursday night game prior to a holiday was not televised. Fox Sports Kansas City is probably kicking themselves for that decision right about now. The ratings likely would have been fantastic. Below is the game graph from Fangraphs for a demonstration of how exciting the game really was.


  • If you add up all of the records of the teams in the Kansas City Royals organization from the MLB down to low A, their combined record is 42-32. That’s pretty darn good. If you’d like to get an almost daily email of the boxscores, and top performers each night from the organization, drop me an email and I’ll put you on the list.
  • If you missed Craig Brown on 810WHB this week, you can check out the podcast here.
  • The Royals are one game out of first place in the American League Central and they have a half game lead in the American League Wild Card. The latter is more impressive, if you ask me. They are trailing the Texas Rangers, who host the Royals for a three game set starting tonight.
  • Am I the only one who feels like the team is walking a tightrope concerning the starting pitching? I feel like at any moment the whole thing is going to come crumbling down to earth on the back of the starters. Luckily, I think there’s plenty of help if needed. It’s one thing that I felt was a real strength even before the season started.
  • One of my favorite things in all of baseball is watching guys make their Major League debut. Last night it was Louis Coleman. I didn’t get to see it live, but I did watch some of the highlights. He looked pretty good and I hope the former LSU Tiger can stick.
  • I’m not above shameless self-promotion, so if you’re interested, I posted an article at the Lawrence Journal-World yesterday on Kila and the difference between organization and team needs.
  • What else is on your mind out there in Royals land? Predictions for the Rangers series? How long this can last? Let it all out in the comments. You know you’re not working today anyway.

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

You can say one thing about Ned Yost:  he likes to get the new guys into action in a hurry.    Reliever Louis Coleman, called up to Kansas City yesterday morning found himself  pitching in a 2-1 game that the Royals really, really needed to win not more than eight hours later.

After Sean O’Sullivan allowed a single to lead off the seventh (by the way, Sean Freaking O’Sullivan! And I mean that in a good way), Yost called for Coleman, who threw three fastballs to Adam Everett before striking him out with a slider.    Next up was the red hot Grady Sizemore, who took a cut at the first pitch and flied out.    Asdrubal Cabrera saw two fastballs and then fouled out to Alex Gordon on a cutter.    That is a pretty nice major league debut.

To be fair, Coleman’s eight inning was not as spectacular and he left with a clean slate thanks to game hero Melky Cabrera and catcher Matt Treanor teaming up to cut down yet another run at home plate.   Still, good fortune looks exactly the same as dominance the next morning in the box score and I saw plenty in the twenty-four pitches Coleman threw last night to think this is another rookie who could stake a long-term claim to a setup role.

Speaking of dominance, Coleman’s fellow 2009 draftee Aaron Crow continues to roll along.   He allowed a double to Grady Sizemore in the 9th, but nothing else as he remains perfect on this young season.  Again, we will have to revisit the ‘Crow as a starter argument’, but what he has brought to the table in a late innings role makes one wonder what the value is of a lock-down set-up reliever versus an average starting pitcher.    

I am not sure the Royals have any intention of ever moving Crow out of the bullpen, but I am certain they will keep him right where he is until this team falls out of contention.    I agree with that plan of action.

Whomever pitches out of the bullpen this weekend in Texas will get a severe test against the Rangers’ powerful lineup.   Rightly or wrongly, I am excited to see it instead of dreading what might happen.

Arguably the most exciting part of the current Royals’ roster is the bullpen.   Aaron Crow, Jeremy Jeffress and Tim Collins represent the tip of The Process iceberg.   One doesn’t have to squint very hard to see those three plus Joakim Soria locking down wins for a contending Kansas City team:  maybe not in 2011, but not too far into the future.

Some of the luster surrounding the rookie hurlers has worn off after a string of rough outings over the past week, but we all know that relievers – rookie relievers especially – are never perfect.  The question that crossed my mind after seeing Tim Collins implode the other night was how often should we expect a good reliever to, well, not be good?

Searching back over the past five seasons, I sorted pitchers by number of American League games in which they appeared in relief.  Starting with those with 200 or more appearances in that time frame, I removed the closers.  I do so because we hold closers to a different standard of perfection and they are used in what has by and large become a very controlled and similar situation in most of their appearances.   After that, I sorted their overall performance by xFIP, as ERA for relievers is a pretty poor way to judge them.

The above process left seven non-closers with 200 or more appearances over the past five years and an xFIP under 3.90.   Why 3.90?   Well, Shawn Camp – THAT Shawn Camp – was the next pitcher to come up if I went any farther down the list.   The appearance of that name followed in short order by Kyle Farnsworth screamed out ‘stop here!’.

From this point, very simply, I counted the number of appearances by each of the seven relievers in which they allowed a run.   The results were as follows:

  • Matt Thornton – 78  out of 342 appearances (23%)
  • Scott Downs – 56 of  323 (17%)
  • Rafael Perez – 65 of 266 (24%)
  • Grant Balfour – 56 of 213 (26%)
  • Darren Oliver – 78 of 294 (27%)
  • Joaquin Benoit – 58 of 241 (24%)
  • Jason Frasor – 70 of 290 (24%)

I don’t intend to get into a debate over whether we expect more out of Collins, Crow and Jeffress than the guys on the above list.   Suffice it to say that these seven pitchers have been effective enough middle relievers and set-up men to pitch in a large number of games over a five year period.

During that time, these seven gave up a run somewhere between once every four or five outings.  For the sake of boiling this into real life and not statistical decimal point dreamland, I think we could roughly say that a good non-closing reliever allows a run in two of every nine appearances.    The Royals’ Tim Collins, by the way,  has appeared in 10 games this season and allowed runs to score in two of them.

Without question, this is a pretty crude way to study the subject.   There is a big difference between being asked to get one or two batters out and being asked to pitch three innings and the data above makes no adjustment for an appearance where Matt Thornton was asked to retire one hitter with a runner and did so versus an appearance when he pitched two and two-thirds innings and allowed a solo run with his team up four.    

Defining who is a truly effective reliever is a much deeper study and the point of this quick analysis was simply to find out – in casual fan terms – how often one can expect even your best relievers to get dinged for a run.   The expectation among all of us when a reliever enters the game is for that pitcher to be lights out.  It is not realistic to expect that every time and we all know it, but we still expect it and agonize when it does not happen.   When the Royals are up 3-2 with a runner on first and one out in the seventh inning, we really don’t care what Aaron Crow’s WHIP is when the inning is over, we only care that no runs scored.

Of course, there is the second part of the scenario:  it’s not just runs charged to a reliever, but inherited runners he allows to score.   That data, noticeable to all, is not included in the above study (I’m not sure study is the right word for the small amount of research, but here at Royals Authority HQ we like to think so).

Going back to our list, we find the following numbers on inherited runners and inherited runners that ended up scoring on our seven pitchers:

  • Thornton – 93 of 296 (31%)
  • Downs – 54 of 163 (33%)
  • Perez – 43 of 174 (25%)
  • Balfour – 42 of 154 (27%)
  • Oliver – 57 of 171 (33%)
  • Benoit – 24 of 105 (23%)
  • Frasor – 48 of 156 (31%)

Using this group of relievers, it seems that allowing somewhere between one of every three and one of every four inherited runners to score is the norm.   While the sample size is so small as to be irrelevant, Tim Collins has allowed three of six inherited runners to score – two of those coming in last night’s seventh inning.     Jeremy Jeffress has inherited two runners and neither have crossed the plate while Aaron Crow has inherited SEVEN runners and has yet to allow one to score.

There is much to like about the Royals’ young bullpen this season.   Ignoring the Crow should be a starter argument for now, I truly can see this group being a ferocious bridge between what we hope will be a powerful young rotation and a back-to-normal Joakim Soria for years to come.  As good as they might be or become, however, the above shows that perfection simply does not happen.

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