Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Ouch!

12 comments

Looks like I was correct on the trade value of David DeJesus.  He’s not going anywhere after running into the center field wall chasing after Derek Jeter’s deep fly ball.  He led with his right (glove) wrist and it bent back as it met the wall.

You could tell immediately that he injured himself on the play.  Post-game, it was revealed that while X-rays were negative, he suffered a “severe thumb sprain.”  Bob Dutton tweeted late Thursday that DeJesus was off to see a hand specialist in Cleveland and “might be out awhile.”

Perfect.

UPDATE: DeJesus to the 15 day DL and Alex Gordon called up from Omaha.  OK… We have arrived at the most recent test for Royals management.  Gordon must – MUST – play everyday for the rest of the season.

So now we get an outfield of Scotty Pods, Rick Ankiel and Mitch Maier?

Even though Alberto Callaspo was moved earlier in the evening, I still thought dealing DeJesus was a long shot.   I figured the Royals would overvalue him, ask for too much and ultimately fail to make a trade.

What really hurts is with DeJesus out of the lineup, (and Callaspo to a lesser extent) we’re edging closer to the suckfest of 2008 without gaining any upside.  Hopefully, DeJesus’ injury isn’t serious (although that sounds unlikely) and he’ll return quickly.   Of course, there’s the requisite snark that the Royals waited too long to make the trade. Really?  First, who’s to say the Royals were offered what would be considered “fair” value for DeJesus?  Second, who the hell knew he was going to run into a wall a week before the deadline?  Things like this happen (yes, more to the Royals it seems than anyone else) so you just move on.  It makes this winter interesting as the Royals hold the option for DeJesus for 2011 at $6 million.  He was on the road to becoming a Type A player, so if the Royals had declined the option, it’s possible they could have collected draft picks.  He was a borderline “A,” so it will be interesting to see how he’s rated if he misses an extended period of time.

Maybe the Royals will use this opportunity to recall Alex Gordon.  Or Kila Ka’ahuie.  Or both.  This is the perfect time: Bring up Gordon when DeJesus hits the DL and play him in the outfield.  While you’re busy making moves, dump Guillen and bring up Kila.  (Although if that happens, it will be in August when the Royals place Guillen on waivers.  If some team claims him, he’s gone.  If no one is dumb enough to do that, hopefully they cut him once he clears.) That’s about the only thing that can improve the current situation.

Only the Royals.

Meanwhile, some of you are wondering why the Royals recalled Ankiel and not Gordon when it came time to make a move to replace Callaspo on the roster.  It’s simple: Ankiel was on a minor league rehab assignment so the Royals had to recall him.  Rehab assignments are based on time and time was running out.  He can’t stay in the minors because he’s out of options.

Of course, the Royals could just cut him and eat his $2.75 salary. Like that would happen.

Nope… He’s back and he’s going to play.

Episode #026 – Nick discusses the Callaspo trade, why on earth Rick Ankiel is back on the team, would it matter if Yost is gone after the season and what keeps you interested in Royals games?

:http://www.livekc.com/podcasts/bbs026.mp3|titles=BBS

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Well, let’s be nice to the blogger… I was off on my trade odds.  By just a bit.

So the Alberto Callaspo to the Angels rumor was pretty darn accurate as the Royals ship their starting third baseman to LA for Sean O’Sullivan and Will Smith. (No, I’m not going to make a joke about his name.)

I had a couple of reactions to the news the Royals were losing Bert:

– Dayton Moore really should have shopped him last winter when his trade value was highest.  Today, it’s probably as low as it’s been in his tenure with the Royals.

– This trade is basically a deal where the Royals are sending a player who will earn a raise by being eligible for arbitration next winter, for a pair of cost-controlled arms.  Callaspo isn’t part of the future here.  Not by a long shot.  Short-term, this doesn’t help the team, but who cares if this is the difference between fourth or fifth.

– Kind of makes one wonder if the Royals should have gone to all that trouble moving Alex Gordon to the outfield.  Again, short-term this hurts.  Long-term, who cares… Mike Moustakas is going to be playing this position within a year and a half.  Maybe sooner.

– I really like the Callaspo deal when Dayton made the trade a couple of years ago.  Love the contact.  He was really good last year, but this year his walks are down and his strikeouts are static.  He lost a little power – which was expected – and overall, he’s much less valuable as an offensive player this year.  If the Royals were trying to win games (because they were in contention) they would have been better served by playing Gordon at third and putting Callaspo on the bench.

–  O’Sullivan was once Baseball America’s number five prospect, so there’s that.  Clark doesn’t really like him (and proposed Trevor Bell) and I’ll defer to his opinion of lacking potential.  Plus, his Triple-A numbers: 3.3 BB/9, 6.1 SO/9 and a 4.76 ERA seem to back that up.  Fifth starter who will wear out I-29 until he’s out of options.

– Smith is the definition of “fringe” and has appeared at just about every level of the minors for the Angels this year.  He was pitching for the Double-A team and the Royals will assign him to High-A Wilmington.

Thoughts?

Most years, about this time, I write a column where I wake up one July morning and find myself General Manager of the Kansas City Royals.  To be totally candid, I wake up most mornings thinking I am in that position, but that’s a whole separate physiatric session.    The basic premise of this scenario is that one wakes up on July 22nd to find themselves as the GM, inheriting the situation ‘as-is’ with all the perceived constraints of ownership, money and at least some basis of reality. 

This exercise lost any semblance of fun last summer with the  Yuniesky Betancourt deal and hence I did not bother.  The July, however,  before I donned the GM hat and traded Ron Mahay for Chris Carter (then with the  Red Sox), Kyle Davies for Nelson Cruz (at the time toiling in AAA) and Blake Johnson (plus someone else) for Joaquin Arias.   All in all, that would not have been a horrible summer simply based upon acquiring Cruz.    Let’s see how I do this July.

The first day of my reign at the top begins with the inheritance of a team that has won two of its last three games, but lost seven of its last nine.   The Royals are closer to last than to first and have done so with a roster that really is not that young.   My predecessor has left a farm system that is much stronger than what he inherited.   Frankly, dare we say it, ‘the process’ was starting to work – just not in 2010 and probably not for a fair portion of 2011.  

As a general manager, I find myself faced with two options (three, actually, if you are willing to stay drunk and high for three months and believe the Royals can contend this season).   So, two options:

  1. Stay the course and wait for Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers to become everyday regulars, while Mike Montgomery, Chris Dwyer, John Lamb, Danny Duffy and Aaron Crow move into my starting rotation.
  2. Try to accelerate ‘the process’ and, at the same time, buy a little insurance in case some of the highly touted prospects do not develop into major leaguers.

Pretty obviously, the answer is yes to both options:  stay the course, but push it along at a quicker pace if you can do so without jeopardizing the future.  Easier said that done, even for a blogger.

Prior to departing, Dayton Moore may have been presented with a couple of trade offers.   The first would have sent Alberto Callaspo to the Angels for Sean O’Sullivan and a ‘fringe’ prospect.   The second was David DeJesus to the Braves for Kris Medlen and a AAA reliever.   Neither offer quite rings my bell.

O’Sullivan was the Angels’ number five rated prospect by Baseball America prior to the 2009 season, but lacks a true out pitch and has struggled against better hitting.    While he did have a nice start upon his recent recall (6IP, 2ER) and I am faced with the looming spectre of Bryan Bullington starting on Sunday, the 23 year old O’Sullivan just doesn’t seem to offer enough potential for my tastes.    However, the Angels are truly interested in Callaspo and while he is a good hitter having a somewhat down year, I just don’t see Alberto as a building block for a contending team.

I counter the Angels’ offer by asking for pitcher Trevor Bell, their 10th rated prospect prior to this season who has been obliterated in brief appearances in the majors, and a ‘fringe prospect’.   Bell comes with a good fastball and good control and, if not an upgrade over Bannister and Davies, he is at least younger than both (23) and is almost certainly a better option than Bryan Bullington or Anthony Lerew.  

The discussion turns to the ‘fringe prospect’ and begins to bog down.   Every name I produce is not ‘fringy’ enough to the Angels and the line ‘well, if you want him, then you have to take O’Sullivan instead of Bell’ comes up often.   In the end, I remind myself that I am trading a third baseman with a .308 on-base percentage and a slugging percentage barely over .400.

The deal is made:  Callaspo to the Angels for Bell and a player to be named later.   When the dust settles, the PTBNL ends up being catcher Brian Walker.    Bell, for now, takes his place as the Royals number five starter, while Wilson Betemit and Mike Aviles take up the bulk of the innings at third base.   This gives us a chance to see some more Chris Getz at second without taking Aviles’ bat out of the lineup.   Can Getz play or not, who knows?   This gives us a chance to find out.

Now, while I like Kris Medlen, I like David DeJesus a lot better.  Truthfully, any hopes/prayers of being competitive in 2011 probably include having DeJesus in the Royals’ outfield.    His option is affordable for next year and the compensation picks, while nice, would still be a player or players that are at least two years away from contributing in the majors.   Plus, DeJesus is still likely to be an effective everyday player for the next three or four years and seems like a guy that the Royals could resign after the 2011 season.   Heck, I might even entertain extension talks after the season to lock him down through the 2013 campaign.

Given that, we will continue to market DeJesus just in case someone gets really desperate and really silly, but the organizational thought will be to keep David, exercise the option and know that we have at least one major league outfielder set for 2011.

Although there has been interest in Joakim Soria, moving a closer of his effectiveness with what may be the best contract in baseball right now does not excite me at all.   Frankly, any hope of catching lightning in a bottle and contending in 2011 instead of 2012 includes having Joakim in the Royals’ pen.   Again, we’ll be happy to listen, but if the Yankees or whoever really want Soria, they will have to overpay by a factor of two to even make me answer the phone.

Of course, the real problem I have inherited is that Jose Guillen is blocking Kila Kaa’ihue, Scott Podsednik is blocking Alex Gordon and Rick Ankiel is healthy.   It would actually be so much easier if Guillen was limping along with a sub-.300 on-base percentage and not much power or Podsednik was hitting .270 instead of .300.   One could simply release the older players and ‘find out’ about younger players yet this year.    As it stands right now, however, both Podsednik (especially) and Guillen (to some extent) have some value to the Royals and have played just well enough to make even me think they ought to have some trade value as well.

I don’t dislike Podsednik: he is what he is on the field and is a good veteran guy in the clubhouse.   I’ll let his name float around as July 31st approaches.   In the case of Guillen, he would almost certainly pass through waivers and be tradeable in August, but the urgency is in getting Kila Kaa’ihue to the majors so I can find out if he can hit.     Yet, I have an owner who is not going to just release a player with 15 home runs and $5 million still coming.

I look once more to the evil empire because they have a gigantic hole at designated hitter, even with Jorge Posada spending most of the time there recently, – big enough to make Guillen’s .278/.339/.461 look appealing – and a clubhouse that could certainly contain any of Jose’s ‘quirks’.    What’s Jose going to do when he is not in the lineup for three days?   Spout off to Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera?

After cornering David Glass in an elevator, I wear him down with the logic of giving up some money to move Guillen and open a spot for Kaa’ihue.   It helps that it was 105 degrees in the elevator and Glass  had to go the bathroom.   He agrees to pay $4 million of Jose’s remaining salary.

The deal is Jose Guillen to the Yankees for minor league outfielder Ray Kruml, a 24 year old still toiling in A ball.  Kila Kaa’ihue is promoted immediately and bats fifth on Sunday afternoon in Yankee Stadium.   Sure, he goes zero for four and Trevor Bell gives up five runs in four innings that day, but I still feel better.

The Royals return home on July 26th and I continue to work the phones.   The Reds are looking for bullpen help to ease the workload on their relievers.  Obviously, Kyle Farnsworth is the name I shop to them.  He has been much better this season and the last time he pitched in the National League (Braves-2005), Kyle fashioned a 1.98 earned run average in 27 innings of work.   Despite having signed Russ Springer and the ghost of Jason Isringhausen, the Reds are still interested.

Who I want in return is currently injured outfielder Chris Dickerson.  Now twenty-eight years old and nursing a bad wrist, some of the luster has worn off Dickerson, but not enough to net him straight up for Farnsworth.   The Reds, however, are in a pennant race and, for all his faults, Willie Bloomquist is a guy that would certainly have a spot on a National League team.   Bloomquist’s skill set also gloves nicely with the Reds’ other utility player, Miguel Cairo.

The deal gets done:  Farnsworth and Bloomquist to the Reds for Chris Dickerson.   While Dickerson’s injury pretty much means he will be in rehab mode for a while, he adds another player to the outfield mix for 2011.   Maybe it all comes together for Chris, maybe not, but the Royals have given up two free agents to be and the Reds have gotten a couple of veteran guys to help them in their pursuit of St. Louis without really damaging their future.

Veteran minor-leaguer Ed Lucas gets the call to replace Bloomquist and Blaine Hardy gets a shot to replace Farnsworth in the bullpen.   At the same time, Victor Marte is sent down in favor of Louis Coleman.   Getting a good look at Hardy and Coleman this year will go a long way in determining how much of the Royals’ precious resources will have to be devoted to the bullpen in the off-season.  The hope, obviously, would be ‘none’.

Now, the trade deadline is right in front of us and Boston, while still after every outfielder available has not been able to make a deal.   Sure, they would ‘love to take DeJesus’ off our hands, but the return is not enough.  My asking price starts with Casey Kelley and that generally grinds the conversation to a stop right there.  

The Red Sox have been decimated by injuries and currently bat Darnell McDonald in the lead-off spot and are playing Bill Hall (.735 OPS) at second base.   While McDonald has been decent and Daniel Nava a revelation, is Theo Epstein really ready to make a run at the playoffs with them?   You see, I’ve got a guy with a World Series ring who happens to play leftfield and bat lead-off that just might be of interest to him.

By now, we are deep into the morning of July 31st and the Red Sox have pretty much stood pat as they tried to make ‘the big deal’.  It has become obvious that the asking prices for top shelf outfielders are exorbitant and so we begin to discuss Podsednik.  The match-ups don’t seem to be working out until we begin to include middle infielders in the discussion. 

I snicker when I offer Yuniesky Betancourt and Epstein flat out laughs and calls me an unprintable name.  However, the real name in the discussion is Mike Aviles.   I love Aviles, love his story and think he is likely to gravitate towards a performance line somewhere in between his fabulous rookie season and what he is doing for the Royals right now.   He can fill in at second until Dustin Pedroia is healthy and help out at shortstop where the Sox have turned to rookie Jed Lowrie.

What’s Podsednik AND Aviles worth to you, I ask?   Not Jose Iglesias is the first answer.

However, how about pitcher Kyle Weiland?  Now, that’s a start.

The name of AA outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin comes up at my prompting.   He is a cut below the prime outfield prospects in the Sox system (Westmoreland, Kalish and Fuentes), but is 21 year old in AA who has as many walks as strikeouts.  

There is some hemming and hawing on the other end as the clock ticks closer to the deadline.  Finally, the deal is done:  Podsednik and Aviles for Che-Hsuan Lin and Weiland.   With that, the trade deadline comes to a close.

When the dust has settled, the Royals have an August 1st roster of:

C – Kendall, Pena

1b – Butler, Kaaihue

2b – Getz

ss – Betancourt

3b – Betemit (as we await the September call-up of Mike Moustakas)

Util – Ed Lucas

OF – DeJesus, Maier, Ankiel (sorry), Gordon (to replace Podsednik) and hopefully Dickerson in short order.

SP – Greinke, Chen, Bannister, Davies, Bell (with Hochevar & Meche hopefully soon to follow)

RP – Soria, Tejeda, Wood, Hardy, Coleman, Hughes, Texeira

The minor leagues have been strengthened with the addition of Weiland and Lin, plus some organizational depth in Kruml and Walker.

Perhaps most importantly, it gives us two full months to gauge whether Kaa’ihue, Gordon, Hardy, Coleman and even Dickerson can be projected as regulars on a major league roster building to contend.   Simply knowing those answers will allow me, as general manager, to have a pretty accurate guide as to what needs to be fixed in the off-season.  

Now, it’s your turn, tell me if this makes sense or not?   Are the Royals in better shape after these moves or just ‘more of the same’?

So, we’re about 10 days from the trade deadline, so why not handicap the Royals and the chances they’ll be moved in the next week and a half.

Kyle Farnsworth – 35%

Kerosene Kyle has been effective out of the pen this year and teams are always looking for relief.  He could get dealt for a grade C prospect.

Jose Guillen – 5%

It’s not that Dayton Moore won’t trade him.  It’s that he can’t trade him.

Alberto Callaspo – 20%

Reports on Tuesday had the Angels offering Sean O’Sullivan and a fringe prospect.  Once upon a time, O’Sullivan was the Angels fifth rated prospect, but has struggled since moving past Single-A.  I don’t blame Dayton – if the reports are true and he turned this offer down.  However, if that’s the best bounty Callaspo will bring, he’s not going anywhere.  Although the Angels seem like a fit.

Willie Bloomquist – 15%

He would return a PTBNL.  At most.

Zack Greinke, Brian Bannister, Kyle Davies – 0%

The rotation is thin with Gil Meche and Luke Hochevar on the DL.  There’s absolutely zero chance Dayton guts his rotation.

Joakim Soria – 5%

He’s signed at to a club-friendly deal and is a closer.  Both points matter a great deal to management.  Those Soria to New York rumors (and for Jesus Montero!) were so laughable, I’m not even sure they need to be addressed.

Bottom line: This is baseball’s silly season.  I get the feeling there are a few national writers who scour losing teams for quality players on low dollar contracts.  In other words, bargains.  And those writers immediately throw those names into the trade cauldron.  We get it… The Royals are the chum and the Yankees are the sharks.  It’s lazy and unprofessional and total B.S.  It’s like closing your eyes and throwing a dart and guessing where it will land.  So the Yankees covet Soria.  Really?  If I had to guess, I’d say there are 28 other teams who covet the guy.

Soria isn’t going anywhere. Yet.

David DeJesus – 20%

This is the one guy who the Royals are willing to part with (although no one on this team should be “untouchable”) and he’s the one who would net the greatest return, so his odds are the highest outside of Farnsworth.

I could see him headed to Tampa or the Giants.  And yes, I could see him in Boston.  The Royals will have to lower their asking price though.  No, he’s not a fourth outfielder, but he’s much more valuable to the Royals than he would be to say the Rays.  That’s not a knock on DeJesus, it’s just a fact.  And because that’s the case, teams aren’t going to want to give up a ton.  Although if Jeff Passan’s report that the Royals are seeking a major league ready prospect and a mid level prospect is accurate, that seems fair to me.

It will take a savvy GM to get a team to pony up what the Royals are looking for.  I don’t think we have that GM.

The Field – 15%

Overall, I think the odds that GMDM and the Royals make a trade is around 15%.  I just don’t see much happening at the deadline.

I hope I’m wrong.

—————————————————————————————————————

Really not much to analyze in a 13-1 beatdown.

— It was one of those nights when Anthony Lerew looked like a Triple-A pitcher and the Blue Jays looked like the team leading the AL in home runs and second in slugging.  The Jays were ripping Lerew all over the park.  It was the Laser Show prelude to the Lightening Show.

It was only a matter of time before someone lined one up the middle and off the pitcher.  Honestly, Lerew was throwing BP out there – he probably should have had the screen in front of him.  At the time, I thought that was the last thing the Jays wanted to do… Why knock out the pitcher who has nothing?  Turns out it didn’t hurt as Kanekoa Texeira wasn’t any better, allowing both inherited runners to score before allowing two more to plate in the third inning.

Early word on Lerew was a bruised rib cage and bicep.  I bet.  He’s feeling the pain right about now.

— Speaking of BP, that was exactly what Blake Wood was throwing.  That 95 mph on a string… No way a slugging team like the Jays doesn’t just crush the ball against a pitcher like Wood.  And crush him they did.  Bautista smoked a double off the Royals reliever and Lind hit a liner that bounced off the top of the wall for a home run.  In both instances, the hitters were sitting fastball.  In both instances, Wood obliged.

— If you were a major league player and your best chance at getting on base was to make like a fastpitch softball player and execute a swinging bunt, would you be embarrassed?  Just asking…

—  There was a Brayan Pena sighting as he entered the game in the eighth as a pinch runner for Jose Guillen with the Royals down by 10 at that point.  Love the strategic maneuvering.  Gotta keep Guillen fresh.  And it was muddy out there, too.  Gotta keep him safe.

—  If you love spectacular defensive plays, this was your game.  The Jays had Web Gems all around the infield on Tuesday.  And Alberto Callaspo turned in a couple of nifty plays to his left as well.

— The Blue Jays had 16 hits, while the Royals had 11.  Yet the Jays scored 13 runs, while the Royals could only muster a run.

Perhaps the difference was that the Jays had 10 extra base hits to the Royals one.

That seems to be the story of the Royals offense in a nutshell.

When I hear someone say Kevin Seitzer has done a great job with this team, I just shake my head.  Not that he’s done anything wrong or horrible… But he hasn’t done anything to really make a bit of difference with this offense.

The point of the offense is to score runs.  The end.  I could care less that the Royals are leading the league in batting average.  They’re second to last in walks and their 4.37 runs per game are 10th.  They rank seventh in OBP (at .335, which is actually a surprise given the lack of walks… And a good thing) and 11th in slugging at .402.

It’s not like Seitzer can teach guys power, so I’m not going to dock him points for the Royals team slugging percentage.  But when you depend on guys to string together three singles to score one run, it’s going to be difficult to get the runs across the plate.

I don’t normally post on back to back days, so I figured I would try something different today.  We don’t usually do a game or series preview here at Royals Authority, although I try to do a series preview on the podcast if you listen to that (and you should, its awesome, take my word for it).  But I figured I would try to do a game preview with hopefully some enlightening information.  If it works, and you enjoy it maybe it is something I will expand.

Tuesday, July 20th – Toronto Blue Jays @ Kansas City Royals

Game Time: 7:10

TV: Fox Sports Kansas City
Radio: 610 AM or any other Royals Radio Affiliate

Stadium Giveaway: Hot Dog Derby T-Shirt

Game Time Weather: 90° with 30% chance of precipitation and isolated thunderstorms

Pitching Matchup

Anthony Lerew – Lerew is a right hander drafted by the Atlanta Braves out of high school in the 11th round of the 2001 draft.  In his 5 starts this year for the Royals he has a 7.56 ERA, however he has an xFIP of only 4.99, so hopefully his real ERA can drop closer to his xFIP tonight. Lerew throws a fastball (90mph) a slider (71mph) and a changeup (81mph).  He has a low BB/9 of only 2.5 and a decently high SO/9 rate of 5.8, which is probably why his xFIP is so low.  However, he really needs to keep the ball in the park in order to be successful.

Jesse Litsch – Litsch is a right hander currently sporting a 6.54 ERA in his 6 starts this season.  He was drafted out of South Florida Community College in the 24th round of the 2004 draft.  His first couple of seasons in 2007 and 2008, he pitched pretty well for the Blue Jays putting up a 3.81 and 3.58 ERA respectively.  However after the 2008 season he got Tommy John surgery and hasn’t gotten back to his old form.  His forte is having good command and not issuing many free passes.  His 2.8 BB/9 ratio would be better than every royals starter other than Greinke and Lerew.  As is typical with a good command, low walk guy, he also doesn’t strike many guys out.  His SO/9 rate of 3.4 is worse than every Royals pitcher except Blake Wood.  His primary pitch has usually been his cut fastball, however according to Fangraphs he has only been throwing it around 20% of the time ratcher than the 40% he was throwing it before his surgery.  He throws a two seam with good movement and four seam fastball.  His fastball sits around 89mph and his changeup is around 81.  He also throws a slider and curveball.

The Teams

Team Wins Losses GB/GA wOBA Starters ERA Relief ERA
Royals 40 52 -11 .325 5.11 4.10
Blue Jays 47 46 -12 .329 4.34 3.93

Batters

The Blue Jays have been led at the plate by outfielder Jose Bautista who currently sports a line of  .236/.356/.537 with a league leading 25 home runs.  Vernon Wells has also been a solid starter for them after having a pretty rough 2009 season.  His line is .267/.317/.519 and he is currently 4th in the league in doubles.  Just last week the Blue Jays swung a trade for shortstop Yunel Escobar from the Atlanta Braves.  Since joining the Blue Jays he has gone 8 for 17 with two home runs including one last night against the Royals.

Miscellaneous

The Royals have played the Blue Jays 342 times and have an all-time record of 169-173 in those games.  They are 91-78 at home vs the Blue Jays

The Royals are 2-2 this season vs the Blue Jays.

Three former Royals are on the Blue Jays: Shawn Camp, Jose Bautista and John Buck.

Mitch Maier is the proud father of a baby girl.  Avalynne Maier was born last night.

Lineups

Royals:

Podsednik – LF
Kendall – C
Dejesus – CF
Butler – 1B
Guillen – DH
Callaspo – 3B
Maier – RF
Aviles – 2B
Betancourt – SS

Team Wins Losses GB/GA wOBA Starters ERA Relief ERA
Royals 40 52 12 0.325 5.11 4.1
Blue Jays 29 63 11 0.329 4.34 3.93

Coming out of the All-Star Game, Royals manager Ned Yost set his rotation to go Greinke -> Chen -> Bannister -> Davies -> Lerew.  Had he said nothing about it, I think there would be little to question about his decision.  If given the chance to set the rotation, I would probably have come up with the exact same one.  Even if you want to argue another way to set up the pitchers, I doubt you would do so vociferously.  The only absolute is that Greinke should be the #1 starter.  Other than that: meh, no big deal.  What did catch my eye was Ned Yost’s reasoning behind having Bannister in the 3rd spot.  From Ned Yost, via The Kansas City Star:

“The spot that has the most day games is the three spot,” Yost said. “Four of the nine starts are day games, and Banny excels in day games, so why not (put him there)?”

Why not, indeed?  It isn’t as if Bannister really belongs as the #1 starter and even if the 3rd spot didn’t get the most day games, he probably belongs there anyway.  So I can’t really argue with his decision, however I think his reasoning is a little suspect.

On the surface, Ned Yost is correct.  Brian Bannister has been better in day starts than in night starts.  Prior to his start yesterday, he had a 2.37 ERA in day starts and a 7.45 ERA in night starts, which is a pretty extreme split for a pitcher to have.  He had pitched 38 innings in the day and 64 at night, smallish sample sizes to be sure.  So lets take a deeper look:

Bannister’s ERA by year and Career in Day and Night

year Day ERA Night ERA
2006 4.50 4.00
2007 3.20 4.08
2008 5.38 6.06
2009 2.98 5.69
2010 2.37 7.45
Career 3.87 5.49

Over Bannister’s career, the difference between the daytime and nighttime version is roughly the difference between 2008 Gil Meche and 2009 Gil Meche, which is significant.  The interesting thing about the ERA stats is that other than his brief 2006 year, he has put up a better daytime ERA than nighttime ERA every single year.  In three of those years, he was a lot better in the day than the night.

So in general, what Yost said and the basis of his assumption is true.  Bannister has over the course of this season and his career pitched better in the day than in the night.  Again, since he was probably going to put Bannister as the third starter regardless, it doesn’t matter in the end but I think this is an excellent time to try and sort out why statistical analysis is important in baseball.

Yost made a rotation decision upon some statistical knowledge he had.  The facts he was using were correct, but was his use of them correct?  That, is the crux of the issue.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect Ned Yost to do deep statistical studies on issues.  I am sure he does not have the time to do that, which is why I can’t argue with his decision on the matter.  He saw a statistical anomaly, figured he would run some more tests of it by having Bannister throw more times in the day to see if it is true.  Nothing really lost by putting him at that slot in the rotation anyway.

But in the grand scheme of things, what Yost is attempting to do is make future predictions upon a statistical oddity.  In order to truly do that, we need to go much, much deeper than ERA and then there is absolutely no guarantee that we would actually find out if he is truly better in the day anyway.  Because in order to make the most accurate future predictions of players, we need to not only find statistical evidence, but we need to be able to determine a reason for the evidence.  To me, that above all else is the disconnect between the statistically inclined baseball fans and the anti-statistics crowd.  In most cases, we use statistics to locate something odd and then try and find out why it is happening.  The former is easy, the latter ranges from difficult to impossible.

The first part of that, is to look at even more statistics to help uncover more evidence regarding the particular oddity.  So let’s look at a few more stats for Brian Bannister.  Day and Night  Strikeouts per nine innings, strikeout to walk ratio and Batting Average on Balls In Play.

SO/9 SO/BB BB/9 Babip
Day 4.7 2 2.34 0.278
Night 5.4 1.67 3.24 0.294

So Bannister strikes out more guys at night, but he also walks more guys.  On top of that the batting average of balls put in play is higher too.  So we have a little more evidence that he does somethings well in the day, like limiting hits and walking fewer guys, but he strikes out fewer guys in the day time.  That is a very odd thing, because if there is one single thing a pitcher can do to lower his ERA, striking out more guys is that thing.  So now, we have some evidence that Bannister is better during the day, but it is getting a little shakier.  Lets move onto the next part, the proof.

So in order to reliably predict that Bannister is going to do better in the future when he pitches in the day, we need to connect the dots.  We need to come up with some reason that the day is different for Bannister than the night.  Here is where it gets tricky/impossible.  I don’t have access to Brian Bannister 24/7 let alone for 10 minutes, so I can’t confirm or deny that he does something different to prepare for day games that makes him particularly better suited to pitch those games.  It’s absolutely possible that he does, but he hasn’t indicated that he does and from most things I’ve heard him say he doesn’t do anything differently.  Since the main difference between the day and night in most games is that for one, the sun is out and the other it is dark (duh, I know), what could possibly change from one to the other that would give Bannister the ability  to walk fewer guys in the day than the night?  Honestly, I can’t come up with any and I don’t really think anyone else could either.

So in the end, we have some statistical evidence that leads us to think something works for Bannister in the day that doesn’t work for him in the night.  We have no real way of proving whether or not it is merely a statistical anomaly or if it is something which can predict future success for Bannister in his day starts.  It’s almost a dead end of sorts.  The only way we can find out much more is to keep running him out in the day and see if his stats don’t even out over time.  Because the biggest fly in the ointment for any statistical analysis is that randomness is by nature random.  It provides us with things which seem like they are correlated but have no actual correlation.  Sorting out randomness from actual reasons is what separates a true statistical breakdown with merely showing someone some numbers.  Its the fomer that can get hired into Major League Front Offices sometimes.

In the end, we may never know the truth about Bannister’s day/night splits.  However, personally it’s these kinds of things that add an extra dimension to watching a game and makes it more enjoyable.  For a major league team, I believe that proper statistical analysis can be the difference between being a .500 team and a playoff contender.  I don’t know much about the Royals statisticians on staff, other than Dayton Moore says he has some.  If they are any good, they would probably realize rather quickly that attempting to determine whether they should give Bannister more daytime starts is kind of a waste of time.  There is no great statistical reason in my mind to choose one or the other, so just go with your gut, see if we can’t ride the wave of good daytime starts for Bannister and hope for the best.  Which is exactly what Ned Yost did.

Yesterday was a hot and sunny daytime start.  No better time to break out the Day-Banns and pile up some more statistical evidence one way or the other.  Bannister went out and threw 6.1 IP, 5ER, 2k, 6BB and 2 HR.  It’s only one game, so we can’t just claim that he isn’t a better daytime pitcher yet.  However, he does have a 5.29 career ERA against the Athletics.  Here’s hoping he gets more starts against the Detroit Tigers in the 2nd half because he has a 2.16 ERA against that team.

Episode #025 – Nick discusses Soria at the All Star game, Moustakas to AAA, John Lamb is on fire, Bannisters day/night splits and he questions why the Royals are going to be dressing their fans in opposing teams gear.    All that, plus why replay should not be expanded.

:http://www.livekc.com/podcasts/bbs025.mp3|titles=BBS

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The Royals pitching hasn’t been good this year.  Fact.  Oh, there have been some quality performances here and there.  And the bullpen is certainly improved following their disaster known as April.  Still, you can’t ignore the numbers.

The Royals are allowing 4.97 runs per game.  Only Cleveland (5 R/G) and Baltimore (5.3 R/G) are worse.

Their collective WHIP is 1.43.  Only Cleveland (1.51 WHIP) and Baltimore (1.51) are worse.

The Royals collective SO/BB ratio is 1.84.  Only Baltimore (1.7 SO/BB) and Cleveland (1.43 SO/BB) is worse.

Royal pitchers have surrendered 100 home runs.  Only Baltimore (101 HR allowed) is worse.

The Royals ERA+ is 89.  Only Cleveland (86 ERA+) and Baltimore (86 ERA+) are worse.

Get the idea?

This is supposed to be the year of the pitcher, but the Royals didn’t get the memo.

(Do you want me to blame Jason Kendall for this?  Because I can.)

(That was a joke.)

Actually, I’m surprised the numbers are so negative.  I know the starters haven’t been that great and the bullpen didn’t start the season well, but I thought the pitching had been a little better.  The numbers say otherwise.

Let’s start with the rotation to see how things grade out in the first half of 2010…

Zack Greinke
1.7 BB/9, 7.6 SO/9, 1.0 HR/9
113 ERA+

No one expected to repeat his stellar 2009 season… That would just be too much to ask.  However, we sure expected him to at least come close.

My main concern with Greinke has been his decline in strikeouts.  Last year at the break, he owned a rate of 9.1 SO/9.  Losing a strikeout and a half from one season to the next is kind of a big deal.  It hurts a little less because Greinke’s rate was so high to start, but this isn’t really something that should go unnoticed.

Why the change?  For starters, hitters began laying off his slider, which was his huge strikeout pitch.   At this time last year, Greinke was getting a swing and a miss 25% of the time when batters offered at his slider.  This year?  He’s getting a swing and a miss just 16% of the time.  (Just 16%?  That’s still a sick number, but compared to last year, it’s not so impressive.)

I’m not bringing up Greinke’s declining strikeout rate to bag on the guy or anything… I’m merely pointing out the biggest difference between this year and last.  He’s still the ace and is still one of the top 10 pitchers in the AL.

Thankfully, Greinke’s xFIP has improved as the season has chugged along.

April: 4.30 xFIP
May: 4.39 xFIP
June: 2.88 xFIP
July: 2.18 xFIP

Of course, that July number is based on seven innings of work since he didn’t make his scheduled start on the Sunday prior to the break.  Still, that outing was vintage Greinke… Probably his best one of the year:

7 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 SO

I think Greinke is poised for a big second half.  Pay attention to those strikeouts, though.  They’ll let us know how he’s doing.

GRADE: B+
——————————————————————————————————-
Brian Bannister
3.0 BB/9, 5.3 SO/9, 1.6 HR/9
75 ERA+

I’m glad Bannister is a smart guy because his numbers this year are just a freaking mess.  His decent April (3.48 ERA) was built on the back of an unsustainable strand rate of almost 85% (meaning just 15% of all base runners scored while he was on the mount.  League average is around 25%.)  He posted big – for him – strikeout numbers in May and June, but hitters pounded him for a .325 batting average.

Through everything, he’s surrendered 18 home runs.  Ick.  Even worse, 11 of those allowed the opposition to either tie or take the lead.

GRADE: D+
——————————————————————————————————-
Kyle Davies
4.2 BB/9, 5.7 SO/9, 1.0 HR/9
75 ERA+

Davies can’t seem to pitch deep into games and he can’t seem to find any consistency.  The good kind of consistency, I mean.  He’s been pretty awful for most of this season.  Again, though, he’s sprinkled just enough decent starts – one hit in six innings against Seattle in April or one run in seven plus innings against the Angels in July – to make the Royals think he’s one bullpen session from putting it all together.

Uhhh… That’s never going to happen.
He and Bannister don’t belong in the rotation.

GRADE: D+
——————————————————————————————————-
Luke Hochevar
3.2 BB/9, 6.6 SO/9, 0.7 HR/9
85 ERA+

Hochevar is quietly having the best season of his career.  I say quietly, because I’m certain you were hoping for more than a 1.39 WHIP and a 4.23 xFIP from our former number one draft pick.  Still, it’s an improvement.

Last year, hitters put up a line of .364/.422/.649 against Hochevar with runners in scoring position.  This year, he’s allowing a line of .333/.425/.486 in the same situation.

As you can tell from the difference in the slugging percentage from one year to the next, he’s finally figured out how to keep the ball in the park.  It’s been kind of frustrating to watch a sinker ball pitcher get taken deep with alarming regularity.  And in previous seasons, a lot of those bombs came with runners on base.  Eleven of his 23 home runs last year came with runners on, to be precise.  This year, not only is he allowing fewer home runs – just six all year – only one of those have come with a runner on.

If he keeps this up, he could develop into a solid number three starter.  If I recall correctly, that seemed to be his upside when he was drafted.

GRADE: B-
——————————————————————————————————-
Gil Meche
6.3 BB/9, 5.5 SO/9, 1.3 HR/9
63 ERA+

Just an absolute disaster.  When Bruce Chen takes your place in the lineup and people are thankful… Well, you’ve pretty much stunk up the stadium.

I know, I know… It’s not really his fault.  He’s hurt and remains the $55 million victim of Trey Hillman’s Starting Rotation Massacre.  If only Hillman had the guts to tell Meche he was out of a game…

GRADE: F
——————————————————————————————————-
Bruce Chen
4.7 BB/9, 7.4 SO/9, 1.0 HR/9
110 ERA+

So the only Royal starters with an ERA+ of over 100 is Greinke and Chen?  Who would have guessed that at the start of the season.

Wanna know why he’s been successful (relatively speaking) this year?  Check out these two graphs from texasleaguers.com.  First, features his release point from the entire 2009 season.  The pitch classifications aren’t important.  Just the single big blob.

Here’s the chart illustrating his release point for 2010.  This year, he has two blobs.

For Chen, it’s all about the release point.  By alternating – and throwing all his pitches – from different angles, he’s been able to keep hitters off balance.  His strikeout rate is the highest it’s been since 2003 when he was primarily a reliever.

A couple of concerns though:  For some reason, in his last start, he was only throwing his slider from the lower arm angle.  That’s probably why he struggled and was pulled so early.  Also, he’s still a fly ball pitcher.  Over 50% of all batted balls are fly balls against Chen.  His home run rate is almost certainly going to go up in the second half.  And he’s walking too many batters.

Still, he’s been the surprise in the rotation.  I’m still shaking my head over this development.

Come on, Chen!!!

GRADE: B-
——————————————————————————————————-
Anthony Lerew
2.5 BB/9, 5.8 SO/9, 2.9 HR/9
56 ERA+

Yes, Lerew has thrown more gopher balls than walks.

His two good starts have been at home.  His three bad ones have been on the road.  I’m sure the guy who gets to use the lone computer at the K has this one sorted out.

GRADE: D

OK, now to the relief corps…

Blake Wood
3.6 BB/9, 2.9 SO/9, 0.7 HR/9
107 ERA+

Double check that strikeout rate again… Make sure I didn’t mess that one up.  Nope… He really has whiffed just eight batters in 25 innings.  For some reason Yost has been using him primarily as an eighth inning guy in close games.  He’s blown a couple of games and coughed up a few runs in a tie game a few weeks back, but otherwise he’s done what the manager has asked.

It’s one of the biggest mysteries of the year.  Once it’s solved, it’s not going to end well.

GRADE: C-
——————————————————————————————————-
Dusty Hughes
3.7 BB/9, 5.5 SO/9, 0.9 HR/9
106 ERA+

Lefty, but not just a LOOGY.  Hillman used him in tight games, but Yost doesn’t trust him.  Since Yost took over, Hughes has made 16 appearances and pitched just once with a lead – and that was with seven runs.  He has entered two tie games, though.

He gets a higher grade than Wood because he can actually strike a batter out.

GRADE: C
——————————————————————————————————-
Kyle Farnsworth
2.4 BB/9, 7.2 SO/9, 0.5 HR/9
175 ERA+

His strikeouts are down (he whiffed 10 batters per nine last year) but Kerosene Kyle is having his finest season since 2005.  Really.

I give him grief for not being able to pitch in pressure situations and the Royals have done a fair job of keeping him out of the fire.  According to Baseball Reference, he’s appeared in 14 low leverage situations, five medium leverage situation and 10 high leverage situations.  Here are the results:

High Leverage: .259/.286/.407
Med Leverage: .212/.297/.242
Low Leverage: .231/.302/.346

Keep bringing him into the game in the sixth or seventh inning.  I’m fine with that.

Currently, the most likely Royal to be dealt at the deadline.

GRADE: A-
——————————————————————————————————-
Robinson Tejeda
4.9 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9, 0.2 HR/9
126 ERA+

Tejeda will spend the entire season digging out of his miserable April where he held a 12.96 ERA through his first 10 appearances.  Since then, he’s been awesome… A 0.84 ERA, 30 strikeouts in 32 innings and he’s limiting hitters to a .171 batting average.  He’s faced 124 batters and allowed four extra base hits.

He’ll still walk a guy – or three – and that will always keep him from being the top of his class.

GRADE: B+
——————————————————————————————————-
Joakim Soria
2.3 BB/9, 11.1 SO/9, 1.0 HR/9
182 ERA+

Stud.

Should have appeared in the All-Star Game.

He’s also another reliever who’s improved since Yost took over as manager. (I know… there’s been a ton of talk about how the bullpen is improved because Yost keeps guys in their assigned roles.  And Soria was always the closer.  Still, the numbers are what they are.)  Soria has a 1.35 ERA since mid-May and hasn’t allowed a home run since May 11.

GRADE: A

There you go… Time to have your turn in the comments.

As Royals fans, we worry a lot and tend to lose perspective in odd ways.   That happens when a one-time model franchise turns into one of baseball’s sinkholes.     It makes us say things like:

  • Yunieksy Betancourt isn’t really that bad.   Well, yes he is.   His on-base percentage is below .300 and he is, at best, a flashy but inconsistent defender.   Really what Betancourt has done is be not quite as awful as last year, better than Tony Pena Jr. and a one-armed Mike Aviles.
  • Scott Podsednik has been outstanding this year and I’m not worried about the occasional out on the bases.   Pods has been caught stealing 11 times and picked off 3 other times.    You wonder why a team that leads the league in batting average is only in the middle of pack in runs scored?   There’s part of your answer right there.
  • How can a team struggling to score runs trade away Jose Guillen.   C’mon, just stop it.

The burdens of being bad and basically made fun of since 1994, also makes us worry about things like:

  • Mike Aviles hitting an ‘empty’ .305.   Considering Aviles had the best WAR by any player since Carlos Beltran in 2008, was injured in 2009 and rushed himself back in 2010, let’s relax on that until sometime in 2011.
  • Jason Kendall bats second.   Playing Kendall every game is ludicrous and as much as we (and I’m in that ‘we’) are annoyed by that, I cannot really come up with anything that would be much different.  
  • David DeJesus smiles too much and is ‘really just a 4th outfielder on a contending team’.   That’s just the beaten dog syndrome there:  we’re bad, all our players are bad, cats and dogs are sleeping together, the world is ending.

I am sure the above two lists could be added to extensively:   a fully expect one of the first five comments to this column to be ‘bloggers will be negative about everything blue or something of that nature’.   However, you really want to worry about something?   Let’s worry about Rick Ankiel.

By worry, I am referring to what the Royals might do when Ankiel is healthy enough to return from his rehab assignment.

On Monday, I wrote about the value of trading or simply shedding Jose Guillen so that the Royals can get a good look at Kila Kaa’ihue.   However, if Guillen was traded tomorrow, who do you think would take his spot on the roster?   Almost has to be Ankiel doesn’t it?

With a $3.5 million salary and a zesty batting line of .210/.275/.419, Ankiel is likely the most untradeable commodity on the roster.    Given the organization’s apparent master plan for 2010 of ‘playing aging veterans who will not figure into the club’s long-term plans at the expense of younger players’, you know they will not only activate Ankiel sooner rather than later, but also play him on regular basis.

I worry about this simply because I do not trust Dayton Moore and Ned Yost to make the right choices here.   Barring not one, but two trades, Ankiel is just another guy getting in the way and another reason that Kila Kaa’ihue will not get a real shot in the majors and keeps Mitch Maier (who has the exact same OPS) on the bench.   While I do not have the love affair with Maier that some do, I would rather see him play everyday than Ankiel.

 I will yield and give some credit to Podsednik and Kendall for providing some veteran leadership and serving some purpose as bridges to the future, but Ankiel and Guillen really do not.     

Rick Ankiel is coming back sometime this month and he is going to get in the way.  Is there anyone that doubts we will see a lineup at some point with Ankiel, Podsednik and Guillen in the outfield with Bloomquist at second and Betemit at third?   Now, THERE’S something to worry about.

 

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