Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Tuesday’s game was almost as epic as the Royals-Rangers tilt back on May 6.  You know… The game officially known as “The Last Time Joakim Soria Blew a Save.”

Yunigma Update

Yuniesky Betancourt walked twice last night.  That’s happened only eight times in his career.  (He’s never walked three times in a game.)  The last time he walked twice in a game?  Try May 6 against the Rangers.

Please remember, Yuni is not the team leader in home runs.  Jose Guillen is still two ahead of the Yunigma.  However, Yuni is tied with Billy Butler for the team lead in RBI… If you’re into that sort of thing.

Feast or Famine With Alex Gordon

Typical night for Gordon.  At least it felt that way.  A single and a double against Cliff Lee drove in a total of three runs.  That was good… Then he struck out three times, twice looking.  That was bad.

You know my stance on strikeouts – they’re just another out – but those looking, called third strikes are beginning to try my patience.  We’ve been over this before… Oftentimes, Gordon doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt.  Reputations are difficult to shake and he certainly has the reputation of a complainer… At least at the plate.  Of all of Gordon’s third strikes, 36% of happen when the bat doesn’t leave his shoulder.  That’s a high percentage.  Major league average this season is 25%.

Plus, who is he?  Nobody outside of Nebraska and Kansas City gives a damn about Alex Gordon.  Not now, anyway.  So when you’re up against a pitcher like Cliff Lee and you have two strikes on you, you damn well better expand that zone.

Of course, I’m probably picking the wrong time to go off on a “swing the bat, meat” tangent.  Both his called third strikes on Tuesday were against left handed pitching.  And he certainly showed what he could do against Lee, ripping a couple of hits.  Go back to his at bat against Lee in the fifth.  Two outs, two runners on and Lee tries to get him to chase a couple of cutters out of the zone and falls behind 2-0.   Lee is struggling to get out of the inning, so he’s not going to screw around.  Everyone knows this… And Gordon takes a strike down the heart of the plate.  My first reaction was, I couldn’t believe that Gordon didn’t take a rip at that pitch.  Typical Gordon… Missing his pitch in a hitter’s count.

These are situations he has to take advantage of if he’s going to be successful.  When pitchers jump ahead of Gordon with the first strike, he’s hitting .138/.198/.150.

Then I thought Lee wouldn’t want to fall behind 3-1, so I figured Gordon would get another pitch to handle.  He did – a fastball, belt high and on the outer half of the plate.  Gordon really turned on the pitch and ripped it for a two-run double.

So maybe he knows what he’s doing after all…

I’m still rooting for Gordon.  Probably more than anyone on this team.  (And probably because I HAVE to.  Gordon’s success means this franchise moves up the MLB food chain a notch or two.)  So it was a typically crazy night… A couple of hits and a handful of strikeouts.  Just another day in the development.

Yosting the Bullpen

Chew on this for a moment…

— Joakim Soria is having another dominating season.
— After a rough April (and a stint on the DL) Robinson Tejeda has been awesome.
— Kyle Farnsworth had an excellent season for the Royals.
— The Royals bullpen ERA is 4.64 – worst in the AL.

How is that remotely possible?

Step forward Jesse Chavez.  Take a bow Victor Marte.  Is that Brad Thompson in the corner?  Hey, there’s Josh Rupe.  Has anyone seen Luis Mendoza?

It’s really difficult to believe the Royals got solid seasons from three relievers, but the rest of the bullpen has been so putrid, it’s pulled the collective reliever ERA into the abyss.

I know the Royals won last night and I know at this point in the season we’re looking at the “young” guys, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating to hang seven runs on Cliff Lee and then see Chavez cough up a lead in 16 pitches.  Followed by a Blake Wood escape act in the eighth when he got Vladimir The Royal Killer to ground out with the bases loaded.

On Wilson Betemit

I know a couple of weeks ago, Fangraphs speculated that Betemit may price himself out of Kansas City on the back of a strong finish.  I suppose anything is possible, but seriously… The notion that Betemit will break the Royals bank (or stretch the budget) is laughable.

He joined this team on a minor league contract last November.  A minor league contract… It wasn’t even a split contract, promising a certain amount if he got called up.  According to Cot’s, the most he’s ever made in a season is $1.3 million back in 2009.  That contract was really just a carryover from the $1.165 million he made in his first year of arbitration eligibility.  At that point, he had been a semi-regular for three years.

The point is, his last two contracts (before signing with the Royals) were reasonable, given his playing time, production and economics of the time.

He will certainly stand to make more than his $1.3 million.  However, we’re talking about a guy who will have less than 350 plate appearances and wasn’t a regular until the team jettisoned Alberto Callaspo at the end of July.  I figure he’ll earn somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 million.  And that’s my guess at an absolute ceiling.  I know outsiders think of our team as cash poor, but that’s an acceptable contract.

Of course, there’s the other issue:  Mike Moustakas.  Hey, did you hear about his three home run, 11 RBI game?  Of course you did.  (Great game… Largely irrelevant in the big picture.  It’s simply the cherry on top of the sundae that is his outstanding season.)

Does signing Wilson Betemit for next season block the promotion of Moustakas?

I don’t think it does.

Moustakas needs to open the 2011 season in Triple-A.  For two reasons.  One, the Royals need to make sure he picks up where he finished.  This, in my mind, is a huge deal.  We know he’s been raking all season, but the Royals need to make sure he remains sharp during the off season.  (Rumors of him playing in the Dominican League are encouraging.)  I’m not going to draw parallels between Moose and Gordon on the “rush a prospect” front… Every player is different.  However, if the Royals are serious about this batch of prospects and aiming for 2014, they need to make absolutely certain Moustakas is ready.

Second, (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) is they need to take advantage of his service time.  If this kid is truly this good, I’ll gladly take a half year of his production in 2011 in exchange for at least six full seasons.  I’ve always kind of laughed at this kind of roster manipulation, but other teams are doing it.  The Royals need to join this parade.

And that means no September call-up.  I’m fine with that.  Have him finish the season with Omaha, take some time to recharge and then play some winter ball.  Sounds like a plan.

Back to Betemit… If the Royals follow this plan, they’ll need him to return.  That takes the pressure off of everyone involved.  Then, if Moose is abusing Triple-A pitching through the first three months of 2011, the Royals can flip Betemit and we can begin the new era.

It will be worth the wait.

Craig Brown got a nice shout-out in the Kansas City Star for coming up with the nickname Yunigma for Yuniesky Betancourt, but while the nickname works, he isn’t the biggest mystery on the team. That award belongs to Kyle Davies. Just when I am about to write him off, he comes out and does something like last night and throw an absolute gem against a very good offensive team like the Texas Rangers.*

*Speaking of performances last night.  Mike Moustakas went 4 for 6 with a double,3 homeruns and 11 RBI last night for the Omaha Royals.  All this came in AAA after he was named the Texas League Player of the year in AA.

I spent a few hours in a car with some fellow Royals fans this weekend and inevitably the topic turned to baseball, and specifically which players on the team were any good. One argument that got discussed was whether Kyle Davies should be a starter for the Royals next year.  Honestly, I have that debate with myself, so I can’t really argue strenuously that he should be part of the 2011 Royals rotation. However, I believe that he is better than he gets credit for.

The main argument I hear against Kyle Davies is that he has a high ERA, which is true. He currently has a 5.29 ERA which is certainly nothing to write home about. If that were all the information you had at hand, it would be pretty simple to just dismiss Kyle Davies, luckily that isn’t all we have. ERA can be a nice guide to tell you how well a pitcher has pitched, but it can easily be skewed.

One way to judge a metric is to take some extreme examples. Let’s say a pitcher had two 9 inning games and gave up 0 runs in game 1, but gave up 100 runs in game two. His ERA would then be 50. If another pitcher gave up 50 runs in game 1 and 50 runs in game 2, then he would also have an ERA of 50. If I had to pick one of those pitchers and live with his two games, I’d take the first pitcher every time. There is no way a team could win with a 50 run deficit, but give me 9 innings of 0 runs and my team would have a chance. Clearly its an extreme example, but it should illustrate the point. Since ERA is by definition a stat based around an average, a few outliers can really skew the results.

Looking back at Kyle Davies starts this season he has had a few big blowup starts, or as Rob Neyer would call them “disaster starts”.  I wondered what would happen if we started removing his disaster starts.  How much effect do a few starts have on the ERA of someone like Kyle Davies?

His worst start came on May 6th against the Texas Rangers, when he gave up 7 earned runs in 3 innings pitched. If we take that game out of his numbers, his ERA drops to 4.82. Removing just one extremely bad start and almost a half run drops off of his ERA. The Royals ended up losing that game 13-12, so even though Davies had a terrible start the team was still given an opportunity to win.

Davies’ second worst start game on August 24th against the Detroit Tigers.  He once again gave up 7 earned runs, but lasted 4.2 innings. If we were to drop that start and the previous one from his numbers, his ERA drops to 4.53.  The Royals ended up losing this game as well by a score of 9-1.  The Royals offense never came alive in this game, so unless Davies pitched a complete game shutout, they were still likely going to lose this game.

Getting rid of just one more start; June 15th against the Houston Astros which was 3 innings 6 earned runs, then his ERA would be 4.24.  The Royals actually ended up winning this game 15-7.  So, not only did Davies have a complete disaster start, it actually didn’t even hurt the team.  The offense showed up and carried the day.

I know that the numbers are what they are and you can’t just magically drop numbers, but I think this is pretty instructive. If Kyle Davies were a pitcher with a 4.23 ERA, he would be considered a very valuable asset, particularly at only 26 years old. So in an odd way, I think that we may be judging Kyle Davies on three particularly terrible starts. What is crazy about those three starts is that the Royals won one, lost by only 1 run in another and didn’t have a chance in a third.

ERA is a funny stat.  It’s actually one of the better “traditional” stats, so it doesn’t get torn down as hard and often as RBI or Wins.  That in turn, means more emphasis is probably put on it than it should.  With any average stat, particularly one where its possible for the player to have an outing of infinity, things can get skewed.  One bad inning or one bad game can really change peoples perception of a player.  One of the big knocks on Kyle Davies is he needs to be more consistent and I would agree with that.  However, I think we just might be judging Davies a tad too harshly based on three games out of the twenty six in which he has started.

Contact Nick Scott via email at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com, via Twitter @brokenbatsingle or via Facebook .  If you would like to receive his daily Royals system boxscores via email, just drop an email and request it.

High school football kicked into gear this past weekend.   With college and the NFL just around the corner, the amount of Royals’ talk in the Midwest will plummet to somewhere close to non-existent.    That is a simple fact of life for a franchise that has enjoyed exactly one winning season – let’s clarify, even threatened one winning season – since the strike of 1994.

That said, it was nice to see Bruce Chen pick up the win yesterday in Cleveland and even nicer to see Blake Wood strike out the side (sign of things to come or just ‘one of those days’?) .   In the grand scheme of things, however, I cannot honestly say that the Cleveland series captured much of my attention this weekend.   What interest it did generate all was in regard to next season.

I touched on next year’s roster last week in (and probably in 75% of my columns since the trade deadline) and at that time established the following ‘known facts’ about the 2011 Royals:

  • Zack Greinke will be in the starting rotation.
  • Joakim Soria will be the closer.
  • Robinson Tejeda will be in the bullpen.
  • Jason Kendall will catch.
  • Billy Butler will either be the first baseman or designated hitter.
  • Yuniesky Betancourt will be the shortstop.

That is six spots filled for next year’s 25 man roster.    I think the probability that the Royals pick up David DeJesus’ option for 2011 is somewhere north of 90%, so we can add him to the list and call it seven roster spots filled.  Yesterday’s start, in all likelihood, made Bruce Chen player number eight.    

Without question, if the season started today, Chen would be your day two starter.   Hopefully by the time 2011 actually rolls around, Chen is somewhere down at day four or five, but he almost certainly will be in the rotation.  

Now, we can and will speculate about the other positions, but no one has locked in a spot, yet.    Frankly, when you look at all the other positions and the playing time being given, my money is that Gregor Blanco probably is closer to getting the nod for a 2011 Opening Day start than anyone else.

Since August 1st, Blanco has started 23 of 26 games in centerfield, leading off in the last 20 of those starts.     He has gotten on base at least once in all but four games on his way to posting a .270/.347/.348 line.   That is good for just a .695 OPS or 92 OPS+.     Just for comparison sake (and to be a little snarky), Yuniesky Betancourt has an OPS+ of 91 and is the darling of, if not the casual fan, certainly the Royals’ PR department.

Prior to getting caught stealing and picked off yesterday, Blanco had shown some ability on the basepaths (9 steals) and good defense.   I am not sure that Gregor is a premier defensive centerfielder, but he is certainly capable of covering the position.   Perhaps most importantly to the Royals, Blanco is under team control and not eligible for arbitration until 2012.

Two years ago, Blanco played n 144 games for the Braves and posted a rather anemic line of .251/.366/.309 (OPS+82).   He played very little in the majors in 2009, but was carrying an OPS+ of 107 in 66 plate appearances with Atlanta prior to being traded this summer.   Combining both teams’ numbers, Blanco carries an OPS+ of 98 this season (.286/.365/.354).

Blanco’s competition, assuming no off-season acquisitions, for the centerfield job is Mitch Maier.   Mitch is likely not eligible for arbitration until after next season as well.   Over 366 plate appearances this year, Maier has an OPS+ of 95 (.256/.327/.384).    He has shown more power this year than he did in a similar number of at-bats in 2009 when he went .243/.333/.331.    For his career, Maier does not have all that great a platoon split, but struggles against left-handed starters (who doesn’t?).

The organization has spent a lot of energy the last three years acquiring speedy outfield types to make one believe they don’t really want to play Maier everyday anywhere.   At best, the Royals view Maier as a fourth outfielder type who can competently fill in at all three spots and not embarrass himself at the plate.    At this point, I don’t disagree with the club’s assessment.

After trying everyone named Anderson in an effort to find someone different than Maier (and DeJesus for that matter as well), only to end up with players inferior to Mitch, the Royals have at least managed to find a player in Blanco who is different from Maier and, at least, not any worse.  

Given the state of the position within the organization – if you think Blanco is another Joey Gathright, what do you think AAA centerfielder Jarrod Dyson will be? – it almost has to be Blanco or Maier in center for at least the first half of 2011.   Knowing that the current Royals’ regime is fascinated/obsessed with having a ‘true lead-off hitter’, it seems almost certain that Gregor Blanco is likely to occupy the same position and location in the batting order in 2011 as he has for most of this August.

If the Royals were just a player away from contention, I would advocate (and have in the past) going outside the organization for player to man centerfield.  As it stands right now, however, they might best be served to stand pat in center with Blanco spelled by Maier.

It may not be very exciting and, frankly, it may not be very good, but you can pretty much make Gregor Blanco player number nine on your 2011 Kansas City Royals.

This weekend’s tilt in Cleveland has become a pivotal series in the battle for fourth in the AL Central.  Win two of three and the Royals will extend their lead to four games with about a month remaining.  If the Royals somehow stumble and get swept, the two teams will be tied and then it’s game on.  With 10 games remaining between this pair between now and the end of the regular season, this promises to be quite heated.

Hooray, made up races for position in the standings!


It won’t help the Royals cause that it appears Billy Butler may sit for the entire Cleveland series.  Butler has inflammation in his right hand, which the Royals believe has affected his swing and limited his power.  Perhaps.  Apparently, he’s been bothered for the last month or so, but his power has been on walkabout since the start of July.   His ISO over his last 200 plate appearances is .126 compared to a .158 ISO in his first 337 plate appearances of the season.

There’s been a ton of talk about Butler’s lack of power development, and it’s talk that’s justified.  Here’s a graph of his ISO covering his four year career.  We all know his bump last season was very real… A hearty increase in both doubles and home runs.  This year, both numbers have declined.


After homering once every 29 at bats last season, Butler is homering once every 43 at bats in 2010.  Yeah, this is a concern.

Unfortunately, Butler’s decline in power has been coupled with an increase in double plays as Butler has ground into a league leading 26 twin killings this year.  His rate of grounding into double plays is also the highest among hitters with at least 100 double play opportunities (runner on first, less than two outs). The leaders:

Butler – 25%
Adrian Beltre – 22%
Michael Cuddyler – 18%
Mike Young – 17%
Torii Hunter – 17%

Wow.  Butler is hitting into a double play a full quarter of his opportunities.  (That almost matches Yuni’s on base percentage.)  And has quite a bit of distance between himself and second place.  The gap between first and third place is enormous.  Butler himself remains philosophical about this – he understands this is what happens when a guy hits a ton of grounds balls (which he does) and is slow (which he is.)

About those ground balls… Butler’s batted ball rates have remained incredibly static from one year to the next.

Last season’s bump in ISO and slugging was a mirage… It was going to be extremely difficult for Butler to repeat that power performance if he didn’t cut some percentage from his ground ball category and paste it into the fly ball side of the ledger.  While we could expect his power numbers to decline, the amount of decline is larger than we would have hoped.  (Again, the injury may have something to do with this.  Despite the new training staff, the Royals remain a difficult team when it comes to deciphering injury info.  They say it’s been a month his hand has been bothering him.  The numbers say his power has been in decline for over two months…)

The increase double plays, though… This is kind of a surprise.  Obviously this is always going to be part of Butler’s game.  Last year, he grounded into 20 double plays in 131 opportunities.  That works to a 15% double play rate.  (Plus, those raw numbers are in about 150 fewer plate appearances.)

So, while there’s an air of inevitability when Butler comes to the plate with a runner on first and less than two down, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.

The Royals are eighth in the league in OBP.  That sounds OK, I guess, but there .327 OBP is lower than the league average of .329.  Because this team doesn’t walk, as their team batting average has declined, so has the team OBP.  So while it can be difficult for the Royals to find base runners, it doesn’t help that Butler is doing his level best to erase those runners.

Kevin Seitzer has taken a fair share of credit for the Royals increased batting average, but that’s empty praise.  For a hitting coach to truly make a difference, he needs to work with players on an individual basis to get the most out of their abilities.  This year, Butler has fallen short of his potential.  He and Seitzer need to get together and work on refining his swing so he can generate more loft.

More loft equals more power.  More power equals fewer ground balls.  Fewer ground balls equal more runs.

Simple, isn’t it?

Episode #031 – Nick reviews the Detroit Tigers series including Bloomquist going yard.  Brian McGannon joins the podcast to talk about David Glass, Royals financials and have a Willie Blomquist  lovefest.  Bloomquist goes the dynamite.


Follow Brian McGannon on Twitter @roaylskingdom and check out his Royals blog or his Chiefs blog.

Follow Nick on twitter @brokenbatsingle or on Facebook

Music used in this podcast:

T.Rex – Monolith

Traffic – Dear Mr. Fantasy

Weather Report – Birdland

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After yesterday’s 12 inning win, I know of at least one loyal commenter to this site who is delighted and one big league manager who is smirking at everyone right now.   Not to mention at least one writer on this site who is delighted with Kila Ka’aihue’s home run, double and two walk game yesterday.

Given that Ned Yost did the unthinkable by batting Willie Bloomquist third (even national guys were chiming in on Twitter with sarcastic comments), then guaranteed that Willie would get two hits and THEN actually saw the guy do it, including the game winning homer, who am I to criticize?   Frankly, I don’t even know what to say.

Instead, let’s take a quick look at what the expanded roster in September might include.   Who, if anyone, will get a call-up and of those, who will actually get a real look?  

We’ll start with the easy ones:  veteran players who have been on the disabled list:

  • Gil Meche – all signs point to Gil getting a look out of the bullpen next month.  The Royals will be careful with him at this point, so we won’t see him even every other day, but I imagine six or seven appearances at least.  The snag here is that Gil is on the 60 day disabled list (which does not take a 40 man roster spot) and a spot would have to be made on the 40 man roster to accommodate his activation.
  • Luke Hochevar – if you can believe the organization, Hochevar will make a rehab start or two shortly, which would put him on pace for a couple of September starts.  Part of me says that is a good idea, the other part of me says that Hochevar should just shut down and come back 100% next spring.
  • Brian Bannister – probably could be pitching right now if the Royals really wanted him to.   Made a two inning appearance in Omaha earlier this week and will be back up in September.   Brian’s September starts – he might well step into a regular rotation spot for the month – will likely determine if he has a future with the Royals.
  • Robinston Tejeda – supposedly will be ready in early September.   If he is, Tejeda will step back into the late inning setup role that currently makes him the third most stable member of the entire staff.
  • Josh Fields – remember him?  He has been on a rehab assignment in Northwest Arkansas after spending the season the 60 day disabled list.     Like Meche, someone has to go if Fields comes off the 60 day DL.
  • David DeJesus – there was talk of getting him back in the final couple weeks of the season, but I have not heard much about that as of late.  You kind of wonder why the rush given that DeJesus is clearly the best outfielder in the organization and not exactly a mystery as to what he will give you when healthy in 2011.

I am pretty sure the organization wants to see what Meche looks like coming out of the bullpen, so he will be activated from the 60 day DL.   They could make space on the roster for him by shifting DeJesus to the 60 day list or Hochevar if they decide to shut him down until next spring.   If the Royals also want to bring Fields up, then they will need another spot cleared.    They could make room by putting Jeff Bianchi on the 60 day list, as he has not played yet this year or Noel Arguelles, who is apparently not going to pitch this season, either.

Now, what about other guys that might get a look in September?   We will start with players who are on the 40 man roster now and would not require any correponding roster move to come up to the majors:

  • Victor Marte – I put him here only because he is on the 40 man roster and the organization still seems to have some attraction to him.   Now, given that with the above veteran activations, the Royals’ staff could already be at 15 pitchers, they might just call it good.   I have no burning desire to see Marte again and would, in fact, advocate his removal from the 40 man in favor of calling up someone else.
  • Brian Anderson – if you look at the Royals website, Anderson is listed under outfielders, but he has transitioned quickly into a relief pitcher.   Playing at three levels this year, after a lengthy instructional stint in Arizona, Anderson has thrown 13.1 innings, struck out 14 and allowed just six hits.  In three innings thus far in AAA,  Brian has been perfect.   That the Royals already have him pitching in AAA tells me they don’t want to waste any time with Anderson.  I think he comes up and gets a handful of September appearances once Omaha’s season is over.  The O-Royals, by the way, are in the hunt for a playoff berth, so they could conceivably be playing into the teens of September.  I don’t imagine anyone on that roster gets the call until that is wrapped up.
  • Amongst position players, the other guys already on the roster that might get consideration are catcher Lucas May and outfielders Jarrod Dyson and Jordan Parraz.   I could see May getting a call ‘just to get a feel for the majors’, but if he does he will not play much.   If Trey Hillman was still manager, Dyson would probably be up now, but he is hitting just .257 in Omaha and the organization would be better served by getting a true look at Gregor Blanco this September.   As for Parraz, his season was probably not enough to warrant a spot on the dugout bench.

Now, it gets interesting, as the players we are going discuss might well deserve a look, but would require making a 40 man roster move to get them to the majors:

  • Mike Moustakas – .273/.294/.453 in AAA probably cooled any front office ideas of giving Mike a look this year, but he has improved over time at this level (including an .856 OPS the last 10 games).  That said, with the Royals wanting to see what they have in Wilson Betemit and likely to take a look at Josh Fields, I imagine Moustakas’ major league career will start sometime next summer instead of this fall.
  • David Lough – A slow start this year has kept Lough’s numbers in Omaha to a modest .279/.343/.440, but he has exploded in August with a 1.006 OPS.   This is a guy who could truly factor into the Royals’ future, especially if 2011 turns out to be DeJesus’ last year with the club.   Who would you rather see, Lough or Victor Marte?   There’s your roster move if you want a look at Lough.
  • Louis Coleman – It’s always nice when a plan works and the Royals’ plan for Coleman after drafting him in 2009 was to ‘fast track’  him as a reliever.   Just over one year later, Coleman is in AAA with 39 strikeouts in 33 innings and opponents batting just .214 against him.   If Lough in place of Marte, why not Coleman?   If the future of the bullpen is Coleman and Greg Holland (who has struggled thus far in the majors, but has a habit of doing so the first couple weeks at a new level before become pretty decent) are the future of the pen in front of Tejeda and Soria, the Royals would be wise to make that move this September.
  • Blaine Hardy – He was dominant as a reliever, I mean flat-out dominant, at four levels including AAA before the Royals moved him into a starting role.    Blaine has been just okay as a starter (7 starts) but probably is not ready for major league action in that role.  I would expect some fall/winter work with an eye towards him getting a shot at the number five starter role next spring. 
  • Ed Lucas – He has played pretty much every position and hit .304/.394/.500 this year in Omaha, but I don’t know what the Royals do with him in the majors this September.   They want to get a good look at Getz, will not impinge on the Yunigma’s playing time and already have Aviles and yesterday’s hero Bloomquist.   It would be nice to reward Lucas for a good season with a major league salary for part of the month, but the Royals probably don’t want to mess with the 40 man roster just to be nice.

So, in the end, the September roster likely will swell quite a bit, but not with any player all that exciting.   Meche, Hochevar, Bannister, Tejeda and Fields are almost certainties.   With a pretty good chance that May and Anderson get a call, if not much of a look, once Omaha’s season wraps up.    After that, the club could get imaginative and bring up Coleman or Lough, or stay the course and look to Victor Marte once more for no other reason than he has been in the majors this year and has a 40 man roster spot.

Truthfully, the players the Royals really need to get a feel for are already up and playing in Kansas City.   That is progress right there over previous years under this regime.

In my other gig at Baseball Prospectus writing about fantasy baseball, I’m always on the hunt for interesting (or unique) players to profile.  I generally look for players who have altered their output (for better or for worse), try to identify the root causes and then speculate whether it’s sustainable or not.

It was with this approach in mind I decided write about our own Yuniesky Betancourt.

(Groan.  I know.  Another Yuni post.  We are all guilty of flogging this horse to death.  This will be the one and only time I weigh in on this.  Unless he wins the MVP.  Which, according to some PR flacks and assorted media fanboys, seems like a better than 50% shot.  Anyway, keep reading… Hopefully, you’ll find something new.)

We all know that Yuni is something of a free swinger at the plate.  A true grip it and rip it approach.  Only he’s pretty light on the rip it part of that cliche.  Until recently.  What gives?

For the season, Betancourt is expanding his strike zone and swinging at pitches deemed by Pitch f/x to be outside of the zone over 40% of the time.  That’s an astronomically high number – and a career high for Betancourt.  According to Fangraphs, here are the hitters who swing at the highest percentage of pitches outside the zone.

Vladimir Guerrero – 46.7%
Pablo Sandoval – 43.7%
Jeff Francoeur – 43.2%
A.J. Pierzynski – 42.9%
Delmon Young – 42.2%
Brennan Boesch – 42.1%
Alfonso Soriano – 40.8%
Alex Gonzalez – 40.2%
Yuni Betancourt – 40.1%
Adrian Beltre – 40.0%

I present that list without comment.  Mainly because, I don’t know what to make of this collection of players.  We all know that Francoeur isn’t good at baseball, but Guerrero is still capable of crushing a pitch.  Beltre is having a great season and Young is having a breakout year, but Boesch is back in the minors and Pierzynski is just horrible.  OK… maybe I lied about the “without comment” part.  The point is, there are good hitters on this list and there are bad ones.  Discipline isn’t exclusive to the best.

Just like other aspects of the game, the approach of one successful player won’t necessarily translate to the success of another player.  Francoeur and Guerrero swing at everything.  If I asked you which one you’d rather have on your team, I suspect I know the answer.

Let’s put Betancourt into the Francoeur category of those who swing at everything when they would be advised to modify their approach and narrow their strike zone.  It’s not a huge stretch. We’ve all seen Betancourt play.  And we’ve all seen him hit a soft pop up or a weak ground ball more than he’s made what I would call solid contact.  That’s likely because when he goes outside the zone and makes contact – which he does 77% of the time he swings at a pitch outside his zone – the contact he makes is generally weak.

Would it surprise you to learn that Betancourt has a career infield flyball rate of over 15%?  Almost one-fifth of all fly balls that leave his bat don’t travel to the outfield.  That’s embarrassing.  His 17.6% IFFB rate led the majors last year.  Because he doesn’t make good contact.  Because he’s swinging at bad pitches.

In games through August 2, Betancourt was hitting .253/.275/.383.  A little more power through than last year, but the OBP remained distressingly low.  Basically, it was more of the same for Betancourt.

Starting on August 3, Betancourt began his assault on American League pitching.  Since then, he’s had 61 plate appearances, crushed six home runs and hit .373/.383/.712.  Just an extraordinary and unforeseen turn of events.

It’s because he’s improved his plate discipline.

Take a look at the pitches Betancourt swung at in June of this year.  This is just one month, but it’s representative of his entire career.  (Believe me, I looked.  After awhile it’s like reading Green Eggs and Ham for the 215th time.)  If you’re a pitcher, you have to like what you see… There are a ton of ways to attack.  Sliders low and away.   High heat.  Anything inside.  Change-ups down.  It’s as if Betancourt approaches each plate appearance without the slightest idea of a plan of attack. From Texas Leaguers:

Compare that to the pitches he’s swung at during his hot streak.

He’s still offering at the high heat, but he’s not swinging at the inside pitch.  Nor is he chasing the low pitch.  Betancourt will still offer at the slider that’s down and away, but nowhere near as often as he has in the past.
We are all aware of the results.

Now the question is, will this new approach stick?  A couple of things make me skeptical.  For starters, since Betancourt went on this tear, he’s drawn a total of one walk – and it was intentional.  He’s already walking at a career low rate of once every 50 plate appearances, so ignoring the fact he did nothing to earn the solitary walk, he’s even worse than his current rate during his hot streak.  It’s curious that he seems to have improved his discipline, yet has seen his walk rate decline.

This means his lofty OBP is thanks to his inflated batting average.  Once the hits stop falling, the OBP is going to plummet. So will his value.

The second reason I doubt we will see this new and improved Yuni much longer is because the guy has over 2,900 plate appearances in his career.  He’s walked in just 3.2% of those while swinging at pitches outside the zone 32% of the time.  As the cliche goes: Old habits die hard.  Can a 28 year old major league hitter (I use that term loosely) with six years of experience under his belt, suddenly adjust his approach in such an extreme manner to the extent he alters his entire career?  Jeff Francoeur hit .284/.355/.531 in his first 93 plate appearances this year with nine walks.  Nine!  That gave him a 10% walk rate.  New York media was all over this.  It was a new day for Frenchy!  He turned it around, figured it out and was going to be awesome from now on!  This, from a guy who never walked more than 6% of the time in any full season in his career.

How’s that working out?

Since then, he’s hitting .214/.269/.322 and walked 19 times in 324 plate appearances.  Plus, seven of those walks were intentional.  Remove those intentional walks and he’s walking in just under 4% of his plate appearances.  This is the Frenchy everyone knows and loathes.

Eventually, Betancourt will have a couple of games where the hits won’t fall.  He’ll start to press.  The strike zone will expand.  And we’ll be right back to square one.

So I’ll go on the record right now and say there’s no way Betancourt continues his torrid pace for the rest of the year.  I’ll even go out on a limb and predict a line of .255/.262/.356 over the final month plus of the season.  This isn’t a stretch.  This is because we’ve all seen Betancourt play, and we all know exactly who he is.

Hey, I’ve enjoyed this offensive explosion from the man I dubbed the Yunigma as much as anyone.  I’m blogger enough to admit I never thought I’d see anything like this and it’s caught me off guard.  (Fun Yuni fact: eight of his 13 home runs have tied or given the Royals the lead.  I fully expect a barrage of PR Tweets telling me Betancourt is clutch.)

When a player has the tenure of Betancourt, to draw long-term conclusions based on less than one month of production is ill-advised.  Plus, understand that I’m not saying “Betancourt sucks” or the Royals should bench their shortstop.  It’s clear to everyone he’s been more productive at the plate than Mike Aviles, Chris Getz, Willie Bloomquist and anyone else you may think the Royals could use up the middle on the infield.  That speaks more to the cast of characters assembled by Dayton Moore than the talents of Betancourt.  It’s all relative.  While I advocated for Aviles to get more reps at short earlier in the season, he’s had a terrible last couple of months.  Betancourt deserves his time in the lineup.  There’s no one on this team who can dislodge him from his role.

However, by looking at the charts, I understand how this hot streak by Betancourt is happening.  And I understand how it’s going to end.

Old habits…

In a recent Kansas City Star article, David Glass dispelled rumors that he was selling the team.*  Many fans and large swaths of the commentariat greeted this news with dismay.  Some of the rumors have also suggested outspoken Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has an interest in the team, a proposition that excites many in K.C..  These reactions are not surprising.  The Royals have been historically abysmal during David Glass’ ownership. Mark Cuban has done wonders for his NBA franchise, and his over-the-top style is something fans gravitate to, especially at a distance.  I don’t want to further these rumors because I have absolutely no substantiation to them whatsoever, and I’d prefer writing things which I know are based in fact.  Instead, I thought I would take a look at David Glass as an owner.

*Rumors which the Star suggested came from the blogosphere, but to which I can find no evidence.  Every mention of this rumor came from either Jack Harry or sports talk radio.  While the blogosphere does in many cases spread rumors, in this case it isn’t true.  This is the first mention of this rumor on Royals Authority, and I’ve been unable to find mention of it on any of the more than a dozen Royals blogs I subscribe to.

How exactly does one grade an owner?  At the most basic level it has to be about how well a team produces on the field.   That isn’t a complete look at an owner, but it certainly is important, especially to fans.  Identifying when David Glass became the owner of the Royals is kind of murky, since he was appointed the Interim Chairman and CEO when Ewing Kauffman died in 1993 and didn’t become the sole owner until April of 2000.  For these purposes, I am going to use 2000 as the starting date of his ownership.  Since 2000 the Royals have a 725-1019 record, which ends up being a .415 winning percentage.  That winning percentage would average out to a 67-95 record.  That is phenomenally bad, but you probably already know this.  So if you were to judge him on the record of the ballclub alone then you have to rate him as one of the worst owners of all-time.  Other than moving the team out of the city, he couldn’t have been worse.

However, grading the owner involves a bit more than just the record on the field.  Although in the end, he can’t be a considered great owner until he builds a winner.  Taking a step back from how this particular owner has been, I think it would be instructive to identify the qualities that one would want in an owner.

First, he has to be willing to spend money.  It takes money to win. He is the guy that has complete control of the purse strings. You can’t be a good owner if you refuse to spend money in the draft, in development or in free agency.  It’s just not possible.  Of course what that amount should be is certainly up for debate, as is where specifically it should be spent.  But where is less the owners job than that of the General Manager.

Second, a good owner doesn’t meddle in the baseball affairs of the club.  This isn’t a hard and fast rule. I mean if Bill James was a billionaire and owned a ballclub, then I’d be happy if he put his two cents in.  However it is pretty commonplace to have owners who do NOT have expertise in building winning baseball teams, and therefore when they get involved in specifics it almost never works out.

Finally, and this is more a subset of the first point, an owner should attempt to improve the ballclub as much as possible in an attempt to create a winning franchise.  This point is in some ways the least important and in some ways the most.  I believe that every owner in baseball truly wants to build a winning franchise.  Yeah, they get into the game for the money and prestige, but I would be amazed to find any owner that genuinely didn’t want to win games, even if it cost them some profits.

So how does David Glass fit into this mold?  Honestly, it depends on when you ask.  If you were to ask that question in say 2004, by all accounts he was being extremely cheap and meddlesome.  The team cut expenses in Latin America, spent little money in the draft or free agency and was widely rumored to have squashed deals or made his front office take certain players in trades.  So on both counts he failed miserably.  However, when taking a closer look at the David Glass of 2010, we find a completely different owner.

Spending the Monies

Glass has been notoriously known as a complete cheap-skate in terms of running the Kansas City Royals. However, he has improved in that aspect.  The Major League payroll has ranked 21st overall the past two years, which is the highest it has been in the 10 years of Mr. Glass’ ownership.  In 2000, the payroll was 28th in the MLB at $24.9m and has risen to 21st with $71.4m.  So suffice to say, he has both increased the raw amount of money he has spent at the MLB level and done so at a rate greater than the overall increase in MLB payrolls during that time.  Part of that does stem from the fact that so little was spent earlier in the decade, but he still has spent more money.  Often, when people critique an owner this is where the analysis stops.  They look at a major league payroll and assume that is all the money an owner spends on a team.  However, that is just part of it.

Recently released documents from the Pirates and other MLB teams have shed some light on how much money some teams spend in all facets of the game and how much revenue they take in.  For example in 2007 the Pirates spent $21m in player development and in 2008 spent $23m.  It is unclear if those numbers include the bonuses paid in the draft, but the Pirates spent $9.7 in 2008 in that department.  David Glass isn’t the owner of the Pirates, but the examples are instructive.  Lots of money is spent on the organization beyond the Major League Payroll.

So beyond the payroll, Glass has spent $24.5m in draft bonuses from 2008-2010, which is fifth in the MLB.  Part of that comes from having high draft picks which get higher bonuses, but they haven’t been cheap with those draft picks and have signed lots of guys for over-slot money in lower rounds like Wil Myers, Mike Montgomery, Brett Eibner, Chris Dwyer, John Lamb and Jason Adams.  Add to that some Latin American signings like Cheslor Cuthbert ($1.4), Noel Arguelles ($6.9) and Humberto Arteaga ($1.1m) and you get lots of money being spent by the organization.  Money that was not being spent in the early 2000’s.

However, spending money is all relative, right?  Yes Glass was cheap earlier in the decade, but just spending more money doesn’t really make him a big spender. It could just make him a little less cheap.  So, again let’s take a look at some of the recently released financial information.  We can do a little extrapolating from the information to get a good gauge of how much money the Royals take in, then do some dirty math on expenditures and see just how much revenue is being put back into the team.  We need to take a deeper look at revenues to determine what is adequate spending.  I think it is fair to expect the team to turn a profit each year, and even to turn big profits if those can be spent in subsequent years to get that one free agent who can take a team to the playoffs.

The Pirates are a great comparison.  They have been bad for a long time, but are in an established baseball community with similar attendance figures and likely similar revenue structures.  In 2008 the Pirates received $39m in revenue sharing and got $30.3m in 2008.  I don’t really see a reason to assume the Royals got much more or less than that.  The Pirates received $39m in TV money, but I believe that is more than the Royals get from Fox.  Across the board teams make about $5 per attendee in concessions, so with roughly 1.5m people coming to the K that is approximately $7.5m in concessions.  The Pirates had gate receipts of roughly $33m, and received $2m from MLB Advanced Media.  All told the Pirates had after tax profits of around $15m each year.  They likely pull in more for TV, more for stadium naming rights and have spent a little more in the draft.  However their major league payroll has been on the order of $20m less than the Royals the past few years.  Looking at all of those numbers, my first thought is that I don’t see how the Royals have made a profit these past few years.  They have claimed to break even or make a small profit, but without a major new source of income I don’t know how that would be.   So in terms of what is spent vs what is coming in the door, I would say that lately Glass has been a very good owner in that regard.


This is a little harder to quantify.  I am not around David Glass 24/7 or even .01/1, so I don’t know for a fact whether he meddles or not.  I will have to go on rumor and what people much more connected than me say.  But the consensus is that during the Allard Baird era David Glass regularly killed trades and meddled in free agent signings.  On the flip side, I have never heard that rumor or even the hint of that rumor on the Dayton Moore era.  In fact one of the biggest criticisms fans seem to have lately is that David Glass is never around.  It’s almost assuredly a good thing that he isn’t around.  It means he can’t get involved in baseball decisions that he doesn’t have the skill set to be involved in.  It doesn’t take advanced statistics to realize that the presence of an owner doesn’t make the players on the field better.

Wanting to Win

This one is impossible.  I almost left it out completely, but I know that people want to discuss it and it means something to them.  But all I need to know is the numbers above.  David Glass by all accounts is spending lots of money to create a winning franchise, you can argue whether it is spent properly or not, but that isn’t his job it is the job of the General Manager.  I would say that spending the amount he has given what we know the revenues are, is about the biggest statement one can make about his willingness to win.

So in all three categories which make a good owner, David Glass has morphed from terrible into great.  I am honestly trying to come up with things I wish he would do differently, and I struggle to find somthing.  Every criticism and knock on him as an owner is something which doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.  The old David Glass is STILL killing this team due to the absolute ineptness the club was run with in the earlier part of the decade, so you can continue to blame him for that.  But if you imagine that somewhere around 2006, a new owner bought the team with the same name as the old one I don’t know that there would be much criticism of him.

What I also find interesting is why he has changed and why he was so bad in the first place.  A lot of fans talk about the Wal-Mart mentality, which is simplistic but accurate.  The primary Wal-Mart mentality is that costs are the enemy.  They must be destroyed everywhere possible.  Rising costs will never benefit you in any way.  I can’t imagine a guy so steeped in that culture can swiftly change to a baseball mentality where spending lots of money in the right places can help you to grow revenues significantly in the long run.

I also wonder how much of what David Glass did at the beginning of the decade was designed to bring about increased revenue sharing.  It wouldn’t be surprising  if he and Bud Selig got together and hatched a plan to help bring it about.  A large part of the plan was that Glass had to be on Bud’s side in everything, from paying slot-bonuses to not over-spending in free agency.  Together they worked on some other smaller market owners and got the luxury tax and revenue sharing instituted.  In my mind the coup de grace is the 30 team even-split of MLB Advanced Media money, which is quickly becoming baseballs cash cow.  If in fact, David Glass hurt his own team’s chances of winning to get these changes in baseball and it was the only way it could happen, then I think it was a good call.  It would be a very tough decision in the near term and he took major heat from other owners and his own fanbase, but in the very long term he may have saved Kansas City as a viable Major League city.  Maybe I am giving him too much credit for these changes, but I doubt we will ever know.

The other potential reason he has changed his ways could be due to hiring Dayton Moore.  Most of the changes do coincide with Moore being hired as the General Manager.  I have no doubt that Moore was aware of how much the spending had been cut under David Glass and how meddlesome he had become in baseball affairs.  With that knowledge, I could see Moore asking Glass to let him run the baseball side of things and to increase the budget in all facets of the organization if he was to take the job.  Frankly, if the only thing Dayton Moore accomplishes in his tenure as General Manager was to create David Glass 2.0, I would be pretty satisfied.

Throughout the decade of David Glass’ ownership of the Royals, the team has lost a record amount of games.  Those losses without question are the direct result of the things Glass has done as an owner.  However, from all the information available, it seems that he has become in many respects a model owner in recent years.  His prior mistakes continue to haunt the franchise and will do so for at least a couple more years.  He shouldn’t be given a pass for those mistakes; however he should be praised for changing his ways and doing the right things.  Dayton Moore gets a lot of credit for building one of the best farm systems in all of baseball, and rightfully so.  However, without David Glass increasing expenditures and letting the baseball people make the baseball decisions we wouldn’t be looking as hopeful at the 2012-2015 timeframe as we are now.

Nick Scott is the host of the Broken Bat Single Royals podcast.  You can email him at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com or you can follow him on Twitter at @brokenbatsingle

Outside of the rather bizarre debate swirling around Royal-land over the value of Yuniesky Betancourt (which at one point over the weekend seemed to devalue itself to the level of Betancourt giving more to the team than Billy Butler – you know, the Billy Butler with the OPS+ of 128), probably the biggest debate surrounding the Royals is when they will be in a position to contend.   Is it 2012 or 2014?   Is The Process a five year undertaking or eight?

After a feel good taking of two of three games from the White Sox in the span of less than 24 hours, I thought it might be time for a status check.   As our measuring stick, we will use Wins Above Replacement Level (courtesy Baseball Reference).

The Minnesota Twins won the 2009 American League Central with a cumulative WAR of 34.7.   This year, the Twins are leading the division with a cumulative WAR of 37.9.   The Kansas City Royals currently sport a WAR of 15.     That’s a wee bit of ground to make up. 

Given that the Royals, by most indications, will not have much money to spend this off-season and will probably not get much help, at least early in 2011, from its highly touted minor league system, let’s take a look at what is likely to be the 2011 roster and what it might yield in terms of WAR.

Position Players

  • Jason Kendall – Catcher.   Yes, he will be back.  Yes, he will play an inordinate amount of the time.  Yes, I would say the odds are that Jason hits second in at least 80 games next year.   Welcome to the world of Ned.   Anyway, Kendall is sporting a WAR this season of 0.9.   As recently as 2008, his WAR was 2.0 and back in his heyday, Jason put up WARs of 4.9 and 5.7.  It is no longer his hey day, however.   Can we really expect more that a 1.0 WAR in 2011?
  • Backup catcher.   Could be Brayan Pena, could be Lucas May or even someone else.  None will get enough of a chance to make a difference.
  • Billy Butler – 1b/DH.   Last year, Butler posted a WAR of 1.2.  This year, his WAR stands at 3.5. I am still trying to figure out why everyone is either down on him or thinks he is ‘getting a free pass from the fans’.   He is the best hitter on the team and likely will be next year, when I expect his WAR to be at least 4.0 or better.
  • Kila Ka’aihue – 1b/DH.  I do not know if Kila will actually be on the roster next season, but I wanted to use ‘in house’ guys for the purpose of this comparison.   He has not shown much to date, but then neither did Paul Konerko or Travis Hafner(or Schmidt or Brett or Manny Ramirez) after 59 plate appearances.   With so little data, I will not assign a WAR value for Kila’s 2011 campaign until later.
  • Chris Getz – 2B.   His current WAR is -0.4 after posting a 1.5 for Chicago last season.   I have a feeling the Royals are going to want him to be the second baseman next year.   I am kind of a Getz fan deep down, but have a hard time seeing him do any better than last year’s mark.
  • Yuniesky Betancourt – SS.  The arguments in support of Yuni from the organization and those close to it are coming with such frequency that ‘silliness’ is an apt description.   That said, Betancourt’s WAR of 1.3 and recent hot streak is enough to make one at least dream of Yuni reaching his career high of 2.2 (2007).
  • Wilson Betemit – 3B.  A 1.002 OPS will surely buy Wilson more time at third base while the Royals wait for Mike Moustakas.   As I detailed a week or so ago, there is not much statistical difference between the career of Betemit and Raul Ibanez at this stage.   Betemit already has a WAR of 1.2, which matches his career high back in 2005.
  • Alex Gordon – LF.  Is it wishful thinking or does Gordon look more comfortable this time around?   Back in 2008, Alex posted a WAR of 3.1.   Left field does not carry the defensive value of third base, but I could foresee Gordon hitting better than he did in 2008.
  • Gregor Blanco – CF.   Short of doing something substantial in the off-season, the Royals do not have a lot of options in centerfield.   This could be Mitch Maier, but you know the organization has never truly embraced him, so it feels like Blanco in 2011.   He was a negative WAR player in his only full season in the majors, but is currently at 0.4 – a career high.
  • David DeJesus – RF.  Despite not playing since mid-July, DeJesus is almost certain to still finish second in WAR amongst the position players (2.9).   Since 2005, DeJesus has never posted a WAR less of less than three.
  • Mike Aviles – INF.   The player who posted a 3.7 WAR in 2008 has shown little power and uneven defense this season on his way to a 0.1 WAR.   He is probably better than that, but maybe not as good as he showed in 2008 – not to mention that he probably won’t get the at-bats he did that season, either.
  • Mitch Maier – OF.  He is a 1.0 WAR player this season after being a 1.2 last year.   While Mitch has never quite reached everyday player status, he has amassed enough plate appearances to make you think this is pretty much what he is going to be.
  • Willie Bloomquist – UTIL.    Willie was a 1.0 WAR in 2008, 0.4 in 2009 and a dead replacement level 0.0 this season.  Sounds like the kind of guy the Royals will re-sign.

Let’s tally up a possible 2011 WAR in optimistic terms:

Kendall (1.0), Butler (4.0), Getz (1.0), Betancourt (2.0 – see I AM being nice), Betemit (2.0), Gordon (3.0), Blanco (0.5), DeJesus (3.5), Aviles (0.5), Maier (1.0), Bloomquist (0.0), for a total of 18.5 WAR without factoring in Kila Ka’aihue or whomever might occupy that spot.


  • Zack Greinke.   He was a 9.0 WAR pitcher last season and we may never see that again.   However, we likely will see better than the 2.0 mark Zack currently sports right now.  In 2008, Greinke sported a 4.2 WAR and that or better is certainly doable in 2011.
  • Joakim Soria.  Yes, we are doing the easy ones first.   Soria is at 2.9 WAR right now, after a 2.7 campaign in 2009 and 3.4 WAR in 2008.   He may be the surest bet on the team to post a WAR above 3.0 next year.
  • Robinson Tejeda.  When you are projecting the staff for 2011, it sure seems like Tejeda is the third safest bet to be in on it.  He posted 1.5 WAR in 2009 and was 0.8 this season before the injury.  There will be a two or three week period when Robinson is awful in 2011, but he will be very good the rest of the time on his way to a WAR somewhere above one.
  • Luke Hochevar.  I am beginning to lose faith here, but Luke did improve from a -1.1 WAR in 2009 to 0.2 this year.  Being hurt for three months does nothing for your development curve so just getting above replacement level will be a step for Luke in 2011.
  • Sean O’Sullivan.  The difference between Bannister, Davies and O’Sullivan?  Age.   If the Royals are lucky (for once), O’Sullivan will prove it is more than that over time.  Still, tough to see him making a huge impact on the WAR front in 2011.
  • Bruce Chen.  He is your number two starter in 2011 as it stands right now.   Once upon a time in 2005, Chen produced a WAR of 3.2 and he has been something of a revelation this year (of course, nothing like Yuni, right Nate?), but his WAR is still just 0.5.  
  • Brian Bannister, Kyle Davies, Bryan Bullington.  Well, somebody has to start on the fifth day.   Bannister has gone from a 3.3 WAR pitcher in 2007 to -0.7 this year and appears to still be digging.   Davies’  WAR as a Royals has descended from 1.7 to 0.6 to the dreaded zero.   Bullington?  Who knows.
  • Rest of the Bullpen.   After Soria and Tejeda, it could be virtually anyone.   Kanekoa Texeira has a WAR of 0.2, Dusty Hughes 0.0, Blake Wood -0.5, Jesse Chavez 0.3…you get the picture here.   Oh yeah, Gil Meche will supposedly be there in 2011, too.   I love Gil, I really do and it is worth mentioning that he gave the Royals a 4.9 WAR in 2007 and 3.8 in 2008 and even managed to stay above replacement level in 2009 (0.7), but those number are long gone and that’s too bad.

Okay, what’s our tally for the pitching staff in 2011?

Greinke (5.0), Soria (3.5), Tejeda (1.5)…umm….well……can the other four starters and five relievers at least combine to NOT be negative?   Let’s hope for the best and assign an arbitrary and unscientific WAR of 1.5 to the other four starters and a net 1.0 to the rest of the relief corp.   That brings us to a total pitching staff WAR of 12.5.

Summing it Up

Our 2011 projection puts us at a total WAR of 31.0, which probably is not enough to threaten for the A.L. Central, but enough to make us interested and less bitter and hopefully debate something other than how Yuniesky Betancourt is third amongst AL shortstops in home runs.   Of course, that 31.0 WAR is banking on, if not career years, improved season from almost everyone on the team.

On the flipside, however, we have allotted nothing for whomever fills the last corner spot on the team (Kila Ka’aihue or someone else) and not made any allowance for just one starting pitcher to break out and be decent.

Without getting into a big debate over individual players, let’s just start with the idea that the current roster is going to produce 31 wins above replacement level in 2011.   What do you do in the off season?   Do you just hang on, save some money (knowing Meche’s $12 million comes off the books the following winter) and wait for your AA pitching staff to mature into major league arms in 2012?   Do you go get one more bat this winter or wait for Moustakas, Hosmer and Myers?

I will be honest and say I don’t have the answer here, or even an opinion at this point.    I have been around a long time (I remember the Royals’ FIRST playoff game for godssake) and find my patience wearing thin to get back to contender status.   That said, I am also a realist (sort of) and know that the smartest course of action might just be to hold the line for one more year before trying to do something big via free agency or trade.

This quandry is one I imagine is felt by most Royals fans, old and young, and probably, when they are not busy defending Betancourt, one that occupies the minds of many in the Royals’ organization.    It will be interesting to see which way Dayton Moore and crew decide to go this winter.

Episode #030 – Nick reviews the epic White Sox series, talks Yuni vs Butler and some thoughts on Gordon and Blanco.  He also has in Brian Boesch the play-by-play announcer for the Burlington Royals to discuss some of the prospects in the Appalachian League.


Follow Nick on twitter @brokenbatsingle or on Facebook

Follow Brian Boesch on Twitter @brianboesch and check out his blog on the Burlington Royals.

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