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Royals Authority

Long Live The Process

There were a couple of solid nuggets in yesterday’s Bob Dutton article on the state of the Royals post-trade deadline. The one that really jumped out was that Dayton Moore said the organization’s goal was to get Johnny Giavotella between 100 and 150 at bats by the end of the season. That’s all well and good, but it should hardly satisfy the Free Gio crowd, because what GMDM is saying is that we can’t expect him before September. Sigh.

Why don’t the Royals just put Chris Getz out of our misery and make the call for Gio? The dude is hitting .342/.394/.485. He’s done his part, now it’s the Royals turn to do theirs. Plus, as Dutton explained, Gio would be eligible for the Rule 5 draft this December, so the Royals will have to place him on the 40 man roster at some point. The current roster has 39 players, so why not make the move sooner rather than later? Why not get Gio 250 at bats instead of 100? Hell, removing Getz from the lineup is addition by subtraction, so just sending him to his rightful spot on the bench makes the Royals a stronger team. Getz has shown he’s not part of the future, so every time he steps to the plate between now and the end of the season is a wasted at bat.

Free Gio!

— I also really enjoyed GMDM’s paranoia regarding Luis Mendoza.

“We’ve got to find out… I don’t want another Philip Humber situation.”

Seriously? The Royals weren’t the first club to give up on Humber, who has seemingly rediscovered himself in Chicago. But he had a rough July, and I would bet he stumbles to the finish line. Why is Dayton letting this guy haunt him? Really, he should be bothered by JP Howell or Leo Nunez just to name two before he’s troubled by giving up on Humber. Besides, he picked Felipe Paulino off the scrap heap earlier in the season and he’s turned out to be the ace of the staff. (Ace being a relative term here.) As a GM, you’ll win some and you’ll lose some. It happens. If GMDM should be troubled by anything, it should be the fact he’s kept Kyle Davies year after year when he’s shown he has zero business being in a major league rotation.

Mendoza is supposedly doing well for the Storm Chasers, with a 2.37 ERA. However, he’s accomplished this with 43 walks and 58 strikeouts in 110 innings. Plus, his FIP in Omaha is 3.93, suggesting a high level of overachievement. It seems to me GMDM is trying to justify keeping Mendoza on the 40 man, when he will end up blocking a young player who really could contribute.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say Mendoza is not Humber 2.0.

GMDM somehow makes putting together a competent 40 man roster damn near impossible.

— Speaking of Davies, our man has landed on the DL for the second time this season with shoulder discomfort. The last time he was sidelined, it was for about six weeks.

I’m sure this injury just kills his trade value.

— Old news by now, but the Royals were allowed to unveil the 2012 All-Star Game logo prior to the start of Tuesday’s game.

I have to say, that’s a really sharp logo. Crisp, clean and to the point. The crown has always been the focal point when you’re at the stadium, so it makes perfect sense for it to be the focal point here. It would have made sense for fountains to be included somewhere, but if they did that, the logo would have become cluttered. Good decision to leave the fountains out.

Also, I really like where it’s displayed in the stadium, on the exterior of the Hall of Fame in left field. I’ve never been shy about expressing my dislike for some of the renovations at the K (the interior of the Hall is outstanding… the exterior, not so much) but they got this one right. It’s going to look great out there over the next year.

It’s a great start to what should shape up as a year long celebration.

I was a little shocked when the Royals made so few moves prior to the trade deadline. With so many possible trading chips and a history of past deadline activity, it seemed likely that they would make a plethora of moves. Only two relatively minor moves actually happened, but although the traditional trade deadline has passed, trades can still be made through the waiver system. It’s not the simplest system in the world, so I figured I’d dig in and try to shed some light on how these trades work. It’s pretty likely that the Royals will make a waiver move, so this might come in handy.

The machinations of baseball rosters have a number of quirks and complicated processes. From Super-two to arbitration there are seems no end to the contractual and legal issues that surface in the national pastime. The one that we’ll focus on today is waivers. There are roughly four different kinds of waivers, but for this exercise we’ll be focusing on the trade waivers.

The trade waiver system comes into play after the traditional trading deadline at the end of July has passed. To initiate the process a team will place a player or a number of players “on waivers”. They notify the league office and then every team is notified. Placing a player on waivers is essentially saying “hey, here’s player X and he’s on waivers, who wants him?” Most teams will place a large number if not all of their players on waivers to guage interest and possibly as subterfuge.

Teams have roughly two days to say that they want a player on waivers by placing a claim on him. There is no limit to the number of teams which can place a claim. If no teams claim the player and he makes it through waivers, he can then be traded to any team subject to any no-trade clauses the player has in his contract.

If a player is claimed by only one team then there are a few things that can happen. The claiming team can pay $20,000 and receive the player and his contract in whole, or the player can be pulled off of waivers or “revoked” and the two teams can work out a trade for that player. The player can only be traded to that one team that claimed him and no other negotiations can be made. A player must waive his no-trade clause if he has one with that team.

If multiple teams make claims on the player then the team with the lowest winning percentage in the same league as the player gets priority and a trade can be made with only that club. So, for example if the Royals put Bruce Chen on waivers and every National League team and the Yankees made claims, then he can only be traded to the Yankees. To cross leagues every team in in a players league would have not make a claim.

These revokable waivers can only be used one time. If a team were to revoke a player and then place him on waivers again, he is then on irrevokable waivers and the team cannot pull him back. Players on the disabled list cannot be put through revokable waivers. Playes can be traded in September but cannot be placed on a post-season roster.

Sometimes teams in a pennant race will claim a player on waivers so that a team with a better record in their division cannot acquire that player in trade. However that maneuver can back-fire if the team doesn’t pull the player back. This supposedly happened last year when the Giants put a claim on Cody Ross to keep him from going to the Padres. The Marlins didn’t pull him back and the Giants paid the $20,000 fee and then were given Ross. In a case of double irony, Ross made some great plays in the postseason to help the Giants win the World Series.

I would imagine the Royals will put the vast majority if not all of their roster on the waiver wire and pull them back after a team makes a claim. There aren’t any giant contracts which the Royals would be happy to dump if there was a claim. Players like Bruce Chen, Jeff Francis, Jeff Francoeur, Melky Cabrera and the entire bullpen are possible candidates for trade.

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

Sunday’s non-waiver trade deadline came and went without Dayton Moore and the Royals making any additional moves as the organization instead played spectator to a rather frenzied trade market.   I don’t know if Moore deserves criticism, praise or neither for this.  

Moore did ship the forgotten Wilson Betemit to Detroit earlier in the month for two young non-prospects (but also two guys who you can kind of envision making it to the majors as well) and also spun the unwanted and unhappy Mike Aviles to Boston for a younger, happier version of himself (Yamaico Navarro) who can also play the outfield as well.    Given the status of both Betemit and Aviles at the time each trade was made, I applaud Moore’s return on both.

As Craig wrote after the Aviles trade one would have thought more activity was sure to follow.   After all, if Moore could spin a 30 year old player who had spent much of the year in Omaha to a division leader for a player who was actually on their major league roster, then surely there would be a market for veterans Melky Cabrera, Jeff Francouer, Jeff Francis and Bruce Chen.

As it turned out, apparently not.

It may well be that Moore’s initial asking price of a number three type starter for either Cabrera or Francouer was so outrageous that rival GM’s simply didn’t bother wasting anymore of their time thinking about it.    The sheer number of better players that were traded, however, may simply have overwhelmed the market and left the Royals’ in the starting gate.

After all, when Hunter Pence, Carlos Beltran and Colby Rasmus (Michael Bourn as well) all are out in the market, it is easy to lose interest in the likes of Cabrera and Francouer.   With Ubaldo Jimenez, Erik Bedard and Doug Fister on the move, teams that might have resorted to a Francis or a Chen simply had better, sexier options.

Given that Ryan Ludwick was traded to Pittsburgh for a player to be named later or cash (pretty much the ultimate ‘here, just take him’ trade) might give some indication of what the offers might have been for Jeff Francouer – a better player than Ludwick right now, but not that much better.

As you probably know, I am as big a prospect guy as there is and trading a veteran for a couple of lottery tickets so that Lorenzo Cain (.318/.391/.525 in Omaha, .306/.348/.415 in 158 major league plate appearances in 2010) could play in Kansas City has always been my hope.   However, if the compensation for a Francouer was a used lottery ticket and some spare change, then even I agree with Moore’s lack of action.

Several years back, I was genuinely livid when Moore, using the ‘we’re not going to trade for anything less than value’ mantra, refused to move Ron Mahay at the trade deadline, but this year I have no great angst over waking up in August with Melky, the Panamanian named Bruce, Francis and the Frenchman still on the roster.  

So, what now?

There was a little bit of a Twitter snippet that if Kyle Davies was placed on the disabled list, that Johnny Giavotella would be called up to Kansas City.  That would certainly get everyone’s attention and I am all for it.    Let’s see what Johnny’s AAA line of .341/.394/.485 translates into at the big league level and let’s find out if the kid can actually field or not.   Chris Getz, who went a rather remarkable seven weeks without an extra base hit before doubling on Saturday, really should not be an impediment to seeing what a red hot young player can do in a season that is not going to end in a playoff berth.

We will see what transpires with Davies and what the subsequent result might be.   Ned Yost was already rumbling about returning to a five man rotation before the injury, so something is likely to change.  I foresee a Davies move to the disabled list, accompanied by Kyle’s inevitable return from it about the time Danny Duffy runs out of innings towards the end of August.  If Davies’ biggest contribution of his Royals’ career is eating some meaningless innings to save the arm of a pitcher who is part of the team’s future, then so be it.

Whether a DL stint for Davies means Giavotella gets the call or not remains to be seen.   Dayton Moore and Ned Yost have never done much to make me think they are particularly creative, so adding an 8th bullpen arm (hello Everett Teaford once more) is just as likely a roster move.  That said, what Giavotella is doing at the plate in AAA  is bordering on the ridiculous:  he will be here sooner rather than later.

Side note:  If Moore’s logic is to keep the bulk of the Omaha team together for a AAA playoff run.   So they can ‘learn to win together’, I am going to have some sort of coniption…maybe even a hissy fit.    I will buy that logic when someone, without looking it up, tells me the last three PCL champions and shows me how that benefitted their big league club.

So, what happens to Lorenzo Cain?   Given that he already has major league at-bats under his belt, Cain may the most major league ready of anyone who spent time in Omaha this year.   Unlike Giavotella, Lorenzo also brings plus defense to the outfield, but it is hard to figure where he fits in right now.   I don’t like the idea of bringing Cain up to play a couple of times per week and we all know that neither Cabrera or Francouer is going to sit as long as they are on the roster.

Perhaps the fact that Cain has already had a taste of major league pitching in a weird way makes the need to get him back to the majors less pressing.  Theoretically, Cain could hit the ground running as the regular centerfielder on Opening Day 2012 without getting more than a courtesy look this September.   The idea being that Cain has already gone through that first 100 at-bat ‘adjustment period’ that bedevils many a good prospect upon their debut in the majors.

In my heart, I think Dayton Moore missed a chance to be really creative at the deadline and possibly move The Process ahead at least a good half-season.   Should the Royals have shouldered the monetary load that is Wandy Rodriguez?   Should they dipped their toe into the Ubaldo Jiminez pool?  If key trade componets were Mike Montgomery and Aaron Crow, would you have made the leap?   Is a bird in the hand worth two in the bush?    Truthfully, how did the Charlie Furbush for Doug Fister trade get made without Nathan Adcock being included?

Okay, back to reality.

Since Ned Yost’s closed door meeting, the Royals have played good baseball, winning baseball actually.   Enough so, that they remain interesting.   Add Johnny Giavotella to the lineup tomorrow night and this Royals’ fan will remain interested and also remain convinced that the Royals are moving forward despite the lack of activity on Sunday.

Based on the comments from Dayton Moore in the week leading up to the trade deadline, it figured to be a quiet time for the Royals. I’m just back from a vacation, but I can still hear the crickets.

I mean, if a Mike Aviles trade can’t move the seismograph, what will?

Let’s break down this deal… The Royals receive infielder Yamaico Navarro as part of this trade. Navarro hit .258/.362/.469 in 34 games in Triple-A Pawtuckett and .216/.275/.351 in 16 games for the big league club. Navarro is a toolsy infielder who has some power potential. Scouting reports say he has quick wrists and a line drive stroke that can – at times – generate some loft that can carry the ball over the wall.

The knock on Navarro is he has a tendency to lose focus. That seems to be a nice way of saying he falls into lazy habits. Only 23 years old, many have taken to describing him as a younger version of Aviles. That’s possible, although Aviles didn’t reach the majors until he was 27, and never really distinguished himself as a defender. That’s not to say Navarro is the second coming of Alcides Escobar, but is probably the third best infield glove behind the Shortstop Jesus and Eric Hosmer.

In an ideal world, Navarro would supplant Chris Getz at second base for the remainder of the season. We’ve all had a chance to see what Getz brings to the team (and we’ve seen what he lacks, too.) Navarro won’t be a downgrade and has the potential to be a better option at second. Word is, Navarro has experienced some difficulty turning the double play, but Getz is no ballerina around the bag, either.

Right-hander Kendal Volz has been a starter for his entire career, before shifting to the bullpen in 2011. At the time of the trade he owned a 3.33 ERA with 56 strikeouts and 12 walks in 51 innings. He features a heavy sinker that has allowed him to rack up the ground ball outs. (He has a 1.61 GO/AO.) He was drafted in the ninth round out of Baylor in 2009 after previously thought of as a potential first rounder. A poor senior season really hurt his stock.

Volz’s success in the bullpen has him projecting as middle reliever.

That GMDM was able to flip Aviles for two minor leaguers is somewhat of a surprise. Aviles has run hot and cold and seemed to have difficulty adjusting to a role as a utility player. Plus, he was headed to arbitration for the first time in his career this winter. Though, I suppose his versatility on the infield served as a main selling point to the Red Sox. Basically, GMDM moved a 30 year old utility infielder who clearly didn’t have a future on this team for a potential middle reliever and younger utility infielder.

Can’t argue with that logic.

With the trade deadline approaching at 3 PM this afternoon, the question is now will GMDM pull the trigger on any more deals. Today’s starter Kyle Davies was scratched last night after he reported shoulder soreness. Of course, that kills any potential trade involving Davies, although it’s extremely difficult to believe that the Royals were fielding calls on the right hander. That leaves Jeff Francis and Bruce Chen as the top two candidates to be moved and the rumor mill there is completely silent.

I know there are many of us who would like to see either Melky Cabrera or Jeff Francoeur moved, but at this point, it’s a virtual guarantee they will still be on the team come tomorrow. Although there is still a possibility. Several outfielders have been dealt, so we’re coming to the point where these two represent some of the best players still available. There could be some interest and some late hour panic from a rival GM that could net an attractive offer.

That would be an ideal scenario… And one we can hope will play out over the next four hours.

It’s Friday, so while Craig is out I figured we’d have a good time with today’s post. The following image is from the SI Vault and is awesome for about 10,000 reasons. I figured it’d be great to have a caption contest. So fire away in the comments. Enjoy your weekend.

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

Some of you have no interest in trade rumors and just plain random speculation and it can get pretty overwhelming this time of year.   Between tweets and posts from reporters with some inside knowledge to those who simply speculate to just random comments  on various sites that suddenly come back around as legitimate rumors – assuming a rumor can ever be categorized as ‘legitimate’ – the whole July trade deadline can simply wear a person out.

That said, if you are one who disdains speculation or are just plain grumpy about the trade deadline and all that comes with it, then this is not the column for you.  

The Royals appear to be leaning towards not doing much at the deadline.   Dayton Moore, thus far anyway, has stuck to his guns about wanting near major league ready starting pitching in return for either Melky Cabrera or Jeff Francouer.    It is not a horrible idea as Cabrera has been outstanding and Francouer okay:  maybe somebody will panic and overpay.   While I would like to see what Lorenzo Cain can do as much as anyone, an outfield of Gordon-Cabrera-Francouer has proven quite capable this season.

The consensus I am getting from within the organization as well as outside of it is that ‘staying the course’ and ‘trusting The Process’ is still the plan.  Dayton Moore has publicly stated that expects to field a contending team made up of mostly homegrown players over the next few seasons.  If it all works as planned, then staying the course is exactly the way to go.   IF….

What about an alternative plan of action?  This might be labeled as bold, risky or just plain stupid and let me state that everything from here on out is mostly just pure speculation from the tortured caverns of this blogger’s mind.

Trade for Wandy Rodriguez

I have beat these horse a couple of times already and the idea was not even mine to begin with (I stole it from Rany and I’m not even sure he was the first to offer it up), but the truth is Rodriguez is better than any starter the Royals are sending to the mound right now and he will be better than anyone they send out in 2012 as well.  In the wildest expectations for Danny Duffy, Mike Montgomery and Jake Odorizzi, Wandy would still be in the middle of a good Kansas City rotation in 2013.

The Astros want out from under the $26 million they owe Rodriguez and that number becomes $39 million if he is traded as a $13 million option for 2014 kicks in on any trade.  Now, in 2014, Wandy will be 36 years old and there exists a real probability that he will not be worth $13 million.    That season would also be the first where the Royals would really start to run into some serious salary concerns, so there is risk in making this move as it could end up hamstringing the organization from adding a piece or two to put them over the top.

That said, the price is reportedly low on Rodriguez for a team willing to take up the salary load and the Royals are pretty much not paying anyone anything this year and truthfully won’t have a big payroll in 2012 or 2013, either.  In addition, tell me the free agent starter that the Royals can get in the off-season that would be better than Wandy Rodriguez.

If the price tag was, say, David Lough and Chris Dwyer, I would make the trade.   If the Royals had to throw in one of the thirty or so live bullpen arm they have in the minors (Buddy Baumann or the like), I probably still make the deal.    Reading the rumors, I am not sure it would take this much to get Rodriguez.

One other cavaet, Rodriguez actually has a negative road split over his career – odd given that Houston is something of a launching pad.  Add that to your risk assessment.

Trade Joakim Soria

I don’t trust closers.   We have all seen them suddenly come apart and never get it back.   There was a time early this year where many thought that Soria was headed down the path of Mark Davis and so many others, but he has righted the ship and pitched like Joakim Soria as of late.   That said, I don’t trust closers.

Dayton Moore’s asking price for Soria was supposedly one major league starter and one near major league starter.   The Yankees, it was assumed, were asked to give up Ivan Nova and one of Dellin Betances or Manny Banuelos and balked.   I don’t blame them.   That said, Mariano Rivera will at some point in our lifetime stop pitching..or at least stop pitching effectively.   

What if the Royals lowered their asking price just a touch?  Say Ivan Nova and D.J. Mitchell instead?   Given that Greg Holland looks like a real life closer of the future to me and Aaron Crow might well be a closer right now and, by the way, the Royals can spend the rest of 2011 grooming one of them to be a closer and still rest comfortably in the AL Central, I make that deal.

Now, we could continue on with other trades.   I would try to move Jeff Francouer and Jeff Francis, maybe Mike Aviles (if he had value) or Chris Getz (if HE had value) or other ‘non-future’ parts of this team, but those are not necessarily BOLD moves.  

Ignoring the trades that might actually happen, would you trade Soria and trade for Rodriguez?

On Monday, Nick wrote that while the Royals’ won-loss record was not any better than last year the team was still showing some signs of improvement.   Last night’s game excepted, I think he is right.

While just how much the Royals need to improve to become a playoff team can pretty easily be determined by simply looking at the standings, but for a little more depth I turned to overall WAR (wins above replacement level at Fangraphs).

In 2010, only one team in the American League (Chicago) with a .500 or better record had its position players account for less that 23 WAR.    The Yankees led the way with 33.5 WAR from the position players.   In fact, the top nine teams in positional WAR were the nine AL teams with records of .500 or better.   Chicago’s 18.1 WAR, the lowest of any of the nine, was still well ahead of the 2010 Royals’ mark of 12.9.

Thus far in 2011, the Royals are up to 8th in the American League in positional WAR at 14.5:  tied with Detroit and ahead of Cleveland, but lagging well back of the Red Sox and their league leading 28.5.     Improvement has been made, particularly within the division, but plenty is left to be done as well.

When it comes to pitching, the picture is not a lot different.   With the exception of the 2010 Angels (wh0 were 80-82), the top WAR staffs belonged to teams with winning records.   Chicago led the way with 24.9 WAR with the Athletics at the bottom of the winners with a staff WAR of 13.1.   The Royals checked in at 11.7.

The White Sox are leading the way again in 2011 with their hurlers racking up 17.0 WAR thus far.   The winners are spread out some this year, with the hapless Mariners fourth in pitching WAR while the Indians and Rays have yet to make double figures.   The Royals are next to last with a staff WAR of just 6.6.

What this very rudimentary analysis tells us is that, as a team, a contender needs to be pushing into the high thirties in WAR and to be truly legitimate you have to be up into the forties by season end.  The Royals, who have languished in the twenties for years have a good 15 WAR to make up.

You do not need any statistics to tell you the Royals are deficient in pitching, especially since Zack Greinke accounted for almost half of the staff’s 2010 WAR, and you also don’t need me telling you how hard it is going to be for this team to pump up the rotation to get a the type of production a contender will need.

Frankly, the Royals are going to need Felipe Paulino to live up to the good press he has been getting lately and for Danny Duffy to continue to improve (and forget about last night!).   They will need a stroke of luck in converting Aaron Crow into a successful starter or Greg Holland.   They will need Mike Montgomery and Jake Odorizzi to emerge as young stars sooner rather than later.  Oh yeah, and the Royals pretty much need that all to happen over the course of 2012.

Offensively, should the Royals hang onto Melky Cabrera, they will need him to prove 2011 is not a fluke.   Keep in mind, Melky has accounted for 3.2 WAR this year.  In his entire career prior to coming to Kansas City, Cabrera piled up a TOTAL of just 2.9 WAR.

The positional leader in WAR, Alex Gordon, certainly seems to be giving every indication that he is here to stay.  The difference, you might ask, between believing in Gordon and being skeptical of Cabrera?   Gordon, for all his past failings, still has two seasons of plus two WAR on his resume.  In fact, when playing a full season, Alex has always been at least two wins above replacement level:  a mark that Cabrera never surpassed until this year.

You know how a team gets to a contenderish positional WAR of 30?  Five guys at three or above, two more holding their own and one star:   paging Eric Hosmer.

The truth is, it is a long road to respectability and an entire step beyond there to truly compete.   Can the Royals catch some breaks playing the AL Central and get into the race sooner rather than later?  Certainly, but it struck me last night that closing the gap with a team like the Red Sox is quite a leap.

Is it possible to do so by simply building from within?  It is if Hosmer and another position player become stars and at least two pitchers become true top of the rotation hurlers, but can the Royals really count on that?  

With the overvaluing and uncertainty of prospects these days, should Dayton Moore make a play for a Wandy Rodriguez?   The B.J. Upton rumors were silly, but Rodriguez would fill a need and bring established production now, not at some point in the future.

Would you gamble or prefer to be patient?

Computer problems and life in general have gotten us off schedule here at Royals Authority HQ today.  As such, look for more and better later tonight, but for today we have an nice extra inning win at Boston, great bullpen work and then there’s Kyle Davies.

Davies was good, let’s just say it, he was good last night.    Basically, the handful of starts he manages to toss like last night each year have kept him employed and well paid.   There might well be another this year, maybe even two, but I am hesitant to make an earth shaking announcement that Davies has it all figured out.

What Kyle did last night, maybe more than anything, was throw his off-speed pitches for effective strikes.  Thirteen of eighteen changups were strikes and twelve of seventeen curves found the zone.   While the percentage of pitches thrown was not much different than usual, the Red Sox batters ‘felt’ like Davies was hardly throwing the fastball at all.

Perception over reality.  

I guess that statement applies to Kyle Davies more often than not.

After yesterday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, the Royals sit at an unimpressive but completely expected 42-59. A little math tells us that they are on pace to go 67-95. Again. According to the official results on the field, this franchise hasn’t improved for the 16th year in a row. If you open up the sports page and glance at the standings, you’d be perfectly justified to close the paper in disgust and say “of course” and sigh. It’s a summer ritual across the metropolitan Kansas City area as regular and welcome as 100 degree days with rain-forest humidity.

Fortunately, we have a bit more information at our fingertips these days than a printed page landing on our doorstep. We have the internet and we can delve more deeply into these numbers and see exactly what’s going on. With individual players, we can look at their peripheral stats to see if they’re having bad luck or if they’ve changed their plate approach and improvement is on the horizon. The good news is that there is some actual hope bubbling just under the surface, all we have to do is take a look.

Runs. They’re the king of all statistics. You can only win games by scoring more than your opponent. From wOBA to WAR to RBI to ERA+ they all boil down to scoring or preventing runs. While losing a game by 10 runs or 1 run counts as an L in the standings, all losses and all losing is not created equal. So, while the Royals are losing, are they losing better or worse than in years past? Let’s take a look.

First, let’s start with how the team is scoring runs. In 2011 the Royals have scored 437 runs which averages out to 4.33 runs per game. If we compare that to previous years, it’s the most runs per game they’ve scored since 2007 (4.36). However, that’s not the entire story. The run environment has been changing so we also have to compare the Royals runs per game to the League average. In 2011, they’re scoring 0.03 runs per game more than the average American League team. They haven’t had an above average offense since 2003 (0.30). Below is a chart detailing these numbers since 2000.

Year R/G AL R/G Delta
2011 4.33 4.30 0.03
2010 4.17 4.45 -0.28
2009 4.23 4.82 -0.59
2008 4.27 4.78 -0.51
2007 4.36 4.90 -0.54
2006 4.67 4.97 -0.30
2005 4.33 4.76 -0.43
2004 4.44 5.01 -0.57
2003 5.16 4.86 0.30
2002 4.55 4.81 -0.26
2001 4.50 4.86 -0.36
2000 5.43 5.30 0.13

For only the third time in the past 11 years, the Royals have a better than average offense. Now it’s possible that like the last two times it was only a brief blip, but the vast majority of this offense is young and likely going to be a part of the team in 2012 and beyond. Also, the fences at Kauffman stadium were moved back for the 2004 season which had a big effect on where the Royals compared to their peers. So based on this, it seems that there has been some progress this season on the offensive front. It doesn’t take much statistical analysis to tell you that, just watching this team is enough to see that there are more potent bats throughout this lineup.

So the offense has improved and is showing progress. What about the pitching? It’s no secret that this team’s biggest issue is lack of starting pitching. However they aren’t the only way to prevent your opponent from scoring runs. There’s a bullpen of relief pitchers and 9 defenders who can help the cause. Here is the same chart but with runs against information:

Year RA/G AL-RA/G Delta
2011 4.82 4.24 0.58
2010 5.22 4.42 0.80
2009 5.20 4.75 0.45
2008 4.82 4.68 0.14
2007 4.80 4.82 -0.02
2006 5.99 4.87 1.12
2005 5.77 4.68 1.09
2004 5.59 4.99 0.60
2003 5.35 4.87 0.48
2002 5.50 4.80 0.70
2001 5.30 4.86 0.44
2000 5.74 5.28 0.46

This is where things get ugly. Only one time since 2000 have the Royals given up an average number of runs per game. What makes that even more impressive is that they play in a pitching friendly ballpark.  This also illustrates just how much fun teams had playing the Royals in 2005 and 2006. Compared to recent history, allowing 0.58 runs per game more than average isn’t that bad, though it’s not good either.

Neither of these can be taken in isolation. It’s important to look at the overall team as a combination of the runs they score and the runs they give up. So I subtracted the runs allowed delta from the runs scored delta to get a rough estimate of how far from an average team the Royals have been since 2000 and these are the results:

Year R/G from avg
2011 -0.56
2010 -1.07
2009 -1.03
2008 -0.66
2007 -0.52
2006 -1.42
2005 -1.52
2004 -1.16
2003 -0.18
2002 -0.96
2001 -0.80
2000 -0.33

This isn’t much of a shocker, the Royals haven’t been an average team in that time, though they were pretty close in 2003. In this context, 2011 is the best year this team has had since 2007 and the second best since 2003 and it’s not over yet.

It’s easy to get caught up in the wins and losses that the Royals produce, because in the end what we all want to see is a team that wins a championship. It takes a bit more digging to see if there are some underlying things happening that may indicate a positive swing in the future. Based on the runs this team is scoring and the runs they’re allowing, it seems that this is an improved team. It’s no guarantee and it could certainly be a fluke, but with the young talented players on the roster things are looking up.


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

It feels like we’re on the edge of some excitement… The calm before the storm that is the trade deadline.

Although I’m not so certain there’s going to be much action where the Royals are involved.

It seems to me the team has four trade candidates.

Jeff Francoeur

The Frenchman is playing at his expected level of .264/310/.448, but with sterling defense in right field. Several teams are looking for a right-handed bat, so you would expect some level of interest.

However, we can’t discount GMDM’s past relationship here. And the fact there is a mutual option believed to be in the neighborhood of $4 million.

I think Frenchy not only hangs with the team for the full year, I think both parties are interested in being together in 2012. As fun as it is to watch Braves fans freak out about the possibility of a Francoeur return, they need to take a deep breath and relax. He’s going to be a Royal for the next 18 months.

Melky Cabrera

Under normal circumstances (i.e. a barren organization from top to bottom) the rebirth of the Melk Man would have Royals fans dancing in the aisles at the K. A line of .294/.331/.456 with a 1.9 rWAR is pretty solid from a player we didn’t expect that much from in 2011.

But here we are… Melky is doing fine and based on the service time rules, the Royals control him for the 2012 season. Cabrera will be a third year arbitration eligible player this winter.

Again, this would be fine… Except Lorenzo Cain is languishing in Omaha where he’s tearing up Triple-A.

Given the contract situation, Cabrera should attract serious interest from a contender looking to patch a long-term hole. (Long term meaning through next season.) Again, I think GMDM holds steady. Cain has already spent his entire summer in Omaha, another month won’t kill him. He can come up in September and we can watch as Ned Yost tries to juggle a four man outfield… Meaning Cain will get fewer plate appearances that that one guy… I forget his name because we never see him… Mitch Something. I think.

Bruce Chen

I hear all this talk about Chen being the Royals “ace” or “stopper.” He’s not. That’s Felipe Paulino. But I digress…

With a 3.30 ERA, Chen is having a nice enough season, although his 4.44 xFIP is on the high side. He would be a decent candidate for a contender looking for a left-handed arm in the back of the rotation.

The problem here, as Ozzie Guillen so eloquently reminded us the other day, is that he’s “Bruce F’n Chen.” Although he’s pitched well enough the last two seasons, there aren’t many who believe in him. He tried to get a two year deal last winter and found no takers. Given that he returned to KC for a one year deal at $2 million, I doubt there were many interested for even a single season. Again, while he’s pitched OK (when healthy) he hasn’t done anything to change perception.

Jeff Francis

While Chen gets discounted, we hear stronger interest exists in Francis. Why? Neither one are that great, but if I was choosing between lefties, I’d go with Chen first.

Francis has a 4.62 ERA, but a 4.01 xFIP… Slightly better than Chen. Neither one strikes anyone out, and Francis owns the better control. Hell, I don’t know. Maybe this is a toss up.

He’s proved he’s fully recovered from the shoulder surgery that caused him to miss all of the ’09 season.

So those are the top four trade candidates. Who goes? Who stays?

I would bet at least one pitcher gets moved prior to the deadline, in return for another pitcher. That will allow the Royals to revert to a five man rotation. (Yeah! More Davies!) But like the Betemit deal, we need to temper our expectations. None of these guys are going to return a frontline or even a grade B prospect.

Whatever happens, next week won’t be boring, that’s for certain.

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