Royals Authority

Long Live The Process

Short post today as I’m still trying to shake the cobwebs out of an 18 run beatdown…

About a quarter of the way through the season and already this year has been something else. The optimism of April has yielded to the harsh realities of May… And a crummy starting rotation. As good as these guys looked in the Bronx last week, this is the same team that turned in a couple of 2008 vintage Royal performances against the Indians.

At least the process rolls along, with the start on Wednesday of Danny Duffy. We all know about his story: How he walked away from the game last spring, only to return and dominate. He was slated to open the season in Double-A, but a strong spring, combined with that late season performance of 2010, convinced the Royals to give him a chance in Omaha. All he’s done for the Stormchasers is post a 10.6 SO/9 and a 3.00 ERA. Not bad.

However, he has met with some adversity in the month of May. He’s given up 10 runs in three starts while going a total of 16 innings. One prospect watcher told me a little over a year ago that it would be interesting to see how Duffy handled adversity… Because he had never experienced anything like that in his professional career. I’m sure the Royals would have preferred to have let Duffy stay in Triple-A for a few more starts, to deal with this rough patch and move on. (Quick aside: While Duffy has been giving up runs, he’s still striking out batters at an impressive rate. This isn’t symptomatic of some larger issue… Pitchers give up runs. He’ll be fine.) Sometimes, teams don’t have the luxury of allowing a player to stay in the minors. In this case, injuries and bullpen meltdowns are the impetus.

I have no doubt Duffy will be fine. I’m excited he’s up and excited that The Process is moving full steam ahead.

— Speaking of roller coasters, since his 19 game hitting streak ended on April 27, Alex Gordon is hitting .191/.263/.382 with 16 strikeouts in 68 at bats. We knew he wasn’t going to hit .340 over the entire schedule, but this regression to the mean has been especially sudden… And cruel.

Watching him now is like looking at a completely different player. One who has reverted to his old unsuccessful ways.

Kyle Davies left the game last night in the first inning with anterior shoulder soreness and will undergo an MRI today to determine the severity of the injury. In related news, karmic retribution rains down upon Royals fans rejoicing at an injury to one of their own in the form of a 19-1 annihilation at the hands of the Cleveland Indians.

I don’t believe in karma or any other type of supernatural phenomenon, but last night’s game certainly gave me a bit of skepticism. The much-maligned pitcher Kyle Davies is removed in the first inning, only to be replaced by a parade of pitchers surrendering an unprecedented number of runs. It was the ultimate “be careful what you wish for” moment.

Before anyone could utter the phrase “Does this mean we’ll see Danny Duff..” the scoreboard was being changed so fast it looked like the dashboard of Doc Brown’s DeLorean. I think any Royals fan began to instantly question whether or not wishing for the downfall of Davies was in reality the best course of action.

I’ve long argued that while Kyle Davies isn’t a great pitcher, he’s a fine back of the rotation guy on a large swath of Major League teams. Yes, I know that Craig posited that he was the worst pitcher in history, and the numbers do bear that out. However, what I took away from those numbers is that he’s just been given a significantly longer opportunity than most back of the rotation guys. Part of that has to do with getting to the big leagues at such a young age that, combined with his above average stuff and ability to stay healthy lets him rack up a large number of innings.

I believe that a lot of the anger directed towards Kyle Davies and the resulting wishes for “someone, anyone else” are due to wanting something different. We know what Kyle Davies is, we can no longer project something onto him and as fans we want to project. Guys we don’t know, players we’ve barely seen are people we can project onto. We can dream them into a diamond in the rough, or a future ace. We know so little about them that anything is possible. With Davies, we know too much.

Last night, his health failed him and with it went his stuff. Over the past few outings, Davies had been keeping the Royals in games. Three of his last four starts were of the quality variety. Beyond that, he had completely changed his approach. He was posting career high strikeout numbers and career low walk numbers. He was finally trusting his stuff and pitching in the strike zone. It lead to a significant increase in the number of hits he allowed, but that’s to be expected. With an improved defense behind him, it was the right decision for Davies.

It’s unclear now whether he will get to prove he was a new pitcher, that will all come down to what the doctors say. Initially it was announced that he would be replaced by Robinson Tejeda, but that was premature. We’ll know more today.

But what of Vin Mazzaro, the pitcher that came to the Royals from the Oakland Athletics and was thrown to the wolves that had taken the form of Indians? In the ultimate insult added to injury, he was demoted to Omaha.

There’s little question over whether or not a Major League pitcher should be able to do better than Mazzaro did last night. He was already sitting in the bullpen, so it’s almost certain he knew he was coming into the game at the first sign of trouble from Kyle Davies. That trouble did come, and then Nate Adcock entered the game to give Mazzaro some extra time to get ready.

The game was inching out of control before Mazzaro even got in, but once he toed the rubber he threw grenades on a bonfire. Or did he? The two and a third innings he pitched didn’t really seem as bad while it was happening. The Indians didn’t crush every pitch they saw, there were lots of bloop hits and seeing eye singles –the bad-luck portion of the Batting Average on Balls in Play statistic (BABIP). The Royals weren’t making errors either, there were a few balls hit to the outfield that a speedier player might have gotten. I can remember one to each of left, center and right that someone like Jarrod Dyson would have ran down. But those happen all the time.

What I believe we witnessed last night wasn’t just a pitcher being dominated. It was a combination of bad luck, poor pitching and poor preparation. It just compounded in a historic way.

As human beings we want to try and make sense of these things. We ask ourselves what all of this means. Does it mean that the Royals are the team we thought they were before the season? Does it mean that Kyle Davies is better than we thought? Does it mean that the Dejesus trade was a bad one?

The questions are numerous, interesting and what makes baseball discussion so great. But in the end, they’re kind of pointless. The 19-1 loss to the Indians means one thing: there is one more L on the record book. I guess it also means that Kyle Davies might be on the D.L. and there will be some roster movement to get a starting pitcher. But all in all, it’s just one loss. As fans we can project whatever we want on that historic loss last night, that’s just what we do.

Update: It’s being reported that Danny Duffy will be promoted and make the start for the Royals on Wednesday.

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

Never has a rainout come at a more opportune time for the Kansas City Royals.    After a feel-good series win in New York, the Royals had scored just one run in two games against the surging Detroit Tigers and were set to face Max Scherzer on Sunday.   Plain and simple, the Royals were reeling and the weather cut them some much needed slack.

The repreive, however, is very temporary.

A few weeks back, as the Royals were wallowing through an 0-6 road trip to Texas and Cleveland, I noted that the May schedule would probably determine if Kansas City was truly going to contend or not in 2011.    Counting the April 29th and 30th games against Minnesota and the June 1st game against the Angels, this 31 game (now 30 with the rainout) stretch looked pretty daunting.  

Could the Royals keep their heads above water during this stretch?  

Well, nearing the halfway point of this gauntlet, the Royals stand at 8-6 and have lost exactly one-half of a game in the standings.   Even with Detroit leapfrogging into second place, Kansas City is still ‘hanging around’.   I would settle for ‘hanging around’ in 2011, wouldn’t you?

Let’s take a look at the remainder of the May schedule:

Cleveland – May 16 & 17

Just as most of the baseball world is waiting for Kansas City to fall back to Earth, so too are they waiting for the Indians to do so as well.   Courtesy of a 15-4 home record, the Indians are a league best 24-13.   Cleveland and Kansas City have almost identical team batting numbers, while the Indians, of course, have a much better team pitching mark (no surprise there).   I like the Indians’ team, but there is no way they are playing .649 ball or anything close to that the rest of the way.

Texas – May 18 & 19

I don’t know if any of you have noticed, but Texas is pretty good, likely better than their 21-19 record reflects.   The Rangers will be without Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz when they visit Kansas City and have just a 6-10 record on the road.   It is a good time to catch Texas, if such a thing actually exists.

St. Louis – May 20, 21 & 22

Cardinals fans kind of annoy me, but not quite as much as the Royals fans who get all upset about Cardinals fans.  (Truthfully, is your life effected in any way by some guy in front of you in a different color jersey who thinks your team sucks?  Can’t we all just get along or, at least, just shut-up about it?)

Anyway, St. Louis has lost three in a row to fall to 22-19 on the season.  They have good starting pitching, a bullpen that has some issues and the best offense in the National League.  Currently, the Cardinals lead the NL in runs scored, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging.    The way the Royals’ rotation is currently set would have them sending Jeff Francis, Kyle Davies and Vin Mazarro out to face them.    Whose stomach just got upset?

A 4-3 homestand would be great, in my opinion, and might be optimistic.  However, a weakened Texas lineup helps the situation.   It would be extremely helpful if the Royals’ offense came alive against Cleveland and got the team off to a good start.

At Baltimore – May 24, 25 & 26

The Royals have not been world beaters on the road, but taking two of three from New York has to help their confidence.   Baltimore has some nice pieces, but is not a team that should scare anyone.   They have won their last two to get back to within a game of .500, but play their next four against Boston and New York.   It would be nice if the Orioles struggle against Washington prior to the Royals coming in, but no matter what happens, this is a series the Royals should feel they can win.

At Texas – May 27, 28 and 29

The Rangers should be back to full strength by the time Kansas City visits Arlington for a second time.  This is a bad ballpark for the Royals to play in and, as mentioned above, Texas is pretty good.

After getting swept at Texas in April, the law of baseball averages almost dictate that Kansas City should win one against the Rangers.  If they could so and take two of three from Baltimore, that would be a pretty solid 3-3 road trip.  Admittedly, 2-4 is a more likely result, which would be acceptable if Kansas City can go 4-3 on the homestand preceding this trip.

Angels – May 30 & 31, June 1

After losing three of four to Kansas City to start the season, the Angels have gone 21-16 and currently lead the AL West.    They have scored 20 runs less than the Royals despite having played two more games, but sport the second best team ERA in the league.    The Angels’ bullpen, however, leads the league in walks.  It is not as bad as when the Angels came to town the first time, but you have to like Kansas City’s chances if they can get these games into the hands of the respective pens.

I respect the Angels a ton, but this is a series that I expect Kansas City to win two of three.   Of course, if the Royals are seven games under .500 by then, my expectations will be lowered.

Overall, the above scenario has the Royals going 4-3 at home, 2-4 on the road and the 2-1 at home, for a record of 8-8 to finish out the month with a 28-27 record.    Assuming Cleveland starts to regress and the Tigers stop winning every freaking game they play, that mark would definitely put Kansas City in the ‘hanging around’ category if not right in the middle of contention.

If that scenario puts Kansas City five games back of first with an eight game homestand with Minnesota and Toronto, hopefully with Danny Duffy in the rotation by then, then the hopes for something special this season will continue on.

You can also get additional Royals Authority this morning at the Sports Radio 810 WHB website by clicking here.

Quite a series in Yankee Stadium. Haven’t seen anything like it since I started doing this blog thing six years ago. That’s because the last time the Royals won a series in New York was in 1999. 1999!

What we saw from Sean O’Sullivan was typical of this Royals rotation this season – Solid for a stretch and then hammered for a potential big inning. After holding the Yankees hitless through four innings, they were scorching the ball off O’Sullivan in the fifth. A 24 pitch circus act. Even the outs were hard hit. As I watched the game, it felt like Yost was playing not for the Royals to win, but for O’Sullivan to get the win. There’s a difference. Too often in the fifth inning of a game like we saw on Thursday, the manager will give his starter a longer leash in an effort to allow him to pick up the win. As most of us know, the win is an empty, meaningless stat. And in this case, it almost cost the team the win.

Somehow, O’Sullivan survived. And Yost not only sent him back out for the sixth, he was out in the seventh as well. That’s like the degenerate gambler who’s made a career out of getting his ass kicked at the tables suddenly playing with house money. Yost was fortunate his luck held. So was O’Sullivan.

Hey… it worked on Thursday, but let’s not kid ourselves. O’Sullivan is fifth starter fodder.

According to Brooks Baseball, O’Sullivan had exactly one swinging strike. One. And somehow that came in the fifth inning when Derek Jeter missed on a slider. There’s simply no way a pitcher can be successful in the long term if he doesn’t miss bats. Entering the game on Thursday, he was getting a swing and miss in 11 percent of all strikes. Major league average is 15 percent. And with two walks and no strikeouts on the night, his SO/BB ratio is now less than one. Sure, it’s impressive he didn’t implode at Yankee Stadium (and I honestly thought that was going to happen in the fifth) but don’t kid yourself… The guy isn’t a major league caliber starting pitcher.

O’Sullivan (and Kyle Davies and Vin Mazzaro) are reminders that as much as the Royals like to think they can contend in a weak Central, the rotation isn’t going to allow that to happen.

— Before the series in the Bronx, I predicted that Eric Hosmer would hit his first career home run at Yankee Stadium. Figured it was pretty much a sure thing, given the jet stream that screams out to right field. Hosmer did me right, homering not once, but twice in the series. How great is it that one of our top prospects comes up and starts producing immediately?

— Hosmer led off the second with a home run on the first pitch and that opened the floodgates as the Royals batted around. That was as fun an inning as I’ve seen all year. Naturally, part of that is because it was the Yankees that were imploding… Errors, passed balls, dumb plays. It was like watching a Royals game from 2009.

— The most surprising thing of the night was the Alcides Escobar double. Not really… It was probably the Hosmer double on the check swing. The dude hits even when he doesn’t mean to.

— Six games into Hosmer’s career and there’s already talk of a contract extension. I don’t know why we would talk about that. Hosmer should just retire tomorrow and the Hall of Fame will waive the five year wait period. Because he’s awesome.

I suppose the Longoria deal has kind of become the benchmark for future extensions for the elite of the elite prospects. It would be cool if the Royals were able to do something and it would generate a metric ton of goodwill. But how about Scott Boras already posturing, claiming he won’t negotiate with the Royals about an extension. What else would he say? No agent worth a dime would say they would like to talk about that, just six games into his client’s career. And Boras is worth a few million dimes.

Don’t let the fact that Hosmer is a Boras client get you down… Boras represents Carlos Gonzalez who inked an extension with Colorado last winter. See… It can happen. But damn… If we’re already talking about this, it could be a long couple of years.

— Congratulations to those who were called for the Blog at the K event. The Royals continue to dip their toes in the social media pool, even though they’re still wearing a life vest and deathly afraid of sharks. For the record, neither Clark, Nick or myself applied, so Royals Authority won’t be represented. Sounds like a good group, though. I look forward to reading their reports.

According to UZR/150 (courtesy Fangraphs), the best defensive second baseman in baseball last season was Chase Utley with +12.9 mark.   The worst was Skip Schumaker with a -17 UZR/150.    You can make what you want of UZR/150 or any other defensive metric:  they all have flaws and they are all subject to small sample sizes.   The common theme amongst the sabremetric community these days is that it takes three years of defensive statistics to equal one year of offensive data.

If you are into zone ratings when it comes to defense, Utley had a Revised Zone Rating of .840 in 2010 – good for 5th overall.   Schumaker’s was a horrid .769, which was dead last once again.  

Interestingly, both players manned second base for almost an identical amount of innings:  Utley played 1007 innings, Schumaker 1014.   Combining putouts, assists and errors, Utley made a defensive play 5.23 times per nine innings.   Schumaker made a defensive play 5.19 times per nine innings.   It is an admittedly simplistic sampling, but it sure appears that second basemen, the good, the bad, the indifferent,  generally all have about five fielding chances each game.

We can delve into double plays started, double plays turned, positioning, passing eye tests, plus hands, plus feet, plus instincts….you name it, you can factor that into whatever defensive analysis you want to rely upon, but I am going to take the very lowbrow route.

If a second baseman gets on average five defensive chances per game and plays 140 games, that comes out to 700 chances per year.   Using last year’s numbers, Utley’s zone rating implies that he got to 7% more balls than Schumaker and one time every 180 chances or so, Schumaker made an error that Utley would not have made.   In this very crude analysis, those differences, spread over 140 games would mean that Chase Utley made plays on 49 more balls than Skip Schumaker and that Skip would boot six more balls.

That makes for a grand total of 55 plays at second base that seperate the best defensive second baseman of 2010 from the worst.   All around, I can actually feel far better statistical analyzers than myself shivering at the absolute crudeness of the above math!

Now, what does this have to do with the Royals and their very important, very thrilling, oddly played win last night?  Not a whole lot, other than in regard to the lineup that Ned Yost trotted out and then stuck with for eleven innings.  Chris Getz got another start at second base over Mike Aviles, after getting the start over Wilson Betemit the night before.

We’ll ignore the Betemit part of this equation for simplicity sake (after the above fielding analysis, simple is the word of the day) and just compare Getz and Aviles:

  • Getz 2011: .220/.310/.275/.585, 4XBH, 7SB, 14BB, 12SO
  • Aviles 2011: .265/.299/.531/.830, 14XBH, 8SB, 4BB, 21SO

And for their careers:

  • Getz: .248/.314/.313/.628
  • Aviles: .295/.325/.432/.756

IF Chris Getz was the best fielding second baseman in the game and IF Mike Aviles was the worst, Getz turns 55 balls into outs over 140 games that Aviles does not:  basically two plays every five games, four plays every ten games.

In those ten games in which Getz makes four defensive plays Aviles does not (again assuming Getz is the best defender in the game and Aviles the worst), Aviles would not only get a hit, but get an EXTRA BASE HIT five more times than Getz would.   So, what is more valuable?   Four defensive plays made or five extra base hits?

What if, really NED what if, Chris Getz is not the best defensive second baseman on the planet?   Is he better than Aviles?  Yes.   Is he 55 plays better than Aviles?  My guess is that it might be half that number.   If that is truly the case, then the equation becomes two defensive plays versus those five extra base hits.  Simple math, but a simple answer as well.

Of course, Chris Getz and Mike Aviles do not play in a vacuum.   They play second base next to a player who, right now, is a defense only shortstop.  Alcides Escobar, to date, has played superb defense.   He is a joy to watch in the field, but he makes us all wince when at the plate.

Escobar is going nowhere:  the Royals believe in him (so do I, actually) and they have no real option to replace him even if they did not.   Alcides Escobar and his .532 OPS are in the lineup to stay.   Als0 in the lineup will be the offensive liabilities of the Matt Treanor, Brayan Pena and, at some point, Jason Kendall. 

Name a contending team that didn’t have good defense up the middle?  Name one that had three guys up the middle with OPS below .650?   (Yes, I know Treanor is above that mark right now, but if you want to bet on that lasting…). 

I am all for good defense, but the Royals are currently struggling to score and Mike Aviles is a guy who can simply hit.  Sure, he does not walk enough, but he is about to overtake Getz in on-base percentage as it is.   How big a penalty are you willing to pay for Getz’s defense and better, but not tremendously better, base running?

Long term, neither is the ‘solution’ at second base, but not every change has to be ‘the final solution’.  The Royals give up too much when they play Chris Getz at second base and sit either Aviles or Betemit.   If we were talking about shortstop or catcher, the two most important defensive positions, then this column might have a different angle.   We are talking, however, about second base.

Aviles may not even be average in the field, but he is not a butcher (a/k/a Alberto Callaspo).  Getz is probaly above average in the field, but he is not a gold glover.   The difference, when factoring in the times one can effect the game with their glove, is not enough to justify keeping the bat of Mike Aviles on the bench.

Are the Royals playing to win this year or are they hoping that Chris Getz can nudge his OPS over .700 and be an average player sometime down the road?

Not much to say about last night’s game, as the Royals drop their ninth road contest in 12 games. Instead, let’s focus on the future… Like Saturday, July 9. That’s when the Royals face the Tigers and we will be hosting Baseball Prospectus night at the K.

Baseball Prospectus has been doing these ballpark events throughout the country for the past couple of seasons and since I joined the staff last year, I’ve been bugging them for an event in KC. This will be a truly great event. The game on July 9 begins at 6:10, and the BPro festivities begin at 4:10.

For only $30, here’s what you will receive:

— A ticket for an outfield box seat in the Rivals Outfield Box (right field… we can join the French Quarter!).
— A $15 credit to be used toward a Baseball Prospectus Premium subscription or your next premium renewal.
— A planned question and answer session with a staff member of the Kansas City Royals. Details to be announced
— An opportunity to talk baseball with several Baseball Prospectus writers. In addition to myself, prospect guru Kevin Goldstein, Rany Jazayerli, Royals scout school graduate Joe Hamrahi and Jeff Euston of Cot’s Baseball Contracts will be in attendance.

Those Rivals Outfield Box seats usually go for $25 (advance purchase) but with the added value (like the BP credit) that’s a pretty sweet deal. Spots are filling up quickly, so click here to purchase your ticket to the event.

I’ll place the event at the top of the sidebar on the right, so when you visit you will be reminded. This is a really solid group of writers and I know this team has an outstanding bunch of knowledgeable fans, so this event should be a ton of fun.

Mark it down. July 9. I hope to see you there.

Quick notes about last night…

— Is this team going to be one of those bizarro teams with weird splits? Specifically, road and home record. These guys look like world beaters (and contenders) at home. On the road… Not so much.

— Alex Gordon in May… Not as good as Alex Gordon in April. So far, he’s hitting just .161/.229/.290 in eight games. I’ve written before about how his decrease in home run power is troubling… Now we have this to worry about. And that strikeout last night against Chamberlin was ugly. Three pitches and he didn’t even move the bat off his shoulder.

— Kyle Davies turned in a typical Davies performance. Meh.

— If there was any question about how the Royals will handle the inevitable call-up of Danny Duffy, I present to you Exhibit A: With Bruce Chen on the DL, the Royals recalled Vin Mazzaro from Omaha.

With Eric Hosmer almost certainly in line to qualify as a super two, the Royals won’t jump start the service clock of a pitcher just to gain a handful of starts. That said, I expect Duffy and maybe Montgomery to arrive in early June. Hopefully.

My mantra lately has been “The Royals are contenders for as long as they are in contention.” I still think that 76 wins is a likely target for this team, but until such a date when they no longer have a shot at winning the American League Central or the American League Wild Card, then I’m going to believe. There’s certainly a realistic part of my brain saying “this isn’t real”, but who cares? The Royals are winning and baseball is suddenly a whole lot more fun than it’s been in a long time. I’m riding this wave for as long as it lasts.

There is, however one major obstacle that seems bound and determined to ruin everything for Royals fans: the Cleveland Indians. The other team in the AL Central that nobody picked to be any good is doing its best to run away and hide with the division lead. It seems like the Royals haven’t been able to gain any ground on the Indians  and are just spinning their wheels. It seems that if the Royals win, then the Indians win and if the Royals lose, then the Indians lose. On the bright side, no ground is lost, but then again no ground is gained either. To illustrate the point, I’ve put together a small chart of how the two teams have fared since their last meeting.

It’s clearly not just something I’m imagining. The Royals and Indians have matched each other game for game since they last met on April 28th. The Royals have remained exactly 4.5 games out of first place every day since then. The whole idea of caring what another team in the division is doing is kind of foreign to me as a Royals fan, and it gives me just a little bit of concern that not everything is within the team’s control. However, it definitely adds a whole other dimension to watching baseball. As soon as the Royals game is complete, I’m immediately going to the Indians game to see where they stand.

It’s highly unlikely that these two teams continue matching each other, so eventually something has to change. Neither team has an easy road between now and next Monday when they play each other again though the Royals schedule looks to be the tougher of the two. The Indians play the Tampa Bay Rays and the Seattle Mariners at home, while the Royals go on the road to face the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers.

The next six games just might illuminate the American League Central division race and give some clarity to whether the Royals and Indians are for real or just playing over their heads. It’s not make-or-break yet, but for the Royals, keeping pace is going to be important. If the recent past is any indicator, they will do just that.

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

2011 was supposed to be a relatively easy year for Ned Yost and Dayton Moore.  The minor league system was loaded with talent and the major league team opened the year with exactly zero expectation for success.   All they had to do this summer was ride out the losing, the national satire that might occasionally pop up, and let their prospects gradually feed into the majors.   Next year the Royals would be better and in 2013, they would contend.

Then something rather unsettling happened:   the 2011 Royals started winning.

Sure, 18-16 is not exactly ‘stop the presses’ type winning, but in a division where the White Sox are imploding, the Twins are hobbled, the Tigers look very average and the Cleveland Indians, of all teams, have led all season, that record is enough to get fans and front office alike interested in this year.

In some respects, Moore went into 2011 with some inkling that this team might be better than people thought.   How else do you explain moving one of the organization’s top pitching prospects and former first round pick Aaron Crow from minor league starter to major league reliever?   If one did not believe your team had a chance, why carry a pinch runner extraordinaire in Jarrod Dyson on the major league roster?  Those are roster moves that contending teams make to put them over the top, not developmental moves to make your 2013 team better.

Now, with Lorenzo Cain playing centerfield in Omaha and Derrick Robinson doing the same in Northwest Arkansas, you can make the argument that the major league roster was as good a place to stash Jarrod Dyson (who most people generally believe will never hit major league pitching with any reasonable success) as any.   You can also make the argument that putting Crow into the major league bullpen, while not a particularly conventional way of developing young pitchers anymore, is simply a different way to move him along.  

I think, however, that Dayton Moore had a thought that IF the starting rotation could be just good enough and IF the rookies in the bullpen could be very good and IF Alex Gordon came around and IF and IF and IF….   Well, then, maybe this year’s Royals could be, if not contenders, decent.   A team seldom goes from bad to good without being decent in between.   If Crow and Dyson could help Kansas City get to ‘decent’ sooner, then so be it.

Of course, then the American League Central happened all over itself.   No one, including the Indians themselves, believe that Cleveland is going to run away and hide and the teams that were supposed to be good have us all wondering why we thought they were going to be good in the first place.   Truly, any team that thinks it can get to 85 or 86 wins has to believe that will put them in the thick of a September pennant race.

Is it realistic that the Kansas City Royals could get ten games over .500?   I don’t know, but I cannot fault the effort to try THIS year.

Damn Super Two, boys, full speed ahead!

As Craig pointed out last week, the Royals could have avoided a year of arbitration with Eric Hosmer had they waited three weeks to call him up.  The consequences of starting the arbitration clock (different from the free agent clock, by the way) could well end up costing the Royals a total of $10 million between end of the 2013 season through 2017.    Not chump change by any means, but not the type of money that should force Kansas City into organizational paralysis either.

You can take the organization’s line that ‘Hosmer was just ready to move up’ however you want, but no one believes that if Kila Ka’aihue was hitting .300 and/or the Royals were ten games under .500 that this move would have been made last Thursday night.    The call for Hosmer was made, quite simply, because the Royals are in contention right now and might not be there three weeks from now.

Even with the addition of Hosmer, the Royals will have a difficult time navigating their way through the May schedule.   Should they falter and find themselves 10 games out and buried below the .500 mark on May 31st, then this early call-up will quite certainly be a costly misstep.

What if Eric Hosmer ‘is who we thought he was’?  What if the Royals hit May 31st and are still three, four or even five games over .500?   Surely the Indians will not continue to play .667 ball through the month and hopefully the Tigers don’t catch fire.   More ‘ifs’ I know, but what if?   At that point, calling up Hosmer might well be money well spent.

It is a gamble to be sure – a $10 million gamble actually – but I give Moore credit for not being afraid to make the call.  At our Royals Authority gathering this spring at The Well, I wondered if Moore might be hesitant to call up his prize prospects for fear of failure (see Escobar, Alcides circa 2010) and this tells me that he is not.   It also tells me that Dayton Moore, like all of us, is tired of ‘waiting for next year’.

The logicial question, of course, is what’s next?   Wait – that’s what.

One player becoming a ‘Super Two’ is livable, two or three is a problem.   For that reason alone, the Royals likely will not make a move to bolster the starting rotation until month’s end.   Yes, Kansas City starters gave up six runs in 22 plus innings this weekend, but Oakland is a bad, bad offensive team.   While the performances of O’Sullivan, Hochevar and Francis were encouraging, they need to be tempered with the A’s ineptitude in mind.

Everyone, including my 3 year old son, knows that Danny Duffy and Mike Montgomery are next in line to get the big league call.  Duffy who has 41 strikeouts and 7 walks over his first 32 innings is likely number one on the list, with Montgomery close behind once he masters enough control of his secondary pitches not to walk 19 batters in 33 innings.   Right now, either one is likely better than Kyle Davies.

If the Royals reach the 1st of June within in hailing distance of first place, you can pretty much count on Duffy getting the call.    Unless innings become a major concern (and they might well be), Montgomery probably won’t be far behind his Omaha teammate.

That is kind of the rub of this whole ‘contention equation’:  teams in contention generally don’t get younger to compete, but that is exactly what the Royals would likely do.    With Lorenzo Cain, David Lough, Mike Moustakas and Johnny Giavotella all in Omaha as well, one could make the case that a 51-45 Royals team could replace veterans with rookies (or near rookies in the case of Cain) in the heat of a pennant race and actually become more potent.

There is something to be said for bringing up young players to play in games that matter as opposed to have them slipping into the lineup late in the year on a team that is 52-70.  Even if the acceleration of The Process ends up with Kansas City falling out of contention as August turns to September, the experience gained by Hosmer, Duffy and a couple of others will be invaluable.

Now, this could all blow up in the Royals’ face.    Hosmer could struggle mightily, Duffy could replace Davies and look a lot like Kyle Davies, Montgomery might never get his walks under control and Ned Yost might continue to bat Chris Getz lead-off 70% of the time.   By mid-June you might well send me a ‘you were an idiot back in May’ comment and I might not have much of a defense.

If the question is do you try to contend in 2011 or 2012, then my answer is you contend when you have a chance.   Maybe it is just May 9th and maybe this team is just two games over .500 one-fifth of the way through the regular season, but that is closer to contention than the 2012 team might be at the same point in time.

Eric Hosmer was ready for the show and, it turns out, for better or worse, Dayton Moore was ready to make run now, not next year. 

Episode #053 – In which I discuss the series with the Oakland Athletics, the Eric Hosmer callup, my experience in the Royals pressbox and preview the upcoming series with the New York Yankees.


Follow Nick on Twitter @brokenbatsingle or on Facebook

Music used in this podcast

Gram Parsons – Still Feeling Blue

Grizzly Bear – Two Weeks

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The Process Starter (Photo by Minda Haas)

It’s a happy day as The Process officially kicked off. Mark the date: May 6. The day Eric Hosmer arrived in Kansas City to lead the Royals to the promised land. (Yes, it was great that Tim Collins and Aaron Crow were on the Opening Day roster, but I can’t have a pair of relievers jump starting The Process. Just can’t happen.)

I expected Mike Moustakas to be the first, but I’ve been telling everyone who would listen that Hosmer is a better prospect. The guy has that classic smooth lefty swing (think Will Clark) with quick wrists and explosive power. He’s the complete package.

It’s a shame that Kila Ka’aihue was collateral damage in this move. Still, I can’t be too upset that the Royals number one prospect will be making his major league debut on Friday. Hosmer improves this lineup. That’s the bottom line to this move.

While this is great news for the team and especially the fans, there are a couple of things to consider. Moves like this are never clean, and this one will leave a bunch of debris in its wake.

The Service Time Bugaboo

Here’s the deal on service time and how it effects Hosmer and the Royals. A player accrues service time for every calendar day he is on the major league roster (or disabled list.) This year, the season ends on September 28. From Friday, to the end of the season, there are 146 days remaining in the season. Therefore, if Hosmer stays on the roster for the rest of the year, he will have 146 days of service time.

Free Agency

This isn’t even a question. For a player to earn a full year, he must be on the roster for 172 of the 183 calendar days. Or, he must spend less than 20 days on an optional assignment to the minors. (Remember, this came up with Alex Gordon, who spent about 21 days in the minors in 2009. That one day bought the Royals an extra year of control. Manipulative? You bet.)

Assuming Hosmer never returns to the minors, he will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2017 season.


Here’s where it gets tricky. A player with three years of service time becomes eligible for salary arbitration. Every year, there are a number of players who become eligible with less than three years. These are known as super-two players. Here’s how you become a super-two:

A player with at least two but less than three years of Major League service shall be eligible for salary arbitration if he has accumulated at least 86 days of service during the immediately preceding season and he ranks in the top 17 percent in total service in the class of Players who have at least two but less than three years of Major League service.

Basically, we won’t know who qualifies for a super-two until the end of the season when MLB throws all the eligible players into a pot and determines the top 17 percent. However, thanks to MLB Trade Rumors, they’ve crunched the numbers and discovered a few facts about super-two.

— For the 2007 and 2008 seasons, no player had less than 2 years, 130 days of service time and qualified as a super-two.

— Since 2007, the average super-two has 2 years and 148 days of service time.

Again, if Hosmer never returns to the minors, at the end of the 2013 season, he will have 2 years and 146 days of service time. He will almost certainly become a super-two.

Knowing what we do about super-two status, it seems odd the Royals would bring Hosmer up now and not keep him in Omaha for another two weeks. That would knock about 15 days off his service time and would keep him closer to the bottom of the super-two threshold, identified by MLB Trade Rumors as being 130 days.

The cost of this move is millions of dollars in future salary. I’m excited as everyone about the start of The Process, but would it have hurt to have waited a few weeks? You know where this could payoff… If Scott Boras realizes the Royals have done right by his client at every turn and allows him to sign an extension. Maybe I should stop now… I’m sinking into Crazy Town.

That brings us to the next point…

The Royals Feel The Central Is In Play

The Indians are in first and they were expected to finish in the bottom of the division. The Twins are hurting. The White Sox were described as a $125 million pile of dung. (Really.) And the Tigers don’t do any one thing that would lead anyone to peg them as favorites. This division historically is weak, but this year all bets are off.

Hosmer is a hitter and a plus defender. Adding his bat and glove to the lineup is an upgrade.

Still, the Royals can’t be serious about the division until they address the starting pitching. Danny Duffy and Mike Montgomery are close. I would expect them to be about three weeks out. Or after they are safely out of super-two status. Think about that… That’s just three starts. It’s easier for the team to manage a pitcher’s service time this way because they are out there only every fifth day. The Royals can tread water for that long.

But there’s more to ponder about the super-two issue…

Collective Bargaining Agreement and the Royals

The current CBA expires after the 2011 season. (December 11, 2011 to be exact.) That’s still a ways off, but there will be some changes made. Free agency is the sacred cow… That’s not going to be discussed, although arbitration has some wiggle room. It’s conceivable that the eligibility for super-two status changes. It’s also possible that it disappears completely. (That’s unlikely, but you never know.)

The point is, nobody knows what’s going to happen in December. It’s a risk the Royals were willing to take. With Hosmer at least. The club has payroll flexibility, but GMDM doesn’t want to jump start a service clock if he can avoid it. He’ll take the hit on an everyday player like Hosmer, but the pitchers will have to wait.

Clint Robinson’s Farewell Tour

Robinson is hitting .323/.409/.635 with eight home runs. Plus, he’s on the 40-man. If this move wasn’t about the future, the call would have gone to Robinson. The guy has done everything to earn a shot, but there’s no place for him on the big club. Billy Butler has the DH role locked up and now Hosmer is a fixture at first. This makes Robinson trade bait.

Should the Royals find themselves still in the race in July, Robinson will undoubtedly be flipped… Probably for pitching.

Farewell, Kila

I hoped it would work out and felt he deserved at least half a season. Now, there’s no way he returns to Kansas City wearing a Royals uniform. If Hosmer or Butler goes down, I’d think Robinson has moved ahead in the pecking order.

Stinks, but it’s difficult to complain about that.


Hosmer did his part and forced the issue. A guy hitting .439/.525/.582 with 19 walks and 16 strikeouts can’t be ignored. Especially when he’s your top prospect. The timing is a little suspect… would it have killed GMDM and the Royals to old off for a couple of weeks to ensure control. There’s always the possibility they could sign him to an extension – although the presence of the Boras Corp would certainly seem to frown on that. Still, this is a great day to be a Royals fan. And it feels like the start of something special. Judging from my Twitter feed, the crowd for Friday’s game is going to be massive. And for good reason. Hosmer is just the first as the pipeline figures to start to flow in earnest… Hosmer today. Moustakas, Duffy, Montgomery, Lamb, Myers… Coming soon.

Can’t wait.

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