Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

I am going to be lazy today, mainly because my Monday morning mind cannot articulate a more detailed column.  

  • With the Twins losing again in the first round of the playoffs, would you as a Royals’ fan want to be like them and always be in contention for the post-season but never really have much of a chance to advance?   Or, would you go the Marlins’ way and build to truly compete with the big boys once every seven or eight years, knowing that in between you will be pretty awful?
  • While Kansas City will not be in the running for either player, if you could spend unlimited money on just one free agent, who would it be:  Cliff Lee or Carl Crawford?
  • Recently, we heard that the Royals might consider a bargain priced right hand hitting corner outfield type this off-season.   While I hated giving up on Matt Diaz so long ago, is it worth the effort to add him to the roster (or someone like him)?
  • Dyson, Blanco, Maier or punt?
  • This question is somewhat related to the first.   If the Royals can accelerate the timetable to be in contention by giving up a year of control over Moustakas, Hosmer and others, should they do so?   Basically, the question is does being ‘in contention’ in 2012 outweigh being a ‘contender’ in 2018?

Just some random questions to get the week started.   For those of you who rightfully hate short, question orientated columns:  I’ll do better on Thursday.

Excuse my foray into non-Royals writing.  I was inspired by the game last night and I wrote this.  There wasn’t a post really scheduled for today, so I figured I’d just go ahead and post it here.  Also Bill Baer who runs Crashburn Alley, the Sweet Spot Network blog for the Philadelphia Phillies has republished this at his site.  Please check out the great job he does covering the Phillies.

There are thousands of plays in a baseball season. They are not all created equal. For example, on September 25th, the Kansas City Royals played a game in Cleveland against the Indians. In the top of the 7th inning, Mike Aviles grounded out to the shortstop for the 2nd out of the inning. The Royals were down seven runs to one, and both teams had long been out of the post season picture. A few die-hard fans of each team cared, but the individual play had little to no significance in the grand scheme of baseball. Plays like that are a part of baseball, they are needed to move the season to its conclusion. However, it’s not those plays that create history, primarily because they are so abundant and so ordinary.

Last night, fans around baseball were treated to a historic moment. Roy Halladay pitched a no-hitter in a playoff game, only the second time it’s ever happened. An individual game of baseball in many ways mirrors the season and even the entire history of the sport. A game is not complete until every out has been made, just like a season isn’t complete until every game is played. Many outs are merely mundane, simple groundouts to short, there seemingly to move the game a step closer to the end. Some outs, just like some games take on a much greater importance. Outs like the one to end a no-hitter take on supreme importance, and playoff games likewise. The convergence of an important out and an important game, elevate the moment to one of historic proportions.

I’d like to focus on the final out of last nights game moment by moment. An out that took roughly 10 seconds from pitch until completion, but one that encapsulates the drama of baseball.

It’s the top of the 9th inning, two outs and an 0-2 count on Cincinnati Red Brandon Phillips. Roy Halladay had surrendered only a single walk in this opening game of the National League Division Series. He’d thrown a first pitch fastball for a strike at 93 mph and followed it up with a 91 mph cut fastball outside which Phillips swung at and missed. Catcher Carlos Ruiz called for a curveball off-the plate, knowing that Phillips was likely going to swing at nearly anything to stay alive, and hoping the change in speed would have him swinging in front of the pitch. Halladay obliged with a 79mph curve, right were Ruiz wanted it.

Brandon Phillips, likely willing to do anything to stay alive and with that previous cut fastball still in his head, stretches out his arms and begins a very awkward swing at the curveball. The guy in the crowd wearing the white coat seems to be leaning in an attempt to will the ball past the batter.

Phillips gets stretched out just enough to get the very end of the bat on the ball. However the sink on the curve drops the ball to where it will hit on the lower half of the bat. The guy sitting down in the second row is holding a radar gun. He’s obviously some kind of scout. He’s not there as a fan, he’s there for his job and isn’t even going to soak in the last pitch of a no-hitter in a playoff game.

Phillips drives the ball down to the ground weakly and it takes a half-hearted bounce. Catcher Ruiz looks to be a little stunned that the ball is not in his glove and his body seems to be in a bad position to field the ball if it doesn’t get to the pitcher. The guy standing next to the leaning white-coat guy seems convinced that the no-hitter has already happened. He’s about four seconds from being right, but a lot still has to happen.

Phillips knows he barely hit the ball and his only shot at breaking up the no-hitter is to beat a throw from the catcher. Ruiz begins to realize he is in a bad position, but is moving in the direction of the ball and begins to remove his mask.

Halladay finally begins to move towards the ball, probably realizing that Ruiz has a very tough play to make with Phillips running across his face and more importantly, the bat being dropped directly in the path of the ball. The umpire, John Hirschbeck shifts his weight, driving off of his left foot in an attempt to get in the best position to see the play unfold. Meanwhile the scout speaks into a headset, probably telling his assistant the speed of the pitch so it can be recorded.

Halladay realizes that the play is not his, he’s got no shot at it and can only get in the way. Phillips hits the grass in a full sprint, and the ball hits the ground right in front of the still rolling bat. Meanwhile, second basemen Chase Utley starts moving towards first to back-up a potential errant throw.

Brandon Phillips takes the inside path towards first base, knowing that he is right in the path of the throw from Ruiz to first baseman Ryan Howard. Ruiz stoops to pick up the ball, which is now rolling to the bat and about to bounce back towards the pitcher.

Ruiz runs just past the ball because the way it hits the bat it gets directed in an odd direction. Brandon Phillips is about halfway to first and Ruiz has yet to pick up the ball. At this point, the entire play hinges on Ruiz being able to cleanly pick up the ball with his bare hand. Rain earlier in the day likely clung to the grass, making the play that much more difficult.

Home plate umpire John Hirschbeck signals that the ball is fair, while Ruiz’s momentum carries him to his knees. Brandon Phillips has moved a few steps closer to first, Utley continues to his backup position, first base umpire Bruce Dreckman gets into what he feels is the best position to see the play and Ryan Howard gets prepared to take a throw to the inside of the base, a throw which Phillips is still expertly blocking. Roy Halladay is watching it all unfold in front of him and if I had to guess, isn’t convinced he’s got a no-hitter.

Ruiz fires the ball to the inside of Brandon Phillips, the throw taking nearly all of his upper body strength, since he cannot rely on his legs for power. The ball quickly makes up ground on Phillips, but the play is still clearly in doubt. Fans in Philly are probably not breathing.

Chase Utley, sensing a bad throw moves quicker into position, while umpire Dreckman is firmly in position ready to make the call. The ball and Phillips are in a dead heat, the only question now is whether Ryan Howard can catch it.

Ryan Howard stretches to catch the high throw, utilizing every bit of his 6’4” frame.

History being made, the celebration ensues.

These small intricacies are typical of any baseball game, from a meaningless late September matchup between two basement-dwellers to postseason no-hitters. Its the competition inherent in the sport and the uniqueness of baseball which allow these rather typical series of moments take on the utmost significance.

Nick Scott writes about the Royals for Royals Authority, podcasts about the Royals at Broken Bat Single and writes about the Chiefs for Chiefs Command. You can follow him on Twitter @brokenbatsingle, on Facebook or email him at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.

As we move into the off-season, I thought we might as well get started on the projected opening day roster for 2011.   This is an exercise that I will do every month or so in the off-season as new information comes to light.

Keep in mind, this is not my idea of the roster, but what I think the roster will actually be based upon what we know for a fact (Yuniesky Betancourt for example) or what we think is a reasonable likelihood.   We are also going to keep the speculation to a minimum (i.e. I will save the Greinke or DeJesus trade theories for another column).   As such, let’s take a look at where the Royals seem to be headed with respect to next spring.

POSITION PLAYERS

Catcher – Brayan Pena, Lucas May

First Base/Designated Hitter – Billy Buter, Kila Ka’aihue

Second Base – Chris Getz

Shortstop – Yuniesky Betancourt

Third Base – Mike Aviles

Left Field – Alex Gordon

Center Field – Jarrod Dyson

Right Field – David DeJesus

Bench – Wilson Betemit, Gregor Blanco, Mitch Maier

The Kansas City Star’s article earlier this week pointed to Aviles at third if Getz can lock down the everyday second base job with Betemit in a utility role, which surprised me some, but I don’t hate the logic, either.    

There was/has been/will be considerable talk of acquiring a veteran catcher to fill the gap before Jason Kendall returns, but I have to wonder if that really makes any sense at all for the Royals.    They don’t plan on contending in 2011, have Kendall coming back at some point and two catchers who are both out of options as it is.  

The odd man out in the above equation is Josh Fields, who might have to rely on Jarrod Dyson getting the bat knocked out of his hands in spring training to open up a spot for him.   At least that is how it stands right now, anyway.

STARTING ROTATION

Zack Greinke, Luke Hochevar, Bruce Chen, Kyle Davies and Sean O’Sullivan

To quote The Talking Heads, “Same as it ever was.”   It certainly feels like Brian Bannister is going to be non-tendered and Kyle Davies brought back.    Given that the payroll is reportedly shrinking this year, it is tough to see a free agent acquisition to bolster this group.   Of course, if Bruce Chen can repeat his 2010 performance, Luke Hochevar continues to improve and Sean O’Sullivan develops…..oh, nevermind.

BULLPEN

Joakim Soria, Gil Meche, Blake Wood, Robinson Tejeda and Dusty Hughes all seem to be locks.   The first four are certain unless the club really goes cheap and non-tenders Tejeda, which would not make much sense at all.    Hughes, being left-handed and experienced, would also seem to have a spot – at least for the first couple of months.

I will delve into a little speculation for the final two bullpen openings and project that Tim Collins will make the team out of spring training.   With 329 strikeouts in 223 innings and an outstanding debut in AAA last year (20 IP, 21K, 9 H), it doesn’t seem like there is any reason not to get his career underway.

The final spot, right now, would seem to be a battle between Kanekoa Texeira (who the organization likes) and Greg Holland.      While Holland had some dismal outings in the majors, he has always been a guy who takes a few weeks to get his feet on the ground at a new level.  He finished the year by striking out six of the last eight batters he faced.

ESTIMATED TIMES OF ARRIVAL

These are the names you care about and my educated guess as to when we will see them.   I am only looking at prospects that I think will debut in 2011.

Louis Coleman – May

Mike Moustakas – June

Blaine Hardy – June

Everett Teaford – July

David Lough – August

Eric Hosmer, Johnny Giavotella, Mike Montgomery, Danny Duffy, Chris Dwyer, Brandon Sisk – September

With respect to Montgomery and Duffy, the Royals are going to face a real innings crunch with those two.   Even with post-season action, those two will have compiled no more than 100 innings a piece in 2010.   Given that, it would be tough (and probably not prudent) for the Royals to slot them into the rotation in mid-season.   The organization has also seemed to shy away from putting starting pitching prospects into the major league bullpen as way of easing them into the bigs, so that led me to project September arrivals.

A name you are likely looking for is John Lamb, but he will be just twenty next year and having vaulted through three levels in 2010, the Royals might be content to wait until spring of 2012 to give him a look.

Another name is Jeff Bianchi, but given what we saw out of Mike Aviles as he rushed back into action from Tommy John surgery, I am speculating that it might take most of 2011 for Bianchi to round back into form.  

Well, that is pass number one at this exercise.    There is a pretty good chance that come next month, this might look considerably different.   Whether change is good or bad remains to be seen.

On the field, the 2010  season wasn’t something to be thankful for.  It was long, it was arduous and there was very little to cheer for.  However, I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank Clark and Craig for inviting me to write for Royals Authority this season.  I’ve been a fan of the site for nearly as long as it has existed.  Just like some of you, I read it every single day with my morning coffee and it was something I looked forward to.  Now, I’ve been on the other side and it was simply fantastic.  Trying to find something interesting every single week  for a last place baseball team is in some ways harder and in other ways easier than I had imagined.  I had anticipated writing much more statistically focused articles, but there were fewer angles of that nature that really jumped out at me.  It was something I was disappointed with, but I thought it was important to write things that really got me interested because I figured it was something that would interest you as a reader.

I also want to thank every reader of the blog and every listener of the podcast.  Knowing that there are people out there who  look forward to a new post at Royals Authority really provides the inspiration to try and put the extra effort into writing the best article I can.  Your emails and your comments are something I thoroughly enjoy, and that absolutely includes the angry and negative comments.  This team can really anger people, trust me, it’s angered me in the past.  This should be a place to vent your frustrations with the team and with me as a writer.  I do really enjoy all sides of the commentariat.  One of the great things about writing online is the ability to connect with the readership through email, comments and twitter.

It’s extremely invigorating to know that there is an audience for what we do here at Royals Authority.  The media landscape is changing at an extremely rapid pace, and there are people who don’t believe that quality, thoughtful content has an audience.  I know first hand that such an audience exists, you prove it every single day.  Now if only I could just write something thoughtful with quality to meet your standards, we’d really have something.

There will be more content coming from Clark, Craig and myself throughout the off-season, so don’t stray too far away during the dark times of the off-season.  Most media outlets begin to completely ignore the Royals this time of year and so I think  it’s  more important to keep providing content.  Keep telling us what you want to hear and pointing out our spelling and grammatical mistakes, I keep trying to get Clark to fire Skittles the editing monkey, but he just won’t do it.

Sincerely, thank you.

Nick Scott

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.  He will be sending out boxscores for both the Pan Am Games and the Arizona Fall League.

Episode #033 – It’s the final game of the season for the Royals, but it isn’t the final podcast.  Nick quickly recaps the season and brings in special guest Greg Schaum to talk about the Royals farm system.  Nick and Greg discuss which of Wil Myers, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas they’d rather have, who is a potential 2011 breakout candidate, the future of Clint Robinson and Aaron Crow, a bunch of other prospects and Nick tries to sell Greg on the knuckleball academy.

:http://www.livekc.com/podcasts/bbs033.mp3|titles=BBS

Follow Nick on Twitter @brokenbatsingle or on Facebook

Follow Greg Schaum on Twitter @greg_schaum and visit his site at http://www.royalsprospects.com

Music used in this podcast:

Curtis Mayfield – Beutiful Brother of Mine

Arcade Fire – Ready To Start

John Zorn – Mow Mow

How to Get the Podcast:

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I listened to the Royals’ final game of the season on the radio yesterday and sensed just a tinge of sadness in Denny and Ryan’s voices as they signed off.   Despite a year that was an absolute grind, it is still something of an empty feeling to know that there is no game tonight or the next day.  

Someday, October will mean something to us Royals’ fans, but 2010 ended up being another year when the vast majority of us turned our attention to football…in August.     I will keep an eye on the playoffs as I like the Rays, mainly because I think Joe Maddon is kind of cool, and will have to witness the bizarre spectre of Jose Guillen playing the outfield for a playoff team, but for the most part, the 2010 season is over.

In some respects, the Royals got an early start on 2011 by exercising David DeJesus’ option for 2011.   That was pretty much a no-brainer, in my opinion, as $6 million for a player with an OPS+ over 100 in five of the last six seasons is a better deal than likely will be available on the open market this off-season.   Plus, the Royals have one proven above average major league outfielder in their organization right now and his name is DeJesus.

Beyond David, you have Alex Gordon (84 OPS+ in 281 plate appearances) and a trio of Gregor Blanco, Mitch Maier and Jarrod Dyson who will all struggle to anything more than one win above replacement level.   The high minors really offer David Lough and Jordan Parraz, neither of whom offer upside any better than DeJesus (if that).  They are followed by Derrick Robinson and Paulo Orlando, who still have much to prove and are at least one year away.

So, yes, bringing DeJesus back is one of the easiest decisions Dayton Moore will make this off-season and it still leaves him a slew of options with regard to the 30 year old outfielder:

  • Moore can shop DeJesus this winter, although I would suspect David’s value is hurt by speculation over how well he has recovered from the thumb injury that curtailed his 2010 season.  Anything that has to do with a hitter’s hands always gives rise to concern.
  • Moore can shop DeJesus at the trade deadline in 2011.   That is likely the current plan of action as it allows David time to prove he is healthy and the Royals time to see what they have in Lough, et.al.   You hate to go through another round of veteran for prospects trades, but it may make the most sense for the organization come next July.
  • The Royals could also move towards offering DeJesus an extension at some point during next season.   While David is a good player, he is not the caliber of talent that is going to get $15 million per year in free agency.   He strikes me as a guy who might have some loyalty to Kansas City.    Given the lack of better alternatives in the minors (short a move of Hosmer or Myers to the outfield), three years for $21 or $24 million might be doable and advisable.

Not lost in the above, is the Zack Greinke factor.   If the Royals decide that they want to keep Zack past 2012 the are going to have to sell him on the fact that this organization is going to be a winner.   Resigning DeJesus, one of the guys who Greinke surely views as established and productive, might help.

An additional factor in possibly getting a new deal done with DeJesus might well be what happens in left and center field next season.   If the Royals wake up on June 30th with Alex Gordon hitting .221, Gregor Blanco muddling along with a .690 OPS and Jarrod Dyson back in the minors after going 6 for 70 next season, they will certainly be thinking that they need DeJesus in 2012 and beyond just to have someone out there who can hit!

Anyway, so long 2010, we probably will not miss you that much.

I had a gut feeling about this.  There was no way Zack Greinke was going to go out with another stinker of a start like he did in Cleveland.  No way.  For all the talk about his lack of focus and distrust of The Process, Greinke is a competitor.  Clark touched on this a little yesterday, but it’s the stuff of clubhouse legend.  The dude will take you on in anything.  Ping-pong?  He probably has a paddle in his locker.  Bowling?  His initials are probably monogramed on a ball.  And we’ve heard all of the stories about how he was consistently trying to one-up Gil Meche.

So even though nothing has gone right this season, and Greinke isn’t too anxious to stick around for Youth Movement, 5.0 he certainly doesn’t want to end the season on a negative note.  He left us with nine strikeouts, tied for his second highest total in a start this season, and two runs allowed on four hits.  Nice.

He wasn’t Zack, version 2009, but that’s fine.  Last year was all kinds of awesome and it was so exceptional, we knew he was going to have a difficult time repeating that kind of success.  We just didn’t expect Zack, version 2010 to be so damn frustrating.

I know the advanced metrics say Greinke has been really quite good this season.  And, as usual, the Royals defense has been horrific.  Even though errors aren’t a good way to measure defense, did you know that 17 hitters have reached base via an error against Greinke this year?  The next closest in the AL is Colby Lewis in Texas who has had 12 batters reach on a miscue.

Anyway, there is just no way you could have watched any of Greinke’s starts over the last two months and not come away extremely frustrated.  Thankfully, Thursday was different.  And that’s what we’ll carry with us into the winter.
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The minor league guys were in town and interviewed at length during the broadcast.  Interesting stuff for those of us who are invested in The Process.  Just based on the interviews I saw, Wil Myers and Clint Robinson seem like great kids.  Broadcasts like that get me pumped for the future.
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I’ll leave you with a few links for your reading pleasure…

Fenway Park, in Boston, is a lyric little bandbox of a ballpark.

That line made me root for the Red Sox.  At least until Jimmy Fallon and all those pink hat wearing dbags started turning up everywhere.  Anyway, it’s the 50th anniversary of Ted Williams final plate appearance, so John Updike’s classic “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu” has gotten some publicity.  It’s a classic worth reading any time.

Of contemporary writers (internet version) there’s no one who does it better than Alex Belth.  If he’s writing, I’m reading.  It pains me to say that since he’s a Yankee fan and all that, but it’s true.  The guy knows his way around a keyboard.  His take on working for Ken Burns on Baseball for his first gig out of college is a blast.

There’s Posnanski.  And there’s Scully.  Both magicians with words.  And when they get together…  It makes me happy.

Not that I’m in the same league with the three previous writers, but I did write a little something about our Greinke at Baseball Prospectus (subscription required) this week.  If you’re going to click on all four of these links, maybe you should hit mine first.  Clearly the appetizer.  The other three are the main course.

I ask that question because the odds are that Zack Greinke and Luke Hochevar will be the Royals’ numbers one and two starters in 2011.     Considering the usual learning curve for young pitchers, however highly touted, it is also likely that those two players could occupy the same spots again in 2012. 

So, do you trust those two to head up your starting rotation for the next two years?

We will start with Hochevar, whose season was nicely summed up by Rany last week.   While Luke will be the clear number two guy on the Royals next season, he really is more of a number three on a contending team and probably a number four guy on a really good club.

That said, Hochevar has made some progress in 2010 despite missing half of the season due to a ‘minor’ injury.   If you were to look at his game log for the season, ignore his draft position and consider his defense included a horrible Betancourt, out of position (and not healthy) Aviles and a cast of thousands in center, Luke does not look that bad.    Over seventeen starts, Hochevar has pitched at least six innings eleven times.

What we saw last night out of Hochevar – 6 innings/2 runs – has become a fairly common ‘Hochevar type’ night.   Once in a while, he will be dominate and about the same amount of times he will be pretty bad.  In between, Luke will be better than Kyle Davies with more potential than Bruce Chen and without question, never as horrible as Brian Bannister has become.

What I think we could reasonably expect from Hochevar over the next couple of years is something of a Gil Meche-lite type performance (the Gil from 2007 through June of 2009, remember him?).      Four hundred innings over two seasons with an earned run average in the low fours may not be a true number two starter, but it is good enough for the Royals who we can hope have two or three ‘true number twos’ pitching in either AA or AAA next year.

That brings us to our resident ace, Zack Greinke, who is actually six weeks younger than Hochevar.    After tonight, Zack will have made 98 starts for the Royals over the past three years and will have averaged basically six and two-thirds innings per start.   Along the way, he has won a Cy Young Award and kept his earned run average (still a viable stat for a starter) under four basically the entire time until mid-September.

However, there is the rub.   I hate to try to get into a player’s head and portray his mindset, but it sure looks like Zack has been at best unmotivated and at worst completely disinterested this September.    Given that most of us fans have a similar mindset this time of year, it is tough to be too critical, but Zack Greinke is the ace of this staff and should be held to a higher standard.

Listen, I completely get how competitive Zack is and how much he would like to be pitching in games that mean something.  It is hard to bring your A game when half your teammates are AAA players and Cleveland is trotting out a lineup of guys you have never seen before and may not see again.   If, however, you are the leader of the pitching staff, don’t you have to find a way to give a crap?

I admittedly have a love hate relationship with Zack Greinke.    He is fascinating to watch pitch and not just because he can be the most dominant arm in the game at times.   Zack can also be frustratingly stubborn (back to back curves to Varitek and Hermidia for back to back home runs, for example) and quite simply disinterested at times.   In the end, Greinke is easily the best pitcher the Royals have produced since Kevin Appier and, maybe, better than him, Cone, Saberhagen and all the rest.

That said, knowing that most of the games this team plays in 2011 ‘won’t matter much’, is Zack Greinke the guy you want to trot out as your ace in front of what will be a very young and likely impressionable roster by the end of that season.    If Greinke is mailing it in versus the Indians in late September of 2011, what will Mike Montgomery and Danny Duffy think?   “Hey, we can study up on the Yankees, but the Indians in September?  Hell, just go out there and see what happens.”

Again, I am not in Zack’s head, nor am I in the clubhouse.   It could well be that Zack goes out and throws nine innings of dominance tonight and the points made in this column go away.   Frankly, I hope that is exactly what happens, but what if it doesn’t?  

At that point, does Dayton Moore seriously have to consider trading Zack Greinke now?   While his contract is still attractive and before the lack of every start focus rubs off on younger pitchers?  

We and many others have written and discussed this before, but the question is particularly relevant as the 2010 season closes out.     Can the Royals afford to trade Zack Greinke?   Can they afford not to?

There’s nothing left to play for, unless the a battle for fourth place is your idea of fun.  (After the Carnage In Cleveland over the weekend, I’m not even certain a battle exists)  The Chiefs are undefeated and the final week of the baseball season brings two teams with a history of postseason appearances on modest payrolls built through the draft and canny trades in for a final visit.  It’s OK to have Twin or Ray envy.  These are two teams who know what they’re doing.  We can only hope the Royals resident sabermetrician is taking copious notes.

(Side note:  Is the Rays attendance situation crazy, or what?  If the Royals were playing meaningful baseball in September, not only would the stadium be packed, everyone would be wearing blue and hospitals would have an increase in parents naming their newborn boys Yuniesky.  This city would be insane.  I get the economy sucks – especially in Florida where there are apparently more vacant houses than occupied – but still… In a metropolitan area that large, it doesn’t make sense.  It’s easier to understand that the stadium is a poorly-located dump.  Traffic in the Tampa area is a bitch and there’s basically one way to get to the stadium.  Imagine if the only way to approach the K was from I-70 from the east.  Not making excuses here… Somethings are worth the effort.  Or the drive.

Now they’re giving away 20,000 tickets.  Talk about marketing fail… Way to devalue your product, Rays. But I digress…)

Anyway, there are just a few days left in the 2010 season, but there are still some questions that remain about the Royals.  This post is inspired by Dodger Thoughts who posted 10 questions about the LA Dodgers that will be solved by the end of the season.  I began this post with the aim of finding 10 for the Royals, but they are so damn uninteresting I could only come up with five.  Here goes…

Will the Royals team leader in HR finish the season in San Francisco?

Current leaders are the Yunigma and the dearly departed Jose Guillen each with 16 home runs and Billy Butler is nipping at their heals with 15.  Thankfully, Ed Kirkpatrick’s record of fewest number of home runs to lead the team is safe for another season.  He clobbered just 14 home runs to lead the ’69 Royals.

Can the Yunigma stay above replacement level?

According to Fangraphs’ WAR formula, Betancourt currently owns a 0.5 WAR, placing him ahead of Alcides Escobar and Cesar Izturis in the pantheon of criminally horrible shortstops.

But he has a bunch of RBI!!!

(But he also has the second most plate appearances on the team.  Opportunity does not equal quality.)

Do you remember the Yost Effect?

Guess who the worst team in baseball is, post All-Star Break:

Royals — 26-43, .377
Mariners — 26-43, .377
Pittsburgh — 26-43, .377
Dodgers — 28-42, .400
Nats — 29-40, .420

The Pirates have the number one spot locked up for next June’s draft, but the Royals can pick anywhere from second in the draft to seventh. As they sputter to the finish line, I’m betting they get passed by a resurgent Oriole team and finish with the third pick in next year’s draft.

Can Billy Butler set the season record for grounding into double plays?

The record for the most GIDP in a season belongs to Jim Rice, who hit into 36 twin killings in 1984.  He followed that up with 35 in ’85 and owns the top two spots on the leaderboard.  Butler has hit into 30 double plays this season, and if he hits into three more, third place on the all time list will be his, and his alone.

Will any Royals starting pitcher finish with an ERA+ of 100 or better?

Zack Greinke’s fiasco start in Cleveland dropped his ERA+ to 99 on the season and meant that all Royals starters were below the 100 threshold. The last time the Royals failed to have a starting pitcher with an ERA+ of above 100 was in 2006 when Luke Hudson and his 5.12 ERA led the staff with an ERA+ of 92.  I don’t have to remind you, that was the year Mark Redman was an All-Star.

Are you excited yet?

The end of the season is really sneaking up on me.   There are only six games remaining for the Royals in the 2010 season.  I admit, even for a Royals blogger it gets harder and harder to really watch a lot of Royals games at this point in the season.  I tend to drift to some football games, some more important baseball games or a TV show like Mad Men to fill my time rather than a Royals game.  I doubt I am alone in this, it’s only natural.  The team is currently in line for the 4th overall draft pick (that’s my glass half full mindset), and while I thought that the teams coming into the K to end the season would be playing for something important, it seems that the playoff picture is nearly complete in the American League.  However, there are still interesting things happening on the field and with the team.

Jarrod Dyson hit his first Major League homerun last night.  It’s always a cool moment for a rookie to get  that under his belt.  However, it was extremely unlikely that it was going to happen for Jarrod Dyson last night.  Why?  Dyson hit one homerun in 1,245 plate appearances in the Minor Leagues.  It didn’t happen until his 5th season when he was in AAA.  He even had 315 plate appearances with AA Northwest Arkansas, where he played at one of the most homerun friendly parks in the Texas League, and had zero homeruns.  I seriously doubt that Dyson has found his power stroke, and his limiting factor in being an everyday player for the Royals is his bat.  However, stranger things have happened than a guy figuring out how to improve his hitting at the Major League level.  I am a big Jarrod Dyson fan and I sincerly hope he figures it out.

I remember once-upon-a-time there was some chatter about how great Yuniesky Betancourt is, particularly compared to other shortstops.  Oddly, that kind of talk has been quiet.  It probably has to do with the fact that the only player that has played for the Royals this year with a lower OBP is rookie catcher Luke May.  Or it possibly could be some of the following ranks he holds among qualified shortstops:

Batting Average: 15th of 22
On Base Percentage : 21st of 22
Slugging Percentage: 10th of 22
wOBA: 16th of 22

I know that you have to put someone at shortstop and there are possibly worse options than the Yunigma, but if you are going to feed me crap, just tell me it’s crap.  Don’t cover it in flower and call it a donut.

Joakim Soria is the best reliever in baseball.  He is better than Mariano Rivera, and I don’t even think its debateable.  He notched his 42nd save last night to match a career high.  The Royals as a team have won 64 games.  A little quick math tells me that Soria has saved two thirds of the Royals wins this year.  Two thirds, think about that.  Soria needs three more saves to get into a tie for the Royals single-season lead.  Here are the top 5 Royals seasons for saves:

1.(tie) Jeff Montgomery (1993) – 45
1.(tie) Dan Quisenberry (1983) – 45
3. Dan Quisenberry (1984) – 44
4.(tie) Joakim Soria (2008) – 42
4.(tie) Joakim Soria (2010) – 42

I think it would be really cool if Soria could end on 45 and the trio of great Royals closers could all share the single-season lead.

Billy Butler raised his batting average by a point last night to .321 by going 2-for-4.  That ranks him 5th in the Major League.  Yes, he isn’t a good defender and yes, he hits into a lot of double plays, but the kid can flat out hit the ball.  It’s not just his ability to hit the ball either.  Butler has been getting on base to the tune of a .390 OBP which ranks 6th in the American League.  I hear a lot of people bemoan his lack of power, but from day one, I’ve been beating the drum that Billy Butler is a hitter, not a masher.  I think he has the ability to become Tony Gwynn-esque, I don’t think anyone would quibble with that.

Kila Ka’aihue has struggled since being called up from the Minors, but there are indications he is starting to find his way.  He has hits in 7 of his last 9 games.  Since being called up, Kila has 2 more walks (19) than Mike Aviles (17) and is only two shy of the Yunigma (21).  Ned Yost continues to give him time to get acclimated and I believe will do so throughout the 2011 season.  Kila is a cheap player who has a great opportunity to produce in areas the Royals are sorely lacking, OBP and power.  I don’t get it, but there is a segment of Royals fans who seem to get giddy when Kila struggles.  I don’t know if it is some kind of odd desire to see Mike Jacobs come back, or if in Kila they have found some way to channel their anger at people who like the statistical side of baseball.  Either way, it confuses the heck out of me.

Finally, I will continue sending out the Royals Organization Report throughout the Fall.  I’ll be including the Arizona Fall League and the Pan Am Qualifying tournament, so drop me an email at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com and I will add you to the list.

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.  He will be sending out boxscores for both the Pan Am Games and the Arizona Fall League.

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