Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Robinson Tejeda… Something isn’t right with this dude. Last year, his average fastball was around 94 mph with some serious life. Last night, he was living around 88-89 mph while sometimes dialing it up to 92. Interestingly enough, his fastest pitch was his last pitch – a 92.7 mph four-seamer he left right down the middle of the plate that was smoked for the game winning hit by Danny Valencia.

It was pretty clear from the four pitch walk to the second batter Tejeda faced (Michael Cuddyer) that this game was going to end in an ugly fashion for the Royals. What was Ned Yost thinking at this point? Unfortunately, it appears he wasn’t thinking at all. Ripping a page from the Trey Hillman Managerial Handbook, Yost sat on his hands while the game crumbled. Of course, the obvious gripe will be that Joakim Soria should have been in the game. Put me in this camp. Although I also understand that in an extra inning game on the road, you have to save him for the bottom of the inning just in case you take the lead in the top half of the inning. You just have to. (Emphasis added to underscore the sarcasm.) This argument is a dead horse. There are a lot of things about Yost that I like, but we can’t forget that he’s a major league manager, and as a major league manager he is expected to do things in a certain way. By The Book, if you will. Yost doesn’t strike me as a guy who would like to be tagged as an innovator. There’s just no way Soria will ever enter the game in that situation. Moot point.

Moving on, while Soria isn’t even going to warm up without a lead in extras, there was no reason Yost couldn’t have grabbed any warm body out in the pen. I don’t care who… Adcock, Jeffress, even Texeira. The point is, Tejeda was struggling (again.) If you’re truly trying to win the ballgame, you can’t watch what happened with the first two batters and do nothing. Yost fell asleep at the switch. I’m not going to say his inaction last night cost the Royals the game, but it didn’t help.

If you were managing like it was 2010, maybe you stick with Tejeda. He should be a better pitcher than the remaining guys in the bullpen. But this is 2011, and he’s not a better pitcher. At least so far in this young season.

Now we have to wonder what’s next for Tejeda. I’m thinking trip to the DL is happening, and I’m hoping it’s soon. He’s faced 26 batters this year, allowed 12 of them to reach base and has struck out just one.

Of course we wouldn’t be talking about any of this, had the Royals come through in the top of the seventh with runners on first and third and no one out. The Royals had just forced Brian Duensing out of the game after the Melk Man tagged him (literally) on a shot back up the middle. Enter Jose Mijares, a LOOGY who promptly overmatches left-handed hitting Alex Gordon on heat that was up and running away. Yes, you want Gordon to just put the bat on the ball in that situation, but it really felt like an unfair fight. The last pitch was up and probably out of the zone, but the action of it running away from the left-handed hitter made it a difficult pitch to handle. And given the moving strike zone all night (more on that in a moment) I can’t fault Gordon for the swing and the miss.

For me, the next at bat was much more frustrating because Matt Capps served up a couple of fastballs that Billy Butler really should have done something with. He was out in front of the first pitch and jerked it foul down the left field line, but that was a belt high fastball on the inner half. Right in his wheelhouse. If he had timed it right, it’s at least a sac fly, maybe more. The third (and final) pitch was just ridiculously hittable, and Butler dropped the barrel of the bat and popped out.

As frustrating as the first two outs… Jeff Francoeur. As I tweeted during the game, the Frenchy at bat carried an air of inevitability. Two outs, runner on third in a tie game and the three and four hitters had already failed. The pressure squarely on, Francoeur illustrated why you can’t count on him because his pitch selection is just so horrible. And of course, after he swings at a couple of pitches out of the zone, he takes strike three.

Before I’m blasted in the comments section about hating on Francoeur, let me talk about how much I liked his defense last night. Yes, he didn’t get to that ball in the 10th, but he had a long way to go and that wind was playing tricks. Good effort, and I really thought he had it. (Wouldn’t have made a difference with Yost sitting on his hands in the dugout.) Still, he recovered quickly and a strong throw prevented the game from ending right there. Then, there was the play on the Justin Morneau lineout where he was able to double Joe Mauer off first base. Solid. (And worth at least one point, I assume.)

A couple of other notes…

– It will be interesting to see the lineup for this afternoon’s game. It made sense to sit Kila Ka’aihue against the left-handed starter, especially given how he’s struggled in the early going. Mike Aviles isn’t doing much better, but Wilson Betemit has to be in the lineup from here on out. Maybe we’ll start to see a Kila/Aviles platoon until one of these guys comes around. If this is the case, Kila will be out today against Francisco Liriano.

– Loved the Tim Collins/Jim Thome matchup last night. The camera angle from Target Field really showed where Collins is (or isn’t) on the rubber. He’s practically throwing from the third base dugout.

– Aaron Crow is quickly becoming one of my favorite relievers because the guy works fast and doesn’t nibble. I get the feeling he knows what he wants to do with the next pitch before he’s done with the one he’s currently delivering. There might be some temptation to shift him to the rotation, especially given how Kyle Davies has performed and we’re a couple of days away from a Sean O’Sullivan start. The Royals will be wise to keep him in the bullpen for a couple of reasons. One, he projects as a reliever. That’s just his strength. And two, he’s a rookie. Let him learn how to pitch in the majors coming out of the bullpen. I love that old school philosophy. This way, it’s possible he could contribute to the rotation down the road.

– Presented without comment… Last night’s strike zone.

Sean O’Sullivan is the 5th starter. Again.   Dick Kaegel over at is reporting that the Royals will leave Vin Mazzaro in Omaha after his disaster start and instead use Sean O’Sullivan as the 5th starter this weekend.

What is it about Sean O’Sullivan? He had a couple of season of success as a teenager in the low minors with the Angels and hasn’t been anywhere near as effective since. That’s not a unique story in professional baseball. Plenty of pitchers get exposed when they reach a certain level in the minors. The odd thing about O’Sullivan is that he kept on getting promoted.

He wasn’t a miserable pitcher at the double and triple A levels of the minors, but he wasn’t someone who screamed out that he should be promoted to the Major Leagues at the age of 21. But that’s exactly what the Angels did in 2009. He pitched in 12 games and had an ERA of 5.92. In 2010 he was again brought up to the Major Leagues and put up a 5.49 ERA in 19 games and was traded to the Royals.

In 2010 with the Royals he posted a 6.11 ERA in 14 games. He struck out 37 and walked 27. There wasn’t really anyone beating down the door to join the starting rotation so the Royals just kind of endured Sean O’Sullivan. They really didn’t have much choice.

During the off-season the Royals traded David Dejesus to the Oakland Athletics for Vin Mazzaro and Justin Marks. It seemed like almost immediately the Royals had a rotation upgrade in Mazzaro. In 2010 he posted a 4.27 ERA and had a strikeout rate of 5.0 per 9 innings. He didn’t seem like a star, but he seemed to be a decent pitcher who still had some upside.

Coming out of Spring Training the Royals made it clear that Vin Mazzaro was going to be the 5th starter and would go to Omaha to stay on track to be ready for when he was needed. Everything was going according to plan until Mazzaro went out and did this:

2.1 IP | 2 H | 5 ER | 7 BB | 3 K

That’s not a line that exactly inspires confidence in a Major League General Manager. Now granted, we don’t know the whole story. Maybe he was working on something, maybe he’s slightly hurt and maybe he was getting really pinched by an umpire and he didn’t adjust. Regardless, it’s nearly impossible to call a guy up with that kind of line at AAA and put him in a rotation spot.

The decision makes sense, but I’d still lean towards going with Mazzaro. I’m of the opinion that his bad outing was merely a blip on the radar. Yes, it was a very large blip, but nothing more. I’m also really selfish and I’ve seen what Sean O’Sullivan has done. Vin Mazzaro is shiny, new and unseen. I’d like to see him pitch and hope for a different result.

You can follow Nick Scott on Twitter @brokenbatsingle, on Facebook or reach him via email brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com. He also writes a weekly post at The Lawrence Journal-World.

A show of hands of all those enjoying being a Royals’ fan right now.   Deep down, you are probably still thinking that this team will not approach 80 wins this season, but for now this is kind of fun isn’t it?

The Royals opened the weekend by just plain getting beat on Friday, returned the favor on Saturday and took advantage of a sloppy Detroit performance to blast the Tiger on Sunday.   Not only is two of out three not bad (yes, I am watching Celebrity Apprentice this season), but it is very good indeed for a young team on its first road trip of the year.    Sure, the Royals did manage to miss the top part of the Detroit starting rotation, but it was still a nice series win.

There are a number of topics we will touch on this morning in lieu of detailed, comprehensive research (all those nasty facts get in the way of my opinion), so let’s start it off….

Chris Getz led off for three games and the world continued to turn.

Ned Yost opted to sit Mike Aviles down after Wednesday’s zero for seven day dropped Mike to just three for twenty-six on the year.   Aviles, a personal favorite of mine, has looked, at best, uncomfortable at third and, at worst, just plain bad, so a day off to clear the cobwebs seemed appropriate.     One day off turned into two and the next thing we knew, Mike Aviles did not make an appearance in the entire series.

Now, if you have told be that Friday morning, you can bet I would have envisioned writing an entirely different, probably scathing, column today.   As it is, however, you can hardly fault Ned Yost for sticking with Getz as his leadoff man in Detroit after he went 4-10 for the series with 3 walks and 2 sacrifice flies.  All Wilson Betemit did during that time period was go 6 for 11 with 3 doubles and 2 walks.   

I doubt that Yost and the Royals were truly planning on sitting Aviles the entire series.   After all, we are talking about a guy who hit .325/.354/.480 and .304/.335/.413 in his two healthy major league seasons.    Despite having become the whipping boy of the casual fandom and overly criticized by those who should know better, I doubt the Royals have truly given up on him after six bad (and they were bad admittedly) games.  That said, look for no outrage (not even a sarcastic tweet) from me if Getz leads off tomorrow in Minnesota and Betemit is back at third.

While I am an unabashed ‘Aviles guy’, I am also something of a closet ‘Getz guy’ as well.  Back when the Royals acquired Chris in exchange for Mark Teahen, I offered that there were a number of big time major league second baseman who had minor league numbers similar to or even worse than Getz’s .286/.363/.380 over 381 contests.   Last season, pretty much deflated my hope that Getz could become Brian Roberts (minus the PEDs), but I have a little glimmer of hope.

IF Getz can continue to get on base at something resembling his minor league numbers and IF Getz truly is an above average defensive second basemen and IF he can steal bases with the success he has shown in limited attempts thus far:  well, that is a guy that fills a void in the batting order and can help this team be better in the short term.

Pending the arrival of Mike Moustakas, I don’t have much problem with Yost playing the hot hand at second and third with whomever among Aviles, Betemit and Getz is playing the best at a given time.    I would be surprised if Aviles does not yet end up being the best hitter of the three after 100 games, but no harm in getting them all at-bats for now so long as Yost does not ‘fall in love’ with any one of the three.   The idea would be to play the hot hand, not stick with Getz everyday at leadoff if he goes three for twenty-six.

Alcides Escobar passes the eye test.

The Royals’ new shortstop can, at times, be quite painful to watch bat, but he is truly fun to observe on defense.   After being overloaded with plus hands, plus feet, good arm, nice instinct crap from the front office in talking about a slew of shortstops who were, at best, league average in the field, it is nice to ACTUALLY SEE what those look like in action.  

Nine games does not a great defender make, but Escobar looks like the real deal in the field.   Enough so to get me wondering how much the Royals need him to hit to justify keeping his glove on the diamond.    I looked to the A’s Cliff Pennington, who posted a UZR/150 of 8.8 last season, which put him in the top five defenders in baseball using that system.   Despite hitting just .250/.319/.368, Pennington still posted a 3.7 WAR (Fangraphs’ number) by virtue of his defense.

Should Escobar, who posted a 4.7 UZR/150 last year at short, continue to play like he has in the field, which would lead me to believe his defensive metrics will approach those of Pennington, can he hit similar numbers?   With two hits yesterday, let’s hope Alcides can pick up his hitting numbers to the modest ‘Pennington-like’ level.    Anything beyond that and the Greinke trade starts to look really good.

Another guy who has looked good in the field is first baseman Kila Ka’aihue.  Unfortunately, there isn’t enough defense to be had at first base to justify 13 strikeouts and just one home run  in 41 plate appearances.   As bad as Kila looked over the weekend, he did manage two walks, two hits and a sacrifice fly, so I am hardly ready to give up on him….except when Phil Coke is pitching.

That’s Not My Process

Alex Gordon is hitting .357/.400/.548 out of the number three slot.   Billy Butler is blasting away at a .394/.512/.667 clip batting clean-up.   That is The Process in action.  Except, that is Allard Baird’s Process, not that of Dayton Moore.  

Pretty much said Baird drafted Gordon in 2005, the real plan for the Royals was to have Alex and Billy blasting away in the middle of the order.   Even with the coming emergence of Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, the Royals certainly look much better with Gordon and Butler doing what they are doing right now.   We can pretty much bank on Butler continuing to hit, but we are still in the ‘hoping’ mode when it comes to Gordon.

Still, you have to love it when a plan comes together, even if it is not your own.

Who said this was a bad rotation?

Well, pretty much all of us.

Still, after Bruce Chen used the elements and a generous strike zone to throw six shutout innings and strike out seven on Saturday, and Luke Hochevar went seven strong innings that included six strikeouts, the rotation gets a gold star for the weekend.

Hochevar was dinged for three home runs that led to all the runs scored against him, but otherwise looked very good.   Obviously, you cannot go through life giving up three homers per game, but if two of those end up on the warning track (like they did for Nathan Adcock on Friday) instead of the stands…..   Ifs and buts, I know, but I came away from Hochevar’s start in a positive frame of mind.

Not so much when it comes to Kyle Davies’ Friday outing.   The Royals have played nine games and have not had a wild pitch or passed ball in eight of those.   In Kyle’s start on Friday, he uncorked THREE wild pitches in what was an outright atrocious start.    Of course, you don’t really want to look at the minor league starts of Jeff Suppan and Vin Mazarro, either.

Speaking of Nate Adcock, he tossed a big three plus innings of shutout ball on Friday to save the bullpen for the weekend.   He did not strike out a batter, but did not walk one either.   Nate was tagged for four hits and six of his outs were in the air, so it was not dominating by any means, but did the one thing you want a long reliever to do:  throw strikes.    While I think there was some good fortune in Adcock’s Friday performance, it was good enough to warrant continued looks at the major league level.

Onto Minnesota

Right now the Royals, and particularly Ned Yost, are on a roll.   Other than trying to steal with Billy Butler, pretty much every move Yost makes or doesn’t make seems to be working.   The Royals scored nine runs yesterday despite going just two for seventeen with runners in scoring position.    

The starting pitching has been, by and large, competent.   The bullpen has been very good with the two biggest concerns being Robinson Tejeda and Joakim Soria.   I think both those pitchers get back in the groove sooner rather than later and might well turn a very good bullpen into an absolute lock-down bullpen.    The offense is averaging over five runs per game despite starting three players who are hitting below the Mendoza line.

Will it hold?  Who cares?  Enjoy the ride.

As a guy who likes to look at the numbers, the first month or so of the season always presents difficulties. Jeff Francoeur is hitting .296/.345/.444 with an OPS+ of 118? Yeah, those numbers are going down. (For the interested readers, I am now contractually obligated to drop at least one anti-Frenchy note in the first five graphs. Got this one out of the way early.) And Jeff Francis isn’t going to keep his ERA below 3.00 all year.

That just makes trends a little more difficult to identify. I don’t know how long the following will continue, but here are a couple of trends that will be fun to watch as the season unfolds.

Balanced Lineup

Go look at the team page at Baseball Reference… As of today, each of the regulars has contributed between two and four RBI. Now you know I’m not a fan of the RBI as a statistic, but in this case it tells me that there is some balance across the lineup. Guys are getting on base and guys are driving them home. The guys at the top and bottom of the order (Aviles, Escobar and Getz) each have two RBI while the rest of the gang has four.

We know there have been a bunch of timely (not clutch… timely) hits. Along with good pitching – and we know that aside from the Soria Debacle on Wednesday – the bullpen has been pretty great – that’s basically how winning stretches of baseball are played out.

The Royals have scored 5.8 runs per game, behind only Texas and Chicago. Again, it’s way too early to jump to any conclusions, but it is interesting to note how they got there.

Running Wild

When Ned Yost was talking about running more in spring training, he wasn’t kidding. Everyone is running… All the time. Collectively, the Royals have 14 stolen bases, by far the most in the American League. Even more impressive, they’ve been caught only once. That’s 15 attempts total. The second place team – the Angels – have run a total of nine times.

Of course, the team leader in steals is Jarrod Dyson, who must be a clone of Herb Washington. Dyson has played only a single inning of defense, has just one plate appearance where he sacrificed, so he doesn’t even have an official at bat, yet has scored two runs and has those steals.

If Dyson keeps up his current pace, he’ll finish the season with 78 steals and 26 sacrifice bunts. And no at bats.

Like I said, early baseball…

First Place

So we’re basically through a week of games and the Royals sit in first place. I can’t lie, I have a real difficult time looking at the standings this time of the year. I guess my only concern would be if they lost their first six games. (PANIC RED SOX NATION!!! PANIC!!!) It’s a good start, maybe even a great start, but every team has at least one stretch in the season where they will win four of six games. Certainly, the games the Royals have played have all been great on one level or another.

Quick aside: Seriously Red Sox fans… we as Royals fans have been here before. Trust me, this is the beginning of your death spiral. Stock up on bottled water and canned goods because you are about to embark on a 20 year long odyssey to baseball’s hinterland.

So one week in, this looks like a fun team. The starting pitching (aside from Francis) hasn’t been that great, but we knew that going in. The bullpen is going to be solid as long as they don’t develop Hillmanitis and all land on the DL from overuse because the starters fail. The lineup is going to score runs. They’re going to steal bases and they’re going to hit a few doubles. They aren’t going to stay in first all year and they aren’t going to continue winning games at a 67% clip, but that’s not really the point…

The point is, the most positive trend is baseball in Kansas City looks to be on the rise. I still think The Process will be slow and steady, but it will be noticeable and really damn enjoyable.

It’s early, but so far, it’s all working. It’s all working…

Episode #49 – In which Nick reviews the series with the White Sox, discusses whether or not Kevin Appier was an ace and previews the 2011 Detroit Tigers. Also, Will McDonald from Royals Review stops by to talk about the Royals and what it’s like to blog about them among other things.


Follow Nick on Twitter @brokenbatsingle or on Facebook

Follow Will on Twitter @royalsreview or go to Royals Review

Also check out Aaron Stilley’s article on Kevin Appier the Ace

Music in this podcast:

Morphine – Cure For Pain

Erroll Garner – It’s All Right With Me

How to Get the Podcast:

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After winning four straight games in their last at-bat, one had to figure the Royals might be due for a rather gut wrenching loss.   The predictable randomness of baseball almost demands that if you spend the better part of a week beating up on other teams’ relievers then some team is sure to beat the crap out of your own.

The Royals’ bullpen, after allowing just four runs over twenty-three innings was tagged for eight runs in just over five innings by the White Sox on what originally appeared to be the makings of an exceptional Wednesday afternoon.  

While that may have been coming, that it happened after a second straight masterful performance out of Jeff Francis and a solid offensive game handed a three run lead to Joakim Soria was the true shock.   Even more-so, Soria recorded the first two outs of the ninth inning before allowing three singles, a walk and a double to not only blow the save, but put his team behind.

Bullpen meltdowns happen, even to very good bullpens, but if you want to register some concern it might be in the rather unimpressive 19 strikeouts in 28 innings of relief work thus far in 2011.   Here is a number for you:  THREE.   That is the number of bullpen strikeouts registered by non-rookies this season.   Given that the two best relievers on the Royals roster, Joakim Soria and Robinson Tejeda, traditionally average a strikeout per inning one has to hope  that is simply a statistical anomaly of small sample sizes.

On the subject of small sample sizes, it has felt like the Royals have filled the bases with runners in their first six games and done a somewhat sketchy job of scoring said runners.  In fact, including Wednesday’s loss, Kansas City has put 94 runners on base and scored 35 of them.    That 37.2% of runners scored is well ahead of the club’s 2010 pace of 33.1% and the major league average from last season of 35.6%.  

Those numbers could certainly be dramatically effected by even skewed date from just one game, but if the Royals could hold this four percentage advantage over last year that would translate into upwards of 80 more runs scored over 2010.  That number assumes no increase in the number of baserunners or decrease in the number of outs made on the bases.   Bump up the gross number and drive them in at a higher percentage and well, obviously, the Royals could venture into a truly impactful run producing territory.   Enough runs to take some pressure off a shaky starting rotation and to, on occasion, overcome a bullpen implosion.

Truthfully, the last five games did put an incredible strain on the bullpen.   Twenty-five innings over five games (even with a day off) is asking a lot even from an eight man pen.   Heck, being perfect through five straight outings is actually quite a lot to ask even from Joakim Soria.   Of course, given that he went 24 straight appearances without allowing a run at one point last season, it is still unexpected when Soria is tagged.    In this case, he was blasted for more runs than in any other outing in his entire career.

Do not get too discouraged, however.  Mariano Rivera was tagged for four runs in on July 16th, 1999 and gave up ONE more run the entire rest of the 1999 season.   He gave up three runs on June 6, 2009 and then just FOUR more the rest of that season.   In fact, the number of three and four run innings allowed by Rivera throughout his illustrious career surprised me and pointed out just how absolutely consistent Soria has been and, even though he has just one strikeout thus far in 2011, likely will continue to be.

The Royals have lived in the realm of comebacks and extra innings thus far in 2011 and the truth is, we don’t have any idea what this team is or will be, other than extremely interesting.   That alone, makes 2011 a season worth watching.

I don’t plan on doing this all year, because quite frankly, it would be exhausting. But the fact the Kansas City Star is running the “Judging The Royals” blog again this summer begs at least a one-time rebuttal.

(Honestly, I wouldn’t even be aware they were doing this if it hadn’t been for a barrage of Tweets Nick unleashed a few days ago.)

For the uninitiated (consider yourselves lucky) this web feature from the Star has their political cartoonist (and avid baseball fan) Lee Judge watching every Royals game and subjectively grading what he sees. He assigns points based on things like a great catch or a home run or an RBI. In the old days – when newspapers were the primary source of news – this would have been a novel idea. However, in the years AJ (After James) there are a number of systems available to determine who had the greatest impact in a game. And none of them have to do with adding up points.

For Opening Day, Judge, though the system devised by Ron Polk, deemed Jeff Francoeur the most valuable Royal of the day. If you just look at the box score, I can get that, I suppose. He hit a home run, drove in a run and gunned down a runner at home in the eighth. That’s a decent day.

If you watched the game, you probably would have drawn a different conclusion.

The Royals entered the eighth inning trailing by three runs. According to statistics (developed by guys who, you know, look at numbers) the Royals stood an 8.9% chance of winning the game at that point. When Aviles led off the inning with a home run, that cut the Angels lead to two and slightly increased the Royals chances of winning the game to 17%. At that point, it was kind of a one man rally.

Obviously, at any point in the game, one of two things can happen. A player can either help or hurt his teams chances of winning the game. It’s helpful to get on base (or hit a home run) and outs hurt. Of course, what stats like Win Probability and Leverage Index do is take into account the game situation. Under the Polk system that Judge uses, Francoeur’s home run in the seventh is worth the same as Aviles home run in the eighth. The great thing about WP and LI is you don’t need to know advanced mathematics to know that the assumption that both home runs are equal in value just isn’t true. Yes, they are both worth a single run, but there is a difference because one comes later in the game. Each team begins with an equal number of outs and as the outs become more scarce, the value of a run (in a tight game like the opener) becomes much greater. I’ve written this before, but it makes sense. A leadoff home run is nice because it gives your team the lead, but there are still 27 outs to go. A home run in the eighth that gives your team the lead carries more weight because there are only four to six outs to go.

The flip side is also true. If a player makes an out with the bases loaded in the first inning of a tie game, it’s not as harmful if that same event occurs in the eighth. Again, it all goes back to what I call the scarcity of outs.

That is exactly what Ron Polk’s system ignores.

The key play in the game last Thursday wasn’t even a hit. It was a walk.
After the Aviles home run, Melky Cabrera walked. That increased the Royals chances of a comeback to 24.9%. See how that works? Yes, the Aviles home run was important, but the Melk Man getting the free pass was almost equal in importance because it brought the tying run to the plate with six outs to go. After an Alex Gordon ground out (cutting the Royals chances to win to 19.8%), Billy Butler walks. With runners on first and second and one out, that bumps the Royals chances back to were it was previous to the Gordon groundout – 25.8%. And now, believe it or not, comes the most important plate appearance in the game for the Royals in that after it was over, it gave the Royals their best chance of winning the game all afternoon. Kila Ka’aihue walked to load the bases. In a game where the home side is trailing by two with one out and the bases drunk, the team (the Royals) held a 38% chance of emerging victorious. That base on balls by Kila was the closest the Royals got to winning the game since Torii Hunter uncorked his home run to give the Angels the advantage in the third.

That’s why that walk would be my Royals play of the game.

So who happens to come up with the bases loaded and with the Royals holding their best (and it turned out, last) chance to pick up the win? Jeff Francoeur… Judge’s player of the game.

With the game on the line, the ideal (and obvious) outcome would be for a base hit. A walk (yeah, right) would be fine. A fly ball would be OK. Even a ground ball could be productive if Frenchy could bust it down the line and beat a throw. The two worst outcomes for his plate appearance would be a double play (which would end the inning) or a strikeout (which would subtract an out from the Royals “bank” without advancing the runners.)

And Frenchy struck out.

Sorry, Lee… There’s just no way Francoeur can be the best player on the Royals that afternoon when he struck out with the game on the line in the late innings. No. Way.

Despite being on the wrong side of the POG debate, I don’t begrudge the Star or Mr. Judge to run the feature. I believe that baseball is a big tent of ideas… Stats and scouts… And we can – and should – coexist. Sometimes your eyes tell you something that stats can’t… And sometimes stats tell you Let them have their exercise. It just so happens that I disagree. That doesn’t make me right… But I do have this platform where I can refute and rebut. (In fact, Lee, if you’re reading this, we should go to a game together sometime. I imagine we would have a great time debating value of certain plays.)

I hope his readers know that there are plenty of other options out there that measures value on a game by game basis. I hope they explore the interwebs to find a good alternative.

The Kansas City Royals rotation isn’t going to be great this year. That’s pretty much a given. It’s not, however going to be as bad as some hyperbolic fans and media would lead you to believe. If someone suggests this rotation is going to be historically bad, then that’s a good sign you should look elsewhere for well thought out baseball discussion. However, there is plenty of merit to the idea that the Rotation isn’t going to be the backbone of this year’s team.

The Kansas City Royals bullpen however, is looking like it’s going to be very good. Having the best relief pitcher in baseball alone is enough to ensure it won’t be a terrible pen. Beyond Joakim Soria, the Royals have a nice group of players including Robinson Tejeda, Tim Collins, Jeremy Jeffress and Aaron Crow. It’s not a stretch to say that the Royals have one of the best bullpens in the American League.

This raises an interesting question. Can a team have a decent pitching staff with a lights out bullpen and a poor rotation?

In 2010 the average American League team ERA was 4.14 and the average team pitched about 1,444 innings of which about two thirds were thrown by the starting rotation. Using those numbers, I constructed the following table. The left column represents various ERA’s for the starting pitchers. The right column is the corresponding ERA that the relievers would have to put up in order for the team to have an ERA of 4.14. As a note of reference, the average AL starting rotation had a 4.26 ERA last year, while the average bullpen had a 3.89.

6.00 0.41
5.75 0.91
5.50 1.41
5.25 1.91
5.00 2.41
4.75 2.91
4.50 3.41
4.25 3.92
4.00 4.42
3.75 4.92
3.50 5.42

The bullpen has to be really, really good to make up for a poor starting rotation.  It takes a historically good bullpen to make up for a pretty bad rotation. So, in order to be competitive with a poor rotation, a team would have to have not only a good bullpen, but shift more innings to the bullpen. They could also have an offense good enough to overcome a below-average pitching staff, or some combination of those.

You can follow Nick Scott on Twitter @brokenbatsingle, on Facebook or reach him via email brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com. He also writes a weekly post at The Lawrence Journal-World.

Episode #48 – Nick reviews the series with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, trying not to over-react, why he does the podcast and runs through some news. Also, included is a preview of the 2011 Chicago White Sox just in time for the next series.


Follow Nick on Twitter @brokenbatsingle or on Facebook

Music in this podcast:

Marc Ribot Y Los Cubanos Postizos – Aqui Como Alla

J.J. Cale – Lies

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I originally was going to start this column by pointing out that the 2004 Royals, fresh off their only run at contention in the 21st century, won on Opening Day and surged to a 4-2 record.   I was going to say that despite that, they were hopeless and starting Eduardo Villacis on May 1st.   I also thought about reminding everyone that the 2009 Coco Crisp-Mike Jacobs led Royals surged out to an 18-11 mark only to be out of the race before the end of June.

I am not going to, however.  

The 2011 Royals took three of four from the Angels to start the season.   They won a pitchers duel on Friday night, thanks to a Kila Ka’aihue walk off homer, and an extra inning slugfest on Sunday, thanks to a Matt Treanor walk-off dinger.   In between, Kansas City came from behind  to win on Saturday thanks to the relief performances of Aaron Crow and THAT MAN, Joakim Soria, and timely hits from Matt Treanor and Chris Getz.

Let’s just all savior the moment.   

The weather was tremendous this weekend and the crowds, while moderate, were enthusiastic.    It felt like contending baseball in Kaufmann this weekend.

Of course, after writing on Friday that the Opening Day loss was truthfully just one game, it would be wise for us to remember that this first series is, say it with me, just one series.   One series where a lot went right for the Royals.

It is quite possible that the two big hits Matt Treanor, a career .228/.313/.314 hitter,  had this weekend might be the only two he has all year.   It is also possible that no other bullpen the Royals face this year will issue EIGHT walks in one game as the Angels did on Sunday.   Yes, a lot went right and much of it may well be things we cannot count on happening very often.

Still, the Royals did some encouraging things in this opening four game set:

  • Walked 19 times
  • Stole 9 bases in 10 attempts
  • Hit 15 extra base hits, including 6 home runs
  • Got a tremendous start from Jeff Francis, a decent start from Luke Hochevar and a Kyle Davieish start from Kyle Davies
  • The bullpen allowed four runs in 17 innings of work, striking out 14 batters versus just 5 walks.
  • There were no wild pitches or passed balls committed by the Royals pitchers and catchers.

The Royals played decent baseball, got some breaks and came out with three wins.    There have been Kansas City teams in the past that played decent baseball, got some breaks and still could not win.    Even if this is just one series, that is good sign.

How good does it feel to be a Royals’ fan right now?   Well, I sat through three straight games and really never got agitated by Melky Cabrera, Jeff Francouer or Matt Treanor!   Heck, I even like Matt Treanor right now.

We can analyze and project and, frankly, know that the odds of the Kansas City Royals maintaining this kind of winning pace are remote.   We could do that, or we could just enjoy the wins.   I choose the latter.

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