Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

The Royals get the day off following a defeat of Stephen Strasburg and a day when even I was interested in soccer.

Brian Bannister vs. Stephen Strasburg

After getting national publicity for his brain, Brian Bannister bounced back from two horrific starts to hold the Nationals scoreless through six innings and out duel rookie sensation Stephen Strasburg.   It was not exactly a pretty game as Bannister had Jason Kendall bouncing all over behind the plate to block pitches and the Royals actually got out of an inning with runners on first and third, no one out and Billy Butler boxing a ground ball.   There was some curious baserunning by the Nationals, who themselves were not very good defensively either, but in the end a 1-0 win is always nice.  

Kudos to Ned Yost for staying with Robinson Tejeda in the 8th inning after he took just eight pitches to get through a 1-2-3 7th inning.   It’s not that I don’t like Blake Wood, it is simply my tendency to refer back to an old baseball saying: ‘the more pitchers you use, the more likely you are to find one that doesn’t have it that day.’

Aviles Gets a Rest

While I liked Yost’s handling of the bullpen yesterday, this ‘need’ to rest Mike Aviles is just getting stupid.   Against a crazy tough righthander like Strasburg, I can see the logic of wanting to get a left-handed bat in the lineup – even if it is in the person of Chris Getz, but do you really bench the guy who has the THIRD HIGHEST AVERAGE VERSUS RIGHTHANDED PITCHING IN BASEBALL?

Aviles is currently hitting .362 against righties, trailing only Robinson Cano and Josh Hamilton.

Is the club/organization/manager so absolutely certain that Mike’s arm is going to actually fly off when he uncorks a throw from short that they cannot sit Yuniesky Betancourt to get Getz in the lineup?   Perhaps there is a fear that Aviles playing his natural position of short will start to remind people just how good he played in the field there in 2008.     Such an occurrence would further point out that the Betancourt (even with him playing tolerable baseball this year) was a panic trade by a general manager who was miffed that Aviles hid an injury from them early in 2009.

And yes, if the above paragraph did not confirm it for you, I do own a Mike Aviles jersey.

Jose Guillen to the Yankees?

Okay, nobody go running to MLBTradeRumors for the source on this as I am just theorizing here, but what about Guillen to the Yanks?  

First off, New York has not settled on designated hitter so far this year, using twelve players there and none for more than twenty starts.   Combined they are hitting .239/.363/.395 with most of that on-base number coming from Nick Johnson’s bizarre ability to walk without hitting a lick.   As usual, Johnson is injured once more, further creating a hole in the lineup.

Money is not generally an issue with the Yankees, but let’s say that there are enough variables when it comes to Jose Guillen that the Royals have to pick up half or a little more of his remaining salary.   Right now, Jose is due about $6.6 million, so the Royals might pick up say..$4 million.

In return, the Yankees could send Chad Huffman back to the Royals.   Huffman has shown some power, but was waived by San Diego this spring and picked up by the Yanks after that.   As such, it is not like the New York organization would have any real attachment to Huffman.    In essence, New York would give up $2 million and a player they barely know to get four months of Guillen.   Probably a decent risk on their part.

On the Royals’ side, I don’t have much expectation that Huffman will be anything, but that’s not really the point of trading Guillen, is it?   This deal finally opens a spot for Kila Kaaihue to play.

Unless the organization is so paranoid and insecure to be proven wrong about another Allard Baird guy (as Mike Aviles did to them in 2008 and again this spring), there is absolutely no reason at all to make a move with the sole purposed of opening an everyday lineup spot for Kaaihue.   I swear I have written this line a thousand time already:  play Kaaihue and find out if he can produce instead of just wondering and blathering crap like ‘slider bat speed’.

 Colon Signed?

Reports are swirling that the Royals have or are on the verge of signing their first round pick, Christian Colon.   I could care less what the signing number is as long as the shortstop is truly signed.   Scouts outside the organization speculate that Colon could reach the majors as early as next year, so getting him signed and playing is critical.

These same reports indicate that Colon will start at High A Wilmington once he passes a physical (again, assuming an agreement actually is in place).   My guess is the Royals would love to see him play well for the Blue Rocks and move him up for a month of work in AA Northwest Arkansas.

Time For a Moustakas Promotion?

Mike Moustakas is hitting .359/.426/.718 for Northwest Arkansas.  He has eighteen home runs and twenty-two walks versus just thirty-four strikeouts.  Exactly what are we waiting for him to prove at this level?

Since the Royals demoted Alex Gordon, moved him to the outfield and handed Alberto Callaspo the third base job, Callaspo has hit .264/.279/.389.   That is not panic mode territory, especially for a player who hit so well last season, but it certainly is no reason to delay moving Moustakas another step closer to the majors, either.

And Just for Fun…

Royals lineup on September 5, 2011:

DeJesus LF, Aviles 2B, Butler 1B, Kaaihue DH, Gordon RF, Moustakas 3B, Colon SS, Kendall C (because it is just freaking inevitable) and Robinson or Lough or Maier CF

Episode #023 – Nick briefly reviews the series with the Nationals, he discusses the 2012 All Star Game, his trip to see the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, potentially trading Dejesus, previews the series with the Cardinals and has a brilliant new idea for the Royals to implement.

:http://www.livekc.com/podcasts/bbs023.mp3|titles=BBS

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The Ned Yost Bump is officially over.  Part of it is the team’s natural regression.  They aren’t a .500 team.  They just aren’t.  It was nice of them to win 17 of Yost’s first 32 games in charge or whatever, but that wasn’t going to last.  They’ve now rolled off five straight losses to teams from the National League East.  I thought the Royals kicked NL ass.  Guess not anymore.

— I was mildly impressed by Anthony Lerew on Tuesday.  He gave up a couple of solo home runs (which apparently is how the Royals plan to handle the Nats in this series) but worked out of his only real rough patch in the fourth by allowing only one run. I wouldn’t want him making 30 odd starts for this team, but he did a nice job in a spot start.

He threw 71% of his fastballs for strikes which was setting up a few swing and misses on his change.  He mixed in a handful of sliders, but otherwise he relied on his fastball/change combo.  His fastest pitch on the night was his second to last offering – a 93 mph fastball to Alberto Gonzalez that was fouled off.  Mix a rain delay in, and it was a good start for Lerew.

The Royals have been lucky.  They’ve received some quality starts from Bruce Chen and Lerew while Luke Hochevar and Gil Meche have been on the DL.  OK… I’ll point out the obvious:  Chen and Lerew have outpitched the guys they replaced.

That’s what you would call a bonus.

– Kendall Watch: In 77 plate appearances since assuming the number two spot in the lineup on June 3, Jason Kendall is hitting .176/.237/.191. The 12 RBI are nice, but he’s made three outs on the bases during this time and scored only three runs.

If Ned Yost wants me to turn against him, his diabolical plan is working.

There is just no reason for him to a) play Kendall every freaking day and b) hit him second.  Enough.

— Jose Guillen picked up a pair of hits on Tuesday and has now hit in 17 consecutive games.  If you follow the Royals PR people and the beat writers on Twitter, they’re always quick to point out these hitting streaks.  For some reason, that’s annoying me these days.

Look, I appreciate that Guillen has raised his batting average almost 30 points this month.  It’s great that he’s getting on base at a .385 clip during this streak.  However THE STREAK glosses over a very important fact:

Guillen’s power has once again disappeared.  Vanished.

Yes, he’s swinging a hot bat.  A hot singles bat.  This month he’s collected just five extra base hits – two doubles, a triple and a pair of home runs.  His last extra base hit was back on June 11.  His last home run was June 6.

So while it’s great that Guillen is stringing together a bunch of hits, we need to keep this in perspective.  Something is sapping his power.  I’m thinking he won’t start on Wednesday (day game, Strasburg pitching… all that) but playing in the field for five consecutive days is going to take a toll as well.  Is it a coincidence that his power took a vacation when Guillen started playing in the field?  I don’t know about that, but in this case, the numbers don’t lie.

I still think the impending Guillen Winter is going to be particularly harsh.  I figure once his streak ends, he’ll go completely into the tank.  If there are any trade offers out there after the Royals have “showcased” him in right, they have to pull the trigger.  Take whatever you can get and move on.

— Wednesday is Strasburg day.  I’m looking forward to this game.  I’ve watched a couple of Strasburg’s starts and the hype is justified.  It will be interesting to see how the Royals fare.  Let’s keep expectations low.

This past weekend I took the family on a little jaunt down to Fayetteville, Arkansas  to see some friends and catch a Naturals game at Arvest Ballpark.  It wasn’t my first trip down to see the Royals AA affiliate, I made the same trek last year but this time there was a little bit more to see.  What follows is my trip report, hopefully it provides some information about the team and some hints on making the trip yourself.

The Trip

From Kansas City, its roughly a 3 hour drive south on HWY 71 nearly the whole way.  I don’t consider 3 hours to be too bad of a length, so I always say it is an easy trip to make for Royals fans.  If you haven’t driven the route in quite a while, it is multi-lane the whole way, so it is both easier and shorter than in years past.  I wish I knew of some good stops on the way, but I don’t.  Mostly gas stations, fast food restaurants and farmland.  I’d welcome some suggestions of places to stop on the way.  Once you get into Arkansas and particularly once you hit 540, the traffic picks up considerably.  And, no, people in Arkansas don’t understand what the left lane is used for any better than Kansas Citians do.

The Area

I really like Fayetteville and the surrounding area.  The University of Arkansas is there, and they have an absolutely gorgeous baseball stadium that the Razorbacks play in.  The area is growing fast and there are tons of great places to eat, have a beer, play golf or whatever you want to do.  Dixon Street is where the local college bars are, and is a nice place to grab a bite to eat before the game or a drink after the game.

The Ballpark

The ballpark is new and its great.  Parking is $3 which is reasonable, and I don’t think there are any other options.  The ballpark is kind of by itself on a road by some houses, so there isn’t any parking or places to go within walking distance.  I would bet that in a few years that will change.  Everything is clean and nice, which it should be considering it is a new ball park.  There are some inflatable things out in left field for the kiddies and they have the Johnny Damon-like mascot Strike the Sasquatch running around.

The Team

On the night I was in attendance, the Naturals clinched the Texas League first half championship.*  The week prior, 9 players were named to the All-Star team and 5 will be starters.  So the team is very good, and not just because it is a collection of good players, but they are good in nearly all facets of the game.  They have speedsters, power hitters, dominant starters, great bullpen arms and solid defense.  Its a spectacularly fun team to watch, and they always have a very good chance of winning.

*Minor Leagues have first have champs and then reset the records for the second half to keep the standings competitive and to compensate for the often changing rosters.

I absolutely had my eye on Moustakas whenever he was on the field.  The physical descriptions that I have heard were all accurate.  He doesn’t have an athletic build, and from what I saw he isn’t as trim as Billy Butler is these days.  Pitchers seemed to try and pitch him away and particularly with off-speed stuff which was working pretty well. The guy can absolutely rake though.  His first hit was a double by the 2nd baseman, which was hit extremely hard.  Later in the game, the Springfield Cardinals had a right handed submariner who was throwing in the low 70’s.  I thought there was no way the manager would let him stay in to face the left handed Moustakas, but alas I was wrong.  However, I was happy to be wrong and anticipated something big.  I told my wife and friends “watch, watch, watch this, Moustakas is going to hit a homerun”.  First Moustakas was way, way too far out front and provided the crowd down the first base line with some high velocity souvenirs.  Then he got his timing right and blasted a ball  to left that hit the wall about 4 feet shy of going over the quite tall fence.  It was one of those balls that was almost hit too hard to be a homerun, it needed more loft to clear the fence.  Either way, it was impressive and I nearly called the shot.

In the field it is hard to judge a guy on one game.   Heck it’s hard to judge a guy after a dozen games.  He fielded three balls that I recall.  One was to his left which he showed good range and then had a weak throw to first which was in time for the out.  The second was right at him and he rifled a throw to 2nd to start a double play.  The third was to his right which he dove and was unable to get and it went into left field.  So, I don’t know what that means.  I hear people say they don’t think he can stick at third, but he seemed fine on this one night to me.

I’d had a chance in spring training to see Johnny Giavotella, but he continues to impress.  He just gets hits, and plays hard.  He is an easy guy to root for and probably has the upside of a major league average player.  That is a good thing though, no teams are made up of 25 stud players.  You need a stud or two, some above average guys, some average guys and you likely have some below average guys.  If Giavotella can be one of the average guys, he is an important cog.

I have to admit, I really like fast guys.  Even though I know the stolen base is over-rated as a statistic, I love stolen bases.  I really like to see guys swipe a bag or cover tons of ground in the outfield and Derrick Robinson is just that kind of guy.  He got under two balls in left center that I was sure were going to fall for hits and he nearly got to another but pulled back to take the safer play.  He only went 1 for 6, but on the season he is hitting .294.

Brandon Sisk came on in relief for the stuggling Blake Johnson and was electric.  He is a tall left hander who hit mid 90’s with his fastball and low 80’s with his off-speed stuff.  He struck out his first 6 batters in a row before walking a couple of guys and surrendering a couple of runs in the 9th.   I am really high on this guy as a solid bullpen arm with the potential to be a setup man or closer.

There were lots of other solid performances and guys I am hopeful about in the future like Clint Robinson, Tim Smith and Nick Van Stratten.  However, I still think these are fringe guys with holes in their games.  But don’t take my word for it, last year I said that Anthony Lerew was a non-prospect and he was the starter for the Royals this weekend.  What do I know?

Extras

The Naturals had The Famous Chicken do his thing the night we were there, which I was pretty excited about.  I remember when the Chicken was making his rounds of MajorLeague stadiums, I was a young lad then and my parents would always get us Royals tickets when The Famous Chicken was in town.  So there is a more than a little nostalgia for me when I see that orange and yellow bird clad in his powder blue top.  From about 2000-2008, I was an avid hater of mascots at baseball games.  I felt they were distracting, silly and unnecessary.  Since then, I’ve come to accept them and even enjoy them from time to time.  They don’t really bother me, and I don’t really bother them.  The kids really do like them and there are other aspects of the baseball game atmosphere which annoy me much more.  However, the Chickens routine is awesome.  It hasn’t changed much in the last 20 years, but it is still hilarious.  I went in wondering if I would still like his act, but there were moments I was laughing hysterically which rarely happens at a baseball game.  Of course since he is THE Famous Chicken, he gets to do things other mascots could only dream of, like coach 1st base during the actual game, throw water balloons at the opposing team and pretend to urinate on the umpire.  Before the game I told my wife and friends that he would be at the game and none of them knew who he was, I was more than a little shocked.  I guess the Chicken will likely slide into a mere nostalgic memory like the light bulbs on the old crown scoreboard someday.  But for one night, it was fun to be a kid again.

The Royals are trying to trade Jose Guillen.

Sure, the rumors are currently swirling around a far better player with a chance to still be a valuable contributor when the Royals might contend in a year or two:  David DeJesus.   It makes sense to test the market, given DeJesus’ contract status and potential value right now.   However, here is a quote from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe via MLBTradeRumors with regard to this:

“The Red Sox, Yankees and Padres are possible bidders, but the Royals are asking for more in return than is acceptable to suitors.”

Again, DeJesus has always been an ‘average-plus’ player who happens to be having the best season of his career.   While he is beginning to cost the Royals real money (in baseball terms), his contract is not so onerous that it demands a trade at all costs.   The Royals should be asking for a lot, not only because DeJesus has actual value, but because is might just trigger a team to move onto cheaper alternatives in the outfield.

Of course, all of us who follow the Royals would pretty much fall all over ourselves to trade any outfielder not named David and while the front office is probably not quite as eager, they are certainly willing to talk.   Que the Jose Guillen hype machine, a.k.a Ned Yost, via the Kansas City Star:

“You watch him play out there and it is a legitimate comparision to any other right fielder out there.  There’s no difference.  I’m going to start playing him more when we get home in the outfield.   He’s proven to me he can do it.”

In other words, ‘attention National League, Jose Guillen can still play in the outfield’.  

Come mid-July, Guillen is going to be owed something less than six million dollars and has no real future with the Kansas City Royals.   Whether Dayton Moore is ever willing to give Kila Kaaihue a chance or not, nowhere in  his ‘things to do so we can have a parade in the Plaza’ notebook is there anything about having a 35 year old Jose Guillen being the Royals’ designated hitter (or right fielder) in 2011.

Given the preceding paragraph, there is absolutely no reason NOT to trade Jose Guillen.    Start the conversation with David DeJesus and when your demands for one of the opposing club’s best position player prospects, plus a major league ready bullpen arm with upside, prove to be too much, switch the conversation to Guillen.   Sure, we will kick in a fair portion of his remaining salary and sure, we will be happy to accept one of your failed prospects in need of a change of scenery in return.

It all seems quite logical, doesn’t it?

It won’t happen.

Dayton Moore will not let it happen unless he ‘gets value in return’.     We need look no further than Ron Mahay to know that.

There were offers out there last summer for Ron Mahay.  Not good offers, not even close to good offers, but offers nonetheless.   Moore’s comment at the time was something along the lines of ‘we are not going to trade just to trade – we have to get value for value’.    Many in our writing community echoed the sentiments with a ‘what’s the point?’ sort of argument.   I don’t buy it.

Ron Mahay was an aging veteran in the last half-season of his contract on a team going nowhere.   I don’t care if the return was something along the lines of Anthony Seratelli or Ed Lucas (sorry guys, you are good organizational soldiers, but you know what I mean), you make the deal.   Once in a great while, players like that turn into Mike Aviles.  If nothing else, we would have gotten a better look at a Dusty Hughes, Victor Marte or the like and found out it in late 2009 what it took two months (and exposure to Bryan Bullington, Luis Mendoza and Roman Colon) in 2010 to realize.

The casual fan may view trades of veterans for marginal return as business as usual for the Royals.  They will grumble and moan, but it won’t effect whether they show up in August or not.  It sure as heck won’t matter if Kansas City is in first place on June 1, 2012.

It is not a fire sale, nor is it an admittance of failure by the general manager, to dump veterans for less than what you perceive to be their value, in order to free up playing time for younger players you simply need to figure out.   A fire sale would be giving up on Alex Gordon and trading David DeJesus for a 27 year old AA first baseman.   Smart trading with an eye towards the future and, dare we say it, THE PROCESS, includes moving Guillen for something and likely doing the same with Scott Podsednik (given Rick Ankiel’s ability to destroy whatever trade value he may have once had).    You can throw Willie Bloomquist in there, too.

You see, the Royals have Gordon to replace Podsednik, Kaaihue to replace Guillen and Irving Falu to take Bloomquist’s role.  It is possible that all three may fail badly in the majors and the Royals finish in fifth place instead of fourth.   At least, we will all know at that point.

Make the moves, Mr. Moore.   Stop trying to prove to us that you are the smartest kid on the block.   If you want us to trust the process, than you have to trust it yourself.

On June 3, Jason Kendall was hitting .294/.348/.362 and Ned Yost decided to elevate his catcher to the second spot in the batting order.

Let’s see how he’s done.

June 3 – vs. LA Angels

1 – Flyball out
2 – Runner on first steals second, walks
3 – Runners on second and third, groundout to end the inning
4 – Runners on second and third, groundout, 1 RUN SCORES

June 4 – vs. Tigers

1 – Walk
2 – Runners on first and second, single, 1 RUN SCORES
3 – Runner on first, single
4 – Runner on second and third, single, 2 RUNS SCORE

This was Kendall’s best offensive game of the year.  It could have come at any point of the season.  Except it came in the second game after he assumed the second spot in the lineup.  Crap.

You have to love the Royal line of thought.  Based on three games hitting second, at this point Kendall has five hits in 10 at bats with a double, two walks and three RBI.  Obviously, the Royals think they have found their number two hitter.  Obviously.

At this point he is hitting .293/.358/.353.

June 5 – vs. Tigers

1 – Flyball out
2 – Single
3 – Flyball out
4 – Double
5 – Flyball out

Interesting game in that Kendall led off an inning twice and collected hits both times.

June 6 – vs. Tigers

1 – Ground ball out
2 – Runner on third, single, RUN SCORES
3 – Single
4 – Flyball out
5 – Ground ball out

Kendall is now hitting .299/.360/.361.

He came to bat with a total of 11 runners on base and he brought home five.  That’s a solid ratio.  Unfortunately, you would have to assume that bought him some extra time.

June 8 – @ Twins

1 – Flyball out
2 – Strikeout
3 – Flyball out
4 – Runner on first, ground ball out

June 9 – @ Twins

1 – Ground ball out
2 – Runners on second and third, sacrifice fly, RUN SCORES
3 – Lineout
4 – Ground ball out

June 10 – @ Twins

1 – Ground ball out
2 – Ground ball out
3 – Ground ball out
4 – Runners on first and second, ground ball – ERROR, run scores, no RBI
5 – Flyball out

The Twins series wasn’t kind to Kendall.  Thirteen plate appearances, no base hits.  To be fair he had only three plate appearances with runners on and made something happen twice.  Sure it was a sac fly and an error when the Twins shortstop did his bullfighter impersonation and Ole’d the ground ball right between his legs, but still… The Royals call this GRIT.

Kendall’s line drops to .282/.339/.340.

June 11 – @ Reds

1 – Strikeout
2 – Ground ball out
3 – Bases loaded, ground ball out, RUN SCORES
4 – Ground ball out
5 – Ground ball out

June 12 – @ Reds

1 – Flyball out
2 – Runners on first and second, walk
3 – Flyball out
4 – Single

Nice at bat with runners on to keep the inning alive.  The single broke an 0-21 string.

June 13 – @ Reds
1 – Flyball out
2 – Strikeout
3 – Popup
4 – Runner on first, Popup
5 – Flyball out

Kendall finishes the roadtrip 1-24.  He came to bat with a total of 11 runners on base and scored three.  (That’s not counting a Podsednik caught stealing.)  Amazingly, he did so through a ground ball out, a sac fly and an error on a shortstop.  His line drops to .269/.328/.324.

June 15 – vs. Astros

1 – Runner on first, flyball out
2 – Groundout
3 – Flyball out
4 – Runner on first, strikeout
5 – Flyball out
6 – Runners on second and third, single

Plate appearances three and four both came in the Royals seven run fifth.  He was the bookend, making the second and third outs of the inning.

June 16 – vs. Astros

1 – Runner on third, flyball out, RUN SCORES
2 – Runner on first, stolen base, groundout
3 – Walk
4 – Groundout

Amazing.  Another RBI without a hit.

“Let’s go to Fred for the totals…”  Since moving to the second spot in the order, Kendall is hitting .184/.236/.204 with nine hits (one double) four walks and four strikeouts.

He’s come to the plate with a total of 25 runners on base and driven home nine.  That’s an RBI percentage of over 33%, which is a solid number.  However, if he’s going to keep driving in the runners by making outs (he was 5-11 with runners on with a pair of walks and two sac flies.  Only three of those hits scored runs.)

That’s not as horrible as I thought.  Unfortunately, he hasn’t come to bat with runners on all that often.  During this stretch, Scott Podsednik owns a .288 OBP.  Ugh.  The ninth batter, Yuniesky Betancourt has been reaching at a .333 clip, but he was displaced at the bottom of the order by the pitcher for the three games in Cincinnati. Not a ton of RBI opportunities, but Kendall has actually done the most with those limited chances.

Here’s where I have a huge problem.

David DeJesus is ripping the cover off the ball.  All the dude has done in the time frame we’re discussing is power a line of .457/.500/.587 over his last 52 plate appearances.  Yet he only has nine RBI during this stretch.  Why?  Because Podsednik and Kendall can’t get on base ahead of him!

DeJesus has driven home Podsednik six times, Brian Bannister once and Kendall once.  (He also brought himself home on his lone home run.)  You read that correctly.  The hottest hitter in the league has scored the guy who hits in front of him in the lineup the exact same number of times as he’s driven home a pitcher.  Wow.

Imagine if the Royals had a pair of league average hitters at the leadoff and second spot who were performing at that level during DeJesus’ current run of excellence.  How many runs have the Royals lost because their most recent free agent acquisitions are kind of bad at getting on base?  Five? Ten?

If you think this is a rip job on Kendall, think again.  The numbers are what they are.  Taken on the whole, he’s doing about what I expected. (Unfortunately, GMDM may have expected more.) What I have a problem with – and I’ve said this many times in the past about SABR Trey and now I have the same issue with Yost – is Yost not allocating his resources to put his team in a position to win ballgames.  Kendall doesn’t belong anywhere close to the top of the order.  Eighth is too high for him – especially since Betancourt has kept his OPS+ around 95.

Kendall hitting second is costing the Royals runs which is ultimately costing them games.  Sure it doesn’t matter in the big picture of 2010, but what does it say about the man in charge that he can’t see the forest for the trees?

Through his first thirty-one games at the helm, Royals’ manager Ned Yost has had a pretty good ride.   His offense has scored five runs or more seventeen times, while his pitchers have allowed four runs or less the same number of games.   The Trey Hillman led Royals stranded double-digit runners on base on six different occasions, but Ned’s group has done so just three times.

The only real injuries with which Yost has had to deal with have been to Gil Meche and Rick Ankiel.   The organization’s long awaited awakening to the fact that Meche was not healthy at least left Yost knowing exactly where he stood with regard to Gil and was softened by the unexpectedly solid contributions by Bruce Chen.      With regard to Ankiel, all the lip service aside, the Royals are certainly no worse with Mitch Maier in center and probably better…certainly less annoying, anyway.

Now, however, with the injury to Luke Hochevar, and trade rumors swirling around his hottest hitter, David DeJesus, Ned gets to experience the real sensation of running the Kansas City Royals.

Yost now has a rotation that sends Chen and Anthony Lerew out on back to back days, which might well put a crimp in his neatly ordered bullpen roles.  By the way, was it really that simple?   Was all it took to cure the bullpen’s woes the callup of one rookie and the identification and actual implementation of a stable set of roles for all the relievers?  It sure looks like it, doesn’t it?

One night, Dayton Moore is likely to walk into Ned’s office and announce that DeJesus is gone, maybe Jose Guillen, too.   While that would likely signal the return of both Alex Gordon and Kila Kaaihue, it is still a rather sudden and dramatic change for a manager who quite obviously relishes stable lineups.   Another ‘by the way':  I took in a couple of Omaha Royals games before leaving on vacation last week.   While Alex Gordon produced good numbers in both games, I still saw a lot of the same tendencies at that plate that caused Alex to lead the league in ground-outs to second base.   For godssake’s Alex, half the field is to your left!  Use it.

Now, unlike other past manager’s, Ned is blessed that injuries and trades will not end up with having to write Ruben Mateo and Chip Ambres down on his line-up card and starting Anthony Lerew is way better than trotting out Brett Tomko or John Bale.   For all the deserved criticism we have given Dayton Moore, he has improved the organization at least to that extent.

This is, however, the Royals and my guess is that very few readers out there really believer that Hochevar is only going to miss two starts.    One more injured starter likely means we get to see Luis Mendoza pitch again, which just made my stomach hurt a little.

Despite the need to play Jason Kendall everyday and bat him second and the curious need to bench Mike Aviles twice a week while Jose Guillen and Yunieksy Betancourt can, must, will play every game, Ned has had a nice first month at the helm.   The team has responded to him, players have taken to their roles and things have quite simply, broken Yost’s way. 

Now, as he begins his thirty-second game as manager, Yost is going to get the true Royals’ experience.   If he can hold it together through the injuries that seem to come in bunches and the trade rumors/trades that are sure to come, then Dayton Moore might well have his ‘man’ to guide the team into contention in the next couple of years.

It’s not that often a used car salesman the commish makes his way around Kauffman Stadium.  Must be something special.  The press release only mentions a MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT.  David and Dan Glass will both be present.  When was the last time this dynamic duo was spotted around town?  Now we know it must be HUGE.

Ahhh… It’s actually an announcement of the worst kept secret (non-drug related) in baseball: The Kansas City Royals will host the 2012 All-Star Game.

It’s been awhile. The last time the Royals hosted the All-Star Game was back in 1973.  Chew on that for a moment.  Over the years, the All-Star Game has lost much of it’s luster.  Still, for sheer STAR power, you can’t beat the annual gathering of the greats.  The list of Hall of Famers from the last time the game was in KC is impressive:

Joe Morgan
Hank Aaron
Johnny Bench
Willie Mays
Willie Stargell
Tom Seaver
Don Sutton
Rod Carew
Reggie Jackson
Carlton Fisk
Brooks Robinson
Catfish Hunter
Nolan Ryan
Rollie Fingers
Carl Yastrzemski

That’s a list that could grow if Ron Santo and Bert Blyleven gain enshrinement.  That would make 18 total.

Personally, this is a big deal for me.  I was fortunate enough to witness several moments of Royal glory beginning in 1976, but I was too young to understand the greatness of the All-Star Game being played in Kansas City.  We all know that once upon a time the Royals were very close to the center of the baseball universe.  A great stadium, a successful teams, passionate fans and regular post-season baseball all contributed equally to the heyday of Kansas City baseball.  This really is a baseball town.  I was fortunate enough to be smack in the middle of everything, but I just missed the All-Star Game.  I remember as a kid looking at the list of cities that hosted the All-Star Game and wishing it would come back around.  By my simple mathematic skills accumulated in the first grade, I figured with 26 teams in the league, it would return to Kansas City sometime in the 1990s.

So, I was a little off.

Of course, the event is completely different today.  There’s the All-Star Weekend, the Futures Game, the State Farm Taco Bell Geiko Pepsi Allstate Celebrity Softball Game and everyone’s favorite, the Home Run Derby.  (By the way, don’t even bother trying to take my spot in front of the fountains in right-center on that Monday.  I’m going to head out there with a can of paint so I can mark my territory.)

The announcement that Kansas City will host the 2012 All-Star Game is like a shot of Vitamin C.  Is it possible things are looking up?  Every time I allow myself a miniature optimistic moment, I usually get slapped in the face and brought back to reality, so I’ll proceed with caution.  Still, you have to be pleased with Tuesday’s news that the Northwest Arkansas Naturals will send nine players to the Texas League All-Star Game and five of them (Johnny Giavotella, Mike Moustakas, Paulo Orlando, Clint Robinson, Derrick Robinson) will start.  There are small slivers of hope.

The dream is that Kansas City can regain it’s spot close to the center of the baseball universe.  That’s all folded into The Process.  Hosting an All-Star Game is kind of an artificial way to capture the game’s attention, but after being in the baseball hinterlands for the last 25 years, we will take the attention any way we can get it.

This is really a big deal.  A big deal.  Our city just doesn’t land these kind of events anymore.  We have no NBA. No NHL.  And neither of those leagues are coming here.  We aren’t getting a Super Bowl (nor should we) and the Final Four isn’t happening here either.  Post season for our professional teams?  Not happening any time soon.  The prime events just don’t come around these parts.  The All-Star Game is an event.  A happening.  Be there.

What the hell took baseball so long?  There will have been 38 All-Star Games since the classic last made its stop here.  (Thankfully, that’s not as long as St. Louis had to wait.  They went 42 years between games.  With the next three All-Star Games now claimed, the Mets are at 48 years and counting.  They are the favorites for 2013.)

Cities hosting the All-Star Game since Kansas City
Pittsburgh – 3
Chicago -3
Milwaukee – 2
Philadelphia – 2
New York – 2
San Diego – 2
Seattle – 2
Cleveland – 2
San Francisco – 2
Houston – 2
Los Angeles – 3*
Montreal – 1
Minnesota – 1
Oakland – 1
Cincinnati – 1
Toronto – 1
Baltimore – 1
Arlington – 1
Denver – 1
Boston – 1
Atlanta – 1
St. Louis – 1
Phoenix – 1**

*The Angels host the 2010 All-Star Game
**The Diamondbacks host the 2011 All-Star Game

Kendall is still hitting second and costing the Royals runs by hitting ahead of a red hot DeJesus, except the manager is blind.  Gordon and Ka’aihue are raking in Omaha and ignored by the front office.  And the Royals are entrenched in fourth place in a five team division.  There is still a ton of work to be done.  We all know that.

But hosting the All-Star Game will be a pleasant diversion on what we hope is the long, difficult road back to respectability.

Gates open at the K at 4:30 today for Bud’s announcement which begins at 5.

What makes baseball great is the fact that it is an unpredictable game, that is really why we watch the games isn’t it?  We don’t know what is going to happen, so we have to tune in or go to the ballpark to find out.  Prior to the season, had you asked anyone what the strength of the Royals would be and they would likely tell you “starting pitching”.  I know that is what I would have told you, it seemed obvious.  Even now I feel like starting pitching is a strength on this team, but the numbers don’t really prove that out.  On the other hand, if you asked someone what the weakness of the Royals was about one week into the season they no doubt would have said “relief pitching”, and they would have been right.  However a funny thing has happened since then: the bullpen has been pretty good and the rotation hasn’t.  As per usual, I will use a graph to tell the story.  Below is a graph of the relief ERA in red and the starting rotation ERA in blue.  Across the bottom is the game of the season and up the left side is ERA.  The big black X’s represent a blown save.

Click on image to enlarge

As we all know, it was very ugly early in the season.  The bullpen couldn’t hold a lead and to make it worse the starting rotation was pitching pretty darn well.  However around game 36 or so, the relief ERA went lower than the starting rotation ERA and has held on pretty much since then only briefly going above the starting rotation ERA.  Neither the rotation nor the relief ERA is below league average however the bullpen as of late has been certainly getting the job done.

The bullpen is still tied for second in the majors with 11 blown saves, but few of those have come lately and the one that is most recent came in a game where the Royals still won the game.  The relief pitchers have also lowered their collective ERA to 4.38 which is better than eleven other major league bullpens.

Over the last 30 games, the Royals have a 16-14 record which for this team is a very respectable stretch.  Over 162 games that ends up being 86 wins, which is something I think we would all be happy with. Over those last 30 games the starting rotation has a 5.09 ERA and the bullpen has a 3.35 ERA. I think it is safe to say that in the run prevention department, the bullpen should get the lions share of the credit for this recent stretch of quality play.  Some of the ERA discrepancy can be attributed to some absolute blowups by the starting rotation, but those starts count too and it is hard for your team to comeback and win those kinds of games.

I still think that this team is a 75 win team, with the capability of winning as much as 85 games. However to get to 75 wins two of the three components of the team (rotation, offense, bullpen) have to be playing well like they are now (bullpen and offense).  In order to get to 85 wins, all three components need to be clicking at the same time so that the Royals can rattle off a big winning streak.

Early in the season, fans and media alike can blow a particular bad stretch out of proportion and forget that there is lots of time left in the season for the team to get better or address the problem areas.  The Royals have done an excellent job of addressing the bullpen issues from earlier in the season and it has helped them tremendously.  What remains to be seen, is if the offense can continue to hit well and the starting rotation can come around.  If all of that can happen, who knows what is possible?

Episode #022 – Nick discusses the MLB Draft, Inter-League play, bringing up players in waves, the All-Stare Game and a promotion he would really like to see.  All of that plus a review of the series with the Reds and a preview of the series with the Astros.

:http://www.livekc.com/podcasts/bbs022.mp3|titles=BBS

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