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Kyle Davies has a strong game. The box score doesn’t look like he had a strong game, but he did.

Davies mixed his pitches on Tuesday. His totals broke down like this:

Fastball – 41
Change – 12
Slider – 12
Curve – 11
Cutter – 11

That’s a nice array of pitches Davies has developed. The change and curve come in at similar velocities, but have radically different breaks as you would expect. Same for his cutter and slider. Courtesy of Brooks Baseball, here’s how his pitch movement looks from the bird’s eye view:

He had some deception working on Tuesday. Of the 41 fastballs he threw, he didn’t get a single swing and miss. However, he got a total of eight swings and misses from his 46 other pitches. That’s good. Try and jump ahead with the fastball and then finish them off with one of four other pitches. For the most part, it worked.

(By the way, what’s up with Vernon Wells? I thought we wrote his career obit after last year. Two doubles and his seventh home run of the year? Wow.)

Davies has now had Game Scores of 50, 50 and 46 in his first three starts. Certainly, nothing great, but he’s been consistent. Isn’t that something we’d like from the number five starter? Of course. If Davies can throw six innings and give up three or four runs in every start, that’s absolutely something we’d take. Consistency has always been an issue with Davies, so we’ll see how he fares in his next several starts.

Another good thing Davies can take from this game was the fact he gained strength as the innings progressed. His final fastball was 92.2 mph. It was his fastest pitch of the night.

One other thing before we move on… Nice outing from Josh Rupe, who wriggled his way out of a bases loaded jam in the seventh with a strikeout and a double play. You absolutely have to go out of your way and make sure you tip your cap to the bullpen when they do well.

Weird game…

David DeJesus needs to discover the wonders of pine tar. By my count he’s released and helicoptered the bat four times. Unofficially.

Entering Tuesday’s game, Blue Jays starter Dana Eveland had faced a total of six left handed hitters (out of 51) in his two starts. Not really sure why that’s the case, because he’s been hittable from both sides of the plate throughout his career. Ever the one to spit in the face of trends, Trey Hillman kept DeJesus at the top of the lineup. That’s probably because with Scott Podsednik still absent, the Royals skipper has only 11 bats to choose from. And given the fact he’s not going to start Brayan Pena two nights in a row, Hillman’s only decision is if he’s going to play Wee Willie or not. Of course he’s going to play Wee Willie!

See how nearly everything about he lineup is a direct result of the Royals decision to carry 13 pitchers? Has anyone in the Royals front office notice how the roster is currently constructed? Are they aware of the impact it has on a nightly basis?

Then Bloomquist reached base five times. Five times! In addition to his three hits, he got on base once on an error and once via a walk. Unfortunately, Billy Butler couldn’t do anything with Wee Willie in front of him as he grounded into two double plays.

So the nightly Unbelievable Recap looks like this: Yuni Betancourt is hitting .333, Jose Guillen is hitting .368 and Jason Kendall has at least one hit in every game this season and is batting .360. And the Royals have won five of 14. Ugh.

Greinke tomorrow. Hope you have the MLB Network. It’s not on FSKC.

Even great baseball teams are generally happy to win two out of three on the road, which is exactly what the Royals accomplished with Wednesday’s 7-3 victory over the Tigers.   Still, after blowing a 5-0 lead in the seventh on Tuesday, I have a feeling that many Royals’ fans (this one included) are not all that ecstatic with the recent series’ results.

Years of losing have jaded many a Royals fan, but the simple logic is that this team is just 4-5 despite:

  • Hitting a league leading .307
  • Slugging a robust .450, good for 3rd in the AL
  • Reaching base at a .362 clip, again good for 3rd
  • Having their starting pitchers post quality starts in seven of nine games (and winning one of those that they did not)
  • Trotting out a regular lineup where seven of the nine players are hitting .300 or better and one who is not, Alberto Callaspo, is more likely to end up hitting .300 than the rest of them

Let’s face it, while the starting rotation might be very good most of the season, Scott Podsednik is not going to hit .457 this year and Jose Guillen really won’t hit a home run in every game.   

Even with the robust offensive statistics, the margin for error for this team is extremely thin.   If this team settles in and hits .285/.345/.425 then cannot expect to overcome some of the poor baserunning and curious decision making that has become all too common early this season.   Yesterday, we had two more examples:

  • In the top of the 7th inning, the Royals had runners on first and second with two out.   Jason Kendall taps a ball out to shortstop and Mitch Maier, running from first, beats the throw to second.   However, Alberto Callaspo simply ran through 3rd base and is thrown out.   Absent mindedness on the part of Callaspo?   Where was Dave Owens, by the way?
  • The very next inning, up 5-3, the Royals get the first two runners on.   David DeJesus, who had six hits in the series, three of them for extra bases, is asked to bunt.   Sure, David should be able to get a bunt down, but do you really have one of your best hitters still attempt to sacrifice when he has two strikes?   Really?!

Yes, I know the calls of being overly pessimistic and just downright negative ‘all the time’ are coming, but are those two instances are a warning sign.   Particularly since yesterday was hardly the first time in this young season we have seen similar occurrences. 

Again, it is all fine and good when you are hitting .307, but what happens when the Royals are not collecting 17 hits in a game or scoring 22 runs in a three game series?   How inconsequential are those plays then?

Two Man Bullpen

The Royals’ actual bullpen was used yesterday:  all two of them.   That is really what Trey Hillman has at his disposal right now.    We all knew that Joakim Soria was among the best in the game, which he showed yesterday in going an inning and a third for the save.   We didn’t know that John Parrish would be lights out, but thank goodness he has been in not allowing a run or a hit in six appearances (4.1 innings).    Small sample size for sure, but certainly a welcome emergence from the cesspool that comprises the rest of the arms that take up space on the bullpen bench.

With a day off today, the Royals can look forward to having both Parrish and Soria ready to go again on Friday behind Zack Greinke.   The problem, of course, comes on Saturday when Hillman will have to look at the other SIX pitchers in the pen and decide who is going to suck the least.  

I am not saying anything here, just throwing this out:  Kyle Farnsworth is the only reliever who has yet to walk a batter.

Speaking of Zack Greinke

He continues to ‘adjust’ this season.   That begs the question as to why, after so thoroughly dominating in 2009, that Zack felt the need to adjust anything, but there is some marginally sound reasoning behind all this.     Adding more changeups to his repertoire certainly makes sense, but Zack is also going away from his slider under the premise that hitters are recognizing and laying off that pitch.   The numbers seem to bear that out (again, small sample size alert):

Greinke in 2009:  59% fastballs, 20% sliders, 14% curves, 6% changeups

April 5, 2010: 57% fastballs, 21% sliders, 11% curves, 10% changeups

April 10, 2010: 62% fastballs, 15% sliders, 14% curves, 9% changeups

If you purchased the 2010 Royals Authority Annual (still on sale, by the way) and read Jeff Zimmerman’s article on Pitch F/X, you know that from 2007-2009, Zack’s slider induced a 40% swing and miss rate (only Soria’s curve had a higher percentage).    Basically, the slider is just plain nasty.

Given that fact, why go to the curve more instead of just throwing the slider for strikes once in a while?  Sure, major league hitters adjust and have made a real effort to lay off the slider this year.   How much will they lay off if a couple of them take a called third strike slider?   If Zack throws the slider for strikes a little more often,  hitters will have to adjust to him once more.

Without question, I know about 800 times less about pitching than Bob McClure and Greinke (and that’s being charitable), but I have a hard time believe that Jeremy Hermida and Jason Varitek go back to back yard if thrown sliders in strike zone versus curveballs.    

Sometimes, a pitcher is simply good enough to throw his best pitches over and over and still win.   One has to think that Zack Greinke is one of those guys and, as much as we rave about Zack’s cerebral approach to the game, this may be a case of thinking less and just throwing the good stuff.   

Of course, this is Greinke.   He is likely to throw 35 curveballs on Friday night and throw a shutout.   Whatever he throws, we will all be interested.

In the bottom of the first this afternoon, Chris Getz was hit by a pitch, stole second and was bunted over to third by Jason Kendall.  I expect the announcement that  Getz is the new lead-off hitter, Kendall will bat second and David DeJesus will bat 7th to be forthcoming.  

I kid because….well, because there’s no crying in baseball.

Anyway, I thought I would chime in with a few random notes and thoughts this afternoon, if only because it is better than working.

From the ‘try again, only this time do it right’ section:

The Royals announced yesterday, to no one’s surprise, that Alex Gordon would open the season on the disabled list.   Alex likely will not really be able to handle all the tasks of playing a baseball game in the modern era until at or shortly before April 5th and will certainly need extended spring training.   Unlike last year’s hip injury that the Royals seemed to rush Gordon back from with dire results, they have a chance here to keep Alex on the disabled list for the majority of April, making sure he is both healthy and prepared to play.   The organization could then run Gordon through a twenty-day rehab assignment in Omaha, where he might be able to build some confidence and momentum .  

At this point, I cannot imagine that Gordon is anything but a mentally fragile ballplayer who would benefit from every day the Royals can bleed out of the rules before being inserted back into the everyday major league lineup.

From the ‘hindsight is 20-20’ department:

Alex Romero remains an available free agent signee.   Click on his name and eyeball the minor league numbers the outfielder has piled up.   Doesn’t he seem like someone more valuable than Brian Anderson?   Of course, the organization could have been content with Mitch Maier as their fourth outfielder, but that ship has sailed.

This has been hashed over a number of times, but with names like Fred Lewis and Jason Repko now becoming available for probably not a whole lot in return, not to mention Romero, you have to wonder if Dayton Moore’s outfielder shopping extravaganza of Podsednik, Anderson and Ankiel might have been a worse miscalculation than overpaying for Jason Kendall.    Kendall, by the way, may turn out to be of value behind the plate and in the clubhouse, but probably, with some patience, would have eventually signed for a couple of million less.

From the ‘don’t read anything into it’ section:

Mike Aviles is starting for the second straight day at shortstop this afternoon.   While that gets all of us a little excited at the prospect of the Royals actually being savvy enough to realize Aviles (if healthy) is a far better option than Yuniesky Betancourt, keep in mind that Yuni is away from camp for the next three days working out some ‘citizenship issues’.

I think a more likely scenario is that the Royals trade Willie Bloomquist in the next two weeks and break camp with Betancourt, Aviles and Chris Getz on the roster.   How likely that is, I’m not sure, but it is more plausible than Dayton Moore and Trey Hillman benching Betancourt.

We are now into the fourth inning in Arizona, where Edgar Osuna gave up four runs in three innings:  all with two outs.   A guy named Mike Sweeney has homered, Blake Wood has balked and Alberto Callaspo and Billy Butler have done exactly what three and four hitters are supposed to do:  drive in runs.   I kind of forgot what that looked like over the years.

I’m going to put this at the top because I want to make sure everyone reads this…  To start, if you haven’t bought the Royals Authority 2010 Annual, I hope you consider picking it up.  Right now, Lulu (our publisher) is printing as the orders roll in and shipping pretty much the same day.  That means if you order this week, you’ll have the book in your hands in time for Opening Day.

Here’s the link to order.

Second, we’ve been hinting around at a big announcement for the last couple of months and expect to be able to make said announcement sometime next week.  In conjunction, we’re going to be tinkering with the website which could result in some down time.  Hopefully, all of this will take place on the weekend, but you never know… Just a heads up that if you visit and we’re not online.

And we’re really excited about what we’re doing.  Stay tuned…

On with today’s post…

So SABR Trey is getting closer and closer to figuring out his “ideal” lineup.  It looks something like this:


This is different from what Hillman has been doing for the first three weeks of spring training.  And it’s different from what he’s been talking about ever since the new guys were signed during the off season.

Here’s the good news:  Given the talent available, this is a pretty good lineup.

DeJesus absolutely belongs at the top of the order.  Forget about having speed (and steals) at the top of the order.  Those are nice qualities, but they’re not as important as getting on base.  And DeJesus will get on base more often than Podsednik.  DeJesus has a career OBP of .358 and a walk rate of 8.2%.  The walk rate is low for a leadoff hitter (ideally, it would be closer to 12%) but again… You work with what your GM gives you.  Podsednik has a career OBP of .340 and a walk rate of 8.1%.  Podsednik is 34.  DeJesus is 30.  Neither is thought of as a good base runner (I’m not talking about steals) and both make far too many outs on the bases.  Still, in my mind it’s fairly clear that the OBP (and age) edge belong to DeJesus.

It turns out SABR Trey has been thinking quite a bit about where DeJesus and Podsednik will hit.  He’s whittled his choices for both:  DeJesus will either hit first or third and Podsednik will appear as the leadoff man or will bat second.  I’m not going to argue against DeJesus hitting third, if only because the current lineup has him leading off, which as I said was a good choice.  I don’t care what Hillman’s thought process is, as long as he reaches a decent solution.

Although his thought process leads to Today’s Hillmanism:

“I really want to try to stay away from guys getting mental.  Quite frankly, reporters write about it (DeJesus’ struggles as the number two hitter) and these guys hear about it.  If these guys hear about it, they’re going to get more mental with it.  So honestly, I don’t want to put David in the number two slot.  I think he would slot there just fine, but he doesn’t have a history there, and he’s going to read about it, he’s going to hear about it, and I don’t think that’s a good combination.”

A couple of things to take away from this Hillmanism…

First, SABR Trey reads Royals Authority!  I mean, that’s the only conclusion I can draw after reading that quote.  I’ve been fairly vocal about keeping DeJesus out of the second spot.

Second, Trey is just priceless.  Seriously, his players are going to read the papers and devour the splits and decide they don’t belong in a particular spot?  Lame.  If this is the case, Hillman had better make sure Yuni isn’t translating this site into Spanish.  He won’t be able to get out of bed.

On to the rest of the order…

You have two quality hitters in this lineup: Alberto Callaspo and Billy Butler.  That’s it.  One of those guys has to hit third.  Historically, the argument against Callaspo hitting in the top third has been something along the line of him not being comfortable hitting higher in the order.  Which is total bunk if you ask me.  Although his splits give some validity to the argument, but of his nearly 1,100 career plate appearances, only 200 or so have come in the top third.  In other words, we’re dealing with small sample sizes and the fact that no one has really given him an extended look.

I say, go for it.  He showed impressive power (or as SABR Trey calls it, “Slug”) and his new found extra base hit ability will play just fine at number three.  I will give Hillman credit for realizing he needs to get Callaspo as many at bats as possible.  That’s a good thing.

Further down the order, Guillen and Ankiel are going to give you the same value… which is not much.  Blah.  Although we can hope that when Gordon comes back from the broken thumb he can take Guillen’s spot in the order.

(Quick aside – I think we all agree Ankiel is the least suited of the outfield contenders to play center.  And now he has a sore ankle.  I know the Royals promised him the opportunity to play center, but this sure feels like a good time to break that stupid and ill advised promise.  Of course, no one in the organization has probably considered this.)

The bottom third of the proposed lineup is unspecified.  Betancourt, Kendall and Getz… If I’m at the game and I need a beer or a bathroom break, I’m targeting the inning when these guys are up.  There really no reason to watch at this point.  However, like Clark, I hold out hope that Getz’s high contact rate (89% last year) will eventually translate into more base hits.

So of all of SABR Trey’s lineups this spring (with most of them having Kendall at number two) this one is the best one I’ve seen.  Again, when I say it’s the best, keep in mind I’m thinking of the talent he currently has on his roster.

It’s a start.

Jose Guillen is in camp, in shape and healthy after two off-season surgeries (neither done by Jose himself, this time).

On the one hand, good for Jose. He showed up ready to go, saying all the right things about helping the team and, at least on the first day, seems to be motivated to have a good year.

On the other hand, Guillen is ‘not about to concede’ his outfield spot and become the full-time designated hitter. Anyone see some clubhouse outbursts down the line?

Guillen’s prickly personality aside, my real concern lies in what Trey Hillman might do.

Last year, we saw several occasions where Hillman sat David DeJesus against lefties (who David hit 13 points higher against than right handers last year) in favor of Willie Bloomquist. What is he going to do with Jose Guillen, who for all his faults is a better hitter (when healthy and right) than Willie?

Rick Ankiel was promised the centerfield job and Dayton Moore did not go out and sign Scott Podsednik to have him sit the bench. So that leaves DeJesus on the firing line, along with Alberto Callaspo. How long into the season will it be before the Royals trot out a lineup that does not include those two players? Players that just happened to be and probably still are the team’s second and third best hitters.

It is certainly not bad to have options and competition in spring training. Who knows? A market might yet open up that allows Moore to make a move involving one of the above. Right now, however, the thought of Trey having more options to ‘mix and match’ mostly makes my head hurt.

Perhaps, as someone is sure to comment, this is too much worrying about something that has yet to happen. Here’s a better question, which trade would you make on say, March 20th:

  • Guillen for a mid-level (somewhere outside of an organization’s top 15) prospect
  • Callaspo for an untested but near major league level position player (probably outside of an organization’s top 10) and another minor prospect
  • DeJesus for a real prospect emerging from AA and another mid-level prospect from about the same level

Are any of these trade options really realistic? I am frankly not sure, go ahead and comment on that, too. At same time, however, assume that the deals are out there and tell me which one you would do.

This morning, I am going to run through a quick exercise in constructing the Royals’ twenty-five man roster for the coming season. My guess is that almost everyone who reads any Royals’ blog has already done this in one form or another, but I have serious doubts that the Royals’ front office has.

Okay, sure, we know that is total sarcasm, but seriously I think the Royals have a firm idea on the 40 man roster, but only a vague ‘things will work themselves out’ idea as to the 25 they will break camp with. You can make an argument that this is the perfect way to go into spring training and I would generally agree, but I do wonder if a ‘small budget’ club like the Royals can assemble and pay for 30+ guys to compete for their 25 spots?

The catching position is pretty simple: Jason Kendall starts, Brayan Pena watches. The hope is that Kendall is an upgrade defensively and in handling the pitchers, while not just destroying you at the plate. If he can get on base at even a .340 clip, throw runners out and get along with Greinke and Meche, he might be tolerable. In Pena, the Royals have a switch-hitter who might log some time at DH. I wish the team had given Pena two months of everyday duty last year to find out if he really is THAT bad behind the plate, but that ship has sailed. Manny Pina, acquired from Texas last year, is the next in line, but his bat is not ready for the bigs (and may never be). He is, should everything go to hell, probably the best defensive catcher in the organization. At any rate, it’s Kendall and Pean: that’s two.

The corner infield positions are pretty clear: Billy Butler and Alex Gordon. What happens after that is a mystery. The Royals acquired Josh Fields as part of the Mark Teahen trade, making rumblings about Fields playing a corner outfield spot, but that has gone by the wayside with the signings of Podsednik and Ankiel. Out of options, Fields will be on the 25 man roster come April, likely as the backup third baseman and part-time designated hitter. That’s three more guys, for a total of five.

We will jump out to the outfield at this point. I shudder to think how the team is going to actually arrange David DeJesus, Rick Ankeil and Scott Podsednik defensively, but we all know that those will be the three outfielders and that they will play everyday. The signing of Ankiel brought out the semi-public announcement that Jose Guillen would be the club’s primary designated hitter – something Jose probably has not yet heard and won’t like when he does. While the ‘just cut him’ plan of action is certainly appealing and maybe even logical, it is hard to see the Royals doing so. There’s four players, four veterans mind you, that will be on the team in April, bringing us to a total of nine on our roster.

Okay, middle infield will be…deep breathe…Yuniesky Betancourt at shortstop and somebody else. Of course, the Teahen trade also brought Chris Getz over and the expectation is that he will be an upgrade defensively at second over Alberto Callaspo. However, with Guillen moving to DH (not to mention Fields), playing Getz at second leaves few places for Callaspo to play. As much as I hate watching Alberto field, I do love watching him hit. The other glaring problem is that keeping Betancourt, Getz and Callaspo leaves no room for Willie Bloomquist. We all know that’s not going to happen (besides, Willie is the only one who can play short). The wild card in this equation is Mike Aviles. My guess is that Aviles will not be ready at the start of the season and will open the year on the disabled list.

We will assume that the Royals will open the year with a 12 man pitching staff or move to that sooner rather than later. Although he has options left, it is hard for me to believe Dayton Moore traded Mark Teahen for a bench player and a guy who is going to play in Omaha. That leaves Getz on the roster, with Callaspo and Bloomquist who, for all his faults, can fill the role of both fourth outfielder and utility infielder. With Betancourt, that makes four for a total of thirteen.

That means Brian Anderson, all $700,000 of him, is in AAA and Mitch Maier, out of options, might be somewhere else come April. The schedule might allow the team to open with eleven pitchers, so it could be Mitch and the organization a couple of weeks to sort out what to do, but by the end of April, barring a trade or simply cutting bait with Guillen, Mitch will be off the Royals’ big league roster.

Now, onto the pitching staff. The starting rotation right now will be Greinke, Meche, Bannister, Hochevar and either Kyle Davies or Robinson Tejeda. There are rumblings about the Royals fishing for a veteran, which would likely be the end of Davies and push Tejeda back to the pen. Right now, though, my money is on Tejeda as the number five starter. At any rate, that’s five guys, so we are up to eighteen total, now.

The bullpen will have Joakim Soria and Juan Cruz at the backend, with Kyle Farnsworth available for blow-out work (what a fine use of funds, by the way). Rule 5 pick Edgar Osuna is all but guaranteed a spot, which fills four of the seven spots.

I would be pretty amazed if veteran journeyman Matt Herges does not get a spot. Just a hunch, but I think he will trade it that number 77 for a real baseball number by April. I am also hoping beyond all hope that the Royals give and Carlos Rosa earns a spot in the bullpen this year. Rosa, performing as I hope he might, is the guy who makes what Juan Cruz and Kyle Farnsworth do irrelevant.

That leaves one final spot (assuming Tejeda is the fifth starter) up for grabs between Ramon Colon, Victor Marte, Dusty Hughes and all the non-roster invitees. Throw Herges into this mix if you want and say this group is fighting for two roster spots. It doesn’t much matter how it ends up, but that’s seven relievers, twelve pitchers and a 25 man roster.

Now, in reading all this, how likely do you think it is that all of Chris Getz, Jose Guillen and Alberto Callaspo break camp with the Royals? You could throw David DeJesus into that mix as well as he is likely the most tradable of all the Royals’ position players. Barring trades or another free agent signing, I would put pretty good money on the 25 players outlined above.

Part of me is pretty certain Dayton Moore has two more moves on his agenda that will make the real 25 man roster different from the above. All of me is hoping that is the case.

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