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I’m told this weekend is the unofficial start to summer. It appears it’s also the unofficial point where a third of the baseball season is past. Strange dichotomy, that.

Seems as though now is as good a time as any to check some league wide numbers and see how the Royals are comparing offensively. I’m looking at slash stats and dropping in sOPS+ for the numbers. Just a rough measuring stick of how the Royals are getting production out of their infield positions when looking at the scope of the entire league.

League AVG – .239/.310/.389
Royals – .244/.274/.359, s OPS+ 76

Brayan Pena and Humberto Quintero have combined for 15 doubles, tied for the top number in the AL. They’ve also combined for a single home run. Believe it or not, that’s not the worst in the league. Thanks to the Oakland A’s.

It’s also worth noting that Pena and Quintero have drawn just six walks between them. But they’ve only struck out 18 times. I suppose if we were going to make a blanket statement here it would be Royals catchers make contact. It’s not good contact, but it’s contact.

First Base
League AVG – .242/.317/.406
Royals – .203/.279/.360, sOPS+ 72

The Royals slash line would be worse if not for Country Breakfast who has collected 13 plate appearances while spelling the struggling Eric Hosmer. In that limited action, Butler has hit .400/.538/.800, which is enough to add 14 points to the collective batting average and 19 points to the OBP.

Second Base
League AVG – .245/.311/.372
Royals – .272/.318/.380, sOPS+ 102

There you have it… No clue how this is happening, but it is. The first four weeks of the season, Betancourt was taking walks and Getz actually hit a couple of doubles. Since then, the Yunigma has hit the DL and Getz started struggling before he took his turn on the sidelines.

And then Irving Falu comes up and starts hitting like he’s the second coming of Joe Morgan. OK then. I’m going to assume that Falu comes back to Earth (or Omaha) and Betancourt is close to a return and there’s no way he can keep his current slash line at .289/.347/.422. Still, a nice opening to the season from a position thought to be an offensive black hole.

Worth noting I suppose that in 13 plate appearances as a second baseman, Johnny GIavotella has yet to collect a base hit.

League AVG – .256/.313/.369
Royals – .310/.347/.437, sOPS+ 132

When I’m writing about shortstops, I’m writing about Alcides Escobar. He’s played every game but one at short. And his offensive production has been nothing short of phenomenal. His 13 doubles are second best among AL shortstops and is sOPS+ (which represents his OPS+ when compared to all shortstops) is the third best behind only Derek Jeter and Asdrubal Cabrera.

And he’s doing this while playing his usual exceptional defense. Sadly, his UZR isn’t reflecting that. (Am I crazy? I haven’t noticed him getting to fewer balls this year. Or an otherwise general malaise in his glove work. Really strange.) Otherwise, he’s probably be pushing Mike Moustakas for the team lead in fWAR. As it is, he’s second at 1.1 fWAR.

Third Base
League AVG – .254/.311/.406
Royals – .288/.337/.497, sOPS+ 130


At this point, he’s you’re Royals All-Star. Hopefully he’ll keep it going through June. The Royals need someone like Moustakas representing the team. Better him than a middle reliever.

He powers the Royals third basemen to a sOPS + that is fourth best among AL hot corners. The teams they trail: Tampa (Evan Longoria), New York (A-Rod), Detroit (Miguel Cabrera). Yeah, that’s pretty solid.

I’ll check back in next week with a look at the outfield and DH. Have a great (long) weekend.

Tons of interesting stuff in Tuesday’s game. Let’s dive in…

Where Duffy’s Pitch Count Explodes

Seriously, what’s the deal here? If felt like Duffy was getting squeezed, but really it was just the borderline calls that weren’t going his way. Whatever was happening, he piled up over 100 pitches in less than five innings. Given the way the rotation has gotten hammered in the last week, that’s just an unacceptable outing. I will put some of the blame at the mask of the home plate umpire. Duffy wasn’t getting the high strike called and there was one pitch in particular that was just an awful call. That can mess with a pitcher’s psyche. If he’s not getting calls, he starts to get too fine. He doesn’t want to serve it down the heart of the plate, but that’s basically what the ump is challenging him to do. It’s a helluva situation.

There was some speculation he was pitching hurt. It’s possible. His curve wasn’t effective again – he threw only 10 of them, and completely abandoned the pitch in the middle of his outing. He also generated only four swings and misses. Although his fastball had plenty of life, averaging a hot 95.5 mph on the Kauffman Stadium gun.

I think the likely scenario was that Duffy was unnerved by the home plate umpire. He reverted to his 2011 form where he was trying to be too fine – and failing. Hopefully, Duffy can shake this start off and move forward. Not much positive from this one.

Where Quintero Attempts To Steal

The Royals open the second inning down 2-0. Hosmer singles, Francoeur walks (!) and Moustakas grounds into a fielder’s choice at second to put runners on the corners and one out. Then the fun starts. Red Sox starter Daniel Bard balks not once, but twice! Chris Getz has a great plate appearance to drive home the run from third to tie the game. At this point, Bard is clearly melting down. Believe me, having watched Luke Hochevar pitch all these years, I know the symptoms.

The meltdown continued as Bard uncorked a wild pitch to move Getz to second. Escobar grounds out to move Getz to third and he scores the tie breaking run on Humberto Quintero’s single.


Quintero takes off for second.

Wait, what?

Quintero… He of one career steal. And three career attempts. Tried to swipe second base. With three runs home and the Red Sox starter on the ropes.

This was just all kinds of wrong. You have a pitcher on the ropes early in the game. And you let him off the hook by trying to steal with your slow footed backstop. What are you thinking, Yosty?

I thought this exchange was interesting in the post game.

Nate Bukaty: “Was Quintero going on his own there?”

Yosty: “Yeah, that’s a spot where you’re trying to pick their pocket. You know, you really cant lose. If he steals the base, then you’ve got a runner in scoring position. If he doesn’t steal the base, you’ve got your leadoff guy leading off the next inning. It was a spot we gambled. We just didn’t make it.”

Are you freaking serious? A Quintero attempted steal is a situation where you “can’t lose?” Just an asinine call.

I’m getting closer…

Where Yosty Reads His Starter The Riot Act

Duffy is nibbling in the third inning. Back to back walks after the Royals jump to a lead and he falls behind on the third hitter in the inning 2-1. Out comes Ned Yost with a purpose. He spends a few minutes laying down the law to Duffy. The result? A ground ball double play and a pop out. In just five pitches. Nice.

This is where Yost is valuable on a young team. His no-nonsense approach works well with players who may lose focus or otherwise don’t know how to handle certain situations. Duffy’s start was heading off the rails. Yost took initiative and kept him on track.

If someone challenged me to name a good thing Yost does as manager, that would be it. And that would probably be the only thing I could name.

Where You Can’t Assume A Double Play

After a one out double and a walk allowed by Duffy, he was pulled in favor of Kelvin Herrera. He got the grounder he was looking for, but Getz threw wide of the bag at first and it skipped by Hosmer. That allowed Gonzalez to score what was the go ahead run from second base. Ugh.

I know that Getz takes a ton of heat in this space (and others) but that play was entirely on Hosmer at first. Yes, Getz made the poor throw. But it was under duress. I’ll give him a pass as the Red Sox runner was bearing down on him – I think it caught Getz by surprise that he had so little time to make the pivot at second. Having said that, Hosmer was completely wrong in not coming off the bag to save the ball from skipping by him. The way he set his feet at first to receive the throw was correct… Because it would have allowed him to slide off the bag to block the ball. In that situation (tie game, middle innings) you have to do everything in your power to save the run. Hosmer went for the out, and it potentially cost the Royals the game.

That was an example of why the advanced defensive metrics didn’t take a shine to Hosmer’s D last year. He needs to make better decisions. He’ll learn.

Where Yosty Bunts His Way To Oblivion

According to the Run Expectancy Matirx, the average number of runs that score with runners on second and third and no out is 1.556. Not a bad place to be when you’re trailing by one run in the later innings. In fact, given that scenario, you can expect to score at least one run roughly 64 percent of the time.

And then Yosty gives away an out.

Now the Royals have runners on second and third with one out. Going back to the same Run Expectancy Matrix, the average runs that score in this situation is 1.447. So by giving away that out, you’ve basically decreased the total amount of runs you can expect to score. In the late innings of that one run game, that’s a pretty big deal. Now in this situation, you can expect to score 70 percent of the time. Yes, that’s higher than the previous situation, but I’m not sure the six point bump in percentage is worth the exchange of the out.

A big inning late in the game was what the Royals needed. (More on that obviously in a moment.) The situation was ripe for multiple runs. Yosty was playing for one and to tie the game. Managers who constantly feel the need to do something, often end up hurting their team. Yosty is that kind of manager. The right play was to let his hitters take their cuts.

I’m not sure what was going on with Alcides Escobar following the Getz bunt with one of his own. Was the SS Jesus freelancing there and bunting on his own? Yosty said he was. He said that Escobar was confused and thought the squeeze was on. How is that possible? How can you have a hitter, in a key situation late in the game, not understand what is supposed to happen. Color me livid. You are set up to score multiple runs and you’re basically playing for the single score. Besides, Frenchy was out at home and the Royals somehow didn’t score a single run in the frame. Unreal managing from Yosty.

I’m of the mind that a manager doesn’t generally win or lose the game for his team. Most of the decisions to be made during the game are elementary and rather benign. However, in this case, Yosty’s managing was definitely costing the Royals.


Where Butler Saves The Day

After the Royals let Bard off the hook in the second, he started cruising. The strike zone seemed tight all night long, but the Royals never altered their approach at the plate. Of the 18 batters from the third to the seventh inning, only Chris Getz went more than three pitches without swinging the bat. And he drew a walk. Amazing how that works.

Then, in the eighth, Jerrod Dyson and Alex Gordon decided to take a few pitches. And they both walked. End of the line for Bard and in comes sinker ball pitcher Matt Albers to face Billy Butler. Albers gets a ground ball 54 percent of the time. And we all know about Butler and his proclivity for grounding into the double play.

Amazingly, Yosty resists the temptation to bunt.

And Butler gets wet.

Ironic, isn’t it? Yosty spends the entire game playing small ball and giving away outs, and it’s a three run home run that wins the game.

Somewhere Earl Weaver is smiling.

Wonder if we could get him to come out of retirement. I’m thinking a new manager would be nice.

With Sal Perez and Manny Pina both having knee surgery this spring, the Royals found themselves in the market for a catcher. Starter, backup… didn’t matter. They needed a catcher.

And by now we should all know how General Manager Dayton Moore operates. He sees a hole in his roster; he immediately tries to fill it. The dude doesn’t wait around. In recent days we’ve heard the Philadelphia Phillies and the Tampa Bay Rays are in the market for a backup backstop as well. That only accelerates the fire of impatience that burns within the Royals GM. He wasn’t going to let another team steal his thunder backup catcher.

So Tuesday afternoon he dealt Kevin Chapman and a PTBNL in exchange for catcher Humberto Quintero and outfielder Jason Bourgeois.

Let’s deal with the target man first…

Quintero is probably what you would look for in a backup catcher. Backup. Basically, the guy plays really good defense. With a cannon for an arm, he’s the kind of catcher who can alter the opposition’s running game. We know the Royals place an enormous amount of emphasis on defense behind the plate and that’s just good baseball sense. Which is why losing Perez for any length of time really hurts this team… Because there’s nobody on this roster who can call and catch a decent defensive game on a nightly basis. Sorry, Brayan Pena fans. I’m nice when I call his defense atrocious. And Max Ramirez fans… He’s worse behind the dish than Pena.

Offensively, however, Quintero a train wreck. He has a career .269 OBP in over 1,100 plate appearances.

(I’ll give you a second to process that.)

I kid you not… Among major league players with more than 1,100 plate appearances since 2000, Quintero has the second worst on base percentage. Second worst. He beats only Jeff Mathis! How about this… His career OPS+ is 58. 58! This time, he’s only the third worst since 2000. He laps Peter Bergeron and the aforementioned Mathis. Yippee. Basically, Quintero hacks at everything. He swung at 60% of all pitches he saw last year – an insanely high rate.

Seriously, how does Dayton do it? It is a gift.

Fortunately, Quintero’s defense makes up for most of those offensive shortcomings. He’s been between 0.8 and 0.5 fWAR the last three seasons on the power of his glove. I could live with that once a week. Twice may be pushing things. We’re talking about backup material.

Look, this is a short-term deal. Duct tape meant to hold until Perez comes back. Quintero is beyond awful with the bat, but the defense will help for the time being. You just aren’t going to find a catcher you’re happy with at this point of the spring.

Now, let’s look at Bourgeois…

My first reaction…

GMDM just can’t help himself. He just freaking can’t resist speedy outfielders who can’t hit a lick.

Bourgeois is another in the mold of Gathright, Dyson and Freel. The guy can’t drive the ball, doesn’t take a walk (which, you know, might be useful given the fact speed is his only tool) and basically makes a bunch of outs. He’s good with the glove and uses that speed to cover a ton of ground in the outfield.

And here’s the best part… With Maier and Dyson already in the fold, the Royals don’t need an outfielder like Bourgeois. Why was he even included in this deal?

Was this some sort of an impulse buy? Did new Houston GM Jeff Luhnow look at the “Dayton Moore Profile” and try to convince him he needed Bourgeois?

“Say, while you’re here shopping for a backup catcher, why don’t you take a look at this speedy outfielder?”

“No, we just need a catcher and… Speedy? Did you say speedy outfielder?”

“Uh-huh. Speedy. Very fast. Like the Road Runner.”

Well played, Luhnow. Well played.

With Maier positioned as the fourth outfielder and Dyson cast as the late inning “game-changing” speed guy, it would seem the backup cast for the Royals was set. Bourgeois makes sense only if you’re going to lop both Maier and Dyson off the major league roster. Strange.

But wait… There’s more!

It seems that Bourgeois was drafted as a middle infielder and has played a whopping 13 innings at second base in his major league career.

Of course he has. GMDM is already talking up his versatility.

And all this for the low price of Kevin Chapman. The guys at Pine Tar Press are high on Chapman, listing him as the Royals top left-handed reliever. He lives in the mid-90s with a decent slider and just murders left handed batting. He punched out 90 in 62 innings last year, split between High-A and Double-A. He owns a career 1.6 ground out to air out ratio. So the guy misses bats and gets ground ball outs. Strong. Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus says his fastball can get “straight” at times which probably explains why he allowed so many baserunners, but if you’re looking at a LOOGY, Chapman seems a solid candidate.

Hey, I like the thought process… If you’re going to swing a deal for a backup catcher, minor league relief pitching is a decent place to start. We all know about the volatility of the bullpen and the Royals certainly have a plethora of young arms. This is how you use guys who aren’t exactly top tier prospects. Deal them to fill a need. In this case, it’s the execution that doesn’t make a lot of sense.

It just seems like a classic Dayton Moore overreach… for a temporary catcher and an outfielder you don’t need.

And I’m not finished. Shortly after the deal was announced, Houston beat writer Brian McTaggart sent this Tweet

Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said PTBNL will be “key component” of trade.

We can infer two things from this statement. One, the player to be named later has already been agreed upon. This leads to inference number two, which is the PTBNL is a member of the 2011 draft class. Rules say a draftee has to be with the organization for a year before he can be packaged in a trade. If this is what is going down, we can expect the deal to be “officially” completed in mid-June.

And a “key component.” Does that mean this deal could get worse?

Oh, Dayton…

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