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Shocking. Davies gave up a HR. Again (Minda Haas)

]I’ll probably take some grief for this, but even after Monday’s start, I haven’t been happy with the performance of Kyle Davies this year. Hell, I haven’t been happy with his performance for most of the time since he joined the Royals. I started looking at his career numbers. They aren’t pretty.

142 G, 135 GS, 726.2 IP, 822 H, 476 R, 349 BB, 511 SO, 93 HR

Broken down into rates:

10.2 H/9, 4.3 BB/9, 6.3 SO/9, 1.61 WHIP

And factoring in earned runs:

5.54 ERA, 78 ERA+

Those numbers are dreadful. Just frighteningly horrible.

To determine exactly how bad Davies has been throughout his career, we need to find some historical perspective. For help, I turned to the Baseball Reference Play Index. The great thing about the Play Index is you can set parameters… Things like innings pitched, number of starts, etc.

For this exercise, I’ll examine all pitchers who started at least 90% of all their appearances (Davies has made a start in 95% of his appearances) and pitched at least 700 innings. Notice those numbers don’t match Davies career totals exactly. Casting a wider net allows some latitude for Davies… It should make it easier to find a pitcher who has been worse than him over roughly the same amount of work.

To begin, let’s start with the basics – ERA. Here is the list of starting pitchers who have posted an ERA greater than 5.40.

Kyle Davies

Yep. That’s right. Going all the way back to 1901, no starting pitcher (remember this is for pitchers who started at least 90% of their games) has thrown more than 700 innings with a worse ERA than Davies. In fact, only five pitchers in the history of the game meet the workload criteria and have an ERA greater than 5:

Kyle Davies – 5.54
Jason Bere – 5.14
Daniel Cabrera – 5.10
Mike Maroth – 5.05
Sidney Ponson – 5.03

Jeez… That’s just dreadful. Davies is lapping the field like Secretariat at the Belmont.

OK, let’s move on. Longtime readers know I like dealing with WHIP since that essentially measures the number of baserunners allowed per inning of work. Again, using the same workload parameters, here’s the list of pitchers who’s career WHIP tops 1.58:

Kyle Davies

Uh-oh. I begin to sense a pattern…

If I expand the net to include pitchers with a WHIP of greater than 1.5, we find a total of nine pitchers. Here are the five worst:

Kyle Davies – 1.611
Daniel Cabrera – 1.573
Bobby Witt – 1.569
Pat Rapp – 1.550
Jason Bere – 1.549

Again, Davies blows away the rest of the field. Remember, even though all the name on the previous lists are fairly contemporary, the search at Baseball Reference goes all the way back to 1901. Cabrera was always thought of as an awful pitcher… But he’s no Kyle Davies.

Davies performs a little better when we narrow the search and examine only the walks. A total of 21 pitchers in our group have posted a walk rate of greater than 4.0 BB/9. Davies and his 4.32 BB/9 ranks at number 10. Four pitchers have actually topped 5 BB/9.

Daniel Cabrera – 5.24
Oliver Perez – 5.08
Jason Bere – 5.07
Bobby Witt – 5.02

Finally, there is ERA+. Here is the list of starters who have thrown at least 700 innings who possess an ERA+ of less than 82.

Kyle Davies


A couple more… How about starters ranked by percentage of quality starts.

Eddie Lopat – 28.9%
Kyle Davies – 32.6%
Vic Raschi – 35.7%
Daniel Cabrera – 41.3%
Jason Bere – 42.4%

***Note: As several commenters pointed out, the QS% for Lopat (and Raschi) is incorrect. This is the report I ran at B-Ref. Click the link and you will see what I used. Apologies for the discrepancy. Although the Davies QS% is all too real.

And finally by WAR:

Mal Eason – -2.7
Chappie McFarland – -2.7
Kyle Davies – -1.9
Scott Olsen – -0.2
Jason Bere – 0.3

That’s right… Only four starting pitchers in the history of the game have thrown 700 or more innings as a starter and posted negative WAR. And our Davies is one of them. By the way, Eason and McFarland pitched around the turn of the 20th century. So let’s just say that in the last 100 years, there hasn’t been a starting pitcher quite as horrible as Davies.

Make no mistake. It is quite possible that every time Kyle Davies takes the mound we are witnessing the worst starting pitcher in the history of the game. Never before has a pitcher so awful been given so many chances. Sure, he’s capable of throwing a “gem” like he did on Monday where he went six scoreless innings. Unfortunately, those performances are extremely rare.

Sadly, to bring this up at this point is a little like shutting the barn door after the livestock have escaped. Davies is in his final year under club control and will be a free agent following this season. He’ll be a distant memory when the Royals are ready to contend. That Davies is still on the club and has been given so many opportunities points out how deep Dayton Moore’s Atlanta ties run and how flawed The Process has been to this point. Just plucking a random pitcher out of Triple-A would likely yield better results than what Davies has been providing.

Normally, a pitcher as bad as Davies has been ends up either in the bullpen or out of baseball altogether well before he’s allowed to throw 700 innings as a starter. Sadly, the Royals haven’t reached the point where they feel they can move him out of the rotation. To be fair, Davies made a third of his starts for the Braves. The good news is, he’s improved since his time with Atlanta. The bad news is, he hasn’t improved enough to be even an average major league starter. His 0.5 WAR is the worst among all starters since Davies joined the Royals.

While the 2011 season has started on a positive note, there are still one or two reminders that GMDM struggled with his own Process in his first couple of seasons. Thankfully, the minors are stocked and we won’t have to endure starts from pitchers of Davies’ ability for much longer. Oh well… If you’re going to make a mistake, you may as well make one king size.

Honestly, I didn’t set out to do a hatchet job on Davies. I knew he was awful, but I figured there had to be starters who has been worse. I was kind of caught off guard at his complete and thorough grip on horribleness. And it’s not like this is some small sample size. This covers six years and more than 700 innings over 135 starts. This exercise yields an undeniable result…

Kyle Davies is the worst starting pitcher in the history of the game.

That was a crazy start to the Cleveland Indians series. The game started out as a nicely played game by both teams and then just took a left turn into bizarro land as soon as the bullpens got involved.

Kyle Davies looked really good last night. He went 6.0 innings, struck out 7 and walked none. He was working quickly on the mound and pounding the strike zone. He also threw one of the sickest breaking balls I’ve seen all season. Just an absolute beast of an un-hittable pitch. Davies has become one of the whipping boys for the Royals fanbase, but guys who can put together that kind of start have value in many rotations. He isn’t going anywhere this season and he shouldn’t.

There was a ball hit into the corner over Alex Gordon’s head and he overplayed it. He got too close to the wall and didn’t wait for the carom. The ball scooted away from him and allowed a runner to score. He’s been playing pretty good defense, but as Corey Ettinger remarked on Twitter, he is rounding off his routes and has to overcompensate by diving for balls. He’s still learning the position and he has the athleticism to make up for some of the mistakes, but it’s going to cost the Royals some bases or as was the case last night, runs.

There was a crazy play at second base last night involving umpire Joe West (shocker). Billy Butler was sliding into second and it seemed clear that Asdrubal Cabrera touched the base long before Butler got there. Joe West signaled safe, but it seems he didn’t announce it very loudly. Butler walked off the base and was tagged out. It ended up being a huge play because it would’ve meant the bases were loaded with no outs rather than first and third with two outs.

It’s easy to place blame on Billy Butler for walking back to the dugout, but from what I could see he didn’t do anything wrong. It seemed from the TV angles that he was out by a mile. But even if he isn’t, the umpire has a responsibility in situations like that to make sure everybody knows full well what the call is. I can’t imagine he yelled “SAFE” and Butler just walked away from the bag. It likely ended up costing the Royals runs, but I can’t fault Butler. Players don’t usually hang around bases double-checking every call, especially ones that look that obvious.

I know that Craig isn’t concerned about Joakim Soria, but I’m a little bit worried. I’m not sounding the alarms or anything. I’m not about to demote him from the closers role, but I need more information to allay my fears. He only missed one bat last night and that’s just not typical Soria. I really hope my concerns are just an over-reaction, but at this point I just don’t know.

There were some chinks in the armor of the bullpen last night. Jeremy Jeffress was wild. He doesn’t really have an out pitch, so if he isn’t locating that super-sonic fastball then he’s kind of stuck. He really could use a nice changeup or a better curve ball. Tim Collins just had a blow up. Those happen, it’s not something that gives me less confidence in the kid. The concern that he might be over-worked is certainly legitimate. He could probably use a couple of days to recoup.

On the other hand, Aaron Crow continued throwing lights out. He is just nasty coming out of the pen.  Right now, he is unquestionably the pitcher I have the most confidence putting in high leverage situations. He has really come into his own in relief. As a starter last year he struggled mightily. I think he’ll get another shot at starting, but I don’t know that he’ll stick there. For now, I’ll just sing Crow-lay-o-lay-o-lay-0-lay Crow-lay Crow-lay when he comes into the game. It’s either that or the chicken dance from Arrested Development.

Kila Ka’aihue is clearly struggling, he could probably use a day or two off, but the Royals need to keep running him out there. It is extremely normal for guys to struggle when they start their Major League careers. Lots of great players started out looking lost at the plate for an extended period of time. The Royals are within striking distance of first place now, but they still need to use their Major League at bats to develop young players like Kila. Eric Hosmer is not coming up soon, and I don’t believe the Royals will give Clint Robinson a chance either. Kila needs the time to work out his difficulties and the Royals should afford that to him.

The game was interesting, but the real highlight of yesterday came from manager Ned Yost. Before the game he was asked if he liked hearing that Butler still wants to play first base. His response:

“Sure I do, but you know what, I’d like to be an astronaut”

Every baseball fan questions decisions made by the manager. It’s just what we do. But regardless of any issues I have with the things Ned Yost does on the field, the man can put out a good quote. I think we lack interesting personalities in baseball and Ned Yost seems to be thoughtful, honest and he says some great things. It’s why I’m a huge fan of the Yostronaut.

Nick Scott hosts the Broken Bat Single Podcast and writes a blog for the Lawrence Journal World. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook or email him at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.

The Royals sailed through the weekend taking three of four games from the Mariners and find themselves having won two-thirds of the games they have played at basically the one-tenth mark of the 2011 season.  Somewhere there is a column or comment that will certainly detail that 15 baseball games is the equivalent of a game and one-half of an NFL season, ‘x’ amount of an NBA season, roughly equal to the beginning of the Battle of Britain of World War II and somewhere between the first and second plastic surgeries for Pamela Anderson.   Hey, we all know it’s early and we all know that baseball is long season.

That said, Dayton Moore and the Royals could have some interesting situations to ponder as this season moves forward.   If this team had come out of the gate at a much more expected pace of 5-10 instead of 10-5, the when and where of a variety of roster moves would be a pretty simple equation.   Winning, however, makes the scenarios much more complex.

On the one hand, Moore does not want to sacrifice 2013 and beyond by forcing the issue in 2011.   Conversely, he also does not want to lose a chance at a playoff run in 2011 (however unlikely) by playing only for the future.   You know, the old ‘bird in the hand’ principal.

So, for some Monday morning brain work, let’s take a look at several potential issues and scenarios and get your opinion on when to believe and when to pull the trigger.

  • When are the Royals for real?

The 2009 team stood at 18-11 on May 7th and was still tied for first place as late as May 15th, but still lost 97 games that year.    So, right there, is a cautionary tale for all of us to remember.   The Royals play seven of their next ten games against Cleveland, sandwiched around a three game set at Texas.   That stretch if followed by a nine game homestand with Minnesota, Baltimore and Oakland.   If the Royals are 20-14 after all that, go to New York and Detroit and split the six game road trip, would you consider them a contender?   

My gut reaction is yes, except it is still just May 15th when that is all done.   Surely, a team with a starting rotation like the Royals have would have to play winning baseball into at least some point in June to be considered a contender, right? 

Maybe the better way to approach this question is to look at it as ‘when to you consider the Royals a contender AND start making moves because of it?’.    Now, I will be watching the standings and the out of town scoreboard well in advance of June 9th (heck, we’re all watching them now), but somewhere in that time-frame, should Kansas City be in first or within three or four games of first, I think Dayton Moore has to consider making moves to win now.   Not ‘mortgage the future type move’, but move that make the 2011 team stronger.

Why June 9th?  That will be the end of an eleven game homestand against the Angels, Minnesota and Toronto, 64 games into the season, and right in front of a nine game road trip to LA, Oakland and St. Louis.  

  • How long do you stick with Kila Ka’aihue

I think it is funny how there is this ‘anti-Kila’ group of fans that are apparently irritated by the long standing call for Kila to get a shot in the majors.   I mean, isn’t that the point of having a farm system?   Have guys perform at a high level and then give them a shot?

Anyway, after going one for three with a walk on Sunday, Ka’aihue’s line stands at .174/.304/.283.   He is second on the team in walks with 9 (good), but leads the team in strikeouts with 15 (bad).   Thirteen games played in 2011 and a whopping total of 286 major league plate appearances is certainly not a big enough sample to know if Ka’aihue can hit or not, but there will come a time when the Royals will have to make a decision.

Again, if this team had stumbled out of the gate, there would be no harm in simply sticking Kila in the five hole and giving  him 600 plate appearances this year.   Should they keep playing well, the Royals will reach a point in time when they cannot afford to have a .200 hitter batting behind Billy Butler…or batting at all.  

Now, I might offer that it is unlikely that the Royals are going to be over .500 in early June without Ka’aihue giving them something at the plate.  In a way, the situation might solve itself.     With Eric Hosmer and Clint Robinson both off to hot starts in Omaha and Billy Butler reliably banging away, Dayton Moore can afford to have a quicker hook on at this spot than at other positions.   Basically, we’re not going to care if Kila goes somewhere else and hits 30 home runs if Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer are All-Stars.

While I have been and remain a big proponent of giving Ka’aihue a pretty large chunk of at-bats to once and for all see what he can do, I would be thinking about possibly sitting him against left-handers if the situation does not improve over the next two weeks or so.   After that, I think you are looking right at that mid-June date again.   Should the Royals be near the top of the standings and Kila is still flailing at the Mendoza line it is going to be really hard to not call up Eric Hosmer.   If not Hosmer, maybe Mike Moustakas if he recovers from a slow start with Wilson Betemit sliding into the DH role full-time.

  • Seriously, Kyle Davies?

Jeff Francis, Luke Hochevar and Bruce Chen have allowed 26 runs over 73 innings to start the season.    That is a pace they likely won’t maintain, but is seems to point that those three could be competent starters.    The fifth starter spot, as it is with most teams, will be a rather inconsistent event with Sean O’Sullivan and Vin Mazarro, but the real sticking point is Mr. Davies.

While the organization remains hopeful, citing Jorge de la Rosa as their prime example, the rest of us have become tired of Kyle.   In the past, Davies has strung together enough decent six inning outings to be useful and Kansas City could certainly use a solid month from him now.   Assuming that Kyle does not produce a string of good starts, how long does the organization wait before promoting Danny Duffy or Mike Montgomery.

Again, should Kansas City lose nine of the next twelve, then there is no point in rushing any of the young pitchers, but if they don’t?   I know that my trigger on Davies is considerably quicker than that of Dayton Moore’s, but making a move to hopefully bolster the rotation  as early as mid-May would be my timetable.  

  • There’s good defense and then there is great defense

Through fifteen games, Alcides Escobar has played some of the best defense I have ever seen at shortstop.   He needs to hit more than .233/.270/.267, but not a lot more.   Something along the lines of .250/.305/.340 might be enough given just how truly great Alcides appears to be in the field.   

That, however, is not really the question.   Contention or non-contention, Alcides Escobar is going to play shortstop the entire 2011 season.  The question is, after going 1 for his last 14, how long do you stick Chris Getz at second base.   With Mike Aviles showing signs of life (5 for his last 12) and Wilson Betemit simply smacking the ball, there will be some point where Getz is going to have to hit.

As the topic heading indicates, Escobar has thus far been a GREAT defender.   In my opinion, Getz is a GOOD defender and a slightly less critical defensive position.   His current line of .269/.333/.288 is not enough to justify keeping a good, not great, glove in the field at second.   Again, small sample sizes and no rush….yet, but this is a place that you could amp up the offense by inserting Aviles everyday (theoretically anyway) and providing the pitching with a little more run cushion with which to work.

  • What if it really, really gets real?

Okay, it is the second week of July and your Kansas City Royals lead the Central Division by one game.   Regardless of what the team has done with Kila, Kyle and Chris, this team is in contention.   How aggressive should Dayton Moore get?

Do you offer one of the big four pitching prospects (Montgomery, Duffy, Lamb or Dwyer) or one of the big four hitting prospects (Hosmer – no, by the way – Moustakas, Myers or Colon) for a player that can provide the 2011 team a real boost.   Basically, you are trading a potential 2013/2014 star for a 2011 good, but probably not star type player.

Obviously, there are a lot of variables to that equation:  who’s available, what’s their contract situation to start.   Still, if you believe this organization’s farm system is THAT GOOD, could you sacrifice one or two of your top ten prospects for a player(s) that can put the Royals over the top in 2011?   I might, or at least I would seriously consider it.

There are just a few of what could be many decisions to be made over the next three months.   While the questions are not easy, it would certainly be fun if we really had to answer them.

Episode #050 – In which I discuss the news concerning the Royals, review the series with the Minnesota Twins and speak with special guest J.R. Lind about a fascinating article about the mid 1980’s Kansas City Royals contracts. I also answer a couple of listener emails and bring up an insane statistic.

[audio:http://www.livekc.com/podcasts/bbs050.mp3|titles=BBS Royals Podcast #050]

Follow Nick on Twitter @brokenbatsingle or on Facebook

Check out J.R.’s article Royal Flushed: How a Nashville apartment building contributed to a baseball franchise’s misery.

Music in this podcast:

Jellyfish – New Mistake

Ray Charles – Thre Quarter Time

Frank Zappa – Peaches En Regalia

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Yesterday was Kyle Davies’ 89th start as a Kansas City Royal and it marked the twenty-first time in that span that Kyle has surrendered five runs or more.   His career earned run average with the team now stands at 5.27 and is trending in the wrong direction.

Davies’ three starts this season have yielded a run per inning, 23 hits allowed in 14 innings, and just one more strikeout than walk issued.   Perhaps this is just a slump accentuated by the fact it comes at the very start of the season.   After all, in 11 of his last 15 starts in 2010, Kyle provided a level of performance that all of us would likely accept at this point.   (The were not all ‘quality starts’, but if they were decent enough to give his team a chance to win).    Stop me if you have heard this all before.

Kyle Davies is something of a conundrum.   He truly has ‘stuff’ and, at times can be remarkably effective.   As referenced above, Davies at times can string together six and seven inning starts where he allows three runs or less and, you know, generally looks like a bonafide major league starting pitcher.  

Last season, Davies posted the second worst earned run average in baseball among qualifying pitchers (only Jeremy Bonderman was worse).   Davies’ walk rate was 88th out of the 92 qualifying pitchers, his strikeout rate was 70th and his percentage of runners left on base 87th.   In a weird twist of fate, Zack Greinke’s LOB% was 90th, by the way.  Kyle was 80th in FIP, second to last in xFIP, but manged to get up to 72nd in WAR (2.0).   That WAR number is telling in that it points out the best thing about Kyle Davies’ 2010 season:  he took the ball every fifth day and managed to pile up 183 innings of work.

Nick wrote this column last August in quasi-support of Davies and it makes a lot of sense, or at least it should, but the problem is I have run out of patience.

Kyle Davies has 134 major league starts under his belt, totalling 721 innings of work (300 more than Luke Hochevar).   His Baseball Reference career page reveals remarkably similar peripheral numbers from year to year.    While Chris Carpenter appears in his Top Ten comp list on that page, said list is topped by Jamey Wright and Brian Meadows.     Anybody want to replay those former Royals?   How about Jeff Suppan, who comes in as Davies’ number four comp?

How about Jeff Suppan?

See, therein lies the current issue with the Kansas City Royals.    If, like me, you would rather spend your days selling American flags in downtown Tripoli than watch Kyle Davies nibble his way through another start, your most likely option to replace him is Jeff Suppan.

After being signed to a minor league deal recently, Suppan was torched for seven runs in his first AAA start, but did rally last night to allow just one run over five plus innings, albeit with just two strikeouts.    Starting in 1999, Jeff started thirty or more games for eleven straight years.     He had a nice little run in the National League for a time, but over the last three seasons Suppan’s hits per 9 innings have soared over the 10.5 mark, his walk rate is creeping up and his always modes strikeout totals are not getting any better.    While Suppan had a decent run at the end of last season with the Cardinals, a lot of that was due to a good September.   Hey, if I’m going to fill the Royals rotations based upon good Septembers, then Kyle Davies is my man…oh, wait.

Truthfully, the allure of Jeff Suppan right now is simply that he is NOT Kyle Davies…or Sean O’Sullivan.   Therein lies the real Royals’ rotation issue:  the guy that won the fifth starter job, Vin Mazarro, was so bad in his AAA tuneup that Kansas City is going with the guy Mazarro beat and who was pretty awful last season.    The Royals have two problems in their starting rotation right now (being charitable saying that) and they at least know that Kyle Davies, once in a while gets some guys out.

Now, if O’Sullivan, who is still just twenty-three, comes out of nowhere and starts giving the Royals five solid innings out of the number five spot or Mazarro, who is just twenty-four, rallies in Omaha and forces his way into the majors, then Kansas City will start looking at Kyle Davies.   

As pointed out by commenters and tweeters alike, Kyle Davies has been given more chances by this organization than anyone, I have a hard time believing Dayton Moore is going to stop giving him chances now in favor of an aging Jeff Suppan.   

Face it, the Royals are stuck with Kyle Davies for now.    The options are simply not there.   

Aaron Crow is likely the primary set-up man in the bullpen and excelling in this early phase of the season.  Draft status and what ‘Crow should be’ aside, I like Crow in that role and, quite frankly, without a third pitch HE is going to resemble Kyle Davies more than Zack Greinke if the Royals were to push him into the rotation.

Mike Montgomery and Danny Duffy are probably a couple of months away yet from getting serious consideration for a major league call, not to mention they are both a little shy on innings.   Montgomery threw just 93 regular season innings in 2010, while Duffy threw only 62.     Everett Teaford was blasted bad enough in spring training that I imagine it will take the organization a good half season to have any faith in him and, after all, it is Everett Teaford we are talking about.

I am open to suggestions and, my guess is, Ned Yost and Dayton Moore are at least thinking about options when it comes to Kyle Davies.   As much as Davies may be ‘their guy’, they cannot enjoy watching starts like yesterday very much, either.

For now, I do not see a scenario that does not involve simply gritting our collective teeth and enduring more Kyle Davies’ starts.  He could, as he has in the past, string together three or four decent starts, which would buy the entire organization some time before Kyle’s next string of inevitable implosions.   That is really the best case scenario – coupled, of course, with continued good outings from Jeff Francis and Bruce Chen.

The saving grace of this patched together rotation is that is sits in front of the organziation’s greatest strength:  young starting pitching.   Help is on the way, it is just a little further away than we would like it.   That would not be a big deal if this team had not lept out to a nice 7-4 start.   Since they have, however, we find ourselves agonizing over the not so new ineffectiveness of Kyle Davies and dreading the Saturday start of Sean O’Sullivan. 

Truthfully, that is a good thing.   It will be a much better thing when Mike Montgomery is starting some Saturday in July.

Good to see Billy Butler flash a little spring power.  And Kyle Davies is still putting runners on the bases like a madman.  He’s more than ready for the regular season…

And I’m ready to.  This is the time of the spring where I fall into a little exhibition game fatigue.  OK… I was pumped for the games, but the fact I can’t see them (more on that in a future post perhaps) and the fact they carry little weight mean I begin to lose interest about this time.  Sure, I still check the box scores, but I’m ready for the real thing damnit.

I contend most of the 25 man roster is set.  Clark has been watching it evolve since the end of the 2010 season and I feel he’s spot-on in his recent assessment.  For me, the most interesting (yet useless) competition is for the fifth starter spot.  There are six pitchers gunning for the rotation with Luke Hochevar the favorite to lead a staff that includes Jeff Francis, Bruce Chen, Sean O’Sullivan, Vin Mazarro and Davies.  I know Nick thinks Chen is out of the rotation by July.  Perhaps, but we do agree he will be in the mix at the start of the season.  Hochevar seems a lock, as does Francis.  I’ll include Davies here, too.  So that puts the competition down to O’Sullivan and Mazarro.

I said that was the most interesting battle in camp?  Sigh.

March 31 can’t get here fast enough.

A couple of spring notes of interest…

— I certainly fall into the camp that (most) spring stats are meaningless, but Everett Teaford had better get his act together.  Yeah, it’s just two appearances, but getting hammered for 11 hits and 10 runs isn’t going to get you anywhere… Even in March.  He will get a shot at spring redemption on Wednesday afternoon.

— We finally have a Wilson Betemit sighting as the third baseman started and when 0-4 with two strikeouts in Tuesday’s game.  He’s dealing with a hyper extended elbow from winter ball.  I think the injury, combined with Mike Aviles’ hot bat and improved glove, have Aviles positioned to be the Royals opening day starter at the hot corner.  Unless Chris Getz continues to underwhelm.  Which isn’t much of a reach.

— Getz is 1-14 this spring while Pedro Feliz is 1-13.  As I mentioned with Teaford, I’m not going to put a lot of stock in spring numbers – even when they validate my opinion of certain players.  (And in this case they certainly do.)  However, there’s something to be said about being part of the crowd.  In other words, you are allowed to struggle, but you don’t want to be so putrid that you stand out among your teammates.  That’s what a 1-14 will do… Get you noticed… In the wrong way.

— That fan that got pegged in the eye by an errant hot dog toss courtesy of Sluggerrr was in court on Tuesday.  John Coomer was allegedly struck in the eye by the Yuni-like frankfurter throw and suffered a detached retina and has undergone three surgeries.  When will these teams learn?  If I remember correctly, a vegetarian was clobbered with a hot dog (sans bun apparently) at a Blue Jay game several years ago.  As you can imagine, this caused extreme emotional distress.  (Although how it was worse than watching the Blue Jays, I couldn’t tell you.)  Anyway, the parties seem destined to see this through to the end, with the trial expecting to last to Thursday.

Ever since Major League Baseball has been classifying pitch types and publishing that data on the web, I’ve been fascinated with it. It’s not perfect, but it gives us an idea of how good each pitcher is at each particular pitch he throws. Fangraphs has taken the data a step further and attempted to quantify some of this data futher. There are numerous ways to slice and dice that data, and I’ve attempted one below.

I decided that I wanted to visualize how each of the projected Royals starters in 2011 threw each pitch in 2010. What you’ll find below is a graph I put together using Google Gadgets which attempts to do this. Each dot represents a pitch thrown by one of the 2011 Royals projected starting rotation in 2010. The size of that dot represents how often he threw that pitch. The left axis represents the velocity of the pitch. The bottom axis is the weighted value of the pitch per 100 times thrown from Fangraphs (basically how good the pitch is). If you hover your pointer over each dot, you will see whose pitch it represents. The Gadget also lets you change some of the parameters or just look at certain data points.

What I learned is that no pitcher in the 2011 rotation has a good fastball–every one of them lies in the negative territory. Vin Mazzaro has a good slider and changeup and Hochevar should probably be throwing his slider and changeup a little bit more than he does. What jumps out at you?

You can follow Nick Scott on Twitter @brokenbatsingle, on Facebook or reach him via email brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.

Boy, a guy leaves town for three days and he comes back to find that the Royals have signed Pedro Feliz.  

To be fair, the Royals are saying all the right things about the Feliz signing.   He is a ‘veteran presence in camp’, ‘insurance against injuries’ and ‘will not stand in the way of Mike Moustakas’.     All of which makes some sense, especially when just a year ago, injuries to Alberto Callaspo, Mike Aviles and Alex Gordon left the Royals with Willie Bloomquist as their opening day third baseman.  

Feliz comes with reputation of a good fielding third baseman (a career UZR/150 of 14.9), although he was below average statistically in 2010.   Offensively, Pedro does not offer much (career line of .250/.288/.410) other than some occasional power.   His slugging percentage has been in nearly perpetual decline for seven seasons:  not encouraging when that skill is all Feliz offers with the bat.

Before we get too worked up, however, this is a minor league deal.  An $800,000 minor league deal, mind you, but minor league nonetheless.   Almost all these types of contracts have some sort of deadline date during the spring in which the team can cut the player loose and not have to pay much of the contract amount, so this is, as Dayton Moore said, ‘a no risk’ deal….theoretically.

Anyway, Feliz aside, it is a new month and time for another draft of the Royals’ Opening Day roster.   Gil Meche juggled the situation some for us and we now have Jeff Francis and Bruce Chen in our rotation.   Only Royals’ fans could be comforted by those two names, but we are who we are.     We are close enough to spring training that this exercise is becoming less guess and more fact, so let’s break it down.

CATCHER – Brayan Pena and Lucas May

Four months ago, I was certain Dayton Moore could not resist the allure of a veteran back-up catcher, but has managed to do so.   Some of that may have to do with reports that Jason Kendall is ‘ahead of schedule’.   I’m sure all of you are anxiously counting the days until his return.   Short of every other pitch going to the backstop with Pena and May behind the plate, I don’t think we’ll see any surprises here.

FIRST BASE/DESIGNATED HITTER – Billy Butler and Kila Ka’aihue

About the only question here is who will be where.   There has been some mention of Butler spending a lot more time at DH, but we will just have to see how it all plays out.   Everyone likes big, tall first basemen target wise, so I like Kila at first and Billy at DH, but won’t throw many fits if turns out to be the other way around.   My guess is they alternate and never really decide.   We know Billy will hit, we don’t know if Kila will, but at last we get to find out.

SECOND BASE – Chris Getz

Mike Aviles is being ‘converted to third base full-time’, so that pretty much answers any questions here.   The Royals are going to take some time to find out what they have in Getz, which is a luxury they can afford this season.   My guess is the length of the ‘look’ is equal to the time it takes Mike Moustakas to hit 10 home runs in Omaha.  Once Moustakas is up, Aviles will likely knock Getz off second and that will be that.   Both Nick and I have a somewhat irrational ‘like’ of Getz, so we’ll be watching his progress (or lack thereof) closely.

SHORTSTOP – Alcides Escobar

Hopefully he looks more like the 12th best prospect in baseball than the guy who used his jersey last year in Milwaukee.   Either way, we will see 150+ games out of him at this position.

THIRD BASE – Mike Aviles

This is likely Aviles’ job to lose as the club is horrified of Wilson Betemit’s glove and should be horrified of Pedro Feliz’s bat.   The Royals never really want to believe in Aviles, but he generally makes them, so I expect Mike to get the Opening Day nod here and hopefully steady duty until Moustakas gets the call.

UTILITY – Wilson Betemit

The Royals have barely mentioned Betemit’s name this off-season.  I don’t know if they are afraid to jinx his outstanding offensive performance of 2010 by talking about it or simply don’t believe in him.   Although Wilson has played just about everywhere defensively, he is pretty much a butcher wherever – better than Esteban German, but then most of us are.   Look for Betemit to get some time at third and in the DH/first base rotation as well:  particularly against tough lefthanders in place of Kila.  

LEFTFIELD – Alex Gordon

Lot’s of talk here, but I think the Royals know they have to give Alex one last shot to play everyday and, well, dominate.   It would be ludicrous for a team destined to win 74 games or less to not give Gordon all the at-bats here.

CENTERFIELD – Melky Cabrera

I know, you don’t like it.  I don’t like it, either, but it seems like destiny to me.   I just have a hunch that Lorenzo Cain starts the season in AAA.   That situation is annoying, but not the end of the world.   Kind of like having Melky Cabrera as your centerfielder.    Cain has this job by June if he doesn’t break camp with the team.

RIGHTFIELD – Jeff Francouer

You’re all just a little curious to see what happens here, aren’t you?   Given Francouer’s ability to stay healthy, you are likely to get 160 games of this in 2011.

RESERVE OUTFIELDERS – Gregor Blanco and Mitch Maier

I can actually envision the team keeping Jarrod Dyson and using him as a pinch-runner/defensive replacement.   You do not see a lot of that anymore, but it almost makes some sense.   Probably, and barring a lust for Pedro Feliz which is very possible, Blanco and Maier both make this team to start with.   Either one of them probably gives us every bit of what Melky Cabrera does, but they don’t have ‘the name’.   Once Moustakas and Cain get the call, there is a real chance neither one is on the big league roster.   My advise to Gregor and Mitch:  be good savers.

STARTING ROTATION – Luke Hochevar, Jeff Francis, Vin Mazzaro, Bruce Chen, Kyle Davies

This got easy in a hurry after Francis and Chen were signed, plus Davies’ rather amazing inking of a $3.2 million deal.   Sean O’Sullivan and others will get a courtesy look, but this is almost certainly your starting five.   The above listing is my guess at the order.

BULLPEN – Joakim Soria, Robinson Tejeda, Blake Wood, Tim Collins, Jeremy Jeffress, Greg Holland, Nathan Adcock

I have to be honest, the end of that list is pretty much a guess coupled with my disdain for seeing Jesse Chavez and Kanekoe Texiera pitch.   After thinking Tejeda would be traded this off-season, it appears that will not happen and he, along with Wood and that Soria kid are locks.   After that I think Collins and Jeffress have inside tracks.   I don’t know what more Collins has to prove and my guess is the organization might want to give Jeffress some ‘big league supervision’.    Given where this team is and is going to be for much of 2011, there is little harm in carrying Rule 5 pick Adcock – at least for a while.   As for Holland, his minor league track record is one of an adjustment period at each level followed by outstanding pitching.   We saw some signs of that late in 2010 with Kansas City and I am expecting a big spring out of Greg this year.

An iffy starting rotation and a very young bullpen is something of a volitable combination and I can easily see the Royals shying away from it by going with veteran or quasi-veteran arms in the pen to start the year.   As always the last three spots in the pen are always the hardest to predict.

So, there is your twenty-five.   What’s the record by the end of May?

Gil Meche won’t say it because he has too much class, but Trey Hillman is responsible for the end of his career.  Fact.

The Royals will be fortunate should Luke Hochevar and Kyle Davies suffer from no lingering after effects from pitching in Hillman’s Starting Rotation Chainsaw Massacre.

Unfortunately, Dayton Moore can’t fire Hillman again.  I suppose that would be some kind of managerial double jeopardy.  Too bad. I wonder if those tears GMDM shed at the postmortem press conference was for SABR Trey or for realizing he acted too late and cost his team a decent starting pitcher.

Hillman had no business being in a major league dugout – especially as a manager.  He had no clue how to handle players on a day to day basis, had bizarre ideas about management in general and was absolutely lost making in-game decisions.  The Meche Mistake falls under the latter.  We’ve been over this before, but it’s the manager’s job to take the ball from his pitcher.  We’ve come so far when it comes to handling a pitching staff, that to let a starter who has thrown over 120 pitches dictate how long he should stay in the game is absolutely, unequivocally criminal.  It never should have happened.

Meche had a history of arm and shoulder troubles before he signed with the Royals.  Because of that, a five year contract was a risky proposition for the club.  Hillman managed Meche like he had no clue about his medical past.  How else can he explain why he left his starter in to throw a 132 pitch complete game?  Or how he allowed him to top 120 pitches just two days after throwing a bullpen session to test a dead arm?  The warning signs were there.  Everyone saw them.  How could you not?  Turns out everyone saw them but Trey Hillman.

It’s all water under the bridge as Meche walks away from over $12 million guaranteed because he’s too much of a standup guy to take that kind of money and struggle in the bullpen or to go ahead and have surgery and miss the year rehabbing.  I talked to Meche a couple of times while he was with the team and he always struck me as a thoughtful, conscientious kind of guy.  Not a brainiac like Brian Bannister and not quirky like Zack Greinke… Just smart.  But not too smart.  A normal guy.

I enjoyed watching Meche pitch because when he was healthy, he gave the Royals a great chance to win.  We scoff at the term, but he really was a “gamer.”  He always went out and gave it his best.  I suppose that’s ultimately why he’s walking away.  He’s not at his best anymore and he realizes this.  He may not have the most talent, but he was all about maximizing what he had.  I respect that.

I hope that Meche eventually gets the surgery because it’s no fun not being 100 percent… Even if you’re no longer competing at the highest level.  Maybe he can find a job in baseball as a pitching coach.  He seems like an ideal candidate to work with young pitchers.  And he can tell them first hand why starters need to take care of themselves.

In the meantime, Hillman has moved on to LA.  The Trey and Donnie Baseball show should be sitcom worthy.  Since I started writing about the Royals, they’ve had four managers.  Who would have thought my favorite at this point would be Buddy Bell?

A couple other notes…

— Bob Dutton Tweeted that Billy Butler is seeking $4.3 million while the Royals have countered with $3.4 million.  Dayton Moore has never been to arbitration and he’s not about to start.  I bet they’ll split the difference.

— There was some noise on Tuesday that the Meche retirement would free up the Royals ability to ink Butler to a long term deal.  While that sounds great, these are two completely separate issues.

For starters, if the Royals and Butler do sign a long-term deal, it would be one with escalating salaries to take care of his three arbitration seasons.  Something along the lines of $4 million in ’11, $6 million in ’12 and $8 million in ’13.  (Those are rough numbers, but you get my point.)  The Royals had already budgeted a certain amount for Butler for ’11 and Meche and his situation have nothing to do with how they will treat Butler.

Second, Meche’s salary was coming off the books following this season.  GMDM has made this point several times recently that the team has virtually no money committed to contracts beyond this season.  The payroll flexibility was already there.  Meche leaving doesn’t give the Royals any extra room to manuever.

And finally, I know there’s some ambivalence about giving Butler an extension with the imminent arrival of Eric Hosmer and Kila Ka’aihue already on the roster.  I get that… But Hosmer isn’t a sure thing and we have yet to see Ka’aihue for a full season.  We know what we’re getting in Butler.  I think you need to lock him in to a contract… Basically live for today.  If it turns out there’s a logjam at DH, then the Royals can deal him.   As long as his contract is done right.

— What the Meche retirement does now is it gives GMDM some money to spend.  This scares me.  Anyone think he’ll make a charge at Kevin Millwood?  Supposedly, Millwood is a leader-type of player… Exactly the kind GMDM covets.  Then there’s the fact he can overpay to bring him to KC.  Or how about the Royals signed two starting pitchers last week and seemingly have their rotation candidates fairly set for 2011.  GMDM has always failed at roster construction.  Now seems like an ideal time to overpay to create a logjam on a team that’s not expected to contend.

And let’s not forget… Former Brave.


— Speaking of arbitration, Kyle Davies avoids arbitration and gets a raise to $3.2 million.


Seriously, how the hell did the Royals come to the conclusion that Davies should get a raise?  I know that everyone always gets more money, but Hochevar signed for the same amount he made in ’10.  And there’s no way you can tell me Davies is the better pitcher.

In fact, there’s a ton of evidence that Davies doesn’t belong in the majors.  Few pitchers have been as futile for as long as Davies.

Enjoy it, Kyle.  That’s a helluva reward.

UPDATE: The Royals have reportedly agreed to terms with Jeff Francis to a one-year deal, pending a physical.  I mention Francis later in this post in regards to the team’s payroll. It will be interesting to see how much he will be making next year, but as you’ll see… It really doesn’t matter.  Read on…


The Royals and Luke Hochevar agreed to terms on Wednesday, avoiding arbitration.  According to reports, he’s set to make $1.76 million next season.  While that’s hardly chump change, according to Cot’s that is the exact same amount he made in 2010. Hochevar is represented by Scott Boras, so I found it kind of interesting that they reached this sort of an agreement.  Even though he was hurt and missed a large chunk of the season, Hochevar did improve on his overall performance.  Trust me… You have to look closely, but he did.

Hochevar has added seven pounds of muscle (one of the first “Best Shape of his Life” stories of 2011… Spring Training is close.) in an attempt to avoid further injury.  I’m always ambivalent about these reports.  Will more muscle result in better performance, or will it take something away?  I guess we’ll know about a year from now when the story is either “Hochevar Trims Down” or “Hochevar named Mr. Universe.”

With Hochevar under contract, that leaves Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Robinson Tejeda and Kyle Davies as the Royals remaining arbitration-eligible players.  Given Dayton Moore’s track record – he’s never gone to arbitration in his tenure in KC – I’d bet all four reach agreements before the team reports to Surprise.

So let’s take a look at the Royals current payroll.  Here are the names and the numbers we know.  These are all the Royals under contract for 2011.  All numbers are in millions.

That is a lean total for a baseball payroll about a month from the opening of camp.

Now, let’s look at the guys who haven’t been locked in for 2011.

Butler will get a nice raise to avoid arbitration.  I’m thinking somewhere in the $3 million neighborhood.  Gordon will probably be in line with last season’s $1.15 million.  There is no way Davies should make more money than Hochevar, but he was at $1.8 last year, so let’s pencil him in for that again.  And Tejeda will probably double his salary from last year and make around $2 million.  These numbers are just off the top of my head.  I’m confident about the Gordon and Davies guesses, less so about Butler and Tejeda.  Still, let’s figure an additional $8 million for the remaining arbitration guys.  That pushes the total payroll to about $35 million.

Then there are the guys with less that three years of service time.  The club can (and will) automatically renew their contracts for either the minimum ($414,000) or slightly above.  On the Royals, that includes the following players:

Nathan Adcock
Jesse Chavez
Greg Holland
Jeremy Jeffries
Vin Mazzaro
Sean O’Sullivan
Lucas May
Mike Aviles
Alcides Escobar
Chris Getz
Kila Ka’aihue
Gregor Blanco
Lorenzo Cain

OK… I’ve left out some players who could be on the 25 man roster Opening Day.  That’s not the point.  Because if one of these 13 guys isn’t on the team at the start of April, he will be replaced by someone with a similar level of experience.

Since not everyone listed above will make the bare minimum, let’s just round up and assign everyone a contract of $425,000.  That adds an extra $5.525 million to the payroll.

That brings our rough estimate of the Royals Opening Day payroll to $40.525 million.  Throw in the $1 million they owe The Yunigma and that edges the team payroll to just over $41 million.


Quite the reduction from the $70 million plus payrolls the Royals opened the year with in 2010 and 2009.

I know there will be a focus on the team payroll and most of it will be negative.  Ignore that noise.  A payroll this low means that while GMDM doesn’t totally get it, he’s learning.  He’s learning that you don’t need to throw mega-millions at a broken down outfielder or a reliever in order to finish in fourth or fifth place.  This is a good thing.  With The Process in full swing, there’s no need to bloat the payroll today.  The eyes are on the future.

On the other hand, I’m worried that the money is smoldering in GMDM’s pocket.  Obviously the Royals need pitching and Kevin Millwood seems like the kind of guy he would overpay, just to bring him to KC.  How GMDM approaches this need in the next month will speak loudly about exactly how much he has learned.

However, it’s all a slippery slope.  Don’t spend money and you’re cheap and running the team on a Wal-Mart budget.  Spend money on guys like Millwood and you’re basically throwing cash away.  Still, there’s not a much (really, any) quality remaining on the free agent market.  All that’s left are injury risks (Chris Young, Jeff Francis) and guys who… aren’t very good. (Jeff Suppan, Nate Robertson)

Myself, I’d rather GMDM resist the temptation to throw the cash just because he has it.  I know that a million saved in 2011 doesn’t mean anything in 2012.  Still, just once I’d like Moore to do the prudent thing.

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