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Browsing Posts tagged Vin Mazzaro

Games like the one the Royals played on Tuesday are fantastic. It’s a recipe for a great evening.

— They spotted Vin Mazzaro four runs before he ever took the mound. Wait… The Royals had a “big inning?” An inning where they scored more than one run and didn’t bunt? This is the Royals?

Adding to the confusion was leadoff man Jerrod Dyson clubbing the ball over the head of the right fielder for a leadoff double. What’s up with that? Joey Gathright never hit one off the wall.

Given the opportunity to play everyday, Dyson has exceeded expectations. That’s likely an understatement. On Tuesday, he reached base three times and saw a team high 24 pitches in five plate appearances. That is exactly the kind of stuff you want to see from your leadoff hitter. Oh, and all three times he reached… He scored.

Dyson is now hitting .304/.383/.362 in 81 plate appearances. He’s scored 17 runs in 18 games. And get this… Dyson is scoring 55% of the time he reaches base. No player in baseball with more than 80 plate appearances has scored as frequently as Dyson.

I know we’re still at least a month away from Lorenzo Cain returning from his hip flexor injury, but man… If Dyson can somehow keep this going, there’s no way Cain gets back into the lineup.

— I suppose lost in the “Eric Hosmer batting second” hubbub is that if Jerrod Dyson reaches base in the first inning, we can pretty much forget about Hosmer bunting him over. Although he did execute the swinging bunt in the first on the tapper back to Lewis. I guess what happened is an example of how speed affects the game, as Lewis looked Dyson back to second, then turned to first and lofted a flat footed throw over the head of Moreland.

— Hosmer then executed a boneheaded baserunning play when he broke for third on a ground ball in front of him. You don’t go for third in that situation… You just don’t.

More Royals running into outs.

— After a Jeff Francoeur double and Mike Moustakas was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Brayan Pena saw a meatball from Lewis and laced it into right for a two-run single. Does Pena love hitting in Arlington, or what?

— Finally, a nice job by Chris Getz to line the Lewis curve into center for the Royals final out of the inning. A slow, looping curve that didn’t exactly hang, but it was still in the “happy zone” when Getz drove it to center to bring home the Royals final run of the inning.

It also helps that the Royals were able to keep the pressure on, adding single runs in each of the next two innings. Again it was that leadoff man, Dyson, setting the table with a more Dysonesque base hit than in the first. The error on the pickoff allows him to advance to second, although I was surprised he didn’t go for third. Probably the right call since there weren’t any outs in the inning.

Then a nice piece of hitting from Butler to line the low and away pitch to right to bring Dyson home. That was the sort of inning that wasn’t happening during the first month of the season.

In the third, it was the MooseBomb. All the dude is doing is hitting .310/.371/.540. Nice. It’s weird, but when Hosmer started crushing minor league pitching, he kind of shoved Moustakas to second tier prospect status. But if Moose wasn’t number one on those prospect lists, he was 1A. He’s a damn good ballplayer. Now if we could only get that other guy going…

— Speaking of Hosmer, he did pick up a pair of hits, one of which was an opposite field double. Opposite field hits are always a good sign, but he’s teased us before. Anyway, it was his first multi-hit game since May 3 – the first game of the homestand against the Yankees. And only his sixth multi-hit game of the year. When I say “multi-hit,” I mean two hit games… Because he’s yet to collect more than two hits in a game this season.

— Mazzaro was successful because he threw strikes. According to PITCH f/x, 14 of his 16 four seam fastballs were strikes as were 21 of his 34 two seamers. He doesn’t miss many bats – he only generated four swings and misses of his total 50 fastballs – which against the Rangers feels dangerous. Especially if you’re living in the zone as much as Mazzaro was on Tuesday. But for one night at least, it worked. It also helped that the Rangers seemed a little overzealous, chasing a number of pitches out of the zone.

Whatever… It worked. It also helps that Mazzaro limited any potential damage by walking just a single batter. His final line:

5 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO

If you had offered that line to me ahead of the game, I would have gladly accepted. Baseball is a funny game.

— And then the bullpen… What an effort. Timmay Collins set the tone by striking out five of the six batters he faced. That curve… Just devastating. He’s just been amazing this year. Collins was followed by Aaron Crow, Jose Mijares and a rejuvenated Greg Holland. Here’s the combined bullpen line of the evening:

4 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 SO

That’s how Dayton drew it up, right? Cobble together five half-decent innings from your mediocre starting pitcher and then have the bullpen lock things down for the next four? And hope like hell your lineup strings together enough runs to give your team a fighting chance?

It’s a wonderful thing when a plan comes together.

Vin Mazzaro represents progress.

I’ll wait for you to stop laughing.

Done? Good. Here’s what I mean.

In year’s past, where the Royals traded a starter (and a good one at that in David DeJesus) for a pitcher with major league experience, it was pretty much automatic that the new pitcher would open the new season with the team and would log a substantial number of innings. (I’m thinking along the lines of Mike Wood, who got 17 starts after arriving from Oakland in the three team Carlos Beltran deal. Back when Billy Beane was a genius.)

Remember, Mazzaro was slated to open the season as the Royals fifth starter. He was sent to Omaha because the Royals had a couple of early open dates, got shelled in his first two starts for the Storm Chasers and was held back in Triple-A. He didn’t get a chance to appear in KC until Bruce Chen hit the DL in early May. He made one start, didn’t really distinguish himself, and then came May 16. A day that will live in Royal infamy.

2.1 IP, 11 H, 14 ER, 3 BB, 2 SO, 1 HR

Starter Kyle Davies pitched to four batters and walked three before leaving with an injury. Nate Adcock was supposed to be the Royals long man, but pitched only through the second innings. Burning his bullpen Ned Yost turned to Mazzaro.

It’s wasn’t his best moment.

But consider the dominos from this game. The Royals exiled Mazzaro and recalled Everett Teaford. And Mazzaro had been scheduled to start the next game, so Yost’s bullpen gambit meant an immediate rotation shuffle was in the cards and that brought about the major league debut of Danny Duffy. (See… Even in horrible circumstances I can sometimes find the silver lining.)

So after that outing Mazzaro returned to Triple-A and – other than a brief recall in June and another when the rosters expanded in September – spent his summer in Nebraska. His Triple-A numbers were underwhelming: In 123 innings, he had a 4.4 BB/9, a 7.8 SO/9 and a 4.29 ERA. The strikeout rate was surprising. Mazzaro has never been the type of pitcher to miss bats. Still, he was hampered by the walks and the ability of the opposing hitters to put the ball in play with great success. His Triple-A WHIP was a lofty 1.62.

Once upon a time, Mazzaro was a decent prospect. Baseball America rated him the eight best minor leaguer in the Oakland system prior to the 2009 season. This was coming off a season where he made 22 Double-A starts, posted a 1.90 ERA with a 2.4 BB/9 and won Texas League Pitcher of the Year honors. Here’s what they had to say:

Mazzaro’s hard sinker sits in the low 90s and touches 95, generating groundballs. He pitches off his fastball, and he shows the ability to sink, run or cut it. His control got significantly better in 2008, allowing him to keep hitters off balance by mixing locations and changing planes. He showed a greater willingness to challenge hitters than he had in the past.

Now, Mazzaro throws about 91 mph and his GB/FB ratio for his career is 1.08. As I said earlier, he doesn’t get a ton of swings and misses, so it would be in his best interest to used that sinker to rack up some grounders. That hasn’t happened yet at the major league level. And the control? Well, in 242 innings he’s averaging around 4 BB/9. That’s just not going to cut it. Especially when batters are squaring up the way they do against Mazzaro.

But like I said in the open, Mazzaro isn’t a huge concern because there are other pitchers in the pipeline – along with enough talent already on the 40 man roster – that he can return to Omaha to fill out the Triple-A rotation. The control he possessed in Double-A has deserted him as he’s moved up the ladder. Hitters don’t chase and his secondary pitches are lacking.

This seems to be his future… Organizational filler. Triple-A starter. Break glass only in emergency.

If you see him in Kansas City at any point in this season, you’ll know something has gone horribly awry with the rotation.

The first day of June and the fact we’re already a third of the way through the season seems like as good a time as any for a quick review of how the season has gone so far.

Thumbs up…

To Eric Hosmer. His recall energized the fanbase, even if it was only for a few games. With a line of .274/.314/.505 through his first 102 plate appearances, he’s doing just fine, thank you. He spent the first month plus of the season in Omaha, but with five home runs, he’s closing in on Jeff Francoeur and the team lead of nine. He’ll get there. And stay there. For years.

Thumbs down…

To Joakim Soria as the closer. It’s been dissected and deconstructed by every Royals site in the universe – including this one – so there’s no reason to rehash it here. Although I will say I don’t agree with the decision to demote him. I’m of the thought there is something physically wrong. And that’s with the manager saying he doesn’t know if it’s mechanics. (I’m working on process of elimination here of the possible issues. That, and a declining strikeout rate and doubling walk rate.) It’s not going to serve the Royals and Soria any purpose in having him throw a few innings in mop-up duty. He needs some rest and a mental break from the closing grind.

Thumbs up…

To Alex Gordon’s start. The month of April was his best month as a major leaguer. Through his first 27 games, he posted a line of .339/.395/.541. It was fun to watch.

Thumbs down…

To Alex Gordon’s slump. From May 3 to May 21, he went into a tailspin that had many of us mutter to ourselves about the Old Alex Gordon. He hit an anemic .169/.250/.262 which included several horrific plate appearances. It was vintage 2007 Gordon. That was a very bad year.

Thumbs up…

To Alex Gordon’s recovery and power surge. His on base percentage has stabilized for now, but the impressive thing is he’s found a home run stroke. On Tuesday, he blasted his fifth home run in his last nine games. The power was something that was missing from his hot start, so it’s good to see it’s return.

Thumbs down…

To the starting rotation as a whole. Yes, there have been some solid performances, but that’s been the exception, rather than the rule. Their starters ERA is a whopping 5.22, which is the highest in the AL and it’s not even close. They also don’t strike anyone out. Their 184 strikeouts as a staff is, again, the worst in the league. They’re the only rotation with fewer than 200 strikeouts.

Thumbs up…

To Danny Duffy. Yes, he’s struggled at times with command, but we can all see why he’s up in Kansas City well ahead of schedule. He’s struck out 14 batters in 15 innings, making him the Royals starter most likely to get three strikes on a hitter.

Thumbs down…

To Dayton Moore’s recent trades. Sean O’Sullivan’s starts make me want to skin baby seals and Vin Mazzaro’s relief appearance where he was allowed to get sodomized was the stuff of legend. O’Sullivan and his 3.0 SO/9 strikeout rate would be the lowest since Chien-Ming Wang finished with a 3.1 SO/9 back in 2006. I want to wholly buy into The Process (really, I do) but when the GM is actively acquiring pitchers like O’Sullivan and Mazzaro to round out a pitching staff, you have to wonder.

I’m almost certain the Royals will trot out the “they were the only pitchers available” defense. That was the same justification they used when they foisted the awfulness that was Yuniesky Betancourt. Sorry, it doesn’t work. Not every trade needs to be a home run. We only ask they don’t make history for being awful.

Thumbs up…

To the bullpen. For the most part, they have kept this team in games, which is why so many contests have gone extra innings. Their 3.92 bullpen ERA is close to league average and has them in the middle of the pack in the AL. The fact this happened with Soria struggling is nothing short of a miracle.

Thumbs down…

To John Lamb visiting Dr. Lewis Yocum. While the prospect of Tommy John surgery isn’t the end of the world – or a pitching career – it’s a cold reminder that The Process and our stocked minor league is no guarantee of future success.

Thumbs up…

To Jeff Francoeur and his late inning performances. He’s come to the plate 67 times from the seventh inning on and is hitting .346/.448/.577 with eight extra base hits and 10 walks. Several of those plate appearances have come in extremely high leverage situations.

He can still frustrate the hell out of me, expanding the strike zone at the most inopportune times, but he’s been much better than I thought he would be. Since we’re this far in the season, he can still go in the tank, but we’ll have fond memories of at least his first two months.

Thumbs down…

To Kila Ka’aihue’s performance. Come on, dude… As one of your biggest advocates, I took this personally. And now that Hosmer is here, you’ll probably never wear a Royals uniform again.

Thumbs up…

To Alcides Escobar’s defense. The guy is simply electric with the glove. Part of the fun of watching him play the field are the plays he makes on instinct. After being force fed the dreck that was the Yunigma, this is an extremely refreshing change.

Thumbs down…

To Alcides Escobar’s offense. A .258 on base percentage and 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio isn’t helping. I’m not asking for a world class bat, but this is crazy. His glove will only take him so far.

Thumbs up…

To the Royals base running game. They are much improved on the bases, giving away fewer outs as a team. Still, there are moments… But for the most part, they’re doing a good job.

Thumbs down…

To cancer. Nice tribute by the RoyalVision crew at Monday’s game honoring Splitt. He will be missed.

Kyle Davies left the game last night in the first inning with anterior shoulder soreness and will undergo an MRI today to determine the severity of the injury. In related news, karmic retribution rains down upon Royals fans rejoicing at an injury to one of their own in the form of a 19-1 annihilation at the hands of the Cleveland Indians.

I don’t believe in karma or any other type of supernatural phenomenon, but last night’s game certainly gave me a bit of skepticism. The much-maligned pitcher Kyle Davies is removed in the first inning, only to be replaced by a parade of pitchers surrendering an unprecedented number of runs. It was the ultimate “be careful what you wish for” moment.

Before anyone could utter the phrase “Does this mean we’ll see Danny Duff..” the scoreboard was being changed so fast it looked like the dashboard of Doc Brown’s DeLorean. I think any Royals fan began to instantly question whether or not wishing for the downfall of Davies was in reality the best course of action.

I’ve long argued that while Kyle Davies isn’t a great pitcher, he’s a fine back of the rotation guy on a large swath of Major League teams. Yes, I know that Craig posited that he was the worst pitcher in history, and the numbers do bear that out. However, what I took away from those numbers is that he’s just been given a significantly longer opportunity than most back of the rotation guys. Part of that has to do with getting to the big leagues at such a young age that, combined with his above average stuff and ability to stay healthy lets him rack up a large number of innings.

I believe that a lot of the anger directed towards Kyle Davies and the resulting wishes for “someone, anyone else” are due to wanting something different. We know what Kyle Davies is, we can no longer project something onto him and as fans we want to project. Guys we don’t know, players we’ve barely seen are people we can project onto. We can dream them into a diamond in the rough, or a future ace. We know so little about them that anything is possible. With Davies, we know too much.

Last night, his health failed him and with it went his stuff. Over the past few outings, Davies had been keeping the Royals in games. Three of his last four starts were of the quality variety. Beyond that, he had completely changed his approach. He was posting career high strikeout numbers and career low walk numbers. He was finally trusting his stuff and pitching in the strike zone. It lead to a significant increase in the number of hits he allowed, but that’s to be expected. With an improved defense behind him, it was the right decision for Davies.

It’s unclear now whether he will get to prove he was a new pitcher, that will all come down to what the doctors say. Initially it was announced that he would be replaced by Robinson Tejeda, but that was premature. We’ll know more today.

But what of Vin Mazzaro, the pitcher that came to the Royals from the Oakland Athletics and was thrown to the wolves that had taken the form of Indians? In the ultimate insult added to injury, he was demoted to Omaha.

There’s little question over whether or not a Major League pitcher should be able to do better than Mazzaro did last night. He was already sitting in the bullpen, so it’s almost certain he knew he was coming into the game at the first sign of trouble from Kyle Davies. That trouble did come, and then Nate Adcock entered the game to give Mazzaro some extra time to get ready.

The game was inching out of control before Mazzaro even got in, but once he toed the rubber he threw grenades on a bonfire. Or did he? The two and a third innings he pitched didn’t really seem as bad while it was happening. The Indians didn’t crush every pitch they saw, there were lots of bloop hits and seeing eye singles –the bad-luck portion of the Batting Average on Balls in Play statistic (BABIP). The Royals weren’t making errors either, there were a few balls hit to the outfield that a speedier player might have gotten. I can remember one to each of left, center and right that someone like Jarrod Dyson would have ran down. But those happen all the time.

What I believe we witnessed last night wasn’t just a pitcher being dominated. It was a combination of bad luck, poor pitching and poor preparation. It just compounded in a historic way.

As human beings we want to try and make sense of these things. We ask ourselves what all of this means. Does it mean that the Royals are the team we thought they were before the season? Does it mean that Kyle Davies is better than we thought? Does it mean that the Dejesus trade was a bad one?

The questions are numerous, interesting and what makes baseball discussion so great. But in the end, they’re kind of pointless. The 19-1 loss to the Indians means one thing: there is one more L on the record book. I guess it also means that Kyle Davies might be on the D.L. and there will be some roster movement to get a starting pitcher. But all in all, it’s just one loss. As fans we can project whatever we want on that historic loss last night, that’s just what we do.

Update: It’s being reported that Danny Duffy will be promoted and make the start for the Royals on Wednesday.

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.

Not much to say about last night’s game, as the Royals drop their ninth road contest in 12 games. Instead, let’s focus on the future… Like Saturday, July 9. That’s when the Royals face the Tigers and we will be hosting Baseball Prospectus night at the K.

Baseball Prospectus has been doing these ballpark events throughout the country for the past couple of seasons and since I joined the staff last year, I’ve been bugging them for an event in KC. This will be a truly great event. The game on July 9 begins at 6:10, and the BPro festivities begin at 4:10.

For only $30, here’s what you will receive:

— A ticket for an outfield box seat in the Rivals Outfield Box (right field… we can join the French Quarter!).
— A $15 credit to be used toward a Baseball Prospectus Premium subscription or your next premium renewal.
— A planned question and answer session with a staff member of the Kansas City Royals. Details to be announced
— An opportunity to talk baseball with several Baseball Prospectus writers. In addition to myself, prospect guru Kevin Goldstein, Rany Jazayerli, Royals scout school graduate Joe Hamrahi and Jeff Euston of Cot’s Baseball Contracts will be in attendance.

Those Rivals Outfield Box seats usually go for $25 (advance purchase) but with the added value (like the BP credit) that’s a pretty sweet deal. Spots are filling up quickly, so click here to purchase your ticket to the event.

I’ll place the event at the top of the sidebar on the right, so when you visit you will be reminded. This is a really solid group of writers and I know this team has an outstanding bunch of knowledgeable fans, so this event should be a ton of fun.

Mark it down. July 9. I hope to see you there.

Quick notes about last night…

— Is this team going to be one of those bizarro teams with weird splits? Specifically, road and home record. These guys look like world beaters (and contenders) at home. On the road… Not so much.

— Alex Gordon in May… Not as good as Alex Gordon in April. So far, he’s hitting just .161/.229/.290 in eight games. I’ve written before about how his decrease in home run power is troubling… Now we have this to worry about. And that strikeout last night against Chamberlin was ugly. Three pitches and he didn’t even move the bat off his shoulder.

— Kyle Davies turned in a typical Davies performance. Meh.

— If there was any question about how the Royals will handle the inevitable call-up of Danny Duffy, I present to you Exhibit A: With Bruce Chen on the DL, the Royals recalled Vin Mazzaro from Omaha.

With Eric Hosmer almost certainly in line to qualify as a super two, the Royals won’t jump start the service clock of a pitcher just to gain a handful of starts. That said, I expect Duffy and maybe Montgomery to arrive in early June. Hopefully.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Episode #034 – Clark Fosler, one of my co-writers at Royals Authority joins me to talk about the David Dejesus trade.  What does it mean for the Royals, did the Royals get good value in return and did Dayton rush to judgment?  We also talk 2011 and beyond.

:http://www.livekc.com/podcasts/bbs035.mp3|titles=BBS

Follow Nick on Twitter @brokenbatsingle or on Facebook
Follow Clark on Twitter @cfosroyalsauth

Music used in this podcast:

Tool – Lateralus

Earthless – Cherry Red

The Hipnecks – Sni-A-Bar Stomp

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Nick Scott writes about the Royals for Royals Authority, podcasts about the Royals at Broken Bat Single and writes about the Chiefs for Chiefs Command. You can follow him on Twitter @brokenbatsingle, on Facebook or email him at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.

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