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Deconstructing The Process

Browsing Posts tagged WIlson Betemit

Tuesday’s game was almost as epic as the Royals-Rangers tilt back on May 6.  You know… The game officially known as “The Last Time Joakim Soria Blew a Save.”

Yunigma Update

Yuniesky Betancourt walked twice last night.  That’s happened only eight times in his career.  (He’s never walked three times in a game.)  The last time he walked twice in a game?  Try May 6 against the Rangers.

Please remember, Yuni is not the team leader in home runs.  Jose Guillen is still two ahead of the Yunigma.  However, Yuni is tied with Billy Butler for the team lead in RBI… If you’re into that sort of thing.

Feast or Famine With Alex Gordon

Typical night for Gordon.  At least it felt that way.  A single and a double against Cliff Lee drove in a total of three runs.  That was good… Then he struck out three times, twice looking.  That was bad.

You know my stance on strikeouts – they’re just another out – but those looking, called third strikes are beginning to try my patience.  We’ve been over this before… Oftentimes, Gordon doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt.  Reputations are difficult to shake and he certainly has the reputation of a complainer… At least at the plate.  Of all of Gordon’s third strikes, 36% of happen when the bat doesn’t leave his shoulder.  That’s a high percentage.  Major league average this season is 25%.

Plus, who is he?  Nobody outside of Nebraska and Kansas City gives a damn about Alex Gordon.  Not now, anyway.  So when you’re up against a pitcher like Cliff Lee and you have two strikes on you, you damn well better expand that zone.

Of course, I’m probably picking the wrong time to go off on a “swing the bat, meat” tangent.  Both his called third strikes on Tuesday were against left handed pitching.  And he certainly showed what he could do against Lee, ripping a couple of hits.  Go back to his at bat against Lee in the fifth.  Two outs, two runners on and Lee tries to get him to chase a couple of cutters out of the zone and falls behind 2-0.   Lee is struggling to get out of the inning, so he’s not going to screw around.  Everyone knows this… And Gordon takes a strike down the heart of the plate.  My first reaction was, I couldn’t believe that Gordon didn’t take a rip at that pitch.  Typical Gordon… Missing his pitch in a hitter’s count.

These are situations he has to take advantage of if he’s going to be successful.  When pitchers jump ahead of Gordon with the first strike, he’s hitting .138/.198/.150.

Then I thought Lee wouldn’t want to fall behind 3-1, so I figured Gordon would get another pitch to handle.  He did – a fastball, belt high and on the outer half of the plate.  Gordon really turned on the pitch and ripped it for a two-run double.

So maybe he knows what he’s doing after all…

I’m still rooting for Gordon.  Probably more than anyone on this team.  (And probably because I HAVE to.  Gordon’s success means this franchise moves up the MLB food chain a notch or two.)  So it was a typically crazy night… A couple of hits and a handful of strikeouts.  Just another day in the development.

Yosting the Bullpen

Chew on this for a moment…

— Joakim Soria is having another dominating season.
— After a rough April (and a stint on the DL) Robinson Tejeda has been awesome.
— Kyle Farnsworth had an excellent season for the Royals.
— The Royals bullpen ERA is 4.64 – worst in the AL.

How is that remotely possible?

Step forward Jesse Chavez.  Take a bow Victor Marte.  Is that Brad Thompson in the corner?  Hey, there’s Josh Rupe.  Has anyone seen Luis Mendoza?

It’s really difficult to believe the Royals got solid seasons from three relievers, but the rest of the bullpen has been so putrid, it’s pulled the collective reliever ERA into the abyss.

I know the Royals won last night and I know at this point in the season we’re looking at the “young” guys, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating to hang seven runs on Cliff Lee and then see Chavez cough up a lead in 16 pitches.  Followed by a Blake Wood escape act in the eighth when he got Vladimir The Royal Killer to ground out with the bases loaded.

On Wilson Betemit

I know a couple of weeks ago, Fangraphs speculated that Betemit may price himself out of Kansas City on the back of a strong finish.  I suppose anything is possible, but seriously… The notion that Betemit will break the Royals bank (or stretch the budget) is laughable.

He joined this team on a minor league contract last November.  A minor league contract… It wasn’t even a split contract, promising a certain amount if he got called up.  According to Cot’s, the most he’s ever made in a season is $1.3 million back in 2009.  That contract was really just a carryover from the $1.165 million he made in his first year of arbitration eligibility.  At that point, he had been a semi-regular for three years.

The point is, his last two contracts (before signing with the Royals) were reasonable, given his playing time, production and economics of the time.

He will certainly stand to make more than his $1.3 million.  However, we’re talking about a guy who will have less than 350 plate appearances and wasn’t a regular until the team jettisoned Alberto Callaspo at the end of July.  I figure he’ll earn somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 million.  And that’s my guess at an absolute ceiling.  I know outsiders think of our team as cash poor, but that’s an acceptable contract.

Of course, there’s the other issue:  Mike Moustakas.  Hey, did you hear about his three home run, 11 RBI game?  Of course you did.  (Great game… Largely irrelevant in the big picture.  It’s simply the cherry on top of the sundae that is his outstanding season.)

Does signing Wilson Betemit for next season block the promotion of Moustakas?

I don’t think it does.

Moustakas needs to open the 2011 season in Triple-A.  For two reasons.  One, the Royals need to make sure he picks up where he finished.  This, in my mind, is a huge deal.  We know he’s been raking all season, but the Royals need to make sure he remains sharp during the off season.  (Rumors of him playing in the Dominican League are encouraging.)  I’m not going to draw parallels between Moose and Gordon on the “rush a prospect” front… Every player is different.  However, if the Royals are serious about this batch of prospects and aiming for 2014, they need to make absolutely certain Moustakas is ready.

Second, (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) is they need to take advantage of his service time.  If this kid is truly this good, I’ll gladly take a half year of his production in 2011 in exchange for at least six full seasons.  I’ve always kind of laughed at this kind of roster manipulation, but other teams are doing it.  The Royals need to join this parade.

And that means no September call-up.  I’m fine with that.  Have him finish the season with Omaha, take some time to recharge and then play some winter ball.  Sounds like a plan.

Back to Betemit… If the Royals follow this plan, they’ll need him to return.  That takes the pressure off of everyone involved.  Then, if Moose is abusing Triple-A pitching through the first three months of 2011, the Royals can flip Betemit and we can begin the new era.

It will be worth the wait.

After yesterday’s 12 inning win, I know of at least one loyal commenter to this site who is delighted and one big league manager who is smirking at everyone right now.   Not to mention at least one writer on this site who is delighted with Kila Ka’aihue’s home run, double and two walk game yesterday.

Given that Ned Yost did the unthinkable by batting Willie Bloomquist third (even national guys were chiming in on Twitter with sarcastic comments), then guaranteed that Willie would get two hits and THEN actually saw the guy do it, including the game winning homer, who am I to criticize?   Frankly, I don’t even know what to say.

Instead, let’s take a quick look at what the expanded roster in September might include.   Who, if anyone, will get a call-up and of those, who will actually get a real look?  

We’ll start with the easy ones:  veteran players who have been on the disabled list:

  • Gil Meche – all signs point to Gil getting a look out of the bullpen next month.  The Royals will be careful with him at this point, so we won’t see him even every other day, but I imagine six or seven appearances at least.  The snag here is that Gil is on the 60 day disabled list (which does not take a 40 man roster spot) and a spot would have to be made on the 40 man roster to accommodate his activation.
  • Luke Hochevar – if you can believe the organization, Hochevar will make a rehab start or two shortly, which would put him on pace for a couple of September starts.  Part of me says that is a good idea, the other part of me says that Hochevar should just shut down and come back 100% next spring.
  • Brian Bannister – probably could be pitching right now if the Royals really wanted him to.   Made a two inning appearance in Omaha earlier this week and will be back up in September.   Brian’s September starts – he might well step into a regular rotation spot for the month – will likely determine if he has a future with the Royals.
  • Robinston Tejeda – supposedly will be ready in early September.   If he is, Tejeda will step back into the late inning setup role that currently makes him the third most stable member of the entire staff.
  • Josh Fields – remember him?  He has been on a rehab assignment in Northwest Arkansas after spending the season the 60 day disabled list.     Like Meche, someone has to go if Fields comes off the 60 day DL.
  • David DeJesus – there was talk of getting him back in the final couple weeks of the season, but I have not heard much about that as of late.  You kind of wonder why the rush given that DeJesus is clearly the best outfielder in the organization and not exactly a mystery as to what he will give you when healthy in 2011.

I am pretty sure the organization wants to see what Meche looks like coming out of the bullpen, so he will be activated from the 60 day DL.   They could make space on the roster for him by shifting DeJesus to the 60 day list or Hochevar if they decide to shut him down until next spring.   If the Royals also want to bring Fields up, then they will need another spot cleared.    They could make room by putting Jeff Bianchi on the 60 day list, as he has not played yet this year or Noel Arguelles, who is apparently not going to pitch this season, either.

Now, what about other guys that might get a look in September?   We will start with players who are on the 40 man roster now and would not require any correponding roster move to come up to the majors:

  • Victor Marte – I put him here only because he is on the 40 man roster and the organization still seems to have some attraction to him.   Now, given that with the above veteran activations, the Royals’ staff could already be at 15 pitchers, they might just call it good.   I have no burning desire to see Marte again and would, in fact, advocate his removal from the 40 man in favor of calling up someone else.
  • Brian Anderson – if you look at the Royals website, Anderson is listed under outfielders, but he has transitioned quickly into a relief pitcher.   Playing at three levels this year, after a lengthy instructional stint in Arizona, Anderson has thrown 13.1 innings, struck out 14 and allowed just six hits.  In three innings thus far in AAA,  Brian has been perfect.   That the Royals already have him pitching in AAA tells me they don’t want to waste any time with Anderson.  I think he comes up and gets a handful of September appearances once Omaha’s season is over.  The O-Royals, by the way, are in the hunt for a playoff berth, so they could conceivably be playing into the teens of September.  I don’t imagine anyone on that roster gets the call until that is wrapped up.
  • Amongst position players, the other guys already on the roster that might get consideration are catcher Lucas May and outfielders Jarrod Dyson and Jordan Parraz.   I could see May getting a call ‘just to get a feel for the majors’, but if he does he will not play much.   If Trey Hillman was still manager, Dyson would probably be up now, but he is hitting just .257 in Omaha and the organization would be better served by getting a true look at Gregor Blanco this September.   As for Parraz, his season was probably not enough to warrant a spot on the dugout bench.

Now, it gets interesting, as the players we are going discuss might well deserve a look, but would require making a 40 man roster move to get them to the majors:

  • Mike Moustakas – .273/.294/.453 in AAA probably cooled any front office ideas of giving Mike a look this year, but he has improved over time at this level (including an .856 OPS the last 10 games).  That said, with the Royals wanting to see what they have in Wilson Betemit and likely to take a look at Josh Fields, I imagine Moustakas’ major league career will start sometime next summer instead of this fall.
  • David Lough – A slow start this year has kept Lough’s numbers in Omaha to a modest .279/.343/.440, but he has exploded in August with a 1.006 OPS.   This is a guy who could truly factor into the Royals’ future, especially if 2011 turns out to be DeJesus’ last year with the club.   Who would you rather see, Lough or Victor Marte?   There’s your roster move if you want a look at Lough.
  • Louis Coleman – It’s always nice when a plan works and the Royals’ plan for Coleman after drafting him in 2009 was to ‘fast track’  him as a reliever.   Just over one year later, Coleman is in AAA with 39 strikeouts in 33 innings and opponents batting just .214 against him.   If Lough in place of Marte, why not Coleman?   If the future of the bullpen is Coleman and Greg Holland (who has struggled thus far in the majors, but has a habit of doing so the first couple weeks at a new level before become pretty decent) are the future of the pen in front of Tejeda and Soria, the Royals would be wise to make that move this September.
  • Blaine Hardy – He was dominant as a reliever, I mean flat-out dominant, at four levels including AAA before the Royals moved him into a starting role.    Blaine has been just okay as a starter (7 starts) but probably is not ready for major league action in that role.  I would expect some fall/winter work with an eye towards him getting a shot at the number five starter role next spring. 
  • Ed Lucas – He has played pretty much every position and hit .304/.394/.500 this year in Omaha, but I don’t know what the Royals do with him in the majors this September.   They want to get a good look at Getz, will not impinge on the Yunigma’s playing time and already have Aviles and yesterday’s hero Bloomquist.   It would be nice to reward Lucas for a good season with a major league salary for part of the month, but the Royals probably don’t want to mess with the 40 man roster just to be nice.

So, in the end, the September roster likely will swell quite a bit, but not with any player all that exciting.   Meche, Hochevar, Bannister, Tejeda and Fields are almost certainties.   With a pretty good chance that May and Anderson get a call, if not much of a look, once Omaha’s season wraps up.    After that, the club could get imaginative and bring up Coleman or Lough, or stay the course and look to Victor Marte once more for no other reason than he has been in the majors this year and has a 40 man roster spot.

Truthfully, the players the Royals really need to get a feel for are already up and playing in Kansas City.   That is progress right there over previous years under this regime.

You may look at the box score and see that Zack Greinke gave up one run in six innings and think he had a good game.  Hmmmm.  Certainly, it’s good anytime a starter hold the opposition to one run, but this felt like a battle almost every step of the way.

Three walks against just four strikeouts and Greinke needed every ounce of the 105 pitches he threw in the six innings.  Greinke just didn’t have his command.  Of the 105 pitches he threw, only 57 of them were strikes.  That’s 54%, a percentage is far too low, given our ace starter normally throws a strike 64% of the time.

His fastball showed some life and averaged 94.6 mph, which is above his seasonal fastball average of 93.2 mph.  That’s a relief. (Although I remain skeptical about the Kauffman Stadium radar gun.  Seems like it still runs a little hot.)  While the velocity was there, the swing and misses were… Missing.  He threw 61 fastballs and got only four swing and misses.

Of course, we all know the slider is his out pitch, but the Indians showed patience in not offering.  Of the 23 sliders Greinke threw on Tuesday, only 11 were strikes.

It was just a grind last night.  One of those games where I was on the edge of my seat because I was just waiting for Greinke to give up a string of hits and basically throw in the towel.  Fortunately, his defense bailed him out more than once.  That’s something you don’t hear everyday.

So Zack is still scuffling.  He pitched a great game in his previous start in Los Angeles, but couldn’t really find the rhythm or his comfort zone last night.  That’s kind of been the story of his season.  We’re all waiting for that “eureka” moment, but I’m not sure we’re going to get that.  Instead, we may have to settle for inconsistency.

That’s a bummer.  I want the 2009 version of Greinke back.  On a consistent basis.

— I can’t possibly be the only person who, when watching Kila rip a couple of fastballs to right, thinks, “Slider bat speed, my ass.”  The guy can flat turn on a pitch.  I have absolutely no idea where the myth developed that he doesn’t possess the bat speed to handle a fastball.  Looked fine to me last night.

— Speaking of Kila, he turned in a pair of nice defensive plays at first last night.  And both came in key situations.  The first was with two down in the second with a run already in and two runners on base.  Jason Donald hit a weak grounder to third and Wilson Betemit had to rush his throw.  Kila made a nice stretch to get the out.  That was a fine play, but the one that really stood out was in the ninth.  Asdrubal Cabrera hits a grounder to the hole between short and third.  Yuniesky Betancourt ranges to his right and makes a strong throw, but Kila really saved the day with another excellent stretch.  Billy Butler is much improved defensively at first, but I’m not sure he makes that play in the ninth.

— Maybe the opposition will begin to respect Kila.  An intentional walk to Butler in the fifth?  This really is a rivalry.

— Betemit put a charge in his home run, but I don’t think I’ve seen anyone crush a pitch this year like Jim Thome did last night in Minnesota.

— It makes me incredibly sad that Yuniesky Betancourt is second on this team with 11 home runs.  This sudden burst of power is the only thing keeping his OPS+ hovering around the 90 point mark.  Ugh.

— The Royals bullpen will provide antacid moments for the rest of the season.  Guaranteed.  No clue what Jesse Chavez was doing in the seventh.  And Blake Wood in the eighth only works because the Indians are a woeful offensive team.

— Did the Indians have a legitimate beef at the end of the game regarding Kerwin Danley’s strike zone?  Perhaps.  However, Danley was calling the high outside strike all night – that was the pitch that sent Shin-Soo Choo packing in the ninth for the second out.  The cutter Soria delivered a couple pitches prior was in almost the exact same location and it was called a strike.  Having said that, it would appear Travis Hafner has a legit reason to complain.  That final strike was way off the plate.  Here’s Danley’s called pitches for the night.  The final pitch of the game is easily identifiable:  It’s the red square way off the plate.

The battle for fourth place rolls on…

I have to be honest, settling on a topic for this morning’s column apparently became an impossible task for this lowly writer.   The reasons are many:  it is Monday, it is August or, gasp, even a lack of talent.   At any rate, some bullet points from the past weekend for lack of a better idea.

  • Excluding Saturday night’s home run derby, the Royals held the Yankees to just eight runs in the other three games of the series.    Even including Saturday, the sixteen runs allowed by Royal pitching was really pretty impressive considering Zack Greinke did not start any of the four games.
  • A lot has been written about Bryan Bullington finally securing his first major league win (and looking very good doing so).   Without question, Bullington deserves more starts down the stretch and frankly I do not care at whose expense those starts come.   Just a cautionary tale, however, Bobby Keppel in his first two starts as a Kansas City Royal allowed just 3 runs in 14.2 innings – the same number as Bullington’s first two Royal starts – and Bobby was gone a month later.
  • Kila Ka’aihue went 3 for 10 with 2 walks in the first three games (that’s a .416 OBP by the by)  of the series and was out of the lineup on Sunday.   As an aside, last Thursday I compared the start of Kila’s career to Travis Hafner.   Rany did the same in his column yesterday.   Now, if we can two more bloggers to do the same and then all click our heels together at the same time, it will come true.
  • Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer were a combined seven for ten yesterday in the minors.   I have cooled on the idea of bringing Moustakas up in September this year, given his struggles in Omaha – particularly his walk to strikeout ratio.  Given the state of the starting rotation, even with some recent solid performances, it is hard to see any reason to rush Moustakas at this point.   A mid-June debut should work out about right.
  • A few weeks back, one of our commentors noted that Blaine Hardy was starting in Omaha.   At the time, I theorized that it was just a way to get Hardy more innings of experience and that his future still was as a reliever.  Now, it appears that the Royals are intending to convert Hardy to a starting role.   In his last two starts, Blaine has gone six innings in each and allowed just two earned runs in both.   Although he struck out a batter per inning in both rookie and A ball, Hardy’s strikeouts have declined in AA and AAA.   Still, he remains effective.   Anyone adverse to seeing a couple of September starts out of him this year?
  • Wilson Betemit’s name was mentioned, however minorly, in a blurb on MLBTradeRumors regarding the Cardinals’ search for a third baseman.   If the Royals received an offer for Betemit, likely no more than a 20-25 ranked prospect in the low minors, would you take it?  Or does it make more sense to continue to give Betemit regular duty and see if he can be a classic late bloomer?
  • The new over/under on number of starts by Luke Hochevar before the end of the season has now been officially set at ONE.

Finally and just for fun, here is my projection for the Royals’ starting rotation on July 1, 2011:

  1. Zack Greinke
  2. Luke Hochevar
  3. Mike Montgomery
  4. Blaine Hardy
  5. Sean O’Sullivan

I’m not saying that’s necessarily good, just what I think it might be.

While it has been and likely will remain tough to watch, I am delighted that the Royals are giving a number of players – you know, guys who might actually be around when this team is ready to contend – a chance to prove themselves the remainder of this season.   It begs the question, with 48 games remaining to go:  is this enough of a sample size to determine who can play and who cannot?

Given the almost certain intrusion of Willie Bloomquist into the lineup on a semi-regular basis,  we can probably expect to see somewhere around 175 more plate appearances this season for Alex Gordon, Kila Ka’aihue, Mike Aviles, Chris Getz, Mitch Maier, Gregor Blanco and Wilson Betemit.   Will that be enough to make decisions on these players that will not only effect 2011, but the seasons beyong that as well?

We can go way back in time and find examples of players that struggled early and became great.   George Brett posted an anemic .646 OPS (82 OPS+) through his first 527 major league plate appearances before beginning his run to the Hall of Fame with a .308/.353/.456 1975 season.      Through his first 483 plate appearances, Mike Schmidt had a dreadful career line of .197/.324/.367 before slugging .546 in 1974.   However, those guys were Hall of Famers for godssake and comparisons to that type of talent is not only unfair, but probably not all that relevant, either.

Taking a step back, the career of Raul Ibanez was a five year – 581 plate appearance journey between Seattle, the bench and AAA, during which he posted an OPS+ of just 73.   As we are all keenly aware, Ibanez came to Kansas City in 2001 at age twenty-nine, received regular playing time and has posted an OPS+ of 110 or above in nine of the last ten seasons.

Billy Butler took a little longer to get his footing in the majors.   At age 21, he posted a nice partial season in 2007 (OPS+ 108), fell back in 2008 (.275/.324/.400, OPS+ 93) and was an uncertain commodity with 838 major league plate appearances entering last season.  Of course, Billy was terrific in 2009 and actually has a better OPS+ this season. 

A couple of other guys did not take so long to emerge as legitimate hitters.   Paul Konerko had 247 pretty awful plate appearances (OPS+ 60) spread over two seasons at the start of his career.   After a trade to Chicago, Konerko hit 24 home runs in 1999 and has been a fixture at first base for the Sox ever since.    

Travis Hafner did not get his first major league at-bat until he was 25 and in 70 plate appearances that season posted an unimpressive line .242/.329/.387.   The following year, he got off to an even worse start, posting a .195/.267/.378 line in his first 90 plate appearances.   So, what would you have thought of Hafner after 160 plate appearances?   Well, he came back in July of that second season and took off.    The very next year, his first full major league season, Hafner led the league in OPS+.

We could spend all day pouring through Baseball Reference and analyzing who many plate appearances it took for guys who really have made it in the majors to show what kind of player they would become.   There are other variables, too:  time in the minors, drafted out of high school or college, where they hit in the order, how good the teams were that they played on…..   Shockingly, the raw numbers do not tell the entire story!    At any rate, using the very rudimentary research above, let’s look at this group of current Royals.

ALEX GORDON – The Royals have always seemed to be in hurry when it comes to Alex.   They rushed him to the majors in 2007 after just one minor league season, they rushed him back into the lineup in 2009 after hip surgery and then shoved him down to the minors over service time/performance issues.   They rushed him back from a broken thumb this year and then were in a hurry to decide that he couldn’t hit AND needed to change positions.   All that said, how many remember/realize that in 2008, Gordon posted an OPS+ of 109 – enough above average to be considered ‘above average’?  

Given that Gordon, despite an injury plagued-demotion riddled- position changing season and half since 2008, still boasts a career OPS+ of 97 (basically average) and will end this season with around 1,600 plate appearances, I will be inclined to believe that what the Royals see out of Alex these final forty-eight games is likely to be a true indicator of what they can expect in the future.  

Wilson Betemit – Doesn’t it seem like Betemit is 35 years old or something?   In reality, he will not turn 29 until November and will end this season with roughly the same amount of plate appearances as Gordon.   Right now, Wilson is a dead average 100 OPS+ for his career.    Betemit played in 143 games (for 2 teams) in 2006, which was his only real shot at an everyday job and posted, not surprisingly, an almost dead average 101 OPS+.   Early on, he has hit a ton for the Royals, but is slowing cooling down.    There is a touch of the ‘Ibanez factor’ in Wilson’s career to date, so a good 48 games down the stretch might make me lean towards seeing if the Royals could catch lightning, or more accurately Ibanez 2.0, in a bottle in 2011.

Mike Aviles – If a player’s first 400 or so plate appearances is not the true indicator of a player’s future, then Mike still has plenty to prove.   He was in the discussion for Rookie of the Year in 2008 when he posted an OPS+ of 121 and the highest WAR of any Royal since Beltran over 441 plate appearances.   2009 was lost to injury and Mike has not been the same player in 2010 with an OPS+ of just 89.   Depending on how much Ned Yost decides to play him, Aviles will end the year with around 1,000 plate appearances.    Although they did it at different ages and are far different players, Aviles first 900 plate appearances compare somewhat to Billy Butler’s.    He is a tough one to figure at this point as to whether we will reach October and know what to think of Mike Aviles.

Chris Getz – I was all for the Teahen-Getz trade, so seeing him in the lineup virtually everyday is okay from here on out.   By the end of the year, Chris will have close to 800 plate appearances and currently sports a career OPS+ of 69.   The big difference between the 800 plate appearances of Getz and the 800 of Butler and Aviles is that Chris really has not had a good stretch of performance in there – it has really been a pretty consistent run (his July numbers were identical to that posted last season).   If he starts hitting and getting on-base, I would be inclined to believe in Getz.  If he doesn’t, I might believe that, too.

Mitch Maier – Mitch has a career OPS+ of 84, but a 2010 mark of 98, which doesn’t surprise me.   He is an average player, when given a chance to perform everyday, but has not shown much to make me think he will ever be more than that.   Maier will end 2010 with 900 or so plate appearances and, right or wrong, will likely be judged by what he does between now and the end of the season.   Again, he does not have that magical season on his resume like Aviles or the giant minor league resume that Butler came to the majors with, so his rope is shorter.  

Gregor Blanco – I loved Willie Wilson back in the day and apparently so did Dayton Moore.  He has traded for virtually every player who is fast and plays centerfield and drafted about ten more.   Blanco is another in that mold.   Like many of the other players in our discussion, he will end the year somewhere between 800 and 900 career plate appearances.    He got an everyday shot with Atlanta in 2008 and posted a .251/.366/.309 line, but has tread water ever since.  I’m not sure that the Royals will have a great read on Blanco by the end of the year and they probably don’t need to have one, either.   He will be cheap and under team control and blocking no one in centerfield.    Heck, if Gordon can hit and DeJesus returns healthy, there would be worse outfields than Gordon-Blanco/Maier-DeJesus.

Kila Ka’aihue – Next to Alex Gordon, here’s the guy you really wanted to talk about, right?  Right now, Kila is struggling mightily, but then so did Konerko and Hafner (you didn’t think I pulled those two guys out of coincidence, did you?).   Currently 54 plate appearances into his career – roughly the same point at which the Royals gave up on Matt Diaz once upon a time – Kila will end up with right at 200 by the end of the season.   To be honest, I have thought all along that a couple months of regular duty was enough to tell what you had in a player, but in writing this column my mind has changed some. 

Certainly it is a stretch to call Ka’aihue the next Konerko or Hafner, but would you want to be the teams that gave up on those guys after a similar stretch of time?   Let’s make this a little more timely and note that Jose Guillen’s OPS+ after 1,953 plate appearances was jsut 82.   It was only at age 27, that Jose went on to be post well above average numbers in four of his next five seasons.   Sadly, that string ended when he signed his three year deal with the Royals, but we don’t need to discuss that again, do we?

So, in the end, I am not sure we have proven anything this morning, other than deciding at what point in time you have ‘seen enough’ of a given player is hardly an exact science.    Do you believe what you see in the next 48 games is what you will get in the future?

Well that was certainly interesting.

A lineup that not only features Jason Kendall hitting second… But Chris Getz, Yuniesky Betancourt and Wilson Betemit in the lower third.  Somehow, they scrape together nine runs.  Nine runs!

Then somehow, Bruce Chen kept the Royals in the game with a masterful six innings.  Somewhere Zack Greinke is asking his teammates why they can’t score eight runs while he’s on the mound.

Before the game, I thought that lineup was awful.  Literally the worst combination you could possibly arrive at given the players.  No Billy Butler?  No Mike Aviles?  While I’m certain if you handed in that lineup card 100 times, they would struggle to score more than five runs in 95 of those games, Ned Yost struck gold last night.

That’s why they play the game.

A couple of quick thoughts from the second craziest game of the year.

— Although my self-proclaimed Gauntlet of Suck (Getz, Betancourt, Podsednik and Kendall – number 8, 9, 1 & 2… get it?) was a combined 3-18 with two walks, they each scored a run, which was useful.

— Jose Guillen is still on his current tear… three hits, one of which was a triple.  Just be prepared for the upcoming Guillen Winter, which should start in about a week.

— This is not a team that will hit many back to back home runs.  The combination of Mitch Maier and Betemit isn’t even close to the most unlikely duo.  I’d go with Getz and Wee Willie.  Or Pods and Kendall.

—  What can you say about Betemit offensive performance last night.  Two home runs, the last of which was the difference in the game.  Plus, he drew a walk.  Overall, he saw a team high 30 pitches last night – no small feat against the Twins pitching staff.

— According to Brooks Baseball, Chen relied on his change-up and slider last night while mixing equal parts of a two seam and four seam fastball.  He was also dropping his arm angle from time to time, which made things extremely difficult for the Twins hitters.  His final line won’t look impressive, but if Yost had pulled him after six, it would have looked completely different.  It didn’t help that Robinson Tejeda gave up hits to his first two hitters he faced, which allowed both his inherited runners to score.

— That ninth inning was a thrill ride, wasn’t it?  Mauer and Morneau are just awesome.  That’s all.  Swinging at the first pitch – because they know that’s how you attack Soria – and they both rap run scoring base hits.  Thankfully Cuddyer isn’t in the same class as his first pitch swing ended as a long fly ball out.

Whew.

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