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Deconstructing The Process

Browsing Posts tagged Yuniesky Betancourt

This is a post I’ve been hanging onto for a day that now will never come. I was originally going to post it on the day that Jordan Parraz made his Major League debut with the Royals, but since he was recently picked up on waivers by the Red Sox it’s not likely to happen.

I’m getting ahead of myself. This story begins on December 7th, 1992. It’s not quite a day that will live in infamy, rather it’s the day the Royals drafted pitcher Billy Brewer from the Montreal Expos in the Rule 5 draft. Brewer was a left-handed relief pitcher who had put together three very good seasons in low A to high A baseball. He had pitched in 23.1 unspectacular innings in 1992 at the AA level, but the Royals drafted him anyway and placed him on the roster.

Brewer pitched well in the bullpen for the Royals in 1993 and 1994, putting up a 3.01 ERA in 77.2 innings pitched. However, in 1995 he struggled. He posted a 5.56 ERA and that off-season he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Jose Offerman. Brewer never actually ended up pitching for the Dodgers. For the rest of his career he pitched 55.2 innings for the Yankees, A’s and Phillies and his ERA was 6.63.

In Jose Offerman, the Royals got a 27 year old shortstop coming off of a career year. In 1995 he hit .303/.389/.375.  He didn’t hit for a whole lot of power, but played an up-the-middle defensive position and got on base at a very high rate. Offerman was a very productive player for the Royals from 1996-1998. He hit .306/.385/.419 and led the league in triples with 13 in 1998.

The Royals got an absolute steal in the Brewer trade and Offerman’s success made him a Type A free agent in the off-season following the 1998 season. The Boston Red Sox ended up signing him and due to the the rules of free agency, they forfeited their 25th overall draft selection to the Royals. Offerman had three more seasons of production that were roughly the same as what he put up as a Royal, but after that his numbers plummeted.

In the 1999 draft, the Royals selected pitcher Mike MacDougal out of Wake Forrest with the Red Sox 25th pick. He spent a few years in the minors and made his debut as a starter in 2001. Not one month later, he was struck in the head by a bat that flew out of the hands of Carlos Beltran and fractured his skull. The lingering effect from that incident was a loss of sensation in his fingers. He eventually learned to pitch with it and came back to the Majors as a relief pitcher. He saved 27 games as the Royals’ closer in 2003, lost that job to Jeremy Affeldt in 2004 and regained it in 2005. In July of 2006 he was traded to the Chicago White Sox. In four years with the White Sox, MacdDougal posted a 4.77 ERA in 88.2 innings pitched.

In return for MacDougal, the Royals received Minor League pitchers Tyler Lumsden and Dan Cortes. Neither of them reached the Majors with the Royals and were dealt in separate deals. Cortes was traded with Derrick Saito to the Seattle Mariners for Yuniesky Betancourt, who was then packaged with Zack Greinke to obtain Alcides Escobar, Jake Odorizzi, Lorenzo Cain and Jeremy Jeffress from the Brewers. Lumsden was traded to the Astros for outfield prospect Jordan Parraz who was released this off-season by the Royals.

So we’ve come full circle and back to Jordan Parraz. It’s a long, strange tale of baseball moves, however there seems to be a very interesting point in all of that. If you’ll notice, the moves which are fully realized and the players have all gone on to either finish or nearly finish their careers are ones which the Royals did very well. Below is a chart which shows the series of moves.

Every move that a team makes can have lasting ramifications, either positive or negative. Drafting and then trading Billy Brewer was a shrewd move by General Manager Herk Robinson. The Royals clearly maximized the value of Brewer. The team also cleverly didn’t sign Jose Offerman as a free agent, which gave them one of the three first round picks they’d have in the 1999 draft. That pick yielded prospects in a trade, and those prospects yeilded more prospects and Yuniesky Betancourt, natch.

The point remains that those smart moves by the 1992-1995 Royals front office continue to yield net value to the team in 2011. One good move can help a team for decades, one bad one can do the opposite. This is illustrative of why there is so much importance placed on the small things that the Royals need to do.

It’s not necessarily doing the “little things” on the field that matters as much as doing the “little things” in player acquisition. From gettting talented Rule 5 players, to recognizing when someone has over-achieved or reached their peak. Now that the Royals have built up an incredible farm system, it’s these types of moves which will define Dayton Moore and lead to a renewal of success or continued failure.

You’ve heard by now…

The reports are the Royals have shipped Zack Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt to Milwaukee in exchange for Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and pitching prospects Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress. There is some confusion as to whether or not Jeffress is in the deal at this time.  There are rumors it may be a PTBNL.

There are also reports the Royals are sending $2 million to the Brewers as part of the deal.  Consider that a penalty for employing the Yunigma for the last couple of seasons.

The move addresses the Royals needs by securing youth up the middle.  Cain is a speedy center fielder and Escobar is a plus defender at short.  Offensively, I have my doubts.  Escobar struggled to get on base last summer (.288 OBP) but Cain did alright in a brief turn in the majors (.340 OBP) and also posted a line of .317/.402/.432 between Double-A and Triple-A last year.

So, it happened… And less than a week after the Cliff Lee deal.  My initial reaction was one of disappointment, as I have been focused on the potential haul from New York, Texas and even Toronto.  Turns out the Brewers were the “Mystery Team.”  I didn’t think they had the prospects to pull this off.  But with Dayton Moore specifically looking for defense up the middle, this move is one that fits.  Although I have to wonder if there’s a bit of Allard Baird Syndrome involved – where the GM becomes so focused on filling a need, he ignores potentially better deals.

Still, as one who has griped (and griped) about the Royals lack of defense over the last several seasons, I’m pleased GMDM is making a move like this.  Plus, as deep as the Royals minor league system is, there aren’t a ton of plus defenders coming through the pipeline. (See Eric Hosmer winning an award as the system’s best defender.)

I posted my initial reaction to the deal on Twitter and got a bunch of replies that this is a very good deal for the Royals.  I’m still sifting through my thoughts and I’m sure Clark and Nick will chime in throughout the day.  In the meantime… What do you think?

Given that the Royals’ public relations department has not tweeted about Yuniesky Betancourt since the end of the season, I am not quite sure why this topic ruminated in my mind for most of the weekend.   I do have to say that I have half expected something along the lines of ‘Yuniesky Betancourt is third among active shortstops in scheduled off-season batting cage hours’.   That, of course, would bring the inevitable re-tweet by a radio host who should know better trumpeting ‘See!  I told all you basement dwellers that Yuni’s the real deal!’  

Truthfully, that is only a slight exaggeration of the just plain silliness that surrounded Yunieksy Betancourt last year.     Silly is the operative term, because here is the complete and total list of positives by Betancourt in 2010:

  • He hit 16 home runs (6th among all shortstops)
  • He drove in 78 runs (5th among all shortstops, because ‘real’ baseball men know that RBI is telling stat)
  • He played in 151 games

That’s it – three bullet points.   After that, any support of Betancourt was generally responded to with criticism of other players.    To the best of my recollection, after crowing about Yuni’s 16 home runs, these were the common phrases of support for the Royals’ shortstop: 

  • Mike Aviles doesn’t walk, either (true, but Mike’s on-base percentage was 47 points higher nonetheless – oh, and by the way, Aviles’ slugging percentage actually ended up higher than Betancourt’s as well)
  • The Royals don’t have anyone better (this is actually valid, but no one was really thinking Yuni should be benched.  Instead, we all were simply pointing out that he probably didn’t warrant a tweet and press release every time the ball managed to find his bat)
  • Billy Butler hits into too many double plays
  • Zack Greinke is disinterested
  • Alex Gordon is a bust

Okay, have you noticed it is Monday and I’m a little bit cynical?   It is, after all, 11 degrees here in Huskerland and the soccer moms that drop off their kids at the same time I drop off my middle daughter really annoyed me this morning.

I will go on record right now as being totally understanding of why the Betancourt trade happened.   The Royals were peeved at Mike Aviles for not revealing his injury in the spring of 2009 and, quite logically, were concerned that he might not ever be able to play short again.   Hey, right now, we don’t know if Mike’s arm can hold up to an everyday diet of shortstop.  

At the time of the acquisition, Jeff Bianchi was breaking out….in High A ball.    As it turns out, perhaps the single greatest reason to acquire Yuni, was something no one knew yet:  that Jeff Bianchi would miss all of the 2010 season with Tommy John surgery.    Although you can give Dayton Moore no credit for this, it certainly made me more accepting of the deal after the fact.

If I was Royals’ GM (and you all know that I wish I was), this deal is probably not made.   Given where the team stood on July 1st of 2009, I might have soldiered on with Luis Hernandez and, yes I’m going to say it, Willie Bloomquist.   That said, with Dan Cortes all but stalled out in AA ball and apparently something of a troublemaker/confused kid/assclown, I don’t hate this deal.   Even if Cortes becomes an effective power reliever for the Mariners, the Royals have not been irreparably harmed by the presence of Yuniesky Betancourt.

That said, let’s not fool ourselves:  Betancourt is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

In 2010, Betancourt’s slash line was .259/.288/.405/.692.   He hit 29 doubles and 16 home runs (in case you hadn’t heard) on his way to compiling an OPS+ of just 88 and, according to Fangraphs, a WAR of just 0.6.   Mainly because of the home run total, several of which were admittedly clutch bombs, it led some to believe this was the best season by a Royals shortstop since…well, in a long time.   

That is kind of the classic ‘woe is me, faithful Royals fan’ lament which ignores the fact that there were two far better seasons by shortstops in the last seven years.   Notably, Mike Aviles in 2008 went .325/.354/.480/.833 with an OPS+ of 121.   He smacked 10 home runs in 102 games and 41 extra base hits in total on his way to a WAR of 3.7.

Prior to that, a guy named Angel Berroa in 2003  played in 158 games.   He hit .287/.338/.451 with 28 doubles, 7 triples and 17 home runs (and 73 RBI for those traditionalist out there).   Angel threw in 21 steals and posted an OPS+ of 101 with a WAR of 2.7.

Heck, there is a shockingly small difference between what Yuniesky Betancourt did last season and what Angel Berroa did in 2005, when all of us were ready (understandably) to run him out of town.   In 2005, Berroa had 37 extra base hits, including 11 homers, on his way to a very substandard line of .270/.305/.375/.680.   Betancourt’s 2010 line, once more: .259/.288/.405/.692.

So, can we really just get over this Yuni-love?

Now, Yuniesky Betancourt will be the Royals everyday shortstop to start 2011 and, contrary to the criticism I have leveled above, that is fine with me.   I say this trusting that the Royals are smart enough (I know, that’s a leap of faith) to know that Mike Aviles’ needs to be in the lineup somewhere.   I advocate Betancourt at short because I think it is unlikely that Chris Getz can hit a lick simultaneously with Wilson Betemit hitting like he did last year AND not taking an ax out to play defense.

Maybe at some point this year, the Royals will tire of Betancourt’s well below average defense (use metrics or your eyes, IT IS BELOW AVERAGE) and Tony Pena Jr. like on-base percentage and give Mike Aviles a real chance to show if he is the guy that played short in 2008 or not.   All the while, we can eagerly watch Christian Colon’s second professional season and hope the currently tenuous similarity to Troy Tulowitzki’s career continues to hold true.

Should Colon not be ready by 2012 or not be able to stick at short.   Should Mike Aviles not be able to handle the load defensively and should, as is likely, Jeff Bianchi is also not ready or able.   Well, then we might hear more of the idea of picking of Yuniesky Betancourt’s option for 2012.     That would be an absolute unequivocal mistake.

Yunieksy Betancourt is not that good.   He has been a marginally serviceable stopgap on a couple of bad Royals’ teams.   Let’s let the campaign to make him anything more than that end with final game of last season.   Dayton Moore is currently correct to be looking for middle infield prospects in any trade for Zack Greinke.   Let’s hope, unlike the pr machines that surround the club, that Moore does not fall prey to both his ego and moderately decent home run total during the 2011 season.

Yuni now?  Okay.  

Yuni later?  Stop it.

The following is a contribution from Kevin Flanagan who is a reader and commenter of the blog.  We’ve spent quite a bit of bandwidth over the last couple of years bemoaning the abysmal Royals defense.  Kevin looked at some of the metrics on a position by position basis and came up with a couple of ways the Royals can improve on the field in 2011.  We can only hope.

By Kevin Flanagan

I picked up the Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2011 the other day and spent the weekend thumbing through it. It has a number of excellent essays on the current state of sabermetric defensive analysis as well as a glimpse into the future as it moves further from an art and more towards a science.

One of the articles that really caught my eye, as a Royals’ fan, was by John Dewan, the man behind Business Information Systems. BIS is the premier data collector of defensive stats. Much of what is collected they protect from the public and sell to their clients, who are MLB teams and player agents, etc.

So I was pleasantly surprised to find that BIS has presented its team defensive stats for 2008-2010 in an article entitled, “The Pitching and Defensive Splits.”

While individual performances were not divulged, BIS summed the individual defenders’ contributions for each position on each team and presented the numbers by position to come up with a team total of Defensive Runs Saved above average*.

*For an exhaustive explanation of their system of evaluating defense, here is a link.

If you followed the Kansas City Royals last year, or just about any year of the last decade, you already know what the numbers will say: the Royals’ defense was abysmal. Now, thanks to BIS, we have some pretty reliable numbers to quantify it.

The Royals defense ranked last in all of baseball with -88 runs saved (or, stated another way, 88 extra runs allowed by their defense) above average.  KC was so bad across the board that only the pitcher position (+1) escaped the carnage. Every non-pitching position posted a negative contribution, led by 3B (-24) and SS (-20).

So, of the 845 total runs allowed last year by the Royals, BIS directly attributes 88 of them to the porous defense, leaving 757 attributable to the pitchers. Stripping out the defensive component for each AL team yields the following Pitching Runs Allowed for 2010:

White Sox       674
Rangers           686
Red Sox          688
Rays                690
Yankees          693
Angels             698
Athletics         700
Twins              725
Mariners         735
Royals            757
Tigers              761
Blue Jays        774
Orioles            783
Indians            802

The salient point here is that while KC allowed the most total runs in the AL last year, their pitching was not entirely to blame.  Instead of having the worst team pitching, now we can see that they were actually 10th out of 14 teams, a modest improvement to be sure, but important to know as the Royals decide how and where to allocate their assets for next season.

Since the Royals offense scored 664 runs last year, one can estimate that if they had played just league average defense in 2010, KC’s record would have been more like 70 or 71 wins instead of 67.

***

Now go one step further, and theoretically substitute the league’s best defensive contribution, the Oakland A’s at +74, for Kansas City’s worst of -88, and you have a swing of 162 runs, or exactly 1 per game. This would have the effect of lowering their runs allowed from a league worst of 845 to 683, which would have been good for fourth best in the AL.  To put this in perspective, if the Royals defense had been as good as Oakland’s, then all of a sudden what looks like the worst pitching staff in the league is suddenly in the top four!  You’d be essentially lopping almost a full run off of every pitcher’s ERA. Greinke still looks like an ace, Bruce Chen looks more like a #2 than 4, Hochevar becomes a solid #3, and even Kyle Davies looks like a solid #4 man.  And Sean O’Sullivan…well, nevermind.

And consequently, KC would have been more like a 79-83 team in 2010 and this offseason we would all be talking about making just a few tweaks here and there in order to be a legitimate contender… and maybe Zack Greinke might be talking about how this team is about to take off and he’d really like to sign on for a few more years.

***

We can now see that these defensive effects, subtle though they may be to the naked eye, can have a huge effect on a team’s winning percentage.  And we can more correctly identify the team’s needs. Here is how KC ranked in 2010:

10th in Runs Scored
10th in Pitching Runs Allowed
14th in Defensive Runs Allowed

While the defense is the worst of the three, conveniently it is the easiest one, potentially, to upgrade.  As previously mentioned, the two worst offenders were 3B (Callaspo and Betemit) and SS (Betancourt).  Mike Moustakas will take over at 3B sometime this year, if not on Opening Day then possibly by early May.  The most pessimistic timetable (barring injury) is early summer.  From what I’ve been able to gather, Moose combines an above average arm with slightly below average range.  He is also a 100% effort kind of player, and from that standpoint alone he will be a huge upgrade over Betemit.  If Moose turns out to be an average defensive 3B overall in the Major Leagues, that would be a difference of 24 runs saved over 2010.

In late October John Dewan offered up this tidbit from his website: Yuniesky Betancourt cost his team more runs, at -21, than any other defensive player in baseball this year.  In an ironic twist of fate for the Royals, the best defensive player in all of baseball, Brendan Ryan of the St Louis Cardinals, not only plays the same position, SS, but is also imminently available right now, and it would appear that the asking price shouldn’t be too high.  St. Louis just traded for Ryan Theriot and has already appointed him as their starting SS for 2011*.  Brendan Ryan won’t hit a whole lot, but substituting his defense (+24) for Yuni’s is a positive swing of 45 runs.  This may be the single most important move the Royals could make this offseason to improve their team.  The difference defensively between Ryan and Yuni is equivalent to the offensive difference between Yuni and Hanley Ramirez… yeah, think about that for a second.  Yet Ryan can probably be had for a middle reliever or a AA prospect, either way its relatively painless.

*With their staff built around the Dave Duncan pitch-to-contact/throw ground balls philosophy, don’t be surprised if there is some serious regression from their pitching this year…  Joe Strauss, beat reporter for the Cards, recently said about Brendan Ryan that he became a ‘clubhouse irritant to his manager and veteran teammates’ last year.  You don’t write this about a guy on the team you cover everyday unless you are pretty sure he won’t be around next year.

Another sore spot for the Royals defensively in 2010 came, surprisingly enough, in RF where they were -13 runs above average.  It would be interesting to know the individual contributors in this case, but evidently David DeJesus had more trouble adjusting to the position than I would have guessed. He played 597 innings in RF (42% of the team’s total) while Mitch Maier accounted for 25%, Jose Guillen 12%, Willie Bloomquist 10%, and Jai Miller 8%.  A projected platoon in 2011 of David Lough with the defensive mined Brett Carroll seems likely to be a considerable improvement.  That doesn’t seem like a very probable event at this point, though, so it will be interesting to see what Dayton Moore does and says the rest of the offseason about a right fielder.

Another outfield position that could see immediate and considerable improvement is CF, where Jarrod Dyson seems poised to take over.  Royals CF last year, comprised mostly of Maier (37%), Blanco (24%) and Rick Ankiel (15%), logged a rating of -4.  Dyson, while only playing in 9% of the team’s innings in CF, wowed both the scouts and the statheads with his defensive play.  His defensive ability appears to be on par with the best in the game, including Seattle’s Franklin Gutierrez, Houston’s Michael Bourne, and Detroit’s rookie Austin Jackson.  Those 3 teams had CF ratings of 17, 15, and 27 runs saved above average.  If he hits enough to make the team and play everyday, Dyson could save his team 20-25 runs above what the Royals got from their 2010 CF’s.

At 2B, Aviles (53%) and Getz (37%) were the prime suspects in a -12 rating, and it appears the two will share the position again in 2011.  However, I think there is a good chance that both players improve if they stay healthy.  Aviles, coming back early from tommy john surgery, looked very tentative for most of the season.  In Aviles only other full MLB season, 2008, he put up very good defensive numbers.  Getz also battled various injuries most of the year.

Left Field was just a minor crisis for the Royals last year at -8 runs above average.  Podsednik played 56% of the innings there while Alex Gordon logged 486 innings, or 34% of the season.  Again, it would be nice to know the individual contributions here, but judging from UZR/150 at Fangraphs, Podsednik probably deserves the lion’s share of the blame for the negative rating.  Gordon, in fact, looked pretty good out there (and from UZR/150) and I think its reasonable to expect he might be league average in LF as soon as this year.

Catcher and 1B both rated as -4 for the Royals in 2010.  A higher percentage of Kaaihue (or Hosmer?) in 2011 should pull that number at least up to average, if not slightly above.  I’m not quite as optimistic at catcher, however.  I am a fan of Bryan Pena and am looking forward to seeing what he can do playing full time but it seems unlikely that his defense will be as good as Kendall’s (not that his was that good).  Interestingly, in 2008 and 2009 John Buck and Miguel Olivo, neither of whom are known for their defensive chops, combined for a -5 rating at the position.  Not significantly worse than what Kendall and Pena showed this year.

In summary, with just one important acquisition, Brendan Ryan, and a couple of natural upgrades at 3B and each of the OF positions and some good health, the Royals could actually improve significantly in the defensive department next year over 2010:

3B (Moose)                 20-25 runs saved
SS (Ryan)                   40-50 runs saved
CF (Dyson)                 20-25 runs saved
RF (Lough/Carroll)    5-15 runs saved
LF (Gordon)               5-10 runs saved
2B (Aviles/Getz)        5+/- runs saved
1B (Kila)                     4+/- runs saved

Altogether this represents a savings of 100-135 defensive runs over 2010, which would put the Royals back around league average to slightly above and would net them 10-14 more wins.  Of course, the big key to this is acquiring Brendan Ryan… Did I mention that replacing Betancourt with Brendan Ryan might be the single most important thing Dayton Moore can do to improve this team this winter?

Yeah, it’s kind of cliche, but it’s not such a bad idea to take stock from time to time and give a little bit of thanks.  Despite the continuing struggles with the Royals and despite the fact that the 2011 season is shaping up to be kind of brutal at the major league level,  if you look close enough you can still find a few positives.

So with Thanksgiving just past, here’s what I’m thankful for as a Royals fan.

I’m thankful for…

– Billy Butler’s line drive ability and his proclivity for doubles.  Doubles… Not double plays.

– Joakim Soria’s amazing curve ball.  Described in these parts as “baseball porn.”

– Zack Greinke’s slider.  Even though he got a swing and a miss on it only 18.6% of the time last summer.  Compared to 2009’s swing and a miss rate of 23.4%.

– The Royals minor league system that suddenly is a source of optimism.

– This being the last season where I have to put up with watching Yuniesky Betancourt.  Unless GMDM does something colossally insane, like picking up his $6 million club option for 2012.

– Redundant waiver claims (Joaquin Arias and Lance Zawadzki anyone?) because it gives me something to write about in November.

– Alex Gordon’s smooth transition to left and the fact there’s still a glimmer (however faint) that he can possibly put together a solid offensive season.

– Clint Robinson’s Texas League Triple Crown.  Sure it was Double-A, but a Triple Crown is a Triple Crown.  Cool that he earned a spot on the 40-man roster and a likely spot in Omaha with an eye on Kansas City next summer.

– Eric Hosmer’s swing being compared to Will Clark’s swing.

– Kila Ka’iahue.

– That someone will probably overpay Bruce Chen this winter, giving him at least a two year contract.

– The fact it won’t be with the Royals.

– Trey Hillman finding employment with the Dodgers.  Is there any way to set up an alert to let me know when Don Mattingly gets ejected from games?  I really want to watch Hillman manage a team I don’t care about, so I can gawk like a car crash.

– My colleagues and readers of Royals Authority.  This may sound cheesy, but it’s incredibly fun to be a part of the internet community that make up the fans of this team.

Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments.  I hope you had an outstanding holiday.

This is the latest post in this series reviewing the Kansas City Royals offensively, position by position.  You can go back and read the posts on catcher (including a series preview),  first base, second base and third base.

First, let’s take a look at some of the players who played shortstop and how they hit while they played the position.

Willie Bloomquist got one game at short and Mike Aviles got thirteen, but the real story of the position is Yuniesky Betancourt.  Betancourt played the position day after day and he was never put in any other spot.  The numbers that we’ll see below come almost exclusively from Yuniesky, so he’s the one guys stats above.  The case of Betancourt is extremely interesting.  His existence on the team is representative of so many different things depending on who you ask.  Some people will tell you that he represents the absolute failure of Dayton Moore at the Major League level.  Others believe he is representative of the absolute trainwreck that the shortstop position has been for the Royals.  Still others will tell you he’s one of the best players on the team and and they’ll be countered with arguments that are nearly the polar opposite.  Those discussions will rage on as long as he’s on the team, and they’ve been analyzed at this site as well.  So, let’s just try and look at the numbers without the bias of our feelings towards the Yunigma.

One thing you can say is that Betancourt was durable.  He played 151 games at a position which gets a lot of work during a season.  Sometimes I forget about the durability issue with players, and I think that as a whole we underrate it.  The ability to stay healthy, whether it’s luck, conditioning or some combination could be in my mind the 6th tool for a baseball player.  Beyond durability, Yuniesky showed decent homerun totals for a shortstop by mashing 16 bombs.  He still doesn’t get on base at a rate which is respectable, and the combination of a burst of power and his lack of getting on base translated into an average offensive shortstop.    Lets see how the Royals shorstops compared to the rest of the league.

Clearly, with 151 of 162 games Yuniesky’s numbers mirror those of the entire Royals shortstop corps.  The numbers rank right about in the middle, not spectacular but not terrible.    What’s odd are that the very stark differences in the Royals numbers with those surrounding them.  Yuniesky is an extreme hitter, which makes the extreme as well.    The Royals shortstops had the lowest strikeout rate in the AL (shocked me), and the second lowest walk rate (didn’t shock me).  That clearly translated into a low OBP (11th) and an ok batting average (8th), but the one skill which propelled the Royals to the middle of the pack was the SLG (4th).

I’d imagine even the most die-hard Yuni supporter will admit that the power he showed in 2010 was likely an aberration, and therefore unsustainable.  The Royals are on the hook for $1.62m to Yuniesky in 2011, so it’s an almost certainty that barring injury he gets nearly the same number of games in 2011 that he got in 2010.  Mike Aviles’ arm has likely fully healed from his Tommy John surgery and could pick up some more time at SS as the Royals attempt to work out the third base and second base situations.  Christian Colon was drafted in the first round in 2010 and had a solid debut in his first professional season.  He’s unlikely to be ready to play in 2011, but he could be in the mix for 2012.

I admit, there is something nice about a regular contributor at shortstop who can hit for some power and who can play every day.  I don’t believe that Yuniesky is anything more than a stop-gap and what happens in the post-Yunigma era will be a very important decision for Dayton Moore.

I had this great idea where I would do a report card for the whole season.  Kind of like I’ve done in the past for the team during the All-Star Break.  This was a fine idea except:

1. No one really wants to review the sucktastic 2010 season.

And 2. Only two Royal hitters had enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title and only two pitchers had enough innings to qualify for the ERA title.  That’s it.

Basically, when anyone tries to tell you that the Yunigma was a decent player in 2010 – because he tied for the team lead in home runs and RBI! – just point out that quantity does not equal quality.

The other Royal to qualify for the batting title would be Billy Butler.

So instead of a complete rehash of 2010, I’ll do a minor look back and present to you my hypothetical ballot for the Royals Player of the Year.  This is an actual award, voted on by the Kansas City chapter of the BBWAA and has been bestowed upon the Royals top player since 1971.  George Brett is obviously the most honored Royal, winning the award eight times.  Amos Otis and Mike Sweeney are the second most decorated, both winning the award three times. For awhile, I harbored an illusion that someday the Royals would open the voting to us basement dweller types, but when I learned that the voting is controlled by the writers covering the team, that pipe dream circled the drain.

Here’s my top three for Royals position player of the year.  I’ll hold onto my ballot for the pitchers for Friday.  Hey, it’s the off season… I have to pace myself.

1 – Billy Butler

Really, this is an absolute no-brainer to me.  As mentioned before, he was only one of two Royals who accumulated over 500 plate appearances.  And while the Yunigma gave us quantity and not quality, Butler provided both.  He led the team in OBP and WAR and was second in slugging and OPS+.  His defense improved enough that he’s no longer viewed as a liability with the glove.

2 – David DeJesus

He was having the finest season of his career before he destroyed his thumb attempting to make a catch against the wall in Yankee Stadium prematurely ended his season.  From May 11 to June 28, he hit .384 with a .449 OBP.  DeJesus’ defense didn’t suffer too much in the move across to right field.  He was solid, if unspectacular with the glove.

3 – Wilson Betemit

He could have jumped ahead of DeJesus, but he was absolutely abysmal with the glove.  His 141 OPS+ and .511 slugging percentage were tops on the team and his 2.7 offensive WAR was second only to Butler.  He basically played half a season.  It would have been fun if we could have seen him for the full slate of games.  Of course, I probably would have broken a TV or two watching him ole´ ground balls hit to his left.

If Butler actually wins, he would be the first Royal to win back to back since Brett in ’79 and ’80.  Although the evil, stat-driven blogger inside of me is rooting for The Yunigma… Just because it would make the electorate look silly.

Anyway, now it’s your turn.  Cast your votes and explanations in the comments.

There’s nothing left to play for, unless the a battle for fourth place is your idea of fun.  (After the Carnage In Cleveland over the weekend, I’m not even certain a battle exists)  The Chiefs are undefeated and the final week of the baseball season brings two teams with a history of postseason appearances on modest payrolls built through the draft and canny trades in for a final visit.  It’s OK to have Twin or Ray envy.  These are two teams who know what they’re doing.  We can only hope the Royals resident sabermetrician is taking copious notes.

(Side note:  Is the Rays attendance situation crazy, or what?  If the Royals were playing meaningful baseball in September, not only would the stadium be packed, everyone would be wearing blue and hospitals would have an increase in parents naming their newborn boys Yuniesky.  This city would be insane.  I get the economy sucks – especially in Florida where there are apparently more vacant houses than occupied – but still… In a metropolitan area that large, it doesn’t make sense.  It’s easier to understand that the stadium is a poorly-located dump.  Traffic in the Tampa area is a bitch and there’s basically one way to get to the stadium.  Imagine if the only way to approach the K was from I-70 from the east.  Not making excuses here… Somethings are worth the effort.  Or the drive.

Now they’re giving away 20,000 tickets.  Talk about marketing fail… Way to devalue your product, Rays. But I digress…)

Anyway, there are just a few days left in the 2010 season, but there are still some questions that remain about the Royals.  This post is inspired by Dodger Thoughts who posted 10 questions about the LA Dodgers that will be solved by the end of the season.  I began this post with the aim of finding 10 for the Royals, but they are so damn uninteresting I could only come up with five.  Here goes…

Will the Royals team leader in HR finish the season in San Francisco?

Current leaders are the Yunigma and the dearly departed Jose Guillen each with 16 home runs and Billy Butler is nipping at their heals with 15.  Thankfully, Ed Kirkpatrick’s record of fewest number of home runs to lead the team is safe for another season.  He clobbered just 14 home runs to lead the ’69 Royals.

Can the Yunigma stay above replacement level?

According to Fangraphs’ WAR formula, Betancourt currently owns a 0.5 WAR, placing him ahead of Alcides Escobar and Cesar Izturis in the pantheon of criminally horrible shortstops.

But he has a bunch of RBI!!!

(But he also has the second most plate appearances on the team.  Opportunity does not equal quality.)

Do you remember the Yost Effect?

Guess who the worst team in baseball is, post All-Star Break:

Royals — 26-43, .377
Mariners — 26-43, .377
Pittsburgh — 26-43, .377
Dodgers — 28-42, .400
Nats — 29-40, .420

The Pirates have the number one spot locked up for next June’s draft, but the Royals can pick anywhere from second in the draft to seventh. As they sputter to the finish line, I’m betting they get passed by a resurgent Oriole team and finish with the third pick in next year’s draft.

Can Billy Butler set the season record for grounding into double plays?

The record for the most GIDP in a season belongs to Jim Rice, who hit into 36 twin killings in 1984.  He followed that up with 35 in ’85 and owns the top two spots on the leaderboard.  Butler has hit into 30 double plays this season, and if he hits into three more, third place on the all time list will be his, and his alone.

Will any Royals starting pitcher finish with an ERA+ of 100 or better?

Zack Greinke’s fiasco start in Cleveland dropped his ERA+ to 99 on the season and meant that all Royals starters were below the 100 threshold. The last time the Royals failed to have a starting pitcher with an ERA+ of above 100 was in 2006 when Luke Hudson and his 5.12 ERA led the staff with an ERA+ of 92.  I don’t have to remind you, that was the year Mark Redman was an All-Star.

Are you excited yet?

The end of the season is really sneaking up on me.   There are only six games remaining for the Royals in the 2010 season.  I admit, even for a Royals blogger it gets harder and harder to really watch a lot of Royals games at this point in the season.  I tend to drift to some football games, some more important baseball games or a TV show like Mad Men to fill my time rather than a Royals game.  I doubt I am alone in this, it’s only natural.  The team is currently in line for the 4th overall draft pick (that’s my glass half full mindset), and while I thought that the teams coming into the K to end the season would be playing for something important, it seems that the playoff picture is nearly complete in the American League.  However, there are still interesting things happening on the field and with the team.

Jarrod Dyson hit his first Major League homerun last night.  It’s always a cool moment for a rookie to get  that under his belt.  However, it was extremely unlikely that it was going to happen for Jarrod Dyson last night.  Why?  Dyson hit one homerun in 1,245 plate appearances in the Minor Leagues.  It didn’t happen until his 5th season when he was in AAA.  He even had 315 plate appearances with AA Northwest Arkansas, where he played at one of the most homerun friendly parks in the Texas League, and had zero homeruns.  I seriously doubt that Dyson has found his power stroke, and his limiting factor in being an everyday player for the Royals is his bat.  However, stranger things have happened than a guy figuring out how to improve his hitting at the Major League level.  I am a big Jarrod Dyson fan and I sincerly hope he figures it out.

I remember once-upon-a-time there was some chatter about how great Yuniesky Betancourt is, particularly compared to other shortstops.  Oddly, that kind of talk has been quiet.  It probably has to do with the fact that the only player that has played for the Royals this year with a lower OBP is rookie catcher Luke May.  Or it possibly could be some of the following ranks he holds among qualified shortstops:

Batting Average: 15th of 22
On Base Percentage : 21st of 22
Slugging Percentage: 10th of 22
wOBA: 16th of 22

I know that you have to put someone at shortstop and there are possibly worse options than the Yunigma, but if you are going to feed me crap, just tell me it’s crap.  Don’t cover it in flower and call it a donut.

Joakim Soria is the best reliever in baseball.  He is better than Mariano Rivera, and I don’t even think its debateable.  He notched his 42nd save last night to match a career high.  The Royals as a team have won 64 games.  A little quick math tells me that Soria has saved two thirds of the Royals wins this year.  Two thirds, think about that.  Soria needs three more saves to get into a tie for the Royals single-season lead.  Here are the top 5 Royals seasons for saves:

1.(tie) Jeff Montgomery (1993) – 45
1.(tie) Dan Quisenberry (1983) – 45
3. Dan Quisenberry (1984) – 44
4.(tie) Joakim Soria (2008) – 42
4.(tie) Joakim Soria (2010) – 42

I think it would be really cool if Soria could end on 45 and the trio of great Royals closers could all share the single-season lead.

Billy Butler raised his batting average by a point last night to .321 by going 2-for-4.  That ranks him 5th in the Major League.  Yes, he isn’t a good defender and yes, he hits into a lot of double plays, but the kid can flat out hit the ball.  It’s not just his ability to hit the ball either.  Butler has been getting on base to the tune of a .390 OBP which ranks 6th in the American League.  I hear a lot of people bemoan his lack of power, but from day one, I’ve been beating the drum that Billy Butler is a hitter, not a masher.  I think he has the ability to become Tony Gwynn-esque, I don’t think anyone would quibble with that.

Kila Ka’aihue has struggled since being called up from the Minors, but there are indications he is starting to find his way.  He has hits in 7 of his last 9 games.  Since being called up, Kila has 2 more walks (19) than Mike Aviles (17) and is only two shy of the Yunigma (21).  Ned Yost continues to give him time to get acclimated and I believe will do so throughout the 2011 season.  Kila is a cheap player who has a great opportunity to produce in areas the Royals are sorely lacking, OBP and power.  I don’t get it, but there is a segment of Royals fans who seem to get giddy when Kila struggles.  I don’t know if it is some kind of odd desire to see Mike Jacobs come back, or if in Kila they have found some way to channel their anger at people who like the statistical side of baseball.  Either way, it confuses the heck out of me.

Finally, I will continue sending out the Royals Organization Report throughout the Fall.  I’ll be including the Arizona Fall League and the Pan Am Qualifying tournament, so drop me an email at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com and I will add you to the list.

Contact Nick Scott via email at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com, via Twitter @brokenbatsingle or via Facebook .  If you would like to receive his daily Royals system boxscores via email, just drop an email and request it.  He will be sending out boxscores for both the Pan Am Games and the Arizona Fall League.

Thursday was the Royals final off day in 2010.  It’s really difficult to believe this season is almost complete.

For the final two plus weeks of the year, I’d really love to see Ned Yost play guys like Kila Ka’aihue and Alex Gordon everyday.  Wilson Betemit, too.  Of course Billy Butler.  Why not just lock those four into the third through six spots in the order and see what happens?  So far, the Royals have used 92 batting orders in 144 games.  That’s actually pretty stable.  They’ve used two different lineups on 10 occasions.  Unfortunately, both those lineups had Scott Podsednik at the top of the order.  Since the August purge, there hasn’t been a ton of lineup stability.

I’d like to see some over the final handful of games.  Just for fun.

It’s never too early to think about next year.  Especially since we’re Royals fans.

— Have you noticed Yuniesky Betancourt has the exact same OPS+ as the recently departed Wee Willie Bloomquist?  Where have all my favorite Royal PR tweeters?

— Two of the top three Royals in WAR have had fewer than 375 plate appearances.  And three of the top five aren’t even on the active roster.  That’s kind of depressing.

— As long as we’re talking about Royals no longer on the active roster, let’s check in with some of our departed favorites:

Kyle Farnsworth
Kerosene Kyle has a 5.40 ERA, but that’s deceptive.  He’s still throwing gas, striking out 19 in 15 innings.  However, the Braves quickly learned you don’t trust the guy in high leverage situations.  He hasn’t pitched in a pressure situation since allowing a pair of inherited runners to score on August 25.

Rick Ankiel
Ankiel has been predictably awful, hitting .207/.311/.304 in 106 plate appearances.  His 36 strikeouts for the Braves is pretty much on pace for what he did with the Royals.  The Braves are battling for their postseason life, so they’ve wisely pulled back on his playing time the last couple of weeks.

The Braves had a 3.5 game lead over the Phillies in the NL East when they made the trade.  They’re now three games behind the Phillies, although they have a half game lead over the Giants in the Wild Card.  We will fondly remember this pair when Little Timmy Collins is throwing gas at the K.

Jose Guillen
Speaking of the Giants, Guillen has posted a line of .280/.318/.366 since joining San Francisco.  He has just five extra base hits in 88 plate appearances and three walks against 21 strikeouts.  New zip code, same old approach.  Except the Giants have to play him in the field where his defense has been exactly as bad as you would imagine.

Alberto Callaspo
My old favorite contact hitter is batting .273/.314/.341 since being the first domino to fall.    He’s making more contact (94% of all swings meet the bat) but his power is down since joining the Angels.

Scott Podsednik
We knew it couldn’t possibly last.  We knew it.  It didn’t.  Pods hit just .262/.313/.336 for the Dodgers with just five steals in eight attempts.  He somehow grounded into five double plays in 20 opportunities.  He’s out for the rest of the season with plantar fasciitis.

The Dodgers were in third place six games out when Podsednik arrived.  They’re now 10.5 games back and in fourth.

— MLB released their 2011 master schedule this week.  The Royals open at home on March 31 (a Thursday) against the Angels.  That’s a good Opening Day opponent.  To wrap the season, 23 of their final 30 games will be against AL Central opponents.  That’s not really a big deal for 2011.  Someday… It will matter.

For the interleague, the Royals will travel to St. Louis, Colorado and San Diego. I thought the idea behind interleague play was to give teams some variety of opponents.  I understand the “natural” rivalry with the Cardinals, but this is the second year in a row we’re facing off against the Rockies.

The Yankees and Red Sox make their only trip to Kansas City in the same week in the middle of August.  Good, get that out of the way in one homestand.  In all seriousness though, I’m happy to see the way the schedule worked out on this one.  We know the Yankees and Red Sox with their midwestern based bandwagon fans fill the K when they come to town.  It seems like the last several seasons, the Royals have had opening day against either one of those teams basically combining two big attendance days in one.  And since the number of seats are limited… You don’t have to be an economist to figure this one out.

Because of their interleague trip to San Diego, the Royals will be making three West Coast swings instead of two like they had this year.  Keep those frequent flyer accounts updated.

Of course the huge news is the Cubs are coming.  Again, this is good for attendance figures and the bottom line, but bad for my psyche.  Why?  Because I don’t like the Cubs, that’s why.  And I don’t like the people who will invade the K that have never been to Chicago, yet claim to be Cub fans.  We get that enough when the Yankees and Red Sox come to town.

Oh well… If I want it to be different, the Royals will need to start winning again.

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