Sports Outside the Beltway

Royals Week in Review

A look back at the week that was for the Kansas City Royals.


It’s been five cold months since the Kansas City Royals gave up the first pick in the 2007 draft by winning the last game of the season in Detroit. Finally back on the diamond, the Spring Training schedule started with a loss to the Angels and a win over Texas.

We won’t get into much heavy analysis over a couple of exhibition games; especially since ten players who weren’t even good enough to get profiled in the Spring Training Preview series took the field.

In the first game alone, 18 different players had at bats, and seven pitchers were used.

Of note: Mark Teahen started in right field for the Royals, allowing Alex Gordon to fight for the starting spot at third base in the same way President Bush had to fight his way into Yale.

Top Prospects

Baseball America released their 2007 Top 100 Prospects list on Wednesday. The Royals placed three players on the list, with Alex Gordon landing the number two spot behind Daisuke Matsuzaka, the shiny new Japanese pitcher the Red Sox plunked down $100 million to get in the off season.

Here’s how they ranked:

2. ALEX GORDON, 3b, Royals
College Player of the Year in 2005, Minor League Player of the Year in 2006 . . . Rookie of the Year in 2007

25 BILLY BUTLER, of, Royals
His bat will have to carry him, but it can–he’s a career .344/.417/.564 hitter in pro ball

32 LUKE HOCHEVAR, rhp, Royals
After a celebrated holdout, he improved his stock in indy ball and went first in the ’06 draft

The Rockies and Devil Rays had 8 and 7 players on the list, respectively, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Dayton Moore is talking up the fresh mountain air or the booming real estate market in Florida to Reggie Sanders.

Other News

Jorge De La Rosa has the inside track on the #4 spot in the rotation. His 3.33 ERA in the last month of the season made an impression on manager Buddy Bell.

Mike Sweeney won’t be allowed to visit Tucson this spring. Fans of the Diamondbacks, Rockies and White Sox must be disappointed, but it’s their own fault for always trying to get horsey-rides from the major leaguers who come into town.

Finally, the players are all a bunch of ninnies when it comes to wearing synthetic polyester hats.


Royals Spring Training Preview – Relief Pitchers

Previous Installments: C1B/DH2B/SS3BOFSP

And here we are. The end of the line for the Kansas City Royals Spring Training Preview series. It’s fitting, then, that today we look at the men who will be tasked with finishing the games.

Last year, the Royals were abysmal in the final innings.

Rk Tm  Save%
1  MIN 80.00
2  LAD 79.37
3  DET 74.19
League 65.88
29 KC  53.03
30 CLE 51.06

Kansas City blew 31 saves in 2006, more than any other team in baseball.

If the team had been able to convert saves at the league average rate, they would have added another eight wins, and while that still would have left them well out of the playoff chase, it would also have kept every single team preview this year from leading off with the “KC has lost 100 games or more in four of the last five years” stat.

Granted, it’s a moral victory, but one worth achieving.

Since these guys don’t play as many innings in a game (and since there are so damn many of them), they get shorter player profiles.

Octavio Dotel
0-0, 10.80, 2.90
ERA+ 41

Don’t let the stat line scare you. Those numbers were compiled over just ten innings last season. Dotel has only thrown 25.3 innings in the major leagues the last two seasons due to injury (that is the stat that should scare you).

Throwing out last year, Dotel hasn’t had an ERA+ lower than 123 since 2000. If he’s truly mended, he should be a stable force at the end of ball games this year.

Todd Wellemeyer
1-4, 4.14, 1.51
ERA+ 114

Wellemeyer put up a 3.63 ERA in 57 innings after the Royals picked him up off of waivers last year. He’s always had strong strike-out-to-walk ratios in the minors, but that has yet to translate to the major league level.

If he can give away a few less free passes this season, he will have been a steal for Dayton Moore.

Joakim Soria


After the Royals made Soria the second pick in the Rule V draft this off season, he responded by pitching a perfect game in the Mexican Pacific League.

Solid stats are hard to come by for Soria, who has spent most of his time on the disabled list or pitching in the MPL, but according to this Wikipedia entry, he was 9-0 with a 1.77 ERA in 11 starts last season, striking out over a man an inning.

Jimmy Gobble

4-6, 5.14, 1.48
ERA+ 94

Gobble has always been a finesse pitcher with decent control. Last year, he led the team in strikeouts, a stat that probably says more about the Royals than himself.

He also led the team in wild fluctuations in performance month to month.

Mth  G   ERA
Apr  10  6.75
May   9  3.00
Jun  12  2.25
Jul   5  6.85 (5 starts)
Aug  12  1.64
Sep  12 12.00

Only turning 25 this season, Gobble still has a chance to decide who he wants to be… the ace from August, or the September schmuck.

Joel Peralta

1-3, 4.40, 1.24
ERA+ 110

Peralta spent a long time in the Angels farm system, putting up good K/BB ratios and decent ERAs. Unfortunately for him, the Angels have been loaded with talent in their relief corps, so he was waived and picked up by the Royals.

He was solid if unspectacular with the team last year and is one of many arms that will have a shot at a set up role going into this season.

Ryan Braun

0-1, 6.75, 1.50
ERA+ 72

A high strike out guy, Braun was moving up through the Royals farm system nicely until he lost 2005 to injury. Last season, he put up ERAs of 2.21 in AA and 2.16 in AAA.

The numbers above are from his cup of coffee call up in September last year and are skewed by a particularly bad outing against Detroit.

Ken Ray

1-1, 4.52, 1.54
ERA+ 97

Does that name sound familiar, Royals fans? It’s because Ray pitched 11.3 innings for the team in 1999.

Since that time, he’s bounced around the minors as organizational filler for the Giants, Brewers, White Sox and Braves.

Dayton Moore has brought him to Kansas City because he saw something he liked in Ray while he was with the Atlanta organization.

Leo Nunez

0-0, 4.72, 1.50
ERA+ 102

Nunez was jumped from AA to the big league club in 2005 after showing a few flashes of brilliance for the Wichita Wranglers. Those flashes turned out to be the “in a pan” kind and he struggled with the Royals that year.

Last season, he came up briefly in the summer, posted some promising stats, and spent the rest of the year progressing from AA to AAA, where he posted a 2.13 ERA in 38 innings with Omaha.

Turning 24 this season, Nunez still has a chance to grow into a fine MLB pitcher.

John Bale


A solid pitcher in the minors for several organizations, Bale could never make his big league opportunities stick and wound up pitching in Japan the past three years.

His walk rates have been declining along with his ERAs while in Japan, so he may have finally figured something out in the Far East.

David Riske

1-2, 3.89, 1.30
ERA+ 120

A solid relief pitcher, Riske was signed in the off season to give the Royals at least two guys in the bullpen with proven major league success (Dotel being the other).

He pitched 3.7 innings of scoreless baseball in the 2001 postseason while with Cleveland, so he’s got way better clutch stats than A-Rod if the team can make it past the regular season.

Joe Nelson

1-1, 4.43, 1.37
ERA+ 109

Another one of those guys who was on track to become an MLB regular until injuries derailed him in 2000 and 2003.

Last year was the first time Nelson saw sufficient action at the major league level. After a strong start to the season (1.11 ERA in his first 22 games), he tired towards the end of the year, posting an ERA of 8.41 in his last 21 appearances.

The feast or famine nature of Nelson’s season pretty much sums up the entire Royals squad going into camp this year. Every player on the roster has had moments in their career in which they looked like a superstar on the verge of breaking out, and most of them have had soul-crushing reality checks.

Over the next month and a half, Buddy Bell and his staff will need to do their best at sorting out the true talents of each player and assembling a team that can produce results, not just hope for them.


Royals Broadcaster Matthews to Enter Baseball Hall of Fame

Fantastic news for Kansas City Royals fans today: Denny Matthews has been announced as the winner of the Ford C. Frick Award by the Baseball Hall of Fame.

From the Royals website:

Matthews has been with the Royals since the franchise’s inception as an American League expansion team in 1969. He initially won the job after beating out more than 250 applicants for the No. 2 announcing position alongside veteran Bud Blattner.

I first started listening to Matthews calling Royals games when I was mowing the lawn as a kid. When I moved to Los Angeles seven years ago, I began listening to the Royals games over the internet and really discovered what a great play by play man he is.

Here are my two favorite Denny moments:

1.) During a Royals-Rangers game, the announcers were discussing Nolan Ryan and his accomplishments as a player. They talked about the strike outs and the no hitters and then Matthews finally chimed in that his favorite moment was when Robin Ventura charged the mound and Ryan put him in a headlock and basically showed him who the boss was.

Matthews doesn’t sugar coat things. That’s everybody’s favorite memory of Nolan Ryan and he didn’t pretend otherwise.

2.) During the magical run towards respectability in 2003, the Royals were about to lose to the Seattle Mariners in the second game since coming back from the All Star Break. Mike MacDougal had come in to save a 3-1 lead in the ninth inning, but walked a few batters, gave up a few singles and was facing Ichiro Suzuki with the bases loaded.

Ichiro drove the ball to right field and Matthews started yelling, “Come on wind! Come on wind!”

It was a grand slam and the Royals lost the game.

Matthews is most often criticized for not showing enough emotion during a game. To me, this is his greatest quality. Routine grounders are treated like routine grounders. Likewise with lazy fly balls and singles over the second base bag.

When it really counts, Denny’s voice will rise, and he will shout at the wind to help his team win, just like a great flagship announcer should.

Congratulations, Denny. You belong in Cooperstown.


Royals Spring Training Preview – Starting Pitchers

Previous Installments: C1B/DH2B/SS3BOF

The Kansas City Royals have done more than just remodel the pitching staff in the last year. General Manager Dayton Moore has basically demolished the whole thing and started over with his own guys.

Three of the top five starting pitchers on the current depth chart weren’t with the team coming out of camp last year and the other two spent significant time in the minor leagues.

Like with the hitters, the player’s name will link to their career stats page, and I will list the 2006 won-loss record, ERA, WHIP and ERA+ for each.

Gil Meche

ERA+ 97

Meche is going to make a lot of money over the next five years and everybody is going to make fun of the Royals for it.

His career comparables through age 27 include guys like Jason Marquis, Chris Carpenter and Jason Schmidt – sort of a mixed bag of results.

He did see a significant spike in his strikeout rate last season, and Lord knows the Royals could use a few more pitchers who know how to miss bats.

Year K/9
2003 6.28
2004 6.98
2005 5.21
2006 7.52

Meche was on his way to becoming a superstar before injuries derailed him in the early part of the century. Since coming back to the big leagues in 2003, he has been consistently almost average.

That kind of performance may be worth $11 million a year in baseball today.

Odalis Perez

ERA+ 76

In 2002, the Atlanta Braves included Perez in a trade with the Dodgers in order to get Gary Sheffield so they could win another division title.

Perez responded by putting up ERA+ of 126, 87 and 127 over the next three years. The Dodgers then signed him to a $24 million contract and he proceeded to stink up the joint, act all disgruntled and get himself traded to the Royals.

Take that, Odalis.

The Royals are only on the hook for about $5 million of Perez’s remaining contract, and he showed signs of life pitching for the team in the second half of last season.

Luke Hudson

ERA+ 95

After a middling career bouncing between the minors and the majors with the Colorado and Cincinnati organizations, Hudson joined the Royals in Spring Training last year and left Arizona with a big league job.

After putting up an 8.74 ERA in the first month of the season, he was sent down to Omaha. I’m guessing he dined on some of the finest steaks America has to offer for the next two months. I’m not really sure.

He did acquit himself nicely when returning to the Royals at the end of June, going 7-3 with a 4.67 ERA to finish out the season.

Jorge de la Rosa

ERA+ 72

De la Rosa was another one of Dayton Moore’s mid season pickups. I think you can learn a lot about a player by looking at who he was traded for in his career.

For example, in a three day period near the end of 2003, Jorge was one in a group of players exchanged by the Red Sox to get Curt Schilling and then the Diamondbacks to get Richie Sexon.

By July 25, 2006, the Royals were able to get him straight up for Tony Graffanino.

He does have a very pretty name, though.

Zach Greinke

ERA+ 114

Excuse me for breaking out the Gnarls Barkley…

“Maybe I’m cra-zay… maybe I’m cra-zay…”

Greinke was a coveted prospect coming out of high school and did well in his first full season of minor league ball. At 20, he cracked the Royals starting rotation and was named the team’s pitcher of the year in 2004.

2005 was a down year and then he left spring training before last season to attend to personal issues. Those personal issues are still a mystery to most, but the Royals seem to have handled the situation well, as Zach is back in camp this year, throwing easy and apparently having a good time.

Mental make up is a hard thing to measure, but Greinke was pegged with Cy Young potential early in his career. If he can stay focused enough to take the mound every fifth day, the Royals may still have a solid, above average starter in the quirky kid from Florida.


Royals Spring Training Preview – Outfield

Previous Installments: C1B/DH2B/SS3B

How old can an outfield be? The San Francisco Giants trotted out a creaky-kneed trio aged 39, 41 and 41 last season and lost 85 games.

This year, the Kansas City Royals might feature a 39 year old veteran roaming the grass at Kauffman Stadium along side a 25 year old converted third baseman.

A couple of twenty-something speedsters could provide great defense one day, while men who will never get closer to a Gold Glove than Mark Grudzielanek’s locker could be chasing down doubles the next.

Playing time at first and third base will come at a premium this season, with the gentlemen below feeling the squeeze.

David DeJesus

OPS+ 103

Generally speaking, baseball players improve over their first few years in the league, peak at age 27 and slowly decline after that.

Here is how DeJesus has tracked since becoming a full time player in 2004.

Year Age Games AVG OBP SLG
2004 24  96    287 360 402
2005 25  122   293 359 445
2006 26  119   295 364 446

Last March, he signed an extension through his age 30 season in 2010 for an average of $2.76 million per year. If he can manage to stay injury free and make the leap in production many expect this season, the Royals will have made a very good deal.

Assuming Buddy Bell doesn’t take any blows to the head this Spring, David will be leading off for the Royals on April 2nd. He’s had some pop in the one hole, hitting six home runs to lead off a game in his career.

Last year, DeJesus was moved to left field when Joey Gathright came over from the Devil Rays.

According the research done by John Walsh at The Hardball Times, DeJesus was one of the best defensive outfielders in both center and left field in 2006.

Emil Brown

OPS+ 104

Emil Brown was not one of the better defensive outfielders in 2006 or any year for that matter.

However, he has managed to carve out a nice career for himself after toiling away in the minors for many years.

If Mark Teahen gets moved to the outfield to make room for third base prospect Alex Gordon, then Brown could find himself in the thick of a mean battle for the remaining corner outfield spot.

Reggie Sanders

OPS+ 81

The other highly-paid option to man right field, Sanders has always been an above average hitter, and a bit of a nomad.

Since leaving Cincinnati in 1998, he has never signed more than a one or two year deal with any team.

While Sanders has managed to put up highly productive seasons despite being on the wrong side of the age curve, the following trend is of concern:

Age Games
34  140
35  130
36  135
37   93
38   88

39 year olds who aren’t pitchers don’t have much history contributing at the major league level.

A highly comparable player to Sanders is Ron Gant (who the Royals could have had once).

Gant also bounced around at the end of his career, put up his last useful season at 37 and saw injuries end his career.

Joey Gathright

OPS+ 68

Yes, the batting line is atrocious, but he is fast, or so I’m told whenever I see his name mentioned in any story ever written about him.

Gathwright hit for average and got on base at a respectable clip in the minors (315/391/360 in five seasons), but has yet to see that translate in the bigs. He will never be a power hitter, but if he can start getting on base and stealing at a 75% clip, he will be a valuable fourth outfielder.

Shane Costa

OPS+ 77

Costa beat out Aaron Guiel for the fourth outfielder spot out of spring training last year, and I was none to happy about it.

Costa is another player who put up good but not great numbers in the minors. After being sent down last season, he put up his best line yet going 342/398/593 in 52 games with Omaha, bouncing back and forth with the big club all year.

He’s a Cal State Fullerton Titan, so my wife likes him; though she hates baseball, so I don’t think Shane is gleaning much positive karma from his time in southern California.

Pitcher previews next week.


Royals Spring Training Preview – 3B

Previous Installments: C1B/DH2B/SS

A quick look at all of the Hall of Famers who have played for the Kansas City Royals will leave you with two lingering thoughts:

1.) Orlando Cepeda and Harmon Killebrew played for the Royals? Really?

2.) Thank God for George Brett.

With a breakout performer and a sure-fire prospect competing for a spot on the hot corner, this may be the most interesting position battle since Ken Harvey and Calvin Pickering went head-to-head over the buffet table in 2005.

Mark Teahen
OPS+ 117

Perhaps the last great thing Allard Baird did as general manager of the Kansas City Royals was send Mark Teahen down to Omaha after his horrid start to the 2006 season.

KC   195  241  351
OMA  380  500  658
KC   313  384  557

Faced with fading away or fighting back, Teahen did the latter. He got angry at our little white friends with the red stitching and began thumping whenever one came across the plate.

Dayton Moore brought Teahen back up to the big league team to see if his hot streak would hold, and it did until a labrum tear ended his season in early September.

What remains to be seen is how the shoulder surgery will affect Teahen’s ability to progress this season. Mark is already a candidate to decline – his minor league stats show a lot of patience, but not as much power.

With a log jam in the outfield and golden boy Alex Gordon standing on third base in the minors, Teahen cannot afford to have another April like last year.

Alex Gordon
325/427/588 (AA)

Ahh, the golden child.

Gordon has pretty much raked the ball as far back as the stats go.

Check out his splits while at Wichita last year and you’ll see that the only time he didn’t really produce was in twelve at bats as a first baseman. (Note to the Royals, Alex Gordon is NOT a first baseman)

Most observers assume that Gordon will be the starting third baseman coming out of Spring Training, forcing Mark Teahen to the outfield.

Ideally, the two players will push each other to greatness and force the Royals to trade away some of the excess baggage in the outfield.

Realistically, the 23 year old Gordon will have a few struggles against his first taste of MLB quality competition. How few are up for debate.

        2007 Projections
PECOTA  282 364 511 875 541
ZIPS    275 361 473 834 491
CHONE   273 353 465 818 485

A 21 year old George Brett put up a 282/312/363 line in 457 at bats in his first major league season and finished second in the MVP voting at age 23.

Can the chosen one keep up?


Royals Spring Training Preview – 2B/SS

Previous Installments: C / 1B/DH

The Kansas City Royals have had five different leaders in games played at second base in the last five years, and only one guy manning the other side of the bag (forgive me if I pretend the Neifi Perez year never happened.).

Yes, it has been a long time since Frank White was racking up Gold Gloves in the powder blue, but last year saw the Royals get a nice trophy and nearly-adequate production from their second sacker.

Angel Berroa continued to suck wind, but we’ll get to him in a second.

Mark Grudzielanek

OPS+ 85

If Grudzielanek doesn’t put up a 295/330/400 line with solid defense this year, then something has probably gone horribly wrong with the space/time continuum and we’ll all have bigger things to worry about than baseball.

A contact hitter, Grudzie doesn’t walk much, strike out much or really do much of anything except put the ball in play.

See these nifty charts from Fan Graphs, if you want the proof.

With a good defensive reputation, the Royals had Grudzielanek move over to shortstop at the end of four games last year. He hasn’t played the position regularly since 2000, but I wonder if he won’t see a little more time over there this season if Angel Berroa can’t get his act together.

Angel Berroa

OPS+ 48

Excuse me for a minute while I shake my head and sigh. Those ugly numbers you see were produced over 500 plate appearances in 132 games last year.

By the end of the season, the Royals were regularly pinch-hitting for Berroa at the end of close games, which was a good idea because his lifetime OPS in the ninth inning is .504. (He hits like Babe Ruth in extra innings, but that is more a product of small sample size than actual clutch talent)

The team is on the hook for another $8.5 million, but it appears Dayton Moore has the flexibility to consider those sunk costs if Berroa doesn’t show improvement early in the season.

Estaban German

OPS+ 122

Aside from getting hit in the face by what most observers considered a routine fly ball, German exceeded every reasonable expectation for the Royals last season.

With a strong history of getting on base in the minors, German led the team with a .422 OBP in 2006.

At 28, German is too old to be considered a prospect anymore, and one would guess that his production will slip after a career year, but he appears to be a solid back up for Grudzilanek.

In my perfect world, German would be moved to the other side of the bag and take over for Angel Berroa at short stop, providing patience and power and probably a few more errors. General Manager Dayton Moore has hinted at this possibility in recent radio interviews.


Royals Spring Training Preview – 1B/DH

As the march toward daylight savings time continues, we continue our look at the players who will be competing for spots on the Kansas City Royals opening day roster.

Previous profiles: Catchers

Since 2003, the likes of Ken Harvey, Matt Stairs and Doug Mientkiewicz have all spent time chasing down Angel Berroa’s errant throws and subbing for Mike Sweeney. Who will be the lucky contenders for that role this year?

Mike Sweeney

OPS+ 97

Any discussion about the Royals 1B/DH situation begins and ends with Mike Sweeney.

When healthy, he has easily been the most productive hitter on the team over the last eight years. Of course, even the casual observer can tell you that Sweeney has hardly been healthy since he became the highest-paid player in team history.

Just to recap: While Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye and Carlos Beltran found riches elsewhere, Sweeney signed what many agreed was a good deal for the Royals in 2002.

His numbers since the signing:

Year  Games  OPS+
2003  108    115
2004  106    123
2005  122    127
2006   60     97

Sweeney will be 33 this season. His offensive numbers should rebound from last year, but he is definitely entering the decline phase of his career. He will be the designated hitter whenever his back is up to it; when it isn’t, the remaining names on this list will be vying for his time in the lineup.

Ryan Shealy

OPS+ 95

Shealy came to the Royals last year as part of a mid-season trade that sent pitchers Jeremy Affeldt and Denny Bautista to Colorado to breathe the mountain air and search for their lost potential.

A strong performer in the Rockies farm system, Shealy was stuck waiting for Todd Helton to catch Mike Sweeney’s back virus so he could have a shot at playing time in the major leagues.

After a short adjustment period, Shealy really started raking for the Royals in the final months of the season.

Dates    AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS
8/01–15  255  328  309   637
8/15-31  339  371  525   896
9/01-15  333  393  686 1.079
9/15-24  107  194  143   337

His last week was marred by illness and he was benched permanently with a case of hives to end the season.

Assuming the mystery hives don’t come back with a vengeance, Shealy should have a lock on the first base coming out of spring training.

Ross Gload

OPS+ 107

Another off season pick up for the Royals, Gload gives the franchise four of the top-eight finishers for Rookie of the Year voting in 2004.

I haven’t decided yet whether this is a good or a bad thing.

In the minors, Gload has always hit for average and power. In two full seasons in the major leagues, he lost a little power, but still managed to keep his batting average up.

As a role-player backing up first base and the outfield, there is really nothing wrong with Gload. However…

    Gload    Player X
Age Lev OPS  Lev    OPS
19    N/A    RK     943
20    N/A    A      878
21  A   712  A/AA   830
22  A   865  AA     901
23  A   793  AA/AAA 953
24  AA  827  AAA    838
25  AAA 845
26  AAA 852
27  AAA 873
28  MLB 854
29  AAA 1073
30  MLB 816

Wow! Who’s that wonderful Player X that showed he could handle professional baseball at such a scorching pace? I sure wish my team would give him a shot at a big league job!

Justin Huber

OPS+ 45

By age 22, Justin Huber looked like he was capable of taking Mike Piazza’s place as the best-hitting catcher in all of baseball. (He’s Player X, by the way.)

A trade to the Royals, a knee injury and two years later, Huber has become another player lost in the logjam at 1B/DH.

If he can bounce back from a disappointing season with Omaha last year, then the Aussie may become a valuable trading chip later in the season.

As it stands now, he is probably going to be manning first base in Omaha come April. The team has moved Huber from catcher to first base to occasional stints in the outfield since acquiring him in 2004. Most likely, he’ll be called up ahead of Billy Butler in order to save some time on that young man’s service clock.


Royals Spring Training Preview – Catchers

Geeks like me who routinely check in with the home team’s website can tell you that we are only 3 days, 19 hours and 4 minutes away from the opening of spring training.

There are twenty new faces on the Kansas City Royals forty man roster since the last time pitchers and catchers were asked to report, so I’d like to acquaint you with the men who will be vying for playing time under the Arizona sun.

Each player name will link to his stats from, followed by his 2006 numbers (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging average and OPS+).

Let’s start with the men behind the dish.

John Buck
OPS+ 76

Not long ago (2004), Buck finished tied for 8th place in rookie of the year voting, behind fellow teammates David DeJesus (6th) and Zack Greinke (4th). No doubt, his single vote was probably cast by Jeffrey Flannigan.

Buck’s OPS by Year:

2004  704
2005  676
2006  702

Buck’s OPS by Month:

Apr/Mar  553 
May      683 
June     780 
July     552 
August   680 
Sept/Oct 864

That June number is helped by his .993 OPS in June last year.

Buck’s MO is to start off slow and then figure things out. Unfortunately, aside from the aforementioned June and August of 2004, he has only posted an OPS over .800 in the month of September.

If I were Buddy Bell, I’d hire several “players” to stand around Buck at all times, wearing thermals, complaining about how cold it’s getting and talking about their fantasy football drafts non-stop.

Jason LaRue
OPS+ 65

LaRue was making steady progress as an offensive threat over the course of his career…

OPS+ by year:

1999  77
2000  74
2001  82
2002  85
2003  92
2004 103
2005 105
2006  65

… until last year, when pre-season knee surgery kept him out of the opening day lineup and rendered him relatively ineffective.

That’s one scary hole his productivity fell into, but there is hope for a rebound this year.

Here are some of LaRue’s numbers from the last three seasons, courtesy of The Hardball Times:

251  334  431  19.7  42.3  .313
260  355  452  22.5  41.6  .325
194  317  346  20.0  43.6  .220

For reference, that’s line drive (LD%) and ground ball percentages (GB%), as well as batting average on balls in play (BA/BIP).

A quick glance at those numbers shows that one of these things is not like the others.

Despite the knee surgery zapping his power, LaRue still hit line drives with the same consistency as previous years. Even a terrible player will have their BA/BAP regress to the mean (the NL average BA/BIP was .301 in ’06), and LaRue was not a terrible player before his knee injury, which could mean a nice bounce back for the man slated to back up Buck.

Paul Phillips
OPS+ 63

In seven minor league seasons, Phillips has put up a marginal 280/326/392 line in 532 games. Seeing action at the major league level almost exclusively during the September call-up period, he has hit 270/279/380 in 50 games.

After missing two entire seasons to injury, Phillips has done well to find himself a home in Omaha and will probably continue to work with the pitchers who aren’t quite ready for prime time yet.

I’ll be back with a look at the tall, slow guys standing by first base tomorrow.


Royals to Watch More TV in 2007

I’m a little late getting this posted, but there’s a good article in the KC Star regarding the Kansas City Royals plans to install a new video system this season.

[T]he Royals find themselves in a controversy regarding their upgrade to a more state-of-the-art video system next month at a cost of $900,000. The team wants the system to be paid for by taxpayers as part of the $250 million renovation of Kauffman Stadium — something to which Jackson County officials object.

I’m not a fan of publicly funded private enterprises, and I can see how the county officials would be a irritated by this move.

I don’t recall ever seeing an itemized report on how the $250 millon would be spent, but it certainly seems the team could foot the bill for the video upgrade. Of course, I’m sure much more than $900k will be spent on “improvements” that have little to do with what voters imagined when they cast their ballots last year.

The Royals were among the innovators in using video technology to test and eventually strengthen players’ eyesight. The original system was patented in the 1970s before Royals owner Ewing Kauffman allowed other teams to use it.

It’s getting easier and easier to forget that the Royals were once considered among the best-run teams in any professional sports league. Innovative and aggressive at every turn.

This paragraph is what had me rolling on the floor, though:

Mark Redman, with his underwhelming stuff, used video more than any other pitcher last year and was chosen Royals pitcher of the year.

Mark Redman
W-L: 11-10
ERA: 5.71
ERA+: 85

Maybe a new video system isn’t such a great idea.


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