Sports Outside the Beltway

Royals Week in Review – 5/3/07

The Kansas City Royals front office decided to shift attention from the poor on-field performance of the team by executing several questionable roster-management decisions this week.

The ploy seems to have worked, as nobody noticed the Royals winning two games in a row for just the second time this season as the weekend creeps upon us.

Heading into game 30, the boys in blue have put up a 10-19 record, which projects to 106 losses. Things aren’t quite that bleak, though. Over at Baseball Prospectus, they project a team’s “real” level of production based on stats that I am not nearly smart enough to understand, and they peg the Royals expected record at 13-16.

Those three wins would work out to a 73-89 record by season’s end, which is what any reasonable person should expect from a young team getting better.

Of course, the team is really 10-19 and warrants a 5% chance of making the playoffs in BP’s latest standings.

Below is another way of looking at the season, courtesy of The Hardball Times Sparkline Generator. Every up tick is a win, and those marked in red are games decided by two runs or less.

Half of the Royals games this year have been close contests, including three of six losses in a brutal mid-April stretch.

Here is how the Royals bats match up against the rest of the American League.

KC 3.86 250 325 390 3.86 17% 305   243
AL 4.67 256 331 405 3.83 18% 291   258

After starting the season about as offensive as a litter of kittens cuddling up to a sleeping Saint Bernard, the team is catching up to the league in rate stats, although runs per game are still woefully low. The big culprit appears to be batting average with runners in scoring position.

Roster Construction
The hamstring bug caught the Kansas City Royals this week, sending first baseman Ryan Shealy and right fielder Reggie Sanders to the disabled list. Despite a glut of corner outfielders, the Royals called up top prospect Billy Butler and everyone’s favorite Cal
State Titan, Shane Costa.

Clark Fosler over at Royals Authority has a look at the teams current roster set up. He notes that with Shealy and Sanders on the disabled list alongside Octavio Dotel and Dayton Moore’s Plan for the Future, the team has a very odd configuration.

[N]o backup shortstop or backup centerfielder, three leftfielders, a utility man who can’t play defense but hits like a DH and six, soon to be eight starting pitchers.

My guess is that Costa will be asked to spell DeJesus in centerfield, or perhaps cover for Teahen if he goes over there. Emil Brown is looking more and more like the odd man out and may only get a reprieve from outright release because of Sanders torn hammy.

Oh, and Gil Meche is still earning his money.


Royals call up Billy Butler from Omaha

The Kansas City Royals have called up Billy Butler from Triple-A Omaha to replace Ryan Shealy, who in typical Royals fashion, was injured while trying to score in last night’s game against the Angels.

Butler has been considered the best hitting prospect in the Royals system for a few years, with only his defense keeping him from a big league roster spot. Through 25 games in the Pacific Coast League, he has a 337/445/584 line with six home runs against 12 strikeouts.

A look at his splits so far this year shows that his only problem has been some bad luck on balls in play against left handers.

Justin Huber would seem to have been the most likely candidate to replace Shealy, but he is off to a very poor start in Omaha, hitting a paltry 200/294/333 so far.

Ennuipundit provided this scouting report on Butler earlier this year.

Unless this move is just to give Butler a taste of the big league life while Shealy rests his hammy, one has to believe that the kid will be given some significant playing time in the next two weeks. Hopefully, his bat in the lineup will help to spark Alex Gordon. The two combined for 44 homers and 197 RBIs with Double-A Wichita last year.


Royals Week in Review – 4/27/03

This is the time of year when it gets difficult for Kansas City Royals fans. When the tough losses start piling up and all of the pundits are proved right for predicting another miserable year for the Kauffman Faithful. When the boys in blue have lost five one run games and the training staff still can’t get Octavio’s oblique to oblige.

When somebody puts their fandom up for auction and scathing editorials like this get posted to the internet.

Anyway, on to the big questions from the week that was.

How Bad are They?
Here is the Royals record for each of the first four weeks of the season:

4/2  – 2-4
4/9  – 1-5
4/16 – 3-3
4/23 – 1-3

The current record of 7-15 translates to a 52-110 season. Using runs scored and allowed as a measure, the team should be at 8-14, staring down a 102 loss season, which is certainly nothing to brag about.

So far, 12 games have been decided by two runs or less, with the Royals sporting a 4-8 record in those contests.

Is Anybody Doing Well?
David DeJesus leads the team in plate appearances with a cool 100 going into tonight’s game against Seattle. With a line of 315/390/517, David is giving Buddy Bell no reason to remove him from the top spot in the lineup.

Bell has quietly increased John Buck’s playing time, giving the nod to the catcher in four of the last five games. Buck leads the team in most statistical categories a month into the season.

Reggie Sanders is still playing only half of the time, despite having the second-highest on base and slugging percentages on the team. At least he’s taking it like a man.

On the pitching side of things, Gill Meche has been worth his paycheck so far and Zack Greinke came back from two poor outings to put up seven scoreless innings against the Twins last night.

Brandon Duckworth has been taken out of the rotation to solidify the bullpen, which is a lot like Britney Spears using a three dollar platinum wig to distract from her new nose job. That is, effective but still a three dollar wig.

How Bad is It?
Well, the Royals are starting to lose games in creative ways, which is always a bad sign. For example, this is the play by play with two outs in the ninth inning against the White Sox on Tuesday night:

Infield Single due to throwing error – One run scores
Wild Pitch – One run scores

The bats have finally started to come around, but the relief corps is desperately inadequate. If anybody besides Joakim Soria can step up (10 Ks per nine innings), then the bullpen may become less of a liability and losing fewer than 100 games may not be such a pipe dream.


Twins’ Hunter keeps promise, breaks rule

Minnesota Twins center fielder Torii Hunter has found himself in a little bit of hot water for making good on a promise he made to the Kansas City Royals after thier sweep of the Detroit Tigers gave the Twins a Division Title.

Hunter had four bottles of Dom Perignon delivered to the Royals clubhouse in response to some comments from Royals designated hitter Mike Sweeney before the two teams played earlier this week.

Of course, there is no opportunity for bad press that MLB will let slide by.


[B]aseball has rules about this sort of thing.

Namely, rule 21-b, which proclaims “Any player or person connected with a Club who shall offer or give any gift or reward to a player or person connected with another Club for services rendered … in defeating or attempting to defeat a competing Club … shall be declared ineligible for not less than three years.”

The Twins have asked the Royals to return the bottles so as to negate the “reward” from Hunter. As if losing out on the number one pick in this year’s amateur draft isn’t reward enough.

This will be an interesting case for the commissioner.

While it’s pretty clear from this article about the Twins clinching the division last year that Hunter made the offer in jest, the offer was made.

Minnesota Twins center fielder Torii Hunter, running through their raucous clubhouse celebration Sunday afternoon, vowed to not only win the World Series but to deliver a present to his newest best friends. “Kansas City is going to get a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne from me,” Hunter screamed.

Does the ghost of Joe Jackson haunt Hunter for the next three years, or will Bud Selig’s better PR instincts kick in to keep this incident from exploding?


Royals Week in Review – 04/20/07

The Kansas City Royals did win a game this week, which may not sound like a lot, but means something to their loyal fan base, so I wanted to bring it up. Here’s a quick look at what else happened.

The Beginning

Despite Zack Greinke’s horrendous start against the Tigers, the Royals starters have a 3.55 ERA three weeks into the season, placing them square in the middle of the major league pack.

Million Dollar Gil and Zack G are leading the way, with five quality starts out of seven so far.

The Middle

Dismal Run support has been a problem. Kansas City is averaging only 3.4 runs a game and has below average numbers across the board. The best hitters have been John Buck and Reggie Sanders, two guys who are only playing in half the games.

The team leads the league in strike outs, while sitting at fourth-to-last in walks.

The End

The relief staff has kept Buddy Bell hooked on Rolaids, sporting a 5.74 ERA and blowing leads late in four games this season.

Joakim Soria has been given the closer’s job until Octavio Dotel returns from the disabled list. Soria picked up his first big league win by striking out four batters over the last two innings Thursday against Detroit. On the season, Soria has 11 Ks against 4 walks in 8.3 innings of work.

The Rest

Forbes has released its latest franchise valuations, including this scathing article about David Glass hording money from revenue sharing.

The club is currently valued at $282 Million if you would like to make an offer. My guess is that with some shrewd negotiating, you can get the boys in blue for about $250M if you throw in a new black cloak for the Emperor to wear.

Craig Brown at Royals Authority shows that Mark Teahen has reverted to his old habits of taking the ball the other way. Fond followers of the fellow will recall that once he started pulling the ball more, his power numbers jumped way up last year.

Finally, Mike Sweeney knows his bat is slow, so you can stop making fun of him.


Royals Week in Review – 4/13/07

Holiday travel meant a week off for the Kansas City Royals Week in Review, or KCRWIR, as I’m hoping the kids start calling it. That means this will be a season in review for the team as we prepare for week three of the young MLB season.

The Money Man

A quick recap: One earned run against Boston on opening day. Dayton Moore is a genius! Gil Meche is the greatest steal of the off season! Wait… 6 runs in seven innings against Toronto. Meche sucks! This is the worst contract ever – an albatross that will surely sink the Royals for good. Hold on… five Ks and no runs against Baltimore yesterday. Hmm… maybe Meche is a good pitcher.

All of the praise and panic aside, Meche has a 3.10 ERA with a 3.75/1 strikeout to walk ratio after three starts.

The KC Star is running a great feature now called the Meche Meter.

It basically assigns a dollar value to certain counting stats Meche puts up in each start. It may not be the most sabermetrically sound method of measuring a pitcher, but it’s not a bad way to look at the results a major league starter should be expected to post.

The Saviors

The nicest surprise so far has been the pitching of Zach Greinke. In two starts he has 12 strikeouts and only one walk to go with a 1.38 ERA. Any stats from so early in the season are to be taken with a grain of salt, but young ZG looks good so far.

Of course, the other future star hasn’t had it so great. Alex Gordon, he of the golden locks and the level swing, has managed just two singles and a home run so far, while striking out in a third of his plate appearances.

At the moment, the media vultures seem to be giving AG a chance to find his footing, but don’t be surprised if talks of shipping him to Omaha start up if he has a bad weekend. (My money is on Flannigan firing the first shot)

Having watched most of the games so far, Gordon doesn’t look completely overmatched to me. He’s averaging 4.08 pitchers per plate appearance and at least making pitchers work to strike him out.

The Rest

It’s starting to look like those 15 strikeouts in Spring Training are all that Royals fans will get to see from Octavio Dotel for a while.

In sad news for Greinke, both of his maternal grandparents passed away. He expects to be back with the team for his scheduled start this Sunday.

Joakim Soria’s six Ks in six innings have garnered him a shot at the closers role.


Ten games into the season, the Kansas City Royals are at 3-7, last in the American League Central, 3.5 games back of Detroit and Minnesota.

A look at the sparkline for the season so far (thank you THT) shows that three losses have been by only one run, so there is no reason to sell all of your Jimmy Gobble memorabilia on eBay just yet.

Currently, Baseball Prospectus gives the team a 1.18% chance at making the playoffs based on their current record and projected results.

This is compared to the no chance that most people gave the team at the start of the season. The pitching has been league average so far. It’s time for the offense to step up.


Royals Week in Review – 3/30/07

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

Roster Decisions

The opening day roster has been set. These are the twenty-five men Kansas City will take into battle against the Red Sox on Monday.

Rotation (5): Jorge De La Rosa, Brandon Duckworth, Zack Greinke, Gil Meche, and Odalis Perez

The great news here is that Zach Grienke came out of camp with his head screwed on straight and slotted in as the #3 Starter.

This spring, he’s been striking out over a batter an inning. My prediction is that Zach will be the #1 stopper by the end of the season. If Meche and Perez can keep their ERAs in the fours, then it gives the Royals three legitimate starters (not superstars, mind you, but quality guys).

Of course, anybody with a rudimentary understanding of baseball statistics can tell you that the days De La Rosa and Duckworth take the mound will be long ones for the KC bullpen. How quickly the farm system can develop solid starters to fill in the back of the rotation will dictate how long it takes for the Royals to truly be a competitive team.

Bullpen (7): Ryan Braun, Octavio Dotel, Jimmy Gobble, Joel Peralta, David Riske, Joakim Soria and Todd Wellemeyer

Dotel got roughed up near the end of Spring Training, but has been throwing bullets since he got to Arizona. I think the days of him putting up a 231 ERA+ are over, but he should be a solid player at the end of games.

The rest of the pen is a mish-mash of average to better-than-okay-but-not-great guys. The wild card is Soria, who has the potential to be the next Johan Santana of Rule 5 picks.

Catcher (2): John Buck and Jason LaRue

Mediocrity took on mediocrity and in the end, it was a battle that neither could win.

The good news is that both backstops have played well enough to be named the starter. Ideally, you’d like to see the younger Buck given a chance to blossom, but if a platoon arrangement keeps both players healthy and productive, it will be hard to complain.

Infield (6): Esteban German, Alex Gordon, Mark Grudzielanek, Tony Peña Jr., Ryan Shealy and Mike Sweeney

While the younger Peña gets his chance to check out the Kansas City MILF scene, perennial underachiever Angel Berroa has finally been sent to AAA.

This quote from Joe Posnanski’s terrific blog pretty much says it all about Berroa. Joe is quoting an anonymous scout:

“He’s awful. Horrible. I wouldn’t have him as a backup. … He still can’t recognize a slider, and he’s so spooked by that he will just watch fastballs go right down the middle of the plate. He has lost about three steps too.”

Outfield (5): Emil Brown, David DeJesus, Ross Gload, Reggie Sanders and Mark Teahen

Speedster Joey Gathright is the loser here, as the Royals have been unable to find any takers for Reggie Sanders, despite a professed willingness to eat most of his contract.

I feel a little bad for Sanders, because I think he can still be a productive major league player if he stays healthy. Unfortunately, he’s just too old for a team like the Royals to justify playing him over younger guys.

A quick story about Sanders from my trip to Surprise this spring:

Mark Teahen was starting the game in centerfield, with Sanders manning right. When somebody for the Diamondbacks hit a towering fly ball to deep center, Sanders ran over and began shouting directions to Teahen.

“BACK BACK BACK… okay, come in a little bit. You got it. You got it!”

Sanders was helpful and encouraging to the very person who was taking his job away. It doesn’t say much about his ability to hit a chest-high fastball, but it says a lot about his character.

Postseason Odds

So, what does this group get us? Baseball Prospectus has published their first Postseason Odds report, based on projected stats and playing time of all major league teams. After running the simulations, the Royals Currently have a 3% chance of making the post season.

The End of Spring Training

The Royals will take on the Astros in Houston for something called the Wal-Mart Cup this weekend.

They finished Cactus League play at 11-16, though the team was second in hitting.

Ross Gload led the regulars with a 1.126 OPS. Billy Butler hit 419/514/774 and is set to terrorize pitchers in the Pacific Coast League until the outfield situation clears up.

Ryan Braun pitched his way onto the roster by only giving up 2 runs in 9.2 innings. Zach Grienke had the best ERA among starters at 3.32.

Now, it is time to put all of those numbers away and play some games that really matter. The Royals will take on the Red Sox in Kansas City at 4:10 p.m. EST on Monday, April 2nd.

Play ball!


Royals Pick Up RHP Hendrickson From Brewers

The Kansas City Royals traded minor league catcher Maxim St. Pierre to the Milwaukee Brewers for right-handed pitcher Ben Hendrickson today.

Despite having a kick-ass name, St. Pierre was one of a bevy of backup catchers clogging the Royals minor league system.

Of course, any trade that doesn’t involve the names Emil Brown or Reggie Sanders isn’t likely to make Royals fans happy in the near future, but for now, let’s take a look at what they got.

Ben Hendrickson has been working his way up through the Brewers farm system since 2000. A few brief stints with the big league club in ’04 and last year haven’t gone so well for young Ben, but in the minors, his numbers look solid if unspectacular.

His best talent seems to be avoiding the long ball, giving up only 0.57 home runs per nine innings over his minor-league career. He appeared to wear down over the course of the season last year, his key stats rising with each passing month until September, when every batter he faced looked like Roy Hobbs swinging a magical wood bat.

Hendrickson will start out the season with AAA Omaha, but he looks like another young arm that general manager Dayton Moore is stockpiling for when Jorge De La Rosa continues pitching like he did today.


Royals Week In Review

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

Notable Stats

Record: 9-12
Spring training records have little to no correlation for the regular season, but it’s worth noting that the Royals current pace would give them a 69-93 record over 162 games.

Butler 1.288 (37 Plate Appearances)
Gload 1.257 (40 PA)
LaRue 1.233 (26 PA)

Billy Butler has been hitting in the last half of most games this spring, which means that production has come against mostly minor-league competition. Still, the boy can hit.

Ross Gload has been getting starts and looks like a lock to keep Justin Huber from getting out of Omaha this year, while Jason LaRue appears to have found his stroke this spring. John Buck is not far behind, but LaRue has proven he can hit in the big leages… Johnny Boy? Not so much.

Dotel 0.00 (6 Innings Pitched)
Soria 2.57 (14 IP)
Grienke 3.86 (14 IP)

Assuming he doesn’t wet his pants when a game that means something is on the line, it looks like the Royals may have found a bullpen solution with Dotel.

With Luke Hudson heading to the DL and Brian Bannister sucking in his last two starts, both Zach Grienke and Joakim Soria may begin the season in the starting rotation. Grienke is still giving up the long ball on occasion, but both of the young pitchers are striking out a batter an inning, which is a welcome sight.

Position Battles

Angel Berroa may have finally worn out his welcome with the big club. He has put up a 263/300/342 line this spring, mirroring his career stats, which are terrible.

BREAKING NEWS:The Royals just picked up Toney Pena Jr. from the Atlanta Braves.

Pena is a good fielding shortstop who doesn’t get on base much and doesn’t hit for any power. His best OPS in the minors was 671. Basically, the Royals have just replaced Angel Berroa with Angel Berroa.

At catcher, both John Buck and Jason LaRue have made good cases for themselves at the plate. I wouldn’t be surprised to see LaRue get the opening day nod over Buck due to his experience, but my guess is they will split time evenly this season.

In other shocking news, Alex Gordon was named the starter at third base, beating out the ghost of George Brett and Phil Hiatt’s flash in the pan.

2007 Predictions
Nearly everybody is predicting the Royals to finish dead last in the American League central with between 92 and 97 losses.

The Hardball Times puts them at 67-95, one game back of Tampa Bay for the worst record in the league.

Arm Chair GM has them at 70-92.

Replacement Level Yankees ran four projection systems through the Diamond Mind simulator to get these results.

CHONE: 64-98
Diamond Mind: 65-97
PECOTA: 66-96
ZIPS: 65-97

This comment puts it bluntly: “[In 4000 simulations, the] Royals are the only team who failed to make the postseason at least once.” puts the team at 85/1 odds to win the world series.

Place your bets now.


Royals Week in Review

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

Grudzie Goes Gimp

The Esteban German experiment at Short took a break this week when Mark Grudzielanek went down with torn cartilage in his left knee. German will take over the starting job at second base until the gold glover is ready to return, which according to reports is anytime between next Thursday and 2009.

Leaving defense aside, German projects as a much better choice at second than Grudzielanek. Last season, he was worth three more runs a game, according the classic formula developed by Bill James.

Of course, German was worth 5.5 more runs than Angel Berroa, who is thus far having a decent spring.

Other Injuries

Joe Nelson has injured his labrum again. Similar injuries kept Nelson from becoming a major league regular in the past. As noted here, Nelson faded badly in the second half for Kansas City last year after pitching brilliantly at the start of the season. The competition for bullpen roles is a lot tighter this year, though, so Joe may find himself hanging out in Omaha for a long time if he makes it back from this latest surgery.

Position Battles

Spring statistics are about as useful to us as J. Howard Marshall’s money is to Anna Nicole Smith, but like Smith, they are fun to look at sometimes.

Buck   600 750 1400
LaRue  400 400 1300

Jason LaRue has shown some nice power in his first healthy Spring Training since knee surgery last year. John Buck has been taking a few walks.

Both players look like locks to make the opening day roster and we may see Buddy Bell use his catchers in tandem like NFL teams are starting to use running backs.

Butler 667 714 1083
Gordon 353 450  588

Billy Butler is treating baseballs like Ron Artest treats his women. Unfortunately, he’s doing so at the plate and in the field.

Alex Gordon looks more like the real deal every day.

Berroa 333 375 533
Blanco 467 467 667

Neither shortstop has taken a walk this spring, though Berroa has been plunked already.

Craig Biggio has made a pretty good career for himself getting on base via the ol’ HBP. Of course, he also hits for power, fields at an adequate level and has that cool tar stain on his helmet.

Other News

Garth Sears rounds up a who’s who of Royals baseball writers for a discussion at Baseball Think Factory.

Bob Dutton discusses options, and reminds us all that crappy players will always make the team so that they don’t go stink it up for some other franchise.


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