Sports Outside the Beltway

O’s woe is me

Ever wonder how much that 30 – 3 loss affected the Orioles?

Hardball times gives the Pythagorean effect for both teams.

Hardball Times also finds a reason that Erik Bedard has been more effective this year. Alas he’s now out indefinitely.

Allowing the other team 30 runs was historic. Now less than two weeks later the O’s are in the history books again. A pitcher no-hit them in only his second start. Who was the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter in only his second start? Wilson Alvarez. In 1991. Against the Orioles.
(BTW that’s a great pun – Clay-nation!)

It’s quite often that baseball writers write about the importance good clubhouse chemistry. Well guess what, apparently the Orioles have it. Even after firing a manager and losing 9 straight.

Trachsel said. “I’ll keep all my doors open. You never say no to anything. I certainly enjoyed it and liked this clubhouse.”

That’s on a fourth place club fading fast.

Peter Schmuck is glad that Andy MacPhail got to see the real Orioles.

The Orioles’ record under Trembley at the time of his extension was 29-25, which was quite in contrast to the club’s 29-40 mark when Sam Perlozzo was fired. The difference also was apparent in the team’s demeanor between June 18 (when Trembley took over) and Aug. 22 (when the extension was announced). That’s all well and good, but the only fundamental change was the new manager’s increased emphasis on fundamentals.

That 54-game span of modestly winning baseball is not some dynamic statistical anomaly. Over the course of a 162-game season, almost every team – no matter how hapless – has an extended run of respectability.

Want proof? The Kansas City Royals, the yardstick by which baseball measures pain, went 29-24 from June 1 through Aug. 1. The Washington Nationals, the other MASN partner that entered the weekend mired in a long losing streak, went 29-26 from June 6 through Aug. 7.

In other words, it happens. Don’t get carried away.

I’d write more but this is just getting depressing. There’s always next year. Or 2010.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad.


Arod becomes youngest to 500


Alex Rodriguez 500th Home Run Photo New York Yankees Alex Rodriguez leaned to his right and watched the ball as it sailed toward the foul pole in left. When it stayed true, he threw up his hands — the long wait for No. 500 was finally over.

Rodriguez became the youngest player in major league history to hit 500 home runs, connecting on the first pitch he saw Saturday to end a 10-day wait.

“I acted like a goofball running around the bases, but you only hit 500 once,” he said after the New York Yankees beat Kansas City 16-8.

The 32-year-old Rodriguez stood at home plate for a second after his first-inning drive off Kyle Davies, waiting to see where it would land.

“I didn’t know if it was going to be fair or foul. I was so relieved it stayed fair,” Rodriguez said. “I hadn’t hit one in so long.”

It took long enough, and now he can (hopefully) focus on having good at-bats instead of trying to hit another homerun.

Phil Hughes started off well, pitching two hitless innings, but fell apart in the 3rd and then the 5th. I wouldn’t look too much into it though – his first start against Toronto in April was very similar, and then he pitched a 6.1 inning no-hitter his next time out.

- Elsewhere, Joba pitched in relief duty again, and needless to say, made more AAA hitters look foolish: 2 ip, 1 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 5 k.


Joba and Kennedy promoted, Clemens strong

The Yanks top two pitching prospects were promoted from double-A Trenton to triple-A Scranton. They’re now just one step from the Bronx. Tyler Clippard and Chase Wright were demoted to make room.

As for the big Yankees -

It is hard to think of any series with the Kansas City Royals as a significant test. But facts are facts, and when they faced the Yankees at Kauffman Stadium on Monday, the Royals were coming off series victories on the road against Boston and Detroit, the teams with the two best records in the majors.

“We watch the scoreboard,” Yankees Manager Joe Torre said, “and they’ve been playing good teams very tough.”

That might be true, but there was not much evidence in this game. The Yankees thumped the Royals, 9-2, behind seven strong innings from Roger Clemens.

The Yankees have won 9 of their past 11 games and have scored 47 runs in their past three games. They gave Clemens a 4-0 lead in the second inning and he protected it, allowing four hits and striking out three.

The victory was the 351st of Clemens’s career, or 100 more than the combined career total of all of the Royals’ pitchers.

Continued here.


Royals Week in Review – 7/20/07

After sticking it to the Red Sox, the Kansas City Royals prepare for a showdown with evil next week. But, before the Yankees come to Kauffman stadium, the boys in blue must first vanquish the front-running Detroit Tigers in the Motor City.

Ivan Rodriguez’s ninth inning homer must be avenged!

Month by Month
Thanks to the hard work of people like Sean Forman, hacks like me can find stats like this almost instantly:

       W   L   RS   RA   WP
April  8   18  99   132  .308
May    11  17  112  159  .393
June   15  12  145  117  .556
July   7   6   74   56   .538
Courtesy of

God, I love the internet.

As you can see, the Royals have turned into a winning ball club over the last two months. The results for July are difficult to judge, as the team hit a lucky stretch playing in Boston against two of the Beantowner’s lesser pitchers.

Playing on the road against the division leaders and then against a New York team that smells blood in the water should be a truer test of the progress the team has made.

Trading Deadline
Thanks to the internet age, pretty much every major leaguer can count on his name coming up in a trade rumor about this time of year. Both of my dead grandmothers have been linked to talks with the Cubs about a mid-level prospect.

The fact is, only Octavio Dotel is likely to get any serious scratch back for the Royals this season.

Dotel has a 3.15 ERA in 20 innings with the team this year, and it looks like bringing him back is not an option. If Dayton Moore can flip the Dominican for some top-level farm help, then his one-year contract will have been worth the gamble.

Future Stars
A quick refresher on some common stats I use.

AVG – Batting Average. Most people are familiar with this metric.
OBP – On Base Percentage. This takes into account walks and hit-by-pitches to give a better look at ability to get on base.
SLG – Slugging Average. This accounts for a player’s power by giving credit for each base reached with a hit. 1 for a single, 2 for a double, etc.

Currently, the American League is batting 269/340/419 (AVG/OBP/SLG).

Here is how some of the young players on the Royals stack up:

Billy Butler – 348/400/580 since being called up June 20th
Alex Gordon – 303/358/434 since the first of June
Mark Teahen – 366/487/548 with runners in scoring position
Joey Gathright – 315/390/370 before being sent down when Reggie Sanders came of the disabled list

Reggie Sanders is 377/450/623 on the season. AVAILABLE NOW!!! DIRT CHEAP!!!

Of course, Reginald is a career 267/343/489 hitter, which is nothing to sneeze at, but lends one to believe his current numbers may not hold up.

On the pitching side, there are several players to be excited about.

Brian Bannister – 3.87 ERA Ambriorix Burgos, whom the Royals traded straight-up for Bannister before the season, has put up decent numbers with the Mets as a reliever, but is currently on the disabled list.

Joakim Soria – 1.98 ERA Don’t forget, this guy through a perfect game in winter ball. Here’s hoping he won’t be relegated to the bullpen forever.

Jimmy Gobble – 2.67 ERA It’s easy to forget that Gobble is only 25 years old. His splits are heavily favored against left handed batters, but there’s something to be said for finding a role for a player who failed to meet expectations with regularity over the last four years.


Royals Week in Review – 7/14/07

Kansas City Royals come out of the All Star Break with a ton of momentum and a killer schedule. A few minor moves this week show that General Manager Dayton Moore may be warming up to be a player as the trade market heats up this month.

All Star Game
The Royals sent their $55 Million Man to San Francisco to represent this week. Mr. Meche’s line:


Good work, Gil.

For a rundown of recent Royals in the mid-summer classic, check out Royals Review.

Perception vs. Reality
Now at the halfway point of the season, let’s take a look at how the main players have compared to their pre-season projections.

OPS     Curr  Proj  Diff
Gthrght 796   665   19.70%
Buck    872   739   18.00%
Pena    668   573   16.58%
Grudz   749   709    5.64%
German  768   745    3.09%
DeJesus 783   786   -0.38%
Butler  767   786   -2.42%
Teahen  765   810   -5.56%
Gload   681   817  -16.65%
Gordon  679   834  -18.59%
Brown   608   781  -22.15%

ERA     Curr  Proj  Diff
Soria   2.21  6.21  64.41%
Riske   2.21  4.36  49.31%
Gobble  2.70  5.17  47.78%
Banny   3.71  5.84  36.47%
Meche   3.54  4.90  27.76%
Peralta 3.64  4.50  19.11%
Dotel   3.50  4.17  16.07%
dlaRosa 5.16  5.55   7.03%
Greinke 4.63  4.76   2.73%
Perez   5.68  4.75 -19.58%

As you can see, the pitching staff has blown away the projections so far this year. There will most certainly be a regression to the mean for most of these pitchers, but the staff has already proven to be a bigger strength than most people expected.

The offense is a more of a mixed bag. John Buck has been in breakout mode for most of the year, still hitting for power even though his average has gone down. Tony Pena Jr. will most certainly come crashing back to earth, but the rest of the batters should be able to improve their stats as the second half rolls along.

Thug Royals
The GM started the trading season with a couple of minor moves, but both will affect the big league roster soon.

Aside from his pending charge for felonious assault, Roman Colon has put up decent stats in the minors and with Atlanta and Detroit. Out of options, he will need to be put on the 25 man roster next week.

Colon was used as a starter often early in his minor league career. One has to wonder if a few more bad outings by some of the team’s lesser starters will put him in the prime scoring card location soon.

Jason Smith has already taken over the role of utility infielder on the team since being picked up from the Diamondbacks organization earlier this week.

Aside from a good season at AAA Colorado Springs last year, Smith has been exactly what you’d expect from a journeyman utility player.


Royals Week in Review – 6/29/07

Having swept the California Angels of Southern Antiqua, the Kansas City Royals look to the Chicago White Sox, a team that is one bad weekend away from taking over the cellar position the Royals have held for so long.

As this weekend will mark the halfway point of the season, let’s take a look at some of the notable stats from the first 79 games.

Offense & Defense

Mo   RS   RA   OPS  ERA
Apr  3.8  5.1  700  4.32
May  4.0  5.7  699  5.27
Jun  5.4  4.5  730  4.30

The offense has shown dramatic improvement in the last month, while the pitching has come back strong after an off month in May. Even the defense has stepped it up from the first month of the season, with only 5% of runs allowed being unearned in June, compared to 17% in April.


Reggie Sanders will probably end the season as the team leader in OPS (On-Base Percentage + Slugging Average) as long as his sore hammy keeps him on the disabled list. These are the top three players looking to take over his 1.059 showing.

Buck      907
Gathright 851
Teahen    795

Even better for the Royals, the hot hands in June all look to play a significant role in the team’s future.

OPS June
DeJesus   885
Gordon    885
Buck      880
Gathright 851

Joey Gathright has been getting on base at a .446 clip since his call up on June 6. While he does only have three extra base hits, the speedster has also stolen five bags while only getting caught once.

From a pitching standpoint, the relief staff has an overall ERA of 4.06 compared to the starters at 4.95.

A look at June ERA shows that while the bullpen has really been heating up, the rotation still needs some serious work.

ERA June
Soria   0.00
Riske   1.42
Peralta 2.08
Dotel   2.53

Banny   3.00
Meche   3.98
DL Rosa 6.41
Perez   6.66
Elartn 11.15

Gil Meche has slipped a little, but still looks like a win for Dayton Moore, while Brian Bannister has held his own.

De La Rosa is a fantastic pitcher to have if the game were still being played without stadium lights (a 3-0 record in day games); Odalis Perez is looking a lot like the devil, and Scott Elarton can stay in Omaha forever as far as I’m concerned.

Winners & Losers
Thanks to the wonderful stats over at Fangraphs (track a game live and see how your emotions look in a line chart), we can see who has contributed the most to the Royals wins and losses this year.

The stat Winning Percentage Added (WPA) gives credit for every play made that increases or decreases a teams chance at winning a game. As such, it puts greater importance on plays made late in a game, where the outcome of the game becomes more certain.

Team WPA
Offense  -5.43
Starters -2.15
Relief   +1.08

Most observers believed that Kansas City getting a reliable bullpen would be a sign of the apocalypse. No four horsemen yet, but keep your eyes peeled.

Individual WPA
Soria   1.40
Grienke 1.27

Meche   0.95

DeJesus 0.54
Teahen  0.52

Elartn -1.18
Pena   -2.04

After some poor outings as a starter, Zack Grienke has ratcheted up his WPA by getting some big strikeouts as a reliever. Soria has been an absolute steal for the team, and one wonders if they shouldn’t begin stretching him out to be a starter like Minnesota did with Johan Santana.

The two guys who have hurt the team most have one distinct difference: fielding. While TPJ may flail away at the plate like a tee baller facing the high school kids, he has flashed some pretty good leather this season, something that isn’t accounted for much in these numbers.

Scott Elarton just stinks. One good outing in AAA will not convince me otherwise.

A young offense is coming around, and the bullpen has been a revelation. Dayton Moore must continue adding to the starting rotation. That is the key to this team becoming a threat in the American League in the very near future.


Royals Week in Review – 6/22/07

Something happened to the Kansas City Royals bats around June first. I don’t know what it is, but after losing seven in a row, the boys in blue have pretty much taken Pythag out behind the woodshed the last few weeks.

The following chart has two lines:

The RED line represents the Royals running pythagorean record based on runs scored and runs allowed as the season progresses.

The BLUE line is a rolling ten game snapshot of their pythagorean record.

Basically, the blue line spikes whenever the team has a particularly good stretch of games (e.g. putting 17 runs on the board in the space of five days), and drops when they struggle (the aforementioned seven game losing streak).

The Royals are currently riding their second wave of sustained success. It’s good to see the team bounce back after that disheartening stretch in May, but the real key to sustained improvement lies in the moves General Manager Dayton Moore makes between now and the trading deadline.

Addition by Subtraction
Whoever kicked Scott Elarton in the ankle is this month’s MVP if you ask me. 2-3 with a 9.17 ERA in eight starts? I watched him pitch against the Cardinals the other night and I’m pretty sure I could have taken him yard, his stuff was so bad.

Despite Joe Posnanski’s push for a four-man rotation, the Royals have signed John Thompson to take Elarton’s place in the rotation.

The Royals opted for Thomson after choosing to keep Zack Greinke and Joakim Soria in the bullpen. They also resisted any inclination to promote any of their three top pitching prospects: Billy Buckner, Luke Hochevar and Tyler Lumsden.

While I’d like to see Grienke get another shot at the rotation, I’m okay with this move right now, as Zack seems to have found a groove coming out of the bullpen.

Thompson is your standard issue fourth starter, with a career ERA of 4.69 with four different teams. As seems to be the case with many of Moore’s moves, he had some success in Atlanta, going 14-8 with a 3.72 ERA in 2004.

Sweeney Out
I’m done with jokes about Mike Sweeney’s ailing back and annual trips to the disabled list. He will leave as one of the most productive hitters in Royals history and one of the most frustrating. I think big Mike’s heart really was dedicated to making the Royals a better team, but his body could not shoulder the strain.

Thus, young Billy Ray will be getting another chance to taste the bright lights and lavish buffets of big league baseball. The Royals have officially taken the glove away from their top prospect, but plan to give him an opportunity to impress with the stick.

Butler will pinch-hit the next five games and then DH every day until Sweeney returns. KC considered other players but Butler was the only option who was on the 40-man roster that could be called up and then sent back to Minors without passing through waivers.

Now that Alex Gordon is hitting like the hype (333/361/507 since June 1st), the Royals young offense may be exciting to watch the next few months.

All Star Voting
Personally, I’d like to see John Buck named as the Royals representative at the upcoming All-Star game. He has been the team’s most productive hitter, looks like a bad-ass with his new hair do, and maybe it would force the team to stop making their All Star split time with Jason LaRue.

As it is, the Royals will probably have to settle for one of their pitchers milling around the bullpen in San Francisco, waiting for the chance to serve up a Barry Bonds homer in front of the home crowd.

If that’s the case, then Jim Leyland would have to give Gil Meche his top consideration. Despite last night’s wobbly start, Meche has been everything the Royals could have hoped for so far this year, and thanks to his contract, he is a name some people might have heard of.

I could see Leyland giving the nod to David Riske. He’s go an ERA under three and was nice enough to serve up that game winning homer to Ivan Rodriguez on April 8th.


Royals Week In Review – 6/8/07

The Kansas City Royals decided to take a week off from playing baseball, reflect on the lives they’ve led and generally kill any positive momentum from taking eight of ten contests before their big slide.

How badly did the recent seven game losing streak suck?

Here it is in sparkline form (Black bars are games decided by more than two runs):

On May 23, the Royals stood at 19-28, on pace for 65 wins and looking like a team with a future.

After failing to play even a close game for a week, they had a 19-35 record and were once again staring down 100 losses.

We won’t examine the run differentials during the losing streak because some people read this blog over lunch.

On to the week that was.

The Draft
Royals Authority has a nice breakdown of the Royals picks from the first day of the draft.

Dayton Moore’s focus was mostly on high school pitchers. Given that the roster he put together for this season is currently running neck in neck with Texas and Cincinnati for the worst record in baseball, I think it’s fair to say that Dayton has a strong affinity for young boys.

RIP: Angel Berroa’s Career.

While it’s true that the hack master may clear waivers and put enough balls in play at AAA to get another call up, I’m still willing to put good money on Berroa’s career with the Royals being over.

Joey Gathright was called up to replace the former rookie of the year.

Gathright has been an on-base machine at Omaha this year, getting on at a .456 clip. He has already stolen two bases in two games with the Royals, so it looks like Buddy Bell is planning to use his new toy often.

Joakim Soria has also returned from the disabled list. The plan for now is to have him set up closer Octavio Dotel, but if OD keeps putting 2.5 runners on for every save he gets, the young Mexican may soon find himself finishing ball games again.

John Buck
The Hardball Times has a nice look at the big catcher’s season so far. Conclusion: Buddy Bell is an idiot for sitting him two out of every five games.


Royals Week in Review – 5/25/07

The Kansas City Royals once again stunned the world by putting together another winning week. The overall record stands at 19-29, on pace for 64 wins, which still sucks but at least shows signs of improvement.

The last two weeks have seen the Royals go 7-3, giving them an 11-11 record for the month of May.

Most encouragingly, the bats of Alex Gordon and Ryan Shealy have both started to come around, while John Buck continues to play at an elevated level.

Baird’s Signature Trade
On June 24, 2004, the Royals, Astros and Athletics swapped some players in what was widely viewed as Allard Baird’s biggest move as general manager. Here is what the Carlos Beltran Trade looks like today:

   Belt  Buck/Tea
05 17.6  0.7
06 68.5  26.9
07 19.0  28.1

Of course, Carlos has been putting those numbers up for the Mets, not the Astros, and at a significantly higher rate than what Buck and Mark Teahen are costing the Royals.

“Gil Gauge” Replaces “Meche Meter”
Craig Brown at Royals Authority is going to use the classic “game scores” stat to keep track of how Gil Meche is paying off for the Royals.

In my opinion, tonight’s start is going to be a true barometer for Meche. The team covered his terrible start last week against Colorado by pulling out several comeback wins.

Unfortunately, getting spanked by Cleveland last night is the kind of thing that can turn a couple of good weeks into a bad month.

This is what your number one pitcher is required to do: Win games like tonight. Stop the bleeding and fast. Not just keep the team in the game, but shut down the opponent and let the offense know that they aren’t required to drive in five runs in the late innings every night.

Meche can really put his stamp on the season by shutting down the Indians tonight.

Other Stuff
Mike Sweeney has expressed interest in continuing his career as a catcher. Hey, stop laughing. I think he’s serious. No, you’re right. That is laughably ludicrous.

Club officials revealed plans for stadium renovations. Work will begin in the off season and the final product will debut in 2009. Among the plans are seats along the outfield fountains. I think this will be cool until the first strong wind starts blowing mist into the faces of a few wealthy patrons.

All Star voting is open. Next week, we’ll take a look at who might be the Royals most worthy representative.


Royals Week in Review – 5/18/07

The Kansas City Royals are winners. There’s just no other way to put it. Check out the week-by-week record.

4/2  – 2-4
4/9  – 1-5
4/16 – 3-3
4/23 – 2-5
4/30 – 2-5
5/7  - 2-4
5/14 – 3-1

It has taken seven weeks to make it happen, but the Royals are finally a winning ball club.

Million-dollar Gil has been earning his dollars so far. Take out his horrid start on April 7, his numbers look like this:

8 54.1 49 14  7 14 43 3  1.16

Even adding in those seven unearned runs only puts his RA at 2.33 over that period.

Last week, we pointed this out about John Buck.

Dates       G  AVG OBP SLG OPS
4/2  – 4/20 14 429 529 893 1422
4/22 – 5/10 14 175 286 300 586

Apparently, John reads this blog, because he went on a six game hitting streak with three homeruns and seven RBIs. Mr. Buck, duly noted.

It’s getting to that point in the season when a lot of players are shuffled between the big league roster, the minor leagues and the disabled list.

Here are some of the notable transactions from this past week.

5/10 – Reinstated RHP Luke Hudson from the 15-day DL
5/13 – Placed RHP Luke Hudson on the 15-day DL

Two innings, four walks and five runs allowed. Thanks for stopping by, Luke.

5/13 – Recalled SS Angel Berroa from Triple-A Omaha and placed INF Ross Gload on the 15-day disabled list with strained quadriceps.

The out machine is back. Here is how Angel Berroa and Tony Pena, JR stack up after 41 games.

TPJ 07 250 285 340 957
AB  06 238 248 331 969

Range stats are still an inexact science, but most scouts will tell you that Pena is getting to a lot more balls than Berroa would have. From an offensive standpoint, TPJ will keep the advantage as long as he keeps slapping those triples.

5/16 – Recalled 1B Ryan Shealy from his injury rehabilitation assignment and activated him from the 15-day disabled list; Optioned OF Billy Butler to Triple-A Omaha.

It’s being commented elsewhere that Billy Butler is getting the Justin Huber treatment, but I don’t think that’s fair. The team called him up because he was ready and has been upfront about the fact he rode the bench to avoid injury as soon as they knew that he would be sent down when Shealy came back.

If Reggie Sanders isn’t on the DL, I think Emil Brown is touring Triple-A facilities for some other team right now. Alex Gordon playing first base isn’t anything we want to see for an extended period of time and putting Mike Sweeney there everyday is a ruptured disc waiting to happen.

Shane Costa can fight it out with Emil for the corner outfield spot until Reggie Sanders comes back, and it won’t be the organization’s top prospect getting sporadic playing time. I imagine Butler will be back sooner rather than later and at season’s end, the average age of the Royals lineup will be sitting somewhere south of 30.


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