Saturday, November 22, 2008

Crisp not part of the solution

Alot of Royals fans are jubilant because Moore traded for a speedy, young, cheap, centerfielder with good on-base skills. Except he really didn't, instead he acquired Coco Crisp. Now I know I'm going to be accused of unwarranted negativity because it seems like I bash every move DM makes but that's not whats going on here. I stayed silent a few days and really thought about this trade and here's what I decided - it's a lateral move and Crisp is neither an upgrade or a downgrade. As a complementary player on a good team he won't hurt you but on a team looking for offense a playmaker and sparkplug he is not. He does offer superb defense and is a stolen base threat (though his SB % is less than ideal) so this probably means Joey Gathright's days are numbered. Gathright had two things going for him, speed & defense, and he is not your protoypical fourth outfielder. That job barring a trade should belong to Mark Teahen.
Three things though irk me about this trade.

Number one, as usual, is that Crisp does not have the necessary on-base skills to bat leadoff. I've shown the direct relationship between OBP & runs with wins in KC's recent history so it continues to surprise me that DM goes after these types of players. Mike Jacobs will hit home runs and Coco Crisp will steal some bases but neither will get on enough to significantly help this team score more runs. Crisp has never had an OBP of .350 but the guy he is essentially replacing (Teahen) has done it two times in the last three years. Again you need base runners to score runs. It really is that simple.

Number two is his age. He is 29 and not likely to get any better than he is right now. If this were November 2005 and KC had acquired the 26 year old coming off a .300/.345/.465 campaign I would be ecstatic but that was three years ago and Crisp hasn't shown the ability to replicate that season, and most likely won't this year. His career stat line of .267/.319/.435 at Kauffman Stadium is also perplexing, mainly because it was done against some very poor KC pitching staffs.

Number three is his contract. 5.5 million this year and either 8 million or a $500,000 buyout next year. If KC buys out his contract then they basically gave the talented Ramon Ramirez away, he of the 127 career ERA+. Much like the possibility of Grudz coming back this is a terrible allocation of resources for a small market club.

Ultimately Crisp won't hurt the team and definitely isn't going to cause them to score fewer runs (if thats even possible) but if he and Jacobs are the only offensive moves that are made then I believe DM wasn't paying enough attention last season.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Teahen to the Cubs?

The Cubs are looking at Mark Teahen according to Bob Dutton.
A more-likely possibility is Felix Pie, a 23-year-old once viewed as a can’t-miss prospect. Pie batted just .223 in 260 at-bats with the Cubs over the last two years after posting strong minor-league numbers.
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The Cubs can also offer shortstop Ronny Cedeno or second baseman Mike Fontenot if the Royals prefer to acquire a middle-infield partner for Mike Aviles.

None of these guys really excite and I don't see where Cedeno or Fontenot would be an upgrade over Callaspo. Pie, who has struggled against major league pitching, is the youngest and gives DM the centerfielder he has long coveted. Offensively he looks like a Teahen-clone so if this trade is made it would be for the sole purpose of moving DDJ out of centerfield.

Career At Bats AVG/OBP/SLG OPS
Minors 2509 .299/.353/.470 .823
Majors 260 .223/.284/.331 .615

Now to be fair to Pie, 260 at bats is really a small sample size so his major league track record isn't what is keeping me from liking this potential trade. It's that 2008 was a down year for Teahen so it seems like DM is selling low. He's just really desperate for a centerfielder or middle infielder and so maybe he's not thinking rationally.

Pie will just be 24 when the season begins so it's quite possible he is ready to reach his potential but if his potential is a pre-2008 Teahen then what's the point?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Coincidence? I think not.

A lot has been made about DM's talk about the importance of on base percentage and how his offseason moves have ran counter to this belief (Jacobs trade, Olivo coming back). Here's what I know, there is a direct correlation between OBP and runs scored so to casually dismiss the most important offensive stat in baseball is borderline ridiculous. Look at the Royals the last nine years, their two best seasons came when they were in the top 8 in OBP - which not coincidently put them in the top 6 in runs scored. The rest of decade they have been 10th or worse in OBP and runs scored.
Year OBP (RK) Runs (RK) Record
2000 .348 (8) 879 (5) 77-85
2001 .318 (14) 729 (10) 65-97
2002 .323 (10) 737 (11) 62-100
2003 .336 (6) 836 (4) 83-79
2004 .322 (13) 720 (11) 58-104
2005 .320 (13) 701 (12) 56-106
2006 .332 (11) 757 (12) 62-100
2007 .322 (13) 706 (13) 69-93
2008 .320 (12) 691 (12) 75-87

Now offense wasn't the sole reason for those dreadful records as KC put out some truly horrible pitching staffs but right now pitching is their strength and a top 5 offense will put the Royals in the playoffs next season.  It's really not hard to figure out so playing guys who make outs over 70% of the time is not the way to move this franchise forward.

But thats just me, Moore apparently sees it differently.
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BP's Christina Karhl discusses the Jacobs acquisition with Eric Sanlnocencio on BDD Live. Karhl comes on at the 43 minute mark. Except for Jacobs being called a poor mans Bob Hamelin I agree with everything that was said. Hamelin was really an underrated player. Think about this; the Royals released him after a season in which he put up a .391 OBP (and no, Moore wasn't the GM).

Friday, November 7, 2008

Why does Dayton Moore hate on base percentage?

According to this piece in the KC Star DM is considering offering arbitration to Mark Grudzielanek.
Moore won’t rule out the possibility of offering arbitration to veteran second baseman Mark Grudzielanek, who filed last week for free agency.
“I wouldn’t say that,” Moore warned. “There are some other things that we might have in the works. I can’t make that decision until it’s time to make it.”
The general consensus is that KC is looking for a shortstop so they can move Mike Aviles to second base. Failing that they would look for a second baseman and keep Aviles at short. My question is why? They have Alberto Callaspo in house and he is far cheaper than Grudz or any free agent they would sign. I understand that he brought his character issues with him after DM traded Billy Buckner for him but if he straightened himself out a Aviles/Callaspo middle infield would be quite productive. I know Callaspo isn't the defensive whiz that they want but he is adequate enough and his offense will more than make up for any defensive shortcomings. Looking at their stats from last season I think they have to go with youth.
Player age AVG/OBP/SLG OPS+
Grudzielanek 38 .299/.345/.399 100
Callaspo 25 .305/.361/.371 98
One benefit to offering Grudz arbitration is that if he declines then they will get an extra draft pick but if he accepts then, as Dutton pointed out, he would most likely get a raise from the 4.5 million he made in 2008. For a small market team this would be a terrible allocation of resources since they basically have a younger, cheaper version of Grudz in Callaspo.

Only three AL second baseman (min. 400 PAs) had a higher OBP than Callaspo's .361 - Brian Roberts (.378), Dustin Pedroia (.376), and Ian Kinsler (.375). Now I'm not suggesting that he is in their class because he's not, they are the three top second baseman in the AL. But if he can maintain that OBP over a full season then he would be a notch below them.

Kansas City has some pressing needs with a run producing corner outfielder & a starting pitcher the top two but KC seems set at shortstop and second base and maybe it's time Dayton Moore figured that out.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Projections versus reality

On February 14th I posted my projections for the 2008 Royals. So now I'd thought it would be fun to see how they held up against actual numbers. Today I'll just look at the hitters.

Catchers:
John Buck
RSP -  .245/.305/.420 15, 50
Reality - .224/.304/.365 9 ,48
I didn't foresee the power drop. I'm not sure anyone did.

Miguel Olivo
RSP - .230/.285/.390 6, 30
Reality - .255/.278/.444 12, 41
He received more plate appearances than I thought he would but I didn't expect him to get on base much.

First Base:
Ryan Shealy
RSP - .275/.345/.460 17, 70
Reality - .301/.354/.603 7, 20
Shealy played just one month and just crushed the ball. What might have been.......

Ross Gload
RSP - .280/.335/.400 4, 35
Reality - .273/.317/.348 3, 37
He started 100 games at first base....with those numbers......meanwhile Shealy hits 22 hrs for Omaha.....and Gload starts 100 games.....with those numbers.

Second Base
Mark Grudzielanek
RSP - .285/.330/.385 4, 52
Reality - .299/.345/.399 3, 24
Grudz was having a solid season until an injury ended it early.

Alberto Callaspo
RSP -  .305/.365/.410 7, 45
Reality - .305/.361/.371 0,16
I nailed batting average and was close with his OBP but don't have a clue why I thought he would hit 7 home runs.

Esteban German
RSP - .295/.380/.420 3, 25
Reality - .245/.303/.338 0, 22
Sporadic playing time early in the year affected his production.

Shortstop
Tony Pena Jr
RSP - .255/.275/.350 5, 40
Reality - .169/.189/.209 1, 14
I didn't expect much and TPJ still managed to disappoint. 

No projection for Mike Aviles due to the fact I thought he was going to be Hubered.

Third Base
Alex Gordon
RSP - .310/.380/.520 25, 105
Reality - .261/.351/.432 16, 59
Disappointing season but I still think he is going to be a force.

Outfield
Mark Teahen
RSP - .300/.370/.450 15, 80
Reality - .255/.313/.402 15, 59
I thought Teahen would perform close to his 2006 self but sadly that year appears to be a fluke.

David DeJesus
RSP -  .280/.355/.420 8, 55
Reality - .307/.366/.452 13, 71
Career year for DDJ I didn't see coming.

Joey Gathright
RSP - .295/.360/.390 1, 25
Reality - .254/.311/.272 0, 22
If he can't get on base he has zero offensive value.

Jose Guillen
RSP - .280/.345./.470 24, 85
Reality - .264/.300/.438 20, 97
Some will say that with 42 doubles, 20 hrs, & 97 rbi's that he gave the Royals exactly what they needed. They would be wrong. 

DH
Billy Butler
RSP - .310/.390/.500 21, 100
Reality - .274/.324/.400 11, 55
Stronger in the second half but still not what anyone in KC expected. Doesn't seem to be in the teams future plans.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Olivo returns

Miguel Olivo is coming back to KC for the 2009 & 2010 seasons. This probably means the end of the John Buck era in Kansas City as Olivo said he would only return as the #1 guy and I doubt there was any miscommunication this time. Brayan Pena also was added to the 40 man roster and will most likely be the back up. I don't hate this move as much as you'd think even with Olivo's .278 OBP last year. Mostly because Buck isn't exactly an on base machine himself and really isn't the great defensive catcher many think he is. When you have two guys that are basically the same it's not a bad idea to take the one with more power and better defense.
I also like Pena and was disappointed he didn't get a September call up this past season. His career numbers are abysmal but his playing time has been sporadic so it's hard to get a good idea what type of hitter he is. His minor league line of .313/.362/.411 is solid (if not impressive) for a catcher.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

7 questions about the AL Central

With another year in the books I've decided to reach across the blogosphere and bring in a little help to answer 7 questions about the AL Central's 2008 season. Many people (including myself) expected Detroit to run away with the division and I doubt anybody expected a White Sox/Twins showdown. I guess thats why they play the games. To me next season looks wide open and depending on offseason moves it appears that any of the five teams (yes even the Royals) could win the division. But lets talk about 2008.

Here's out our panel and their respective blogs:
Andrew from The 35th Street Review (White Sox)
Ray from  Royals on Radio etc.
Keith from  Royals Prospects
John from Minnesota Twins MVB
Matt from Take 75 North (Tigers)

1. Who was the Centrals best hitter?
Andrew - Nick Swisher! Just kidding. I know this isn't an impartial answer, but I have to vote for Carlos Quentin. It's true he missed a month over what was basically a stupid, self-inflicted injury, but there's a reason he set new records for getting hit by pitches. Let that be a warning to the rest of the league - if you think you can hurt Carlos Quentin, you're wrong. Only Carlos Quentin can hurt Carlos Quentin.

Ray - You've got to have all the elements to be the top hitter,contact, power,OBP, etc. and with that said Morneau is IMO the best overall top hitter in the ALC.
 Quention certainly challenged but his injury stopped him at least till next year.
The durable Morneau who played in 163 games this year, scored 97 runs,had 187 hits, 23 HR and an awesome 129 RBI his OBP is a lower at .374 got the victory over  his closest competition Miguel Cabrera simply because of Miguel's high K rate and the fact the Twins overachieved (like always) and the Tigers bombed. But not's let forget the rest of the field and it's a good one: Mauer, Dye, Thome, Sizemore.

Keith - I think you have to go with Carlos Quentin. The 26 year old finished 2nd in HR (36), 4th in OBP (.394) and 11th in RBI (100) in the American League.  The only thing that stopped him from having an even better season were two separate injuries that limited him to only 480 at bats during the season.

John - Grady Sizemore. Carlos Quentin was great for 5 months and I have a great bias for Joe Mauer. But if I were starting a team and had to pick one hitter in the ALC I'd go with Sizemore.

Matt - That question makes me think we're talking solely about offense, so I'll go with Carlos Quentin. If we were talking relative to their position, you'd have to throw Grady Sizemore and Joe Mauer into the mix.

2. Who was the Centrals top pitcher?
Andrew - I wanted to make the argument here for John Danks, but then I remembered Cliff Lee led the American League in wins, ERA, and pretty much everything else. I can only imagine how many he would have won if the Tribe had actually put up some runs behind his starts.

Ray - I'll have to go with Cliff (Cy) Lee easily, I mean mind boggling numbers: 22 wins to only 3 losses? A 2.54 ERA ? That's insane for a guy who one year ago had a 5-8 record with 6.29 ERA and came into the year basically, on the "bubble" fighting to remain in the rotation. And then to have his numbers !!!

Keith - Most people at the beginning of the season would have thought that the obvious answer to this question would have been another pitcher, well possibly even two other pitchers, in a Cleveland Indians uniform but Cliff Lee is behind door number three to answer this question.  After a 2007 campaign where he pitched in only 97.1 innings with a 6.28 ERA, Lee completely turned it around in 2008.  At one point in his career you would have considerded Lee a “nice” workhorse type pitcher, but after putting up a season where he won 22 games and had a WHIP of 1.11 you have to think that he will win the AL Cy Young award in a couple of weeks.

John - Ironically, for being a 3rd place club Cleveland also represents this award. Cliff Lee came out of nowhere to go 22-3. Two of those loses were in the AL and only one in the Central (to the Twins!).

Matt - Cliff Lee

3. After the failure of the 1000 run offense will Detroit choose to rebuild or try to reload?
Andrew - I hope they reload, because that means the Tigers dealt away yet more prospects and tied up even more money in free agents. However, their attempts to dump Gary Sheffield and Kenny Rogers towards the end of the season suggested the kittens might be smarter than I'd like. Expect a fire sale of epic proportions.

Ray - hmm good question, after that failure I think they will rebuild to some extent they've already dished I-Rod to the Yanks and I think Sheffield won't be a Tiger much longer. Renteria is a free agent and he won't return. So I'd say to yeah they'll rebuild but they will also do some reloading and with Mags and Granderson they'll always be dangerous no matter what they due.

Keith - I fight with this question the most, their fall to the basement of the AL Central was completely unexpected.  When they traded for Miguel Cabrera (not so much Dontrelle Willis) I pencilled in the Tigers to goto the World Series.  They had a strong, youthful staff and a line up that some said would rival the output of the 1927 Yankees.  It is obvious that their pitching staff let the team down as they allowed the 3rd most runs (Orioles and Rangers) in the 2008 season.  No one would have thought that Verlander, Bonderman and Robertson would have regressed as much as they did, although I think everyone thought Willis was overrated and not worth a long term contract.
I think that the pitching staff will turn it around in 2009, the three guys I mentioned above are better than the numbers they produced this year.  They’re going to have to find a catcher in the off-season via trade or free agency but otherwise I like, but don’t love, their team as is and expect to see them fight it out for the AL Central title in ‘09.

John - With the age of their players and size of their contracts rebuilding won't be a quick process. I think they can chalk 2008 up to a disappointment and hope their pitching rights itself to make another run for the division in 2009.

Matt - They will try to reload, pretty much out of necessity. They have too much guaranteed salary for 2009 to try to rebuild. They're stuck with some serious payroll and it would not serve them to rebuild at this point.

4. Would Cleveland have won the division had they not traded CC?
Andrew - It's not impossible, considering a mere seven more wins would have done the trick. In fact, with records of 7-11 against the Sox and 8-10 against the Twins, you have to wonder how many times Mark Shapiro's name has been cursed since roughly the day after they traded Sabathia - which, coincidentally, is exactly when they started winning. Dealing away their best starter and going 41-25 the rest of the way to a third-place finish. Go Tribe. Do that next year, too.

Ray - Maybe but there's no telling if Sabathia would have been able to have the same success he had with the Brewers if he had stayed in Cleveland and faced the same opponents he has year after year. But the Indians are always good at rebuilding and we'll just keep an eye on LaPorta. So yeah umm yeah. (That's called answering a question without really answering it :) )

Keith - Travis Hafner had 41 at bats in September (hitting only .122), Victor Martinez had 68 at bats after August and amazingly the RBI leaders for the 2008 season, Grady Sizemore and Ryan Garko, only had 90 a piece.  Offensively, the Indians didn’t have the guns to make a true run to pass up the Twins and White Sox even with C.C  They will however, love having Matt LaPorta playing in the OF for them in a year or two, he will certainly provide some offensive fire power.

John - CC did win 11 games in three months with Milwaukee, but only 6 in the first three months with Cleveland. Eleven wins technically would have made the difference in the Central, but I don't think he gets those 11 wins in Cleveland.

Matt - They finished seven games back, so I'm going to have to say no.

5. Twins MVP, Morneau or Mauer?
Andrew - Mauer. They both have the bats, but Mauer once again coaxed a great season of pitching out of a group of nobodies.

Ray - Morneau because I'm a 1B so I'm biased but dang that's the only reason. They are both so good, the Twins should give the Royals one of the two so we could answer that one !!!

Keith - Joe Mauer led the team in batting average and on base percentage while Justin Morneau was tops in home runs and runs batted in.  Mauer beat Morneau by one in runs (98 to 97) and stolen bases (1 to 0).    Mauer hit .362 with runners in scoring position and struck out 12 times in 138 at bats while Morneau hit .348 and struck out 17 times in 181 at bats. If ever there should be a tie, this would be it.

John - Often debated back and forth by Twins bloggers. Morneau may fare better in the AL MVP voting, but Mauer is the Twins MVP. Besides his 2nd AL batting title his defense as a catcher and more importantly the way he handles the young rotation is invaluable.

Matt - Joe Mauer, just based on the idea that I think what he does as a catcher is much more difficult to find (and replace) than what Morneau does as a first baseman.

6. Can the Sox repeat or were they built for a one year run?
Andrew - The Sox will repeat, absolutely - probably not as division champs, but almost certainly as a homer-happy, slow, one-dimensional offensive threat even after another winter of team leadership talking about adding speed and fundamentally sound players.

Ray - With Jr and Thome as possible free agents and Crede a free agent I think the Sox were built for a little longer then one year but I don't think it will matter as I believe they will drop some $$$ down during the off season and will right in the thick of it next year.

Keith - 32, 33, 34, 38….these are the ages of Paul Konerko, Orlando Cabrera, Jermaine Dye and Jim Thome.  The Sox are frankly getting old and other than Alexei Ramirez there is not a lot of exciting young talent that will be in place for next year.  In fact, if you look at Baseball America’s projected 2011 lineup they still have every player on this list except for Thome still playing for them.  It will be interesting to see if Carlos Quentin can repeat his 2008 campaign.

John - I'd like to think they were built for a one year run, haha, but I'm not sure. With the emergence of Quentin, Ramirez, Danks, and Floyd I think the Southsiders will be right back in the hunt of a very crowded division in 2009.

Matt - If their starters can continue to pitch well they could certainly make another run. They will start to have to chip away at their aging core, though, and look at turning over more of their over 30 lineup.

7. Will Zack Greinke be a Royal next season?

Andrew - No. In fact, I predict both he and David DeJesus are shipped out for a bundle of prospects. . . hopefully to the White Sox, because their prospects are generally not very promising and almost never pan out. And if the Sox can get better at the expense of another Central team, I will be one happy fan.

Ray - Yes. For better or for worse Texas has the prospects to get him but Dayton Moore I believe from all the reports I've heard wants "A Kings Ransom" for Greinke.
I'd be happy picking up one of there three catchers (Salty,Ramirez,Teagarden) and another Grade A to B+ prospect. So if Texas offered Salty and Hurley (or something close I'm not the best trade organizer) I'd make that deal but would Dayton Moore ? And from what I've heard that would be a no.
But one would think if the Royals were to keep ZG they'd sign him long term and they haven't done that either so......... I'd keep an eye on that one.

Keith - I’ll put it to you this way, unless the Royals pull off a trade getting three front line prospects, two of those being major league ready, I think you have to keep him AND sign him to a long term contract.   I know many will say that the Royals are rebuilding (perpetually so) but you have to have someone like Grienke, only 25 , around when the bulk of their promising prospects come up in two or three years.  I truly think in between that time Grienke will continue getting 200 innings pitched per year and will be in the top 20 in league ERA.

John - I think he should be. The Tampa Bay Rays have showed everyone where developing young pitching will get you and Greinke is a homegrown talent who is finally paying off for the Royals. However, arms are going to be hard to come by through free agency this offseason and if a team comes to Dayton Moore and overwhelms him I think he has to consider the offer. Perhaps he can fill two holes by trading away one piece.

Matt - Yes. I see no reason for them to trade away a guy who's that good and has two years of arbitration left.