Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Bullpen stuff and Luke Hochevar

Take your pick among KC's problems that lead the team to fall from contender to wishes they were a pretender. My biggest disappointment is the bullpen, look we knew the offense and defense were gonna be suspect to downright awful and they have been. But the 'pen was supposed to be DM's thing, we were told this when he traded away Ramirez and Nunez last winter. Relievers after all are replaceable, fungible commodities blah blah blah!!! The pens ERA of 4.87 is horrible and if you take away Soria (which Trey seems to try to do) it balloons to 5.27, a truly troubling number.

Here are three pitchers that DM traded for position players that are having fantastic seasons. It's hard to fault Moore for Howell because he is only in the pen because he stunk so bad as a starter. But Moore likes to deal relievers so it's safe to assume that Howell would have been dealt anyway.

Player Traded for ERA WHIP K/9
Jeremy Affeldt Ryan Shealy 1.33 1.18 6.9
JP Howell Joey Gathright 1.81 1.00 10.9
Ramon Ramirez Coco Crisp 2.34 1.08 6.6

Painful stuff. Not one player acquired on the active roster.
I wrote about Luke Hochevar for Hardball Cooperative recently, here a few tidbits:
    • 6-2 3.86 his last 10 starts
    • has stopped team losing streaks of 4, 8, and 10 games
    • 22 strikeouts, 0 walks in 13.1 innings his last 2 starts

      Sunday, July 19, 2009

      Top 5 signs that the season has gone wrong

      5. Ponson and Chen make up 40% of the rotation.... in July.
      Ponson and HoRam making up 40% when the season started was a sign that Moore's offseason went wrong but I think we expected that by July Ponson would be a horrible, distant memory. Not to be.

      4. Yuniesky Betancourt is acquired to upgrade the shortstop position. 
      Aviles' injury opened the door for a parade of candidates, none of which could hit. Enter Betancourt and his .302 career OBP and spotty defense. Angel Berroa 2.0 has arrived.

      3. Alex Gordon has come to the plate 33 times as of July 18th.
      Gordon and Butler were considered the keys to the offense and while Butler has been solid Gordon has been missing in action. He had a strong second half last season and hopes to duplicate that in '09.

      2. Two of the three best pitchers on the team have been on the DL.
      First Soria and now Meche. Hope Greinke stays healthy but let's be honest, as good as he's been the team is only 10-9 when he starts. At this point it probably doesn't matter.

      1. Hillman is still here and coming back next season.
      This roster would test the skills of the best managers, of which Hillman is not. He has mismanaged the bullpen and kept his best hitter in the lower third of the lineup. Numerous errors in judgement but not as big as the one the GM made when he decided in freaking July that Hillman deserves another year.

      Sunday, July 12, 2009

      Mister Moore's Desperation

      Questions are coming in and they're coming in quickly.

      1. Does anyone remember how bereft of talent our farm system was when Dayton Moore took over?

      Dayton Moore took over on June 8th, 2006. At the end of that season, Alex Gordon was named Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year. Billy Butler was drafted in '04. Hochevar was drafted two days before Moore was officially named. (Some give Moore credit for this, some do not. Same obviously goes for Jason Taylor[BA's organizational 17], Blake Wood [10], Derrick Robinson [16]. The signing of these players without argument DID occur on Moore's watch--28 out of 50 draftees were not signed.) The system also had Carlos Rosa[8], Kila Ka'aihue[9], Danny Gutierrez[7], Henry Barrera [13], Mitch Maier [23], Joe Dickerson [24], Juan Abreu [25]. Not to mention last year's team rookie of the year, Mike Aviles.

      2. He knows what he's doing, right? [sarcastic in tone]

      Olivio (.269 OBP)
      Callaspo (.354) questionable defense
      Crisp (.336) out for season and only one point over league average and was falling fast
      Guillen (.313)
      Jacobs (.294)
      Bloomquist (.324)
      Hernandez (.235)
      B. Pena (.353) questionable defense, few PA
      T. Pena (.123)
      Hulett (.071)
      Freel (.385) .273 slugging percentage

      League Average: .335

      And this doesn't even count our fearless GM's most recent dealings.

      3. What makes you think he can pick them in the draft?

      I have precious few complaints about Dayton here but I do have a few words here that will lead to an upcoming post about Dayton's drafting habits. In '07 and '08, the Royals took what was billed as the best high school bat in the draft by taking Mike Moustakas (.268/.306/.426 in Hi-A) and Eric Hosmer (.261/.360/.396 in Lo-A). My preferred bats? Matt Wieters (.260/.319/.404 in the bigs) and Justin Smoak (.307/.433/.486 in three leagues but mostly in Double-A). Dayton has done well for himself in the draft, there's no doubt able that. But when it comes to his drafting philosophy and matching it up with his farm system's needs and make-up, questions need to be asked.

      4. (Guillen is the player being discussed.) But KC was desperate for a power bat at the time.

      This isn't a question, so I'll have to make it one... Has this changed in the least? Jose Guillen is on pace to hit 18 long balls this year. Jacobs is on pace to hit 24, but since this was written, his pace has gone down by 12 HR. Guillen hit 20 last year, but at least he also added 42 doubles (on pace for 16 this year)...but the question is still there: Is it 1992? Twenty-some home runs does not a power hitter make.

      There is a key word in the sentence above. D-E-S-P-E-R-A-T-E. I can't quite equate the deals, but I can equate the feeling of anxiety. The Royals have been desperate before.
      This trade isn't as bad or as lopsided as those deals that haunt Royal fans with the October whispers of former past glory, but the mindset is the exact same. In each instance, the Royals didn't go shopping for the best possible deal, they didn't take their time to expand the parameters to get some competition going for the player they were trying to trade, and they didn't best serve their team's needs. Right now, the Royals are not in they were not in any kind of competitve mode with the other trades, save for the Saberhagan Deal. Desperate is the most definitive way to describe the Royals most recent acquisition. I guess we can all wipe our collective brows that Billy Butler is still a Royal.

      Saturday, July 11, 2009

      Cosmic intervention - before and after

      May 7th is the day Royals fans were feeling the best. The team was 18-11 (2nd best record in the AL), in the midst of a six game winning streak, and had a three game lead over second place Detroit. They had just completed back to back two game sweeps over the White Sox and Mariners. They outscored the M's 12-2 in those two games. The second game of the series was a day game in which Bannister got the win and Soria the save. Soria wouldn't get his next save until June 23rd.

      I'm convinced something happened on the night of May 7th, some sort of cosmic intervention. The universe clearly didn't like the Royals and the next day they sat out on a west coast road trip and their season has gone south ever since. They are just 19-38 since that fateful night. It's easy enough to come up with reasons like injuries but the bottom line is outside of the starting rotation this team has just fell apart. So I was curious to see how the players performed before and after - most I figured would be worse and a few would be better.

      Player May 7th Since
      Olivo .623 OPS | 2 HRs .802 OPS | 11 HRs
      Buck .250/.317/.536   .161/.278/.258
      Jacobs .255/.333/.489   .196/.270/.348
      Butler .286/.375/.429   .288/.321/.455
      Callaspo .359/.417/.565   .275/.324/.415
      Bloomquist .377/.452/.528   .248/.286/.339
      Teahen .298/.392/.471   .294/.330/.443
      DeJesus .250/.301/.404   .258/.316/.418
      Crisp .238/.367/.448   .213/.289/.280
      Guillen .291/.409/.491   .228/.284/.332
      Greinke 45 IP | 0.40 ERA   82.1 IP | 3.06 ERA
      Meche 37 IP | 4.14 ERA   67.1 IP | 4.14 ERA
      Davies 33.2 IP | 5.88 ERA     46 IP | 5.67 ERA
      Bannister 24.1 IP | 1.48 ERA     74 IP | 4.38 ERA
      Cruz 13.1 IP | 2.02 ERA   25.1 IP | 5.33 ERA

      Something happened on the night of May 7th.

      Betancourt, sheesh!

      Dayton Moore certainly has a type. Wow, just wow. Now I know Dan Cortes maybe isn't the prospect he was just last season but I gotta believe he could have netted the Royals something better than a career .279/.302/.393 hitter. Yuniesky Betancourt is one of those rare players who really doesn't do anything well - he can't hit, he doesn't walk, not a great defender, and he's slow for a shortstop. It really makes you wonder why Moore wanted him so bad (recall that he once tried to trade Billy Butler for him).

      This is one of those moves where even his staunchest supporters have to question if Moore is the right guy to lead this franchise. This move is pretty much being lambasted everywhere (much like the Jacobs trade, which I liked but hasn't worked out). But really this is worse than the Jacobs and Crisp deals because Moore didn't trade just a reliever instead he traded a highly regarded starting pitcher. Many felt that Cortes was a prime chip to deal if KC were still in it and needed a bat at the deadline but this is basically giving him away. While it may not make the team worse it certainly doesn't make them better.

      This is another inexcusable mistake by Moore - just add it to the list that already includes:
      Carrying three catchers when two of them have the same skillset.
      Carrying at one point five middle infielders which included TPJ and Luis Hernandez. Those two should never be allowed on the same team.
      Beginning the season with both Sidney Ponson and Horacio Ramirez in the rotation. And really there's more but I'm depressing myself.

      Anyway I didn't want to turn this into another fire DM rant because the main point of this post is just to say that Yuniesky Betancourt is not a good ballplayer and he doesn't belong on any team with visions of competing. Seattle is only 3.5 games out and they traded him for minor leaguers, that in itself speaks volumes.

      I suppose that's the difference between the Mariners and the Royals - one wants to win and the other wants to..........well it's almost impossible to know what the Royals want to do.

      Tuesday, July 7, 2009

      For Your Royal Information (Gil Meche Edition)

      Looking over Gil Meche' career and breaking up high pitch counts accordingly...and then combining performances over the next three games.

      S E A T T L E - M A R I N E R - C A R E E R

      : 3 115-119 pitch performances

      10 starts, 53.67 IP, 50 hits, 35 runs, 35 ER, 22 BB, 31 K, 11 HR, 5.87 ERA, 91 pitches, 4-6 record

      No starts missed. No relief appearances.

      2 115-119 pitch performances (a); 1 120-124 pitch performance (b); 2 125-129 pitch performances (c)

      (a) 8 starts, 44 IP, 50 hits, 31 runs, 31 ER, 16 BB, 41 K, 11 HR, 6.34 ERA, 99 pitches, 2-2 record
      (b) 4 starts, 27.33 IP, 19 hits, 10 runs, 10 ER, 6 BB, 17 K, 5 HR, 3.29 ERA, 118 pitches 1-1 record
      (c) 10 starts, 66.33 IP, 58 hits, 29 runs, 28 ER, 16 BB, 42 K, 13 HR, 3.80 ERA, 113 pitches, 6-1 record

      Missed two months: had a 125-pitch performance in his third start back! No relief appearances.

      3 115-119 pitch performances

      12 starts, 64.67 IP, 68 hits, 42 runs, 36 ER, 39 BB, 42 K, 7 HR, 5.01 ERA, 104 pitches, 5-5 record

      Missed about one month. Became a reliever when he returned.

      2006: 2 115-119 pitch performances (a); 1 120-124 pitch performance (b); 2 125-129 pitch performances

      (a) 7 starts, 46.33 IP, 40 hits, 19 runs, 19 ER, 18 BB, 42 K, 5 HR, 3.69 ERA, 109 pitches, 5-2 record
      (b) 4 starts, 24 IP, 23 hits, 11 runs, 9 ER, 13 BB, 17 K, 2 HR, 3.38 ERA, 104 pitches, 1-2 record
      (c) 5 starts, 29.33 IP, 31 hits, 17 runs, 17 ER, 13 BB, 31 K, 3 HR, 5.22 ERA, 112 pitches, 2-1 record

      No starts missed. Had 125-pitch performance in final game of the season, so there's no information for corresponding starts.

      K A N S A S - C I T Y - R O Y A L S - C A R E E R

      2007: 3 115-119 pitching performances (a); 2 120-124 pitching performances (b)

      (a) 12 starts, 77 IP, 68 hits, 33 runs, 31 ER, 23 BB, 53 K, 10 HR, 3.62 ERA, 108 pitches, 4-5 record
      (b) 6 starts, 37.33 IP, 43 hits, 20 runs, 20 ER, 10 BB, 26 K, 4 HR, 4.82 ERA, 106 pitches, 0-5 record

      Had a 124-pitch performance in second to last game of the season, so there are no subsequent starts to calculate.

      2008: 6 115-119 pitching performances (a); 1 125-129 pitching performance (b)

      (a) 17 starts, 106.67 IP, 101 hits, 44 runs, 40 ER, 36 BB, 90 K, 8 HR, 3.38 ERA, 106 pitches, 5-7 record
      (b) 4 starts, 25.67 IP, 25 hits, 11 runs, 11 ER, 5 BB, 15 K, 4 HR, 3.86 ERA, 112 pitches, 2-2 record

      2009: 2 115-119 pitching performances (a); 1 120-124 pitching performance (b); 1 130-134 pitching performance (c)

      (a) 8 starts, 46.33 IP, 48 hits, 28 runs, 26 ER, 17 BB, 34 K, 5 HR, 5.05 ERA, 102 pitches, 3-4 record
      (b) 6 starts, 30 IP, 36 hits, 20 runs, 15 ER, 19 BB, 21 K, 4 HR, 4.50 ERA, 100 pitches, 0-4 record
      (c) 4 starts, 23.1 IP, 24 hits, 16 runs, 15 ER, 11 BB, 15 K, 5 HR, 5.79 ERA, 103 pitches, 1-3 record

      Gil's second to last start to date of this season was a 120-pitch performance, so the subsequent starts have obviously not been calculated.

      Grand totals

      115-119: 74 starts, 438.67 IP, 425 hits, 232 runs, 218 ER, 171 BB, 333 K, 57 HR, 4.47 ERA, 28-31 record
      120-124: 24 starts, 118.67 IP, 121 hits, 61 runs, 54 ER, 48 BB, 81 K, 15 HR, 4.10 ERA, 2-12 record
      125-129: 19 starts, 121.33 IP, 114 hits, 57 runs, 56 runs, 34 BB, 88 k, 2o HR, 4.15 ERA, 10-4 record
      130-134: 4 starts, 23.1 IP, 24 hits, 16 runs, 15 ER, 11 BB, 15 K, 5 HR, 5.79 ERA, 103 pitches, 1-3 record

      Any thoughts?

      Monday, July 6, 2009

      If Ryan Freel is the answer I'm almost certain I don't want to know the quesion

      Ryan Freel, really? Trey is talking about Freel here but he could easily be talking about Bloomquist or Teahen:

      "We'll use his versatility," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "He's got most of his time logged in center and second, but he's played a lot of third, left and right. I spoke to him today and he says he's 100 percent health-wise and feels great. His history shows that he's got the ability to steal bases, he's got lateral range and speed. We'll see where he's at when we get him."

      In the middle part of this decade this would have been a move I supported but injuries have really slowed him down. From 2001-2006 he hit .274/.367/.383 with 121 stolen bases. A very useful guy to have, he could get on base and swipe a few. But from 2007-2009 the injury plagued version has hit just .251/.314/.330 with only 22 steals. I imagine that Moore's eyes lit up like a christmas tree when he saw that .314 OBP (of course that assumes that he would even bother looking at Freel's recent statistical history).

      Clark Fosler thinks this is a precursor to another move and while I'm inclined to agree this also seems like the typical Moore move that serves no purpose but to confuse. When Gordon comes back the Royals will essentially have three players that fill this type of utility role and only one of them I think has any value, that of course would be Mark Teahen. I like having Teahen around just because he's not the worst guy in the world to plug in the lineup should a starter go down. I really don't have that confidence in Freel or Bloomquist.

      If there is another trade then this move probably makes sense but if there isn't then this just another case of Moore being Moore.

      Sunday, July 5, 2009

      Trading Soria

      Well it seems to be a hot topic right now. I don't like this for a few reasons but mostly because KC has a shut down closer inked to a long term, club friendly deal. Soria has a chance to be the best reliever in Royals history and it would reason that should KC ever contend (2011?) they will need him in the 9th inning, especially come playoff time.

      I've heard it said for years that bad teams don't need good closers and I just can't disagree enough with that statement and I'll tell you why - because bad teams need good players, regardless of position. A look at the 2000 team that converted just 53% of their saves will remind anyone how frustrating it is to watch an ineffective closer. Do we want to go back to the days of Ricky Bottalico and Jerry Spradlin closing? Now if they had a Ramon Ramirez they could slide into Soria's job then maybe it would be ok but they don't so we would see a committee approach that rarely works. This years team is converting just 56% - Soria 85%, rest of 'pen 33%. It was a daily adventure when he was on the DL and I for one am in no hurry to go back to that.

      Then there's the matter of Dayton Moore, outside of Burgos he hasn't exactly excelled at trading relievers. I'll give him a pass for JP Howell because the Rays only put him in the pen because he failed so miserably as a starter. Moore traded Jeremy Affeldt for Ryan Shealy and all Affeldt has done the last two and a half seasons is put up a 150 ERA+. Shealy meanwhile is stuck in Omaha as Moore was utterly unimpressed with his great September last season.

      So unimpressed that he traded Leo Nunez for Mike Jacobs and that's not working out too well either. Nunez posted a 131 ERA+ in 92 innings the last two seasons and this year has a 3.86 ERA. He would be a pretty a attractive 6th or 7th inning option. To be fair to DM I did like this trade but Jacobs is just doing terrible right now and while I did like it there were plenty of others who decidedly did not.

      Ramon Ramirez is the one that stings. Moore basically traded four seasons of RamRam for less than half a season of Crisp. He has been a huge part of the Red Sox bullpen as he has a 2.25 ERA and has allowed only 3 of the 19 runners he's inherited to score.

      I don't trust Moore to get equal or better value if he traded Soria and I don't trust any of the other relievers to close. So in my opinion keeping Soria is a no brainer.

      Friday, July 3, 2009

      What did I miss?

      Quite a bit I guess -more losing, more managerial ineffectiveness, and a ranyban. Between working long hours and a computer that seems to decide when it wants to cooperate I haven't had the chance to post or really keep up that much with my favorite team. I also got a new toy that seems to be monopolizing my time. Hopefully now I'm back on track. I had some ideas for topics that I couldn't get to so I'm gonna just throw them all in here, Antonio-style.
      • Put me in the camp that thinks both Trey and DM should be fired. DM preached OBP last winter and then acquired two guys with below league average on-base skills. They both did well early but now Crisp is done for the year (wouldn't Ramon Ramirez' 1.80 ERA look good in the 8th inning?) and Jacobs is batting .167/.252/.260 in his last 30 games. His slugging percentage, aka his only redeeming quality, is down to a pedestrian .410. (By the way Leo Nunez' ERA is 3.86, among Royal relievers with 20+ IP only Soria's is better. I'm just saying.) Any GM that puts TPJ and Luis Hernandez on a 25 man roster at the same time should be fired immediately. And finally there is the whole Horacio debacle. Every single blogger knew this wouldn't work but the man at the controls thought it would, now that is just sad.
      • Brayan Pena's small sample size success (117 OPS+) really makes the decision to bring back John Buck more confusing and is another mark against DM.
      • Luke Hochevar is not a bust. Don't call him that. Since rejoining the rotation June 6th he has gone 3-1 with a 2.94 ERA while giving up an outstanding 5.6 hits per 9 innings. Again this was the guy I wanted on draft day 2006 so his recent success is encouraging. He may never be a #1 starter but I think he can develop into a nice #2.