Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mike & Mike should probably rename their show Dumb & Dumber

A rare double post day at Royally Speaking due the geniuses that are Mike & Mike on espn. I was reading my issue of the The Mag and came upon their Cy Young predictions. I'll give you those but first let's backtrack in the issue to page 26 where the magazine has its Big 10 things to talk about.

#7. Zack Greinke and Tim Lincecum would be Cy Young shoo-ins if they had a few more wins. Of course, they'd also be shoo-ins if baseball writers weren't so lost.

Now fast forward to page 90 where Tim Kurkjian says that "Greinke shouldn't be penalized because his team can't score".

And finally we get to the the Mikes where on page 34 they pick who their choices would be for the awards if they got a vote. Keep in mind this isn't who they think will win, this is who they think should win.

Greeny - Chris Carpenter; he was most responsible for St. Louis' surge. And Mariano Rivera. Call it a lifetime achievement award for a guy who's the best ever at his position.
Golic - It's tough not to go with Carpenter, but I say Roy Halladay in the AL.He's been consistent all year, even in the middle of a trade circus.

Wow, just wow. Mike Golic should never be allowed to talk about baseball. Ever. When he wrote this Halladay had one more win than Greinke and was getting destroyed in ERA, 2.14 to 3.01. Halladay's second half ERA is a third of a run higher than his first half so I wouldn't even say he's been consistent. All I can figure is that the only game Golic has watched this year is the all-star game and since Halladay started he figures Doc must be the best pitcher in the American League. And Greeny, you want to give the award to a reliever when there's starter having one of the most impressive statistical seasons in recent memory? I'm speechless, just speechless.

Reasons to keep watching

As one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history winds down to its final days many fans have already stopped watching and turned their attention across the parking lot (good luck with that!). But there are still several storylines to keep an eye on in the last few weeks even though KC is once again enduring a losing season.

Zack Greinke's historical season

Zack's season has been well documented and I think last nights 6 inning, 2 hits, 0 runs performance against the Red Sox probably clinched the Cy Young award. If/when he wins he becomes just the third Royal to take the award as the American Leagues best pitcher.

Billy Butler's breakout

Ever since he was drafted we've waited for Butler to develop into an offensive force, the wait is officially over. His 49 doubles is the second most in team history and he only needs 5 more to tie Hal McRae's record of 54 set in 1977.

Joakim Soria's quest for consecutive 30 save seasons

I know the save stat is over rated and sometime pretty much useless but you have to admit that 30 is a nice round number. He is at 28 right now so I think barring a collapse he will get there and maybe beyond.
Rob Neyer is one of the few people I follow on twitter whose tweets I have delivered via text message, last night he had two pretty good ones:

Hillman has summoned Jamey Wright from the bullpen to create a save situation for Soria. Brilliant, I say. Brilliant!

Easiest "save" of Soria's career? Four-run lead. One pitch. Game over.


The battle for fourth place 

Now this wouldn't even be anywhere near a moral victory or process justification but the last time KC avoided last place for a second straight season was 2003. 

Robinson Tejeda

He's 3-0 with a 0.81 in four starts this month. Watch him now because he will probably be traded for a below average offensive player this winter.

Now I don't blame any fan for turning off this disaster of a season or any blogger that has chosen to stop writing but there all still some players going all out and I for one continue to keep watching.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Lost among all the Tejeda/Davies comparisons....

Robinson Tejeda is a hot topic in the Royals blogosphere right now, as well he should be considering he has been a bright spot in a dark, dark year. But I really don't get the Kyle Davies comparisons. Yeah I know it appeared Davies broke out last year and had the great September but this season is more line with the rest of his career. 2008 was the first time he had an ERA+ above 100. Tejeda, meanwhile, has had only one season below 100. Let me repeat that - Robinson Tejeda has only one sub-100 ERA+ season in his career, 2007.

If you take out his 2006 season (and why can't we? we throw out Greinke's 2005 season all the time) his career ERA goes from 4.45 to 3.67 and his K/9 jumps from 7.5 to 7.9. His H/9 drops from 8.0 to 7.1. B-R's awesome play index shows only two pitchers in baseball (min. 150 IP) with an ERA 3.67 or lower, a K/9 of 7.9 or higher, and a 7.1 or lower H/9 (Tim Lincecum and Clayton Kershaw).

As a Royal Tejeda now has a 3.04 ERA in 103.2 innings with 120 K's and a 142 ERA+. That's a 10.41 K/9 and that's why the Davies comp is a bad one.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The great twitter debate

One of my tweeps and I engaged in a debate about Robinson Tejeda and whether his current stretch is real or a Kyle Davies-like mirage. His argument was that since it's happening in September it doesn't count because the league is full of young guys and hey didn't Davies do this last year? Except Tejeda was doing this before September and his three starts this month have been against first place teams. Let's look at some numbers.

7/31 to 8/31: 16.1 IP 0.55 ERA 21 K's
September: 16.1 IP 0.55 ERA 19 K's
He has given up just two earned runs in nearly 33 innings since July 31st, that is exceptional no matter who he is facing. And that's the other thing - he has faced teams making playoff pushes.

9/4 vs LAA - The Angels were only up 3.5 games on the Rangers and put together a lineup with eight guys batting .294 or better. Tejeda gave up just one hit in 5.1 innings. The bullpen of course would blow this but he dominated one of the best teams in the AL..

9/9 vs Detroit - The Tigers aren't an offensive juggernaugt but they are in first place and had a 5.5 game lead on the Twins. Tejeda not only shut them out for six innings on three hits but he outpitched Justin Verlander in the process.

9/15 vs Detroit - The Tigers lead is now 4.5 but it's more of the same, 5 innings and only 2 hits. As of today their lead is 4. This race isn't over as the Tigs/Twins play this weekend and I don't believe for a second that they just rolled over because it's September.

Three first place teams and they could only muster 6 combined hits against Tejeda.

His stats as a Royal (3.13 ERA, 97.2 IP, 115 K's, 138 ERA+) are phenomenal. He clearly has figured something out and I believe he should get a crack at the rotation in spring training. It's sad that it took injuries to give him his shot this year (though in fairness he did some DL time too) with all the ineffectiveness going on. Hopefully DM won't bring in a Tomko or a Ponson this offseason and realizes that one of the best arms in the division is already on the roster.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

More of the same for Greinke

The article I did about recent Cy Young award winners is up at Hardball Cooperative. I finished it the same day Zack Greinke gave up just one run in seven innings and walked with yet another no decision. I still think 15 wins make him a lock but that probably is not going to happen.
The Royals are currently 6-4 in September and are trying for their first .500 month since April when they went 12-10. Last year they went 18-8 in the seasons final month. Ryan Shealy put the offense on his back that month and had a monster September. His reward? Hubered!!

What do you want to bet that if they finish strong Moore and Hillman will feel validated?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Greinke may feel Appier's pain

This is a small piece of an article I wrote for Hardball Cooperative that is set to be posted tomorrow, I have expanded on it here since it is Royals related. I was looking at recent Cy Young awards that went to a pitcher with inferior stats. One of the most egregious sins that the voters have committed over the years was awarding the 1993 CYA to Jack McDowell. Removing wins from the equation look at the stats of these two pitchers (bold indicates led league):

Player A: 3.37 ERA, 125 ERA+, 256.2 IP, 158 K's, 1.28 WHIP, 10 CG, 4 SHO, 0.7 HR/9
Player B: 2.56 ERA, 179 ERA+, 238.2 IP, 186 K's, 1.10 WHIP, 5 CG, 1 SHO, 0.3 HR/9 

Royals fans will recognize that player B is Kevin Appier, who had one of the greatest seasons by a pitcher in team history. But Appier could only manage a third place finish in CYA voting despite his fantastic year. Why you ask? Because McDowell won 22 games while Appier only won 18. Randy Johnson finished second in voting with 19 wins (he was also more worthy of the award than McDowell).

McDowell did have a good season but his ERA+ ranked just 22nd in all of baseball while Appier's was the best. Now I know ERA+ wasn't a stat back then but just looking at other more well known stats it is very evident that Appier should have been a unanimous selection. I really have a hard time believing that innings, complete games, and shutouts swayed the voters that much. It had to be the wins, it's the only logical explanation.

Greinke is in the same boat as Appier, dominating the league but lacking in wins (thanks to a woeful offense, pathetic defense, and an ineffective bullpen). He has a 2.05 ERA in his no decisions (tonight he has pitched six shutout innings thus far, predictably the offense has given him 1 run of support). I'd like to believe this is the year that the voters look beyond wins and study the whole picture. I mean it's bound to happen sometime.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Justin Huber

Interestingly enough as the Royals are currently in the process of hubering Kila the Twins have called up Justin Huber to provide what I'm assuming is DH/1B depth. I can't see him taking away at bats from Morneau or Kubel, though I imagine he could spell one of them against a tough lefty. Huber hit .273/.356/..482 with 22 home runs for AAA Rochester. Huber is 27 years old now so if there is any upside left I would have to think it's on its last legs.

You can click here to read my thoughts on how the Royals mishandled his career but here's the money quote:
I don't know if Huber will ever be a productive major league hitter but the point is neither do the Royals because they refused to find out. And it appears that Huber's biggest fault, and the one that got him shipped out of town, is the fact that he is not a 32 year old journeyman. Too bad because then Buddy Bell would have loved him. 

I asked popular Twins blogger and fellow BBA member Seth Stohs  for his thoughts on Huber and how the Twins might use him, here is his reply:
If they believe they are still in the race, he could give then a right-handed hitter off the bench with some power. That's probably about it.

If they believe they are out of the race, he could spell Morneau at 1B from time to time, maybe get a game or two in the OF or as the DH. They would likely give him enough time to see if he is worth keeping on the 40 man roster through the offseason.

I'm with you, I can't imagine that he would get more than 25 plate appearances over the final few weeks. 

San Diego wasn't a good fit for Huber for three reasons:
  1. Adrian Gonzalez 
  2. No DH
  3. Petco's huge outfield
Stuck in left field Huber's defensive shortcomings were on full display and he was eventually sent down in favor of rookie Chase Headley. It was obvious his future (if in fact he has one) is in the AL .

It's nice to see him back on an ML roster and I hope he makes the most of it.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Yep, typical night

Last nights game was the season in a nutshell; a nice starting pitching performance by fill-in Robinson Tejeda, just 1 run by the offense, and another late inning implosion by the bullpen money pit. To protect a 1 run lead Hillman insanely enough sent out Jamey Wright (4.66 ERA), John Bale (5.93, though he hurt himself rather quickly), and Roman Colon (5.79). Joakim Soria who hadn't pitched since September 1st sat and watched. (Fun stat; the Royals are 7-2 when Soria gets more than 3 outs.) In my opinion that's a failure on Moore's part to give Hillman any other viable options and a failure on Hillman's part for not using the one good option he did have.

My guess is that Hillman is banking on Soria making an appearance today due to Greinke pitching and he didn't want him to run up a high a pitch count and be unavailable. I'm sure he would have let him pitch the 9th, at least I hope so because Soria hasn't pitched in consecutive games since July 27th and 28th. So it's really hard to say what Hillman would have done but I wish he would've went for the win.

Josh Anderson has no business being on this roster (along with about a dozen other guys but that's a post for a different day). He was bad with Detroit (.242/.282./315) and has been even worse for KC (.242/.277/.242). Last nights failed sacrifice bunt was just another reason why he has been a waste of space. If your only asset is speed and you can't lay down a bunt when called upon then you have no business playing at all. Calling for the bunt is another story -  a guy on second with no outs is never the time to sacrifice an out. I hate that. The guy has zero power so he probably would've hit a slow roller anyway, it just didn't make sense. The .315/.364/.419 he put up in '07 & '08 seems like a long time ago. His future probably is in the NL (after he soaks up about 1000 PA's with the Royals of course) where it should be.
I know next to nothing about the return KC got for Daniel Gutierrez but Royalscentricity has provided a nice analysis of the trade by Scott Lucas of the The Newberg Report. (Pina doesn't excite me much but if Smith is a DDJ clone then wouldn't that make him better than every other Royals outfielder?)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Greinke shines in September

If history is any indication Greinke will finish strong enough to win the Cy Young award. In his career he has 11 September wins and a 2.80 ERA.

~Disclaimer~ I know wins and ERA aren't the best way to judge a pitchers season (or month) but the voters don't. Wins, ERA, and strikeouts are the equivalent of batting average, home runs, and rbi's - it's all some voters look at, whether they admit it or not.

Month by month:
Mar/April: 9-4 1.99
May 7-9 3.85
June 7-11 5.25
July 5-15 5.05
Aug 8-8 3.81
Sept/Oct 11-6 2.80

We see that he starts strong and finishes strong. The ERA is nice but it's wins that matter (or all that matters according to voters and BobMcClure) and he is not lacking in that department in his career. Let's take a look at year by year Septembers compared to his final season numbers. We can see that he has finished strong every season in his career.

2004 2-2 2.45 (8-11 3.97)
2005 2-1 3.82 (5-17 5.80)
2006 1-0 4.26 (Only 6.1 IP)
2007 2-2 2.33 (7-7 3.69)
2008 4-1 2.18 (13-10 3.47)

The last two Septembers look an awful lot like his 2009 season so is there any doubt he can keep it up? I think he can but again it's the wins that matter, he probably needs to win at least three more times and hope nobody else wins the magical 20 that seems to sway voters so much. I think 17 wins guarantee him the award even if there is a 20 game winner so a repeat of last year and he's a lock.

Let's look at some of the contenders and see how they've fared over the seasons final month.
Verlander 15-7 3.38
He leads the league in wins and strikeouts but has gone just 7-6 4.73 in September. He's probably a longshot to win 20 so he will have to hope Greinke doesn't win 3 more times.

CC Sabathia 15-7 3.56
Tied with Verlander in wins and leads AL in innings pitched. He has fared really well in September going 21-11 2.77. But like Verlander he must win 20 or hope Greinke falters.

Felix Hernandez 13-5 2.77
The only legit contender in my opinion as he is second to Greinke in ERA+. But he is in the same boat win-wise as Greinke and he's not likely to win enough to merit serious consideration. September isn't his best month either as evidenced by his 7-7 3.88 career mark.

Roy Halladay 13-8 3.13
Doc was an early season contender but has stumbled a bit lately (3-5 3.63 since the break). The Toronto contingent viewd him and not Greinke as the front runner for most of the season (of course they thought he should have won the CYA over Lee last season, some crazy stuff goes on up north). He traditionally is very good in September going 19-9 2.51. Like Hernandez he has to hope Greinke goes winless and nobody wins 19 or 20.

I don't consider Beckett, Feldman, or Weavers contenders due to their ERA's being 3.70+. It looks to me like 18 wins is going to lead the league and if that happens and Greinke ends up leading the lead in ERA, ERA+, CG's, shutouts, and WHIP while finishing second in innings and strikeouts well its very possible he could win the award with just 14 or 15 wins.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

New name for the bullpen

The money pit (I'm thinking Tom Hanks would gladly surrender the name) and it's pretty easy to see why - Farnsworth, Yabuta, and Cruz are making about 8 million more than the trio of JP Howell, Ramon Ramirez, and Leo Nunez. There is also another 6+ million committed to Bale and Mahay. I have continually given Moore a pass on the Howell/Gathright trade but given his penchant for trading effective relief pitchers for below average everyday players I would bet that had Howell been in the 'pen in KC he still would have been traded.

Moore's reputation as a bullpen genius has been compromised this season - a 5.11 ERA and 1.51 WHIP will do that. Joakim Soria is the only relief pitcher with an ERA below 4 (2.97) and he is just 5th among relievers in innings pitched trailing Jamey Wright (64 IP, 4.50 ERA), Juan Cruz (46.2, 6.17), Robinson Tejeda (42, 4.07), and Ron Mahay (41.1, 4.79). He has pitched only 6 more innings than Roman Colon (6.21) which is either sad or funny, depending on your point of view.

Cruz' disappointing season was a surprise but everybody knew that Farnsworth was going to bomb - everybody but the guy calling the shots apparently. If Moore hadn't traded Ramirez and Nunez then he wouldn't have needed to sign Farnsworth and Cruz. It's said that due to the nature of inconsistency among middle relievers that trading them for everyday players is good business but Moore busted that myth wide open. Those two trades weakened the bullpen thus making the team worse not to mention that Crisp and Jacobs failed to be the difference makers on offense that Moore had envisioned.
Well KC's misfortune (or Moore's incompetence) has strengthened the bullpen of three teams making a playoff push. I asked some of my fellow Baseball Bloggers Alliance members their thoughts on the trades that brought them relief help.

Christine from Boston Red Thoughts on the Ramirez/Crisp trade:
My 1st thought when I heard that Coco Crisp was going to KC for Ramon Ramirez was "who the heck is Ramon Ramirez?"  Then I did some research, and saw that he was a good pitcher, and since Coco has pretty much become a gaping hole in the lineup (he never really had the same level of success he had when he was with Cleveland....)

I think it was a very good trade for the Sox--they got a good pitcher (although its seems like he lets a lot of inherited runners score, which is a pet peeve of mine) and since the Sox are only paying him $441K, and Coco, who is on the DL (He did that when he was with the Sox too...;-) is being paid $6 million plus, its a good thing.

Michael from Marlin Maniac on the Nunez/Jacobs trade:
I thought the Jacobs/Nunez deal was good for the Marlins then and I think it's good now. I'm of the opinion that bullpen arms are very replaceable, but I'm also of the opinion that first baseman who can't get on base and are terrible on defense are a dime a dozen, if not more. I was happy the Marlins got somebody even close to Leo Nunez, who is an average reliever and thus not particularly valuable but, if used the right way, won't hurt or help your team all that much. Jacobs, on the other hand, has very good potential to hurt your team if you use him in ANY way, as the only thing he can do is hit home runs. Especially for a first baseman, you need to be well above average offensively to be better than replacement level, and that doesn't even factor the fact that Jacobs is a terrible defensive first baseman.

All in all, neither team came out much better in terms of value, as Nunez has been OK and at times troublesome as a reliever, which isn't worth much if anything, and Jacobs has been a terrible DH for the Royals, which is definitely worth nothing. The difference here is the Royals are stuck fitting Jacobs arbitration bill, while Nunez makes the rookie rate in Florida. And that's probably the best advantage the Marlins got in the deal.

Devon from Rays All Day on the Howell/Gathright trade:
My initial reaction was a decent outfielder for a minor league starting pitcher who has a little potential but probably would not amount to anything. He started out bad as a starter, so the Rays got smart and sent him to the bullpen. Nobody thought he would be as good as he is now, but he is like our savior in our bullpen. The Rays bullpen without JP Howell would not be nearly as good. 
There's a fun little piece at Hardball Cooperative on the best baseball movies of all time (Field of Dreams in my opinion, and there's not even a close second) that you should check out here