Saturday, May 29, 2010

Meche to the DL (finally)

The only thing unexpected about this was how long it took. Meche started the year on the disabled list and hasn't looked quite right since coming off. He's 0-4 with an unholy 6.66 ERA and he's walking a ridiculous 6.3 batters per nine innings, which should have been clue one that something was wrong. Now the W/L record is obviously irrelevant but quite justified (unlike Greinke). You can debate the wisdom of Hillman and Yost to let a guy with known arm issues throw 120+ pitches in a game, I think it was foolish and unnecessary. (You can also debate the wisdom of me using the words wisdom and Hillman in the same sentence.)


He has just one quality start, well technically two but it's hard to see any good in an 8 inning, 7 walk performance, unless of course wildness counts as a prized quality. I'm really wondering if Meche has anything left or if his career has ventured into Scott Elarton territory. In recent years KC fans have witnessed some pretty atrocious pitching seasons by guys on the downward slope of their careers but this one is by far the most painful to watch. And I think it's because he was supposed to represent a new era in Kansas City, where the Royals would be players on the free agent market outbidding other teams. For two and a half years Meche earned his money but then it all went to hell and now that fifth year, the one that brought him here, is looming large in the Royals financial future. Because money spent on what's left of Meche is money that can't be spent elsewhere, of course when you consider the elsewheres Moore has signed that may not entirely be a bad thing.

I expect ineffectiveness followed by DL stints will be the norm for Meche for the remainder of his career. Bruce Chen is taking his spot in the rotation for the short term, I can't imagine that ending well at all, although I doubt he can be any worse than Meche.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

1-9

After last nights loss the Royals are 1-9 when Willie Bloomquist starts, 17-17 when he doesn't. Now I know that can't be laid entirely at his feet but he is hitting just .135/.220/.162 and his single last night was his first hit in over a month. Benching Maier in favor of Wee Wille hurts the team offensively and defensively.

So my question for Ned Yost is this, if your 35 year old catcher can play everyday then why can't your 27 year old centerfielder?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Yost era off to a great start

KC is 6-2 since Yost took over and I got to admit they have been impressive. Especially Jose Guillen, a long time Royally Speaking punching bag, Guillen is hitting .367/.441/.700 with 3 home runs and 10 RBI's with Yost in charge. Compare that to the previous eight games when he he .077/.200/.115 with 0 and 0. Now Guillen is a notorious streaky hitter so this probably doesn't mean anything, I mean it's not like Yost is doing anything different, like Trey Yost has him DH'ing everyday so really a person couldn't be blamed for suggesting Guillen mailed it in the last eight games of the Trey era. Whatever's going on with him I would have to think his trade value is going up.

Sending Kila down may have been the right decision for now, you ride the hot bat (even though Guillen wasn't hot when Kila was riding the bench or sent down). I know some recent comments by Yost suggest that the Royals believe Kila is part of the future but I'm not so sure because this organization is infamous for saying one thing and doing another. It actually wouldn't surprise me if Moore signed Guillen to an extension.

The whole team seems revived and a third place Central finish seems possible, though I suspect Moore is still thinking first is in play. And that's fine as long as he doesn't trade any prospects in an attempt to win now. We'll know how good they are shortly, after the Rockies series their next 19 games are against the Rangers, Red Sox, Angels, Tigers, Twins, and Reds. If they tank in those 19 games then it'll be time to trade Guillen & Podsednik, call up Kila & Gordon, and start thinking about next year.

But for now they're playing well, and watching them is fun right now, so let's just enjoy it.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Guillen

Well Kila Ka'aihue is on the bench tonight with a right hander pitching for the White Sox which presumably could mean a few different things.
  • Yost has also bought into Guillen's hot start and thinks he needs playing to time to come out of his slump.
  • Yost is unaware Guillen is in a slump.
  • Yost agrees with Moore that this roster can win now and doesn't want to put a rookie in the lineup.
  • Yost has been ordered by Moore to keep Guillen's 12 million dollar bat in the lineup.
Guillen is cold right now and has been for a while. He's hitting .141/.236/.219 over his last 18 games, which is half the season. I mean if they're going to put so much stock in his first 18 games (.351/.372/.716) they should at least acknowledge his recent dry spell and give the guy a day off (or two, or three....). Let's break his season down into three 12 game parts and you tell me if there is any reason why he should be in the lineup tonight.

DatesPAR2BHRRBIBBSOBAOBPSLG
4/5 to 4/185211451027.367.404.755
4/19 to 5/1513329216.213.255.404
5/2 to 5/1447611359.167.255.262

I gotta tell you, that's not pretty. And still he plays everyday. Alex Gordon found himself demoted and a new position for hitting .194/.342/.323 in 38 plate appearances but Guillen stinks for over half the season and all Hillman and now Yost remember are the first two weeks. It makes no sense and still we're being told to trust the process. Maybe it's just me but I would think the process would find room for a 26 year old with a .270/.410/.494 line in nearly 800 AAA PA's.

I figure at some point Kila will be traded to a NL team, one that already has a very good first baseman. Then when his minor league journey continues Moore can feel confident he won't be proven wrong. After all, he's done it before.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Fall Guy

Trey Hillman has been mercifully relieved of his managerial duties. I think that's the best way to put it because while it was evident he wasn't going to succeed it was just as evident he wasn't giving the right resources to succeed. While in recent years mid-season managerial changes have catapulted teams into the playoffs that's not likely to happen in Kansas City. One thing the 2003 Marlins and 2009 Rockies had in common was they had the talent in place to make such a run, the Royals do not and that belongs at the feet of the Dayton Moore.

What's worse, that Hillman has let Bloomquist bat 37 times this year or Bloomquist being on the team in the first place? We can play that game all up and down the roster. Now I'm not giving Hillman a free pass here because he  absolutely did the least with what little he was given, I'm just saying you don't load a roster with the likes of Yuniesky Betancourt, Jose Guillen, and Jason Kendall and expect to win. That Moore thinks this roster is still capable of competing for the division should scare every single Royals fan.

Today was a necessary first step in the right direction and no I don't think Ned Yost is the answer, that he was fired during the Brewers 2008 playoff run is probably significant. Player development needs to be his primary objective, not trying to win now. And that means Kila Ka'aihue & Brayan Pena needs to see playing time and Mike Aviles & Mitch Maier must keep receiving playing time. If Yost insists on playing Guillen and Kendall everyday then this is a lateral move, which I suspect it may be anyway. At any rate I'm sure he won't let Meche throw 128 pitches, although he did let an injury prone Ben Sheets throw 120+ pitches four times in 2008, so who really knows.

If nothing else I just want the dang bunting to stop.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Jon Loomer drops in to talk about XRBI

This is a guest post by Jon Loomer. Jon is a lifelong Milwaukee Brewers fan who grew up on baseball cards and statistics. He started playing fantasy baseball in the mid-90s, leading him to writing gigs with Rotoworld, TalentedMrRoto, and several other fantasy sports sites. For three seasons, from 2005-2008, Jon also oversaw all fantasy games development, content management, marketing and promotions for the National Basketball Association. Jon has since "retired" from fantasy sports and is currently VP of Strategic Marketing in the non-profit world. You can follow his baseball rantings on his blog at TippingPitches.blogspot.com or on Twitter @JonLoomer.

 Last week, I wrote an entry on my blog about the Death and Resurrection of the RBI. Although the Run Batted In is a statistic the mainstream sports media embraces and uses as a pillar to evaluate talent, the Sabermetrics opposition is growing.
I encourage you to read my entire argument, but here it is in summary:
  • RBI heavily influenced by position in lineup;
  • RBI heavily influenced by on base and base running ability of teammates.
 While we are conditioned to think that a singles hitter cannot drive in the runs of a power hitter, the truth is that, given equal opportunities with runners in scoring position, a high volume of singles can indeed result in more runs batted in.

 Though I see the RBI in its current form as largely worthless, I do believe an adjusted statistic would have value. Inspired by the research of Tom Tango, I assigned an RBI value for all singles, doubles, triples, home runs, walks/hit by pitch, and non strikeouts. The result was a way to compare the run production of players across different lineup positions, different teams and different eras.

 I provided a top 100 based on this new stat, which I referred to as XRBI. The top XRBI producers brought few surprises, but it was further down that list that we discovered players like Pete Rose, Lou Brock, Paul Molitor and Rickey Henderson benefitting from this new stat. While the system is not perfect (it values all singles equally and does not account for "clutch" or the absence of "clutch"), I'd contend that it is certainly better than the current, widely accepted iteration.

 Influence of Lineup Spot on Production
Today, I'm going to dive deeper into the RBI disparities in lineup spot. There are natural differences in lineup spot that will give one spot more opportunities than another with runners in scoring position. The obvious example is leadoff. If a batter is to come to the plate four times per game, one of four for the leadoff man is guaranteed to be with the bases empty. As a result, such a player is at a built-in disadvantage to drive in runs.

 When determining XRBI, the value I gave for each single was an average of the value for lineup spots one through nine, with and without the DH. So, you never really got to see just how advantageous lineup spot is.

 But Tom Tango, when developing his wOBA stat, assigned a more granular value. You can see the results here. I again average the values for DH with non-DH because of the difficulties of dealing with players who played in multiple leagues, with and without the Designated Hitter. I also want to assign a universal value to make it much easier to compare players.

 My guinea pig last week was Tony Perez, a Hall of Fame slugger most famous for his play on the 1970s Cincinnati Reds. In 61% of his career plate appearances, Perez hit clean-up or fifth in the lineup. So what might his RBI totals have looked like had he batted elsewhere in the lineup? Below are the RBI he might have collected for each offensive outcome in addition to a total at the far right.

Lineup Spot1B2B3BHRSOOtherBB/HBPXRBI
1
301147385370109151,147
2
335197485830119161,299
3
421237506120191131,523
4
479252556250191181,619
5
457237606220159241,559
6
408224566130143281,471
7
398222566030148241,452
8
394222575970143211,435
9
397225546020122271,426
So Tony Perez would have collected 472 fewer RBI (71%) had he batted leadoff his entire career instead of clean-up. That is quite the disparity. Also interesting that there is virtually no difference between the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth positions in the lineup. The disparities are greatest from one through five.

 If you're sharp, you'll note that Perez actually collected 1,652 total RBI over the course of his career, 33 more than the calculation above had he played his entire career as the clean-up man. Since he only hit there 54% of his career plate appearances, how is this possible?

 Well, you'll note that there is yet another influential factor that determines runs batted in: ability of teammates to get on base. From 1968 through 1977, the Reds finished first or second in the National League in On Base Percentage eight times. There were regularly runners on base and in scoring position when Tony Perez came to the plate. Perez performed well in these situations, but he certainly benefitted from playing with gifted teammates.

 As indicated in the original blog entry, the intent is not to belittle the accomplishments of Tony Perez. Instead, I hope that when people speak of his greatness they will use a statistic other than RBI as the measuring stick.
What other players do you believe benefitted from their position in the lineup? In other words, what players who were regularly seen as run producers significantly benefitted from lineup slot and teammates around them? What players who were not seen as run producers could have been had they been given the opportunity?

Sometimes I wish I would've been born in Minnesota

Now let me make one thing clear, this is in no way a knock on my hometown of Saint Joseph, Missouri. I love this city, I was born here and I'll die here and I have no desire whatsoever to live anywhere else in this country. There are enough things to do and places to eat that its not necessary (anymore) to drive an hour south for entertainment. Sports-wise there is division II Missouri Western State University and returning this summer are the St. Joseph Mustangs, a college summer league team. Some big league players that have passed through Joetown via summer ball include Chris Snopek, Brandon Duckworth, Shaun Marcum, and Dan Uggla. The Mustangs play in historic Phil Welch Stadium and when I say historic I mean it, the stadium is 70 years old and has played host to some truly legendary players - Dizzy Dean, Satchel Paige, Yogi Berra, Stan Musial, and Mickey Mantle to name just a few. More recently Luke Hochevar made a start against the St. Joseph Blacksnakes (an unpopular indie team) just prior to being drafted #1 overall in 2006.


So yeah I like my hometown.

I suspect you already know where I'm going with this, I sometimes wish I was born in Minnesota because it seems like it would be nice to follow a franchise that doesn't make me want to bang my head against a wall. Even from a distance I've always liked the Twins and I really enjoyed watching their teams in the 80's, Kent Hrbek and Tom Brunansky were two of my favorite non-Royals and that 1987 team with four players with 28+ home runs impressed me. A season like that was a rarity for the Royals because from 1969-1987 it had happened only six times in franchise history.

Whenever there have been lean years in Minnesota there is always a payoff down the road, in 1982 the Twins lost 102 games and were world champions five years later. They finished last in 1990 and won the World Series in 1991. The 90's weren't a particularly great decade but they have made it up to their fan base since then. They finished 4th or 5th the first seven years of the AL Central but since then they've finished 3rd twice, 2nd twice, and 1st FIVE times and of course are leading the division so far this season. For comparisons sake the Royals have finished in last place five of the last six seasons and are no closer to contention than they were the day Dayton Moore was hired. Yeah there are some nice players in the minors but as I recall their 2006 AA team had some nice players too.

And it's not like the Twins have vastly outspent the Royals, over the last decade the average yearly difference in payroll has been less than three million dollars while the average yearly difference in wins has been about 19. Spending money foolishly is often worse than not spending it at all and spending money foolishly is what the Royals do best.
YearMN RecordMN PayrollKC RecordKC Payroll
200069-9315.777-8523.1
200185-7724.165-9735.4
200294-6740.262-10047.2
200390-7255.583-7940.5
200492-7053.558-10447.6
200583-7956.156-10636.9
200696-6663.462-10047.3
200779-8371.469-9367.1
200888-7556.975-8758.2
200987-7665.365-9770.5
Totals863-758502.1672-948473.8
So you can see why my frustration level is at an all time high and why I look north with envy in my eyes. Dayton Moore has this organization going backwards but I don't believe he will get the axe though I think he should. Hillman, on the other hand, is probably in his last days and seems to be managing with an I'd rather be anywhere else attitude. He has definitely achieved lame duck status and now that Moore has publicly given him support his days are numbered. It seems to always happen that way.
A change in manager isn't going to right this ship though. Don't get me wrong now because it may help, you can't really defend a manager that plays Bloomquist in CF over Maier against a right handed pitcher and bats him second. You can't defend a manager that let's a pitcher with recent arm issues throw 128 pitches. You can't defend a manager that issues a small fine to a player for lackadaisical play instead of benching him for a game or two. I mean, you just can't.
Right now it's as bad as it's ever been in Kansas City and I really can't see it getting better anytime soon and unfortunately for me they will continue to be my summer obsession..........because I was born here instead of somewhere else, like Minnesota.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Rosa, Gordon, and Kila

There have been some recent moves so I thought now would be a nice time to post something. Carlos Rosa was traded and while initially blasted the general consensus seems to be that it was a good move. I mean if you can get a 20 year old shortstop with upside for an unproven relief pitcher then you do it every time. But I don't like it for a couple reasons. One, it really looks to me that his upside is TPJ 2.0 and I didn't care for the original and I'm not all that eager to see the sequel appearing at the K in a couple years. And two, I know Rosa hasn't been sharp and there is legitimate concern about his command and decrease in velocity. But I wonder if this isn't something that the big league coaching staff could fix. The retreads that Moore called up and Hillman keeps going to, well I just gotta believe that Rosa is better than most of them. If the bullpen wasn't such a disaster with no help in sight I may like this trade a little bit, but probably not.


The Alex Gordon demotion and subsequent position change means two things, that in the short term the Royals value Getz at second more than Gordon at third and in the long term it means a position change isn't forthcoming for Mike Moustakas. I think we all assumed that was an eventuality. Moving Gordon to left field may be a good idea because outfield isn't a position of strength in the minors. This would allow them to keep Callaspo at third until Moustakas is ready while leaving Butler at first base. DH would presumably be there for the taking by Kila Ka'aihue (more on him later). If this isn't the plan then I fail to understand the point and since they're also planning on him playing first base I have my doubts. Gordon has struggled early (batting .194) but because of an 18.4% walk rate his OBP his .342, and that will surely go up when his bat comes around. He has certainly out hit Getz (.200/.265/.200). I suspect Moore has given up on him and this move is just a precursor to a trade. One definite positive to this move is that Mike Aviles was recalled and homered in his first start.

Rick Ankiel's long awaited trip to the DL has finally landed Kila in Kansas City. Will he play though? I seriously doubt it. Butler isn't sitting nor should he and I think Guillen's hot start is just one of twelve million reasons why Trey will keep him in the lineup. Ideally Kila would start at DH every time a right handed starter moving Guillen to right or to the bench. This season is lost and Kila's development is more important to the Royals future than Guillen playing every day in his walk year. I'm reminded of September 2007 when they had the opportunity to play Justin Huber but instead chose to keep giving guys like Emil Brown at bats despite the fact they didn't figure into their 2008 plans. So KC needs to decide between the present and the future, here's hoping they choose wisely.