Sunday, August 29, 2010

Dennis Leonard was Jack Morris before being Jack Morris was cool

I was perusing Dennis Leonard's b-r page last night when I couldn't help but notice that his stats mirrored those of future Hall of Famer Jack Morris. What might have been definitely applies to Leonard because you have to wonder how his career might have turned out had he not missed two and a half years after hurting his knee in 1983. Morris is a good comp since besides sharing similar numbers they also pitched in the same era. Here are their 162 game averages.

Morris 16 12 3.90 33 11 242 88 157 105 1.296 8.4 3.3 5.8 1.78
Leonard 16 12 3.70 33 11 242 69 147 107 1.262 8.8 2.6 5.4 2.13

Despite Dave Stieb having a better OPS+ Morris is often called the 80's best pitcher because he led the decade in wins. Leonard had some league leading extended success too, from 1975-1981 he led the AL with 120 wins and was second to Steve Carlton in all of baseball. Interestingly enough Leonard is the only non-HoFer in the top 5.
  1. Steve Carlton - 129
  2. Dennis Leonard - 120
  3. Jim Palmer - 119
  4. Tom Seaver - 113
  5. Phil Niekro - 110
Pretty heady company. ERA+-wise he was tied for 20th (min 1000 IP, Larry Gura was 6th) which means he wasn't among the elite but was still above average. If Leonard doesn't get hurt and pitches into his upper 30's like Morris he probably wins 200+ games.

But of course he did get hurt and came back to pitch one of the most inspirational games in team history - a nationally televised 3 hit shutout versus the Toronto Blue Jays. With all said and done his 144 wins are second to Paul Splittorff in franchise history and he is the only Royals pitcher to have three 20 win seasons ('77,'78,'80).

Here is a video filmed by Lee Warren in which Leonard talks about his injury and comeback. Good stuff.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Initial Impression

Robinson, D CF High BABIP. 1 for 5 with a 2-RBI double. I didn't keep my eyes on him a lot in centerfield. His double was very impressive and strongly aided by his speed, which is his purpose, of course. The reports of his speed is insanely accurate and very exciting. He didn't seem patient to me in the least, but it's only 5 at bats and he's shown slight improvement in that he's always had a pretty decent BA/OBP split.

Giavotella 2B High. 2 for 5, with a pair of singles. He seems Mike Aviles-ish, which is a great player provided two things: he gets to the bigs quicker and he maintains a steady level. He's going to be geared more towards the offensive side of the ball. His career trio line is pretty good, but his career BABIP is high, so you do have to wonder. He seems to have steady hands but very limited range, though not Alberto Callaspo-limited.

Hosmer 1B Average. 2 for 4, with a walk, a single and a double and a run scored. Wow! What power! What speed! What a glove! He really hit the ball hard every single time he touched it and did it was done with a very natural swing. Considering he's not the guy I wanted the Royals to draft, I really have to be firm in saying that I simply cannot say enough positive things about his performance tonight. I was very impressed with his speed, which, of course, will probably diminish as he fills out. He ran the bases pretty well, but was caught off the bag a bit much which ended up with Giavotella getting a questionable out call at the plate. But what a complete ballplayer!

Robinson, C DH High. 2 for 4, with a walk, a single and a solo shot with 2 runs scored and 1 RBI. He DH'd tonight. He has a very powerful stroke, though it might be a bit long. I went alone so I had to tell my jokes to myself about his warning track power peaking out in the earlier frames, but he must be telepathic because that ball traveled in a hurry. He'll probably need a catchier nickname than 'Alabama Hammer' if he's going to keep this up. Word to the wise, he's an age-advanced prospect.

Van Stratten RF High. 1 for 4, with a double and two strikeouts. I really don't think there's much of much going on here, but he does have a very good arm.

Pina C Average. Two for 5, with a pair of singles and 1 run and 1 RBI. For a defensive-mind backstop, he really surprised me with two late dropped third strikes--the most embarrassing play in all of baseball!

Smith, T LF High. Two for 4, with a pair of singles and 1 run and 1 RBI. I really liked his approach and he showed some pretty decent power with hard hit balls. In the past editions of Baseball America's Handbook, I'd have to say Smith would probably be a Top Twelve prospect at this point. Thank goodness the system is loaded! He could be a corner outfielder if he continues to develop, but he'd have a lot of pine in his future.

Romak 3B
High. Only player to go hitless, though he did have a walk. I don't think there's anything going on here either. No defensive plays really stick out in my memory.

McConnell SS Average. 2 for 3, with a walk and a pair of singles. McConnell hopes to get to the bigs based on his glove. He's in the right organization for that. Maybe we can leave Jeff Conine unprotected to make sure that we have a shortstop. I was surprised when a defensive-minded shortstop was rather slow to react to a few hard hit groundballs his way. Hopefully it was just an off-night for his glove.

Paulino, SP High BABIP [against]. Went 4 2-3rds with 2 ER and too many walks and okay strikeout numbers. Paulino looked good at times, shaky at others. Though he threw 96 pitches, Poldberg left him him in too long considering he walked a guy with two on and almost walked in another run when he decided to let the guy work just a bit for a second ER. I wouldn't say he's been used as a spot starter because he lost his job as a starter and then was recently re-instated, so 4.2 isn't a bad number for someone who spent a good deal of the summer in the 'pen. He probably has the upside of a 12th (or in the Royals' case, 13th) reliever.

Barrera, RP Average. Went 2 1-3rds innings with 0 ER, no walks and 1 strikeout. I've wanted to see him pitch for a very long time and I was slightly disappointed because, from memory, he's supposed to be a serious gunner, but the fastest I saw was 95, which is plenty fast, but I thought maybe a triple digit or two would be squeezed out of him. I will plant the notion that maybe I have him confused with Alex Caldera, which I do for some reason though they look nothing alike. [Mostly due to Barrera's nicely groomed porn 'stache.] Barrera does have the oddest little hitch in his delivery, which caused some minor stirrings earlier as to whether it was legal or not.

Keating, CL High. Went 2 innings [wow! They CAN do it!] with 0 ER, 1 BB and 5 K. I really don't need to say, but what dominance he showed tonight, especially in the ninth. I was really taken aback by how easily he performed tonight. BABIP is a really good indicator and his is high in a small number of innings, but with a 12.5 K/9 and a 3 K/BB, it's hard to imagine his dominance not continuing to show. I'd misplaced Keating in my mind until he resurfaced at the front of it tonight. Triple-A has the better bullpen prospects, which is why I think I forgot about Keating and can't keep Barrea/Caldera straight. I'd say Keating has the upside of a pretty good set-up man.

Maybe the way I've ranked the BABIPs isn't the best way to do it because it doesn't include "slightly high" or "way too high" or anything like that. Also, these are only NWA BABIPs, so Hosmer's time in Wilmington, for example, isn't included. Maybe it should be, but since they're notorious parks though on opposite ends of the hitting spectrum, I've decided to include only NWA since it helps the hitters. I know the Royals don't do much with "advanced" metrics, but I hope they do have someone that pays attention to BABIP because this group is collectively way too high!

Player with the longest strike: Hosmer, who hit an incredible shot outside the foul line.
Annie Savoy of the Game: Whoever that was kissing on Manuel Pina.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Deconstructing Kendall

On the morning of June 3rd Ned Yost awoke to find Jason Kendall hitting .287/.347/.348 and made the inexplicable decision to bat him second from there on out. While that line wasn't awful it also wasn't accurate because in Kendall's previous 38 games he hit .258/.329/.320, meaning his numbers were already trending downward. Since being installed as the everyday #2 hitter he's hit .240/.296/.269 and amazingly Yost hasn't moved him down in the lineup.

Yost can talk he wants about Kendall's bat control and veteran presence but the numbers are there for the world to see and they're not good. For the season he's at .241/.295/.273 in the two hole (he had three starts there prior to June 3rd). The MLB averages for number two hitters are .273/.337/.404 - Kendall isn't just below average, he's way below average. His sOPS+ is 55 making him 45% worse than a league average two hitter. And still he bats second everyday!!!!

sOPS+ is OPS+ split adjusted and his numbers across the board are just dreadful. Here are some sOPS+ numbers for the struggling Kendall:
Split League Kendall sOPS+
as 2 hitter .273/.337/.404 .241/.295/.269 55
as catcher .249/.320/.380 .260/.318/.302 79
home .266/.336/.420 .277/.352/.328 83
away .252/.318/.391 .244/.285/.280 61
1st half .259/.329/.406 .271/.333/.320 80
2nd half .258/.323/.402 .231/.277/.256 49

And this is just his offense. On defense, where he was supposed to be an upgrade, he has 13 errors and 6 passed balls. (It'd be too easy to do another John Buck comparison but you can click here to see his splits.) Yost has talked about giving Brayan Pena more time but, really, what's the point in doing that this late in the year? I don't think there's anyone who believes Pena will be in Kansas City next year, Lucas May has hit .291/.351/.503 in AAA this year and seems the likely choice to back up Kendall in 2011.

I didn't get the Kendall signing when it happened and I don't get it now and I especially don't get why he continues to bat second. In fact, I probably never will.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Banny, Bully, and Pickering 2.0

Brian Bannister being put on the disabled list resulted in two moves I heartily endorse - Jai Miller has been called up and Bryan Bullington will remain in the rotation. I broached the subject of Miller last week suggesting that he'd be a better fourth outfielder option than Willie Bloomquist. Though with Gregor Blanco off to an unimpressive start Miller could possibly see regular time with Maier shifting back to center field, of course given Blanco's ex-Brave status that scenario is probably unlikely. Miller hit .267/.340/.531 with 18 home runs for Omaha and as the only right handed hitting outfielder (Bloomquist no longer counts) he should play once or twice a week.

After watching Bullington 2-hit the Yankees it was asinine for Yost to suggest that Bannister could rejoin the rotation. This was probably just one of those manager things, you know where they say something they don't really mean. Hillman had this mastered and it appears Yost is proficient at it also. Bullington may just be having a run of good luck but I firmly believe a starter should pitch his way out of the rotation and he hasn't done that yet. Bannister did and it sure seems like Davies is trying (Davies career ERA+ is 79, his ERA+ this season is 79. This is who he is). Bullington could implode his next start or could toss his third consecutive quality start, it's easy to forget that he only has 60 major league innings under his belt. Maybe he hasn't turned a corner but maybe he has.


The Calvin Pickering comparisons have already started for Kila Ka'aihue but I don't see where this is an insult. I guess people making this comparison forget that when Pickering was finally called up in 2004 he had a .500 SLG% and 113 OPS+ in 142 plate appearances. I'd be happy with similar numbers from Kila, wouldn't you? The Royals gave up on Pickering after only 31 PA's in 2005 so it's not like he was an utter failure. Kila has indeed struggled but is showing signs of coming out of it. In his last four games he has hit .357/.438/.429, sure it's a small sample size but he only has 70 big league plate appearances so his whole career is a small sample size. So let's not give up on him just yet.

Man, I wish I was blogging back in 04/05. I get a wistful feeling thinking about the infamous Pickering v Harvey debate, I spent a lot of hours debating the issue on message boards. Good times.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Well that was unexpected

I don't think anyone thought Bryan Bullington had that type of performance in him, I know I didn't. I should say anyone now because he was after all the #1 overall pick in 2002 where he was picked ahead of BJ Upton, Zack Greinke, Prince Fielder, Scott Kazmir, Nick Swisher (moneyball), Cole Hamels, and Matt Cain. That was a great first round and Bullington went first. Of course not much has gone right for him since that day but yesterday he dominated the Yankees allowing only two hits and a walk in eight innings, more importantly he allowed ZERO runs sending Yankees fans into hysteria (they apparently are incapable of enduring a series split with the horrid Royals).

I really hope a light has switched on for Bullington (Bully?), in his last 18 innings (2 relief appearances, 2 starts) he has given up only nine hits and three runs. It seems unlikely that he'd find his groove a month before he turns 30 but stranger things have happened. Worst case scenario he keeps Bannister from rejoining the rotation soon, best case Bannister never makes another start for Kansas City.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

So what about Jai Miller?

Right now there are eight outfielders on the 40 man roster and that is including Willie Bloomquist. And that's the problem, Bloomquist is not a good outfielder and I'm not real sure when he obtained 4th outfielder status but it needs to end. With that being said I'd kind of like to see Jai Miller get a look. I'm not going to start a free Jai campaign or anything but I think as one of only three right handed hitters on the 40 man (Bloomquist and Parraz are the others) it's make more sense to have a 25 year old who has slugged over .500 the last two years than Bloomquist.

Miller strikes out a lot and doesn't get on base much so I'm not campaigning to have him inserted as the everyday right fielder but just as a backup. Bloomquist doesn't get on base much either (.280 OBP) and has no power (.347 SLG%), believe me this wouldn't be a downgrade at all.

Here are Miller's career AAA stats:
200924New OrleansFLA1023905599242165238106.289.360.510.870
2010252 TeamsKCR,OAK893674684232185735121.256.327.503.830
AAA (3 seasons)308125516829969953165125360.271.346.493.839
And who knows, maybe they catch lightening in a bottle and he turns out to be productive. Unlikely, I realize, but entirely possible. So would you release the spork and bring up Miller or would you rather stick with the status quo?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Omaha thoughts

Last Friday I took in my first Omaha Royals game (also mentioned here by the fantastic Lee Warren) which means it was also my first look at some prospects. So instead of writing a post questioning Ned Yost's love for Willie Bloomquist I thought instead I'd share my thoughts on some future Kansas City Royals. So while I realize one game is too small a sample size to make any definitive conclusion I felt I did see enough to form some opinions. It was also Star Wars night and I won't deny that playing a part in deciding which Omaha game to attend. Now then, on to my amateur analysis.

Edgar Osuna
When Lee Warren tweeted that Osuna was starting I was thrilled because I was going to get to see a legit prospect and not some 4A retread (if you like to follow Royals minor leaguers then you should be following Lee on twitter). I had heard that Osuna doesn't have enough velocity to be a major league starter but looking at his numbers in AA I was hopeful. Well hopeful has gone to doubtful. Wily Mo Pena (yes that Wily Mo Pena) hit two home runs off Osuna, one of which left the yard at the speed at light.
Osuna departed in the third inning after allowing 6 hits, 4 walks, and 3 home runs. After Devon Lowery allowed all three inherited runners to score Osuna was tagged for 9 earned runs. In two AAA starts Osuna has given up 16 earned runs in 7 innings, now two starts shouldn't damn him to life as a LOOGY but it's not looking good for him.

Mike Moustakas
Moustakas didn't have a good game, he was 0-4 with a walk. He hasn't made a AAA adjustment yet where a lot of pitchers are 4A guys but I believe he will. It looked to me like he was pressing, and I say that because he was swinging early in the count but remember I'm someone who has never seen him hit before so take it for what's worth. I know some were hoping to see him reach Kansas City this year but his .245/.257/.436 line for Omaha would suggest that's not likely.

Tim Collins
More than anyone Collins was the guy I wanted to see and, man, he didn't disappoint. First thing I noticed was that he is really tiny the second was he has big stuff. Former major leaguer Pena hit rockets his first four times up, besides his two home runs off Osuna he also singled hard off Lowery and Louis Coleman but Collins made him look plain silly. I'm guessing it was a curve ball that Pena struck out on because he started his swing well before the ball reached home plate. Collins then proceeded to strike out Aaron Cunningham and Josh Barfield (another former big leaguer) looking. In the 8th inning he got three ground ball outs, needless to say I was very impressed with his outing. I went to sleep that night with visions of Collins/Soria locking down meaningful games in the near future.

Lucas May
For a brief instant I thought May had a grand slam in the first inning but the ball was caught either on the warning track or just shy of it (hard to tell from my seat), he hit it hard though. His next at bat he hit a rocket into the corner for a double (which I shakily got on video, see below). I thought he had a good approach at the plate and defensively I didn't see anything that raised any questions. Given Brayan Pena's lack of playing time I gotta believe May backs up Kendall next year and maybe at some point even becomes the starting catcher. The general consensus is that he's destined to be a career backup but I hope KC at least gives him a shot at starting before deciding his career path.

Jarrod Dyson
Dyson is fast, really fast and he covers a ton of ground in centerfield but he reminded me Joey Gathright and as you recall he didn't pan out in KC. Dyson may be a different story but if used as a defensive replacement/pinch runner he could have some value for the Royals even if he can't hit big league pitching. However he may want to hit because I can't see them carrying him if they also have Derrick Robinson, a similar player.

Omaha lost the game 13-6 but it was still a very positive experience. I will definitely try to attend at least one game a year from here on out, providing the Royals continues to feed Omaha their top prospects.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Another good move by Moore

Unable to trade to Jose Guillen I believe Dayton Moore made the right call in designating him for assignment. The 36 million dollar man's time in Kansas City was a massive failure. He hit just .256/.308/.420 with only 45 home runs but he definitely left his mark in other ways. While his 94 OPS+ and -0.8 WAR were certainly noteworthy he'll always be remembered for his penchant to frustrate fans and criticize teammates. Moore's cleaning the roster of the popular whipping boys is both unexpected and the right decision. While I'm not quite ready to trust the process I am willing concede that Moore has the franchise pointing in the right direction.

There is absolutely no reason why Kila can't play everyday now so Yost needs to make this happen. I don't want to see Bloomquist playing 3rd base and Betemit DH'ing. I will freak out man, I will freak out!!! I like Betemit at 3rd until Moustakas is ready and I like Bloomquist on the bench occasionally pinch running. I suspect Yost will do the right thing here, at least I hope so.

Now that Kila has been freed I guess Ed Lucas is the newest cause du jour. I do believe I'll sit this one out, he's having a fine year for sure but the rest of his minor league resume is slightly unimpressive. He's also being blocked by Betemit and Aviles, two players I happen to like. I suppose I wouldn't mind if he took Bloomquist's roster spot but it's not something I can get worked up about.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Is Kila here to play or to sit?

When Kila Ka'aihue was demoted earlier this year it was because they didn't want him to sit, which is exactly what he's done since being recalled. I'm, uh, confused. Like many fans I thought his promotion meant the team was finally phasing out Jose Guillen. After all only one of the two will be with the team next season so it only makes sense to get Kila as many at bats as possible. I imagine Moore is still trying to trade Guillen - now I don't know what he's asking but pay the remainder of his salary, accept a 26 year old in A ball, and then move on. The last 55 games of the year need to be played with 2011 in mind so Kila needs to be in the lineup almost everyday. That's enough time for him to get around 200 plate appearances and maybe, just maybe they will have a good idea if he can hit big league pitching when spring training rolls around. It's something I still wish they would have done with Justin Huber (yes, I'm still bitter).

At this point I'd even be open to the idea of Guillen in right field if it means Kila gets to DH. It's not ideal mind you but it's something I could accept. The outfield of Gordon/Blanco/Maier is preferable but in my opinion Kila's upside is larger than both Blanco and Maier. Yost said the situation would work itself out but didn't say how so you can understand my negativity when Kila sits two games in a row. I did read that he's playing today even though Oakland's starting pitcher is lefty Brett Anderson, I initially thought this was a questionable decision on Yost's part and they were setting Kila up to fail but I changed my thinking after checking out Anderson's splits.

vs RHB as LHP37663731513111439133.246.293.368.292
vs LHB as LHP3622226677061040.322.356.442.372
Provided by View Original Table

I've written too many words the last couple years about Kila not getting a chance and hopefully this will be the last time I post this same, tired rant. He needs to play everyday no matter if Guillen is here or not, end of story.