Friday, December 31, 2010

Zach Miner

 Jon Morosi tweeted that the Royals view Zach Miner as a potential starter. Signed to a minor league contract, and recovering from Tommy John surgery, Miner could optimistically be seen as the next Bruce Chen. Seems unlikely in my opinion but remember I didn't exactly think the Chen experiment would be a success. So who knows.

It's a mostly harmless acquisition and Miner has been productive in his limited major league career. Assuming he does indeed get a shot at being starter number five let's see how he stacks up with the rest of the rotation.

Hochevar 19 32 5.60 69 65 387.2 78 1.457 10.0 3.1 6.0 1.93 -0.5
Davies 42 56 5.49 138 131 706.2 79 1.603 10.1 4.3 6.3 1.45 -1.5
Mazzaro 10 17 4.72 41 35 213.2 91 1.573 10.4 3.7 5.8 1.55 0.0
O'Sullivan 8 8 5.65 31 24 135.1 76 1.456 10.0 3.1 4.8 1.53 -0.2
Miner 25 20 4.24 157 35 357.0 107 1.457 9.5 3.7 5.5 1.50 2.9

Well look who leads in the rotation in ERA+ and WAR? It's a little deceiving of course, Miner does have a rather pronounced split - 4.85 ERA as a starter compared to 3.60 as a reliever. He appears to be ideally suited to a long relief/spot starter role, if he's healthy enough to actually make the roster. It's a low risk move and if he should find himself in the rotation I'm willing to bet he puts up better numbers than Davies and SOS.

This move does leave me with one question though, why are they willing to give Miner a shot at the rotation and not Robinson Tejeda?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Is Zack Greinke a Royals hall of famer?

I know he's years away from being considered but I thought I'd just throw it out there. In my opinion he's one of the top three starting pitchers in team history, Kevin Appier and Bret Saberhagen being the other two. Saberhagen is of course in and I'm sure Appier's induction is coming soon. Before I share what I think let's see how he compares to the current HoFers (I'm going to include Appier with this group).

Greinke 60 67 3.82 210 169 12 3 1 1108 280 931 116 1.264 9.1 0.9 2.3 7.6 3.33 22.8
Appier 115 92 3.49 287 275 32 10 0 1843.2 634 1458 131 1.250 8.2 0.7 3.1 7.1 2.30 44.1
Saberhagen 110 78 3.21 252 226 64 14 1 1660.1 331 1093 128 1.134 8.4 0.7 1.8 5.9 3.30 37.3
Gubicza 132 135 3.91 384 329 42 16 2 2218.2 783 1366 110 1.356 9.0 0.6 3.2 5.5 1.74 35.6
Quisenberry 51 44 2.55 573 0 0 0 238 920.1 139 321 161 1.150 9.0 0.5 1.4 3.1 2.31 25.2
Leonard 144 106 3.70 312 302 103 12 1 2187 622 1323 107 1.262 8.8 0.8 2.6 5.4 2.13 24.0
Montgomery 44 50 3.20 686 0 0 0 304 849.1 287 720 138 1.233 7.1 0.8 3.0 7.6 2.5121.5
Splittorff 166 143 3.81 429 392 88 17 1 2554.2 780 1057 101 1.340 9.3 0.7 2.7 3.7 1.36 20.9
Gura 111 78 3.72 310 219 61 14 12 1701.1 503 633 108 1.253 8.6 0.9 2.7 3.3 1.26 16.6
Busby 70 54 3.72 167 150 53 7 0 1060.2 433 659 105 1.354 8.5 0.6 3.7 5.6 1.52 15.5

Looking at this list it's hard to see how he doesn't belong, among the starting pitchers he's 1st in SO/9, 2nd in BB/9, 2nd in SO/BB, 3rd in ERA+, and 5th in WAR.

I think two things work in Greinke's favor here - Steve Busby's inclusion and his 2009 Cy Young season. Busby had a promising career derailed by injuries which limited him to just three full seasons and 1060.2 innings. His two no-hitters and 22 win 1974 season were the obvious factors in his induction.
As for 2009, it is the best pitching performance in franchise history and while that in itself isn't enough for induction Greinke had three other seasons with an ERA+ of 120 or higher. To recap here's where his 2009 ranked in Royals history in various stats:
ERA+ - 1st (205)
WAR - 1st (9.0)
SO's - 2nd (242)
SO/9 - 1st (9.50)

Something working against Greinke is the absence of Charlie Liebrandt. Liebrandt also had a 116 ERA+ in his Royals career to go along with 76 wins. Considering he's one of the heroes of 1985 I'm actually quite surprised he's not in.

While in the process of writing this post I noticed Nick Scott has a Greinke article up at Royals Authority focusing on Greinke's place in team history. He argues against his inclusion due to lack of longevity, which is fair I think but again Busby's in, so there's that.

Personally I think he deserves to be in but his request to be traded will ultimately be what keeps him out. A graceful exit it wasn't and comments he made after the trade didn't exactly endear him to Royals fans. I don't consider him a no brainer though so I won't consider it a travesty if he never makes it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Noteworthy links

Since I started this blog in January 2008 I've kept track of the site's statistics, mostly out of curiosity but also if I happen to find that people have stopped reading I'll likely stop posting. It's true that I haven't posted as much as in the past but that was more due to outside factors than anything else. Royals fans have kept reading, in fact this blog has seen a 300% increase in traffic compared to this time a year ago. That alone leads me to believe that the fan base is still passionate about their team. I honestly believe that when this team gets competitive there is going to be an electricity in the air unseen since the mid-80's. You can choose to view 2011 as an upcoming disaster or look at it as the first step towards respectability when some of the talented minor leaguers start making their way to KC.

Now on to the links.

Clark Fosler discusses the timing of Moustakas's promotion.
I firmly believe small market teams need to keep service time in mind when promoting top prospects. There is a widely held view that players hold a grudge and are less likely to extend long term when this is done, of course that ignores the more widely held view that Scott Boras clients are less likely to extend long term period.

Josh Duggan thinks the Royals need to take another look at Kevin Millwood.
Last we heard on the subject Moore wasn't inclined to bring in a FA pitcher, of course that was before Greinke was traded. I'm obviously not as opposed to this as I once was but if it were to happen I'd rather it came at the expense of Sean O'Sullivan as opposed to Everett Teaford.

Michael Engel opposes trading Billy Butler and Joakim Soria and in the process writes the post I had planned on writing (but now don't need to).
The Greinke trade did not signify the start of a fire sale and I believe trading Butler and Soria would be pure lunacy. Neither is a financial detriment and both are still young and improving. Of course if Moore is overwhelmed with a trade offer that's a different story but trading them just for tradings sake would be stupid and short sighted.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Fifth Starter

Four pitchers will enter spring training virtual locks for the starting rotation - Luke Hochevar (78 career ERA+), Kyle Davies (79), Vin Mazzaro (91), and Sean O'Sullivan (76). As best as I can tell this is the main reason people are predicting 100+ losses for next season. I mean, having three starters that feature career ERA+'s below 80 isn't exactly filling the fan base with optimism. 

Davies is the only one of the four that pitched more than 130 innings in 2010 (183.2) and his resulting 78 ERA+ pretty much affirms that he is who we thought he was (meaning not very good). Again, his being the #2 starter may be a grim portent of things to come. I tweeted a few days ago that whoever wins the fifth starter will have a higher ERA+ than both Davies and SOS. To clarify that point further I mean whoever the fifth starter is, whether it's a veteran brought in to be the #1 guy or one of the in house candidates (more on them later). I honestly believe this to be true. Davies has pitched over 700 innings in his career and his ERA+ has been on the south side of 90 in all of them but one, his fluke 2008 season (108). Sean O'Sullivan just isn't very good and frankly wasn't very good in the upper minors, he put up a 5.08 ERA in 154 AAA innings. How he found his way into a major league rotation is beyond me. 

I wouldn't be surprised to see Hochevar and Mazzaro approach or transcend ERA+'s of 100, I know they both have plenty of doubters but I'm not one of them. Hochevar had career best's in ERA, WHIP, and H/9 in 2010 - like with Gordon I still believe he will justify being a first round pick (he probably will never justify being #1 overall but few pitchers do). Mazzaro is coming off a 97 ERA+ season, Oakland's defense is credited with some of that so KC improving their up the middle defense with the Greinke trade should make people feel better about his acquisition.

According to Moore the fifth starter candidates are Everett Teaford, Aaron Crow, and Danny Duffy. Given Moore's reluctance to rush prospects I think Teaford emerges as the winner. Crow and Duffy are considered important pieces of the future but have combined for less than 500 minor league innings, zero at AAA. Teaford, on the other hand, has 590 innings under his belt. Granted just 4 at the AAA level but I don't think promoting a 26 year old to the majors after a good AA season (14-3 3.36 ERA) would be considered rushing. So am I saying that Teaford will outpitch Davies and SOS? Why yes, yes I am. 

Now should Moore go the veteran route I think we still end up seeing Teaford in the rotation if/when SOS pitches his way out of it (May 1st?). Crow, I think, will find his way into the rotation in the season's second half. I also think he will only get so many innings to establish himself before being sent to the bullpen, which is to say he's not getting the Hochevar treatment.

In my vision of a perfect world the rotation would consist of Hochevar, Tejeda, Mazzaro, Davies, and Teaford with a hopefully improved Crow replacing Davies by the all-star break. Tejeda is not joining the rotation though and the sooner I accept that the happier I'll be. Right?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Greinke gone

Well I guess it was inevitable. You guys know where I stood on a possible Greinke trade but that is now a moot viewpoint, the deed has been done. The Royals received SS Alcides Escobar, OF Lorenzo Cain, SP Jake Odorizzi, and RP Jeremy Jeffress.

Odorizzi is the only one not ML ready, Kevin Goldstein has him as the 9th best prospect in the Royals system but notes that he's easily top 3 in most systems (He also has Jeffress 8th). He's just 20 years old and has #2 starter upside.

Escobar had a disappointing first full season (.235/.288/.326/67 OPS+) but the upside is still there as he's only 24 years old. In his one season at AAA, in 2009, he hit .298/.353/.409 with 42 stolen bases. 

Jeffress is right handed relief pitcher that can touch triple digits. His inclusion in the deal makes me feel better about the trade. With Soria, Tejeda, Collins, and now Jeffress the Royals have the makings of a dominant relief corps.

Cain is a center fielder (of course) that hit .306/.348/.425 in 158 PA's for the Brewers last season. If Cabrera's signing was pointless before this trade it's even more bewildering after. How the outfield situation shakes out will be one of the more intriguing storylines in spring training.

In my opinion it appears Dayton Moore did okay, actually more than okay since he was able to send Betancourt to Milwaukee too. Since KC didn't receive a starting pitcher ready to step in it appears Hochevar will be the opening day starter by default (unless Yost elects to flip a coin or something). 2011 is going to be one rough ride.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The most pointless signing of the Moore era

I'm not sure who held this distinction 24 hours ago (HoRam? Ponson? Spork?) but I definitely do now. Melky Cabrera's addition to an already full outfield doesn't seem to make any sense. Right now he may be the sixth best outfielder on the team, depending entirely upon how you view Jarrod Dyson. Here is how I rank them with their career OPS+ in parenthesis:
1. Gordon (95)
2. Blanco (85)
3. Maier (84)
4. Francoeur (91)
5. Dyson (87)
6. Cabrera (85)

“That’s how you convince these bounce-back guys to sign,” one club official said. “They have other offers. So you give them a chance to play regularly. Now, what they do with it is up to them.”

I'm not sure whose stats this club official was looking at but it sure wasn't Cabrera's. The guy had a career 86 OPS+ before joining the Braves. His best season was his rookie year back in 2006 (.280/.360/.391/95 OPS+), which was also the last time he had an on-base percentage above league average. His career .328 OBP trails his two competitors for the centerfield job, Blanco (.358) and Maier (.330).

If Gordon doesn't get traded Maier seems the most likely to be on his way out. Moore displayed his lack of faith in Maier last winter when he brought in Podsednik and Ankiel so I can't really see how Maier remains on the team especially now that there are three ex-Braves in the outfield. And even if he does I doubt he sees all that much playing time.

Of more concern to me than that is this could be a prelude to a Gordon trade. Readers of this blog know very well I'm still a believer in Gordon, I think it would be a mistake to trade him. True he hasn't been all that productive since his mini-breakout season in 2008 (109 OPS+, 3.1 WAR) but I think a lot of that can be attributed to injuries and the team basically not knowing what to do with him. Despite his disappointing 2010 season there are two reasons I remain optimistic about his future, his 12.1 BB% and his .254 babip. If his babip approaches his career mark of .294 and his walk rate remains the same he could be in for a fine season. It'd be a shame if that happened for another team.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mostly Harmless

The last few years there has been an almost unanimous consensus that Jeff Francoeur would be a Royal someday. Well someday is today. I guess because the Francoeur to KC rumors have been around so long I just can't seem to get worked up over his signing. I mean I thought I was going to hate it and I expected to hate it but now that it's happened I actually don't mind it, partly because he's not blocking anybody and mostly because he doesn't turn 27 until next month. I didn't realize he was that young since we've been hearing about his poor plate discipline for what seems like a decade. So while his last three years have paled in comparison to his first three he does still has age on his side (unlike Guillen and Ankiel).

2005-07 1656 84 7 62 253 4.5 19.2 .280 .319 .463 .782 100
2008-10 1787 83 9 39 212 5.1 15.9 .256 .301 .389 .690 83

Defensively he has 81 assists in his six seasons which is pretty good (in fact, I read that it leads all of baseball in that time period). He's not going to be Bloomquist out there and given KC's pitchers flyball tendencies this is a good thing. An outfield of Gordon/Francoeur in the corners and one of Maier/Dyson/Blanco in CF would be quite athletic.

I'm not going to defend the signing to those who bash it because I understand their point. But I always assumed Moore would either trade a highly rated prospect for him or sign him for an obscene amount of money, neither of those happened. So this appears to be a mostly harmless acquisition in my opinion. If it works, great! If it doesn't then he goes the way of Jacobs and Ankiel (meaning elsewhere).

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Catching up

Every so often a post topic will come to mind but instead of sitting down and writing it I get distracted by Angry Birds or learn there's a Lost Tribe of the Sith ebook I haven't read. Next a few days seem to pass and I've lost the desire to write the post. Then it happens all over again (lather, rinse, repeat). So while I have the time and motivation I'm going to hit on several topics in this post.

Kevin Millwood will apparently not be a Royal in 2011. This works for me as at this point in his career he is not an upgrade over Davies or Mazzaro, who each have age on their side. While I'm not excited about watching Sean O'Sullivan pitch every fifth day I suspect he'll be the one bumped from the rotation when Teaford or Duffy is ready. It appears Moore has learned his lesson in bringing in veteran starters on the downside of their career (Tomko/Ponson I'm looking at you). If Greinke is dealt then it's probably a matter of time before Chen is re-signed, which I wouldn't hate.

On the subject of a possible Greinke trade, well, you already know where I stand. While many think he'll be traded to the loser of the Cliff Lee sweepstakes (meaning Yankees or Rangers) I'm not so sure. My gut is telling me he is not going anywhere, which of course is perfectly fine with me because I don't have the faith that Moore is capable of pulling off a Bartolo Colon type of deal. If you recall the Indians received Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips, and the aforementioned Lee - in other words they did very well. And I have a feeling that in five or six years the winner of Lee is going to wish they'd traded for and extended Greinke instead.

Josh Fields was non-tendered and is a free agent. This is disappointing and understandable, disappointing  because I thought a Fields/Kila DH platoon could be extremely productive but understandable because they are bringing Wilson Betemit back. Since it would be redundant to carry them both I have no problem with Moore choosing the one coming off a 141 OPS+ season. What this also means is that all KC has to show for trading Carlos Beltran is Chris freaking Getz. Well done Allard Baird, well done.

I don't get the Vin Mazzaro hate going on but if it's because of his low K/9 consider this; in Royals history there have been 75 seasons (min. 162 IP) where a pitcher had a 5.8 K/9 or lower and 54 of them (72%) sported an ERA+ of 100 or higher. Now while that's not a guarantee that Mazzaro will out perform expectations it does suggest it is possible. I suppose you can say that percentage is high because a lot of pitchers failed to reach 162 innings because of their low K/9 (Chris George comes to mind), and that would be a fair point, but I firmly believe that Mazzaro will start 30 games next season. For what it's worth Bill James has projected a 6.53 K/9 for Mazzaro in 2011, given his age (24) and the fact that his strikeout rose every level (A 6.1, A+ 6.7, AA 6.8, AAA 7.7) I think that is very possible.

Adam Dunn was signed by the White Sox which makes it extremely likely that he becomes the next player to torment Royals pitching. Thus far he's only played six games in his career versus KC and has hit .318/.423/.636 with two home runs. I'll predict that he hits between 5-10 home runs against KC next season. Gee, can't wait.