Monday, December 26, 2011

Royally Speaking's 7 Most Popular Posts of 2011

When 2011 began I was this close to turning out the lights here. There were several factors involved in that almost-decision but a decided lack of want was at the top of the list. But I chose to keep writing and I'm glad I did as this year was the most fun I've had in this blog's four year run. And it was a good year to be sure, online and offline. I met Denny Matthews at Fanfest, ran into George Brett in the Royals Hall of Fame and, though the reason behind the phone call was sad, had a nice chat with Denny Trease reminiscing about Paul Splittorff.

I also went mainstream during the summer as Ross Martin (you likely know him as @pcbearcat) offered me the opportunity to write a weekly column for the St. Joseph News Press. It was a rewarding experience, though an odd one at the same time, as I never got used to seeing my picture and name in print.

Traffic wise, this was the blog's most successful season. Of course that probably doesn't happen without a significant amount of linkage, so all of you that read something that you felt was worth sharing you have my humble thanks.

Provided Dayton Moore doesn't sign Jose Guillen or Horacio Ramirez this is my last post until January 2012. I thought about doing a year in review type of thing where I highlight various posts in chronological order but instead I decided to do a simple rundown featuring 2011's greatest hits.

Thanks for reading, you guys, and I'll see you next year.

7. Top 20 Prospect Preview

This post was written by Keith Blackburn, a guy who unquestionably knows more about the Royals farm system than I do. Keith ranks the top 20 prospects, suggests where they should begin the season and provides a Kansas City ETA. For more of Keith's thoughts follow him on twitter (seriously, do that!).

First off I would like to thank Jeff for allowing me to post this here. Second I’d like people to know that I’m no expert, I’m just some nerd who relentless follows the Royals minor league system. That being said I’d like to go ahead and thank experts like the guys at Baseball AmericaKevin GoldsteinKeith LawDave SanfordGreg Schaum, and all the other guys who really know what they are doing for supplying a lot more of this specific information. All I’m doing here is checking out video, reading stats and scouting reports, seeing as many of these guys as I can, and going with my gut feeling to make this list. So without further ado, here it goes.


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6. A Conversation With Denny Trease


Back in the 1980's Denny Trease did the play by play on the Royals television broadcast, and he eventually would team with Paul Splittorff to form, in my opinion, an on air duo that has never been matched. Denny's smooth game calling coupled with Splitt's analysis made for the perfect combination. I have yet to meet anybody who didn't believe that the Denny/Splitt wasn't among the best in the business.

After Splitt passed away Wednesday I talked to Denny on the phone about his friend and former co-worker. The circumstances were certainly somber, but I had always wanted to speak with him, so before our trip down memory lane, I took the opportunity to tell him how much I enjoyed and miss his work in the booth.

"I do miss it myself," he said, "there were just some great memories. My timing was perfect, I started the same year they won the pennant for the first time."


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5. 200

I missed most of the controversy that surrounded Melky Cabrera's pursuit of a 200 hit season, which is for the best I suppose, because it seems a weird thing to be upset about. I get that the difference between 197 and 200 hits in terms of value and production is nonexistent but this was about history, because in Kansas City 200 hit seasons are rare, even rarer than a 30 home run season as a matter of fact. At most it probably should have been a non-issue, I mean would a few extra plate appearances for Lorenzo Cain tell us anything we don't already know? Probably not. So no, I didn't see any reason why Cabrera shouldn't have been given the opportunity to add his name to the 200 hit club.

Cabrera became the just the sixth Royal to achieve the feat and the first since 2000. Here are the too few members of the Royals 200 hit club.


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4. Thoughts On Navarro, Shields And Gonzalez


The winter meetings have ended, and outside of some rumors, it was a rather uneventful few days for the Royals. I was wrong on two counts in my last post as DM failed to land a utility infielder and then traded Yamaico Navarro, showing they weren't as high on him as I previously thought. Of course I only thought that because of this Bob Dutton article on August 5th:
The decision by the Royals to clear space Friday for second baseman Johnny Giavotella by optioning just-acquired Yamaico Navarro to Class AAA Omaha stems from a belief that Navarro can be more than a utility player.
“He needs to play,” manager Ned Yost said. “It’s hard to evaluate where we are with him. We like what we see, but unless he plays every day, you don’t know what he needs to continue to work on – what his strengths are, what his weaknesses are."
I'm not sure what a month in Omaha told the Royals about Navarro but if you follow the right people on twitter you are no doubt aware that questions exist about his makeup and clubhouse presence. These concerns were apparently legitimate enough that they trumped Navarro's potential usefulness as a utility infielder. That role will now likely go to a veteran in his mid-30's, which given how young the infield is, may actually be a good idea. I'll qualify that opinion with this, as long as they don't overpay. Of course in hindsight the Royals could've kept Mike Aviles and avoided all of this.


3. Best Royals Infields

I was writing my weekly column for the St. Joseph News Press when I realized that due to a lack of real estate I was running the risk of not properly explaining my point. After all, I'm pretty certain the sports editor wouldn't have appreciated an article that tripled my allotted word count and came with all sorts of charts (though I would have liked to seen his reaction had I gone that route). So after first editing the article and changing it from a mess to a readable mess I then decided to expand on it here.

As you are no doubt excitedly aware, the infield of the future is the infield of the present, and their upside got me thinking about infields of the past. So I posed this question on twitter - the current Royals infield has the highest upside since.....? I received feedback that ranged from the great infields of the 70's to a few in the 80's to some in the 90's. Of course any answer that included David Howard was obviously snark laden, at least I hope so.


2. Rotation Thoughts

It's possible that the Royals 2012 contention hopes rest on one tiny word, if. As in they'll contend if Dayton Moore can find a quality SP this winter, if Luke Hochevar's second half really was a taste of things to come, if Felipe Paulino can avoid regressing to his pre-Royals numbers, and finally, if Danny Duffy can take a John Danks-like step his sophomore year.

Of course not all of the above mentioned ifs need to occur for the Royals to play meaningful baseball in September but I would argue that probably three of them do. I'll tackle them one at a time.

The offseason acquistion

Many rumors and suggestions have floated around about who Moore should target to front the 2012 rotation. There are only a handful pitchers in baseball who can be considered true aces and Moore is not going to get one. But there are many above average guys who would slot nicely into the #1 spot in Kansas City, the three I like most are James ShieldsChad Billingsley and Edwin Jackson.


1. Some Billy Butler Comps You Will Like And Some You Won't 

I was at Royals fanfest when I first heard the news that KC had signed Billy Butler to a four year/30 million dollar contract (with a fifth year club option for 12.5) and it made an enjoyable day even more so. It's a very club friendly deal and when it ends he'll still be young enough for another healthy payday. A great deal all around. It got me to thinking though, I'm curious what kind of hitter Butler will be for the next five years so I compared his career OPS+ to players from the last sixty years.

Specifically I was looking for guys whose OPS+ was close to Butler's 118 for their age 21-24 seasons and then checked to see how they did from 25 to 29. Qualifying players had an OPS+ between 115 and 120 and a minimum of 2000 plate appearances, 2000 because I wanted guys who played all of the four seasons. I took position and skill-set out of the equation and just focused on one singular stat. It's meaningless of course and certainly unscientific but I found the results rather interesting nonetheless. I came up with eleven players of all shapes and sizes, including one Hall of Famer.

Carlos Baerga
21-24 116
25-29 92
25 - 118
26 - 108
27 - 72
28 - 87
28- 76

Baerga's decline was surprising but he walked in only 4.9% of his plate appearances so I guess it shouldn't have been.



1 comment:

JonathanN said...

This is a great read, Jeff! Really enjoy all your blog posts!