Friday, October 28, 2011

Gio

Johnny Giavotella's late season look was underwhelming to be sure but playing with a torn labrum may partially explain his troubles. I've seen mentioned on forums and twitter that Gio isn't the answer at second base, which frankly surprises me given his minor league resume. He's not the first player to mash AAA pitching and then struggle in his first crack at the majors, it happens all the time. The fact is, hurt or healthy, 187 plate appearances is not enough of a sample size to tell us anything.

To prove my point here are how a couple of other 23 year olds performed their rookie season, and how they performed the year after.

Peter Bourjos
Year Age PA BA OBP SLG OPS+
2010 23 193 .204 .237 .381 69
2011 24 552 .271 .327 .438 115
Year Age PA BA OBP SLG OPS+
1991 23 162 .353 .435 .515 168
1992 24 343 .232 .354 .281 83
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table

We know nothing. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

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 Shields, Chad Billingsley and Edwin Jackson.

  • Shields - After a 225 strikeout season he probably would cost the most prospect-wise. Those who fret over his .260 BAbip are right to worry as that's a career low. Last season a .344 mark produced a 75 ERA+ but from 2007-2009 his BAbips were all in the .284-.311 range and he put up ERA+'s of 117, 124 and 105. He seems an unlikely bet to match his 2011 numbers but he'll still strike out a lot of hitters while walking very few.
  • Billingsley - He is owed 32 million over the next three seasons (actually 35M counting the buyout for the 4th year team option, which they'd almost assuredly decline), and given the Dodgers internal mess, I'd wager that's a contract they'd like to part with. At 27 he is still fairly young but he has put up an ERA+ south of 100 two of the last three seasons, so there's that. Also his 7.3 SO/9 was the lowest he'd ever put up in a full season so you have to wonder what's going on there.  
  • Jackson - Unlike the previous two Jackson is a free agent so he won't cost prospects, only money, and in a weak class he is probably going to be overpaid. At 28 he is coming off four consecutive seasons of 180+ innings pitched and has had an ERA+ above 100 in three of them. If you'd rather see Moore give Jackson 3/39 than pay Shields or Billingsley less but have to part with Wil Myers or Mike Montgomery, then you're probably not alone.
All three of these guys would be significant upgrades over Jeff Francis.

The pitcher of our discontent


Split W L ERA G GS IP BB SO WHIP SO/9 SO/BB
1st Half 5 8 5.46 19 19 118.2 38 60 1.382 4.6 1.58
2nd Half 6 3 3.52 12 12 79.1 24 68 1.134 7.7 2.83
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table

This was the first season I exited the Hochevar bandwagon and I'm pretty certain I was one of the last few off. But that was before the All Star break, and well, look at what he did afterwards. If increased use of his slider really was what turned around his season (and possibly career) around then he may be in line for a big 2012. I'm not ready to make that prediction though.

One of the running jokes in the Royals blogosphere is that Hochevar is only consistent in his inconsistency, you see it's funny because it's true. Because of that it would surprise no one to see him totally bomb next season, even after his fantastic second half. Now I suppose it's likely that Moore rolls the dice and buys in to Hochevar's second half, that could mean an SP won't be a high priority as he'll feel comfortable with Hochevar at #1 again. That's just speculation on my part though but given how Moore tends to ignore track records I see it as a real possibility. It'd be a tremendous gamble though and I imagine a currently excited fan base would not react well to such a decision.

The strikeout artist

Rk Player Date IP SO
1 Felipe Paulino 2011-09-10 7.0 11
2 Felipe Paulino 2011-09-26 6.0 9
3 Luke Hochevar 2011-09-08 6.2 9
4 Bruce Chen 2011-08-23 7.2 9
5 Kyle Davies 2011-07-18 5.1 9
6 Felipe Paulino 2011-07-05 6.0 9
7 Danny Duffy 2011-06-19 3.2 9
8 Felipe Paulino 2011-09-21 5.0 8
9 Bruce Chen 2011-09-13 8.0 8
10 Luke Hochevar 2011-09-03 8.0 8
11 Felipe Paulino 2011-07-17 7.0 8
12 Felipe Paulino 2011-06-23 8.0 8
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used

Of the twelve games all year in which a Royals starter recorded 8 or more strikeouts Paulino started exactly half. His 8.59 SO/9 was the fourth best in franchise history among pitchers who started 20+ games. If Moore does indeed acquire a back of the rotation SP then I think I'd rather see Paulino at #1 instead of Hochevar.

Regression is of course the worry here but I'm not overly concerned with it. True he was abysmal with Houston and Colorado but considering that he only pitched 151.1 innings at AA and AAA combined I think he's a case of a guy who's finally figured things out. Of the four ifs, his is the one I'm most confident about coming true.

The young southpaw

I mentioned Danks as comp to Duffy earlier, which may be wishful thinking on my part, but take a look at the two left-handers rookie seasons and you'll see why I came to that conclusion.

Age W L ERA G GS IP BB SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
Danks 22 6 13 5.50 26 26 139.0 54 109 86 1.540 10.4 1.8 3.5 7.1 2.02
Duffy 22 4 8 5.64 20 20 105.1 51 87 73 1.614 10.2 1.3 4.4 7.4 1.71
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table

In 2008 Danks produced a 138 ERA+, 6.4 bWAR sophomore season helping the White Sox take the Central one year after they finished 72-90. Granted that type of season seems unlikely for Duffy but there's no doubt that he has the talent and stuff to be well above average. I expect that the lack of high minor league seasoning (81.1 combined AA/AAA innings) will result in next season being another learning experience. In fact, I don't believe it's a given that Duffy even breaks camp with the club, and really, additional AAA innings are certainly not going to harm his development. In a rotation full of wild cards he may be the wildest card of them all.

Now you may have noticed the absence of Bruce Chen in this post, that's because I don't think he'll be back. If he does though, I expect we'll see more of the same, and that'll fit in nicely at #5.

So here's what we're potentially looking at next season:
1. Shields/Billingsley/Jackson
2. Hochevar
3. Paulino
4. Duffy
5. Crow/Teaford/Montgomery/Chen

I tend to get incredibly optimistic in the offseason but I think any of the 1 and 5 combinations along with the three holdovers would work, if things play out like we hope.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

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.

Player Year H Age
George Brett 1976 215 23
George Brett 1979 212 26
Willie Wilson 1980 230 24
Kevin Seitzer 1987 207 25
Johnny Damon 2000 214 26
Mike Sweeney 2000 206 26
Melky Cabrera 2011 201 26
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used

As you can see four of the seasons were accomplished by players in their age 26 season, which I find somewhat interesting.

Given the heightened offensive environments that existed in 1987 and 2000 an argument can be made that Cabrera's 200 hits may be more impressive than Seitzer, Damon and Sweeney's. On the flip side though there were five such seasons across baseball in '87, and six in '00 and five this season. So even when offense is up it seems only a handful players reach 200.

Acknowledging that, I thought it'd be interesting to see how the above players fared as compared to rest of baseball in their respective years. So here is their numbers as well as the MLB numbers and how many total players had 200 hits.

Player Year H BA OBP SLGmlbBA mlbOBP mlbSLG OPS+ 200 hit club

George Brett 1976 215 .333 .377 .462 .255 .320 .361 144 5

George Brett 1979 212 .329 .376 .563 .265 .330 .397 148 7

Willie Wilson 1980 230 .326 .357 .421 .265 .326 .388 113 6

Kevin Seitzer 1987 207 .323 .399 .470 .263 .331 .415 128 5

Johnny Damon 2000 214 .327 .382 .495 .270 .345 .437 118 6

Mike Sweeney 2000 206 .333 .407 .523 .270 .345 .437 131 6

Melky Cabrera 2011 201 .305 .339 .470 .255 .321 .399 121 5

I think it's a safe that bet that Cabrera regresses next seasons. As I've wrote before it's rare for a player as bad as Cabrera was before this season to suddenly find it. Of course where this regression occurs is still to be determined. I was of a mind that Cabrera would be back for 2012 with Cain as the fourth outfielder ready to step in should injury hit, but now, I think there's a strong chance he gets dealt.

And then per Bob Dutton, there's this:
A multi-year deal for center fielder Melky Cabrera, who is also eligible for arbitration, seems far less likely. Cabrera is believed to be seeking four or five years, while the Royals remain wary of spiking the incentive that comes with a one-year deal. Cabrera is the most-likely regular to be dealt because the Royals believe they have a replacement in Lorenzo Cain
I really don't know how much trade value Cabrera has. Given his less than stellar pre-2011 career I doubt any GM's have fully bought into his renaissance. I certainly haven't, and if I haven't, I can pretty much guarantee you that Andrew Friedman and Billy Beane haven't either. He'll definitely have to be part of a package that includes one of the Royals top prospects, be it Wil Myers or Mike Montogmery. And if Moore deals either of those two players, or Jake Odorizzi for that matter, he better nail the return.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Final AL Central Pythagorean Standings

Team W L RS RA
Detroit 89 73 787 711
Kansas City 78 84 730 762
Cleveland 75 87 704 760
Chicago 75 87 654 706
Minnesota 62 100 619 804

That's a fair bit different from reality, eh? Only the San Diego Padres had a larger difference between actual and Pythagorean records than the Royals. Playing .500 or better next season seems more realistic if you consider the 2011 club a 78 win team. They went 10-21 when Jeff Francis started so could possible contention really be as simple as replacing him in the rotation with Chad Billingsley or James Shields? I'm not answering either way, just legitimately wondering.

**********

Linkage

Aaron Stilley looks at the 2011 Royals By The Numbers. Lot of good stuff here as Aaron tells where the outfield and rotation ranked in team history and why Jeff Francoeur's 20/20 season is less impressive than it appears.

The Power Of One Pitcher at KC Longball takes a look at what a James Shields addition could do for the 2012 record.

Michael Engel has a few thoughts on next season's rotation as well in Exit Stage Left.

Craig Brown in his post on the coaching changes brought to light one of the most pathetic stats of the year - the Royals threw the most pitches in baseball and had the lowest strike percentage. That's an unhealthy combination that will lead to things like a 92 ERA+.

Will McDonald wonders if the coaching staff changes are a sign that Ned Yost is here to stay.

Clint Scoles does that minor league profile thing he does so well, this time on Ethan Hollingsworth. Hollingsworth, as you may recall, was the pitcher Kansas City received from Oakland for Kila Ka'aihue. You know if Brad Pitt would've drafted Kila back in 2002 the A's wouldn't have had to part with a player with a John Hughes-approved name.