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.


Continue reading.....


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.



Friday, December 23, 2011

Carlos Beltran Is A Cardinal

My three favorite players of all time, unsurprisingly, are all Royals. In order they are Freddie Patek, George Brett and Carlos Beltran. I'm facing a dilemma here as Beltran signing with my least favorite team has unleashed a storm of emotions that I'm not adequately prepared to deal with. It's not in my DNA to cheer for the Cardinals (though it's in my dad's, weird), but I want Beltran to do well, but if he does well that'll help the Cardinals win, so I'm conflicted. But I'll deal with that mental mess in April.

Beltran's contract does come with some risk but it's an absolute steal if he stays healthy. I made the comment on twitter that I'd rather have him for the 2/26 deal he signed than Jeff Francoeur for 2/13. Now of course such a statement called for feedback and I received plenty. The majority of comments were pro-Francoeur, which I suspected would be the case, he had a really good season and is pretty much an extremely likable guy.

The consensus on Beltran on the other hand was that because he's older he's past his prime. And he may be but you certainly wouldn't know it from his production. Since turning 30 he's posted a 133 OPS+, which is far better than the 115 he posted in his 20's. Last season his 152 OPS+ was a career high, at age 34. Let me repeat that, and put in bold to make it more noticeable.

Last season his 152 OPS+ was a career high, at age 34.

For whatever reason his 2011 season flew way under the radar and I think people just naturally assumed Francoeur was better without comparing their respective seasons. Since the majority of what I do here is compare, allow me to shock and awe you.

Player PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS+ rWAR
Francoeur 656 77 171 47 4 20 87 22 10 37 123 .285 .329 .476 119 2.7
Beltran 598 78 156 39 6 22 84 4 2 71 88 .300 .385 .525 152 4.4

Of course that doesn't mean that Beltran will repeat his 2011 performance the next two seasons but I'd wager the naming rights to my next child that he'll outperform Francoeur in OPS+ and WAR, and by a significant margin. Outside of his injury filled sophomore season the lowest OPS+ Beltran has posted was 96, in 2005. Care to guess what Francoeur's career OPS+ is? Yep, you guessed it, 96.

I didn't have a problem with Francoeur's extension when it was signed, well other than I wished it was for one year instead of two. But there's no doubt he's a question mark heading into 2012 as he's given absolutely no reason in his career to believe he's capable of replicating his 2011 numbers. I hope he does, so don't think I'm rooting against him. I mean it's not an insult to suggest Beltran is better, especially when the stats back it up.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Jose Mijares Signed

KC signed Jose Mijares today to fill a role that Tim Collins couldn't, the infamous LOOGY. Left handed batters hit only .210 against Collins in 2011 but his inability to consistently throw strikes led them to post a .378 on-base percentage. Against Mijares in his career though, they've only managed a Yuni-like .276 OBP.

I Split PA R H 2B 3B HR BB SO SO/BB BA OBP SLG BAbip
vs RHB as LHP 367 42 85 19 0 10 41 53 1.29 .268 .353 .423 .291
vs LHB as LHP 287 38 55 14 1 5 21 65 3.10 .212 .276 .331 .260
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table

If Mijares can regain his 2009/2010 form (161 ERA+) this is a good signing by Moore. 

Look At All Those Bloggers Playing GM

Unsurprisingly the Yuni signing wasn't met with high praise across the Royals and non-Royals blogosphere, Lee Judge no doubt weeps for our souls. (My thoughts can be found here.)

The Yunicorn Returns

“Yuni is somebody that we had targeted...” - Dayton Moore


Touché Mr, Moore, tou-freaking-ché. Had I known that DM would take it as a challenge I never would have suggested on Monday that the signing of a utility infielder would neither shock the world or trend on twitter. I was wrong on both counts. This move is so nonsensical I kept waiting for Ashton Kutcher to pop up on twitter telling Royals fans they'd been punk'd. But it didn't happen and Yuniesky Betancourt will in fact be on the team next season.


A few fans and members of the media are defending the signing because they believe Yuni won't play that much. I mean if that's how you defend a dubious move then I'd suggest it's not a move worth defending. Besides weren't we told the same thing when Willie Bloomquist was signed? Except Spork in his first year in KC amassed a career high 468 plate appearances, despite a 77 OPS+. So forgive me if I refuse to believe that Yuni won't play that much. An injury to Escobar or Moustakas and he's playing everyday. You can't honestly predict that won't happen. I'll predict right now he comes to the plate at least 300 times.


I assumed that in the search for a utility infielder that Moore would've focused on those players who have played multiple infield positions. A false assumption on my part, it appears, because Yuni has spent 99% of his career big league innings at shortstop. He has never played third base (not even in the minors) and last played second base his rookie year (2005). Now if he was a plus defender at short then I'd suppose he'd be okay but he's not, he's a statue and I can't really believe they think he can handle second base. For that reason it wouldn't surprise me to see Chris Getz make the team next year and then we'll get to hear Yost and Moore go on and on about the infield's sudden versatility. The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if a more versatile infielder wasn't signed because it'd make Getz redundant. We couldn't have that happening now, could we?


I'm also confused on how Yuni received anything other than a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. If he was brought in partly as insurance in case anything happened to Escobar then why not let him play shortstop for Omaha? Oh yeah, I forgot, there were four or five other teams (allegedly) looking for a utility infielder who is well below average defensively and offensively. Ha, sucks to be them right now.


Moore has always had a strange affinity for Yuni, I mean he did once try to trade Billy Butler for him so I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise that he was the guy targeted when the search for a utility infielder began. Those of us who thought Moore learned his lesson and had seen the light were sadly mistaken.


This has been a strange offseason for the Royals. When the season ended fans couldn't wait for 2012 to get here because it appeared (and still does despite this move) that the team was on the cusp of contention. A few right moves and next year could be special. The amount of goodwill flowing between the fans and the organization hadn't been seen in such large quantities since the late 80's/early 90's. Fast forward to December and the mood is decidedly different. Coming on the heels of canceling fanfest and the petty Frank White episode this is the third middle finger the front office has pointed in the fans direction since the season ended. Sure that may be harsh but Yuni was not well liked his first go around here and offers nothing on offense or defense. So yeah, this signing doesn't make a lick of sense.


Now that he's here, though, what can we expect? More of the same most likely. Since 2009 only eight players in all of baseball have come to the plate a 1000 times and posted a lower OPS+. If you want to see something that will give you nightmares then check out his company on that list.



Rk Player OPS+ PA
1 Pedro Feliz 67 1054
2 Chris Getz 68 1092
3 Jason Kendall 71 1016
4 Alcides Escobar 72 1284
5 Ivan Rodriguez 73 1006
6 Ronny Cedeno 74 1332
7 Orlando Cabrera 76 1722
8 Edgar Renteria 76 1110
9 Yuniesky Betancourt 77 1680
10 Brendan Ryan 78 1409
11 Willie Bloomquist 79 1048
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used

Of the eleven, five are current or former Royals, six if you count Feliz who was brought to spring training last year. Dayton Moore definitely has a type.

Monday, December 19, 2011

All Quiet On The Front

It's no secret that Dayton Moore likes to play things close to the vest. I mean just when you think he's doing nothing but sitting around fondly reminiscing about the Willie Bloomquist era, or bragging on how he outmaneuvered twenty-nine other general managers for the services of Brett Tomko, BAM, he trades for Jonathan Sanchez or signs Jonathan Broxton. Other than another Joakim Soria rumor things are quiet, perhaps too quiet.

It just seems like the climate is ripe for a Moore move, whether it's trading for Gio Gonzalez or signing Roy Oswalt. Personally I don't think either of those things will happen but you get my point, Moore could be working on something big.

The Royals still need a utility infielder, which is certainly a less sexy acquisition than a frontline starter, but it's a position that needs to be filled nonetheless. It's just not a shock the world kind of move or one that will find itself trending on twitter. (Follow me!!! I kid, but seriously, follow me.)

With the bulk of the opening day pretty much set there's little Moore can do to improve the 2012 club without compromising the current youth movement. You can make the argument that Johnny Giavotella deserves a chance (and I absolutely believe he does) but fans would understand if Moore acquired a productive second baseman. I think the same can be said for Lorenzo Cain and Danny Duffy.

If Moore is working on something I expect we'll know fairly soon. It seems like the closer a team gets to spring training the guys they acquire tend to be of a risky nature - either players coming off injuries or those trying to prove they're not over the hill. While the Jeff Francis signing made a ton of sense last January a similar signing this month or next would be a lateral move at best.

Obviously Moore's best chance at jumpstarting Mission 2012 and giving the Royals realistic contention hopes would come in the form of a premier starting pitcher. His reluctance to deal prospects (which so far I applaud him for) this winter to get one seem to indicate that move is not going to happen.

But still, it's just so quiet.

Friday, December 9, 2011

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.

The Navarro trade was allegedly prompted by Moore's desire to clear a spot on the Royals 40 man roster so they could take a player in the Rule 5 draft. And they did, Cesar Cabral, who was then sold to the Yankees minutes later. The Royals netted $50,000 in the deal, which was probably enough to cover the bills the winter meetings accumulated. So at least they have that going for them, which is nice.

While not much happened a few rumors did float around. The Royals were linked to both James Shields and Gio Gonzalez, starting pitchers who would fill a definite need at the top of the rotation. Also in the rumors was Wil Myers, which is almost certainly why neither pitcher is apartment hunting in Kansas City. While I'm sure a sizable segment of the fanbase would've welcomed the trade (win now, win now!!!) I'm not sure either of those deals were necessary at that cost - especially because the Royals may actually have a Shields and a Gonzalez on the roster.


rWAR ERA IP ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
Player A 2.03.96 224 100 1.261 9.1 1.2 2.2 7.8 3.45
Player B 1.9 4.11 124.2 100 1.372 8.9 0.7 3.5 8.6 2.48


rWAR ERA IP ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
Player C5.0 3.12 202 130 1.317 7.8 0.8 4.1 8.8 2.16
Player D 3.6 3.07 193.1 127 1.231 6.6 1.0 4.5 9.5 2.14

Player B you no doubt recognize as Felipe Paulino and Player A is in fact Shields, along with his average numbers the last three seasons. It'd be nice to think that Shields would repeat his 2011 season (132 ERA+) but it's also unlikely. In 2009 and 2010 he had ERA+'s of 105 and 75, so he's not exactly Mr. Consistency. And if you're gonna trade Myers, it'd better be for someone who you know for a fact will perform at a high level. Shields was one of the guys I liked when the season ended but I don't like him enough to give up the rumored asking price of Myers, Soria and Colon. Paulino is still a question mark but undoubtedly one worth finding out the answer to, as in can he replicate or improve upon his 2011 numbers over the course of a full season?

Player C is the aforementioned Gonzalez and his 2011 campaign while Player D is Jonathan Sanchez and the season he put up in 2010 when he was last healthy. Sanchez is a free agent after 2012 while Gonzalez would be on the team until 2015, that's not insignificant, but if you're aiming to sacrifice an important piece of the future to win in 2012 then Sanchez may help achieve that goal just as well as Gonzalez. After Sanchez leaves after the season (or during?) Mike Montgomery is in place to claim that spot in the rotation.

Gonzalez and Shields are fine pitchers but neither are a #1, and if you're dangling Myers, that's what you better receive.