Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday Linkage

This year, in attempt to try something different, I'm going to put the shorter posts I write on my Google+ page. I've already posted once on there so check that out and maybe let me know if this something worth pursuing. I like the potential of G+ and I think a conversation there would be much easier to follow than on twitter. Twitter is great but tweeting on a topic with several different people can be confusing at times, mainly due to the character limitations and other topics interspersed on the timeline. (I also have a G+ page for the blog that can only be described as poorly maintained.)

Royals’ Paulino thinks he’s poised for good year - KC Star
Yost added, “If he takes what he’s doing on the side into the games, he’s a lock (for the rotation). His side sessions, I’m seeing exactly what I want to see.”


Count me among the many that can't believe Felipe Paulino isn't already a lock for the rotation. He was exactly league average (100 ERA+) and led all starters in SO/9 (8.6) and SO/BB (2.48). Strictly by performance Sanchez should be the one on the bubble.

It often gets overlooked, when assessing Soria’s season-long numbers, that much of the ugliness occurred in the first two months before he junked a cut fastball that seemed to affect command of his other pitches.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2012/02/20/3441323/soria-convinced-he-figured-out.html#storylink=cpy

There is something to this. From June 2nd on, Joakim Soria had a 2.58 ERA and was 21/23 in save opportunities. He held MLB hitters to a .266 OBP in that time period. Of the 12 runs he allowed in his final 37 appearances 7 of them came in his 2 blown saves. The shelf life of closers, even among the elite, can be short. I think Soria will rebound but he may never be the Soria of 2008-2010 again. 

Part of what makes triples so exciting, I think, is how random they are. All kinds of hitters can lead their teams in triples. It’s just as likely to be a scrappy little infielder who bounces a lot of hits right into the corners as it is to be a power hitter who pounds the gaps consistently. Triples require almost as much dumb luck (or dumb outfield reaction) as they do athleticism.

Minda is counting down to opening day by posting an article that corresponds with the day. It's been fun to follow thus far so be sure to check those out.


2012 Kansas City Royals Preview Show! - The Phil Naessens Show

Josh Duggan of Royalscentricity and Royals Review fame talked about the upcoming season as a guest on The Phil Naessens Show.


Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2012/02/23/3447941/royals-paulino-believes-hes-poised.html#storylink=cpy

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Second Base Competition

From Bob Dutton's piece on Saturday:

The Royals re-acquired shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, by signing him as a free agent in December, to fill their need for a utility infielder. Betancourt isn’t likely to play much at short — Alcides Escobar started 156 games in 2011 — but he could wind up at second.
Betancourt could (become the starting second baseman),” general manager Dayton Moore said, “but I don’t think it will be on opening day. Giavotella would really have to struggle.”
The early line suggests Betancourt will back up either Giavotella or Getz with the other returning to Omaha. Don’t be surprised, if Giavotella struggles, if the job remains in flux throughout the summer.
“Second base is not a concern for me,” Yost said. “I think we’re well-covered there with Gio and Getzie.”

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2012/02/18/3438355/four-areas-to-watch-as-royals.html#storylink=cpy


I'm probably overreacting but I find the quotes by Moore and Yost disconcerting. It doesn't take much digging into the past to find players who struggled and were subsequently given up on. While I doubt any Royals fans are weeping over Kila Ka'aihue there a few of us still bitter over the treatment Justin Huber received (and I promise, I'm almost over it).

Of all the youngsters on the roster it'd shock no one to learn that Johnny Giavotella arrived at spring training with the shortest least. That's partially due to the .247/.273/.376 line he put last year but mostly due, I think, to managerial favorite Getz and general managerial favorite Betancourt. Giavotella struggled for sure after being promoted but his 77 OPS+ was better than both of his competitors (Yuni 75, Getz 68), and of the three, he's the only one with upside. So if I were to bet on which one would improve upon his 2011 production, well, I know where I would put my money.

Now maybe they could just be trying to motivate Giavotella but who really knows. I haven't seen similar comments made about Lorenzo Cain, who is just as big a question mark as Giavotella, and has a more than adequate backup in Mitch Maier.

I can understand the temptation to replace a struggling youngster in the midst of a pennant race (this was allegedly the reason for Kila's demotion if you recall) but inserting Yuni or Getz into the starting lineup would, at best, be a lateral move. At worst, it makes the offense weaker.

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Tomorrow I'll be on 610 Sports from 10-11 AM along with Mike Engel and David Lesky. We'll be answering questions and texts in a roundtable discussion that will most likely not include any mentions of Grease 2 (but if it does I'll be ready). Non NW Missouri residents can listen in here.

Monday, February 13, 2012

On Gordon And Aging

I noticed an interesting thing the other day while looking at 20+ home run seasons by Royals outfielders, all but one of them were achieved by players in their 20's. See for yourself.

Rk Player HR Year Age
1 Danny Tartabull 34 1987 24
2 Jermaine Dye 33 2000 26
3 Bo Jackson 32 1989 26
4 Danny Tartabull 31 1991 28
5 Carlos Beltran 29 2002 25
6 Bo Jackson 28 1990 27
7 Jermaine Dye 27 1999 25
8 Carlos Beltran 26 2003 26
9 Danny Tartabull 26 1988 25
10 Amos Otis 26 1973 26
11 Bo Jackson 25 1988 25
12 Carlos Beltran 24 2001 24
13 Alex Gordon 23 2011 27
14 Al Cowens 23 1977 25
15 Carlos Beltran 22 1999 22
16 Bo Jackson 22 1987 24
17 Amos Otis 22 1978 31
18 Jeff Francoeur 20 2011 27
19 Mark Quinn 20 2000 26
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used

Now if Bo hadn't got hurt, if Beltran and Dye hadn't got traded and if Tartabull had resigned then, of course, this list would look completely different. But that's only four players, and in a franchise that has accumulated 40+ seasons, that's not much. Consider this; there have been just as many 20+ home run seasons by infielder/DH's in their 30's than by outfielders total. There have been 19 of those too, only four of which were by George Brett. (I count Jose Guillen's 2008 in this category since he hit half his home runs and did most of his damage as a DH.)

What that means I couldn't tell you, other than when an older player is signed or traded for, he more than likely was an infielder or DH (examples would include Gary Gaetti, Jeff King, Chili Davis and Jay Bell). There have been less than 30 seasons in team history where a 30+ year old outfielder came to the plate 400 or more times, and half of those were courtesy of Amos Otis, Willie Wilson and Jim Eisenreich.

I can tell you're wondering what this has to do with Alex Gordon and I'm about to tell you. He just turned 28 years old and is close to entering the downward slope of his career. Now his body type and offensive approach suggests he will probably be productive into early 30's but I don't believe he'll have more than a couple seasons as dominating as last year's. What I'm saying is that if he doesn't come down on his contract demands, and ends up walking after the 2013 season, I may be ok with that.

Joe Posnanski wrote a wonderfully informative article on WAR and aging a few days ago, which I thought I would apply to the Royals. I'm going to stray from his methodology a bit and also include home runs and OPS+. And of course, as always, I'll be using baseball-reference.com's WAR.

We'll start with WAR. Now where Poz used 6.0 as the floor I'm going to use 4.0, which I think is still a mighty fine season, plus I wasn't looking for MVP candidates like he was. There have been 47 4+ WAR seasons in Royals history and 31 of those came by players between the ages of 23 and 27.

Of the 14 seasons by players 28 and older Brett accounted for five of them (man, that guy really skews the results of any Royals offensive historical search). By KC standards Gordon is at the early stages of being past his prime. Like with home runs, trades and free agency also affect this chart. But those things happen and will continue to happen.

For OPS+ I looked at all the players who were at or above 120 with a minimum 500 plate appearances.

Ages 24-26 is the magic number here but there is basically no difference between the ages of 27 and 31, which incidentally would be Gordon's age at the completion of a four year extension. The best two seasons of Danny Tartabull's career came at 28 (171) and 29 (152, as a Yankee). He only had one season above 120 in his 30's and that was at the age of 30 (134). Remember, Gordon will be in KC at least through his age 29 season. Just something to think about. Brett's best season came at 27 (203) when he won the MVP in 1980. From 28-31, though, he was no slouch as he posted a 142 OPS+, which is close to the 140 Gordon put up last year.

I mentioned home runs above and will finish with it so I guess we've come full circle. There have been 63 20+ seasons which is not that impressive or all that important, but I thought I'd include it anyway.

Unsurprisingly 25-27 year olds highlight this chart as well, but like with OPS+, it remains fairly steady among 28-31 year olds. Steve Balboni was 28 years old when he set the franchise record with 36 home runs and then followed that up with 29 at 24 the next two seasons. Gordon has a far more disciplined approach than Balboni so, you know, if Bye Bye can do it then so can A1.

My preference is for Dayton Moore to keep Gordon around through his age 31 season as I believe he'll be productive so long as he's healthy. I think Moore will find a way to make it happen without overpaying but if he can't, and Gordon does indeed walk after next season, I'm not so sure that'll be something to lose sleep over.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A1 Looking For 6/80


That, my friends, is a ginormous gap. For some deeper analysis check out both Craig Brown and David Lesky's take on this bit of fiscal nonsense. (Craig gets 25 Polk Points for working in a John Hinckly Jr. reference. That's how that works, right?)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Mendoza Lines

In my last post I listed Luis Mendoza as a longshot to make the rotation, and I believe that's certainly true. His two late season starts - in which he allowed just 2 earned runs in 14.2 innings - has some people convinced there's something there. Spoiler alert, there's not. His 4.3 SO/9 and 3.1 BB/9 in those two starts were pretty much identical to the rest of his career (4.6 SO/9 and 3.5 BB/9), those are numbers that are not exactly conducive to sustained success.

Since 2000 there have been 21 seasons in which a starting pitcher had a 4.5 or lower SO/9 and a 3.0 or higher BB/9 (minimum 162 IP). Of those, only three managed an ERA+ of 100 or higher - Kirk Rueter (108) and Dustin Hermanson (101) in 2000, and Jason Marquis (103) in 2005.

Here's the entire list, notice the two Royals and ask yourself if you want to witness a season like those again.

Rk Player ERA+ SO/9 BB/9 IP Year Tm
1 Kirk Rueter 108 3.47 3.03 184.0 2000 SFG
2 Jason Marquis 103 4.35 3.00 207.0 2005 STL
3 Dustin Hermanson 101 4.27 3.41 198.0 2000 MON
4 Darren Oliver 99 4.39 3.04 180.1 2003 COL
5 Livan Hernandez 96 3.96 3.48 204.1 2007 ARI
6 Pat Rapp 95 4.34 3.76 170.0 2001 ANA
7 Tom Glavine 93 4.03 3.24 183.1 2003 NYM
8 Scott Schoeneweis 93 4.13 3.55 170.0 2000 ANA
9 Josh Fogg 93 4.14 3.33 178.1 2004 PIT
10 Kirk Rueter 92 2.65 3.12 190.1 2004 SFG
11 Kirk Rueter 91 3.82 3.04 195.1 2001 SFG
12 Jimmy Anderson 90 3.88 3.62 206.1 2001 PIT
13 Steve Trachsel 88 4.32 4.26 164.2 2006 NYM
14 Jimmy Haynes 85 3.97 4.52 199.1 2000 MIL
15 Damian Moss 83 4.29 5.00 165.2 2003 TOT
16 Mark Redman 82 4.10 3.40 167.0 2006 KCR
17 Kenny Rogers 79 4.25 3.68 173.2 2008 DET
18 Mike Hampton 78 3.73 4.58 178.2 2002 COL
19 Brad Penny 77 3.67 3.07 181.2 2011 DET
20 Jason Marquis 74 4.45 3.47 194.1 2006 STL
21 Jose Lima 63 4.27 3.25 168.2 2005 KCR
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used

A couple good starts is one thing, doing it over the course of a full season is far more challenging.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Rotation Thoughts Redux

I last wrote about rotation options back in October, however, now that we know the candidates I thought I'd revisit the subject. There are reportedly twelve pitchers that will get looks in spring training but I think a more conservative number is probably seven.

Locks


Luke Hochevar, Jonathan Sanchez, Bruce Chen

Who is Luke Hochevar? After five seasons and 585 innings we still don't know. For the second year in a row he posted an 87 ERA+, now that's a cringe worthy for sure, but he also had a career best 1.283 WHIP. His second half ERA (3.52) fueled talk that he finally figured out this thing called pitching. He'll likely front the rotation again but if he doesn't start off strong I don't see him making 30 starts.

Sanchez at his best does a pretty mean Gio Gonzalez impersonation. The two seasons before last year's injury filled disaster he posted a 113 ERA+ in 356.2 innings. Like Gonzalez, he brought along a lot of strikeouts (9.6 SO/) and a lot of walks (4.6 BB/9). If healthy he should strike out more batters than any left-hander in franchise history. Should KC fall out of contention before the deadline Sanchez probably will get dealt. He'll be a considerably more attractive option to a contender than Francis and Chen were last year.

I'm still not convinced that bringing back Chen was in the organization's best interest. At this point he is what he is, which I guess is a crafty lefty. What he's not, though, is a durable innings eater with upside.

On The Bubble

Felipe Paulino, Danny Duffy, Aaron Crow, Everett Teaford

I was tempted to put Paulino in the locks category, based solely on his 100 ERA+ and 8.6 SO/9, but then I remembered I don't run the Royals and they sometimes do strange things. Things like watch Robinson Tejeda dominate in 6 late starts (2.84 ERA, 9.1 SO/9) in 2009 and then fail to give him an extended look in 2010, or any look at all. Even while they managed to run Kyle Davies out there every fifth day (32 starts, 78 ERA+), for whatever reason.

I'm not worried about Duffy's control issues being a problem this year. While I believe he should make the rotation out of spring training a return trip to Omaha wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for his development.

Last April I strongly believed that Crow needed to be stretched out and placed in the rotation. That was then, this is now. I'd be all for Crow starting at the expense of Chen, but at the expense of Duffy? Not so much. Not moving Crow out of the bullpen last year was a short-sighted move. They weren't competing for a division title so it made no sense to talk about him starting in 2012 without giving him a few starts before the season ended.

Speaking of short-sighted, Teaford was a rotation candidate last year until Moore went out and signed Francis and Chen. A Teaford with 30 starts under his belt would be more of a benefit to the 2012 team than a one year and done Francis. He likely will inherit Adcock's long relief/spot starter role this year, which I think is a good use of his talent.

Longshots

Mike Montgomery, Nathan Adcock, Luis Mendoza

Montgomery struggled for the first time as a pro last year and should return to Omaha to start the season. He's just 22 years old and still an elite level talent. There's absolutely no harm in letting him return to his dominant ways and then promoting him when Chen inevitably goes on the disabled list.

Adcock performed admirably in his long relief/spot starter role last year. As a Rule 5 pick most people thought he'd be hidden in the back of the pen, but there he was in a close game on opening day. Given the full bullpen in KC I imagine Adcock will begin the season in Omaha.

Once upon a time a guy with a 4.5 SO/9 could survive in the big leagues, but unfortunately for Mendoza, that time is not now. I really don't care where he begins the season as long as it's not in KC.

Not Mentioned

Sean O'Sullivan, Vin Mazzaro

Yeah.

Despite all the lip service given to Crow's candidacy I don't think Ned Yost wants him in the rotation, and I don't think he will be. Here's my full prediction:

  1. Hochevar
  2. Sanchez
  3. Chen
  4. Paulino
  5. Duffy