Saturday, June 30, 2012

Saving Broxton

Some Head Coaches in the NFL and college carry a card that describes the ideal situations for attempting a 2 point conversion. I imagine baseball managers have something similar regarding closer use. It probably looks something like this:
  • They can't be used in tied road games (unless they are pitching a second inning because they blew the save in their first inning of work).
  • They can't be used in non-save situations (unless they need work because they haven't pitched in a while).
  • They can't be removed from the game(unless they blow the save).
Ned Yost's strict adherence to the third rule almost cost the Royals a win last night. Handed a 3 run lead Jonathan Broxton did what he does when pitching with a 1 or 2 run lead, he let the tying run on base. After walking Denard Span to start the inning he then gave up an infield single to Ben Revere and a run scoring double to Joe Mauer. Now if this were the 8th inning, and Greg Holland (or whoever) were pitching, Yost likely goes to the bullpen at this point and calls on Aaron Crow or Kelvin Herrera, because the situation called for strikeouts. But it was the 9th inning and Yost was going to get his closer that save or lose trying.

The next three hitters would all represent the winning run and Josh Willingham, Justin Morneau and Trevor Plouffe were all just capable enough to smash a walkoff home run. Of course that didn't happen. A ground out, flyout and popout later the game was over and Johnny Drama had somehow escaped yet again.

Broxton is on pace for a 40+ save season, which isn't near as impressive a feat as it used to be. There have been 135 such seasons in MLB history but only 11 were achieved by pitchers with a higher WHIP than the 1.337 Broxton currently owns. I was actually surprised it was that many.

Rk Player WHIP SV Year
1 Mitch Williams 1.613 43 1993
2 Antonio Alfonseca 1.514 45 2000
3 Brian Wilson 1.444 41 2008
4 Todd Jones 1.438 42 2000
5 Francisco Cordero 1.431 40 2010
6 Joe Borowski 1.431 45 2007
7 Jose Mesa 1.413 43 2004
8 Brian Fuentes 1.400 48 2009
9 Bobby Jenks 1.392 41 2006
10 Roberto Hernandez 1.377 43 1999
11 Jose Mesa 1.374 45 2002
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/30/2012.

It would be nice if Yost realized that a Royals win is vitally more important than a Broxton save. If Crow or Collins or Herrera has to come in and clean up Broxton's mess, then so be it. The team is just 2 games out of second place and may actually play meaningful baseball after the All Star break for the first time in quite a while.

Andy at the High Heat Stats blog posted just yesterday an article criticizing managers for the way closers are handled saying the "current prevailing strategy has been shown to be monumentally flawed". That's true and I think a good majority of fans realize this. So the question is, why don't managers?  I agree with Andy that closer use will change at some point, it almost has to, but unfortunately I don't believe for a second that Ned Yost will be the manager that leads the late inning revolution.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Stop It

One year ago today Billy Butler was in the midst of a down year according to some fans and they demanded that he be traded. This vocal minority was able to look past his .297/.396/.428 line and were able to concentrate solely on his 6 home runs and 34 RBIs. It was ridiculous. His on-base percentage hovered around .400 almost the entire first half, but because he didn't fit the profile of the slugger they thought he should be, they wanted him gone. Luckily Dayton Moore dismissed the rantings of these lunatic minds.

Of course you'll recall that Butler then started hitting home runs and he hasn't stopped. He's hit 28 of them in the last 365 days and the calls to trade him have declined dramatically. But they haven't stopped completely. Now some think he should be dealt because he may be the team's most tradable asset. The theory is that this would then open up a spot for Clint Robinson who should be able to replicate Butler's production because anybody can be a DH. Insane, I know.

First off, selling high on a relief pitcher is one thing, but it's quite another when you're talking about one of the best hitters in franchise history. Butler is almost certain to have a fourth year with an OPS+ above 120 making him just the seventh Royal to have that many such seasons. Do you really believe that Robinson (who is older than Butler) can produce at that level? Here's the list, and as you'll notice, there's not a slouch among them.

Rk Yrs
1 George Brett 14
2 Hal McRae 7
3 Amos Otis 6
4 Mike Sweeney 5
5 Danny Tartabull 4
6 John Mayberry 4
7 Billy Butler 4
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used

And just because someone can be a DH doesn't mean they should be a DH. A look at recent Royals history will show that hasn't been a particularly productive spot until Butler took it over for good last year. Call me crazy but a guy who does nothing but hit should be someone who, you know, actually hits.

2007 13 87 .264 .317 .399
2008 26 86 .268 .309 .446
2009 24 84 .209 .281 .374
2010 22 78 .252 .329 .426
2011 17 95 .294 .365 .454
2012 11 40 .298 .350 .476

There's also the little matter of the 36 home runs Steve Balboni hit in 1985. This record survived the steroid era but it may not survive Country Breakfast. Butler is on pace for about 33 home runs but he's nearly three weeks ahead of Balboni (Bye Bye hit his 15th home run on July 19th) and tends to hit for more power in the second half. I don't know about you but I kind of want to see how it plays out.

So if you are calling for DM to trade Butler, stop it, and focus your energy on someone else.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Buy Or Sell

I think last night's loss may have tempered the enthusiasm of fans who thought the Royals were a starting pitcher or two away from winning the division. There was a lot of talk on twitter after the Astros series that Dayton Moore needed to be aggressive before the trade deadline because the team was just 4.5 games out of first place. I'm not sure that would be in the team's best long term or short term interest.

While the 25 man roster is lacking in areas you have to remember that Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi will be up soon. Salvador Perez came back last night and homered in his season debut. (I recently found out Perez is overrated, I had no idea. Thank you internet.) That's three players that should make the team better. Three players that will not cost a Mike Montgomery, Cheslor Cuthbert or Christian Colon.

It hurt losing Felipe Paulino for the season so I'm all for Moore acquiring a starting pitcher, that is, if he can find a team willing to take on Jeff Francoeur's contract or overpay for Jonathan Broxton. Those two might be the only available players (if Francoeur is indeed available) that will draw any interest. Losing them wouldn't cripple the team going forward as Frenchy would be immediately replaced by Myers, and Johnny Drama (not sure who coined that nickname but well done) may have a sparkly ERA, but he's actually the fifth best reliever on the roster.

Buy or sell, I expect the trade season will pass through KC quietly. I wouldn't be shocked if a National League team came calling for Luke Hochevar. The frustrating one put up a 3.00 ERA in 21 inter-league innings this year so maybe there's a GM somewhere willing to gamble that Hoch has figured it out. I was one of the few in 2006 that wanted KC to take him first overall, and probably the only one to admit it now (go ahead and laugh but I recall some of you wanted Greg Reynolds. You know who you are.), but I jumped off the bandwagon last year and haven't climbed back on. I was optimistic that his second half performance was a career changer but I'm not shocked at all that he reverted back to his inconsistent ways.

I'm okay with Hochevar staying too but I think this is who he is and he's not going to ever justify his draft status. One member of the rotation I do want to see gone, via trade or outright release, is Jonathan Sanchez. The guy has been a complete joke this year (71 ERA+, 1.81 WHIP, 6.9 BB/9). At this point I'd rather see what Montgomery can do at the big league level. If I'm going to be forced to watch a wild lefty I'd rather it be the 22 year old with upside.


To celebrate the launch of Out Of The Park Baseball 13 the developers of the game released copies of the game to bloggers willing to participate in a season sim event. I took part  a few years ago and was eager to give it another try. It was great then, it's flat out awesome now. Simply put, this is the best baseball simulation game on the planet. (If you are looking for an in-depth and comprehensive review, Craig Brown has got you covered here.)

Per the developer's request I simulated the season and watched as the Royals led the Central from start to finish. I'm not even kidding. They spent a grand total of zero days out of first place. That's not as impressive as it sounds, though, because the AL Central - surprise, surprise- was fairly weak.

I kept waiting for the Tigers to go on a run that never came. The Royals took advantage of Detroit's down year and ended up advancing all the way to the ALCS, where they were quickly eliminated by the Angels.

As for individual performances the game, like every non-crazy person, thinks highly of Billy Butler as he led the team in most offensive categories. Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon also had great seasons, but everyone else, not so much. The two best starting pitchers were Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy, just like in real life before they went on their Tommy John-approved vacations. Wil Myers made a second half appearance and hit .282/.368/.458 in 177 plate appearances. 

If you've still yet to purchase the game, then head there now and make it happen. I promise, you will not regret it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Greinke Returns To The K

The day I've been dreading since December 2010 arrived last night, and honestly, it went about as well as possible. Zack Greinke pitched great (7 IP, 1 R, 8 SO) but took neither the win or loss as KC pulled out the 2-1 victory. I wanted him to do well but of course I didn't want him to win. Luckily he was awarded the same sort of run support he received while a Royal.
  • Luis Mendoza - doing his best Philip Humber impersonation - took a no hitter into the 7th inning where he lost it when Ryan Braun hit a little league triple (infield single, two throwing errors). As Craig Brown noted, Mendoza's games score of 68 was the second best of his career. Mendoza was pulled after walking Aramis Ramirez (kudos to Yost for making that move) and finished the night allowing only the 1 hit, 2 walks and a run. I have zero confidence in Mendoza, and his spot on the roster says an awful lot about Dayton Moore, but for one night he was pretty doggone good.
  • Alex Gordon and Billy Butler provided all the offense, more or less. A1 homered and doubled and scored both runs. Country Breakfast drove in the game winning run with a clutch single in the bottom of the 8th inning. (This came after a sacrifice bunt by Chris Getz, which I was totally cool with. I've seen Getz ground out to the pitcher too many times in my life. You all know how I feel about intentional outs but they bother me less when Getz is the one squaring up.) I mentioned on twitter that last night's runs were courtesy of Allard Baird, so you know, thank you Allard.
  • Jonathan Broxton was Jonathan Broxton, meaning the game didn't end with a 1-2-3 9th. He's retired the side in order in only 4 of his 15 saves. He's certainly been good this year (1.52 ERA) but he's also been lucky. KC has four relievers with a WHIP below 1.10, Broxton is not one of them (1.26). Sadly I expect he'll be the Royals lone All Star game representative which would suck on a couple different levels.
  • Greg Holland got the win and looks to be back to his normal self. Since coming off the DL he has a 0.66 ERA in 13.2 innings while holding the league to a pitiful .119/.269/.119 line

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Art Of Killing A Rally

Ned Yost and Dayton Moore came of baseball age in a time when batting average and RBI's were king and the sacrifice bunt was more than strategy, it was a way of life. Despite considerable - and easily accessible - research that shows certain stats and strategy to be overrated Yost and Moore continue to manage and general manage like it's 1982.

Last night Yost made a decision that had many, once again, questioning his managerial IQ. With 3 runs in and two runners on with nobody out Yost did what he does best, he let the Twins off the hook. He had Alcides Escobar sacrifice bunt. In the 4th inning. With Jarrod Dyson and Humberto Quintero the next two scheduled hitters. In the midst of a big inning he played for one and got none because both Dyson and Bert struck out looking. The move is still questionable but understandable if Billy Butler and Mike Moustakas are up next but they weren't. It was the team's eighth and ninth hitters that Yost entrusted to get at least one more run home, and they failed. Miserably. Poetic justice was served in the 5th inning when the Twins hit two home runs to take a three run lead they would never relinquish.

It's not hard to see why the Royals have put together so few big innings this year and much of that fault lies on Yost's shoulders. Sacrifice bunts and failed sacrifice bunts, along with a counter productive baserunning strategy, have killed too many rallies already this year. It'd be nice if he would notice the trend, and actually he may, but he is so dead set in his ways that he's not going to change. Because that's how baseball was played in his day and by gawd that's how it's going to be played today. Whether it works or not.

Yost seems very personable and is a great interview but he's a terrible manager. You can defend him by saying he doesn't bat, pitch or field and you'd be right, but the thing is, he decides who bats, pitches and fields. He is the one playing Yuniesky Betancourt too much. He is the one who refuses to try Aaron Crow in the rotation but will let Luis Mendoza, Nathan Adcock, Everett Teaford and Will Smith start games. He is the one who continued to bat Jeff Francoeur fifth when Francoeur was the closest thing to an automatic out you'd find anywhere in baseball. Hey it's great that he's hitting now but for a month plus he wasn't and Yost didn't care.

I'd go all in on the fire Yost bandwagon if I thought there was something to it. As it stands I think it's just a waste of time. Moore is not going to fire him because he likes what Yost is doing. I presume, since Yost is still here and hasn't changed tactics. Besides, if you want a more progressive manager I don't think you'll get one while Moore is around, which is to say you'll first need a more progressive GM.

But that's a post for another day.