Friday, July 13, 2012

The Small Sample Size Greatness Of Sal Perez

At some point this season Salvador Perez will likely go into the first slump of his major league career. But before that happens let's see where he - in all his small sample size glory - ranks in Royals history in several stats. I set the minimum plate appearances at 200, because let's face it, anything less would just be silly.

Rk Player OPS+ PA
1 Danny Tartabull 144 2684
2 Salvador Perez 142 205
3 George Brett 135 11625
4 John Mayberry 132 3753
5 Chili Davis 131 567
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/13/2012.

Only Tartabull's been better. No shame in trailing arguably the greatest right handed hitter in team history. Man, what a year Davis had in his one and only season as a Royal. Actually what a career he had, only once, in 1983, did he have an OPS+ below 100. He received just 3 Hall of Fame votes in 2005. Coincidentally that's the same total Bucky Dent received in 1990.

Batting Average
Rk Player BA PA
1 Salvador Perez .344 205
2 Scott Podsednik .310 435
3 Hal Morris .309 516
4 Jose Offerman .306 1825
5 Melky Cabrera .305 706
5 George Brett .305 11625
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/13/2012.

I don't know how many times I've forgot Morris was a Royal once. He played one season (1998) and was teammates with Jeff King, Terry Pendleton, Shane Mack and Shane Halter. Unsurprisingly, that was a hard team to follow.

On-Base Percentage
Rk Player OBP PA
1 Mike Fiore .401 511
2 Gregg Zaun .386 420
3 Chili Davis .386 567
4 Jose Offerman .385 1825
5 Kevin Seitzer .380 3163
6 Danny Tartabull .376 2684
7 Darrell Porter .375 2262
8 John Mayberry .374 3753
9 Wally Joyner .371 2173
10 Mike Sweeney .369 5278
11 George Brett .369 11625
12 Jeremy Giambi .368 406
13 Jay Bell .368 660
14 Salvador Perez .366 205
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/13/2012.

I didn't expect Sal to rank too high here since he's only drawn 7 walks in his career. Fiore hit  .274/.420/.428 (138 OPS+) in the franchise's first year. That was his one and only season as a productive player because he hit just .160/.287/.195 (65 OPS+) for the rest of his career. He did that with four teams over three seasons. His 84 walks in 1969 is the 10th highest single season total in team history. Which is kind of sad.

Slugging Percentage
Rk Player SLG PA
1 Salvador Perez .528 205
2 Danny Tartabull .518 2684
3 Chili Davis .509 567
4 Dean Palmer .505 845
5 Mike Sweeney .492 5278
6 Raul Ibanez .492 1527
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/13/2012.

Perez bests Tartabull in the power department, take that Bull!. Jerry Terrell and Dennis Paepke check in with the worst slug at .249. Getz's .297 is 17th worst. Actually tied for 17th with Jason Kendall. Somebody this year (an opposing team's announcer?) stated the Royals hope Perez can be the next Kendall because Kendall was good in KC for so many years. Right now Perez is the anti-Kendall and let's hope it stays that way.

The most surprising thing about Sal's early career numbers is that, other than 102 plate appearances in AAA (.337/.356/.439), he never showed near this much with the bat in the minors. That's not to say he was horrible (or Quintero-esque if you will), he wasn't, but he was mostly known as a defense first catcher with some offensive potential. Why he has had very little trouble with major league pitching is a mystery, unless, of course, you buy Rex Hudler's explanation:

"One of the reasons is big league pitching is more around the plate, they have better ideas how they're pitching up here. In the minor leagues guys are wild. They might have stronger arms and throw harder down there but they don't have a clue where it's going, so it makes it more difficult to hit. When you get to the big leagues, some guys say 'all right, I can hit here, this is a little bit easier'". - Hudler, July 2nd telecast.

The Wonder Dog, folks, he'll be here all year.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

National Media Miss The Point

Full of themselves, and in the mood to moralize, national baseball writers showed just how terrible they can do their job when they set their mind to it. I'm not sure if they were unaware or were just being willfully ignorant about the root cause of the booing Robinson Cano received from the Kansas City crowd during last night's home run derby. Either excuse makes them look bad.

To recap what you already know, Cano said a few weeks ago that he'd select a Royal for the derby, in fact he even called it the "right thing to do". But then he changed his mind, or forgot he said it or lied. That piece of information, however, was noticeably absent from tweet after tweet as writers continuously criticized the crowd. Let's go through a few of my favorites.

Fans are entitled to boo, I suppose. But is this really the way KC fans want the country to view them? - Jon Morosi

Has Morosi ever wondered once in his life how the rest of the country views Kansas City? We'll be fine Jon, thanks for your concern.

#MLB? needs to look at rule change whereby one home player is obligated to be in ?#HRDerby?. Take decision out of captain’s hands. ... Because this sort of booing is not good for the event. - Morosi

This is Morosi not understanding the root cause of the booing. If Cano had never said he'd take a Royal then I doubt anyone in KC would've cared when Billy Butler wasn't picked. A too large contingent of Royals fans have been criticizing Butler for years for not hitting enough home runs. By this time Morosi had been told why fans were booing, but he chose to ignore it because the truth conflicted with the narrative he'd already set in motion. Couldn't turn back now.

For all this oohing and ahhing, Mark Trumbo is the one who took the spot that would've been Billy Butler's. Where are the boos for him? - Jeff Passan

Why would Royals fans boo Trumbo? He didn't do anything wrong. I don't know if he was serious here or trolling but he's so far off point it's not even funny. Passan was the one writer I thought would get it but I guess he was more interested in maintaining his national street cred.

Just because the Royals haven't won anything in a quarter-century doesn't mean the fans deserve something. Isn't the All-Star Game enough? - Passan

Again, not the point of the booing. Instead of hammering on the crowd maybe hold the guy who mislead everybody accountable? Is that too much to ask? Apparently so, because.....

And as for Cano reneging, come on. He's an athlete. Seriously, you hold your athletes to their word? Since when? Athletes lie for a living. - Passan

That seems like a pretty cynical view to hold. Also I'm sure the athletes he covers for a living will be thrilled to learn he holds them in such high regard. For those keeping score at home, booing is a far worse sin than lying in Passan's mind.

sorry kc, no way Billy Butler should be in ?#HRDerby? over @MTrumbo44, @JoeyBats19 or ?#prince? - Jon Heyman

Heyman's cute when he's clueless.

I figured Morosi would have more to say in a column and he didn't disappoint. In this piece he finally acknowledges Cano's part in the story but then quickly forgets it and returns to his narrative.

Royals fans haven’t seen their team reach the playoffs since 1985. They wanted the popular Yankees second baseman to know they were offended by the Butler snub. Cano initially told ESPN that choosing a Royals player would be “the right thing” to do, before apparently changing his mind. Royals fans were standing up for their guy. I got it.

Except I don't think he did "get it". Because if he did, his column would've ended right there. Did he consider how many fans bought tickets upon hearing that a Royal would be in the derby? Probably not.

I’m not going to say the behavior of Royals fans was classless. That is too strong a word. However, it was needlessly tart and probably unwise.

Sweet, we're not classless. My question is this though, if classless is too strong a word then why mention it at all?

So it was foolish for Royals fans to let any negativity seep into Kauffman Stadium — even if it was directed at a member of the loathed Yankees. A more discerning group of fans would realize the marketing power that accompanies an All-Star Game.

Oh I see, we're not classless but we are foolish. A more discerning writer would realize that the home run derby is an exhibition for passionate fans. Casual fans neither care or watch.

Presumably, the Royals will want to compete for top-tier free agents as the team moves closer to legitimate contention. Why risk leaving a bad impression with any of the would-be free agents in attendance?

Yeah I bet players hate when fans adore and stick up for them.

And by the way, Cano’s AL team won in a landslide.

This last line is pure trolling and again shows that Morosi still misses the point.

If the derby were being held in Boston, and Cano had slighted a Red Sox player, you can be sure that the reaction would've been different. Righteous indignation would be absent as Morosi and company go on at length about the "intensity of the rivalry" and "the passion of the Fenway faithful". Poor Chris Berman would've chuckled himself into a seizure. But it was in Kansas City and the Midwestern hicks needed to be put in their place.

Now that the derby is over and Royals fans can claim victory - Cano went homerless - I agree with Craig Brown and Brian McGannon that there shouldn't be any booing tonight. Don't give him a standing ovation, though, because that would show passion, and as we learned last night passion is evil. A golf clap will suffice.

I bet Jon Morosi likes golf claps.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Halfway Point

With exactly half of the season's 162 games in the books a person can be excused for thinking 2012 is turning out to be a replay of previous seasons. It's telling that seven years after Dayton Moore was hired progress has still yet to show up in wins and losses. He has certainly constructed a better roster than he inherited, but rather than a natural year to year progression, they are basically just treading water.

Here is the Royals record and run differential after 81 games going back to 2004.
Year Started Runs +/-Finished
2004 29-52 -113 58-104
2005 26-55 -121 56-106
2006 27-54 -144 62-100
2007 34-47 -52 69-93
2008 37-44 -44 75-87
2009 35-46 -63 65-97
2010 36-45 -28 67-95
2011 33-48 -49 71-91
2012 37-44 -32 ??-??

I included the lost years (2004-2006) to show what kind of mess Moore wandered into, in case you had forgotten. Given resources unavailable to his predecessor he immediately began the task of building up the farm system, which he has accomplished. When you're not blessed with a 100 million dollar payroll this is how you try to even the playing field. The fruits of his labor have been trickling into KC for over a year now but, as you can see, record-wise they are in the same place they were four years ago.

That's because he has been unable to supplement the prospects with productive major leaguers. He has always had a problem evaluating talent at the big league level. This is mostly due to an illogical attachment to players who struggle with regularity to get on base. You know the guys I'm talking about.

Since Zack Greinke left town they have lacked a top of the rotation starting pitcher. Before last season they had four left-handed pitchers in the minor leagues that were the envy of baseball, but today, not so much. Two of the four had Tommy John surgery while the other two stalled developmentally. Danny Duffy is the only one to have spent any time in Kansas City. Would you have guessed back then that Will Smith would have more major league starts than Mike Montgomery by now?

Moore has been heavily criticized for not addressing the rotation during the offseason, other than Jonathan Sanchez of course, and he's been worse than anybody not named Craig Brown expected. I'm sure he would have addressed the need further if he had known that Felipe Paulino and Duffy would see their seasons end, maybe, I don't know. Keep in mind that offseason rotation solutions in years past were guys like Brett Tomko, Sidney Ponson and Horacio Ramirez. Sanchez fits in quite well with that group.

To be fair though, 2012's patchwork pitching staff has been a moderate success. The 366 runs they've allowed thus far is the fewest at the halfway point since 1993. The bullpen gets the majority of the credit but the starting rotation have produced 35 games where they've allowed 2 or fewer runs. That's just 7 fewer than the first place White Sox.

The offense has been the biggest problem. They 334 runs they've scored is the third fewest they've had at this point in a season since 1996. Only the 2008 (329) and 2009 (319) teams were worse. But that goes to the point above about the types of players Moore acquires. There are three starters with OBPs below .300, Eric Hosmer's will likely be above that soon (.290/.360/.448 since May 21st) but Yuniesky Betancourt and Jeff Francoeur's probably won't. It doesn't help that the two players Yuni and Frenchy are blocking are having their way with minor league pitching. Johnny Giavotella has a .402 OBP for Omaha while Wil Myers is sitting at .395.

The first half of the season has been weird. They are still trying to dig out of the hole the 12 game losing streak put them in. Since their 3-14 start they are 34-30, which is second best in the Central in that time but only by half a game (White Sox, 35-30). Don't get too excited though, despite a similar record the difference in run differential between Kansas City (-7) and Chicago (+45) is significant.

If you are still optimistic that they can contend this year despite their first half struggles then allow me to point you to 1984 to help bolster your optimism (because that's the kind of guy I am). That year they were 38-43 after 81, and -38 in run differential, but came back to win a weak AL West. The first place team at the time? The Chicago White Sox.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Jeff Francoeur And Playing Time

Everybody knows Jeff Francoeur oozes leadership. We know this because Royals management and the KC media repeatedly mention what a great leader he is. Maybe I'm all alone here but this narrative was easier to digest last year when Francoeur was having a productive season. This year he has regressed back to his pre-2011 numbers but continues to play every day and is currently blocking a potential upgrade in Wil Myers.

That's the thing about Francoeur, he plays every day no matter how bad his performance. And I'm not talking about just this year. Since his sophomore season he's posted an OPS+ north of 100 just twice but yet has came to the plate 630+ times five times, and this season will assuredly make six. Atlanta gave him 653 plate appearances in 2008 and he gave them a 72 OPS+. I'm not sure why they stuck with him, he was coming off consecutive 100 RBI seasons though, so maybe they thought he would get it going at some point.

Since the start of the 2006 season Francoeur is one of only 28 major league hitters to have accumulated 4000+ plate appearances. Of those 28, only Juan Pierre has a lower OPS+ than Smilin' Jeff in that time frame.

Rk Player OPS+ PA From To
1 Albert Pujols 169 4357 2006 2012
2 Miguel Cabrera 156 4425 2006 2012
3 Matt Holliday 145 4215 2006 2012
4 David Ortiz 144 4025 2006 2012
5 Prince Fielder 143 4503 2006 2012
6 Adrian Gonzalez 139 4496 2006 2012
7 Ryan Howard 139 4019 2006 2011
8 David Wright 137 4181 2006 2012
9 Mark Teixeira 133 4418 2006 2012
10 Hanley Ramirez 130 4102 2006 2012
11 Robinson Cano 123 4209 2006 2012
12 Adam Dunn 123 4129 2006 2012
13 Curtis Granderson 118 4280 2006 2012
14 Carlos Lee 118 4114 2006 2012
15 Nick Swisher 118 4095 2006 2012
16 Nick Markakis 117 4310 2006 2012
17 Bobby Abreu 116 4179 2006 2012
18 Raul Ibanez 116 4054 2006 2012
19 Dan Uggla 115 4384 2006 2012
20 Derek Jeter 111 4529 2006 2012
21 Ichiro Suzuki 108 4727 2006 2012
22 Michael Young 107 4488 2006 2012
23 Alex Rios 104 4038 2006 2012
24 Brandon Phillips 102 4214 2006 2012
25 Jimmy Rollins 100 4273 2006 2012
26 Jhonny Peralta 99 4064 2006 2012
27 Jeff Francoeur 93 4151 2006 2012
28 Juan Pierre 83 4002 2006 2012
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/5/2012.

If we lower the minimum to 3000 Francoeur comes in 98th out of 109. Yuniesky Betancourt checks in on that particular list at 107.

When Myers gets promoted it'll be interesting to see how playing time is parceled out. There's the off chance Francoeur could be dealt but, unless Moore is willing to eat his contract, that seems unlikely. They DFA'd Mitch Maier rather than demote Jarrod Dyson or Jason Bourgeois so it would seem weird if one of them were suddenly relegated to Maier's previous irrelevant status.

One thing is certain though, Francoeur will get his at bats, because, leadership.