& Rany on
Rob: First thing ...
I always forget, so please remind me one more time ... When did we
start writing together about the Royals?
As best I can recall, it was 1998. Don't remember if that was during
the season or after the season.
1998 ... Wow. That was 10 seasons ago. In 1998, Mike Sweeney was the
Royals' No. 1 catcher. Terry Pendleton -- and I had
<i>completely</i> forgotten this -- was the
No. 1 DH (which worked out about as well as we might have expected).
And we still thought Jim Pittsley might have a real future in the game.
Hey, I still think Pittsley could have a career if someone would go
back and perform Tommy John surgery on his arm. The Royals elect to
rehab a partially torn ligament, and the result was a faster recovery
and a 6.02 career ERA.
And that, in a nutshell, outlines why we've managed to keep this
conversation going for 10 years: despite the fact that we have
generally the same background and perspectives on baseball, we've
always looked at the Royals from a different viewpoint. I am an
incurable optimist. You are an incurable realist, which means that as a
Royals fan you're a pessimist. It also means you've been right a lot
more than I have over the last 10 years.
Hey, you used to call me a pessimist!
And I thought you'd never come around to my (realistic) way of thinking
But yeah, I suppose nine losing seasons in ten years is pretty good
reality therapy, yeah? And just one starting pitcher (Paul Byrd, 17)
with more than 14 wins)? Remember 2004, when the Royals' top two
starters were Darrell May (5.61 ERA) and Brian Anderson (5.64)?
Remember how, with the rest of the world hitting homers like so many
fungoes, no Royal managed to top Steve Balboni's franchise record? (Top
power guy since 1998: Dean Palmer.)
Anyway, I'm not here to talk about the past. This is our last
R&R and I want to talk about the future. In a realistically
optimistic way. So tell me: How many games will the Royals win in 2008?
I think the number I came up with
was 73 wins. Which is the same number I came up with last year. I only
overshot the mark by four, which is pretty good for me. I think they'll
be better, just not a lot better, not in 2008. My optimism centers
around the future, starting in 2010 or so.
Funny thing: 73 happens to be my (preliminary) number, too. I wish I
shared your optimism about 2010, but I think that requires the sort of
wishful thinking that the Royals (and my other fellow humans) stomped
to death a long time ago.
Yes, Alex Gordon and Billy Butler are going to have great seasons, and
probably before they're priced out of Kansas City. But who's going to
help them out? The rest of the lineup is weak. There's some upside on
the pitching staff, which actually was better than league average last
The problem at this point is that when you talk about 2010 you're
talking about young players who don't seem to exist yet. Baseball
America ranks the farm system's talent 24th in the majors, and they
probably fell another spot when the A's traded Haren and Swisher. Among
the teams behind them are the White Sox and the Tigers, who are
actually trying to win now.
Bottom line, the Royals simply don't have the farm system you need when
you're trying to build a winner with a limited budget.
Well, that certainly is a pessimistic - there! I said it! - assessment
of the future. I agree that the farm system, as it currently stands, is
weak, as Gordon and Butler have graduated and some fallow drafts from
the previous administration have come home to roost.
The reason for my optimism is that the Royals under Moore (and more
specifically, not under Glass) have dramatically increased their focus
on scouting. The Royals signed five guys out of Latin America to
six-figure bonuses last winter, as they were one of the most
surprisingly active teams. The impact of Latin talent is likely to
increase, not decrease over time, and a beefed up budget there is
likely to pay big dividends. Last year's draft looks very promising;
third-rounder Daniel Duffy already looks like a steal, and the Royals
signed several late-round picks (guys who dropped because of
signability issues) to six-figure contracts before the deadline. The
previous administration never did that.
I think it's going to be 2011 before these efforts bear fruit;
Moustakas will be just 22 that year. But I'm focusing on 2010 because
that's the year the Miguel Cabrera can be a free agent, and in two
years the Tigers will be two years older and probably at the start of a
rebuilding run. The Indians should still be competitive - they have
Grady Sizemore signed to a terrific contract for them - but when they
lose Sabathia in a year, who knows? The White Sox have maybe the worst
farm system in baseball. The new GM in Minnesota isn't off to a great
start. And in 2010, the Royals will still have every significant player
on their roster today. After 2010, Greinke could be gone, but for the
next three years, the Royals can focus on improving their talent
without worrying about attrition.
So yeah, I'm optimistic. I can't help myself. I just think there's
reason to believe the Royals might justify my optimism this time.
So your optimism essentially is tied to the possibility that the
Indians and the Tigers will both fail to win 85 games in 2010? Sure,
it's possible. But when you consider the Indians' non-Sabathia talent
-- on the field and in the front office -- that strikes me as a bit of
a reach. Granted, things often change faster than we expect. But
essentially you've got five moving parts here and all of them have to
operate perfectly: Royals get a lot better, Tigers and Indians get a
lot worse, Twins and White Sox don't get better.
I want to believe. I really do. I'm not nearly as obsessive about the
Royals as I used to be, though I suspect that would come back -- as it
did in that magical few months in 2003 -- if they showed any real signs
But I need to see a real farm system, you know? Right now they have
Moustakas, without a position and with 11 games as a pro. They have
Daniel Cortes, who looked really good in the Carolina League. They have
Duffy, who might have been a steal in the third round and simply blew
away the Arizona League last summer.
But that's the Arizona League. You and I both know how few great
Arizona League pitchers become major leaguers -- let alone good major
leaguers -- within five years.
More to the point, in 2010 who's going to play first base? Who's going
to play second base? Shortstop? Left field? Right field? The striking
thing about the farm system is the utter absence of top hitting
prospects. Once you get past Moustakas -- again, 11 games as a pro --
you have to go all the way down to Derrick Robinson, at No. 10 in the
organization, to find a hitter.
After Robinson you find four more pitchers before getting to Chris
Lubanski and Justin Huber (all this according to Baseball America). I
think you'll admit that the odds are against Lubanski or Huber ever
becoming everyday players in the majors.
So get back to me when there are some hitters in the system. Maybe a
Gil Meche trade this summer?
I don't think the fact that the Royals may have unsettled positions TWO
YEARS FROM NOW is reason for undue alarm. And I think you're missing
the point. If the Royals are good in 2010, it's because Teahen
rediscovered his power stroke and is still out there. Guillen is under
contract in 2010, and while you think he's the new Kevin McReynolds,
I'm not so sure. At second base? Didn't you already sing the praises of
Callaspo? At first base? If no one emerges in the next two months, I
think the Royals would strongly consider using that #3 overall pick on
Justin Smoak, the South Carolina first baseman who might be the next
Will Clark. Shortstop? Uh, can't help you there.
My point is that they might have a chance to win in 2010, and more
importantly, they are doing all the right things to make sure that they
continue to improve in the new decade.
Predicting a team's fate four years from now is a fool's errand - it's
hard enough to predict four months from now. In the long term, the best
indication of a team's success are two things: a GM who is intelligent
and committed to a plan that builds his team for the long term, and an
owner who stays the hell out of the GMs way.
In my opinion, the Royals have the first, and as a result of the fiasco
that was the Allard Baird firing, they also have the second. I don't
know the specifics yet, but I don't have to. To use a Malcolm Gladwell
term, I'm thin-slicing here, and the thin slice I see is a competent
front office that's being allowed to express that competence. I'll work
out the details later.
I have an open mind on the subject, but I'm not yet convinced that the
front office is all that competent. Yes, Gil Meche looks real good, one
year into the five-year deal. Yes, I do like Callaspo (though is
projection is nothing special). But I hate the Jose Guillen contract,
and there was no reason for delaying Billy Butler's journey to the DH
slot. Has Moore made any $%@&-A
trades? Not that I can remember (feel free to remind me).
Moore's strength supposedly is drafting and player development. It's
not his fault that he hasn't had time to prove it. But until he does,
who knows about anything?
Burgos for Bannister? MacDougal for Cortes (and Lumsden)? I don't know
if these are F---A trades or not, but it's pretty hard to completely
rip off another GM, especially since the Royals can't trade with
My faith in Moore comes from the fact that almost without exception,
every time he's made a move that I disagree with - not because I think
it can't work, but because I think the odds for success are small - the
move worked. Signing Meche for 5 years only works if he immediately has
the best season of his career - he has. Trading a potential Armando
Benitez for a starter that strikes out 4 guys per 9 innings? Worked out
I still don't like the Pena trade, but he hit better than expected and
was a legitimately excellent shortstop. And almost as importantly, the
moves Moore made that looked brilliant on paper have, in fact,
continued to look good. Joakim Soria looked too good to be true - he
wasn't. Signing Dotel made sense if the Royals planned to cash him in
at the trading deadline - they did.
Moore hasn't been perfect by any means - he turned Ruben Gotay into
Jeff Keppinger into nothing (well, some pitcher named Russ
Haltiwanger), a series of transactions that continues to mystify me.
But there's been a lot more good than bad.
And keep this in mind: unlike you, I don't have the luxury of covering
all 30 baseball teams. I only have time to follow one, and if I don't
have hope in that one team, I'm SOL. I'm not saying my optimism is
completely rational. But it's defensible. /d
Emotionally, it's defensible. But
the Twins are probably going to be pretty good in three years and
they're moving into a new ballpark that will almost certainly allow
them to retain their best young players (or most of them).
Really -- and I honestly hate to be a downer here -- the Royals face
the same problem they've faced since the early 1990s: they play in a
tiny market in a ballpark that offers little chance for expanding
revenues. Yes, Commissioner Bud's revenue sharing has helped and will
help. But for as far as the eye can see, the Royals will be the poorest
team in the American League. I still love them, probably always will.
But I can't figure out a way to love their chances.
Which has almost nothing to do with the fact that this is the last
edition of Rob & Rany on the Royals. There's no one reason, at
least not one I can think of. It just feels like the right time, and it
felt even righter when you told me that you're striking off on your
own. I would have felt bad about deserting the few remaining Royals
fans, the ones who stuck with them (and us) for these last 10 years.
But now I feel good, because you're more upbeat than I am and you'll
write a lot more often.
So I leave this small stage with nothing but happy wishes for you. And
for our Boys in Blue.
updates on your favorite team, visit ranyontheroyals regularly. And thanks for coming
back here for so many years .
The following exchange came
shortly after the Royals signed free agents Miguel Olivo and Ron
Rany: Did George Steinbrenner, in his senility, suddenly
buy the Royals?
Hey, another 20 moves like this and they'll be contenders!
don't get it. You don't sign Olivo and Mahay unless you actually think
you can win in 2008. And at least Mahay doesn't take playing time away
from anyone important. Don't they want to see if Buck's April and May
can be extended into June, July, August, and September?
on your side. Giving Buck fewer at-bats in 2007 than in 2006 -- while
Jason LaRue was batting .148 (!) -- bordered on the criminally insane.
That said, Buck's career OBP is .297 so I'm not holding my breath,
waiting for him to become an All-Star.
Of course, Olivo's OBP is much worse! Next season the Royals might get
25 homers and 60 runs from their catchers. The real question is why
Dayton Moore thinks having two righty-hitting catchers with similar
skills is a good thing.
Well, that was the question we had last year when he signed LaRue,
wasn't it? The thinking was that LaRue would give Buck a little
competition, and it worked great - for 2 months. Buck was one of the
three or four best-hitting catchers in all of baseball through June 4th
(.288/.383/.600), but from that point on hit .185/.264/.333. (Which was
still better than LaRue.) I'm not sure what happened, but Buck started
the year with a new leg kick, which disappeared as the season went on.
The Royals made noises about his new hitting approach not working with
men on base - he hit 70 points higher with the bases empty, and 13 of
his 18 homers were solo shots.
So they had him change his approach, and he stopped hitting in all
situations. And now they've brought in a catcher who is remarkably
similar to Buck, only older and with much worse plate discipline (23
walks, 226 strikeouts the last two years, which may be unprecedented.)
Oh, and Olivo's coming over from the inferior league. He'll make a nice
backup, but I think the Royals have bigger plans for Olivo. And I think
they're going to be in for a rude surprise.
The Royals just signed another guy whose career hitting percentages are
roughly the same as Olivo's. Ron Mahay. LOOGY.
Liar. Mahay's OPS is higher than Olivo's.
get the impression that Moore is a defense-first guy, at least up the
middle. So it doesn't matter if Olivo or Pena don't get on base as long
as they catch the ball. Which is fine, to a point. But you have two
guys in the lineup who don't get on base even 30 percent of the time
and you're going to have a lot of trouble scoring runs.
That's true. But whether Olivo gets on base or not is a lot less
relevant to me than whether he plays or not. John Buck isn't a star,
but he's made small improvements every year of his career, he plays
decent defense, and he's 27 years old. Don't you want to find out if he
can develop into a low-level star, a .270/.320/.450 kind of guy? He has
three years until free agency, and the Royals would be better off
finding out whether he can put those three years to good use than
keeping him on the bench while an older player with little upside gets
to prove that he's an older player with little upside.
The question I have is this: is Dayton really trying to win in 2008?
It's not a completely crazy idea - or at least it wasn't before the
Tigers went out and got Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. Before
that move, the only team in the division that looked like a sure bet
for 88+ wins was the Indians, and you can say to yourself that if the
Indians stumble - maybe their bullpen implodes like it did in 2006, or
Hafner's decline is for real, or Carmona turns back into a pumpkin -
then you're poised to capitalize. But now Dayton has to hope that the
Royals improve by 20 games and both the Tigers and Indians underperform
drastically. That's just not realistic. I'd love to see the 1991 Braves
recreated as much as anyone, but what made the 1991 Braves so
compelling was the unlikelihood of their accomplishment.
I think the Royals have a good shot in 2010, when the Tigers lose
Cabrera and every one of the Royals' key players is still under
contract. And signing Mahay and Olivo may not hurt that goal. But I
don't see what goal they're helping towards either.
don't, either. But getting back to Buck for a moment, isn't it now
obvious that Moore simply doesn't like him? In fact, I don't think we
should be at all surprised if Buck is traded this winter, as it's clear
he's got no real future as a Royal. I will admit, with all the
strikeouts he's not easy to watch. But sometimes a GM is better off not
watching, and just looking at the stat sheets...
That's the thing, isn't it? Signing Olivo makes the most sense if you
trade Buck. Signing Mahay makes the most sense if you trade Gobble (or
Bale, or Musser, or De la Rosa, I suppose.) If Dayton sees an
opportunity to trade some of his young talent for talent elsewhere on
the diamond, then filling in the holes he's created with short-term
free agents, then more power to him. But if he trades Buck and Gobble
for 50 cents on the dollar because he suddenly perceives them as
excess, he's making a big mistake./d
Right, and you wonder who would be gotten in these theoretical trades,
as the club now seems happy with the roster. I'd like to see Moore
stockpile minor leaguers, considering the relative dearth of top
prospects in the system at this point. And if he somehow manages to win
80 games in 2008 and build something for the future ... well, then I'll
tip my cap to him.
Monday, December 17
I saw the Royals had traded Billy Buckner, my first reaction was WTF.
As I've probably mentioned a few times over the decades we've been
doing this, there's nothing more valuable to a poor team than young
pitching, because of course (good) veteran pitching is expensive
whether you're buying it or trading for it.
Then I looked at Alberto Callaspo's track record in the PCL. I mean,
wowsers. I just wish he were a shortstop instead of (mostly) a second
off, can I be
the first to thank Dayton for giving us something to think about other
than the Mitchell Report today? It's so nice to be able to talk about
It's an interesting trade. I like Buckner and have liked him since he
was drafted - he fell to the 2nd round because he had mono as a junior,
and guys like that seem to always give a good return on investment. But
I like him in the sense that he could be a #4 starter, a guy who could
give us 180 innings and an ERA just above league average. That's
valuable; it's just not irreplaceable.
The thing is, Buckner is a known quantity. Callaspo really isn't. He's
a career .317 hitter in the minors (.337 and .341 the last two years),
he strikes out as infrequently as any player in baseball, and he can
play all around the infield. On the other hand, there's a reason his
name wasn't in the Mitchell Report - he has no power. He walks a fair
amount but really doesn't have any speed. Basically, he's Jeff
Keppinger - who we already had, but released in the spring only to
watch as he hit .332/.400/.477 for the Reds in half a season.
Callaspo also has a .220 career average in the majors in almost 200
at-bats, with no secondary skills. And he turns 25 in April. He could
turn out to be a utility infielder, in which case we win the trade. But
he could turn out to be a high-OBP middle infielder, in which case we
win. It's all up to his batting average, and batting average is a bitch
to predict from year to year.
struggled in the majors. Which certainly is not meaningless. But over
those last two years his MLEs from the PCL were roughly 310/370/440. He
turns 25 next spring. Maybe I'm putting too much stock in MLEs and the
transformative power of physical maturity -- it certainly wouldn't be
the first time -- plus Kauffman Stadium isn't the BOB, but I suspect
there's an 800 OPS in Callaspo's future. Grudzielanek's going to be in
the 700-750 range this season, so if Callaspo can play second base
that's practically an upgrade from the get-go.
Now, I understand that Grudzielanek is the Opening Day second baseman.
But there's nothing wrong with a utility infielder who can hit, and if
Callaspo doesn't embarrass himself in that role, he's going to look
real good as the new starter in '09. Right?
with a few
caveats. Callaspo's DTs in Tucson for 2006 and 2007 -- still officially
under wraps, but I know a guy who knows a guy -- are amazingly similar:
.296/.360/.429 in 2006, .294/.363/.430 in 2007. Not as good as your
numbers, but close enough. Frankly, given the high-offense environment
in Tucson I would have expected more air to be taken out of those
numbers. And while he certainly looks like a super-utility guy for
2008, um, don't we already have Esteban German in that role?
I assume this means curtains for Jason Smith, in which case between
German and Callaspo we might have the best backup infielders in
baseball. I really like the fact that Callaspo is a switch-hitter as
well. It's tough for a right-handed hitter without power to amass a
high OBP, German notwithstanding. Also, it means that Hillman has the
option of using Callaspo at SS against tough righties, even if it means
punting defense a little.
What interests me about this deal is that it makes me wonder if Dayton
is trying to build a team that plays to Hillman's strengths. I get the
impression that Hillman is going to be a very active manager; by that I
don't simply mean bunting and stealing and all those things managers
like to do that cost their teams runs. I mean things like platooning,
pinch-hitting, using his entire roster. If that's the case, he's going
to loooove Callaspo.
I sure hope so.
It's one thing to install Tony Junior as your starting shortstop, and
quite another to give him 509 at-bats. I have to say, I'm not near any
decent source so I'm not really informed about this, but if Callaspo
can play shortstop with any grace at all, he should take some of
Junior's at-bats next season.
Regarding the air out of Callaspo's stats, you've seen the park effects
for the D'backs' place, right? Second- or third-best hitter's park in
the National League. If we ran his MLEs into the tougher league and the
tougher Kauffman, those would drop significantly, which really is the
only reason to not really like this deal. But Callaspo's still two or
three years from his peak, theoretically at least, and I'm sticking
with my 800 OPS prediction.
impressed by his DTs, which are translated to a neutral park. The big
concern is that anytime you trade with an NL team, you have to realize
that the player you're getting is going to have to play against tougher
competition, while the player you're giving up gets to face easier
competition. It doesn't mean you can't win - Bannister did fine, Burgos
got hurt - but there's the risk Callaspo could be, in the parlance of
the day, an NL player. Other things on my mind:
* I think the Royals are giving up on German as any kind of everyday
player in the infield. His defensive numbers are admittedly pretty bad.
Last year he was -15 runs on the infield: -9 at 2B, -5 at 3B, -1 at SS,
and combined he only played 79 games at the three positions. German
might be best utilized as a bat off the bench, a platoon 1B/OF type,
and an emergency infielder.
* Behind Meche, Greinke, and Bannister, the Royals had a real logjam of
candidates for the last two spots. Even if they don't sign Kuroda or
Silva or someone of that ilk, they've got Davies, Hochevar, and Leo
Nunez to consider, and Carlos Rosa possibly by mid-season. Give Dayton
credit for moving a commodity he had an excess of - #4 starter types -
for a talented hitter that we don't really need in 2008, but could be
very useful once Grudzielanek departs in 2009.
hope you're right.
What worries me is that when you have five candidates for the last two
spots in the rotation, in the long run you're lucky if even two of them
are actually good enough and/or healthy enough to hold down those
spots. You're saying the Royals have four candidates for two spots, but
if history's any guide, all four of them will get their shots and two
or three (or four) of them will wash out. And as we know all too well,
once you get past those four there's not much left.
Anyway, Hochevar's going to get his shot. He has to, considering how
much the Royals invested in him. He has to get a shot soon, and a good
shot. Among the others, I'll give the nod to Nunez because he looked so
good last season. But it's hard to get too excited about a guy who
won't even come up in anybody's Rotisserie draft.
a very good likelihood that the Royals will at some point have to start
a pitcher that isn't listed above. But I'd be shocked if the Royals
don't pick up at least one veteran arm before spring training; if it's
not a flashy free agent, it'll be Matt Clement or Bartolo Colon or some
other arm the Royals hope they can breathe life into.
The bottom line is this: Dayton looked at Buckner and saw a guy who
could pitch in the majors, but did not project to be anything more than
a bottom-rotation guy. He saw the opportunity to pick up a hitter who
could be a genuine asset, and took it. He did it when he traded J.P.
Howell for Joey Gathright, and so far that's worked out okay. This
trade may not prove to be a stroke of genius. But I don't think we're
going to get badly burned either.
(And hey, Emil Brown is gone! That's 10% of Jose Guillen's contract
Tuesday, December 4
so the old argument begins anew . . . Yes, apparently the Royals have
money burning a hole in David Glass's pocket. Yes, the local media and
the fans will tear him a hole somewhere else if he doesn't spend it,
and spend it quickly. But is committing $36 million to a decent corner
outfielder in his thirties really the best way to spend it? Shouldn't
$36 million, even in today's wildly inflated world, buy more than an
extra win or two per season?
awfully nonchalant about the fact that the Royals are spending Glass's
money? I mean, last year the Royals shocked everyone by signing Gil
Meche, but this year they've signed Guillen and they show no signs of
stopping. Unless I'm forgetting someone, the last time the Royals
signed two marquee free agents (depending on your definition of
"marquee") was 18 years ago. Then again, 18 years ago they signed Mark
and Storm Davis. So maybe they should put the pocketbook down.
actually, I think the reverse is true; I think signing Guillen
only makes sense if the Royals sign another free agent to go with him.
Nate Silver has written extensively on the topic of game theory as
applied to teams and whether they should buy or sell based on their
expected performance. Teams that are expected to win 69 games, as the
Royals did last year, have little to benefit from spending additional
cash, because improving a team from 69 to 74 wins, say, doesn't really
improve your chance of making the playoffs.
But let's say that the Royals, who won 69 games last year, can
reasonably expect to improve to 75 wins without any major additions:
Gordon improves, full years from Butler and Greinke, etc. If Guillen
hits .290/.350/.470 (which, placed in a hitters' park for the first
time in four years, he is quite capable of), that might represent a
4-win improvement over the crap that the Royals got from leftfielders
last year (.264/.315/.345). Going from 75 to 79 wins doesn't do much
for you ... but if you add another premium guy, Andruw Jones or Hiroki
Kuroda, suddenly you're at 83 or 84 wins, and then you can dream a
As crazy as it sounds, this move actually makes sense if the Royals are
trying to contend in 2008. And I honestly think that's what Dayton
wants to do.
an interesting thought experiment, for sure. But let's say all those
things happen; does it really seem at all likely that the Royals will
win more games than the Indians or the Tigers next season? Let alone
both of them? As for Jones, is he really that much better than DeJesus
after you make the league adjustment?
What's more, it's not yet clear exactly who Guillen's going to replace
in 2008. You have him replacing the crappy leftfielders, which would be
great ... but Bob Dutton speculates that Guillen might take over in
right field, pushing Teahen to first base and pushing Gload/Shealy to
What seems to have happened is that Dayton Moore looked at the roster
and said, "Gee, we don't have enough home runs." Which is true, of
course; that's what we've been saying since Danny Tartabull left the
team. But most of what you gain with Guillen (and Jones) in homers, you
may lose in on-base percentage. I'm no big fan of Joey Gathright, but
the Bill James projection for him includes a .365 OBP, and a .365 OBP
may be missed.
Not that Gathright should be an everyday player. I just don't think
Guillen constitutes a real improvement if all you're doing is pushing
Teahen to first base. I also think the most LIKELY outcome, given your
rosy scenario, is a team with a $75 million payroll and 82 wins. Which
won't bring the fans back. Not for long anyway.
Which brings me back to exactly where I was a year ago ... You have
cash? Great. Save it, and lock up your young players when the time
comes. Because I'll bet you a quarter that three or four years from
now, when the free agents haven't gotten the Royals close to 90 wins,
you're going to read stories about ownership's inability to retain guys
like Gordon and Billy Butler. Essentially, they're trying to take a
short cut around player development. It did work for the
who spent $100 million. Any other examples?
Braves. Seriously. I don't want to get into extensive detail on this
subject, because it's pretty much the main topic of my just-written
Royals chapter for Baseball Prospectus 2008. But Dayton is following
the Braves plan to the letter - and the thing about the Braves that
people forget is that it took five years before the player development
machine took hold. The 1995-2005 Braves were heavily homebuilt. But the
1991-94 Braves relied heavily on imports. Remember Terry Pendleton's
four-year contract? If it wasn't the most surprisingly good free agent
deal in history, it's on the short list. I seem to recall Greg Maddux
was a pretty good signing.
My point isn't that Guillen and Meche are the equivalent of signing
Maddux or trading for Fred McGriff. My point is that the Braves built a
dynasty in part by very shrewd acquisitions of other teams' talent.
They sustained the dynasty by building the strongest farm system in the
game. We already know that Dayton is trying to emulate the latter - the
extra farm teams, the huge investment in Latin America, etc. So I'm not
at all worried that by signing Guillen now, Dayton is going to
hamstring his ability to develop and retain his own talent. This is a
bandaid. But it's a bandaid that fills a true hole, and the length of
the contract isn't odious.
Again, in isolation this deal isn't a good one. But I'm confident that
it's only the first domino. It's not just that the Royals might sign
another premier guy. It's that they possibly - probably - will look to
trade Gathright or DeJesus to fill a hole elsewhere. Rumor is that Mark
Teahen is on the market, and while the rumored return - Matt Murton -
isn't enough, the fact is that signing Guillen gives the Royals the
chance to move young talent in a market that really, really values
young talent. And if signing Guillen gives the Royals the illusion of
momentum, making it easier to sign other free agents who want to play
for a winner? Works for me.
a load of crap.
Seriously. That's what everybody said about Meche, remember? "Sure they
overpaid" -- which is arguable now, but stick with me -- "but this will
make it easier to sign other free agents."
Really? Was it easier to sign Guillen? He just got $36 million for
three years when there supposedly was little interest from other teams.
Players care about little except the MONEY. Actually, they do care
about winning, a little bit, but the smart ones certainly must be smart
enough to realize that the Royals still look like the fourth-best team
in their division.
And more to the point, the Braves analogy is a poor one. Yes, Dayton
Moore might believe it. But in 1991, in addition to Terry Pendleton
(and don't forget the immortals, Sid Bream and Rafael Belliard) the
Braves also had two Hall of Fame pitchers -- Glavine and Smoltz --
along with Steve Avery, the kid with the golden arm, who gave them
three solid years before he blew up. In 1993 they added Maddux. Do you
see any pitcher on the Royals' roster, right now, with the chance to be
as good as Glavine and Smoltz? Okay, Greinke. Maybe. If everything
And we haven't even mentioned the financial thing. The Braves had the
weight of a superstation behind them; the Royals have one of the
smallest media markets in the majors.
The Royals simply can't play this game. Can't do it. They could have
played it the way the A's played it, a few years ago. Or the way the
Twins and Indians have played it, recently. That might have
worked, if Dayton Moore's the player-development hotshot he's supposed
to be. But spending your way to 90 wins in three simple steps? It's
never worked for this sort of franchise and probably never will.
Rob, way to go
hammering away at my last - and least relevant - point. It would be
nice if signing Guillen makes it easier for the Royals to sign more
free agents. But I'm sure that Dayton isn't banking on that fact at
all. He signed Guillen because the journey of three free agents starts
with a single one.
hammered at your last point because it was your last point, so I
figured I'd address that first and work backwards.)
for buying your
way to 90 wins ... do either of us really know how much money David
Glass is ready to spend? We all credit Dayton with the 180-degree
change in the organization, but would any of this be possible if Glass
hadn't changed his outlook completely? He's hands-off, and he's opening
his checkbook - sort of like Ewing Kauffman did. And as you know, the
game is awash in cash right now. I don't think the average fan realizes
just how profitable MLB is now. Hell, even the Royals couldn't claim to
post a loss - they admit to making "a small profit" last year. Our
friend Jeff Passan reported that as a percentage of revenue, MLB
salaries last year were only about 41% - way down from the 60% of just
a few years ago.
I don't think it's crazy in the slightest to suggest that the Royals
could break even with an $80 million payroll. And with Mike Sweeney and
Reggie Sanders and Scott Elarton coming off the books, that's something
like $45 million the Royals could spend. Do I want them to save some of
that money for Gordon and Butler and all the rest? Sure. But I'm not
going to blame Dayton if he thinks he can eat his cake and have it too.
Making my point: 30 minutes ago Jayson Stark reports that "The Royals
seem as if they're in on every free agent in baseball. And they're now
talking to left-handed reliever Ron Mahay." Which makes no
sense...unless, as is rumored, the Royals are shopping Jimmy Gobble.
NOT making my point: 20 minutes ago, Peter Gammons reported that the
Tigers just mortgaged the farm for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis.
This is going to be one tough division next year.
points to a
larger problem with your theory. Yes, the game's awash in cash. Yes,
the players are going to want more than 41 percent of the revenues, and
they're going to get it. But if the Royals have money to spend, don't
you think everybody else does, too? You think they'll be able to outbid
everybody else for a couple of top free agents next winter, too?
Considering the likely decline of Guillen and whoever else they sign
this winter, they'll have to sign more free agents just to break even
from year to year. Can they really afford to sign top free agents, when
so many other teams have so much money to spend?
You're grasping at straws, my friend. I don't want to put thoughts in
your head, but my GUESS is that if any other team were doing this, you
wouldn't be nearly as optimistic about the chances of success.
we can agree to
disagree. I'm not thrilled with signing Guillen, but on balance I think
it's a reasonable move, so long as there isn't some hidden player
option for a fourth year or something. And I think that Dayton's moves
this winter are going to have to be evaluated as a whole, and we won't
know that whole for at least another month or two.
But as for signing other free agents ... keep in mind that as Joe
Sheehan pointed out recently, teams are more and more inclined to sign
their star players before free agency, which weakens the player pool in
free agency and drives up the prices of everyone - something the MLBPA
approves of, no doubt. The Royals signed Meche in part because they
thought he was better than anyone who would hit the market this winter
(and you'd have to say they were right.) There are only a few
opportunities to grab good players on the open market. So long as the
Royals continue to make the farm system their #1 priority, I'm okay
with Dayton using other avenues to improve his talent pool. It's only
David Glass's money, after all.
both happy to
see David Glass's money flow to the players. I'd just rather see it
flow to players who are going to be productive four, five, six years
from now. And if we know anything, if we've learned anything from Bill
James and everyone who's come after him, it's that signing 31-year-old
outfielders to long-term contracts usually doesn't work out, in the
end. For the last few years, we've been told that Mark Teahen and David
DeJesus and Chris Lubanski and Billy Butler and Alex Gordon were the
future of this franchise. Now you're telling me it's Jose Guillen and
Maybe my memory's too long, but I remember a great deal of excitement
-- not from you, necessarily -- when the general manager spent David
Glass's money on Chuck Knoblauch and Roberto Hernandez.
Not that Guillen and Meche are Knoblauch and Hernandez. But the mindset
is roughly the same, and the reaction in the media will be roughly the
same. The Royals will say they're finally
serious, and some of the writers and radio guys will buy it, and most
of the diehard fans will hop aboard, and the club will wind up in
fourth or fifth place.
Guillen's a band-aid. The Royals need is a new limb or two, and unless
Glass decides to pump in $40 million of his OWN MONEY into the roster
EVERY YEAR, they can't afford to buy any limbs.
you said it:
Guillen and Meche are not Knoblauch and Hernandez. Those moves made no
sense at the time, and we both said so. We both said Meche didn't make
any sense, and we were about as wrong could be - so wrong, in fact,
that I am prepared to give Dayton the benefit of the doubt when he
signs a 31-year-old outfielder to a 3-year deal.
You mentioned Teahen and DeJesus and Lubanski and Butler and Gordon,
but the only player that's affected by Guillen's signing is Lubanski.
And as much as I've supported Lubanski over the years, the fact is that
his stock has fallen to the point where he wasn't protected on the
40-man roster, and he isn't even considered to be the most likely Royal
to be selected (that would be AFL pitcher of the year Dusty Hughes, who
projects as a lefty swingman).
A commitment to youth isn't mutually exclusive with a willingness to
patch holes with veterans. With Allard, it was one or the other. Dayton
is willing to try both tactics, and I salute him for that.
a minute . . .
you're really willing to pass judgment on a five-year contract after
one year? I'd like to see Meche pitch well for at least three seasons
before I admit I was "as wrong as could be" ... I mean, that's just
And I'm not sure how you can say Guillen's signing affects only
Lubanski, as we've already read that Guillen might push Teahen to first
base, which obviously affects Teahen and might affect Butler, or Gordon
if he's shifted to first base with Teahen going back to third. At this
point, we don't have any idea what's going to happen to the lineup, and
anyway you've said it doesn't make sense to sign Guillen unless
somebody else is signed, which would also affect the young players.
Anyway, we've probably taken this as far as we can. In two years we can
revisit the Meche contract and the Guillen contract. If Meche has
pitched well for two more seasons and Guillen has been better than
league average for both seasons, and the Royals have won more than 85
games in one of 2008 or '9, I'll happily admit that you were right and
I was wrong. But I'm confident enough that I'd put down some serious
money on me being right. And I'd give you odds.
going to have
plenty of time to examine the impact of Dayton's moves, in their
totality, between now and April. And I'm not taking any bet that
involves a three-proposition parley (or is that a teaser? Where's Bill
Simmons when you need him?). But betting on the Royals to win 85 games
in either 2008 or 2009? I might take you up on that come springtime.
We'll revisit our bet in March.
Sorry if I'm a bit cranky. Not a good day for me, as a fan.
that bitter about this signing?
It's Kevin McReynolds all over again. Except I'm smarter than I was 16
Friday, November 16
Rob Neyer. It's nice to meet you. Do you have a favorite baseball team?
and for the first time in, what, 15 years, I'm actually sort of proud
to call myself a Royals fan.
I'm a Royals fan too!
wouldn't say that I'm proud of it. But it feels different than it did a
couple of years ago. And I have to say, I'm actually just a little bit
excited about the new manager.
When I read somewhere that Jim Fregosi was a candidate, I threw up in
my mouth. But an ex-managerial prospect who made good in Japan? I'm not
sure how you do better than that.
the last two
times the Royals were looking for a new manager? Both times, they
somehow managed to pick the manager with the worst resume. They picked
Tony Pena when Buck Showalter was available (and yes, in retrospect I'm
not sure how good Showalter would have been, but at least he wouldn't
have fled the team in the middle of the night), and they picked Buddy
Bell, who out of a list of recycled managers had by far the worst track
record of them all.
This time, we heard all sorts of names, including highly-regarded
managers-in-waiting (Terry Pendleton), recycled managers with some
track record of success (Fregosi, even Joe Girardi). But the problem
with a recycled manager is that there's usually a reason he's available
for hire, and the problem with a new manager is that experience with
the job really does matter. (I believe Bill James found, in his Guide
to Managers book, that teams that hire managers with experience do
slightly better than teams hiring first-time guys.)
The amazing thing about Hillman is that he has the upside of the new
guy AND the experience of the old one. Japanese baseball may be
slightly easier to play than our version, but it's got to be a lot
harder to *manage*. Hillman was a leader of men he could barely
communicate with, in a culture dramatically different than ours, and
won two Central League titles and a Japanese Series in five years. By
comparison, the most challenging player he has to communicate with now
is Zack Greinke.
Good one. Now I remember why I send you that big check every month.
Something just occurred to me, and it's just a half-thought so I hope
nobody takes this too seriously . . . But has anybody ever wondered why
American managers have, for the most part, been successful in Japan? Is
it possible that Hillman had an advantage in Japan that he won't have
in the States?
weird, but I think one advantage that guys like Hillman and Bobby
Valentine might have is simply this: they come from a culture where
winning is a higher priority than it is in Japan. Japanese baseball is
as much about form as function - American baseball could never stand
for games to be called a tie after 12 innings, for instance. I'm sure
you've read You've Gotta Have Wa.
More precisely, the emphasis on playing baseball "the right way" in
Japan leads to a lot of win-negative strategies like bunting at every
opportunity. When every other team is bunting and running their way out
of big innings and the new gaijin manager decides to wait for the 3-run
homer ... well, the 3-run homer is going to win more often than not.
And this is a very simplistic, and quite possibly inaccurate,
explanation. I have no idea how Hillman made the Nippon Ham Fighters
into a championship ballclub on a micro level. This year, at least,
they won with the worst offense in the league - which means Hillman
beat the Japanese at their own game. That would worry me if he decided
to import that game here, but given that they won it all in 2006 with
an above-average office (they lost their two best hitters after the
season), I think it speaks very well of his ability to adapt to his
been the story about him. That he realized he couldn't win doing it his
way, so he changed his way to suit the talent. Which of course is what
every manager should do. I'm not sure what that means for the Royals?
If you took over as manager tomorrow, would you bunt more? Steal more?
Hit more home runs?
Yes, that's a rhetorical question. When you can't hit, the only way to
win is to pitch really, really well. Which is why I don't actually put
much stock in the reports about Hillman's adaptive brilliance with the
Fighters. I'm not saying he doesn't deserve credit for his team's
successes. I just don't know that bunting was one of the keys.
a purely Royals'
point of view, I was actually rather thrilled with how the Fighters'
season ended. If they had won the Japan Series, I was worried that, on
some level, Hillman would be fooled into thinking that maybe you really
can win with pitching and defense alone. But they lost the series in
five games because the team scored seven runs total, three of them (on
a homer) in the first inning of game 1. They had the best pitcher in
Japan on the mound in Game 5...and lost 1-0 on a perfect game. That's a
pretty extreme lesson that you can't manufacture runs if you can't
manufacture baserunners. Extreme, but awfully effective.
Anyway, I'm not that worried that Hillman is going to go completely
wacky on us. He responded to a question on who would be the Royals'
leadoff man in a Royals.com chat by saying this: "I will, however, say
in referring to leadoff man that he needs to be one that has OBP first
and foremost in his mind and someone that can make the opposition
nervous once on the basepaths." OBP first, speed second. Common sense,
maybe but common sense has been an uncommon commodity in Kansas City in
a good quote.
So who's the Royals' leadoff man, anyway? Joey Gathright? His .371 OBP
last season was the best on the team AND he can run some. But can the
Royals really afford to play three outfielders with little power?
they can't. Which
is why, in an off-season that promises the unpredictable, the only move
I'm willing to predict the Royals make is that they trade either
DeJesus or Gathright. They're different players with different skills,
but they share two similarities: both make good centerfielders, and
both make bad leftfielders. The Royals have passed the Talent
Accumulation phase of rebuilding; now's the time to start
redistributing that talent to fit the confines of a major league
roster. Playing two centerfielders is not an efficient use of talent.
By the way, can we stop for a moment to ask Dayton Moore why on earth
he's talking to Torii Hunter? You fooled us all with Gil Meche, Dayton,
but don't push your luck.
is exactly the sort of player that somebody like Dayton Moore
programmed to love. Fortunately, the Royals are just one of a dozen
teams that feel the same way, so the odds are against them "winning"
That said, where should
they spend their money this winter?
In 2007, the Royals spent between $60 and $70 million on payroll. I'm
not sure of the exact figure because of some dead money and some
payments from other teams. Anyway, let's use $65 million as our
baseline for the 2008 payroll.
Thanks to the departures of Mike Sweeney and a few others, there are
only four players on the 40-man roster -- not including recent draft
picks -- slated for than $2 million next year. Meche, of course,
accounts for most of the money: $11 million. Grudzielanek, DeJesus, and
Bale will make $9.2 million, combined. So that's roughly $21 million.
How on earth can they spend another $44 million, considering the dearth
of worthy free agents this winter?
Sure, they could use a first baseman, and there are plenty of low-cost
options out there (not that any of them can actually hit). They could
use a power-hitting left fielder, but good luck with that one. They
could use a starting pitcher, but once you get past Carlos Silva and
perhaps Bartolo Colon, it's slim pickings.
Okay, so some of that $44 million goes to the kids, and Jimmy Gobble's
due a big raise via arbitration. So let's say it's only $30 million.
How can they possibly spend it, wisely?
forgetting the second-highest paid player on the team. Yep, Angel
Berroa, who's due $4.75 million in 2008. And a lot of arbitration
paydays are coming due: Greinke and Teahen are both first-time
arb-eligible. But add it all up, and it's hard to see the Royals paying
more than $40 million with the roster they currently have.
And that, in a nutshell, is why they're talking to Torii Hunter, and
Jose Guillen, and seriously considering offering arbitration to Emil
Brown even though that means they'd be paying $5 million for a platoon
player. The word is just starting to get out that MLB is seriously,
seriously flush with cash. I don't begrudge them for that, because much
of their revenue has come from savvy investments in MLB.com and MLBAM.
But the bottom line is that every team in baseball is bringing in tons
of cash. The Royals could probably raise their payroll to $80 million
and not lose money.
On the one hand, it's nice to see that David Glass is willing to spend
some of that money. On the other...this isn't the market to be spending
any kind of money in. I'd rather the Royals take that money and put it
into long-term deals for guys like Greinke and even Gordon, but how
realistic is that, for either side? Greinke could be an All-Star in
2008, and he could tank completely; the same goes for Gordon. So
failing that, putting that money into short-term deals - taking flyers
on guys like Colon, maybe Milton Bradley - makes more sense than
locking Hunter up until he's 37.
But now I'm
having flashbacks to our post-Meche conversations a year ago . . . Is
there any good way to spend the money that does NOT involve taking
there's a great
way for the Royals to spend $25-30 million a year. Unfortunately, it
looks like A-Rod is headed back to New York.
well, I still
say you let the other teams buy the free agents, and use your money
instead to beef up scouting and player development. I know we're
impatient, and it'd be nice to put a 90-win team on the field while
we're still (relatively) young and Alex Gordon and Billy Butler remain
affordable. But if the Royals don't start churning out prospects, they
aren't going to win 80 games, let alone 90.
Wednesday, September 12
following conversation happened more than a week ago, and all
interested parties have my apologies for the late posting.
Rob: So, what do you think? I know we've got nearly another
to play and things could fall apart, but it hasn't escaped my notice
that the Royals' run differential isn't appreciably different from
those of the Twins and the Athletics. That's something, right? And
while I know you're sort of half-excited by Brian Bannister and his
fourth-best-in-the-league ERA, how about this kid Greinke who's
stringing together scoreless innings like he's Brandon Webb?
Pardon me for my impertinence, but do I sense a tone of, I don't know,
optimism in your message? Have the Royals managed to pierce the heart
of even their most hardened cynic?
Last time I checked - and I check most every day - the Royals' run
differential this year stood at -25. While a .500 record is highly
unlikely (it would require a 19-6 finishing kick), it's not out of the
realm of possibility that the Royals could finish the season with more
runs scored than allowed. They haven't turned that trick since 1994.
Rarely has a player pitted my heart and my head so diametrically
against each other as Brian Bannister has. My head sees that Bannister
racks up neither strikeouts (less than one every two innings) nor
groundballs (his G/F ratio is right around league-average). My heart
watches him move four pitches around the strike zone, and hears him
discuss the art of pitching with a level of intelligence and maturity
most pitchers never achieve.
As Jeff Passan writes (and you comment upon), Bannister's RoY candidacy
uncannily resembles Angel Berroa's. We didn't expect Berroa to improve
upon his rookie season; we only asked that he maintain it. He was not
up to the task. I don't think Bannister is up to repeating a 3.16 ERA
either, but even an ERA a run higher would make him a valuable member
of the rotation going forward.
First off, for the umpteenth time -- and I think the truth of what
follows has been proved many, many times over -- I'm not a cynic about
the Royals; I'm a realist! Even my onetime mentor finally admitted
this, after many years of (his) optimism.
You're right about Bannister, of course. If his ERA jumps by a run next
season, he'll be a wonderful bargain. A run-and-a-half, actually.
Ever since Alex Gordon joined Billy Butler in the organization, we've
been saying that the real question down the road was going to be
starting pitcher. Could the Royals come up with three or four
legitimate MLB-caliber starting pitchers? Their record in this regard,
as you know better than I do, has been absolutely atrocious since the
development of Kevin Appier, with only Jose Rosado distinguishing
himself as a Royal (and him, not for long). Suddenly, though, we have
to dream not a lot, but just a little. Can you imagine Gil Meche being
a little better than league average for a few years? I can. Can you
imagine Bannister doing the same? I can. Can you imagine Zack Greinke
becoming even better than that next year? I can. Which still leaves a
couple of slots open, obviously. But there's been talking about trying
out Joakin Soria in the rotation. And Billy Buckner, who put up some
solid numbers w/Omaha this season, goes tonight, and I'm going to
watch. Does that make me a reformed cynic? Or just a realist?
First off, my observation that your attitude towards the Royals has
changed for the first time since we starting writing about them in 1998
was not a reflection on you. It was a reflection on the Royals, and the
fact that, with a few small exceptions (have you seen what Jeff
Keppinger is doing in Cincinnati?) they seem to be doing everything
Today, I was reading Nate Silver's article at BP.com where he breaks
down the rotations of the 16 nominal contenders for a playoff spot, and
that's when it really hit me: the Royals RIGHT NOW have a rotation that
is, if not playoff worthy, certainly better than at least half a dozen
of the teams fighting for a playoff spot. Gil Meche may not be a true
#1 starter, but would anyone blink if he were to start a playoff game?
Bannister certainly has the credentials - in some ways he reminds me of
John Maine, who started for the Mets in the playoffs last year and
likely will again this year. And Greinke is the goods, buddy. I finally
got around to TiVo'ing his start last night, and man...even at his
rookie best he wasn't throwing 93-96 on the black. We've seen him
succeed by hitting every speed from 62 to 94 on the gun, and we've seen
him succeed throwing just two pitches, a mid-90s fastball and a low-80s
curveball. (Last night I saw only one pitch from him that was less than
80 on the gun. He threw a changeup past a befuddled Frank Catalanotto -
and it was still timed at 86.) I have a request for the Royals: as
exciting as it's been to watch Greinke 2.0, I hope that with Greinke
2.1 the Royals bring back some of his old features, like Really Slow
Curve and Disappearing Changeup. We haven't seen a pitcher with all
those features since the cyborg known as Pedro 2000.
Where was I ... Oh yes, Kyle Davies needs some work, but he's whiffed
26 batters in 27 innings and certainly has the toolkit to be an
effective starter. The 5th starter is up for grabs, but the Royals can
always fall back on Leo Nunez if none of their other options work out.
The Royals have a good rotation. And not one of the guys I've mentioned
can be a free agent before the end of the 2010 season.
exchange, on Monday the 4th, the Royals have lost seven straight --
their run differential is now a good bit behind those of the Twins and
the A's -- and introduced two rookies to the rotation. Give us a few
days, and we should have something to say about them, too.
Thursday, August 16
Rob: Hey, great
piece today about Boras and his brilliance.
I suppose now that the Royals have signed their guy, we should forget
about the money and just hope for the best. I'm not real excited about
the kid, but then I wasn't real excited about Billy Butler, either. And
he seems to have turned out okay.
me start by saying that I'm happy Moustakas has signed, and I wish him
well. Having said that: I am utterly impressed with how the
Royals handled the negotiations. Since the new rules
the draft were released, I've been saying that teams have considerably
more leverage, and they should use it. I've heard all the
arguments against - you don't want to wait a year to draft again, the
compensation pick is worth less because it's only a one-time
compensation - but the point isn't that pick 2A in 2008 was worth as
much as Moustakas. The point is that the Royals had a nice
plan in the event of a worst-case scenario. Moustakas,
did not: his choice was to go to college, or perhaps junior college,
same as always.
Negotiations are about leverage, and Scott Boras knows how to use
leverage more than anyone in baseball. But he also knows when
doesn't have any leverage. He held Jered Weaver and Stephen
out for nearly a year, but when their deadlines approached he knew his
clients would get less money if they went back into the draft - so he
caved, and both Weaver and Drew signed for pretty much what the teams
We've learned that the Royals initially offered $3.15 million, then
upped their offer to $4 million - still way less than what Boras
wanted, and less than people in the industry were expected - in the
final days. And they held firm. Dayton knew that he
the upper hand, and he didn't waver. He was prepared to let
Moustakas go - and precisely because he was, he got Moustakas to sign
at his price.
The Royals got Scott Boras to blink. I really don't care
the money - I'm sure Mike Moustakas is a fine kid and deserves as much
of David Glass's money as he can get. But I care about the
process of negotiations, and the way the Royals handled this one was
So the "recommended slot money" never really was realistic, was it?
for the first 4 or 5 picks, no. I don't have a problem with
slotting prices in general, but the slots have never held for the first
few picks. To me, the "slot" for Moustakas was what Alex
got two years ago...which was, coincidentally enough, $4
By any realistic assessment, the Royals did get Moustakas to sign for
Well, supposedly the Royals drew that line in the sand: they weren't
going to pay more for Moose than they paid for the No. 1 college player
just two years ago. Anyway, he's signed and the Royals handled things
well, and it seems that maybe ownership's not the problem it once was.
Today I really wanted to talk about young pitchers.
Before this season, Baseball America ranked five pitchers among the
Royals top ten prospects: Luke Hochevar (2), Tyler Lumsden (5), Brian
Bannister (7), Billy Buckner (9) and Brent Fisher (10).
Forget about Fisher. He struggled in the Midwest League and hasn't
pitched since May, so I'm guessing -- I'm sure you know -- that he's
now in a gym somewhere, trying to rehab after some ghastly surgery. The
other four, though, are still pitching, and I can't help but notice
that Nos. 7 and 9 are pitching better this season than Nos. 2 and 5.
Lumsden's been in Omaha all season, and has basically been a
disaster. With a 6.33 ERA and nearly as many walks as
it's almost time write him off. Hochevar's also in Omaha now, and his
ERA is even worse: 6.82. He's almost 24, which is to say he's older
than a lot of guys who already are pitching effectively in the majors.
The only reason for optimism -- and this is really grasping for a thin
straw -- is that he did strick out 94 in 94 innings with Wichita
earlier this season. But at this point, he looks like either a bust or
a relief pitcher.
Dayton has done an uncanny job of making moves that looked terrible by
statistical analysis, and then telling us stat guys to shove it where
the sun don't shine - Brian Bannister, Joey Gathright, even Tony Pena
have all been victories for the scouts over the stats. But
Lumsden is the outlier; his numbers in Double-A before he was acquired
for Mike MacDougal were decidedly blah, even though the scouting report
(lefty, low 90s, good breaking ball) were rather
It's still not a bad deal; MacDougal has been so bad for the White Sox
that they sent him to Triple-A for a while, and the second guy in that
deal, Daniel Cortes, has been one of Wilmington's better starters even
though he's just 20.
Hochevar ... the other straw is that it's just his first full pro
season, and if he wasn't a #1 overall pick you'd have to be at least
somewhat impressed that he's already in Triple-A. But the
is that he was the #1 pick, and that the Royals should have taken
Andrew Miller or Tim Lincecum. And no, that's not hindsight. That's
what people were saying at the time. It's still early, and I
think Hochevar's repertoire (good fastball, flyball pitcher) would
convert well to the bullpen if needed. But yeah, at the
his selection looks like a terrible blunder.
you don't mind a quick tangent, I'd love to know what the hell the
Royals were thinking when they took Hochevar instead of those other
guys. I know you cut them some slack because Moore was hired just
before the draft, but it's not like he didn't know all the options;
presumably he'd been scouting them when he worked for the Braves. They
just blew this one, and what we don't know yet is whether this mistake
was the exception or the rule. Anyway, I wanted to mention the other
guys. Actually, I think we've already discussed Bannister. But what
about Buckner? We wrote him off a long time ago, didn't we? But he's
actually been Omaha's best starter this season, and his K-rate is
solid. One caveat: as we would expect, his K-rate was better as a
reliever, earlier in the season, than it's been as a starter. Still,
would you agree that right now he's the best prospect among the Omaha
He's the best pitching prospect in the organization, at least in terms
of risk: he's capable of being a #3/#4 starter type right
Buckner was a shrewd draft pick, a guy who fell to the second round
because he developed mono during his junior year - but the Royals had
seen him when he was healthy, and gambled he'd get back to
As a general rule, teams seem to heavily over-value a player's recent
performance on draft day. It seems like almost every time a player has
a poor junior year (or senior year of high school) after being hyped
before the season, he bounces back after the draft and proves to be a
steal. Johnny Damon was considered a potential #1 overall
a high school senior, struggled all year, fell to the Royals at #35,
and hit .349 in rookie ball and never looked back. The flip
is that when a team, say, drafts a pitcher #1 overall because he looked
better than ever in five starts in indy ball after sitting out a year,
instead of either of two college juniors who had been dominant for the
past two seasons ... well, that's how you convince yourself to take
Luke Hochevar instead of Andrew Miller or Tim Lincecum.
Excellent point. Now I can't even remember why we gave up on Buckner.
Maybe that was just me, actually ... Okay, one more thing that's been
sticking in my craw ... As you probably do, every day I get Baseball
America's daily prospect report, and almost every day I'm disheartened
by the paucity of Royals. I swear, there are days when 75-100 hitters
are listed, with NARY a Royal among them. So let me just close today's
action with one question for you, my brother: I know there aren't any
Grade A prospects in the system ... but is there even a Grade B?
Chris Lubanski, certainly, is the very definition of one - his
performance isn't Grade A, but he's 22 and in his second full season in
the high minors. After him ... uh ... Wichita might have the
prospect-free team in history (which is by design, I'm sure, given that
the team is moving to Arkansas next year). Wilmington's
almost as pathetic...I like Mario Lisson and Josh Johnson, but they're
Grade C prospects at best. And at the lower levels, it's hard
call anyone a top prospect unless they're either dominating the league
(no one is) or a recent top draft pick.
Which means I can think of two: Lubanski and ... Moustakas.
Glad you signed, kid.
Tuesday, August 14
Rob: Hey. It's been a
while. I was in Missouri, of all places, for two weeks, but was too
busy to sit down and do this thing. Which is a shame, because we missed
a lot (and I've got the e-mailed complaints to prove it). A few
questions off the top of my head . . . Is Bannister for real? Is Teahen
ever going to get his power back? Will the R's sign their No. 1 pick?
Did Buddy Bell really say he's quitting? Feel free to start
any one of those, or some other...
Maybe, I think so, I don't care, and yes, in that order. But
should start with the final one, because it's the most surprising
development of the last month, if not the whole season.
I had resigned myself to the fact that Buddy wasn't going to get fired
based on the Royals' performance since about mid-May, and I honestly
wasn't too troubled by that knowledge. LIke
had grown to appreciate all the little things that Buddy did for this
team. He's not a great tactical manager, and he doesn't seem
have a knack for getting surprising performances out of players, but he
brought professionalism back to the Royals after the circus that was
the final year of the Tony Pena administration. And really,
many mistakes with roster management has he made this year?
given LaRue way too much playing time, and he made way too many excuses
for Scott Elarton's suckitude. If those are the two worst
he's done all year, he's had a decent year. I think his
is a good thing for the Royals in the long term, but I think he
deserves credit for being a better caretaker of the club than I
expected him to be.
I don't know. I'm not sure how many mistakes there were to be made, and
LaRue's a pretty big mistake. He seems to have done a good job with the
bullpen, and I'll give him some credit for that. I think we agree --
even Joe P. would agree -- that Bell's not the long-term answer as
manager, and this sort of orderly succession probably is the best
possible scenario (short of having hired Bud Black last winter). I've
been asked to speculate about the next manager, but there are few
things I know less about. I mean, it's probably 1. how does a
television work, 2. who's the right man to replace Buddy Bell, and 3.
why did so many people vote for Bush in 2004 (I know, that's a cheap
and easy shot, but at least now I'm on the right side of popular
You really think Teahen's going to find his power stroke again? This
year he's got SIX homers. Last year he hit TWENTY homers (including two
w/Omaha). Prior to last year, he'd hit ONE, THREE, FOURTEEN, and SEVEN
homers in the four seasons. Looks to me like the TWENTY probably is the
outlier. Don't you think?
he was 32 years old, sure. But he's not; he's 25.
He was 24
when he hit 18 homers in 109 games. There is a rule of thumb
applies to young players: a skill that is shown by a young player, even
if it's for the first time, is likely to be for real. In the
minor leagues, a player who hits for power one year but strikes out too
much, then cuts his strikeouts the next year but the power goes down,
has shown the ability to hit for both contact and power, and is a good
bet to do both in future years. PECOTA's algorithms have
this out; many of PECOTAs big breakout success (guys like Jonny Gomes
and Corey Hart in the past) have been predicated on this
(I remember when Nate Silver asked me for more information about Donnie
Murphy, then with the Royals, after he had a surprisingly good PECOTA
two springs ago. Murphy fit the same profile, and after a
disappointing 2006, he was picked up by (surprise!) the A's and is
having (surprise!) a nice little year.
All of which is to say, the fact that Teahen hit for power last year
means that his inability to hit for power this year isn't entirely
damning. Look at the two seasons. Last year he
games, this year 114 games so far. He's hitting for the same
average (.291 this year, .290 last), getting on base the same (.360 vs.
357), hitting the ball into the gaps the same (30 doubles + triples
last year, 28 last), stealing bases the same (11 vs. 10).
just not hitting homers the same. What's the
not elevating the ball. Last year he had a G/F ratio of 1.46;
this year it's 2.02. Last year he hit into 5 double plays;
year he's hit into 19(!). This is a fixable
Remember Hideki Matsui's rookie year, when Godzilla hit only 16 homers
and everyone was worried that he'd never hit for power? The
following year, his G/F ratio dropped from 2.17 to 1.09; his GIDPs
dropped from 25 to 11; and his homers went up from 16 to 31.
Teahen's not as good as Matsui, but he's younger than Matsui was, and
just as capable of making those adjustments.
does not strike me as a particularly instructive analogy, considering
that Matsui had a long history of hitting home runs. In his case, the
16-homer season looked like the anomaly; in Teahen's case, the 20-homer
season looks like the anomaly. I'm tempted to take your word when it
comes to the "If he's done it, he owns it" rule of thumb. I know
Shandler believes that, and if you believe it and he believes it, it's
probably true. That said, I'm still waiting to see a proof. Bert
Campaneris hit 22 homers one season. Did he own that skill, really?
Okay, he was 28 that season, not 24 (as Teahen was last year). But
there's a long list of players who did things when they were 24 that
they never did again. And if Teahen just needs to make an adjustment,
why hasn't he made it already?
Anyway, on to other topics . . . You like Bannister, yes? And what
about Leo Nunez? Is he the most surprising thing about the Royals this
season, at least this side of Joakim Soria? Given the struggles of
Lumsden and Hochevar in Omaha, it seems the R's almost need Nunez to be
Nunez is the best trade the Royals didn't make. (Although
Beane did pretty well with Plan B. Have you seen Andrew Brown's numbers
since he went to Oakland?) I was a big fan of Nunez before
year started, because he has the best pitch you can have -- a moving
fastball with good velocity -- and he throws strikes. His
track record was the product of being rushed to the majors as part of
the Kiddie Corps of 2004 (hey, that rhymes!), not because he didn't
have promise. He's still very young (happy 24th, Leo) and while I'm not
sure he can maintain this kind of success as a starter, at the very
worst he can be a key component of what could be a terrific bullpen the
next few years. I could easily see him and Greinke swapping
places for next year, for instance.
As for Moustakas ... I really don't care. The Royals screwed the pooch
last year by taking Hochevar, who a year later doesn't even rank among
the Top 5 college pitchers in that draft (Andrew Miller, Tim Lincecum,
Brandon Morrow, Joba Chamberlain, for starters). But I give
Royals a pass, difficult as it is to accept, given that the draft fell
during that awkward week when Dayton had accepted the GM job but could
not start work. This year, though, they didn't take Porcello
because they thought he was unsignable, and they took Moustakas over
Vitters because they thought he was more signable. Porcello
signed (albeit for crazy money), and Moustakas is now the guy least
likely to sign.
And you know what? Let him go. Everyone is vastly overestimating the
consequences of not signing him. "You can't let a top pick
that go unsigned." Well, why the hell not? From 1965 through 2006,
sure, but in 2007, if you don't sign the #2 pick, you get the #3 pick
next year. Would it really be a disaster if the Royals wound
with no first-rounder this year, but two picks in the top 10 next
year? There are some very fine collegiate talents available
2008 - Pedro Alvarez, Justin Smoak, Brian Matusz are three just off the
top of my head - and if the Royals don't sign Moustakas, they're
guaranteed a shot at one of them.
It's not quite that simple - because if the Royals don't sign that
player next year, they don't get another compensation pick.
their leverage drops. But if that's a worst-case scenario, it
sure beats the pants out of getting a compensation pick at the end of
the supplemental round, as the Royals would have in previous
years. I'll be happy if Moustakas signs...and I'll be happy
Agreed. It would be one thing if Mousty was a consensus No. 1 pick or
something. He wasn't. If the Royals draft a college player with that
No. 3 pick next year, he's got a solid shot of reaching the majors just
as soon as Moustakas would have. Also, do the Royals really need
another first/third baseman? I'm all for drafting talent instead of
need, but I have to think Gordon and Butler and Teahen will take care
of the corner spots for the next few years. We need pitching, and if
there's a good college pitcher available at No. 3 next season -- and
Moore's not averse to drafting a college pitcher -- this might work out
for the best. I think Posnanski's wrong to suggest this will be a real
wound to the franchise, but I also think it's a bit of a black mark for
the organization, which apparently underestimated Boras's asking price.
me just concur with your main point, which is that the Royals were
really screwed the moment they won their last game of 2006.
not only is the best talent, he fit the Royals' needs
The Royals were in a position where they had to pay 2nd-overall-pick
prices for a player who was not going to be a consensus
2nd-overall-pick. Moustakas has the talent to be worthy of
selection, but like you said, he really doesn't fit the organization
well. No one outside the organization thinks he can play SS,
unless he can handle 2B, he's going to move to the outfield.
Which saps a lot of his value. If I'm the Royals, I dig in my
heels, knowing that a bird in the hand isn't much better than one in
the bush. That #3 overall pick is nearly as valuable a
as Michael Moustakas is. It would be nice if the Royals show
balls and hold their ground on this one.
Balls are good. And in addition to this being Leo Nunez's birthday,
it's also Eric Neyer's birthday. Happy 40th, brother!
Friday, July 6
Rob: I have a question for you: Have you looked at the
factors for the K this season? This is not a rhetorical question; I
really am curious.
No, I haven't. I think I saw the RS/RA totals a few days ago and it
looked like it was playing as a solid hitter's park.
Well, here's why I bring this up . . . Last night, as the Royals were
steaming toward 17 runs, I decided to check some team stats.
Hitting-wise, they've jumped into the 11th spot in the league, just
ahead of the A's and O's, and well ahead of the White Sox. When you
look at road scoring, though, the Royals are last. Or rather, their
last in runs; in runs per game, they're just slightly ahead of the
Which is discouraging.
Then I looked at the pitching. It certainly seems like the pitching is
better this season. Gil Meche is an All-Star, Bannister's been good,
the bullpen's full of guys with sub-4.00 ERAs (which is certainly a
lovely change) . . . So then I looked at the team pitching stats: 4.47
ERA, which also ranks 11th in the league. Certainly an improvement over
previous seasons, but not real exciting.
Until I looked at the road numbers. Care to guess where the Royals rank
in road ERA? Third. THIRD. Only the A's and Red Sox have lower road
ERAs. This is really encouraging, no? We've always figured the hitting
would come around, thanks to Gordon and Butler. But if the pitching's
Baseball-reference.com lists park factors for each team on their season
page. The Royals currently rank at 107 for hitters, 106 for pitchers -
I'm not sure how Sean Forman calculates those mid-season, but given how
studly his site is in general, I'm inclined to go with whatever numbers
he puts up there. So yes, the K is still an excellent hitter's park.
Which is weird...Kauffman Stadium went from a neutral park overall (bad
for HR, good for SI) to a great hitter's park when they moved the
fences in, but they've moved the fences back and it's still a great
hitter's park. Have the other AL parks changed that much? Have weather
patterns changed in the midwest? Anyway, that's a question for another
But to get back to what you were saying, the Royals' team ERA is 4.50,
which ranks 11th in the league, but is just .12 (which works out to
less than 4 runs a month) out of 6th place. Factoring in park effects,
the answer is yes, the Royals have an above-average pitching staff.
But the distribution of that stuff is interesting. The Royals have two
very good starters (Meche and Bannister), and four studly relievers
(Dotel, Soria, Greinke, and Riske). The rest of the staff is pretty
mediocre, but with Elarton on the DL, there really isn't a truly awful
pitcher anywhere on the roster. For the Royals, that's progress. /d
For how many years have we been R&Ring?
1997 or 1998, so...9 or 10.
That's a bit disconcerting, though I'm not sure exactly why. Perhaps
it's a testament to the human spirit. Anyway, I asked because, for
however many years we've been doing this, you've never once used the
word *studly*. And now you've done it twice in one sitting. I'll let it
slide, but if you ever insist on using the word *dis*, I'm afraid I'll
have to close up shop.
You meant to mention Peralta, right? Because he's also pitching quite
well. I wouldn't want to bet the farm on this, but I suspect the
Royals' current top five stack up with the great majority of teams in
the majors, and that's certainly a change from all those other years in
our history together. It's funny: we always say the bullpen's the
easiest thing to fix, and now Dayton Moore -- and in fairness, Buddy
Bell deserves some credit -- has actually fixed it.
question, the bullpen is better and deeper than any Royals unit in a
very, very long time. For the season, the team's bullpen ERA is 3.97,
which is the best since 1992 (the year before the Era of Offense), and
50 points better than the previous post-strike best (4.47 in 1997). But
even that number is deceptive, because the bullpen started the year as
terrible as always. David Riske had a 6.97 ERA in April, then was
unscored upon in 18 straight appearances. Todd Wellemeyer and Jason
Standridge figured prominently in the discussion.
On April 27, the bullpen's ERA stood at 5.86 (46 ER in 70.2 IP). Since
then? 3.34. Over a span of more than two months, that's
(And by the way, I used that word on February 3rd, 2006, in discussing
potential top draft pick Andrew Miller. And again on March 26, 2004,
referring to Jeremy Affeldt. You should have known not to make such a
blanket statement without checking the facts :^).
Touche. What's more frightening than your regular usage of studly is
your ability to go back more than three years while counting. Don't you
know blogs are supposed to disappear into the ether as quickly as
they're read? That way there's no accountability.
Enough about the pitchers, except when your only two good starters are
Gil Meche and Brian Bannister, there's probably cause for concern...
I hate to seem a schmuck, but there was some good news for the Royals
today: Mike Sweeney's out for at least a month after knee surgery. Why
good news? Maybe I shouldn't believe everything I read, but the game
story the other night included this note: "Butler, who will probably
return to the minor leagues when regular DH Mike Sweeney comes off the
disabled list, had a three-run home run in the six-run first inning and
a bases-loaded double in the four-run second. Butler also had a single
and was 3-for-5 with three runs scored."
Really? You've got the youngest player in 11 years to knock in six runs
in one game, and you're sending him to Omaha? Was that really going to
happen? It's sort of sad, I guess, to see Sweeney's career as a Royal
end this way. But I wish it would hurry up.
Yeah, it's sad, but then, most careers end not with a bang, but with a
whimper. Sweeney's career may not be over - and were you as surprised
as I was to learn that his arthroscopic knee surgery was the first
surgery of his career? - but from here on out, he's essentially just
marking time until his Royals Hall of Fame induction. At least he
passed A.O. for 2nd place on the Royals' career HR list. So he's got
that going for him.
As for Butler, not even the Royals really think he needs more time in
Triple-A to learn how to hit. Whatever adjustments he needs to make are
only going to be made against major league pitching. It comes down to
defense: the Royals want to see if he can learn to play first base, and
they don't want to conduct this experiment when there are major league
games at stake. Frankly, my opinion is that if a player's defensive
skills are so bad that you are afraid to let him learn in the major
leagues, that's a pretty good sign that he's never going to develop
those skills. The Royals have long regretted not moving to the National
League when they had the chance, but now's their opportunity to reap
something from that decision and install Butler as the career DH that
he so obviously is.
a minute ... The Royals have long regretted not moving to the National
League? That's news to me. I'm sure Dayton Moore regrets it. But the
decision was based on faulty assumptions about attendance that I
suspect still can be found in the owner's suite. As for Butler, you
know how I feel about him. I would give Moore the benefit of the doubt
on this one, except it wasn't that long ago that he seemed to think
Butler could learn how to play left field, too.
We've just passed the halfway point of the season, and the Royals are
36-49. On the other hand, since starting 11-26 they've gone 25-23,
including their first winning month in four years. Where do you think
they finish up?
going to go with 66-96, mostly because I don't believe in Bannister or
(to a lesser degree) Meche. I can see them doing better, though, if
Butler's in the lineup and Gordon remembers how good he is. You?
Call me a sucker - God knows I've been one before - but I'm starting to
believe in Bannister. Yesterday he got rocked for four runs in the
first...but if anything I was more impressed with his start than any of
his previous outings, because with men on first and third, he got a
double play to get out of the inning - and then went six more
scoreless, with just three hits and no walks the rest of the way. His
strikeout rate isn't all that good (43 in 80 IP), but he has the
control to compensate. He won't finish with a 3.71 ERA, but he's a good
I'll go with 72-90; that's 36-41 the rest of the way, which is doable.
The pitching won't be as good, but then the hitting won't be as bad. It
can't possibly be. Can it?
Probably not. Tony Junior's been a bit over his head, and so has the
non-everyday catcher with all the homers. But they do seem to have
underachieved with the lumber. And I do like Bannister, as a No. 4/5
guy. As you note, he's just not as good as his ERA. All in all, it's
not been a bad first half of the season for the Blue Wave.
Tuesday, June 26
Rany: Is this what Willie Wilson looked like in his prime?
stupid job demands that I watch all these close games in the National
League. But I've been following the scoring, and I hope ESPN has time
for Butler's homer later. Oh, and Gathright. Yeah, he's been fun
lately. Too bad he can't play center.
Well, he's there now (Costa in LF, DeJesus out, unsure whether because
it's a blowout or because his hammy tightened up.)
Oh, and Gordon hit an absolute BOMB off of Darren Oliver. This team is
suddenly a lot of fun to watch.
Fun to think about Buck and Gordon and Butler hitting a few more over
the years. Be nice to see Buck start five or six games per week.
Weird - Buddy left Greinke out there to start the 8th despite a 12-3
lead...and he's now pulling him with two out and a man on first. Huh?
His velocity was down today - I don't know if that's the gun or if he
was conserving strength. Or if he's hurt. <gulp>
Don't scare me like that.
There's no sign of an injury, it just makes me nervous when Bell pulls
a pitcher with a 9-run lead, after he's retired the previous two
Maybe he's on some sort of pitch count. Or maybe Buddy just then
realized that he doesn't need a guy with a mid-90s fastball in a game
with a nine-run lead.
Peralta is in for Greinke. Off the
top of your head - guess how many innings Peralta has thrown this year.
The out he just got to end the 8th gives him exactly ... 50.
Yes, 50. Joel Peralta is on pace for about 105 innings of relief this
Really? When's the last time a Royals reliever threw 100 innings in a
I'm guessing Rusty Meacham, before him Steve Farr ... let me check.
God, I loved Rusty Meacham. He was my favorite player for a while.
too. I think Bill once described him as "pitching like there was a bomb
about to go off on the mound at any moment," one of my favorite
Damn, I know me my useless Royals trivia. Last Royal with 100+ IP and 3
starts or fewer: Rusty Meacham, 102 IP and no GS in 1992. Before him:
Steve Farr, 109 IP and no GS in 1986. Quiz did it five times; Mike
Armstrong's the only other Royal to do it more than once.
Somebody named Fernando Cortez is batting. Be honest: had you ever
heard of this guy before last week? (Nice job on the trivia, by the
Hey, I obtained my first DVD player (back in the spring of 2000) that
way. Even my close friends don't know I once appeared on Fox Sports
Geniuses (the internet portion of the show, which was taped from my
living room) and correctly guessed the first Royals player with six
hits in a game. Do you remember who that was?
(And yes, I knew who Cortez is, but only because 1) the Royals got him
as a throw-in from the Gathright-Howell deal, and 2) there seemed no
obvious reason from his record why they'd want him as a throw-in.)
Seitzer had 6 hits in a game once, but he wasn't the first. I'll give
you a hint: his son is currently on the mound for the Angels.
Bob Oliver, 1969. At some point in my youth, I knew that.
The Bob Oliver part, I mean. Just guessing on the year.
Believe me, I was guessing. I guess that fact had lodged itself in my
subconscious at some point, but not so deep that I couldn't retrieve it
when Lisa Guerrero asked. (And yes, it was in 1969.)
Is Shane Costa just Jeremy Giambi after a few months in the gym? Over
the last two seasons he's hit .353 with 11 homers, 6 triples, and 19
doubles in 289 Triple-A at-bats, and played like total crap in the
like to see him get some regular playing time. Especially if Dayton
Moore carries through with his threat to turn Teahen into a first
We probably should stop, lest we waste a bunch of stuff that should be
in the next R&R.
You mean this isn't an R&R?
I don't have time to post tonight, probably not tomorrow either. I
thought we were just foolin' around!
Even so, run it when you can - no sense wasting content. And the fans
need to know about my Sports Genius dominance! (Besides, it's a blog.
Quantity always rules over quality.)
Okay. Then what the hell's the deal with Teahen playing first base. Are
we giving up on RF already?
we've given up on Ryan Shealy. And I can't say I blame them. On Sunday,
in the 10th inning of a tie game, with Gordon on 3rd and one out,
Shealy struck out when he went up the ladder on an 88 mph fastball from
Jose Capellan. If you can't catch up to an 88 mph fastball when even
soft contact might bring in the go-ahead run in extra-innings...your
bat is slow.
Teahen has too much defensive ability to be wasted at first, but the
Royals have too many outfielders, or at least they do so long as they
insist on playing Emil Brown.
I know we talked about this last time ... but where the hell was Milton
Bradley going to play?
sure you read Joe's column last weekend. Apparently Bradley was going
to play right field, with Teahen moving to first base and Brown moving
to the bench. This was supposed to send a message. Which I wouldn't
know anything about. As the father of a surly teenager, I can tell you
with 100 percent confidence that I don't know a damned thing about
You obviously have never invited
Milton Bradley into your living room, then.
He wouldn't be a good fit in my clubhouse.
It's the threat, Rob. It's the threat.
know I don't know what I'm doing. I hope Moore knows what he's doing.
Because even not getting Bradley, he sent a message. Maybe that's why
the R's hit three homers tonight!
Friday, June 22
So first there's the news today that the Royals have signed John
Thomson. I mean, the guy's coming off an injury and had a 4.58 ERA
w/Syracuse. But Elarton's down, Thomson could hardly be worse, and it's
not like we've got any hot prospects in Omaha. So what the hell, right?
Then came the news that the Royals
traded Leo Nunez for Milton Bradley. This was just a bit shocking. If
you'd asked me to make a list of the teams that might be willing to
deal for "Games", the Royals would have been very, very near the bottom.
What exactly are they going to do with him? The guy can obviously hit,
on those rare occasions when he's not on the Disabled List. But we know
he's not happy in a bench role, and anyway he makes too much money to
do anything but play (when he's able). Whose playing time does he get?
DeJesus or Teahen? No.
Emil Brown or Joey Gathright? Probably not, as both have been playing
Mike Sweeney? Probably not, and if Sweeney's time should go to anybody,
it's Billy Butler.
So you tell me: Is Moore going to trade Bradley for somebody better
than Leo Nunez?
Wow...I can't remember the last time you started one of our chats with
such an uninterrupted stream of words. It almost makes me sad to tell
you that, literally in the last 15 minutes, Bob Dutton reported on the
Star's website that the trade was cancelled.
Almost makes me sad, but not really. The only thing the Royals need
less than a head case is another outfielder, and if nothing else, we
can stop figuring out exactly how the Royals would utilize him.
In the abstract, I don't mind the idea of picking up a player whose
value is low. I like Nunez, but you're hardly giving up an
irreplaceable talent, and worst-case scenario you can always release
Bradley if he doesn't pan out. If he does, you've got yourself a
But he doesn't fit the team's current roster, and I'm fairly relieved
that this won't go through. If the opportunity arises to get him at a
later date, perhaps without surrendering talent and when there's more
of an opening for him, I'm sure Dayton will re-consider. For now, let's
just figure out what the hell to do with the five or six LF/DH
candidates we already have.
Any word on what scotched the deal?
Dutton is reporting that Bradley strained an oblique muscle in his last
at-bat with Oakland.
Oh. That's just so . . . him,
isn't it? But why didn't the Royals know that yesterday?
have no idea how these things work, but consider that the trade was
never officially announced. I would imagine that teams traditionally
agree to terms on a deal, and only then get to do their due diligence
on medical reports, etc. In this case, the trade leaked while the
Royals were still in their due diligence phase. This doesn't suggest to
me that the Royals hadn't done their homework ahead of time. Keep in
mind the A's keep their players' health records closer to their vest
than probably any other team in the game.
that makes sense. I'm just surprised Billy bothered to try to deal
Bradley at all, as he must have known about the injury. Anyway, I
suppose now we'll never know, but I hope Moore explains what he would
have done if he'd gotten his man.
hey, we got John Thomson, right? The irony is that with everyone
looking around for someone to take Elarton's place in the rotation - do
you pull Greinke or Soria out of the pen, do you call up Hochevar or
Billy Buckner or Lumsden ahead of schedule - I thought the Royals
should go with the guy who's already on the 40-man roster, who's
already spent time in the majors, and who just threw 5.2 innings of
one-hit ball his last start in Wichita: Leo Nunez.
So poetic. But Nunez has pitched only 21 innings this season, and that
last start was his longest outing of the season. So I don't think he's
quite ready for the big boys yet. Maybe in August...
It's like I always say: better in August than in Oakland. It's a pity
Neifi Perez couldn't have strained his oblique once upon a time.
Postcript: Later, Joe Posnanski wrote a
fine column about the trade that wasn't. Unfortunately, even
he can't answer this question: "Where were the Royals going to play
Tuesday, June 19
Rob: Question -- At what
point(s) do you give up on Emil Brown and Ryan Shealy?
.372/.438/.512 in June - just like clockwork!
for Shealy ... well, maybe that's why Butler was called up again today.
Oh. Hey! That's news! I hadn't seen that. I don't think I told you: I
saw Butler here in Portland a couple of weeks ago. He was mired in a
pretty bad slump. He's come out of it, with 10 hits in his last 8 games.
bunch of walks, too. Butler's battin' average is only .291, but he's
got 43 walks. And here's my favorite Billy Butler '07 statistic: 32
good statistic: He turned 21 two months ago. I think he might be the
best hitter the Royals have produced since George Brett. Is that crazy?
I'm probably not the guy to ask that question to, as I think I've hung
that "best hitter since Brett" label on a few players over the last 12
years. I'm sure Sweeney was one of them. I'm not entire sure that
Jeremy Giambi wasn't.
here's what I like about Butler:
.331/.388/.499, 41 BB, 67 K
.291/.412/.542, 43 BB, 32 K
batting average are down, but his power and plate discipline have
improved so much that his OBP and SLG are both significantly higher.
His K/BB ratio has inverted; he's already drawn more walks in 57 games
this year than he did in 119 games last year. And he moved up a level.
the trendline of a great prospect. He's going to be a stud.
know this has been reported in a number of places already, but it bears
repeating: since 2005, the Royals are 28-21 against the NL. They're
119-227 against the AL.
know, if I didn't know better I'd say that the AL was actually the
Rob: Maybe. Just a little
not quite through with Butler, though.
are the Royals going to do with him? He's been playing first base
w/Omaha, but it's been a disaster. He has problems with even the most
routine plays, and I just don't think the big club's going to tolerate
that. So does he DH, with Sweeney going to first base? Really, the
Royals should probably just release Sweeney and eat his contract. But I
don't think even Dayton Moore has the power to make that happen.
are you basing your analysis of his first base defense on? Not that I
doubt it - I think any evaluation of Butler that refers to his defense
as awful can be trusted - but I wonder if it's so bad that he can't be
tried out there for a half-season...if for no other reason than to
Butler himself that he really needs to embrace being a DH, because he's
not going to cut it on the field.
I talked to some people who have seen him play, and they say he just
can't play. I mean, stuff like dropping routine throws, etc. Also, he's
looking a bit chunky these days. I honestly he's so awful at first base
that he simply can't play there. Not for a month, let alone for a
You know, as much as I love Butler, you have to wonder - how much does
this affect his long-term projection? I don't simply mean that he'll be
less valuable because he can't play the field, but does the fact that
he's so uncoordinated that he can't play even passable defense mean
that he's unlikely to improve much at the plate either?
I mean, even the career DHs could play some defense when they were
younger - Edgar Martinez was at least a passable third baseman. And
almost all of them - Martinez, McRae, Baines - became full-time DHs at
least in part to keep them healthy. I'm hard pressed to think of a
hitter as talented as Butler who was targeted as a DH at such a young
age because his defense was simply intolerable. Jack Cust, maybe?
Calvin Pickering? Those aren't names that would inspire much confidence
You're forgetting Frank Thomas, who probably should have been a DH from
Day 1. I would agree, it's hard to figure how somebody so talented as a
hitter could be so incredibly ill-suited to even the easiest of
defensive positions. But you know . . . Thomas. Dick Stuart. Ron
Blomberg. It does happen.
You have to give the Royals credit for trying, because they really
don't have a long-term solution at first base. Shealy has been terribly
disappointing, and the organization has done absolutely everything
possible to hamstring Justin Huber's career. Give them credit - they've
done a good job of proving that if an organization tries hard enough,
they really can destroy a prospect.
if you're going to have a hole at a position, it might as well be first
base. Eventually they'll find someone who can play first base and hit
30 home runs by accident. Even if no one has actually done that for the
team since, ahem, Steve Balboni.
on ... we both know that the bullpen is not the most important part of
a team's roster, but at the same time having a strong bullpen somehow
makes a team seem so much more...how should I put this...professional.
Consider the last two nights: on Sunday, Brian Bannister surrendered a
leadoff double in the 7th, and departs clinging to a one-run lead. Zack
Greinke buzzsaws through six hitters, Dotel pitches a scoreless ninth,
the Royals win 5-4. Last night, Odalis Perez wobbles through six
innings, leaves with a 5-3 lead...and Riske, Soria, and Dotel pitch
three perfect innings. I can't remember the last time I felt this
comfortable with a slim lead in the late innings.
That seems to be working. The 4.27 ERA is actually pretty solid,
especially for this franchise, and much of that 4.27 came before the
current bullpen was in place. A bullpen isn't all that important, but
it probably does tell us something about the acumen of the front
office. Of course, it helps when you take a top young starting talent
and let him cut loose in the 'pen ...
this: right now, the Royals have three pitchers who have made 25 or
more relief appearances and have ERAs under 3: Soria (26 GR, 2.93 ERA),
Gobble (35, 2.59), and Riske (32, 2.97). That doesn't include Duckworth
(33.2 IP with just 2 GS, 2.94 ERA), or Dotel (2.53 ERA in just 10.2
IP), nor does it include Greinke, whose ERA has been murdered by a few
bad outings but might be the guy you most want out there when you need
a strikeout right now.
that's three Royals with 25 or more games relieved and an ERA under
three. Since the strike - a span of 12 seasons - guess how many
pitchers have met that criteria for the Royals.
Rany: Not counting 2007.
Rob: I still say: Three!
Then you would be overly optimistic, an accusation I rarely make of
you. The answer is one: Curtis Leskanic, in 2003. And Leskanic is sort
of a cheat, given that we traded for him at mid-season (granted, he had
a sub-3 ERA both before and after the trade).
in Joel Peralta, whose 3.89 ERA would have ranked 2nd on the entire
staff last year, and it's safe to say this is the Royals' best bullpen
since I was in college. Of course, they still have a losing record
(8-10) in one-run games. Some things never change.
Rob: Hey, 8-10's a step
up, and not at all bad for a team with the second-worst record in the
league. We need more 8-10s!