Thursday, April 28, 2005

Answer: Three

How many pitches does it take to turn a 4-4 game into a 8-4 rout?

I've discussed this in my last several posts. You have your "A" bullpen and you have your "B" bullpen. If the game is close, you go to the "A" side.

Once again, the Royals starter does enough to keep the team in the game. Once again, the bullpen helps the team to a loss.

Shawn Camp entered the game with runners at the corners and no outs. Realistically, I didn't expect him to get out of the inning without giving up a run.

What I didn't expect was this...

Pitch 1: Up and in to Shannon Stewart. It hits him on the shoulder. Bases are now loaded

Pitch 2: Low and away. Catcher John Buck was set up on the inside and the pitch had some tailing action. Buck made a stab at the ball but missed. Run scores and runners now on second and third.

Pitch 3: Bartlet triples to right field, aided by a "dive" by Terrence Long. I put the dive in quotes because I'm not really sure what Long was doing or even thinking. He looked like he was charging and then his legs exploded, dropping him to the ground. Weak.

There you have it. Comical, really.

Your 2005 Royals. Finding new and unique ways to lose every night.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Damn, Missed Again!

Another one run loss. But there are many more positives to take from Tuesday’s game. And for those of you who want to fire the manager, there’s even some room for second guessing.

• It looked like another typical first inning for the Royals didn’t it. One run in, sacks full, Lima-Time on the mound talking to himself. Only this time, it wasn’t when Lima struck out Matt LeCroy to end the inning.

• Although Lima got out of the inning only allowing one run, it continued a trend of Royals starters putting the team in the hole early.

• After the first, Lima was outstanding. At one point he retired 21 of 23 batters. From the first inning, until there were two outs in the eighth, the only Twins to reach base were Jacque Jones with a double in the fourth and a two out walk to Torii Hunter in the sixth. We saw Game 3 of the NLDS Lima. Not Opening Day Lima. Just a great performance.

• The Royals were able to scrape their run across in the fifth. An infield single by Terrence Long, a ground out followed by a single by recent call-up Matt Diaz and the Royals had the game tied.

I’m going to halt the bullet points for a second, because I’d really like your attention. I need to talk about WTP favorite Andy Sisco:

• It’s clear he’s the top reliever out of the pen. Tuesday, Sisco enters the game with two outs and the bases chock full of Twins facing Hunter. Hunter never had a chance and went down swinging on 97mph heat. How long has it been since the Royals have had someone who could throw in the upper 90s and actually get it over the plate?

• It has to be a combination of the speed of the pitches and his height/arm length, but the ball seems to explode out of Sisco’s hand. By explode I mean there is no time for the hitter to see the pitch, track the pitch and swing. The time the ball takes to get from his left hand to the catchers mitt is unbelievably quick. I haven’t seen any players interviewed about Sisco, but I have to believe he is one of the most difficult pitchers to hit against in the big leagues.

• Thank you Chicago Cubs.

Now for opportunity to second guess. After Sisco retired Jones leading off the ninth, Tony went to the pen for Ambiorx Burgos. Burgos gave up a single, walk, fielders choice (with an error), single and the Twins took the lead. The second guessers will wonder why Tony removed Sisco. After all, he is our best pitcher out of the pen. The game is tied and he had already gotten two difficult outs. Here’s why I can’t fault Tony for this move:

• He is going to rely on Sisco more and more throughout the season. He struggled a bit a few days ago when he was asked to pitch on back to back days for the first time this season. By needing only eight pitches to get two critical outs, he’s going to be fresh Wednesday if the Royals need him. And they probably will.

• LeCroy was the batter when Burgos entered. LeCroy is about 50 points worse against rightys. Plus, he always has had a hard time against hard throwing right handers. Burgos, like Sisco, was bringing it 95-98 mph.

• Yes, the Royals took the loss and the box score will show that Burgos struggled, allowing two hits and two walks. The walks are something he will need to work on, that’s for sure. But the hits by LeCroy and Lew Ford were dinks. Pitches in on the fists that they were able to fight off for hits just over the infield.

The Royals have now lost six in a row and five of the six have been winnable. Call me crazy, but this one felt different. Two pitchers throwing darts, a lack of mental mistakes and a timely base hit or two. There’s no shame in a young team going against the reigning Cy Young award winner, keeping it close and coming up just short.

Not bad. Not bad at all.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Off Day Ramblings

It’s starting. If you listen close enough, you can hear it. It is the sound of the masses calling for the head of the manager.

The evidence is mounting and almost all of it negative. The botched suicide squeeze, the attempted steal of third with two outs in the ninth inning of a tie game, the number three hitter bunting with no outs in the first inning, the lack of “fundamentals.” The list goes on and on. It’s so discouraging. After eight years of the train wreck that was Bob Boone/Tony Muser I was so hopeful the Royals had the right manager. Someone who could help the rookies we would need to rely upon while developing pitchers and effectively using a bullpen.

But I’m not going to join the chorus calling for the head of Tony Pena. Yet.

I’ll give him until the All-Star break to at the very least steady this ship. This team has an amazing lack of MLB experience. 15 players currently on this roster weren’t on an opening day roster last year. I’ve said all along, I can take the losses and fully expect this team to challenge the 100-loss mark for the third time in four years. It’s the terrible decisions and the ineptness of the players in the field and at the bat that make this month so disheartening.

But some things need to happen before things change:

• Tony has to put away his bag of tricks. It seems as though you're forcing the issue, trying to make things happen. But these asinine moves described above do nothing to develop even below-average ballplayers. In fact, it's just flat-out the wrong way to play the game. The occasional sacrifice, hit and run or steal has its place but there is a time and a place. Figure this out. Please.

Mike Sweeney needs to DH. I’m usually one of Sweeney’s staunchest defenders. We all know the guy can hit and I admire his attempts to field a position. But Mike, it ain’t working. The botched pickoff of Torii Hunter last week in Minnesota was the final straw. If you can’t apply a simple tag, it’s time to lose the leather. Let’s have a ceremony where we burn your mitt perhaps exorcising the defensive demons that have overtaken this team.

• There needs to be a set rotation for the bullpen. Everyone knows who the weak links are. Don’t let them in the game until it’s way out of hand. With this team, they’ll get their chances. Let them get some guys out in low-pressure situations, build their confidence and maybe they can actually help the team.

• The veterans need to stop pressing. Matt Stairs has alluded to it…Some guys are trying too hard to be the hero. Who cares? Stay within yourselves and do whatever it is you do best. Work the count, field the ball, throw a strike. Just focus on the basics. Success will come. It just takes time.

July 11th. Good luck Tony.

Now for some random thoughts on a rainy off day before the Twins steamroll into town:

• Yes, 5-14 is terrible. But it’s not 3-17. That’s the Royals record from the first month of 1992. Just keep telling yourself, over and over, “We’re better than 1992, we’re better than 1992.”

Johan Santana vs. Lima-Time on Tuesday in a rematch from a game last week. If I had to guess, I’d say that Santana doesn’t have another brain freeze against the Royals like he did in the second inning of his last start.

Ken Harvey is taking out his frustration on the pitchers in the PCL. Saturday he clubbed two home runs and is hitting .344 for the O-Royals.

• We’re better than 1992.

Ugly Weekend

OK, OK, I’ll take the heat. Only one day after officially anointing Andy Sisco the favorite Royal of Warning Track Power, he can’t close out the eighth allowing the tying and the eventual winning run to score. And I’ll let you in on a little secret. I started Thursday’s entry about Sisco’s first major league win just before Mike MacDougal blew it for him. With friends like me, who needs enemies?

So it was another day, another loss for the boys in blue.

Joe McEwing had a solid day at the plate going 2-5, leading off in place of the injured David DeJesus (who bruised his foot Saturday, but is expected to be back in the lineup on Tuesday.) Matt Stairs drew three walks and homered, but the rest of the linup could only muster two hits.

John Buck was especially disappointing Sunday, striking out with a runner on second and one out in the second, striking out with a runner on third and one out in the fourth, and flying out with the bases loaded and two down in the fifth.

White Sox starter El Duque was hardly sharp. His five innings of work seemed to take a lifetime. Not once was he able to retire the Royals in order, allowing four hits and, get this…SIX WALKS! He battled his command all day, but the punchless Royals were not able to make anything happen.

The Royals have now lost five in a row. But here’s where I don’t know to be encouraged or discouraged. Only in Friday night’s 8-2 loss were the Royals completely out of the game. Four of those games were winnable. Each was lost by one run. In two of the games, the opposition’s winning run scored in the eighth. In the other two, the winning run scored in the tenth.

The starters, including Brian Anderson even though he gave up eight runs in three innings, are keeping the Royals in the games. The rough spot seems to be the first inning. Royal starters have allowed seven runs in the first inning during this losing streak. In the four close games, those runs have ultimately been the difference.

But the real difference maker in all these games has been the bullpen. The culprits? Mike MacDougal, Shawn Camp and Jaime Cerda. During the five game losing streak they have combined for seven appearances. Here is their line:

0-4 4.2 11 6 5 7 11.56

Basically, these three are having a difficult time getting anyone out. And the linescore above doesn’t show the errors, balks and wild pitches that haven’t helped. These three have struggled all season, but the last week it’s been costing this team wins.

So here is where I get back to my question. Should I be encouraged or discouraged? Right now, I’ll fall on the encouraged side. No the Royals haven’t always looked sharp, and a loss is a loss, but they have been in a position to win. I think that’s key to the development of a young team. We can’t expect them to win all the close games. Hell, we can’t even expect them to win half the close games. But what we can expect is for them to improve over time. This season is going to be a learning experience for the core group of young guys. We knew that coming in and we need to give them time. If the Royals suffer through a streak like this in August or September…Then I’ll be discouraged.

Plus, Allard Baird has been surprisingly impatient with players who haven’t met expectations. Unproductive Calvin Pickering and Nate Field have made way for Matt Diaz and Ambroix Burgos. I’d still like to see a pitcher go to Omaha (one of the three mentioned above) when Mark Teahen comes off the DL next week. Then whenever Jeremy Affeldt comes off the DL, send down another of the three. That way we will be down to one serious bullpen liability and will be better positioned to win those close games.

It’s rough, but I still feel it’s going to get better.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Thank You Sir, May I Have Another?

When your team is going to lose between 90 and 100 games, at least they have the courtesy to make the losses interesting:

• If you have tickets to a game where Zach Greinke is going to start, make sure you get there on time. In his previous start against Detroit, the first two batters of the game reached via errors. Saturday, Greinke gave up a single to the leadoff batter, Scott Posednik. A catcher interference call, a balk and a ground out later, the Royals were down 1-0.

• Greinke wasn’t particularly sharp, but he kept the Royals in the game. He retired the side in order only twice, but apart from the first inning hiccup was never really in any trouble. After seven strong innings and 110 pitches, he turned the game over to the bullpen. I think the pitch count was about right. I figure most nights he will be able to throw anywhere from 90-110 pitches. But Zach still needs to learn to be more efficient with his pitches so he can stay in games longer.

• Andy Sisco. Nails. Let’s do it. He is now officially dubbed the favorite of Warning Track Power. We’ll get the documents drawn up. But really, what can you say other than he’s been one of the few bright spots this month. It looks like Tony Pena has complete faith in him. The original plan was to baby him along, bring him in games that were already decided. I guess if you’re now bringing him into a 2-1 game in the eighth, it’s safe to say the plan has changed. Sisco’s line: 1 IP, 1 H, 3 K.

• Ambroix Burgos made his major league debut and looked every bit as good as advertised working a strong ninth.

• The offense which looked like it was showing signs of waking up in Minnesota, has fallen back into it’s coma-like state. After the David DeJesus home run and walk to Ruben Gotay to start the game for the Royals, Jose Contreras retired 10 Royals in a row. The streak ended when Matt Stairs was hit by a pitch in the home half of the fourth. Stairs was the first batter after Contreras tweaked his hamstring covering first on a groundout, otherwise who knows how many in a row he would have set down. After that, Contreras couldn’t continue and had to leave the game.

• I’m nearing the end of my patience with the manager. First inning…A leadoff home run, followed by a walk. You’re number three hitter and currently the best hitter on the team (Mike Sweeney) is stepping to the plate. And he SACRIFICE BUNTS!!! My blood is boiling just typing that sentence.

• The Royals had their chance in the ninth when they loaded the bases with one out. But Matt Diaz tried to score on a wild pitch and was out at the plate, end of threat. Diaz shouldn’t have gone, but I’ll take a mistake like that where he was trying to make something happen. Pena was probably thinking bunt anyway.

Mike MacDougal, fresh off of blowing a save in Minnesota, takes the loss. He’s never gotten his confidence back after a strong first half of 2003. I’d like to see Tony continue to give the ball to Burgos and Sisco in tight spots and protect MacDougal. At the rate he’s going, he’ll be on the interstate to Omaha soon.

Hopefully they can avoid the sweep Sunday. Sigh.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Calvin, We Hardly Knew Ye

The Royals today optioned Big Calvin Pickering to Omaha and called up Matt Diaz from Omaha.

This move shouldn’t really come as a surprise to those of us who follow the team closely. The rumblings have been in the media for about a week and seemed to have reached a fever pitch with his three strikeout performance yesterday in the Metrodome. Bob Dutton pointed out Big Cal’s struggles in this morning’s edition of the K.C. Star (registration required.)

I hate to see the Royals give up on Pickering so soon. As I’ve mentioned here, he seems to be a victim of bad timing (no pun intended.) Between the Royals facing leftys seemingly every other day and the birth of his child, he couldn’t buy a chance. That said, .148/.226/.259 won’t give you many chances to begin with. Couple that with the inability to put the ball in play (14 strikeouts in 27 at bats) and Calvin is buying gas for the trip up I-29.

Diaz has been a stud for the O-Royals going .364/.426/.709 with four doubles and four home runs. On a team like the Royals with no pop and no production from the corner outfield positions, having Diaz on the roster certainly can’t hurt. He was a nice pickup by Allard Baird this off-season when the Devil Rays, because they’re the Devil Rays, decided to release him. John Sickels of the excellent website Minor League Ball gave Diaz a grade of C in his D-Rays report. Diaz is 27, so he doesn’t really qualify as a prospect anymore but that doesn’t mean he can’t help this club.

And somewhere Ken Harvey's head exploded.

Now, what I’d really like the Royals to do is stop carrying 12 pitchers. I know the reasoning in keeping 12 was to protect Andy Sisco. Problem is, it’s the rest of the bullpen that needs protection. Sisco is the only guy who has consistently shut down the opposition. Maybe they will do that when Mark Teahen is eligible to come off the DL next week. I hope so.

Runelvys Hernandez will face off against Freddy Garcia. The Royals always hit Garcia well (5.71 ERA in 80 1/3 IP) so hopefully the bats will continue their warming trend. Mike Sweeney in particular (15 for 32 .469, with two home runs) has had some success against Garcia. Plus, it’s golf umbrella night at the K. What more could you ask for?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Bad Decisions and Blown Saves

I’ve always thought of Tony Pena as kind of a benign manager. It’s probably because his teams have rarely played in games that matter. That and everyone seems to think he’s such a positive thinker and a character to boot. Ten games under .500? “We will win this division!” Five game losing streak? Why, shower with your uniform on. Fun stuff like that.

But I’m starting to tire of this, especially since he’s making some very questionable baseball decisions. Today:

• The Royals bunted three (three!) straight times in the sixth inning. Ruben Gotay reached on a drag bunt, went to second on a balk, went to third on a David DeJesus sacrifice bunt and was out caught stealing when Tony Graffanino missed a squeeze bunt attempt. The Royals were facing their third pitcher of the afternoon in a tie game and giving up outs playing Mickey Mouse baseball. The guys are at the top of the order for a reason…They can make contact and get on base. Why take the bat out of their hands in that situation? I wasn’t happy with the DeJesus sacrifice, but I was livid with the squeeze play.

Angel Berroa got thrown out at third on a steal attempt to end the ninth inning. As any T-ball coach can tell you, you don’t end the inning with an out at third. I’m going to pin this one on Tony because of the circumstances. The Royals just took the lead with a Berroa single that scored Mike Sweeney after a nasty collision at home plate. The Twins Mike Redmond had to leave the game after taking the business end of the hit, so they turned to Corky Miller. I’m betting Pena gave Berroa the steal sign because the third string catcher was in cold off the bench. A bad gamble that backfired. Especially when you consider hot hitting John Buck (4-4, HR at that point) was at the plate.

Tough loss today. If you score nine runs, you naturally expect to win. A couple of things that prevented the Royals from picking up the W today:

• Berroa committed an error in the fourth on a double play ball that led Brian Anderson being chased from the game.

• Sweeney looks shell-shocked in the field. I know he’s struggled defensively, but now he seems to have no clue with what he’s doing out there. He just looks lost.

• Anderson looked like the ’04 version rather than the as-advertised, new and improved ’05 version. Ten hits, eight runs and no strikeouts in three innings will get you chased in a hurry.

A couple of positive notes:

• Buck went 4-5 at the plate today with a home run. You know that things were tough when a 4-5 day raises you average to .214.

Calvin Pickering was in the lineup against a lefty and went 0-3…But he had TWO WALKS. I’ll have to check, but this could be the first time any Royals player drew that many walks in a game this season.

• Andy Sisco was nails once again and in line to pick up his first big league win before Mike MacDougal blew the save in the ninth. Sisco is quickly becoming my favorite Royal.

Perhaps most positive of all, after scoring only 19 runs in their opening eight game homestand, the Royals positively exploded in the two games at the Metrodome, scoring 13 times. And that included four runs yesterday against Johan Santana. Maybe, just maybe, the bats will come alive. As we saw today, that might not translate to wins, but they'll sure as hell be more interesting to watch.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

So Close

It must be some kind of moral victory, stringing together four straight two out hits against ace Johan Santana. Unfortunately, that was all the Royals could muster tonight.

• I was really looking forward to the game, but for purely perverse reasons. I figured Santana would dominate the Royals. For the most part he did just that. Throw out his brain freeze in the third and he was awesome. He retired eight in a row to start the game, and after Mike Sweeney’s home run he dusted off nine in a row. For the game he recorded 10 strikeouts against no walks. And yet, the Royals almost won this game. Weird.

• Santana deserves another bullet point. For the season he has 37 strikeouts and 2 walks and is averaging above 13 strikeouts per 9 innings. I feel lucky we struck out only 10 times tonight. And I would have been shocked if we had drawn a walk.

Lima-Time pitched OK, but he’s turning into this year’s version of Brian Anderson. The opposition is hitting .326 against him. He is not mixing speed and location at all and his breaking stuff has absolutely zero bite. His slider tonight was just rolling in there, begging to be smashed. In fact, Jacque Jones did just that when he clobbered a flat, 84 MPH slider to put the Twins up 3-0 in the third. Guy Hansen, it’s time to earn your money.

• We’re getting close to having to put out an APB on Calvin Pickering. Poor guy. I really didn’t expect him to be in the lineup tonight with Santana on the hill. And we probably won’t see him tomorrow either when the Twins send another lefty, rookie Dave Gassner, to pitch. At least the White Sox plan on throwing some right-handers over the weekend.

• After writing kind words about the bullpen, they fail to hold the lead tonight. They have been abysmal this season preventing inherited runners to score. After tonight’s loss, they have allowed 17 of 34 to reach home. The only reliever to have stranded all of his inherited runners? Andy Sisco. I hope our Rule V guy turns out like the Twins Rule V guy.

• Apparently the air conditioning was on:

The Debate Continues

The Kansas City Star’s sports section runs a daily column on page two called Top ‘O The Morning. (registration required) Written by former Royals beat writer Jeffery Flanagan, the column is a mix of gossip, “insider” info and opinion. Flanagan has been around for awhile and is someone I would consider “old school.” Put another way, in the debate between scouting and stats, he falls firmly in the former category.

That’s what makes today’s column not very surprising at all. As a matter of fact, I am kind of surprised it took this long. Flanagan is shaking his head at the Royals keeping Calvin Pickering over “All-Star” Ken Harvey.

As Flanagan points out, Pickering has only played in six of the Royals’ first 14 games. So what’s the use demoting our “All-Star” if his replacement isn’t going to play? What Flanagan doesn’t bring up is that Pickering has left the team twice this season to be with his pregnant wife. He missed one game in the opening series against the Tigers when they thought she was going to deliver, and two games the first weekend the Royals were at home when she actually had the baby.

Plus, when Pickering made the team out of spring training, it was as the left-handed hitting side of a platoon. So in the games when the Royals have faced a southpaw, Pickering has been on the bench. That accounts for three more missed games (a fourth game against a lefty starter, he pinch hit late.)

So by my count. Pickering has been kept out of the lineup a grand total of two games when he probably should have played. Cut the guy a break. In the span of two weeks, he’s made his first ever Opening Day roster, he’s become a new father, and he’s sat against some leftys.

The last thing this organization needs to do is panic and deviate from their plan. Allard Baird said so in spring training: This team is putting an emphasis on getting on base. (Although we haven’t really seen that so far this season.) Throughout his career, yes Pickering has been a guy who strikes out a lot. But working in his advantage is he does have power, he will take a walk and he does get on base. Ken Harvey does none of those things.

I was watching this spring training battle with interest and was firm in my belief that who the Royals kept would tell us a great deal about the future of this team. I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. Kevin over at his very excellent Royals Blog is the "Official Site to Free Calvin Pickering." (A claim I probably would have staked if it wasn’t already taken.) On a team that is going to lose 90-100 games this season, I needed to have hope that even though we are going to struggle, the organization is at least making the right decisions with the talent they have at their disposal.

The question was: Would they remain in love with the “All-Star,” the "veteran" who has proven he can do it at this level? Or would they back up the talk about the importance of working the count and getting on base?

I think they made the right decision. Yes, Pickering has missed some games. Yes, in the games he’s played he’s struggled. But let’s give him some time. A half season at the very least to prove what he can do at this level. On this team, Ken Harvey isn’t going to make a lick of difference.

To make a change after only a handful of games would be foolish.

Finally, Some Relief!

Maybe someday, maybe just once this season, the Royals will play a good, solid game for nine whole innings. The first week of the season it was the starting pitching (outside of Lima-Time) that was keeping the team in games. Couple that with some hot and cold bats and you had a surprising .500 record when they returned to K.C. for the home opener.

That first week at home, pretty much everything went to crap…Starting pitching, relief pitching, hitting, defense, baserunning…Zack Greinke even forgot to wear his lucky necklace. Yep, that’s pretty much everything.

So the burning question was which part of the Royals would awaken from this slumber first. Would the starters regain the form they briefly flashed so early? Would the hitters start to work the count and try to get on base by any means? Would this team remain in a persistent vegetative state and challenge the ’62 Mets for futility?

The answer to the last question remains for the most part, unknown. What we do know is that the Royals bullpen is the appendage of this sleeping team that has chosen to awaken first. The last three games, while Royal starters have been getting boxed around like a cast-member of Jackass, the bullpen has quietly stepped forward.

Since Sunday afternoon, the relief corps have pitched beyond well, posting a 0.79 ERA in 11 1/3 innings. Without these guys, the bleeding would have been much, much worse. Quite a turnaround from the first week of the season.

Among those who have impressed include Rule V draftee (and favorite of Warning Track Power) Andy Sisco. For some reason the Cubs soured on him and thank god for that. Having seen him pitch in person on Sunday, I will predict big things. Yes, he is going to hit a rough patch or two during the season, but so far when he has looked good, he has looked goooooooooood.

I know there are a ton of frustrated fans out there. Count me among them. I just want this team to put together a consistent stretch of ball. That’s all I ask. Let’s try to get all the cylinders firing at the same time and run off a modest winning streak. Maybe sweep a series. That would be exciting.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


The media in this town are awful.

Decent game this afternoon with a great ending when backup catcher Alberto Castillo bombs a 3-2, two out pitch into the left field stands for a game winning home run.

So after the game, someone from the Royals PR department digs up a fun little number that says the Royals are 3-0 in games Castillo starts. Cute little factioid that is really inconsequential and designed to go in the newspaper under the “Notes” section and look something like this:

…The Royals are 3-0 in games Castillo starts…

Of course, with the rocket scientists and assorted nuclear physicists we get covering this team, that little aside is now the news peg. Like it means something. The two sports radio stations brought it up, and featured it in their main wrap. It’s cute and everything, but there are other things to focus on here. Like the Royals finally scored some runs. Or the fact that the bullpen has been doing more than their share over the last several games. Or that after a brilliant first start, Denny Bautista has been slapped around pretty good.

I’ve been around K.C. media enough to know that if Allard Baird put out a release tomorrow stating that the Royals are 2-4 in games the day after he clips his toenails it would get significant play. I’m sorry but there are other more relevant, interesting things to discuss about this team.

It’s due to the overall laziness of the local media. They either lack time or imagination to do a little research to come up with a unique angle that might interest their audience. Instead, they prefer to be spoonfed useless information that wouldn’t even make Jayson Stark’s latest column.

Ok, that was my rant. I feel OK now. Thanks.

By the way, do you know if the Royals started Castillo in every game, that projects out to a 162-0 record?

Monday, April 18, 2005

Sunny Afternoon

I made my first trek out to the K on Sunday. Beautiful day for a game, but that was about the only thing the Royals had going for them.

In the spirit of finding new and entertaining ways to lose a ballgame, the Tigers four-run third inning began with back to back BUNTS. Nook Logan led off the inning with a perfect drag bunt down the first base line. There was some discussion today in the Star about Mike Sweeney’s inability to make up his mind with how to make the play.

First of all, let me get one thing out of the way. It seems there are a ton of people who like to rip Sweeney for everything. From defense, to lack of clutch hitting, to the weather, he takes his share of the heat for the problems with this team. Yes, his defense at first isn’t good. But defense at first is overrated and his bat is just too valuable to keep out of the lineup. I’ve never understood where the ill will toward Sweeney comes from. That will be a topic for another post.

My seats are right down the first base line, so I had the bird’s-eye view as the play unfolded. The way I saw it, Logan pushed a perfect bunt down the line. If Sweeney charged to field the bunt, the speedy Logan would have blazed by him on the way to the ball. If Sweeney stays back to field the bunt, Logan would outrun either Hernandez or Gotay to the bag. It looked like Sweeney considered both the options, illustrated by the little dance he did, and ultimately stayed back to field the bunt. There really wasn’t anything he could do. It was a textbook drag bunt.

So, Brandon Inge follows with another bunt, advancing on an error. Runners on second and third for Pudge Rodriguez and voila, the dreaded big inning to sink the Royals yet again.

Hernandez didn’t pitch terrible, but he gave up a ton of base hits and was behind in the count for most of the day. The batters, as usual, were swinging early in the count and making outs. Mike Maroth sailed through seven-plus innings at just above 100 pitches.

For the weekend the Royals were able to draw a grand total of FIVE walks. Three of them came in the win on Friday. The Royals absolutely refuse to make the opposing pitcher work for his outs. That’s going to make for some long afternoons out at the K.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

A Tale Of Two Pitchers

In the first two home games of the season, Tony Pena has angered just about everyone with his handling of his pitching staff. And the way he has gone about it in those two games couldn’t be more different.

Runelves Hernandez had thrown 98 pitches heading into the eight inning of a 1-0 game. After getting the leadoff batter, he surrendered a double and a home run to put the Royals in a 3-0 hole. After walking the next batter, he was removed from the game.

“Tony Pena has no feel for a pitching staff and should never have let Hernandez take the mound in the eighth.”
--Caller to the Royals post-game radio show (4/11)

Zack Greinke pitched six innings of four-hit ball before turning over the game to the bullpen. Greinke was on a pitch count of 85-90 pitches after being lifted from his first start of the season after being hit on the forearm by a batted ball. He threw 86 pitches.

“What’s Tony Pena doing taking the kid out of the game? He should have pitched at least two or three more innings.”
--Caller to the Royals post-game radio show (4/13)

It’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Of course, if the Royals had won at least one of these games, people wouldn’t seem so upset.

I’m in the camp of Exhibit B. Pitch counts are a necessary evil (unless you’re a Cub, then they’re just plain evil.) Greinke is a special pitcher who has a chance to be great. Witness his strikeout of Richie Sexson on a 64 MPH curve. I understand wanting him to continue, but we need to understand the situation. He last pitched deep into a game almost two weeks ago in Arizona. His first start of the season lasted only 38 pitches before he was pulled as a precaution after being hit on the forearm. He’s only 21 years old and making his 26th career start. There are plenty of reasons for the Royals to be cautious, and I don’t fault them one bit.

The pitch count seemed reasonable and Zack himself didn’t have a problem with it. One of the things he needs to learn is how to be efficient with his pitches. Giving up four hits, no walks and striking out only two while throwing 86 pitches seems awfully high to me. Mariner batters came into Wednesday’s game averaging 3.67 pitches per plate appearance. Against Greinke, they saw on average four pitches per plate appearance. Most of his trouble came in the first three innings where he needed 53 pitches. Give credit to the Mariner hitters for being selective and fouling off a ton of pitches.

That’s actually what the game came down to today. Both Greinke and Aaron Sele were outstanding. The difference was the Mariners were working the count and were able to knock their nemesis out of the game early. The Royals on the other hand were up there swinging away and could never pressure Sele.

The Royals will hopefully exercise Greinke-like caution when it comes to Hernandez. After missing the last year and a half with Tommy John surgery, he’s been a welcome return to the roatation. I would have liked to have seen Pena pull him from the game before the eighth inning on Monday afternoon. 98 pitches is more than enough from someone who was making his second big league start since August of 2003.

Monday’s game brought to mind a disturbing point. Pena can’t fall into the Tony Muser trap of not trusting the bullpen. But it’s going to be hard. Especially when the bullpen has an ERA almost four runs higher than the starters. (6.66 to 2.94)

Back when Muser was abusing pitchers because he didn’t want to go to his bullpen, young Jose Rosado was a casualty. Pena doesn’t necessarily have to trust his bullpen. He has to make sure he removes his starters when the time is right.

Today, Tony Pena made the right move.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Split Personality

The cliché goes something along the lines of “you win some, you lose some.” And that is exactly what the Royals are doing so far this season. Seven games into the season and they stand 3-4. Their longest winning streak is one game, their longest losing streak is one game. In other words, they are alternating their wins and losses. And it’s not like any of these games could have gone the other way.

21 .368 2.33

10 .192 7.36

That is a portrait of a team with a split personality. One that looks great one day and terrible the next. Going into the home opener yesterday against the Mariners, I was feeling pretty optimistic after the club took two of three from the Angels. Then Ryan Franklin did his best Greg Maddux impersonation, getting through eight innings throwing around 75 pitches.

I just can’t get a handle on this team. But if they want to keep alternating wins and losses and ultimately finish .500, that’s fine by me.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Home Opener

Well, it’s not quite Opening Day. But it is the Home Opener. Just as good, if you ask me.

In my almost 30 years of following the Royals, I’ve been to several openers. Some good and some not so good. I watched in awe as George Bell teed off on Bret Saberhagen. I watched in dismay as John Wathan kept Mark Davis in the bullpen. Those are a couple that I remember. But for me, there are two Openers that stand out above the rest.

One was 1986. That day is almost as vivid in my memory as Games 6 and 7. The Royals were champions! It was a huge celebration with the players getting their rings, the World Champion pennant being raised and Mr. K addressing the crowd and promising a return trip. That day just felt…right. It was the culmination of everything the Royals had battled for over the previous ten years. Sure, there were the celebrations after Game 7, the parties, the parade, the rallies. But the pre-game ceremony was a fitting way to honor the champions, and as it turned out, to mark the end of the Royals era of success.

The other memorable Opener was last year. High expectations, an enormous crowd and a comeback the like of which are rarely seen made that day unforgettable for those who were there, and unforgettable for those who gave up and left early as well.

The Royals return home today at .500, with a 3-3 record. I’ll gladly take that. In fact, there are a ton of positives to take from the first week of the season: Most of the starters are swinging the bat well. The starting pitching (with the exception of Lima) has been better than expected. Our leadoff hitter is getting on base. Andy Sisco looks ready. Mike Sweeney has stayed off the DL. And as far as we know, Tony Pena hasn’t guaranteed a damn thing.

Today will be a great day. Play Ball!

Friday, April 08, 2005

This and That

Some random thoughts from the first week:

• There was a Barry Melrose sighting on ESPN last night. Judging from his outfit, I’d say he’s been spending his time away from hockey hiding out in Harold Reynolds’ closet.
• Very glad to hear Steve Stone on the ESPN broadcast of Wednesday’s Red Sox – Yankee game. I thought he and Chip Caray were excellent doing Cub games the last couple of years. The reason I liked them so much was probably the same reason they were let go.
• At $14.95 for the season, the MLB Gameday Audio package is an absolute steal. Being able to sit at your computer and listen to Jon Miller, Vin Scully, Dave Niehaus and other legends call a baseball game is about as good as it gets.
• Results from this week prove how, in most instances, it’s plain silly to devote a large portion of a team payroll to a “closer.”
• Ken Griffey, Jr. made it through the first week of the season without landing on the DL. Willy Mo Pena is pissed.
• Something tells me I’m not the only one…The first time I saw the commercial for Tiny House, I thought “That’s a show I’d watch. It’s probably on FOX.” Geiko has some of the most creative, crazy ads out there.
• Krispy Kreme donuts are overrated.

If you’re one of the few who stopped by this week, thank you. Hopefully, you’ve found something of interest and will keep coming back.

Thursday, April 07, 2005


It’s only three games into the season, but there are already some disturbing trends:

• Ineptitude on the bases. Last year, the Royals were successful only on about 55% of their stolen base attempts, worst in the majors by far. So far this year they are 0-3 trying to take the freebie. Let’s just accept this fact: David DeJesus will get on base, but once he’s on, he really has no idea how to run. Last year he stole eight bases in 19 attempts (42% success rate.) That’s just abysmal for someone who was running that much. With this team, baserunners will be a rare commodity. To run into outs like this will cause this team to flirt with the 100 loss plateau.

• Patience at the plate. The Royals have gone up there hackin’. They’ve taken a grand total of six walks and have been swinging from the moment they have stepped into the box. Again, offensively this team doesn’t bring a ton of firepower. Drawing the base on ball needs to be part of the strategy of this team.

• The bullpen has been…Not good. Field came in and pitched well in relief of Grienke, getting out of a jam in the third. Mike Wood was decent until he went through the lineup for the second time. Historically, that’s where he’s run into trouble. As the game progresses, he’s easier to figure out. Jaime Cerda couldn’t get his lefty out and Shawn Camp needed seven hitters to get the final two outs of the disasterous seventh.

Some other notes from today loss:

• Zach Grienke was pitching like, well Zach Grienke. That was before his forearm was tattooed by a Carlos Guillen liner. The Royals pulled him which was the right decision. It’s early in the season and he’s the franchise. No reason to take a risk in this situation. According to reports X-rays are negative and he will be evaluated tomorrow. I’m pretty sure that left a mark.

• Since the Royals decided to break camp with 12 pitchers they are already short on the bench. Today, they only had three bats on the bench because Calvin Pickering left the team to be with his wife who was delivering their baby. Congratulations to the Pickering family.

So the Royals lose their first series of the season 2-1. Disappointing today, because I felt Grienke was going to match Johnson pitch for pitch. Hopefully he’ll be able to shake that off that liner and be ready to make his next start Wednesday against Seattle.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


Runelvys Hernandez, making his first start since August of 2003, pitched a gem this afternoon. Seven innings, five hits and one run add up to his first win of the season. He looked great, hitting his spots and keeping the Tigers off balance all day. It was the same Runelvys that led the Royals to their strong April of 2003.

As poorly as the Royals played in the opener, the inverse is true today. One of those days where everything went right:

Tony Graffanino is probably a tad bit annoyed a rookie was eyeing the job he thought was rightfully his in spring training. So the first opportunity he gets, he makes his point getting on base five times, going 4-4 and running the bases like a man possessed. He played like the sparkplug we were supposed to be getting from the White Sox last year. A pleasure to watch today.

• With the table set, Mike Sweeney came through with a pair of hits and RBIs. He was also at the center of an argument in the first inning when a passed ball allowed the first Royals run to score and Graffanino to move from first to third. Pudge Rodriguez argued the ball deflected off Sweeney’s foot. Replays were, as they say “inconclusive.” But the way the ball bounced (it was tailing inside to the right-handed batting Sweeney then kicked away to the first base side in foul territory) it sure looked like it deflected off Sweeney’s instep. Nice job today from the much-maligned captain.

• The Royals broke the game open in the fourth inning, scoring three times with TWO outs to push the score to 5-1. It featured Mark Teahen’s first career hit (a triple) and four consecutive hits to drive Detroit’s starter Mike Maroth from the game. Good teams break games open like that. Keep in mind, I’m far from convinced this is even a good team, but innings like today’s fourth make me think this team is headed in the right direction.

It’s a complete turnaround from Monday’s disaster. Zach Greinke will take the mound tomorrow. Could two wins in the first three games be in the cards?

Welcome Back

Runelvys Hernandez will take the mound for this afternoon’s game against the Tigers. After missing all of 2004 recovering from Tommy John surgery, a healthy Herrnandez figures prominently in the Royals plans for the future. Turn back the clock two years and Hernandez was one of the keys to the Royals jumping out to the fast start and contending for most of the season. Here’s the line from his first six starts in 2003:

4-0, 39.2 IP, 24 H, 6 ER, 16 BB, 21 K, 1.36 ERA

A line like that will win you one or two pitcher of the month awards.

Detroit will send lefty Mike Maroth to the hill today. That means the right side of the Royals platoon will get to play today. Spring training sensation Emil Brown should start see his first big league action since 2001 this afternoon.

Wouldn’t a win be nice?

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Is The Ball Supposed To Carry Like That At Comerica?

So I’ve had about 24 hours to digest the opening day slaughter of the Royals at the hands of the Tigers. It was ugly, but not entirely unexpected. The company line will be: “There will be days like this.” It’s true. There are going to be some games that will be difficult to watch this year. Hopefully we will see some development as the summer progresses.

So with that out of the way, here are some thoughts from the opener. Since I'm an optimist by nature, let's start with the disappointments from yesterday and finish up with some good news:

• If it was in the ballpark, the Royals were swinging. Jeremey Bonderman threw 102 pitches, 72 for strikes, most of them swinging. Of the first nine outs, six were strikeouts. For any team to be successful, they must learn to work the count and make the opposing pitcher work for his outs. Swinging and missing at pitches out of the zone is not part of the recipe for success.

Lima-Time was serving up gopher balls again. He’s always had a problem keeping the ball in the yard, but 3 homers in 3 innings at Detroit? Lima was grooving his pitches with no bit on his off speed offerings and zero action on his fastball. With Lima-Time you never know what you’re going to get from one start to the next. Monday, we saw the 2000 version of Lima-Time.

• The bullpen wasn’t much better. Heading into this season, I felt that the relievers would outpitch the starters this year. I still feel that way, but it’s just a little bit disconcerting that out of four pitchers in relief of Lima, not a single one could set the side down in order.

• Yes, there was good. Calvin Pickering began the regular season the way he ended his spring training by hitting a solo shot in the eighth. He also struckout twice, but that’s what you expect from big Cal. Hopefully, he’ll save some of those bombs for close games with men on base.

Angel Berroa drew a walk in the second inning. In his two full seasons in the big leagues, he’s averaged 26 walks which is way too low for someone with his skill set. I know it’s doesn’t seem like much, but if Angel can exhibit some form of plate discipline, he will be a very good player in this league.

And you can't have a discussion about this game without a tip of the cap to Dimitri Young. Young did his best Tuffy Rhodes impersonation becoming only the 3rd player in big league history to go yard three times on Opening Day. George Bell was the first, homering three times on April 4, 1988 against Bret Saberhagen at Royals Stadium. Rhodes (a former Royal farmhand) did it on April 4, 1994 for the Cubs. And now Young, who also did it on April 4.

This could be a strange season.

Monday, April 04, 2005


Welcome to my blog on all things pertaining to the Kansas City Royals. I know, I know. But the world really does need another blog about the Royals. It’s true. Have you tried to find anything online about the Yankees or Red Sox? These blogs are a dime a dozen. Many are quality, some are crap. There’s much less online about the Royals. As a team, we are woefully underrepresented. Blogs devoted to the Royals do exist, but you really have to search. Of course, I’ll link to many of those Royal blogs in due time.
Obviously, quantity does not equal quality. Just because the Yankees have over one hundred blogs and the Royals only have ten, doesn’t mean there has to be 90-odd bland, boring blogs for the boys in blue. Besides, we don’t have a player with “intangibles” like Derek Jeter to slobber over cutting our possible entries by about 70%. The great thing about webblogs is how they can have similar subjects, but different perspectives.
Hopefully, that is where this blog will come into play. Over the course of the season, we’ll look at everything this organization does from a critical standpoint. We’ll heap praise (yea, Calvin Pickering!) and disgust (why 12 pitchers?) in equal, and deserving, amounts.
Why the Royals? It’s not like I picked this team out of thin air. They are MY TEAM! I’ve been with them from the early days in the mid-70s, thru the glory years of the 80s and I’ll continue to stick by them in the current dark days. Yeah, it’s painful. It’s painful as hell. But when they win, it will be sweet. That’s what I’m waiting for.
I’m just starting and it might take a while to find my voice, but I’m pretty sure I know where this blog will go.
I hope everyone has as much fun reading as I know I will have writing.

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