Thursday, June 30, 2005

Snapping The Streak

Good win for the Royals on Wednesday. Anytime you lose eight games in a row, but can win the ninth…That’s a good win.

Just a couple of quick comments before moving on to other business:

• Does it piss you off when the second batter of the game bunts? Since it was Angel Berroa, there’s every reason to believe he did it on his own. We hope.

DJ Carrasco rebounded nicely from the anomaly that is Coors Field.

• Big day for the leadoff batter, David DeJesus. 4-5 with two doubles and a run scored.

Emil Brown not only pushed his career-best hitting streak to 16 games (.391/.435/.531), he turned in the defensive gem of the game when he cut down Shannon Stewart at home to end the third. And a WTP tip of the cap to Alberto Castillo for blocking the plate to prevent the run.

OK, on to some other random stuff:

The Case Against Angel:
• In 153 at bats with two strikes, Angel Berroa is batting .183/.219/.294 with 56 strikeouts.

• Among players with over 290 plate appearances in 2005, no player in the AL has drawn fewer walks (11) than Berroa.

The reason Jose Lima is second in the AL in home runs allowed.

Fools Gold:
Thurday's post was written while listening to The Stone Roses.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Eight Ball

After losing their eighth straight game, the Royals are now 8-8 when scoring more than eight runs. That’s unreal. What percentage do you think the average team wins when scoring eight or more runs? .750? .900? Honestly, we don’t know the answer but there can’t possibly be many other teams with a worse record than .500 when scoring that many runs in a game.

Some random thoughts while watching the game:

• The Royals used the correct approach at the plate to chase Carlos Silva from the game. Silva gives up walks about as frequently as Montgomery Burns donates to charity, so the Royals went up there looking for pitches to hit. It worked as they had 10 hits through five innings and were only down 7-6 when he left. Not surprisingly, the Royals drew a grand total of zero walks off Silva, but that’s fine because the team was hurting him with their bats. The problem is, when you have a bullpen like the Twins, it’s OK to have your starter throw only five innings.

• The Royals had their chances, but while the Twins pitchers were around the strike zone all night, the Royals’ pitchers couldn’t resist giving out the free pass. WTP Favorite Andy Sisco gift-wrapped this one with back to back walks in the seventh. Yes, he’s still our favorite. We’re not a bunch of front-runners here. If we were front-runners, this would be about the Red Sox. But Sisco needs to be more consistent around the strike zone.

• Between Silva, Johan Santana and Brad Radke they have thrown 316 innings and given up only 35 walks or almost exactly one walk per nine innings. That’s sick. We hear people in the Twin Cities are worried about their team. Please. At the end of the season, they’ll be in the playoffs as the wild card at the very least. They’ll be fine.

Angel Berroa watch:
He came to the plate five times and saw 14 pitches. Of those 14 pitches, he swung at nine of them. And of the five he didn’t swing at, three were first pitch strikes and two were balls.

• WTP wholeheartedly endorses the idea of moving Berroa to the lower third of the lineup.

• Another good night for John Buck. He went 2-4 at the plate and is now hitting .277/.290/.377 for the month of June. Sure, we’d like to see a higher OBP and slugging percentage but after the horrid start to the season he had, who are we to complain?

• We first broached the subject a couple of weeks ago, but Shane Costa is on his way to becoming a fan favorite. He puts the ball in play, hustles on the bases and plays an aggressive style of ball. And it helps that he doesn’t seem the least bit bothered in making the jump from Wichita to the major leagues. If he can keep it up, it’s going to happen.

• The Royals have to get Leo Nunez back to Wichita. They’re not doing him any favors letting him get his brains beat in every time he makes an appearance.

• As much as we deride the whole “closer” thing, WTP must tip it’s cap to Joe Nathan when he’s throwing against the Royals.


Day game in the dome tomorrow. The Royals will be looking to avoid an 0-9 road trip which would equal the worst trip in team history. Ugh.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Not Good. Not Good At All.

The equipment guys must have packed the Royals bats in a freezer for this road trip.

This has been a brutal stretch of offensive ineptitude.

We’re not feeling in particularly charitable mood, so let’s see if we can find something…anything good to say about Monday’s performance.

Zack Greinke didn’t suck. Again, he jumped ahead of hitters and made them work in their at bats. The problem is, his pitch counts continue to pile up early and that’s limiting his ability to go deep into games. The guy is a total enigma. One game, he’s a strikeout pitcher. The next game, he can only strikeout a single batter. Give the Twins credit. They went up to the plate and really worked the count, fouling off pitches they couldn’t handle until they got one they could put into play. That got Greinke out of the game after six innings, but by then the Royals were already down 2-0, these days an insurmountable lead.

David DeJesus returned to the leadoff spot for the last two games, and hit a bomb for the Royals lone run. This is good because it means someone has moved down in the order. More on that later.

• There is at least one Royal who is performing at the plate. Emil Brown had two hits, extending his streak to 14 games. (.393/.429/.519)

Unfortunately, there’s plenty of other stuff to discuss. None of it good:

• The Royals are now 0-6 against the Twins this year. Add that to the 0-9 against the White Sox. Yeeech.

• Oh yeah, they’re 0-7 on the current road trip.

Angel Berroa’s at bats are becoming as predictable as the sun rising in the east. If you were watching Monday, there’s absolutely no way you could have been surprised that he swung at that pitch out of the zone in the eighth inning to strikeout. The first step has been taken in removing him from the leadoff spot. The next step would be getting him out of the number two position in the lineup and burying him eighth. Please.

• By the way, Berroa’s slash numbers on this road trip are .192/.192/.192. We know you don’t want to walk, but at least throw in an occasional extra base hit.

• The offense is gone. Disappeared. Missing in action. Choose your superlative and it fits. On this road trip, the Royals are batting an anemic .218/.268/.314. and are averaging 3 runs a game. This is a team that just played three games in the home run haven that is Coors Field and hit a grand total of two extra base hits (1 2B, 1 HR). That’s not good.

• Metro Sports is running a poll asking you to vote for your favorite Huck Huck Boom Jam Athlete. I couldn’t even begin to tell you what that means.

It doesn’t get any easier Tuesday, facing Carlos Silva, who walks a batter about once every 20 IP. The Royals will counter with rookie JP Howell. Last time out, he was burned by allowing too many two out baserunners.

The Royals still have a chance at posting a winning record for the month of June, but that’s looking more and more remote. This road trip can’t end soon enough.

Monday, June 27, 2005

That Was Truly Awful

What a disgusting weekend for the Royals.

Swept by the Rockies.

Now we know how the Yankees and Dodgers feel.

I don't have much to say this morning, since the anti-depressants haven't kicked in so I will point you to Friday's post. If you haven't read it, it might be worthwhile. It's a breakdown of the pitching during the last six weeks of the season.

Looking at the numbers posted by the starters over the last six weeks, the latest hot streak has mostly come courtesy of the hitters. Although guys like Runelvys Hernandez and DJ Carrasco have been solid contributors, it's not surprising once the bats cooled off, the winning would slow down. That's what makes this weekend even worse. You knew that Lima would crash spectacularly in the mountains, but the starts from Carrasco on Friday and Hernandez on Saturday were downright disappointing.

Not a good weekend. Not at all.

It sucks to lose three in a row to the (previously) worst team in baseball.

Friday, June 24, 2005

There's Something About The Pitching

A couple of weeks ago, WTP provided a breakdown in the improvement of the offense since Tony Pena quit the team. Numbers were up almost across the board. That got me wondering, what about the pitching, particularly the starters?

Overall, the starters aren’t any better today than they were at the beginning of the season. Here are the numbers from the first six weeks:


We remember this because we lived through it. Lima got rocked opening day and continued to be brutal. Greinke was 0-4 at this point, but could have easily been 4-0. Hernandez, coming off of Tommy John surgery, was inconsistent. The starters were keeping the team in games, but the losses were piling up due to the lack of hitting and a bullpen that at times couldn’t get an out.

The Royals lost Bautista and Anderson about the time Pena left. So, plugging in Carrasco and Howell into their spots, here’s a look at the rotation since May 11th:


The first thing that jumps out is there hasn’t been really any improvement from the starters. Lima and Greinke have regressed, and Lima’s stats include his stellar performance against the Dodgers. Otherwise his numbers would be off the charts. The only area of improvement comes from the number four spot in the rotation where Carrasco has taken over for the injured Bautista.

If you want to be freaked out, look at Greinke’s numbers side-by-side:

4/4 – 5/104036158213.381.804.72
5/11 – 6/2240.2664013338.852.887.30

That, my friends, is a train wreck. He’s pitched roughly the same number of innings, but he’s given up 30 more hits?!? 25 more runs?!? I knew he had struggled over the last month and a half, but was shocked as to actually how bad he really has been. The organization has to be worried. If they’re not, we’re in some serious trouble.

What do these splits tell us?

First of all, the good times aren’t going to last. Without any kind of tangible improvement from their starters, the Royals hot streak to begin the month of June is just that, a streak. When the bats begin to cool off like they are doing right now and the pitching maintains the status quo, the losses will once again begin to pile up. Hopefully they will be able to delay things this weekend in Colorado, but I’m thinking that by the end of June, the Royals will be sub .500 for the month.

Secondly, these stats kind of make you wonder about Guy Hansen, doesn’t it? Guy was brought in for his second stint with the Royals as some sort of genius pitching coach who was finding flaws in deliveries, new arm slots, and a injecting a positive outlook on his staff.

"I thought three years ago in Atlanta was the best group of arms I'd ever seen, but this is the best group I've personally ever witnessed.”
-Guy Hansen 2/27/05

So what has Guy done with all of this talent?


Judging from the chart above, it sure doesn’t look like much.

Now to be fair, despite his spring training proclamations, Guy hasn’t had a ton of talent to work with. His staff is stocked with pitchers who should be in AA and AAA, not the big leagues. The bullpen has been some sort of revolving door nightmare with injuries, demotions and undetermined roles. There’s going to be some growing pains, so it’s probably too early to ask for across the board improvement.

But there already is some improvement, relative to the league. In 2004, the Royals finished dead last in each of the categories listed above except for BB/9 (they were fifth.) This year, mainly thanks to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Royals aren’t in the basement in any of the above categories.

So how long does Guy Hansen get? At least the rest of the year, for sure. Here are some things to look for as the Royals prepare for the second half of the season:

• Dump Lima. The numbers don’t lie, he doesn’t have it anymore. I don’t care where you put him, just get him out of the rotation.

• A rebound from Greinke. This is Guy’s biggest challenge to date. He has to figure out how to reach Greinke and connect with him on some level to get him back on track. The excuse that he marches to a different drummer doesn’t cut it anymore. We are in crisis mode. Zack must regain the form he showed in the first month of the season. Like Allard Baird says, at this level it’s all about the adjustments.

• Continue to get solid performances from Hernandez/Carrasco/Bautista. These guys all have talent and ability to be solid number three starters in the league. They’ve all made some progress of some sort this season. These guys can’t pull a Zack Greinke and have a bad month, they must continue to move forward. Consistency is what we will be looking for from these guys.

Here’s a rotation WTP would like to see over the final half of the season:


Send Howell back to AAA where he can continue to refine his craft. There’s no doubt he can be a good pitcher, but I fear he’s come too far, too fast.

The second half of the season will be a great opportunity to evaluate where the Royals are regarding the progress of their rotation under the guidance of Guy Hansen. The key to all of this will be the young prodigy, Zack Greinke. Can the Royals get him back to where he needs to be? If they can, there is some reason to be optimistic about the future of the Royals rotation.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Running Commentary

Alright, let's have some fun.


Royals go weakly in the first. Can someone explain to me why Joe McEwing is leading off? I guess we can forget about David DeJesus leading off ever again.

Nice job by JP Howell in his half of the first. He walked Tadahito Iguchi, but made a nice pitch to jam Frank Thomas and get him to ground into a double play to end the inning. Good start for the rookie.

White Sox000

Buehrle is working to improve his 1.8 groundball to flyball ratio. So far four of his six outs have come on the ground. John Buck is looking better and better at the plate, lining an 2-0 pitch up the middle for the Royals first hit. He's stranded at first when Mark Teahen strikes out. We feel your pain CFOS, but at least Teahen swung the bat.

The White Sox are agressive in their half of the second, getting back to back singles to lead off the inning. Looks like Howell might be in trouble with Jermaine Dye coming to the plate. Today's mantra: "The double play is my friend." The Royals turn two again and get out of the inning.

White Sox020

Thanks to RSTN and their desire to graphically illustrate just how good the White Sox are this season, we pretty much miss the Justin Huber at bat. We hope someone explained in this morning's production meeting that Buehrle likes to work fast leaving little time for the usual filler between pitches. It's not like we missed anything though. McEwing got jobbed by home plate ump Bruce Froemming on a check swing call for his second strikeout of the game. Hey Bruce, ask your first base umpire. Maybe he can help. A truly awful call.

Howell has a nifty curveball today. It's really got some drop to it. Twelve to six movement as they like to say. He uses it to get Chris Widger for his first strikeout. Defense comes into play when Teahen makes a nice diving stop and Graff digs out the throw for the second out. I love Teahen's defense. Sure he still makes some boneheaded plays from time to time, but overall, there's not much to complain about. He's only going to get better.

After jumping ahead in the count 0-2, Howell loses Pablo Ozuna and walks him. The two out walk really bites Howell as Iguchi and Thomas hit back to back doubles.

White Sox240

The ground balls keep coming. Nice AB from Emil Brown, fouling off a couple of pitches before extending his hitting streak to 10 games. By the way, Brown had a checked swing that went further than McEwing's and they actually appealed to first. That's how it's done Froemming! We try to notice the little things here at WTP. None of that matters if you're going to get picked off first, though.

The curveball is still working for Howell, but he again runs into two out trouble. He hits Aaron Rowland with a pitch and gives up a double to Widger, but is able to get out of the inning with no damage.

White Sox250

Buehrle is tough. He strikes out Buck on a 3-2 pitch with a changeup. A changeup! Teahen gets his bat shattered, but manages to muscle it down the line for a double. First run scoring opportunity of the afternoon for the Royals, but Huber flies out to deep center. Just got a little bit under the pitch. Nice swing though.

It's the same old story for Howell. He gets the first two outs, walks the next batter and then gives up a double. Six hits for the Sox and four have been doubles. Luckily Thomas was the lead runner, so he barely gets to third. He's just gotta be dying out there. But he gets to walk the last 90 feet when Carl Everett hits a three run bomb. Everett doesn't believe in dinosaurs, but he can sure hit the ball.

White Sox570

Ruben Gotay works a leadoff walk and McEwing swings at the first pitch to fly out to center. Grrrr. DeJesus looked like he was picking up Buehrle well, hitting a couple of pitches foul, but he ends up hitting into a double play. This is Buehrle's year.

Howell is done for the day. Not bad, but he's going to have to figure out how to get that third out. Nine of his 12 baserunners and all five of his runs today came with two down.

Mike Wood enters the game for the Royals. I know he's been an asset in the bullpen, but he really needs to move into the rotation in place of Lima. Among all Royal pitchers, he's the second most difficult to hit (only Andy Sisco is better) holding the opposition to a .221/.313/.386 line. Maybe he's only good for five innings, but he still needs to start.

White Sox570

RSTN announcer Bob Davis notes that this is the 43rd consecutive appearance where Buehrle has pitched at least six innings. That's insane. Apparently he gets better as the game goes along. Six pitches, six strikes, three outs.

Wood pitches around the fifth White Sox double of the day. Let Wood come back for the eighth and the ninth, then give him a regular spot in the rotation.

White Sox580

Teahen becomes the only Royal with two hits when he singles to right. Jermaine Dye decided to throw behind Teahen who makes a wide turn at first. Only problem is Paul Konerko isn't looking for a throw. Leadoff runner at second. Sweet. This is the first real opportunity for the Royals and they kind of cash in with a pair of groundouts. No shutout for you Buehrle!

Wood is done and makes way for Jonah Bayliss. You can't tell the players without a scorecard. Bayliss has a 90+ mph fastball and an 88 mph that looks like a two seamer with a little bit of movement. He's keeping it low and using it as his out pitch. He has to get four outs when McEwing's throw to first is in the dirt, but it's not a problem thanks to the double play.

White Sox581

Former closer Shingo Takatsu enters the game for the Sox and picks up where Buehrle left off. Froemming has a plane to catch and begins expanding his strikezone. Not that that's going to make a difference as the Royals aren't hitting today anyway. Three up, three down. Ballgame.

White Sox581

Not much to report that you haven't already read above.

Howell pitched alright, but couldn't close out an inning. As noted, most of his baserunners and all of his runs came with two down. The walks especially hurt Howell today. The bullpen pitched well, allowing three runners and no runs in three innings.

As Royals had no answer for Buehrle, there were no offensive stars to note. On the negative side, McEwing stands out for his three strikeouts in the leadoff spot. DeJesus in the number two position in the lineup, struggled all series going 0-11.

The Royals get a much needed day off before heading to Colorado where they get the rare opportunity to face an opponent who is worse than they are. After starting the month strong, the Royals are sputtering, dropping five of their last six. In all fairness, in four of those games they have faced pitchers who are at the top of their game. (Clemens, Oswalt, Garland, Buehrle) It's not going to be near that difficult in Denver.

Road To Recovery?

It’s not everyday you can say a pitcher is looking better after he gives up five runs in a little over five innings. But then again, Zack Greinke isn’t exactly an ordinary pitcher.

You might not believe it when you look at the box score, but the Royals’ Pitching Savant had his best outing in a long time.

5.1 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 8 SO

Normally, Greinke throws five different pitches. But before the game Alberto Castillo said he was only going to call Greinke’s three best pitches, using whatever pitches were most effective while warming up in bullpen. For someone like Zack who is so talented and has so many weapons, maybe that’s the trick. Limit your options. That way the tendency to overthink won’t be there and you will be bringing your best stuff with every pitch.

For the most part that approach worked because he really was overpowering, striking out eight. His fastball had a little more velocity and that was setting up his other pitches, especially his breaking ball which had some nasty bite to it.

Through the first four innings, Greinke was equal to White Sox starter, Jon Garland. And if Matt Stairs had been able to cleanly field a hot-shot ground ball at first to start a double play, the game would have been scoreless through five.

The wheels fell off in the sixth when a hit batter and a pair of singles loaded the bases, chasing Greinke. For some reason, whenever pitches start getting away from Greinke on the inside part of the plate, that’s the sign he’s tiring. WTP Favorite Andy Sisco came in with the bases loaded, but allowed all three runners to score. And the way Garland was throwing, five runs was more than enough.

So there you go. Five runs for the Sox and all of them charged to Greinke. Yes, it is a loss and yes, five runs is five runs. But for a pitcher who has struggled as horribly as Greinke in recent outings, Tuesday night should act as a confidence builder.

Other items of note from Tuesday:

Justin Huber made his debut as a pinch hitter for Stairs in the ninth. After falling behind 0-2, he got the count back to even before flying out to center. With his first AB out of the way, we’re hoping he’s in the lineup Wednesday afternoon.

• Another major league debut to note when recent call-up Jonah Bayliss pitched a clean seventh inning. In his brief outing he looked good, throwing strikes with some nice action on his fastball. Bayliss posted a 2.66 ERA and struck out 52 batters in 47 innings at Wichita.

• With the addition of Bayliss, the Royals now have nine players on their roster who began the season in the minors.

Emil Brown extended his hitting streak to nine games. (.417/.500/.656)

And a couple of links of note:

• If you can get past that annoying “ping” sound, there are some happening games in the College World Series. In a wonderful, see-saw game Tuesday afternoon, the University of Nebraska was eliminated by Arizona State in extra innings. Of course, that means Alex Gordon is now free to begin his negotiations with the Royals. Any guesses as to where he starts, once he signs?

• The folks down under are happy with the progress of Justin Huber as he is now the 20th Aussie to make the big leagues. According to former hitting coach Jeff Pentland, Huber is “one of those tough Australians.” Quotes like these don’t make me miss Pentland.

• Since Brian Anderson has a little bit of free time on his hands, being on the 60 day DL and all, he’s become a blogger. Check out Confessions of a Left Hander over at mlblogs. Turns out BA is a huge Arrested Development fan, so he’s alright by me.

• Cincinnati Reds outfielder and part-time GM, Adam Dunn, thinks the Cubs would be a good fit for his recently demoted buddy Austin Kearns.

Matinee game on Wednesday. If things go according to plan at "the real job," there might be some time for updates throughout the afternoon.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Roster Shuffle

After his last start, we wrote that Lima was given a stay of execution.

Not after Monday.

Lima made sure the universe was back in order, delivering another in a string of horrible performances that is his 2005 season:

4 IP, 10 H, 7 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO

Watching Lima pitch is kind of like watching Dr. Kervorkian examine a patient. You just know it’s going to end badly.

Any kind of good will he was able to stockpile following last week’s victory should have completely evaporated with this start.

Some brief game notes:

• Under Buddy Bell, these Royals have become fighters. They never seem to count themselves out of any game, no matter the odds. Monday, Lima buries them in a 7-3 hole, but the never-say-die Royals battle back to tie the score at 8. The Royals will lose more games than they will win under Bell for the rest of the season, but you get the feeling they will be in most of them. Royals baseball is becoming exciting again.

• Speaking of exciting, did you catch Matt Stairs’ at bat in the fifth inning? He comes to the plate with the bases loaded and the Royals down by four. After swinging and missing at the first two pitches of the at bat, Stairs digs in and prepares for a fight. A ball, three fouls and two more balls later (and a balk mixed in to bring in a run,) Stairs ropes a double off the top of the wall to the opposite field in left. Watching the action, you just knew that he was going to win the battle, coming up with either a walk or a run scoring base hit. Sorry to get all geeked up over one single at bat, but if some of these young players follow the lead of Stairs, the Royals will be an offensive juggernaut for years to come. Hell, it looked like Graffanino was inspired, working a nine-pitch walk himself immediately after the Stairs plate appearance.

Alright, enough about the game. Monday was a busy day off the field for the Royals:

Mike Sweeney, Ambiorix Burgos and Jeremy Affeldt all found themselves on the DL. That Sweeney and Burgos landed there was not all that surprising. It looks like Sweeney’s stay on the DL could be a lengthy one, while hopefully Burgos will recover quickly and return to the bullpen.

The surprise was the disabling of Affeldt. It’s the same injury as before (groin strain) but there was no indication that it was bothering him again. Overall, he hasn’t pitched poorly since returning to action, but looking back at his last two appearances where he was hit pretty hard, the groin was most likely bothering him.

What hurts the Royals here (pun intended) is two of their top trade commodities are now on the DL. Although we never thought it was likely the Royals would deal Sweeney, Affeldt has always been a possibility. His most recent setback should scare whatever teams might have been interested.

• With Sweeney landing on the DL, the Royals have called up some guy you might have heard of. After spending the weekend in Kansas City, Justin Huber is now officially with the team. We’re beginning to wonder why the Royals need a AAA team, since all of their prospects are bypassing Omaha completely and heading straight to the big leagues. Huber was mashing the ball all season in AA, but apparently was prevented from reaching the heights of Omaha by the dynamic duo of Ken Harvey and Calvin Pickering.

After all the pitching prospects who have been called up since the beginning of the season, WTP is pleased to see a hitter, and supposedly a damn fine one at that, get the call.

• Buddy Bell was allowed to reshuffle his staff with the reassigning of first base coach Joe Jones to minor league instructor. His place will be taken by former Houston Astro Billy Doran. Bell and Doran worked together in Cincinnati on their minor league system.

Monday, June 20, 2005


The last couple of weeks, the Monday entry of WTP has been devoted to breaking down each game over the weekend. That’s not going to happen today. Mainly because Friday and Saturday were so damn predictable and depressing. Perhaps it can best be illustrated by an equation:

Roger Clemens + Roy Oswalt = 2 runs and 0 wins.

So the fear is this is where the Royals come back to earth. After all, haven’t they been playing out of their minds since Buddy Bell was hired? They’re winning games and scoring runs. They win four out of six, they sweep playoff contenders and play fundamentally sound baseball. It has to stop sometime, right? This was going to be it: The weekend when the honeymoon ends.

Enter Runelvys Hernandez.

After spending the better part of the last two days being dominated by your opponent, you need someone to come forward and stop the bleeding. That’s always been the role of the number one starter. He’s the guy who is called upon to put a halt to those little two and three game losing streaks before they snowball into something much more serious. And didn’t it feel as though the Royals had just a little too much “downhill momentum?”

Hernandez, after missing the last part of 2003 and all of 2004, isn’t the “ace” or the number one starter on this staff. Anyway, as long as Zack Greinke is around, Hernandez won’t ever be thought of as the number one guy. Hell, he doesn’t even have “ace” material to begin with, so it’s pretty much irrelevant. But what’s not irrelevant is how Hernandez stepped forward on Sunday afternoon and prevented the Royals from being swept by Houston.

Hernandez pitched like an “ace”:

7 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 SO

Just what was needed after a terrible start to the weekend series.

Challenging Astro batters, Hernandez was ahead in the count most of the afternoon, mixing his fastball with a wicked slider. The coincidence should not be lost on anyone the fact that one of the few batters he fell behind, (Morgan Ensberg in the fifth) drew a walk, stole a base and scored. As Hernandez may come to find out, it pays big money when you are a pitcher who consistently works ahead in the count.

Some other Royal notes:

Emil Brown continues to come up huge for the Royals in the big situations. Sunday it was a three run bomb to break the game open in the sixth. Of course, we have to point out the role Matt Stairs had in drawing a walk to get on base before the Brown home run. It bears repeating, Stairs and Brown are the key offensive performers for this team.

• Don’t be surprised if Mike Sweeney lands on the DL, possibly as early as today. An MRI revealed a torn ligament in his wrist. Apparently, a ligament in his wrist was already torn and doctors aren’t sure if this is the same one. Nothing infuriates WTP more than the cloak and dagger shenanigans regarding Captain Sweeney and his multitude of injuries. Just admit what everyone knows and put him on the DL for cryin’ out loud.

Ambiorix Burgos left the game in the eighth with shoulder stiffness after facing only one batter. It seems odd that someone could go through his entire warm-up routine, enter a game, throw even more warm-up pitches and then experience shoulder stiffness. Hopefully, it’s minor and he’ll be ready to go this later this week.

• Did you see where Darrell May beat Johan Santana? Writing as someone who suffered through May’s three seasons with the Royals, all I can offer is baseball’s a damn funny game sometimes.

• The Royals are 12-6 since Buddy Bell was hired as manager. In a somewhat related story, the Cleveland Indians are 13-5 since Buddy Bell left as the bench coach. Hmmmm.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Maybe I'm Amazed

Stunned really.

A month ago, did you think the Royals were capable of winning five games in a row?

Did you think the Royals could sweep the Yankees and follow it up a couple of weeks later with a sweep of the Dodgers?

Kind of fun, isn't it?

Some items of note from Thursday:

• The Royals were able to chase Dodger starter Derek Lowe in the sixth inning without ever hitting the ball hard. Lowe is a groundball pitcher whose fortunes will often depend on the quality of defense behind him. In the sixth inning that defense failed him miserably.

• It was the Dodgers inability to turn a double play, not once, but twice kept the Royals alive in that inning. The beauty is that’s exactly the kind of break the Royals weren’t catching back in April. The ground ball hit by Emil Brown was tailor-made for a double play, but for whatever reason Dodger shortstop Antonio Perez didn’t get in front of the ball. Instead of inning over and a wasted opportunity for the Royals, it’s the tying run in and runners on first and second with one out.

• If Shane Costa keeps up his aggressive play, he is destined to become a fan favorite at the K. His hustle down the first base line kept the Royals out of the other potential inning-ending double play in the sixth. Then, he made it from first to third on a soft liner to right field off the bat of Mark Teahen and was safe only because of a nifty slide to get around the tag. If he was out, it would have been the third out of the inning and we could have called the play reckless. But he was safe, so we can call it good, agressive baserunning.

• Speaking of Teahen, his single in the sixth was a nifty piece of hitting with a 1-2 count. Too often this season, Teahen is falling behind in the count and letting his at bat get away from him. He didn’t let that happen Thursday.

With two chances to turn two, the Dodgers got only one out and allowed the Royals to score two runs. By the time the Dodgers were finally able to close out the inning, the Royals had batted around and six runs had come home.

Ballgame. Five in a row.

Other notes:

Zack Greinke's struggles continue. Obviously, his line from Thursday looks better than his line from his last outing, but he was going to be hard pressed to top that one. Thursday, Greinke needed 111 pitches to get through five innings and was far from sharp. Runners were on base all night and twice, he worked out of bases loaded jams. That the Dodgers were only able to score three runs is more an indictment of their offense than anything else. If Greinke had pitched like that against almost any other team in the league, he would have been shelled.

Jeremy Affeldt isn’t happy with his role on the club. He wants to be the closer and isn’t pleased he lost his job to Mike MacDougal. Fine. But giving up three runs in the ninth inning of a blowout isn’t exactly the way to make your case, is it? A walk, a single and a double to the first three batters made things uncomfortable enough for Buddy Bell that he had to get MacDougal warmed up in the bullpen, just in case Affeldt couldn’t seal the deal. Memo to Affeldt: If you’re going to complain about your role on the team, you’d better be able to back it up with your performance.

But enough nit-picking. Today, the Royals own a five game winning streak for the first time in two years.

It’s going to be a challenge tonight for the Royals as Roger Clemens goes for the Astros. A month ago, I’d put it down as an automatic loss. But now, nothing would surprise me. And that is a very good thing.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Tonight, Drinks Are On The House

"If I win tomorrow, I'm going to get drunk."
-Lima on KCSP-AM (6/14/05)

I never thought I'd see it.

Even now, a couple hours after the game, I'm still in a state of disbelief.

Lima won.


The guy who hadn’t won a regular season game since September 14, 2004.

The guy who hadn’t won for the Royals in 15 consecutive starts.

The guy whose ERA entering the game was 8.16.

Yes, Lima won.

He did it the old-fashioned way…Throwing strikes, working ahead in the count and keeping the ball down. His velocity was up as well. He’d been throwing flat fastballs around 82-86 mph, but on Wednesday he was consistently hitting 90 mph on the gun. But most important of all, he held the lead and he avoided the big inning.

Lima’s line for the night:

8 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO

Consider it a stay of execution. He's going to need to run off four or five quality starts before we will be convinced.

But I will say it...

For one magical night at the K it was Lima-Time all over again.

Other notes from Wednesday:

• After going almost two years without a four game winning streak, the Royals have now posted four wins in a row twice in the month of June.

Mike Sweeney’s return from injury lasted about a game and a half. Preliminary diagnosis is a sprained left wrist and elbow after Jayson Werth collided with him on a play at first. Werth, attempting to beat out a drag bunt, was clearly at fault on the play. Running down the first base line, he was in fair territory when he collided with Sweeney, which means he should have been called out for interference. That call belongs to Bill Miller, the home plate umpire, but he chose not to make it.

I want to be angry at someone. I want to be angry at Werth, but I don’t think he ran into Sweeney on purpose. (I’m more angry at the fact that he ran inside the baseline a second time later in the game.) I want to be angry at the home plate umpire, but his blown call didn’t effect the outcome of the game. I’ll just have to be angry at the fact that Sweeney, once again, is injured.

That play at first led to two things:

1) The only run of the game for the Dodgers, which prevented Lima from going for his second career shutout. How difficult would it have been for Buddy Bell to pull Lima if he had been carrying a shutout into the ninth?

2) A defensive shift on the part of the Royals, moving Tony Graffanino from second to first base and bringing Ruben Gotay into the game at second. Gotay made the defensive play of the game in the seventh inning, ranging to his left to rob Hee Seop Choi of a basehit. A truly spectacular play. If Graffanino was at second, there’s no way he reaches that ball. That Gotay's play was rated only the fifth-best Web Gem on ESPN is just another case of the man keeping the Royals down. Play of the day, by far.

Emil Brown, RBI Machine. Brown picked up two more RBI’s with a pair of clutch two-out base hits. He now has 12 RBI in June, 27 RBI since May 11th and for the season is batting .357/.453/.690 with runners in scoring position.

As far as the RBI, that is the first time in the history of Warning Track Power that this statistic has ever been mentioned. And with good reason. Without baserunners, there’s little chance for a hitter to drive in a run. So with that in mind, we mention the key role Matt Stairs had in prolonging both innings ahead of Brown by drawing a walk in the first and a single in the fifth. Stairs is so key to the success of this team.

The Royals go for the sweep on Thursday. Let’s see if Zack Greinke can channel the spirit of Good Lima and get back on track.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Another One For The Good Guys

The bats weren’t as hot, but Royal Express keeps on rollin’ with a good win over the Dodgers on Tuesday.

Key for the Royals was a quality start from Runelvys Hernandez, a pair of home runs and a solid effort from the bullpen.

Let’s break some things down, shall we?

• It just so happens that Hernandez is becoming a starter who is usually good for about 6 IP, 8-10 baserunners and hopefully under 3 runs. Seriously, look at his last five starts:

5/24@ TEX65325
5/29@ LAA510736
6/3vs. TEX63135
6/8@ SF64143
6/14vs. LAD68202

Throw out his start in Anaheim and he’s become the poster child for consistency.

The problem is, he’s still allowing too many runners on base, which is forcing him to throw too many pitches. That’s why he’s not pitching later into games. So far, he’s been able to make adjustments, but eventually allowing this high volume of baserunners will catch up to him.

• The WTP Offensive Star of the Game award goes to Shane Costa who went 3-3 with the home run in the fifth inning that was the difference in the ballgame. Costa’s homer, which just barely scraped over the fence in right, came one pitch after a push bunt attempt for a base hit rolled foul before it could hit the third base bag. Whoever said baseball is a game of inches wasn’t kidding.

• The bullpen did its job again. Damn, if there aren’t some live arms out there. Jeremy Affeldt pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning and showcased a large curveball against Hee Seop Choi that’s going to give me nightmares. He was followed by Ambiorix Burgos who had his splitter dancing out of the zone, but that was alright because he was setting it up with 98 mph gas that no one could touch. He worked around a couple of baserunners to strike out the side.

• Why is it when Mike MacDougal enters the game, my blood pressure skyrockets? I’m seriously considering putting my physician on speed dial for this reason. But the good news is I’m still alive, and MacDougal secured the victory for his fifth save since Bell was hired.

• Speaking of saves, can someone explain to me how the Royals are 10 for 20 in save opportunities, but have an 18-1 record when entering the ninth inning with a lead? Wait, I know the answer. Saves are a meaningless stat.

• Grip-Cam (the freeze frame close-up of the ball in the pitcher’s hand just before release) is the coolest thing on the Royals telecasts. Nothing better than a super slo-mo of Burgos releasing a splitter.

• Another note on Royals TV broadcasts: Bob Davis needs to be replaced. It pains me to write that since Davis is the voice of my beloved Jayhawks and is one of the better radio talents in the business. His calls on basketball are not to be missed.

But this season, I’ve read some criticism of Davis’ baseball work from several bloggers, so I’ll have to add my two cents. Davis is horribly miscast as a baseball announcer. He has little to no feel for the game and often misses opportunities to provide insight to bring up some inane point. Tuesday night, every time Shane Costa got a base hit, Davis brought up how big the moment was since Shane is from Southern California and he was getting hits against his home town team. Hey Bob, we get it!

OK, rant over.

So, for those of you inclined to keep track, the Royals are now 9-4 under Buddy Bell.

When things are going good for a team, like they are for the Royals, they show up to the park every night expecting to win. That’s where the Royals are right now and it's a good place to be.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Change Is Good

An off day following a successful 4-2 road trip calls for a little more analysis of the Royals resurgent offense.

The improvement over the last month of the season has been nothing short of amazing:

First 33 Games.232.290.3728-25
Last 29 Games.290.356.43613-16

But why?

When Tony Pena quit on this team, something changed. Something other than the tangible statistical improvement noted above. The team changed it’s approach to the game. Gone were the days of “working the count” where hitters would look at a great pitch for strike one and spend the rest of the at bat battling from behind in the count.

When the Royals dismissed hitting coach Jeff Pentland in late May, they were acknowledging a total shift in approach that had begun under interm manager Bob Schaefer was necessary to prevent this team from sliding into the depths of a 120 loss season. It’s too early to tell what impact new batting instructor Andre David will bring, but it seems safe to say his instruction will fit the new organizational philosophy of “selective aggressiveness.”

For the Royals, the current success lies in this new approach. Plate discipline doesn’t mean looking at two strikes and then deciding to swing the bat. Plate discipline is about waiting for a good pitch…your pitch, and then putting the ball in play.

The results of this new approach at the plate are becoming clear. Numbers are up almost across the board. As a team, the Royals have gone from scoring 3.5 R/G to almost 4.5 R/G. Even though they are swinging at more pitches, they are drawing more walks, while putting more balls into play.

And most importantly, it’s translating into wins. The Royals won eight games the first month and a half of the season. They’ve won that many in the last two weeks.

Yes, things are looking up in K.C. Let’s go down the batting order to see exactly how the Royals are doing it:


4/4 - 5/
5/11 - 6/13.266.305.395

Berroa is one of the few Royals who have only seen modest improvement over the last month.

Currently, Berroa is horribly miscast as a leadoff man, a point documented on this website. If you break the numbers down even further, in the 12 games since Buddy Bell took over this team at the first of the month, the only Royal getting on base less than Angel Berroa is Mike Sweeney.

Getting Berroa out of the leadoff spot is becoming the WTP cause celebre for the last month of the season.


4/4 - 5/10.262.323.377
5/11 - 6/13.309.387.433

David is not Carlos Beltran. It seems the Royals have finally gotten the message.

Immediately slotted into the number two spot in the lineup after Pena quit, DeJesus is quietly regaining the flashes of brilliance he displayed his rookie season when he went .287/.360/.402. It is much to the relief of WTP that DeJesus has finally stopped being asked to steal bases. He might have above average speed, but his base stealing instincts are terrible. He’s only attempted one steal since May 11 (he was thrown out of course.)

But the time is right to move him back into the leadoff spot. He has the ability to get on base and seems to have rediscovered what it took for him to be so successful in 2004. That and he's a much better option than Berroa.


4/4 - 5/10.333.380.628
5/11 - 6/

The only Royal regular to have regressed over the last month. Is it coincidence that this is the exact time when he began missing games due to injury? He’s missed 10 of the last 29 ballgames with the mysterious “strained oblique” that was apparently reinjured while taking extra batting practice in San Francisco. I’m not buying that. I hope I'm wrong, but I don’t think he was fully recovered from when he initially hurt himself in mid-May.

It is somewhat comforting to know the Royals’ best stretches of baseball have come with their captain sidelined. If he’s ever healthy enough where the Royals are able to flip him for a couple of prospects, you would get no argument here.


4/4 - 5/10.208.305.361
5/11 - 6/13.330.392.557

Given the everyday job in RF, Brown’s turnaround is nothing short of stunning. Comparisons are being drawn to another Allard Baird reclamation project: Raul Ibanez. While we caution jumping the gun a bit with any kind of exuberant comparison, it is a pleasant sight to see a corner outfielder produce these types of numbers.

Speaking of corner outfielders…


4/4 - 5/
5/11 - 6/13.329.373.447

If he continues playing like this the Royals might actually be able to get something of value for him at the trading deadline.


4/4 - 5/10.247.345.466
5/11 - 6/13.290.476.532

The man we will give credit to for starting the Royals offensive renaissance. He went on a base on balls tear immediately after Pena quit, walking 12 times in six games, scoring nine runs in the process.

Stairs led by example, and his teammates took notice. Since May 10th the Royals have bumped their walk rate from 2.5 BB/G to 2.9 BB/G. It’s not a coincidence that the Royals have been scoring more runs since that time.


4/4 - 5/
5/11 - 6/13.319.368.507

Another amazing turnaround. These slow starts are killing him.

The fact that he’s an above average defensive catcher helps his cause tremendously. The guy is a leader, who you can tell has the respect of his teammates, most importantly the pitching staff.


4/4 - 5/10.250.325.361
5/11 - 6/

Teahen is included here as part of the lineup, but due to an injury the first month of the season, gets an incomplete.

He’s started to come alive since Bell took over as manager, posting a .326/.356/.395 line over the last 12 games. Teahen has been very solid defensively while looking more and more comfortable at the plate. Expect him to continue to improve as the season progresses.


4/4 - 5/
5/11 - 6/13.315.407.534

Gotay, who is supposed to be better with the bat than with the glove was roundly awful in all aspects of the game the first month and a half of the season. Despite his improvement, he’s still in and out of the lineup too much to get totally comfortable. Much of that has to do with the fact no Royal is getting on base more than Tony Graffanino (.438/.471/.547) over the last month. It’s difficult to sit a guy who’s playing like that, but Graff is the ultimate utility guy. If Sweeney is still hurt when the Royals return home, look for him and Stairs to trade off between 1B and DH.


If you made it this far, thank you. The point is not to bore with statistics, but to illustrate how almost every player on this team has improved since Pena quit. In this case the numbers don’t lie. The Royals are a better team today than they were a month ago.

We are seeing the tangible results from a change in philosophy. Batters have gone to the plate with an aggressive, not a reckless, attitude. That means more runs, which means more wins.

Are the Royals as good as their numbers over the last 29 games indicate? No.

Are the Royals as bad as their numbers over the first 33 games indicate? No.

The answer to that question probably lies somewhere in between. But this last month has been a helluva ride for Royals fans. WTP is going to enjoy it while it lasts.

Monday, June 13, 2005

It's A Dry Heat

Don’t you love it when a “best-case scenario” actually happens?

That’s what happened for the Royals, wrapping up this roadtrip taking two out of three from the Diamondbacks and going four for six overall.

I refer to it as a best-case scenario for two reasons. Entering this roadtrip it was generally known that:
1) Lima would start one game. (Expected loss)
2) J.P. Howell would make his major league debut (Could have been a loss, but was a win.)


Unfortunately, the Royals non Lima-related loss came from the inability of Zack Greinke to get anyone out on Friday night. There has been much speculation over the weekend as to what is happening to our young pitching prodigy. Is it injury? Is it stuborness? One of the more plausible theories comes from Clark at the excellent OP-ED Page who is convinced Greinke is tipping his pitches. Entirely possible. But the problem is, if young Zack has been tipping his pitches, it didn’t begin on Friday night. Check out his numbers from his last five starts:

5/20vs. StL59613
5/25At TEX56434
5/31Vs. NY53332
6/05Vs. TEX4.110703
6/10At ARI4.1151122
Totals5 starts23.24331914

That's an 11.79 ERA.

I don’t know what’s more troubling. That Greinke is tipping his pitches or that it will have taken the Royals braintrust at least five starts before they figured out that’s what he was doing.

Lost in all the fuss over our young prodigy was a potentially epic comeback Friday night. Down nine runs and all but left for dead, the Royals once again gallantly battled back to tie the game and force extra frames. We will remain stubborn on the issue of Buddy Bell, but we will acknowledge this team has shown more fight over the last two weeks than we have seen in the previous two years. And that is a very good thing.


Before the Buddy Bell hire, we had used this space time and again to speak of our admiration for Royals General Manager Allard Baird. But frankly, since the Bell decision, some of the luster had gone. The latest criticism coming from the decision to option (and possibly lose via a waiver claim) Ryan Jensen and the call up of J.P. Howell to start on Saturday.

Well, apparently Allard does know best.

Jensen clears waivers before ultimately returning to the big club due to an injury to Steve Stemle. He goes to the bullpen as a reliever.

But best of all was the debut of Howell. We have to admit, we were skeptical with the latest decision to rush a prospect through the minor league system. Lacking a single, dominant pitch, Howell is, by all accounts, a pitcher who relies on control to get batters out. Obviously, the margin for error is much less the higher you progress and he had only made one start at Omaha for crying out loud.

Tip of the cap to J.P. Howell for making us look the fool.

Howell was awesome in his major league debut, throwing five innings, allowing four hits and best of all…striking out eight batters. It seemed the Diamondbacks were having troubling picking up his pitches. It probably didn’t matter since his pitches were dancing on the corners, never seeming to catch the heart of the plate. If you are a Royals fan (and if you’re reading this, you probably are) I hope you were in front of the television or your computer on Saturday night. It was, as they used to say, “Must See TV.” Oh, if you didn’t get to see Howell in action, his next scheduled start is next Friday, against another UT alum…Roger Clemens.

Don’t you just love happy endings?


There was another happy ending on Sunday when the Royals scored six runs in the 12th to take the game 9-4. Three times in extra innings, the Royals got their leadoff man on base. And three times in extra innings, the Royals took the lead. Yes, it was frustrating that Jensen couldn’t hold the lead, but credit to him for maintaining his composure after giving up the leadoff homerun to Craig Counsell in the tenth and the tying triple to Quinton McCracken in the eleventh.

And we would be remiss not to take note of yet another strong starting performance from the current ace of the staff, D.J. Carrasco. Carrasco got into a bit of hot water in the fourth and wiggled out of another jam in the sixth. You just had a feeling after the last two nights, Sunday’s game would turn into a pitching duel. Carrasco and Diamondback starter Brandon Webb did not disappoint.


After a wild weekend of baseball check out some of these offensive numbers posted by the Royals:

28 Runs
46 Hits
.343 AVG

Yes, the Royals bats were warming up, out in the desert.

The Royals return home this week for three against the Dodgers and three against the Astros.

And be sure to check back Tuesday for some more analysis of the Royals hot bats.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad

Especially when one of those three features Lima as your starter.

What else is there to say? At least he’s consistent. You know exactly what you’re going to get with every Jose Lima start. It’s like paying to see a really bad movie, again and again and again…You fork over the money, thinking maybe tonight will be different, but in the end it’s still crap.

Lima’s Thurday troubles began when he gave up a two out double to Noah Lowry. Yes, the starting pitcher. Then the floodgates opened and by the end of the inning, a tight, 1-0 game had turned to a 4-0 deficit. Thank you, Mr. Lima.

But that wasn’t even the worst part of the afternoon.

After Lima allowed the Giants to blow the game open, the Royals gamely battled back, scoring four runs the following inning to tie the score and get back into the game. Hey, this team never gives up! They fight, they claw, they scratch! The Royals are still alive!

Unfortunately, perhaps inspired by Lima’s fifth inning meltdown, rookie reliever Leo Nunez decided to have a meltdown of his own. He actually out-Limaed Lima. (Did that make any sense? That last sentence sent my word processor into a frenzy.)

Nunez had nothing for the Giants. I was a little surprised he was allowed the remain in the game, particularly after the first two batters reached base and the lead was gone. It was obvious the Giants had his number. The only reasoning I can come up with is that since Nunez had only worked a little over two innings since Buddy Bell was named manager, Bell wanted to see what Nunez could do. That's the only explanation I can come up with. Especially since there wasn't a reliever in the bullpen until three or four runs were in. I have to think that if this game had a larger meaning, Nunez would have been out of there after facing the second batter.

By the time he got out of the inning the damage had been done, and it's all too depressing to recap here. There would be no sweep.

Some other thoughts from what was actually a really good series for the Royals:

• You’re probably going to be hearing a lot about Angel Berroa and how well he’s been doing at the plate. Don’t be fooled. Yes, he had a good series against the Giants, going 6-15 with five runs scored. But right now, the only time he’s making good contact is when he’s ahead in the count. He still has next to no plate discipline or even a hint of a clue about where the strike zone is located. Berroa did take a walk Thursday, but that was after fouling off a couple of pitches that were thrown out of the zone and looking at a ball four that was buried in the dirt. He can still be my leadoff batter, but that’s only because there aren’t any other candidates to fill that role.

• After going 2-4, is it safe to say John Buck is on fire? No? Check out these numbers on Buck:

First 113 Abs: .177/.231/.292
Rest of season: .288/.323/.544

First 98 Abs: .173/.226/.276
Rest of season: ???

The number of at bats I chose for each season are relevant because it illustrates John Buck at his lowest statistical point in each season. Since his first 98 at bats this season, he has come to the plate 45 times and has posted a much more respectable .267/.298/.444. These slow starts are brutal, but I can justify sticking with the guy if he’s going to be able to turn it around. It looks like he just might be on the road to recovery.

• After smacking five triples in the first two games of the series, the Royals sadly had none on Thursday.

Now it’s on to Phoenix and three against another team in the dumps, the Arizona Diamondbacks, losers of eight of their last 10.

The Royals still have not announced their Saturday starter, but all signs point to the call-up of lefty J.P. Howell. As good as Howell might have been in the minors this year, I still fail to see the point in bringing him up at this time. He'll probably prove me wrong (and I hope so) but he just seems to have moved along too fast for someone who will rely on his location to be successful.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

It's Getting Better

I have to admit, it’s getting better/
A little better, all the time/
(It can’t get no worse.)

-Getting Better (Lennon/McCartney)

It’s been about a month since we’ve taken a close look at some of the statistical trends that have been developing over the course of this season. Since the Royals are on the west coast and the games are ending around midnight, now seems as good a time as any to revisit some of those stats. And the good news is the results show improvement in some key areas.

Another nice thing about this look at the Royals offensive production, is it nicely illustrates the Royals switch in management. Our first look at the numbers came on May 6th, just four days before Tony Pena quit on his team. So we are looking at the production during Pena’s dreadful 2005 tenure, and comparing them to the Schaefer/Bell tandem.


When we last checked about a month ago (29 games into the season), the Royals were last in the American League in scoring runs, averaging 3.57 R/G. Today, the Royals are no longer in the cellar. Here’s the current bottom three in runs scored per game:

KC……..4.18 R/G
OAK…..4.16 R/G
CLE…...3.96 R/G

Each team has improved over the last month of the season, but the Royals have posted the largest gain of the three. And it actually translates into the win column. After the first 29 games when the Royals were averaging a paltry 3.5 runs per game, they were a pathetic 7-22, which is a .250 winning percentage. In the 28 games since we did any kind of analysis the Royals have gone 11-17, for a .393 winning percentage. Still not a great record by any means, but realize that if the Royals played .393 baseball for an entire season they would win about 64 games, missing the magical mark of 100 losses by two.


The Royals are still dead last in all of baseball in line drive percentage (LDP), posting a really weak .147. It’s going to be difficult for them to climb out of the basement, as the next closest team, the Cleveland Indians, have a LDP of .161. Remember, LDP is the percent of batted balls that are line drives, which fall for base hits roughly 75% of the time. This compares slightly favorably to the last time when their LDP was .143. It’s a small improvement to be sure, but any gains deserve to be noted.


Finally, just for fun, take a look at this comparison between two American League teams:

TEAM A: .252/.309/.395 4.18 R/G
TEAM B: .252/.315/.381 4.23 R/G

Which offense would you rather have? It’s a tough call. Both teams are well below the league averages of .265/.331/.415 and 4.69 R/G, so it’s safe to say neither team does very well at the plate. One teams gets on base a little more often, while the other slugs at a better clip.

Since this is a Royals blog, it’s obvious that one of these teams is our beloved Royals. That would be team A.

Team B? That would be the Seattle Mariners.

Yes, those Seattle Mariners. The team that features hit king Ichiro! at the top of the lineup, followed by big boppers Adrian Beltre, Richie Sexson and Bret Boone has virtually the same offensive production as the Kansas City Royals.

It’s still way too early to condemn the Beltre and Sexson deals, but who would have thought that the “youth movement” Royals would out slug the free-spending Mariners?

The good news is, since Pena bailed on this team, the Royals offense is slowly improving and it shows in the record as well as the overall quality of play. Like Lennon and McCartney said, it is getting better.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


Starter D.J. Carrasco looked great on Tuesday, pitching the Royals first nine inning complete game of the season. He cruised through the middle innings, at one point retiring 16 in a row. That he finished the evening throwing 111 pitches and getting 17 ground ball outs (10 of them to his shortstop) only illustrates how well he was pitching. I know that SBC Park favors the pitchers, but if you’re going to get that many groundballs, it really doesn’t matter where you pitch. Your chances for success are well above average.

With Wednesday’s starter Ruynelvys Hernandez struggling, Zack Greinke’s recent problems and Lima being Lima, Carrasco, for the time being, is the Royals most dependable starter.

The catalyst in the Royals exploding for eight runs was lead-off batter Angel Berroa. He singled leading off the first, singled leading off the third and tripled leading off the fifth. Each time, he came around to score. Really, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Nobody in baseball strikes out fewer batters than the Giants’ Kirk Rueter. He averages about 3 K per 9 IP for his career. Naturally, I was nervous last night that somehow, he would figure out how to be a strikeout pitcher. The Royals handled him perfectly, working the count, finding a good pitch and swinging away. Rueter finished the night without a strikeout while allowing ten Royal baserunners out of 23 batters faced in 4.1 innings.

The Royals are now 5-2 under Buddy Bell. (An aside: I will never, ever refer to Royals baseball as “BuddyBall.”) It’s a nice bounce, but the Royals really need to perform well on this short, six-game road trip. They’re up against the Giants who are struggling and the Diamondbacks who are fading as well. If the Royals return to K.C. next week after going 4-2, would you be happy? I would.

Draft Day Odds and Ends

• In their projection of the first round, Baseball America nailed the first 18 picks. 18 picks!!! Uh, I think those guys know their stuff.

• According to Baseball America, the Royals called Justin Upton shortly before the draft began to tell him if he fell to number two, he would be wearing Royal blue.

• I’ll try to track down some good Alex Gordon links and post them later this morning.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

It's Alex Gordon!


With the second pick in the draft, the Royals select 3B Alec Gordon from the University of Nebraska.

Kudos to Allard Baird, Senior Director of Scouting Deric Ladnier and the rest of the Royals scouting department!!!!!!

2nd Round

Jeff Bianchi, SS, Lancaster, PA

The Royals select Jeff Bianchi a high school shortstop from Pennsylvania. Bianchi has signed a letter of intent to play ball at N.C. State, but has said he would consider signing if he was drafted high enough. And that was when he was projecting as a third or fourth round pick!

He's rated as the 57th batter and 126th overall in the draft by Baseball America.

Bianchi had a great senior year, batting .573, 13 HR, 37 RBI in 61 ABs.

One scout says he's better than Upton right now! He has good instincts, with a line drive stroke. Ultimately projects as a second baseman.

John Sickles says: "Surprise pick. Good athlete, will need time to develop."

3rd Round

Christopher Nicoll, RHP, U-Irvine

You just knew that Allard would take a pitcher in the third round. I think there is some sort of unwritten rule somewhere that a pitcher must be taken at least every third selection.

Nicoll is rated as the 69th pitcher and the 121st player overall in the draft by Baseball America.

Nichol has improved every year at Irvine:


Another high-strikeout, low walk kind of guy. Nice.

Can he start in place of Lima on Thurday?

John Sickles says: "Budget pick. RHP version of JP Howell."

4th Round

Joe Dickerson, OF, Esperanza HS (Anaheim, CA)

A left-handed CF, Dickerson has signed a letter of intent to play ball at Texas.

He was one of the leaders of his high school team that was tabbed as the 33th best team in Baseball America pre-season prep rankings.

He was batting .423 with 26 runs scored in 78 ABs through May 18.

John Sickles says: "Speed demon guy."

Dickerson was just interviewed on's audio draft coverage. He said the Royals called and said they wanted to draft him and would he be interested? "I said, yes and that I'd sign for sure. I'm excited and my whole family is excited."

Dickerson describes himself as a, "gap to gap hitter, good speed, good defense and arm."

5th Round

Shawn Hayes, SS, Franklin Pierce College

That guy from MASH has a school named after him?

Draft Day

The draft starts at noon (CDT) today.

The draft, which never used to be that big of a deal, is now equivalent to Christmas morning to Royals fans. Something is wrapped up and under the tree just waiting to be opened. The anticipation is huge. What is in that package? Is it something we really want? Will it be that Red Ryder BB gun, or will it be some clothes that we'll never wear?

Here’s hoping the Royals splurge and get us that BB gun. (Alex Gordon or Justin Upton would qualify here.)

Of course, we won't know for a couple of years if this year's draft is any good or not, but I find it damn fun to guess along with everyone else.

There’s a ton of excellent info on the draft all over the internet, written by people who actually carve out a living following this stuff. In other words, they have more insight than I could possibly hope to have. So, instead of giving you a draft day preview, I’ll direct people to some links that might be of interest. That way, when a name pops up you've never heard of, you can click back here and follow your link of choice. Easy.

Draft day links:

Baseball America is reporting they have two sources that say the Diamondbacks will take Justin Upton with the number one overall pick. Not surprising.

The list of top 200 prospects is up at Baseball America.

Nice write-up on Nebraska 3B, and consensus second-best player in the draft, Alex Gordon.

John Sickels at the excellent Minor League Ball website ran a mock draft over the weekend. Totally in-depth and very easy to navigate. You’ll find the AL Central results here.

Sickels is the best in the biz and will be posting updates all day long.

And finally, will have live coverage of the draft starting at 11:30.

It should be a fun day.

Be sure to check back sometime after lunch to see if that Red Ryder is under our tree.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Weekend Roundup

That four game winning streak was really, really nice. Especially considering the fact that the Royals hadn’t won that many in a row since 2003.

Problem is, as long as Lima in starting every fifth day, a four game winning streak is the best the Royals can do.

Some other thoughts from the weekend:

• It was kind of nice to see some fire out in the Royals dugout on Sunday. When Shane Costa was hit by a pitch in the ninth, Buddy Bell was angered that Ranger pitcher Francisco Cordero wasn’t warned. Eventually, Bell came out of the dugout to make his point to home plate umpire Gary Cedarstrom. After the game, Buddy was still angry, claiming that it was “blatant” that Cordero was throwing at Costa.

Kudos to Bell for stepping up for his players. After spending the last two afternoons getting ripped by the Rangers, I’m sure he was boiling, and Costa getting hit was his breaking point. But I’m inclined to believe Cordero wasn’t throwing at anyone. He was all over the place with his pitches, walking Emil Brown to start the inning and missing the zone badly in the previous three offerings to Costa. But it doesn’t matter whether the plunking was real or imagined, Bell chose that moment to take a stand. That’s something we didn’t see often enough under the previous management and I’m sure the players appreciated Bell’s actions Sunday afternoon.

• The rest of Sunday’s fireworks came at the end of the game, when Cordero celebrated by taking a couple of steps toward the Royals’ dugout and grabbing his crotch. Nice. Always a good idea to cap off the Build-A-Bear teddy bear giveaway day at the stadium with a crotch grab.

• What in the name of Jose Lima is wrong with Zack Greinke? He hasn’t been himself his last four starts, failing to pitch longer than five innings in any of them. Sunday was his worst outing of the last four, but check out these numbers from his last four starts:

19.1 IP, 28 H, 20 ER, 7 BB, 12 K

That’s a 9.31 ERA. I’m not sure what’s going on with Greinke, but this should be cause for concern within the organization. Time for Guy Hansen to earn his money.

• It’s was discouraging, but not altogether unexpected, to see Lima blow a four run lead on Saturday. As noted before, the Royals have been staking Lima to leads all season long, only to see him give them right back. After the game Bell said Lima would remain in the rotation. I actually don’t have a problem with that. Bell is the new guy and he’s going to give everyone a chance to show him what they can do. Lima will pitch himself out of the rotation before the All-Star break. Now, we just need to come up with a decent drinking game for the next time Lima blows a lead.

• Head-scratcher of a move on Saturday when the Royals optioned starting pitcher Ryan Jensen to the minors to make room for Jeremy Affeldt coming off the DL. Strange because this leaves the Royals short a starter. Stranger because Jensen must clear waivers for the Royals to keep him. And even stranger still when you figure Affeldt could have easily taken Steve Stemle’s spot in the pen. It’s not like Jensen is the second coming of Cy Young, but he’s pitched alright in two of his three starts and has some major league experience. The Royals will now have to make another move to find a starter for next Saturday’s game at Arizona. Weird.

Interleague play returns this week when the Royals travel to San Francisco and Arizona, but the big news will be the draft on Tuesday. Keep your fingers crossed.

Friday, June 03, 2005


It was probably only me, but from about the sixth inning, I was hanging on every pitch like it was a game 7.

Here are some numbers that you might already know, but bear repeating:

• The Royals had gone 78 series without a sweep, which was the longest streak in the majors since the Phillies 79-series streak in 1997-1998.

• The Royals swept the Yankees at home for the first time since July of 1990.

• The last time the Royals won three straight games was almost a year ago. And I’m not sure that even counts since they sandwiched that streak around the All-Star break, July 11-16, 2004.

That all of this happened against the Yankees makes it all the better. The Royals are a lead pipe cinch to lose 100 games and might even threaten the ’62 Mets as the worst team ever, but for three nights at the start of the summer, they got over on the mightiest team in all of the land. If you are a fan of this team, it’s these kind small things that can keep you going.

And for all the glitz and glamour the Yankees bring when they come to town, the Royals outperformed them in every area of the game.

• What can you say about the pitching in this series? The starters kept the team in the ballgame and the bullpen completely shut the Yankees down. Every Royal reliever saw action and compiled a noteworthy line:

11 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 5 BB, 9 SO

Over the three games, the bullpen held the Yankees to a .205 batting average while posting a miniscule ERA of 0.82. That’s called closing out ballgames.

• The Royals were clearly the better team at the plate over the three games. A comparison:

Royals: .295/.324/.474
Yankees: .196/.297/.320

That’s domination.

The only area the Yankees outshone the Royals was in the walk department, edging KC by an 11-4 margin. This highlights a disturbing trend that the team is again falling victim to…the inability to work the count. Over the last six games, the Royals have drawn only 10 walks, and only one of them by noted walking machine Matt Stairs.

• Forget payroll. Any team is going to have trouble scoring runs when the top of the lineup can’t get on base. The Yankees leadoff hitter (Derek Jeter) and their number two batter (Tony Womack & Hideki Matsui) were a combined 4-24 with two walks and one run scored against the Royals.

• And the most important stat of all: Over the three games the Royals outscored the Yankees 13-6.

In the end this series wasn’t any watershed moment, or some magical turning point in the progress of the youth movement. It was just three games at the start of June.

But it was fun!

And by the way, don't these two back pages look similar?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Winning Makes It Better

For one night let’s forget the mistake that was made on Tuesday. Tonight, we celebrate taking two in a row from the mightiest team in all the land.

• Over his career, Randy Johnson has pitched very well against the Royals posting a 12-6 record with a 3.16 ERA while striking out a little over 11 batters per nine innings. But on Wednesday, he just looked like a 41 year old pitcher who’s best days are in the rearview mirror. He pitched well, but let’s be honest. The Royals are a team Johnson should have dominated. But he didn’t, allowing nine hits while striking out seven and retiring the side in order only one time. The Royals were basically pests, refusing to be intimidated or to go quietly.

• Since Tony Pena quit on the team in mid-May, Angel Berroa has quietly been improving at the plate. Elevated to the leadoff spot by Bob Schaefer and kept in that spot by Buddy Bell, Berroa was instrumental in Wednesday’s victory by doubling twice and scoring both times. Since his move to the top of the lineup Berroa is batting a very respectable .284/.321/.405. He still swings at way too many pitches out of the zone, and his baserunning is an embarrassment, but until the Royals find a true leadoff hitter (and that could be at least two or three years away) Berroa might be their best option.

• What’s gotten into Emil Brown? In April, he was the poster child for why you take spring training stats with a grain of salt. In May, he was justifying his spot on the roster hitting .313/.389/.506 while seeing everyday duty. His hot hitting continued Wednesday going 2-4 with the big first inning home run to ensure Berroa’s leadoff double wasn’t wasted.

• Picking the Royals closer is about as tricky as handicapping a managerial race where Allard Baird is doing the hiring. In his first two games as Royals manager it looks like Mike MacDougal is Bell's choice to close games . MacDougal has looked great in these two outings, picking up saves in back to back appearances for the first time since early July 2003. When he’s on, like he has been the last two nights, he throws absolute filth.

• The best part of these last two games? MacDougal striking out Derek Jeter in the ninth inning both nights.

Winning is much more fun than losing, isn’t it?

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Payday For The Longshot

I have to be honest.

Everyday I posted odds over on the right side of this page, tracking who I thought the Royals would hire as their next manager.

I thought Buddy Bell was a longshot.

I just didn’t see how he could even be considered.

Sure Bell has the major league experience that Allard Baird so desperately craved, but what else does he bring to the table? Does he possess the ability to mold a young team into a contender? Or does he have a proven philosophy that will lead this team from the depths of the AL Central?

After watching Tuesday’s press conference, I don’t think Baird or Dan Glass or even Bell himself can answer those questions.

I think the only absolute is we’ve found rock bottom.


The only qualification set forth by Baird was that the next manager have major league managing experience. Fair enough.

But what about developing young players? And what about winning? Bell has never done either.

Bell took over a franchise in a similar situation when he was named manager of the Detroit Tigers for the 1996 season. The Tigers hadn’t contended in eight seasons and hadn’t won in nine. They had an aging group of players along with a veteran manager, and it just didn’t seem like winning was a priority anymore. Bell was charged with taking over a young team (average age 26) and teaching them how to win. The first season was a disaster (sound familiar yet?) but the team was showing improvement the second year winning 14 more times than the previous season. The team regressed in his third season and it cost Bell his job.

The Detroit front office has to shoulder some of the blame for that lack of success, but from his time as the manager of the Tigers, not a single player emerged that would make someone sit up and take notice. Bobby Higginson is average at best. Devi Cruz is below average. Tony Clark is a bust. How much of that do you hang on the manager? I’m not sure, but it would have been nice for Allard Baird to have been able to cite at least one success story from his years in Detroit at Tuesday’s press conference. Trouble is, there aren’t any.

And what about the true measure of managerial success, the wins? We know that Bell has managed only one team to a record above .500. (Colorado, 82-80, 2001) To be fair, you can’t look closely at the wins and losses when the manager is charged with rebuilding. But Bell’s teams have never really improved. That’s why he’s had two brief stops in his managerial career and that’s why he’s not a winning manager.


Over the next several days, I’m sure we’ll hear how Buddy Bell is a “good fit” for the Royals. We’ll hear he’s a “good baseball guy” and how he can “work with youngsters,” and "players love him." And if Peter Gammons can stop writing about the Red Sox for just a few minutes, he might tell us that Buddy is “a student of the game” who “brings experience” to the Royals.


Allard Baird was handed a golden opportunity, the chance to correct the mistake this organization made in hiring Tony Pena back in 2002. I know there has been some debate about how important managers really are to a baseball team. Five wins a season, maybe seven, possibly ten. But I’ve seen too many horrible ones at Kauffman Stadium over the last ten years not to think that the manager is a vital component of any successful team. This hire could help lead the Royals out of the cellar, or quite possibly bury them even deeper.

The candidates the Royals had to chose from were underwhelming to say the least. Was anyone out there getting excited about the possibility of Art Howe or Jerry Manuel wearing Royal blue? I didn’t think so.

But they had to have been able to do better than Buddy Bell.

Listed on BlogShares