Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What to Do For 2011

Let's face it, 2010 was a foregone conclusion before it started. The Royals, however, have a lot of upside going forward, but there's a lot of different ways they could approach the offseason. First, let's look at their upcoming free agents:

Willie Bloomquist, UTIL
David DeJesus, OF*
Bruce Chen, SP

That, surprisingly, is it, and DeJesus even has an option. So here's my advocacy for these three:

Let Bloomquist go

Bloomquist sucks, quite frankly. He's hitting an abysmal .248/.283/.350, he plays terrible defense (but at every position!), and his only valuable skill is his speed, which will decline quite rapidly (he's almost 33). No-brainer. Next.

Pick up DeJesus's 2011 option

This is another fairly easy decision. DeJesus is likely to be worth the $6M his salary will pay him (he arguably has been every year except 2007) and the Royals have no other options for RF. Blanco is likely a career 4th OF, Maier is likely the CF of the future, and KC has no OF depth in the minors whatsoever. Also, DeJesus is a fan favorite (I love him too) and KC would be sad to see him go (and likely see another drop in attendance).

Do not resign Bruce Chen

Even though Chen has regressed into a "meh" pitcher, he's still been playing over his head this year. 2011 will likely bring a 5+ ERA and sub-replacement numbers from Chen, who's 33 and turned in his last good year 5 seasons ago.

Easy enough. Now let's look at all the arbitration available players:

Brian Bannister, SP
Kyle Davies, SP
Luke Hochevar, SP
Alex Gordon, OF
Robinson Tejeda, RP
Brian Anderson, RP
Wilson Betemit, 3B
Billy Butler, 1B
Brayan Pena, C
Josh Fields, 3B

Offer arbitration to Davies, Hochevar, Gordon, Tejeda, Anderson, Betemit, Butler, Pena

Davies and Hochevar are young players who have shown some potential and both will likely be fairly cheap. Gordon is struggling to adjust to OF but he has tremendous potential and must be kept. Tejeda is invaluable and will likely be cheap. Anderson is starting to figure out how to pitch. Betemit has been invaluable this year and is a solid backup plan at third. Butler is a face of the franchise and has a lengthy career ahead of him. Pena is a solid backup who should be starting.

Do not offer arb to Bannister or Fields

Fields was a headscratcher of a pickup who has been supplanted by Betemit. Bannister is a sad case, an internet favorite for his cerebral approach to pitching. However, the fact of the matter is, he is not a good pitcher and will continue to not be good. The Royals will not miss him.

If the Royals took this step, their roster would look like this so far:

SP Zack Greinke
SP Gil Meche
SP Luke Hochevar
SP Kyle Davies
SP Bryan Bullington (?)
RP Joakim Soria
RP Robinson Tejeda
RP Jesse Chavez
RP Blake Wood
RP Kanekoa Texeira
RP Dusty Hughes
C Jason Kendall
C Brayan Pena
1B Billy Butler
1B Kila Ka'aihue
2B Chris Getz
2B/SS Mike Aviles
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
3B Wilson Betemit
OF Alex Gordon
OF Gregor Blanco
OF Mitch Maier
OF David DeJesusc

That leaves 2 roster spots and holes all throughout the lineup, with logjams at other positions.

Trade Kila Ka'aihue

Kila, sadly, doesn't have a spot with the team's future. I love the guy, but he's blocked at 1B by Butler and Eric Hosmer's inevitable callup. He's starting to figure out major league hitting, so this offseason looks like a good time to trade him.

Call up Mike Moustakas

Moose is having the revitalization year that everyone said he had to have. He tore the cover off the ball at AA, he's been struggling a bit at AAA but I think he'll be ready by 2011 Opening Day to be the starting 3B.

Go after Marcus Thames or a cheap relief option in free agency

An outfield of Gordon/Blanco/Maier/Gordon has the disadvantage of being all-lefthanded and Thames absolutely mashes lefties on his career. Failing that, the bullpen could use some shoring up.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Fuck You, Ned Yost

I'm watching the second inning of a meaningless Royals/Mariners game and thinking about Ned Yost. Here's tonight's lineup:

CF Blanco
C Kendall
DH Butler
1B Ka'aihue
3B Betemit
LF Gordon
SS Aviles
2B Getz
RF Bloomquist

This is, admittedly, not a bad lineup. However, Yuni's out of town to see the birth of his son so I'm sure Yost doesn't actually want to start Aviles. It still has some problems. Namely, Yost fucking loves Jason Kendall a lot. Kendall's currently on pace to start more games at catcher than anyone in a long time, I believe almost 20 years. Problem with this is, Kendall fucking sucks. He hits a whopping .263/.328/.307, good for a 75 OPS+, and can't throw anyone out, allowing 84 SB and catching only 33. Brayan Pena hasn't looked that great in his sample size so far this year but he OPS+ed a round 100 last year and throws out guys at a better clip, not to mention is 8 years younger.

His other problem is his LEADOFF HITTER crisis. Scott Podsednik fit the traditional mold, a contact hitter with a lot of speed, and he honestly wasn't a bad choice (.353 OBP, 71.4 SB%). With Podsednik gone to LA, the leadoff hitter of choice has been Chris Getz, who is also fucking horrible. His .235/.304/.281 line guarantees that Kendall won't be the best hitter on the team, and despite being lauded as a defensive expert his fielding has been absolutely atrocious. Alberto Callaspo was widely agreed as a miserable 2B and he's worlds better than Getz. Tonight Blanco is hitting leadoff, which is actually a decent precedent if he keeps him there.

Probably my biggest issue with him, however, is how he buries young players with promise. Aviles was the everyday 2B for a while but after Podsednik was traded by golly we sure needed some more SPEED in the lineup so Getz is starting. Kendall is the eternal catcher over Pena. Ka'aihue was buried behind a slumping Guillen. Maier took a backseat to Ankiel and since his trade Bloomquist. These are all players that are widely agreed to be part of the Royals' future, and they're getting no playing experience whatsoever in favor of useless old veterans. I'm getting really sick of him.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

What's Wrong With Zack Greinke, Anyway?

The reigning AL Cy Young award winner has been, well, less than spectacular. 2-8 with a 3.9 ERA and as I write this he's given up 4 more runs over 6 innings. What's been the difference for Greinke? As dominant as he's been in the past, he's simply not dominating the competition like he did last year. So let's take a look at his performance this year compared to last:

2009: 2.16 ERA, 2.33 FIP, 9.5 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 0.43 HR/9, .313 BABIP
2010: 3.94 ERA, 3.87 FIP, 7.9 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, 1.21 HR/9, .314 BABIP

So the difference appears to be pretty simple. He's striking out less batters than last year, but at a rate in line with his career rate, where he's been a mid-3 FIP pitcher. The real problem is the home run rate. He hasn't given up home runs at a rate like that since 2005, where he went 5-17 with a 5.8 ERA. His HR/FB% is up to 10.1%, which is right about the league average of 10.7% and is also the highest mark since 2005's 9.6%. Another main problem is his LOB%, which has fallen to 71.7% after last year's 79.3% and an average of right around 76% his last few years, which shows he's been a little unlucky.

The first reason I thought to check for his lull was simple. His slider was far and away his best pitch last year, and I thought maybe batters were learning to lay off it. However, it's worth about the same this year, 2.81 wins per 100 sliders as compared to the 2.9 mark last year. Pitch values, however, showed that his curveball has been absolutely terrible this year, moving from .5 wins/100 last year to a staggering -3.59. Digging into pitch f/x, his curveball is breaking about half as far as it did last year, not breaking out of the zone hard enough. The real problem this causes is shown in his opponents' contact numbers. He's getting way fewer swinging strikes (6.6% as compared to 9.9%) and opponents are absolutely teeing off on his pitches out of the zone (72.9% compared to his career mark of just 59%).

Bottom line? Greinke has been a little unlucky this year, but he appears to be having an off year. He's not fooling batters anymore with his curveball. I'd like to see individual contact numbers for his curveball, but I don't know where to find contact numbers per pitch. Greinke probably isn't as bad as he's pitching this year but he's not as good as last year either. If he gets his HR/9 back to about 8 or 9% and gets his curveball breaking like it used to, he can probably continue to put up an ERA in the low to mid 3s, but he's not going to be winning any more Cy Youngs I don't think, sadly.

edit: I found Texasleaguers, which has the data I was looking for. Greinke is getting balls in play on 23.5% of his curveballs, up from 17.5% last year, which in addition to the huge drop in break makes me think something might be off with his mechanics on the curve.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Infield Woes: Deck Chairs Something Something Titanic

So, the Royals have a bit of an infield problem. While they may have pretty much other position set in stone (except catcher, but that's a discussion for later), the center and left of the infield has a bit of a logjam. They have 5 players who are all varying degrees of mediocre-to-decent, and only 3 spots to put them in. While I might not know what the best decision is, it's already been handled poorly.

Alberto Callaspo is by far the most promising hitter of the bunch, and you can't take him out of the lineup, period. He hit .300/.356/.457 last year and is having a similar year in 2010, hitting .301/.347/.505 so far. However, placing him somewhere is a bit tricky. He's an absolute butcher at 2B (career -3.9 UZR/150) but he's shown that he can play a decent 3B where his range is less of a liability.

Playing him at 3rd, however, would displace Alex Gordon. Gordon was injured and missed most of 2009, but he was fairly good in his first year in MLB, 2008, where he hit .260/.351/.432, albeit with poor defense. Gordon is also one of the organization's supposed up-and-coming superstars, and benching him would be akin to giving up.

Chris Getz would in all likelihood be playing 2nd if Callaspo is playing 3rd. Acquired over the offseason, he is at least a neutral defender at 2nd, although his bat is not promising (.261/.324/.347 last year).

Yuniesky Betancourt is, as things stand, the current shortstop. He was acquired in a midseason trade last year, having a reputation as a poor hitter with a plus glove at shortstop. However, he is a career very poor defensive shortstop, -8 UZR/150 including a -20.7! last year, and his bat isn't enough to carry that, hitting .245/.274/.351

Mike Aviles is the other option at shortstop. He played very well in 2008, his rookie year, hitting .325/.340/.480 while playing very plus defense. However, he was quite honestly a disaster last year, hitting only .183/.208/.250 before being benched for Betancourt.

Here's what the Royals have been doing so far. To start the season, Gordon was out with a broken thumb, so they trotted out an infield of Getz/Betancourt/Callaspo. When Gordon came back, Getz went on the 15-day DL and Callaspo slid over to second, playing Callaspo/Betancourt/Gordon. Now all infield members are healthy for the first time this year, and the setup had been Getz/Betancourt/Callaspo, with Gordon on the bench. However, today, Aviles has been called up from AAA (a good thing) while Gordon has been bafflingly sent down to Omaha. This leads me to believe that the Royals plan to line up an infield of Getz/Betancourt/Callaspo while using Aviles as an infield super-sub. So let's break that down and a few alternatives.

Plan A: Getz/Betancourt/Callaspo (what they're doing)
I honestly don't understand this setup. Given that the organization views Betancourt and Getz as defensive commodities, they probably view this as a "defensive focused" infield. However, Betancourt is clearly a defensive liability, regardless of Dayton Moore's position. This is probably the weakest-hitting option they could send out, and the bats aren't going to be enough to overcome that.

Plan B: Getz/Aviles/Callaspo
This is a true defensive setup, lining up the commodities known to be the best defenders at each position. If they are really so determined to have Getz starting, this would be the best way to go about it. I would rather see Gordon starting, but as long as he remains in AAA this is probably the best lineup to use.

Plan C: Callaspo/Aviles/Gordon
Probably the best infield to send out. Sure, there are some defensive letdowns at second and third, but Aviles is a great plus shortstop and will probably make Callaspo and Gordon look a little better without Betancourt next to them. This also works the three best bats back into the lineup as is, and they have much higher upsides than anyone else. This won't happen because the organization is DETERMINED to use Yuni at short and apparently they hate Gordon now.

Some other short things:
Zack Greinke is the unluckiest man alive. A 2.27 ERA, but an average of 2 2/3 runs scored in each of his starts makes for a very blah 0-3 start in his first 7 games.

Kila Ka'aihue is absolutely mashing down in AAA (.307/.447/.640), and now that Jose Guillen is cooling off it might be time to call him up.

Kyle Farnsworth is the best reliever not named Soria. No, really.