Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Gameday Commentary

-- Top 1: Did Angel Berroa REALLY just sacrifice bunt DeJesus to 2nd with nobody out in the top of the 1st? I assume it was a sacrifice only in the sense that he moved him over unintentionally. If not, someone grab an exorcist, posthaste. We need to extract the ghost of Tony Pena from Buddy's Body, stat.

2-0, so now I'm hopeful.

-- Bottom 1 through Top 3: No comment. Can't write. Eating lunch from Chipotle.

You know the fully loaded beef burrito from Chipotle has 1300 calories? Yikes.

-- Bottom 3: The Royals have pounded Radke (but aren't taking full advantage) and Carrasco has been very effective, yet again proving I need to stop making predictions.

-- Bottom 4: Leadoff walk. Carrasco's K.O.D.? After going 3-0 on Ford, he somehow managed to get out of it with a fly ball-strikeout-ground ball sequence.

Carrasco's saving grace is that he's a solid groundball pitcher. Although I have no inclination to conduct such analyses myself, I'd be intrigued to see if the indicators of success are different for extreme groundball pitchers (other than knowing simply that groundballs are better than flyballs). Just curious.

-- Top 5. Tony G. has struckout twice with 2 runners on base today.

-- Bottom 7: Tense moments. D.J. cruised through 6 but sputtered in the 7th (credit due, he came back to strikeout Rivas and get Stewart to fly out to center). Overall, a strong tourniquet performance for D.J.

Now, can J-Gob get Mauer with the bases loaded and two outs?


-- Top 8: Teahen worked a walk against a tough left-handed pitcher. Nicely done. Now Tony G. will strikeout. Indeed.

Why does Shane Costa wear a Braves hat in his Yahoo! Sports glamour pic? Is that even Shane Costa? Whomever he is, he's just another strikeout victim.

-- Bottom 8: Buddy's using Jimmy Gobble in a late-and-close situation. I hope he performs well, because I still have hopes this guy can be an effective major league pitcher. He's only 1 season removed from being a top Royal pitching prospect (and one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball); could his star fade THAT quickly?

Maybe he doesn't have the stamina and stuff to be a starter, so perhaps the move to the 'pen is for the best. He appears to throw harder in short bursts, which should help improve his unbelievably low K rate.

1-2-3, Jimmy's the man for me. Damn you, Angel Berroa. Damn you.

Mike Mac for the 4-out save? That's a rarity. One down!

-- Top 9: Let's put the game away! No, wait, its time for some Buddyball - sacrificing DeJesus to third. Remember that scene in the Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers when Saruman inhabited the body of Theoden for a spell? Tony Pena is Saruman.

Just givin' away outs. Anyway, it worked like a charm -- for the Twins, as T. Long struck out.

-- Bottom 9. I have an uneasy feeling about this game. I have a good feeling about this game!

Very nice win for the Royals in the game I least expected them to win in this series. It won't get much easier with the Angels this weekend, but at least they're off the road for a while.

Mama Said

The unkind streak is now at 8, and I'm particularly disturbed with the manner in which the Royals have lost their last two games against the Twins.

1) The Royals offense is still below average, but there's no reason they should be shut down by Joe Mays. Mays is NOT a good pitcher. He's a soft tossing, no-K journeyman and the kind of pitcher the Royals should pound. 8IP, 1 run is simply unacceptable. And the Royals once again wasted a pretty good performance from Greinke.

2) Last night, the bullpen imploded in a tight game situation. The offense had its way with Carlos Silva (a pitcher whose success is difficult to explain anyway), but Wood, Sisco and Nunez lost their nerve and the game with poor performances in the middle innings.

(Interlude: My eyes continue to tell me that Mike Wood is not a good pitcher. He always SEEMS to pitch poorly when there is something on the line.)

The J.P. Howell Jump from A Ball Experiment also needs to end soon, since its painfully obvious that he's not ready for major league hitters yet. Its one thing to breeze through high A ball (even in the desert) and demonstrate confidence on the mound, but let's give at least one of our promising young arms a chance to develop in AAA for while, eh?

-- I'd peg the chances of a third consecutive sweep at about 95%, given that the Royals are facing Radke and are throwing out Carrasco, whose 17K/18BB in 49IP belies his 3.49 ERA. Carrasco may be useful in some way for the Royals, but his "success" as a starter has been a mirage. Expect the unraveling to continue this afternoon.

-- A bit of good news: Denny Bautista is set to return from from the DL sometime in mid-July. I worry when the Royals don't say anything about their player's injuries, but in this case that worry appears (APPEARS) to be unfounded.

-- Jose Lima is on the verge of being DFA'd, so he wants to "round his performance up":

“If you look at my ERA,” he said, “all of the damage has come in one inning (each game). There’s always one inning where I give up three or four runs. Erase five or six bad innings this year, then I’d be in good shape.”

And Allard Baird agrees?

“The thing is he’s shown flashes,” general manager Allard Baird said. “At times, he’s thrown the ball very well. In San Francisco. Against the Cardinals. Against the Dodgers. But he’s shown the tendency to have one bad inning.”
Of course! By that logic, the Royals have probably played well in 90% of their innings this year, so just take away 60 or so innings of poor play and the Royals would be 51-25. They're JUST THAT CLOSE.

-- Thanks for David Pinto of Baseball Musings for the nice plug yesterday (solicited, I must admit). Every little bit helps.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Buddy's First Nadir

Moving day went surprisingly well for Mr. and Ms. Lancer. Its the first time I actually hired movers, and I guarantee you that it won't be the last.

As I surmised on Friday, the Royals struggled in Colorado and were swept aside by the team formerly known as the worst in major league baseball. That unfortunate distinction has now been smacked to the back to the Royals, who now stand at 25-49.

No more pleasant goodnights for Buddy Bell, I'm afraid. They've lost 6 straight and 8 of 9. Overall, the Royals are now 12-12 since Buddy was hired. I've stated elsewhere that I think Buddy has already earned his stripes with the Royals media and fan base for his Terrific Turnaround and will not suffer any ill will if the Royals are mediocre for the rest of the season, unless they go in the tank as a .350 ballclub the rest of the season. I don't think that's going to be the case; the Royals are better than they were a month ago even taking into consideration the last three series. It always hurts to lose 8 of 9, but consider they faced two great pitchers against Houston, an AL Central juggernaut on the road and had to play three games in the weirdest place to play baseball. So I'm willing to give Buddy and the Royals a break for now. If they were swept again by Tampa Bay, I'd be more concerned.

It won't get any easier the next three days in Minnesota. If the Royals can manage to take 1 out of 3, I'll be satisfied. Tonight would be the night to do it, with Greinke going up against highly-hittable Joe Mays.

-- I think the Royals' most tradable commodity right now might be -- gasp -- Mike MacDougal. I'd have laughed at myself for suggesting that at the beginning of the year, but it ain't so silly right now. He's pitched very well over the 2 months and has shown signs of finally harnessing control of that great stuff of his. And he's still cheap. There are plenty of contending teams (Atlanta, Boston, Florida, Arizona, Los Angeles) who could use a solid back-end arm at the deadline and MacDougal has done enough to merit consideration by those teams. I'd trade MacDougal in a second for a decent prospect or player of any sort, because I just don't trust him to remain effective or healthy over the long haul. But his arm and recent success must be attractive to needy teams, and since I don't think MacDougal fits into the long term plans of the Royals anyway (he's already 28), they owe it to themselves to explore the Mike Market.

-- I received a few comments defending Mark Teahen's defensive prowess. I don't watch the Royals play very often; I mostly rely on the radio broadcasts, recaps and statistics, and I fully admit that there are no good defensive statistics available. So I'm willing to cede the point to those who do get to watch him everyday. I'm happy to be wrong in this case.

-- Buddy Bell on Mike Sweeney:
“He’s not making the kind of progress that we’d hoped,” Bell acknowledged. “He hasn’t really done a whole lot. So anything that he does is probably going to cause a little discomfort.”
Does anyone else get the feeling that Mike "I'll Be Fine in a Few Days" Sweeney is going to miss a long, long time with this injury?

Friday, June 24, 2005

Progress of the Younglings

Clap your hands for The Youth Movement, starring Mark Teahen, John Buck, Ruben Gotay and a cast of dozens. How they doin'? Its too early for a definitive declarations, mind you, but we can check on their progress to date, no?

Mark Teahen
Teahen came into the league with a reputation as a mediocre but improving hitter and a superb fielder. Sometimes I think defensive prowess has a way of taking on a life of its own because its difficult to measure objectively. There's no question he's a mediocre hitter to this point, but Teahen's zone rating is .698, which is next to last among regular third basemen in the AL (A-Rod is last, and he is a bad third baseman by all accounts).

ZR and fielding percentage are imprecise measures at best, but they at least give us some idea of how good a fielder someone is. Maybe Teahen will be a great fielder someday, but I don't think he's very good right now. In fact, he's really not helping the club very much. He's one of the least productive third baseman in the AL and he hasn't shown much improvement, as OU points out. Its a shame that the Royals didn't have a backup plan for the Chris Truby experiment, because Teahen's still not ready for the major leagues. This is what's so infuriating about this team: they abandon their "plans" with reckless abandon.

Slogan: "Where Teahen Bein'?"
Prognosis: Muddy.

John Buck
Every Royals fan had high hopes for Buck coming into this season. He started 2004 (when he arrived) horribly, but he improved rapidly after the All-Star break, showing a powerful and fluid right handed stroke. He still has the same sweet stroke, but unfortunately he hasn't put it to good use thus far in 2005. He started horribly - again - and has improved in May and June only in the absolute sense, meaning he's gone from atrocious to merely terrible offensively. And I admit ignorance when it comes to evaluate how great a catcher is defensively other than not letting the ball go the backstop and "calling a good game", whatever that means. Buck has the reputation as a good defensive catcher, and maybe that's true, but his caught stealing % is near the bottom of the league.

Overall Buck is one of the least productive catchers in baseball and he's actually regressed this season. Buck seems to get a free pass from a lot of people, but the last thing I want to see John Buck become is another Brent Mayne. He's had less than a full season of ABs in his Royal career, so there's no sense in condemning his yet. But I expected to at least come close to his level of production from late last season, but that hasn't happened.

Slogan: "What the F*** is Up with Buck?"
Prognosis: Foggy.

Ruben Gotay
Gotay, quite frankly, has been a revelation. It was team policy to have a terrible April, so Ruben went along with the plan. Since then, however, he's hit very well for a second baseman and has improved every week. He's a switch hitter in theory, but in practice he's a left handed hitter. He has good plate discipline for a rookie and impressive power at the 5. Gotay has also been much better than advertised defensively (his zone rating is near the top of the major leagues) and he's made several outstanding plays of note.

Slogan: "I'm High on Gotay."
Prognosis: Chirpy.

I think the Royals are in for a tough series in Colorado. The Rockies stink, but Coors is such a different type of place to play. My hunch is that the Royals aren't going to be play their best.

Its moving day at the Daily Lancer household! The fam is picking up the pieces and heading on a long journey - 10 blocks. I'm in for an exciting weekend of UNPACKING and CLEANING.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Artificial Milestone!

The Daily Lancer has just served its 10,000th customer (well, 10,000th hit anyway). If there was a way to do this for a living, I'd do it in a second. Otherwise, I'll take my satisfaction from the fact that there are actually a decent number of people out there who take part of their day to read from what I have to say about our lil' ol' Kansas City Royals.


Mining for Gold?

I've been part of this discussion over on the discussion board, and although its a familiar topic its worth continuing here on the Daily Lancer.

As we all know, Allard Baird has been a spectacular failure at acquiring major league talent. While acknowledging that he is working within small market limitations, AB suffers because he takes the same approach to major league talent acquisition as he does to minor league talent: he's always trying to find the diamond in the rough, on the cheap. This works fine for minor league talent, because its practically risk-free; the only drawback is having to use a spot on the 40-man roster. There is a low level of risk for a modest level of reward. It works terribly for major league players, because all C grade major league veterans have established a pedigree of mediocrity, injury or decline. There is a high level of risk for a modest level of reward.

Take this year, for instance: Jose Lima, Terrence Long and Eli Marrero.

-- Combined salary: $10,575,000. I understand that this isn't all new salary; the Royals traded away Darrell May's salary in exchange for Terrence Long's (higher) salary, and the Braves are paying for a small portion of Eli Marrero's salary. But AB made the ultimately disastrous decision to re-sign Darrell May in the first place, so we shouldn't give him much credit for "dumping" it in exchange for a $5 million backup outfielder (who has admittedly played above expectations thus far).

-- Combined win share totals of these three (Lima, Long and Marrero) : -1. In terms of production, these players are a net loss to the Royals, but even if they played up to their potential they're still going to provide a rotten ROI. The Royals could almost certainly get the same or better level of production from replacement level minor leaguers at a fraction of the cost.

I think there's something to be said about young players benefiting from having veteran players around (and I think that's been a part of the Royals recent return to normalcy), but how valuable can veterans who set a terrible performance example be? Jose Lima isn't exactly a beacon of light getting lit up every 5th day.

A constant refrain from the Royals is that they can't afford to sign big ticket free agents, because a) they can't commit to a high salary level for one player, and/or b) they need payroll flexibility that doesn't allow them to commit to long-term deals. The Royals aren't going to sign the Carlos Beltran's of the world, but overall I think this argument is specious and gives the GM too much shelter. If the Royals continue to sign the high-risk, injury-prone, speculative one or two year deals in the $2 to $4 million range and they don't pan out (which has been the case with practically EVERY AB veteran acquisition), then they have prefabricated consolations built-in. They knew it was a risky signing, but it was reasonable given that the Royals aren't committed to much money or a long contract. Low-risk, high reward, so what's the harm? I have been sympathetic to this line of thinking until this season, but its become patently obvious that it doesn't work.

And its not about money. The Royals have demonstrated that they've perfectly willing to shell out between $8 to $12 million to sign borderline major league veterans every year, so there isn't any reason they couldn't sign a pitcher of Matt Clement-caliber to a 4 year, $40 million contract (accounting for the Royal premium) and fill in the other roster slots with the GOOD kind of free talent - minor league free agents - who will provide the same level of production as Eli Marrero.

The issue is that they REALLY can't afford to make a mistake with a high salary, long term contract (ahem, Mike Sweeney), but isn't the job of the GM to make the right decisions? How else do we evaluate them? The Twins are in the same low revenue pickle as the Royals, but they made two major commitments in the offseason for two very good pitchers. Maybe Radke will fall off a performance cliff, maybe Santana will blow out his shoulder. But its better to assume that risk than continue to spend $10 million on a gaggle of retread veterans.

Of course, all of this is about playing the hand they've dealt themselves the proper way. But in fact the Royals just haven't developed enough of their own talent to fill key positions, nor enough organization depth to use someone else to step in if the prospects in question don't pan out (which is very often the case). Ideally, they would use their payroll flexibility to retain impending free agents and pay arbitration-level salaries to quality players approaching free agency. But the Royals haven't developed enough good players to apply this method, so the Royals have to rely on cheap major and minor league free agents to fill these voids, and all things being equal this is a much less effective way to build a baseball team.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Hump Day Blues

-- Zack Greinke was considerably better last night than he has been in at least a month, though it still seems to me that he's searching for some balance in his approach on the mound. I think he demonstrated that he has the ability to get his velocity up to 93-94 consistently and strikeout batters (8 in 5 innings), but that came at a cost: he was up to 94 pitches with 1 out in the 6th and he clearly tired. That suggests to me that Greinke needs to work on his conditioning if he wants to develop the kind of stamina he's going to need to throw hard for 7+ innings.

-- I was disappointed that the Royals were shut down by Jon Garland last night. Garland was great in April, but he's been in decline ever since and has been a mediocre pitcher for past 6 weeks. He been racking up the wins primarily because of great run support, but that wasn't the case last night.

I think Garland's success has been a microcosm of the entire White Sox season. It doesn't look like they should be winning that much(the White Sox' 3rd order expected record, adjusting for park factors, is 39-31) but they somehow are. There are still 95+ games left in the season, of course, so there's plenty of time for regression to the mean. But let's give them their due: they play like professionals, they don't beat themselves and they have a nasty back end of the bullpen that locks down victories.

With a solid left-hander on the mound today in Buerhle, I think the Royals are headed for the wrong kind of sweep.

-- I always used to enjoy Rob Neyer's posts on the Royals for his relentless pursuit of objectivity, but I don't think he's all that objective anymore. On the contrary, his opinions on the state of the Royals is driven by his incessant pessimism, and while I tend to share that pessimism, its starting to wear on me.

Not only is the glass half-empty for Rob, it has jagged edges and is filled with spoiled milk. Just not a very fun read these days.

-- The Tuesday disabled list trifecta included the surprising promotion of Johan Bayliss to the big club. He's always been a high strikeout pitcher with questionable control and has been in AA for all of 2 months (a Royal staple). The Royals' justification for his promotion is that his control has improved since being converted into a reliever (another Royal staple), but IT JUST AIN'T TRUE:

BB/9 as a starter (2002 - 2004): 4.0
BB/9 as a reliever (2005): 4.2

Do they not think we can look this stuff up?

Anyway, Johan's promotion from AA to the big club proves once again that every player at AAA Omaha is just a dead man walking. Speaking of which, Ken Harvey has been transferred to the 60-day DL.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Weekend Nutshell

Nutshell: Two losses to two great starting pitchers, and a victory against a mediocre pitcher. No shame in that game. This is exactly how I expected the weekend to unfold, and happily I was not disappointed.

I'm not sure what to think about Runelvys Hernandez at this point. Its fair to say that he's still in the recovery phase from Tommy John surgery that cost him 18 months of pitching, so his improvement throughout the season is going to be a better measure of his standing than his absolute performance, especially early in th season. He's put strung together good performances in 5 of his last 6 starts, and perhaps more encouraging is that his strikeout total has inched upward (7.2K/9 in those last 6 starts compared with 4.4K/9 in all prior starts. But the fact is that Elvys is never going to be a strikeout pitcher, so he needs to win with a) mental toughness, which I think he possesses in huge quantities, and b) effective - not pinpoint - control, which has eluded him throughout his entire career. Until he learns to throw the ball where he wants most of the time, he's not going to live up to his billing as a potential #3 starter.

But in any case, he had a great "stop-the-bleeding" start yesterday.

-- D.J. Carrasco, coming off another quality start on Saturday night, now leads the Royals with a 15.9 VORP after just 7 starts this season. He's been a very pleasant surprise this season, and his primary statistics are quite impressive:

45.2 IP, 41H, 1HR, 2.56 ERA, 1.18 WHIP

He's been a catalyst for the Royals' recent turnaround, but count me a skeptic, primarily because of his anemic 15/13 K to BB ratio. 2.5 K/9 innings and an unusually low .258 BABIP is recipe for regression. I'm not taking away the things he's accomplished thus far, and he'll continue to reasonably effective if he can keep the ball around the plate and avoid the long ball, but with those kinds of peripherals its highly unlikely that he'll be able to maintain the success he's had thus far.

-- Injury Report. Shockingly, Mike Sweeney's freak-injured wrist is not improving and he may need to go on the DL. He has a ligament tear in his wrist (which is not new apparently; is this not something you'd want to repair?).
"With me being out, I'm hurting myself and hurting the team," he said.

Indeed. Any thoughts the Royals may have entertained about trading Sweeney are being dashed by Sweeney's uncanny ability to injure himself in odd and interesting ways.

But we EXPECT Mike to get hurt. Of more concern is Ambiorix Burgos' sudden right shoulder injury. Buddy Bell did nothing to ease the anxiety of the masses: “Hopefully, it’s minor. But anytime you have an injury like that to a power pitcher like that, you are concerned.”

A few positive notes: Denny Bautista will be starting a rehab assignment soon in Omaha, and it sounds like Brian Anderson is on schedule to return sometime in July (remember him?). The Royals will be faced with some interesting decisions when two starters come back into the fold. Who will be demoted?

-- Leo Nunez. When he's on, he's effective. When he's not, he's showing zero mental toughness. He just collapses. He's not ready.

-- Zack Greinke? He's pitched woefully for a month and the Royal brass does not seem particularly enamored with his willingness to learn. Buddy Bell seems to have served notice that he's prepared to let him decay on the mound when he's now pitching well, which is a good first step (as long as he doesn't throw 130 pitches). Perhaps a stint in Omaha would help his performance and his graciousness.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Where's the Hangover?

I expected the Royals to get a bump from the hiring of Buddy Bell, if for no other reason than they couldn't really be THAT bad. But this is plum ridiculous:

Pre-Buddy: 13-37 (.260 winning percentage)
My-Buddy: 11-4 (.733 winning percentage)

We're still in the throwes of the short run, but this level of performance is starting to become routine. I shall not jinx it by saying anthing else.

The Royals accomplished a fantastic sweep of the Dodgers, courtesy of a 6-run 6th inning fueled by a series of errors, broken bats, bloopers and seeing-eye singles. The Royals are clearly recouping the karma deficit they accumulated during Pol Pot's, er, Tony Pena's regime. In other words, theys finally getting the breaks.

Zack Greinke, unfortunately, was terrible again last night, giving up 8 hits, 2 BBs, 2 HBPs in 5 innings. That makes 6 straight poor outings for Greinke. He did manage to limit the Dodgers to 3 runs, though, which was a testament to his grittiness and/or luck. He also threw 111 pitches, which must be a career high and a Code Red for the franchise savior. It appears that Buddy has decided to stop "coddling" Greinke, which apparently means keeping his feet to zee flame when he's struggling. It'll be interesting to see if he butts heads with Allard Baird about this.

On the radio broadcast, Denny and Ryan were talking about the need for Greinke to learn the value of pitching to contact. Forget those dastardly strikeouts, they say; they require too many pitches. Learn to lean on your defense! That's the essence of Denny's contention. I don't think their arguments are completely without merit. If Greinke's pitching style is indeed affected by his inability to trust the defense behind him, then he's pitching foolishly. But the goal is to miss bats, and encouraging Greinke to do less of that is not something I would expect from someone who's been around baseball for as long as Denny Matthews. I'm simply shocked that they're still promoting this pitching to contact garbage. Perhaps Roger Clemens will be able to demonstrate the value of strikeouts tonight.

On the trade front, the two most valuable commodities the Royals have (IMO) - Mike Sweeney and Jeremy Affeldt - continue to work hard to depress their trade value. Fortunately Sweeney doesn't have any broken bones, but I'd be very surprised if he didn't miss at least two weeks. The Royals need to DL him and play with a 25-man roster, because Sweeney could use some rest for this back as well.

Affeldt supposedly has tantalizing talent, but frankly I haven't seen it in a long while. King Jeremy graced us with this ugly sequence last night in a mop-up 9th inning:

-- Leadoff walk
-- Single
-- Double, 2 RBI
-- K
-- Wild pitch
-- 2 ground outs

All I see if a lower velocity fastball and an inability to get his fabulous curve in the strike zone consistently. He's sulking again about the setup role (a classic "I'm complaining but I'm telling you I'm not complaining" routine), and his body language suggests that he's pitching without much interest. I think its pretty difficult to justify that attitude, given that a) he hasn't earned the right to dictate his role to anymore given his mediocre career-to-date performance, and b) since this team is playing very well, there's no room for malcontents.

I sincerely hope Affeldt gets traded. I think his stuff has declined, his attitude is poor and he's just not going to achieve any success with this team. The Royals have clearly soured on him. I can understand his frustrations with his shifting roles to a certain extent, but I disagree with anyone who suggests that he's been jerked around with this team. The Royals gave him ample time to figure out how to be a starter, but frankly his stuff as a starter was mediocre and he was constantly dealing with blister problems. He's shown flashes of being a real force as a reliever, but those days are long past. He's far too inconsistent and injury prone now and he's not showing much mental toughness by sulking because he's not pitching in a feature role.

I think Austin Kearns for Jeremy Affeldt would make a fantastic change of scenery trade.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


-- The Mets and Yankees both announced plans to build new baseball stadiums that will be open by the start of the 2009 season. Both teams will finance the entire cost of the stadium themselves - $600 million for the Mets and $800 million for the Yankees.


This IS highly significant for the Royals, since they are voracious feeders at the revenue sharing trough. All stadium construction costs, as specified in an obscure passage of the CBA, can be deducted from revenue sharing payments. According to the New York Times, this translates to a $260 million revenue sharing payment reduction for the Mets (the annual figure will depend on how long it takes the Mets to repay the bonds) and about a $350 million reduction for the Yankees. In effect, all other major league baseball teams will be subsidizing new stadiums for the Yankees and Mets.

However you may feel about the big, bad NYC teams having nearly half the costs of their shiny new stadiums paid by smaller market teams, this is clearly preferable to public financing of baseball stadiums. I think every team ultimately benefits from the construction of a new stadium anyway. MLB could incorporate a sliding scale of deductability based on local revenues to make the cost sharing more equitable, but in essence this is the way that all stadium projects should be financed.

Anyway, the Royals will undoubtedly take a pretty large financial hit from this development, as their share of revenue sharing dollars will fall.

-- What is wrong with Carlos Beltran? He's not living up to his handsome contract thus far and for the most part has been a mediocre center fielder. His plate discipline (20BB/42K) has eroded, he's not hitting for much power (7 HRs, .445 SLG%) and most surprisingly of all, he's only stolen ONE base (against 2 CS).

I don't think Beltran is a gifted enough hitter to be considered among the game's elite on that basis alone. He needs to use all of his tools to achieve elite status, and extraordinary base stealing skills are a big part of his value. I can understand that he's going through a protracted hitting slump, but I'm flummoxed that he's not stealing bases.

Maybe its the "pressure" of New York, maybe it a quad injury, and maybe he's just slumping and he'll snap out of it. I haven't read many calls for Beltran's blood as of yet, but I can't imagine Mets fans are going to stand for his lack of production for much longer.

-- Oh, yes, the Royals. Ho, hum, the Royals win again. Another well played victory last night - solid pitching, strong defense, and just enough offense. It was also a rare home run-only night, as Shane Costa celebrated his first big league dinger. They should give away KK's when all runs are scored on HRs, too. Maybe it won't last, but I'm simply astounded at how the demeanor and professionalism of this time has turned around since Buddy Bell arrived. Win or lose, they're playing with passion and discipline, and they're a much more enjoyable team to watch (and listen to).

Runelvys Hernandez is a mystery: he doesn't get many strikeouts and he doesn't have very good control (last night being the exception). But he does seem to have that intangible quality that's difficult to measure in performance analysis - he's a battler.

Ambiorix Burgos provided a glimpse of what he could be when he harnesses his control - his stuff is absolutely devastating. MacDougal is doing quite well in closing situations, in contrast to when he pitches in a tie game or when the Royals are behind. Maybe he just concentrates better when he's closing a game out.

Affeldt, on the other hand, despite a 1-2-3 7th continues to annoy me by walking the leadoff batter in the 8th. It's hard to me understand why other teams are so interested in him, but I'm all for moving this guy if they can get something decent in return.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Homestand Burnout

Housekeeping Note: I'm not having much time to blog during the day lately, as work has become much busier lately. Plus, I must admit I'm feeling a bit burned out on Royal blogging. Its a bit much to do it most every day.

If there are any aspiring Royals writers who'd be interested in contributing to the Daily Lancer, email me. Maybe we can work something out.

Onto the issues of the day:

-- What is wrong with Zack Greinke? In a word, I'd say nothing. He's a 21 year old pitcher who's going through a 7 game slump, and he's been shelled in his past 2 outings, seeing his ERA rise nearly 2 points. I'm not alarmed.

-- I am alarmed about Angel Berroa. After watching Berroa's putrid performance in 2004, I soured on him as a major league prospect. He hasn't given me or anyone else any reason to believe that his 2003 was anything more than a flash. His OBP stands at a woeful .288, a direct result of his (lack of) plate discipline: just 8 walks against 49 strikeouts. He's not stealing bases anymore (4 SBs against 4 CS, compared to 21/5 in his 2003 season) and he's not hitting with much power either. His only saving grace has been his much improved defensive play (his .865 zone rating tops AL shortstops), but he's still prone to the careless error. But I still don't think he's as good a defensive player as Blanco, who can't hit either.

I don't have many bad things to say about Buddy Bell to this point, but keeping Berroa in the leadoff position (which was started by Schaeffer) makes no sense. Better to put Gotay or Graffanino in that spot.

-- That's all I have to give.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Friday Splash

It's going to be another bizz-ay Friday, so I'm limited to some quick hits:

1) Even in the loss yesterday I was much more impressed with how the Royals continued to find a way to get back in the game (twice) by scrapping and clawing for runs. Bell probably made a mistake by allowing Nunez to get pummelled, but it was a lightning strike and the Royals do need to give Nunez a chance to try to get out of trouble of his own making.

2) Leo Nunez did the Royals in by throwing batting practice for 1 inning, which was unfortunately also the 6th inning. His woeful overall statistics (8.59 ERA, 1.50 WHIP) are the consequence of two unbelievably terrible outings:

2 Terribles: 2.1 IP, 11H, 11ER, 4BB, 1HR, 0K, 6.52 WHIP
All others: 12.1 IP, 6H, 3ER, 1BB, 8K, 0.56 WHIP

Can't ignore the terrible outings (one of which condemned the Royals to a loss, while the other was just piling on), but in some respects he hasn't been as uniformly bad as his 8.59 ERA would suggest. Whenever I've seen him pitch, he looks very good.

3) Jose Lima was probably as good as you could expect him to be yesterday, but it still isn't nearly enough to justify keeping him on this team when there are several youngsters (Snyder, Howell, Gobble) waiting in the wings. Those pitchers can be just as mediocre AND could actually grow from their experiences, while Lima just keeps shrinking.

4) The Royals are still completely silent about Bautista, who should be eligible to come off the DL by now. I hope his shoulder isn't worse than they originally thought.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Rollin' Along

Fact: The Royals are 6-2 under Buddy Bell.

Coincidence? Probably. Its extremely difficult to play historicaly bad baseball for long stretches. These players are young but are still talented, so they can't lose every game. But it sure seems like the Royals are playing much looser and more confidently since Bell arrived. I think for the most part Bell is just letting them play and isn't trying to get in the way of their natural talents, which was Pena's specialty. It also helps that they're pitching well at the end of games; MacDougal has been solid in the past couple of weeks, which we've seen before, but its a helluva lot more encouraging that biting your nails in ninth even with a 4 run lead.

I think the player who has benefited the most from Bell's arrival (and Pena's departure) has been David DeJesus. Since Schaefer put him in the #2 slot, he's been much more effective and his gap power has improved. He was floundering in the waning days of Pena's reign of terror. I think he'll eventually settle well in the leadoff spot, but at least for now he's doing much better at #2.

-- I was shocked to see that the Royals were able to trade Eli Marrero. Even if the Orioles only pay a few hundred thousand of his salary, the Royals made out, given that I thought he was just being released. The prospect they acquired doesn't seem like much of a prospect - he's very old for A ball - but if AB has a skill, its find diamonds in the rough, so I'm always hopeful. Eli could have been even more valuable if he'd be willing to catch (St. Louis and Colorado were interested, apparently), but he steadfastly refuses to catch.

-- Peter Gammons and Tim Kurkjian were reporting that Mike Sweeney stands a very good chance of being traded, and the Orioles are the top of the list right now (from ESPN television). Take their opinions for what they're worth, but to this point all signs point to Sweeney being in another uniform by the end of July. I'm sure the Royals are going to have to pay part of his salary, but if the Royals can get two solid prospects in return then that's a deal this team has to make. Come 2006 the payroll will be so low that they'll be in a position to be pretty serious players in the free agent market. How does Carlos Lee sound?

-- Do we dare hope for an unbelievably rare road sweep today? Not with Jose "Ultimate Buzzkill" Lima on the mound. Lima may yet have some value for a national league club in a pitcher's park (Dodgers?) but he's been so uniformly awful he just seems untradable. But I thought the same thing about Marrero...

-- Johan Santana is incredible. The Twins are very fortunate. Here's hoping we found our own Rule 5 wonder in Sisco.

Jose Lima, on the other hand, is Bizarro Johan Santana.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


I had my doubts, but the Royals did the right thing. They drafted Alex Gordon. I think we'll see him as a September call-up in 2006 and hopefully as a fixture in the Royal lineup by the start of 2007. Two questions:

1) What position will he play? Will he displaced Teahen at 3B or will they move him to the outfield?

2) How long will it take to get him signed?

Royals take Jeffrey Bianchi, high school SS with the 2nd pick in the second round. Can't say I know anything about him, but from what I can cull he sounds like an athletic but relatively raw talent. The Minor League Ball mock draft had him going in the 5th round and John Sickels calls the choice a "surprise".

I love how fast the baseball draft moves.

End of Days

Well, this is D-Day for the Royals, as far as I'm concerned. At around 1 pm EST, they're going to demonstrate to the Royal fan base one of two things:

1) They're willing to make real investments in highly talented players in situations where it makes sense for them do so;

2) They're simply a losing organization that doesn't have an interest in putting a winning product on the field.

No one truly knows if Alex Gordon is going to be major league star, regular, or bust. I think he and Justin Upton are both 1a talents, both worthy of the #1 overall pick in any other draft. And #1 overall picks are by far the most valuable commodities in the amateur draft.

All signs point to Gordon being at least a solid major league regular, but Gordon's future performance is not really the point today. Today, the act of selecting him is paramount to the credibility of the franchise. It'll be very, very hard to take this team seriously if they don't draft him.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Monday Notes: MVP -- Emil Brown?

-- Predictably, the fun of a four-game winning streak ended with the appearance of Jose Lima (and Steve Stemle - ouch). Jose is the ultimate buzzkill. Somehow, the Royals saw fit upon Jeremy Affeldt's return to DFA Ryan Jensen, who has been reasonably effective in 2 of 3 outings, instead of releasing Lima outright. Maybe there are some 40-man roster issues there that limited their hand, but the Royals must let his guy go as soon as it makes sense roster-wise.

-- Zack Greinke was roughed up yesterday as well. It seems to me that Zach might be the kind of pitcher who might thrive on weak-to-mediocre hitting teams but get beaten up by strong hitting clubs like the Rangers. I'd have to do some research to confirm the hypothesis (and of course every pitcher will be more successful against weak hitting teams), but my sense is that Zack has struggled disproportionately against strong hitting ballclubs because he lacks a strikeout pitch. I think we have to remember that Zack is still very young and learning on the job, so he's going to have the occasional string of subpar outings. But I'm beginning to wonder if he might ultimately settle at a #2 type pitcher, simply because he's never going to develop the strikeout repertoire necessary to be a truly dominant #1 pitcher. Apologists like to point to Maddux as evidence that it can happen, but I think it proves just the opposite - its so exceedingly rare for a finesse artist to become an elite pitcher that we shouldn't hold our breath on Zack Greinke.

-- Jeremy Affeldt, fresh off another stint on the DL, is adding "Whiner" to his repertoire of unfavorable labels. He grumbled to the Star about MacDougal being the closer and thinks he deserves to return to that spot after spending nearly 2 months on the DL. If there were ever a poster boy for the spoiled, bratty athlete, its Jeremy Affeldt. Affeldt has been a complete bust with the Royals and has become worse and more injury-prone every season. In addition, he's whines to the media about his poor treatment at the hand of the nasty Royals. I've never understood why so many people think the Royals screwed him by challenging him in arbitration over a $200,000.

Here's a novel idea: how 'bout we see Jeremy pitch well consistently for at least a couple of months and stay off the disabled list. Then, and only then, perhaps he can talk about what he "deserves". Frankly, I don't see that day happening.

-- What the hell is happening with Denny Bautista? It always concerns me when the Royals keep silent on an injured player.

-- The MVP on the worst team in baseball is a pyrrhic honor, but since someone must receive it I think to this point it might have to go to Emil Brown simply because he's been so surprisingly good. At the end of April, he was probably the last candidate for MVP, sporting a frostbitten .161/.254/.339 line. But he rebounded nicely to post a .313./.389/.506 line in May and has been even better thus far in June. I think his defensive play has also improved throughout the season and despite some high profile mistakes early his defensive skills are at least adequate.

He's not the most productive Royal hitter, but I think you could make the case that his all-around contribution is at or near the top on a dreadful team.

-- The draft is tomorrow. All signs continue to point to Alex Gordon. Stay tuned.

Friday, June 03, 2005


Brief post late in the day.

Amazing sweep of the Yanks. I'll bet the odds in Vegas against that happening were at least 100-1. The thing I noticed about the Royals this series was that they weren't killing themselves with stupid mistakes and lazy play. I saw them cutting off the ball in the outfield (preventing singles from turning into doubles), hitting the cutoff man with strong, accurate throws, avoiding costly errors, running the bases well (mostly), etc. It wasn't like they overwhelmed the Yanks with a barrage of hitting or dominating pitching. They pitched and hit just well enough to give themselves a chance to win, and didn't mess it up by making the costly error late in the game. We haven't seen that all season.

Ambiorix Burgos has an amazing arm, but he just doesn't know how to handle himself on the mound yet. His command is extremely spotty, and I was certain he was going to blow that game last night. I give him credit for bouncing back against Sierra and throw strikes to incude Sierra into an easy ground out, but I think I feel more nervous with him on the mound than MacDougal, if that's possible. I dearly hope the Royals send him back to AA once Affeldt returns from the DL.

The draft is next Tuesday. The buzz and momentum is building towards Alex Gordon. Let us all hope the Glass family doesn't get last minute shivers this weekend and kill that buzz.

Go team.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

A Broken Watch is...

"The Royals are playing great baseball under Buddy Bell." -- Daily Lancer


I admit it - I blew off last night's game, figuring that the Royals stood zero chance of winning facing Randy Johnson and starting D.J. Carrasco. I decided to tune in to the Yankees broadcast about 10:00 EST, and I couldn't believe that the Royals were leading 3-0. My instincts told me, "Mr. Lancer, steel yourself for an ugly 8th inning meltdown and a 8-3 loss."

Didn't happen. 3-1 victory. Series win over the Yankees, which will satiate me for at least the next two weeks no matter what the Royals do.

-- MacDougal will probably get a lot of grief for making things interesting in the ninth, but I think that criticism is unfair. I thought he pitched very well, despite overthrowing on a couple of pitches. Bernie Williams, who is not a HR candidate at this stage in his career, simply hit a pretty good pitch over the right center fence. As they say in the biz, tip your cap. Same thing for Cano - he hit a 95 mph fastball to the center field wall. Jeter 'worked" the count (ahem - that third pitch was a strike, so he was fortunate) but Mac did a good job of keeping his composure and striking him out "again". MacDougal is still an extremely tantalizing pitcher; maybe he'll never quite figure it out, but I sure hope he does, because his stuff is just filthy.

-- I didn't see Carrasco pitch. The Yankee radio announcers were giving him credit for doing a good job location and changing speeds. He's never going to overwhelm anybody, but he's been a perfectly servicable back-end starter thus far.

-- It seems like Randy Johnson has regressed to being a merely very good pitcher rather than a dominating, elite pitcher. That would be fine under most circumstances, but the Yankees are paying him $48 million over the next three years to be a Cy Young-caliber pitcher, and I'm not sure that's what he is at age 42. He gave up some solid hits to the Royals, including Emil Brown's mammoth 1st inning home run, which must have felt AWESOME.

-- Odds of a sweep: 5-1. I think the Yanks will batter Ryan Jensen.

-- Both Star columnists lambasted the Royals yesterday for choosing Buddy Bell as manager. I understand they need to write interesting columns to satisfy their reading public, but they're both vastly overstating the importance of this decision, and I'm not sure exactly what they expect the Royals to do anyway. What other managerial candidate out there is going to make THAT much of a difference, both on the field and in terms of public perception? Will the additional candidates available at the end of the year - meaning those who were FIRED this year - be that much better? Art Howe, Buddy Bell, Jerry Manuel - take your pick - no manager is going to walk through that clubhouse door and turn that team into winners. Its 90% about personnel, and until the Royals get that part right the manager isn't going to make a damn difference (unless you're Tony Pena, who went out of his way to help the Royals lose).

Sure, I agree with Joe Po that Bobby Valentine was the best choice, and it doesn't appear that the Royals made a genuine push to get him (but I don't know that). But I don't agree at all that hiring him or any other manager will some how "juice" the Royal fan base. Baseball managers, for the most part, are a pretty anonymous lot; they don't have nearly the public profile of football and basketball coaches, so I don't think baseball managers can inflame the sentiments of the casual fan base the way that coaches in other sports can. It's all just hot fuss.

Besides, 2-0!