Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Carnage Continues

And now, the pitchers. There are so many of them this season I'll limit myself to those who have pitched for a "decent spell.

Runelvys Hernandez
The Royals' most consistent pitcher of the first half is settling into a perfectly decent #3/4 bulldog. His success is a bit perplexing, since many of Hernandez' core peripherals aren't good (5.4K/9, 4.2BB/9, flyball pitcher (0.84 G/F). He doesn't give up many home runs (8 in 109.1 innings), which helps, but there is an intangible quality to his pitching that isn't easily revealed in statistics - he IS a bulldog on the mound. He maintains his focus in jams, works to limit damage in tough situations and keeps him teams in the game. He's a Minefield Magician. That's a veteran quality that you wouldn't necessarily expect out a player with as little experience as Elvys.

Grade: B

D.J. Carrasco
Yet another Royal starter whose success has defied expectations. He doesn't strike anyone out (3.7K/9) and his control is suspect (3.1BB/9). But he's an extreme groundball pitcher (2.2 G/F) who has managed to avoid the long ball to an unusual extent (3HR in 68IP). I'm not bullish on Carrasco, as I think some of his success has been based on luck and that will start to wear out. But there's no need to interrupt a hot streak, and he's going to remain a starter the rest of season since the Royals have a severe shortage of healthy arms anyway.

Grade: B

Brian Anderson
Let's see...

Year 1: Worst pitcher in baseball first half of the season, decently mediocre down the stretch.
Year 2: Missed the entire season with injury.

Hard to compete in this league when your team makes investments as poor as this one. Brian seems like a stand-up guy and I hope he can resurrect his career elsewhere, but the fact remains he's been an unmitigated disaster for the Royals.

Grade: F

Jose Lima
Lima has been tortured enough at The Daily Lancer, countless other blogs and the mainstream press about his performance. We all know how awful he's been. What separates Lima from the rest is his constant insistence that he's a good pitcher in spite of how many runs he yields every game. I recognize that you must be confident and probably a little cocky to be successful in the big leagues of any sport, but its also important to recognize when you're not doing things well. Lima's stubborn insistence that he's pitching well in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary leads me to believe that he's not willing to change anything he's doing to improve his performance.

Grade: F (if there such a thing as F-, I'd give it).

Zack Greinke
It's been a tale of two seasons for Zack Greinke.

First 8 starts: 46.2 IP, 44H, 3HR, 9BB, 28K, 3.09 ERA
Last 10 starts: 50.2 IP, 82H, 8HR, 17BB, 32K, 9.06 ERA

82 hits in 50+ innings is unbelievable for a guy who had given up fewer hits than innings pitched prior to his last 10 starts. His overall K rate (5.4/9) is slightly down from last season, while his BB rate (2.4/9) is still low but still higher than last season and an important indicator for Zack's success. When his location is off, he really suffers because he doesn't have "get away with it" good stuff. He's not yielding as many home runs thus far this season, but when you're giving up nearly two hits per inning it doesn't really matter very much.

Some analysts argued that Greinke was lucky last year with his BABIP, and that he would experience a regression this season as more of those outs would become hits, simply as a result of regression to the mean. I think that's probably happened to certain extent, but that doesn't explain it all. Greinke's just been pounded on many occasions; Greinke's line drive % of 21.7 is the 3rd worst in baseball, but take that statistic with a grain of salt as a lot of effective pitchers (Jon Garland, for example) yield a relatively high percentage of line drives. In any case, our eyes tell us that Greinke isn't fooling anyone these days, so these hits aren't just dribblers sneaking by Ruben Gotay.

Sabermetric stats are being put to the test by Zack Greinke. Despite the fact that we all see Greinke struggling mightily and sporting a 1-11 record, his FIP (fielding independent pitching) rating is better than Brad Radke, who is sitting at 6-8 and a 4.15 ERA. Indeed, these two profile very similarly - good control, modest strikeouts, give up a lot of hits - but the season outcomes have been very different for these two pitchers. In the end, Radke has been killed by home runs this season (20 already), which is probably why Greinke remains in the conversation.

What to expect from Greinke in the second half? I expect marked improvement. There are grumbles that he isn't open to instruction and is aloof, but I don't really care about that. I'm not thrilled at the prospect of any Kansas City Royals authority figure trying to teach anyone how to pitch anyway. If Greinke can improve his command, he'll be fine in the second half, even though his record will not reflect it.

Grade: C

In the 'Pen
Collectively, the bullpen has been the Royals' strongest area this season, despite the rash decision to promote several pitchers who are here before their time.

Andy Sisco has defied all expectations as a very young Rule 5 draft pick and has been the Royals' most consistently effective/dominating pitcher all season. His high BB rate (5.4/9) needs improvement, but that's really a minor beef for a kid who spent all last season in A ball.

Grade: A- (no A's!)

Mike MacDougal has a bumpy start, but has been a pretty good closer since Buddy Bell took the reins. Like Sisco, he's a strikeout demon (9.5/9) and he's really improved his command, at least for Mike MacDougal. He's still not a top-tier closer -- he gets rattled too easily with runners on base, and I still shudder to think of him on the mound in games that are actually important. But there are enough teams out there desperate for a power bullpen arm to give up something good to acquire him, and if they use him properly (starting an inning fresh) he could make an effective pitcher for a contending team. Maybe.

Grade: B (rises to A if the Royals trade him for a good prospect)

Mike Wood
The most ineffective, effective pitcher I've seen pitch this year. His overall contribution to the Royals has been a net positive, but he's starting to struggle with his control, which is a problem I did not see from Wood earlier in the season and one I did not expect from him. He'll remain effective if he can put the ball where he wants, but if he keeps up the walk party he'll be on the business end of some big innings.

Grade: B-

Jeremy Affeldt
When he pitches, he's pretty damn good. He still aggravates by walking batters unnecessarily when he should just be throwing strikes. He just won't stay healthy. I still think the Royals should trade him if they can get something valuable in return; I'm fairly convinced that he's not going to get it done here. I can see the merit in keeping him around if only because he may finally solve his injury problems, but he's going to start getting expensive. Soon.

Grade: D

Leo Nunez, Ambiorix Burgos, J.P. Howell, Denny Bautista
I like these pitchers very much. They all represent the future of the franchise, and they all have what it takes to be successful -- someday. But they're not ready, especially Nunez and Howell. But its not their faults they're here. No grades. Let's hope that Nunez and Bautista's shoulder injuries work themselves out quickly.


At 8:32 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

I agree with all of that except the Grienke grade, which I think should be a "D".

The oddest thing is, nobody's mentioned sending him back down, which, given the recent performances, should be a consideration as much as it is for someone like Nunez -- at least, if Zack runs up another couple/few stinkers after the Break.

At 9:06 PM, Blogger DL said...

I guess a D is probably in order for Greinke. I guess I just divided his season into two parts: good and bad, and gave him an average grade.

Either way, he's taken a step back this year. He might benefit from some time in AAA, but the Royals don't have anyone else to replace him.

At 1:37 AM, Anonymous tfn said...

"Core peripherals". That's great; it ranks right up there with jumbo shrimp and military intelligence.

At 9:21 AM, Blogger DL said...

I like that.


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