Thursday, September 15, 2005

2005: The Good, the Bad, and the Royals

This season has been quite awful. There are a few bright spots, but not really enough to say this team is headed in the right direction.

The Good:

1. Bullpen Trio: MacDougal has become an effective closer for the Royals, saving 18 of 21 games so far. MacDougal has been much more consistent, but still makes you nervous. Burgos has been great in the setup role. The 21-year-old has an amazing arm, which is exactly why he belongs in the bullpen as MacDougal's setup man throwing 1/3 as many innings as he would as a starter. Rule V Pick Andy Sisco has also been a very pleasant surprise. Opponents' SLG% against Sisco is just .322.

2. David DeJesus: DeJesus had a solid sophomore season, doing exactly what the Royals expected. DeJesus continued to play solid defense, get on-base, and improved offensively (OPS improved from .763 to .804). DeJesus is a solid player, but he's not a player you can build a team around.

3. Hernandez: Runelvys recovered from TJ surgery and has had a solid year. His control should improve next year and he should be a league-average starter. Like DeJesus, Hernandez is a solid starter, but not one you can build your rotation around.

4. Butler and Huber: Butler and Huber established themselves as top hitting prospects by having great seasons in the minors. Hopefully, they give the Royals two excellent bats in the middle of the lineup.

The Bad

1. Terrence Long: While we were able to get rid of Darrell May, we got nothing useful in return. Aaron Guiel, Abraham Nunez, or any AAAA player could put up the same numbers that Long has playing everyday.

2. Mark Teahan: Teahan was prematurely promoted, even though Chris Truby was healthy after a few weeks into the season (and we had Hocking and McEwing available as well). Teahan hasn't shown much ability offensively, posting a .655 OPS. While I don't put much stock in defensive statistics, I think it's noteworthy that Teahan has the 2nd worst fielding percentage, worst zone rating, 4th worst error total (would have led it if he hadn't missed April). So, I don't see much to backup Teahan's "gold-glove" caliber defense at 3rd. Maybe Teahan and Sean Burroughs can fight for a spot on the PCL All-Star team. I don't think Teahan will be a regular 3rd basemen. I think it's more likely Teahan turns into Joe McEwing than Joe Randa. Better sign Gordon.

The Ugly (Royals):

1. Tony Pena: Adios Pena! As wonderful as the departure of Pena was, the hiring of Buddy Bell nearly ruined whatever progress the Royals made by firing Pena. At least we don't have to listen to Pena's dumb slogans or mumbling.

2. Angel Berroa: Berroa's sophomore slump continued into 2005. Berroa's lack of focus and plate discipline make him a below-average player with above-average tools. The Royals have no clue how to develop players. So Angel, figure it out yourself.

3. Joe McEwing/Tony Graffanino playing 1B: I still don't understand the need for two utility guys on the roster. McEwing playing in the outfield brought back bad memories from the "Pena" era, which is starting to look somewhat respectable compared to this team.

4. Zack Greinke: Zack regressed badly this year. Unfortunately, just 1 Royal starter has recovered from their sophomore slump since Kevin Appier, so don't get your hopes up.

5. JP Howell: Howell wasn't and still isn't ready to pitch in the major leagues. But, the Royals have poor starting depth, so he was called upon.

So, in summary, the "youth movement" is basically built around two average players (DeJesus, Hernandez) and some nice bullpen arms. Teahan, Gotay, Berroa, Buck, Greinke all regressed or didn't improve. It's looking more and more like the "youth movement" was a last ditch effort by Baird to save his job. If I was the owner of the Kansas City Royals, Baird would be gone. Small-market teams need excellent GMs, not terrible ones or even average ones. Would anyone even venture to call Baird an average GM? I just don't understand how the Royals can let Baird's teams continue to set franchise records for losses and not think twice about it. That's not signs of progress. This franchise was in bad shape in 2000 when Baird inherited it. It's in worse shape now. Don't let a couple hitting prospects fool you into believing the Royals have a top farm system because they don't. They have poor depth and just a couple promising bats. Just needed to vent. Football season is here, go Chiefs! At least there is one respectable sports franchise in Kansas City.


At 2:00 PM, Blogger DL said...

The amazing thing about Sisco and Burgos is that they have experienced wild success in spite of having very shaky command. Once they get their command straightened out, they're going to be pretty fantastic. Now, if they were only STARTERS instead of middle relievers.

I'm more bullish on Teahen. I think he's shown improvement in his secondary skills throughout the season, and from a scouting perspective he's a much more conifident ballplayer that he was in April, when he was playing scared. I like Teahen's chances of being a solid, league average third baseman from 2007 and beyond.

But your point is essentially correct. My assessment of the 2005 season:


-- David DeJesus is already an above average centerfielder and is the best player on the team right now, even better than Sweeney.

-- Mark Teahen should be a league average third baseman.

-- The young bullpen is very talented (but the talent came from pillaging the starting pitching stock).

-- MacDougal might be a servicable closer, though I'm still not a believer.

-- Huber, Butler and Gordon are on the way.


-- Angel Berroa is a terrible excuse for a SS.

-- John Buck is the second coming of Brent Mayne.

-- The Royals still have no corner outfielders. They have no faith in Ambres or Diaz, and no use for Brown and Guiel.

-- Every starting pitcher at or near the majors sucks, including Zack Greinke. We can wish away Greinke's woes, but the odds are he's simply not as good as we'd all hoped he'd be. There is no help on the way in the minors.

-- Jeremy Affeldt is a disaster. Jimmy Gobble is lost. Both have been completely mishandled.

-- Both promising young second basemen have quickly fallen out of favor with Buddy Bell and maybe Allard Baird.

-- Buddy Bell is not the right manager for a young team (or perhaps any team).

And Allard Baird is on to phase two? Unless the next phase involves spending $40-50 million on two corner outfielders, a shortstop, a second baseman, at least 2 starting pitchers and one veteran bullpen arm, phase 2 is going to look an awful lot like phase 1.

At 1:15 AM, Blogger Kevin said...

Burgos' control HAS been a little bit shaky all year, but it's improved, making him one of the few young Royals to actually make visible progress this year.

PRE ALL-STAR: 24.1 IP, 28 SO, 12 BB
POST ALL-STAR: 32 IP, 34 SO, 13 BB

In addition, he's cut his home run rate, hit rate, and ERA down.

Considering where he was in terms of control at Double-A, I think he's had a remarkable season. 62 strikeouts, 25 walks, and an ERA a tick below 4 in his debut season is a SMASHING success, if you ask me.

At 7:12 PM, Blogger DL said...

Couldn't agree more. Smashing success. In fact, I think he's so talented that the Royals should put him back at starter instead of reliever. I would feel much better about the Royals' chances in the future if their three best pitching prospects - Greinke, Burgos and Sisco - were all starters instead of two being middle relievers.

At 9:17 PM, Blogger SoonerRoyal said...

I agree DL. Sisco and Burgos should be starters. Like you said, their walks aren't hurting them much right now, just think what they'll be like once they improve their control. Burgos is 21-years-old and Sisco is 22. Both are still very young and have plenty of time to improve their control. A dominant rotation is more important than having dominant relievers to mop-up Lima blowouts. It'd be much easier to fill out the bullpen with good free agents than it would be to fill out the rotation with top starters.

At 2:09 AM, Blogger Dave said...

I have to disagree about Sisco and Burgos. First, I think it's wrong to say that the bullpen's success came from "pillaging" the young Royals starting core. Burgos is the only one who might fit that description, but from what I've heard, Amby has absolutely no desire to ever be a starter again -- he wants to close. He certainly has the pitches to be a starter, but I don't think he has the desire.

As for Sisco, let's not forget that he was a Rule 5 guy this season, and that every single one of us this year preferred to see Sisco get his feet wet in the bullpen. In other words, there's nothing yet to get upset about, because the Royals didn't have the luxury of shipping him to the minors to build up his stamina.

But moving beyond that, I have serious doubts that Sisco can be an effective starting pitcher. I know we all love to rave about his stuff and project him as a great future starting pitcher (he was in my 2006 rotation a few months ago), but I'm starting to doubt whether or not he has the pitches to be effective.

When I watch him throw, it's almost 90 percent fastballs. I rarely see an effective slider, and I NEVER see the supposed "foshball" that Hansen taught him in ST. I'm beginning to be of the opinion that Sisco's place just might be in the bullpen, and I wouldn't mind if the Royals kept him there for a while.

At 8:39 PM, Blogger DL said...

I suspect that Sisco doesn't use his full repertoire at least in part because he's in a relief role. When you're pitching for one inning, if it ain't broke...

I wouldn't mind seeing the Royals use Sisco if a hyrbid starter/reliever role a la Johan Santana for the next couple of year. But I think they'd be silly to not try him at starter, simply because its better to have a good pitcher throw 200 innings than 70. Maybe they eventually will, but their words suggest he's going to in the 'pen. But you're right about this season - he belonged in the 'pen.

On Burgos, my feelings are the same. When you find a guy who can strikeout more than 9 per nine innings with his kind of stuff, you owe it to yourself to try him at starter. If he can't cut it, then fine: there are worse things in the world that having a dominating closer, and that's something the Royals haven't had in years.

At 4:00 PM, Blogger Kevin said...

I'm a little bit torn on what Burgos should be. On the one hand, he did express a complete dislike for starting. On the other, he does work for the Royals, so maybe they shouldn't have been so quick to give him what he wanted.

At 11:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can't fire Allard Baird now! Tomorrow is going to be the 100th loss, and there's a good chance of 110 by the end of the season. Next year, the Royals go for the Holy Grail of Losing--look out '62 Mets, next year 121 losses for K.C.!

At 12:50 PM, Blogger Planet B said...

Before they throw him on the scrap heap, I'd like to see the team give Affeldt a shot as a starter in spring training next year. And I for one, wouldn't have any problem with a Guiel, DeJesus, Brown outfield... assuming that there were other bats in the lineup (1B and 2B?).

I know it's crazy but I say if the Royals have any hope left they should go hard after Soriano, who's a free agent this offseason. It would be sort of like when the Tigers got Pudge since that worked out so well for them. But really can't we put that extra money into a solid hitting 2B, corner OF or C?

Where have you gone John Schuerholz? (Oh, right, Atlanta...)

At 1:46 PM, Blogger DL said...

Check out Soriano's splits before you decide to commit to a Pudge-like contract. He's a dog on the road and wouldn't fare any better in Kauffman's spacious confines.

With Blanco, Gotay and Murphy in the mix, 2B is one position where I feel the Royals should be ok. Hell, if Blanco can find a way to get on base 32% of the time while playing spectacular defense behind a young staff, I'd take that over Soriano, esp. at $350k per year.

If the Royals are going to spend any real money this offseason, it should be on Matt Morris or Jeff Weaver.

At 12:00 AM, Anonymous youngPhenom said...

Yeah, the money should be spent on starting pitching. We should bring in 2 quality guys.

At 6:11 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

Matt Morris, I agree with. Jeff Weaver is a jerk, so I don't agree -- although he's a decent enough pitcher.

Other possibilities in the free agent pool are Brett Tomko and Steve Trachsel, both of whom would be worth throwing a couple/few million at. There just ain't lots else, though, so although the payroll will be increased, I'm doubting the..."allure"...of the Royals to pull in FA's in 2006.


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