Monday, October 31, 2005


... throughout the analytical community as the Paul DePodesta project is ended after just 2 years. Reaction here, here and comprehensive coverage at 6-4-2.

Among the disenchanted, there are dire warnings of where the Dodgers are headed: if [INSERT TEAM HERE] continues down this path, they will end up at the bottom of the sea like the Kansas City Royals:

"If, with every hurdle that comes, McCourt is going to fire somebody, that increases the chances he'll turn the team into the Royals, a team that is constantly starting over and repairing mistakes," said Jon Weisman, proprietor of the independent website The Kansas City Royals, another once-proud franchise, lost 106 games last season. They have not appeared in the playoffs since winning the World Series in 1985.

I disagree. No matter how bad things might look bad right now in Los Angeles, they are in no danger of falling to our depths. Frank McCourt, at least, runs his team with a sense of urgency, misplaced or not, while David Glass is swattin' flies and sippin' Country Time on his front porch. Meanwhile, the Dodgers' system is loaded, while the Royals are counting on Luis Cota to solve their pitching problems.

The Dodgers do not know of despair.

UPDATE: Now comes word that Theo Epstein will not return to the Boston Red Sox next season. How can the Royals afford to sit on their hands right now, knowing that two of the brightest young baseball minds are on the market now, and that there's a 95% chance they're going to fire Allard Baird at the end of next season anyway?

Friday, October 28, 2005

2005 Player Retrospective: David DeJesus

Throughout the long, cold winter I'll be posting the occasional 2005 player retrospective to keep myself connected to the Royals and their players. Let me know if there is anything missing from these retrospectives that you'd like to see, and of course I always love to read your comments and opinions.

Let's start with...

David DeJesus

Key Statistics

Batting Line: .289/.359/.445

Overall Offensive Production
VORP: 31.5 (4th in AL among CFs)
EqA: .289 (3rd in AL among CFs)

Fielding Skill
Fielding Runs Above Average, 2005: 1
Errors: 4

SB: 8 for 19 (42%)

Games Missed: 40


Batting: DeJesus had a fine second season at the plate, improving steadily over his 2004 performance and avoiding the sophomore slump. His equivalent average improved from a pedestrian .253 in 2004 to a robust .289 in 2005, which was behind only Johnny Damon and Grady Sizemore in the American League. DeJesus on-base rate was practically unchanged from 2004: .360 in 2004, .359 in 2005, but I wouldn't consider that a disappointment in his second season. That proves to me that the man can still hold his own against major league pitching even though "the book" is out on him. DeJesus primary improvement was in terms of his power, though he is hardly a power threat: 15 home runs at his physical peak is probably his upper limit. As long as DeJesus maintains his patient, studious approach at the plate, eventually achieves close to parity with his walks and strikeouts and bangs out 40 doubles every year in spacious Kauffman Stadium, he'll set the table just fine as either a #1 or #2 spot player.

Fielding: Most every team believes their center fielder is spectacular and among the league's best. I don't think DeJesus is a great fielder, but merely adequate. According to BP's fielding runs metrics, DeJesus was about an average center fielder this year, scoring 1 fielding run above average (FRAA). There are certainly better defensive center fielders in this game, but DeJesus is one of the better defensive center fielders who can also hit: Grady Sizemore and Johnny Damon, the two CFs who bested DeJesus offensively this past season, were a -8 and -6 FRAA respectively. As long as DeJesus isn't giving teams too many extra outs with his fielding, I'll be satisfied since I'm pretty sure he's going to hit well. Some have suggested moving DeJesus to left field to make room for a speedy, base-stealing minded gnat in CF, but that seems unwarranted to me and is effectively irrelevant since the Royals have no such players in the system right now.

Baserunning: Buddy Bell's arrival in Kansas City mercifully marked the end of David's attempted stolen base days. Despite having good speed playing the outfield and on the basepaths, he's just not a good basestealer. Its a bit odd to have a fairly speedy centerfielder/leadoff hitter who can't steal bases worth a lick, which I'm sure explains Tony Pena's cognitive dissonance on the matter. I don't have a very good feel for DeJesus baserunning skills besides stolen bases; my impression is that he has at least adequate basepath smarts, but I'm happy to be corrected if someone else has a different take.

Durability: DeJesus missed 40 games this season, most of which were caused by the spectacular diving catch he made against the Yankees in August. Despite the nature in which DeJesus was injured and missed most of his games, points must be deduced for missing nearly 25% of the season due to injury. Durability was a question that dogged DeJesus throughout his minor league career, and while I'm certainly willing to dismiss this incident as a freak injury on a hustle play, we're going to have to keep our eye on his future propensity for injury.

Outlook: David DeJesus is the Royals' best overall player right now (that includes you, Mike Sweeney), contributing with a strong offensive game and at least an adequate glove. He has all the makings of a Johnny Damon-like center fielder with solid on-base skills, a good glove and throwing arm, but without the ability to steal bases at a rate that is worthwhile. Missing 40 games hurts a team like the Royals, though, and I'll continue to have minor concerns about DeJesus' durability until I see him play a 150 game season.

He'll be a fixture in the Royals lineup for at least the next 4 years, and he strikes me as the kind of players will have to serious consider signing to a longer-term contract once he hits arbitration to buy out at least 1 if not 2 of his free agency years (when he'll be 30 and 31). After that, he's free to go to another team who will gladly overpay for declining value as he hits the wrong side of 30.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

An Insider's Perspective on Bobby Madritsch

Here's an email I received from a close friend of recent Royals pickup Bobby Madritsch (posted by permission):

Bobby and I are very close, it is a friendship that started when my brother
was his catcher in Winnipeg and then he became my roommate in Midland, TX the
next year after he played in San Antonio, and now we see each other anytime the
chance arrises. To make a long story short, not many people know B-Mad like me
and I can say this thing is for sure, If anyone can come back from another tear
in their labrum it is going to be Bob. Like he said in a previous interview, he
will do whatever it takes to get back to the top of his game because he
literally almost has nothing else to live for. I mean I have spent hours on the
phone with him in the past couple of months and he is as determined as ever (and
that is pretty determined considering what he has already done) to get back and
prove he belongs up with the best in the league, because as everyone has seen
when he is healthy he is legit. I know this is for sure and you can mark it on
your calendars KC, Bobby will have another tat by the time you see him in the
spring and it may just be all the motivation he needs to be back in the leagues
dominating like he can.

Thanks to this person for sending this personal and compelling message about Bobby.

Who knows what will happen in the end with Bobby Madritsch, but it sure sounds like he'll do whatever it takes to become an effective major league pitcher, and I'm glad he's on the Royals roster. If nothing else, maybe he can teach a thing or two about heart and desire to "What, Me Worry?" Zack Greinke.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Arizona Fall League Update

The Surprise Scorpions are having an excellent campaign, posting a 10-6 record. Several Royals on the team have done well so far:

Billy Butler: Butler continues to hit advanced pitching well. He has a .907 OPS after 51 ABs and has a good OBP of .368. Butler's season has been quite remarkable considering he's just 19 years old. It'll be tough for the Royals to keep him out of the lineup next year. He'll be a DH pretty soon, as I can't imagine his defense being much better than Matt Stairs in the outfield. Butler has 2 errors in 16 games.

Alex Gordon: Gordon has gotten off to a slow start, with a .182/.357/.273 line. So far, it appears that Gordon is everything he was advertised to be. But, we'll have to wait until next season to find that out for sure.

Matt Tupman: Tupman's performance has been pretty good, hitting .291/.321/.407 in 27 ABs, including a HR. Tupman will challenge Phillips for a spot as the team's backup catcher next season.

Brian Bass: Bass has pitched very well after 3 starts, allowing no runs in 12 innings. He's only struck out 4 in 12 innings, but walked 0. His WHIP is a mensicule 0.33. Bass pitched well in the AFL last year, so I wouldn't read into his performance too much. But, it is nice to have a fringe pitching prospect doing well.

Chris DeMaria: DeMaria got hammered pretty good today, allowing 4 runs in 1 1/3 innings. The Royals probably can find a better pitcher to put on the 40-man roster.

Jonah Bayliss: Bayliss has pitched pretty well. He has a 4.91 ERA in 11 IP with 12 strikeouts and just 3 walks.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Large Closers

After watching Bobby Jenks blow away 4 helpless Astros to close out game 1 of the World Series, it got me to thinking - why in the hell did the Angels let this guy go, and why wouldn't the Royals take a chance on a guy like this?

Looking through his minor league history, its understandable why he was let go. He wasn't particularly hittable, as you might imagine a monster throwing 98-mph gas wouldn't be, and he was stingy with the long ball. But he made hardly any progress in several years in the Angels system, bouncing from A ball in 2000 up to AA and back A again in 2003. He hardly pitched at all in 2004 and was pounded when he did so. He's always been a big strikeout pitcher, but ridiculously wild - 6 walks per 9 innings for his minor league career. Couple that with the Angels bulging staple of excellent pitching prospects, and its pretty easy to see why the Angels let him go (surely because he ran out of options).

In short, there was nothing in Bobby Jenks' history to suggest that he was going to perform the way he did in 2005.

Comparison time.

Player 1: 432 IP, 376H, 22HR, 290BB, 449K, 1.54 WHIP
Player 2: 232 IP, 157 IP, 17HR, 131BB, 297K, 1.24 WHIP

Pitcher 2 has better numbers than Pitcher 1, albeit in few innings. Yet Pitcher 1 is closing out games in the World Series and Pitcher 2 is floundering at the margins of the major leagues.

Player 1, of course, is Bobby Jenks.

Player 2 is Ryan Bukvich.

I can't tell the difference. Can you?

Friday, October 21, 2005

Royals Claim Madritsch

The Royals made their second end-of-the-roster acquisition of the offseason on Friday, claiming Bobby Madritsch off waivers from Seattle. Madritsch has a serious pitching shoulder injury that will likely require surgery, so in all likelihood he will spend all of 2006 rehabbing.

Madritsch is already 29 and is dealing with a serious shoulder injury, so the move is a bit curious. But the Royals do have some 40-man roster flexibility, Madritsch is talented, and by golly, lots of Mariner fans sure love him.

In the end, the question comes down to this: is it better to have a rehabbing Madritsch or AAAA Shawn Camp, or D.J. Carrasco, or [insert scrub here]? I think we all know the answer to that question.

Thanks to David Pinto at Baseball Musings for his plug for my extensive coverage of the Royal pitching coach situation (!). Its a banner site hit day @ the Daily Lancer.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Killing Me Softly

Well, it happened - Leo Mazzone has left Atlanta and is now the pitching coach for the Baltimore Orioles. My guess - 3 years, $1.8 million.

We get the AAA pitching coach of that longstanding bastion of quality pitching, the Colorado Rockies organization.

Commitment to excellence.

Monday, October 17, 2005

In Case You Missed it...

Baseball America has completed their series of Top 20 Prospect Lists in all levels of the minor leagues. The highlights:

-- The Royals have 3 players among the top 20 in the rookie Arizona League, highlighted by Jeff Bianchi.

-- Luis Cota was the only Royal rated among the top 20 in the Midwest League.

-- The Royals have 2 players among the top 20 in the loaded California League, headed by Billy Butler. I've now seen player comp projections for both Billy Butler and Justin Huber, and the player they most resemble is...Mike Sweeney -- all bat, no glove.

-- Justin Huber was the only Royal rated as a top 20 prospect in either the Texas League or PCL, though I'm sure Alex Gordon would have been strongly considered had he played for half the season (and performed as expected, of course). BA was not impressed with the Royals' depth in Wichita. Interestingly, some coaches in the Texas League felt Huber would still be a strong candidate to switch back to catcher, where his offensive skills would be more valuable, but there's a mixed opinion on his catching prowess. Either way, what's done is done - Huber is a first baseman/DH (the same as Billy Butler).

I've Seen the Future of the Royals...

... and they are called the Chicago White Sox. It's amazing how far a team can go when they have dependable starting pitching, a hard-throwing, high-strikeout bullpen and a defense that covers lots of ground in the outfield, makes all the routine plays on the infield and rarely gives away cheap outs (except when Guillen sacrifice bunts in the first inning; egads). Now THERE'S a model for future success, one that reminds me of a pretty damn good team circa 1975-1985.

Anyone who's paying attention has seen this statistic, but its so amazing it bears repeating - in 5 games, the Sox starting pitchers threw 44.1 innings. Their fantastic bullpen was only needed for 2/3 of an inning. The White Sox were by far the best team in the AL, and they absolutely deserved to advance to their first World Series in several decades. I was very impressed with their dominating performance and I think they have to be odd-on favorite to win the World Series.

Watching a team like the White Sox succeed reminds me that...

1) How relaxed, confident and effective starting pitchers without the greatest stuff can be when they believe the defenders behind them will make all of the plays.

2) In the same vein, I don't pay nearly enough attention to the importance of defense, probably in part because it is so difficult to measure. But you can see it: a great defensive team takes so much pressure off of the pitchers and the offense. A poor defensive team (and the Royals have been the worst defensive baseball team of the past 5 years) wreaks havoc on a team's confidence.

3) Specifically, how mediocre players like Emil Brown who produce slightly above average offensive performance are fine to have around as bench hitters but have no place starting on a winning baseball team because they're so atrocious defensively.

4) Alex Gordon, Billy Butler and Justin Huber may all live up to the hype, but it's not going to matter if the Royals continue to fail to develop good starting pitching.

5) Buddy Bell's emphasis on the importance of defensive play (at least in positions where he has a choice), even at the expense of some offense, is probably quite wise in the long run.


Friday, October 14, 2005

The Baird Trades

The Baird Era has certainly been a miserable one. We've seen 3 very good outfielders leave and the Royals have gotten pretty much nothing in return. What began as a productive core of offensive players built around Beltran, Damon, Dye has eroded into the woeful offense.

Johnny Damon trade: The Royals traded Johnny Damon and Mark Ellis for Roberto Hernandez, AJ Hinch, and Angel Berroa. Hernandez was a 36-year-old closer and ineffective and very expensive. The Royals would have fared better in free agency. AJ Hinch was bad. Angel Berroa had a nice rookie year, but is a below-average shortstop. The Royals traded away Ellis, who has become a solid second basemen posting a .861 OPS this season. Ellis has very good range at 2nd and only made 6 errors. With Ellis at 2nd and Blanco at short, the Royals would have great middle infield defense. Instead, we have the Royals' silly management making Blanco into a second basemen and an absent-minded, free-swing shortstop. Grade: F

Jermaine Dye trade: I don't think this needs any explanation. Grade: F

Carlos Beltran Trade: The Royals traded Beltran for Teahan, Buck, and Wood. All 3 appear to be becoming solid players for the Royals. The Royals filled needs at 3rd base and catcher, but may have limited what they received in return by doing so. So far, this deal looks alright, as the Royals got 3 prospects and it appears all 3 have panned out. Grade: B-

So, which would you rather have? Mark Ellis and 6 first-round draft picks or Berroa, Buck, Teahan, Wood, and some other junk.

Other small deals:


1. Graffanino for Ambres and Cedeno: While the value of Ambres and Cedeno remains to be foreseen, they seem like decent prospects in return for a utility infielder. However, after trading Graffanino, the Royals have rushed Blanco and Murphy to the big leagues. Grade: B-

2. Santiago for Nunez: Nunez had a pretty bad ERA, but he shouldn't have been in the big leagues this year. He has good stuff and could become a good setup man.
Grade: A

3. Marrero for Vasquez: Marrero was a waste of $2-3 million
Grade: F

4. Long for May: Terrence Long wasn't very good and he kept Ambres and Diaz out of the lineup after winning Bell's affecton. Grade: D

Baird's small deals have been a mixed bag. The Huber, Bautista, and Nunez deals were excellent steals. But, he's also traded away Rudy Seanez for Abraham Nunez, he traded for Graeme Lloyd, and traded Marrero to add $3 million in dead weight. Overall, he could have been more cost-conscious in his small deals, but he's gotten some good prospects in return.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

We'll Talk to Bob

"Our pitching needs to get better." -- Buddy Bell, Captain Obvious

Welcome, Bob. You have a cool mustache. May your stay in Kansas City be less brief and obscure than your 10 predecessors.

I don't know anything about either these guys, much like I didn't know anything about the prior 10 pitching coaches. I think Buddy has the right to fill out his staff in the manner of his choosing, especially since 2006 will be his first full season. That's about all I have to say on the matter.
Except that they should have overwhelmed Leo Mazzone with an offer he couldn't refuse. Sure, Leo has a nervous tick that compells him to bob up and down in the dugout, but does that REALLY disqualify him from the job? Isn't it against the LAW to discriminate?

Break precedent.

Be audacious.

Raise our eyebrows.

Leo, we never knew you...

New Pitching Coach

And the Royals new pitching coach is...

Bob McClure! McClure has been the pitching coach of the Colorado AAA team for the past 4 years. So, he'll be working with similar talent at his new position. Maybe that's what Bell was thinking when he made this hire. I really don't think a new pitching coach is going to make much difference. The new bullpen coach is now Fred Kendall. And last but not least, Billy Doran will be the Royals' bench coach. Now that Buddy Bell has filled the organization with more like-minded coaches, expect the Royals to continue to reach new lows.

Story on Yahoo

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

More News

The Royals have hired Fred Kendall to be the bullpen coach and Brian Poldberg to coach first base. Kendall worked under Bell at Detroit and Colorado. My personal vote was for Guy Hansen to be the bullpen coach, considering how well the young, erratic hardthrowers pitched this year. Billy Doran, who was the Royals' first base coach last year, will likely become the bench coach.

The search for a pitching coach continues. The top candidates appear to be Mark Wiley and Bob McClure. Wiley was the Royals' pitching coach in 1999. McClure has been a pitching coach in the Rockies organization, most recently for their Triple-A team. I really could care less about these candidates. The pitching coach isn't the problem and if it is, hiring old ones isn't going to help. There's obviously a much bigger organizational defunct that has resulted in the Royals' awful pitching.

In Arizona Fall League news, Justin Huber has been removed because of a sprained achillies tendon. Huber, as well as many other Royals' players, seem to play through their injuries and not tell anyone about them:

"He has a sprained Achilles tendon," Baird said. "It's apparently been bothering him for two months and he tried to battle through it. You know, the tough Australian."

I suspect that had something to do with his Blanco-like .212/.274/.242 line. Meanwhile, Butler is tearing up the Arizona Fall League. He's hitting .333 with 2 HRs and 9 RBIs. Hopefully, we'll get to see Gordon in the near future.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Old News

The Royals claimed Joel Peralta from the Angels last Friday (damn, wrong J. Peralta). He's probably better than any other Royal middle reliever over 21.

Some may want to give credit to Baird for this acquisition, but not I. The fact that the Royals need to pick through other teams' leftovers (garbage to the Angels, treasure to the Royals) to fill out the end of their roster is a damnation of Baird, not an accomplishment. It says a lot more about the Angels' embarrassment of pitching riches than Baird's acumen. Baird will get no credit from me for doing what any semi-conscious GM would do in his position - replace cheap bad players with cheap decent players, risk-free. Besides, you don't get to be first in line on the waiver wire in perpetuity for doing things right.

No one congratulates the kid who gets a free hot lunch card.

If there is a silver lining, maybe adding pitchers like Peralta will force the Royals to discontinue using their precious few talented young pitchers as middle relievers.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Allard Baird Forum

David Glass said yesterday that Allard Baird would return for 2006. No surprise.

The real story, however, is that if the Royals don't improve by 25 games next season (meaning a .500 record), it would be "unacceptable" to Glass. In other words, Glass has thrown down the gauntlet to Baird: reach .500 or you're fired.

It would take a holier-than-holy miracle for the Royals to win 81 games in 2006, and they already used up their Miracle Quota in 2003. End result: Allard Baird is gone at the end of 2006 if David Glass stays true to his word.

My question: Why wait? Glass has established an unreachable standard for Baird, which all but guarantees his departure. So why not start the house cleaning NOW? How does it benefit the Royals to wait another year? Reminds me of people saying " will bounce back! It's a LEGITIMATE BUSINESS."

I'd love to hear your comments. I'm fine with seeing a "Keep AB" vs. "Dump AB" debate, but I'm working under the assumption that David Glass already has his finger on the button, so I just want to know when he's going to (and should) push it.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Year In Review: Position Players/Management

The Royals' offense wasn't very good this year. A mix of first and second year players struggling and some lousy veterans produced an amenic offense to which Royals fans have become accustomed. The Royals' offense should improve as they add potential impact bats like Gordon, Huber, and Butler. The grades are based mainly on the expectations for the players and their improvements.


John Buck: Buck had a slow start to the 2005 season. But, he put together a respectable sophomore season, hitting .242 with 12 HRs. Defensively, Buck threw out 34 percent of baserunners, which ranks in the top half of catchers in the league. He made just 3 errors and allowed just 3 passed balls. So, considering his solid defense and power, Buck has had a pretty good season. I think Buck will become a .250 hitter with 15-20 HR power over the next few years.
Grade: B-

Mike Sweeney: Sweeney had a pretty good season when he was playing. Sweeney's power dipped a bit, showing more gap power (39 doubles). But, Sweeney had 470 ABs, the most since 2002 and didn't miss any substantial time due to his back. So, in that respect, he made some progress.
Grade: C+

Matt Stairs: Stairs also pretty much met expectations. Stairs did a good job of getting on base and filling in for Sweeney as necessary.
Grade: C

Justin Huber: Huber's debut was disappointing, hitting just .218/.271/.256 in 71 ABs. Huber may start at AAA next year to get a bit more polish in the minors. But, his outstanding performance at AA/AAA is still impressive.
Grade: B

Ruben Gotay: Gotay made the team after a strong spring. But, he didn't really impress anyone during the first half of the season. Gotay's defense still needs a lot of work. He'll likely spend some time at AA or AAA next year.
Grade: D

Donnie Murphy: Murphy was promptly promoted after a couple good months at AA. Murphy's defense is pretty good and his offense should come. He'll start in the minors with Gotay in all likelihood and could still be a pretty good 2nd basemen.
Grade: C

Angel Berroa: Berroa is still living off his great rookie season. Berroa's OPS fell for the 2nd straight season. Berroa's plate discipline hasn't shown any improvements and neither has his defense. Berroa's stolen base percentage dropped and he only had 7 stolen bases. Unfortunately, the Royals are financially committed to Berroa through 2008.
Grade: F

Mark Teahan: Teahan struggled for most of the season, but made some good adjustments throughout the season, particularly to his plate discipline. Teahan's power was also becoming more evident toward the end of the season. Overall, 29 doubles and 7 HRs was about what I expected. Teahan's defense was pretty good, although he still needs to be more consistent.
Grade: B

Joe McEwing/Denny Hocking: I hope we never see either in a Royals' uniform again. They performed at the level I expected, but I'm going to fail them anyway.
Grade: F

Terrence Long: Terrence Long was pretty much performed as expected: good 4th outfielder, bad everyday outfielder. Terrence Long is a terrible everyday outfielder, but I can't blame that on him.
Grade: C

David DeJesus: DeJesus had a very solid sophomore season. DeJesus has become a solid player overall. DeJesus got on-base and had 46 extra-base hits.
Grade: A-

Emil Brown: Brown was a nice surprise this year. Brown hit 31 doubles and 17 HRs, leading the Royals' outfielders in both categories. Brown's defense isn't very good, but his offense made up for it.
Grade: A-

Chip Ambres: Ambres played pretty well for the Royals. He has a nice combination of speed, power, and on-base skills.
Grade: B

Front Office/Management:

David Glass: Whether or not Glass or Baird was responsible for the reduced payroll, he didn't seem to encourage Baird to improve the team much. For letting Baird finish his contract, Glass's grade is severely hurt. But, allocating the money to sign Gordon helps his case some.
Grade: D

Allard Baird: The usual pathetic Baird offseason signings led to a ballclub that was forced to call upon McEwing, Long, and other AAA quality players for regular playing time. Baird's only major signing, Jose Lima, was a complete bust. Lima was the worst starter in all of baseball. Baird didn't really make any moves to improve the team. Drafting Gordon and Sisco are no-brainers, but I'll give him some credit for that. Still, the Royals' biggest problem remain unsolved (rotation). I have no faith in Baird making good moves during this offseason, but I guess we're stuck with him.
Grade: F

Tony Pena: Pena didn't come up with a good slogan for the Royals this year, which ultimately caused the team's failure.
Grade: F

Buddy Bell: The Royals got off to a good start under Bell, playing almost .500 baseball for 50 games. But, things inevitably evened out. I really don't think the manager is the Royals' problem. I don't think Bell is a very good manager, but it really doesn't matter.
Grade: D

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Weekly Lancer

Without the fuel and excitement of a 106-loss team to sustain me these days, I'm planning to post about once per week in the offseason or when the need/urge arises. Today is one of those days.

-- Guy Hansen and Bob Schaffer get the axe. This isn't a surprise, since both were holdovers from the pre-Buddy era, so its just a case of Buddy Bell being able to complete his staff in a manner of his choosing. I also get the impression that Guy Hansen can be a difficult person to deal with, which given his proclivity for getting hired and fired is probably true. There's nothing controversial about this.

The next pitching coach, however, will be the 9th in the 10 years, I believe, a bizzare sequence summarized nicely by Joe Posnanski a few days ago in the Star. As you may well know, I'm not a big believer in the value of a manager. A poor manager can muck up a talented team, but a good manager is never going to be able to compensate for a collection of less-than-major-league-caliber players. The Royals have been producing low-caliber pitching from their minor league system, and the result is obvious. There is one guy out there, however - Leo Mazzone - who is in his own class as pitching coach. Leo has been shown to shave between 1/2 to nearly 1 full point off team ERA, all other things being equal.

The Royals may not be able to compete with other teams on the free agent player acquisition front, but coaching is one area where the Royals have no business crying that they can't compete. Bobby Cox makes about $2 million per season, and there is no way that Mazzone makes more. He probably earns on the order or $1.5 million per season. Given Mazzone's well-established excellence in making good pitchers great, mediocre pitchers good and bad pitchers servicable, this would be an investment that could pay huge dividends at a modest price.

Would Leo Mazzone listen? Not everyone is motivated solely by money, but I think most people have their price. If the Royals blew him away with a huge offer -- say, $10-12 million over 3 years - would he turn it down? Perhaps. But instead of signing marginal free agent flops like Brian Anderson, Darrell May and Jose Lima to $3-4 million contracts, why not make a big push to hire a guy who could help ALL of their young pitchers develop? This is, by far, the Royals' greatest need - a system that develops their talented, young pitching prospects into effective major league pitchers. All successful business hire away top executive talent from other firms to strengthen their firms, and they have to pay handsomely to do it. Why should the Royals be any different?

Instead, we'll probably get Mark Wiley - again.

End of Year Review: Royals' Report Card Part I

The Royals' record shows another disappointing year of futility. After a 104-loss season a year ago, it would seem as though the Royals are continuing to get worse. To some degree, that was true. However, the Royals will have a shot to redeem themselves of some bad contracts this offseason. Hopefully the addition of some new talent and the improvements of the young players will result in a much improved team next year.


Zack Greinke: Greinke regressed this year, struggling for most of the season. He had a good September, so hopefully that means he's figured out what caused his midseason troubles. Without a dominant pitch, it's hard to envision Greinke as more than a No. 2 or 3 starter, but I think he has a good chance at becoming that.
Grade: D

Runelvys Hernandez: Hernandez pitched 159 innings coming off TJ surgery and pitched reasonably well for most of the season. So, overall I consider his season a success, even though a 5.52 ERA is pretty bad. Next year, I expect a league-average season from Hernandez as his endurance and control should improve.
Grade: B-

Jose Lima: Lima Time was terrible as expected. Lima Time did exactly what he was supposed to, eat innings. The fault lies on Baird, not on Lima. But, I gave him an F anyway.
Grade: F

DJ Carrasco: Carrasco pitched well for the most part, especially considering he wasn't supposed to be a part of the rotation. Carrasco filled in a spot nicely. Whether or not he can be an effective No. 5 starter remains to be foreseen.
Grade: B+

Mike Wood: Mike Wood wasn't great, but he was pretty good in a lot of roles for the Royals. His versality as a long man/5th starter is certainly valuable for depth purposes.
Grade: A-

JP Howell: Howell probably shouldn't have spent anytime on the major-league roster, but the Royals dictated otherwise. Whether Howell's development has been hurt or not is unknown. His command of his mid-80s fastball must improve. His fastball has some sinking movement which should help him. But, I have to suspect there's a reason why few pitchers who top out in the upper 80s survive in the majors.
Grade: C

Brian Anderson: Injuries ended Anderson's season early.
Grade: Inc

Denny Bautista: Injuries ended Bautista's season quickly as well, but he showed flashes of potential.
Grade: Inc


Mike MacDougal: MacDougal had a good season and would be deserving of the Royals' Comeback Player of the Year award. MacDougal finished the season with 21 saves in 25 save opportunities. MacDougal was much more consistent this year and his command was much better (24 BBs in 70 IP). MacDougal will probably never be a great closer, but he looks to be at least average to above-average.
Grade: A

Jeremy Affeldt: After 4 years of service time, what is Affeldt's role on this team? Who knows at this point. Whatever it is, Affeldt hasn't been able to turn his abilities into performance. The Royals are largely responsible for Affeldt's demise, but Affeldt's attitude hasn't helped either.
Grade: D-

Ambiorix Burgos: Burgos had a great season considering he should have been in AA. Burgos has tremendous talent and is probably the closer of the future.
Grade: A

Andrew Sisco: Sisco also had a great season as a Rule V Pick. Instead of being relegated to mop-up duty, Sisco became the Royals' best lefty setup man. Sisco posted a team-best 3.11 ERA. He could challenge Burgos as the closer of the future.
Grade: A

Leo Nunez: Like Burgos, Nunez probably should have been in AA. Nunez struggled badly at times, inflating his ERA. Nunez pitched well at times and showed promise with his mid-90s fastball.
Grade: C

Jimmy Gobble: After finishing last season as the club's leader in wins, Gobble started out in AAA. Gobble pitched well as a starter this year, posting a 4.67 ERA in 4 starts. But, he's looking more and more like another Royals' pitching prospect gone bad.
Grade: D

Jonah Bayliss: Bayliss looked good when he was given a chance, as rare as that was.
Grade: Inc

Guy Hansen: Hansen didn't do much with the rotation, but none of the other pitching coaches have either. He seems like he'd be an good bullpen coach given the progress of Burgos, Sisco, and MacDougal under him.
Grade: D

Position Players Tomorrow