Tag Archive | "Accomplishment"

First Place Royals

It’s late June and the Royals are in first place.  No, they aren’t at the top of their division nor are they leading the wild card race.  They are, however leading teams in a way they haven’t in some time.  The Royals have very quietly acquired the best earned run average in the American League.  The season is long but this is still a huge accomplishment considering their performance on the mound in years past.

JamesShields3

Saying that Royals pitching has been bad would be charitable.  Saying that Royals pitching has been the worst would be closer to accurate.  For well over a decade, Kansas City has put up some of the worst pitching numbers in all of baseball.

Since 2000, the Royals have been one of the three worst teams in combined ERA nine times.  In that time, their best pitching performance was in 2007 when they ranked 7th in the American League.  To add a bit more perspective, in 2009, when Zack Greinke won the Cy Young award he posted an ERA of 2.16 for the season.  That same year the Royals had a collective ERA of 4.83 coming in at 12th as a team in the league.

That’s what makes the jump to number one, even at this early point in the season something worth mentioning.  Even as they sit five games out of first place, Royals pitching has given up fewer runs than the division leading Tigers, who sit at number two as a team in earned runs.  And as the Kansas City bats slowly awaken from their royal slumber (pun entirely intended), they find that they are able to win the close games that they were losing earlier in the year.  They are currently 12-6 in the month of June in part by holding opponents to an average of about two and a half runs a game.

But as mentioned before, in the 2009 season, team ERA can be somewhat deceiving.  Ervin Santana has been lights out thus far with the American League’s 3rd best ERA of 2.64.  James Shields is right behind him at 2.72, putting him at 6th best in the league and one one-hundredth of a point behind Seattle’s Felix Hernandez.  Even Jeremy Guthrie comes in below league average in ERA at 3.72, good enough to get him in the top twenty in American League pitching.  However, the combined efforts of these three cover up the chink in the armor at the back end of the Royals’ rotation.

Luis Mendoza is 2-4 with an ERA of 4.30.  He hasn’t been terrible, but he has been unpredictable.  Wade Davis has been worse averaging over five earned runs per start.  The stunning performance of Santana and Shields, who were acquired this offseason, have covered up what could be the biggest weakness for these Kansas City Royals.

Santana and Shields routinely pitch deep into games.  This has been a god send for the Royals bullpen, who have now pitched the fewest amount of innings in baseball (175.3).  With the bullpen rested and the bats coming alive it’s this first place Royals pitching rotation that could use some shoring up.  There do exist options, none that the Royals hope they have to use though.

Dan Duffy, who is coming off of Tommy John surgery, has been making minor league rehab starts since the end of May.  Duffy has been sharp in the past averaging over nine strikeouts an inning in 2012 but since coming off of surgery he’s been getting ruffed up in AAA.  Also pitching right now in AAA Omaha is Yordano Ventura, the Royals young ace in waiting.  “Ace” Ventura as he is already being called, has had mixed success in Omaha but dominated in double A ball.  Ventura owns a fastball that can touch 100 mph.  His K/9 rate over four starts is 8 and 11.5 in AAA and AA respectively.  Ventura has talent to be sure but the Royals probably don’t want to prematurely promote their young prospect and limit his training and experience (not to mention bring his arbitration date closer) simply because Wade Davis has had a few bad starts.

And of course there is always the trade option, but most people suspect an underwhelming trade deadline from the Royals this year considering the amount of players they surrendered before the season started.  And of course Davis and Mendoza may pick up the pace down the stretch.  Davis has yielded only four runs combined in his last three starts.

Still, having the best pitching in the American League is a great problem to have.  The Royals took a chance this off season to acquire pitching and they got what they wanted.  And now that the offense is starting to show up they are starting to look like the contender that fans had hoped for.

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I hate your face, St Louis

“I love it when a plan comes together” – John “Hannibal” Smith

Two weeks ago I decided to write today’s article about the city of St Louis, their baseball team, and their unbearable fans. I spent countless hours researching, and remembering, all the things I dislike about this pompous trinity and was just beginning to feel prepared as I settled in to watch Friday night’s game. Less than 4 hours later, the best fans in baseball gave me all the ammunition I would have ever needed.

I should have seen it coming. You see I had developed a theory that determines how much you hate the Cardinal Nation, and Friday night’s experience just proved it. The theory basically states that hatred of the Cardinals begins with a person’s decency and is positively correlated with how much exposure you have to their fans. In other words, the more you get to know them, the more you hate them…and Friday night was a window into their souls.

Cardinals fans are, at their core, spoiled little brats. They’re the kid you hated in high school because he drove a brand new BMW, wore Abercrombie and Fitch to school every day, and always had that smirk on his face like he knew something that you didn’t. Everything in life was so easy for him. The hot chicks adored him because of his car, he never got in trouble because of daddy’s money, and he certainly wasn’t working a job in the summer. Remember how that kid acted when he something didn’t go his way? He threw a fit, just like Cardinals fans did Friday night. Remember how he acted when someone had a great accomplishment? He tried to diminish it, just like Cardinals fans did when Johan Santana no-hit them a couple of weeks ago. And if that didn’t work? Well then, he generally went off his rocker, like sending death threats to the family of an umpire because he had the audacity to blow a call.

The thing I always hated the most about that kid was that he actually thought we were all jealous of him, and of course so do Cardinals fans. They self-gloss with the ”best fans in baseball” tag, they talk about their 11 World Series rings any time you dare to question them, and most of all they love to act like they don’t give a damn about the Kansas City Royals because that would be beneath them.

Much like the rich kid, they’re just over compensating for their obvious shortcomings. I mean, c’mon they live in one of the dirtiest, most crime riddled cities in America. It’s no wonder they flock to the K every year, who wouldn’t want to get out of that abyss for a few days? I think the city of St Louis wanted to be Chicago but could only duplicate the crime and pollution. They like to compare their barbecue toKansas City, but the fact that they consume more sauce per capita than any city in the country tells me they probably aren’t very good at cooking their meat either. Maybe their team is a divine gift after all, to make up for how terrible every other aspect of life is in that cesspool.

Of course, Cardinals fans aren’t just making up for the inadequacies of their city, they have some of their own. For one, they are incredibly hypocritical. Their love and adoration of Mark McGwire as he injected his way to the home run record was sickening in itself. It became more so when it was replaced by indignant cries as Barry Bonds did the same thing, only better. Finally, when McGwire finally came clean, they no longer seemed to have a problem with steroids, as long as you admit it. So using the moral compass of the Cardinals, it seems that cheating is fine, drunk driving is to be revered, but human error from umpires is intolerable. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, these are the same people who cheered on Leonard Little long after his conviction for manslaughter.

Another thing the “best fans in baseball” pride themselves in is their knowledge of the game. That’s why I found it odd watching last night and hearing the roar of the crowd when Matt Holliday hit a can of corn to Jarrod

Dyson in medium-depth center field. Maybe their knowledge doesn’t include depth perception. Surely, though they stood and applauded when Alcides Escobar made one of the best plays the brilliant shortstop has ever made, right? Well, they were standing, but that’s because many of them were on their way out of the stadium…before the final out. I obviously don’t understand what makes a good baseball fan.

Now I mentioned the trinity at the beginning of this article, and I haven’t spent any time at all on the team. Honestly, before last night I didn’t have many feelings about this team. They’ve been ravaged by injury much of the season and at this point it appears to be a pretty mediocre collection of scrappy players and nearly has-beens. Of course, that’s generally good enough to win in the inferior league, but with no Albert Pujols to lead the way it won’t be this year. In fact, another Royals win tonight combined with a Reds and Dodgers victory would put the Royals closer to first place than the Cardinals, I wonder what the “best fans in baseball” would think of that?

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Seedlings To The Stars: Montgomery And Cleto

Old friend of I-70, Wally Fish (of Kings Of Kauffman fame), has a site known as Seedlings To The Stars. They are currently in the process of counting down their top 100 prospects and we thought our readers might like to drop by there for some insight. Below are I-70 players that are currently profiled. Drop by the site and read up on the future of your favorite franchise.

Mike Montgomery courtesy of Minda Haas

Top 100 Prospects, #85: Maikel Cleto, Cardinals
Nathan Stoltz of Seedlings To The Stars says:

Of the 662 pitchers who threw a pitch in the major leagues during 2011, none had a higher average fastball velocity than Cleto’s 98.4 mph. He fired 96-101 mph bullets in relief, and the pitch has good run and sink even at its higher velocities. As a starter, Cleto’s more in the 93-99 mph range, but still boasts a very intimidating heater.

He backs the fastball up with a solid hard curveball in the 82-86 mph range, giving him two good pitches. Ordinarily, a starter needs a more well-rounded arsenal than that, but with this sort of heat, Cleto doesn’t need a changeup as much as most guys. That said, he does throw one, which comes in (rather amusingly) in the low-90′s.

As a 22-year-old, the righthander had no trouble pitching in the High-A Florida State League, and he also handled Double-A with aplomb–no small feat considering that his home park there was the most hitter-friendly park in Double-A. He continued to strike batters out at a solid clip in both Triple-A and the majors; were it not for a disastrous first inning of MLB pitching (which can be excused, certainly), his line would indicate that he didn’t have too much trouble even at the highest level.

Holding his own after all the promotions was a great accomplishment, and Cleto’s premium arm strength gives him tons of upside.

Read Cleto’s full profile by clicking here.

Top 100 Prospects, #84: Mike Montgomery, Royals
Nathan Stoltz of Seedlings To The Stars says:

Montgomery boasts plus stuff, with a good low-90′s fastball and a curve and changeup that flash plus at times. At 6’4″ and with a lanky, projectable frame, he could grow into more velocity, and he could end up with three plus offerings–after all, he just turned 22 in July.

Statistically, Montgomery doesn’t have a whole lot left to prove in the minors after being a mid-rotation workhorse for Triple-A Omaha last season. After he missed significant time in 2010, getting through 150+ innings this season was a big step for the lefthander, and better still, he improved as the year went on. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was just 65/46 through the end of June, but was nearly twice as good thereafter, at 64/23.

Montgomery has always put up good groundball numbers and projects to excel in that area at the MLB level as well.

Read Montgomery’s full profile by clicking here.

If prospects are what you are looking for and you want the most in-depth analysis available, all of us here at I-70 would suggest you drop by Seedlings To The Stars often. I know it is sitting at the top of my bookmarks currently.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.

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Baseball Bloggers Alliance Ballot: NL Rookie Of The Year

Every year, the group known as the Baseball Bloggers Alliance places their ballots for various awards to be announced at the end of the season. This year, it is my pleasure to place the votes for the St. Louis Chapter of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance in the category of Rookie Of The Year. The award is officially titled The Willie Mays Award.

The National League this year has shown some diversity amongst the teams. Highly competitive races came down to the last few weeks of the season, highlighted by three teams and the men that guided them. In my mind, the top three managers to be considered for the award are listed here….

3 – Jaime Garcia, St. Louis Cardinals
I will probably catch some heat around Cardinal Nation for not placing Jaime higher in consideration for this award. Truth be told, he put together one of the most impressive seasons of a rookie pitcher in recent memory. That being said, the team, as a preventative measure, shut Garcia down in the early part of September for the remainder of the season. After costing him two or three more starts, the team also made it very hard for voters to seriously consider him in post-season award conversations.

Even after the team had shut him down, Garcia would finish with 13 wins in 28 starts and a 2.70 earned run average. He struck out 132 batters, walked only 64, and even threw a complete game shut out, just for good measure. A “dark horse” candidate for this award in the early part of the season, it seemed that Garcia was overlooked by everybody in baseball that was not following the St. Louis Cardinals. Garcia will not take the award home this season, but being considered in the top three is an accomplishment in its own right.

2 – Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
What Buster Posey lacked in patience at the plate, he certainly made up for with solid contact and the presence on the field of a veteran. Posey took charge of the Giants’ pitching staff while putting together a season that would make most veteran catchers proud.

Posey would come on strong, hitting 18 home runs and driving in 67 runs over the course of 2010. Add into those number his 23 doubles and Posey would post a slugging percentage of .505 while hitting an impressive .305. He would only strike out 55 times, but only walk a total of 30 times. When Posey came to the plate in 2010, he came to hit, and he did just that. If Posey can learn some patience at the plate, the Giants will be talking about this young, talented man for a very long time.

1 – Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves
He was the favorite to win this award when teams broke camp in Spring of 2010. What Heyward did throughout the year, despite a stint on the disabled list, was not a disappointment in the slightest.

Heyward would match fellow rookie Buster Posey’s 18 home runs, drive in 72 runs and hit a respectable .277. What set him apart was his approach at the plate – though he would strike out an alarming 128 times, he would also walk 91 times, showing some patience and veteran style approach. A .456 slugging percentage and 29 doubles showed many pitchers that he was a force at the plate and moved him to the top of most ballots on the rookie award categories. In the long run, Heyward is ready for greatness in Major League Baseball, and that greatness is coming sooner rather than later.

There you have it, my picks for the Willie Mays Award for the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.

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The Best Fans In Baseball

We have all heard it. St. Louis fans are often called “The best fans in baseball”. On a very large level, I agree with this sentiment. The fans will applaud an opposing player for a grand play, reward their beloved hometown players with cheers for the smallest accomplishment, and seem to know the game better than most casual fans in various cities around the United States.

To me, however, it takes more than that. While I can appreciate a player going first to third or a diving grab at the warning track regardless of the uniform the player is wearing, it seems lately that I have discovered some of the most outspoken and, dare I say, unsportsmanlike fans where I least expected to – the Gateway City itself.

I watched this week as fans all over the internet would disrespect, disparage, and flood social media sites with negative remarks towards Lou Piniella. One of the most successful managers in history that has been colorful, boisterous and at times angry, Lou has decided to hang up the uniform and head home to take care of his mother, who has battled health issues for most of the year. A manager that may have been most known for his temper flaring, ejection inviting, tantrums from time to time, there was one word that I have never heard used in the conversation about Lou – disrespectful. He always respected the game, the players and his opponents. For fans to not recognize this simply because he donned attire that featured a baby bear and a large “C” is astonishing from a fan base that claims to be fair and appreciative of great baseball.

Perhaps the largest example of my disappointment in the fans of the Cardinals comes in the consistent desire to rehash the incidents surrounding the Reds and Cardinals recently. Now, do not take this wrong, I do not agree with the actions of Johnny Cueto or Brandon Phillips during these events. Nor do I agree with the punishment handed down. That being said, it is done. The league has decided on the punishment, the time has been served, and the players involved are in their respective places now. The focus of both teams at this point, as well as their fan bases, needs to be squarely on the field and the opponents ahead. There is a pennant race to be won and, let us all be honest with each other, Jason LaRue was not going to be a deciding factor for this ball club. I feel bad to see LaRue on the shelf, he is a great guy, but can we please move on? Complaining about the decision by major league baseball and focusing on it each time Cueto pitches or Bryan Anderson hits only serves to prove the comments of Brandon Phillips to be true.

The best fans in baseball need to remember what got them that name, they need to buckle down and support their team, and they need to leave the hate talk and poor loser mentality to the fans that do it much better. There is an over abundance of fans in many other cities that fill that quota quite well.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.

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