Tag Archive | "Box Scores"

Early Patience Is Encouraging For Hosmer

The Kansas City Royals are poised to turn a corner in 2013.  Eric Hosmer and his return to form would be a big part of that.

Photo courtesy of Charles Sollars - copyright i70baseball

Photo courtesy of Charles Sollars – copyright i70baseball

In a dismal sophomore year for Eric Hosmer, there was an encouraging statistic that jumps out.  His power numbers took a big dip but he started to show patience at the plate and was able to increase his walks dramatically.  During his rookie campaign, Hosmer drew 34 walks and increased that number to 56 during the 2012 season.  Early on in Spring Training, he is showing good pitch selection once again.

It is hard to make much of Spring stats.  It is even harder to try to find something substantial about the stats this early.  The one thing that jumped out of the recent box scores to me was Hosmer drawing two walks and then drilling an RBI triple on Tuesday.

The two walks brings his Spring total to three, in eleven plate appearances.  His average is still low and, other than the triple, there are no extra base hits on his early record.  Still, he is driving in runs early, striking out less, and driving a higher on base percentage.  If he can translate that into his game come time for the regular season, the Royals and their fans will be very happy.

Hosmer’s power numbers will increase as his plate selection gets better.  Many fans are frustrated with the under performance from Hosmer last season and rightfully so.  The team is poised with a strong pitching staff to alter their makeup and show a willingness to win this season.  To get there, Hosmer will need to be a big part of it.

Patience will be the key to his season.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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Plenty Of Positives To Take From An Ugly Weekend For The Royals

Despite being swept by the Cleveland Indians while playing in front of their home crowd for the first time in 2012, the Kansas City Royals provided some reasons for optimism.

Photo Courtesy of Minda Haas

After what the box scores would tell fans was an absolutely miserable weekend for Royals fans at the K, the easy thing to do would be to point out all of the things that went wrong (which were many), all of the players that need to be sent packing (one already was, there may be few more), and all of the reasons Royals fans should be concerned for the rest of the season. But now is not the time to be dwelling on Jarrod Dyson’s defense, the Royals’ starting pitching, Mitch Maier’s relief pitching appearance, or the distance of Travis Hafner’s home run on Sunday. Sure, Luke Hochevar had a bad half inning. Though he wasn’t helped by his defense or an accidental check-swing bloop hit to right by Shelley Duncan, he needs to be able to limit the damage and pitch his way out of those situations without giving up 7 runs. Sure, after a decent first showing against the Los Angeles Angels, Jonathan Sanchez was erratic agains the Indians on Saturday, lost control of his pitch count, and couldn’t find the plate, unless it was being met by a Cleveland Indians’ player’s bat. Did fans really expect anything different? If Sanchez goes out and throws a 2-hitter with 11 K’s in his next outing, he will have, in 3 outings, perfectly exemplified both why the Royals wanted to acquire him and why he was available in the first place. That is who he is. Was anyone really surprised when, on Sunday, the imposter who had been running around in the Mendoza jersey revealed his true identity to be none other than Luis Mendoza himself? He of the 7.21 career ERA?

A message to Royals fans: let’s take a deep breath, back away from the ledge, and focus on the things that went well over the weekend, of which there were several:

1. The Royals did not quit in any of the 3 games. Some might consider putting Maier in as a relief pitcher on Sunday as a sign of quitting, but when the bullpen has been exhausted the way it was all weekend, and with no day off on Monday, that was about survival and living to fight another day. The Royals gave up 7 runs in the first game, and lost 8-3 with the final Indians’ run being scored on a Home Run in the 9th inning. Watching the game, you had the feeling they might have a big inning in them that could get them back in the game. They threatened several times, but couldn’t make it happen. Imagine what the final score would have been had the 2005 Royals gotten down 7-0 in the top of the first…ok, never mind. The next night, the Royals fought back from a 9-2 deficit to tie the game at 9-9, before losing 11-9 in extra innings. That speaks for itself. And on Sunday, even with the game getting out of hand, the Royals still managed to put up 7 runs.

2. Mike Moustakas appears to have grown up quickly. Despite ending the weekend with his batting average sitting at just .257, Moustakas is hitting the ball extremely hard, playing amazing defense, and does not seem to resemble the awestruck rookie he appeared to be much of last season.

3. Billy Butler is still Billy Butler. With 8 RBI’s in the first 9 games of the season, Butler is on a torrid run-producing pace. He appears poised for a true breakout season. It is hard to believe he is still only 25 years old (for 2 more days-Happy early birthday, Country Breakfast!). Butler is certainly the most underrated hitter on this team.

4. The Royals have something in Everett Teaford. What his role might be in the future will be determined, but the performance he put up in 4 innings of relief on Friday (1 Hit, 2 Walks, 3 SO, 0 Runs) was impressive.

5. Kelvin Herrera is flat out nasty. Though the radar gun at Kauffman is less than trustworthy, it had him clocked as high as 102 over the weekend. He gave up the home run on Friday night to the first batter he faced, but after that, he was un-hittable.

So settle down, Royals fans. This may not be the last weekend we see like this. There will be more bumps in the road. And though it may be time to hit the reset button on your expectations, just enjoy watching what is still the most exciting collection of young talent in all of baseball.

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Young And Restless

The Royals have not won since last Friday night against the Cardinals. That game the Royals showed patience and poise against a Cy Young winner in Chris Carpenter and eventually were able to scratch enough runs to win the ball game. After analyzing the box scores and scorecards from the rest of the week’s games, the reasons for the Royals current losing streak all comes down to certain fundamentals that for some reason or another they are failing to execute on the field.

Editor’s note: Due to the late, extra-inning game the team played on Friday night and the deadline for article submission, this article was written prior to the Royals clawed out a win against Texas in 14 innings.

Photo Courtesy Of Minda Haas

At the plate during the first 5-6 weeks of the season, the Royals showed remarkable patience and selection. This resulted in having a handful of starters batting above .300, some near the .330 mark or better (now there is only one starter hitting above .300). They waited for their pitch and tried to put into play. This past week they have not, while their opponents have seemed to battle through and find ways to get on base. In the past week, the Royals struck out thirty-five times vs. their opponents thirty-one times. This may not seem like much but some of these strikeouts have occurred when they had runners in scoring position. They Royals batted an anemic ten for forty-five with runners in scoring position, which left a small village of base runners nearly every single game.

This lack of patience has also left the Royals with fewer opportunities to score due to having only working their opponents to issuing twelve walks while their opponents’ batters were able to coax out twenty-seven walks (including thirteen in one game against the Cardinals). The Royals defense can stop the ball and get people out. However, they are going to have a tough time this summer if their pitchers cannot locate the strike zone on a consistent basis. Is this a sign of the Royals young pitching staff unraveling due to the pressure of the majors (which can be fixed with time and tutelage from the veterans and coaches)? Or, is this a sign that the Royals just outplayed their potential for the first six weeks and now every other team has them scouted down to a ‘T’?

Baseball is a game of many things and one of those is patience. The stereotype for many young players in this league is that they are not patient. They are not patient at the plate, they are not patient when the team is not winning and they end up trying so hard that they frustrate themselves into a complete slump in their game. I am all for playing hard and being ready before every single pitch but the greatest players who have ever played this game eventually figured out how to be patient enough and willing to make needed adjustments in order to make them better players.

These changes did not happen over night. George Brett did not all of a sudden become a feared hitter at the plate. Albert Pujols did not become a superstar with the wave of Tony Larussa’s magic wand. The only way to learn patience is to continue on your course (keep on keeping on) regardless of the passage of time. Eventually these young guys will learn patience and grow into a solid team. Remember, Rome was not built in a day, and we should not expect these young players to become perennial pennant chasing veterans overnight. We should expect them to compete and stay the course that Ned Yost and his staff have laid, and eventually they will reap the benefits.

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2011 Key Player: Alex Gordon

More bizarre predictions have been made, but not many have been the butt of more chat room razzing than Alex Gordon’s proclamation last September that he’s “going to dominate next year.”

Now sure, kids use the word dominate very loosely these days. But for a guy who’s barely proven he belongs on a major league roster, domination would seem like a stretch regardless of your definition.

But now, “next year” is upon us. Time for Alex Gordon to put up or shut up. And after a few days of his flailing about like we’re accustomed to, he’s spent a few days doing just what he said he’d do.

He’s dominating.

It looked like more of the same from Gordon just 10 days ago. He started the spring with a .067 average. He had Royals brass talking about how hard he’d worked in the off-season and blaming his timing for the rotten start. But to the purveyors of the box scores, it appeared our beliefs were just being confirmed.

Alex Gordon is never going to get it. He’s never going to be even a good major league player, much less live up to his prodigious potential.

But something seems to have clicked. In the last seven games (as of Tuesday) he’s gone 10-17 with three homers and raised his average to .367.

Now that’s domination.

I know, I know, it’s just spring training. But for a guy who has as much talent as Gordon has, and who works as hard as he reportedly does, don’t you think there might still be hope?

Several factors might, just might, be working in his favor.

First, the expectations on him have been lowered considerably. There’s no longer the pressure on him to be the next George Brett. Right now we’d settle for the next Jorge Orta.

Second, there are new kids in town who are getting all the attention these days. All eyes are on Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer now, leaving Gordon to go about his business of just trying to do the job.

Third, perhaps a position change really did do him some good. While it didn’t make a lot of sense in the short term because it left the team trying to make do with the likes of Wilson Betemit and Josh Fields, it may make sense in the long run. It gave Gordon a chance to play without Moustakas breathing down his neck, and to use his athletic ability away from the hot corner. He’s said he can relax more in the outfield, so maybe it will make a difference.

Fourth, he seems to have really taken to Kevin Seitzer. The two are working hard to break down Gordon’s swing, much like Tiger Woods’ did his en route to “domination.” At least that’s the comparison manager Ned Yost made recently in the Kansas City Star.

“It takes time,” Yost said. “It’s like several years ago when Tiger Woods completely remade his (golf) swing. He was already the best player in the world, but he knew he had to change his swing to reach the next level. And that took time (before it worked).”

Gordon is a very hard worker by all accounts. A hard worker coupled with a good coach just might begin to coax out the type of results Gordon would appear capable of.

Fifth, he’s got a manager who believes he can succeed and is giving him every opportunity to do so. When Gordon was scuffling early on, Yost made sure Gordon got more than his fair share of at-bats, believing he could work through the issues. Yost never makes anything but positive comments regarding Gordon. Yost really seems committed to standing by him.

Sixth, Gordon isn’t exactly surrounded by entrenched outfielders. Jeff Francouer and Melky Cabrera are, in many respects, on the same short leash as Gordon. They are all trying to recover the sparkle they had as prospects. Mitch Meier is nothing more than a role player. So if the team decides to deal an outfielder at mid-season, or to give up on any one of them, Gordon wouldn’t be on any more shaky ground than the others.

Add to that that, there really aren’t any corner outfield prospects chomping at his heels. I doubt Paulo Orlando or David Lough are causing Gordon to lose much sleep. Wil Myers is still a year or more away. Why should the Royals give up on Gordon now, with nothing much on the horizon?

And last, Gordon has one thing in his corner that is easily overlooked – on base percentage. Every year of his career, Gordon’s OBP has been about 80-100 points higher than his average. While we’d all like for him to compete for batting titles, his walks could make him more valuable than meets the eye. When you consider his combination of power and speed on the basepaths, a .260 batting average is something you could live with.

I’ve contended for the last couple of years that Gordon’s success or failure will have a giant impact on the morale of the Royals franchise. I don’t say that anymore.

With our every hope and dream now pinned on the farm system, the franchise could survive the failure of one player, even if that player was the second pick in the 2005 draft. The franchise will move on, with or without Alex Gordon. But that might just be for the best.

If three years from now Gordon is batting sixth in the Kansas City lineup, hitting .260 and getting on base at a .340 clip, knocking out 25 homers and playing solid left field, I’ll bet the Royals will be playoff contenders.

In which case Gordon may not be the next George Brett, but he’ll be dominating nonetheless.

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With Mitch Maier, It’s All About Options

Mitch Maier is doing his best to not be lost in the excitement over all the young talent in the Royals training camp this spring.

When Royals fans review the box scores or scour news reports from Surprise, they are checking for names like Cain, Escobar or Jeffress – additions from the Greinke trade. Or they might be gauging the prospects of Moustakas, Hosmer and Montgomery.

But when the final 25-man roster is set for March 30, many of the players in Surprise will not be on it. Maier knows he’s at a crossroads in his career, and he’s playing like a man fighting for his professional life.

Maier went on an 8-for-8 tear last week, making a desperate bid to be included in the crowded outfield crew that breaks camp. Against the Angels last Thursday, he went 4-4, scored twice and drove in two, while adding two stolen bases. The next day he added four more hits and a walk and drove in the winning run against the Cubs.

Hitting like that, he’s a shoe-in for the major league roster, right? Well, not quite.

Assembling a major league baseball roster isn’t like making cuts in an NFL training camp. The best players don’t necessarily make the team. In the case of the Royals, there will be several of the best players, or at least the ones with the most potential, left off.

The Royals will most likely take five outfielders to Kansas City. Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francouer will be among those. Though Alex Gordon will probably not play like one of the top three outfielders in camp, he will go as well.

So that leaves Maier fighting with Cain, Gregor Blanco, Jarrod Dyson, David Lough and Derrick Robinson for the final two spots. The two who play the best won’t necessarily make the cut, however.

Maier and Blanco cannot be sent to the minors without clearing waivers first. The others can – they have what teams refer to as “options.” That means if the Royals believe Maier or Blanco have any value whatsoever, they will not be cut.

The same is true in regards to other positions as well. Bob Dutton did a great job describing how a major league roster is assembled and how options work for the Kansas City Star a couple of weeks ago.

Maier doesn’t have options, but he does give the Royals some. He’s a solid enough fielder, and a good enough athlete that he can play all three outfield spots. He can pinch run.

What he hasn’t been able to do thus far, however, is hit left-handed starting pitching. He’s hit .200 with no homers against lefty starters. A platoon could work in his favor. But if he’s filling in due to an injury to a starter, he could be a liability.

Maier will turn 29 in June. If he doesn’t make the team this year, his career could be in jeopardy. It’s hard to imagine another major league team that could use his limited skills.

The team may feel a vested interest to keep Cain as instant return for the Greinke trade. He is, by all accounts, an impressive athlete.

Fans hungry for a more dynamic player may be rooting for Cain, or for Dyson, Blanco or Robinson, all speedy athletes. Lough appears to be a well-rounded talent who has been a minor league fan-favorite.

With Maier, fans know what they will get, but they may want more than he can offer. Because he is “out of options,” the Royals may feel they have no other option but to keep him.

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