Tag Archive | "Excerpt"

Matt Harvey Can Find Answers In Adam Wainwright

The following excerpt is from my latest article for Yahoo! Sports on the Yahoo Contributor Network.  You can read the entire article by clicking here.


COMMENTARY | The New York Mets were delivered a substantial blow to their future when they found out that Matt Harvey has a partial tear of his UCL, an injury that may require the infamous Tommy John surgery. Surgery could put Harvey on the shelf for the entirety of the 2014 season and impact his effectiveness for even longer. The St. Louis Cardinals and Adam Wainwright can provide a solid road map for Harvey and the Mets to follow.

Wainwright has been down the road that Harvey now faces. A partial tear of the UCL does not ensure that Tommy John surgery is necessary. It can be handled through rehabilitation and surgery can be delayed. It is a slippery slope, but one that Wainwright’s career is familiar with.

The partial tear
Wainwright suffered a partial tear of the UCL very early on in his career. He was able to continue pitching at a very productive level for over five years from the initial diagnosis. Other pitchers have tried to go the route of rehab with little-to-no success but Adam Wainwright proves that it is not impossible. Harvey may not see any significant time lost beyond the 2013 season.

Recovery time varies
It was early 2011 when Wainwright realized he did not feel right and was headed for surgery. The typical diagnosis can project almost a year-and-a-half recovery time for most pitchers. Wainwright surprised everyone when his rehabilitation from surgery was moving forward at a pace that had him throwing from a mound by the end of 2011. He showed up to spring training in 2012 ready to go and opened the season as a member of the rotation, just over 12 months removed from surgery.

That first season back is different
Once Wainwright was back on the mound, expectations were high and Cardinal fans were convinced that their ace had returned. While Wainwright’s first season back was successful by most accounts, it was not the season he is capable of that we are seeing in 2013. In 2012, Wainwright was able to throw over 198 innings and strikeout hitters at a pace similar to his career numbers before the surgery. He walked more hitters than normal, did not work as deep into games, and struggled with his command occasionally. He was back on the mound but he wasn’t completely back to normal.

Finish reading how the Wainwright Road Map can help Mets fans know what’s ahead by clicking here.

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What’s On Second?

Spring Training starts in about a month. Barring injury or a terrible performance, the Kansas City Royals lineup is pretty much set, except for second base. Like last year, Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella will compete for the job at second. But this year, Tony Abreu and Irving Falu could be in the mix as well.


Going into Spring Training, Getz is the likely favorite, despite an injury-filled 2012 and only playing 61 games at second. While the Royals praised Getz’s ability to drive the ball, he hit only 10 doubles, three triples and no homers with a .275/.312/.360 average and a 0.4 WAR in 210 plate appearances.

But the Royals were more concerned about his defense, where he had a .983 fielding percentage at second and a 4.43 RF/9. The league average fielding percentage was .983 and the league RF/9 was 4.63, making Getz a league average second baseman. If he keeps that up, he’ll be the Royals starting second baseman. If he stays healthy.

Many fans would like to see Johnny Giavotella at second, but so far he hasn’t done enough to win the job. He struggled last spring and started the season in AAA Omaha. He played 21 games with the Royals in May and June before coming back for good in August and September after Getz suffered a season-ending thumb injury.

In the Minors, Giavotella played well offensively, but needed work on his defense. But in 189 Major League plate appearances, Giavotella hit seven doubles, one triple and one home run with a .238/.270/.304 average and a -0.6 WAR. Giavotella played 45 games at second, with a .967 fielding percentage and a 4.23 RF/9. the league average fielding percentage was .983 and the league RF/9 was 4.63, which made Giavotella a below average second baseman. He’ll get an opportunity to win the second base job, but unless he starts hitting Major League pitching and his defense improves, Giavotella will start the season in Omaha.

Tony Abreu was a Spring Training non-roster invitee last year and got called up in August after the Royals released Yuni Betancourt. Abreu saw limited playing time, appearing in 22 games, 11 of those at second. In 74 plate appearances, Abreu hit two doubles, one triple and one home run with a .257/.284/.357 average and a -0.2 WAR.

With a small sample size of 11 games at second in 2012, it’s better to compare Abreu’s career playing second. In four seasons at second, Abreu has a .975 fielding percentage and a 4.59 RF/9. The league fielding percentage was .984 and the league RF/9 was 4.77, which at best makes Abreu a utility infielder. Seeing the most games Abreu played at second was 25 in 2007, the League tends to agree. If he makes the club, it will be as a utility infielder.

A possible dark horse at second is longtime Royals farmhand Irving Falu. In 24 games with the Royals last year, Falu played 14 of those games at second. In 996 games over his Minor League career, Falu played 315 of them at second. The most games he played in a season at second was 63 with Omaha in 2009, so even in the Minors, Falu was a part-time second baseman. He’ll get his opportunities in Spring Training, but it’s a long shot for Falu to make the Opening Day roster, much less as the Royals starting second baseman.

Second base was a weak position last year and it will be again in 2013. If the Royals can get league average offense and defense out of second, they’re in good shape, as far as second base goes.

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Wil the Royals trade Myers away for starting pitching?

The Royals need another front of the rotation starter, even after acquiring Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie. With a $70MM “soft” salary cap (which many argue is too low), the Royals say they’re willing to trade top outfield prospect Wil Myers for starting pitching. Names such as Tampa Bay’s James Shields and Boston’s Jon Lester have come up, but so far they’re nothing more than rumors. But is trading a top offensive prospect for starting pitching a good idea in the first place?

If it’s for Shields or Lester, no. Yes, they are good pitchers and better than anyone in the Royals rotation, including Santana and Guthrie. But they’re not worth Wil Myers trade value.

Both Shields and Lester will be free agents in 2014. If Myers stays with the Royals, he’ll likely be a free agent until 2019. Then there’s money. Shields will make $9MM in 2013 and has a $12MM team option. Lester will make $11.6MM in 2013 and has a $13MM team option. Myers will make much less.

Shields pitched 227.2 innings in 33 starts, had a 3.52 ERA with a 3.84 strikeout to walk ratio. Lester pitched 205.1 innings in 33 starts, had a 4.82 ERA with a 2.44 strikeout to walk ratio. Shields is 30 and Lester is 28, but between the two, Shields appears the one most likely to improve. Both pitchers are good and would be an asset to the Royals rotation, but not for Myers.

Now if the Tampa Rays are willing to deal David Price or Jeremy Hellickson for Myers, that might be a good trade. Price is a Super Two player, which makes him arbitration eligible in 2013 and a free agent in 2016. Hellickson is arbitration eligible in 2014 and a free agent in 2017.  Price made $4.35MM in 2012 and Hellickson made $489,500 in 2012, so they’re very affordable and would be under club control for at least a few years.

But I don’t see a trade like that happening. Price was a 20 game winner, pitching 211.0 innings over 31 starts with a 2.16 ERA and a 3.47 strikeout to walk ratio. And he was the American League Cy Young Award winner for 2012. Hellickson was no slouch, pitching 177.0 innings over 31 starts with a 3.10 ERA and a 2.10 strikeout to walk ratio. He was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2011.

Of the two, the Rays might trade Hellickson for Myers straight up, but to get Price the Royals would probably have to throw in another high level prospect like a Jake Odorizzi or Jason Adam. And the Rays aren’t rebuilding, so there’s no good reason for them to give up starting pitching for prospects.

If the Royals are so bent on trading for a starting pitcher, maybe they should consider Chicago Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija. Jeff Samardzija? To be honest, I didn’t know much about him either. But Samardzija was the ace of the Cubs, pitching 174.2 innings in 28 starts with a 3.81 ERA and a 3.21 strikeout to walk ratio. Sure, being the ace of the 61-101 Cubs isn’t that impressive. But Samardzija made $2.64MM in 2012, is arbitration eligible in 2013 and a free agent in 2016.

And the best thing is the Royals won’t have to trade Myers to get Samardzija (unless they’re very stupid, which is possible). The Royals could give the Cubs someone like Mike Montgomery or Cheslor Cuthbert for Samardzija and jettison or trade Luke Hochevar to pay Samardzija’s salary. The Royals still have money left to get a free agent pitcher like a Shaun Marcum or Anibal Sanchez. And Myers can take Jeff Francoeur‘s place in right field in 2013. Sounds like a good deal to me.

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Why I’m thankful I’m a Royals fan

I believe the Royals are a team on the way up. It’s hard to see that sometimes, especially with all the losing over the years, a disappointing 2012 season and the sometimes questionable moves of General Manager Dayton Moore. But the team is much better than it was just a couple of years ago and there’s plenty to be thankful for.

Except for second base and right field, the position players are in good shape: Yes, Eric Hosmer had a down year and Mike Moustakas cooled off after a good first half of the season. And Lorenzo Cain‘s injury-plagued season featured a just serviceable Jarrod Dyson in center field. But solid contributions by Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Alcides Escobar and the limited playing time of Salvador Perez showed promise. If Hosmer, Moustakas and Johnny Giavotella improve, Cain stays healthy, Wil Myers takes Jeff Francoeur‘s place in right field, and the lineup hits for more power, the Royals will have a young, potent lineup. There’s still a lot of ifs, but there’s less ifs than just a few years ago.

The Royals have one of the better bullpens in the American League and they’re young: The Royals bullpen ERA in 2012 was 3.17, which was sixth overall in the Majors. They were second in the Majors with 535 strikeouts, just behind the Colorado Rockies with 589. They also pitched the second most innings at 561.1, just behind the league leading Rockies at 657.0 innings. Throwing that many innings showed the weakness of the starting rotation, but the fact the Royals bullpen pitched that many innings and still had a decent ERA and strikeouts shows they more than held their own.

And most of the bullpen is under 30. Joakim Soria, who’s been with the Royals for six seasons and a “grizzled” veteran, is only 28. bullpen standouts Kelvin Herrera and Tim Collins will be 23 next season. The oldest bullpen pitcher in 2012 was 32 year old Ramon Colon, but he only appeared in three games, pitching a total of eight innings. If the starting rotation were as good as the bullpen, the Royals would be a much better team.

The Royals are making the effort to improve the starting rotation: The starting rotation was bad, ranking 26th in the league with a 5.01 ERA and pitched a total of 890.0 innings, 28th in the league. The pitcher with the lowest ERA outside of Jeremy Guthrie was journeyman Luis Mendoza with a 4.23 ERA.

The team knew they had to improve the starting rotation this offseason, so they made a trade for Ervin Santana and just signed Guthrie to a three year, $25MM deal. Yes, both pitchers aren’t aces and the Royals know they need a front of the rotation starter. But Santana and Guthrie are dependable, league average pitchers who will provide innings, keep the team in more games and not overwork the bullpen. There’s little chance the Royals will sign Zack Greinke, but they might have a chance with Anibal Sanchez or Shaun Marcum. The team is also willing to trade prospects for a veteran starter. The question is what prospects are the Royals willing to give up, what pitchers they’re looking for and how much of a risk they’re willing to take. The starting rotation still needs work, but they’re already better than 2012’s rotation.

The Royals aren’t the Miami Marlins: Fans like to gripe about team owner David Glass, but at least he’s not Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria. How would you like to be a fan of a team who spent almost $634MM on a stadium, most of it publicly financed? Then sign free agents Heath Bell, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, trade for Carlos Zambrano and Carlos Lee, which ballooned payroll to around $155MM, resulting in a 69-93 record, last in the National League East?

The Marlins traded away players Haney Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Omar Infante, Randy Choate, Edward Mujica, Heath Bell, Reyes, Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck for a bunch of young, unproven players, dumping a total commitment of $220MM in salary and making the Marlins a N.L. version of the Houston Astros. And don’t forget the Marlins Park $2.5MM home run sculpture that looks like the result of a Hunter S. Thompson all-night bender. Hey, at least the Marlins have outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and prolific Twitterer Logan Morrison (well, they are willing to trade Morrison). Between the two teams, the Royals have a much brighter future than the Marlins.

Finally, I have the opportunity to write about the Royals for I70 Baseball: I’m having fun writing about the Royals, despite 2012 not living up to expectations. I’ve learned a lot more about the players and coaches on the Major League roster, Royals prospects, the game of baseball and statistics. I’m thankful Bill Ivie gives us Royals and Cardinals fans the chance to write about their teams and being able to share it with other fans is an honor. And I look forward to writing about the Royals during this offseason and 2013.

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Royals acquire Angels starter Ervin Santana

Royals General Manager Dayton Moore likes to strike early, and this offseason is no exception. To help bolster the rotation, the Royals acquired right-handed starter Ervin Santana, 29, and $1MM cash from the Los Angeles Angels for minor league reliever Brandon Sisk, 27. The Royals will likely pay Santana $13MM for 2013.

So what are the Royals getting for $13MM? In 2012, Santana had a 5.16 ERA with a 9-13 record over 30 starts and 178.0 innings pitched. He had a 6.7 SO/9, 3.1 BB/9 and a 2.18 SO/BB ratio and gave up 2.0 HR/9. His WAR was -1.6. Of the five Angels starters, Santana had the worst ERA, had the least amount of SO/9, gave up the most home runs in the league at 39, and had the worst WAR among Angels starters.

That doesn’t sound good, but Santana’s ERA was lower than Bruce Chen, Will Smith and Luke Hochevar (I think everyone’s ERA is lower than Hochevar’s. Well, except for Jonathan Sanchez). Only Chen and Hochevar pitched more innings than Santana and only Chen won more games than Santana with 11. Santana had a better SO/9 than the 2012 Royals starters, but worse HR/9. Only Hochevar had a worse WAR at 1.7. In other words, the 2012 Santana is an improvement, but not by much.

What’s the upside? If you average out Santana’s 2008-2011 seasons, his ERA was 3.90, he had a 52-37 record with 202.1 average innings pitched. His average SO/9 was 7.4, BB/9 was 2.7, SO/BB was 2.89 and he gave up an average of 1.1 HR/9 with a 2.4 WAR. Compare that to top free agent Zack Greinke‘s 2012 season with a 3.48 ERA, 212.1 innings pitched, 8.5 SO/9, 2.3 BB/9, 3.70 SO/BB and giving up 0.8 HR/9 and 1.6 WAR. Greinke’s overall numbers are better, but Santana’s numbers are close. If the Royals get the 2008-2011 Santana, he will be a vast improvement to the Royals rotation.

Between the two, Greinke is a much better pitcher. But if you think the Royals are getting Greinke for $13MM a year, you’re dreaming. Santana is a one year, $13MM deal and unless he goes all Jonathan Sanchez on the Royals, they’re getting a league average middle of the rotation innings eater. The Royals hope Santana can bridge the team to 2014, when pitchers like Jake Odorizzi, Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino are a part of the rotation.

Let’s put it this way: the Royals offseason is better compared to last offseason by getting Ervin Santana and trading Sisk to the Angels, who wasn’t going to be on the Royals 40-man roster anyway. Of course that’s a pretty low bar to clear. But it shows the Royals are serious and Moore says the team isn’t through looking for starting pitching.

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Royals hire Maloof David as their hitting coach

In baseball, you can never have enough pitching and the Royals figure you can’t have enough hitting coaches. The Royals hired Jack Maloof as their new hitting coach and Andre David as the assistant hitting coach for the 2013 season, replacing the departed Kevin Seitzer.

Maloof, 63, spent the last five seasons as special assistant to player development and hitting coordinator. He was in the Atlanta organization from 2002-07 and the Marlins’ hitting coach from 1999-2001. Maloof will be the primary on-field batting coach.

David, 54, has been a part of the Royals organization for 14 years. He was the Royals Minor League hitting coach from May 2005 to May 2006. For the last three seasons, David was the hitting coach for Surprise in the Rookie Arizona League. David will assist Maloof with batting coach duties.

With both Maloof and David being a part of the Royals organization, they have familiarity with the current Major League players and players in the Minor League system. The 2012 Royals were fourth in the A.L. with a .265 batting average, but were 12th in the A.L. with 676 runs scored and tied for last in the A.L. with 131 home runs. Maloof and David hope to improve the Royals power hitting and home run totals.

But why two hitting coaches? There’s concern two hitting coaches might send mixed signals to the players, but Maloof and David insist they work well together and are on the same page hitting wise. If that’s the case, they can work on two different players at the same time, being able to coach more players. And though the hitting philosophy of Maloof and David are likely to be the same, some players might “click” better with one of the coaches, increasing their chances to improve their hitting. Of course there’s the danger of the players forming “cliques,” liking one coach over the other, which could cause friction.

There’s also the “extra set of eyes” from David that gives Maloof another perspective. During games, David will be in the stands, observing batters to see what they’re doing right or doing wrong. Maloof can use the information to improve the Royals hitting.

Many teams have their pitching coach as the “primary” coach and their bullpen coach as the “assistant” pitching coach, so it’s not too far fetched to have two hitting coaches. The Giants, Tigers, Braves, Cardinals, Phillies and Padres have two hitting coaches. The Giants and Tigers are in the World Series, and the Braves and Cardinals made the playoffs, so there’s the argument two hitting coaches can be successful. With the hire of Maloof and David, The Royals are the second A.L. team to employ two hitting coaches.

The promotions of Maloof and David won’t magically propel the Royals above .500 and into the playoffs. The Royals main focus this off season is starting pitching. But they need players like Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas to reach their offensive potential and the team needs to score more runs. The Royals hope Maloof and David will take the team’s offense to the next level. Who knows, maybe they’ll get Chris Getz hitting opposite field home runs. Hey, they’re hitting coaches, not miracle workers.

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If the Orioles can do it, so can the Royals.

After the 2012 season, it’s easy to accept the Royals will always lose and nothing will change. It’s hard to be optimistic and defend a sports team who hasn’t been above .500 since 2003 and not in the playoffs since 1985.

So should I and other Royals fans be more optimistic? I think so. Look, if the Baltimore Orioles can make the playoffs, so can the Royals.

You could call the Orioles the Royals of the A.L. East. In 2011, the Orioles had a 69-93 record. The last time they won 70 games was 2006. The last time they went over .500 was 1997. This year, the Orioles went 93-69, winning the Wild Card play-in game against the Rangers before losing the ALDS against the Yankees.

The Orioles weren’t supposed to be this good. Their Pythagorean win-loss record was 82-80 and many figured the team would finish towards the bottom of the A.L. East.

The Yankees won the A.L. East, but only by two games over the Orioles. The Rays played well, but “only” won 90 games, missing the playoffs. The Jays were Royals-like at 73-89. The Red Sox finished 69-93 and showed Bobby Valentine the door.

So what made the Orioles so good? It had to be their top-shelf starting pitching. Well, not really. The starters had a 4.42 team ERA, ninth in the A.L. and 21st in the the Majors. Their “ace” pitcher, Wei-Yin Chen, had a 4.02 ERA, a 12-11 record, pitched 192.2 innings with a 2.70 SO/BB ratio.

The Royals starters had a 5.01 team ERA, 11th in the A.L. and 26th in the Majors. That’s not too far off from the Orioles. The Royals “ace” was Bruce Chen, with a 5.07 ERA, a 11-14 record, pitching 191.2 innings with 2.98 SO/BB ratio. If Luke Hochevar wasn’t Luke Hochevar and Jeremy Guthrie had a full season with the Royals, The Royals starting rotation could be better than the Orioles rotation.

How about the bullpen? The Orioles had a 3.00 team ERA, third in the A.L. and fifth in the Majors. Just behind them were the Royals with a 3.17 team ERA, fourth in the A.L. and sixth in the Majors. The Royals had 535 strikeouts, the most in the A.L., but the Orioles had a 1.21 WHIP, compared to the Royals 1.34 WHIP. The Orioles bullpen was a factor, but it wasn’t the main reason they made the playoffs.

How about the Orioles lineup? Center fielder Adam Jones led the team with a .287 average, 103 runs and 16 stolen bases. DH Chris Davis led with 33 home runs and 85 RBI. As a team, the Orioles had a .247 average, 677 RBI, 270 doubles, 214 home runs, scoring 712 runs while allowing 705 runs.

Meanwhile, DH Billy Butler led the team with a .313 average, 29 homers and 107 RBI. Alex Gordon led the team with 93 runs and Alcides Escobar stole a team high 35 bases. As a team, the Royals had a .265 average, 643 RBI, 295 doubles, 131 home runs, scoring 676 runs and allowing 746 runs.

The Royals had a better batting average and more doubles, but the Orioles had 83 more home runs and 34 more RBI. And the Royals gave up a lot more runs than they scored. Having a good team batting average and hitting doubles helps, but scoring more runs wins more games. The Orioles did a better job offensively than the Royals, but it wasn’t a big reason the Orioles played so well.

So what was it? The Orioles had something the Royals didn’t have much of: luck. There’s a stat called Pythagorean Luck, which is the difference between the actual win-loss record and the Pythagorean win-loss record. The Orioles were the best in the Majors with an 11 luck score and played way above expectations. The Royals were -2 and played slightly below expectations.

When the Orioles were in a close or extra inning game, they usually won. In one run games, the Orioles had a 29-9 record, the best in the Majors. The Royals were 27-26, which is at least above .500. The Orioles also had the best extra inning record in the Majors at 16-2. The Royals were 8-7, once again above .500. And the Orioles never lost a regular season game when they led after seven innings.

And love him or hate him, manager Buck Showalter did a good job managing the team. He’s obsessively detail oriented and after a while he usually wears out his welcome, but he’s a frontrunner for A.L. Manager of the Year.

Now the Orioles were far from perfect. The lack of an ace showed itself in the playoffs, even with the Yankees being offensively challenged. And a team can’t expect to win a majority of one run and extra inning games every year. And outside of pitcher Dylan Bundy and third baseman Manny Machado, the Orioles farm system is pretty shallow.

But the Orioles prove with timely performances, a average starting rotation and some luck, a team can win and make the playoffs, even in a strong A.L. East. There’s no excuses for the Kansas City Royals now. If the Baltimore Orioles can do it, the Royals can too.

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Jeremy Guthrie: For real, or a mirage?

When the Colorado Rockies traded for starting Jeremy Guthrie last February, they expected him to be a reliable innings-eating pitcher with a deceptive fastball, a good slider and change up. The right-handed Guthrie was the Opening Day starter for the Baltimore Orioles the last three seasons and Guthrie was the Opening Day starter for the Rockies. By July 20, Guthrie’s 2012 season was a bust and the Rockies sent him to the Kansas City Royals for the disappointing lefty Jonathan Sanchez.

The 2012 season started out well with an Opening Day win against the Huston Astros. But the Rockies lost 13 of the 19 games Guthrie pitched in and he ended up with a 6.35 ERA, 4.5 K/9 and a 3.1 BB/9 over 90.2 innings. In late April and early May, Guthrie also missed 15 games with a right shoulder injury. By June 20, the Rockies sent the struggling Guthrie to the bullpen as their long reliever, going with a four-man rotation. Guthrie rejoined the rotation July 4, but the Rockies lost three of the last four games Guthrie started before being dealt to the Royals.

In his first three starts with the Royals, Guthrie looked like a right-handed version of Sanchez, giving up 14 earned runs over 16.1 innings, 12 strikeouts and five walks, being pegged as the losing pitcher in all three games.

But the last two starts reveal a different Jeremy Guthrie. In a combined 15 innings, Guthrie hasn’t given up a run, earned or unearned and thrown 14 strikeouts and given up just two walks. And the teams he pitched against were the Chicago White Sox and the Oakland A’s, both teams who are in the thick of the playoff hunt.

Since the trade, Guthrie has a 4.02 ERA, 7.5 K/9 and a 2.0 BB/9 over 31.3 innings. Meanwhile, Sanchez has a 9.53 ERA, 6.1 K/9 and a 7.4 BB/9 over 11.1 innings. So far, it looks like the Royals got the better end of the deal.

So why the turnaround? A big part of it is Guthrie’s change of scenery. When Guthrie pitched at Coors Field, he had a 7.84 ERA and a 5.1 K/9 over 12 games in 59.2 innings pitched. When he was away from Coors Field, Guthrie had a 3.75 ERA and a 5.3 K/9 over 12 games and 62.1 innings pitched. Guthrie also gave up 15 homers at Coors Field compared to nine homers in other ballparks. And did I mention Guthrie is a flyball pitcher? That’s not a good thing in the rarefied air of Coors Field.

Kauffman Stadium is more of a pitcher’s ballpark and with the Royals good defensive outfield, Guthrie can afford to be a flyball pitcher. Lately, the Royals offense is improving, so that gives Guthrie and the starting rotation better run support.

Another factor is Guthrie’s attitude when joining the Royals. Sanchez always acted like he didn’t want to be with the Royals and his performance showed it. But Guthrie says the Royals were one of the three teams he would like pitch for and so far he’s displaying a good attitude.

But two good starts doesn’t mean Guthrie will continue his good run. And Guthrie isn’t going to turn the Royals 2012 season around by himself. These are the Royals we’re talking about, and starting pitching is still the weak link of the team.

Guthrie will be a free agent at the end of the year. If he has a good rest of the season, he could command more than his current $8.2 million salary. Would the Royals be willing or able to sign him, or will Guthrie go somewhere else for a bigger paycheck? And the Royals may believe they have better and more affordable in-house options and let Guthrie walk.

For a trade that seemed to be a wash about a month ago, Jeremy Guthrie is becoming a pleasant surprise. And with yesterday’s news of former Royal outfielder Melky Cabrera being suspended for 50 games for testing positive for testosterone, the Sanchez/Cabrera trade doesn’t seem too bad, especially with getting Guthrie out of the deal.

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This just in: The Royals starting rotation is bad

Starting pitching, good or bad, affects every part of a baseball game. Look no further than the two disastrous outings by starters Jonathan Sanchez and Ryan Verdugo last Monday and Tuesday night. In two games with the Seattle Mariners, Sanchez and Verdugo gave up a combined 13 runs over three innings. Neither pitcher got out of the second inning and the Royals lost both games, 9-4 and 9-6. The Royals had enough of Sanchez, designating him for assignment Tuesday after a 1-6 record and 7.76 ERA. As for Verdugo, he’s on I-29 back to AAA Omaha.

So now the Royals starting rotation consists of Bruce Chen, Luke Hochevar, Luis Mendoza, Everett Teaford and Will Smith. This is why the Royals as of Wednesday were 38-51, 11.5 games back of the Chicago White Sox and the starting rotation had only four quality starts in their last 17 games.

And the Royals top three pitchers, Chen, Hochevar and Mendoza, haven’t pitched well lately. In their last three starts, the trio has given up a combined 34 earned runs in 51 innings. The Royals record in those games is 3-6.

Of the three, Mendoza is the only one with a sub 5.00 ERA at 4.32. He’s also gave up the least amount of runs with six in 21.1 innings. But the Royals lost two of the three games Mendoza started. Chen is a good pitcher, but in his last three starts before Wednesday’s game, he’s gave up a combined 18 runs in 13.2 innings. The Royals went 0-3 in those games. Hochevar is pitching a little better lately, giving up a combined 10 runs over 16 innings in his last three starts. The Royals went 2-1 in those games. But Hochevar has a 5.16 ERA and could be one start away from giving up another big inning.

So what about Everett Teaford and Will Smith? Teaford has bounced between Omaha and Kansas City, appearing in eight games, four of them as a starter. Of those four starts, the Royals won three of those games. In his last three starts, Teaford gave up a combined 10 runs in 16.1 innings, where the Royals went 2-1. His 2012 ERA is 4.98.

As for Will Smith, he’s spent most of 2012 in Omaha, with only three games with the Royals, all starts. In those three games, Smith gave up a combined 14 earned runs in 14 innings, with the Royals losing two of those three games. He has a 9.00 ERA.

And there’s not much help in the high minors either. The Royals top pitching prospect, Jake Odorizzi, is in Omaha and projects to be a number three starter. These days, a number three starter would be an improvement for the Royals starting rotation. It’s certain we’ll see Odorizzi this year, but he won’t be able to turn the Royals fortunes around by himself. And remember Mike Montgomery, who had a chance to make the starting rotation out of spring training? He’s in AA Northwest Arkansas, trying to figure things out.

And two of the better starters this season, Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino, had Tommy John surgery and won’t be back with the Royals until the middle of the 2013 season.

When the starting pitchers struggle, the whole team struggles. If a starter doesn’t have at least a quality start, that gasses the bullpen, who have to pitch more innings. If the starter gives up a lot of runs, it forces the offense to try and overcome the run deficit. And if a starter has a high pitch count per inning, the defense behind them are more likely to make defensive mistakes.

It’s simple. Teams with a good starting rotation are more likely to win games and make the playoffs than a team with a decent to bad starting rotation.

This year, the Royals have a good offense, good defense and the bullpen is holding its own. But the starting rotation, this year and in years past, is atrocious. And unless the Royals land a top tier pitcher via free agency or a trade, the Royals starting rotation will continue to be atrocious.

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The rise of Moose, the struggles of Hos

Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are good friends. They play on opposite ends of the diamond. They were both selected as first round picks in the amateur draft. They made their major league debuts last season. They dressed as the Ambiguously Gay Duo for their rookie hazing. It was supposed to be Hosmer as the superstar, the face of the Royals franchise. Moustakas was going to be an important piece of the Royals youth movement, but play second fiddle to Hosmer. But at this point in the season, Moustakas is becoming the superstar and Hosmer is just another player making his way through the major leagues, trying to live up to expectations.

The bottom line is Moustakas is performing and Hosmer is not. Moustakas has a .273/.341/.468 line compared to Hosmer’s .218/.287/.370 line. Moustakas has more runs, hits, RBI and home runs. Hosmer does draw more walks and strikes out less than Moustakas, making Hosmer the more patient hitter. Hosmer is still climbing out of an extended slump he had earlier in the season and he’s playing better. But Hosmer still has a ways to go before catching up to Moustakas.

The defensive numbers favor Moustakas as well. Moustakas has a .958 fielding percentage, which is above the league fielding percentage of .946. Hosmer’s fielding percentage is at a league average .995. Moustakas has made his share of defensive highlight reels, such as yesterday’s game against Houston where he backhanded a ground ball to third and from his knees threw out a runner going to second.

But there’s more than the on-field performance. There’s Moustakas’ nickname, Moose. It’s the perfect name for a player like him. In ballparks wherever Moustakas plays, his fans will don antlers and sometimes make moose calls. Almost every time Moustakas comes up to bat or makes a play, you’ll hear fans going “Moooose!” Heck, I even heard fans in St. Louis cry “Moooose!” after Moustakas made the final out of last Friday night’s game against the Cardinals. Or maybe that was something else.

Hosmer’s nickname? It’s Hos. Not Hoss, Hos. You don’t hear many fans yelling “Hos!” when Hosmer makes a great play. And Hosmer doesn’t have fans wearing antlers on their heads, faux hawks or Amish style beards for that matter.

Lately, the Royals are making Moustakas the face of the franchise. If you go to www.kcroyals.com, you’ll see Moose towering over the Kansas City skyline where Hosmer once stood. And that’s understandable. In All-Star votes, Moustakas is fifth among American League third baseman. Moose even has a Twitter hashtag, #VoteMoose. And if there’s any Royal deserving a spot in the All-Star game, it’s Moustakas.

Meanwhile, Hosmer isn’t near the top five in votes among American League first basemen and I haven’t seen any #VoteHos Twitter hashtags either. Looks like he’ll get a few days off during the All-Star break.

It’s not as if Hosmer is a bust. Far from it. You could say Hosmer is in a sophomore slump and Moose is not. In time, Hosmer will find his stroke and become the player fans expect him to be. And baseball being what it is, Moustakas could be in a July slump while Hosmer gets hot.

Despite the 12 game losing streak earlier in the season, the countless injuries to key players, the 1,834 roster moves (rough estimate) and the up and down play of the Royals, the team is 31-36 and only 4.5 games out of first in the American League Central. Yes, the Royals are still in fourth place, but they’re only 4.5 games out. With the return of Salvador Perez, Felipe Paulino and Lorenzo Cain, the continued great play of Moose and a resurgent Hosmer, the Royals could make a run towards first in the A.L. Central.

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