Tag Archive | "Game Situations"

Royals Add Infield Insurance

The Kansas City Royals recent play has them a contender in both the AL Central and the race for a wild card spot. Now playing meaningful games in August and September for the first time in years, the Royals have made several moves recently to add depth to their team as they try to make the playoffs for the first time since 1985.

Emilio Bonifacio

Kansas City recently placed Miguel Tejada on the 60-day DL. The absence of Tejada coupled with Mike Moustakas nursing a sore left calf led the Royals to make two moves to bolster their infield depth.

First they acquired 12-year MLB veteran Jamey Carroll from the Twins and then they added super-utility player Emilio Bonifacio from the Blue Jays. Both players cost the Royals cash and/or a player to be named later.

Carroll is a light-hitting infielder who started 46 games for the Twins this year and did not hit a home run, while driving in nine runs. Offense is not Carroll’s game, but he does provide veteran leadership and he can fill in at multiple positions on the infield. He is a good defender, even at this time in his career.

Carroll started Tuesday’s game against the Marlins at third base and was 0-4 with one strike out. He also pinch hit in Monday’s game and was 0-2.

Bonifacio is also expected to have a utility role. Like Carroll, Bonifacio can fill in all over the infield. Unlike Carroll, Bonifacio has also logged time in the outfield and can play a corner spot or in center field. Bonifacio doesn’t hit for average (hit .218 with the Jays this year), but he does offer speed. He can steal bases when he gets regular at-bats and can also come into the game as a pinch runner, providing a threat on the bases in late-game situations.

These moves have gone under the radar in baseball circles. However, Royals’ GM Dayton Moore identified a need and got two players without giving up much in return. As the Royals enter the dog days of the season, these acquisitions could loom large. The young Royals have never been in contention and they can learn from veterans Carroll and Bonifacio who have experience on winning teams.

 

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Shelby Miller To Test Arm

The first week of spring training games always brings a mix of excitement and trepidation as pitchers take to the mound for the first time in a game atmosphere against real opponents. So far the St. Louis Cardinals have been able to experience the excitement, but more trepidation awaits Saturday.

Shelby Miller is showing up in shape to compete for the opening in the rotation.

The Cardinals got to see their pitchers who came to spring training with the most health concerns, Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia, throw in game situations, and neither had any problems.

Wainwright threw 2.2 innings Monday against the Houston Astros, who got four hits off of the Cardinals’ right-handed ace, but he did not give up a run and struck out four.

Sure, Wainwright didn’t come into spring training with any major health concerns, but he is still just two years removed from Tommy John surgery on his elbow, and it is always crucial to get that first start out of the way without any problems.

Garcia pitched two innings in a start Tuesday against the Boston Red Sox. He gave up three hits but no runs and had two strikeouts.

His outing was a bigger concern because it was the first time he had pitched in a game since facing the Washington Nationals in Game 2 of the National League Division Series last year when he had to come out after two innings because of shoulder discomfort, and that was after he missed much of the second half of the regular season with the same problem.

But Garcia looked sharp Tuesday and reported no lingering issues with his shoulder.

That would be a huge relief for the Cardinals because Garcia is a key piece of the starting rotation, especially now that Chris Carpenter won’t be around. Carpenter’s injury effectively moves Garcia or Jake Westbrook up to the No. 2 spot in the rotation.

So, with Wainwright and Garcia off to good starts, the Cardinals move on to their next question mark on the pitching staff: Shelby Miller.

Miller is scheduled to start Saturday against the Nationals after he missed several days with soreness in his right shoulder. That could certainly be a major concern if something truly is messed up in the rookie’s shoulder, but most signs point to his soreness as just a normal part of working back into game shape after the offseason.

The Cardinals will find out for sure in just a few days when Miller takes the mound. So far the team has had all of its injury questions answered the way they would prefer. Wainwright looked sharp, Garcia pitched well and the rest of the pitching staff hasn’t reported any injury problems, which is more important at this time of the year than how they perform on the mound.

This will also be the first in a series of important outings for Miller, regardless of his health. He is competing for the fifth spot in the rotation with Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal, in what figures to be one of the most hotly contested battles of the spring.

Kelly has yet to enter a game, but Rosenthal started the Cardinals spring opener Saturday against the Miami Marlins, and things didn’t go so well. He gave up four runs on five hits and two walks without recording a strikeout.

Granted, the results in the first start of the spring aren’t very important, and he didn’t have any abnormal discomfort after the game. Rosenthal will get his shot to make the rotation. And if he doesn’t, the Cardinals will have his 100 mph fastball as an effective weapon out of the bullpen.

So the Cardinals can relax a bit now that the pitchers recovering for old injuries have surpassed the first hurdle of spring, but Miller will have to get through Saturday’s game without any issues before they can fully exhale.

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The Royals get ready for round two of interleague play

It’s that time of year, interleague play, where some National League fans are annoyed having to play American League teams during the regular season. American League teams don’t let their pitchers hit. And they have this “player” called a designated hitter to bat for the pitcher. A baseball blasphemy! Ok, maybe only a few National League fans think this way. But some N.L. fans do get worked up over not having an automatic out when the pitcher is up to bat.

Last month, the Kansas City Royals played the Arizona Diamondbacks at Kauffman Stadium and lost two out of three games. Tomorrow night, the Royals have five three game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Milwaukee Brewers, a home and away series with the St. Louis Cardinals and the Houston Astros, all National League Central teams.

Last year, the Royals went 5-13 in interleague play against the Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies. How will the Royals fare this year?

At the Pittsburgh Pirates, June 8-10: The National League version of the Royals aren’t playing like this year’s Royals. The Pirates are 28-27 and three games back of the N.L. Central leading Cincinnati Reds. With star center fielder Andrew McCutchen and a starting rotation headed by James McDonald and A.J. Burnett, the Pirates are a better team than in years past.

The Pirates won’t be pushovers and with Luke Hochevar on the mound Friday night, who knows what will happen. I’m hoping the Royals take two out of three games, but they could as easily get swept or only win one game against the Pirates.

At home against the Milwaukee Brewers, June 12-14: The Royals go back home for a three game set with the 24-31 Brewers, who are fourth in the N.L. Central. There’s a chance the Royals will see former Royal Zack Greinke, who leads the team with six wins. With the loss of Prince Fielder, the Brewers aren’t playing up to expectations. But this series could go either way. I look for two out of three wins for the Royals.

At the St. Louis Cardinals (June 15-17) and at Kauffman Stadium (June 22-24): It’s time for Cardinal fans to remember there is a Major League team on the west side of the state. As of Wednesday, the Cardinals were 28-28, third in the N.L. Central behind the Pirates. The Redbirds are going through a rough stretch, going 3-7 in their last 10 games. They’ve had injuries to key players and the bullpen isn’t pitching well. But the Cardinals offense is being led by the good play of Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday and David Freese. The Royals play the Cardinals six times, three at St. Louis and three at home. I’m predicting a 3-3 record against the Cardinals.

At the Houston Astros, June 18-20: The Royals conclude interleague play against the Astros, who as of Wednesday were 24-31 and fourth place in the N.L. Central. The Astros are playing better than expected, but they’re still in rebuilding mode. The Royals should sweep, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Royals win only one out of three games either.

In the National League ballparks, the Royals will have Jeff Franceour in center, Eric Hosmer in right field and Billy Butler at first. Hosmer has practiced in right field and it will be interesting to see how he plays in the outfield. But Butler’s bat is too hot and valuable to keep on the bench, so the Royals will go with Hosmer in right. And with the possible loss of Felipe Paulino due to a groin injury, the Royals already shaky starting rotation will be severely tested the next couple of weeks. The good news? The Royals will have have more opportunities to make sacrifice bunts. I’m sure National League fans will appreciate that.

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A Magical, Advanced Statistical, Graphical Adventure With The 2010 Royals

The Royals and advanced stats tend to mix about as well as oil and water, so if you are a Royals fan, you may want to shield your eyes from the following graphs of some advanced stats from the 2010 season.

Win Probability Added

A lot of advanced stats attempt to remove the effects of teammates and game situations to get a truer sense of how a player performed with regard to the things he had control over. WPA on the other hand is context driven. Every batter and pitcher is credited or debited the amount of win expectancy gained or lost after every plate appearance. It is a fascinating descriptive stat of what took place, but not a great indicator of a player’s actual talent. If you’re a believer in clutch performers, this stat rewards the big plays. (Click here for a better explanation.)

Takeaways: Joakim Soria comes out looking pretty amazing, which I believe is due to the big increase in win expectancy that comes with making the last out of a close win. Also because he is amazing. How about that Alex Gordon? His hitting numbers were not too pretty, but according to WPA he came through at good times. David DeJesus on the other hand had fantastic numbers at the plate, but you wouldn’t know it from his WPA. It is hard to overstate how damaging it was to the Royals offense to give Jason Kendall 490 plate appearances and for Ned Yost to slot him second in the order.

O-Swing%

Straight from FanGraphs: “The percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone.” Simple enough.

Takeaways: Gregor Blanco!? He only had 203 plate appearances after coming to KC, but in 836 career PAs, Blanco’s O-Swing% is even better at 19.6%. The advanced metrics do like Alex Gordon. His batting average has a lot of fans writing him off, but Alex knows how to draw a walk, making him more valuable at the plate than his average indicates. Oh, Yuni. Why would anyone ever throw him a strike?

AL Central wOBA

Here is how the Royals stacked up against their AL Central competition in my favorite batting metric (minimum 150 PAs):

Takeaways: I have no idea what to think about Wilson Betemit. I kept waiting for his hitting to fall to earth, but he just kept hitting. We will all be watching him closely next year to see if he has any more seasons like that in him. This advanced metric does not treat Alex quite as well.

AL Central xFIP

Expected Fielded Independent Pitching is on the same scale as ERA, but takes into account only those things the pitcher has most control over: strikeouts, walks, hit-by-pitches, and fly-ball percentage. One way to think about it is what a pitcher’s ERA might be if he had perfectly average “luck” and defense behind him. (If you are not familiar with straight FIP, you might want to start with this primer.) Here is how starters who threw at least 25 innings in the AL Central fared:

Takeaways: Zack Greinke is still filthy. Luke Hochevar’s spot is very encouraging. Bruce Chen will not be having another season like 2010, and the Royals are right to run the other way if he is after a multi-year contract as has been reported.

And the relievers who hurled 25 innings+:

Takeaways: The White Sox have the top three spots. Bless Kyle Farnsworth for pitching well enough with the Royals that Dayton Moore was able to flip him and Rick Ankiel for Blanco and Tim Collins.

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