Tag Archive | "Kc Royals"

KC Royals’ Spring Training Report: Full Update of Surprises, Busts and Injuries

The Kansas City Royals have had an eventful spring.  For the first time in recent memory, the team is feeling the stress of a team that is expected to win.

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Winning brings its share of scrutiny, and The Royals have certainly found themselves in the spotlight.  Some players have excelled and been a pleasant surprise for the team.  Some have fizzled under the pressure and face uncertain futures.  Others have found themselves injured, either seriously or mildly, and have many questioning the team’s depth.

Some teams simply hope for a quiet spring to prepare for the long season.  If that was the goal for the Royals, it may be a difficult road ahead.

Mike Moustakas Leads a Group of Positive Surprises

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The surprises of the spring start with the production of a young man that the team desperately needs to perform well this season. Mike Moustakas, a player that the team has been anticipating to be a big part of the offense for multiple years, has seemingly arrived with the chip on his shoulder that the team wants him to have.

Moustakas leads, or is tied for the lead, with all regulars this spring in hits, doubles, home runs, runs batted in and batting average. He is slugging an amazing .921 and is second on the team with six walks. His offensive performance this spring has the team very hopeful that he can be a breakout star in the regular season.

Moustakas is not the only surprise this spring, however. On the mound, Yordano Ventura came in to camp ready to compete for the final spot in the starting rotation. The electricity that flowed through this young man when he took the mound this spring was something very few people could have predicted.

Ventura proceeded to pitch just over 15 innings to date, striking out 15 hitters while only walking one. He has held opposing batters to a .185 batting average, and he has posted a 0.72 WHIP. Ventura, according to Barry Bloom of MLB.com among others, has been named to the team's starting rotation after his dominance in spring training.

Bill Ivie is the founder of i70baseball.com.
Follow him on Twitter to talk baseball all season.

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Who Is Number Two In KC Rotation?

The Kansas City Royals took huge measures this offseason to fix their number one on-field issue, the rotation.  The addition of James Shields gave them a legitimate ace pitcher at the front of their rotation.  The rebuilt rotation looks stronger but leaves the question open: Who’s number two?

Rotation

Throughout 2012 the opinion around the Royals fanbase was very similar.  Many people felt that the team was full of pitchers that projected as the fourth or fifth best pitcher in a rotation.  There was no clear cut “ace” nor was there anyone that the fans felt confident in taking the mound to stop a losing streak.  The team had major league quality pitching, it just was not elite.

Dayton Moore seemingly set out to fix that during the end of 2012 and into the offseason.  A three year contract was reached with Jeremy Guthrie, who had pitched very well after joining the Royals during the second half of 2012, and trades were made for Shields, Wade Davis, and Ervin Santana.  The fifth spot is up for grabs this spring and eventually Danny Duffy will join these four to round out the starting five.

Shields obviously will head line the starting rotation for the Royals and is the type of pitcher that would headline most rotations across baseball.  Last year was a team full of rotation guys that projected as four and five starters, this year, it appears that the rotation may be full of guys that are top-three style pitchers.

Looking at the four starters that are set into the rotation this season, where will they rank at the end of 2013?

Wade Davis: Number Four
WadeDavis
Davis has been a solid Major League pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays.  In four seasons he has proven to be a durable starter and a reliable relief pitcher.  The Royals brought him in as insurance and an upgrade over the pitchers they currently had, but he was never projected to be near the top of the rotation.  Davis will provide some inning-eating starts throughout the summer and be serviceable in his role, but ultimately will remain as a lower-rotation starter that may end up back in the bullpen before long if other pitchers are pitching well when Duffy returns.

Ervin Santana: Number Three
MARINEROS-ANGELINOS
Santana is the pitcher that the Royals most hope can realize his potential.  In eight seasons of starting pitching for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Santana has won 16 or more games three times in his career.  He has also lost 12 or more games three times as well.  An up-and-down career has seen moments of brilliance and frustration for Santana.  The Royals will hope that Dave Eiland can work with Santana on mechanical flaws in his delivery and help him regain his top-of-the-rotation form.  Santana should be able to be the number three starter when the smoke clears, though Kansas City may be hoping he is better than that.

Jeremy Guthrie: Number Two
JeremyGuthrie
Looking at past performance of all three starters would rank Guthrie much lower in this conversation.  However, in recent interviews Guthrie has talked very openly about a renewed confidence, a satisfaction with management and coaching and overcoming a mental block that he felt kept him for being a better pitcher in Colorado.  He has spoken to the fact that Kauffman Stadium is a pitcher friendly environment and that he feels that he has one of the best defenses in the league behind him.  The confidence shows in his statistics from last season, with nearly all of his stats showing best in his career type numbers.  He is pitching to contact, keeping the ball in the park, and letting his defense do the work.

By the time the smoke clears on the 2013 season, the Royals will be looking at a rotation that will feature top-tier players at most of the slots.  Jeremy Guthrie has every opportunity to become a great part of that rotation for the next three years.

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

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Hispanic Heritage in KC: Royals Are Now a Player in Latin America

A quick perusal of the Royals All-Time Hispanic Heritage Team is enough to realize that the team has not had much of a history in Latin America. The team’s system produced just one true star of Hispanic decent – Carlos Beltran – in its first 42 years.

You would think when they watched Beltran quickly bloom into a dynamic five-tool star that they would have begun searching high and low for other such talents.

But they didn’t. A few good Hispanic players came along, most of them acquired via trades. But the number, documented in a previous article, was shockingly low.

Mining Latin America for young talent just wasn’t a part of the plan. While the percentage of Latin players on major league rosters climbed to 27% last year, the Royals lagged behind.

But under Dayton Moore, that approach has changed. Signing players from Latin America is a way to augment annual draft classes and quickly bulk up a minor league system. The Royals are now one of the primary players in Latin America, competing to sign the top free agents and fill their system with dynamic prospects.

It is significant that two of the brightest hopes for the Royals future were signed in Moore’s first year on the job. Salvador Perez, from Venezuela, and Kelvin Herrera, from the Dominican Republic, shot so fast through the minor leagues that they never even showed up on rankings of top prospects.

Since then, other top Hispanic prospects have joined the organization, and the minor league system is filling up with Hispanics following in the footsteps of Perez and Herrera.

Not all will work out, obviously. The Royals dug deep into their pocketbooks to ink Noel Arguellas at the same time the Reds broke the bank to sign Aroldis Chapman. Sad to say, the Royals have not had the same success with Arguellas.

2006:

Sugar Ray Marimon (23): During the same off-season that KC signed Perez and Herrera, they also added this right-handed starter from Colombia. Shoulder problems have slowed him, but he advanced to Double-A mid-season.

2008:

Robinson Yambati (21): The Dominican righty received a mid-year promotion to High A Wilmington for his solid relief pitching. He may be following in the footsteps of Herrera.

Yordano Ventura (21): This Dominican got the start for the international team in the Futures Game, heralded as one of the hardest throwers in the minor leagues. Boasting a 100 mph heater, Ventura tore up Carolina League hitters (98 Ks in 76 innings), adjusted slowly to Double-A.

2009:

Cheslor Cuthbert (19): A pup who’s been slowly climbing the minor league ladder, Cuthbert gets rave reviews, but has yet to explode on the field. The Nicaraguan remains a top third base prospect, but hit just .240 with 7 homers at High A Wilmington.

Jorge Bonifacio (19): The Dominican outfielder rocketed out of the blocks last spring at Low A Kane County. He slowed over the season, but finished with a .282 average, 10 homers and 61 RBIs in 105 games.

2010:

Orlando Calixte (20): Looks like he has all the skills necessary to play shortstop. Hit well enough at two levels of A-ball to inspire hope for the future.

Noel Arguelles (22): This signing has been disastrous for the pitching-starved Royals. After giving the Cuban defector $7 million, the Royals had to wonder if Arguelles would ever take the field. After about a year on the sidelines nursing arm troubles, Arguelles has been essentially a batting practice pitcher at Wilmington and Northwest Arkansas. Don’t check out his numbers if you have a weak stomach: 4-14, 6.41 ERA, 1.777 WHIP.

Humberto Arteaga (18): Could follow in the footsteps of fellow Venezuelan shortstop Alcides Escobar – a tall, lanky line-drive hitter. He hit .274 for Burlington last season, but struck out a ton.

2011:

Eliar Hernandez (17): Signed for $3 million, expectations are high for the Dominican outfielder. He is tall and athletic, but failed to hit in his first professional season – .208 with no homers at Idaho Falls. The Royals hope he’ll develop into a Wil Myers-type outfielder.

Adalberto Mondesi (17): Yet another shortstop at the low minors, the son of Raul Mondesi doesn’t exactly fit the criteria for this article. Though he was signed out of the Dominican, he was actually born in Los Angeles. Mondesi spent the season at Idaho Falls, even though he didn’t turn 17 until the end of the summer.  He was solid enough considering his age; he hit .290 with 3 homers in 50 games.

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I-70 Series By The (Jersey) Numbers

The second part of the I-70 Series for 2011 will take place in St. Louis this weekend. The story of two franchises that are both ultimately headed towards winning ways at the same time for the first time in years can be told in many different ways. Series breakdowns and predictions will be made. Here at I-70 Baseball, we plan to weigh the teams against each other in a whole new way.

Thirteen active players on each of the two rosters share a jersey number. As we take a look at the thirteen players for each team, we will decide which player holds an advantage over the other and ultimately come out with our prediction for the winning team based off this obviously scientific formula.

Alex Gordon, LF, KC Royals
Gordon is the man set to dominate in 2011, by his own words. He has not exactly let the fans down at this point. A strong batting average, decent home run total, driving runs in at a career best pace and above average fielding have many Royals fans screaming for Gordon in the mid-summer classic.
Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis Cardinals
Molina is one of the core members of this franchise. Known primarily for his gold glove caliber defense, Yadi has shown that he has an above .300 quality batting average and should be feared at the plate as well as behind it.
Decision
This may be one of the hardest numbers to decide and the two teams have cornerstone players wearing the number 4. The idea here may be to go with the player with the best overall body of work and for that, Molina takes the number 4.
Mitch Maier, OF, KC Royals
Maier is a backup outfielder that has seen very little playing time for the Kansas City Royals this season. A strong batting average based on a small sample size, Maier brings little to this argument.
Lance Berkman, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
One of the most feared free agent signings in recent memory, Berkman has found a rebirth and youthfulness that many had written off for better times. Berkman has become a core part of the offense and continues to shine.
Decision
No brainer on this one, a bench player up against a key component. Give number 12 to the Cardinals as well.
Matt Treanor, C, KC Royals
Treanor was picked up late in the offseason to provide exactly what he has become – a defensive, veteran catcher who had a strong handle on the pitching staff. With a young staff, the Royals needed this type of guidance, and they received just that.
Jon Jay, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
Jay was the reason the franchise felt Ryan Ludwick was expendable in 2010. By 2011, Jay was the reason the Cardinals signed Lance Berkman. A strong outfielder that plays well when not overexposed, Jon Jay is a key contributor when used properly.
Decision
A battle between players that are not used everyday makes decisions hard. However, Jay has become a central part of both the Cardinals offense and defense. Number 15 is in the Cards.
Jeff Francis, SP, KC Royals
Francis has many Royals fans wondering why he is in the rotation. He has surrendered a league worst 104 hits and boasts a 3-6 record.
Kyle Lohse, SP, St. Louis Cardinals
For a team without its ace pitcher, Lohse has been one of the reasons the Cardinals find themselves still in contention on some level. A 7-3 record and a sub 3 earned run average will help any team.
Decision
I was one of the biggest Lohse detractors the last few years but I will eat my crow, and award the Cardinals the number 26 in this contest.
Brayan Pena, C, KC Royals
Pena has been, at times, a bright spot and, at others, a failure. All in all, he has handled the pitching staff well and posted a respectable offensive number for a catcher regarded for his defense.
Tyler Greene, IF, St. Louis Cardinals
Greene has been one of those conundrums for the Cardinals. A player that has always performed will in the minors just can’t seem to get it together in the big leagues.
Decision
The Royals get a runaway for the number 27. Greene shows no reason to be taking a roster spot as he is the same player as Ryan Theriot, without the bat.
Eric Hosmer, 1B, KC Royals
Hosmer represents the future of the franchise for the Royals and has given fans and the team no reason to doubt the future isn’t bright. Hosmer has shown that he is level headed, strong willed, and shows flashes of excellence at the plate and in the field.
Jake Westbrook, SP, St. Louis Cardinals
Westbrook was the center piece of the Ludwick deal last season and has had moments where he has proven why. Other times he has made fans wonder. Ups and downs abound despite the fact that he came to the team as a pitcher that was supposed to be consistent in his position.
Decision
The Royals fans would kill me if I did not award number 35 to the Royals franchise. Hosmer has a bright future and Westbrook needs to perform at the level the Cardinals acquired him for.
Blake Wood, RP, KC Royals
The middle relief pitcher has often been a bright spot for the Royals this season appearing in 23 games already this season. 24 strikeouts to 10 walks (1 intentional) has proven him a stingy pitcher with good stuff.
Mark Hamilton, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals
Hamilton represents what the Cardinals minor league system is capable of. A player who is honestly “blocked” in the depth chart, he has serviced well as back up but found most of his time come in pinch hitting or work in lopsided games.
Decision
The jury is still out on Hamilton who is not getting enough playing time to make an accurate decision on him. Wood, however is pitching well enough to bring the number 38 home to Kansas City.
Aaron Crow, RP, KC Royals
Crow is yet another part of the youth movement of the Royals franchise. Much like Hosmer, Crow is proving why everyone is getting excited. The Royals are showing confidence in the young man and rightfully so, he will be closing games before long.
Trever Miller, RP, St. Louis Cardinals
Miller has been another part of the conundrum for Cardinal fans. A pitcher that has dominated in the past suddenly cannot find his way in 2011. Miller is aging and it is starting to show.
Decision
Another young arm brings home a number to the west side of the state as Aaron Crow takes the number 43 in our run down.
Luke Hochevar, SP, KC Royals
Hochevar leads the Royals in starts and has not performed completely horribly in them, just mildly so. Still, he is eating innings and pitching well enough to keep the Royals happy with his performance, even if the fans are not.
Miguel Batista, RP, St. Louis Cardinals
A Non-Roster Invitee,
he has pitched horribly.
He is known for poetry,
fans pray for free agency.
Decision
Did anyone think that Hochevar could win a comparison against another pitcher? Neither did I. Of course, calling Batista a pitcher at this point is a bit of a stretch. Number 44 goes to the Royals.
Louis Coleman, RP, KC Royals
Another part of that strong middle relief corp for the Royals, Coleman has nailed down a few innings that he has been entrusted with, including the ninth inning a few times.
Kyle McClellan, SP, St. Louis Cardinals
McClellan, much like Lohse, deserves a lot of the credit for what the pitching staff has done. Though he had a rough start coming off the disabled list, he has been more than adequate on the mound in his starts.
Decision
Kyle McClellan has done nothing more than perform anywhere the team has asked him to, and done so at an above average level each time. Give the number 46 to the team under the arch.
Tim Collins, RP, KC Royals
Collins, while not as great as Coleman or Crow, has shown that the youth movement in the bullpen is worth while. At time erratic, he has managed to stay on top of his game and help the team out of many jams.
Skip Schumaker, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals
Skip has spent a good portion of the season on the disabled list. On top of which, it appears the franchise no longer looks at him as an every day option at second base. A solid teammate, he is playing out of his position and it has not gotten any better.
Decision
Based largely on the inadequacies of Skip Schumaker, the number 55 is heading west to Kauffman Stadium with young Mr. Collins.
Greg Holland, RP, KC Royals
The youth movement in the bullpen continues with Holland, who has seen limited time but has impressed with the time he has gotten.
Brian Tallet, RP, St. Louis Cardinals
Another player that has seen limited time do to being injured, Tallet has done nothing to prove why he should be trusted in tight ball games.
Decision
Two players with small sample sizes, but one has dominated in the short amount of time that he has had. Holland takes the number 56.
Felipe Paulino, SP, KC Royals
Paulino has made appearances in four games so far this year, three of them starts, and has no record to show for any of it. He has pitched well and shown solid command, it will take time to determine what his future is in Kansas City.
Fernando Salas, RP, St. Louis Cardinals
Salas has proven that the Cardinals have a youth movement of their own going on. The young man has inherited the closer role from Ryan Franklin and done so in stunning fashion.
Decision
One of the brightest spots out of the Cardinals bullpen, Salas takes the number 59 back to the east side of the state.

Totaling up the numbers sees the Royals take home seven numbers and the Cardinals only taking home six. The numbers here show the Royals winning the series.

And numbers don’t lie.

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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Where Are They Now: Coco Crisp

Coco Crisp was brought to the Royals to improve the outfield defensively, be a lead-off hitter and create runs. He did none of the above.

Crisp came to KC for Ramon Ramirez from Boston. While not a bad trade, I was quick to address Crisp’s health issues and I was concerned whether he’d make it a whole season. Crisp’s stay in KC was not one filled with highlights. In his first season here he batted a career low .228 and followed that with a season ending injury on June 23rd.

Crisp signed with Oakland on December 20th, 2009. As a surprise to everyone, Crisp started the 2010 season on the DL with a fractured left pinkie finger. Since this injury, Crisp has been healthy and has a much improved batting average of .279, which is 50 points higher than his KC Royals batting average.

Crisp arrived in camp for the 2011 Oakland As healthy but he found a little bit of trouble. According to TMZ, Crisp was arrested on suspicion of a DUI on March 2, 2011 in Scottsdale, Arizona. Crisp publicly apologized via his Twitter account, @Coco_Crisp:

Sorry to everyone! my family, friends, MLB and my fans. I know I let a lot of ppl down and again I am sorry. I'll talk more 2morrow, Gnite.
@Coco_Crisp
Covelli Crisp

He then followed that with a second message 13 hours later:

Philippians 4:11-13... Thank you all for your support and heart felt thoughts, moving forward from here and promise it won't happen again!
@Coco_Crisp
Covelli Crisp

While he is not a player I would want on the Royals with what is here and in the pipeline, Crisp is a very nice guy. He’s very open to the public. He responds to fans on Twitter, posting pictures, talking about root canals and doing push-ups in order to help turn doubles to homers. He made an honest apology in the San Francisco Chronicle, “I can say how I feel about the whole situation and I guess, obviously embarrassed is one of the main feelings. And sorry. … That’s genuine.” Crisp said, “A lot of people look up to me, and the decision was not the right decision.” He added he wants to apologize to all the fans, “The ones that come to razz…and ones who come to cheer me. “ He also apologized to the As and MLB as a whole, guaranteeing this will never happen again.

While DUIs are easily preventable and stupid, you have to applaud Crisp’s sincere remorse for making the mistake and can only hope he continues on straight and narrow in the future. Crisp seems like the kind of guy who learns from his mistakes and will only be judged by his play on the field, rather than his mistakes off the field.

According to a message and picture posted on his Twitter account, Crisp will play his 3rd spring game on, March 3, batting leadoff. He is expected to open the season as the As lead off man.

Troy “KCRoyalman” Olsen can be heard on 810 Radio Wednesdays and Fridays from 9-11pm as part of 3 guys in a garage. Follow him at twitter.com/kcroyalman and facebook.com/kcroyalman.

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Royals Links: Digital Digest Weekend

Photo courtesy of Minda Haas

The off-season is drawing closer and closer to a bitter end and rosters are finally taking shape.

The Royals roster is coming into a complete, yet inexpensive, reality. With a flurry of moves this week they locked up their budding star, resigned a pitcher, signed a new face for the rotation, watched a player retire suddenly, and watched a catcher pick up a different kind of glove. All the while, the team also opened its doors to the blogging community for the Digital Digest.

Here is what is happening around the Royals blogosphere this week:

Old friend Nick Scott introduces the Internet to Dayton Moore via Digital Digest.

Clint takes a look at Wil Meyers and his move to the outfield with some added video material over at 14 for 77.

Austin over at Kings Of Kauffman wonders if this might be the worst team ever for the KC Royals.

Normally I link straight to an article, but give a read to the last few articles from talented photographer Minda Haas over at her site.

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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NL Central Preview: Milwaukee vs St Louis

I-70 continues its look at the NL Central with a stop in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee has been a darling of the off-season, if for no other reason than acquiring Zack Greinke from the KC Royals. For years, Milwaukee has had a highly potent offense, questionable defense, and substandard starting pitching. In 2008, when they won the NL Wild Card, it was only after they fortified their rotation with CC Sabathia. Looking ahead to 2011, getting Greinke immediately vaults the Brewers from fringe contender to bona-fide challenger for the NL Central title.

So much for the build-up; let’s see how they stack up against the Cardinals.

First Base – Prince Fielder vs Albert Pujols. Now that Adrian Gonzalez is in Boston, Fielder is the second-best offensive first baseman in the National League ( Joey Votto needs to sustain his 2010 excellence for a couple of years). Fielder has been on an every-other year cycle, posting OPS+ of 157 and 166 in 2007 and 2009, but 137 and 130 in 2008 and 2010. If the trend continues, he’s due for a monster season. Fielder has never been known for his glove, and is considered a below average defensive first baseman.

How good is Albert Pujols? An 166 OPS+ would be his third-lowest career season. Fielder has one Silver Slugger; Albert has six, including the last 3 in a row. He has 2 Gold Gloves, and has been ranked #1 or 2 in Dewan Plus/Minus 4 of the last 5 years. Advantage: Cardinals.

Second – Skip Schumaker vs Rickie Weeks. Weeks was the second overall pick in the 2003 amateur draft, but has never quite lived up to that expectation. Until last season, when he had his finest offensive year (OPS 125+, career high 29 HR). He is the Brewer leadoff hitter, he can steal (although only 11 in 15 tries last season), and he led the league in getting hit by a pitch (25) in 2010. He does strike out a ton (184 in 751 PA). Defensively he regressed from his 2008 campaign, again by Dewan Plus/Minus, and was ranked 32 by that metric.

Schumaker, in contrast, had his worst offensive season since becoming a regular in 2008. He’s always been just average offensively (102 OPS+ in 2008 and 2009), but his OBP dropped 40 points last year and he finished with an 83 OPS+. As has been well documented here and elsewhere, he has had a tough time learning and playing second. His Dewan ranking for 2010 was just ahead of Weeks (31). Advantage: Brewers.

Third – Casey McGehee vs David Freese. McGehee finished fifth in the 2009 Rookie of the Year voting, and followed that strong season with a breakout season in 2010. His 116 OPS+ was fifth best on the club, and he led the team in RBI. He is, however, another all bat/no glove guy on this roster; in 2 seasons, he has ranked 29th and 34th among third baseman using the Dewan runs saved metric.

David Freese remains an intriguing player who has lots of potential but cannot seem to stay on the field. He has yet to play more than 70 games in a season, although in those 70 games last year he put up a 109 OPS+. He only has 600 major league innings at third. Last year Dewan ranked him 21st. The Cardinals hope this is the season he is the full-time third baseman from March to October. Based on their prior performance McGehee is the better player going into 2011. Advantage: Brewers.

Shortstop – Yuniesky Betancourt vs Ryan Theriot. Neither of these players was a member of these teams in 2010. Betancourt played the whole season with KC and came over in the Greinke trade. Yuniesky has one of the game’s most unique games, but that has not prevented him from being one of the worst everyday hitters in the majors throughout his career. Case in point: last season’s 88 OPS+ is the second-highest of his career. He is a defensive liability at short. The last 3 seasons he has posted -14, -20, and -15 runs saved (Dewan again).

Brewer pitchers better be good, because their infield defense is not.

Ryan Theriot started the 2010 season with the Cubs and ended it in Los Angeles. His career OPS+ is almost exactly the same as Betancourts (82 to 84), although last year it was a meager 70. This is because he has no power at all. However, proving that OPS+ is not the be-all and end-all, Theriot has value as a hitter, with a .348 career OBP, easily besting Betancourt’s .296. From 2007-2009 he saved 4, 5, and 5 runs respectively as an everyday shortstop, and although that dropped below 0 in 2010 it’s a better indicator of his true talent level. Advantage: Cardinals.

Catcher – Jonathan Lucroy vs Yadier Molina. Lucroy made his major league debut in 2010 and ultimately had almost 300 PA’s. He had good numbers in the minors (.875 OPS), and his defense seems average to slightly above average. He threw out 29% of would-be base stealers in 2010 while in Milwaukee. Overall, like David Freese he has a lot of potential, but most of it is as yet unrealized.

Molina’s 84 OPS+ last year ended three consecutive years of improvement with the bat. He hit the same number of HR (6) as in 2010 when he posted a 100 OPS+, but ended with 19 fewer singles, 3 fewer doubles, and no triple (although I don’t think we will see many more triples from the man). Defensively he remains the premier catcher in the NL. His 44% of runners thrown out last year was his best percentage since 2007; it’s interesting that teams attempted to steal 63 times against him, the most since 2006. Molina won his third consecutive Gold Glove last season. Advantage: Cardinals.

Left Field – Ryan Braun vs Matt Holliday. Braun is probably the Brewers best all-around everyday player; Holliday is the Cardinals second-best. Braun is the 2007 ROY and has finished in the MVP top 25 every year he’s been in the bigs. He’s won 3 straight Silver Slugger awards. His OPS+ was 133 last year, and his career average is 140. Braun’s real good. His defense is a bit erratic by the Dewan runs saved metric (8th in the rankings for 2008, 34th in 2009, 8th again last season), but we will give him the benefit of the doubt and call him an average to above average left fielder.

Matt Holliday posted a 149 OPS+ his first full season in St Louis, one point short of his best season ever (2007 with Colorado). He also won a Silver Slugger last year, his first since 2008 and fourth overall (disclosure – apparently MLB gives out the Slugger awards like they do Gold Gloves, which is why 2 left fielders can win in the same season). The last 3 seasons he’s also been one of the very best defensive left fielders in baseball, finishing 5th, 3rd, and 3rd in the Dewan rankings.

Holliday is a slightly better fielder and hitter, but Braun is younger. Advantage: Cardinals (barely).

Center – Carlos Gomez vs Colby Rasmus. Gomez only played 97 games during his first season in Milwaukee, his season ending after he was beaned by Cubs rookie Brian Schlitter on August 3 and suffered a concussion. He was having a career year at the plate, posting an OPS+ of 78, his career high. That said, his OBP resembles Betancourt’s, which is not a good thing given speed plays a major role in his game. Defensively he had his worst season in the majors in CF by the Dewan metric (23rd amongst center fielders).

Rasmus is supremely talented and still channeling that talent. He had a great year at the plate (OPS+ of 132), but defensively he graded out worse than Gomez (28th). Rasmus is a much better hitter with their defense being about even. Advantage: Cardinals.

Right – Corey Hart vs Lance Berkman. Hart had a career year in 2010, posting a 132 OPS+ and cranking out 31 HR. He was an All-Star for the second time and cracked the MVP t0p 25 for the first. Dewan’s rankings didn’t think much of his glove, rating him 32nd of all right fielders and -9 on the plus/minus scale.

Berkman is the mystery man on this year’s Cardinal team. In 2010 he posted an OPS+ of 114, his lowest since his 1999 rookie season. He is still recovering from knee surgery. If he can re-discover his bat, and recapture some of his former form in the outfield, he will be a find. Berkman has not played right since 2007. Only 2 years worth of data exist in the Dewan database, and he received a -2 score in 2006 and -5 in 2007 at the position.

Cardinal fans will hold their breath Berkman plays well in 2011, but who’s the better RF going into the season is pretty clear. Advantage: Brewers.

Starters

St Louis will probably start the season with Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Jake Westbrook, Jamie Garcia, and Kyle Lohse as their starting 5. Milwaukee will counter with Zack Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf, and Chris Narveson.

The Cardinal staff is pretty darn good, something that gets overlooked in all the Phillie and Giant hype. Wainwright was the 2010 Cy Young runner-up and finished 3rd in 2009. Carpenter was the runner-up in 2009 and won the award in 2005. Westbrook was tremendous the second half of last season, Garcia finished third in the ROY voting, and Kyle Lohse is – well – trying to rediscover his 2008 form.

Milwaukee’s no slouch either. Greinke won the 2009 AL Cy Young in KC and had a very solid, if not to the same level of spectacular, season in 2010. Gallardo was second in the NL in K/9 last season. Marcum had an ERA+ of 125 last season with Toronto, Wolf remains a crafty left-hander, and Narveson pitched well in stretches during his first major league season as a starter.

Looking at some of the numbers, the Cardinal 5 posted WAR of 6.1 (Wainwright), 3.7 (Carpenter), 3.2 (Garcia), 2.3 (Westbrook combined between Cleveland and St Louis), and 0.7 (Lohse). Milwaukee’s projected rotation posted WAR of 6.3 (Greinke), 4.6 (Gallardo), 3.5 (Marcum), 0.7 (Wolf), and 1.8 (Narveson) in 2010. That’s pretty close (16 combined WAR for STL, 16.9 for MIL), so that’s how we grade them. Advantage: Even.

Bullpen. Two things make evaluating a bullpen difficult. One is the amount of turnover most teams experience from year to year. The other is any change in management. Milwaukee is no exception when it comes to bullpen turnover. MLB.com lists 10 bullpen arms on their depth chart. No way all 10 men break camp with the big club. Of the names listed, four saw significant work with the club in 2010 (LaTroy Hawkins, Zach Braddock, Kameron Loe, and Manny Parra), and a fifth while with Los Angeles (Takashi Saito). How the bullpen will finally look at the end of spring training is still to be determined, but unless they pratfall Hawkins ($4.25M), Parra ($1.2M), Saito ($1.75M), and Loe ($0.65M) will be part of it. Possibly Sean Green ($0.875K) as well. Brewers relievers were 7th in the NL in WAR with everyone above less Saito and Green, so it does not make much sense to mess with a good thing.

John Axford is the closer. He saved 24 games in 27 opportunities after a one-plus year apprenticeship under Trevor Hoffman. Axford throws a heavy (95 MPH on average) fastball, slider, and curve. He should be better this season.

Turnover is no stranger to the Cardinal bullpen corps, but the same number of folks as Milwaukee has project to return for 2011. Kyle McClellan, Trever Miller, Jason Motte, Mitchell Boggs, and closer Ryan Franklin will be the mainstays. Fernando Salas and PJ Walters look to have expanded roles (Salas made 27 appearances, Walters 7, in 2010). By WAR alone this group is not very good (0.3 in 2010 was the second worst in the NL, and 0.5 was the fourth worst in 2009 with 57% of 2011’s projected bullpen having been in those two). It should be noted that Cardinal relievers threw the fewest innings of any team in the NL in 2009, and the fourth fewest last season. They rely heavily on their starters to get deep into games, so they can get by with just an average bullpen.

Franklin converted 27 saves in 29 opportunities last year.

Ron Roenicke takes over as the Brewers manager. How he will choose to use his bullpen is not well known at this point and will not be until a couple of months into the season. We know Tony LaRussa has as a life mission to ensure he has favorable pitching match-ups at the back of ballgames, so he will use his bullpen frequently and in 99% of cases effectively. That has to be an advantage for St Louis.

If the Brewer bullpen is better LaRussa’s experience counterweighs it. Advantage: Even.

Summary. Milwaukee will challenge Cincinnati as the best offensive team in the NL. They have three offensive holes – shortstop, catcher, and center field. Defensively they will once again be below average. Their pitching will be solid and will probably determine how far they get this season. This sounds remarkably like the Cardinals in 2011. St Louis has 3 offensive holes – second base, shortstop, and third base. They were below average (by UZR/150) defensively last season and will probably be there again this year. Their pitching will be solid and will probably determine how far they get this season.

Considering how even these two teams are going in, if Milwaukee is considered a contender for the division title so too should be the Cardinals.

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Jeff Suppan: An Appreciation

On October 3rd, Jeff Suppan made his last 2010 start for the St Louis Cardinals. It may also have been his last start in the majors. Suppan was a key figure in the last Cardinal title run, so as he rides into that sunset here’s an appreciation of his time as a Cardinal.

Suppan was drafted right out of high school in 1993 (second round), but by the time the Cardinals signed him as a free agent 10 years later, he had bounced around on 4 different teams. He was primarily known as an innings eater, having thrown 200+ innings in his previous 5 seasons. He would thrive, however, in St Louis.

2004 – Beginnings

Based solely on won/loss record, 2004 was the finest season of Suppan’s career. The most remarkable thing about this season was his success on the road. The Cardinals lost only 2 of his 14 road starts; in one of those losses, he allowed 1 run in 8 innings. He continued his magic in the post-season, beating Los Angeles in Los Angeles to clinch the NLDS. The only team to best him when the Cardinals were a visitor turned out to be Houston. They handed him his only regular season road loss on 29 Sept, then beat him in NLCS Game 3 17 days later. Suppan also started Game 7 of that series, and appeared to be on his way to a bitter loss until Jim Edmonds’ spectacular diving catch robbed Brad Ausmus, snuffing out a second inning rally. Suppan held Houston in check over the next 4 innings (1 unearned run), and the Cardinals rallied to win the game and the series.

The World Series was forgettable for Cardinal fans, and probably Suppan too, especially after he got caught off third in the third inning of Game 3 to kill a rally, then gave up 3 runs over the next 1 2/3 innings. However, his reputation as a big-game starter was beginning.

2005 – Building

Statistically this was Suppan’s finest season. He won the same number of games as he had in 2004, but his ERA was a half-run better (his FIP was almost the same, 4.77 in 2004 and 4.53 in 2005), and his ERA+ was a career best 119 over the full season. Jeff did not post the gaudy road record he did in 2004 (9-5; how pedestrian), but his ERA improved by almost a run and a half on the road. Jeff was superb down the stretch everywhere, going 7-3 with a 2.78 ERA the second half of the season. From 31 August to the end of the season he gave up 1 ER or less in 5 of his 6 starts. He only got one post-season start – Game 4 of the NLCS in Houston – and he continued the trend, allowing 1 ER in his 5 innings. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, Brendan Backe was just as good, and the Cardinals eventually lost the game 2-1. Houston would go on to win the National League pennant.

Still, Suppan had been very good over the season, and had pitched well in his lone post-season opportunity, setting the stage for the 2006 campaign.

2006 – Breakout

Suppan statistically was the second best Cardinal starter in 2006 behind Chris Carpenter. His 12 wins were second most on the club. His 4.12 ERA was second lowest, and his FIP of 4.66 was third lowest amongst the starters (Mark Mulder posted a 4.49 FIP before his arm troubles started). His season mirrored his 2005 campaign. He struggled mightily in the first half (6-5, 5,83), but dominated in the second (6-2, 2.39). He did continue a trend of struggle on the road, however, posting an ERA of almost 6 in 15 road starts, and getting cuffed around to the tune of a .331 BABIP.

His regular season, however, is not what cemented his legacy in St Louis. It was that October. He began badly, losing the only game the Cardinals dropped to San Diego in the NLDS. After that, he became a dynamo. Suppan threw 8 shutout innings in Game 3 of the NLCS, beating the Mets and giving the Cardinals a 2-1 series lead. In Game 7, he allowed two hits, a walk, and a run in the first, then threw six no-hit innings. He did walk 4, two in a highly adventurous sixth inning which saw the Mets load the bases with one out (the other runner reaching on a rare throwing error by Scott Rolen). He struck out Jose Valentin and enticed Endy Chavez to fly harmlessly to center, ending the threat. Yadier Molina’s HR, and Adam Wainwright’s curveball, gave St Louis the win and the pennant. It is, however, no understatement to say without the start Jeff put together for seven innings, the stage would not have been set for those ninth inning heroics. Jeff was named the MVP of the NLCS for his two superlative starts.

His World Series Game 4 win is almost an afterthought, but it gave the Cardinals a 3 games to 1 lead. St Louis would win the title the next night.

Aftermath

Suppan would cash in on his three great years with the Cardinals, but it would not be St Louis who paid him. He signed as a free agent with Milwaukee. Sadly he did not continue to show the form he had displayed the previous 3 seasons. Ultimately he was banished to the bullpen this season, then released. He came back to the Cardinals mid-season. He didn’t recapture his 2004-2006 form, and statistically he was the same pitcher in St Louis as he was with the Brewers, but he did find a small measure of success down the stretch for the Cardinals.

Jeff is due $12.75M in 2011, with a $2M buyout clause. That is considered by many too much for the Cardinals to carry with their current roster configuration, so most expect the club to exercise the buyout. He’s pitched 15 years in the majors and is on the back slope of his career, which is why there might not be much interest in his services. Cardinal fans should remember that, for the 2004-2006 teams, Jeff Suppan was one of the most reliable starters we had, and his 2006 post-season performance made him one of the unlikeliest heroes in Cardinal history.

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An Interesting Day Night Double In KC

Many fans only get to go to one game a year if they are lucky. If you happen to be one of these unlucky few you should circle September 13, 2010. If you have not heard by now the Royals and Chiefs will be playing a day night double when the Chiefs return to Monday Night Football. The games will take place on 9/13/2010 at the Truman Sports Complex. The Royals will start the day off with a game vs the A’s and the Chiefs will face off vs the Chargers.

The Royals are starting the action for the day at 2:10 with the Chiefs closing the night with a start time of 9:10. Ticket packages are being sold on both the Royals and Chiefs site or you can go straight to Ticketmaster.com. I looked up tickets earlier today, searching for the best ticket option and found 2 tickets for each game for a grand total of $161 plus fees. The Royals tickets are as follows.

KC Royals vs Oakland A’s
Mon, 09/13/10, 2:10 PM
at Kauffman Stadium
View Seat Map
Section FD BOX
Field Box – $16.50
37 Adult US $16.50
38 Adult US $16.50

The Chiefs tickets are as follows.

KC Chiefs vs. San Diego Chargers
Mon, 09/13/10, 9:15 PM
at Arrowhead Stadium
View Seat Map

Section 313, Row 13
Upper Level – TD Zone – $64
Seat 26 Adult US $64.00
Seat 27 Adult US $64.00

If $161 is a bit too much for you both games in the package offer the chance to pick your seats for each game so if you would rather sit behind home for the Royals game and in the upper deck for the Chiefs you can or vise versa.

Tailgating will be taking place all day long and the event is sure to be a great party. There is not much more to say than check it out if you have not already.

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KC Royals, Silver Anniversary

The hottest 3 songs in 1985. Can you name them?

1. “Careless Whisper”…..Wham!
2. “Say You, Say Me”…..Lionel Richie
3. “Separate Lives”…..Phil Collins & Marilyn Martin
The hottest AL West baseball team in 1985? The Kansas City Royals. Let’s look at the numbers…

And how did the Royals do on this July 12, 1985 day? Well, they lost 4-5 with the winning run scored with two outs. The losing pitcher was Dan Quisenberry who would later go on to face the toughest battle anyone could face, cancer. The winning pitcher was Tom Waddell. Lonnie Smith LF, George Brett 3B, Darryl Motley RF-LF and Frank White 2B, who hit a home run, scored the four runs.

Flash forward to 2010?

1. “California Gurls” …..Katy Perry Featuring Snoop Dogg
2. “Airplanes” …..B.oB. Featuring Hayley Williams
3. “OMG” …..Usher Featuring will.i.am

And the 2010 Royals? Well, here are the current numbers as we head to the All Star break…

  • 4th in AL Central, 8 Games Back, Manager Ned Yost who took the helm in May
  • Attendance to date: 809,464

The 2010 Royals have some great young talent and it’ll be interesting to watch them develop more after the break. We don’t have a George Brett or Dan Quisenberry. We do have a David DeJesus and Zack Greinke.

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