Tag Archive | "Nine Innings"

Triple Play: Todd Helton, Justin Morneau, Joe Kelly

In this week’s edition of the Triple Play, we look at a Mile High milestone, a team that is going all-in in its quest for postseason baseball and more, including our weekly Wainwright Walk Watch. Off we go:

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Who’s Hot?

Todd Helton, Colorado Rockies

At age 40, he is no longer a full-time player, and he hasn’t been productive in a few years. But Sunday at Coors Field, the man known in the Rocky Mountain region as the Toddfather became the 96th player to reach the 2,500 hit mark. To obtain his landmark hit, Helton did something he has done countless times before: lacing a fastball the other way for a double. That double moved Helton past Hall-of-Famer Robin Yount into 17th place on the career doubles list with 584. Two more doubles will place him 16th all-time. Helton, who has strongly hinted at retirement several times this season, has slowed down noticeably at the plate the past few years. In his first 10 full seasons, Helton averaged 48 doubles a year (along with 32 HR and 113 RBI); whereas in 2012-13, Helton has hit a total of 30 doubles. One thing has hasn’t changed, though, is his stellar defensive work at first base. Fangraphs lists his Ultimate Zone Rating at 24.9 in his career. Whether he is a Hall of Famer is a debate for another day. One thing that is not up for debate is this: he is the greatest player ever to don the Colorado Rockies uniform, their Tony Gwynn, their Cal Ripken. Number 17 will be the first number officially retired in franchise history.

Who’s Not?

Jeff Locke, Pittsburgh Pirates

It’s certainly been a tale of two halves this season for the 25-year-old lefty. In the first half of the season, Locke pitched to a 2.15 ERA and 1.128 WHIP and he allowed just six hits per nine innings. He made the All-Star team, although he did not appear in the game. If he were Clayton Kershaw, you would think that sort of performance was sustainable. But look at some of Locke’s other stats in the first half: 47 walks (in 109 innings), 1.55-to-1 K/BB ratio. Combine those two items with Locke’s average fastball speed of 90 mph, and they don’t add up to a dominant starting pitcher. Sure enough, after the All-Star break, Locke started crashing down to Earth. Beginning with his July 26 start against the Marlins, Locke allowed eight hits and six walks. That started a stretch of seven starts in which Locke compiled a 7.02 ERA and opposing batters pummeled him to the tune of a .373 average and .942 OPS. It ended with Locke being optioned to Double-A Altoona. It likely isn’t a long-term demotion, but it is clear that he needed to be removed from the Pirates’ rotation. At this point, he isn’t aiding Pittsburgh’s quest for the postseason; he’s hurting it.

Playing the Name Game

Compared to the July 31 trade deadline, the August 31 deadline was MUCH more interesting. The Pirates, who had been curiously quiet in July, were the exact opposite last week. First, they finally filled their need for a right-handed hitting outfielder by acquiring Marlon Byrd from the Mets. As part of the same deal, they added backup catcher John Buck to replace the injured Michael McKenry. To get both, they parted with 19-year-old shortstop prospect Dilson Herrera and the ever-popular player to be named later. Several baseball analysts pointed out that Herrera was no small price to pay, especially considering the gaping hole that remains at shortstop in Pittsburgh. They followed that up by finally getting Justin Morneau from Minnesota to play first base. The timing couldn’t be better, either, as Morneau’s slumbering bat has sprung back to life. After hitting just eight home runs in the first four months, he blasted nine home runs in August. If he can keep that up in Pittsburgh, the Pirates just became a much more potent offense. Between Byrd, Buck and Morneau, it’s clear that Pittsburgh is going for it this year.

In St. Louis, the Cardinals addressed their bullpen for the second consecutive year. Last year’s acquisition of Edward Mujica worked out brilliantly. Will we say the same thing about John Axford coming over from Milwaukee? Axford was dominant in 2011, but has been a human roller coaster ride since then.

Cleveland and Baltimore both pursued upgrades to their designated hitters. Neither team was willing to meet Minnesota’s steep price for Josh Willingham (despite his awful year), so they found their targets elsewhere. Baltimore picked up Michael Morse from Seattle, while Cleveland obtained Jason Kubel from Arizona.

And it wouldn’t be trade season if the Dodgers didn’t get in on the action. They, somewhat inexplicably, traded for Michael Young. Of course, this brought out all the national baseball writers to blabber on about what a great teammate Young is and how his professionalism will improve the Dodgers. Blah blah blah. Young has been worth exactly 0.0 WAR this season, according to Fangraphs. But, by all means, national media, let’s waste everyone’s time talking about what a great teammate he is. Of course, the way things are going for the Dodgers these days, he’ll probably recapture his 2005 form for the rest of this season.

Random Thoughts

  • Looking back at the deals made before July 31, it seems clear that the Red Sox have gotten the biggest boost from Jake Peavy. In six starts with Boston, Peavy has pitched to a 3.18 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and has allowed only 14 runs in those starts.
  • Detroit did well in that Peavy deal as well, getting shortshop Jose Iglesias, who has replaced Jhonny Peralta flawlessly. His defense has been so good, it’s been worth 0.4 WAR in just 28 games with the Tigers. That he is hitting .292/.344/.360 is purely a bonus.
  • Alfonso Soriano has found that sometimes you can go home again. Since returning to the Yankees, his original team, he has popped 12 homers, 36 RBI and six steals in 34 games. Those totals aren’t too far off what he did with the Cubs in 93 games.
  • As with everything related to the Dodgers these days, the acquisition of Ricky Nolasco has been outstanding. Since switching uniforms, he has gone 6-1, with a 2.20 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and five quality starts.
  • Baltimore’s deals for Scott Feldman and Bud Norris have had mixed results. Feldman has gone 4-4, with a 4.18 ERA and a worse WHIP (1.243) than he had with the Cubs (1.143). As you might expect, he’s allowing more hits since switching back to the AL, but his home runs allowed have dropped. Although Norris has won three of four decisions, all other statistics have worsened since the trade from Houston (ERA, WHIP, hits per 9 IP, walks per 9 IP, HR per 9 IP).
  • Same with Matt Garza. Since being traded from the Cubs to Rangers, his stats have taken a downward turn, although his strikeouts are up. Suffice it to say that he has not been worth the exorbitant price Texas paid.
  • Neither has Alex Rios. Since being acquired to replace Nelson Cruz in right field, Rios has put up a .263/.298/.375 batting line, along with one lone homer and just seven RBI and seven stolen bases in 20 games. Probably not quite what the Rangers had in mind.
  • Wainwright Walk Watch: Once Adam Wainwright started the 2013 season by pitching 37 innings before allowing his first walk of the season, we started a weekly tracker to keep track of how few free passes the Cardinals’ ace hands out this season. He has led the majors in strikeout-to-walk ratio all season, and it hasn’t been close. The past week was a week to forget for Wainwright, as he absorbed two poundings at the hands of the Cincinnati Reds, who have been a thorn in his side his entire career. He is 5-9 lifetime against the division rival and the past two starts have been brutal: 18 hits, 15 runs, and four walks in only eight innings. He’s 1-3 in four starts against Cincinnati this season with a 7.77 ERA. For the season, Wainwright is 15-9 with a 3.14 ERA, which the highest it has been since April 7. The walks have lowered his Major-League leading K/BB ratio to 6.81-to-1. His next start comes Friday, at home in another showdown against the division-leading Pirates.
  • As Wainwright has struggled, their ace since the All-Star break has been…..Joe Kelly? The same guy who lost the fifth starter battle in spring training to Shelby Miller? Yep. Same guy. Since joining the rotation on July 6, Kelly has spun six quality starts and the Cardinals have won nine of his 10 starts. He’s living too dangerously with the walks (25 in 58 1/3 innings), but he’s keeping the ball in the park and making big pitches when most needed.
  • Once again, Cardinals fans are holding their breath regarding the health status of Yadier Molina, who left’s Monday’s drubbing by Cincinnati with wrist soreness. When the All-Star catcher missed time with an injured knee, St. Louis went just 6-9 without him. With the NL Central turning into a fierce three-team fight, they can ill afford to lose him for any significant length of time again.
  • The Athletics and Rangers are engaged in another fascinating battle for the NL West. Unlike last year, it seems that Oakland has the upper hand this time. Coco Crisp and Brandon Moss have quietly been sensational the past couple of weeks. The Rangers desperately need a lineup boost. Does eminently likable Lance Berkman have anything left?
  • Miguel Cabrera trails Chris Davis by four home runs in his quest to win back-to-back Triple Crowns. They are the only players so far who have more than 40 home runs. Your NL leader in home runs is……(drum roll, please)……Pedro Alvarez (32)?!?
  • Meanwhile, with a strong September, Mike Trout could become the first player to be worth 10.0 WAR in consecutive seasons since Barry Bonds over a decade ago.
  • Going into Monday’s games, Trout has been worth 9.2 WAR (per Fangraphs), while Cabrera has been 7.6 WAR. Andrew McCutchen has been worth 6.5, Chris Davis 6.4, Matt Harvey 6.1, Clayton Kershaw 5.7.
  • To sum up, Trout is having another monster season, but this year, he probably won’t get much in the way of MVP votes because of Cabrera and Davis.
  • And because the Angels have been a train wreck this season. It should factor in, but it does.
  • The Rockies sent rookie Chad Bettis out Monday to face the Dodgers, who countered with Clayton Kershaw. On paper, this looked a little like trying to drag race a Ferrari with a Pontiac Fiero; however, the Rockies have had some success in the past against Kershaw and did so again Monday, knocking him around for 11 hits and five runs. It wasn’t enough, though, as the Rockies’ bullpen coughed five runs en route to a 10-8 loss.
  • It’s really starting to get unfair for the rest of the NL West. Over the past two weeks, Dodgers pitchers Zack Greinke and Ricky Nolasco have combined for five quality starts in five tries (all wins), with 40 strikeouts, five walks, and just 18 hits allowed in 39 2/3 innings.
  • Finally, congratulations to the Marlins and Astros on being the first two teams to be officially eliminated from postseason contention. Next up on the list are the White Sox, Cubs, Brewers, Phillies, Mets, Padres, Giants and Blue Jays. It’s been a bad, bad year for baseball in Chicago.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

Posted in Cardinals, I-70 Baseball Exclusives, MLB, RoyalsComments (1)

Triple Play: Clayton Kershaw, Edinson Volquez, Ichiro

In this edition of the Triple Play, we look at the best starting pitcher in baseball, an amazing career achievement that unexpectedly is drawing some controversy, and more (including our weekly Wainwright Walk Watch). Off we go:

IchiroSuzuki

Who’s Hot?

Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

Just as people are running out of superlatives for Miguel Cabrera’s hitting; so too are we struggling to find the words to accurately describe just how sensational Kershaw has been for the Dodgers this season. You’ve seen the ERA (1.72) that is far and away the best in baseball, but Kershaw also leads the National League in the following categories:

  • Games started (27)
  • Shutouts (2, tied with Adam Wainwright)
  • WHIP (0.857)
  • Hits per nine innings (5.8)
  • ERA+ (207)

He has surrendered just nine home runs in 198 1/3 innings pitched and is on pace for 240 strikeouts. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is 188/32. The last time he allowed more than two runs in a start was July 10 against the Rockies. His ERA hasn’t been above two since June 26. The only thing separating him from a second 20-win season in three years is the Dodgers’ slow start to the season. Barring an incomprehensible late-season collapse, he looks like a shoo-in to win the NL Cy Young Award. The only questions left are whether the voting will be unanimous, and if he will win the MVP award as well.

Who’s Not?

Edinson Volquez, San Diego Padres

Edinson Volquez has been part of two major trades in his career. The first saw him dealt from the Rangers to the Reds in the Josh Hamilton deal; he was traded from the Reds to the Padres as part of the package for Mat Latos. He teased everyone with an impressive rookie year in 2008, going 17-6, with a 3.21 ERA and 206 strikeouts. But the warning signs were there even then: he walked 93 batters, hit 14 more (which led the NL), and threw 10 wild pitches. His WHIP was a career-best 1.327 and his strikeout-to-walk ratio was just 2.22-to-1.

After being plagued by injuries for several years, Volquez made 32 starts with San Diego in 2012. He was credited with 11 wins, but led the league with a staggering 105 walks. If you owned him in your fantasy league, you either dropped him or watched your ERA/WHIP categories sink lower and lower thanks to his lack of control.

The Padres finally ran out of patience with Volquez on Saturday, designating him for assignment one day after failing a ghastly start that saw him fail to make it out of the first inning in a no-decision versus the anemic Cubs. This season, he went 9-10 with a 6.01 ERA, 1.67 WHIP and 95 earned runs allowed (worst in the NL). He averaged less than 5 1/3 innings per start this season. There are a few teams out there desperate for pitching, but they would be wise to look elsewhere.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: .266/.358/.484, 24 HR, 64 RBI, 80 runs, 7 SB, 128 OPS+

Player B: .182/.263/.292, 8 HR, 21 RBI, 27 runs, 11 SB, 52 OPS+

Player C: .253/.347/.423, 13 HR, 37 RBI, 60 runs, 2 SB, 109 OPS+

Player A started the 2013 like a house afire, leading his league in home runs. Then he fell into a two and a half-month slump that had fantasy owners wondering if they should sell low on him just to rid themselves of the headache. Since the All-Star break, though, he has been much better; not quite the beast he was in April, but still an elite outfielder. In a recent game, he was tossed out of a game while running out a ground ball to first base.

Player B has had a season to forget, despite being one of the big free-agent signings of this past offseason. Never one to hit for a high average, he had always been able to provide power and great speed for fantasy owners. This season, he hasn’t provided much of either. His struggles have resulted in more frequent days off, even when healthy. The extra rest hasn’t helped, however, as he has 1-for-34 in his past 13 games.

Player C is the player who was recently injured, and may miss the rest of the regular season. The timing couldn’t be worse, either, as he was punishing the ball to the tune of a .348/.419/.621 slash line this month. In his place is a player who has never produced an OPS+ greater than 75 nor had more than 360 at-bats for the season.

Player A is Justin Upton, Player B is B.J. Upton, and Player C is Jason Heyward. Their up-and-down seasons (or in BJ’s case, just down) illustrate just how good Freddie Freeman, Chris Johnson, and Brian McCann have been in anchoring the Braves lineup this season. The bullpen has been stellar as well, despite the injuries to stalwarts Eric O’Flaherty and Jonny Venters. The Braves’ biggest benefactor, though, has been the putrid NL East division. If they were in any other division, they would be in a dogfight for first place. Instead, though, the Braves can worry about getting their players healthy and ready for October baseball.

Random Thoughts

  • Wainwright Walk Watch: Once Adam Wainwright started the 2013 season by pitching 37 innings before allowing his first walk of the season, we started a weekly tracker to keep track of how few free passes the Cardinals’ ace hands out this season. He has led the majors in strikeout-to-walk ratio all season, and it hasn’t been close. After handcuffing the Cubs last week, Wainwright was even better last Friday night versus the Braves: he spun a six-hit, complete-game victory in which he walked no one and fanned nine. The start was Wainwright’s ninth this season in which he hasn’t issued a free pass (by comparison, Kershaw has six starts where he didn’t allow a walk). It also was his fifth complete game this season, most in the majors (Kershaw has three). Wainwright’s strikeout-to-walk ratio is back up to 7.24-to-1, still far and away the best in the majors. He is on a big-time roll at the perfect time, as the Cardinals go into a crucial stretch where their next 13 games are against the Reds and Pirates.
  • Jose Fernandez has allowed a total of eight runs in his seven starts since the All-Star break, with an ERA of 1.31. Opponents are slugging .225 against him in those games, and he has a 62-to-11 strikeout/walk ratio. He turned 21 on July 31. Mercy.
  • Meanwhile, the clock has struck midnight for Royals pitcher Bruce Chen. From July 12-August 13, he turned in six consecutive quality starts as the Royals elevated themselves into wild-card contention. His past two starts, however, have been brutal. After allowing just four runs total in those previous six starts, he has allowed 13 runs in just nine innings. Detroit and Washington both knocked him around like a piñata. He may get another opportunity or two, but Kansas City can’t afford any more clunkers if they want to hang in the wild card race.
  • If Miguel Cabrera is still feeling the effects of his abdominal injury, he’s doing a whale of a job covering it up. The past two weeks, he’s bashed seven home runs, with 19 RBI and .689 slugging percentage. For the season, his batting line is a ridiculous .360/.450/.685 (all of which lead the AL). He is on pace for 51 homers, 159 RBI, and 115 runs scored. If Chris Davis slows down at all, Cabrera has a terrific chance to become the major leagues’ first back-to-back Triple Crown winner.
  • The aforementioned Davis is showing little signs of slowing down, however. He has 46 homers on the season (five more than Cabrera), to go with 117 RBI. After seeing his strikeout totals soar in June and July, Davis is back to being more selective at the plate and he is reaping the benefits, as shown by his 1.119 OPS this month.
  • Then there’s the other Davis – Khris Davis, that is. The Brewers’ rookie outfielder is having himself a fine August as well. He entered August with a .231/.310/.538 slash line; now it looks like this: .338/.416/.727. It’s a small sample size, to be sure, but the Brewers will take any bright spot they can get right now.
  • Boston’s win over the Dodgers yesterday marked the first time that a team has beaten the Dodgers in a series since June 14-16, when Pittsburgh won two of three from L.A.
  • Jordan Danks hit a home run Sunday in a game that his brother John started. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that was the first time a player hit a home run in support of his brother since Billy and Bobby Shantz achieved the feat for the Kansas City A’s in 1955.
  • Sadly, that is probably the highlight of the White Sox’s season.
  • Sunday’s Diamondbacks-Phillies day game started just 11 ½ hours after Saturday’s 18-inning marathon ended. Casper Wells was unavailable to pitch.
  • Welcome back, Roy Halladay.
  • If you haven’t read the story about the eight-year-old Indians fan with cerebral palsy who asked Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis to hit home runs for him Sunday (they both did, by the way), do yourself a favor and read it. Here’s to you, Niko Lanzarotta.
  • We wrap up this week with our final Ichiro Hit Tracker. On Wednesday, Aug. 21, Ichiro collected career hit #4,000, a single off Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey. As more and more national writers started taking note of this milestone (AFTER I started noting it in the Triple Play), there was a major backlash by many fans and media members. While the 1,872 hits from his career in Japan obviously don’t count towards the major-league numbers, it is still a noteworthy achievement. Some writers grumbled that Japanese baseball was of no better quality than the minor leagues, which is an apples-to-oranges argument. The point that Ichiro is one of the greatest pure hitters ever to play the game still holds. As such, here are a few more numbers that illustrate just that:
    • He has compiled ten 200-hit seasons. The only other player to do that? Pete Rose.
    • Ichiro has done that in 13 years. It took Rose 17 years to do that.
    • Ichiro has five seasons with more than 220 hits. Rogers Hornsby has four. Rose has one.
    • With 2,533 hits, Ichiro is the all-time leader in Mariners history (more than Edgar Martinez or Ken Griffey Jr.)
    • Ichiro has hit successfully off 756 pitchers in his major-league career.
    • Since 2001, the player with the second-most hits is Albert Pujols (2,347).

Let’s just appreciate the greatness we have had the privilege of watching for the past 13 seasons. There will be plenty of time to debate Ichiro’s place in history after he has retired.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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Free Baseball Bonanza

Congratulations to the UCLA Bruins. They became the 2013 NCAA Men’s College Baseball Champions. The Bruins did so in dominating fashion and won their first ever championship in baseball. (Bold Prediction Correct!)

CWS Finals Baseball

The Bruins were under the radar a bit for much of the season and at the beginning of the tournament. They were a number one seed in the Regional round and went 3-0 to advance. In the Super Regionals they beat a good Cal State Fullerton team 2-0. Then in Omaha, went an impressive 5-0 to capture the crown. They picked a pretty good time to get hot and go 10-0 over the last couple of weeks. In Omaha, they defeated the #1 and #4 ranked teams in the nation in North Carolina and LSU respectively then beat Mississippi State twice. The eye popping stat, in those five games, they allowed a total of four runs. Allowing four runs in 45 innings is an attention grabber at any level.

The title was the 109th overall title for the university and the first on the diamond.

Aside from College World Series action, for baseball fans who like long games that extend into the early hours of the morning, this season as been a good year thus far. The season has not even reached the All Star break yet, but lately fans have been getting much, much more then they are bargaining for.

So far in 2013, 10.6 percent of MLB games have gone into extra innings. Currently, that is the highest rate of extra inning games since 1965 when 11.0 percent of games went past nine innings.

It is not just at the Major League level either as the NCAA tournament saw its fare share of free baseball as well. The most recent marathon was a game between Rice and North Carolina State. With many rain delays mixed in, the outcome was decided in the 17th inning with NC State winning 5-4 and advancing to the College World Series.

At the pro level, 17 innings was nothing as the Mets and Marlins played a whopping 20 inning affair. The Chicago White Sox and Seattle Mariners played 13 scoreless innings before both teams’ tallied 5 runs in the 14th and the Sox finally winning in 16.

Additionally, there have been eight games of 15 or more innings. Only one season in the past six have had more such games for the entire season and that was in 2012. At the current pace, that number would reach 17 games of 15 plus innings. That number has not been reached since 1976 when there were 19 marathons of that length.

As the calendar is about to change, schools are officially out and summer is in full effect. It is a great time of year to catch a ball game, and likely a ball game that will last hours on end.

Posted in Classic, College BaseballComments (0)

I really like this Lorenzo Cain fellow

In a way, the 2013 performance of center fielder Lorenzo Cain is bittersweet. On one hand, I’m glad he’s playing well, especially with the struggling Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas in the lineup. But if Cain stayed healthy last year, would he play as well in 2012 as he is now? It’s hard to say, but Cain played well before various leg injuries limited him to 61 games, ending up with a .266/.316/.419 line with 222 at-bats, 31 RBI, nine doubles, seven home runs, striking out 56 times, drawing 15 walks and stealing 10 bases.

Lorenzo_Cain

Cain knew a good 2013 performance would decide if he was the Royals center fielder of the future or another has-been. In the offseason, Cain worked on strengthening his legs to avoid the leg and hip injuries that plagued him last year. And so far, it’s paying off. He’s played 17 of 18 games with a .350/.420/.483 line, 60 at-bats, nine RBI, five doubles, a home run with 14 strikeouts, six walks and two stolen bases.

Against lefties, Cain has a .357/.500/.357 line with 14 at-bats, four RBI, two strikeouts and three walks. Against righties, Cain has a .348/.392/.522 line with 46 at-bats, five RBI, five doubles, a home run with 12 strikeouts and three walks. He’s hitting and scoring well against left and right handed pitching, though he’s faced more righties than lefties.

Among regular staring position players, Cain leads the team in batting average (.350), on-base percentage (.420), on-base percentage with slugging (.904) and he’s got caught stealing three times. Actually, he leads the American League in being caught stealing, so his running game needs some work.

Cain has a .970 fielding percentage in center field, with the league fielding percentage being .990. His range factor per nine innings as a center fielder is 2.41, with the league range factor per nine innings is at 2.66. He’s only committed one error in 119.2 innings of play, so while his current defense is below league average, he’s far from a defensive liability in the field.

It’s unlikely Cain will keep up his high batting average and he won’t hit a lot of home runs. But so far, Cain is a good center fielder who can hit, get on base and play average defense. If he stays healthy (and there’s still a question if he can) and works on his running game, Cain will be a solid center fielder for the Royals. And at 27, he’s got the potential to improve. With the Royals offense being what it is, let’s hope he does improve.

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To Start Or To Relieve: Wade Davis

James Shields was the “big name” in the Shields/Wade Davis trade, but the success or failure of the trade hinges on Davis. Shields is the Kansas City Royals’ ace, but he’s a free agent after the 2014 season. Whether he pitches well or not, it’s likely he’s gone after two years. However, Davis is under team control until 2016. The Royals believe Shields will improve the team now. As for Davis, the Royals believe he will develop into a two or three starter and be a part of the starting rotation the next few seasons.

wadedavis2013springtraining

This spring, the Royals plan to give Davis every chance to make the starting rotation as their 3-4-5 starter. From 2009-2011, Davis started 64 games for the Tampa Bay Rays. But last year, Davis stayed in the bullpen, appearing in 54 games. During Spring Training, the Rays gave Davis a shot as their fifth starter, but he lost out to Jeff Niemann. And when Niemann went down with a broken ankle, the Rays promoted Alex Cobb to the starting rotation, leaving Davis in the bullpen.

So is Davis a better starter, or a better reliever? Let’s see what the stats say:

Year ERA G GS IP ER WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2009 3.72 6 6 36.1 15 1.266 8.2 0.5 3.2 8.9 2.77
2010 4.07 29 29 168.0 76 1.351 8.8 1.3 3.3 6.1 1.82
2011 4.45 29 29 184.0 91 1.375 9.3 1.1 3.1 5.1 1.67
2012 2.43 54 0 70.1 19 1.095 6.1 0.6 3.7 11.1 3.00
4 Yrs 3.94 118 64 458.2 201 1.315 8.6 1.1 3.3 6.7 2.04
162 Game Avg. 3.94 44 24 171 75 1.315 8.6 1.1 3.3 6.7 2.04
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/20/2013.

Davis prefers a starting role, but his stats say he’s a better reliever. He had a much lower ERA, and over nine innings gave up fewer hits and struck out more batters. However, he did walk more batters over nine innings, which isn’t good if you’re a reliever. And with the Rays talented starting rotation last year, Davis stayed in the bullpen.

But how does Davis as a starter compare to the 2012 Royals starting rotation? Here’s the stats of the top five Royals starters:

Rk ERA G GS IP ER WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
1 Bruce Chen* 5.07 34 34 191.2 108 1.367 10.1 1.5 2.2 6.6 2.98
2 Luke Hochevar 5.73 32 32 185.1 118 1.419 9.8 1.3 3.0 7.0 2.36
3 Luis Mendoza 4.23 30 25 166.0 78 1.416 9.5 0.8 3.2 5.6 1.76
4 Jeremy Guthrie 3.16 14 14 91.0 32 1.132 8.3 0.9 1.9 5.5 2.95
5 Will Smith* 5.32 16 16 89.2 53 1.606 11.1 1.2 3.3 5.9 1.79
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/20/2013.

If you take Davis’ worst year, 2011, he had a better ERA than the Royals rotation, save Jeremy Guthrie and Luis Mendoza. The Royals rotation had more SO/9 than the 2011 Davis and except for Mendoza and Will Smith, the Royals rotation had a better BB/9 ratio than the 2011 Davis. If Davis was in the Royals starting rotation last year, he would likely be the number three starter behind Guthrie and Mendoza.

So what does this mean? Well, Davis is a good middle of the rotation starter, but is a better reliever. If Bruce Chen and Mendoza regress, Luke Hochevar pitches like Luke Hochevar and Davis pitches like he did in 2010, he’ll be in the starting rotation. But if Chen, Mendoza or Hochevar have a great Spring Training, Davis might end up in the bullpen.

But that’s not likely, despite what happens this spring. The Royals will give Davis every opportunity to make the starting rotation, just to show the Shields/Davis trade wasn’t a bust like some Royals fans and pundits think it is. If Shields and Davis are starters, the trade doesn’t look bad. The team got two quality starters to improve their rotation. But if Shields is a starter and Davis is a reliever, then the trade looks like the Royals got an ace for only two years and another bullpen arm in an already strong bullpen. Not bad, but not that good either.

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Royals Arizona Fall League roster

So I assumed you’ve already tuned out the playoffs, what with the Tigers, Yankees and Cardinals all advancing. Instead, let’s take a look at October baseball Kansas City Royals style, the Arizona Fall League. The Royals sent eight players to Arizona, here’s a little bit about each of them and what we can hope to see.

J.C. Sulbaran- Absolutely the most interesting prospect in Arizona. He came over in the Jonathan Broxton trade and struggled mightily after joining Northwest Arkansas but that was almost entirely due to control issues. At just 22 years old, there is plenty of time for Sulbaran to blossom into a back of the rotation starter. Sulbaran has yet to take the mound yet in Arizona. A great sign for the Royals would be if Sulbaran dominates the lesser competition in Arizona and keeps his walks down.

Edwin Carl- 24 year-old pitcher with impressive peripherals, but that’s what you’d expect from a 24 year old that’s yet to get to AA. Carl has struck out over 11 batters per nine innings in his minor league career with an outstanding 5.4-1 K/BB ratio. Carl gave up two hits including a home run in his fall league debut.

John Keck- 24 year-old left handed relief pitcher that finally dominated high-A ball this season, earning a promotion to AA. Keck does not stike a lot of people out, and he struggles with his control. It’s a major long shot that we ever see him in Kansas City. Keck has already given up 3 unearned runs on 5 hits in just 1.1 innings this fall.

Justin Marks- 24 year-old left handed starting pitcher that pitched well in AA this season. Marks came to the Royals as part of the David DeJesus trade. A great performance is Anrizona could lead to an assignment in Omaha in 2012, putting him in line to fill a gap once the third or fourth Tommy John injury is sustained. Marks threw three hitless innings in his Fall League debut, walking two and striking out two.

Alex McClure- 23 year-old shortstop that has shown no ability to hit at any level. Played half a season in Northwest Arkansas in 2012 and posted an OPS of .525, which is just slightly below his career OPS. Mcclure is 1/6 wuth an error in two fall games thus far.

Whit Merrifield- 23 year-old outfielder/second baseman that has shown limited promise in his time in the organization. This is likely his last chance to make an impression on the organization. Merrifield has started the fall 2/8 with two runs scored, he’s also committed an error.

Brian Fletcher- 23 (soon to be 24) year-old outfielder that progressed to AA mid-season. Fletcher has 31 home runs in 857 career minor league at bats, but he would have to have an impressive fall and outstanding 2013 to have any chance to figure in the Royals long term plans. Fletcher is 3/10 with an RBI in three games of Arizona Fall League action.

Orlando Calixte- 20 year-old SS from the Dominican Republic that committed 46 errors in 123 games in 2012. Calixte did have his best year at the plate in 2012, smacking 14 home runs and posting a respectable .759 OPS. At 20, and already with 60 games at High-A ball under his belt, Calixte could really benefit if the time in Arizone helps him with the glove. Calixte is 3/9 in three games, and he’s yet to commit an error. An outstaning sign for the Royals would be if Calixte could end the fall with the same number of errors he has now, more realistically he needs to improve drastically on his ratio of an error every three games.

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The return of YuniGetz

When infielder Chris Getz returned from the disabled list Tuesday night, the Royals sent infielder Johnny Giavotella to AAA Omaha. And when infielder Yuniesky Betancourt returned from the DL earlier this month, long time minor league infielder Irving Falu went back to Omaha.

If you read some of the articles and comments on Royals blogs and websites, it’s obvious Getz and Betancourt are not fan favorites. And with Betancourt’s lack of defensive range and Getz’s lack of power, it’s easy to see why. But are the players they replaced, Falu and Giavotella, any better? Or are Betancourt and Getz the best the Royals have for now?

For the sake of comparison, I’ll compare the positions of second base and utility infielder. For second base, I’ll compare second basemen Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella. For utility infielders, I’ll compare Yuniesky Betancourt and Irving Falu.

Comparing the offensive numbers of Getz and Giavotella, they’re similar in many ways, but some stats stand out.

      Chris Getz Johnny Giavotella
Games 30 21
PA 94 73
Hits 23 15
Runs 9 8
RBI 8 6
BA/OBP/SLG .277/.322/.386 .217/.260/.261
Strikeouts 8 6

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getz has more games and plate appearances than Giavotella and edges Gio in runs RBI and strikeouts. But Getz has seven more hits and a much higher batting average, on base percentage and slugging. Neither player has a home run, but second base is not a power position. Offense is important, but defense is key for asecond baseman. Here’s their defensive numbers:

Chris Getz Johnny Giavotella
Fld% .991 .939
lgFld% .981 .981
RF/9 4.52 4.06
lgRF/9 4.61 4.61

Defensive stats aren’t as reliable as offensive stats due to a lot of factors I won’t list here. But Getz’s fielding percentage is 52 points over Giavotella’s and Getz is 10 points over the league fielding percentage. Giavotella is 42 points less than league average. And with range factor per nine innings, Getz is close to league average, but way ahead of Giavotella. So looking at statistics, one can see why the Royals say Getz’s defense has the edge and at least for 2012, Getz’s offense has the edge overGiavotella. Like it or not, Getz is playing better than Giavotella and until that changes, Giavotella will be staying in Omaha.

Moving on to the utility infielders, here’s the offensive numbers of Yuniesky Betancourt and Irving Falu:

Yuniesky Betancourt Irving Falu
Games 22 12
PA 82 45
Hits 20 14
Runs 9 7
RBI 10 1
BA/OBP/SLG .267/.309/.467 .326/.326/.442
Strikeouts 8 7

Betancourt has a lot more games and plate appearances compared to Falu, but Falu has a decent number of hits with his limited playing time, which increases his batting average. And Falu was close to Betancourt in runs. However, Betancourt drove in more runs and Falu almost had as many strikeouts as Betancourt. Yuni has the edge in offense, but if Falu played as much as Betancourt, I have a feeling the numbers would be similar.

How about defense? That’s the bread and butter of an utility infielder and here’s the defensive numbers of Betancourt and Falu:

Yuniesky Betancourt Irving Falu
Fld% .918 .957
lgFld% .969 .969
RF/9 3.39 3.79
lgRF/9 3.88 3.88

These defensive numbers are the average of second base, shortstop and third base, all positions Betancourt and Falu played. Both Betancourt and Falu are below league average in all categories, but Betancourt’s numbers are lower than Falu’s. The numbers tell us what we’ve known all along: Betancourt’s defense and range are below average and he’s not a good fielder. And Falu would likely do a better job as an utility infielder than Betancourt and provide almost the same level of offense.

So instead of playing Falu, a longtime minor leaguer who’s been with the Royals for years and would play at league minimum pay, the Royals play Betancourt, who has worse defense and is getting two million dollars that could be spent on pitching. And don’t forget the Royals like to platoon Betancourt and Getz at second base. These are the things which frustrate Royals fans.

These players alone aren’t going to get the Royals towards .500, let alone winning the American League Central. But for now, Chris Getz is the best player at second base and the Royals should dump Betancourt and call up Falu as their utility infielder.

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Royals sign first-round pick Kyle Zimmer

ROYALS SIGN FIRST-ROUND PICK KYLE ZIMMER

Kansas City, MO (June 7, 2012) – The Kansas City Royals today announced the club has signed first-round draft choice Kyle Zimmer, the fifth overall selection in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft.  Consistent with team policy, terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The 20-year-old Zimmer, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound right-handed starter, went 5-3 with a 2.85 ERA in 13 starts, including three complete games, for the Dons in 2012.  In 88.1 innings, he allowed 76 hits, 28 earned runs and 17 walks, while striking out 104.  Zimmer led the West Coast Conference in shutouts (2), strikeouts and strikeouts per nine innings (10.6).  Baseball America rated Zimmer as having the best fastball among all collegiate prospects and his curveball as the third-best in the collegiate ranks.  He was named a preseason second-team All-American by Baseball America entering 2012 and to the 2012 Midseason USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award Watch List last month.  Zimmer was also a member of the 2012 WCC All-Academic team, posting a 3.72 GPA.

Born in San Francisco, Calif., he attended La Jolla (Calif.) High School in the San Diego area where he played four years of baseball, mostly as a third baseman, while also competing in water polo and basketball.  Serving mostly as a position player, he pitched a total of 21.1 innings during his high school career.  Zimmer converted to pitcher his freshman season at USF, but only made five appearances that year.  He then posted a 6-5 record with a 3.73 ERA last season, including outdueling 2011 first-overall selection Gerrit Cole and the UCLA Bruins, 3-0, in a four-hit complete-game shutout with 11 strikeouts in a NCAA regional game on June 3, 2011.

Zimmer is the 23rd pitcher to be selected by the Royals in the first round and the first since 2011 All-Star Aaron Crow in 2009.

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Spring Training Report #5: Finding the right combination

Spring Training Report #5: Finding the right combination
Sorting out the last few roster spots

SPRINGDALE, AR –The Kansas City Royals are facing a major challenge as spring training continues in Arizona.  As the spring goes on most years’ players separate themselves from the others they are competing with for roster spots.  This has yet to happen for the Royals, but in a good way.

The Royals have 43 players in camp and will be tasked with whittling that number down to the allotted 25 by Opening Day  The spots that remain up for grabs are the last two slots in the rotation, and a handful of spots in the bullpen.  Luis Mendoza, Felipe Paulino, Danny Duffy, and Sean O’Sullivan remain in a tight competition for the last two slots in the rotation.  All four have shown steady improvement throughout the spring and are making the Royals decision tougher with each outing.  The four listed above will also be competing for a slot in the bullpen with former Naturals Everett Teaford, Kelvin Herrera, and Louis Coleman.  The most recent injury to Joakim Soria as well as a previous injury to Blake Wood could also open up another spot or two in the bullpen at least for the start of the season.
The Kansas City Royals had an off day in major league camp on Monday, but some of the major leaguers still got some work in, during the minor league games.  Teaford tossed four scoreless innings for the Naturals in their 5-1 loss to the Frisco RoughRiders. Teaford has yet to allow a run this spring in big league or minor league camp in nine innings of work.

Naturals/Texas League Notes

Naturals in Other CampsJuan Abreu (2009) stint in big league camp ended late last week when he was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City.  Angel Sanchez (2008) has gone 5-for-9 thus far in six games with two RBI and a run scored is trying to make the Astros as a utility infielder.  Kila Ka’aihue (2008) is continuing to compete for playing time at first base and designated hitter with Daric Barton and former Texas leaguer Chris Carter (Midland, 2009).  He is hitting .214 so far this spring, but does have two home runs and four RBI.  Ka’aihue is out of options, and must make the big league roster or be exposed to waivers prior to being sent to the minor leagues.  Jeff Fulchino (2008) threw four scoreless innings for the Nationals this spring, but did not make the team.  He was assigned to minor league camp last Friday.  Other former Naturals in spring training this season include a trio of players who are in camp with the Atlanta Braves, Dusty Hughes (2008), first baseman Ernesto Mejia (2010), and outfielder Jordan Parraz(2009).  Parraz has gone 9-for-22 (.409) with a home run and five RBI so far this spring, while Mejia is 2-for-13 (.143) with a triple and an RBI.  Hughes has allowed two runs over six innings of work so far this spring.  Former Natural Jeff Bianchi, was outrighted by the Milwaukee Brewers to Double-A Huntsville on Monday March 19.

Naturals Exhibitions:  Because of the number of players still in the big league camp, the Naturals are not playing with anywhere near their full complement of expected players for the regular season.  Thus far, the Naturals are still looking for their first spring win. Early players to impress in the exhibitions have been Buddy Baumann and Patrick Keating, who both were nearly perfect over five innings in the spring opener, and outfielders Roman Hernandez and Yem Prades, who have combined for quite a bit of the offense.  Prades and Hernandez, both Cuban defectors who have yet to play in Double-A, could be outfield options for the Naturals early in 2012, but Geulin Beltre, another outfielder who hit safely in his first four plate appearances in Friday’s game, probably is bound for one of the Class-A rosters.  It could be another week before the players that are appearing in the Naturals’ games are a better reflection of the club’s potential for this season.

Transactions:  Three more former Naturals Clint Robinson, Derrick Robinson, and David Lough were optioned to Triple-A Omaha Sunday’s Royals game.  This cuts the number of Royals players in major league camp down to 43.  Ryan Eigsti and Ben Theriotwere added to big league camp last Thursday after the injuries to both Salvador Perez and Manny Pina.

Other Injury Notes: Salvador Perez is expected to miss 12-14 weeks setting him up to return in late May or early June barring any setbacks in his recovery process.  It is possible that he could see some rehab time in Northwest Arkansas before being called back up to Kansas City.   Manny Pina is expected to miss the rest of spring training and possibly into May, while recovering from his own knee surgery.  Blake Wood has been shut down for a week with what team officials are calling elbow soreness.  Once the week has passed; Wood will begin a throwing program before returning to live game action.

Check nwanaturals.com for our Spring Training Report, where we’ll continue to follow Royals’ minor leaguers in spring training as well as cover other baseball information that pertains to the Naturals and the Texas League.

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The Jonathans And Jose Come Lately, The New Kids In Town

For 2012, there’s great expectations for the Kansas City Royals. So far, the Royals haven’t made a big splash in the free agent or trade market, but they did acquire pitchers Jonathan Sanchez, Jonathan Broxton and Jose Mijares this offseason. Let’s take a look at Sanchez, Broxton and Mijares, the new kids in town.

Jonathan Sanchez: The 29 year-old left-handed starting pitcher spent his career with the San Francisco Giants before being traded to the Royals for outfielder Melky Cabrera. The Royals also acquired Minor League starter Ryan Verdugo.

I remember watching the Kansas City media interviewing Sanchez when he visited Kauffman Stadium. Wearing black, he appeared to have the demeanor of a man forced to kiss a porcupine wearing a Royals jersey.

If I were Sanchez, I’d be glad I’m not fighting the porcupine for a starting pitching job. Sanchez had a disappointing 2011, missing playing time recovering from a sprained ankle and biceps tendinitis. Sanchez’s career 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings are good, but a career 4.8 walks per nine innings aren’t as good. Giving up a lot of walks means issues with control. If Sanchez stayed with the Giants, he would battle Barry Zito for the fifth starter job.

Sanchez will get $5.2 million in 2012 and be eligible for free agency at the end of the season. If the Giants thought Sanchez was a fifth starter and the Royals have plenty of fourth and fifth starters, why did they trade for Sanchez? The Royals needed starting pitching and the Giants needed offense. Cabrera’s 2011 offensive numbers made him a good trade chip, which got Sanchez and Verdugo. Sanchez had a down year in 2011, but if he cuts down his walks, he could move to the top of the rotation and help the Royals contend in 2012.

 

Jonathan Broxton: When I watched a video clip of Broxton at his introductory press conference, I thought the Royals signed Bigmouth, the giant from the Smurfs cartoon. Well, at least their hairstyles are similar. And there’s a rumor from Brainy Smurf that Bigmouth has a wicked curveball.

But the Royals signed Broxton, a 27 year-old right-hander who spent his career as a reliever and closer for the Los Angeles Dodgers. From 2006 to 2009, Broxton was one of the top relief pitchers in baseball with a 2.79 ERA, 11.8 strikeouts and 3.4 walks per nine innings. The 2010 campaign wasn’t bad, with a 4.04 ERA, 10.5 strikeouts and 4 walks per nine innings. But In 2011, elbow injuries limited Broxton to 14 games. While he was on the mound, his ERA ballooned to 5.68 and his strikeouts per nine innings went down to 7.1 and his walks went up to 6.4 per nine innings. Last September, Broxton had arthroscopic elbow surgery and recently started an off-season throwing program. He should be ready to go by spring training.

Why did the Royals sign Broxton to a one-year, $4 million deal when they have a young, inexpensive and solid bullpen anchored by All-Star closer Jokaim Soria? With a weaker crop of free agent starting pitchers this offseason and the Royals reluctance to give up top prospects for starting pitching, the team focused strengthening their bullpen. A good bullpen can hold leads or at least minimize runs so the offense has a chance to score runs in the late innings. The addition of Broxton also gives 2011 relievers Aaron Crow and Everett Teaford an opportunity to win a spot in the starting rotation. Like Sanchez, if Broxton can bounce back from his 2011 season, he can help the Royals in 2012.

Jose Mijares: The Minnesota Twins non-tendered the 27 year-old lefty reliever in December, and the Royals signed Mijares to a one-year Major League contract for $925K.

Over his four year Major League career with the Twins, Mijares has a career 3.16 ERA, 6.9 strikeouts and 3.6 walks per nine innings. His career platoon splits tell a more complete story, with right-handed batters having a .268/.353/423 line and left-handed hitters having a .212/276/.331 line. Over his Major League career, Mijares gave up 85 hits and 41 walks against right-handed batters compared to 55 hits and 21 walks against left-handed batters. Since Mijares is more effective against left-handed batters, The Royals plan to use him as a left-handed specialist, giving Royals manager Ned Yost more lefty-lefty matchups in late inning situations.

In the past, Mijares had attitude problems and the Twins were concerned with his conditioning. At 6’0″ and 230 pounds, he is what some would call hefty. But the Royals want Mijares to get left-handed batters out, not steal bases or patrol the outfield, so his size shouldn’t be an issue. As for Mijares’ attitude, maybe the 6’4″ 300 pound Broxton will threaten to sit on him if he starts misbehaving.

All three players have one year commitments and they’re unlikely to be with the Royals in 2013. If Jonathan Sanchez and Jonathan Broxton bounce back from their disappointing 2011 campaigns, they give the Royals a chance to contend in the AL Central. If lefty specialist Jose Mijares gets crucial outs in late inning situations, the Royals could win more games. The Royals hope these new kids in town will contribute in 2012 and get the team to 2013, when more of their vaunted prospects are in the Major Leagues.

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