Tag Archive | "Pace"

Kansas City Royals: Rating The First Half

The All Star break is almost upon us.  We have already played through half of the 2013 season.  This provides us with a great opportunity to evaluate the performance of the Royals thus far and see how they measure up to the rest of the league and explore the possibilities for a second half run at the playoffs.  Coming in at just over the eighty-one game halfway mark of the season, the Royals remain six games out of first place in the American League Central Division and two and a half games behind the Cleveland Indians, putting them in 3rd place.

SPerez

The Royal’s record is a slightly disappointing 43-45.  It’s not a very pretty number to look at but still, being only two games below .500 means that they have at least been able to keep pace with the league so far.  Compare this with the Twins and the White Sox who sit at the bottom of the division and below .500 by fourteen and eighteen games respectively and things don’t seem that bad at all.

Rating:  Average

The Tigers have a record of 27-17 playing at home in Detroit.  This is a big reason why they sit atop the Central Division.  Kansas City, on the other hand, has a 22-22 record at home, incredibly unspectacular and perfectly even.  The thing about having home field advantage is that it’s supposed to be…well, an advantage.   Unfortunately the Royals have not been able to capitalize on playing in friendly territory.  This is something that will need to change in a big way in the second half.  Playing at home shouldn’t be a break even scenario if you want to lead your division.  Their record on the road is only two losses worse at 21-23.  Once again, not very inspirational but not the end of the world either.

Rating:  Almost Completely Average

The Royals have given up a total of 351 runs this year to opposing teams.  They have scored a total of 354 runs off of opponents pitching.  That’s a run differential of +3 whole runs.  Comparing the Royals again to the first place Tigers, Detroit has a run differential of +88 but has given up 22 more runs than Kansas City.  So what do the Royals need to improve upon, scoring runs or giving them up?  Well, the Royals currently have a team batting average of .256.  The American League as a whole has a combined batting average of, are you ready for this, .256.  Incredible.  In this particular instance, the Royals literally define the term average.  Every team in the American League can accurately gauge their offensive performance in this category by comparing themselves to the Royals.  Batting average aside, the rest of the offensive numbers for Kansas City align very closely to league averages.

 

Statistic

Royals

MLB

OPS

.691

.719

SLG

.379

.402

OBP

.312

.317

Hits

769

786

2B

150

156

3B

19

15

 

Rating:  Astoundingly Average

Pitching has been one of the better improvements for the Royals this year.  Halfway through the season, the Royals have the 3rd best ERA in the American League at 3.73, well ahead of the league average of 4.10.  Combine this with the fact that the Royals pitchers have pitched the fewest amount of innings than any other team in the American League and that their strikeout totals are below average (not that that’s a good thing) and what you get is a pitching staff that’s efficient and getting ground balls and keeping the damage to a minimum.  Giving up the long ball was a big problem early in the year for Royals pitching but they seem to have that under control now as well as they have only given up 96 home runs on the season compared to the American League average of 98.  Overall, pitching remains a positive in Kansas City.

Rating:  Thankfully, Above Average

Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez will soon be heading to New York for the All Star game.  The team they are representing has been consistently keeping pace but not excelling.  There is still a lot of season left to play and there is nothing stopping the Royals from having an excellent second half and to their credit they are still in contention.  However, average teams don’t typically make the playoffs.

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How to be an Educated All Star Voter and a Loyal Hometown Fan (Part 1)

First Base and Second Base

AllStarGame

 

Fans take different philosophies when it comes to voting for the All-Star game. Some are complete homers. Your player can be worthless in every form of evaluation imaginable, and you will still vote for him over the player from the rival team who is on pace to shatter every single-season record set. The inverse of that is the fan who combs every stat to pick the best player, even diving in obscure stats to find the tie-breaking advantage. The second group will question the first group’s knowledge of the game; the first group will call the second group sociopaths.

So this article asks the questions: can you be both an educated viewer and a homer? Is there a margin of error where players can fall into that then allows you to pick your player? And what is that margin of error.

I’m going to use WAR (fangraph) to help decide. And since both this article and every position is subjective, I’m going to go through the positions and help decide how acceptable vs criminal it would be to vote for the Cardinal/Royal at that position. It’d be too easy to say “the margin of error is 0.5 WAR, now everyone have a good day.” And not nearly as fun.

I posed the question to some of my friends recently, and though none of them outright said they will vote for their player just because he is their player, they found ways to logically come up with that conclusion. And some just outright stated that the All Star game isn’t important and is a popularity contest to start with (even though it stupidly does count, thanks Selig).

Some fans just vote for whoever they’ve heard of, regardless of what’s going on with them. Like that year Nomar led the vote even though he was on the DL. Or there’s ballot stuffing in San Francisco. So the game is viewed as king of a joke by some to start with. But this is about you, the educated fan, and how you can partake in the game, and still hold your head up high as both an educated fan and a loyal Cardinals and/or Royals fan.

FIRST BASE

Royals: Eric Hosmer – .272/.331/.359. WAR: 0.3

Hosmer is actually not having that bad of a season, since he’s getting on base at a fairly consistent rate. It’s just his slugging is so pathetically low. His ability to take walks is similar to last year, but his higher average this year has kicked up his ops to an almost respectable number.

AL Leader: Chris Davis – .335/.414/.697/. WAR: 3.7

Davis is a monster having a monstrous season. It’s just insane. He’s leading everyone, including Prince Fielder, by at least a million votes. And it’s especially impressive since he’s pretty new to the scene (at least in terms of name recognition).

If you vote for Hosmer: COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE. In fact, voting for anyone except Davis is unacceptable. If you were to vote for Hosmer, you could maybe justify it by claiming this may be an outlier year for Davis, but in that case your vote should probably default to Fielder, not Hosmer. Maybe you can say that Hosmer was a top prospect, and he’ll put it together eventually (???), so you want him to represent the AL. Otherwise, I’d just leave this one alone.

Cardinals: Allen Craig – .313/.357/.458. WAR: 0.7

Craig has an incredibly low WAR for having a pretty impressive slash, due to poor fielding and base running metrics. He’s currently 3rd in the voting behind Votto and Goldschmidt.

NL Leader: Joey Votto – .318/.437/.498. WAR: 2.9. It’s basically a coin toss between Votto and Goldie. I vote Votto since Goldschmidt is more than likely playing over his head. I think he may be an improved player, but not this improved.

If you vote for Craig: MILDLY UNACCEPTABLE. If you go by offensive numbers alone, Votto has him beat. Though you can maybe say it’s within a margin of error of being a homer. But if you add the other metrics in, it’s not much of a competition. However, the offensive numbers are close enough that I can understand why someone would vote Craig. A narrative that further favors for Craig is the amount of RBIs he has. Craig has 51 versus Votto’s 33 (Goldschmidt has 59 though). If you look at RBIs (and you probably shouldn’t), I can see that edge. But those numbers are probably more due to the fact that Craig has the on base machine Matt Carpenter hitting in front of him, while Votto has Zack Cozart.

 

SECOND BASE

Royals: Chris Getz – .212/.273/.288 (wow). WAR: 0.0

I like Elliot Johnson more than Getz starting. But both aren’t exactly impressive options though. Getz is the kind of player who occasionally has okay games, and it causes a distraction and takes focus off that he isn’t good. Having him anywhere near the All Star Game seems like a travesty.

AL Leader: Robinson Cano – .278/.350/.511. WAR: 3.0

Cano is leading Pedro by almost a million votes, but Pedroia is arguably putting up similar numbers at .319/.401/.436 WAR: 2.7. But The Yanks and Sox can duke out their rivalry at second base and feel safe they will have no threat coming from KC.

If you vote for Getz: WORDS CANNOT EXPLAIN HOW UNACCEPTABLE THAT IS. Like there literally is no justification. Besides you are just a homer and don’t care about having the best player out there. If you want to be respected and not called a homer when you maybe vote for Salvy Perez at Catcher (we’ll get to that later), then this is the bone you throw to people who criticize you. You say, “yeah but at least I didn’t vote for Getz at Second.”

Cardinals: Matt Carpenter – .320/.405/.467. WAR: 3.5 (wow again)

Carpenter is having a monster year so far. Great average, getting on base like crazy, and hitting lots of extra base hits. Add that to the fact that Matheny is using him very wisely in the lineup, and it’s really allowing Carpenter to live up to his full potential. He’s not a household name yet, but with more seasons like what he’s doing this year, he will be soon.

NL Leader: Brandon Phillips – .278/.330/.444. WAR: 1.7.

Phillips is honsestly having a fairly average year offensively. His WAR is elevated by his base running and stellar defense. Not only is he paling in comparison to Carpenter offensively, but is also trailing Marco Scutaro in offensive numbers. Name recognition is helping him to a great degree.

If you vote for Carpenter: COMPLETELY ACCEPTABLE AND ABSOLUTELY ENCOURAGED. This is the time that being a homer is needed. When you are a homer, you may know of a player having a good year and the national media hasn’t quite caught up yet. Carpenter is that guy. It’s kind of crazy how good he’s beien and how much better he is than the competition. The argument can be made, I suppose, that taking the players career in consideration is okay, which would bode in Phillips favor. But even with that in his corner, Carpenter is your man.

Next up: Shortstop and Third base

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Kansas City Royals Power Rankings 5-19

It’s week three of the I70 Baseball Royals Power Rankings, as we basically reach the end of the first quarter of the season. This was an up and down week that ended at 2-4. There are many years that 2-4 in California wouldn’t sound that bad and neither would 20-20.

July 8, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon (4) in the dugout during the eighth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

#5 Billy Butler (Previously: NR) Butler finally broke loose with his best series of the season against the Angels. In the series Butler went 8/13 with a home run and 9 RBI. His contact numbers still aren’t on par with his standards but he’s now on pace for 20 home runs and 120 RBI.

#4 Ervin Santana- (Previously: #5) Santana bounced back with an excellent outing against the A’s in what would be one of three wasted gems on the road trip. His control continues to be remarkable and his 1.46 BB/9Ip is fifth in the American League.

#3 Jeremy Guthrie- (Previously: #2) Guthrie finally took the loss that we had been expecting and just doesn’t look quite as sharp as he did earlier in the season. A part of that is just the fact that very few pitchers are as sharp as Guthrie was early all year long. He’ll get a chance to start a new streak this week vs. Houston.

#2 James Shields- (Previously: #3) Shields continues to move up the rankings despite the fact that he simply cannot buy a win right now. After another outstanding start Shields now ranks 6th in the AL in ERA, 8th in Ks, and 3rd in inning pitches. No one that ranks ahead of him in ERA or innings has less than 5 wins.

#1 Alex Gordon (Previously: #1) Gordon’s 4 hit day on Sunday capped off another outstanding week. He’s on pace to break all kinds of Royals’ records including Willie Wilson’s single season hit record of 232. He carries a 7 game hit streak to Houston and has multiple hits in 20 of the team’s first 40 games.

Honorable mention: Salvador Perez- Perez has yet to show much power in 2013 but he’s been hot at the plate the last week. His nine hits on the week raised his average to .307 on a team that struggled mightily at the plate. Perez has still been a beast on behind the plate as well save for the couple of mental lapses we’ve seen this season.

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Are Butler and Gordon Nearing Royalty?

We might be watching a #Royals team consisting of 2 of the best 5 players to ever don the blue and white for KC
@PCBearcat
Ross Martin

 

The tweet above was referencing Billy Butler and Alex Gordon, and more specifically their climb up the Kansas City Royals’ historical hierarchy. It led, as most thought-provoking tweets do, to a lengthy discussion about who are the ten best Royals ever, a debate which has no concrete resolution. While that discussion in itself can be fascinating, what I want to focus on today is whether Butler and Gordon really are on pace to join the all-time Royals greats, and what kind of production they’ll need to get there.

BillyButler

Maybe it’s because I so thoroughly enjoyed his barbecue sauce last night, but I’d like to start with Butler. In Royals history there are two very good comps for Butler in my opinion, Hal McRae and Mike Sweeney. Like Butler, both were doubles machines that were best suited to play DH. Since Butler has just crossed over 3500 career plate appearances, I thought we’d take a look at all three after approximately that much time with the Royals. It should be noted that while Sweeney’s career with the Royals also started at age 21, McRae was a 27-year-old that had spent four part-time seasons with Cincinnati. As a final disclaimer, I would place McRae in my top ten Royals of all-time while I believe Sweeney falls just short. Here is the production for the three up to this point in Butler’s career.

Sweeney McRae Butler
Doubles 187 219 219
Home Runs 123 74 106
RBI 521 446 495
OBP% .379 .362 .363
SLG% .501 .457 .466
OPS+ 123 128 123
WAR 18.0 15.7 11.8

As you can see, Butler matches up pretty well through approximately 3500 plate appearances with the main difference being the era that Sweeney played in and WAR.  Now let’s look at what Sweeney and McRae did over the next five seasons…

Sweeney McRae
Doubles 110 181
Home Runs 74 70
RBI 316 408
OBP% .353 .355
SLG% .476 .476
OPS+ 114 128
WAR 5.2 11.2

This takes us to the end of Mike Sweeney’s career with the Royals while McRae had four seasons left as mostly a part-time DH. While their raw numbers are fairly similar, McRae’s OPS+ accounts for the differences in era and the difference in WAR reveals how much time Sweeney spent on the DL. Both players saw a slight dip in their OBP% but McRae’s SLG% jumped while Sweeney’s lagged. Butler is at the beginning of his prime as a power hitter, which means we could see a slight dip in OBP% and an increase in SLG%, but I thought it would be interesting to look at how Butler would compare  like if he simply had five more seasons with similar statistics to his previous five. Here are the numbers for McRae and Butler in their Royals’ careers compared to what Butler’s numbers could look like five years from now:

Sweeney McRae Butler
Doubles 297 449 415
Home Runs 197 169 201
RBI 837 1012 923
OBP% .369 .356 .364
SLG% .492 .458 .470
OPS+ 120 125 125
WAR 23.2 27.6 22.4

What the chart above shows, I believe, is that Butler is on pace to be in this discussion for the best DH in club history, and one of the ten greatest Royals of all-time. The encouraging thing for Butler is that he is just at the beginning of his prime and could very well improve upon his numbers over the last five years. The final factor may well come down to winning. As you can see also see above, there is not much difference between Hal McRae and Mike Sweeney’s Royals’ career numbers. The difference is something you can’t see above, winning. If Butler matches these totals and the team loses another 450 games over the next five years I would say he’ll be looked at much more like Sweeney. If he leads this club back to the postseason for the first time since McRae was actually playing, there is little doubt he will be viewed amongst the Royals’ greats.

Comparisons are a little bit harder to find for Alex Gordon simply because he’s a very unique player. Offensively, Gordon does not have one skill that stands out but he’s seemingly “good” at everything. He’s not a base swiper on the level of Willie Wilson, he doesn’t have the power numbers of Danny Tartabull, but he has turned into one of the most valuable players in baseball because of his ability to do everything well. I’ve chosen two players to compare Gordon with, Amos Otis and Carlos Beltran. Otis is, in my book, a lock for the top ten Royals ever, while Beltran is just on the outside simply because he falls short in the areas of longevity and contributions to a winner. I stuck with the same statistics for this comparison but it bears mentioning that both Beltran and Otis were much more proficient base stealers than Gordon.

Beltran Otis Gordon
Doubles 137 142 189
Home Runs 108 75 85
RBI 465 367 337
OBP% .350 .353 .348
SLG% .478 .441 .441
OPS+ 109 124 113
WAR 22.3 21.4 19.1

At first glance it looks like Gordon is well behind Beltran after nearly 3200 at bats, but a quick glance at OPS+ shows that Gordon compares to his era just as well if not better. It also bears mentioning that both Beltran and Otis played for better offensive teams than Gordon ever has and played a more premium defensive position (at least for this portion of their careers) than does Gordon. Beltran played only another half season with the Royals before being traded to the Houston Astros, and in my book one reason he’s not amongst the Royals’ greats. Otis, on the other hand, still had his best offensive season ahead of him (1978) and spent another ten years in a Royals’ uniform. With Gordon likely to be much more expensive than Butler when he hits free agency, I’m only going to project him out until he’s no longer under club control. Here’s what his numbers could look like assuming he comes close to his production from the last two years.

Beltran Otis Gordon
Doubles 156 365 371
Home Runs 123 193 156
RBI 516 992 638
OBP% .352 .347 .356
SLG% .483 .433 .460
OPS+ 111 118 119
WAR 24.6 44.6 46.1

With Gordon being two years older it isn’t quite as likely that he maintains this level of production for the next four seasons, but I’m not sure he has to to pass Beltran and Otis. Of course, much like Sweeney, Butler and Beltran, Gordon has yet to sniff the postseason while Otis played in 22 postseason games in blue and hit .478 in the 1980 World Series. Otis also had three Gold Gloves at age 27 while Gordon has two at 29, but I think there’s a good chance Gordon catches him this season.

If there’s any conclusions I can draw from all of this it’s that:

A) Ross was spot on with his tweet last Sunday (although not quite as right as he was when he coined the nickname Country Breakfast) especially if either or both of these players finish their career in Kansas City.

and

B) Gordon is much closer to joining the greatest Royals of all-time than is Butler, which is something no one would have thought three years ago.

For arguments sake, my Top Ten Royals of All-Time read like this: George Brett, Willie Wilson, Amos Otis, Frank White, Bret Saberhagen, Kevin Appier, Hal McRae, Dan Quisenberry, Mark Gubicza, and Zack Greinke. Feel free to tell me why I’m wrong below.

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Here they go again

The kings of irrelevant success are at it early in 2012. After putting together winning Septembers in three of the last four seasons, your 2012 Kansas City Royals have started the month of August at 10-6, perhaps starting their annual trek up the standings one month ahead of time. Still trailing their division leader by 13 games, this recent hot streak means little even if it’s continued at its current pace for the next 45 days, so what does matter as we head down the stretch? Here are five numbers that I think are far more important than how many games the Royals win in the next 6 weeks.

Photo Courtesy of Minda Haas

  1. Johnny Giavotella’s fielding percentage. Technically it may actually be more important what his defense looks like to Ned Yost. We all know the Royals aren’t the most interested team in advanced defensive metrics, so it definitely doesn’t matter what his UZR looks like. Regardless, second base is the one place the Royals could most significantly improve their offense in 2013(besides right field, and Jeff Francoeur is going nowhere), assuming Giavotella can prove to management that his glove will play.
  2. Jeremy Guthrie’s contract. Guthrie has clearly earned himself a two year deal from Dayton Moore at the minimum. There is nothing more that Moore loves than featuring a player that makes him look smart, and getting anything at all for Jonathan Sanchez looks brilliant. If it’s a two year deal for $14 million, I’m good with it…and it may signal the end of the Luke Hochevar era. If it’s a three year deal for $30 million and Guthrie is starting on Opening Day next year, I’ll be furious.
  3. Billy Butler’s home run total. Should this matter? Not really,  but it’s been a sore spot for fans for far too long and could be the only thing to drive fans to the park the couple of weeks of the season. Butler needs twelve home runs over his last 44 games to break the most embarrassing franchise record in baseball. He hit 11 in 44 games earlier in the year, so it’s certainly possible.
  4. Wil Myers’ games played. The only thing that would make any sense at all would be if the Royals bring Myers up in September and let him play nearly every day. If they don’t I’m really going to have some questions about their plans for him. The only reasonable explanation to me would be that they plan on trading him this winter and don’t want him exposed at the big league level.
  5. Alex Gordon’s batting average. I am shocked that Ned Yost chose to mess with Gordon’s place in the order yet again. Let me rephrase that, I would be shocked if a competent manager chose to jerk a player around as much as Yost has with Gordon. Gordon is clearly most comfortable in the lead off role. Yost is clearly uncomfortable with someone batting lead off with that high of an on base percentage.

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A powerful breakfast

As a guy who has lacked in home run power over the beginning of his career in Kansas City, Billy Butler, has taken the bull by the horns this season setting a new career high in home runs only 111 games into the 2012 season.  Butler is on pace to become the first Royal to hit 30 home runs in a season since Jermaine Dye did it in 2000. A 12 year drought could be broken by a player who for most of his young career has been criticized for not having enough power for not only his stature but also his position being designated hitter.

The power has changed from double to home runs this season mainly because instead of relying on his upper body to do all the work at the plate Butler has worked hard to get his legs stronger over the last 9 months and using them at the plate has equated into more lift on balls that are now carrying over the fence instead of bouncing off of the warning track.  One stat that has not been given enough credit was his ability to hit the double.  Trailing only New York Yankee second basemen in doubles since the beginning of the 2009 season, Butler has 158 two baggers, according to Baseball-Reference.  That is an astounding number that seems to have been pushed away because they are not turning into home runs. Everyone believes that if you have to power to hit that many doubles then you have the power to hit home runs. It does not work that way because it is not about the power or strength but the swing that the hitter has.  Over the first parts of his career Butler seemed to not lift the ball when it was needed and would use a more level swing that resulted in line drives in the gaps instead of towering fly balls into the stands.  But until the last two season Butler simply was not supposed to be the guy who hit the ball over the wall and gave the team the offensive lift they need. He has been asked to be a hitter and a hitter he has been.  But now he needs to continue to show the power he has shown so far in 2012.

On pace for 34 home runs this season two shy of the club record of 36 set in 1985 by the powerful Steve Balboni. The amount of home runs is not what stands out the most in the case of Butler.  The fact that he recognized that as the hitting leader of this team the best way to do that is lead by example.  In the off season he saw that he needed to work on his weakness of strength in his lower body which would help get more lift on the baseball and turn doubles in the gaps into home runs into the seats.

The philosophy that both Butler and hitting coach Kevin Seitzer have taken in the 2012 sea on seems to be working not only in the power department but a continued success to all fields for Butler. His doubles have gone down but that is what happens when the ball that were hitting the fence are now traveling over the fence.  To ask a guy to hit 30 home runs for the first time in his career and continue a pace of 47 doubles per year for the last three seasons would be outrageous.  The statistic that continues to slipped the minds of critics of Butler is the fact that the man is only 26 years old.  By comparison to other designated hitters of past that people would like to see Bulter become Edgar Martinez did not hit 30 home runs in a season until he was 37 years old.  he did flirt with 30 home runs in 1995 which still was when he was 33 years old.

Comparing the two a bit more in Martinez’s first 6 seasons in the major leagues he hit 91 home runs, 204 doubles, with 381 RBI while having a batting average of .290.  Now Butler in his first six seasons, which as of right now is 13 at bats less than Martinez had at this point in his career, has hit 97 home runs, 203 doubles, with 445 RBI and a batting average of .298, according to Baseball-Reference. If Butler continues to improve on an already good beginning to his career and progresses faster than Martinez did in Seattle than the Royals could have a once in a lifetime statistic wonder on their hands.

Everyone knew that Butler was going to be a hitter but hitters do not alway produce.  Having a guy that is going to consistently flirt with a three hundred average which never seems to dip under .290 nor exceed .315 is something that can be found anywhere but having that same guy perform with the production that Butler has shown in just six years is priceless.  He started out as two eggs over easy with a side of toast and now has turned into a full country breakfast.  But over the season to come all we can do is wait and see if Butler can become the Thanksgiving dinner to lead the Royals to success in September and beyond.

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An ode to Country Breakfast

Lost in the roasting of Kansas City over the booing of Robinson Can0 was the sentiment that fans around baseball would not want to see Billy Butler compete in the Home Run Derby because they don’t even know who he is. If nothing else, after the heroic performance of the fans, at least no one can say that anymore. What’s more, it is about time. Time that Billy Butler get the recognition he deserves.

While the chances of Butler breaking Steve Balboni’s embarrassing home run record seem to be fading, he is nonetheless on pace to put together his most impressive season as  Royal. As of July 18, Butler was on pace for .300/32/100 while posting a career best 136 OPS in a lineup that has offered little in the way of protection. What’s more, Butler is well on his way to cementing his place as the best DH in Royals history and quite possibly the second best hitter in franchise history.

At 26 years old, Butler has already joined the Kansas City Royals all-time top ten in doubles (8th) and RBI (10th); he also has the fourth best career batting average (.297) and the fifth best OPS+ (121). Butler is under club control until 2015, and assuming he isn’t traded and maintains his pace of the last 2 ½ seasons, his totals will look something like this in October of 2015:

1510 hits- 6th

351 doubles- 5th

165 home runs- 5th

751 RBI- 6th

510 BB- 5th

Not overly impressive until you think about the fact that he would still only be 29 years old. Considering that Butler is limited to the American League in terms of value, he’s not the type of power hitter that demands a huge contract, and he seems to genuinely enjoy playing in Kansas City, he could very well be the type of player we didn’t think we would see again; a great hitter to play his whole career in Kansas City. It’s foolish to say you can accurately predict what is career would look like if he did, but it’s hard to imagine that he couldn’t play at at least the same level from 26-33 as he has from 23-26. Let’s take a look at those numbers again, assuming he does:

2254 hits- 2nd

527 doubles- 2nd

249 home runs- 2nd

1123 RBI- 2nd

770 BB- 5th

The point of this is not to project Butler’s stats over an entire career, but it is pretty easy to see that he could make a run at some incredible milestones. Ten years ago we were sure that the economics of baseball would keep us from ever having a member of the 3,000 hit club play their entire career for the Kansas City Royals, Butler could. Here are the hit totals of some of the more recent members of the 3,000 hit club at 26 years old:

Billy Butler- 864

Rafael Palmeiro- 805

Tony Gwyn- 770

Craig Biggio- 624

Wade Boggs- 531

It seemed even less likely that we’d see another Royal get 600 doubles in a Royals uniform, but again, at age 26:

George Brett- 211

Billy Butler- 198

Barry Bonds- 184

Paul Molitor- 147

Every player that has reached either one of those milestones, and is eligible for induction, is in the Hall of Fame except for Rafael Palmeiro. Billy could reach both, even without the expected surge in his performance over the next 3-5 years.  I guess I am okay with the rest of baseball not realizing what a great hitter Billy Butler is, but it would sure be a shame if there was one baseball fan in Kansas City that didn’t.

While we sit around and worry about not being able to sign the Hosmer’s and Moustakas’ of the world, let’s make sure we are celebrating #Country Breakfast, and keeping him around. While we lament the loss of Carlos Beltran, Johnny Damon, and Jermaine Dye, let’s consider that Billy Butler is a better hitter than any of them were through age 26.

You can argue until you’re blue in the face about whether booing Can0 was classless or small-time. I really don’t care even if you’re right. In my eyes it showed an appreciation of Billy that is long overdue, and hopefully the beginning of a love affair that lasts the next 10-15 years.

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‘Our Time’, for real this time

I know it is hard to believe, but the Kansas City Royals have actually been a very competitive team for the last month and a half. Since starting 3-14 they’ve gone 19-15, against a much tougher stretch of competition than they’re preparing to face. Even at that pace they’d finish the season with 84 victories at the end of the year. In theory, if they do continue playing the same level of baseball, they’ll win many more than 84 games. Why? Take a look at the winning percentages for the Royals past and future opponents:

Last 34 games (19-15 stretch):  .521

Rest of June: .457

That’s a huge difference in quality of opponent. Even after another disastrous start by Luke Hochevar against the worst offense in the American League, the Royals still find themselves in prime position to climb back to .500 by the end of June. Their next 10 games are against teams with losing records, before they face the fading Cardinals on back-to-back weekends. The opponent in between those weekend match ups is none other than the Houston Astros, picked by many to be the worst team in baseball in 2012. In fact, the only formidable opponents the Royals face in June are the Tampa Bay Rays, and they get three against the hapless Twins right after that. All told that leaves 25 games remaining in June, with 22 against teams you could argue the Royals are equal with or better than. Now of course, that only puts the club at .500, does that really even matter?

Yes, when you consider…

-          Salvador Perez is playing in extended spring training games and expected to be back with the club in the next month

-          Jonathan Sanchez is dominating at AAA, looking like his DL stint may have actually helped

-          Wil Myers continues to force the Royals hand, and could be playing center field in Kansas City by the beginning of July

-          Their July schedule is not much tougher as their July opponents currently have a .466 winning percentage

The only good thing about all of the Royals injuries is that they will have a mid season injection of talent without having to trade any of their best prospects. Perez makes this team considerably better, so does Sanchez if he can harness 2010. Does this team look like a contender with those two? Not even close, unless Eric Hosmer wakes up and Wil Myers comes up and mashes. That is the thing about this club, as young as they are, for many of them we are just waiting for the light bulb to switch on. Hosmer could put together a June that almost completely erases April and May. In fact against the teams he is about to face, I would almost be more surprised if he didn’t.

Okay, I’ll pause the hyperbole and get back to math. If the Royals win at a .558 clip against opponents with a .521 winning %, they should in theory play .625 (17-10) ball based on the winning % of their June opponents and .619 (16-9) in July. That would put the Royals at 55-48 on August 1. From August 1st through the end of the year, the Royals play 29 games against the Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, and Chicago White Sox. At the very least they would control their own destiny; they may even be in the driver’s seat.

As Royals fans we’ve been promised a competitive team “in the future” since before the Allard Baird era, and for the most part, the club has failed to deliver. In my opinion, that future starts right now…in June…it’s our time.

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Beltran on pace to do something no other Cardinal or Royal ever has

Power and speed.  Two basic elements that the best of professional athletes posses.

When it comes to baseball, the epitome of power and speed manifest themselves in the players that achieve milestones when they can hit home runs and steal bases in the same season.  The man that can steal 30 bases and hit 30 home runs gets recognized as an all-around player.  Over time, a select few have pushed that limit to 40-40.  Matt Kemp has boldly proclaimed that he wants to be 50-50.

Through all of that, however, the two i70 teams have missed out.  Niether the Kansas City Royals nor the St. Louis Cardinals have ever had a player hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the same season.  Oh, some have come close, but they have narrowly missed.

In the early stages of 2012, the Cardinals have a player, a former Royal no less, that is on pace for a 30-30 season.  No one would have predicted a 30-30 season for Carlos Beltran in 2012, but he grabbed the interest of this writer and caused me to dig a little deeper.

There are 38 members of the 30-30 club in Major League Baseball, twelve of which exist in the American League with the balance of 26 in the National League.  Funny enough, if you dig through the numbers, two players achieved the feat on five separate occasions.  The two most prolific of the group?  Father and son, Bobby and Barry Bonds.

To examine the two i70 teams, we have to take a step back and look at players that have finished with 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases, a feat much more common in baseball though elusive with our favorite clubs.

For as long as the Cardinals have existed, it took quite a while before they found someone that could blend speed and power together.  It was 1967 when future Hall Of Famer Lou Brock would first reach the measurements of balance, clubbing 21 home runs and stealing 52 bases.  Known much more for his speed, it would be the only time his power numbers would be great enough to include him in such a list.

It was the Western Missouri team that would reach our list the next two times as the Cardinals would not find themselves back in this discussion until 1992.  In 1978, however, the Royals Amos Otis would put the boys in blue in the discussion with a 22 home run and 32 stolen base season.

From there we fast forward to the one Royal that many would expect to be on this list, though he will make one appearance.  In 1988, one of the best all around athletes to ever grace the powder blue of the Kansas City Royals, Bo Jackson would hit 25 home runs and 27 stolen bases.  Bo was a fan favorite for many years in Kansas City, and 1988 might have been the reason why for many fans.

The year 1992 would put another Redbird on our 20/20 board, and the most prolific Cardinal to achieve the feat.  Ray Lankford would reach the board, stealing 42 bases and hitting exactly 20 home runs.  Lankford would prove to be impressive at reaching 20/20 and narrowly missing 30/30 throughout his career.  Lankford would reach our chart in 1995 (25HR/24SB), 1996 (21HR/35SB), 1997 (31HR/21SB), and 1998 (31HR/26SB).  His 1998 season, obviously overshadowed by teammate Mark McGwire, would be the closest any Cardinal has ever come to reaching the 30/30 plateau.

The 1995 season would see another first and only for our two teams as Brain Jordan would put together arguably his best campaign as a Cardinal, hitting 22 home runs and stealing 24 bases.  If you are paying close attention as you read this article, you will realize that this impressive season for Jordan matched up with a solid one for Ray Lankford, giving the Cardinals two players in the same season to reach the 20/20 board.  The only time in the history of either club that two players would reach the board for the same team.

It might have been the only time that two players from one team made it, but 1999 would be the first season that a player from each team would achieve the marks we are tracking here today.  Possibly the one name that surprises the most on the Cardinal side of things, Fernando Tatis would hit 34 home runs and steal 21 bases to put himself on this list.  On the other side of the state, the Royals most prolific player would make his first appearance on the list.  Current Cardinal Carlos Beltran would hit 22 home runs and swipe 27 bags in his first of four 20/20 seasons for the Kansas City Royals, making 1999 the only year that a player from Kansas City and a player from St. Louis would make our board.

Beltran would go on to prove that his 1999 season was no fluke, reaching the milestone in 2001 (24HR/34SB), 2002 (29HR/35SB) and 2003 (26HR/41SB).  His 2002 season would be the closest anyone would come while wearing a Royals uniform.  We will revisit Beltran’s numbers in a minute.

The following season in 2004 would see Reggie Sanders, while wearing the Birds On The Bat, join the club hitting 22 home runs and stealing 21 bases.  Sanders is the most recent Cardinal on our list.

Finding the most recent Royal does not require a long journey into the vault.  The player affectionately known as “Frenchy”, Jeff Franceour joins our group just last season.  In 2011, Frenchy barely did well enough to be a part of our discussion, hitting 20 home runs and stealing 22 bases.

In all truth, the Royals had the best opportunity to break the 30/30 barrier with the guy that inspired the discussion in the first place, Carlos Beltran.  You see, Carlos holds a unique distinction in MLB history when talking about the 30/30 club.  He is the only player in the history of the game to have a 30/30 season in a year in which he played in both leagues.  He is one of only two players, Bobby Bonds being the other, to be traded during his 30/30 season.

The 2004 season would see the Royals trade their budding superstar to the Houston Astros in a three team deal that would gain the Royals John Buck and cash from the Astros as well as Mark Teahen and Mike Wood from the Oakland Athletics.  During that season, Beltran would hit 15 home runs and steal 14 bases for the Royals prior to the June 24th trade.  After the trade, Beltran would compile 23 home runs and 28 stolen bases for the Houston Astros.  His combined numbers of 38 home runs and 42 stolen bases not only put him on the 30/30 list, but would put him extremely close to joining the 40/40 list.

This season, Beltran finds himself healthy for the first time in a while and back on top of his game.  On pace to rejoin the 30/30 club and become the first of the i70 players to do so, Beltran will have to continue to remain healthy and play as well as he has in April.

20 Home Run and 20 Stolen Bases, Royals and Cardinals
Player/Year HR SB Player/Year HR SB
Lou Brock/1967 21 52 Amos Otis/1978 22 32
Ray Lankford/1992 20 42 Bo Jackson/1988 25 27
Ray Lankford/1995 25 24 Carlos Beltran/1999 22 27
Brian Jordan/1995 22 24 Carlos Beltran/2001 24 31
Ray Lankford/1996 21 35 Carlos Beltran/2002 29 35
Ray Lankford/1997 31 21 Carlos Beltran/2003 26 41
Ray Lankford/1998 31 26 Jeff Francoeur/2011 20 22
Fernando Tatis/1999 34 21
Reggie Sanders/2004 22 21

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.
Follow him on Twitter here.

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Early schedule could help St. Louis Cardinals bury rest of the NL Central

Less than three weeks into the 2012 regular season, the St. Louis Cardinals entered play Saturday with a 10-4 record and already a four-game lead over the second-place Milwaukee Brewers. Based on the Cardinals’ upcoming schedule, that lead could grow quite large by the end of the month.

The Cardinals have faced divisional opponents in every game this season except Opening Day in Miami against the Marlins, and they won’t face a team outside the NL Central until May 7.

A crazy schedule that matches a team against divisional opponents in 27 of its first 28 games could make for a fantastic start to a season or a horrible start. For the Cardinals, it’s been a fantastic start that could quickly develop into runaway for the division title.

Granted, the Cardinals likely won’t continue to win 10 of every 14 games this season. They would near the 2003 Seattle Mariners mark of 116 wins at that pace. However, the Cardinals could have a sizable lead by May 7 even if they win slightly more than half of their remaining games through May 6. That’s because every game they play from now until May 7 will have a direct effect on the size of the Cardinals’ lead in the division.

Every time they win a game, it automatically drops one team another full game off the pace. There won’t be any nights where every team in the division wins or loses, thereby keeping the standings the same for two consecutive days.

The Cardinals also have a three-game set with the Brewers next weekend. If the Cardinals go into that series with the same lead in the division they have currently (four games), they could have a six-game lead in the division by the end of April.

Surely the Brewers (6-8) and the Cincinnati Reds (6-9) won’t continue to play sub-.500 baseball for long, but their lousy starts combined with a hot start from the Cardinals will make it tough for either team to catch the Cardinals. Even if they do catch up, it will likely take most of the season because they will both have to substantially rely on other teams to beat the Cardinals in order to make up ground in the standings.

Plus, the Cardinals are running through the division right now with starting pitcher Chris Carpenter on the disabled list and starting pitcher Adam Wainwright pitching terribly with a 0-3 record. On the offensive side, the Cardinals have battled injuries to first baseman Lance Berkman, third baseman David Freese and centerfielder Jon Jay.

Any fears fans had coming into the season with a new manager and the departures of former manager Tony La Russa and former first baseman Albert Pujols should be long forgotten. This team has shown that it can dominate teams both on the mound and at the plate. And when its stars are hurt, it has shown resiliency that will be key to consistently staying atop the standings throughout the season.

Bench players Matt Carpenter, Shane Robinson and David Descalso already made huge contributions to the early success of the team. With an elite lineup, very good pitching and solid backups, the 2012 Cardinals could very well put together a better regular season than last year when it won 90 games.

Plenty of factors could derail the Cardinals winning ways throughout the six-month season, but the first three weeks suggest the Cardinals might have full control of their destiny in September rather than begging for a massive collapse from another team to make the playoffs.

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