Tag Archive | "Paying Attention"

I Guess it is Time To Start Paying Attention to the Pirates

PittsburghPirates

The Pirates are a team that tend to just go away. They play well the first half of the season, getting Pittsburgh fans excited they may make the playoffs, or at least hit the .500 mark, and they end up imploding in the second half like no other team. It’s come to the point where I don’t really pay attention to them in the standings. If they are in first and the Cardinals are second, it means the Cardinals are in first. If the Reds are in first, the Pirates are 2 games back and the Cardinals are 3 games back, it means the Cardinals are in second place and just 3 games back.

But I don’t necessarily look at past seasons for this. Regardless of what has happened in the past, the Pirates this year are a team playing over their heads. Players who have struggled in the past don’t all just suddenly become good, do they?

Well the Pirates have a few cases where this seems to be case.

Francisco Liriano – Career era: 4.20. Career WHIP: 1.34. Career FIP: 3.63.

Prior seasons:

2012: era: 5.34, WHIP: 1.47, FIP: 4.34

2011: era: 5.09, WHIP: 1.49, FIP: 4.54

2009: era: 5.80, WHIP: 1.55, FIP: 4.87

Compare all of that to 2013: era: 2.68, WHIP: 1.20, FIP: 2.81

 

A.J. Burnett – Career era: 4.00. Career WHIP: 1.32. Career FIP: 3.90

Prior seasons:

2011: era: 5.15, WHIP:1.43, FIP: 4.77

2010: era: 5.26, WHIP: 1.51, FIP: 4.83

Compare that to 2013: era: 3.18, WHIP: 1.25, FIP: 2.86.

 

Russell Martin – Career slash: .259/.352/.399, wRC+: 104

Prior seasons:

2012: .211/.311/.403, wRC+: 96, WAR: 2.0

2011: .237/.324/.408, wRC+:100, WAR: 2.8

Compare that to 2013: .252/.352/.407, wRC+: 117, WAR: 4.0

 

So several players on The Pirates are definitely playing over their heads. But if you look at their advanced stats, especially FIP for both Liriano and Burnett, you can see they aren’t just getting lucky. Which doesn’t mean they still can’t regress greatly. But for now, being the middle of August, it may be best to assume they won’t regress. For some reason, a few players on The Pirates who have not been very good for quite a while, have become good.

So why are The Pirates so good? Some articles have chronicled why the Pirates are playing so well.

The only problem is, The Pirates have not really been playing that well. If you look deeper, even going by the generous assumption that none of these players are going to regress from just having a fluke season, The Pirates are not better than The Cardinals and possibly not even The Reds.

In many ways, The Pirates are what The Orioles were last year. A team that’s squeaking out wins. That’s much less a skill and more just luck. The Cardinals run differential is +140. That’s the best in the National League and second best in all of baseball behind The Tigers. The Pirates run differential  is +42. That’s worse than The Reds +87. The Pirates have only scored 478 runs this year, compared to The Cardinals 595 and The Reds 533. The Pirates RS/G is 3.93 compared to The Cardinals 4.67 and The Reds 4.19.

So The Pirates can’t score runs. But they can prevent runs. Their Runs Against is 436, which for all of the talk about their rotation and amazing bullpen versus the chatter about The Cardinals problems with keeping starting pitcher healthy, The Cardinals Runs Against is a very comparable 455.

So what do The Pirates do well? They win 1-run games. This year in 1-run games, their record is 23-18. Compared to The Cardinals at 15-14 and The Reds at 19-19.

The only thing The Pirates have going for them is a weak schedule the rest of the year. They have series gainst bottom feeding teams like The Giants, The Cubs and The Brewers. Besides The Cardinals, The Rangers and several series against The Reds, they don’t have it too bad. The Cardinals however have a similarly easy schedule. They too have several games with The Reds and the extremely tough Braves, but have some pretty weak teams like The Mariners and Cubs to beat up on too.

Per Fangraphs, The Cardinals are projected to have a better record and a better run differential the rest of the year. Per ESPN, The Cardinals still have a higher percentage of making the playoffs than The Pirates (though both teams are projected over 90% to make it).

But The Pirates need two things to happen for the rest of this season: 1) all of the players playing over their heads to continue to do so. There is zero room for any of them to regress to who they were before this season. And 2) The Pirates continue to win 1-run games against teams that score more runs than them. In other words, they need to keep getting very lucky.

There are still 38 games left to go. The Cardinals are 1 game behind The Pirates as of Tuesday morning. That is a lot of games remaining for those things to happen to go just right for The Pirates. So maybe for the first time, it’s time for me to acknowledge The Pirates. But only to an extent, as I expect The Cardinals to be on top of the standings for the NL Central come October 1st.

So like the title states, it is time to start paying attention to The Pirates.

A little.

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Video: Royals Harlem Shake

Some of the Kansas City Royals players, including Salvador Perez and Bruce Chen, have posted a “Harlem Shake” video.

From Wikipedia: The videos last between 30 and 32 seconds and feature an excerpt from the song “Harlem Shake” by electronic musician Baauer. Usually, a video begins with one person (often helmeted or masked) dancing to the song alone for 15 seconds, surrounded by other people not paying attention or unaware of the dancing individual. When the bass drops, the video cuts to the entire crowd doing a crazy convulsive dance for the next 15 seconds. Moreover, in the second half of the video, people often wear a minimum of clothes or crazy outfits or costumes while wielding strange props.

It was only a matter of time.

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

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Dayton Moore, You Genius!

I guess even a broken clock is right twice a day.

What looked just a couple of weeks ago like a disastrous roster move is starting to look like a resume builder.

Last off-season, Dayton Moore dealt away the National League’s second leading hitter and in exchange got a pitcher who posted a 7.76 ERA and a 2.044 WHIP. You really can’t do much worse than that trade.

But sometimes life is stranger than fiction.

Now the Royals have in their rotation one of the hottest pitcher in the game (with a chance to sign him to a contract extension) and the San Francisco Giants have… nothing.

For any of you who haven’t been paying attention, what transpired is this: KC traded Melky Cabrera after a bounce-back season, and acquired from the Giants Jonathan Sanchez and a minor leaguer named Ryan Verdugo.

The whole thing blew up in Moore’s face in a career-threatening manner. In short, Cabrera was great for the Giants, Sanchez was a complete disaster for KC.

Things couldn’t have gone any worse if the Royals were breaking mirrors and walking under ladders. But what happened next belongs on an episode of CSI.

Maybe the Royals were just due for some good luck. It seems every move they make flops. Every attempt to trade for pitching has proved a disaster (see a detailed list of such trades here).

The good luck came when the Colorado Rockies were actually willing to trade veteran starter Jeremy Guthrie for Sanchez. You think Rockies fans aren’t ticked off about that move? Bad as Sanchez was in KC, he’s been worse in hitter-friendly Colorado – 0-3 with a 9.53 ERA and a 2.294 WHIP. All Guthrie has done recently is throw 22 consecutive scoreless innings.

Cabrera’s saga, on the other hand, defies summation. Not only has he turned out to be a cheater, he’s turned out to be a creepy pharmacologist. He’s also become a despised new character in the juiced-ballplayer era. While there seems to be forgiveness for some of the dopers and enhancers of history, Cabrera seems to have no apologists.

After failing a drug test, Cabrera actually created an elaborate ruse to mislead investigators – what he did may turn out to be criminal. Cabrera is suspended for the rest of the season, and it’s hard to believe the Giants will want him back.

Perhaps Moore just got lucky. But we don’t know all that he was thinking when he traded Cabrera last November after the outfielder’s languishing career had a one-year renaissance.

Do you think maybe Moore suspected something was up with the resurgent Cabrera? Did he suspect Cabrera was doping while in KC? Or did he just think he was playing with house money and decided to move Cabrera before the bottom dropped out?

How Moore got Colorado to take Sanchez at all is remarkable. Maybe Guthrie’s luck will run out and it will wind up nothing more than a trade of two rotten pitchers.

But right now, Moore looks like a genius. Hollywood couldn’t produce a better script than what’s just taken place with Cabrera and Guthrie.

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On life, love and baseball

Editor’s Note: The following may be the hardest article I have ever written.  But deep down, I write.  It is how I express myself and it is why this site exists in the first place.  I appreciate you reading and visiting the site on a regular basis.

Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Chevrolet
That very easily could have been the theme song around my house growing up.  While the winter months were passed by paying attention to the National Football League and the NCAA March Madness tournament, nothing compared to baseball in my youth.  Sundays during the summer meant trips to St. Louis to see our beloved Cardinals play.  Weeknights were spent watching the game on television, if it was on, or listening to it on the radio if it was not televised.  The love of the game was not something that I had to learn, it flowed through my blood and was enhanced by the wisdom handed down by my father.

When someone is born with material items (money, cars, homes) at their disposal without any work needed on their part, we say they were born “with a silver spoon in their mouth”.  If that is true, members of my family must have been born with a baseball in their hands.  The old stories handed down through my family involve children who could throw a ball before they could walk and children with the knowledge to explain the infield fly rule before they knew their alphabet.  For many of us, there was no choice: we loved this game.

Love of the game was nurtured and enhanced in my home.  My father spent time explaining the rules and the strategy of the game while watching with me.  He showed me the things to watch for during those times that the casual fan considers to be “inactivity”: the movement of the defense, the adjustment in the batter’s box, the adjustment of the catcher.  The poetry of the game was instilled in me as I watched and listened to each pitch.

He taught me about the game and also painted a mental picture of larger-than-life individuals.  Stories of great players that I would later research and learn more about were told through his own eyes.  From hard-nosed, hustle style baseball that he would later teach me to play myself to chance meetings with legends from his era, I felt like I sat next to him during countless games featuring players like Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Bob Gibson and Stan Musial.  Careers of players like Pete Rose, Rod Carew, Robin Yount and Lou Whitaker bridged the gap to the players of my generation and his.

Those Sunday trips to St. Louis were filled with moments that would stand out in my memory forever.  I met ballplayers, developed friendships with other fans, and learned the ins and outs of being a “bleacher bum”.  My dad was a different person when we were at the ballpark.  All the stress of life was gone while we were there.  He very seldom had a drink at a game, he did not want anything to distract him from the moment.  He was vibrant, fun, and genuine.  Opposing players were subject to his cat-calls and heckles.  Umpires were subject to his ridicule, something he would never allow himself the liberty of while playing.  He would teach me incredible life lessons on sunflower seeds and peanuts.

Baseball was not just a game that was played in front of me, however.  At a young age, it manifested as games of catch in the back yard.  When friends were over, it was a game of “hot box” or “Indian ball” that involved grand dreams of game sevens and home town fans.  As I got older, it was hours and hours of defensive drills and, if I was lucky, a little batting practice.  It was ground balls and pop-ups, learning the spin and identifying where the ball would go, and ultimately bonding.

He would eventually become my coach, working me harder than anyone else and expecting me to be flawless but spending the time to make sure that I understood what I did that caused a mistake and how to avoid it in the future.  When he had taught me the fundamentals and was seeing fewer mistakes in my physical game, he made sure I understood the mental side of the game and, most importantly, the respect it deserved.

It was an early spring day when we arrived to practice before anyone else.  We stepped out of the dugout so that we could warm up with some catch and then some long toss.  He squatted down in the same way that I had seen him do numerous times before, scooping a fistful of dirt and letting it pass through his hand and back to the ground.  I do not remember how old I was, but I remember finally asking why he did it.

He explained the physical benefits of drying his hands so the ball would not slip.  He also explained the old hustle mindset of not feeling that he had been on the field if he was not dirty.  He also told me that it was a time for him to reflect on the respect for the game and the field.  His explanation was based on his thoughts when he did this each time he stepped on a field.  He told me:

“You are not now, nor will you ever be the best player to play on this field.  Thousands have been here before you and countless will be here long after you.  There is always someone better.  All you can do is give this field, this game, everything you have.”

It was then that he laid down a new set of rules for me.  Rules outside of the rule book, outside of the document game, rules based in respect and history of the game.  Some were the typical “unwritten” rules that you hear about: don’t step on the foul lines, adjust the dirt in the batter’s box to cover the chalk if you needed to crowd the plate, not talking to a pitcher during a no-hitter.  The one’s I held on to were the one’s that he played the game by:

  • Absolutely no cussing while on the field
  • A strikeout was the worst thing you could do at the plate
  • A fielding error was worse
  • there was only one way to play the game: hard
  • not running, at any point, was unacceptable.  Walks, home runs, onto the field and off the field were no exceptions.
  • respect the umpires on the field and discuss your opinions with them after the game
  • “showing up” an umpire, another player, or any coach would get you removed from the game and benched for the next one

I don’t think I realized until I was much older that his rules for the game and his dedication to the time he and I spent surrounding the game were life lessons.  He had a physically demanding job that worked him incredibly long hours during the summer but he always found a way to make some time.  Some days it was watching the game instead of playing catch, but the time was always spent.

He was hard on me, there is no denying that.  Some said it was because of his military background.  Others have said “you’re always hardest on your child”.  Looking back, I realize that he knew what I was capable of and the time we had put into everything and he felt just as disappointed as I did when it did not work.

Baseball stayed at the center of our relationship when I became an adult.  Many phone conversations were made longer with a simple “did you see the game last night” or a “any word on the trade front” question.  Visits were centered around watching the game together.  During the summer of 2003, we made a whirlwind weekend driving trip to Cooperstown to see the Baseball Hall Of Fame and Museum.  We spent that weekend watching Class A minor league baseball, youth league games at Doubleday Field, and the sites and sounds of baseball history.  I had no idea at the time that it would be one of the last trips I would make with my father before he lost his ability to walk.

We both watched bewildered as the Boston Red Sox would celebrate their World Championship on the infield of Busch Stadium.  I was with him, kneeling on his floor, in 2006 when the Cardinals won their first World Championship that we would both remember.  We were almost 300 miles away from each other in 2011 when they completed their magical run, but I was on the phone with him soon after.

On August 3, 2012, my father left this world.  He was honored by the military for his dedication to his country and remembered fondly by family and friends that loved him very much.  My children sent flowers that were red and white, contained a baseball, and a cardinal bird.  There were flowers from friends of mine that are bloggers, people I have only met because of a mutual love of this game, that felt the need to reach out to me at this time.  It was very fitting of the man to have his country and this game present.

Just thirteen days prior to his passing, I was united in marriage to someone that I met through the game of baseball.  Angela Weinhold was writing on her site, Diamond Diaries, when I interviewed her for Baseball Digest.  We took a modest honeymoon to St. Louis to see our team take on the Dodgers and to spend some time seeing the tourist type attractions in the city that we both love so deeply.  During this trip, Angela brought up the idea of going to the site of Sportsman’s Park, which is in an area that I was familiar with and generally did not go.  After some convincing, I agreed.

Shortly after arriving there, I found myself walking onto a little league field where home plate sat in the same location it was inside of Sportsman’s Park.  I walked up and stood there for a moment, taking in the history of the moment.  I remembered my father telling me about those that had walked on a field before me.  I imagined the players, both Cardinals and opposing, that had played on that field.  I imagined him sitting in the stands watching them with my grandfather and his uncle and cousins.

Looking back, I now realize that it was his love of the game that gave him the opportunity to show his love for me.  That the game gave him the basis of numerous life lessons to pass on to me.  That this game forever bound us together.

Watching the game now reminds me of him, as it should.  It bonded us forever and far beyond this Earthly plane.  It is because of my father that I love this game and now it is because of this game that I have so many fond memories of my father.

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To Buy or Not To Buy?

The Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline is still a couple of months away, but the St. Louis Cardinals have to be contemplating the direction this 2012 season will take. And the way things have gone so far, it may not be an easy decision.

It is fair to say there is no way the Cardinals will be sellers, even with the absurd rash of injuries they have endured. A team that sells is a team that has no hope to make it to the postseason and a few expensive, desirable players that are nearing the end of a contract. This does not describe the Cards in any way. While they may have a handful of big contracts due to come off the books at the end of this season, it does not appear like they are contracts the team would be able to move without eating significant money and obtaining an upgrade at the same time. Plus, the Cardinals are still in second place in a weak division—far from out of it.

The Chicago Cubs are already 10 games out of first and are well under .500 after a lengthy losing streak last week. But they’re in full rebuild mode, and everyone knows it. They are sellers. The same goes for the San Diego Padres and Minnesota Twins. These teams need to shed payroll, build prospects, and plan for contention years down the road. The Cardinals are still good enough to win now, and are positioned to win in the near future as well.

So will the Cards be buyers at the deadline? That’s where the tough call comes in. They do have needs: bullpen depth, starting pitching that can eat innings, veteran bench help, stability at second base and center field. But they have a problem: many of those holes can be filled by guys they already have on their roster; unfortunately those guys are currently on the disabled list.

This isn’t a newsflash to anyone who has been paying attention. The Cards’ DL looks like their active roster, and their active roster looks like their Triple A roster.

And therein lies the problem: Do the Cardinals stand pat and bet on injured players not only returning to the lineup but also returning to form and contributing to a team committed to winning now? Or do they try to acquire talent (at the expense of prospects, mind you) to keep the team up in the near-term, and deal with extra players if and when they have to? Let’s not forget the calendar just flipped to June. There’s no way this team has seen the last of the injury bug. If Matt Holliday or Rafael Furcal or Yadier Molina goes down, this team is screwed…with a capital F.

Things were a lot different last year. When dealing with ineffectiveness—such as the Cards did with Ryan Franklin, Trever Miller, Brian Tallet, et al.—and knowing they had depth, moving guys like Colby Rasmus to acquire the role players needed for success was easier. But the Cardinals are short on depth right now. The depth is in the starting lineup. And the minor leagues are nearly tapped, at least of guys who are close enough to ready for the big leagues. Who could they possibly move at this point?

Players will be available come July but the Cards must be sensible in their dealings. The injuries this year have been of epic proportions. Maybe karma has come to collect after an otherworldly 2011. Or maybe this is just a test, like 10.5 games out in late August was. Hope the Cardinals studied this year as well as they did then.

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LaRussa To Manage Once Again

Word came down this week that long-time St. Louis Cardinals manager, Tony LaRussa, had been asked by Commissioner Bud Selig to manage the National League All-Star team during the mid-summer classic. Major League Baseball’s 83rd All-Star game will be held on July 10, 2012 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City…which, if you’re somehow on this website, and didn’t know that, you should probably avoid sharp objects.

La Russa will be the second retired manager to manage in the All-Star Game, joining John McGraw, who managed the National League team in the first playing in 1933. Two other managers have worked the All-Star Game while no longer with the teams with which they won the pennant: Dusty Baker in 2003 and Dick Williams in 1974. Even still, the request by Selig didn’t come without some fans balking at the idea (Bob Davidson alert!). Just imagine it, Tony LaRussa being part of conversations where fans have a difference of opinion.

Don’t think of it as “good-bye”, guys. Think of it as, “so long for just awhile”.

I’ll say this: Anyone who thinks Tony LaRussa will manage this game with any less intensity or with a different style and approach than we’ve seen in the past simply isn’t paying attention. The guy’s developing an ulcer even as you read this, trying to decide how he’s going to handle the 6th. Not to say he won’t make a move that leaves the entire freaking world scratching their head wondering precisely WTF he was thinking, but you can bet your life’s savings he’ll have what he feels is a very good reason for making that move. Remember last time he managed an All-Star game on the 10th of July? Aaron friggin’ Rowand, are you kidding me?

I’ll say this about the All-Star game, though: If you’ve never been to one, go. Especially for you folks living in the Kansas City area, I can’t overstate it.

Go. To. This. Game.

Go to the fan fest, go to the futures game, the old-timers game, the home run derby, go see all of it, every last bit you possibly can. (If you absolutely must miss something, I’d suggest the celebrity softball game.) The All-Star game doesn’t come to town that often, and the next time it does, face it, you’ll be too old to go enjoy it. Sleep some other time. Refinance your house. Pimp your daughter. Whatever you have to do to take part in this experience, do it*.

I went to the 80th All-Star game when it came to St. Louis in 2009. During those few days, I slept only a little, and spent a whole lot. I’ve joked since then that I “…had planned on sending my daughter to college, but left field bleacher tickets to a Home Run derby & All-Star Game don’t come cheap!” But, getting to see those guys play? I mean, I checked off two lifetimes’ worth of “players I’d like to see play before I die” bucket list names that night. Oh, and being IN the highlight of the Carl Crawford catch? Priceless.

It’s pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I’d encourage anyone & everyone to take advantage, and make it happen. If you’re a baseball fan, you will not regret getting to see these living legends play, live and in-person.

…As well as what’s likely to be Tony LaRussa’s last game managed.

Part of this article was taken from a piece written by Matthew Leach, who is waaay more talented than I. Hence the reason I used some of his work. (full article here).

*Don’t pimp your daughter.

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Sub-Par Cardinals – Right Where Royals Want To Be

Royals fans may not quite be giddy about their 71 wins, but they certainly are optimistic about the way their season ended, with their talented collection of youngsters rolling to 11 wins in their last 16 games.

And rightly they should be. They have had little to feel good about for years. And this young lineup certainly has potential.

But perspective is a funny thing.

You see, at the same time – August and September – that KC was celebrating the smallest of victories, St. Louis was muddling through what seemed like a disappointing season. Injuries and poor relief pitching had primarily undermined the perennial contenders, and at the end of August, the Cardinals trailed in both their division and in the Wild Card race by what seemed an insurmountable margin.

But miraculously, just when the season seemed lost, an Atlanta collapse suddenly became a possibility. Then it became a reality. And just like that, the Cardinals slipped into the playoffs, deservedly or not.

Now even though I lived in Missouri for years, surrounded by those annoying St. Louis fans, I never developed a full-blown case of Cardinal envy. In fact, I can honestly say I rarely paid enough attention to the National League even to develop a healthy appreciation for the Cardinals’ consistent success.

But this season provides a valuable lesson on the importance of perspective.

I hate to admit it, but this season proves more than just about any other that the Cardinals are where the Royals want to be.

Not because the Cardinals might win the World Series, even though they might.

No, the Cardinals are where the Royals want to be because even though they struggled and fumbled and limped their way through what was, for them, a sub-par season, they ended up in the playoffs anyway. The Royals meanwhile fielded an exciting collection of “prospects” (for the umpteenth time) and still ended up so far out of contention that we stopped paying attention to the standings mid-summer.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the difference. The Royals perennially field a few decent hitters, some horrible pitchers and some promising prospects. The Cardinals, meanwhile, have a few great hitters, and some excellent pitchers. Then they pull together a collection of solid role players that, in the hands of Hall-of-Fame caliber management, just win because that’s what you do when you are the St. Louis Cardinals.

It’s the getting there that seems to be the hard part.

Good luck in the playoffs, Redbirds. Win or lose, you are always winners. We in KC can only hope that someday we can have sub-par seasons like the one you’re having.

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Royals Gallimaufry

• Your vocab word of the day: gallimaufry.

From Dictionary.com:

gal·li·mau·fry
[gal-uh-maw-free]

–noun, plural -fries. Chiefly Literary.

1. a hodgepodge; jumble; confused medley.
2. a ragout or hash.

Used in a sentence: I hope you will enjoy my below gallimaufry of Royals thoughts.

tasty

• I pay no mind to a pitcher’s win-loss record anymore, but I have lately been thinking how it is kind of nice to put every start into a “good” and “bad” bucket. We just need a better measure. A modern day pitcher’s record if you will. I am not all the way on board with quality start as a measuring stick, but it has some merit. A couple of other measures I like are win probability added (WPA) and game score. If the idea of a “good” start is to give your team a shot at winning, WPA seems like the best measure since it literally reflects if the starter gave his team a better or worse chance. A WPA “win” would be a positive WPA in a start. Game score is from Bill James and applies a rating to every start based on innings, hits, strikeouts, walks and runs allowed. 50 is an average start, so a game score “win” would be any score greater than 50. Here is how every Royals starter looks with these different records, and the three records combined into an average on the right:

talk about a confused medley

If you can work through that mess of numbers, you might notice that the records do not look very good. However, before getting hurt, Bruce Chen continued to somehow find ways to be effective. He is wily I tell ya.
• Pitching continues to be the huge question mark in Dayton Moore‘s process. Rob Neyer wrote about that recently, saying “The Process will work only if the organization’s homegrown hitters are accompanied by homegrown starting pitchers. And in that regard the jury is still very, very much out.” Danny Duffy and Mike Montgomery are both struggling with their control and John Lamb just underwent Tommy John surgery. Relying only on homegrown starters is a tough hill to climb. The Royals may have to hit big on an impact starting pitcher through trade or free agency before they are ready to win the AL Central.

• There is a bizarre strain of under-appreciation of Billy Butler from some Royals fans. Sam Mellinger took a look at these weirdos in a recent column. I suppose Billy is a nice litmus test for how fans see the game. If you judge Billy only by your eyes, you might see a slow guy who does not hit as many homers as you would hope. If you like old-school numbers, you might think he does not get enough RBIs. If you blend your eye with more telling numbers, there seems to be no denying that the Royals have one of the best DHs around. My fellow I-70 writer Troy Olsen, aka KCRoyalMan, is quoted in Mellinger’s column saying, “Need more doubles and HRs. Too many singles worthless singles. Clogs bases.” First of all, “clogging the bases” is the idea of batting. It means you did not make an out. Second of all, asking Billy to hit more doubles is sort of like asking Babe Ruth to hit more home runs. Here are the MLB leaders in doubles from 2009 to present:

1. Billy Freaking Butler 112
2. Robinson Cano 102
3. Evan Longoria 100
4. Ryan Braun 99
5. Miguel Cabrera 97
5. Matt Holliday 97
When you think of doubles, think of Billy Butler. When you think of Billy Butler, think of doubles. When you think of the best DH so far in 2011, think of David Ortiz. When you think of the second best DH so far in 2011, think of Billy Butler. When you think of what is wrong with the Royals, think of just about anything else before Billy Butler.

• It is only seven games, but I am borderline giddy about Alcides Escobar‘s recent hot streak with the bat. Eyeballs and defensive metrics agree that he is ridiculously good in the field. Some fans think that excuses him from having to hit at all. I am not one of those fans. For me, it means he only has to hit a tiny bit. Which he was not doing. He was hurting the team with his bat more than he was helping with the glove. But this hot stretch shows he at least has a few hits in him. And that is all the Royals need from him in order to have one of the best shortstops around.

• The specter of Jason Kendall‘s return continues to loom over the season. When the Royals make room for him by moving Brayan Pena or Matt Treanor, this team will immediately become worse. Pena and Treanor have been a surprisingly decent duo behind the dish, hitting a little bit (or in Treanor’s case, walking a lot) and playing fine defensively. With one glaring exception from Pena, they have done a great job blocking the plate on plays at home, and both seem to have a strong throw to second. I cannot imagine Kendall has anything left in his bat or throwing arm after decimating his shoulder last season, and I cringe at the idea of having to watch him try to hit on a regular basis again. I do not deny that having his experience around may have some benefit. If the Royals want to draw on his knowledge, then great—hire him as a coach. Just please do not let him actually play as a Royal anymore.

• The Royals have not played up this aspect of Tuesday’s “Retro Night” promotion, but according to ballpark emcee Tim Scott, the game will be presented with “No music, no KCrew, no emcee, no contests, (and) retro video board.” How great does that sound? If that is not enough, it will also be Mike Moustakas‘s home debut.

• After his customary hot start, Jeff Francoeur is staying true to himself by falling apart at the plate. wOBA by month:

March/April: .402
May: .305
June: .288
It is past time for him to move down in the lineup.

Aaron Stilley also writes about Kansas City baseball here and on the Twitters.

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Dog Days Give Way To Moose & Hos Days

This past week has seemed like the dog days of summer, even though that phrase is usually reserved for August. It’s usually stupid hot, and the Royals are usually losing at a good clip. Come August we’re tired of both, and ready write off the Royals until March while waiting for that first strong cold front in September.

Photo Courtesy of Minda Haas

This week in a lot of Royals Nation the temps have been near 100. Along with the heat was the humidity, and if you didn’t have humidity you had wind. Likewise, the Royals have dropped 16 of their last 26. Including being swept at home by the worst team in the league; the injury plagued Twins. For me it was my Annual “Ok I’m done with this.” Series

But then I remember: Like the 100 degree days I pine for while driving through snow, I remember that regardless of how bad the Royals are I spent the entire off-season looking forward to the season, not just the month of April. There will be a dark 4 month stretch in the winter where I’ll be looking for this stuff again. There is no sense in wishing either of them away

However, the end of this week brought some relief from the heat. It also brought some news we’ve been expecting since Spring Training. Mike Moustakas has been called up. This brings renewed energy into watching and paying attention to the Royals. “Moose & Hos” will now be in the same Major League line-up.

Mike Moustakas will make is MLB debut 50 miles from his home

The major dynamic Moustakas should add to the line-up is power. In the minors last year Moose had 36 HR in 118 games. I know it’s the minors, but even if there is a drop in production Moose should be a huge addition to the line-up. Especially when looking at previous decades power numbers. You know, what will go down as The Steroid Era? You have to go all the way back to Carlos Beltran in 2003 to find a Royals hitter with more than 25 home runs in a season. Miguel Olivo came close in 2009 with 23. Want to read something that will make you avert your eyes? Yuneski Betancourt lead the Royals in home runs last year with….16. This year the numbers are a little better, but still not good. Moustakas should help with that, and Hosmer has 5 HR in 32 games.

So the youth movement continues. The monotony of the season has been broken up. Hosmer, Moustakas, and the Law Firm of Coleman, Collins & Crow will provide enough bright spots to ignore the historically horrendous starting pitching. That’s a good thing, there are still 99 games left and no NFL waiting at the end.

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Cookie and Freddie: Mighty Mites Sparked Early Royals

Cookie and Freddie. To a little kid just learning about baseball, they seemed more like cartoon characters or puppets than ballplayers.

Cookie Rojas was small, wore horn-rimmed glasses and seemed to bounce around the field. Since I didn’t even know what Cuba was, he just seemed strangely “foreign” to me.

And if Cookie seemed small, Freddie Patek was downright tiny. Nicknamed “The Flea,” Patek was probably shorter than the 5’5” that he was listed as, and he couldn’t have weighed 150 pounds.

I first started watching baseball in the late 1970s, just in time to catch the end of Rojas’ career, so by then Frank White was the man at second base – winning gold gloves and going to the All-Star Game every season. But this name continued to pop up as I watched or listened to the Royals’ broadcasts – Cookie Rojas.

The way they talked about him, he must have been something I remember thinking to myself.

Patek was in the starting lineup when I started paying attention, but I was already a fan of UL Washington. I didn’t like it that they kept playing Patek and treating him like he was something special.

But last week I did a lot of digging to compile a look back at the shortstop position throughout Royals history for I70baseball.com. What I realized is that I had come along a little too late to fully appreciate what Rojas and Patek had meant to the franchise. So I decided to take a look back at the beloved middle-infield tandem of the Royals’ early days.

As a fledgling expansion team, KC acquired Cookie Rojas in a trade with St. Louis in the middle of 1970. Rojas, 31 at the time, was already a respected veteran, having spent several seasons with the Phillies.

After the 1970 season, the Royals made another trade to acquire yet another National League infielder. Patek came in a six-player deal with the Pirates. Patek was 26 and had played three partial seasons for the Pirates.

Whether it was the exuberance of the expansion environment, the ballpark, or the chemistry between the two, something clicked. The team suddenly became a contender in 1971, due in no small part to the teaming of Rojas and Patek in the middle infield. The team, which had not previously cracked the 70-win barrier, bolted to an 85-76 mark and second place in the AL West.

In the season, Rojas batted .300, hit 6 home runs and drove in 59 in just 115 games and was named an All-Star. Patek, meanwhile, never known as a hitter, had the best offensive season of his career, hitting .267 with 6 home runs and 36 RBIs. The pesky Patek sparked the offense with 49 stolen bases and led the AL with 11 triples.

In the days when small, agile infielders were counted on for defense and offense was just a bonus, the two Royals infielders were so appreciated that they both received votes for MVP that season. And best of all, the two helped give KC a degree of credibility. No longer would this be a sad-sack collection of talent-less cast-offs.

Rojas continued to hit well the next several seasons. Patek was more of a light-hitter, but still the admiration for the two continued.

Although he hit just .212 in 1972, Patek was named an All-Star, as was Rojas, who batted .261 with 3 homers and 53 RBIs. Imagine the pride the franchise must have felt in seeing its middle-infield tandem take their place amongst the All-Stars of that season. In that celebrity exhibition, Rojas became the first non-American born player to homer for the American League.

In 1973, Rojas had the best offensive season of his career, batting .276 with 6 homers and 69 RBIs and being named an All-Star for the third consecutive time. Patek had what for him was a pretty good seasons at the plate – .234, 5 HR, 45 RBI. But a youngster made an appearance in the KC infield that year – 22-year-old Frank White. White actually played three times as many games at short as at second that season.

Rojas was named an All-Star for the fourth straight season in 1974. He batted .271 with 6 homers and 60 RBIs that year, but the team took a dip to below .500 and White began to see action at second, short and third base.

1975 was a year of transition for the middle infield. White played 68 games at second, 42 at short. The team went 91-71, but the 36 year-old Rojas’ numbers began to dip.

White took over second base full time in 1976, beginning a new era of great infield play in KC. Patek would make the All-Star game in 1976 and 1978. White meanwhile would win the Gold Glove from 1977 to 1982 and make four All-Star appearances during that span. Rojas played out the 1977 season before retiring.

By that time I was watching every game, spoiled by the play of White at second and entertained by the athletic Washington, toothpick hanging out of his mouth, at short. But the names of Patek and Rojas continued to resonate in Royals’ lore. The championship-caliber teams of the late 1970s to mid 1980s would owe a debt of gratitude to the scappy little infielders that helped build the franchise.

Cookie and Freddie. They were better than any cartoon or puppet show. They were All-Stars. And they were the foundation for the great Royals teams to be built upon.

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