Tag Archive | "Pun"

First Place Royals

It’s late June and the Royals are in first place.  No, they aren’t at the top of their division nor are they leading the wild card race.  They are, however leading teams in a way they haven’t in some time.  The Royals have very quietly acquired the best earned run average in the American League.  The season is long but this is still a huge accomplishment considering their performance on the mound in years past.

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Saying that Royals pitching has been bad would be charitable.  Saying that Royals pitching has been the worst would be closer to accurate.  For well over a decade, Kansas City has put up some of the worst pitching numbers in all of baseball.

Since 2000, the Royals have been one of the three worst teams in combined ERA nine times.  In that time, their best pitching performance was in 2007 when they ranked 7th in the American League.  To add a bit more perspective, in 2009, when Zack Greinke won the Cy Young award he posted an ERA of 2.16 for the season.  That same year the Royals had a collective ERA of 4.83 coming in at 12th as a team in the league.

That’s what makes the jump to number one, even at this early point in the season something worth mentioning.  Even as they sit five games out of first place, Royals pitching has given up fewer runs than the division leading Tigers, who sit at number two as a team in earned runs.  And as the Kansas City bats slowly awaken from their royal slumber (pun entirely intended), they find that they are able to win the close games that they were losing earlier in the year.  They are currently 12-6 in the month of June in part by holding opponents to an average of about two and a half runs a game.

But as mentioned before, in the 2009 season, team ERA can be somewhat deceiving.  Ervin Santana has been lights out thus far with the American League’s 3rd best ERA of 2.64.  James Shields is right behind him at 2.72, putting him at 6th best in the league and one one-hundredth of a point behind Seattle’s Felix Hernandez.  Even Jeremy Guthrie comes in below league average in ERA at 3.72, good enough to get him in the top twenty in American League pitching.  However, the combined efforts of these three cover up the chink in the armor at the back end of the Royals’ rotation.

Luis Mendoza is 2-4 with an ERA of 4.30.  He hasn’t been terrible, but he has been unpredictable.  Wade Davis has been worse averaging over five earned runs per start.  The stunning performance of Santana and Shields, who were acquired this offseason, have covered up what could be the biggest weakness for these Kansas City Royals.

Santana and Shields routinely pitch deep into games.  This has been a god send for the Royals bullpen, who have now pitched the fewest amount of innings in baseball (175.3).  With the bullpen rested and the bats coming alive it’s this first place Royals pitching rotation that could use some shoring up.  There do exist options, none that the Royals hope they have to use though.

Dan Duffy, who is coming off of Tommy John surgery, has been making minor league rehab starts since the end of May.  Duffy has been sharp in the past averaging over nine strikeouts an inning in 2012 but since coming off of surgery he’s been getting ruffed up in AAA.  Also pitching right now in AAA Omaha is Yordano Ventura, the Royals young ace in waiting.  “Ace” Ventura as he is already being called, has had mixed success in Omaha but dominated in double A ball.  Ventura owns a fastball that can touch 100 mph.  His K/9 rate over four starts is 8 and 11.5 in AAA and AA respectively.  Ventura has talent to be sure but the Royals probably don’t want to prematurely promote their young prospect and limit his training and experience (not to mention bring his arbitration date closer) simply because Wade Davis has had a few bad starts.

And of course there is always the trade option, but most people suspect an underwhelming trade deadline from the Royals this year considering the amount of players they surrendered before the season started.  And of course Davis and Mendoza may pick up the pace down the stretch.  Davis has yielded only four runs combined in his last three starts.

Still, having the best pitching in the American League is a great problem to have.  The Royals took a chance this off season to acquire pitching and they got what they wanted.  And now that the offense is starting to show up they are starting to look like the contender that fans had hoped for.

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Wil the Royals trade Myers away for starting pitching?

The Royals need another front of the rotation starter, even after acquiring Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie. With a $70MM “soft” salary cap (which many argue is too low), the Royals say they’re willing to trade top outfield prospect Wil Myers for starting pitching. Names such as Tampa Bay’s James Shields and Boston’s Jon Lester have come up, but so far they’re nothing more than rumors. But is trading a top offensive prospect for starting pitching a good idea in the first place?

If it’s for Shields or Lester, no. Yes, they are good pitchers and better than anyone in the Royals rotation, including Santana and Guthrie. But they’re not worth Wil Myers trade value.

Both Shields and Lester will be free agents in 2014. If Myers stays with the Royals, he’ll likely be a free agent until 2019. Then there’s money. Shields will make $9MM in 2013 and has a $12MM team option. Lester will make $11.6MM in 2013 and has a $13MM team option. Myers will make much less.

Shields pitched 227.2 innings in 33 starts, had a 3.52 ERA with a 3.84 strikeout to walk ratio. Lester pitched 205.1 innings in 33 starts, had a 4.82 ERA with a 2.44 strikeout to walk ratio. Shields is 30 and Lester is 28, but between the two, Shields appears the one most likely to improve. Both pitchers are good and would be an asset to the Royals rotation, but not for Myers.

Now if the Tampa Rays are willing to deal David Price or Jeremy Hellickson for Myers, that might be a good trade. Price is a Super Two player, which makes him arbitration eligible in 2013 and a free agent in 2016. Hellickson is arbitration eligible in 2014 and a free agent in 2017.  Price made $4.35MM in 2012 and Hellickson made $489,500 in 2012, so they’re very affordable and would be under club control for at least a few years.

But I don’t see a trade like that happening. Price was a 20 game winner, pitching 211.0 innings over 31 starts with a 2.16 ERA and a 3.47 strikeout to walk ratio. And he was the American League Cy Young Award winner for 2012. Hellickson was no slouch, pitching 177.0 innings over 31 starts with a 3.10 ERA and a 2.10 strikeout to walk ratio. He was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2011.

Of the two, the Rays might trade Hellickson for Myers straight up, but to get Price the Royals would probably have to throw in another high level prospect like a Jake Odorizzi or Jason Adam. And the Rays aren’t rebuilding, so there’s no good reason for them to give up starting pitching for prospects.

If the Royals are so bent on trading for a starting pitcher, maybe they should consider Chicago Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija. Jeff Samardzija? To be honest, I didn’t know much about him either. But Samardzija was the ace of the Cubs, pitching 174.2 innings in 28 starts with a 3.81 ERA and a 3.21 strikeout to walk ratio. Sure, being the ace of the 61-101 Cubs isn’t that impressive. But Samardzija made $2.64MM in 2012, is arbitration eligible in 2013 and a free agent in 2016.

And the best thing is the Royals won’t have to trade Myers to get Samardzija (unless they’re very stupid, which is possible). The Royals could give the Cubs someone like Mike Montgomery or Cheslor Cuthbert for Samardzija and jettison or trade Luke Hochevar to pay Samardzija’s salary. The Royals still have money left to get a free agent pitcher like a Shaun Marcum or Anibal Sanchez. And Myers can take Jeff Francoeur‘s place in right field in 2013. Sounds like a good deal to me.

Posted in Featured, RoyalsComments (10)

2011 Hall Of Legends Inductee: Vince Coleman

The week of Thanksgiving brings a time for all of us to be thankful for family, friends, health, any a myriad of other things that each of us finds important. Here at I-70 Baseball, we take this time to show some thanks to some players that spent some time wearing both of the uniforms of our two teams, the Cardinals and Royals.

The requirements are that simple: the inducted player had to play for both the Cardinals and Royals in his career. From there, it is pure judgement of I-70 Baseball to say they deserve enshrinement in our “Hall Of Legends”. This year we induct five new legends to join the inaugural group of five from last season. The original five inductees were manager Whitey Herzog, pitchers Dan Quisenberry and Danny Jackson, outfielder Reggie Sanders, and catcher Darrell Porter.

The first inductee for 2011 is Vince Coleman.

Coleman was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1982 and it did not take long for him to race (pun intended) onto the scene at the big league level. The speedy outfielder was built for the Whiteyball area of the St. Louis Cardinals and the team quickly had him in the leadoff role as the 1985 season got underway.

That rookie year was not perfect by any means, but the young man managed to reach base at a .320 clip while hitting .267. It was what he did when he was on base that captured the focus of fans across the nation. Coleman successfully stole 110 bases that year while also being caught 25 times, leading the league in both categories and capturing the Rookie Of The Year Award (later named the Jackie Robinson Award in 1987) in the National League that season. His 110 steals would fall just short of Cardinal legend Lou Brock‘s national league record of 118, but would establish the record that still stands today of steals by a rookie.

The dreaded sophomore slump would gRip Coleman‘s batting average and on base percentage, dropping the former to .232 and the latter to .301. As the old saying toes, however, speed doesn’t slump. Despite his drop in ability to reach base safely, he would lead the league again in stolen bases, this time with 107. He would also cut down the amount of times he was caught on the bases, being thrown out a paltry 14 times over the course of the season.

Coleman’s third year in the majors wearing the birds on the bat would see him achieve another etching in the record books. In arguably the most successful seasons of his career, Coleman would raise his batting average to .289 and his on base percentage to .363. The batting average would eventually prove to be the second best average Coleman would ever post and his on base percentage would rank as his best of his 13 year career. His increased time spent on the base paths would yield 109 stolen bases, the first player in history to steal 100 or more bases for three consecutive season.

As the 1988 season developed, Coleman would find himself once again atop the league in stolen bases, this time for the fourth consecutive season. He would fail to top 100 stolen bases for the first time in his career, swiping just 81 while being caught 27 times. Coleman would make the first of his two career all star appearances in that year’s mid summer classic. His production would slip again in 1989, falling to just 65 stolen bases, which was still good enough to lead the league. He would make is final appearance in the All Star Game that year. The remarkable thing happened for Coleman was a record that started in 1988 and was completed in 1989.

In the top of the sixth inning of a contest between the Cubs and the Cardinals in Chicago on September 18, Vince Coleman would swipe second base off of Greg Maddux and Jody Davis with Jose Oquendo at the plate. It led to the Cardinals’ fourth run of the contest, a game they would eventually win 5-4. Fast forward to July 26, 1989 as the Cubs would meet the Cardinals in St. Louis. In a game once again won by the Cardinals, Coleman would steal second base in the bottom of the third off of Cubs hurler Rick Sutcliffe and catcher Joe Giradi. The following game, played on July 28 in Montreal, Coleman would be thrown out in the fourth inning attempting to steal second base off of Pascual Perez and cather Nelson Santovenia. It would bring to end a treak of 50 straight stolen bases by Coleman, another record that is still standing today.

Coleman would spend his final season in St. Louis in 1990, stealing 77 bases and leading the league for the final time in his career, the sixth consecutive time. He would post his highest batting average of his career at .292 before departing the city via free agency to head to the bright lights of New York City to join the Mets.

Three injury ridden years in New York would come to a close after the 1993 season when Coleman was traded back into the midwest to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Kevin McReynolds. Coleman’s health would rebound in 1994 as he put together a decent season for the Royals, stealing 50 bases. He would steal another 26 bases in a Royals uniform the following season before being dealt to the Seattle Mariners for the stretch run of 1995.

Coleman would steal 625 bases combined for the I-70 franchises, winning the Rookie Of The Year Award and appearing in two all star games. He “leads-off” the 2011 selections for the Hall Of Legends.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.

Posted in Cardinals, Classic, I-70 Baseball Exclusives, I-70 Hall Of Legends, RoyalsComments (0)


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