Tag Archive | "Ryan Lefebvre"

Former Royals Broadcast Legend Fred White Dies

When I heard the news that longtime Royals broadcaster Fred White decided to retire after 40 years with the Royals due to a serious health issue, I hoped he would recover from his illness and enjoy his retirement. But the next day, White died from complications from melanoma.

Fred and Denny

It’s a sad end for a broadcast legend such as White, but he lived full life a lot of folks would envy. In 1973, He began his Royals career as a part-time announcer for the Royals TV broadcasts. When Royals broadcaster Buddy Blattner retired in 1975, White teamed up with Denny Matthews for the Royals radio broadcasts.

Denny and Fred were a fixture of Royals radio broadcasts during the team’s glory days, announcing the 1980 and 1985 World Series and many playoff games. It was White who announced George Brett’s three-run homer off Goose Gossage in the 1980 ALCS and Brett’s 3,000 hit in Anaheim. He also called Bo Jackson’s first big league home run. Denny and Fred worked well together, with their similar announcing styles and their sense of humor. The term “Denny and Fred” or “Fred and Denny” became a lexicon of Royals baseball in the Midwest.

By 1998, the Royals were in decline and the Royals and Entercom, the company responsible for Royals broadcasts, fired Fred White after 25 years with the team. A young broadcaster from Minnesota named Ryan Lefebvre took White’s place. Royals fans were outraged by the move.

After 25 faithful years of service with the Royals, you could understand if White became angry or bitter about being fired. But Fred White wasn’t that type of guy. Instead, he supported Lefebvre and the two became good friends. White took a job with the Royals as the director of broadcast services for the Royals Radio Network, taking a struggling radio affiliate network and making it into the largest baseball radio network in the American League. White also directed activities for former players in the Royals Alumni program.

In 2001, White rejoined the Royals as a part-time announcer. Listening to Denny and Fred again was like listening to the Royals in the old days, even if the current Royals teams weren’t that good.

White didn’t have a catchphrase or even a distinctive voice like Vin Scully. He just had that smooth, Midwestern voice that called a baseball game like it should be called. When I was younger and even recently, listening to Fred White call a game with Denny Matthews or Ryan Lefebvre was a treat, no matter how good or bad the Royals played. Fred will be missed, but he will not be forgotten.

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Royals And Fox Sports KC Announce Schedule

KANSAS CITY, MO (January 31, 2013) – The Kansas City Royals and FOX Sports Kansas City today announced a 142-game television schedule for the 2013 season, featuring two exhibition games and 140 regular season games.

FSKC

The Royals and FOX Sports Kansas City are entering the sixth season of a long-term agreement in which FOX Sports Kansas City is the exclusive television home of Royals baseball.  The 140-game regular season television schedule features 67 road games and 73 from Kauffman Stadium.  Every game on FOX Sports Kansas City will be preceded by a 30-minute pre-game show, “Hy-Vee Royals Live,” and followed by the “Boulevard Royals Live” post-game show.  All 140 regular season telecasts will be presented in High Definition.

FOX Sports Kansas City’s coverage of Royals baseball kicks off with a Spring Training telecast from Surprise, Ariz., on Monday, March 25, when the Royals host the Los Angeles Dodgers at 8:05 p.m. (CDT).  A second exhibition game will be broadcast on Wednesday, March 27, when Kansas City hosts the Chicago Cubs, also at 8:05 p.m. (CDT).

FSKC will air Kansas City’s Opening Day contest on April 1 at Chicago as well as the April 8 home opener vs. Minnesota.

Ryan Lefebvre will call 90 regular season games and one exhibition for Fox Sports Kansas City and Steve Physioc will provide the play-by-play on 50 games during the season and one exhibition.  Rex Hudler will return for his second season as the analyst and Royals’ Hall of Famer, Jeff Montgomery, will provide analysis throughout the season on Royals Live with host Joel Goldberg.

The complete season schedule with telecasts is listed on the attached schedule, which you can download by clicking here.  All game times and the TV schedule are subject to change.

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Gloves For Kids In Kansas City Monday 9-17

KANSAS CITY, MO (September 16, 2012) – On Monday, September 17, fans will have the chance to help provide baseball equipment for Kansas City’s disadvantaged youth at a special Gloves For Kids event presented by the Royals and Ryan Lefebvre’s Footprints Foundation.  Additional support is provided by Rawlings, Rally House and 610 Sports Radio.  The event will be held at Rally House-Kansas City North, located at 8650 N. Boardwalk Ave. in Kansas City, Mo., from 6-8 p.m.

Select Royals players will sign autographs for fans who donate at least $25 toward new baseball gloves and other baseball/softball equipment for underprivileged youth in both the Kansas City area as well as the native countries of some of the event participants, including the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

Royals players scheduled to appear include:

Pitcher Louis Coleman                                    Second Baseman Johnny Giavotella
Pitcher Tim Collins                                          Pitcher Jeremy Guthrie
Pitcher Danny Duffy                                        Pitcher Kelvin Herrera
Shortstop Alcides Escobar                             Catcher Salvador Perez
Second Baseman Chris Getz                         Manager Ned Yost

Session participants will be announced at Rally House at 5 p.m.  One group of players will sign from 6-7 p.m. with the other group to follow from 7-8 p.m.  Please note that a $25 donation is required for each session, and fans will be allowed to have one item autographed by each Royals player participating in that session.  Sales for both sessions will begin at 5 p.m., and each session will be capped at 150 people.  For details, visit www.royals.com/glovesforkids.

The event will also include a Royals Charities silent auction featuring unique Royals memorabilia, including autographed items from players including Billy Butler, Mike Moustakas and George Brett, which will run until 7:45 p.m.  In addition, Bob Fescoe, host of “Fescoe in the Morning” on 610 Sports Radio, the home of the Royals, will be reporting live from Rally House from 5-7 p.m.

Created in 2001 by Lefebvre’s Footprints Foundation, the Gloves For Kids event has raised more than $85,000 to provide new baseball gloves and related equipment for Kansas City area youth.

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Clemenating Jonathan Sanchez

I know this makes me far from unique, but as a young man growing up in Kansas City that dreamed of being a journalist, I became quite enamored with Joe Posnanski. Posnanski, of course, was a star columnist at the Kansas City Star along with Jason Whitlock. Both went on to bigger and better things in far different ways, and both were incredible columnists. While Whitlock had a way of dividing a city on seemingly any topic, Posnanski was much more subtle. He could write something you already knew, something you were already thinking, and make you care about it more than you ever had. Whitlock could make you feel things about him….Posnanski made you feel things about you.

Okay, if you’re still with me I’m sure you’re wondering what this has to do with our Kansas City Royals. Well, seemingly because the current English language cannot fully express his literary genius, Posnanski has on his blog started JoeWords. This is awesome, and I encourage you to read it, but for the purposes of this article I just want to focus on one of them:

Clemenate (KLEM-a-nayt), verb, to hate an athlete in an entirely healthy, fun sports way (rather than hating them in a crazed, stalking, loaded gun, insane sort of way). Ex. Jonathan Sanchez is making himself far too easy to clemenate this season.

This week saw a flurry of commentary about Sanchez. 610 Sports ran a gag trying to get him blocked from Twitter, Ryan Lefebvre and Rex Hudler bother questioned how much Sanchez loved baseball, and Bob Dutton wrote a scathing piece about the Royals refusal to consider shipping Sanchez out. However, the one that really caught my eye came from Minda Haas. Minda is an outstanding photographer and a good friend of I70 baseball, and this week she wrote this.

Minda is right in many regards, most notably that baseball players are people too and their life need not revolve around baseball for them to be successful. I also agree that personal attacks against baseball players based on their performance are unwarranted, and I think this is what Posnanski was trying to capture when he created the word clemenate.

I don’t hate Jonathan Sanchez, but I clemenate him with ounce of my baseball loving soul. I clemenate his attitude, because it’s hard to watch him play the game and think he cares even a little. I clemenate his methods, because watching him pitch, even when he’s getting people out, is equal parts maddening and sleep inducing. Mostly though I clemenate what he has done to this Royals season.

The Royals are 3-7 in his ten starts this season and he’s given them an average of 4 2/3 innings per start. Every time it seems like the Royals are about to get on a hot streak, Sanchez kills all momentum an uninspiring walk-filled performance. Young teams are streaky, and this Royals team has lived up to that billing, but it’s tough to streak too far in the right direction when you know you’re sending Sanchez to the mound every 5 days.

The bottom line is, Sanchez must go…quickly. We’ve seen far too many young stars grow disenchanted with the Royals version of “trying” to win. You can not in good faith tell Eric Hosmer or Mike Moustakas that we’re trying to win when you continue to send Sanchez to the mound.

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Royals Spring Broadcasts Announced

ROYALS AND ENTERCOM-KANSAS CITY ANNOUNCE 15 GAMES OF 2012 SPRING TRAINING BROADCAST SCHEDULE

KANSAS CITY, MO (February 15, 2012) — The Kansas City Royals and Entercom-Kansas City today announced the first 15 broadcasts of the 2012 Royals Spring Training Radio schedule that will air on 610 Sports Radio (KCSP-AM).  All Spring Training contests will be webcast on royals.com, including the games not on 610 Sports Radio.  The Royals and 610 Sports Radio will add five more broadcasts once the NCAA Tournament schedule is released due to 610’s commitment to University of Kansas basketball as well.

The 2012 spring radio broadcast schedule is as follows:

Sunday March 4 @ Texas 1:05 p.m.
Monday March 5 vs. Texas 2:05 p.m.  
Tuesday March 6 vs. San Diego (SS) 2:05 p.m.  
Sunday March 11 @ Oakland 3:05 p.m.  
Monday March 12 vs. San Francisco 3:05 p.m.  
Tuesday March 20 vs. Los Angeles Angels 3:05 p.m.  
Wednesday March 21 vs. Oakland 3:05 p.m.  
Monday March 26 @ San Francisco 3:05 p.m.  
Tuesday March 27 @ Milwaukee 3:05 p.m.  
Wednesday March 28 vs. Texas 8:05 p.m.  
Thursday March 29 @ Los Angeles Angels 3:05 p.m.  
Friday March 30 vs. Chicago White Sox 8:05 p.m.  
Sunday April 1 @ Seattle 3:05 p.m.  
Tuesday April 3 @ San Diego (PETCO Park) 9:05 p.m.  
Wednesday April 4 @ San Diego (Lake Elsinore) 4:05 p.m.  

                                *All Times Central – Game Times Subject to Change

 

For the 44th year, Royals Hall of Famer Denny Matthews will call Spring Training play-by-play action and he’ll be joined by Ryan Lefebvre, newcomer Steve Physioc and Steve Stewart.  The spring schedule for Bob Davis will be determined by University of Kansas basketball.  Stewart will anchor the exhibition webcasts.

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Royals And Fox Sports Announce Schedule And Announcers

KANSAS CITY, MO (February 10, 2012) – The Kansas City Royals and FOX Sports Kansas City today announced a 142-game television schedule for the 2012 season, featuring two exhibition games and 140 regular season games.

The Royals and FOX Sports Kansas City are entering the fifth season of a long-term agreement in which FOX Sports Kansas City is the exclusive television home of Royals baseball.  The 140-game regular season television schedule features 66 road games and 74 from Kauffman Stadium.  Every game on FOX Sports Kansas City will be preceded by a 30-minute pre-game show, “Hy-Vee Royals Live,” and followed by the “Boulevard Royals Live” post-game show.  All 140 regular season telecasts will be presented in High Definition.

In the booth, Ryan Lefebvre returns for his fifth season as the play-by-play voice of the Royals on FOX Sports Kansas City and he will be joined in 2012 by former major leaguer Rex Hudler as the analyst.  Also joining the Royals’ broadcast booth this year is play-by-play announcer and Kansas State University alum, Steve Physioc.  Both Physioc and Hudler worked together in the television booth of the Angels for 11 seasons.  Lefebvre and Physioc have each agreed to multi-year contracts, with Ryan slated for 90 regular season telecasts while Steve provides the call on 50 games.

“During the winter months, Ryan relayed to us a desire to expand his responsibilities and have a larger presence in the radio booth, thus bringing in a strong veteran announcer like Steve Physioc enabled us to give Ryan that flexibility,” said Mike Swanson, Royals Vice President of Communications and Broadcasting.  “The addition of Steve brings a familiar voice back home to the Midwest and affords us the luxury of having both he and Ryan on radio and television throughout the season.  As for the addition of Rex, he was a ‘run through a wall’ type of player and brings that same high-energy style to the broadcast booth.  His enthusiasm for the game of baseball is infectious and it translates very well on the air.”

“This is a great day for our broadcast team,” said Lefebvre.  “For me professionally, I get to work with two of the most enthusiastic and respected men in our business, and personally, I’m grateful the Royals have allowed me to return to the Royals radio booth in a larger role.”

FOX Sports Kansas City’s coverage of Royals baseball kicks off with a Spring Training telecast from Surprise, Ariz., on Friday, March 30, when the Royals host the Chicago White Sox at 8:05 p.m. (CDT).  A second exhibition game will be broadcast on Tuesday, April 3, when Kansas City visits the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park in a 9:05 p.m. (CDT) start.

FSKC will air Kansas City’s Opening Day contest on April 6 at the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

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Royals Begin Caravan With Local Autograph Event

ROYALS BEGIN CARAVAN WITH LOCAL AUTOGRAPH EVENT ON JANUARY 11
Rally House Event Featuring Chen, Gordon, Hosmer & More Opens Annual Caravan; Additional Stops in Kansas City & Nebraska Also on Tap for First Week of Caravan

KANSAS CITY, MO (January 9, 2012) – The annual Royals Caravan presented by FOX Sports Kansas City opens with a free autograph event for fans in the Kansas City area on Wednesday, January 11. Several Royals will appear at the Rally House: Independence Superstore from 6-8 p.m. to launch the club’s winter tradition.

Beginning in 1968, the Royals have embarked on the annual Royals Caravan to visit fans throughout the Midwest. This January, several current and former Royals players, broadcasters and front office personnel will join Royals mascot Sluggerrr for Caravan events.

In addition to the Rally House event, the first week of Royals Caravan will also feature public stops in Lincoln and Omaha, Neb., as well as private visits to veterans at VA Hospital in Kansas City and troops stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base.

Royals scheduled to appear during the first week include pitcher Bruce Chen, second baseman Johnny Giavotella, first baseman Eric Hosmer and outfielders Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon and Mitch Maier. In addition, Hall of Famer George Brett, Royals Hall of Famer Dennis Leonard, former third baseman Joe Randa and broadcasters Denny Matthews and Ryan Lefebvre are also scheduled to participate.

A tentative schedule of Caravan events for Wednesday, January 11-Friday, January 13 is available at www.royals.com/caravan.

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Summer Sounds

Most of American Society considers this weekend the first weekend of summer. June 1st begins what meteorologists consider meteorological summer. Most school children are out of school before this weekend thus starting their summer vacation. And let’s face it. The Summer Solstice on June 21st, while the longest day of the year, and the First Day of Summer, begins the Sun’s slow retreat to the Winter Solstice. No one will notice the declining daylight until August. Given that information, I’m good with Memorial Day Weekend being the Start of Summer.

Summer brings certain set of activities and life style: Spending more time outside, and less time in front of the TV, road trips, swimming, beach, and of course going to baseball games. There have been summers when I attended more than 20 baseball games. This means even in a summer where I spent a lot of time at the ballpark, the majority of my baseball consumption is done away from the ballpark.

This means I rely on broadcasters to bring me the action weather I’m watching TV, or listening on the radio. I will admit, during this sweet spot of the year for weather and daylight I don’t get in front of the TV all that often, but I watch enough. This leaves radio as my most used medium for keeping track of baseball.

Because of this I feel like I spend a lot of time with Denny Mathews, Bob Davis, Ryan Lefebvre, Frank White, and more recently Steve Stewart. After summers upon summers, and games upon games I feel like I know the Royals Broadcast Crew personally, even though that’s not the case. A Royals Broadcast is as much a part of my summer soundtrack as bobwhite pheasants, cicadas, weather radios, Nat King Coles “Lazy Hazy Days of Summer”, and a random sportscaster saying: “The Royals have lost 10 of their last 11”.

Denny, Bob, & Steve provide the sound track for summer in Royals Nation

It’s a shame that the Royals haven’t that many exciting moments for this crew to call since “No Outs to go!”. But the Broadcast Crew is there every spring in summer. By the pool, campfire, or back porch bringing me the sounds of baseball on a hot and humid night.

We lost Paul Splittorff this past week. I knew Paul as a broadcaster long before I learned of his long and distinguished pitching career. He was an original Royal. Like I mentioned earlier I watch and listen to enough Royals baseball that I feel like I know the broadcasters. I felt I knew Paul Splittorff, even though I never met the man. I hope the real Paul Splittorff was like the Paul Splittorff in my mind. If that is the case the world lost a great man.

Certainly those close to Paul will mourn and pay respects to the person they knew and loved. For me Paul Splittorff’s passing represents another part of my childhood that has expired, another sound of summer that will no longer be heard even though summer is just now starting.

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Blog Your Way To The K Report

Life is weird.

I started writing about the Royals on a whim. I was a new at-home dad, and while the boy kept me busy, I also had some time on my hands when he slept. I filled a lot of that time watching and reading about the Royals. I joined Twitter with the idea that I would just follow Royals fans without posting myself. 1,300 tweets and a bunch of blog posts later, I found myself with press credentials, interviewing Ned Yost, Jeff Montgomery, Eric Hosmer, Ryan Lefebvre and Dayton Moore last night.

I broke my intentions of not tweeting pretty quickly, and started things off with an oh-so witty complaint about Mike Jacobs:

Your Royals DH for the evening: .268 OBP, 87 K, 8 BB. He's been designated to do some hitting tonight.
@KC_Baseball
Aaron Stilley

For an often cooped-up Royals die-hard, the internet became an important way for me to be able to connect with other fans. Again on a whim, I set up a blog to serve as a virtual dumping ground for baseball research and thoughts I wanted to get off my chest. Then came an offer to write here on I70Baseball.com, and things got more formal with a weekly deadline. The whims have turned into what I guess you would call a serious hobby.

While I have enjoyed the ride, I have never taken myself too seriously as a Royals blogger, which added to the surprise when I got the call that I would be participating in the first “Blog Your Way To The K” event. Lead by media mavens Mike Swanson, David Holtzman and Erin Sleddens, the Royals are taking progressive steps to allow social media users some serious access to Royals figures. It started with the Digital Digest last winter, where bloggers got the chance to interview Moore, Yost, Billy Butler and Jeff Francoeur. Last night’s event was the first of its kind at a game, but we were told they will host one or two more this season, and could very well be moving towards a full-time social media section in the vein of the Indians Social Suite.

"Swanee" tells us what's up with the what's up

Our evening started with comments from Mike Swanson, VP of Communications and Broadcasting and 33-year veteran of MLB media relations. Swanson calls himself a “dinosaur,” but we should all be so willing to embrace change after becoming seasoned veterans. After thanking the higher powers that the previous night’s 19-1 loss was not blogger night, he told us, “Blogs are every bit the promotional entities the Kansas City Star or Sports Illustrated are. We read your stuff. That’s how you got here.” Swanson told us they do not mind criticism—they just prefer that it be informed criticism.

Swanson took us down to the Royals dugout where Ned Yost was finishing up his pre-game scrum with the mainstream press. Yost graciously agreed to have a quick bull session with the bloggers afterwards. He told us that dealing with the media is not his favorite thing to do, and having to rehash the previous day’s game is a particular challenge for him since he would prefer to look ahead. I asked him what the ideal usage for the two bullpen lefties would be now that Everett Teaford has joined Tim Collins. Yost responded with specifics: he recognizes Collins is not a lefty specialist, calling him “more of a blend” since he has success against righties. He said he will not limit Teaford to being a lefty specialist, but Yost likes his sweeping breaking balls against left-handed hitters, and will probably call on him when lefties are “stacked” together, while Collins will be the man when there are alternating lefties/righties coming up for the opposition.

Jeff Montgomery was up next, greeting us with a cheerful, “Hi bloggers!” Monty looks forward to seeing Joakim Soria break his Royals saves record, and feels he will “definitely” do it if he can stay healthy. He pointed out Soria has a nice head start—Monty was not the Royals closer until he was 27, whereas Soria has racked up 138 saves and is turning 27 today. (Soria still has a long way to go to catch Monty’s 304.) Montgomery told the pre-game audience on Fox Sports that he learned the bloggers do not all live in their parents’ basement.

Hos's favorite word is "unbelievable"

From there we got to enjoy Royals batting practice from the field, and some guy named Eric Hosmer agreed to talk to us. He is loving life right now, and was excited about his recent Omaha teammates Teaford and Danny Duffy joining him in Kansas City. He has been giving his mom a hard time about getting more TV time than him after her endearing, weak-kneed, “Oh my God!” reaction to his first MLB home run. Ironically, it has taken Swanson’s encouragement and tutelage to get the 21 year-old tweeting.

Bruce Chen is on the disabled list, but he was in uniform shagging balls during BP, and came to chat with the bloggers. He said he feels ready to pitch again, but the training staff is holding him back as a precaution. Swanson and Holtzman said they have been working on getting Chen on Twitter; Chen explained he is not entirely comfortable expressing himself in writing. He can “talk his way out of things,” but is worried about getting himself into trouble on Twitter. The more we talked about it though, the more intrigued he seemed. He proposed his account could be a “ladies tweet,” like ladies nights at clubs. “Ladies with pictures” he clarified. He asked Holtzman if “that’s what she said” jokes would be permissible on Twitter. (Holtzman said yes.) Wrapping things up, Swanson told Chen, “Go shag balls, Panamasian.” As Chen jogged away, he called, “That’s what she said!”

We headed back to the Joe Burke Suite just off the main press box, where Fox play-by-play man Ryan Lefebvre met with us. He said he does not get a chance to read much Royals talk on blogs or Twitter due to the time constraints of his usual game prep along with being a husband and father. Our next visitor was the man, the myth, the legend: General Manager Dayton Moore. When asked about the financial implications of bringing up Hosmer and Duffy early in the season, Moore replied that those concerns are secondary to winning. He also allowed that the moves build a trusting relationship with the players that could pay off with them wanting to remain Royals. Draft preparation is taking up a lot of his time right now, and he said the Royals have a list of “10 to 12” guys they are looking at taking with the fifth overall pick. I asked his take on the potential for the draft going to a strict “slotted” signing bonus system for draft picks; he said he cannot say too much about his opinion on it, but that he is on the committee taking a look at it, so his thoughts are being heard within MLB. He did say he likes the flexibility of the current system. Another interesting tidbit is that plans call for Duffy to throw a total of 160—180 innings this year (he threw 36 in Omaha before his promotion).

My perch for the game

All of that was enough to make for quite a day—but apparently there was still a baseball game to be played, which felt almost like an afterthought to the incredible pregame activities. There were not a lot of highlights for the home team as they dropped their fourth straight. We did get to see Hosmer’s first career triple and a slick double play started by a diving Mike Aviles. The best moment was Teaford’s debut—debuts are always a treat, and Teaford’s first inning was especially nice with a quick three-up, three-down. The Royals made some groan-inducing outs on the base-paths; the team’s aggression in that area even when down by five runs was a little puzzling. We got another visitor in the booth when Joel Goldberg stopped by and did a portion of the Fox Sports broadcast from our suite.

Joel outed @fakenedyost on the broadcast

After the game it was down to Yost’s press conference. He was not in a great mood after the loss. He explained the aggressiveness on the base paths by saying you cannot sit back and wait for home runs in huge Kauffman Stadium. The money quote was, “Winners battle through adversity. Losers freaking lay down and quit.” After the mainstream press got their questions in, Swanson opened it up to the bloggers huddled in the back. We did not seem to have many questions left after our long, whirlwind day. Mike Engel of Kings of Kauffman redeemed us by asking if Yost was noticing anything different about the swing of slumping Alex Gordon. Yost does feel Alex is “pressing a little bit,” which might be leading to him “getting a little long” with his swing.

Yost proposes that the Royals not "freaking lay down and quit"

I felt a bit torn throughout the whole experience—was I a fan or was I media? Was it OK to cheer during the game? I did not cheer much, but that was partly due to the thick window in front of me—no one would have heard it anyway. I had entered a weird gray area somewhere in between. The team’s media people are trying to figure out this strange new landscape right along with us. Regardless of where writing about baseball in Kansas City takes me, I expect I will always be a fan first. But I cannot deny I could get used to player and staff access and official press game notes, a media guide and a score-sheet with the line-ups already filled in waiting for me when I show up to a game. It is a night I will never forget, and I cannot thank the Royals enough for having us and being such great hosts. In the end, I regard the whole thing as the ultimate reward for my passion for Kansas City baseball. Go Royals.

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Hate To Say It, But…Time To Start Complaining About Escobar’s Bat

On a recent broadcast, Royals TV announcer Ryan Lefebvre remarked that no one is complaining about shortstop Alcides Escobar’s feeble bat thanks to his spectacular defense so far this year. His defense has rightfully been universally lauded. Escobar looks like a gold glover, seemingly making a jaw-dropping play every game. After the horror show that shortstop defense has been in KC for the last decade, Royals fans are giddy to finally have a terrific play-maker at short. It does make it easy to overlook how pitiful Escobar has been with the stick. The glove is so good that Escobar’s bat could be merely bad and Royals fans would be thrilled. But unfortunately, Escobar has not been just bad with the bat. He has been an abomination. And it is getting to the point where it can no longer be ignored.

photo by Minda Haas

Escobar had 690 plate appearances with the Brewers between 2008-10, and put up a line of .250/.298/.335 (72 OPS+) in that time. Nothing to get excited about, but those numbers look Ruthian compared to his start this year: .221/.245/.253 (42 OPS+). There might need to be two Escobars playing shortstop to prevent enough runs on D to make up for the out-machine he has been at the plate.

Comparing Escobar to his light-hitting AL shortstop brethren does not make him look any better. Of the 15 qualifying AL shortstops to date, Escobar is far and away the worst hitter. Escobar is last in BB%, OBP, wOBA, wRC+, WPA, WPA/LI, and RE24:

2011 AL shortstops through April 27

Win probability added (WPA) is not a great measure of a hitter’s talent since it is dependent on many things out of his control, but it is significant that Escobar’s lack of hitting hurt his team’s chances of winning more than any other player in 2010. And now he has jumped out to have the worst WPA in the majors so far in 2011. Combine 2010 with early 2011, and things get really ugly:

WPA
Alcides Escobar -5.64
Ryan Theriot -3.08
Aaron Hill -2.93
Erick Aybar -2.77
Derrek Lee -2.20

 

Using WPA divided by leverage index (WPA/LI) to strip away some of the chance/luck factor, Escobar still looks like the last player you want batting for your team (adding 2010 and early 2011 again):

WPA/LI
Alcides Escobar -3.77
Jose Lopez -2.91
A.J. Pierzynski -2.33
Ryan Theriot -1.94
Erick Aybar -1.78

 

How about the worst hitters from the start of 2010 through the present day by weighted runs created plus:

wRC+
Alcides Escobar 59
Jose Lopez 60
Ryan Theriot 75
Orlando Cabrera 75
A.J. Pierzynski 76

 

Make no mistake about it – Escobar has been the single worst hitter in baseball since 2010. I am pretty sure no level of defense could make up for that. The good news is that surely he is not this bad. His minor league line over six years was .293/.333/.377. The updated ZiPS projection sees him improving to the tune of .253/.294/.328 by season’s end. I think the Royals could be happy with even that modest production. I love the glove and arm as much as anyone, and am certainly not suggesting Escobar should not be the everyday shortstop for the rest of the year. The Royals have to give Escobar every chance to become an acceptably bad hitter. But as the season wears on, it is getting harder and harder to overlook just how damaging Escobar’s bat has been to the offense.

You can listen to Aaron Stilley discuss this article and more as a guest on the Broken Bat Single podcast, and follow him on Twitter: @KC_Baseball.

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