Tag Archive | "Straight Seasons"

Royals Add Shields, Davis Trading Myers, Odorizzi

KANSAS CITY, MO (December 9, 2012) – The Kansas City Royals tonight acquired right-handed starting pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis and a player to be named or cash considerations from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for minor league outfielder Wil Myers, right-handed pitcher Jake Odorizzi, left-handed pitcher Mike Montgomery and third baseman Patrick Leonard.

Shields, who will turn 31 on December 20, has established himself as one of the premier pitchers in the American League. He followed up an All-Star campaign in 2011, in which posted a 16-12 record with a 2.82 ERA and finished third in the A.L. Cy Young voting, by posting a 15-10 record with a 3.52 ERA in 33 starts with Tampa Bay last season. In 227.2 innings, Shields allowed 208 hits, walked 58 and struck out 223, just two shy of his career best set in 2011 and the third-most in the league. Shields is joined by the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez, the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and the Tigers’ Justin Verlander as the only four pitchers in baseball to record at least 220 strikeouts in the last two seasons.

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound right-hander has compiled an 87-73 career record with a 3.89 ERA in 218 games (217 starts) all for the Rays since making his debut in 2006. Since tossing 124.2 innings in 21 starts during his rookie campaign, Shields has won at least 11 games, made at least 31 starts and topped the 200-inning mark in six straight seasons. He joins the Jays’ Mark Buehrle, the Giants’ Matt Cain, the Yankees’ CC Sabathia and Verlander as the only five pitchers in baseball to post at least 200 innings in six straight seasons. In 2011, his 11 complete games were the most by a Major League pitcher since Arizona’s Randy Johnson had 12 in 1999.

Shields and his wife, Ryane, reside in Clearwater, Fla., with their two daughters. The couple is active with a number of charities specifically geared toward foster children and James was the Rays recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

The 27-year-old Davis made a combined 64 starts for the Rays from 2009 to 2011 before pitching exclusively in the bullpen for Tampa Bay in 2012. He went 3-0 with a 2.43 ERA last season, allowing 48 hits and 29 walks with 87 strikeouts in 70.1 innings. The 6-foot-5, 225-pounder made 29 starts in both 2010 and 2011 and finished fourth in the American League Rookie of the Year voting after posting a 12-10 record with a 4.07 ERA in 2010. Davis is 28-22 with a 3.94 ERA in 118 career outings, including 64 starts. He is 25-22 in his career as a starter with a 4.22 ERA, including an 8-2 mark with a 3.38 ERA in 30 games (18 starts) against A.L. Central foes.

Davis and his wife, Katelyn, reside in Lake Wales, Fla. Davis organized the Full Count Foundation to help children who are at risk or have special needs or chronic illnesses.

Myers, who will turn 22 on December 10, was the 2012 Baseball America, USA Today and Topps Minor League Baseball Player of the Year after hitting a combined .314 with 37 home runs and 109 RBI in 134 games for Northwest Arkansas (AA) and Omaha (AAA). He was the Royals’ third round selection in the 2009 June Free Agent Draft.

The 22-year-old Odorizzi went 15-5 with a 3.03 ERA in 26 outings (25 starts) for Northwest Arkansas and Omaha in 2012 before making two starts for the Royals in September, going 0-1. He was acquired by Kansas City in a six-player trade with the Milwaukee Brewers on December 19, 2012.

Montgomery, 23, split his season between Omaha and Northwest Arkansas, posting a 5-12

record with a 6.07 ERA in 27 starts. He was the Royals’ supplemental first round selection (36 th

overall) in 2008.

The 20-year-old Leonard batted .251 with 14 home runs and 46 RBI in 62 games for Burlington (R) in 2012. He was the club’s fifth-round pick in the 2011 Draft.

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Turning Point

Maybe it only makes sense that the Kansas City Royals would have to overcome a 12-game losing streak before making their first playoff push in 27 years. After all, this is a franchise that overcame 3-1 series deficits not just once, but twice in 1985. In fact, they are still the only team to ever do that in both the LCS and the World Series.  Before that, the Royals lost to the New York Yankees in the ALCS 3 straight seasons (’76-’78) before finally breaking through in 1980 and making their first World Series appearance. What does that tell us about 2012, probably nothing…other than this team has never done things the easy way.

The 12-game losing streak to seemingly end the Royals’ season in April was disheartening for many reasons. Obviously, the “Our Time” campaign didn’t help, nor did Ned Yost’s apparent confusion over which league he manages in. The fact that most of the games were close at the end made no one feel any better, especially after a sweep at the hands of the Detroit Tigers left the Royals 6 games back just 12 games into the season. What made things worse for some though was the team’s denial that they were that far away. Despite the in-game evidence that Ned Yost was clearly panicking, he and the players said all the right things to the media and gave the impression that their confidence in this team’s ability had not been shaken.

Wednesday, April 25 was the day the streak died and the Royals looked like everyone had hoped they would from the start. Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, and Eric Hosmer all homered. Luke Hochevar threw 6 1/3 innings and gave up just 2 runs. The bullpen was lights out, shutting down the Indians on one hit to seal an easy 8-2 victory.

Thursday, April 26 the bullpen was even better, giving the club 4 shutout innings preserving a 4-2 win and a series victory over the Indians. While fans joked that the club was only 5 games out of first (and third), the mood was still somber when it was announced that long reliever Everett Teaford would start in place of Danny Duffy who had elbow soreness. This came less than 24 hours after it was announced that Lorenzo Cain had a setback on his rehab assignment. Two measly wins could hardly offset the cloud of injuries that was beginning to settle over this ball club.

Friday, April 27 may be the day we look back at as the true turning point in this 2012 season. Teaford was ineffective at best, but after 4 innings the offense had kept the team in the game at 4-4. Alex Gordon had blasted a bomb to right field, and brought back a home run himself. Billy Butler was responsible for the other 3 runs, including another 2-run shot. Over the next 5 innings the Royals combined clutch hitting, incredible defense, and a little good fortune to piece together a 7-6 victory, and the beginning of a winning streak. Alcides Escobar was wizardly…Jeff Francoeur made an incredible diving catch and then doubled in his next at bat…Everything the Royals needed they got. The Tigers and White Sox even lost again to pull the club within 4 games of second place. That’s right, the team that started Friday playing to get out of the cellar could be playing next week for second.

A rainout on Saturday could halt the club’s momentum, but as Earl Weaver once said “Momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher” and staff ace Bruce Chen will be on the hill on Sunday. A win would put the club at 7-14 and guarantee a winning road record in the month of April. A difficult schedule in May leads to one of the easiest June schedules I have ever seen.

The point? Even after a 12 a game losing streak…even after injuries to their starting catcher, centerfielder, 4th starter, closer, set up man, (and 5th starter?) this team is not out of it. They’re fighting, it’s starting to turn around, and before this year is over it may be “Our Time” after all. We may be down 3-1 in a seven game series, but we’ve been here before.

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P1ay1ng Wi7h Numb3r5

I like playing with numbers sometimes, so let me run these past you to chew on:

  • 3rd all-time in the most measurable category for his position (saves), sandwiched between future & current Hall of Famers.
  • 4 times, he finished in the top 25 in MVP voting, including a top ten finish
  • 7-time All-Star
  • Set a then NL record with 47 saves in 1991
  • Finished 2nd in the 1991 Cy Young award voting, behind Tom Glavine
  • 3-time Rolaids Releif Man of the Year (NL twice, AL once)
Since 1964, only 5 men have held the career saves record for longer than one year. Two are in the HOF (Hoyt Wilhelm & Rollie Fingers). You’ve probably heard of the three that aren’t: Trevor Hoffman, Mariano Rivera, and Lee Smith. If you’re like me, as soon as you read that you thought, “Wait a minute, Mo & The (other) Hoff are sure-fire Hall of Famers.”

Lee Smith pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1990 to 1993

So, why isn’t Lee Smith as “sure fire” as the others?

Scouted by one of the top 100 (by nearly everyone’s count) baseball men of all time, Buck O’Neil, Smith’s career as a top closer is strewn with accolades that are sure to impress anyone. Anyone, apparently, except for at least 331 members of the BBWAA who have HOF voting privileges. Lee received just 45.3% of the votes last year, falling short of the 75% required for HOF induction. 2012 will mark his 10th year of eligibility on the ballot.Facts surrounding the career Lee Arthur Smith:

  • He held the career saves record from 1993 to 2006, when HOFfman passed him (see what I did there?)
  • From 1983 to 1995 (13 seasons), he saved fewer than 29 games exactly once (1989)
  • From 1985 to 1990 (6 straight seasons), he averaged >1K/IP (HOF Gossage’s max, 4)
  • He recorded his first save in 1981, at the time the MLB record for career saves was 272
  • He recorded his last save in 1997, at which time the record was his, at 478
  • Since his departure from the game, Goose Gossage, Rollie Fingers, and Bruce Sutter have all been elected to the Hall of Fame

Current Hall of Famer closers include: Gossage, Fingers, Sutter, Wilhelm, and Eckersley. For the sake of argument, I’ll toss Hoffman and Rivera into the mix of guys with whom I’ll compare Lee’s numbers.

Career Saves:

  1. Rivera (603, and counting),
  2. Hoffman (601)
  3. Smith (478)
  4. Eckersley (390)
  5. Fingers (341)
  6. Gossage (310)
  7. Sutter (300)
  8. Wilhelm (227, ten behind Ugueth Urbina)

Career Games Finished:

  1. Rivera (883)
  2. Hoffman (856)
  3. Smith (802)
  4. Fingers (709)
  5. Gossage (681)
  6. Wilhelm (651)
  7. Eckersley (577)
  8. Sutter (512)

Obviously, the numbers I’ve put before you today don’t tell the whole story. We all know that you can usually present numbers in such a way to make them tell the story you want them to tell. You have to dig a little deeper to get the entire story. Consider that the very role of closer is something that’s relatively new, in terms of comparing to other “positions” like shortstop or left fielder. That’s a factor in comparing these men to each other.

Does the fact that Sutter needed only 512 games finished to collect 300 saves (.586) speak to how lights-out he must’ve been when taking the mound? It certainly tells part of that story. Isn’t it interesting that Hoyt Wilhelm finished 651 games, but complied only 237 career saves (.364)? If that doesn’t make you think a little bit, I’m not sure what would–he’s in Cooperstown, for crying out loud! Check out some of the rankings and compare career numbers of closers, and I assure you you’ll find some very interesting things!

My point is that if you don’t think Lee Smith belongs in the Hall of Fame, maybe you’re looking at a different set of numbers than I am. And just so it doesn’t go unsaid, Lee Smith was absolutely among the most dominant men at his position for a sustained period of time during his era. (I know some folks out there, that’s a big factor for HOF consideration.)

The question should not be, “Does Lee Smith belong in the Baseball Hall of Fame?”. After spending time with the cubs, Red Sox, Cardinals, Yankees, Orioles, Angels, Reds, and Expos, the only question should be, “Which hat will he be wearing in his plaque?”.

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Royals Add A Winner To Their Rotation

Bruce Chen won 12 games in 2010. He came back to win 12 again last season. Name the last Royal lefty to post back-to-back seasons with at least 12 wins.

It looked for some time like Chen wouldn’t have the chance to add to that string of 12-win seasons. But last week Chen inked a two-year deal that will hold his place in the KC rotation.

Chen is what the Royals need at this moment. He’s not a fire-balling ace. He’s not a young phenom with limitless potential. Those are nice to have, and we would take them in a heartbeat.

But what Chen is fills a need in KC. You see, the Royals have phenoms. They have players with tons of potential. They even have starting pitchers with great ability. But they haven’t won anything yet. Not at the big league level.

Bruce Chen has shown over the last two seasons that he knows how to win games.

The other Royals last season? Not so much.

Kyle Davies showed for years that he knew how to lose games. Luke Hochevar showed last year that he knew how to let winnable games slip away. Felipe Paulino, for all his promise, didn’t show that he knew how to win games. And Danny Duffy showed he has no idea what’s going on.

The addition of Jonathan Sanchez was heralded as a significant upgrade in the Royals’ rotation. But it remains to be seen if Sanchez is not a year removed from his best work. A little too reminiscent of Jeff Francis to have the hope of a franchise placed on him.

I hope Sanchez is a difference maker in KC. I hope he’s a 20 game winner. But I feel safer in hoping that Chen can win 12 games again, milking the most out of his average physical ability. And by doing so, I hope he shows Hochevar and Paulino and Duffy how to get the most out of their considerable talents.

And if Chen can win 12 games in 2012 and in 2013, he’ll match which pitcher as the last Royals lefty to win 12 in four straight seasons?

That would be none other than Charlie Leibrandt, who won 60 games over a four-year span from 1985 to 1988, and picked up a World Series ring in the process.

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2010 Year In Review: Royals Pitcher Of The Year – Joakim Soria

You can tell how much respect Joakim Soria gets outside of Kansas City by the fact that national sportscasters – people who are paid to be baseball experts – can’t pronounce his first name.

(For the record, it’s pronounced ‘Wah-Keem.’)

But here’s the simple truth: Joakim Soria is the best young closer in the game.

And he has never been better than he was in 2010. The Mexicutioner compiled a career-high 43 saves, struck out 71 batters in 65.2 innings, and tallied a 1.78 ERA.

Really, though, Soria has been dominant for three straight seasons. In his worst full season – 2009 – Soria had a 2.21 ERA with 30 saves. His worst season.

Joakim Soria has a career WHIP of .988. That’s extremely rare. WHIP is Walks plus Hits per Inning Pitched. The lower the WHIP, generally, the better the pitcher. Very few pitchers ever compile a single season with a WHIP below 1.

The two pitchers frequently considered the best closers of all time, Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman, have career WHIPs of 1.0035 and 1.0584, respectively. They’re also third and seventh, respectively, on the list of all-time lowest career WHIPs for pitchers with over 1,000 innings.

Even though Soria’s WHIP of .988 is extrapolated over only three and a half seasons, it’s still startling.

Soria’s WHIP numbers are bound to increase over the coming years, but if he were somehow able to maintain his blistering pace through 1,000 innings, he would be second on the all-time list, behind only Addie Joss.

For a closer, WHIP may be even more important than it is for a starting pitcher. What does it mean for Joakim Soria? It means more often than not, he can come in the game in the ninth inning and sit the opposing batters down 1-2-3.

No drama.

The Royals have had three great closers in team history. Joakim Soria is one of them. The others are Dan Quisenberry and Jeff Montgomery. Not bad company for the 26-year-old. In his Royals career, Montgomery compiled 304 saves, and Quisenberry chalked 238 in Royal Blue. Soria already has 132.

(The next player on the Royals’ all-time saves list is Doug Bird, who collected 58 saves for the Royals through the mid-seventies.)

We all know Soria’s backstory by now. The Mexico native was a Padres farmhand who had shown promise in Winter League ball as a starter, even throwing a perfect game in Mexico. He was left unprotected by the Padres in the 2006 Rule 5 Draft, and the Royals scooped him up. It’s one of the biggest Rule 5 coups in recent memory, along with Johan Santana, Dan Uggla and Josh Hamilton, who was also taken in the 2006 draft.

Finally, Soria is starting to receive national respect. He is now a two-time All-Star selection, and just this week we found out he received a fourth-place vote for the AL Cy Young Award, making him the ninth-place finisher for the award.

Of course, the vote was probably from a Kansas City sportswriter.

But Soria’s stock should continue to rise. And here’s the best news for Royals fans: he’s under team control through 2014.

RUNNER UP: BRUCE CHEN

Although Soria was the clear winner for the I-70 Baseball Pitcher of the Year award, Bruce Chen came out of nowhere to finish a respectable second.

Chen was the definition of a “journeyman” when he came to the Royals in 2009, having played for eight teams previously. He showed flashes of brilliance early in his career with Atlanta and Philadelphia, but he was a surprise success in Baltimore in 2005, with a 13-10 record and a 3.83 ERA.

Chen latched onto the Royals with a minor-league contract in 2009, after missing all of 2008, and he struggled through the season. But Chen found his form in ’10, pitching 33 games total including 23 starts. His 4.17 ERA helped him become the team leader in wins, compiling a 12-7 record.

It looks as though Chen’s days in Royal blue may be numbered; reports indicate the free agent is seeking a two-year contract, and the Royals are probably only willing to offer one.

Matt Kelsey is a Royals writer and the content editor for I-70 Baseball. He can be reached at mattkelsey14@yahoo.com.

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