Tag Archive | "Strikes"

The rise of Moose, the struggles of Hos

Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are good friends. They play on opposite ends of the diamond. They were both selected as first round picks in the amateur draft. They made their major league debuts last season. They dressed as the Ambiguously Gay Duo for their rookie hazing. It was supposed to be Hosmer as the superstar, the face of the Royals franchise. Moustakas was going to be an important piece of the Royals youth movement, but play second fiddle to Hosmer. But at this point in the season, Moustakas is becoming the superstar and Hosmer is just another player making his way through the major leagues, trying to live up to expectations.

The bottom line is Moustakas is performing and Hosmer is not. Moustakas has a .273/.341/.468 line compared to Hosmer’s .218/.287/.370 line. Moustakas has more runs, hits, RBI and home runs. Hosmer does draw more walks and strikes out less than Moustakas, making Hosmer the more patient hitter. Hosmer is still climbing out of an extended slump he had earlier in the season and he’s playing better. But Hosmer still has a ways to go before catching up to Moustakas.

The defensive numbers favor Moustakas as well. Moustakas has a .958 fielding percentage, which is above the league fielding percentage of .946. Hosmer’s fielding percentage is at a league average .995. Moustakas has made his share of defensive highlight reels, such as yesterday’s game against Houston where he backhanded a ground ball to third and from his knees threw out a runner going to second.

But there’s more than the on-field performance. There’s Moustakas’ nickname, Moose. It’s the perfect name for a player like him. In ballparks wherever Moustakas plays, his fans will don antlers and sometimes make moose calls. Almost every time Moustakas comes up to bat or makes a play, you’ll hear fans going “Moooose!” Heck, I even heard fans in St. Louis cry “Moooose!” after Moustakas made the final out of last Friday night’s game against the Cardinals. Or maybe that was something else.

Hosmer’s nickname? It’s Hos. Not Hoss, Hos. You don’t hear many fans yelling “Hos!” when Hosmer makes a great play. And Hosmer doesn’t have fans wearing antlers on their heads, faux hawks or Amish style beards for that matter.

Lately, the Royals are making Moustakas the face of the franchise. If you go to www.kcroyals.com, you’ll see Moose towering over the Kansas City skyline where Hosmer once stood. And that’s understandable. In All-Star votes, Moustakas is fifth among American League third baseman. Moose even has a Twitter hashtag, #VoteMoose. And if there’s any Royal deserving a spot in the All-Star game, it’s Moustakas.

Meanwhile, Hosmer isn’t near the top five in votes among American League first basemen and I haven’t seen any #VoteHos Twitter hashtags either. Looks like he’ll get a few days off during the All-Star break.

It’s not as if Hosmer is a bust. Far from it. You could say Hosmer is in a sophomore slump and Moose is not. In time, Hosmer will find his stroke and become the player fans expect him to be. And baseball being what it is, Moustakas could be in a July slump while Hosmer gets hot.

Despite the 12 game losing streak earlier in the season, the countless injuries to key players, the 1,834 roster moves (rough estimate) and the up and down play of the Royals, the team is 31-36 and only 4.5 games out of first in the American League Central. Yes, the Royals are still in fourth place, but they’re only 4.5 games out. With the return of Salvador Perez, Felipe Paulino and Lorenzo Cain, the continued great play of Moose and a resurgent Hosmer, the Royals could make a run towards first in the A.L. Central.

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Will Smith gets a Royal welcome at Yankee Stadium

Will Smith, one of the Royals pitching prospects, didn’t show his potential in Wednesday night’s 8-3 loss to the New York Yankees. Smith pitched three and a third innings, giving up six hits and five runs, all earned, with three of the runs home runs. He struck out one and walked one. Smith left the game with a glittering 13.50 ERA and got the loss. After Smith faced 16 batters, long reliever Luis Mendoza came in to relieve Smith. Honestly, Mendoza should have started the game instead of Smith.

Usually, a debuting pitcher does well against a lineup that hasn’t seen them before. But these are the New York Yankees, and they weren’t fooled B. Smith.

Smith’s start is similar with another Royal pitcher who made their Major League debut at Yankee Stadium. The immortal Eduardo Villacis.

Royals fans remember the right-handed Villacis, but not fondly. It was at a low point in the Royals 2004 season, which was already spiraling out of control. Expectations were high after an 83-79 2003 season, but when Villacis started the May 1 game against the Yankees, the Royals were 7-15 and had lost their last three games.

Villacis was called up from AA Wichita to fill in for the injured Darrell May. Unlike Smith, Villacis wasn’t a prospect. In fact, few Royals fans knew who he was. Most of the Royals players didn’t know him either.

But Villacis could throw strikes, said former General Manager Allard Baird. In his Major League debut, Villacis threw 36 strikes out of 66 pitches, but didn’t strike out anyone and walked four Yankees. He pitched three and a third innings, gave up six hits and five runs, all earned, with a glittering 13.50 ERA and the loss. Just like Will Smith. At least Villacis only gave up one home run compared to Smith’s three home runs. Then again, Smith threw one more strikeout than Villacis.

The 12-4 loss to the Yankees would be Villacis’ only Major League appearance. He was sent back to Wichita and on May 24, 2004 Villacis was claimed off waivers by the Chicago White Sox. On July 20, 2005 Villacis was released by the White Sox, ending his baseball career.

It’s doubtful Smith will suffer the same fate as Villacis, seeing he’s one of the Royals pitching prospects. But one has to wonder how this will affect Smith’s development. Smith may be sent back to Omaha, or make another start with the Royals. It depends how the Royals view Smith. Does the team consider him a prospect who had a bad debut and will get another Major League start, or a pitcher who needs more seasoning in the minors? With the Royals, it’s hard to say. Just look how they’re handling second baseman, uh, designated hitter Johnny Giavotella.

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Just keep rollin’

After a horrific start to the 2012 season at Kauffman Stadium, the Kansas City Royals showed much improvement in their second home-stand against the beasts of the east.

Against the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, the Royals had it all bad pitching with good pitching, timely hitting and then not so clutch hitting.  But the most important thing is that they were victorious 4 times.  After going 0-10 in their first home-stand the Royals stepped it up quite a bit with the above .500 home-stand ending it at 4-3.  Now it is not exactly the best result of a home-stand but the fact that they were able to come home and prove to the fans that they were truly a team and able to win ballgames is the biggest accomplish.  I believe that if they would have come home and laid another egg and only won 1 or 2 games the town would have gone nuts, some maybe even hanging the t-shirt jerseys in the closet for the summer.  But, just like in all sports patience is a virtue.

The surprise of the home-stand, at least on the mound that is, was the start of the season for Felipe Paulino.  Some at the beginning of the season did not want to see Paulino in the Royals’ rotation, and those that did got there wish with Paulino going on the 15-Day Disabled List to begin the season.  But once he was given the opportunity to pitch again in Kauffman Stadium he was not going to give his spot back.  Yes is was only one start but maybe it was exactly what the pitching staff needed not only for the quality starts that have been lacking so far this season but also the ability to rest the bullpen more with an innings eater like Paulino on the mound.  In his first start, he went 6 innings, while only throwing 96 pitches, 59 of which were strikes.  He had 6 strikeouts and only 2 walks.  Oh yeah and he didn’t give up any runs.  If Paulino can continue to be a good back of the rotation guy then his value on this team is unprecedented.  When you have pitchers like, Luke Hochevar and Jonathan Sanchez, on your staff that cant seem to get out of the fourth inning but once in a blue moon, having a guy that can tell the bullpen take a little time off for tonight is a huge help.

One hitter stood out on the home-stand, even though his hot streak started on the road in Cleveland.  After a terrible start Gordon has seemed to found his stride at the plate.  He has raised his batting average exactly 100 points since April 24th.  To say that he is hot would be about right.  Having a four hit game always helps the average this early in the season. The fact that he is now driving in runs not by hitting the ball out of the ballpark but cutting his swing down and getting just base hits is what stands out the most with Gordon. He is just getting base hit after base hit, as the singles come the doubles follow and the big flies follow suit.  If he continues playing both in the field and at the plate he will be finding himself playing an extra game at The K around early July.

Fans, our Royals are not fully back but boy does it feel good to have them playing baseball that we all enjoy to watch.  Although they had only one more wins than losses in the last seven games, it felt like the baseball that was being played was not only smart and productive but enjoyable.  Losing 12 games in a row is never fun but when it is happening without having any good baseball being played that changes is completely.  This team needs about a five or six game winning streak and they will be right where they and we all want to be.  Right back in the thick of things in a sluggish American League Central.

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Shelby Miller righting the ship

St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Shelby Miller has bounced back from two sub par outings and has now fanned 15 batters in his last 10 innings after tossing five shutout frames Tuesday.


Miller did not appear to be a strong consideration to make the Cards’ rotation out of spring training but it wasn’t completely ruled out until he was shipped to minor league camp in March. He’s the No. 2 starting pitching prospect in Keith Law’s Top 100 and the No. 1 arm remaining in the minors (Tampa’s Matt Moore already is in the Rays’ rotation).

Miller’s ETA could depend largely on the club’s workload plan for the right-hander, as he’s not likely to be allowed to approach 200 innings after throwing 139 2/3 last season at age 19.

Here’s what ESPN’s Keith Law had to say about Miller just prior to the start of the season:

“He will sit in the low- to mid-90s and touch 97 mph as a starter with a sharp breaking ball in the upper-70s/low-80s with good depth that misses right-handed hitters’ bats. He continued to make progress this year with his changeup, a pitch he rarely needed or used as an amateur, and the pitch has good tailing action that has helped him gets some swinging strikes against lefties. He is very receptive to coaches’ suggestions and has proved a quick study so far. He often lands on the third-base side of the rubber and comes slightly across his body, creating deception but also potentially putting stress on his shoulder. If the Cardinals can keep him more on line, and he sees more improvement in the changeup and command of the fastball, he’s a potential No. 1 starter for the Cardinals in two or three years.

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Why I May Have to Dump My Secret Boyfriend

There are so many great things about a marriage. Someone always has your back against the world, even if you’re wrong. You have someone to snuggle up to when it’s cold. When the baby is driving you up the wall, there’s a person to hand him off to so you can have an hour to yourself. When your relatives are being silly, someone will join you in the obligatory eye roll. My husband does all these things and more.

Cimmy and Kirk, Royals game

But I have a confession to make: all baseball season, I’ve had a secret boyfriend. I call him my secret boyfriend because he doesn’t know he’s my boyfriend. My husband does, though, and, for the most part, he’s cool with it. I’m not rushing the diamond to hump my secret boyfriend’s leg or anything. Besides, he says that if I get a secret boyfriend, he gets a secret girlfriend and he chooses Salma Hayek. If she’s his choice, I’m not exactly worried.

Part of the fun of having a secret boyfriend is the enigma, and this is ten-fold if he is a Major League Baseball player. What does he look like without the ball cap? What does he like to do when he’s not playing baseball? Does he prefer the grey, royal, or powder uniforms? Which is better: Dubble Bubble or David Seeds?

I’ll end the suspense. My secret boyfriend is Royals starting pitcher Jeff Francis. He’s tall, he’s adorable, he’s one of the very few players older than I am (I’m 29). And he has the added mysteries of being both a left-hander and Canadian.

Another pro of having a secret boyfriend is that you don’t have to see the things you see in a real relationship. There are arguments as to whose turn it is to change the poopy diaper. He won’t hog the covers and leave you freezing in the middle of the night. You’ll never have to threaten violence to get him to mow the lawn or wash the dishes. He’ll never burp, fart, forget to put on his deodorant, or pick his nose in front of you.

Linus picking his nose


Wrong. At least, on the last one.

A few nights ago, when Jeff was called off the mound after pitching a little over six innings (with 54 strikes in 90 pitches), the camera kept panning to him in the dugout. Ordinally, I would be thrilled. The cameramen like my secret boyfriend! But then…heartbreak struck me.

He removed his cap. I gasped. It’s not that he’s unattractive without his hat. It’s just that…he’s not supposed to be without it! Carson, my stepson, has molded baseball figures and their hats don’t come off. I shouldn’t be able to recognize players without their uniforms. The ones I do know on sight tend to be “celebrities”: Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Nick Swisher (anyone else sensing a pattern of New York Yankees here?).

As I was yelling to Jeff through the television to put his cap back on, he did something else. Something so heinous, I’m not sure how I’ll be able to tell you.

Okay. Here goes. *deep breath*

He picked his nose.

It wasn’t a full-on digging for gold episode. For that, I am thankful. Subtle though it was, it was obvious what he was doing.

Now, I’ve told Carson several times not to be self-conscious because people are generally more interested in themselves than they are in others. But this is not the case with actors, politicians, and professional athletes. The cameras are always on them, even when they’re not. Jeff, please remember that. Don’t make me break up with you.

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Lohse, Berkman Keeping Cards Afloat

The St. Louis Cardinals headed into last night’s game at Camden Yards in Baltimore with a 42-38 record, even after losing 12 out of the past 17 games they have played. As bad as it has been, it could be much worse.

The Cardinals have been benefiting greatly from two players, one a pitcher and one a batter, who have turned in extraordinary and unexpected seasons. Without these two players, the Cards would be in a tough spot, one that would probably see them in the bottom of the division.

Still do not know which two players I am discussing? Their names — Kyle Lohse and Lance Berkman. Both have salvaged what were once seen as careers on the decline and have been critical members of keeping the Cards’ season afloat.

Lohse, currently the teams’ best starter, arrived in St. Louis during the 2008 season. He was seen as damaged goods, a pitcher without overpowering stuff, yet one that tried to blow everything by hitters.

However, the Cardinals have also earned a name of a team that salvages pitchers careers. Pitching coach Dave Duncan has been seen as someone with magical powers for the way he has turned careers around.

His message is nothing these pitchers have not heard before, pound the zone and rely on your defense, but for some reason it only clicks wearing the red and white uniforms. Lohse instantly seemed like a new man during his debut season.

The former Minnesota Twin recorded 15 wins and has an ERA of 3.78, easily surpassing his previous career-low by half a run. The difference for Lohse was not just throwing strikes, but also his change from throwing his four-seam fastball to throwing a two-seam, sinking fastball.

It allowed Lohse to record outs without being throwing too many pitches, thereby keeping him in the game towards the later innings. Unfortunately for Lohse, the success was short-lived.

The next two seasons witnessed Lohse recording a total of 10 wins, five short of what he had in his debut season. Because of his past performance, many did not know what to expect out of the expected No. 4 starter.

No one could have expected a season such as this.

Lohse has dug up his old glory and currently has an 8-4 record while pitching to a 2.84 ERA, easily the lowest of his career. With Chris Carpenter not pitching like his ace-like self, it has been Lohse who has filled in the gap, supplying the Cards with innings and wins, something that has helped them stay afloat.

Injuries have also played a role on the Cardinals’ offense, especially with the loss of perennial MVP candidate in Albert Pujols. Losing a player of Pujols’ caliber, a middle of the order bat, someone who changes games was a huge blow, but the 35-year-old Berkman has picked up the slack.

Berkman spent his whole career as a member of another N.L. Central team, the Houston Astros, but was acquired midseason last year by the New York Yankees. He was expected to add some veteran know-how and an extra power bat off the bench.

However, he did not do much in pinstripes. He continued his struggles at the plate, recording a career-low average of .248 and only blasting 14 home runs. It was the second consecutive season in which a decline was spotted, therefore making many in the industry believe he was done.

The Big Puma had other ideas. The Cardinals offered him a contract and he signed on and set his sights on proving everyone wrong — he has done just that since.

Berkman has filled the middle-of-the-order void during Pujols’ slow start to the season and now during his absence by blasting 18 home runs, already four more than all of last season, and hitting .295, only one point shy of his career average.

He has also proved those wrong that he could not stay healthy if he had to play the field everyday. Berkman hasn’t played Gold-Glove caliber defense in the outfield, but he has made the routine plays, more than making up for miscues with the offense.

Where would the Cardinals be without these two players as a member of the 25 man roster? Well, the Cardinals and their fans don’t have to worry about that.

For now they can sit back and relax, knowing that both Berkman and Lohse are leaving everything on the field, playing beyond expectations, and putting wins on the left side of the record column.

Ryan Lazo is a Contributing Writer to I-70 Baseball. He also covers the A.L. East for BaseballDigest.com. He can reached at RMLazo13@gmail.com, followed on Twitter @RMLazo13 and read his Blog Artificially Enhanced.

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The Hits Keep Coming For Lohse


Singles, doubles, hard liners, pop outs, long hard hit balls that were five feet from being homers were all common place tonight in Springfield. Kyle Lohse was making a rehab start for the AA club but it looked more like he was trying to make the AA club. The crowds all gathered around the bullpen as Lohse warmed up. There were six different camera men following Lohse around the ballpark. Everyone there was there to see a St.Louis Cardinal dominate. Fans near me were all talking about how Lohse was going to put on a show. Everyone there was there to see a St.Louis Cardinal dominate. but what unfolded was the farthest thing from a show.


Photos by Charles Sollars

The game started with a double by Tyson Auer and it set the pace for the rest of the night. The Texas League batters were swinging and connecting on what seemed like every pitch. The next two batters were outs but both were making good contact. Charlton Jimerson singled driving in Auer for the first run of the night. Bad base running got Lohse out of the inning or there might have been more than one run on the scoreboard.

Lohse gave up two doubles and a single in the second leading to another two runs scoring. Even the first two outs were good contact hits that just happen to land in a glove. Lohse ended the second by getting the leadoff hitter you had already batted around called out on strikes.


Photos by Charles Sollars

A double started off the third inning followed by a single that moved the runner to third. A strikeout of Charlton Jimerson gave fans some hope that Lohse might finally have stopped the pattern everything that crossed the plate being hit. Sadly this was not the case with a run scoring sacrifice to the next batter and a ground out to last batter of the inning.


It looked as if Lohse might be pulled because he was struggling with getting men out with no solution in sight but Lohse returned to the mound for the fourth inning. The first two batters singled continuing the domination of Lohse by the AA squad. Lohse managed to get out of the inning without giving up a run after a sacrifice bunt, a fielders choice and strikeout.


Photos By Charles Sollars

The fifth started off with yet another single by the Travelers. The inning would see two more singles, a fielders choice, a ground out and finally a strikeout of Beau Brooks swinging.

The fifth would be the last inning for Lohse this night in Springfield but after this dismal outing of five innings with 12 hits, 5 runs all of which were earned runs, and 4 strikeouts points to the fact that Lohse will most likely see another start or two in the minors. Lohse did not give up a walk but that was mainly because the Travelers were getting wood on every ball over the plate.

Also on another note I noticed a Tampa Bay Scout in the crowd who had his gun on Lohse for the first two innings. It appeared that the scout was there for just a routine scouting visit staying well after Lohse left the game but this could be something to be aware of if he was indeed there to take a look at Lohse.


Photos By Charles Sollars

There was one last thing that I noticed at the game which kind of struck me as a small sign of disrespect. The act I am talking about is not wearing your socks high. Lohse was the only member of the Springfield team to not have his sock stripes visible on field. It is not a huge deal but when a team and a manger have something that they all do even if it is required by the manager I think you should respect the culture. Yes, you are a big league guy but for that one night you are a Springfield Cardinal so dress like the rest of the Springfield Cardinals.

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