Tag Archive | "World Series Champions"

How will Cards respond to adversity?

As I wrote last week in this space, everything was rainbow and lollipops in Cardinal Nation after such a fast start out of the gate, beating up on division foes.  The St. Louis Cardinals were the first defending World Series champions to win their first six series of the season since the 1922 New York Giants. That, as you know by now, came after a season of incredible turnover and uncertainty heading into 2012.

Going into Opening Day, this was the talk, “Yes this team has talent, how will they respond without Pujols, Duncan, and LaRussa?”  “Can the team hold up through injuries with so many veterans?”

Then something happened. The team started winning in convincing fashion. And subtly, expectations became reset.

Opponent Date W/L Runs For Runs Against Record Run Differential
Miami Apr 4 W 4 1 1-0 +3
Milwaukee Apr 6 W 11 5 2-0 +6
Milwaukee Apr 7 L 0 6 2-1 -6
Milwaukee Apr 8 W 9 3 3-1 +6
Cincy Apr 9 W 7 1 4-1 +8
Cincy Apr 10 W 3 1 5-1 +2
Cincy Apr 11 L 3 4 5-2 -1
Chicago Apr 13 L 5 9 5-3 -4
Chicago Apr 14 W 5 1 6-3 +4
Chicago Apr 15 W 10 3 7-3 +7
Cincy Apr 17 W 2 1 8-3 +1
Cincy Apr 18 W 11 1 9-3 +10
Cincy Apr 19 L 3 6 9-4 -3
Pitt Apr 20 W 4 1 10-4 +3
Pitt Apr 21 L 0 2 10-5 -2
Pitt Apr 22 W 5 1 11-5 +4
Total 82 46 +36

A tremendous start to the season. Heading into the Chicago series, the Cardinals led the NL in almost every offensive category and in run differential (second only in the league to Texas Murderer’s Row Rangers).

Then the first two games against the Cubs happened. Both 3-2 losses. Both 2-1 leads given up by the bullpens in the 9th inning. Now the team is 11-7 and only two games out in front of the Brewers. Now the team is dealing with the bats cooling off. Now they are dealing with fighting through blown calls by umpires and the bullpen giving up leads. They are dealing with multiple injuries that test not only their depth but their resolve. In a word, for the first time of the Mike Matheny era, they are dealing with significant adversity.

Making too much of a simple two game losing skid against Windy City Rivals? I am not so sure.

There are 9 more games in a row against the NL Central. As I have written many times before, these games are crucial. Even if they go 5-4, the fast start would ensure a 16-11 record, which is nothing to make light of. Personally, I think the team should be shooting for 17-10 or 18-9 through the NL Central start of the schedule. They still have the opportunity to run out to a good lead in the division, but it will depend on their ability to push through adversity, to push through a lack of run support for pitching over the last four games, the bullpen shaking off a couple of tough losses and blown saves.

This is the moment a lot of Cardinals fans have been waiting for. To seem what the team is truly made of. As my UCB co-host Dathan Brooks often says, every win in April is a win you don’t have to get in September. These April games really matter because they are all against the Central. And these next nine games will show us how the team handles its first bit of adversity on the young season.

It sure would be nice if they could give Wainwright a little bit of support as he is trying to get back to form. So far, he has had zero, that’s right zero, run support in his first four outings. That will change. His stuff still is not what it once was, but that is to be expected at least for a couple more months. He showed last night he will fight to make pitches and get outs with less than his best stuff. It is a move in the right direction. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Waino doesn’t go for another four games.

The first battle to get back on track and further the division lead is today at Wrigley Field at 1:20 Central Time. Can the Birds shake off a couple tough losses, and show the resolve and grit their new manager preaches? Or will they allow the sting of the last two nights to carry over and leave them in a division dogpile?….

It sure will be fun to watch and find out.

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No news is good news to start St. Louis Cardinals Spring Training

The St. Louis Cardinals opened camp for pitchers and catchers Feb. 18 and had their first full-squad workout Thursday in Jupiter, Fla. So far there hasn’t been much of note to come from any Spring Training activities, and that’s a good thing.

At this point last year the Cardinals had already grabbed headlines throughout the country for two major reasons. First baseman Albert Pujols showed up to camp after shutting down contract negotiations with the team, and starting pitcher Adam Wainwright blew out his elbow on the first day.

This year everything has been more low-key, which is slightly amazing since the team is the defending World Series champions.

That’s not to say the team’s Spring Training isn’t full of storylines. Catcher Yadier Molina is approaching a contract situation similar to what Pujols experienced last year, and the team has a new manager in Mike Matheny. Both of those situations will get plenty of attention as the season approaches and probably throughout most of the season, but not much is going to happen to either of them anytime soon.

Molina and the Cardinals still have a ways to go in contract talks that have thus far been inconsistent, at best. Although people will be interested in what Matheny does throughout Spring Training, managers don’t often do many noteworthy things until it comes time to make roster decisions late in the spring.

Instead, Cardinals camp has opened quietly and all of the on-field action has been positive. Lance Berkman provided the grandest entrance to Spring Training this side of Pujols when he arrived Thursday with a mustache worthy of professional wrestler Sgt. Slaughter.

We’ve seen teams invent some interesting hairstyles in the name of team loyalty and a late-season push. For example, the Tampa Bay Rays sported Mohawks for their stretch run to the World Series in 2008. If the Cardinals are in a tight battle late in the season, might they grow rally mustaches?

These are the days to have fun. This is the first week the team has been together since it won the World Series in October, and they still have another week until actual Spring Training games begin. Once March 5 rolls around and the Cardinals take the field against the Miami Marlins, they should be close to game shape and the ever-interesting position battles will begin in earnest.

Fair or not, that is also when fans will begin evaluating Matheny. Former manager Tony La Russa used the Grapefruit League standings as motivation. He wanted the Cardinals to leave Florida on top. Whether Matheny takes the same approach is yet to be seen, but this is a veteran team with core players who know how to prepare for the regular season.

The Cardinals haven’t had a headline-grabbing Spring Training to this point, but early spring headlines usually aren’t very positive.

There is a saying that a bad Spring Training means a good regular season. That might not be 100 percent the truth, but a Spring Training without many newsworthy events usually means a smooth transition into the regular season for potential playoff contenders such as the Cardinals.

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Cardinals Announce Television Schedule

ST. LOUIS (February 16, 2012) – The St. Louis Cardinals today announced their television schedule for the 2012 season.  FOX Sports Midwest (19th season) is scheduled to carry 150 games in its second full season as the exclusive local TV home of the Cardinals.

Ten regular season games are currently scheduled to be carried as part of Major League Baseball’s national television packages with FOX (aired locally on KTVI) and ESPN.  The July 22 game vs. Chicago and the August 12th game at Philadelphia will be carried by FOX Sports Midwest or ESPN.   The schedule is subject to change based on future Major League Baseball national television selections.

FOX Sports Midwest will also televise five Grapefruit League Spring Training games (March 17 at Detroit, March 19 at Atlanta, March 20 at Houston, March 22 vs. Washington and March 24 at the New York Mets), with each game carried live locally at Noon CT and replayed later that day during prime time.

FOX Sports Midwest’s offseason coverage will also include new Cardinals programming on Mondays in February and March, starting with a 30-minute special on Monday Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. chronicling the World Series champions visit to the White House.   Upcoming Monday night shows include La Russa’s Championship Insights, a one hour special, and roundtable discussions with Cardinals Hall of Famers and 1980’s stars.  FOX Sports Midwest will also produce a spring training report in early March, as well as 2012 season preview.

FOX Sports Midwest will also continue to produce the Cardinals Live pregame and postgame shows with Jim Hayes, Pat Parris and Cal Eldred for every regular season telecast on the network. Dan McLaughlin, Al Hrabosky and Rick Horton will again call the games this season from the broadcast booth for FOX Sports Midwest.

In 2011, Cardinals telecasts on FOX Sports Midwest generated the 2nd highest local market television ratings in Major League Baseball, the 12th straight year in which the Cardinals ranked among the top three teams.  FOX Sports Midwest-produced Cardinals telecasts are shown in nine states and available in millions of homes. A complete Spring Training & 2012 Regular Season schedule follows.

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Infield Depth Is A Big Question Mark For The Cardinals Heading Into Spring Training

Much like last season, the St. Louis Cardinals will enter spring training with a little bit of uncertainty, but for the most part the team should feel comfortable and confident. The Cardinals are, after all, the World Series champions. They currently have seven viable options for the starting rotation (if you include Kyle McClellan and Marc Rzepczynski) and could still land Roy Oswalt on top of that. They have four legitimate outfielders in Jon Jay, Allen Craig, Matt Holliday, and Carlos Beltran. The bullpen is stacked with young arms and just enough crafty veterans. Behind the plate, there’s a Gold Glove catcher anchoring the team.

That just leaves the infield.

At first glance, the infield seems to blend in with the other strengths of the Cardinals. You have Comeback Player of the Year Lance Berkman at 1st base, World Series MVP David Freese over at 3rd, a decent hitting shortstop with a solid glove at short, and a bit carousel over a 2nd base, but a couple of good ball players nonetheless in Skip Schumaker and Daniel Descalso.

On paper, that’s an infield that can help get the Cardinals back to the playoffs. But can that group actually stay on the field? And if not, who’s ready to step up and take their place?

Durability

The Cardinals’ projected starting infielders haven’t exactly had the best run of luck when it comes to injuries. David Freese missed 65 games last season, and 92 the year before that. Lance Berkman only missed a couple of weeks last season, but missed 66 in the two years prior and turns 36 this month. Rafael Furcal, 34, had missed an average of 70 games per season dating back to 2008, and missed 75 games last season alone. Skip Schumaker, 32, missed more than a month last season due to injury, not including the injury he suffered during the playoffs.

Do the math, and you’ll find that on average, the Cardinals’ four projected starting infielders have missed a total of 424 games over the past two seasons, an average of 53 games per player, or roughly one-third of the season. Yikes.

Backup Infielders

If the worst should happen, who will fill in over the course of the season?

We’ve already mentioned Daniel Descalso, who may very well be ready to snag a starting position this year similar to the way Jon Jay did in the outfield. Descalso hit .264 in mostly part-time duty, with 24 extra-base hits and 28 RBIs in 326 ABs. Those aren’t exactly Earth-shattering numbers, but Descalso has a steady glove, can play 2nd or 3rd, and every Cardinals fan will tell you that it felt like each of his 28 RBIs were driven in the latter innings of close games. The guy is clutch.

I suppose we could list Allen Craig as an infield reserve, and the whole world found out just how great he can be last October. But… Craig also spent his fair share of time on the disabled list last season, appearing in only 75 regular season games. He’ll also miss at least the first month of the upcoming season due to knee surgery, and might not return until June.

Beyond that, the team has a trio of prospects in Pete Kozma, Mark Hamilton, and Tyler Greene (though Greene doesn’t really qualify as a prospect anymore). Living in Springfield, Missouri, I’ve had the chance to watch all three of these players perform at the Double-A level, and none of them came across as players with great Major League upside.

Pete Kozma is a career .237 hitter in the minor leagues, and had consecutive 34-error seasons in 2009 and 2010. Last year, Kozma cut that number to 14, but hit just .214.

Mark Hamilton is an interesting little case study. A career .285 hitter with average power, Hamilton hit .298 with 20 HRs in 2010, then saw his average jump to .345 while his power dropped to just 2 HRs in 2011. Hamilton played both of those seasons at Triple-A Memphis, making the numbers all the more puzzling. In 61 career at-bats in the majors, Hamilton has been overmatched, hitting just .197 with no home runs.

And then there’s Tyler Greene. What are we to make of the Cardinals’ former 1st round pick? He tears the cover off the ball in the minors, but just cannot seem to rise to the occasion in St. Louis. Greene has hit .295 in nearly one-thousand minor league at-bats over the past three seasons, so that’s no fluke. But in the big leagues, he’s a career .218 hitter. Then there are the brutal errors, including two game-changing dropped pop-ups last season alone. Is he the only big leaguer to drop pop ups? Of course not. Off the top of my head, I can think of two pretty crucial dropped pop ups in Game 6 of last year’s World Series. But Matt Holliday and David Freese can get away with that because they are solid hitters. Tyler Greene? Not so much.

What’s It All Mean?

The Cardinals said goodbye to two pretty solid infield reserves this offseason in Nick Punto and Ryan Theriot. Both brought a good veteran presence to the clubhouse and the plate, and could come up with key hits when called upon.

For the first two months of the season, the Cardinals will have one such reserve with a relatively solid track record in the big leagues, Daniel Descalso. The rest are all question marks. What will happen if one or more of the starting infielders go down to another injury? Who will fill in? Will they step up? Or will the team be forced to make a mid-season trade to fill the gaps?

Right now only one thing is certain: after last year’s injury-plagued season, the Cardinals know how to make it work and get it done, no matter who’s out with injuries. But it would sure be nice to have a little insurance in the infield.

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The Winter Warm Up: Day Two And A Numbers Game

Today at the St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warm Up, a slow morning turned rapid-fire with Matt Adams, Brandon Dickson, Daniel Descalso, and J.C. Romero all taking turns in front of reporters in a short span of time.

Adams and Dickson will enter Spring Training trying to break camp with the big league club, having built reputations as important pieces of the Cardinal farm system already. Descalso, after making a name for himself in 2011 as a versatile player whether starting or coming off the bench, expects to be in the thick of the competition for the second base job. And Romero comes to the Cards looking for redemption both personally and professionally.

The afternoon promises to be exciting as well. Former manager (weird) Tony LaRussa has been in the house all morning signing autographs and talking with fans. But he’s not the only star from the 2011 World Series Champions making the rounds today. Jason Motte, Jake Westbrook, Jon Jay, Jaime Garcia, Lance Berkman, and Matt Holliday are among the big leaguers still scheduled to appear. A formidable lineup indeed.

Not to be outdone, the Cardinal alumni will be out in force today as well. Tom Lawless, Chris Duncan, Danny Cox, Todd Worrell, and Tom Henke are just some of the former Redbirds scheduled to appear. And the Cards’ radio broadcast team of Mike Shannon and John Rooney will also be entertaining fans this afternoon.

But the biggest drama to unfold today may be the resolution of just which number new Cardinal Carlos Beltran will wear. Historically, Beltran has worn #15 and on last year’s Cardinal team, that number belonged to Rafael Furcal. Even though Beltran has a little more tenure as a Major Leaguer (which may normally sway a player to give up his number), Furcal has obviously been a Cardinal longer. And yesterday, the Cardinal shortstop told reporters he was not giving up #15…after all, he did win a World Championship with the number on his back. Apparently that information made it to Beltran because last night he tweeted (@carlosbeltran15) a request for input on what his new number should be. So perhaps Beltran will make his decision before his scheduled Winter Warm Up appearance Monday, or maybe he and Furcal can come to some kind of agreement on a swap. Or maybe someone will solicit a decision from former Cardinal Jim Edmonds (@Jedmonds15), clearly the franchise’s most famous #15 from the last decade.

Oh, the suspense. Stay tuned.

Chris Reed is covering the 2012 Winter Warm Up all weekend for I-70 Baseball. Follow him on Twitter @birdbrained.

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Melky Cabrera Dealt To Giants

 

ROYALS ACQUIRE LEFT-HANDED PITCHERS SANCHEZ AND VERDUGO FROM GIANTS FOR OUTFIELDER Melky Cabrera

Kansas City, MO (November 7, 2011) – The Kansas City Royals have announced that the club has acquired left-handed pitchers Jonathan Sanchez and Ryan Verdugo from the San Francisco Giants in exchange for outfielder Melky Cabrera. Here is a resource for those interested in getting into sports management.

Sanchez, 28 (will turn 29 on November 19), has posted a 3.75 ERA over his last three seasons with the Giants in 85 games, including 81 starts. In 2011, he was 4-7 with a 4.26 ERA in 19 starts before missing the final month and a half with a left ankle sprain. Sanchez posted a breakout 2010 campaign for the World Series champions, going 13-9 with a 3.07 ERA, tossing 5.0 shutout innings in Game 162 vs. San Diego as the Giants clinched the N.L. West division. The 6-foot-2, 198-pounder is 38-46 with a 4.26 ERA in 174 career outings, including 118 starts. He tossed the 13th no-hitter in Giants history on July 10, 2009 vs. San Diego.

Sanchez has posted 736 strikeouts in 708.0 innings, a rate of 9.355 strikeouts per nine innings which ranks as the third-best in baseball (min. 700 IP) since 2006, trailing only the Giants’ Tim Lincecum (9.87) and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw (9.360). He has allowed 607 hits in his 708.0 innings, allowing opponents to bat just .231. Since the beginning of the 2009 season, Sanchez has allowed 357 hits in 458.0 innings, 7.02 hits per nine innings, which is the second-best ratio in baseball (min. 400 IP) behind Kershaw (6.70).

Sanchez, the Giants’ 27th-round selection in 2004, was born in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico and now resides in Sabana Grande, Puerto Rico. He has one son, Christian.

The 24-year-old Verdugo was 8-6 with a 4.35 ERA in 25 starts for Double-A Richmond in 2011, his first season as a starter in the minor leagues. The 6-foot, 193-pounder is 21-7 with a 3.14 ERA in 101 career minor league appearances, including 26 starts. Verdugo, a resident of Baton Rouge, La., has allowed 185 hits in his 234.1 career innings, striking out 300. The Giants’ ninth-round pick in 2008 out of LSU, where he was a teammate of current Royals reliever Louis Coleman, will be transferred from Richmond to the Omaha (AAA) roster.

Cabrera, 27, hit .305 (201-for-658) with 44 doubles, five triples, 18 home runs, 87 RBI and 102 runs scored for the Royals in 2011.

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Moving Forward Into 2012

Well that didn’t last too long. Not even a week into their off season as World Series champions and the St. Louis Cardinals are forced to move on. Now I am not faulting Tony LaRussa for announcing his retirement when he did. It is actually a refreshing change from his usual post season melodrama of should I stay or should I go.

The timing of his decision is actually in the best interest of the team. By waiting until after the season he kept the focus on the players and their historic post season run, not offering himself up as a distraction. And in turn by letting it be known to the world as soon as he did he gave the organization a head start on finding his successor.

Who Bill Dewitt and John Mozeliak chose to take the reigns as skipper of the Cardinals will have an immediate impact on the look and feel of the 2012 club.

With TLR leaving, and throwing a wrench into my post-Pujols plans (I think he’s gone) the Cardinals could end up with a manager running the same lineup out there day in and day out. How boring and predictable would that be? Over the last 16 years I have grown accustomed to LaRussa using players all over the field and within various rotations and platoons.

The options that present themselves are pretty obvious. Lance Berkman slides in to first base and Allen Craig begins his assault on the National League by becoming the everyday right fielder. There is the possibility of moving Freese over to first and mixing and matching some form of Schumaker, Craig, Berkman, Descalso rotation between right and third-base. I pray that does not happen.

It is because of options such as these that my choice for TLR’s replacement would be someone with an extensive back ground in the National League. Terry Francona is a good manager and I’m sure would do a fine job. But in my opinion he is not the choice here. It has been a while since Tito has had to strategize in a ball game for a 162 games.

The National League game requires anticipating moves innings before they happen and playing the match-ups more so than the game in that other league. Without the abomination that is the DH a manager has to find more creative ways to get his bench players at bats game in and game out.

Terry Francona has not had to think like that in quite a while. You have been growing the replacement for years. He knows the organization, the Cardinal way and most importantly he know the players and the coaches.

Ushering in the Oquendo era is the right move here. Doing so allows the team, most likely, to keep pitching guru Dave Duncan around for at least another year. This would be most helpful while looking for a suitable replacement. Two other reasons; Oquendo is cheaper and you don’t have to trade for him (Maddon).

And finally, failing with Oquendo is much easier to look past than failing with Francona or Maddon. Oquendo is the organization guy who earned his chops under one of the best ever. It is Secret Weapon time.

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World Series Champion Pitching: How They Did it.

The Royals have all of their young position players in place. You can see the offensive potential in this young line-up. As of this writing several Royals have multi-game hitting streaks. Several players are approaching 20 home runs. That is a low number. Go look how many times in recent seasons a Royals hitter has approached it. I’m not worried about the Royals scoring runs this season, or in the future. In fact they are second in the AL Central in runs scored.

Duffy

What is a concern is the starting pitching. Not only has the pitching on the Royals lived up to their expectation of getting knocked around. The prized prospects in the minors have lost a lot of their luster this season. I discussed this back in June. Starting pitching is rightfully expensive weather you give up prospects like the Cleveland Indians, or acquire through free agency. I was glad to see Dayton Moore discuss this with Bob Dutton in The Kansas City Star. While David Glass has shown some willingness to open the wallet since the arrival of Moore, I don’t see him laying out $100 Million for CJ Wilson.

Obviously the least expensive way to acquire starting pitching is to develop it through your minor league system. Last years San Francisco Giants won the World Series by doing this. But that got me thinking. That’s just one season. Let’s look at past World Series Champions and see how their pitching staffs were assembled. I’m only going to list the top five starters for World Series Champions starting with the 2000 Yankees. I will separate these starting pitchers into three categories: developed (draft + amateur free agent signings), traded, or free agency. Andy Petite presented an interesting situation. He was drafted by the Yankee’s but signed an extension before free agency. These situations will be treated as drafted because they never hit the open market, thus theoretically being signed below market value. Plus, the Royals have shown a willingness to do this in the past with starting pitchers. Like Zack Greinke. Let’s take a look.

2000 New York Yankees:
1. Andy Petite, developed, salary $7,000,000
2. Roger Clemens, trade (99), salary $6,350,000
3. Orlando Hernandez, developed, salary $1,950,000
4. David Cone, free agent (99), salary $12,000,000
5. Denny Neagle, trade (7/00), salary $4,750,000

Totals: 2 were developed, 2 through trades, 1 free agent. Total Salary: $32,050,000

2001 Arizona Diamondbacks :
1. Curt Schilling, trade (7/00), salary $6,500,000
2. Randy Johnson, free agent (98), salary $13,350,000
3. Brian Anderson, drafted (ED 97), salary $4,125,000
4. Robert Ellis, free agent, salary NA
5. Miguel Bautista, free agent, salary $400,000

Totals: 3 free agents, 1 through trade, 1 developed. Total Salary: $24,375,000*

2002 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim:
1. Ramon Ortiz, developed, salary $575,000
2. Jarrod Washburn, developed, salary $350,000
3. Kevin Appier, trade, salary $9,500,000
4. Aaron Sele, free agent, salary $7,166,667
5. John Lackey, developed, salary $350,000 (estimated)

Totals: 3 developed, 1 through trade, 1 free agent. Total Salary: $17,941,667

2003 Florida Marlins
1. Carl Pavano, trade (7/02), salary $1,500,000
2. Brad Penny, trade (7/99), salary $1,875,000
3. Mark Redman, trade (1/03), salary $2,150,000
4. Dontrelle Willis, developed, salary, $234,426
5. Josh Beckett, developed, salary, $1,725,000

Totals: 3 through trade, 2 developed. Total Salary: $7,484,426

2004 Boston Red Sox
1. Curt Schilling, trade, salary $12,000,000
2. Pedro Martinez, trade but signed a big money extension, salary $17,500,000
3. Tim Wakefield, free agent, salary $4,350,000
4. Derek Lowe, trade, salary $4,500,000
5. Bronson Arroyo, developed, salary $332,500

Totals: 3 through trade, 1 developed, 1 free agent. Total Salary: $38,682,500

2005 Chicago White Sox
1. Mark Buerhrle, developed, salary $6,000,000
2. Freddy Garcia, trade, salary $8,000,000
3. John Garland, developed, salary $3,400,000
4. Jose Contreras, trade, salary $8,500,000
5. Orlando Hernandez, free agent, salary $3,500,000

Totals: 2 through trade, 2 developed 1 free agent. Total Salary: $29,400,000

2006 St Louis Cardinals
1. Chris Carpenter, free agent, salary $5,000,000
2. Jason Marquis, trade, salary $5,150,000
3. Jeff Suppan, free agent, salary $4,000,000
4. Mark Mulder, trade, salary $7,750,000
5. Anthony Reyes, developed, $392,400
6. Jeff Weaver, trade (7/06), $8,325,000

Totals: 3 through trade, 2 free agents, 1 developed. Total Salary: $30,617,400

2007 Boston Red Sox
1. Daisuke Matsuzaka, free agent*, salary $6,333,333 *=His contract was purchased from the Sebu Lions as the highest bidder. For the purpose of this article we’ll call him a free agent signing because he went to the highest bidder.

2. Josh Becket, trade, salary $6,666,667
3. Tim Wakefield, free agent, salary $4,000,000
4. Curt Schilling, trade, salary $13,000,000
5. Julian Tavarez, free agent, salary $3,350,000
6. Jon Lester, developed, salary $384,000

Totals: 3 free agents, 2 through trade, 1 developed. Total Salary: $33,734,000

2008 Philadelphia Phillies
1. Cole Hamels, developed, salary $500,000
2. Jamie Moyer, trade, salary $6,000,000
3. Brent Myers, developed, salary $8,583,333
4. Kyle Kendrick, developed, salary $445,000
5. Adam Eaton, free agent, salary $7,208,333
6. Joe Blanton, trade (7/08), salary $3,700,000

Totals: 3 developed, 2 through trades, 1 free agent. Total Salary: $26,436,666

2009 New York Yankees
1. CC Sabathia, free agent, salary $15,285,714
2. AJ Burnnett, free agent, salary $16,500,000
3. Andy Pettitte, free agent, salary $5,500,000
4. Joba Chamberlain, developed, salary $435,575

Totals: 3 free agents, 1 developed. Total Salary: $37,721,289

2010 San Francisco Giants
1. Matt Cain, developed, salary $4,583,333
2. Tim Lincecum, developed, salary $9,000,000
3. Barry Zito, free agent, salary $18,500,000
4. Jonathan Sanchez, developed, salary $2,100,000
5. Madison Bumgarner, developed, salary $450,000
6.Todd Wellemeyer, free agent, salary $1,000,000

Totals: 4 developed, 2 free agents. Total Salary: $35,633,333

That’s a lot of information, but I hate to say this. It doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t know before looking at the numbers. If you put all of this into a spreadsheet, and take out Barry Zito’s contract, you can see the correlation between developing your own pitching as opposed to trading or buying it. There are 58 pitchers listed on the World Series Champions. 21 came from a teams farm system, 19 came from trades (most of the trades working out for the team who got the pitcher), and 18 free agents. Percentage wise there is no difference. World Series Champion staffs come from 1/3 farm system, 1/3 trades, 1/3 free agent signings.

What can we take from this as Royals fans? First the Red Sox and Yankee staff’s total salaries are equal to the entire Royals salary in 2011. The average salary is $28.5 Million and that does not take into account inflation from 2000 -2010, or inflation going forward. The Royals will have to spend more money to get pitching and retain their hitters.

Second, the 2010 Giants and 2002 Angels were the only team to have a staff with 3 or more system pitchers, and even then they were in the majors at least two years before the were effective. If the Royals were to have a pitcher like that they only have Danny Duffy, Nate Adcock, and maybe Felipe Paulino. Even if Montgomery comes up next year these pitchers are still a few years away.

It’s no secret that the Royals are going to try and develop as much pitching as possible. However, free agent signings and trades will be needed to get the required pieces. From looking at the numbers such a strategy has worked 4 out of the 11 years (02,03, 08, & 10). That’s 36%. Even if the Royals do everything right, and everything breaks right, this strategy only works 1/3 of the time. Landing a big time free agent would help this situation, but this is not the off-season to do it. But if that 36% works against the Royals note that buying your championship pitching staff only works 36% of the time too. Winning a World Series is hard. The Royals one World Series trophy did not come from their best team. Even if an organization does everything it’s supposed to do it still needs a lot of luck. I think it’s about time the Royals received a little luck.

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Charting Royals Decades

A recent post on the Giants blog Bay City Ball featured a fantastic chart plotting every Giants season by team OPS+ and ERA+. It inspired a similar chart at The Hardball Times of World Series champions (which seems to prove the maxim that pitching and defense win championships). It also inspired me to make this chart of every Royals team by OPS+ and ERA+ for my blog (playoff teams in red):

Perhaps the most shocking revelation is that after 42 seasons, only six teams are above the AL average in both OPS and ERA, and those six teams all fell in a seven year stretch between 197581. The chart is good for identifying outliers, such as the anemic offense of the expansion team in ’69 and ’70, the all-around greatness of the ’77 club, the pitching staff in ’93 and ’94, and the misery of ’05’06. But most seasons get lost in a muddle of too much information. So in an attempt to glean more info out of the chart, I’ve separated the seasons out by decade to take a closer look at the ups and downs in Royals offense and defense over the years:

1969—79


The first two seasons of Royals baseball had identical numbers (82 OPS+, 99 OPS+) and featured surprisingly strong pitching and defense, but the offense was non-existent. Lead by Paul Schaal, Amos Otis, Freddie Patek and Cookie Rojas, the ’71 offense took a leap toward respectability while the pitching staff soared and the third year expansion team had a winning record and a second place finish. The addition of John Mayberry for ’72 helped push the offense into a strength, but run prevention took a dive (93 ERA+). GM Cedric Tallis left the club in ’74, but he had built up a powerhouse that fired on all cylinders between ’75’80, including four first place finishes and two second place finishes. As far as the regular season is concerned, these were the glory days.

1980—89


The offense of the mid-to-late ’70s started to dry up, but after a dip in ’83, the Royals pitching & defense remained a major strength between ’84’89 thanks to guys like Bret Saberhagen, Charlie Leibrandt, and Mark Gubicza. When it comes to post-season success, run prevention is the name of the game, so it should not be surprising the team’s lone championship came in the season with the club’s best ever ERA+, a 119 in 1985.

199099

The ’90s carried on a similar theme from the ’80s with a collection of stellar pitching think Appier, Cone, Montgomery, Gordonbetween ’91’96, but the offense was just too putrid for it to translate into any overall success. That ’94 staff was something special until the lockout came. By ’98, the pitching had dried up, the spiral into the black hole of the next decade had begun…

200010


Do not look at that graph for too long…like the sun, it might melt your eyeballs. The ineptitude is stunning. The only dot that peaks into positive territory is the 2007 ERA+ of 102, which the Royals rode all the way to a 69-93 record. Sadly, last year’s perfectly mediocre OPS+ of 100 was the team’s best since 1991…and they still lost 95. Here’s to the the next decade of Royals baseball moving towards the upper right quadrant…

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A Call To The Bullpen

The Royals know, as well as every other baseball franchise, that in order to win you must have solid pitching. A team needs starters that can go six or more innings on a regular basis. Even so, if a team has good starting pitching consistently throughout the season they are not necessarily going to be a team that is playoff bound. Cliff Lee, C.C. Sabathia, Zack Greinke, Andy Pettitte, Chris Carpenter, etc., are all capable of going eight innings in a single start, but to expect them to do it every time is unreasonable. They are, after all, human.

When baseball was first organized, pitchers were expected to throw the whole game, and maybe even pitch the second game of a double header as well. I like a strong work ethic in a pitcher, but even the best pitchers in the league have their limits. There are also times when a pitcher gets injured in the middle of the game or is being shelled and the coaches have to stop the bleeding.

There are a number of theories on the origin of the bullpen in the world of baseball. Some date back to the 1880s. Whenever the word first joined the colorful world of baseball slang doesn’t matter, but the importance of a solid bullpen doesn’t diminish.

If you were to take a look at the World Series champions in recent memory, you will find many great things a team needs to have to win a championship, including a solid bullpen. A bullpen in today’s league is a lot more planned out then it was only thirty years ago. In today’s game a team will typically have a guy labeled the closer, a setup man, a long reliever, and a mixture of righties and lefties are available upon request from the manger. These pitchers will pitch anywhere from one batter to four innings.

The Royals were a team going into the 2009-2010 offseason looking to upgrade their bullpen. They knew and still know that they have one of the best closers in the game in Joakim Soria, but getting to a situation that allows him to perform his role was not as consistent as the Royals liked. What did they do? They went shopping. They picked up some solid pitchers who have had success as relievers. The most successful one this year being the now departed Kyle Farnsworth. There were others, but this guy stood out in his 37 appearances for the Royals. He showed grit ,working between one and three innings per outing. He had an ERA of 2.42 and a record of 3-0. This is why Atlanta wanted him. He either continues the success of the quality start or stops the bleeding. He was expensive to bring in, but was he worth it? Some would argue that he wasn’t but a quality veteran leader in a very young bullpen that produces is hard to come by.

As a whole the Royals’ bullpen has been streaky throughout the entire season. At times they would blow the lead for the starter in three or four straight games and in the next three pitch scoreless bliss. The following pitchers have been used out of the Royals bullpen in either limited capacity or otherwise:

Bryan Bullington (now in the starting rotation)
Bruce Chen (now in the starting rotation)
Jesse Chavez (Acquired from Atlanta and has posted an ERA similar to Farnsworth so far)
Roman Colon (Released in May)
Juan Cruz (Released in April)
Kyle Farnsworth (Traded to Atlanta right before the deadline)
Dusty Hughes (Given a chance after 2009 late-season call-up)
Philip Humber (Acquired from Minnesota’s AAA team and was just called up)
Victor Marte (Released in April)
John Parrish (Released in June)
Josh Rupe (Blake Wood replaced him on the roster)
Joakim Soria (All-Star closer and is among league leaders in saves)
Robinson Tejeda (Solid reliever the past two seasons for the Royals but is now on the DL)
Kanekoa Texeira (Rookie pitcher has performed well since coming from Seattle)
Brad Thompson (Rejected demotion after poor performance and is now a free agent)
Blake Wood (Started the year at AAA but has not given up a run in his last six appearances)

Based on the performances so far this season Bullington and Chen will not return to the bullpen unless asked. Chavez has performed better since he was traded to Kansas City. He was previous in Atlanta and had struggled. This bullpen is a mixed range of talent going from inexperienced young hurlers who are just getting their feet wet in the majors to an all-star closer. The Royals wanted to get young and they get an “A” in that department.

However, youth can be either good for a pitcher or bad. It can be good in that he might not realize or care if he’s facing Joe Mauer or Derek Jeter with the game tied, and just pitches the way he knows how. This causes less stress on the reliever. It can be bad because they get wide-eyed that they’re facing someone they grew up watching him play. In addition, inexperience can lead to mental errors or misreads. The Royals did a great job of countering this from happening by bringing in veteran catcher Jason Kendall. He has been around the league long enough to give the pitchers insights that he knows about the batters.

With the majority of the ERAs of the bullpen under five this season, the Royals should be content. Still, they have many young players adjusting to big league hitters and on occasion get stage fright, which leads to mistakes. (Poor defense does not help, either.)

The team could choose to keep their current talent and work hard to improve in the offseason or look to see what free agency or the farm system has come up with during spring training. If the Royals choose the former, they can use their leftover funds to possibly beef up their starting rotation or bring in a player who can help the defense as well as the offense. If they chose the latter, they could attempt to bring in a reliever with some experience who has the reputation for shutting people down consistently. (Post-season experience is always a plus).

The Royals know they have a solid closer and have mixed and matched setup men all season. Some of them have done well and some of them got the boot. The Royals trimmed the fat early in the season and were willing to work with the current talent level. The Royals are only a couple of weeks away from the roster-expansion part of the season. Two of the pitchers at the AAA level are on the forty-man roster (Gabriel Hernandez and Victor Marte). Both pitchers have pitched well in their last ten games, so look for at least two to get a shot in September and next year’s spring training.

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