Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

The trade deadline passed with the Royals engaged as bystanders. They stood by as teams surrounding them decided to become buyers (Yankees, Mariners) or sellers (Indians, Rays).

In the aftermath, Dayton Moore gave a press conference. I enjoy the heck out of these. Equal parts paranoia and defensiveness, it’s breathtaking to watch.

Here are a few choice quotes:

We gotta concentrate on who the players are and who we are and not necessarily what the payroll is. It’s always a factor. I can’t speak for anyone else, but you see some of the players that went today and there’s money exchanged for a reason. There are certain players available to certain teams for a reason. It’s just the way it works.

The first part of that statement is just kind of gobbledygook. It just makes no sense to me. I’ve replayed it a number of times and it just sounds like a guy who has no answers trying to give an answer. And failing.

The second part makes a little more sense, but still comes off as defensive. Although Dayton then played the small market card.

There’s an economic analysis taking place with every player. We’re not going to apologize for our market and what we can and can’t do. But there are certainly limitations.

I love that. “Hey, I’m not going to use this as an excuse, but… It’s the reason why nothing happened.” Hilarious. Singing the small market blues again.

The Oakland A’s Opening Day payroll was $82 million. They own the best offense in the AL. They play in a stadium that leaks raw sewage into the dugout. They own the best record in baseball. They recently traded for Jeff Samardzija. And on Thursday, they acquired Jon Lester.

I’m sure there are limitations in Oakland. Yet somehow, they don’t use those as an excuse. In fact, I’m not even certain they acknowledge them. They work around them.

Go a little further. Remember how Moore has always said because of our market, the majority of the Royals lineup needs to be homegrown? How it’s the only way we can succeed?

Here’s Oakland’s lineup from MLB Depth Charts and how each player was acquired:

Coco Crisp – FA
John Jaso – Trade
Josh Donaldson – Trade
Brandon Moss – FA
Stephen Vogt – Trade
Derek Norris – Trade
Jed Lowrie – Trade
Josh Reddick – Trade
Eric Sogard – Trade

And their rotation:

Jeff Samardzija – Trade
Sonny Gray – Draft
Jon Lester – Trade
Scott Kazmir – Trade
Jason Hammel – Trade

The contrast between a successful GM and Dayton Moore is obvious. Billy Beane sees his players as assets he can use as an opportunity to improve his team. Dayton Moore seems to fall in love with his players. Somehow, in eight plus years as the general manager of a major league baseball team, Moore has made what I would classify as two big trades. The first was the Zack Greinke deal. The second was the Wil Myers trade. Billy Beane made two big trades this month. It’s criminal how long Dayton Moore holds on to his assets. Granted, he hasn’t had many “big” players to build “big” trades around, but he’s been loathe to move prospects as well. (Myers being the lone notable prospect.) There have been so many trades for bullpen parts and replacement level infielders, it makes the head spin.

What we have is a general manager who is, for whatever reason, gun shy to make an impactful deal. Just add it to the list of reasons for him to be removed from his position as General Manager.

There’s a lot of teams that would love to have some of our pitching in the rotation. But at the end of the day, where are you going to get that pitching back?

Ahh… To me this is the smoking gun. We are over eight years with Dayton Moore in charge and here he is telling us the minor league cupboard is bare. There is no pitching depth. There is no one in the minors ready to take a shot at the big leagues. The Omaha rotation has featured Aaron Brooks, Brett Tomko and Sugar Ray Marimon. John Lamb has had some good outings lately, but he’s not ready. Somehow, this part of The Process has gone completely off the rails. Pitching is the currency of baseball. How the hell did this happen?

We added Vargas, we added Infante, we added Aoki. We felt like we made some nice additions to our bullpen here this season already with some veteran guys. I feel like we improved upon our team. It’s important our current group of players produce and I believe we will.

I was waiting for this comment. The insistence the Royals have already done so much to improve their team. If you want to revisit the offseason, I’ll agree with Moore. Infante was a clear upgrade over the Getz parade at second. We thought Aoki was going to be decent in right. (We all were wrong.) And I think Vargas is realizing his upside as a serviceable rotation replacement for Ervin Santana.

Except we’re not talking about what the Royals did last winter. Every team made moves last winter. That’s what happens in baseball’s offseason. We are talking about what the Royals failed to do Thursday.

It’s a comment that reeks of failure. Which makes it the perfect Dayton Moore comment.

The second part is the same tired song and dance. The whole “our guys will improve” schtick. Please. Quit insulting the intelligence of your fanbase. Own up to the fact that maybe these guys you scouted, drafted, and signed aren’t as good as you thought they would be. Make some moves to rectify the situation. Maybe you’re “selling low” on a guy like Hosmer, but if this is the real Hosmer, you’re not going to get much anyway. Same for Moustakas. Package a few guys together who still have an upside with a commodity from your bullpen. Do something to improve your team. Do something.

This team isn’t much different from last year’s club. Last year, the Royals won 86 games. This year, they are three games over .500. We have seen this collection play for over 260 games. They are a slightly better than .500 team. That’s not good enough to get into the playoffs. And if you’re in that situation you either find a way to fill the holes on your team or you sell off your best assets in an attempt to rebuild and make another run next year.

That’s not Dayton Moore’s style. His style is to stand pat, safe in the knowledge another season hovering around the .500 mark will buy him some more time as a major league general manager. All the while other teams are aggressively either improving their teams or positioning themselves for a rebuild.

Not the Royals. The Royals continue to tread water in a sea of mediocrity.

The trade deadline just came and went. Guys like Lester, Lackey and Price were dealt. So were the likes of Denorfia and Drew and Austin Jackson and Allen Craig. Young guys like Cosart and Marisnik and Smyly, too.

The Royals? Not involved. Not interested. No upgrades necessary.

If one player or even two, as some speculated, would not be enough to get Kansas City in the playoffs in the final year of James Shields’ tenure as a Royal, then the organization needed to sell and make sure next year’s team would not be another 83 win ballclub.

Nope.

Just hope. Everyone will get better.

“Guys are what they are. You’re not going to say ‘OK, take more pitches.’ That doesn’t work. They play their game. Nights like tonight, when a guy’s on his game, you’re going to get what we got tonight.”

Ned Yost as quoted in the Kansas City Star.

I got Vine, specifically for Ned’s soundbites. Embedded in a Tweet here.

It’s an interesting comment from Yost. Born of frustration, most certainly, after being force-fed another abysmal offensive performance on Tuesday against the Minnesota Twins. Five hits through nine (with two of those leading off the ninth) and a 2-1 scoreline that made it look closer than it actually was. The Royals were never in this game.

At the All-Star Break, I wrote this was a crucial stretch for the Royals if they harbored any true hopes of October baseball. We are 11 games into a 13 game stretch. The Royals are 5-6. They have lost a game and a half in the Wild Card standings, but more importantly, they have been passed by the Yankees and the Blue Jays and still trail the Mariners. And don’t look now, but the Rays, counted out a couple of months ago, are streaking and are just a single game behind the Royals.

I said I’d give them 13 games, but the returns through 11 aren’t encouraging. The Royals are scuffling to stay at .500 both in this stretch and in the season. We’re over 100 games into 2014. As Ned would say, this is who they are. They are going to land somewhere between 79 and 83 wins. They are not going to make the playoffs. The offense won’t allow it.

Which brings me back to Yost’s comment from last night. Pretty damning, isn’t it? A public acknowledgement that his team doesn’t know how to work the count and doesn’t know how to have what you would consider to be a professional at bat. And while we can certainly be outraged (or any other emotion) about how this team performs, this lack of discipline isn’t on Yost. It’s on the architect of the team. The guy charged with assembling a coherent 25-man roster. This is Dayton Moore’s fault.

Look at Kyle Gibson’s strike zone plot from last night.

Gibson_Plot

Find the cluster of dark red in the lower left. Look at the dark red and the off yellow in the lower right. See the dark red and the blue in the upper left. All pitches outside of the strike zone. All swung at by inept Royal batters. Of Gibson’s 95 pitches, I count 26 out of the strike zone that the Royals couldn’t resist. That’s an undisciplined team.

And we know what happens when they make contact: Singles. Lots and lots of singles. No walks, no power, and a plethora of singles leads you to score an average of 3.97 runs per game. Well below the league average of 4.24 runs per game. This offense doesn’t stink. It’s rancid.

But as Yost said, they are who they are. In a simple post-game comment, Yost gave us more evidence (as if we needed any more) that Dayton Moore isn’t fit to assemble a major league roster.

The Royals traded Danny Valencia on Monday to the Toronto Blue Jays. In exchange, they received minor leaguers Liam Hendriks and Erik Kratz.

I know with the trade deadline approaching, there’s been a ton of talk about the Royals being either “buyers” or “sellers.” This ignores the more obvious middle ground of the “stand paters.” Or the “standing pats.” While this trade is technically a transaction, this has a “stand pat” kind of vibe.

Since this seems to be the case, let’s look at a few ramifications of this trade:

– The Royals just made a trade with a team two games ahead of them in the Wild Card standings.

Forget for a moment there are other teams between the Royals and the Jays for the final Wild Card spot. Why on Earth would you help a rival for a postseason position. I know all GMs say the right things. They want each team to come out of a trade looking good. Win-win and all that. That’s understandable when a club sends a player to another league, or when a selling team at the deadline trades off major league assets for a couple of prospects. But why if the team you’re allegedly chasing in the standings needs a right-handed bat, would you provide said bat for them? Especially on who hits .333/.369/.510 against southpaws for his career? (Valencia is hitting a robust .354/.386/.492 against lefties this season.) I just don’t get it.

– Valencia has a… reputation.

There are a certain subset of major league players who have – let’s call it delusions – as to their value and skill. Valencia has always chafed at the “lefty masher” tag and has insisted he can clobber all pitchers. The stats say otherwise. Yet that hasn’t stopped him from jockeying for increased playing time. Not that I blame the guy. He’s a competitor. But when you see yourself one way and your bosses see you in a different light, that can be a little awkward. And word is, Valencia isn’t the greatest guy to be around sometimes.

We know the Royals pay lip service to the culture of the clubhouse, which kind of made his acquisition a little strange last winter. Maybe he finally wore out his welcome in Kansas City.

– The Royals officially believe in Mike Moustakas.

I didn’t know where to place this. Good? Or bad? Depends on your perspective, I suppose. The Royals will tell you he’s been great since his exile in Omaha, hitting a team high nine home runs since the first of June. The other numbers don’t paint as nice of a picture. Since his return to the bigs, Moustakas is hitting .231/.292/.449. Yes, that’s better than when he was shipped out. But let’s face it, if that’s how we’re judging Moose, you can’t set the bar any lower.

Moustakas has been a streaky hitter throughout his career. He also has power potential. I don’t think what we’ve seen over the last two months signals a rebirth or even a hot streak. Look at those numbers above again. This is probably who Moustakas is going forward. That means he needs a platoon partner. That the Royals are gambling on Moustakas being “fixed” or whatever, seems misguided.

But the Royals do seem to give certain players in their organization a lot of rope.

– Christian Colon breaks free from the shackles of Omaha.

Colon is hitting .307/.361/.430 for the Storm Chasers and has seen his extra base hit totals spike over the last month or so of action. The former fourth overall draft pick will never live up to the status that comes with that selection, but he can be a useful part on a team that lacks depth on the infield. He can play second, third, and short (along with some outfield) which gives the Royals some desired versatility. Also, at the major league minimum salary, he’s as affordable as they come.

I’ve always said that Dayton Moore struggles with roster math – the art of assembling a coherent 25-man roster. In other words, I’m not surprised the Royals have had what looks to be a decent option in the minors to fill the utility infield void. It seems like Colon should have been up a long time ago.

– Pitching remains the currency of baseball.

Two years ago, Hendriks was rated as the Twins seventh-best prospect by Baseball America.

“His fastball sits at 86-92 mph and peaks at 94. He uses both two- and four-seamers, complementing his sinker with a solid slider. When he’s in rhythm, Hendriks peppers the bottom of the zone and commands his fastball to his arm side, allowing him to induce weak contact with his slider and above-average changeup on the other side of the plate… He has an outside chance of becoming a No. 3 starter.”

A year later, Hendriks was claimed off the Twins by the Cubs, who then lost him to a claim by the Orioles, who then had him claimed by the Jays. That’s three waiver claims in three months for a former prospect. He’s thrown 169 major league innings with a 6.06 ERA and 5.38 FIP. Hendriks has had success this season in Triple-A, posting a 2.33 ERA and 2.52 FIP. He also has a ground ball rate of around 50 percent with a 22 percent whiff rate. Very solid numbers for Triple-A. Is it possible he’s figured things out? He had similar success before in Triple-A, back in 2012.

But we do know how the Royals have taken fringe starters and found value from them in the bullpen.

– Kratz is a backup catcher.

Hence the release of Brett Hayes. I dunno. This seems like a shuffling of deck chairs. Kratz has some power potential that Hayes lacks, but really… We’re talking about Salvador Perez’s backup. It’s not like the guy is going to play all that much.

Final thoughts

It’s a trade that really elicits a shrug of the shoulders, except I can’t get over the fact the Royals got a pair of role players for someone who will fill a hole in the lineup for a team whom they are competing against for a playoff spot. I wonder if the Royals checked the standings before making the trade.

RHP ∙ 2007—10

banny

Brian Bannister came to the Royals in a trade with the Mets in the ’06—’07 off-season. He was excited about the trade mostly because he went from a crowded staff in New York to a great shot at a spot in the rotation in KC. He also had a soft spot for the Royals after living in KC and watching his dad Floyd pitch for them in 1988 and ’89. Back when the Royals switched to natural grass at Kauffman Stadium, the Bannisters shipped some of the old turf to their Phoenix home. “So my backyard was left field from Kauffman that Bo played on,” Bannister has said. “I was destined to be a Royal.”[i]

A relatively soft tosser, Bannister the younger had to get by on smarts and command. According to him, “I really had like an A ball or AA arm, but I pushed myself to be the best I could be and to learn the game as much as possible and to push my performance up to a big league level.”[ii] He started 2007 in Omaha, but was in the big league rotation after just a few weeks. Relying mostly on a cut fastball plus a curve and change, 2007 turned out to be a charmed rookie season. Bannister both threw well and was smiled on by the baseball gods. His K-rate, batting average against on balls in play (BABIP), and home runs per fly ball suggested that he was fortunate to post a low ERA, and he was, but only in addition to being legitimately good. He was twice recognized as the AL rookie of the month and finished third in rookie of the year voting.

The amazing thing about Bannister is that he realized and understood that he was partly lucky in ’07. For a player, Bannister was unusually aware of and interested in sabermetrics, and was candid about using them to try to improve his performance. In a Q&A on the Royals official website, he explained relatively advanced concepts like BABIP and why he believes pitchers should focus on the things they can control like walks, strikeouts, and homers.[iii] He likened himself to Bill James with a 90 MPH fastball.[iv] How many pitchers enter a season with the expectation of giving up more hits? His plan going into ’08 was to “work on missing some more bats to counteract the more hits I’m going to give up. And I want to walk fewer guys.”[v] He was successful in slightly increasing his strikeouts, but the walks, homers, and BABIP also went up, and the season was semi-disastrous. It’s almost as though his ’07 and ’08 seasons were made to be lessons in the vagaries of things like BABIP, home runs per fly ball, and sequencing. On the surface, Bannister went from excellent to scrub in those seasons. But if you wipe out some noise, his combination of strikeouts, walks, and ground ball rate was actually slightly better in ’08.

Still, the results were not there, and he started 2009 in Omaha. But he was back in the big league rotation quickly, and for his first 20 starts, Bannister finally put it all together. The fielder independent numbers and the results were fantastic. The biggest change seems to have been mixing in an effective change more often. He threw seven spotless innings in Tampa in his 20th start of the year, but woke up the next morning with a burning pain in his shoulder, unable to raise his right hand above the shoulder. He stayed in the rotation for six more starts, all of them disastrous, the cut gone from his cutter. When the shoulder was examined, the doctors discovered a major tear in his rotator cuff. They told him it needed surgery that would require a two-year rehab with very little chance of ever coming back. So he opted not to have the surgery, instead hoping he could rehab his way back.

The Royals gave him a chance to keep pitching in 2010, but the damage to his shoulder was too much, and he usually got lit up. He did somehow manage to mix in a few excellent starts, including six shutout innings in Washington to spoil Stephen Strasburg’s debut. But the injury forced him out of the majors after that season. It is touching to hear Bannister’s passion for the game and how hard it was for him to have to walk away in this highly recommended interview he did with Dave O at Clubhouse Conversation. After some time away, he is diving back into the game in various ways, including cheering on the Royals with the rest of us nerds on Twitter.

[i] Brian Bannister, https://twitter.com/RealBanny/status/458364028268462080, April 21, 2014.

[ii] Brian Bannister, http://clubhouseconversation.com/2014/04/brian-bannister/, 2014.

[iii] Brian Bannister, “In Focus With Brian Bannister,” http://kansascity.royals.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20080604&content_id=2837801&vkey=news_kc&fext=.jsp&c_id=kc, June 4, 2008.

[iv] Rustin Dodd, “For Bannister, the secret is in the numbers,” http://kansascity.royals.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20090806&content_id=6279440&vkey=news_kc&fext=.jsp&c_id=kc, August 7, 2009.

[v] Dick Kaegel, “Bannister has game plan heading into ’08,” http://kansascity.royals.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20080329&content_id=2464560&vkey=news_kc&fext=.jsp&c_id=kc, March 29, 2008.

Some things are just too bizarre to digest with immediacy. You need a moment – or several – to process what happened. And sometimes, even a little distance doesn’t help place things in the proper perspective.

Such was the aftermath of Thursday’s Royals win.

A brief recap:

- Danny Duffy and Corey Kluber retired the first 24 batters of the game. The first base runner was found in the fifth inning. The first four innings were played in about 30 minutes. ( That may not be a accurate reflection of time.)

- Omar Infante collected the Royals first hit in the seventh. He was promptly erased on a strikeout-caught stealing double play.

- Mike Moustakas circled the bases on one of the most bizarre plays I have ever seen. A classic Moustakas at bat where he lofts one to the left side. Except it was a pop up that Ryan Raburn couldn’t handle and the throw to second… Oh my god, that throw. Watching that was so fun, if only because that is about as Royal of a play you can get. It was as if Ken Harvey was in left.

- The Wade Davis Experience in the eighth. Close call.

- Greg Holland blows his second save of the year. At the time, you were probably cursing Holland. Upon reflection, you realize he gave you a gift.

- Eric Hosmer entered the game as a defensive replacement in the ninth. His wrist prevents him from swinging the bat, so the defensive replacement was lifted for Raul Ibanez when his turn in the order came around in the 11th. Ibanez roped a double against the shift.

- Ned Yost managed his bullpen well.

- Ibanez started a 3-6 double play in the 12th.

- Aaron Crow struck out the side in the 14th.

- The Royals got two hits in one inning only once all night. Lorenzo Cain and Nori Aoki in the 14th to mercifully end a night of extreme weird baseball.

And now after losing their first four games post Break, the Royals have rolled off three wins in a row. I’m exhausted. Be Royal, indeed.

Dayton Moore cannot bury his head in a bucket and do nothing in the next seven days.  His team is not good enough and will not get hot enough and will not improve enough to be neither a buyer or a seller at the trade deadline.BtOtpgvIcAA8-DdIt was fun to have Mike Moustakas hit two home runs in a game and threaten the Mendoza line.  It’s also a great thing when your manager actually uses his three best relief pitchers to get four innings of work and Bruce Chen – freaking Bruce Chen – came through with a nice effort.   Winning’s fun, the Royals should do more of it.

Let’s look in the mirror, however, Mr. Moore and realize that this team you have so patiently constructed in eight/nine years of service is what it is.  The Kansas City Royals right now are going to win about 81 games.   With rare exception, winning between 78 and 84 games in a season is about the worst thing you can do in baseball:  good enough to be respectable, close enough to not sell off pieces, but not enough wins to be a post-season participant of any relevance.

If this is a ‘go for it year’ and it sure seems like it was supposed to be, then Dayton Moore needs to buy and buy big.   On the other hand, if Alex Rios, Ben Zobrist and Ian Kennedy still doesn’t get this team into more than a one game play-in, then swallow your pride and sell.

To be honest, I know in my head that the Royals need to sell.  Take a look at the Dodgers’ bullpen:  what would they give for Wade Davis or Greg Holland or, hell, even Aaron Crow at this point?

My heart, if only to keep things exciting for a while, kind of leans toward buying.  Some of that comes from my skepticism of the Royals being able to consistently develop prospects.  Is the return on James Shields better than a compensation draft pick? I don’t care, I am weary of coveting draft picks.  Basically, I’d rather have someone else’s Sean Manaea from two years ago than our Sean Manaea.

What I fear the most and, frankly, expect the most is for Dayton Moore to neither buy nor sell.  We will be told that there just wasn’t the value for value trade out there.  That this group is good enough and ‘we like are team’ and whatever clumsy rhetoric this organization will toss out to us.

The Royals will have a nice little hot streak, get close, and then fall back: probably end up 84-78 and be set up in 2015 to win 84 or 85 wins again.   It’s better than losing 100 games a year, but it will get really, really annoying three or four years in a row.

Buy or sell.  Pick one, but for godssake do one or the other in a big way.

 

Clark has been chronicling what I like to call “Ned Quotes,” and I don’t mean to step on his toes, but…

“One big hit in a crucial situation,” Yost said. “It always seems to take the pressure off everything when you’re struggling.”

That’s it. The magic elixir. One Big Hit. (All caps on purpose as it sounds like the name of a pop band.)

Apparently, that One Big Hit is pretty damn elusive. Have you seen one lately? Maybe the Sal Perez home run in Tampa earlier this month. That felt pretty Big. Huge, even. And since then the Royals have won exactly one of their last eight games. Don’t you see? One Big Hit changes everything.

Here we are again. Familiar territory. That time of the year when the Royals season starts spinning faster as it circles the drain. This year has been different from past seasons as they were able to stave off the pits at least until the All-Star Break. As fans, we are all too familiar with crappy Aprils and horrible Mays torpedoing any chances. This year, the Royals actually made a cameo appearance in first in June. It was kind of the Tigers to let us have our moment in the sun.

Since then, the Royals have gone 9-17. Impressive.

Stretches like that lead columnists to question the Royals collective intestinal fortitude when it comes to playing under pressure:

Hope is not a plan. Belief is not a right. Patience went out years ago. You want to talk about the problems with the Royals? That’s a good place to start.

So is this:

They regularly shrink as the moment grows.

It’s a good hypothesis, but I don’t buy it. The Royals don’t “shrink” when they manage to raise expectations. The simple truth is they just aren’t very good. That’s what mediocre teams do. They play well for a stretch, get your attention to where you begin to think, “Hey, maybe this team is good enough to do something positive.” Then, they revert back to their true talent level. That’s how it’s been with the Royals for the last several years. This year, they played well for a stretch, got into first and then reverted to form.

Ahead of the All-Star Break, I wrote that the final 13 games of July were crucial. The Royals are 0-4 so far. And looking lifeless. It’s clear it’s time to sell. It’s also obvious it’s time to clear house.

How about this?

BP power

That’s not the first time Yost has touted his club’s BP power. That doesn’t make it any less hilarious.

That a major league manager would talk up his team’s batting practice power is equal parts insane and sad. While Yost was outsmarting himself out of a job in the midst of a pennant race in Milwaukee, it appears he’s doing the same thing here. Expectations can be a bitch. Especially if you’re not equipped to handle them. Yost has to know time is running out. Not on the season, but on his employment in Kansas City. This is how it goes.

This regime is moving closer toward irrelevance every day. I’m doubtful there will be any movement this season. (Although I desperately hope I’m wrong.) Besides, it’s too late to make a difference anyway. But there’s always next year.

“We’re not playing good situational offensive baseball” – Ned Yost, courtesy the Kansas City Star.

I think I will start every post (however sporadic they have become) with a quote from Ned Yost.  Perhaps I’ll even begin each meeting in my office with a quote from Dayton Moore.  Hey, if the Royals are going down, I’m taking all of you with us.

We have been fed the company line for a long time with regard to how the Kansas City Royals just need to hit better with runners in scoring position.  Many of you have already figured out just how absolutely whacked out that line of reasoning is, but if not (and that means you are NOT spending enough time in your Mom’s basement!) let’s boil it down.

Overall, your Kansas City Royals – the team you have been waiting for, mind you – is hitting .263/.313/.374.   That is good for fourth in the American League in batting average, but only 12th in on-base percentage and 13th in slugging percentage.  Apparently, it is not only impossible to hit home runs in Kaufmann Stadium, but also difficult to walk as well.

The problem, remember, is not a .313 on-base percentage: it is how poorly they perform with runners in scoring position.  In those scenarios, Kansas City is hitting just .262/.324/.386.    Those numbers are good for 5th in batting average, 11th in on-base percentage and 9th in slugging.

So….the Royals offense is good enough, they just need to hit better with runners in scoring position, but yet they ARE better hitters with runners in scoring position then they are overall.  Wait.  What?

To put it another way, the Kansas City Royals have put 2,229 runners on base this season (not counting solo home runs) and scored 14.67% of those runners.  In the American League, only Texas, Oakland, Detroit and the Angels have scored a higher percentage of runners.   That’s right, your situationally deficient Royals are fifth in the league in actually scoring runners they put on base.

The Royals, from coaches to manager to general manager to team president to team owner, always have an explanation.  They will be happy to explain to us why this team is not quite good enough, while also making us aware of just how much smarter they are than the rest of us.  Listen, kid, you may have your numbers and stuff, but WE know how the game of baseball really works.

Well, guess what?  Baseball is not all that complicated.  In fact, it is not complicated at all.  It is hard, yes, but not complicated.

If you hit about the same with runners in scoring position as you do as a team, then I am going to wager that if I could get more runners on base, I’m going to score more runs.  If, by the way, I happen to find a guy or two who actually can perform the impossible and hit a ball over the fence at Kaufmann, then I will score even more runs.

The Royals are not going to the moon here.  They also are not going to the playoffs.

 

“I outsmarted myself” – Ned Yost

It may well be the defining moment of what is appearing to be a disappointing 2014 season by the Kansas City Royals.

With Kansas City clinging to a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the sixth Friday night, Ned Yost trudged to the mound and pulled his starter, James Shields.    The Royals’ ace had given up a two run homer, followed by a double, but had then struck out David Ross for the second out of the inning.  Jackie Bradley Jr., at the time posting a .225/.303/.309 line, was about to bat.

Shields had already thrown 112 pitches – a laboring 112 at that – and I frankly thought it might be time to make a change.  After all, with the addition of Jason Frasor, Yost could go to the pen early in games and still put in a quality pitcher.  You know, a guy like Frasor or Aaron Crow (who looks a lot better in the sixth than the eighth) or, I don’t know, how about Kelvin Herrera who was already warming in the pen.

Instead, the Royals’ manager opted for lefty Scott Downs to face the lefthanded hitting Bradley. It is probably important to note that Bradley is not a good hitter versus right or left-handers.  It is also relevant to note that Downs, released from a team with a bad bullpen, is at this point in his career ONLY effective versus left-handed hitters.

Enter Downs.

Enter Jonny Gomes.

Were you surprised that Red Sox manager John Farrell used a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning?  If you were, then you did not check Baseball-Reference and note that Gomes had been used as pinch-hitter twice in the sixth already this season and four other times in the seventh.  Now, you have school or work or kids or friends or read or watch too much television or a hobby or an X-Box, so if you did not know that it’s okay.  On the other hand, it is kind of Ned Yost’s job to be aware of that sort of stuff.

While Jonny Gomes  became something of a joke on Twitter as the series progressed –  courtesy of some ‘odd’ defense and the idea that Gomes success against the Royals would certainly lead to him be traded for immediately – he was not the guy you wanted to see facing your sixth best reliever with a one run lead on the road.

What followed was a two run homer and the Royals managed just one run and nine hits over the next 21 innings in Boston.  Over the course of the weekend, we say Nori Aoki get more at-bats than Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson.   We saw Danny Valencia bat clean-up, Salvador Perez miss a game with ‘groin thing’ and Raul Ibanez pinch-hit.

Not all of that paragraph is Ned Yost’s fault.  He is not in charge of player acquisition.  His options to pinch hit on Saturday  were the slumping Lorenzo Cain (0 for his last 20), the 42 year old AND slumping Ibanez, Brett Hayes and the only-hits-lefties Danny Valencia.    All this, in year whatever of Dayton Moore’s process.

The Royals’ GM has labored all these years to give us a basically .500 ballclub and put a manager in charge who (and you can debate how much a manager can do, but he can do something) is not going to make this team any better than its base talent level.

So, what can you get for James Shields these days?

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