Sunday, July 31, 2005

Or Not

Can anybody explain Tampa Bay's 4-game sweep of the Royals after the Royals played so well against the White Sox? The nameless Devil Ray offense outscored the Royals 29-13 during the series. What a massive disappointment this series was after scraping together two tough wins against the White Sox.

I'm glad that Baird held true to his word and didn't dump salary before the trading deadline expired this afternoon. He obviously didn't get the power corner outfielder that he wanted, so he didn't make any moves. I thought there was a good chance that our bull pen might be traded away today and I also thought there was a chance that Sweeney might get traded. This team isn't anywhere close to contending, but I'd hate to see two of our strongest elements get shipped elsewhere before we've had a chance to see if Bell can turn this thing around.

The Royals get a much needed day off tomorrow before opening a new series in Boston on Tuesday. Let's try to forget about the disaster in Tampa and hope that the Royals can find a way to be competitive against the World Champions.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

A Turning Point?

The Royals just took two out of three games from the best team in baseball and you have to wonder if we won't look back on this series as a possible turning point for this franchise—not necessarily for this season, but for the future.

The Royals did plenty of things wrong yesterday and usually good baseball teams beat teams who make mistakes, but not this time. With the White Sox up 1-0, Emil Brown doubled to lead off the bottom half of the fifth inning. Mark Teahen simply needed to move Brown to third—especially knowing how well Garland was throwing. But he seems incapable of pulling a ball—even to move a runner. He slaps at everything and with a natural inside out swing, he couldn't get the job done. I would still rather see him getting his on the job training in Omaha than Kansas City, but apparently Baird is sticking with him on this level.

Another mistake that cost the Royals was Runelvys Hernandez hitting Iguchi to lead off the sixth inning. After Perez doubled, Dye slammed a three run shot over the wall and the Royals were down 4-0. A couple of hitters later, Crede muscled up and hit another home run to give the White Sox a 5-0 lead.

But Mike Sweeney did what he always does when he is healthy—he picked the Royals up off the mat. He hit a two run home run to trim the lead to 5-2 White Sox. But Garland was still in the game. DeJesus knocked him out of the game in the eighth with a lead off single. And after Long reached on an error, Sweeney scorched a ball down the left field line that almost put a whole in one of the seats out there. Game tied 5-5.

As you know by now, the game ended up in extra innings with both teams using 7 pitchers and 19 players. Finally, in the 13th inning, after singles by DeJesus, Ambres, and Sweeney, Brown singled home the winning run.

The White Sox are protesting though, saying that Shawn Camp wasn't on the line up card before the game, even though he is on the 25-man roster. Bell claims that the line up card only has to contain the starting line up and that listing everybody else is just a courtesy. I don't know who is right, but what is the deal with Bell and line up cards? Maybe Schaeffer or somebody else better start double-checking these things before every game because Bell obviously has a problem doing so.

But after going 4-2 on this homestand, and 8-6 since the break, this team is starting to look like they belong in the major leagues. They are now just one game under .500 (25-26) since Bell took over and while I disagree with some of his and Baird's personnel decisions, it's hard to argue with Bell's record. He came into a horrible situation that included bickering in the clubhouse and a former manager who quit on his team after trying to convince them to never do so, and he appears to be righting this ship.

The Royals open a new series tonight in Tampa, sending Kyle Snyder (0-1, 6.35) against Scott Kazmir (5-7, 4.15). The Royals have fared well against the East this season, going 10-9 overall and they are 3-1 against the Devil Rays this season.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

From Train Wreck to Masterpiece

If the game two nights ago was a train wreck for the Royals, their 7-1 win last night against the White Sox was a masterpiece.

Even though Jose Lima has pitched well over the last three weeks, when you saw that he was matched up against Buehrle last night, well…you had to wonder if the Royals even had a chance to win given the White Sox explosive offense and the Royals tendency of being shut down by good pitchers. But through the first five innings, we had ourselves a good old fashioned pitchers duel and it was fun to watch.

Lima's change up was working and he ended up striking out 5 guys in the 6 innings that he worked. He had good command of his pitches and he didn't fall behind a lot of hitters. He did walk 3 guys, but in each case the count was full—no four pitch walks. After working the top half of the sixth inning, he was over 100 pitches and looked to be done for the night with the score tied 1-1.

But in the bottom half of the sixth inning, Ambres, Sweeney, and Brown all got hits to start the inning and when Teahen came up with the bases juiced later in the inning, he hit a big bases clearing double to break the game open in a 6-run inning for the Royals. The Royals only managed 8 hits for the night, but they made them count. Ambres, Sweeney, and Brown each had two hits.

Affeldt relieved Lima and his stuff was nasty—striking out two guys in his one inning of work. Burgos and Nunez were equally effective in the eighth and nine innings to close the door on the White Sox. Another impressive outing for the bullpen. And finally the Royals have a W against the White Sox for the first time in 11 tries this season.

The game this afternoon looks like it could be another pitchers duel, which means it'll probably be a blow out one way or the other. The White Sox send ace Jon Garland (15-4, 3.19) against Runelvys Hernandez (8-9, 4.34).

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

A Train Wreck

The 14-6 drubbing at the hands of the White Sox last night was a train wreck. As much as you didn't want to look, you couldn't help but glance at our pitchers line scores to see which ones got shellacked. Turns out, every Royals pitcher was hit hard—Greinke took the top prize, giving up 7 ER in 3 1/3 IP.

Then as you continue passing the train wreck with your foot on the brake, you had to take a look at the White Sox box score to see how they came up with 14 runs on 22 hits. Podsednik had three hits; so did Rowand; so did Pierzynski; so did Dye; so did Harris, so did Uribe—their number nine hitter. And on and on it went.

The Royals came up with 16 hits of their own and didn't even make this game close. The White Sox are probably past the point in the season where most analysts are wondering whether they are for real or not. They've got three good starting pitchers at top of their rotation in Garland, Buehrle, and Garcia. They have plenty of guys who can hit. And they have speed on the base paths. They are for real.

Even knowing how much better the White Sox are than the Royals, this was still a frustrating game to watch. Greinke gave up five hits in a row in the first inning. That was probably a clue that he either didn't have his best stuff or he was way out of sync. But somebody needed to right his ship—be it Buck, or Hansen, or Bell. To just let a guy get shelled by one hitter after another is an odd thing to do.

Shawn Camp, fresh up from Omaha, wasn't much better in relief. He gave up 2 ER in 2 2/3 IP. Sisco didn't look all that hot either. And Gobble gave up 3 more ER in 2 IP. By the end of the game, our pitching staff threw 210 pitches. Obviously, the White Sox worked the count well and when they got pitches they could handle, they made the most of it.

Once again, our defense didn't exactly sparkle. DeJesus made an error and Berroa made two—even though he was officially only given one. Konerko smashed a ball at him in the seventh inning that one hopped over Berroa's glove into left-center field. Split and Davis seemed to think it was a hit and complimented Berroa's solid defense—only to have the next hitter, Pierzynski hit a ball right through Berroa's wickets. He didn't stay down on the ball long enough and picked up his 11th error of the season.

I beg to differ with Split and Davis about Berroa's solid defense this season. He's made 11 errors and ranks 17th in fielding percentage (.974) among the 25 MLB shortstops who qualify with enough chances. Even Neifi Perez ranks higher (.981). Berroa has a flare for making the tough play while continually not making the routine play. Give me the guy who can make the routine play. They happen much more frequently.

Before the game, Mike Wood was sent to Omaha and Shawn Camp was recalled. If the Royals had anything to play for this season, this move wouldn't make sense. Camp has an ERA over 10.00 in Kansas City this season—it actually went down after his poor performance last night. But the Royals realize that they may need some help in the starting rotation and they've chosen Wood to be the guy, so they want him to go to Omaha for 10 to 14 days and get a few starts there before handing him the ball in Kansas City. Makes sense to a degree. But to be honest, his 2004 numbers as a starter (3-8, 5.94 ERA in 17 starts) hardly convince me that he's a viable option for the rotation. He seems to have found his niche in middle relief. As much as we need starting pitching, why Wood?

Tonight could be another tough one to watch. Jose Lima (3-8, 6.92) goes against Mark Buehrle (11-3, 2.66).

Monday, July 25, 2005

Affeldt Interview

In May, I had a chance to interview Jeremy Affeldt for a Christian newspaper in Missouri called The Pathway. The article I wrote appears on the front page of the July 19 issue of the newspaper. Here's a link if you are interested in reading about how Affeldt reconciles his Christian faith with his obvious passion for the game.

Royals Improve to 23-25 Under Bell

After taking two out of three games from the Blue Jays over the weekend in Kansas City, the Royals are inching back towards the .500 mark under Buddy Bell, who has a 23-25 record since taking over. Over the next three days, we're going to find out just how much we've improved as the Royals open a three game series against the White Sox.

D.J. Carrasco picked up another win in the sweltering KC heat yesterday afternoon and improved to 5-4, with a 4.24 ERA. D.J. has come up big when given the chance in the rotation and he looks to have solidified a spot there for quite a while.

Zack Greinke has a two game winning streak going into the game tonight. He's never won three in a row and it won't be easy to do it this time either since he's facing Freddy Garcia who is 9-4 with a 3.60 ERA. Going into the break last season, Greinke was 1-6 with a 3.86 ERA. After the break he came on strong and posted a 7-5 record with a 4.04 ERA. Since the break this season, he is 2-0 with a 1.46 ERA. It's too early in his career to know for sure whether a pattern is developing or not, but if last season is any indication, he could save his season (currently 3-11, 5.66 ERA) by posting similar numbers to last season after the break.

Runelvys Hernandez continues to pitch well and he appears to be completely healthy again. He's improved to 8-9 with a 4.34 ERA. Unfortunately, MLB handed him a 10-game suspension for the Carlos Guillen beaning incident. Hernandez plans to appeal, but if he loses, he's going to miss two starts.

The bullpen has been even more impressive in recent weeks that the solid starting pitching has been. Going into the game yesterday, they had 3.09 ERA in the last 20 games. With Affeldt back and throwing serious heat, everyone has a more defined role now and they seem to be flourishing. Wood is working a lot of innings in middle relief. Sisco often follows him. Affeldt sets things up for MacDougal and Mac has been lights out, picking up 15 saves and posting a 3.47 ERA. I'd like to see his ERA a little lower, but he's on the right track.

The offense is coming around too. Over the past 17 games, they've scored more than 5 runs per game. Angel Berroa is finally starting to hit. He's hit 2 home runs in his past 5 games. Matt Stairs is quietly putting together another solid season (.258 AVG, 10 HR, 36 RBI) even though he's not playing every day (he's played in 78 games). Sweeney continues to swing the bat well when he's not dealing with one fluke injury or another. David DeJesus is also putting together a nice season (.291, 7 HR, 45 RBI, 2 SB), although I expected a little more from him.

Unfortunately, the Royals have almost no chance of catching the fourth place Tigers who are 49-49, 13 games ahead of the Royals. But after the horrific start, this season hasn't been about where we finish. It has been about development. In my opinion, we don't have enough veterans on this team to mentor all of these young guys, but time will tell. For now, let's just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Lima Improves to 3-8 in Royals Win

Maybe Jose Lima was right after all. He hasn't strung a bunch of wins together like he predicted he would, but he has strung several good starts together. Tonight, in the Royals victory over the Indians 5-3, he threw 6 innings, giving up 2 runs. He was in trouble a couple of times—especially in the first inning, but he wiggled off the hook and picked up the win to improve to 3-8, dropping his ERA below 7.00 to 6.92.

Donnie Murphy was added to the roster before the game and he came up big with a home run in his first at bat in the third inning. That made up for the error he made in the first inning. Yes, I know the official scorer changed it to a hit, but that was a joke. Murphy singled home another run in the sixth inning and ended up 2-for-4 with 2 RBI. Not a bad way to start.

Newly acquired Chip Ambres was on almost every pitch he saw tonight. Of course, Sabathia threw an inordinate amount of fastballs. I guess he figured that the Royals weren't good enough to hit them. He was wrong.

Fortunately the Royals scored early and often on Sabathia because their defense tonight was atrocious. They picked up two errors and could have two more. Ambres missed a cut off man, allowing a guy to score. Teahen misplayed another ball. Emil Brown over ran a ball. Berroa made a bad throw to first base that was called a hit and it shouldn't have been.

The Royals bullpen looked good in relief of Lima. Wood, Burgos, Affeldt, and MacDougal pitched the final 4 innings and didn't give up any runs.

The Royals have a day game in Cleveland tomorrow. J.P. Howell (1-3, 8.01) goes against Jake Westbrook (6-12, 4.77).

Greinke Sharp Against the Tribe

Zack Greinke threw a gem last night as the Royals defeated the Indians 4-0. Greinke pitched 7 shut out innings and only gave up four singles, to improve to 3-11 with a 5.66 ERA. In true Greinke-like fashion, he said some of the oddest things after winning his second straight start.

"I've just been using my best stuff," he said. "That's the main difference. Not worrying about if I miss, will it go way up and in or into the ground. And not worrying about getting tired after three innings."

At 21 years of age, he's been holding back during games because he's afraid of getting tired after three innings? I'm having a difficult time understanding this one. But it gets better.

"I was able to (pace myself) my whole life," he said. "It was to the point where I’d feel fresh the next day. But today was the first time I’ve used my good stuff (all along) and felt good that late in the game."

Why would it matter if he felt fresh the next day? Isn't that what five man rotations are all about—giving a guy four days rest after each start? This guy doesn't march to the beat of a different drummer. He is the drummer and he plays any tune he wants to without regard for the rest of the band. We expected a learning curve with all of these young guys, so I guess Greinke's words are encouraging to hear, since he says that he's learned something, but they are still odd.

Emil Brown came up big with a two-run home run in the second inning and that's all the Royals needed in this one. DeJesus and Teahen each had an RBI each later in the game.

Jose Lima (2-8, 7.16) gets the ball again tonight against C.C. (I-think-I-look-cool-with-my-hat-tilted-sideways) Sabathia (6-6, 4.63).

Thanks Tony

While the Tony Graffanino for Chip Ambres and Juan Cedeno trade makes sense, I still hated to see it happen. With Bellhorn going down, the Red Sox needed a steady, experienced second baseman for their playoff run and the Royals certainly needed a young outfielder with punch.

For better or worse, the Royals have given the starting second baseman job to Ruben Gotay. So Graffanino was a 33 year-old utility man for the Royals whose contract was up at the end of the season. But I still have a question.

The Royals were already the youngest club in the major leagues. Who is going to mentor all of these rookies? Who is going to sit next to Ruben Gotay on the bench and explain positioning on the field against certain hitters and who is going to tell him about a relief pitcher's tendencies? Of course, he'll have team meetings and scouting reports, but rookies need to be reminded of such things during the heat of battle.

For all of these reasons and more, we need guys like Graffanino on this club. I'm sorry to see him go. But he is quoted as saying this in the Star today: "I'd consider coming back (as a free agent). I expressed that to Allard." See what I mean about needing guys like this?

Chip Ambres, 25, hits for average, has power, and he steals bases. He was hitting .294 with 10 HR, 50 RBI, and 17 SB in Triple-A Pawtucket this season. Whether that translates to similar numbers at the major league level or not, we'll have to wait and see. Sounds like he'll play left field.

Juan Cedeno, 22, is supposedly the guy the Royals are most interested in of the two. He throws hard, often hitting 95 mph, but he doesn't have a breaking pitch. And even guys in rookie ball can hit fast balls when they are sitting on them. In Wilmington, he was 2-6 with a 5.61 ERA in 21 appearances. What's more disconcerting is the fact that he has 10 wild pitches in just 78 1/3 IP. He's also walked 37 guys. He sounds like Mike MacDougal without the knee-buckling curve ball.

With Ambres taking Graff's spot on the roster, McEwing is sure to see more playing time at second, short, third, and who knows, maybe even first. Stairs will probably see more time at first base if Ambres gets the majority of the playing time in left field.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Things Get Ugly in Detroit

I’m currently in St. Louis visiting family and there isn’t exactly a lot of Royals coverage on this side of the state, but I did have a chance to catch the brawl on ESPN last night between the Royals and the Tigers. And it’s too bad that it had to happen.

Runelvys Hernandez was pitching a good game. He gave up just 2 hits in 5 IP, but he obviously struggled with his command early in the game--hitting Brandon Inge and Chris Shelton in the first inning. Buck said that the game plan was to pitch inside to both hitters and that Hernandez hit both guys by accident. He probably did. Unless there was a holdover retaliation thing going on, it doesn’t make any sense to put two guys on base in the first inning.

The Tigers retaliated in the second inning by hitting DeJesus. Fair enough. I didn’t like the idea that they threw at his knee, but if they were convinced that Hernandez was trying to hit their guys, then retaliation was imminent. That’s how this game works. Then of course, in the sixth inning, Hernandez plunked Carlos Guillen on the batting helmet and a fight was on.

I understand the Tigers being upset. Hitting someone in the head is unacceptable. Hopefully Hernandez didn’t do it on purpose. He certainly showed earlier in the game that he didn’t have total command of the inside portion of the plate and maybe the pitch that hit Guillen got away from Hernandez. Then again, maybe it didn't. Who knows?

I don’t understand what Kyle Farnsworth was doing though when he dashed around the pile of players on the field and tackled Jeremy Affeldt. Be a man Kyle. If you want to fight, don’t be a sneak, challenge the guy face to face.

Enough about the fight. A game actually took place and the Royals won 5-0. Mike Sweeney continued his hot streak with another home run. This time it was a two-run shot. A healthy Sweeney makes this line up look so much better.

The Royals are on to Cleveland where they open a new series tonight. Carrasco (4-3, 3.57) goes against Lee (9-4, 3.89).

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Staff Takes More Hits

Our rotation took a couple of hits over the break. As you know by now, Brian Anderson is done for the season. And Denny Bautista is out indefinitely. So Lima’s spot appears to be safe. And unfortunately, so does J.P. Howell’s. In a situation like this, we might as well let Lima finish out the season to see if he can turn things around. What’s it going to hurt now?

Howell is another story though. His situation reminds me of Jimmy Gobble and Zack Greinke to a lesser degree. Both were rushed to the majors simply because we needed starters. Neither faired well. And now we’re doing it to Howell. Makes you wish we would have been willing to pay guys like Suppan to stick around another year or two so some of our younger guys could have had more time to develop in the minors.

Last night, we got more bad news when Carrasco was a late scratch with shoulder stiffness. Lima stepped in at the last minute and pitched relatively well, giving up 3 ER in 6 IP, but the Royals lost 4-1. Looks like Carrasco will pitch on Monday in Cleveland. At this point, it’s better to make sure that Carrasco is okay. We certainly don’t have any reason to rush him back. This season is a wash anyway.

I’ve been looking over season statistics for the Royals and I’m amazed at how few of our regulars have more than 20 walks. Look at some of these totals:

Angel Berroa (11 BB)
Mike Sweeney (14 BB)
Ruben Gotay (19 BB)
John Buck (15 BB)
Mark Teahen (15 BB)

Combine their lack of patience with their sub-par power numbers and what are you left with? We only have two guys (Sweeney and Stairs) in double digits in home runs. And one of those guys isn’t even a starter. We only have two (DeJesus and Sweeney) guys with 40 or more RBI.

As a team, here’s where the Royals stand offensively:

HR (69, second to last in the AL)
RBI (354, last in the AL)
BB (233, second to last in the AL)
AVG (.263, fourth from the bottom in the AL)

Saturday, July 09, 2005


Sounds like Scott Sullivan's season may be over before it ever began. He's still experiencing back pain.

Denny Bautista is out indefinitely with rotator cuff problems. He was supposed to return to the rotation after the break, but he experienced pain in a rehab start in Omaha.

Jeremy Affeldt is back and says he's feeling great. Let's hope he can stay healthy for the second half. I had a chance to interview Affeldt recently and next week a newspaper in Missouri will be publishing a profile article I wrote about Affeldt. I'll provide a link when one is available.

For all the talk about how exciting it is to watch this young team, the fans don't think so. After 44 home games this season, the Royals average attendance is 18,726—down from 22,696 last season after the same number of home games.

The Royals hit .288 as a team in June. Before the game tonight, the Royals were hitting just .242 for July.

Mike MacDougal has converted his last 10 save opportunities.

The Royals starting pitchers are 19-39 this season.

The Royals are just 20-19 this season when they score first.

Sweeney Picks up 5 Hits in Royals Win

J.P. Howell is just not ready to pitch at this level. He didn't even make it out of the second inning tonight. He gave up 4 ER in 1 2/3 IP and his ERA is now an astronomical 8.65. Bell plans to leave him in the rotation after the break, unless Snyder is ready to return. Bell isn't saying who Snyder will replace, but as bad as Lima and Howell have been, either are prime candidates. If Anderson is a go after the break, both Lima and Howell will out of the rotation.

Here's what Bell's second-half rotation looks like: Greinke, Carrasco, Lima, Hernandez, and Howell. He must like the match ups, otherwise the order of this rotation doesn't make any sense. Carrasco is clearly our best starter right now. Hernandez is our second best and the other three look, well, like they belong in the minor leagues.

Thankfully, we outslugged the Twins tonight, and won 12-8 in spite of Howell's poor performance. Mike Sweeney was 5-for-6 with 3 RBI. Every starter had at least one hit, most had multiple hits. Angel Berroa made a great diving play in the hole between short and third. The Royals broke it open in the sixth inning scoring 6 runs.

In the final game before the break, the Royals send D.J. Carrasco (4-3, 3.69) to the mound tomorrow afternoon against Carlos Silva (7-3, 3.68).

Greinke Continues to Struggle

The All-Star break probably can't get here quickly enough for Zack Greinke—the pitcher whose young career took an odd twist a couple of months into the season after he'd been sailing along. He certainly wasn't piling up victories, but that had more to do with an inept offense than anything. Back then, everybody in baseball knew that Greinke was headed for good things, maybe even great things.

So, what happened between May and July? How did Greinke go from a guy with an ERA hovering around 3.00 to twice that number in July? His experiment with throwing slow curves because they were "cool" and his attempt to throw batting practice fastballs just to see if he could get hitters out backfired on him. He seems to have fallen in love with his ability. No doubt, he has unbelievable ability. And he's probably also heard that repeatedly over the years—so much so that he thought he could probably do anything he wanted to on the mound and be successful.

By now, he knows that isn't true. But returning to old form hasn't been easy. Bell wants him to throw more fastballs early in the count and once his fastball is established, then to work in his slow curve and off speed stuff. Sounds like sage advice. But last night, when Greinke was on the ropes, Bell said that Greinke wasn't aggressive enough. Gotay's mishandling of a potential double-play ball didn't help Greinke's cause, but to Greinke's credit, he acknowledged that good pitchers get around fielding mistakes. The Royals lost 5-4, dropping the first game of the series with the Twins.

Having Sweeney back in the line up helped keep us in the game. He went 3-for-4 and had 2 RBI. But his awkward slide into second base after pounding a ball off the center field wall made everybody cringe. After falling to his knees and covering his head, he shifted most of his weight onto his injured left arm and he grimaced in pain. The All-Star break will do Sweeney a lot of good. Yeah, he'll actually be in the All-Star game, but he'll probably only see one at bat. Let's hope his body heals up a little over the break.

Tonight, J.P. Howell (1-3, 7.77 ERA) goes against Joe Mays (5-3, 3.84). Let's hope that Howell can keep us in the game…and let's hope that this is the last time he'll be called upon to pitch in the rotation for a while. With BA coming off the DL soon, Howell should be able to return to the minors where he can continue working on his stuff.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Royals String a Few W's Together

After dropping the first game of the Seattle series, the Royals came back and won the final two games to take the series. The 2005 version of the Seattle Mariners hardly resembles the Mariners teams of old. They are sitting in the basement of the AL West, 12 games under .500, but it's still nice to win a series, no matter who we are playing.

Buddy Bell finally moved Angel Berroa down in the line up and Berroa started hitting. I'm still not sure why Bell wants Gotay hitting in the two hole. He's hardly the prototypical number two hitter. He's a free swinger with a poor batting average. The ideal guy would be Graffanino, but it looks like Tony isn't going to be given a chance to play everyday, so we're left without a number two hitter.

Runelvys Hernandez finally appears to be on track. He pitched the final game in the Mariners series. He won his sixth game of the season, giving up 0 ER, 9 H, and issuing just 1 BB in 6 IP. And he's got his ERA down to 4.53. So perhaps we can count on Carrasco and Elvis at the top of the rotation.

Lima finally picked up his second win of the season last night against the Twins. He threw first pitch strikes to 23 of 29 batters. That's impressive. I don't know if it will be enough for him to keep his spot in the rotation after the break, but I'm glad to see him come through with a good performance.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

At the Turn

At the midway point of the season…

  • The Royals had lost 14 of their last 16 games…
  • They were 29 games under .500…a franchise worst at the midway point…
  • They were 29 games out of first place…a franchise worst at the midway point…
  • They were 26-55…and you know the rest…
  • And they were 0-49 when trailing after the 8th inning…

The record of our three managers at the midway point:

  • Tony Pena: 8-25
  • Bob Schaefer: 5-12
  • Buddy Bell: 13-18

We've had many disappointments this season. Here are my Top 5:

1. Allard Baird. His decision to stick with Tony Pena is a major disappointment. Talk about digging a hole for the team. Thirty-three games into the season, the Royals were 17 games under .500 and Pena's oddities were so old and frustrating that it was difficult to listen to him try to explain himself anymore. Last season was all the evidence Baird should have needed to know that Pena was the wrong guy.

2. Angel Berroa. In 81 games, he's hitting .241, with 5 HR and 20 RBI in 323 at bats. Those numbers are bad enough. The rest of his numbers are worse. He's only drawn 11 BB while striking out 62 times. And Schaefer even believed he was leadoff material. I have no idea what he was thinking. Berroa has a .282 OBP. They only guy with a worse OBP is John Buck (.261) and he's in the 8 or 9 hole most nights. Throw in Berroa's aloofness on the basepaths and we've got a guy who looks like he should be in Omaha.

3. Jose Lima. After two great seasons in a row, who expected a 1-7 record with a 7.58 ERA at the turn from Lima? In 103.1 IP, he's given up 102 H and 50 BB. Unbelievably bad.

4. Zack Greinke. After seeming to have hitters confused and off balance a month into the season, Greinke decided to try various different arm angles and pitches because they "were cool." The youngster is still learning his lesson. He's 1-10 with a 6.09 ERA. In 91.2 IP, he's given up 118 H and 24 BB. Horrible numbers from a guy who probably should have been sent to Omaha to learn that "coolness" has nothing to do with pitch selection.

5. A toss up between John Buck and Mark Teahen. We didn't expect much at the plate from Buck and he certainly hasn't exceeded our expectations. He's hitting .221, with 6 HR and 19 RBI. Like Berroa he's walked just 11 times and also like Berroa, he looks totally overmatched at the plate. Teahen was supposed to be solid in the field and he's been anything but solid—making 9 errors in 156 chances. And the scorekeeper has been kind to him. He has a knack for making the spectacular play and for misplaying the routine ball. At the plate, he hasn't shown any power, hitting just 2 HR with 24 RBI.

We've had a few positives. Here are my Top 5:

1. Emil Brown. A wonderful story about a guy who slugs his way onto a team in Spring Training and then carries over his performance into the regular season after winning a starting position. He's hitting .288 with 8 HR and 37 RBI. He's already had a 16-game hitting streak and he looks like a veteran at the plate.

2. Andrew Sisco. For a Rule 5 guy who has never pitched above the A-ball level, his numbers are astounding. In 42 IP, he has a 2.79 ERA. He walks way too many guys though, 24 already, but he always seems to squirm off the hook. If he wants to continue to be successful at this level, he's got to cut down on the walks, but you've got to be impressed with what he's done so far.

3. D.J. Carrasco. The guy who is now our ace spent a good portion of the season in Omaha. In 10 starts, he's 4-3 with a 3.69 ERA. He's got a revamped delivery and it's working. Let's hope that he keeps it up.

4. Tony Graffanino. He lost his starting position during Spring Training (I'm still scratching my head over that one), but when he's been given a chance to play, he's performed well. He's played at 2B, 3B, 1B and even a game at SS. He has struggled in the field, but to some degree it is understandable since he's been out of position most nights. But at the plate, he's hitting .306 and for a while was one of the hottest hitters in baseball. That's when Bell decided to sit him down. Go figure.

5. Matt Stairs. The guy is the consummate professional. He plays hard. He takes responsibility both on the field and off. And he cares. For a guy who only has 193 AB, he has an impressive 8 HR and 27 RBI. He also leads the Royals by far in BB with 37. Nobody else is even close to him. He also has the highest OBP (.380) on the team.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Trust is Earned

"I just hope people trust that we're doing it the right way. That we're just as impatient as they are in terms of winning. I just hope that they trust it's being handled." –Buddy Bell

Buddy Bell is on to something. And I hope he knows by now that Kansas City hasn't been willing to trust this organization since Ewing Kauffman died because of the way the team has been handled. We've seen multiple changes in philosophies, we've seen relatively few draft choices turn into legitimate major league players—not stars, just players, and we've seen people like Tony Pena become our manager. Our trust level isn't high. But do we trust the latest tandem of Baird and Bell?

The jury is still out on Bell, but his unbelievably embarrassing failure to double-check the line up card the other night doesn't give us a lot of hope. Early on, we heard that Bell was a "baseball man." And it looks like he probably is. He certainly manages more conventionally than Tony Pena did, but I still can't get past the fact that he didn't even know who our players were when he took the position as our new manager. He was a bench coach for a team in our division. How is it possible that he didn't know who our players were? That doesn't sound like a guy who was all that well prepared. But that was the past. Let's see what he does for us in the future.

Regarding Baird—he's dug himself a pretty deep pit. Bad trades, his continuing to stick by Tony Pena when Pena was clearly not the man for the job, and his repeated change of philosophical directions make us wary of trusting him. Throw in the poor handling of players like Ken Harvey and Aaron Guiel, and it turns into something deeper than mistrust. Surely Baird's decision to hire Bell will be his last attempt to turn things around for the Royals to a level of respectability. I can't see the Glass family giving him any more shots.

Speaking of the Glass family, Royals fans don't exactly trust the Glass family either. How can a team owner know his fan base or the community when he lives so far away? How connected does he expect fans to feel to someone who rarely shows up in Kansas City?

So, do we trust current Royals management to turn the club around? I'd like to, but trust is earned. I'd guess that Baird and Bell have two years to earn our trust. I'm willing to give them that long, but they won't get my trust simply by asking for it.
Clicky Web Analytics