Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Royals acquire Santana for Sisk

If you haven't heard the news, the Kansas City Royals acquired their first veteran pitcher this afternoon.  Ervin Santana, who turns 30 years old this December, will join the Royals rotation next spring.  In exchange, the Los Angeles Angels received 27 year old, left handed pitcher Brandon Sisk, who spent all of last season in Triple-A Omaha. A good arm out of the pen, Sisk went 3-2 with a 2.54 era, logging 67.1 innings, striking out 73 and walking 32, limiting opposing batters to a .234 average.

Santana has had an up-and-down career with the Angels.  This past season, he went 9-13 posting a 5.16 era.  He threw 178 innings, while throwing 220+ the past 2 seasons, serving up 133 K and 61 BB.  The biggest hole with him is he gave up a Major League leading 39 home runs, which is also a career high for him, as well.  Fortunately, Santana will be moving to a ballpark that has shown a propensity for suppressing home run totals. Coming into the 2012 season, Santana had enjoyed a decent '11 campaign, going 11-12 with a 3.38 era, giving the Angels 'pen some good innings (228.2), striking out 178 batters, walking just 72.  Needless to say, it was a down year for him in 2012.

Mainly a 3 pitch guy, he uses a fastball, changeup, slider.  From FanGraphs, his fastball velocity has stayed relatively the same throughout his 8 year career, sitting around 92-94 mph.  He uses his slider quite often, which touches on average 82 and the changeup around 85, give or take a few mph.

Predominately a fly ball pitcher for most of his career, the past 2 seasons have actually flip flopped, giving up 43.3% grounders to 37.6% fly balls.  He doesn't need to worry about the grounders with the Royals infield behind him, considering we have 2 gold glove finalists (should have been 3) to back him up in Moustakas, Escobar, and Hosmer.

Although Kauffman Stadium isn't necessarily a pitcher's ballpark, it does pretty well at eliminating home runs.  This was definitely an odd year for Ervin because his HR/FB rate had never been higher than 12.8% until this past season, where he recorded an ugly 19%.  Although he'll give up a few dingers on occasion, I don't expect it to go as high as 19% again.  Kauffman can only dampen that number...hopefully.

This trade today was definitely not a bad one.  It wasn't something to get pumped up for, but GMDM took the initiative and acquired a helpful piece to our problem.  According to The Los Angeles Times, the Angels sent over a check for $1 million along with Santana, for kicks and giggles I suppose.  Therefore, the Royals are responsible for just $12 million of Santana's contract this season.

There is still room for getting another pitcher or 2, which is why this deal is good lookin'.  Perhaps going after Santana's teammate Dan Haren or acquiring someone via trade is up in the air, who knows.  What makes this better?  Unlike Brady Quinn saying "Now I'm done" in his infamous commercial, Dayton Moore told Pete Grathoff of The Kansas City Star, "We're not done."  This Halloween did not disappoint.

In the Cross Hairs: Anibal Sanchez

Of all the free agent pitchers on the market, including Dan Haren, Edwin Jackson, Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, I do believe that Anibal Sanchez is one of the more intriguing commodities.  The 28 year-old Venezuelan put up a good showing in this year's postseason and there's a good chance he could parlay that into a fat free agent check.  Unfortunately for Detroit, the Tigers' bats couldn't scrounge up a few runs to back him up in his only World Series appearance in Game 3.  Sanchez did his part: 7 IP 6 H 2 ER 1 BB and 8 K. His counterpart, Ryan Vogelsong, got the job done as well.  Vogelsong allowed 4 BB and threwjust 5.2 innings, but he was backed all night long by a stellar defense.

It was a fun series this year, despite the constant views of the Giants dugout led by the attention-seeking, black and orange fingernail painted Brian Wilson.  Let me rephrase that: the dugout was fine, I was just really annoyed by Wilson.  I know for a fact I'm not the only one with these feelings.  I wash my hands of this.

In Marlins orange, Sanchez went 5-7, 3.94, 121 IP, 110 K, 33 BB.  Then July rolls around and Sanchez is traded to the Detroit Tigers with teammate Omar Infante in exchange for top prospects Jacob Turner, catcher Rob Brantley, and pitcher Brian Flynn.  As a Tiger, Anibal's W/L was 4-6, posting a 3.74 era, logging 74.2 innings, striking out 57 and walking just 15 batters.  What makes Sanchez so fascinating is how successful he was this postseason.  Although going 1-2 in just 3 starts, he proved to be a vital part of the Tiger rotation during their journey to a championship, establishing an excellent ERA of 1.77, throwing 20 innings, allowing just 4 earned runs, 18 K and 6 BB.

Sanchez owns 5 pitches in his arsenal. Primarily a fastball, slider, changeup pitcher, with an occasional curveball here and there (used CB just 9.6% during 2012 season, via FanGraphs).  He doesn't necessarily overpower the opponents, but he's no Doc Wingate (Major League: Back to the Minors).  Over the span of his 7 year career, his fastball velocity has increased, but only by fractions. Averaging 91.8 mph on the gun with the heater, right at 85 with his slider and change, while the ol' 'Uncle Charlie' sat around 78 mph, respectively.  A good strike thrower, Anibal kept the ball on the ground quite a bit compared to his past few seasons, giving up 270 groundballs to just 187 flyballs.

Unfortunately, I think it's a very long shot that we'll sign Sanchez to a deal this winter.  According to's Chris Iott, the Tigers will seek to extend Anibal anyway they can, while forgoing OF Delmon Young and closer Jose Valverde (no surprise on that one).  Here's my view of this situation: the Tigers are going after him and they are an organization that does well when trying to keep their own talent. If the Royals are seriously targeting him, they will need to up the ante and make an aggressive early play. His price will be high, that ain't no lie.  Reports have been made that he'll get between $40-60 million with 4 years hooked to it.  Anibal isn't old, he's been consistent, he'll give you just under 200 innings.  Personally, I think he would look better in Royals blue, rather than Tigers blue.

The Royals have made comments that they want middle of the rotation starters with front end mentalities. Based off Sanchez's postseason, I think he clearly fits that bill. Basically, what the Royals need this off season is to find another Gil Meche. There may not be a more similar pitcher on the market than Anibal Sanchez.

Monday, October 29, 2012

In the Cross Hairs: Shaun Marcum

Continuing with the in the Cross Hairs series is yet another veteran starting pitcher.  Shaun Marcum, who turns 31 in December, has spent the past two seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers and has been fairly reliable during that stint.  Marcum’s injury history does lend some concern as he missed two months last season dealing with elbow tightness.  He also underwent Tommy John surgery that sidelined him during the end of the 2008 and held him out of nearly the entire 2009 campaign. 

Marcum has been described as a ‘crafty’ right handed pitcher.  Being crafty and right handed usually is a red flag for me when I think of a team making a long term investment, but Marcum has been consistently reliable when healthy.  Last season, Marcum compiled a 3.70 ERA in 124 innings, amassing 109 strikeouts.  Marcum does not allow many walks and continues to find ways to strike out batters.  Marcum is more of a flyball pitcher but allowed a respectable 16 home runs in 124 IP last year.  His average fastball velocity last year was 86.5 MPH, just slightly slower than 86.9 in 2011. Moving forward I see Marcum continuing with the success he has seen throughout the next few years, but I do not predict much of a change in how productive he will be for his next team.

Marcum could be a viable option for the Royals if the money makes sense.  Marcum made 7,725,000 last year and should expect a slight raise.  I think that the Royals could offer something like a three year deal in the 25 million dollar range or a one or two year deal with an annual salary closer to 9-10 million.  It is not easy to judge this off season’s pitching market yet, but I could see Marcum being somewhat of a hot commodity if teams are not scared away by his 2 month absence last season. 

A deal for Marcum should be discussed, but players like Joe Saunders or Joe Blanton may provide similar value for less money, and free agents like Dan Haren and Kyle Lohse offer a little more upside.  Unless the Kansas City native is interested in a team friendly home town discount I am not sure it is worth the investment for the Royals.  

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Royals Claim Chris Volstad

The Royals wasted no time in their quest to upgrade the 2013 rotation. I must admit that I use "upgrade" loosely considering the move involved acquiring the tall, somewhat talented, and young Chris Volstad. The 6-8 right-hander is coming off a season in Chicago in which he went 3-12 with a 6.31 ERA (in the National League mind you). For his career, the former first round pick is 35-51 with a 4.87 ERA.

Let's focus on the good things regarding Chris Volstad. For instance, throughout his career he has shown a propensity to induce a high percentage (50.2%) of ground balls. Thanks to this, theoretically, Volstad's K:BB will never have to be too high in order to find some success. In fact, if Volstad can just get his K:BB over 2, he should be able to hold his own in a Major League rotation. Unfortunately, Volstad has done this just once in his career. In 2011, Volstad's K:BB came in at 2.39 and not coincidentally he posted the best xFIP of his career at 3.64.

Secondly, Volstad has age on his side and will be just 26 on Opening Day 2013. He just completed his first year of arbitration and will have two more years remaining before he is eligible to file for free agency. This could be viewed as either a positive or negative. On the positive side, if Volstad does rebound and right what appears to be a sinking ship, the Royals will be able to bring him back in 2014 at a fair cost. On the negative side, Volstad made $2.655 million in 2012 and will likely receive at least a small bump in pay for 2013.

At best, Volstad provides the Royals with a back up plan and perhaps even an alternative to tendering Luke Hochevar a contract. Hopefully, the Royals continue to operate with the notion that at least three starters need to be acquired. If for instance, the Royals are going to allow Volstad, Chen, and Mendoza to compete for the final two spots of the rotation, things could be worse.

What I can't help but believe is that in the Royals' minds they have just found an answer to one of their rotation holes. If you trust Bob Dutton, the Royals' budget would be stretched enough just to resign Jeremy Guthrie. If this turns out to be the case, then the Royals are only going to have the financial flexibility to bring in one additional starter, meaning that right now we may be looking at a rotation of Player X, Hochevar, Chen, Mendoza, and Volstad. Make no mistake that is an awful rotation.

At this point in time, Volstad is probably one of the best options available. However, the Royals don't have to build a rotation by November; the Royals have to build a rotation by March. What I fear, is that not only have the Royals just committed $3 million out of their budget, but have also taken on a great opportunity cost. If Volstad is taking up a spot in the rotation, that means the Royals have one less open space to, you know, actually find some improvement.

What is more concerning than this possibility, were Dayton Moore's comments regarding the move. By the sounds of it, he wanted to do everything in his power to tamper the expectations of a fan base that had recently been riled up by aggressive comments from ownership. Let's hope that these comments were simply an attempt to do that. If the comments turn out to be the truth regarding the offseason budget, the 2012-13 off season is going to be the one of the most disappointing in this franchise's history.

Lexington Legends and the Best Mustache in Baseball

Minor league baseball is more about entertainment, more about community, and more about ‘wow,’ than their big brothers in the Major League. They have to be. Their stadiums only hold a few thousand, their players are usually not Major League caliber, and to get people excited about the team – not just half price beer – you have to, sometimes, get a bit creative.

And I’m not sure if there has been any team more creative than the Lexington Legends in their re-branding efforts as a Kansas City Royals affiliate.

Before I begin, however, I suppose I should introduce myself. My name is Nathan Bramwell, and this is my first post (and beginning of my meteoric rise to the top of Kansas City sports media) for Royal Revival, a blog that I was invited to write for. If you recognize my name, it’s because I am a junior author for Arrowhead Addict, where I write about the Chiefs a couple of times a week. If you haven’t heard of me, then start reading Arrowhead Addict. Alright, enough with my shameless plug and back to this introduction business. I have always been a baseball fan and had the privilege of interning in minor league baseball this summer, where I gained an appreciation and fondness for the minor leagues and their unique and geographical specific brands and mascots.

I mean, how can you not enjoy names like the Richmond FlyingSquirrels, the Montgomery Biscuits, the Vermont Lake Monsters, and InlandEmpire 66ers; unique names with unique logos, and all with a background reason of why. Sure, professional sports teams everywhere can say the same thing, but minor league teams have the ability to border more on the ridiculous side.

While the Lexington Legends might not have the coolest name in the world, what their marketing efforts are doing this fall skips ridiculous and goes all the way to epic.

The Legends are making a mustache one of the team’s primary logos. 

According to, the Legends road hats will be a kelly-green with a Royal blue mustache adorning it. "Minor League Baseball is all about the 'wow' factor, and we wanted to go beyond the normal stuff you'd see at the ballpark," said Hall of Fame namesake Ty Cobb, the Legends director of creative services and graphic designer. "And we wanted to be the team to do this first, to have a mustache on a hat.”

"It started as kind of a joke," said Seth Poteat, the Legends General Manager. "But the more we talked about it, the more we said 'Why not?'"

Now, they didn't just come up with a mustache logo out of nowhere. It pays tribute to the team’s longstanding mascot, Big L (seen at the top), who has always had a mustache himself and been somewhat of a facial hair aficionado. “Our mascot, he actually has a mustache, so we're not just hopping on a fad. ... We're going to be easily recognizable when on the road,” said Cobb. “Fans can just look at the mustache.”

In a side note, it’s kind of weird that mustaches are a fad. My sister in high school walks around with I [heart] Mustache bracelets, and “I Mustache You a Question, But I’ll Shave it for Later” shirts. It’s quite disturbing. We were never this weird in high school, right …?

But I digress.

The Legends changes don’t stop there. According to the article, the mustachioed mascot rappelled down the 410-foot Lexington Financial Center while wearing the Legends' new uniforms. Upon hitting the ground and getting unharnessed, he showed off the new style amidst a large crowd that had gathered for downtown Lexington's recurring "Thursday Night Live" outdoor party.

The logo itself is also changing from a Big L with a smirk to a Big L with a scowl. The Legends are also the first to use the abbreviation ‘Lex’ as part of a sports logo. As far as linking the logo to the area, there is an illustration that depicts the white fences that are common amidst the region's many horse farms. Horses are referenced, again indirectly, on the team's alternate cap. The chiseled "Lex" font is meant to recall the chiseled drystone walls that line historic horse farms.

But let’s be honest, the mustache is the reason I wrote this article and the reason you've justified reading it. The mustache now makes the team legen – wait for it - dary. Legendary!

How many times do you think they've heard that joke?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Royal Rewind Wrap Up (10-22-12)

Yesterday as I was flipping through channels and trying to ignore the "must watch" TV of the third and final Presidential Debate, I came across "Royal Rewind" on Fox Sports Midwest.  It had already been going on for a half hour or so, but I caught most of the last half.  Here are some thoughts by a few Royals personnel from the Royal Rewind.  I am only paraphrasing what they said.

Ned Yost
  • Losing Paulino and Duffy hurt the most. Rotation would hinge around those guys and both were doing great at time they got hurt.
Although Felipe Paulino was pitching like an "ace" before he got hurt, Danny Duffy wasn't pitching exceptional.  Obviously, losing those two pitchers hurt the rotation badly, but one could also make an argument that losing Lorenzo Cain and Salvador Perez for the first half of the season was just as devastating. Oh and we were playing Yuniesky Betancourt.
  • Moose has improved, gold glove caliber third baseman. Production was pretty good for first full year in big leagues.
Mike Moustakas has improved, especially on defense.  He led all 3B in UZR in 2012 at 16.8. This mark put him ahead of the likes of David Wright, and Adrian Beltre.  Moose was also 2nd among 3B in the Majors in UZR/150 at 15.2 only behind David Wright at 16.8.  Moose was hot the first half of the season where he slugged .490 and hit 15 long balls.  Post All-Star Break he was awful. He had an OPS of .586 with a putrid 5 homers.  Don't get me wrong, I love Moustakas, and I still think in terms of his first year he had a real solid year overall.  But if the Royals want to compete for division championships Moose (or Hoz) will both have to be All-Star caliber players in my opinion.
  • Hoz really struggled
Boy did he.  Eric Hosmer was incredibly tough to watch most of the year; and not just at the plate.  He was hard to watch on defense as well, thanks to his windmill digging style and the tendency to fling the ball across the field.  Like Moustakas, Hosmer will have to become an All-Star caliber player in order for the Royals to compete year in and year out.
  • Ryan Lefebvre asked Ned something along the lines of it was as simple as starting pitching for the Royals to become a contender.
    • Ned: "It's that simple really" Experience is extremely valuable and core is set on the field (lineup).
    • Bullpen is efficient, need a couple starters and we should be in good shape.
Is it as simple as SP? Well in some ways yes it is.  We desperately need 2 or 3 starters that can pitch somewhat like Jeremy Guthrie did for the Royals, or even Luis Mendoza.  Luke Hochevar should not be in the rotation next year. Period.  I know I'm not the only fan who is saying this, in fact, its most likely a choir of Royals fans saying this.  I still think there is more to the Royals competing, and that is what I said earlier: Moustakas and Hosmer living up to star potential. Or at least one of them.

Steve Physioc
  • Holland was fantastic and has makeup and mentality to be a closer
I agree, he looked great. Love his strikeout ability.
  • Guthrie raised the entire rotation up, Mendoza pitched better (when Guthrie came) and Chen pitched better too.
Guthrie raised the rotation up because he pitched very well, Mendoza was consistently slightly above average and Bruce Chen was terrible for the most part, I don't get the love for Chen.

Rex Hudler
  • Bruce Chen set the tone for rotation
  • Led the entire season
  • "Raise the Roof in 13"
Oh Rex. Chen really led the staff all year with his 5.07 ERA and becoming the human launching pad by giving up 33 dingers on the year. You amaze me Rex.

In the Cross Hairs: Joe Blanton

For this edition of the "In the Cross Hairs" series, I wanted to continue to focus on finding a second tier option, that would theoretically be a good fit for Kauffman Stadium. After doing just a little bit of research, I kept coming back to one name. I'm sure that his name is one that you've heard before, but I can't help but think that he could be the steal of the offseason if the Royals pounce on the opportunity to grab him. That guy is Joe Blanton.

Joe Blanton was drafted 24th overall in the 2002 draft by the Oakland Athletics. In his nine Major League seasons since then, he has compiled an 83-75 career record with a 4.37 ERA. Outside of 2011, he has stayed off the disabled list and compiled on average 198 innings per season and over 31 starts. For Kansas City, the inning eater quality couldn't be more desirable. Of course, there are other reasons why Blanton has caught my eye.

Yes, ERAs of 4.71, 5.01, and 4.82 over the past three seasons aren't exactly awe-inspiring, but the numbers indicate that Blanton has in actuality been a much more valuable pitcher over that time frame. It is for that reason that I believe he could be the steal of the offseason if he lands in the right situation. Is Kansas City the right situation? I think so.

As has been discussed by this blog several times over the last few weeks, Kauffman Stadium is one of the more efficient parks in baseball in terms of suppressing home run totals. Of course oddly enough Blanton's primary downfall is his HR/FB. In fact, Blanton's HR/FB of 15.3% ranked fifth among qualifying pitchers and tops among 2013 free agents. I am willing to bet that moving forward, this number is closer to Blanton's career mark of 10.3% than that 2012 number.

There is another reason that I am optimistic for Blanton moving forward and that is his K:BB ratio. Here is Blanton's K:BB ratios from 2008 moving forward to 2012: 1.68, 2.76, 3.12, 3.89, 4.88. Obviously, a strikeout to walk ratio of nearly five is fantastic, but even if that number drops down closer to three that is a number that Blanton should theoretically be able to find a lot of success with.

These numbers that I have pointed out have shown themselves in Blanton's xFIP over the past several seasons. What is strange, is that for three consecutive seasons, Blanton's ERA and xFIP seemed to fall right in line with each other. However, almost immediately upon his arrival in Philadelphia, Blanton's xFIP began to lower thanks to improving peripherals, while his ERA began to really sky rocket.

Blanton will be just 32 years old on Opening Day 2013, and thanks to ERAs in the high fours and low fives over the past few seasons, there is a good chance he'll be significantly undervalued on the free agent market. His velocity is still strong and based off his 2012 results, he has put his 2011 injury woes in the rear view mirror.

If the Royals do sign Joe Blanton this offseason, my guess is that most Royals fans will approach the addition with sarcasm and frustration. They'll see a guy who is a back end innings eater that the Royals aren't upgrading with. But the draw here is that not only could Blanton's ERA rebound, he also isn't going to require a top dollar contract to bring him to Kansas City.

Blanton made $8.5 million in 2012, and I can't imagine him fetching much more on the open market. For me, Joe Blanton represents the perfect target for Kansas City. I'd be more than happy with a deal for 2-3 years and up to $6-8 million annually.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

In the Cross Hairs: Dan Haren

"Ignore the numbers, dude. You don't want Kyle, forget the fact that he won 16 games and had era under 3 this season.  It won't happen again."  Just some of the comments that have been said to me from anonymous Cardinals fans regarding the potential rotation candidate, Kyle Lohse.  I'd just like to point out that those aren't cogent reasons why any team should not look into signing any player.  Were they just making fun of us Royals fans for considering Kyle? I'll leave that to you.  Let's move on to another possible suitor the Royals can look to bolster the rotation for next season.

I stumbled across two different articles a couple nights ago, one suggesting the Royals go after a current Los Angeles Angels' pitcher.  No, it's not Zack Greinke.  I think that ship has taken its voyage to the 'Undying Lands of Valinor', but who knows, it could always come back.  According to inside MLB sources, Dan Haren is a possible candidate to land a job in Kansas City.  While throwing in three other uniforms (St. Louis, Oakland, Arizona), Haren has assembled a 119-97 record, 3.66 era, logging 1876.2 innings and a 7.6 SO/9 in his 10 year tenure in the bigs.  The article isn't saying much in terms of adding credibility, but it does go far enough to suggest some Major League sources are predicting Haren to sign with Kansas City.

Haren, 32, went 12-13 this season, posting a 4.33 era, throwing 176.2 innings, his lowest IP total since 2004, and striking out 142, while walking 38.  Although it wasn't by much, Haren faired better on the road, 3.95 era, than he did throwing at home in Los Angeles, posting a 4.68 era.  Mainly a groundball pitcher, Haren has averaged 43.2% GB to 36.9% FB via FanGraphs.  

For the 1st half of the season, Haren was dealing with back issues, which definitely has to be the culprit to his considerably down year.  He also has a $15.5 million option out on the table for the Angels to pick up.  It would not suprise me in the slightest if LA went ahead and picked up that option, considering the Angels were just inches away from making the playoffs, if it weren't for the magical season the Oakland Athletics put on display. However, at this point the buyout is more likely.

Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times interviewed Haren earlier this month after he threw his final game of the season (LA Times).  Being asked on the prospects of exploring free agency,

"I'm not looking to break the bank, I'm not looking to sign a Zack Greinke deal. I'm looking for whatever is fair. I'll have to see what happens. Players work hard to get to free agency. I've played nine years, and if I become a free agent, it would be stupid not to take advantage of that."  
The fact that Haren said he's looking for what's fair and not anything too lucrative is a definite plus.  The Royals front office should clearly take a stab at going after Haren this off-season. With money that needs to be spent on something that is needed desperately, Haren can come into camp with a fresh mind, putting last year behind him, and get his career back onto the right path.  I would predict him throwing at least 210 innings, era well below 4, and winning at least 14 games at 'The K' with much improved defense to back him up. If he's going to take advantage of free agency, he should be willing to hear any offer the Royals throw his way.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

In the Cross Hairs: Joe Saunders

For my first "In the Cross Hairs" post I wanted to write about a target that hasn't received as much discussion as other 2013 free agents. The name that I eventually landed on was Joe Saunders. In his career the 31 year-old left hander has thrown 692 innings, while compiling a 78-65 career record with a 4.15 ERA.

In 2012, Saunders pitched for both the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Baltimore Orioles going 9-13 with a 4.07 ERA. Saunders features a three pitch mix: fastball, curveball, and change up. His fastball averaged 88.9 mph in 2012. Despite the velocity of his fastball decreasing by a couple miles per hour over the last few seasons, according to Fangraphs the pitch was actually the most valuable it has been since 2009. Perhaps, the slightly diminished velocity has enabled Saunders to get more life on the ball, who knows? For some reason, I am not overly concerned.

What would also typically be a concern is Saunders' fly ball percentage, which typically has been among the highest in Major League Baseball. In 2012, Saunders' fly ball percentage stood at 35.6%. This mark is very consistent with Saunders' career tendencies (35.8%).

After the resurgence of Jeremy Guthrie and the former turnaround from Bruce Chen, both of which are fly ball pitchers in their own right, I can't help but wonder if Kauffman Stadium is an ideal fit for this type of pitcher. As we all know, Kauffman Stadium has deep power alleys and has historically suppressed home run totals.

Based on the park factors discussed in this post, last season Kauffman was very average in the home run department. It ranked 16th in all of baseball allowing just 2.8% more than the league average. However, according to, between 2008-2011 Kauffman Stadium kept home run totals at 20% below the league average. In case the team record of 36 home runs wasn't enough, this information also supports the theory that the 'K' keeps home run totals down.

This lends credence to the thought that fly ball pitchers could thrive in Kansas City. To try and keep things simple just consider this. Fly balls are converted into outs at a higher rate than ground balls. It is partly for this reason that player's holding higher ground ball percentages often have higher batting average on balls in play than their line drive percentages would seem to predict.

The reason that team's typically prefer ground ball pitchers is because, while ground balls may reach the outfield for more hits, they generally don't wind up in the seats. I am theorizing that if in fact Kauffman Stadium does do such a good job of keep fly balls in the yard, fly ball pitchers should fair better in Kansas City than most other stadiums.

I know this is nothing incredibly ground breaking, but I do believe this line of thinking has been largely overlooked by many including the Royals front office. This is a bit of a continuation from a previous post, but maybe this is one way in which the Kansas City Royals could play to their park and achieve a stronger home field advantage.

As far as Joe Saunders goes, not only should we note that he is a fly ball pitcher, but we should also note where he has been a fly ball pitcher. In 2012, Joe Saunders threw 130 innings with the Arizona Diamondbacks, while calling Chase Field his home. Of course, Chase Field ranks sixth in home runs PF allowing 19.2 percent more than a truly neutral park. At midseason, Saunders was traded to the Baltimore Orioles, whose home park ranked fifth in home run PF, allowing 31.4% above neutrality.

Despite the recipe for disaster in coupling a fly ball pitcher with home run friendly parks, Saunders poured in arguably the best season of his career posting a lower xFIP (4.25) than he had in his first seven big league seasons. He was able to accomplish this by upping his K/9 to 5.77, while finishing with the lowest BB/9 of his career at 2.01.

If Saunders is in fact a free agent, as MLB Trade Rumors indicates (Baseball Reference says he has one more year of arbitration), Joe Saunders could be an interesting target for the Kansas City Royals. If he isn't a free agent, perhaps he could come for cheap via trade. Saunders made $6 million in 2012, and will likely garner a similar salary in 2013. He isn't a flashy guy, but he could very well be a terrific fit in Kauttman Stadium.

I give my endorsement if the Royals can grab him on a one year contract for around $6 million or a two year deal for around $10 million. At Kauffman I would envision Saunders logging around 200 innings with an ERA just below 4. How many pitchers in the last ten years have the Royals had that we can say that of?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Is Kauffman Stadium too Neutral?

While watching the Oakland A's pull off one of the most magical seasons in recent memory, I thought back to a discussion I had with a friend of mine over the summer. The discussion began simply on the premise of what has Billy Beane figured out that has allowed his team to be so damn good. Eventually, what I started to realize was that the A's had simply developed a supreme understanding for what it takes to win at the Coliseum.

Of course, this thought got me to wondering how other team's have taken advantage of their home field advantages in the 2012 season. The Coliseum with its batting average and offensive suppressed environment. Yankee stadium with its distinctive jet stream blowing out to right field. The launching pads of Cincinnati, Texas, and Baltimore. The spacious outfields in Detroit and San Francisco. The more I thought about it, the more obvious it became.

As a Royals fan, this of course left me wondering one of two things. First, are the Royals not taking advantage of Kauffman like they could be? Or, is Kauffman Stadium too neutral?

Here's a snapshot of the percentage of home games won (out of total wins) by each of the 2012 playoff teams and the Kansas City Royals:

Detroit: .568 (t5th)
St. Louis: .568 (t5th)
Texas: .538 (12th)
New York: .537 (13th)
Oakland: .532 (15th)
Cincinnati: .515 (19th)
Kansas City: .514 (20th)
Atlanta: .511 (t21st)
San Francisco: .511 (t21st)
Washington: .510 (24th)
Baltimore: .505 (26th)

Interestingly enough these teams are incredibly, evenly dispersed. Obviously, my initial hypothesis that the 2012 playoff teams took advantage of their home fields more than other teams is not valid. However, that doesn't mean that improvement in the Royals' home field advantage is any less important.

Just think, if Kansas City would have managed to be average in home field advantage and win .53% of their total 2012 wins, they would have won three additional games. This would have made their home record 40-41 and their final record 75-87 for the year. Keep in mind that is only asking the Royals to be average in terms of home field advantage. 

What if the Royals could proficiently take advantage of the confines of Kauffman Stadium. For fun let's look at where they would have wound up if they would have been as dominate at home as Detroit and St. Louis. If the Royals would have recorded 56.8% of their wins at home in 2012, their final record would have been even at 81-81. 

Consider that number for a second.  The Royals, without improving their talent level at all and simply taking advantage of a strong home field advantage, could have finished the 2012 season with eight more wins. This leads us to the obvious question: does Kauffman Stadium offer a uniqueness that the Royals could exploit for more wins?

Below is a radar displaying the park factors of every Major League stadium. The farther away from the midpoint, the more extreme the park factor.

And here is that information in table form. Keep in mind that each park factor has been converted into a number displaying how far the factor is from zero. The cells are then color coded (green = neutral, red = extreme). The teams are organized based off of which teams won the highest percentage of their games at home, or if you'd prefer, which teams most took advantage of their home field.

Unfortunately, based on the park factors, there aren't any specific characteristics of Kauffman Stadium that stand out for being incredibly unique compared to other parks around the league. The only factor that even comes being close to not being league average is triples, where Kauffman Stadium boosts triple numbers to 25.7% above the league average.

For a team that is trying to increase their win total by about 15 games from 2012 to 2013, every win is crucial. One thing the Royals have to improve on is their home field advantage. In 2013, in order for the Royals to really start to close the gap, it would be a huge help to have at least an average home field advantage, even if that was only worth three additional wins in the standings.

Unfortunately, looking at the numbers it is hard to imagine the Royals building a team around Kauffman Stadium. Based off the above information, it would appear that Kauffman Stadium is simply too neutral. With that being said, there is another stadium whose park factors very closely resemble those to Kauffman.

As you can see, based off the extremity of the park factors (bottom two rows, displaying how far the park factor is from average), Kauffman Stadium and Busch Stadium are very similar to one another. However, when you look at straight up park factors, they are virtually mirror images over each other when straddling the league average marks.

Either way, both are very close to playing neutral and despite that the 2012 Cardinals were able to win the fifth highest percentage of their total wins at home. If the Royals can replicate that feat at Kauffman Stadium in 2013, it would only take marginal improvement from the roster for Kauffman to get to host its first playoff game since 1985.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Building Depth in the Rotation

"Hopefully, Odorizzi, Smith and Adock are all pitching at Omaha when the season starts." -Royals Club Official
I don't know about you, but this is exactly the kind of quotation I was looking to hear heading into the offseason. I was pretty clear in my last post, that I believe it would be fantastic for the depth of the rotation if the three aforementioned starters began the season in Omaha. It is good to hear that at least one person in the Royals front office shares a similar sentiment.

This is a stark difference than in the past, when Dayton Moore and company were hesitant to block the paths of Major League ready youngsters. Last offseason, it appeared that Edwin Jackson was a perfect fit on a one year deal to bolster a rotation that was clearly going to be a team weakness. Instead, Dayton Moore stood by what he had, stating that they didn't want to take away any spots that could be used for evaluation. Hopefully heading into the 2013 season, we can put aside the notion that we are going to make it through the season with just five starters.

So if the Royals achieve their goal, how many starters will they need to acquire? Right now, they've got Bruce Chen, Luis Mendoza, and Luke Hochevar. If they keep Hochevar, they'll need to acquire two starters. If they cut Hochevar, they'll need three. I've said before that I believe the latter is the optimum route if you are serious about turning around this rotation.

The problem is that the Royals may not feel comfortable cutting Hochevar knowing that they need to fill three spots in the rotation. As easy as we like to believe that may be, it is no small task for any front office. Not to mention, the money involved may be too much. If this is the case, the Royals may feel they have to keep Hochevar in order to have the necessary depth to start the three aforementioned pitchers in Omaha. Obviously, most of us want them to find a way to fill three spots in the rotation so that Hochevar may be cut, while building depth. Let's hope the Royals can find a way to make us happy.

Self Appointed Best Fans in Baseball

Two weeks ago, Miguel Cabrera stood in front of the Kansas City faithful as they gave him a standing ovation. As we are all aware, Cabrera had just accomplished the incredible feat of baseball’s Triple Crown. Despite doing so in front of an opposing crowd, it was awesome to see the fans at Kauffman Stadium give him his due.

Unfortunately, the national media, instead of patting Kansas City’s fan base on the back, will choose to continue to perpetuate the idea that Royals fans unfairly booed Robinson Cano for not selecting a Royal to take part in the home run derby. The same national media members won’t take the time to understand that Royals fans weren’t booing that evening because Billy Butler had been left out by Cano; Royals fans were booing because Cano outright lied about including Billy Butler in the Derby.  If you believe that isn’t a booable offense that is fine, but at least provide the rest of the country with an accurate depiction. I don’t think that is too much to ask, after all it is your job.

Fast forward to Thursday night in Oakland, when another awesome gesture was put forth by the home crowd.  If you were watching the game, you’ll know what I am talking about. Following the final out of a 6-0 game 5 loss to Detroit, what appeared to be virtually every A’s fan in attendance began chanting ‘Let’s Go A’s!’.  I may be wrong, but while the camera panned across the stadium, there were only a handful of people making their way toward the exits.

It isn’t that uncommon for a team to play its final game of the season and the home crowd to give a courtesy clap as they walk on the field, but what happened on Thursday in Oakland was special. The Oakland crowd clearly knew that they were playing with house money. Did they want to win the World Series? No doubt. But were they able to stand back and truly appreciate what they had just witnessed? Yes, probably better than any fan base I’ve ever seen.  It was an incredibly classy gesture put forth by a fan base that is often spit on by those around baseball including people within the A’s own front office.

Of course, what made the A’s fans’ class even more noticeable was the timing. Just a few hours prior to the A’s defeat, the Cardinals had fallen on a walk off home run by Jayson Werth. Now I may have a poor sample of the Cardinal Nation, but it was amazing how harsh Cardinals’ fans were on Lance Lynn. Let’s just be blunt, without Lance Lynn’s spectacular first half there is the possibility that the Cardinals wouldn’t have reached the postseason, but apparently the self-appointed best fans in baseball have short term memories.

We also shouldn’t forget about the ridiculous manner in which the Cardinals’ fan base attempted to vilify Albert Pujols last offseason. Instead of wishing him well as he took what was clearly a better offer in Los Angeles, they acted as if their wife had just cheated on them. I understand the frustration, but do not act like he was obligated to stay in St. Louis. Baseball was a business, is a business, and will always be a business. Oh, and if you are going to root for him to fail, keep it to yourself. The antagonistic, self-interested vendetta isn’t a good look on anyone, let alone an organization that low balled the best player in baseball and then acted as if he was the party at fault.

There may have been a time when St. Louis Cardinals fans attended games and supported, not just their team, but the game of baseball with the utmost class. There may have been time when their fan base didn’t rub their success in the faces of the rest of the baseball world. There may have even been a time when Cardinals fans were humble and proud of their success but also aware that it wasn’t a given. If these days did exist they have long since passed.

Instead, an entire generation of Cardinals fans have been socialized in a different way than their predecessor. I don’t blame their arrogance on the fans themselves. Baseball has socialized the Cardinals fan base to be who they are. We may have to accept it, but let’s not continue passing along the notion that Cardinals fans are better. We can at least do this for their own good.

Imagine trying to raise a child while the entire world told them that they were not only the best, but that they were more intelligent than anyone else and that they could never be outclassed as well. Of course that child is going to grow up to pretty much be the opposite of all those things. This is the exact socialization process that Cardinals fans have undergone. It should be no shock to anyone that the youngest part of the fan base is arrogant, entitled and looks down on every other fan base in baseball, preaching about the game to others.

Even on top of the socialization aspect, it hasn’t helped that over the last two decades, the Cardinals have lived an incredibly charmed life. It is as if the Baseball Gods determined that after enduring Don Deckinger’s call in 1985, every pivotal moment forward would go the Cardinals way. I think that the last twelve months have been evidence enough, and I can’t help but wonder how long before the pendulum swings the other way.

Don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely jealous of the Cardinals success. Every time they reach the postseason, I can’t help but envy the feeling of getting to root for my team in October. Do I root against the Cardinals in most situations? I will admit that I do, but I will also applaud them when Jon Jay makes a spectacular catch or David Freese does his thing in crucial situations. But let me be perfectly clear, I love Kansas City, I love the Royals, and I love our fan base. We don’t need a self appointed title to love our team and to love the game of baseball with class.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What to do with Joakim

"I just have to wait and see what they do," Joakim Soria said. "It's better for me and my family (to stay with the Royals). My wife is pregnant. I'm just focusing on my rehab." 
To me that sounds like a guy that really wants to stay in Kansas City. The Royals of course would have to want him back and then both sides would have to reach some sort of agreement to make Soria's return a reality.

As I'm sure you are aware Soria has an $8 million option for 2013 with a $750K buyout clause that would need to be enacted within three days of the World Series in order for the Royals to decline it. This of course is a given and no big secret that the Royals will act on the buyout clause. My hope is that before allowing Soria to reach the open market, the two sides can work out a way to get him back to Kansas City for 2013.

One would normally expect a pending free agent to not act early on a one year incentive laden deal without first testing the open market. However, Soria could just be that rare case that goes against the grain. The dude has obviously enjoyed his time in Kansas City and I do believe that he genuinely wants to be there. Also, based on the comment above, it sounds as though he doesn't want to have to move his family in the middle of a pregnancy.

The Royals clearly are going to be focused in on acquiring starting pitching this offseason. However, if the Royals can nab Soria on a team friendly enough deal, I don't think they should hesitate to pull the trigger. The bullpen was brilliant in 2012, but every team could always use another reliever.

Another thing to consider, is that just a couple of months ago the Royals did mention the possibility that Aaron Crow, Kelvin Herrera, or Tim Collins could transition to the rotation in 2013. This could be a similar situation to the Jonathan Broxton signing, where the Royals strengthened their bullpen in anticipation of one of the backend relievers transitioning to the rotation.

Last season, the Royals signed Broxton to a one year deal worth $4 million and an additional $1 million in incentives. If the Royals can get Soria back on a similar deal, I am all for it. Yes, money needs to be devoted to the rotation, but like I said this is a move that makes sense for both parties.

I was at the game in last Spring when Joakim Soria grabbed his arm and saw his season come to an end. As a Royals fan, Joakim Soria has provided me so many fond memories. I'm obviously a little biased, but I  would prefer my last memory of Joakim Soria, to be something a little more exciting than the final memory I currently have in my mind.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Don't Stop Until You Reach Three

Unfortunately, Rany beat me to a post that I have been daydreaming about in my head for quite some time, but I am going to ahead and write it anyway. If I am merely echoing his sentiments that is fine, but here are my thoughts on how the Royals should approach the rotation moving from 2012 to 2013.

From where it stands right now, I believe that if the Royals are serious about winning in 2013, they need to bring in at the very least two starters better than what they currently have in the organization. If the Royals really want to win, then I think three is the number that they should strive for. If the 2013 season started tomorrow, here is the rotation Kansas City fans would have to look forward to:

  1. Luke Hochevar
  2. Bruce Chen
  3. Luis Mendoza
  4. Jake Odorizzi
  5. Will Smith
  6. Everett Teaford
  7. Nate Adcock
The reason that I am listing seven pitchers, is because for once the Royals need to approach the rotation with depth in mind. Last year, they made it blatantly clear that they didn't want to bring in anymore starters because it would block their own prospects from reaching the Bigs. Here is the deal, these things will work themselves out. So not only should this offseason be about filling out the rotation, but it should also be about creating a situation in which there are other options available should the starters that open in the rotation falter or fall to injury.

The Royals absolutely and unequivocally need to cut ties with Luke Hochevar. Interestingly, by cutting ties with Hochevar, you actually improve the flexibility necessary to build a stronger rotation with more depth. The reason for this, is that if Hochevar's rotation spot has an opportunity cost, that equates to not only having to deal with Luke Hochevar in the rotation, but also it means that you have one less rotation slot available in which to improve. 

I don't think I am breaking any ground by suggesting the Royals cut ties with Hochevar. Based on my payroll charts, if the Royals cut tie with Hochevar they will be sitting in the low $50 million range for financial commitments in 2013. Now Bob Dutton speculates that the Royals have between $20-23 million in payroll space for 2013. However, in 2009 the Royals payroll reached nearly $80 million, so depending on estimates it isn't beyond reason to believe that the Royals could have up to $30 million to play with this offseason.

Should he Royals spend that much in one offseason? That debate is for another post. Do the Royals have that much space long term? Probably not. However, it is pretty clear that for the first time in my memory the Kansas City Royals and their ownership have made it clear that money will be spent in the offseason. If not for any other reason, that makes me extremely excited for the hot stove to heat up.

So back to pitching. Obviously, I would love to see the Royals bring back Jeremy Guthrie, but only at the right price. I know he was fantastic in his time in Royals blue, but we can't forget that he was dreadful in Colorado and we need to remember that the market probably won't forget either. However, based off some of the comments we have seen recently it appears that Jeremy Guthrie has become a pivotal part of the Royals offseason.

Secondly, the Royals need to go out and bring in a starter that is just as good or better than Guthrie. This is the guy that is likely to really force the Royals to really break the bank. Will they be willing to go all in for the Zack "the Prodigal Son" Greinke? I seriously doubt it. However, guys like Shaun Marcum, Edwin Jackson, Kyle Lohse, and Anibal Sanchez would also strengthen the Royals current rotation.

Finally, and here is where we get to the depth part of the discussion, I want to see the Royals take a flyer on a buy low guy. A guy like Ervin Santana would be the kind of high upside that would be great in this role. Another guy that would interest me would be the Twins' Scott Baker should they decline his $9.25 million club option. 

So here's what our rotation would look like moving into 2013. I'm going to go with the guys my gut tells me are the most likely fits.

  1. Shaun Marcum
  2. Jeremy Guthrie
  3. Ervin Santana
  4. Luis Mendoza
  5. Bruce Chen
  6. Jake Odorizzi
  7. Will Smith
  8. Everett Teaford
  9. Nate Adcock
But there is one more thing I think the Royals need to absolutely do in an attempt to turn around their rotation and that is to truly attempt a conversion of Aaron Crow from the bullpen to the rotation. I agree with most everyone in that he profiles better as a reliever than a starter. However, there is a part of me that strongly believes that if the Royals are looking for cheap high upside options in the rotation, they should look no farther than the former Missouri Tiger.

The Royals should commit to Crow's conversion to the rotation for at least the first half of 2013. If Crow isn't cutting it, you have Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy ready to break into the rotation.

If things were to shake out as planned in Spring Training you would have a rotation of:

  1. Shaun Marcum
  2. Jeremy Guthrie
  3. Ervin Santana
  4. Aaron Crow
  5. Bruce Chen
As far as the depth goes, you would have quite a bit of it. Luis Mendoza, arguably the best starter on the team in 2012 would be the swing man in the pen.Jake Odorizzi and Will Smith, two near Major League ready starters, would go to Omaha to receive more development knowing that to earn spots they have to force the organization's hand. Finally, there is Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy, possibly the best two starters in the organization at the moment, returning sometime in July. Providing the Royals rotation with two very strong alternatives to any injuries or poor performance. 

No the rotation doesn't have an ace. However, this is a rotation that absolutely could give Royals fans a summer to remember. The upside is absolutely there. Even if Aaron Crow doesn't handle the transition,  Ervin Santana continues his tailspin into awfulness, or Bruce Chen continues to give up the gopher ball, there is depth available to improve.

It is probably asking for a lot to state that the Royals need to acquire three starters. I will also readily admit that I am no expert when it comes to predicting player's value on the open market, but hey neither is Dayton Moore. For example, in order to acquire the aforementioned starters, the Royals would likely need at least $20-25 million to play with. One would have to hope the Royals could nab Guthrie for around $7.5 million, Marcum for a nice hometown discount at around $8 million, and Santana for an incentive laden deal with a base around $6 million. (We will try to look at many of these targets much more in depth over the coming weeks.)

Whoever the targets are, let's just hope Dayton Moore can grab them at the best cost possible and the Royals don't just stop at one addition. I truly believe this team is close. I have an anxious feeling regarding the 2012-13 offseason and I can't help but think that it will be the defining moment of the Dayton Moore era. One way or another the next few months should be exciting.

In the Cross Hairs: Kyle Lohse

Pitching.  It's what most of the organizations in baseball has in their arsenal and it's the one key area Kansas City desperately need.  It's going to take some dedication and time for GMDM and his staff to come up with the plan to acquire the personnel we need for the rotation when February rolls around.  Oh, and the fact that David Glass said he would be willing to spend some bucks.  Saying we certainly need our front office to come through this winter is an understatement.

Anyway, a few days ago, Bob Dutton posted a very good article on a few specific guys the Royals have their eyes on, a list of other possibilites, etc.  I looked over it and saw a couple names I liked, a few I didn't.  One of the names I looked into a little longer was (hopefully some of you will agree with me) Kyle Lohse.

Lohse is climbing in age, but has been fairly solid for the Cardinals the past 2 years. Courtesy of FanGraphs, 16-3, 2.86 era with opponents hitting .234 this season, respectively. Along with his lowest BB/9 season of his career with 1.6, he also piled up a groundball rate of 40.5% and a flyball rate of 35.6%.  I think Lohse would be a good fit playing at The K. While throwing strikes and putting balls into play, the Royals much improved defense can definitely play a beneficial role for Kyle.

Here's the kicker: he threw 211 innings this season, the most since 2008.  So far, he has thrown in the very "Wild" wild card game against the Braves last Friday, going 5.2 innings and giving up just 2 ER.  Depending on how Game 2 goes against the Nationals, Lohse will most likely get the nod for game 3 if the Cards' lose, even though Chris Carpenter is scheduled to start.

One more point of interest.  After the season concludes, Lohse will have made just under $12 million this season ($11,875,000 to be exact).  Signing him to a 1-2 year deal, I'd be willing to give him around that ballpark, considering Jeremy Guthrie made $8.2 million this year.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

David Glass Interview

From the bottom of the 2nd to the end of the 3rd inning in tonight's season finale, Ryan and the Wonder Dog caught up with Owner David Glass, discussing how the team has played this season, scenarios for the off-season, this year's MVP, and other hot topics.  Here are some of the notes I took from Glass:

- State of the Royals: "Dayton and his people have done a fantastic job.  Our major goal coming in was to build up our Minor League systems and I feel very good where we are right now."

- "Watching during Spring Training, I thought we would play .500 baseball this year."

- Glass is going to allow whatever it takes to get pitching this off-season.

- Wasn't too confident about trading.

- 1st time in a very long time that we have enough prospects to trade for good starting pitching.

- "You're a baseball fan aren't ya Mr. Glass?!" - Rex.  (Thanks for chiming in there Wonder Dog.)

- "We're committed to win here in Kansas City.  This town will have the Royals for a very long time.  I think we would be in the playoff hunt right now if it weren't for Paulino and Duffy going down."

- "As for Dayton, he makes the call on whether we have to fill the holes internally or to go out and sign somebody.  I trust Dayton and his people's judgement."

- "Our pitching is developing very well throughout the organization.  Not only pitching, but some of our newly drafted kids.  Bubba Starling will do great things, so will that Mondesi kid we've got."

- "Guthrie and Sanchez were essentially the same player, but once we brought Jeremy here to KC, he was a totally different player."

- Glass on the A's, "I didn't think they would be good, watching them in Spring Training early this year."

I was glad to hear that David would 'do whatever it takes to get pitching.'  Now I was concerned about how he wasn't sure about trading.  To me, he probably meant he wasn't sure if trading prospects is the best way to go.  I'm very curious as to how Dayton and his team will go about getting pitching during the winter. One thing we can all agree on: pitching is in dire need for our rotation.  Whether we look into young arms to fill the void, or go after say Shawn Marcum, Edwin Jackson or even Zack Greinke, it's all in GMDM's hands. Remember Dayton: Mr. Glass has your back and will help! (So he says tonight...).