Tagged: Royals

Update to AL Central

How could I forget this, anyway?  

In discussing the Royals I neglected to include both a mention of or a link to Aaron Gleeman’s discovery that Alex Gordon is too good for them.  Hmm.  On the other hand, the Royals have played their way out of the cellar without Gordon, so I wonder….*deep breath* no, correlation is not causation, correlation is not causation…etc. 
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AL Central

Note: a “straight
run differential projection” is based on a team’s actual runs scored and
runs allowed.  A “component runs projected” is based on
basic runs created and component ERA without the adjustment to make it an ERA figure (i.e. IP and
the multiplication by 9 not included).  I then applied the
Pythagorean
Formula
with an exponent of
1.83.

In American League Central
Division news, the supine Pirates and the battling Braves combined to help
knock a couple of games off the margin between the second-place Tigers and the
division leading Twins.  The White Sox may yet make a move, but whether
it’s towards the division lead or in the trade market remains an open question.
 The Royals and the Indians appear a bit lost, but more on that below.

 

INDIANS

The Indians are 25-40
with a .385 winning percentage, 12.5 games behind the division lead.  They
are 11th in the AL in scoring at 4.25 runs/game, and they are 12th in the AL in
run prevention at 5.05 runs allowed per game.  Their straight run differential
projection is for 65 wins with a .404 winning percentage; their component run
projection puts them with 61 wins and a .378 winning percentage.  Cover
your eyes, Indians fans, it kind of gets worse from here.

Over the past two
weeks, the Indians are 6-8 and, though things were looking up as they went 6-5
over the first eleven games of that stretch, they just got
 swept by the Mets.  In fact, the Tribe has dropped four straight games.
 (Informally and on a sad note: the curse of Rocky Colavito sure is living
on.)  In the last fourteen games, the Indians have scored 80 runs, 5.71
runs/game, which is impressive, and they have allowed 69 runs in that stretch
(4.93 runs allowed per game).  They have been unlucky, since they scored
11 more runs in the past two weeks than they’ve allowed, but, on the other
hand, they have “wasted” some other offensive output, winning two
blowouts, 10-1 over the White Sox and 11-0 over Red Sox.  Outside of those
two games, and over the other twelve, they have scored 59 and allowed 68, which
projects out to a .429 winning percentage, or about two games under .500 over
that stretch, which mirrors their actual record.  Clearly, however, their
runs scoring and run prevention has been better over the past two weeks has
been better than it has been over the season as a whole.  I don’t know if
this a reason to be optimistic in Cleveland, as their component run
differential is pretty sad (a net [that is runs scored – runs allowed] of -86
versus -66 in the actual runs scored vs. runs allowed figures), which bodes ill
for the future.  And then there’s that whole Rocky Colavito thing…(hey,
I’m a Twins fan, and I still hate Frank Lane just for Cleveland’s–and Terry
Pluto’s–sake).

The Indians’ upcoming
schedule has them headed to Pittsburgh–which, given the pathetic, Orioles-like
mess that is the Pirates, could help the Tribe out–then on to Philadelphia and
Cincinnati before retuning home to face the Blue Jays in bringing June to a
close.

Indians fans may again
want to hide their eyes, for the Royals have quietly crept out of the cellar
and passed them for fourth place in the division.  In fact, it looks like
Cleveland will be preparing for the old player roulette once again; that is,
they will likely be dealing, and Matt Kaassen at FanGraphs
 makes the case for just such action.  John Parent also makes the argument, and I really like the
idea of Russell Branyan going to the Angels.  

Rookie catcher Carlos
Santana has experienced both the
 good and bad in his first week of Major League experience.
 
Mitch Talbot is experiencing some growing pains, though he’s been one of the few real rays of sunshine in
Cleveland so far this season, aside from the awesome and underrated
 Shin-Soo Choo.  My problem with Talbot is his, well, terrible K/BB rate.

Finally, after
watching Sunday’s game, Is there
 trouble with the mound in Progressive Field? 

 

ROYALS

The Royals are 29-38,
with a .433 winning percentage, 9.5 games behind the division lead.
 Despite having an exceptional team batting average (.278 to lead the AL),
they are only 8th in the AL in scoring at 4.62 runs per game.  They are
13th in AL in run prevention at 5.14 runs allowed per game.  Their
straight run differential projection is for 72 wins and a .445 winning
percentage, with a component run projection of also 72 runs and a .445 winning
percentage.  Hey, the Royals actual run differential and component run
differential actually match up.

Over the past two
weeks the Royals are 7-6.  They have scored 74 runs, or 5.69 runs per
game, while they’ve allowed 67 runs, which would 5.15 runs allowed per game.
 First of all, their run prevention is as consistently bad as it had been
all season.  Second, while their offense appears to have performed much
better over the past two weeks, they
 did put 15 on the board in just one of those
games, meaning they scored 59 in the other twelve games, or slightly less than
5 per game.  With their consistently dismal run prevention, it is actually
quite impressive that they are over .500 in the last two weeks.  Having
crept out of the cellar and passed the Indians for fourth place in the
division, the Royals’ month-ending series with the White Sox may have some
(small) significance, most likely for trade-market activity by one or both of
those teams later this summer.

The Royals’ upcoming
schedule takes them first to Atlanta for the weekend before traveling to
Washington; they will then return home to face the Cardinals and the White Sox
to end the month of June.

Fortunately for the
Royals and their woeful run prevention,
 Zach Greinke may be getting back on track.  With the Royals actually giving him some run support
Greinke might well chalk up more wins for Kansas City.  Greinke will start
Sunday in Atlanta against their unknown new rotation piece,
 Kris Medlen

Most of the news out
of and/or concerning the Royals, however, concerns their
 willingness to deal.  GM Dayton Moore apparently said he expects to be busy.  One point of concern will be maximizing
the value the Royals can get for David DeJesus
.  Matt Klaassen considers what the Royals should do, and it makes for some bleak reading since
the best piece Klaassen identifies as potential trade-bait is the Royals pride
and joy, closer
 Joakim Soria.

 

TIGERS

The Tigers are 34-29
with a .554 winning percentage.  The 1.5 games behind the division lead.
 They are 9th in the AL in scoring at 4.41 runs/game, and they are 5th in
the AL in run prevention allowing 4.40 runs per game.  The Tigers’ straight
run differential projection is 86 wins and a .532 winning percentage; their
component run projection is for 89 wins and a .550 winning percentage.  

Over the past two
weeks, the Tigers are 9-4, and they’ve scored 73 runs (5.63 runs/game) while
allowing 60 runs or 4.62 runs allowed per game.  One thing to consider is
that they allowed 15 runs in one of their losses, meaning that if we exclude
that game they have allowed an average of 3.75 runs/game over that two week
period.  The Tiger are hot, the
 winners of six straight, and they have been scoring a lot more runs per game and
allowing a lot fewer than they have over the season as a whole. 

The Tigers’ upcoming
schedule has them hosting Arizona this weekend; the D-Backs  that just got
swept by Boston.  Following that series, the Tigers visit the Mets, Braves
and Twins to finish June.  Now,
 that’s a challenging road-trip.  Leyland will be chaining
them down for the duration.

In their last win, the
Tigers got both a strong start from Jeremy Bonderman while also
 bashing 19 hits.  Bonderman’s strong performance in their latest win must
be encouraging for both the Tigers and their fans, for given that they trail
the Twins by only a game and a half, consistent pitching from another starting
pitcher would be a happy sign.  

In a surprising item,
one that defies the baseball conventional wisdom as filtered to us by color
analysts and lazy columnists,
 Jim Leyland completely dissed the concept of team chemistry in
a fashion–and language–that reminds of certain sabermetric analysis that
similarly disses that unmeasurable intangible–clubhouse chemistry–in almost
the same terms.

 

TWINS

The Twins are 38-20
with a winning percentage of .576, and they lead the AL Central Division,
though their lead is down to only 1.5 games.  They are 5th in the AL in
scoring with 4.75 runs/game, and they are 2nd in the AL in run prevention
allowing only 3.88 runs/game.  The Twins’ straight run differential
projection is 94 wins and a .582 winning percentage.  Their component run
projection is 90 wins and a .558 winning percentage.  Component run
projections thus have the Twins and Tigers neck-and-neck for the division
title.

Over the past two
weeks the Twins are 7-6, scoring 54 runs (4.15 runs/game) while allowing 50
runs (3.85 runs/game).  So, the offense has been down over the past two
weeks, and while
 Delmon Young has
had a great June (.937 OPS) so far, both
 Denard Span (.526
OPS)
 and Joe Mauer (.773 OPS which isn’t bad, but it’s not Joe
Mauer-ish) have not, and in the absence of Orlando Hudson, the second spot in
the lineup has been
 absolutely awful, and is a glaring concern.  The upcoming schedule has the
Twins on the road versus Philadelphia, Milwaukee and the New York Mets before
they return home to close the month by hosting the currently second-place
Detroit Tigers.

While Francisco Liriano has been spectacular, and while there has also been some talk
among the Twins’ faithful regarding
 whether or not Liriano deserves to start the All-Star Game, Liriano was outdueled by Rockies’ super-stud Ubaldo Jimenez on Thursday morning.   Scott Baker overcame some recent
inconsistency to
 pitch a true gem on Wednesday night, contributing a mammoth .430 WPA as the Twins edged the Rockies 2-1.

The Twins are currently sizing up their needs entering summer and the heart of the pennant
race.  One rumor making the rounds is whether or not the Twins should
pursue Mike Lowell of the Boston Red Sox;
 Aaron Gleeman ponders here, noting that’s he’d be a definite upgrade over what the Twins
have now, while
 Parker Hageman discusses over here, noting that Target Field will not help
Lowell’s power figures at all.

If you’re curious
about the Twins’ organization’s position players,
 this may be helpful, and if you’re curious about the organization’s pitchers, this might help.

 

WHITE SOX

The White Sox are
31-34, with a .477 winning percentage, and they are 6.5 games behind in the
division  They are 10th in the AL in scoring at 4.33 runs/game, and also
10th in the AL in run prevention at 4.76 runs allowed per game.  Their
straight run differential projection is for 76 wins with a .471 wining
percentage, while their component run projection is for 74 wins and a .455
winning percentage.

Over the past two
weeks, the White Sox are 9-4, including taking 2 of 3 from the Tigers, 2 of 3
from the Cubs, and sweeping the supine Pirates in their last three series. They
have scored 64 runs (4.92 runs/game) and they have allowed 50 runs (3.75 runs
allowed per game) over that period of time.  Clearly they have been
 much  better at scoring and preventing runs
over the past two weeks than over the season as a whole.  This improved
performance is the likely cause for GM Ken Williams walking back earlier
indications that he might be willing to turn over the roster, and his recent
indication that he’ll
 stand pat rather than trading pieces off.  (Williams is also downplaying reports of friction between him and manager Ozzie Guillen.)

Chicago’s upcoming
schedule has them heading to Washington, where they will have the delight of
facing Stephen Strasburg on Friday; they will then return home to host the
Braves and the Cubs before heading to Kansas City to end the month of June.

The White Sox would like to see Carlos Quentin return to his 2008 form.
 In other quarters, however, there is a question as to
 whether Quentin’s career can be saved at all.

While Quentin has been
surprisingly bad,
 Alex Rios has also been a surprise as
he’s been performing extremely well.  

In bad news, Jake
Peavy has been experiencing
 right shoulder pain.  

For their sake, Peavy needs to be healthy, for the Sox have a chance towards the end of the month the pick up some ground on the division leaders, for the face reeling Washington, the Cubs, and the Royals over the same period of time that the Tigers have to face tough teams including the Twins.

 

 

 

Wednesday Night at Target Field

The Twins beat the Royals 6-2 Wednesday night in front of the largest crowd in Target Field History.  The Twins are averaging attendance of 38875 at home, good for 3rd in the AL, and hosted over 40000 in their 26th consecutive sellout.

Starting pitcher Carl Pavano was great for the Twins–a far cry from his last start at home versus Kansas City–contributing a game-high .290 WPA in the win as he allowed six hits and two walks in eight solid innings of work, improving his record to 6-6 and his ERA to 3.92. It’s gotta’ be that mustache.
 Jon Rauch worked a scoreless ninth, even though it was not a save situation.  The Twins nickled-and-dimed the Royals, scoring a run here and a run there as they improved to 35-24 on the season, opening a 4.5 game lead over the Tigers in the AL Central; the Tigers got smoked by the White Sox, 3-15.  
The other two Twins top WPA contributors were Joe Mauer (.,140) and Delmon Young (.126).   
In ex-Twins news, we find that Boof Bonser is up to his old tricks for the Red Sox: not getting outs while giving up runs.  His WPA “contribution” for the day came in at “only” -.017, but he was still horrible, with 4 earned runs allowed off of 2 hits and 2 walks in 0 (zero) IP.  
Additional evaluations are available from both Aaron Gleeman, who says the Twins added college arms and high school bats, as well as from MLB.com where it’s noted that the Twins drafted an incredible 30 pitchers over the course of the 2010 draft.
The Twins look to complete a sweep of the Royals tomorrow night with Scott Baker starting for Minnesota while lefty retread Bruce Chen will start for Kansas City.

Tuesday Twins OmniPost

Despite injuries hampering their starting middle infielders and having to face Kansas City’s Zack Greinke, the 2009 AL Cy Young Award Winner, the Twins soundly beat the Royals 7-3 at Target Field on Tuesday night using help freshly brought up from the farm.

Ironically, the Twins had to return to the North Star State to remove their bats from the deep freeze, their offense returning to life in Target Field, where they bashed out twelve hits and plated the most runs the Twins have scored since their May 29th game against the Rangers.
Kevin Slowey was reputedly dominant and masterful, actually perfect over the first 4 1/3 innings as he retired the first thirteen batters he faced.  He complete seven strong shutout innings, allowing only three hits while walking none.  I say reputedly, since I missed the first five innings of this game, mesmerized instead by Stephen Strasburg’s impressive debut.  
While Slowey was dominant, the Twins’ bullpen continued it’s, uh, inconsistent ways, pouring gasoline on the Royals’ barely flickering hopes, with Burnett entering a 7-0 game in the top of the eighth and proceeding to give up 2 hits and a run before handing the reins over to Jose Mijares in the ninth.  For his part, Mijares surrendered 2 hits, a walk, and two runs over two-thirds of an inning, setting up a save situation for Matt Guerrier.  Guerrier threw two pitches in one-third of an inning and managed to end the game with the tying run on-deck, thus earning a save.  Thank goodness Gardenhire didn’t put a call in for Crain.  *Shudder*
Slowey contributed a game-high .243 WPA, with Kubel, who drove in 3 runs with a double and a solo home run, added .159 WPA and Michael Cuddyer chipped in another .096 WPA.  Greinke, who has had a very tough year thus far following last year’s utterly dominant performance, ended up with -.257 WPA.  Ouch.
In other news, with the Twins’ middle infield hurting, Brendan Harris will likely see more playing time.  He has not been good at the plate so far this season.  While some of that is a function of his .193 BABIP, there are other issues as well.  Andrew at the Twins’ blog “Off the Mark” offers some semi-humorous advice on how to deal with his struggles.  It is worth a read.
While it seems like every baseball site is focused on the Nationals’ new Next Big Thing, Bryce Harper, the Twins also drafted themselves some amateur talent.
Claiming it’s “Another Arm to the Stockpile,” Over the Baggy highlights some scout-talk about the Twins first round draft pick, Ohio State University right-handed pitcher Alex Wimmers.  Twinkie Town has more writing, kind of an extended scouting report.  Aaron Gleeman also chimes in, with quotes comparing Wimmers to Brad Radke and Kevin Slowey.  (Gee, guess the Twins’ record was too good to be in a position to draft the next Stephen Strasburg, though I suppose I’d settle for the next Mike Leake.

Red Sox Reeling

Naturally.  I write nice stuff about them and go out and stink it up.  I write, for example, that their focus on run prevention is starting to pay off, and then they drop two straight to the Royals (for goodness’ sake!), including getting pounded 12-5 last night, a game in which the big star was Yuniesky Betancourt, for goodness sake!.  (To be fair, he did contribute .220 WPA on Friday night.)

Who can figure baseball?  The Red Sox went out and played great against three good teams–the Twins, the Phillies, and the Rays–and then returned home to Fenway to play the Royals in a four-game series that everyone and their brother(s) must have figured the Red Sox would take.  The Sox must win today and tomorrow to avoid losing the series to the Royals, and they are facing Kansas City ace Zach Greinke today.
While Greinke isn’t quite the guy he was last year--his K/9 is down and his flyball % and HR/flyball ratio are both up–he is still pretty good, and his K/BB is almost identical to last years.  I would guess that he has mostly been unluckier than last year, though how a starting pitcher could get more unlucky once he finds himself in the Royals rotation is a subject for further analysis.
Back to the point at hand–the Red Sox losing to the Royals–I posit two things: (1) The Red Sox relaxing a little bit after that road trip against good teams (although there is no way to prove this), and (2) the Royals are actually playing a lot better baseball than many people, including me, thought they could play.  
The Royals have won 10 of their last 15, and they have crept out of the AL Central cellar, passing the Cleveland Indians.  And right of this exact moment (5:07 pm PDT) they are only 0.5 games behind the White Sox.  
Returning to the Red Sox: they look forward from this series to upcoming dates with the A’s in Fenway and then a road trip that includes three games in Baltimore and four games in Cleveland.  Those matchups, particularly on the road trip, seem to favor the Red Sox.  

Royals “Rotten”

Yeah, I know that in my post about Pinella and Manuel I kind of let the Royals off the hook by making some excuses for their sorriness.  Truth is, the Royals are “rotten to the core,” and the awesome Aaron Gleeman takes it away:

I realize the Royals probably have some fantasy about cashing in Guillen for big value at the trading deadline, but that’s just not going to happen. He’s a 34-year-old designated hitter with a mediocre .255/.310/.479 line, including .220/.277/.349 in 29 games since his early homer binge, and hasn’t topped an .800 OPS since 2007.

If they can dump him for a mid-level prospect or some salary relief, do it. If not, cut him and give [Kila] Ka’aihue [.304/.466/.620 at AAA Omaha] five starts per week to find out whether he might actually be part of the next competitive Royals team. Sending him back to Triple-A for a third tour of duty at age 26 while a 34-year-old DH with a rapidly declining .786 OPS plays every day is just not something that makes sense for a team that has no shot of even finishing .500.

Stuff like this is why firing Trey Hillman and promoting Yost likely won’t even make a dent in the Royals’ problems. They’re rotten to the core.

Again With the Contraction Talk?

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports suggests a way of boosting attendance at A’s & Rays game: contract the Royals and the Pirates and move the A’s back to KC and the Rays to Pittsburgh.

Craig Calcaterra pointed me towards Rosenthal’s article, and manages to impart a rather amusing and skeptical spin to the whole matter:
I’m not going to slam Rosenthal over all of this because on the most basic level I don’t think he’s serious about it. He makes the points that must be made about the state of the Rays’ franchise, but the contraction plan is kinda nuts and I’ll bet he’d freely admit that. He just wants to get people talking, and I have no problem with that.  In this way it’s much like his realignment proposal from back in February. It’s much like a lot of what I write too.

But apart from their audaciousness, Rosenthal’s posts have something else in common: they’re solutions in search of a problem.  Or at least in search of a problem large enough that it calls for such radical solutions (though it should be noted, Rosenthal obviously thinks otherwise).

Yes, the Rays have trouble drawing, and yes, that makes it harder for them, but (a) as Rosenthal himself notes, their TV ratings are improving (and TV ratings are where the real money is); and (b) it’s obviously not impacting how they’re doing on the field.