Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Royals Today: 4/15/2008.

Updating y’all on our stat nugget from yesterday…the Royals have now allowed 33 runs in 13 games. Going back to 1982, here’s a list of every AL team which allowed 33 or fewer runs in its first 13 games:

26: 1988 Cleveland Indians, who finished 78-84, sixth in the AL East, and 8th in the league in runs allowed.

28: 1982 California Angels, who led the league in runs allowed and went 93-69, losing to Milwaukee in the ALCS.

28: 2001 Boston Red Sox, who finished 82-79, the worst record of any Red Sox team in the last decade. They also finished just 5th in the league in runs allowed.

33: Four teams: the 1985 Kansas City Royals (won a world championship, 2nd in the AL in runs allowed), the 1991 Red Sox (finished 84-78, 7 games out, and 6th in the league in runs allowed), the 2007 Red Sox (won a world championship, led the league in runs allowed), and the 2008 Royals.

So of the six other teams on the list, two won a championship, one lost in the playoffs, two finished a little over .500, and one lost 84 games. Half the teams finished 1st or 2nd in runs allowed, the other half finished around the league average. The Royals are following in the footsteps of some great teams...but also some mediocre ones.

Again, the mitigating factor for the Indians was that they played so many games against a hapless Baltimore Orioles team. The Royals have no such crutch; regardless what you think of the Tigers as a whole, you can’t deny that their lineup is formidable.

The Royals have had the weather in their favor; it’s hard to hit in cold weather, which is why offense is always down in April (and this has been a particularly cold April, which is why the American League as a whole has scored just 4.42 runs a game.) Back in the 1980s, the season started later and teams were not subject to early-April cold as much. (The 1985 Royals had only played 5 games through April 15th.) On the other hand, offenses were much less productive in general in the 1980s; the league as a whole scored 4.56 runs a game in 1985.

Thirty-three runs in 13 games is impressive no matter how you slice it. If the worst-case scenario for the Royals is winning 78 games, we’ll take it. But we’ll also hold out for the best-case scenario.

- It’s not all pitching. The team’s defensive efficiency is .737, which sounds amazing – last year the team’s mark was .689. But there’s a lot of confounding factors there. The cold weather that is keeping offense down also artificially inflates defensive efficiency. The median defensive efficiency right now is .7065, a full 13 points higher than last year’s full-season mark. Even so, the Royals, who ranked 23rd last season, currently rank 4th in the majors. Do we give Brian Bannister credit for that? If it’s true that he can manipulate BABIP in his favor, that would mean that the team’s defensive efficiency (which is basically the inverse of BABIP in the first place) would have improved through no fault of the defense.

And comparing this year’s defense to last year’s…where would such an improvement come from? The only significant difference between 2007 and 2008 is that Jose Guillen is in right. Guillen has a gun, but no one has accused him of possessing tremendous range. Has the fact that Joey Gathright played most of the innings in center made a difference? Alex Gordon got off to a horrible defensive start last year, and has been much more steady this year. But I don’t see an obvious reason for the Royals to have made this kind of improvement, other than the fact that what looks like defense may in fact be pitching. This will be a development to keep an eye on as the season unfolds.

- I love the fact that Hillman has twice used Miguel Olivo as his DH against LHP. Love love love. Olivo crushes LHP – his career mark is .293/.322/.532 – and getting both Buck and Olivo in the lineup at the same time makes the most of a catching “platoon” that involves two remarkably similar players. Essentially Hillman is platooning Olivo with Gload, with Butler moving from DH to 1B. This gets Olivo more playing time than your typical backup, without taking PT away from Buck. It also eases Butler into playing first base, giving the Royals the opportunity to evaluate him for full-time play.

The downside – and the reason I’m so impressed Hillman has made this move – is that your backup catcher is DHing, which means if your starter gets hurt you have to lose the DH in order to get Olivo behind the plate. It’s a minimal risk – how often does a catcher have to leave a game because of injury? – but that minimal risk is the entire reason why most managers are terrified of DHing their catcher. Most managers will always take the risk-averse option. On this point, Hillman has not, and last night his gamble led to a key 2-run homer.

- Now that we’ve properly massaged Hillman’s ego, can I make a suggestion? Can we please go back to 11 pitchers?

Seriously, this is ridiculous. You have a starting rotation which has given you over 6.6 innings per start. Hillman has shown a willingness to push the envelope a little with pitch counts; Bannister went 111 pitches Sunday and Greinke’s gone 107 pitches in back-to-back starts, which is nothing unusual in the middle of summer but a little aggressive at the beginning of April, in cold weather. The Royals have back-to-back complete games which represent a full one-third of the AL’s total of CGs all year. More than that, the Royals starter has completed five innings every time out, and has gone at least 6 innings in ten of thirteen games.

On top of that, the top six men in your bullpen have allowed 4 runs in 29 innings 1 run in 26 innings. They’re lights out. Joakim Soria, Leo Nunez, and Ramon Ramirez – the Hispanic Panic (if you’re the other team) – have combined for 14.1 scoreless innings, with 8 hits, 2 walks, and 19 Ks. All six guys are fully capable of protecting a one-run lead in the ninth or keeping a game tied in extra innings if the need arises.

So why do we need Hideo Nomo, or any pitcher in that slot? Jimmy Gobble has thrown all of 2 innings this year – two devastating innings, I might add. He’s on pace for 25 innings all season. If we can’t find enough innings for Gobble, what do we need Nomo for?

Bring up another hitter. It could be a lefty hitter to pinch-hit when one of the catchers is stuck facing Pat Neshek or some other sidewinding righty in the late innings. It could a be righty slugger to pinch-hit for Gload or Gathright or DeJesus against a LOOGY. It could be a third catcher if Hillman really wants to be aggressive about playing Buck and Olivo at the same time. Whoever you bring up is going to have some value. Which is more than you can say about the Royals’ seventh reliever at this point.

(Having said that, I must concede that if you’re going to have a four-man bench, the Royals would be hard-pressed to come up with a better one than the one they have. Gathright plays everywhere, and can come in to bunt or pinch-run. Callaspo compensates for the lineup’s biggest weakness – Pena having to bat when the Royals are losing – and between him and German the Royals have two guys who can play everywhere but catcher. Olivo has already proven he can do more than just play when the starting catcher needs a break.)

- I’m supposed to be on with my friends at 810 WHB, Steven St. John and Nate Bukaty, tomorrow (Wednesday) morning around 8:30. If you’re interested.

- Dayton runs tonight or tomorrow morning. I promise.


Anonymous said...

You underestimated the Royals bullpen. Actually, the top 6 bullpen guys (Mahay, Gobble, Ramirez, Yabuta, Nunez, Soria) have pitched 26 innings, given up 1 measly run, 16 hits, 5 walks, and struck out 32. That's pitching.

Anonymous said...

"The Royals have back-to-back complete games which represent a full one-third of the AL’s total of CGs all year. "

Can you expand on that? Looks to me like the AL had 64 CG's last year.


Brett said...

He means this year

Rany said...

Numbers on the bullpen are fixed - I accounted for Nomo's innings but not his runs for some reason, and forgot about Tomko's one relief appearance. One run in 26 innings. Damn.

Anonymous said...

I work nights but I'll be up early to hear you tomorrow. Love both your blog and SSJ - should be a good day tomorrow!

scrubs said...

John Bale says thank you very much for pointing out the great pitching stats on the same days he pitched.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the jinx rany!

ChasingMoney said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Dang, if you were on 810 an hour earlier I'd get to listen to you on my way to school

Anonymous said...

Rany do you see the Royals trading DeJesus in order to get more playing time for Gathright? If so what do you think Dayton will ask for? Any specific players you'd want?

Christian M said...

Great, great, great blog!

To the question someone posted about trading DeJesus...i think some underestimate David's contribution. Joey is good, but he's not in David's league (he may be someday soon). Maybe Rany could give us a critique/comparison between the two?

Anonymous said...

OK, how do those numbers look after TONIGHT... yuck. At least the offense put up 6 runs.

Ryan said...

Nomo won't make it to June. Not with Peralta in Omaha.

When is Teahen's bad hitting going to be enough to move Butler to 3rd and Gordon to 4th in the lineup?

Anonymous said...

I think thats strike three for John Bale. Time to bring up Hochevar!

Gary said...

That's it. I can't take it anymore. Gathright can't hit the ball out of the infield. He can't get on base. He is no more than average in the field. And he has maxed out his potential. Why would the Royals trade a starter so they can play a scrub? (I suppose Buddy Bell actually has an answer for that last one) Come on people, watch the games and read the box scores.

Anonymous said...

...where our wife can’t figure out why our DirecTV is frozen on channel 648.

"Our wife?" How many people are sharing this wife?

Anonymous said...

Here's a solution:

Replace Nomo with Barry Bonds. Not only does this reduce the pitching staff to 11, it strengthens the lineup CONSIDERABLY. In fact, I would argue that adding Bonds might move the Royals to middle of the pack or even above offensively. Combine that with what looks like a minimum of top 5 pitching staff, and we contend NOW, not in 2009 or 2010.

One added benefit: We piss off Bud Selig, who undoubtedly has perpetrated some sort of illegal black-balling of Bonds.

Anonymous said...

Should have added that I would play Bonds at DH, while Butler moves to 1B full time and Gload becomes a valuable bat off the bench/late inning defensive replacement for Butler.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your enthusiasm, but I find the comment about the bullpen sucess of the top six guys (leading to the conclusion that they're "lights out") to be a bit silly.
If Joe Morgan had said that, the Rob Neyers of the world would be ripping into him for not understanding sample size.

scrubs said...

Gloady doesn't deserve that.

As for the bullpen, I think what makes the bullpen better than it's been in the past is the simple fact that (last night not withstanding) almost every arm in the bullpen can strike guys out and doesn't walk many hitters. That is a great combination to have in the pen because it makes teams beat you with hits and it gives you the ability to escape some jams by taking the bat out of the hitters hands.

I realize that's simplistic, but it's something the Royals haven't done in a long, long time.

Anonymous said...

Nomo is going to be DFA'd sooner rather than later, I think Bale will get one more shot before he is replaced in the rotation. He could then take Nomo's place as a long reliever and Hoch could take the spot in the rotation. I don't like having 5 righties, but you have to run your best 5 out there.

I also would like to see German traded for some pitching, Callaspo is superior with the bat and glove and they are basicall filling the same role. Then Shealy could be brought up to give us another good RH bat. Against lefties we could see a lineup like this:

DeJesus CF
Grudz 2B
Gordon 3B
Butler DH
Guillen RF
Teahen LF
Shealy 1B
Buck C
Pena SS

Olivo C,DH
Gload 1B,OF
Callaspo UTIL
Gathright OF

Anonymous said...

And comparing this year’s defense to last year’s…where would such an improvement come from?

1) Joey Gathright in CF instead of DDJ.
2) Mark Teahen in LF instead of Emil Brown...or Jose Guillen in the OF instead of Brown, however you want to look at it.

Anonymous said...

10 minutes to a broken promise...

Anonymous said...

Can we agree that bringing Hideo Slow-mo into a tied game is at best on par with the Old Blue Tradition? Talk about throwing the game away.

I'm not going to judge Hillman on one game. If he doesn't do thatt again, I'll just look at it as an evaluation of talent. If he does, I have to seriously question the staff's ability to judge their pitchers.

Anonymous said...

Actually the tv is frozen on 648-1. Nothing quite like seeing the Royals in HD!

Anonymous said...

...What would Bill McCartney think?

Anonymous said...

I don't quite understand people wanting to sign Bonds. First off, he may not want to play for the Royals unless they give him at least $8M for the remainder of the year which they WILL NOT DO!!! Secondly, I believe the Royals want "character guys" on their roster and wouldn't even consider letting Bonds and his "baggage" impair that in any way!

While I'm at it, I don't know what makes anyone think Shealy is due for a call-up. He is hitting something like .170 at Omaha. How does that translate to a job in the Majors? I am still rooting for the guy and would love a return to his late 2006 form but it ain't happening any time soon.

Lastly, I understand why some are griping about Bale but... I read this morning he is going through a "dead arm period". I think he gets a MINIMUM of three or four more starts before his status would be reconsidered.

Anyway... GO ROYALS!!! C-ya, AusSteveW

Anonymous said...

Besides for the media circus, is Bonds any more of a bad guy than Jose Guillen? And he's immediately the best offensive player on the team. I'd love to see the Royals sign Bonds.