Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Housekeeping...

Wherein I weigh in on some of the debates taking place in the comments section, while wondering why Barack Obama doesn't just end this thing by naming Joakim Soria as his running mate. Because no one closes the deal like Jack.

- Should Soria have come in to pitch the 9th last night? I said no at the time, for the simple reason that he had pitched two nights in a row, and I really don't like the idea of using a reliever three nights in a row unless it's absolutely necessary. He did so once already this year, pitching on April 26th after pitching on both the 24th and 25th, but in that case he came in to protect a one-run lead.

I do think that teams do not use their closers in tie games nearly enough, and as a general rule of thumb that's an ideal situation to use your closer. Especially at home, because when a home game is tied after the 8th, it is physically impossible for a save situation to occur in the game - if the home team takes the lead, the game is over.

If memory serves, this is the first time the Royals were tied after eight innings since Opening Day, and Soria didn't come into pitch the ninth that time either. Of course, Leo Nunez did, and his two scoreless innings set Soria up to pitch the 11th with the lead. If Yabuta had pitched the ninth last night we'd have a legitimate beef, but let's be real: as good as Soria has been, both Nunez and Ramirez have been outstanding as well, and I'll take either of them in the ninth inning of a tie game without hesitation.

Credit Hillman for at least thinking about bringing in Soria (and regretting not doing so): "I could have made a better decision. I didn't put Soria in. Typical rule of thumb simply because it would have been three days in a row," Hillman said. "Ramirez has been pretty effective. Unfortunately, he left a ball out over the plate."

Talk is cheap, but if this means Hillman won't hesitate to use Soria the next time he's faced with a tie game, that's certainly good news.

- A lot of you have complained about Hillman using Gobble to pitch to Casey Kotchman with the go-ahead run at third and one out, given that Kotchman has hit LHP better (.313/.383/.403) than RHP (.268/.341/.438) over his career. It's a fair point, but not all LHP are created equal, and ever since Gobble went three-quarters against LHB last May, he's been much tougher on lefty hitters than their righty counterparts. Lefties hit .241/.325/.398 against Gobble last year, righties hit .319/.377/.532. Prior to facing Kotchman, Gobble had held LHB to one hit in 14 at-bats this year. Just as importantly, six of those ABs ended in strikeouts, and with a man on third, one out, and a great contact hitter at the plate, Gobble may have been the one guy who had a shot at keeping the runner on third. It didn't work out, but I understand the thinking.

The argument that Hillman should have bypassed Kotchman entirely, given him the free pass and tried to get the GIDP with Hunter...yeah, I can see the point. I generally hate the intentional pass, but if ever there was a situation that called for one, it was this: winning run at third, a great contact hitter at the plate, just one out, and nobody on first base (i.e. the DP wasn't in order.) Hillman would have been better off leaving Ramirez into pitch to Hunter with men on first and third, betting on either a strikeout or a groundball.

Hopefully Hillman will consider an intentional walk the next time he faces a similar situation. But don't bet on it. Last year, Buddy Bell ordered 54 of them, or one every three games. You know how many times Hillman has called for the free pass in his first month on the job? Once. In fact, of all the tendencies that we label managers with - likes to run, likes to platoon, likes to use 7 relievers a game - I think this might be the one tendency that we can definitely pin on Hillman after just one month on the job: he's not a fan of the intentional walk.

Hey, if the alternative is the John Gibbons approach - the dumbest intentional walk of modern times - I'll take Hillman's approach, thanks. Tony Pena has as many intentional walks as all the Royals' opponents combined.

But about that one intentional walk...it came with Gil Meche on the mound on April 11th, and Hillman held up four fingers with Justin Morneau, a tough left-handed hitter, at the plate with a man on third and one out. The next batter, the right-handed Delmon Young, hit into a double play. I'm just saying...

- About Bonds...too soon. Signing Bonds only makes sense if you're playing for this year. As much as I love our pitching, and as much as I think Bonds can completely change the complexion of our offense, I'm not sure that adding Bonds makes us a contender. I am sure that adding Bonds will bring a level of media scrutiny to the Royals that they haven't had in a long time. That might not be a bad thing, in all honesty. But it's too soon. Plus, Bonds really only helps you if he can DH, and the jury is still out on Butler's glove.

Now, if the Royals are still 2 games out at the end of June, and if Billy Butler continues to play first base well enough that the Royals think he can play there every day...the calculus changes.

- Craig Brazell is leading Japan in homers? Good for him. That doesn't change the fact that he was a longshot to ever be a productive first baseman in the majors. Akinori Iwamura hit 44 homers in Japan in 2004. He hit 32 homers in 2006. For Tampa Bay in 2007, playing in 123 games, he hit 7. Baseball is different in Japan; the parks are smaller, the ball is smaller, and translating numbers from Japan to the United States is a job that bedevils even the brightest of analysts. Brazell wouldn't hit 7 in the majors; he'd probably hit 20 homers if the Royals gave him the everyday first base job. With a .250 average and no walks. I'll pass, thanks.

- One commenter wants Buck to sit in favor of Olivo, which I disagree with vehemently. I have a feeling that Buck is getting closer and closer to figuring things out. He looked terrible yesterday, but he might have won the game for us on Sunday with his approach - he walked in his first two plate appearances even though he was down 0-2 his first time up and 1-2 his second time up. His second walk enabled Olivo to score when Casey Blake threw Pena's grounder into right field. Buck is tied with Gordon with 11 walks, behind only Teahen's 14, even though he has about 75% of the playing time of those two. He's made incremental improvements in his plate discipline pretty much every year he's been in the majors. I remain hopeful that eventually the improvement in plate discipline will lead to an improvement in power.

- The lack of a left-handed starter has never even crossed my mind. This is a classic example of conventional wisdom harping on "balance" for no clear reason. There is no evidence that dropping a southpaw in between two right-handed starters makes the right-handers more effective when they pitch. I'll go a step further and point out that the lack of a left-handed reliever is not a major impediment to winning. The 1994 Expos had the best record in baseball without one. The Angels won the World Series in 2002, and the only left-handed reliever they had was the immortal Scott Schoeneweis, who moved to the pen after bombing out of the rotation at the end of June.

Platoon splits are important, but they're not important enough to overcome the simple fact that good pitchers get hitters out more often than bad pitchers do. The idea that you can't win without left-handed pitching stems, I think, from the fact that the Yankees have won 26 championships, and they won all of them playing in Yankee Stadium, a park that was death on right-handed power hitters for so long (and is still tough on them today) that left-handed pitchers thrived there, from Herb Pennock to Lefty Gomez to Whitey Ford to Ron Guidry to Andy Pettitte. The Yankees may benefit from having left-handed pitchers; ordinary teams in symmetrical ballparks do not, or if they do, the benefit is minimal.

- Just FYI: I'm supposed to be on with Nate and Steven over at 810 WHB tomorrow (Wednesday) morning at 7:30 CDT. Assuming I wake up in time. If I sound like I just rolled out of bed, well, I did.

- I don't know where else to put this, so I'll put it here. I bought my brother Roukan the Nintendo Wii last summer - it took forever to find one - but Roukan is a hard-core gamer, and the Wii just doesn't hold much appeal to people who need the hyper-realism of Call of Duty or the insane graphics of Halo 3. So it collected dust for six months until he gave it to me to play with my kids - Cedra, my oldest, is five and was clamoring for one. It's been a huge hit with my family; I came home from work the other day to find my wife battling Cedra in Mario Kart while our two-year-old Jenna looked on, which is the first time I've ever witnessed my wife playing a video game of her own free will.

Anyway, Cedra figured out the Wii Sports bowling game that comes with the console pretty quickly, and this weekend my in-laws came over. We thought it would be funny to let Cedra embarrass her grandparents by beating them in a video game - granted, she had practice, but it's funny anytime an adult loses to a five-year-old in any endeavor. But I was a little worried she might be nervous, playing in front of so many people, with her parents egging her on.

My fears were unfounded. She shot a 224.

Two twenty-four. She nailed five strikes in a row at one point. No subtlety, no spin, just a grip-it-and-rip-it approach - and she shot a 224. Granted, the game is not particularly challenging, but the next morning I felt compelled to play on my own for half an hour, working on different spins and ball placements, and the best I could do was a 205.

Is this unusual? Is there some trick to this game that I haven't figured out, or should I be signing my daughter up for the Junior Wii Bowling Championships (and if they don't exist, create one)? I thought I had another 7 or 8 years before I faced the specter of losing to my own progeny in a video game, but now I'm already feeling like I'm washed up.

On the other hand, I can totally obliterate her in Mario Kart.

20 comments:

Mark LaFlamme said...

I didn't realize Hillman had expressed second thoughts about his bullpen decisions. Good for him.
Nice shake-up of the batting order tonight. Collaspo and Olivo will be in there trying to prove they're worthy. Let's take a look.

Carolina Beach Bill said...

Look at all that production from the 6, 7, 8, and 9 holes. Get inspired top half of the order, this is lined up to be that comfortable win we need to give at least one of our starters.

jonfmorse said...

The problem with Olivo is that he has never -- never, ever, not even once -- had an OBP over .300 over a full season. That in and of itself is a reason he shouldn't be taking Buck's job. He's fine in his current role.

ChaimMKeller said...

I don't know that Bonds only makes sense if we're playing for this year. The kids in our lineup who should logically be hitting - Gordon, Butler, Teahen, DeJesus - are sinking fast from early-season highs, and maybe having zero veteran protection as something to do with that. They need someone to take the pressure off them, and Guillen isn't doing it. Why the heck not Bonds? The cost? He should come cheap - not insultingly so, but if he desperately wants to play, I'll bet $7 MM will do the trick - and maybe he can jump-start this lineup that should not, by any rights, be performing so miserably.

Anonymous said...

No offense, Rany, but I'm really getting tired of hearing how Johnny Two Bucks (named after his most common batting average) is "about to figure it out." His career OPS is right at .700, which is remarkably consistent with his performance this year. He's no longer a fresh-faced rookie; he's in his fifth year, still slow as molasses when he runs, swings the bat, or throws to second, and maybe it's time to recognize that his hot first half last year was the outlier, and the rest of his career has been regressing to the mean. I'm not sure Olivo is the solution, but he IS tattooing the ball right now, and he's not the automatic out that Buck is.

bbxpert said...

Callaspo walked his first 2 at bats tonight, thereby matching Pena's total for the year.

Dallas Tucker said...

Rany, I have to say I'm not with you on the Buck front. I haven't seen this "vast" improvement over the past couple of years. I also have to say that Bonds would be huge for helping guys like Butler and Gordon, as was already stated. A stiff boost in Guillen's production would do the same thing, but I really don't think it could hurt to bring the OBP machine to KC.

Casper said...

I think Bonds would work here. Not so much because of the presumed positive effect he'd have on the kids, but mainly for the positive effect he'd have on Guillen. I think Guillen is struggling due to pressure he's placing on himself. It's not just pressure to perform, but also pressure to lead this team, because you know that was something that Moore discussed with him when they presented him the contract: "Jose, we're going with younger kids next season but they're going to need someone to help them learn the ropes. You're a proven commodity and I want you to be the guy to show them how it's done." I personally think his struggles are self-imposed due to not knowing how to lead these kids; he's just not a leader - he's a supporting character by nature, and we're asking him to do something he may not be able to do, in that respect. I think Bonds would help take the pressure off Guillen by giving him a fellow veteran who can sort of share the leadership load, if you will, and help Guillen fall back into more of a supporting character role where he seems to be most comfortable.

jsolo said...

While Bonds may not be the long-term solution there is something to be said about making improvements to the team THIS year.

First off, the fans are already sick of this anemic offense crap every single night. The Royals are presumably trying to get the fans back into it, right? Scoring 0 to 2 runs a game won't attract fans no matter how good the pitching is.

Second, has anyone seen the division this year? Every single team in the Central has holes and there are no quick fixes for any one of them. How often is this scenario going to occur? How often will the Royals be able to have the worst offense in the majors and still only be 2.5 games out of 1st in May? Probably never again. I say they should give it a shot.

What serious negative long-terms effects will there be from signing a guy like Bonds? Long-term? None. Zero. He won't be taking time from some young, developing hitting prodigy because we don't have any of those waiting in the wings. You know who would likely lose the most playing time? Gload. That just doesn't hurt my feelings.

jerel said...

Just wanted to say thanks, Rany, for actually reading the peanut gallery's comments and responding to them. Best. Blog. Ever. (along with JoePo's).

And to anyone who thinks Bonds is a "leader"...Leader of his own personal posse maybe, but a leader of young men? I don't see it.

Kenny said...

My five year old is incredible at Wii bowling to. She probably averages 170. Not sure what the deal is but if you want some advice, I actaully watched how my kids play and adjusted my game after seeing how they lined up and threw the ball. It brought my game up to a new level.

Nick said...

I think this is a tricky time for Moore. He wants to stay true to a plan of developing young players without mortgaging the future on guys who won't form the core of our next LONG TERM competitive team. Bonds would be fun to have for a year or two, but I don't think he would be a part of what Moore is trying to accomplish.

And Wii bowling can be tricky. You have to find your sweet spot. Depending on how your wrist naturally turns when you throw it, you might have to take a step or two one left or right (on the game, not in your living room) to find the right spot. This coming from a guy who is repeatedly defeated by his children at this game, but not any others. ;)

Anonymous said...

"I think this is a tricky time for Moore. He wants to stay true to a plan of developing young players without mortgaging the future on guys who won't form the core of our next LONG TERM competitive team. Bonds would be fun to have for a year or two, but I don't think he would be a part of what Moore is trying to accomplish."

How does playing Player X over Ross Gload hurt the future?

Anonymous said...

I've been a loyal Royals fan since birth. I've never seen anything remotely exciting in my 21 years, save the 2003 season. If they sign Bonds, I'm done. I can't defend them after that.

Anonymous said...

Let me get this straight:

You have suffered thru 21 years of Royals baseball, watching a pathetic team amass one, FREAKING ONE, winning season during that ENTIRE time, and....

signing Bonds will cause you to stop being a fan?

My guess is you are not truly a fan in the first place.

Dallas Tucker said...

i think anyone reading royals blogs is probably a fan.

charlie said...

I know the K is undergoing some renovations but I don't think they are making the clubhouse big enough to hold Bond's ego or attitude. I just don't see the extra runs being worth all of the baggage he's bringing with him. And who's to say he'll even produce? He's getting to an age where he is due for a huge decline in production. Can I get a Juan Gonzalez from the congregation?



As far as Wii bowling goes, it's a good one. I made my wife get out of the shower to see the screen shot after my first 300 game. If you want to master bowling here are a couple of tips:
Setup: just outside far right arrow angled in to where you pointed between the center and inside edge of the 3 pin.
Throw: release at the peak to loft the ball down the lane. As you're going up twist the controller so the buttons face the floor as you release.

And Rany, if you ever want a game of Mario Kart, I'm in. I can't stop playing that game.

Ryan said...

If they hire Bonds as a hit man this summer, they need to rent little kayaks for people to paddle around in the fountains to catch his home run balls.

I'm also sure that just because someone does or (especially) does not want Barry Bonds playing for the Royals, doesn't delineate their Royals fandom.

Also, if you're going to insult someone, don't post anonymously....unless of course, you're a big whiny baby named Barry Bonds...then I would understand your desire to remain anonymous.

Steve said...

I'd prefer they stick with Buck, too. He's got an outside chance of having a decent OBP, if he can keep his average around .250. Olivo won't do much but the occasional HR.

FWIW, I've just finished a ranking of all the Royals seasons subjectively, based on how good it was to be a fan that year. Click my name above. I'd love some feedback.

Isaac said...

I have a couple of comments.

On Pena IBB: The first thing I said when it happened was that the Blue Jays deserved to lose.

On replacing Ramirez with Gobble to pitch to Kotchman: When Ramirez retired the previous batter the first thing I said was they'll walk Kotchman. To me it was that obvious.

On signing Bonds: Would be one of the dumber things the Royals have done in recent years. The last thing this team needs is a roidless Bonds in their lineup.

On Buck: I originally thought we should play Olivo more because one, he has/is showing more power and two, he is doing better at throwing out runners. I have since given up on that. Olivo is doing very well but I still think we stick with Buck who isn't doing that poorly right now.