Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Ponson vs. Hochevar.

So after my last post I decided to give the Royals 24 hours to think about the consequences of their decision, in the hopes that maybe they would come to their senses. Instead, they made it official, demoting Luke Hochevar to Omaha in order to clear a path for Sidney Ponson to open the season as the team’s fourth starter.

I’ve written this many times, but it remains one of the most telling stats about the Royals over the past 15 years, so I’m going to write it again: the Royals have had one winning April (2003) in the last 19 years. The team’s overall badness doesn’t come close to explaining this statistic: assuming there are 26 games in April, a team with a .443 winning percentage (that’s the Royals’ winning percentage from 1990-2008) would come out of the month with a winning record about 22% of the time. Over the last 19 years they’ve had a winning record in May five times, June seven times, July six times, August eight times, and September/October four times – but just once in April.

And the best explanation for that is that the Royals simply have no idea how to distill the 50 or 60 players that every team invites to spring training into the best 25-man roster. It seems like every year, the Royals make at least one fairly absurd roster decision in the last week of spring training, and it generally takes a few weeks before the wisdom (or lack thereof) of their personnel decisions manifests itself, usually in the right-hand column.

Once again, the Royals can’t leave well enough alone. The rotation looked to be in decent shape at the end of last season. Greinke and Meche gave the Royals their best 1-2 punch since Appier and Cone in 1994, and Kyle Davies had completely remade himself in September into a very intriguing #3 starter. Neither Hochevar and Brian Bannister were all that good in 2008, but both were still young and had markers for success. There was reason to think that Hochevar, in particular, could be expected to improve significantly in 2009: he was a rookie last year, his 5.51 ERA was higher than you’d expect from his peripherals, and he was a strong groundball pitcher. (Hochevar’s FIP, which is a stat that estimates what a pitcher’s ERA would be if you stripped defense and luck out of the equation, was a full run lower (4.51) than his actual ERA.) When last season ended, I advocated that the Royals go into 2009 with those five guys still in their rotation.

Instead, they threw way too much money at Horacio Ramirez because of some nebulous theory that you can’t win without at least one left-handed pitcher in the rotation. But even that, by itself, would have only hurt the Royals in the pocketbook, not on the field. While Hochevar seems to need only repetition to improve, Bannister’s regression last year, along with the way he seemed to be trying to remake himself as a pitcher (more strikeouts, but unfortunately more homers), suggest that he could benefit from a refresher in Triple-A while he figures out what kind of pitcher he needs to be to find sustained success in the majors.

Even when Ponson was signed, I saw this as merely a sensible move to add some rotation depth at minimal cost. While the Royals seemed to have four options for the last two spots in the rotation, the way I saw it, Hochevar was clearly the #4 starter, the Royals three roughly equivalent options for the #5 slot, and there was a lot of needless panic over who would fill that role when the reality is that it’s the rare major league team that doesn’t fret over their fifth starter. Over at royalsreview.com, NYRoyal – a Royals fan who presumably lives in Los Angeles – wrote a column making that exact point: whoever the Royals’ fifth starter was, he wouldn’t be any worse than the fifth starters that the White Sox, Indians, Tigers, and Twins are sifting through.

There didn’t appear to be a wrong decision for the Royals to make. But I have learned from years of painful experience: never underestimate the Royals’ ability to create a bad decision when no such decision seems possible. Ponson is the fourth starter – enjoy the home opener, everyone! – and Ramirez is the fifth starter. Hochevar and Bannister both go to Omaha. And the Royals appear hell-bent on continuing their April streak.

I’ve heard the argument that the Royals want to send Hochevar down in part because of service time issues – Hochevar’s service time is currently at one year, 17 days, so if he spends even three or four weeks in the minors, his free agency might be delayed by another year. If that’s true, the Royals are picking an awfully strange time to care about this stuff – a year the Royals actually think they can contend – and an awfully strange player to care about. They had this opportunity with Alex Gordon and didn’t use it; I find it hard to believe that they would potentially sabotage the 2009 season in order to keep Hochevar under team control in 2014.

(Quick segue: many thanks to the Detroit Tigers for proving they learned nothing from jumping 20-year-old Jeremy Bonderman from A-ball to the majors in 2003. I wrote at the time – in an ESPN.com article that has, sadly, vanished from the web – that this was a ridiculous decision, because either Bonderman’s development would be hurt by being rushed, or his development wouldn’t be hurt – in which case the Tigers were trading a few weeks of major league service time at age 20 for an entire season’s worth of service time when Bonderman declared free agency at age 26. As it turns out, Bonderman’s career has been interrupted by some circulatory problems in his arm, but not until after signing a four-year deal that bought out two years of free agency, a contract he signed after his best season in 2006. Had the Tigers given Bonderman just a month or two in the high minors in 2003, they might have avoided the need to give Bonderman that contract when his price was at its highest.

Today, the Tigers officially announced that Rick Porcello, who is 20 years old and hasn’t pitched above A-ball, made their rotation. Porcello may very well be the second coming of Roy Halladay as some scouts claim – in which case, as a Royals fan, I’m thrilled that he’ll be hitting free agency a year sooner than he really needed to.)

There is certainly a way to spin the decision to demote Hochevar in a positive way – the Royals wouldn’t have made this decision if there wasn’t. This isn’t Dye-for-Neifi Perez. Sam Mellinger makes some very good points here and here, noting that 1) Ponson, in the here and now, isn’t a significantly worse pitcher than Hochevar is; 2) the Royals only need a fifth starter once in the season’s first 19 days, so it’s better to use Ramirez as a swingman and let Hochevar pitcher every fifth day in Omaha; 3) this decision continues the philosophy of the Dayton Moore era of forcing prospects to prove they’re ready before promoting them to the majors – a philosophy no Royals fan can argue with after seeing the wild excesses of the opposing point of view under Allard Baird.

I agree with Mellinger that this decision probably has more emotional impact than it will have actual baseball impact – if Ponson or Ramirez doesn’t perform, they’ll be replaced soon enough. In particular, I'm wondering whether Moore is already having second thoughts about Ramirez in the rotation, and plans to bring Hochevar up as soon as the schedule requires five starters on a regular basis. (This would explain the decision to cut Jimmy Gobble, if the Royals see Ramirez as a lefty reliever in the long run.)

But I strongly disagree with the third point above. For one, Hochevar isn’t being rushed to the majors – he’s already spent nearly a full year in the Royals’ rotation. I would argue that he wasn’t rushed to the majors last year – despite his unimpressive ERAs in the minors, his peripherals were actually pretty good, and frankly, the #1 overall pick out of college should reach the majors in little more than a year.

But beyond that, I don’t see how you can have Hochevar penciled in as your #4 starter at the start of spring training, and then reach for your eraser based on the spring he had. Mellinger argues that Hochevar didn’t force the Royals hand by having a brilliant spring training. I didn’t think – and I bet Hochevar didn’t think – he needed to have a brilliant spring training. He wasn’t pitching to win a job; he was pitching not to lose his job, and I think he did just that. He had a 3.86 ERA in 16.1 innings in major league camp, notably surrendering just one homer in the warm Arizona air (though he gave up more in some minor league starts.) Hochevar had a much better spring than Ramirez (9.00 ERA), or Bannister (8.53 ERA), or – ahem – Ponson (six runs in 5.1 innings in his first start; seven runs in five innings in his second start after Hochevar was sent down.)

I understand the merits of forcing your prospects to prove that they’re ready before handing them a job. I understand the message that can be sent to someone like Billy Butler, a message that says, “just because you’re young and talented doesn’t mean you can take this game for granted.” But this isn’t that. This is telling one of your most prized young pitchers – a guy who you selected #1 in all the land less than three years ago – that he’s going back to Omaha, not because he isn’t ready, not because he didn’t pitch well, but simply because a fat pitcher with a history of major disciplinary issues just caught your eye. What kind of message does this send to your young players? The message I’m taking away from this is that even if you’re drafted highly, even if you've been nurtured by the organization from day one, even if you do everything we ask you to do, we can still take your job away at any time if we develop a sudden hankering for someone else’s sloppy seconds. (Or in Ponson’s case, given that he’s played for six other teams before, sloppy sevenths.)

The other argument I’ve heard a lot in defense of this move boils down to, “Hochevar will be in the rotation soon enough.” If the best argument for this decision is that it’s going to be reversed eventually, isn’t that really an argument against this decision? The insinuation is that Hochevar will be the first man called up when either Ponson or Ramirez needs to be replaced. In other words, this decision is being made with an expectation of failure.

In the meantime, the Royals are looking at roughly eight starts from Ponson and Ramirez in April. By the time the Royals pull their heads out of the sand long enough to realize that their fourth-best starter is in Omaha, it will likely have cost them at a least a win or two. A win or two in April might seem like a small sacrifice to make in April. It might prove to be an enormous mistake come October.

My lifelong loathing for the Chicago White Sox has been well-documented, but last year, when the White Sox and Twins finished the season tied for first and needed to play a tiebreaker to determine which team advanced to the playoffs, I found myself inexplicably rooting for the Sox. For as much as I dislike the White Sox as a concept, I must admit my admiration for their front office. And I simply could not get over the hubris the Twins showed by continuing to run Livan Hernandez (the upscale, more likeable version of Ponson) out there every fifth day for four months.

Hernandez inexplicably won his first three starts – including one on Opening Day! – and on May 12th was 6-1 with a 3.90 ERA – despite surrendering 72 hits in 57 innings, and striking out just 21. Where you and I saw a mirage, the Twins saw an oasis, and kept sending Hernandez out there, even as he posted a 6.59 ERA over his next 14 starts, allowing a remarkable 127 hits in just 82 innings.

Hernandez was finally released on July 30th. Taking his spot in the rotation was Francisco Liriano, who was so brilliant as a rookie in 2006 before blowing out his elbow, and who had clearly recovered from Tommy John surgery, as he spent most of the first four months of the season toying with hitters in the International League while waiting for a spot in the rotation to open up. (He had briefly and ineffectually returned to the rotation in April, but he clearly wasn’t 100% yet.) He finally returned to the Twins rotation on August 3rd, and went 6-1 with a 2.57 ERA the rest of the season.

The Twins, no doubt, justified the decision to leave Hernandez in the rotation for most of the summer by saying that he was a proven major leaguer, or that some extra time in the minors would only make Liriano a better pitcher when he returned, or some other such nonsense. In the end, that decision cost them the division, plain and simple.

The Royals have a puncher’s chance to win the division this year. What they don’t have is much margin for error. Starting the season with Ponson and Ramirez in the rotation, and Hochevar in Omaha, slices their margin that much thinner. The sooner they come to their senses, the less likely we’ll be to retrace the path of last year’s Twins, muttering “what if” all winter long.

--

I wrote most of that on the plane ride home from Vail this morning. After I made it home I learned that Ross Gload had been traded to the Marlins for a PTBNL. I first heard about this trade possibility a few days ago, but wasn’t about to count any chickens until they had both hatched and been safely transported across the country. The Royals are picking up almost his entire salary – the Marlins’ favorite player is always the one making the major-league minimum – so this move won’t save the Royals a dime. It will save them the roster spot, and if the PTBNL is one of the guys I heard attached to this rumor, the Royals may get a decent prospect to boot.

This certainly washes out some of the bitter taste that the Hochevar demotion left in my mouth. Hochevar should be back; Gload should not. I’ve yet to hear a coherent explanation from Moore about why Gload got a two-year deal to begin with, but give him some credit for cutting his losses, and give David Glass even more credit for being willing to pay one of his players to go away. This is yet another data point in the case for the reincarnation of David Glass as an asset in the owner’s box.

35 comments:

Clint said...

as much as I enjoy seeing Ross Gload go away, I think I'd kill to see Ponson and Ramirez disappear along with him.

Douglas said...

Awesome post Rany -- and I couldn't have put it better myself. You'd think getting out of the gate in April would be the number one on DM's to do list. Hochevar hasn't just earned the 4 slot, he needs to be there for the fans -- we want to root for the well-groomed farmhands. Not tubby vets with attitude problems. It isn't Hochevar's face DM slapped -- it was ours. I think as much as DM and the team have travelled, it still feels like there's insecurities dragging them down. And sticking with Ponson off-sets wise moves like getting rid of Gload. There had to be 20 better pitchers available over the past 3 months if you were really worried Hochevar wasn't going to cut it. Instead, Tubby gets a couple WBC starts (and you got to wonder about the level of competition there) and you'd think DM saw another Koufax. But I'm not going to lose my lunch over this, especially when there's much more evidence that things are going right for the team for the first time in many years. I'm looking forward to next week (except Friday's home opener).

--tookee

Anonymous said...

Was disappointed to see that Ponson is starting the home opener. The good news for me is I have standing room tickets in front of the water spectacular in right field. Me and my friends should get three or four home run balls to take home each!!

Chris

AxDxMx said...

Rany,

The schedule lines up so that the Royals get about 5 Sidney starts and 2 HoRam starts. Now Sidney's contract says he has to be here by May 1 or released, so just putting him on the team to begin with and see just exactly what they have is an acceptable move I think. He gets #4 to get regular work. HoRam gets #5 and token starts to fulfill the promise we made to him. He'll be gone or on bullpen duty by mid-May.

Since Davies won the #3 job, Hochevar and Banny are better served by regular starts in Omaha and getting in their work. Not sitting around and being a 5th starter or bullpen guy.

I absolutely hate that Ponson is pitching the Home Opener. I want to sell the tickets I have because of it. But I can see how this move is better for Hochevar in the short term. He'll be back in May as #4 or #5 with regular work. AND we get him for another year of team control.

The only thing I see bad about this, is if Sidney continues to pitch like he has in ST. It's hard to keep fans in your brand new ballpark when you are losing by 5 runs in the 3rd inning.

Anonymous said...

The biggest long term issue for the Royals is seeing values in players like Gload, Bloomquist, Horacio, and even Jacobs.

As has been documented before, the trade to acquire Jacobs not only cost Jacobs salary but the salary to replace the player traded.

It's not remotely difficult to see how the Royals could have signed Adam Dunn and Pedro Martinez and had a similar or lower overall payroll. For a team otherwise on the right track, it's crazy how this team wastes money.

steak said...

I don't like the fact that Ponson is our starter. At all. However, I'm honstely holding out hope that he returns to form (or something worth having at least) and we trade him a la Octavio Dotel. We can't always assume that Dayton's motives are no deeper than the first 10 games of the season. I believe you, Rany, said pitching is the currency of baseball. If that's the case, maybe the Royals found some cash laying on the ground.

It's granted that no one likes Ponson, but lets be honest, we have a very slim chance of winning the division (or even placing in the top two) in 2009. Can we stop being mad at Dayton for not putting all his eggs in this year's basket? His job is to plan for the worst and hope for the best. I take that as plan for 2010 and hope 2009 goes well. It's Dayton's second full year as a GM and Trey's second full year as a major league manager.

This Ponson move will either work or be forgotten in 12 months. In the future I suggest the following topics instead of another "Dayton screwed the pooch" post:
-Division rivals
-Minor league system
-Trade possiblities (not who we will get, but who we will trade away)
-Slugerrr
-New stadium
-Mike aviles (no one seems to have a clue how this guy is going to turn out)
-Spring training power
-Tim scott

To Anonymous who wants Adam Dunn:

Adam Dunn is:
a. playing in DC (huge east coast market)
b. making 10 million a year.
Math: $1.5 million (the portion of Gloads contract we are eating) + $3.25 millon for Jacobs does NOT equal 10 million dollars, chief.

Anonymous said...

Steak, I'm not the anonymous that you responded to, but I believe he was referring to the varous pieces of mediocre (or worse) crap that Moore signed this season. Instead of acquiring several pieces of crap, Moore could have brought in a couple of genuinely good, affordable players. Here's some math for you, chief:

Olivo $2.7 million
Farnsworth $4.25 million
Ramirez $1.8 million
Bloomquist $1.4 million
Jacobs $3.25 million
TOTAL $13.4 million

For that money, the Royals could have signed Pedro Martinez and Adam Dunn (who is making $8 million this year by the way). Or the Royals could have signed Burrell and Pedro. Or the Royals could have signed Orlando Hudson and Pedro. Or they could have signed any of several other genuinely good players instead of a handful of overpaid crap.

Kila-Ton said...

Steak,if you wanted to see those topics go to the royals home page. This blog is for the hardcore Royals fans, the kinds of which are now lamenting over our #4 starter. If you want to see a forecast on Mike Aviles check out a fantasy site. As for me, I want Rany's input on Shin Jin-Ho.

steak said...

Kila, the post was mostly facetiousness in that I would rather hear about these other overdone topics than lament (nitpick) over transactions that will be non-issues in a year's time (I really do want to see a divisional write-up though). Does that qualify as hardcore? Perhaps I should just write posts about how much I don't like Guillen, Farnsworth, and Ponson. Or perhaps I could complain about Nefi Perez and whine about OBP. Surely then I would be hardcore.

And second anonymous, I don't disagree that I would rather have Orlando or Dunn or whomever; however these parts aren't simply interchangeable. Free agent signings are not as linear as saying "lets sign Dunn and Pedro instead of Farnsorth, Olivo, Jacobs, etc." I think (hope) if Moore had the choice, if he had a single moment in time where all the free agents were available and their final pricetags were laid out on a table, he would go with Dunn/Hudson/et al. However, free agent signings happen over a multi-month period where prices change and other teams stir the pot (not to mention a player has to want to come here).

Sincerely,

Almost Hardcore Fan

Robert said...

When I watched Ponson pitch against the Dominican Republic, I figured somebody was going to look at his numbers from that game/the WBC and actually pay him to fail this year. I then convinced myself that the Royals 4th and 5th spots were in good enough shape that I didn't need to spend any time worrying about MY team being the idiots that did it. Now I have two thoughts...

1) Oops
2) Dammit

Unknown Royals Fan said...

So far, I've yet to see any indication at any level that Hochevar is ready to be a Major League pitcher. In fact, I'm seeing more indication that he's just another great selling job by Scott Boras. Barring a tremendous collapse by the 4-5 slots in the rotation, I'd be perfectly delighted to let Luke stay in Omaha long enough to win 15. Jimmy Gobble never learned how to win at the professional level, because he was rushed up. Same deal with Hochevar. I do think it sucks that Ponson will pitch the home opener, but what are you going to do? That's the 4 starter's slot, and our 4 starter is going to be mediocre regardless.

Of course, what do I know? I was only advocating for Mike Aviles' promotion early in 2007.

Anonymous said...

Steak, that is exactly how Dayton Moore screwed up. Instead of waiting to see how the free agent market shook out, he rushed to acquire mediocre and sub-mediocre players for more than their performance and production is worth. Sure no one knew that good players could be had so cheaply, but that doesn't excuse rushing to overpay crap like Farnsworth and Ramirez and trading talent for the privilege of giving millions to Jacobs. He doubly screwed up.

Dave said...

So who is the prospect you hear we are getting for Gload, Rany?

kcghost said...

With the exception of the Cruz signing GMDM has had a dreadful off-season. Trading for Crisp was nice until he rushed out and overpaid for Farnsworth. Signing Bloomquist and Ramirez was beyond comprehensible. Trading for Jacobs when you had Kila will end up being an overall bad move that will be hidden by comparing Jacobs performance to Royals 1B's did last year.

It comes down to GMDM spending a ton of money on guys we didn't need or whom we had much cheaper alternatives. Which would you rather have?? Bloomquist, Farnsworth, Jacobs, and Ramirez or Kila and $10M to spend on real players??

The Ponson thing is just beyond the pale. This guy couldn't pitch with the Yankees behind him and now we think he is going to produce for us?? The guy has no upside whatsoever. Hochevar does. Let's get on with it.

We should start an over/under pool on what day Ponson gets cut. My money says he never sees May.

kcghost said...

With the exception of the Cruz signing GMDM has had a dreadful off-season. Trading for Crisp was nice until he rushed out and overpaid for Farnsworth. Signing Bloomquist and Ramirez was beyond comprehensible. Trading for Jacobs when you had Kila will end up being an overall bad move that will be hidden by comparing Jacobs performance to Royals 1B's did last year.

It comes down to GMDM spending a ton of money on guys we didn't need or whom we had much cheaper alternatives. Which would you rather have?? Bloomquist, Farnsworth, Jacobs, and Ramirez or Kila and $10M to spend on real players??

The Ponson thing is just beyond the pale. This guy couldn't pitch with the Yankees behind him and now we think he is going to produce for us?? The guy has no upside whatsoever. Hochevar does. Let's get on with it.

We should start an over/under pool on what day Ponson gets cut. My money says he never sees May.

Anonymous said...

I'm sick and tired of hearing about the Jacobs trade and how it would have been better to play Kila. The guy is not proven! You have no idea what KK will do in the big leagues. Jacobs is a proven commodity who is tearing up Spring Training. Worst case scenario, the absolute worst case, is we deal him at the deadline when we are out of it and then let KK play. I think a lot of people are going to be suprised by Jacobs this year....

Anonymous said...

Rany,
I think the honest answer from Dayton involves him admitting that we have no chance at the division in 2009, he's thinking more 2010 and 2011. Perhaps with that in mind, the idea of Hoch getting less time in the majors and the thought of him improving in the minors make more sense. We, as fans, think they have a shot in 2009, however the GM might feel very differently with realistic chances.

John said...

I think that AxDxMx has it exactly right. The only way to find out if Ponson can give you anything before his May 1 deadline is to make him the 4th starter so that he can pitch regularly. That would mean pitching Luke in the 5 spot and only getting two starts. So put him in Omaha until either Ponson has a very early flame-out or until they need a 5th starter on a regular basis.

Tommy Goodtimes said...

Rany and everybody else, sorry this isn't related to the current post.

I was thinking about closers today and how they and their "saves" are overrated. Just last year Frankie Rodriguez set the single-season saves record and was widely considered the best closer in baseball and many thought it wasn't close. However, just a cursory statistical evaluation proves otherwise. Look at this...

The Angels played in a horrible division and won more games than anyone, while the Royals finished 4th in the AL Central, thus K-Rod had many more chances to rack up saves. Let's look at the stats, give me a minute...

ERA G S SO IP H HR HBP BB K
K-Rod
2.24 76 62-69 68.1 54 4 2 34 77
1.60 63 42-45 67.1 39 5 6 19 66
Soria

Soria had a better ERA by .64 and only one less inning despite 13 fewer games, meaning he pitched longer per game and therefore provided more value per appearance.

K-ROD AVERAGED 2.70 OUTS PER APPEARANCE. LESS THAN ONE INNING EACH TIME HE CAME INTO A GAME. Soria averaged 3.2 outs per appearance, not Gossagian, but substantial over a full season, particularly when factoring in the other KC relievers who were largely horrible. Every extra out Soria could get was HUGE in the scope of the team's overall record.

Soria also blew only 3 of 45 save chances (OPPS) for a 6.23 BS% (blown saves/save chances) while K-Rod blew 7 of 69 chances for a 10.14 BS%. K-Rod blew 1 of 10 while the Mexecutioner blew only 1 of 15 chances.

Look at hits, and remember K-Rod managed only three more outs than Soria over the year.
K-Rod: 54 in 68.1 IP or 7.11 H/9 IP
Soria: 39 in 67.1 IP or 5.21 H/9 IP
The near-equality of innings means you can throw out any debate over sample sizes. The samples are the same!

BB
K-Rod: 4.48/9 IP
Soria: 2.54/9 IP

Since Soria was better in both H/IP and BB/IP this one's obvious, but for the record:
WHIP
K-Rod: 1.29, very very tough
Soria: .86, Mexican tough

Batting Average Against
K-Rod: .216
Soria: .169

Slugging Percentage Against
K-Rod: .316
Soria: .255

K-Rod does get one category...
K-Rod: 10.14 K/9 IP
Soria: 8.82 K/ 9 IP

but remember all those walks?
K-Rod: 2.26 K/BB
Soria: 3.47 K/BB

Soria wins all but two major statistical categories, arguably the two least important. Save is an arbitrary definition of holding a lead after a certain point in a game, and strikeouts, though important, aren't as important as simply recording outs. Hitters were more successful and had a higher percentage of extra base hits off of K-Rod than they did off of Soria. The sample sizes are nearly identical, and they both play in the American League, facing the DH and similar opponents.

There is overwhelming statistical evidence that Soria was the more effective reliever last year. Fewer hiters reached base either by hit or walk, fewer hitters got extra base hits, fewer runners scored, his ratio of K/BB was higher, he blew a lower percentage of save chances, and he recorded more outs per appearance.

We have every reason to believe that had K-Rod and Soria switched places, Soria would be the saves record holder. The only difference is that the record would likely be 65 rather than 62.

I knew K-Rod (and his save record and saves in general and closers overall) were overrated, but I can't believe the total statistical dominance of Soria over him.

If saves can't even tell us who's the more effective closer within one season, how can they possibly be used as an indicator of reliever performance between decades or for Hall of Fame conisderation?

Unknown Royals Fan said...

For those who are ripping DMGM's offseason, I have a few questions:

1. If he's had such an awful offseason, are you then predicting the Royals will be better or worse this year? By how many wins each way?

2. Have any of you considered that a player's willingness to sign here might still play a role in who we get and don't get?

Kila-Ton said...

Steak, I didn't mean to sound elitist, we're all Royals fans here, and I apologize. That being said, I don't think you understand how big an issue Ponson being the #4 is. It means he will throw the first ever pitch at the new Kauffman stadium. When Royals stadium was opened in 1973, Paul Splittorff pitched a gem to open the stadium. Now, for the newly renovated Kauffman, lard-butt Sidney Ponson will go in the history books. That is a disgrace.

Sean said...

The back of KC's rotation is going to be a problem no matter who they throw out there. Hochevar a possible exception, and would be worth the shot though and I feel he earned it. I hope he keeps his confidence up. Other than that GMDM left it alone this off season for some reason. How can you really think a cast of HoRam, Ponson, Banny, etc would get it done on a consistant basis. None of these guys eat innings or avoid bats. I'm hoping for the best but once again today...one of the guys that "earned" the 5th spot (4th spot yesterday w/ Ponson) is getting ripped. I realize it's only spring training but c'mon. At some point, it matters. I'm scared frankly. Turning down a look at Pedro might have been foolish. I much rather have rolled the dice on him than Ponson, HoRam, Bale, Tomko and all these other guys that we force into the rotation and hope for lighting in a bottle.

Shelby said...

Tommy Goodtimes:

Awesome.

Especially the blog-within-a-blog factor. Bloguette?

Juancho said...

I do not want to see the Royals lose with a bunch of old overpaid hacks like Sidney Ponson. That was the problem with the non-exploding Gload in the first place.

If we're going to lose, let's lose with home-grown players like Hochevar or fan favorites like Banny. And I think we're less likely to lose as much with those two as starters than with HoRam and Sir Sid.

Ponson will be cut by June, assuming he doesn't get injured by then anyway, and HoRam will be sent to the bullpen by July. Where he will probably do quite decently as Gobble's replacement as LOOGY.

Looks like this year I'm rooting for Mr. Work Ethic, Hiram Davies (only three-year-olds are named Kyle) to be a bit of a surprise and show he can be a real big-league pitcher, as he did at the end of last season. Gotta be optimistic about something, and Hiram's potential, Prozack's proven talent, and Meche's professionalism could mean a core of three good starters. That's about as good as anyone else in the Central.

Anonymous said...

Once a team falls either 10 games under five hundred or 10 games back in the standings, IT'S OVER!

In the last 15 years, the Royals have usually been 10 back or 10 under by June 1st! In other words, the hope is gone and there is no reason to go to the ballpark in June, July, August or September! School's out ...season's done!

Daniel Wesley said...

Rany, I got to hear the first 30 seconds of your interview on 810 this evening before I had to get out of my car... could you post a quick synopsis of what you talked about?

Jared Launius said...

whichever anonymous mentioned GMDM looking to 2011 might not be that far off. he's made enough noise in free agency and through trades to emanate the idea that he is concerned with winning this year, but a lot of the signings/trades have been at positions that lend to the idea that they are only keeping the seat warm while the prospects get reps in A-ball (i.e. Jacobs for Kila, Ponson and Ramirez for Hochevar and Bannister, Bloomquist for Giavotella). The fact that the Royals are apparently ok with eating 8 starts by Sir Sidney/Ramirez in order to give Hochevar and Bannister some time in the minors only augments the idea.

As for Jacobs, I posit this: when you look at a trade, you ultimately grade it based on what you gave up, and what you got in return. I know that VORP and other stats will evaluate it in a more detailed fashion, but that's ultimately the idea. The Royals gave up a right-handed middle reliever to get a player that hit over 30 home runs LAST SEASON. I'm not so ignorant as to believe that 30 home runs will single-handedly turn us into a .500 team, but when you take in the idea that the royals surrendered only a right-handed middle reliever to acquire him, it's hard to dislike the deal. throw in the fact that they were able to replace nuñez with Cruz for relatively cheap and it gets even tougher.

great post Rany!

korkedbats.blogspot.com

Walt said...

First of all, the non-sequitor statistical comparison of Soria vs. K-Rod was right on the money. Soria is one of the three most desirable closers in baseball, along with Paps and Nathan.

As for the Ponson and Ramirez situation...

As stated before in a previous comment, Greinke and Meche were among the league leaders in quality starts last year with 23 and 21 respectively. Assuming it will take about 85 quality starts to compete in the division... and optimistically assuming 18 from Davies and repeat performances from ZG and GM, that leaves KC needing about 23 quality starts from the back end of the pen.

Cleary, there is no way to defend the fat prince of Aruba and Horacio rag arm as the source of 23combined quality starts. Dayton clearly must recognize this, since for all the (I believe unfair riddicule) he receives from Rany and the rest of this group, I think all would agree he is an above average major league GM. (The Meche and Soria moves alone make him at LEAST and average GM.)

So it seems the most logical explanation is that Banny and Hochevar have issues to work out and these issues are best addressed in the minors. For example, Hochevar cannot get left handed hitters out. He never has, really at any level above the independent league. My understanding is that McClure is working with him on off speed pitches to throw to lefties but that he has not yet mastered the pitch. As for Banny... his performance over the last 12 months speaks for itself. So Dayton has replaced them with two guys he HOPES will be nearly equivalent to the 2008 versions of Hoch and Banny while trying to improve the 2009 versions in AAA.

Seems reasonable to me, although I agree it will be emotionally distasteful to see fatso and lefty wearing the once-proud Royals uni.

Finally, I would like to predict at least one more trade before the deadline. I believe that either Teahen or Butler... along with Buck will get shipped somewhere either for pitching directly (e.g. Butler, Buck and a prospect to SF for Matt Cain... or Teahen and Buck to NYY for Melky Cabrera and a prospect) KC has too many (mediocre) C and too many young power hitting 1B. (Never thought I'd say that last part). If Dayton can turn his surpluses into a power arm, certainly he will do so. But even if he only succeeds in unloading the salaries of Teahen and Buck for prospects, he will have freed up enough money to pay 3-time Cy Young award winner Pedro Martinez to come to KC with the modest intention of getting 14 or 15 quality starts out of him. In either case, this Ponson/Ramirez discussion will be quickly forgotten and the rest of the league will be worrying more about how to score on KC's solid top 4 starters and solid bullpen rather than worrying about who might emerge as the fifth starter.

Go Royals.

-WZ

Brosiusjb said...

I couldn't believe what I was hearing when I heard that Hochevar was being sent down to the minors after the spring he had, which wasn't bad. Trey Hillman is lefty-crazy, I've heard him say before that you have to have AT LEAST 2 lefty's in your starting rotation to be a playoff team. Pardon Moi Trey, this is just false. A good right handed pitcher (Hochevar) is certainly better than a bad lefty (Ramirez). That being said, Hochevar needs to quit playing around with that 2 seam fastball/slider combo and get back to his 4 seam fastball and hammer curve. A 2 seam fastball and a slider look almost identical at the big league level. Whenever he runs the fastball away from a righty at his 91 mph he will get crushed. When he was drafted he could reliably hit 95, and had equally good stuff as Mike Pelfrey, who could top end in the high 90's. Now, sadly, he has tried to be less aggressive and more fine with his pitches. I don't know if he is scared to throw the ball over the plate without a lot of movement but you can make a mistake or 4 in a game and get away with it if its at 95 mph. He needs a renaissance.

Brett said...

As depressing as most of this post is, it always makes me happy to see a new post here. Especially tonight. I'm in a cheap hotel room in Ohio (first leg of a trip that culminates in US Cellular Field on Opening Day), I can't sleep because of thin walls and loud neighbors, but I turn on the iPod Touch (shockingly, the cheap hotel has free WiFi) to find new posts by both Posnanski and Rany. That makes for a good night.

Brosiusjb said...

And they need to tell him that we don't care what Borass says, if he doesn't toe the company line and start making adjustments he won't be getting very far any time soon. That being said, he is far more preferable than Ramirez. What about Ramirez would make anyone on earth say "starting rotation talent"? I very much hope the Royals are keeping something quiet, like the fact that Hochevar will be in the bigs as soon as the Royals need a number 5 starter, but seeing as Hochevar should be our numero 4 starter, it looks dubious at best. GM's who try to out-think themselves drive me crazy. Take a step back and ask yourself what would someone else do. Would they allow for a turd like Ramirez to pitch in their rotation if they absolutely didn't have to? God help us if the answer is yes.

keith jersey said...

You guys complaining about DM's offseason are all going to look foolish if/when Jacobs has a big year this year. He is tearing it up (and walking) in spring training. Besides, everyone knows the Royals rushed all their prospects to the big leagues too fast, yet you all seem to think Kila will be an instant all-star. Remember he really has only had 1 good professional season so far. Lets see him do it for a little longer, then call him up midseason and trade someone to make room for him.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Keith, for being another voice of reason. KK has been in our system for 6 years now. How many people were excited by him before last year?? NOONE! He was an extra body, nothing more.

Now that he had a Phil Hiatt type year in the minors, everyone thinks he's just a starting opportunity away from instant stardom in the big leagues! How'd that work for Phil Hiatt?

Now, I'm not saying KK will flame out as quickly as Hiatt did, I'm just saying don't get rid of every other first base option you have to hand him the starting gig. Make the kid earn it with more than just one big season.

Justin Andrew Anderson said...

Fellow Royals Fans: Thanks for standing alongside me in supporting of our beloved team! It hasn’t been easy having last made the playoffs in 1985 and watching every team but Expos/Nationals reach them since, failing to finish even 2nd in our division since 1995 and only enduring one winning season in 14 years. Our time will eventually come – I hope. Cheers to hoping we erase all this in 2009!

The Edster said...

Rany, it's very unlike you to have missed the obvious reasoning behind this decision: the Royals can send Hochevar and Bannister to Omaha and keep them; if they try to send Ponson and HoRam to Omaha, they lose them. Now, I can guarandamntee you the Royals don't make it through the season without an injury to a starting pitcher. In this scenario, they call up Hochevar or Bannister. If they start the season with Hochevar and Bannister and let Ponson and HoRam go though, who do you turn to when the inevitable happens? Tejeda? Duckworth? This decision is more about organazational depth than anything else.