Alright, that’s it, I’m done – no more positive posts the rest of the season.
If we’re not losing six games in a row immediately after I write Game On, we’re losing four in a row – the last two by shutout – after I write about the Game of the Year. I realize that pride goeth before a fall, but this is ridiculous.
(As an aside: the next time someone talks to you about the importance of “momentum” in sports, point them to the events of the past week. The Royals staged their biggest ninth-inning comeback in over five years on Tuesday, against a team that had been blowing late-inning leads all year long. Any definition of momentum worth its salt would have you believe that the Royals, playing on an emotional high, would crush the distraught Indians over the next two games. Instead, the Royals were the ones that blew a 3-0 lead the following day. And after they got to Kerry Wood in the ninth, loading the bases on walks with one out…Wood suddenly found his breaking ball and struck out the next two batters. The Royals lost again the next day despite having Greinke on the mound and a lead after six innings.
Momentum means NOTHING. Momentum is a post ipso facto term: it’s a term that explains things after the fact, not in the moment. Momentum is used to describe which team has played the best in the immediate past – the problem is that people use it to predict which team will play the best in the immediate future. Yes, it’s true that the Royals had the “momentum” after Tuesday’s game, but what people mean when they say the Royals have momentum is that the results of Tuesday’s game make the Royals more likely to win on Wednesday. And that is bunk. It should be patently obvious to any serious sports fan that momentum is a ridiculous concept, but it’s not, for one simple reason: when the team that has the momentum suddenly stops playing so well, we say THE MOMENTUM HAS SHIFTED. Momentum can switch at the turn of a dime – but if momentum can shift back and forth so easily, doesn’t that imply that it’s meaningless?
People who believe in momentum remind me of conspiracy theorists, who argue that the fact that every NASA official denies that Neil Armstrong’s moon landing was filmed on a sound stage is proof of just how big the conspiracy is. Momentum believers will argue that the fact that
And in fairness, I should point out that I was the one who argued after Tuesday’s game that it might have buried
So anyway, for the second straight year the Royals have watched their season crumble before their eyes in late May. Last season, the Royals went into
But I would submit that these are two very, very different things. I know that half of Royals Nation is ready to throw in the towel, but this is nothing like 2008. As I write this, the Royals stand 21-22. Last season, at the start of their 12-game losing streak, the Royals were 21-22. They went into
(The Royals really can’t afford to lose the series with
Yes, the Royals have the same record after 43 games that they had last year. But to argue that this means they’ve made no progress is as silly as arguing that they’re going win more than 102 games because – as Martin Manley points out – they have a better record after 43 games than the 1977 Royals did. Last year, after losing 12 games in a row I wrote this. Today, I'm writing this. There's a big difference.
I planned to write about the moves that the Royals needed to make to shake themselves out of their slump, but since the Royals went ahead and made a bunch of transactions after yesterday’s game, I’ll talk about those instead.
Robinson Tejada to the DL, John Bale promoted.
The first transaction I was going to recommend was for the Royals to promote Bale and release Horacio Ramirez. Bale has been a rumor for most of his two-plus years in
The thing is, when he has pitched out of the bullpen, he’s pitched awfully well. He had a solid 4.05 ERA in 2007, with 42 Ks and 17 walks in 40 innings (and just one homer allowed), and threw 11 scoreless innings in relief upon his return last season. This season was once again delayed by health issues, this time for an overactive thyroid, but in six appearances in Double-A this month he has allowed just one earned run and five baserunners in 6.2 innings. He doesn’t have a huge platoon split, so like Ron Mahay he’s not ideally suited for a LOOGY role, but he’s competent enough against both sides of the plate that he makes for a nice second lefty in the pen.
The problem is that he’s not replacing Ramirez, who has been tried both as a starter and as a reliever and found wanting in both roles. I may have been wrong about the merits of signing Willie Bloomquist, and I’ll even accept the argument that the judgment is still out on Kyle Farnsworth, even though it so happens that his scoreless streak has come almost entirely in low-pressure situations. But I (and every Royals fan I know) was dead right about HoRam, whose $1.8 million contract looks even dumber today than it did when he first signed it. Ramirez’s ERAs in his last four stops look like this: 7.16, 2.59, 7.62, 7.64. The fact that the second number in that sequence came with the Royals is no excuse for ignoring the first and third numbers. The Royals did anyway, which is why the fourth number has also come in a Royals uniform. Ramirez is an inexcusable waste of a roster spot, and an even more inexcusable waste of money.
But Ramirez stays for now, though hopefully not for long. Instead, the Royals lose the services of Tejeda, who has probably been their best reliever all season – he leads the bullpen in strikeouts, and ranks second behind Jamey Wright in ERA, only Wright has given up seven unearned runs to Tejeda’s zero. Despite pitching well all year, Hillman has been extremely reluctant to use him in tight situations. Baseball Prospectus has a stat called “Leverage” for relievers, which measures the importance of the game situation in which a reliever is brought in to pitch. Of the nine relievers the Royals have used this year, Tejeda’s Leverage ranks seventh, ahead of only Farnsworth (barely) and Doug Waechter, who pitched in only three games. I mean, Sir Sidney has a higher Leverage score than Tejeda. Hillman has made a lot of mistakes with the bullpen in the micro sense, but in the macro sense, no mistake looms larger than his complete refusal to use one of his best relievers in important situations.
Hillman won’t have to worry about making that mistake for a while, because Tejeda is out with a “strained rotator cuff”. This injury comes out of the blue, and the Royals did backdate his DL stint to his last appearance, but let’s be honest: “strained” and “rotator cuff” are not words that you like to see connected. Tejeda’s the kind of maximum-effort pitcher that is prone to this kind of an injury. If we see him back before July, I’ll be surprised.
Luke Hochevar to
Yeah, I don’t like this one much at all. Hochevar didn’t pitch particularly well yesterday, but neither he did pitch all that bad, particularly after the first inning – he did get 12 groundball outs, which is a sign that his sinker was working. The Royals picked an awfully strange time to send him back to
(Oh, and the next time the Royals make a statement about one of their players, feel free to believe the exact opposite. Let’s face it: honesty isn’t always the strong suit of this front office. Joakim Soria wasn’t hurt, except that he was. Twenty-four hours after
It doesn’t help that the Royals are replacing him with Roman Colon, a.k.a. Latin Bowel, who Moore has had a fetish for since his Atlanta days, even though Colon’s major league record is mediocre at best. In three major league seasons,
The upside to this transaction is that it opens up a spot in
Mike Aviles to the DL, Tug Hulett promoted.
Now this move I can get behind.
In his place, Hulett is a nice use of a roster spot. He’s a left-handed hitting middle infielder, which in itself is a nice mix of talents, but he can actually hit - .296/.381/.461 this year, .298/.380/.518 last year. He’s played mostly second base in Omaha this year, but last season made 45 starts at shortstop in Triple-A. Given that Willie Bloomquist isn’t the world’s greatest shortstop to begin with, it would be nice to see the Royals add some pop to the lineup by starting Hulett at shortstop against right-handers. Sadly, this may require more creativity than Hillman is capable of.
The short story here is this: I wouldn’t panic by the fact that the Royals are in the midst of a tough stretch. But I would worry that the Royals’ response to this slump is to make a bunch of moves that don’t materially improve the ballclub. The Royals are still capable of getting things in gear – but instead they seem content to spin their wheels.
The Hochevar demo blows my mind, and I've been wondering about whether there was more to his story than we knew about ever since he was essentially our best starter in Spring Training and yet still found himself in Omaha. He has good upside - he pitched pretty well in stretches last season, which when coupled with his Spring numbers gave me reason for optimism with him. Plus, he was utterly dominant in Omaha. So I think there's something regarding his confidence up here, and personally, I suspect it has something to do with Hillman.
I think as fans we tend to swing too far on the pendulum from one side to the other, and in rapid fashion, so my next sentence is not to be taken as the bandwagon Hillman bashing that Brett hilariously defended against, but as mere observations of indisputable events of fact - Hillman has run-in's with Guillen (including Guillen throwing his fit about playing LF - Hillman yielded and Guillen got what he wanted), Olivo (remember when Olivo said he was told he'd be the starting catcher only to find out he wasn't? He threw a fit and Hillman yielded. Olivo also said he wouldn't return to the Royals but then he did once Hillman annointed him the starting catcher over Buck), Butler (it wasn't only Guillen that was saying Butler was acting like a baby last year), and Grud (remember how dissatisfied Grud was about the "lecture" on the field after a Spring Training walk-off win last year? Where is Grud this year? Oh, right - he wanted to go play for a "winner" even though the team was poised to compete this season. Ironically, he's still unsigned). Add in the public lies about Guillen's leg's last year, Soria's shoulder this year, the fact that he admitted that while Aviles never said his arm was an issue that he had read the medical reports every day and had seen that he had been getting daily treatment for it all year, AND some of his boneheaded strategies - pinch-running for Butler in the 7th inning when you only needed one run and he had just pinch-ran for Guillen in the same inning (in other words he took out his 3 and 4 hitters for pinch runners in the same inning with 2 full innings of play left), infamously bringing Farnsworth in on Opening Day against Thome...I mean the list just goes on.
What we have, I'm afraid, is a guy that may be a good manager in Japan, where the culture dictates that the players take the managers word to be gospel and blindly follow without questioning it, but is just piss-poor here in America, where unfortunately due to the players union the players have nearly as much say in what/where/when they play as the manager (please don't argue that the culture is what's wrong in this picture, and not Hillman - 29 other teams don't seem to run into this problem like Hillman does with his). So to say that "He has the team playing than the team has played in the previous few years" is asinine because it's not the same group of players as in year's past (no Sweeney, no Emil Brown, no Berroa, no Harvey, no Lima - the talent on this team is better by comparison so by virtue of having a different crop of players who are on the rise rather than on the fall they would show improved play, regardless of the manager).
Throw in this Hochevar deal, and the whole thing stinks. The kid has to be helped to succeed, and what he needs right now is confidence, and demoting him after his best start of the year is probably going to run counter to that. There's some weird sh!t going on behind the scenes right now, I think.
Sorry so long, but I've been getting criticized by some people for being a "bandwagon Hillman basher" and I think the evidence speaks to this going beyond a bandwagon-phase, with this Hochevar demo being the most recent example (I know, I know - the decision to send him down is Moore's let's be realistic - Hillman has a voice in those decisions). The guy just isn't a good manager or a good leader, it's as simple as that.
I guess I have Royal blue blood surging through my veins, because I don't see us competing with even the mediocre teams (read: the entire AL Central) without at least 1 more power bat....Teahen, Guillen and Jacobs have proven that they can't be relied upon for consistency. We need somebody with a propensity for .850+ OPS seasons in the middle of this lineup. Butler may be that guy, but I'm saying we need something like this in addition to what we already have.
All that said, I think once Soria comes back, we might have more confidence as a team. And if we can score .40 more runs per game, we might compete.
As of now, though, I don't see it. But I'm not nearly as smart as you, Rany. Tell me why I'm wrong! Please!!!
Rany I'm sure you've played some sports along the way. There is that feeling that everything's going your way, and you know the other team is reeling - which I'm sure causes some positive and negative variation in play on both sides. It's way overblown, sure, and probably affects baseball less than any of the major sports. But there's something there - only because it exists in the minds of the players, especially the younger or more emotional players.
Whether they're right about it or not, I think they wanted to keep another power arm in the bullpen with Tejeda going down. The prospect of only bringing Bale up (who was outstanding, by the way) and still having to rely on Ponson and HoRam in the 'pen (not that HoRam shouldn't be cut outright) was probably more soft tossers than they really were comfortable.
There will not be a need for a fifth starter until next week anyway.
Also, it should be mentioned that Dayton Moore spent his offseason acquiring strike out guys, perhaps recognizing the inadequacies of the defense, and has found the team having to rely too heavily upon ground-ball/finesse pitchers in relief where the margin of error is smaller as the game nears its end. Colon's effectiveness notwithstanding, he does match the profile.
At some pointn the golden boy GM has to take his share of responsibility. Dayton Moore has clearly helped improve the team since he arrived but last off season he made some poor decisions of where to invest money. The team is not balanced. He was so focused on getting power that he didn't look at the mix on the field and it's a mess. Jacobs for Nunez is a good trade when viewed in context of player value but it does fit the team-You can't have Guillen-Jacobs-Olivo and other hackers batting in a lineup together and you can't clog the basepaths with Guillen-Jacobs -Butler. Jacobs offensively is who we thought he was but with Shealy and Killa in AAA and Butler it's a wasted signing that limits what we can do with the lineup. Add in the 2b/SS issues and we have a mess. Orlando Hudson may have been a wiser signing or trade for Ben Zobrist in a small deal. You made your bed with Guillen 2 years ago so unless you can get rid of him (you can't) you're stuck. Farnsowrth and Ramirez were other wasted signings. Moore had a bad offseason and that wasn't a huge deal when our goal was improvement but now that we see the Central is there for the taking - the bad off season and a manager not appropriate for MLB on 2009 we will regret wasting a season for the ages from Jonah.
Decent comments. I'm glad the Royals have Huglett coming up, although this is another case of a waiver-wire acquistion pointing up how stupid another, more expensive transaction (the Bloomquist contract) was to begin with.
With regard to Robinson Tejeda's leverage, it's worth noting that if you look at FanGraphs Win Probability stats (the best ones out there), Tejeda's gmLI (leverage when entering the game) is 097., which is higher than than Ramirez's (0.73) or Farnsworth's (0.50). That's sort of shocking considering he never played for the Braves (ahem). Anyway, I don't know what's up with BP, but it looks like Hillman has actually used Tejeda a bit better than we thought, although hopefully the love affair with Jamey Wright is almost over.
I get that you posted this before the Star posted the Royals' explanation for Hoch's demotion, but I've gotta say, I agree with the team's logic a lot more than yours. Do we want him to be a reliever or a starter? Even if they were sticking to a 5-man rotaion but decided he wasn't #5, it wouldn't make sense to keep Luke with the big club to work out of the pen. You send him down, get his head right, and bring him back still in starting-pitching condition. LH is still a young guy they're trying to develop - it's more important to think about his long-term value as an asset than his marginal potential short-term benefit over someone like Colon.
The Royals may or may not contend as this season wears on, we all know that probably depends on what the offense is going to be able to do. I think reality is closer to what they were doing 3-weeks ago than what we've seen the past week, but it would be nice for DDJ to warm up - for Alex to be back & healthy - and to get some healthy fraction of the production we expected from Aviles. I dont't see how any of those deficiencies can be blamed on Dayton or Trey (and when Alex does come back, where do you put Teahen? Callaspo has been one of the bright spots, though he's cooled off recently.) Can this team afford 2 uber-utility guys? At some point the value of flexibility drops when you aren't giving either guy (Teahen & Bloomquist) enough work. How much trade value do they hold there?
The schedule works out that we don't need a 5th guy for a while. So send him where he'll get some work. He'll be back. That just means maybe Greinke and Meche get an extra turn at the end of the season maybe. I'm all for it. Hochevar was the weakest part of the rotation, so leaving him out for a couple weeks makes our rotation even stronger.
I think moving to a 4-man rotation for the next 8 games was a significant upgrade.
I like the Hochevar demotion for one big reason - it sends a message that the Royals are more concerned with winning games (which Hoch has been unable to get us a sniff of) than developing young players. Believe it or not, Rany, that's a GOOD thing. Hochevar is clearly the sixth-best starter we have right now (yes, I'm still slotting Sir Sidney in as our fifth best), and what he learns in AAA is much less important than him not tanking us in MLB. One does wonder if there weren't some spot of temperament that precipitated this. I've maintained all along that there is something wrong with the competitive fire in a player who is willing to sit with his thumb up his butt to get redrafted the next year because he didn't like a reasonable offer. The best case success story out of that whole Boras/sit-out scenario is JD Drew to date - which ain't saying much.
By the way, there's one stat that I would have thought a stat guy like yourself would have keyed on, and that we discussed over on Unknown Royals Fan a few days ago. Your favorite whipping boy, Jose Guillen, leads the Royals regulars in OBP and actually has two more walks than strikeouts YTD. For a guy who had almost 5 strikeouts for every walk last year, that's an amazing turnaround and worthy of discussion, don't you think?
I'm disturbed by the fact that Soria's injury was quietly referred to as a "strained rotator cuff" a couple of days ago, and now Robinson Tejada has the same mysterious injury. I do think it's far past time that the Royals revamp the training staff, and Nick Swartz should be the first to go.
Rany. I was wondering about your comment on the use of Tejeda. It seems as though he is being used in those situations that we wish we saw Soria in more often. I actually like the way he is being used in the sense that he is often entering in the middle of innings in tight situations that occur in earlier innings. I know that you have talked about the concept of using a closer in the 7th if that is the time that the is most urgent for the team as opposed to the closer starting the ninth without anyone on base.
While I don't have any stats to back it up, it appears Tejeda is doing just that except that it is often in the fifth or sixth inning.
I don't think that warrants the use of HoRam later in the game but that could be avoided by dumping him altogether.
What is your opinion on this way of looking at it?
Unknown Royals Fan, as far as Jose Guillen and his amazing turnaround with his OBP is concerned. I think that it is wonderful in 100 AB's so far this season that his OBP is over 400. Unfortunatly for the Royals the previous 5000+ at bats are a much better indicator of what to expect the rest of the way for this 33 year old and his OBP.
The Royals are a tease. Just when they look like they might pull their heads out, the have a game like today. Gil Meche says he's fine, but he's not. The defense is a joke. The hitting...good god! It's a damn shame. Crisp might be able to get on base occasionally, but he has to hit! If he can have an OBP of .400, but he is hitting .190, it doesn't matter. Dejesus...what happened...you've done a complete 180 from last year! Butler...still no power. Jose is playing like Pedro Cerano in Major League 2...no anger...no power. Jacobs is the hack we knew he was. Teahen hasn't and won't ever be like he was in his one good half season. The only reason Olivo is around is he handles Greinke. PLAIN AND SIMPLE. Buck is a bust. Callaspo is what he is. Same goes for the Golden Spork...except he's getting the Gloadian treatment...backup being used as a regular. The pitching, aside from Greinke, is a joke. Ponson had one good outing, and why is Ramirez still on this team? Please explain...b/c the money shouldn't be the only reason.
i really like old man duggan's post but that photo is freaking me out a little bit.
a few thoughts on KC's rotation
hochevar has two big problems:
1. he simply cannot get out big league lefties
2. his curveball sucks. in his last three starts (two of which i watched), hitters were able to recognize the curve and reload after starting to swing. this pitch is neither deceptive nor thrown hard (64-70 mph). if he scraps it, that leaves him with three pitches against righties (passable) but only hard stuff (fastball, slider) against lefties. at his (slightly above average big league) velocity, there is zero chance he can get big league lefties out three times with his current arsenal.
so i think his demotion is the right thing to do if he will be working on a new off speed pitch to throw to lefties OR he will be moved to the bullpen where he will be asked to throw a little harder for shorter, more frequent stints. (the latter seeming a remote possibility considering KCs sunk costs.)
4-man rotation? this seems silly considering meche's back clearly has been bothering him with 4 days in between starts, never mind what will happen when the recuperation interval is shortened. and what about keeping greinke fresh in the face of the league's strategy to wear him down? i want to like hillman but the way he is handling these pitchers is really making it tough.
finally... when is dayton going to reach out to pedro? how about - like - right now so he can be ready to pitch by late june?
I think the existence of momentum in a going forward sense can work in a short series. If you have a sure win and you lose it (no-hitter through six, for example), you'd have to think that would have serious implications on both teams--for that series. But when it comes to sustaining it for six, seven games? I have serious doubts.
Considering that he's a "young" man, though he's old for a prospect and actually over a month older than Greinke, he doesn't really have anything to learn in Triple-A. Give him the Farnsworth/Colon role, where he's in the blowouts and low-leverage situations, and let him learn there.
walt z - I think the "4 man rotation" is a mis-nomer. I think it's the off days in the schedule, not a switch to shorter rest. Presumably, Hochever will remain on his regular schedule and be back when the MLB schedule warrants it. An extra day of rest for Gil and Zack might be a good idea, though, I would agree with that. If Greinke or Meche were to go down, even for just 2-3 starts, this would be a really depressing team to watch.
The bullpen has fallen apart. Meche is either hurt or lost. The line-up is not hitting, and nothing suggests that they will. Look at it realistically, there is no deal that can be made to turn things around. Juggling the line-up won't help, because there is no true 3 hitter or even a lead-off hitter.
Crisp - Not suited for the 1 spot, why not try DeJesus back there?
DDJ - Only hits at 6 or lower, no power, no speed.
Butler - He is not a MLB caliber firstbase hitter or fielder. I know most of KC is happy with him, but compared to other 1b, he doesn't have enough power.
Guillen - 12 Million doesn't get you much these days, I guess.
Teahen - only hits at 6 or lower. Not enough power for a MLB third baseman. See Butler, above. Also not enough power for a corner outfielder.
Jacobs - PERFECT as a DH, but doesn't have anyone on base to drive in.
SS - anyone at this spot is below-average defensively AND a joke offensively. Spork will be exposed the more playing time he gets at SS
Callaspo - I like him,a ctually. He needs to bat low intheorder, though on this team he qualifies as a 3 hitter.
THE POINT IS - all of these guys would be good pieces on another team, but as a group - YIKES!!!!!!
Personally I don't have an issue with sending Hoch down if the purpose of doing so is to get a message across: mainly that he needs to grow a pair.
Aviles going on the DL is one of the best moves the Royals have made all year. Aviles on the DL prevents Hillman from running him out there day, after day, after day so that we can see his best TPJ impression while at the plate.
Ho-Ram is a waste of space not that Bale is healthy again. Bale and Mahay constitute ALL the left handednedd the Royals need in the bullpen. He needs to go even more than Ponson does. At least Ponson has some decent stuff.
Ho-Ram reminds me of Mark Redman: Below average stuff, but he makes up for it by having mediocre control. If DM is stupid enough to give Ho-Ram $1.8 million, maybe I can sucker him out of a few bills.
Chairman Mound? Now thats a nickname!
Dear Author www.ranyontheroyals.com !
You are mistaken. Write to me in PM, we will talk.
I want to quote your post in my blog. It can?
And you et an account on Twitter?
Post a Comment