Thursday, April 29, 2010

Royals Today: 4/29/2010

The wait is over: Rany on the Radio returns this evening at 6 PM. We’ve tried to make an effort to give the show a consistent time slot this year – last year we’d be on Thursday unless the Royals were playing, in which case it would be Wednesday, unless it was a day game on Thursday…it got to be like a third-rate network sitcom that bounced around to accommodate the rest of the schedule. This year, the hope is that you can find us every Thursday at 6 PM on 810 WHB. (This is why we didn’t start last week – evidently some non-baseball sports league was holding a draft or something. Stupid NFL.)

Some quick thoughts before the show tonight:

- It appears that all the talk about Luke Hochevar’s improved fastball was an illusion after all. As Greg Hall recounts here, even the pitching staff thinks the radar gun at the K is hot, and as Jeff Zimmerman analyzes the data here, they’re right – the gun is about 2 mph faster than at other parks. I don’t know how the Pitch F/X data could be this off, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned about the Royals, it’s that they can make the impossible seem commonplace.

- Greg Schaum is reporting that the Royals are putting John Parrish on the DL and calling up Victor Marte. Let me be the first to say: Marte is not the answer. If he goes back down in a couple of days when Chris Getz returns, this is no big deal. But if the Royals send down Alex Gordon instead…well, they are the Royals. They have a reputation to live up to.

- Speaking of Gordon…I’ve defended Trey Hillman to an extent for his handling of the bullpen. But that doesn’t mean his overall body of work is anything to be proud of. Case in point: last night, with the Royals down a run in the 8th, after Alberto Callaspo singled with two outs, Hillman pinch-ran for him with Gordon.

Meanwhile, Willie Bloomquist was still in the lineup at second base, and was due to bat in the 9th.

This is amazing on several levels:

1) Hillman decided that it was more important to upgrade from Callaspo to Gordon on the basepaths than to upgrade from Bloomquist to Gordon with the bat.

2) Bloomquist was in the starting lineup, I suppose, because the Mariners started a lefty on the mound. It so happens that the Mariners’ closer, David Aardsma, is right-handed.

3) Jason Kendall was at the plate when Gordon pinch-ran. If the point of bringing Gordon in to run was so that he might be able to score on a double in the gap, wouldn’t it make sense only if the batter could actually hit a double? We’re talking about the player with the lowest slugging average in the majors last year. Kendall has 3 extra-base hits so far this season, and had just 23 all of last year.

4) Rick Ankiel is supposedly available to pinch-hit, but he stayed on the bench in the 9th, while Bloomquist naturally made an out. So either Ankiel really isn’t available and the Royals are pulling our leg (never!), or Hillman really thought Bloomquist was his best option in the 9th.

- I know that Yuni is hitting .325, and we’ve been subject to the requisite articles that he’s become a better, more disciplined hitter. Pardon me if I wait a little longer before acknowledging defeat. His new-found discipline has translated into exactly one walk all season. Last night, he worked the count to 3-1 with two outs in the ninth, prompting Frank White (himself a fair swinger) to recommend that Yuni take a pitch and try to work a walk. He fouled off the 3-1 pitch, then swung on a 3-2 pitch that was high and a foot outside to end the game.

According to Fangraphs, Betancourt has swung at 56% of the pitches he’s seen this season – by far the most in his career. He’s swung at 46% of pitches outside the strike zone – last year he swung at just 31%, and his career high is 34%. All the evidence suggests that he’s LESS disciplined at the plate this season.

This lack of discipline has been most galling when it comes to situational hitting. Seven times this season Betancourt has batted with a man on third base and less than two out, i.e. a situation where you just want to put the ball in play. He has one hit in those seven at-bats, but the problem is that in his other six at-bats he didn’t bring the runner home even once. This cost the Royals the game on Saturday night, when he struck out with the game-winning run on 3rd base in the 10th (he saw four pitches, all of them out of the strike zone, and swung at three of them). It might have cost the Royals the game on Tuesday, when he grounded out weakly with Mitch Maier on third base and one out after Maier had tripled in the game’s first run. Maier didn’t score; the Royals lost 3-2. The major league average for bringing home a runner on third with less than two out is in the 55-60% range. For Yuni so far this year, it’s 14%.

So yeah, he’s hitting .325, but his approach hasn’t changed at all; if anything, it’s gotten worse. Batting average is a notoriously variable statistic, and even a bad hitter can hit .325 for a month. Just look at Betancourt himself:

July 2006: .374

May 2007: .327

August 2007: .317

April 2008: .301

August 2008: .305

September 2008: .343

Hell, Betancourt batted .303 last April, and by June the Mariners were desperate to get rid of him. Because even when Betancourt hits .300, his complete lack of walks and modest power makes him only marginally useful. And when he hits .214, like he did last May, he’s a lineup killer.

If Betancourt is hitting .325 at the All-Star Break, call me. Until then, call me a skeptic.


Jacob G. said...

Hey Rany,

Any chance of a minor league update in the next week or two? It has to be less depressing than more bullpen musings. I notice Kila is leading Omaha in OPS. Is Hosmer headed to AA soon?

Ryan said...

Greg Schaum's new web site, which Rany referred to in his post, is all about the Royals minor league system. It includes daily updates on how all the teams/players did in all classes.

Sal said...

Why not lay down a bunt with Yuni and the game on the line? It has a better chance of getting the guy home from 3rd.

gbewing said...

at least Soria got work in tonight 11-1 but we got our closer in the game- it's all good

Unknown said...

So, I see that Hochevar is still the same pitcher as last year.... I'm sure Betancourt will show his true face too.

Anonymous said...

Dr. J,

I love your intelligent enthusiasm, I only wish you had a more fun small market team to root for.....I suggest the team that pummeled you guys tonight.....Rays.

Why not follow them to get your jones going....pretend they are wearing the Royals uniform.

The whole team is built off intense statistical analysis that you appreciate, defense, and pieces that are much greater than their sum.

I feel bad, if the Royals were 16-5 during a homestand, they would easily be bringing in at least 25,000 -- not the anemic and generous 12,000 at the Trop for this game.

Anonymous said...

I guess we also got rid of the myth of how much Kendall has helped Hochevar improve.

Ryan said...

or how much Kendall has helped the bullpen find the strike zone.

gsmith601 said...

Am I the only one that thinks Gordon could use an extended stay in AAA? He had a very short season last year, essentially no Spring Training this year, when he was rehabbing at A level he kept getting walked and had about 1 game with Omaha before Getz got hurt. I'd like to see him hitting well in AAA then go to KC.


gbewing said...

No podcast for the radio show this year? not even listed on WHB website

Blake said...

gbewing, it'll be up tomorrow afternoon. I had to run before the show ended so I didn't have a chance to put it up on the website. Shouldn't be a problem from here on out.

Dan said...

Please let us know if there is a link that can allow us to listen to a recording of the WHB show.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I love Rany on the Radio, but am often not available when it is live. I would love for the podcast to go up.

As for the Royals, the managerial decisions have been getting stranger by the day. We bench Mitch Maier, who's bats finally started to get hot, in favor of playing Willie Bloomquist.

Fast Eddie said...

I saw a blog that suggested Chris Ianetta might be a good fit for the Royals. I agree. A major league team needs two catchers that can actually play. Just watch -- Kendall won't hit a lick in the 2nd half, because of overuse.

Blake said...

Its up everyone.

Under the podcast section and then under Additional Programming.

Anonymous said...

Did you notice that the Royals traded Carlos Rosa to Arizona in exchange for an A-ball shortstop? What am I missing on this one?

Anonymous said...

You're not missing anything. It's just Dayton Moore being Dayton Mooreon again.

Anonymous said...

Olivo would sure look good behind the plate.

Anonymous said...

Dayton Moore should be sent into permanent exile in Antarctica!

Anonymous said...

Aviles up, Betancourt on the bench. Ka'aihue up, Ankiel to the DL. Anxious to hear the thoughts.

tookee said...

So Kila finally gets a chance, however remote it will be. Listened to the radio show for the first time. Really enjoyable -- keep it going. There's certainly enough to talk about with this organization.

Keith Jersey said...

Kila up for a taste. Hochevar was very good last night. And now this from the Omaha Royals website which makes me feel a whole lot better about the Gordon demotion.

"Alex Gordon is expected to join Omaha today and he'll be learning to play left field. KC manager Trey Hillman said the former 3rd baseman might also see some time at 1st base, but will primarily be switching to left. Plans call for outfield specialist Rusty Kuntz, a special assistant to general manager Dayton Moore, to be in Omaha to assist with Gordon's transition to the outfield."

TyRone said...


We need a column about Alex Gordon! I personally think that he needs extended time seeing MLB pitching, not MiLB. There's a big difference between the two, and I think that with more experience, he will be good, if not great. In my opinion, he hasn't been all that bad while he was up. Sure, he hasn't hit the cover off the ball, or whatever cliche you choose, but he still can take a walk with the best of them. Our team seems a bit more patient at the plate (letting Mitch play only helps in this respect). DeJesus still takes some walks. It seems like the organization might finally be realizing that taking walks is a skill that makes a player useful.

I'd also like to hear your thoughts on what the Royals plan to do with Aviles. He crushed the ball last night, and if he continues to do so, they have to let him play. I don't know what they would do with Yuni in the meantime, but it really doesn't matter.

Finally, what is the point of bringing Kila up? I am as big of a supporter as any, but if he's sitting on the bench, that does us no good. We need to flip Jose before he does anything negative, and get Kila in, but IMO JoGui won't be traded until right around the deadline, so I'd just assume that he gets his ABs in AAA until then.


Anonymous said...

Encouraging news - take a look at what Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Derrick Robinson, and Johnny Giavotella are doing in the minors.

gsmith601 said...

Rosa had the lowest strikeout rate on the Omaha roster....

We got a good fielding shortshop that may hit for average and has a good eye for taking pitches.

I'm good with the trade.

Last time we traded a pitcher to AZ was Billy Buckner for Callaspo...

gsmith601 said...

Olivio did not look so good behind the plate when the passed ball was behind him....