Monday, April 16, 2012

The Score Board: 4/16/12.

Hey, no one said this would be easy.

The Royals were two outs away from starting the season with a 4-2 road trip. Then Jonathan Broxton couldn’t find the strike zone, Luke Hochevar gave up seven runs in the first inning of the home opener, and the Royals gave up 32 runs in a three-game series to the Indians.

Three days ago, the Royals had surrendered the second-fewest runs in the league. Now, they’ve given up the third-most.

The point here is that the standings can change wildly in the first few weeks of the season, and no matter how many times you tell yourself not to put too much meaning in such a small slice of the season, it’s human nature to ignore that advice. Just remember: the team that has given up the most runs in the AL right now is…Tampa Bay.

The Tigers started the year 4-0, and were leading game five 2-0 in the ninth with Justin Verlander on the mound, and I heard otherwise sensible people suggesting the Tigers could win 110 games this year. They lost that game and two of their next three; at 6-3 they still look like a good team, but not the unstoppable juggernaut that they resembled on Wednesday.

So let’s keep perspective here. If the Royals were 6-3, it wouldn’t mean that they were playoff-bound; we all remember just how meaningful an 18-11 start was. On the extremes, a team’s early-season record may portend something – the Royals’ 9-0 start in 2003 famously presaged a winning season a year after 100 losses. But 3-6 has no inherent meaning other than the fact that the Royals have lost a couple of games they could have won. It sucks that they’re 3-6, but it’s hardly time to jump ship on the youth movement because the pitching staff got its brains beat in for one weekend.

- Jarrod Dyson had an eventful weekend, and I say that as politely as possible. A terrible read on the flyball in the first inning on Friday set the tone, as he took the wrong route on another ball on Saturday, and then had the chance to throw Asdrubal Cabrera out at the plate in the fourth inning, but double-clutched the throw and then air-mailed the throw, allowing Cabrera to score easily. He then got thrown out trying to steal second in the ninth inning, killing what would have been the capper on a seven-run rally.

Dyson, unlike most low-power speedsters (think Juan Pierre), actually has an above-average arm. He also has well above-average range. He has elite speed. What we saw from him defensively for those two games was very much out of character for him. He’s played great defense in the past – remember, he already shares the Royals’ team record for most putouts (10) by an outfielder in one game. He was 20-for-22 in stolen base attempts in the majors - now 20-for-23 - and he had already stolen 6 bases in one week in Omaha this year. Frankly, if he was three inches taller, he might have erased all his bad mojo this weekend, because he would caught Shin-Soo Choo’s tenth-inning double, which would have been one of the most fantastic and clutch catches of the season – he got to the wall in plenty of time and timed his leap perfectly.

I point this out only because I’ve heard many fans ripping Dyson as a terrible fielder who has no business in the major leagues. I’m not defending his performance in those two games, but to judge him on those two games would be like judging a highly-touted hitter for going 0-for-8 with 6 Ks after getting called up. Ultimately, what will determine whether Dyson has a major-league career or not isn’t his defense or his speed; it’s whether he can sustain a .330 OBP or not. On that, the jury is still out.

- Through two starts, Luis Mendoza has thrown 9.2 innings, allowed 14 hits, walked 8 batters (one intentional), and struck out 3. The Royals wanted to believe his performance in Omaha last year was for real, but at some point the fairy tale has to end. His place in the rotation isn’t in imminent jeopardy, as it will be 2-3 weeks before Felipe Paulino is ready to return. But at some point the Royals need to confront reality.

- Then again, confronting reality has long been a weakness of the organization, e.g. Yuniesky Betancourt. I don’t want to waste precious minutes in every column ripping on Yuni, and he certainly had a good game on Saturday, including the game-tying homer in the eighth inning.

But I just want to point out that in the sixth inning, after he had reached base on an error with two outs, Betancourt failed to score on Mike Moustakas’ double that Choo had in his glove before he hit the wall and the ball popped out.

They barely mentioned it on the broadcast, and there was no replay that showed Betancourt running the bases at all, but I heard from a fan who was at the game that Betancourt stopped between first and second base when the ball was hit, because he forgot there were two outs. (The same fan claims that the fans were booing Betancourt after the play, but on the replay it’s impossible to tell whether they’re booing or yelling “Moooose”. Another reason why I’ve never been a fan of Moose calls – it’s impossible to separate approbation from reprobation.)

Given that the Royals lost in extra innings, you might argue that Betancourt’s failure to score on that play was important. You might even argue that it cost the Royals the game. Betancourt has his uses on the roster, and I even defended the notion of having him as a utility infielder when the Royals signed him. But this is just another example of how he just kills the Royals with things that don’t show up in the box score. The irony is that non-sabermetric types accuse people like me of overlooking the little things, while they praise Betancourt because he led the Royals in homers and RBIs in 2010.


bbxpert said...

Betancourt has an injured ankle and was noticbly limping. That's why he didn't score on the play. I was at the game.

Anonymous said...

3-6 to open the season isn't inherently depressing.

Giving up more than 30 runs in 3 games at home against the not-awesome-against-other-teams Indians is.

It's not about the win-loss record, it's about how overwhelming the losses are relative to the wins.

Nathan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nathan said...

Re: Mendoza, he was the catalyst for a quintessential Rex Hudler moment in the 3rd inning. After a bad call gave the Indians a baserunner with two out, Hudler told us what a great professional Mendoza was, and announced that he loved how quickly Mendoza had gotten his confidence back. He didn't say he hoped Mendoza would put the bad call behind him, he said that he had. Mendoza proceeded to surrender six runs while allowing the next eight hitters to reach against him, including three walks and a homer.

The night before, Yunieski Betancourt muffed a groundball while moving to his left. Royals fans were probably not too surprised. Hudler immediately announced that "you won't see that very often from Betancourt," and added that Betancourt is a "premier shortstop who has agreed to take the utility infield role in Kansas City." Premier shortstops don't do that, of course.

You can see why people like Hudler; he seems to genuinely want everyone to feel hopeful and encouraged about the team. I'd appreciate the optimism more if it were cut with a little critical thinking.

bbxpert said...

Hudler is a likeable guy. Some of the things he says are a little cockeyed. Saturday night the Indians brought in lefty Tony Sipp to face Hosmer. After Sipp missed with 2 pitches, Hudler said that clearly Sipp didn't want to pitch to Hosmer. Really? The only reason Sipp was in the game was to get Hosmer out. It certainly wasn't to walk him and pitch to Butler.

K.C.Tigerfan said...

On Hudler: the camera showed a few fans putting on Royals ponchos yesterday during the game. You know the kind, basically garbage bags with "Royals" printed on them. Hudler says: "Wow! Those are nice ponchos!" I hope no one asks him how he feels about Fidel Castro!

On Royals: I liked the fire they showed in the comeback Saturday. Not much else to like.

Tampa Mike said...

I couldn't believe how long Hudler was going on about the "missed" call at first that would have ended the inning. It was a bang bang play and while it appeared he should have been out, it was very difficult to tell even in slow mo. I hate it when announcers drone on and on about the umpires. Just call the game!

mister hernandez said...

Approbation is a great word. People should use it more. Well done!

K.C.Tigerfan said...

The Royals need to learn to rebound after a tough break. Hochevar and his wind-aided hits in the home opener. The blown save by Broxton. The two-out rallies started by Royals errors. Striking out withthe bases loaded. Etc. The one ray of hope I see is the way they came back to tie the Indians after the near-brawls on Saturday. This is the problem with a young team with few veterans. They need to learn to be mentally tough.