Friday, May 3, 2013

Five For Friday: 5/3/13.

Apparently, the only thing that can slow the Royals down is a snowstorm in May. Yesterday’s “game”, in which the Royals wasted four shutout innings from Ervin Santana and had a 1-0 lead struck from the books, was a debacle and an embarrassment. But it’s not the Royals who should be embarrassed; it’s Major League Baseball.

I wrote about this issue after another Royals’ rainout years ago, and you can read what I wrote here. (Baseball Prospectus re-published this after rains threatened to shorten the deciding game of the 2008 World Series. The Phillies could well have been crowned World Champions by an umpring crew calling Game 5 in the middle of a blinding rainstorm. That didn’t happen only because 1) the umpires let the game proceed in unplayable conditions long enough for the Rays to tie the game, and 2) because Commissioner Bud Selig made the unprecedented decision to “suspend” game until the rains abated…more than 48 hours later.)

There’s simply no precedent in any other major sport for the results of a game that has already started to be completely thrown out simply because of weather conditions. The solution is simple: any game stopped because of weather is suspended, and will be resumed from that point, whether it’s in the fourth inning or the eighth inning.

Instead, we have a ridiculous double standard, whereby a game that goes 3 ½ innings is thrown out completely, but a game that goes 4 ½ innings is considered completed. We have a situation where the umpires are incentivized to let yesterday’s game start even though no one thought the weather would hold up for nine innings – the hope was that they could get just enough of a game in to declare it “regulation”.

You have a situation where Ned Yost is asked to be a meteorologist as well as a maanger, and put his best starter so far this season on the mound in the hopes that he can steal a five-inning game. If the weather had held off another 20 minutes, it would have been a brilliant move. Instead, the Royals got an excellent start from an excellent starter – and it was all for naught. Worse than that, it’s as if it never happened.

It does raise the question of why, given that everyone knew the snowpocalypse was about to hit Kauffman Stadium, the game couldn’t have been started an hour or even 30 minutes early. Sure, it would have meant that some fans would have showed up at gametime and found that they had missed two innings. But is that any less fan-friendly than making fans sit through miserable weather, then through a miserable rain-delay, to find out that the game they attended never actually happened in the first place?

One of these days, Major League Baseball will recognize how stupid and antiquated their rules are regarding rain delays, and will change them. In the meantime, we’ll have to put up with the ridiculousness that we saw yesterday afternoon.

On to your questions:

Bob Long (@BobLeeLong): Am I wrong to be excited about this Royals team?

Not at all. They’re 15-10, they’ve outscored their opponents by 15 runs, they went on a roadtrip against three teams whose records are 17-11, 20-8, and 16-11, and finished 4-3. The Royals have displayed many of the hallmarks of a winning team.

But if you’re excited about this Royals team now, you probably should have been excited by this Royals team before the season began. I predicted them for 86 wins and second place, and so far they’ve played to those expectations. Their pitching has been better than I expected; their offense has been worse. They have yet to suffer an injury or make a single roster change other than bringing up Will Smith to start in a doubleheader.

Even so, they’re now behind the Tigers by a half-game, and a half-game up on the A’s and Orioles for the second wild-card spot. So by all means, be excited, because this is probably the Royals’ best team in the last 19 years. But temper your excitement with the acknowledgment that even if this IS the Royals’ best team in the last 19 years, they still might not be playoff-bound.

AJ Exner (@AJExner): Do you think there are any other teams in the division (besides Detroit) that we should really worry about?

Well, let’s look one by one:

- The Twins are hanging in there at 12-13, but I can’t take their playoff aspirations seriously. They lost 96 games last year, which is close to the record for most losses by a team that reached the playoffs the following season. (The 1991 Braves, 2008 Rays, and 2011 Diamondbacks all went to the playoffs a year after losing 97 games.)

The Braves and Rays, in particular, radically changed their rosters in the interim off-season. The Twins, though, are basically the same team they always are – trying to build an offense around Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, and trying to build a pitching staff out of guys who can’t strike anyone out. Put it this way: the Twins don’t have a single pitcher on their roster with 18 strikeouts. The Royals have two relievers – Holland and Herrera – with 18 strikeouts. The Twins are dead last in the AL in Ks, and first in the league in fewest walks allowed, just the way they like it. Color me skeptical that it’s going to work out for them this year.

And after years of waiting for time and a chronic neglect of their farm system, this looks to me like the year the White Sox finally pay for their sins. They’re dead last in the league in runs scored. Adam Dunn is hitting .147. Paul Konerko is 37 years old and is hitting .227/.287/.392. They’ve fooled us before, in large part because they’re better than anyone at keeping pitchers healthy, but aside from Sale and Peavy it’s not clear they have any starters worth keeping healthy. And Gavin Floyd’s about to have Tommy John surgery. They could still get back in the race, but I think it’s an uphill battle for them.

That leaves the Indians, and…don’t sleep on the Indians. They went into tonight’s game hitting .270/.336/.463, leading the league in slugging. Carlos Santana is having his long-awaited breakout year. Assuming Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall get their bats going, there really isn’t a weak spot in their lineup. If their rotation can just be halfway decent, they could win 85-90 games.

So it’s still a three-team race for now. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it stays that way well into the summer.

Bryan Larson (@jbryanlarson): Does playing Elliot Johnson in three straight games signal a Gio recall? Should it?

It doesn’t signal a recall, but it does raise some questions. Chris Getz isn’t answering them by hitting .227/.250/.364 so far. Yost can make all the excuses he wants about how he started Johnson again at second base on Thursday because Johnson was on a hot streak, but let’s be real – if Getz is doing his job, he doesn’t sit on the bench because a utility guy hit a homer the day before.

I don’t think the Royals are prepared to bring up Giavotella yet. But he is hitting his usual .323/.391/.479 for Omaha, and Getz has an option left. I imagine that if Getz doesn’t pick up his bat significantly by the end of the month, the Royals might make a move. Having one of your best hitters in the leadoff spot in Alex Gordon makes the ability of the #9 hitter to get on base that much more important. If Getz can’t even do that part of his job well, an upgrade will be in order.

Aaron Bryant, Esq. (@aaronjbryant): What would you give up for Giancarlo Stanton mid-season?

Still too soon, guys. Especially since Stanton pulled his hamstring badly and is out indefinitely. It’s fun to think about, though.

Andrew Sutherlin (@Cptndeez): David DeJesus is hitting .282/.351/.541…solid defense despite a weak arm…he’s better than Frenchy…a cheap trade target?

Assuming the Royals don’t break the bank for Stanton, DeJesus actually makes a shocking amount of sense. He’s a free agent at the end of the year, he doesn’t make a ton of money ($4.25 million), and the Cubs are pretty clearly playing for the future. On top of that, DeJesus has a $6.5 million club option for next year. He’s 33, an age where a player of his caliber tends to decline quickly, but he’s shown no sign of it so far, hitting .282/.351/.541.

DeJesus would make a fantastic platoon partner for Francoeur, getting most of the at-bats as the left-handed part of that platoon. And assuming he plays well, he could be the everyday rightfielder again next year on a one-year contract, making him the perfect bridge to Jorge Bonifacio, who if all goes right could be ready by the end of 2014.

Obviously, he has a history in KC and would be welcomed back warmly, and I think Royals fans would appreciate his skill set more than most teams. DeJesus is highly underrated because he doesn’t do anything really well, but he doesn’t do anything poorly either. If he continues to hit this well, he’d be pricey but not prohibitively so. It’s something to keep an eye on if Francoeur doesn’t start hitting.

Kevin Flanagan (@Kevin_Flanagan): What’s wrong with Wade Davis? I thought he was going to step on the gas? His velo is down 2 mph. His line drive rate is 33%. Yikes.

After two shutout starts in a row, Davis was beyond terrible in his last two starts. When you give up more baserunners (27) than you record outs (25) over a two-start stretch, you’ve sucked.

Overall, he has a 5.55 ERA, but his BABIP is .425, which suggests a rather heaping dose of bad luck. His velocity is certainly down from last year, when he was a reliever, but it corresponds pretty well to how hard he was throwing in April of 2011, his last year as a starter.

I don’t think we’ve seen enough of Davis to render any kind of judgment on him yet. He’s on a new team, in a new role, he’s been brilliant and awful already this year…he needs 15 or 20 starts before the Royals have a good handle on what he is. They have a lot riding on him staying in the rotation – if he does, they control him for five years, but if he has to move back to the bullpen, his options are almost worthless. (His options start at $7 million in 2015 and go up from there, and you don’t want to pay $7 million for any but the best relievers. And in the case of Joakim Soria, sometimes not even then.)

So unless he absolutely gets his ass handed to him, Davis is probably going to stay in the rotation at least through the end of June. That will give the Royals more time to make a decision, and that will also give the Royals time to come up with a superior alternative in the form of Danny Duffy, who should be ready by then.


Jim M said...

I really like the 5 for Fri... I didn't think that there were any Q's left taht I could care about, but sure enough... I do care!

Kansas City said...

Really like 5 for Friday. But, if Stanton fun to think about, why not talk about who we might trade to get him. Same with DeJesus, who would be a great pick up. The Royals good record so far is an illusion in the sense that they cannot win with the current hitting of 2b, 3b, 1b, and rf. Even catcher is a problem, but one that can be lived with.

Phil LeBlanc said...

Because it's all speculation and means nothing. Most people who know a thing about this team know the names that would be involved.

Brett said...

Last article sparked discussion about Gordon at third base. Something horribly advised in my opinion. But what about Gordon at third or fourth in the lineup? I almost hate saying it because I bad-mouthed management for doing it when he was killing it in the leadoff spot then proceeded to suck in the 3 hole. "Don't mess with success" was my motto then.

However, our offense can't seem to generate runs and our 4/5/6 merry-go-round is producing jack-squat. Yes, Gordon leads the teams in RBIs from the leadoff spot. I don't think that's justification considering he could have 8-10 more out of the 4-hole.

Escobar is a great #2 hitter. I love him in that spot. But what about 1? What about Cain in the leadoff spot? Cain, Escobar, Gordon, Butler, Perez, Hosmer, Moose, Frenchy, Getz? Could maybe switch Cain/Esky. Or switch Gordon/Butler? Maybe Cain stays at 5/6 to protect Gordon/Butler and Escobar leads off with Hosmer in the 2-hole? Even while he is lacking power, a .280 hitter in the 2-spot isn't horrible (not sure what his OBP is right now).

Is it time Alex assumes his rightful role as a #3 hitter? I know I should be shot for thinking it, since it has failed so often before... but just maybe the time is right???

Anonymous said...

This is too good to be true, but why not hope....


MoCrash said...

Not necessarily on-topic, but maybe something for the next 5 for Friday:

Is there a sabermetric formula for determining the effectiveness of hitters based on their swing? I'd like to test my Two-Frenchy Theory. There's the Francouer with the big, looping power swing which usually results in misses or pop-ups and the Francouer with a more compact stroke which produces line drives and grounders, some of which find holes.

It seems to me that Francouer still envisions himself as a true power hitter, but his most effective at-bats this season have been when he's cut down on his stroke. Although his overall numbers with two strikes aren't good, 7 of his 9 RBIs have come then.

Drew Milner said...

I have advocated suspending rain games and starting them where they left off since I was a kid.

sedated ape said...

Just suspending every rain delayed game would cause teams to make a trip back to a visiting town to play one inning of an 8-1 ballgame. And the home team would have to staff the entire stadium for thirty minutes of baseball that would draw next to no fans, even if they had rain checks. Would you make the drive down to the ballpark for an inning of baseball?

I would think that a lot of the losing teams would just forfeit. Wouldn't that be even worse from a stat geek point of view..9 phantom runs would go into the scorebook

Unknown said...

I think that the rules regarding rain outs as well as calling a game official at any time prior to the full 9 innings is problematic/flawed. However the alternative (Rany's suggestion) of suggesting to play out the game from the point of the rain out leads to a potential problem of a team having to come back for just one inning or so (as has been mentioned above). Therefore there has to be some sort of caveat where even though the rain is too severe (or I believe the terminology is more alongst the lines of 'unplayable/unsafe field conditions'), the game should be still played out after it reaches some agreed upon stage late in the game. Maybe the 8th inning or somewhere close to those lines.

In regard to Brett, I also feel that Gordon should be moved into the 3 hole. I feel that Cain or Escobar could be excellent choices for the leadoff and #2 spot followed by Gordon, Butler, Hosmer...
Even though Gordon has an excellent OBP and that is why everyone seems to prefer him in the leadoff spot, what I noticed so far this season is that Gordon has also been one of the best hitters on the team in 'clutch' situations (meaning the tying or winning run is on base or at bat). I don't necessarily think that I can make a connection that clutch hitting means taking the #3 spot in the lineup. But Gordon's propensity to hit well when it matters (and essentially when there are runners on base) seems to translate somewhat.

On a final side note, Franceour also seems to have come through in a couple of clutch at bats during this early part of the season (and also when he has 2 strikes on him, since I believe he does take a more defensive approach at that point).
The one positive argument for Franceour has been that he couldn't possibly be worse than last year (when he was considered the worst player in baseball). I believe that he is actually currently playing more along the lines of how he played 2 seasons ago, which for me is more than acceptable.

crimsonblue said...

every stadium should have a retractable roof, financed by local taxpayers. Rainout problem solved!

Unknown said...

Love the line up


Not so much for the particular players or the handedness of it but because it puts our producers right in the middle behind some guys that actually get on base. So what if we just moved Escobar and Cain down to 8 and 9 in the order since Gordon cant hit anywhere but in the lead off spot. We lose some at bats from really productive hitters but wouldnt that be better than having Gordon come up with no one on base?