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MIAdragon
03-20-2009, 11:20 AM
http://www.ranyontheroyals.com/2009/03/royals-today-3202009.html

Friday, March 20, 2009
Royals Today: 3/20/2009
Okay, you guys have been waiting for an update for long enough, so letís jump right into this thing:


- Am I the only one mystified by the amount of attention given to the Sidney Ponson signing? Maybe Iím just annoyed by the fact that the MLB Networkís* hour-long special on the Royals yesterday Ė part of their ď30 Clubs in 30 DaysĒ series Ė spent over five minutes talking about Slender Sidney.


Look, if the Royals were really planning to open the season with Ponson in the rotation, this would be cause for alarm. Ponson hasnít had an ERA under five since 2003, largely because he doesnít strike anyone out anymore. Heís basically a poor manís Livan Hernandez, and the wealthier version isnít much to write home about himself.


But Iím taking this signing at face value. While the Royals have rotation depth in the sense that they have six candidates for five spots, they were not particularly well positioned in the event of multiple injuries (something which tends to happen to rotations). The teamís seventh starter is Brandon Duckworth; their eighth starter would probably involve doing something unwise, like rushing Daniel Cortes or giving Robinson Tejeda another shot at starting. Ponson is a replacement-level starter, but Iíd rather have him in a pinch than a below-replacement-level starter. At the cost of a minor-league contract, heís a good pickup. Throw in the ancillary costs to the franchiseís ego and the food budget, and heís still worth a flyer.


*: The MLB Network has a lot of promise, and Iím happy to see any national network devote a full hour to the Royals, even if the entire show was tailored to the lowest common denominator. But would it really kill the network to hire ďanalystsĒ who have qualifications other than ďI played the gameĒ? This is an actual quote from Mitch Williams at the end of yesterdayís show on the Royals:


ďI think this team will be above .500. Now where that puts them in their own division, that remains to be seen. But I have them picked fifth.Ē

Itís true, I never played baseball at its highest level, nor did Joe Sheehan, or Will Carroll, or Kevin Goldstein, or any of my other colleagues at Baseball Prospectus. But if the MLB Network ever deigns to put a stat guy in their studio, I can guarantee you that none of us would ever say anything even remotely as dumb as that.


- Jimmy Gobble is gone, and I guess Iím supposed to be all broken up about that. And sure, I agree with Will McDonald that saying goodbye to Gobble hurts on an emotional level. Gobble was a supplemental first-round pick 10 years ago, and when youíve spent a decade watching a guy develop from touted draft pick to top prospect to major league starter at age 21, then to come to the realization that he, like every other Royals pitcher of his generation, was not nearly the stud we thought he was, then to watch as Gobble struggle to find a niche for himself, then to finally settle in as a LOOGY, and then to see even those lessened ambitions blow up in the span of one horrible inning against the Tigers last July Ė well, it hurts to see him go out like that. And I agree with Joe Posnanski that Gobble is likely to re-establish himself with another franchise and probably has another decade left in his career.


With all that said, I canít get too worked up about this from a baseball standpoint. Gobble finally learned how to get lefties out the last two years, but prior to 2007 he wasnít particularly effective against either side. Even at his best Ė in 2007, when he had a 3.02 ERA Ė he wasnít that good. (That year Gobble was terrible at stranding inherited runners Ė according to our BP metrics, he was responsible for 4.7 runs that were charged to other pitchers Ė while at the same time he was very fortunate in that the baserunners he bequeathed to other relievers were stranded at a very high rate. In a fair world, his ERA would have been well into the 4s, and in fact he was a slightly below-average reliever for the season.) Gobble has surrendered more than a hit an inning in every season of his career.


The bottom line is that he would be a nice luxury to have in a land where itís always September and you can play with 40-man rosters and never, ever have to worry about leaving Gobble in to face a right-handed hitter. But within the constraints of a 25-man roster, itís very difficult to design a role for Gobble where his weaknesses donít overwhelm his strengths. I donít blame the Royals for deciding not to bother anymore, and saving themselves a million bucks in the process.


The interesting question is what this does to the construction of the bullpen. Soria, Farnsworth, Cruz, and Mahay Ė the multi-year contract guys Ė are all locks. Waechter appears to be a near-lock, and Tejeda should be. That leaves one roster spot, the spot that Gobble had been penciled in. That spot would presumably go to Bale if heís healthy Ė and I wonder if the decision to cut Gobble is a reflection in the Royalsí faith that Bale should be ready soon Ė but if heís not, I imagine that would give Joel Peralta and his revamped mechanics a new lease on life.


But would the Royals really open the season with just one lefty in their bullpen? Itís not necessarily a bad idea, just an unconventional one for the 21st century. It would be great if this meant that the Royals had decided to slide Horacio Ramirez back to the bullpen, but Iím not holding my breath. My guess is that Bale will be on the roster on Opening Day or close to it, with Waechter and Peralta fighting it out for the last roster spot.


- Sam Mellinger argues that the acquisition of Luis Hernandez is the final nail in the coffin that we will gleefully bury the Tony Pena Jr. era in. That may be so, and at this point Iíll buy any rationale for removing Pena from the roster. But if Hernandez really makes Pena expendable, it only goes to show just how replaceable Pena was.


Hernandez hit .241 in limited playing time for the Orioles last year, and his career line in the majors is .264/.297/.304 in 148 at-bats. Thatís par for the course for a glove-first shortstop backup. Unfortunately, that line is about as deceptive as Penaís 2007 line was. Last year, in over 200 Triple-A at-bats, Hernandez hit .185. Thatís not a productive .185 either Ė he had all of seven extra-base hits (all doubles) and eight walks. He hit .244 in the minors in 2007, with equally poor secondary skills. Honestly, Iíd rather have Pena, if only for the mop-up relief possibilities. The problem is that Pena is out of options, but there is a very good chance that he would clear waivers, in which case Iíd let him start in Omaha while subtly suggesting to him that his future, if he has one, is likely to be on the mound.


The fact that the Royals think Luis Hernandez Ė just one of the many gloves that fall out when you shake a tree Ė could replace Pena, is testament to just how silly it was to trade actual talent to get Pena in the first place. You donít need to develop players like Pena and Hernandez, because thereís always a half-dozen of them ripe for the plucking off of some other teamís roster.


- I know itís fun to look at spring training stats and dream a little, but please, please remember: itís Arizona. I donít mean that just in the sense that spring training stats are meaningless Ė though they are, mostly Ė but in the sense that the Cactus League is full of inflated numbers. As happy as I am that the Royals moved to Surprise many years ago Ė and left behind that dump in Baseball City Ė the downside to training in Arizona is that offensive numbers are so inflated that itís even harder to evaluate your hitters (and your pitchers) in March than usual. Remember when Ruben Gotay hit .360 with 6 homers in 2005? When Angel Berroa hit .441 and slugged .691 the same year? Or when Berroa hit .451 and slugged .745 the following spring?


So when you see John Buck hitting .414/.514/.862 in 12 games, or Mike Jacobs batting .317/.417/.732 in 15 games, or Mark Teahen at .462/.517/1.154 in nine games, try to control your enthusiasm. And by the same token, donít spend any time fretting over Zack Greinkeís 8.27 ERA, or Gil Mecheís 12.15 mark. Repeat after me: Spring Training Stats Mean Nothing. Spring Training Stats Mean Nothing.


- While you keep repeating that mantra, Iím going to point out one stat that I hope does mean something. Behold, the major league leader in walks drawn this spring with 12, one more than Albert Pujols: Covelli Loyce Crisp. It might mean nothing. But it might also mean that Coco is taking this leadoff role to heart. It might also mean that Kevin Seitzer is working some magic. The Royals drew 392 walks last year, one of the five lowest totals by a team in the last 60 years. If they raise that number over 500 this year, the Royals should just induct Seitzer into the teamís Hall of Fame on the spot.


- Buckís stats may not mean anything, but this story does. Players are not, as much as we may want to characterize them as such, stat-generating robots. I canít imagine that itís easy to concentrate on hitting fastballs when your wife and two newborn sons are in the hospital. Iím making excuses for Buck in part because I thought he was going to have a breakout year last season, and now Iím just covering my ass. But Iím interested to see if a clear head and the secrets of the man Sam Mellinger calls ďThe Bat WhispererĒ can make a difference.


(The best part of the story, by far, is when Buck says that he was able to buy into Seitzerís hitting program after talking with Pujols during a chance encounter at a sub shop. Really? Buck and David DeJesus decided to go grab a sandwich from Quiznoís or something and Pujols just happens to be sitting there? Why does this never happen to me?)


- Finally, this has nothing to do with baseball, but since itís my blog I figure I can use this site to shamelessly publicize myself. A few of you have already heard, but for those who did not I had a segment on NPRís ďThis American LifeĒ last weekend, which NPR junkies tell me is kind of a big deal. If youíre interested in listening, go to the show's website and click on the ďWrong Side of HistoryĒ episode. Despite the name, amazingly, this has nothing to do with my life as a Royals fan. It has everything to do with politics and religion, the twin towers of radioactive topics for a sports blog, so please, donít listen if thatís not your cup of tea. If it is, my segment starts a little over 18 minutes in.

KChiefs1
03-20-2009, 12:46 PM
The word from Kauffman Stadium is that the new crown color is so bad that they are removing the panels and having all of the metal work redone.

Hopefully it will be back up just before opening day...

petegz28
03-20-2009, 12:53 PM
Pitchers like MEche and Grienke are not going to ruin their arms in games that do not count. I agree with the guy there that the ERA for Meche and Grienke right now don't mean shit. Those guys are on the team and they know it. They are just going out there and throwing and not so much pitching, as they should right now.

keg in kc
03-20-2009, 12:58 PM
That sounds almost optimistic. Who is this guy and what did they do with rany?

DeezNutz
03-20-2009, 01:05 PM
Pitchers like MEche and Grienke are not going to ruin their arms in games that do not count. I agree with the guy there that the ERA for Meche and Grienke right now don't mean shit. Those guys are on the team and they know it. They are just going out there and throwing and not so much pitching, as they should right now.

Saying they're going out there and "throwing" isn't really accurate.

More established pitchers are using Spring Training to refine certain aspects of their game. One outing, the entire emphasis might be working on the change-up. The next, establishing the fastball on the inner half, situation and batter be damned.

The last thing experienced pitchers are worried about is getting guys out.

Kyle DeLexus
03-20-2009, 01:32 PM
Saying they're going out there and "throwing" isn't really accurate.

More established pitchers are using Spring Training to refine certain aspects of their game. One outing, the entire emphasis might be working on the change-up. The next, establishing the fastball on the inner half, situation and batter be damned.

The last thing experienced pitchers are worried about is getting guys out.

This is pretty much dead on. Thats why the saying is "only a fool bets on spring training baseball"......I have seen a few guys who do bet on spring training games.

bango
03-20-2009, 06:04 PM
I have a really, really good feeling about the Royals this year.

58kcfan89
03-20-2009, 08:10 PM
Here's hoping to a .500 record or better for the boys in blue. I wasn't around for '85, so I need some sort of hope and I got a good feeling it's this year. I'm hoping Gordon can finally break out & that Soria keeps it up, those are my guys.

I'm a little concerned as to wether or not Davies can keep up his Sept. numbers over the course of a year. I like him as a pitcher, but dunno what to think of his performances at the end of the year.

Jenson71
03-20-2009, 09:01 PM
Over .500 but fifth place. Now that's a tough division.