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Royals Nightly
Friday, April 30, 2004
 
New Research Goal
A few actually:

-Fewest K totals by a team during a season.
-Fewest Ks by a team leader during a season.
-Fewest Ks and BBs ever issued by a team during a season.

I think these Royals have a shot at all 3.


Maybe Kevin Appier can become the new closer, since his numbers aren't too far off from Leskanic:

C. Leskanic: 10.80 ERA, 2.25 WHIP (insanely bad!!), 1.16 K/BB Ratio
K. Appier: 13.50 ERA, 2.50 WHIP (again, insane), .667 K/BB Ratio

Well, Appier does have *some* work to do, but I think he'll be fresh when he comes off the DL... Someone email Pena.


Some other depressing numbers:

How about the battle between staff ace's May and Anderson-

D. May: 7.32 ERA, 1.93 WHIP, 1.45 K/BB ratio
B. Anderson: 6.44 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 1.42 K/BB ratio

How awesome is it that May leads the Royals in strikeouts with 16?!??! On most other AL teams that would have him somewhere between 3rd and fourth. Moreover, he has a 6 strikeout cushion over anyone else!!!

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Thursday, April 29, 2004
 
Link to Voros
Brilliant and earth-shattering stuff...no one really knows what to do with it quite yet, and you can bet that Joe Morgan and everyone at FOX would disagree

---- "You're insane." That's generally the response I get when I present the information you're about to read. I've been accused of being the "epitome of 'pseudo-stat fan' gibberish." I've even been accused of being Aaron Sele writing under a pseudonym. I'm not entirely sure why my little way of doing things stirs the emotions of people to such a large extent, but apparently it does.

My belief? Well, simply that hits allowed are not a particularly meaningful statistic in the evaluation of pitchers.---

http://www.baseball-analysis.com/article.php?articleid=878

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Game 20 - Rangers 9, Royals 7 (7-13)
What, you thought the Royals could go an entire series without the opposition scoring 9 or more runs? Before todays game, with the help of the huge % of opposition hitters hailing from Cleveland and buoyed by the relatively low scoring initial games against Texas, the Royals had actually crept into the top 10 in the AL in a few major pitching categories. To be honest, the consecutive 3 run outings against Texas are the more likely to be an abberation than a starting point.

Clearly, the Royals approach on the mound has been one which places extreme emphasis on putting balls in play- the staff is walking very few batters, but is also striking almost no one out. Post Voros MacCracken's (hope I'm spelling that right) DIPS research we have come to understand that the pitcher has very little control over the fate of a non-HR hit ball. With this in mind, the ROyals staff has become strangely codependent... essentially their success or failure has nothing to do with what they do, but only with what the hitters are able to make of their endless barrage of hittable balls in the 80s.

Perhaps I am not being clear.

What VM looked at was the batting average that pitchers allowed on balls hit in play over time. For example, in 1998 Pitcher X may have allowed a .210 average on balls in play (minus at bats that resulted in walks, HRs or Ks) and a .250 average the next year. Anyway, what he found was that while other peripheral stats- strikeout rate, strikeout/BB ratios, HR rate etc- were both fairly consistent and showed demonstratable patterns (i.e. a pitcher slowly improving, then peaking, then declining) the batting average allowed was all over the place, and often being quite "bad" when the pitcher was otherwise doing quite "good".

Anyone who has watched 5 baseball games can understand this. In one inning a rocket can be caught for an out, while a little flubber "falls where they ain't".

(Realizing this needs to go somewhere towards KC)

Through Thursday the Royals were allowing the 4th fewest walks in the AL, while striking out the fewest hitters of any team. To complicate matters, and especially the Royals relationship to DIPS, the Royals staff is giving up HRs like its going out of style. So, moving forward for the rest of the season, we have this to look reasonably forward to:

-Walks: probably a little more, but relative to the AL, not that many.
-Ks: maybe a tad more as things improve, but trends are trends, and as Parcells made cool "you are what you" and this staff just doesn't have many people that are big strikeout guys
-HRs: maybe a chance that the Royals improve to something like average here... the K could still morph back into a neutral park, and again, mebbe theres small improvement. As with the walks, only in the other direction, its hard to imagine things changing drastically.

So, we are left with oppostition batting average. In the first two games of the series the Rangers left 39 men on base, thus, largely because of fluky "clutch" pitching/ "choking" by Texas, the Royals only allowed 3 runs in each game. Today, Texas sorta improved, only left 15 men on base, and, most importantly, yanked some over the fence when it counted. As things stand now, I just can't imagine this team being consistent this season, with this staff of "Bad Jaime Moyer-lite X4" and a somewhat robotic manager. This pitching staff is like competitive batting practice, or even a homer run derby- no walks, no strikeouts, with all positive and negative outcomes essentially the responsibility of the hitter.

Weirdly, this may be a reasonable formula for mediocrity, but is far from a recipe for success.


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Collapse
Rangers homer twice off of Leskanic in the 9th to win...
Now we know why he was once a Brewer. &@#$!!

Brilliant Tony P. brilliant.

Maybe we can trade him for Billy Koch.

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Pat the Bat
A bat used by the Phillies Pat Burrell has been seized by the umpires at the request of TLR... veery interesting...

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Game 19- Royals 5, Rangers 3 (7-12)
A Royals starter picked up a win. "Mac the Ninth" returned to pickup a save. Swingin' Ken Harvey continued the month of his life with a homerun. The staff managed to only walk one Ranger. Mike Sweeney played a full game. Dogs and Cats agreed and signed many treaties. It was a beautiful day.

Jimmy Gobble has now stopped two losing streaks this season, and would have halted a third had not the April 23 debacle against the Twins not taken place.

Most amazing however was what happened in the 5th inning, when Harvey homered off of Kenny Rogers, rounded the bases, had the homer ruled foul and then homered again on the next pitch. INsane.

The more I attack "Hollywood Harvey" (as I heard ESPN refer to him as), the better he plays. I'll take it.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2004
 
Fire Eric Wedge
"Batting 9th, the Designated Hitter for Cleveland, Coco Crisp"

When you use the DH slot on Coco Crisp, something is very very wrong with how you approach the game.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2004
 
Update- Juan Gone had the Flu
So... Igor had the flu... so thats why he was AWOL. I guess I'll accept it.
Doesn't really make me feel any better... With AB missing 15 games due to headaches, and Juan G. having the flu... whats next, Randa coming down with a "cold" and Stairs getting measles?

Seriously. Someone pull a groin or blow out a ankle, or something manly.

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Great, Just Great...
The @$!^@ Twins score 6 times in the final 2 innings to beat Toronto 7-4. Thank you Blue Jays, or should I say, "Jays". Terrible Terrible Terrible. The White Sox are in a 7-7 donneybrook against the Aboriginals, which I'm certain they will win. Ozzie will probably have Konerko and Thomas double steal 2nd and home, or something improbable like that.

I'm watching you Pena, I'm watching you...

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Game 18- Rangers 3, Royals 2 (6-12)
Terrible Terrible Terrible Terrible. When you load the bases with no one out, you score a run. Down 3-2 in the 9th, if you only end up tying the game, that is a huge letdown. Basically, the only way you can lose that game is to do what the Royals did: grounder from Dejesus, grounder from Mork n Mendy= forceout, double play, ballgame. Loss. Another one.

I don't know how many more games there will be in which Grimmy and Leskanic don't give up a run... Good to see it was wasted. Only scoring 1 run in the 7th wasn't very fun either. Terrible Terrible Terrible. This is a team finding ways to lose. Decent game from the mound, no hitting... decent offensive night... pen will implode. Terrible Terrible Terrible.

The Rangers left an amazing 20 men on base in this game, so its a little decieving to say the pitchers did well. I'll grant you an "OK" but little else. Getting 6Ks in a game may be a season-high however, so I guess thats positive.

Until I hear otherwise, this one is on Tony P. In the 7th, or 9th, we needed to see Gonzalez. Bottom f---ing line. I know Mendy did it on opening day, but as I wrote last week, that homer may have done more harm than good.

This is a bad loss, and this team is in serious trouble.

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Bonds v. Pierre
On "Baseball Tonight" they just finished debating "who is more valuable to his team, Barry Bonds or Juan Pierre?" How this question was respectable enough to be presented at all I have no idea. Harold Reynolds defended Bonds with the non-answer of "more people pay attention to Bonds" while Gammons did make a game effort to be polite but yet totally dismiss the question. Classic BBT.

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Bad Year
On this date last season, the Royals lost a terrible 10-9 game to the Blue Jays at SkyDome and fell to 17-5 on the season. The Royals blew an 8-1 lead, surrendering 1 run in the 7th, 2 in the 8th and 6 runs in the 9th to complete the collapse.

In the last year, the Royals have gone 72-85, combining a 66-74 finish to the '03 season with the year's lackluster 6-11 start. I could be optimistic, noting that 6-11 isn't really that bad considering how bad the pitching has been, or that the division is pretty mediocre or that there have been injuries etc etc

But still, it really seems like this Royals team is still slowly but surely paying for the hot start of '03, continuing a long slide towards regressing to the mean.

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Monday, April 26, 2004
 
Ineptitude Update
After the White Sox and D-Rays spent all weekend striking one another out the Royals moved into dead last in the AL in Ks. The team ERA is now at 5.40, good for 13th in the AL, ahead of only Seattle. (Seattle??? Wow)

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Game 17- Twins 4, Royals 2 (6-11)
Bleh. Royals lose 2 of 3 to the hated Twins. Up next, the Royals catch a Rangers team playing its best baseball in 3 seasons. Bleh. The Royals struck out one Twin in the series' final 18 innings. Bleh. More upcoming...

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Sunday, April 25, 2004
 
Game 16- Royals 10, Twins 1 (6-10)
Revenge Game.
As I said before, these teams don't like each other very much. I do think that Shawn Camp was enjoying being interviewed after the game. I can't explain why, but everyone of his quotes in the AP story read like something that he thought about saying:

1) ``With (Andres) Blanco and (Tony) Graffanino behind me, those guys are a wall,''
2) ``I've got the ball from this win and it is going in my new trophy case. I'm only 299 balls away from 300. No one can take this day away from me.''
3) ``It was an unfortunate incident with Darrell,'' Camp said. ``I was able to go out and throw strikes to a great hitting team and got a lot of ground balls. This is a great team and we've had some tough losses. This game is something we can build on.''

Perfect pattern executed here by Camp:
Step 1- Praise teammates excessively. (Two backups are "a wall"??? Niiiiice) Then move to Step 2- Insert Aw-Shucks self-deprecating humor, mixed with earnest sentiment, effectively stopping any cynicism from building. Step 3- return to the theme of the team. This isn't about me, it's about this great team. At the same time, we're building on this baby... ohh yea, something big began tonight!!

Swingin' Ken is now batting .413. Beltran is Beltran. Randa's swingin like its August of 1999. And this pitching staff only allowed 1 run. 1 RUN!!!

I could mention that the Royals didn't strike anyone out. But why spoil the taste of sweet victory???


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Saturday, April 24, 2004
 
Lew Ford
I'm not sure what this means, but I think I do and I think its kinda funny.

From the latest column by espn page 2's Bill Simmons

"I found out that Lew Ford was white. Between him and Khalil Greene, it's been a banner season for the Reggie Cleveland All-Stars so far in 2004."

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Game 15- Twins 7, Royals 5 (5-10)
Too upset to even think about. A wonderful evening watching Urban Cowboy ruined by checking a box score. Whats really disheartening is that the offense is really clicking. Really clicking. And all for not. Can't even think about it tonight...

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Friday, April 23, 2004
 
Some Quick Pitching Stats
Royals Pitching Stats through 14 games

-Walks+Hits per Innings Pitched: 1.558 (11th in AL)
-ERA: 5.71 (14th/Dead Last in AL)
-Strikeouts: 79 (12th in AL)

By the way, the AL Central is featuring some brutal pitching, between the Royals, Tigers and Indians. I was a bit surprised that the Tigers were actually allowing the highest batters-faced OPS in the AL, given their "hot start" and pitchers park.

One encouraging thing- the White SOx aren't striking anyone out. They are actually 9Ks behind the Royals so far, which is, for Royals fans, a good indicator of how their pitching might drop off down the road.

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Lohse versus Appier
You can throw out the records, predictions and stats when the Royals and Twins get together, because this is a rivalry game and these teams don't like each other very much... Or not...

Actually, I don't think anyone in the Central likes the Twins, but I am also not sure that the Royals dislike them the most. I know that the White Sox- or at least their fans- have really come to hate the Twins, and I remember from last season the Twins and INdians playing a couple series that got pretty damn chippy by game 2 or 3. Of course, last year the Royals and their fans got to read seemingly endless "the Royals aren't for real" pieces coming out of Minnesota, which were greatly annoying. Especially when they became true. Honestly, if the White Sox had played the Tigers a little better, it might have been the Royals that would have gone down in history as stopping the Twins run, as the boys in blue managed an 11-8 record against Minnesota last season.

My gut feeling is that both Lohse and Ape will manage to achieve respectability tonight, keeping the game under double digits. Lohse usually manages a one-good-start-every-three-outings pattern, and I feel that Appier will use guile, guts and his incredibly negative on-mound presence to hold the Twins to 5ish runs. We shall see. Needless to say, gigantic series for the Royals, anything less than 2 of 3 would really smart.

Remember, a bad first half could mean no Beltran!!!

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Thursday, April 22, 2004
 
Game 14- Indians 5, Royals 4 (5-9)
Dagger... no other way to think about it. This one really smarts. The Royals wasted a 4-4 day from Swingin' Ken, wasted a home run from Kelly Stinnett, wasted a pretty good start from J. Affeldt and wasted a nother possible win against the Indians -aka the 2003 Tigers redux. Notably, Guiel left the bases loaded in the 6th and David Riske *didnt* blow the save. It all adds up to a big fat letdown.

The Royals head home for a three game set against the Twins, and its as close to do or die as it can be. Will this team be relevant in 2004? Will they finish above .500? Will more than one pitcher turn in a good outing in a single game?? Burning burning questions..

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Wednesday, April 21, 2004
 
Rainout
With tonight's rainout in Cleveland, the Royals catch a bad break and miss a chance to possibly batter a weakened Indians pen into further submission.

The good word is that CC Sabathia is using the night off to see how many McGriddles he can eat. The early action is at 6 1/2.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2004
 
Game 13- Royals 15, Indians 5 (5-8)
Rejoice! For the first time this season a KC starter earned a win, as Brian Anderson dazzled scores of onlookers in Cleveland posting 6 brilliant innings against a most potent Cleveland lineup. Anderson's 2 strikeouts evoked images of his former teammate in Arizona, Randy Johnson, and in allowing only 2 earned runs he placed considerable pressure on Jimmy Gobble and D. May, his teammates and primary rivals in a heated in-staff competition for pitching brilliance.

Doesn't a win just make you feel a little better???

Seriously though... how bad is Cleveland?? This is not a good baseball team at all, they might flip with the Tigers this year... just something to keep an eye on.

And how about Carlos Beltran grabbing 3 more steals??? Hell, if Juan f---ing Pierre can finish in the top 10 in the NL MVP balloting on the merits of the steal, what does that make CB?? Again, I think that it makes him Mickey Mantle.

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Royals Lead AL in HRs.
- Buoyed by an AL best 22 homers, the Royals miraculously inch into the top half of the AL in the ROb Neyer/Billy Beane concocted "Beane Count" despite having one of the worst pitching staffs in the major leagues. (The BC considers a team's ranking in HRs hit and allowed and BBs taken and given) Going forward, I'm tempted to say that the Royals won't keep up this power surge, but looking at the players involved, perhaps such negativity isn't justified. This isn't like last year when Brent Mayne had an OPS over 1.000 for most of the month of April; by and large theres just been some consistent power throughout the lineup.

OPS through (cough cough) the first 12 games:

Beltran- 1.234
Randa- .920
Sweeney- .887
Gonzo - .859
Swingin' Ken Harvey- .790 (with exactly 1 extra base hit and an OBP higher than his SLG)
Tony G- .794
Santiago- .712
Guiel- .689

I think Randa and Guiel will eventually meet in the middle, probably in the low .800 range or perhaps a tad lower. Santiago's been worrying me since he was acquired. and is probably just as likely to post an OPS of .830 or so as he is to be below .700... he's just that old. Other than that, Beltran probably can't keep up this pace, although he's also perfectly capable of it, and I'd take even money that he reaches the ASB over 1.000... The point is, this is the picture of an offense that is functioning fairly well. The injuries to Berroa and Relaford essentially make Tony G the everyday player he's really never been, and most of the time, theres a reason for that. We'll see... there's always the miraculous rebirth of Raul Ibanez to dream about.

Pitching:

Team ERA 6.12
Team K/9 6.12

Ummmm... there certainly isn't a baseball adage dorky enough to involved K/9 in relation to ERA yet, but suffice to say, we could probably invent one that ended in something like "very very bad"... I'll be interested to see how closely the too figures match each other as the year goes on, but if Anderson and May keep facing hitters we might get a chance to see which figure breaks first. At this point, the ERA is impossibly high, but with no real reason to think it will get better, while the K/9 is lame as hell, but still a little higher than I thought. Thank God Cerda was sent to OMaha, he lead the team in the category!!

Finally, perhaps my favorite stat

Brian Anderson has allowed 4 home runs and only struck out 7 batters.

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Monday, April 19, 2004
 
Game 12- Twins 8, Royals 3 (4-8)
I've really enjoyed Pena's willingness to bat Guiel in the leadoff spot, but I'm somewhat worried that Aaron isn't doing much to really grab the spot for very long. Not that it was really his fault more than anyone else's... Yesterday was awful, with the first 5 spots in the order producing no hits and one walk.

Yes, the pitching has quite bad, and as Mike Mehl posted a few days back, the Royals are on pace to surrender over 1000 runs. Yeesh. Amazingly the Royals struck out 10 Twins, but the result was still the same- 8 ish runs, tons of XtraBase Hits and a loss.

Beyond whining, think about this loss: Remember, in some weird sense May is the Royal's staff ace, and was unquestionably the most reliable starter on the team last year. May was matched up against a generic replacement level journeyman who's best season was 130 innings of mediocrity in 1998 for the Tigers. This being said, much has been made of the Twins' scrappiness and their ability to win with key injuries, which obscures the fact that those injuries have also allowed them to utilize their one true organizational asset, which is their depth. However, the Twins threw up a 9,8,8 run weekend against the Royals, and thats simply not acceptable if they are playing the '84 Tigers. Hell, Koskie was given most of the afternoon off!!!


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Sunday, April 18, 2004
 
The Return of Appier
Umm... can't MLB fudge the roster size rules a bit when a player like Kevin Appier is involved?? Having to surrender a marginally useful reliver in order to take on a player who actually harms the team's chance of winning seems a bit unfair.

I guess this is when I am supposed to say something bitchy about the Yankees or something and how pre-Bob Costas-as-commissioner baseball just isn't fair. If only that actually explained anything...

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Game 11- Twins 8, Royals 4 (4-7)
Trailing by 4 runs in the 8th inning the Royals loaded the bases with one out, only to have Mendy Lopez and Swingin' Ken Harvey fail to push across a single run. I honestly don't think it would have mattered, given the current losing streak. The starting rotation has maybe had 2 good games (Gooble's first and Reyes spot start) and the bullpen has efficiently leveraged most of its best performances in loses and let the bad days equal wins.

Its been a hectic weekend, but we as we fly past the 1/16th mark, I'm really anxious to dig into the espn.com stats page and post something really long...

By the way, I think the Relaford injury is starting to show... two words... Andres Blanco. And does anyone else feel like Mendy's opening day heroics may doom us to 200 or so unproductive at bats???


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Saturday, April 17, 2004
 
Game 10- Twins 9, Royals 7 (4-6)
Losing Streak Continues


Power surge
and a shot at the bad Johan
wasted

Still without
what is only a statistical note
but not unimpressive either
a starter recording a "win"

Losing streak longer
than Johnny Damon's hair
... or is it the length of a bad Joe Buck joke
about the hair?


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Wood Throws 131 Pitches For No Reason
In a 3-way battle for first place, Dusty Baker knew that he couldn't afford to take any chances in a tight game against Cincinatti; sending Kerry Wood (of the surgically reconstructed arm) to the mound to preserve a 2-0 lead, and rack up an extremely important "complete game" in the stats column.

"Kerry said he felt good blah blah blah blah competitor blah blah blah I don't look at pitch counts blah blah blah," said Baker, who later keyed a reporter's car before leaving the Cub's parking lot.

Actually, the funniest part of the whole thing was listening to the post-game discussion on WGN, as a Tribune company talking head did his best to criticize Baker's decision. Although of course his complaint was totally based in a fear that it cost the Cubs the game, and not that it was an incredibly stupid risk of injury. The kicker was how the argument ended with the cliched defense of Dusty, "well, his record speaks for itself".

Indeed.


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Friday, April 16, 2004
 
Game 9- White Sox 6, Royals 5
The Royals lost another heartbreaker yesterday in Chicago, altougth at this point only allowing 6 runs is a positive data point in the game log. Plus, the Sox did take 10 innings to score those 6 runs, so, for what its worth, it was really like giving up 5.4 runs during a 9 inning game. A string of good at bats from the heart of the order was essentially wasted, as well as a few meltdowns from the Sox bullpen as well.

The starting rotation looks completely awful, and the near refusal to record strikeouts puts entirely too much pressure on the defense to manufacture outs against the barrage of balls in play. On the good side, the bullpen recovered a bit yesterday, and even DJ's homer allowed to Magglio in the 10th was on what looked to be a decent enough 0-2 throwaway pitch. Sullivan is on pace to be the team MVP of April, although that might change this afternoon if Gobble can step up and stop a losing streak for the second time this year. Finally, 4-5 against the Central is less than optimal, but maybe the Royals are planning on playing .460 ball against the rest of the American league this season, and the joke will be on me.


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Thursday, April 15, 2004
 
State of Missouri
If the Royals and Cardinals combined and made their best availible pitchers into one staff- would that staff be league average?

I think its a fair question at this point...

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Game 8- WS 10 Royals 9 (4-4)
As the Curtis Leskanic Proven Closer Reunion Show hits its first speedbump... Really deflating loss, as the bullpen ruins its first game of the season, and the Royals waste a strong offensive output. JA did strike out 2 batters though, which is progress. I hasten to say, but today's game against the Sox is one that you would rather win than lose.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2004
 
Nearly 9,000 watch Tigers!!!!
How many times this spring have you heard a baseball-tonight-esque talking head praise the Tigers FA signings by saying "more importantly, its helped restore credibility/excitement/interest in the team"???

I give you, the attendance of today's Tigers-Jays game:

8,804

AND they were 5-1 at the time... some fan excitement!!!

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Tuesday, April 13, 2004
 
Game 7- WS 12, Royals 5 (4-3)
Being .500 against the Central probably won't cut it for the Royals, but, as I am legally bound to say "its early". I guess the reason why the ROyals lost was simple, Swingin' Ken Harvey wasn't in the lineup. The Royals somehow milked only 5 runs out of 4 homeruns, which seems like more bad luck than anything else.

That race between May and Anderson for staff ace sure looks interesting now doesn't it?? 7 runs allowed in 5 innings, 4 walks and 1 strikeout. Hell, at this pace (just under 2K per 9IP) he might lead the team. The Sox are, and have been a neurotic team, so this could change tomorrow, but it looks like they are hitting the ball hard so far. Granted, Leetle Ozzie-Ball will get the credit, which has already started happening, as runners who score on home-runs are somehow credited for "making things happen" by having stolen second a batter before.

Anyway, DJ got a bad outing out of his system, and Cerda got some work... looking better on TV than his final line suggests (which I guess is some kind of stathead apostasy). I know its petty, but I wouldn't have minded seeing Beltran sit out the final couple of innings... but Pena may be saving that rest for one of his "I don't care if we lose" Sunday Specials in which he plays like 4 bench players at once.

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Monday, April 12, 2004
 
Game 6- Royals 5 Indians 3 (4-2)
NOOOOOOO!!

In today's Star I see:


"It's simple: When Harvey starts, the Royals win

By HOWARD RICHMAN, The Kansas City Star

Maybe Ken Harvey should start more often
."

Has it come to this already?

Wait, it gets worse:

"Affeldt, Peña not K conscious

By BOB DUTTON, The Kansas City Star

Jeremy Affeldt had plenty to think about Thursday night as he drove home — slowly — after a disappointing 5 2/3 innings in a 6-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians.
His lack of strikeouts never entered his head.
"One of the main things they told me in spring," Affeldt said, "was they didn't want me to go out there and try to strike out guys. If you do that, your pitch count goes up. That's why I throw my changeup a lot more. I'm trying to get early outs
."

Brilliant... we'll rise to prominence with a completely unprecendeted route to success... an overweight singles hitter batting in the 1b/DH hole and a staff ace who doesn't strike anyone out!!!

Dutton's article is especially disturbing in that no one involved, Affeldt, Pena or (gasp...) even Dutton seems to note that there might be a small connection between no strikeouts and giving up 6 runs. Completely and utterly amazing, in a bad way. I guess there are some good signs there, the use of the phrase "pitch count" is mildly encouraging, but thats a small pill of goodness in a pot of negativity.






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Stone/Caray
Consistently referred to the "strong" Atlanta offense during this weekend's Cubs/Braves series, which was highly amusing. Of course, they also think that the Cubs offense will be strong as well, which apparently means being in the top 25 in the majors or something.

Off topic, but I couldn't resist.

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Sunday, April 11, 2004
 
Game 5- Royals 7, Indians 6 (3-2)
For some reason I couldn't post yesterday... Great win yesterday as the Royals bullpen continues to carry the team, giving up only 1 run in the games final 6 innings. My boy Stairs keyed the 10th inning rally, as the classic single-pinch runner-steal-single sequence doomed the Tribe.

David Riske has been horrible this year, and his late inning meltdowns have Cleveland in the early lead for "snake-bitten team of the year". Its a good thing they got rid of their best hitter, because his bat probably wouldn't have mattered in all these one run games. At least Eric Wedge can focus on how good the clubhouse esprit de corps is, because nothing fires people up like losing the right way. But enough about Cleveland, their failure ultimately only matters in that it helps the Royals.

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Saturday, April 10, 2004
 
Royals Win!!!
How can you not love Aaron Guiel?!?!? Royals win 7-6 over Cleveland!! A very 2003-esque win for the Boys in Blue this afternoon... shaky starting pitching, late inning offensive heroics... everyone pitching in. Niiiiiiice. More later tonight!!

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Friday, April 09, 2004
 
Game 3- Royals 3, Indians 1 (2-2)
This one feels good, no way around it.
Ken Harvey continues to be a singles machine (tsk tsk), and although the ROyals still haven't seen a starter leave with a lead, Gobble was a veritable shot in the arm for a beleagured staff.

Finally, is DJ Carrasco becoming a weapon?? Lets be optimistic and say yes!!!
Can a brother get a few more strikeouts though?

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Scoreless
Scoreless game through 6, it would really be heartbreaking if the Royals waste this rare, good pitching performance.

I knew the Indians had a game like this in them.

Lets go bats!

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Gobble Gobble
The Royals have managed 4 runs in the last two games, and aside from the 9th inning of opening day, only 7 in 26 innings. The word Dodger-esque comes to mind, although thats probably a little harsh.

Hopefully Gobble can pick up where Affeldt could not, as it would be nice to avoid a three-game losing streak at home, inside the division. The Indians offense has been surprisingly strong this year, and I think that means their due for a 2 or 3 run night. Lastly, I feel a Randa homer coming. See you after the game.

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Thursday, April 08, 2004
 
Game 3- Aboriginals 6, Monarchs 1 (1-2)
Hell of a jinx on Affeldt.
Umm... I thought this staff already had a surplus of soft-tossers who can't strike anyone out? No strikeouts? Against Cleveland? At least he settled down a bit and kept it from being a 9 or 10 run outing.

For the second day in a row a good effort from the pen was essentially wasted. Well, at least guys are "getting their work in", whatever that means. PREDICTION- The next game a Royals starter leaves with a lead (or should I say, the first game a Royal's starter leaves with a lead) will result in that lead being blown.

Write it down.

At least Jeff D'Amico proved to the world that he was still alive. The temporary triumph of established adequacy.

Record against Tigers/Indians (0-1).

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Big Day for Affeldt
Being only slightly over-dramatic, I think its safe to say tomorrow's afternoon game against Cleveland is pretty big. Big for Jeremy Affeldt that is. Affeldt's blisters may have been the single biggest factor in the Royal's tailing off last season. (Well, beyond the fact that Mike Sweeney missed over a month, "Run-elvis" Hernandez's right arm fell off, and that the Twins and White Sox were both decidedly more talented...)

So, everyone needs to see if his fingers will respond well to the semi-experimental off-season surgery. As I wrote in the preview, JA can be an All-Star this year if he stays on the mound. That goal starts tomorrow at 2:10.

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Wednesday, April 07, 2004
 
Game 2- WS 4, Royals 3 (1-1)
Its tough to lose a game when you get four scoreless innings out of the bullpen or when the starter only gives up four runs. Both happened this afternoon as teh White Sox hung on. I really don't know what to make of May's performance: I'll take the 4 runs, but he did give up 3 homeruns, so suffice to say that 4 could have easily been 7. (Kauffman Stadium launch-pad update- 9 HRs through 2 games)

Two shutout innings from Sullivan was welcome, although in both innings he was aided by an outfield assist by Aaron Guiel. (how can you not love this guy??)

Still waiting for Sweeney to really crush a pitch, but seeing how absolutely composed Beltran is at the plate makes up for it. We aren't that far from Mickey Mantle or even peak Ken Griffey Jr. territory here folks. Lets enjoy it.


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Tuesday, April 06, 2004
 
OUCH!!!
In yesterday's chat @baseball prospectus Joe Sheehan had some pretty dire predictions for the ROyals:

"This team will be among the top three teams in the AL in runs allowed. That, or Carlos Beltran will have 500 putouts. It's a soft-tossing, flyball rotation with more guys likely to have 6.xx ERAs than 4.xx ERAs.
The offense might actually be decent, assuming reasonable health from a bunch of guys--Gonzalez, Stairs, Sweeney--who haven't been too reliable. But the pitchers will put a ton of balls in play, and this isn't the defense to handle that.

865 RA
758 RS

Hopefully, the Royals will realize early enough that they can't win this season and be able to flip a whole bunch of guys. That's the best-case scenario. They will not win the division."

I'm not sure that the Royals will have one of the three worst staffs in the American League.... Detroit, Cleveland, Tampa Bay... and yes... those darling Blue Jays all could give up a ton of runs in the AL East. Ditto for the Orioles.

Am I forgetting anyone?

Ohh yea... Texas.


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Game 1- Royals 9 WS 7 (1-0)
Living in Northwest Indiana, I end up following the White Sox quite a bit, and in a general, never against the Royals, way root for them as a counterpoise to the non-stop Cubs propaganda. The WS fans have a number of serious complexes and tend to be incredibly pessimistic, and no, not in a cute Red Sox-ish way. (There is already a "Fire Ozzie Gullien" Site up and running.)

Anyway, because of this, although yesterday's comeback win was totally exhilirating, I almost enjoyed it because of the possibility of listening to a solid 48 hours of negativity from the Sox media sources.

Beyond this boring stuff about me, the game was terrible for 8/9s of its duration, and Brian Anderson didn't impress at all. Still, its early, the Royals are undefeated, and Juan Gonzalez hasn't been injured yet. Stairs sat against the lefty, and then managed to play a minor role in the game's ket moment- the supposed "out-managing" move by Tony P over Ozzie.

I guess. I mean, it was Mendy Lopez.

Not that I am complaining.

Ohh, and I guess its a good thing they moved the fences back at the K... or they might have been 8 HRs in the game.

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2004 Preview Part 2- 85 Wins?
2004 Season Preview- Part 2


Six Key Issues

1) How many ABs for Juan Gonzalez and Matt Stairs?

Continuing his strange journey from most hated to most anticipated, GM Allard Baird drew rave reviews in acquiring Gonzalez and Stairs to replace Raul Ibanez. In 305 at bats last season Stairs posted a .292/.389/.561 line, uhh, "that'll do pig". Similarly, despite nearly constant reports that he was a bad clubhouse citizen Gonzalez hit .294/.329/.572 in 327 ABs. Ideally, the Royals would find a way to squeeze 800 plate appearances out of this tandem. One game into the 2004 season, and it isnt clear this will happen, as Ken Harvey refuses to go away, despite spending last season being one of the worst DH/1bs in the major leagues. If Tony Pena goes Jimy Williams and finds creative reasons to leave Stairs out of the lineup, and Juan Gone suffers his inevitable mid-season injury, then the thoroughly middling Raul Ibanez will actually be missed. The Royals scored a fair amont of runs last year, but this team desperately needs numerous games in which both Stairs and Gonzalez bat, in order to compete adequately. Quite simply, everything above might be a complicated way of saying Harvey needs to be replaced, and that Stairs needs to do so.


2) Angel Berroa- Lead-Off Man?

Berroa showed some mild discipline last year, and it helped him improve as the season wore on. Following the ideological line, I believe I'm supposed to say something to the effect of "lineup order really doesn't matter that much over the long haul", but it does seem like someone with a slightly better OBP (.338) should be leading off (and hitting in front of Beltran). In the last 2-3 years Joe Randa has really changed his approach at the plate and its completely possible that Berroa could similarly inch that OBP up into the .350-360 range. Of course, there are guys on the team already capable of doing that, but Berroa's speed might be too seductive for Tony P. Then again, wouldn't Berroa's offensive skill set best be used lower in the order, where his weekly homer might have someone on base, and his speed could be better utilized? He should not, under any circumstances be running with Beltran at the plate, or Sweeney. PECOTA's projection shows that he has some room to improve, but adjusting for park effects, those improvements probably won't show up much on the back of the Topps card. At SS, and with a glove thats getting better, Berroa's definetly a building block, but leadoff man might be an ill-fit.

3) Beltran & Sweeney- Good is Bad, Great is Good

Mike Sweeney's one injury away from legitmately being considered "fragile" or "brittle". Mike has missed over 100 games the last three years and is already 30 years old. If he were playing a demanding position in the field, it might be possible to see this as a secret blessing, and saying something about him being "fresh". Unfortunately, he's firmly entrenched in the DH/1B role and his primary job on defense, when he plays, is to stand upright when asked. Last season, in Coors East, Sweeney only slugged .467, which is dangerously close to Joe Randa territory. Again, as with Berroa, Sweeney is an asset, but he carries a heavy load on this team, and the Royals need him to be the positvely stellar extra-base hit machine he was before his injury last season. Like Sweeney, Beltran has some injury history, but at this point is more likely to leave the lineup due to a mid-season trade. Unlike Sweeney, Beltran's numbers are headed straight up, and he continues to be one of the 5 best position players on the planet. 1000 plate appearances from these two with a .310/.380/.550 line might be a little optimistic, but is also possible. It needs to happen, because Brian Anderson isn't getting any better.


4) Can the Rotation be Adequate?

Playing in baseball's version of the Atlantic 10, the Royals Rotation inherits a role similar to the St. Joe's frontcourt, something along the lines of "don't embarass us, and the talented portions of our team will allow us to win". Smart-aleckness aside, in Gobble and Affeldt there's considerable potnetial, and May and Anderson are good bets to be league-average. Barring the unexpected, George and Appier won't be the components of a winning team in 2004 and unless Zach Grienke shows up to save the day, the Royals starting staff figures to be in the bottom half of the American league.

5) Can the Bullpen become a strength?

Assuming Mike MacDougal comes back reasonably soon, the bullpen could really and truly be half-way decent in 2004. Granted, Leskanic and Grimsley will likely carry a heavy load and are fully capable of dropping off the cliff. But Sullivan was a savvy pickup by Allard, and Reyes has the potential to be OK. There are numbers, lots of numbers I could throw out here, but this preview is getting really long. Nonetheless, MacDougal's hot start last year nicely coincided with the magic of April '03, and as long as Leskanic's reconstructed arm stays in one piece, its OK to be positive. Getting rid of Graeme Lloyd (10.95 ERA) and ALbie Lopez (12.71ERA) should work wonders.

6) Tigers and Indians

The Royals went 13-6 against the Tribe and 14-5 against the Tigers, accounting for 32% of their 2003 wins. Sadly for the Boys in Blue, it is almost mathematically impossible for the Tigers to not improve upon their historically bad 2003. This season they could easily still suck, still finish with the worst record in baseball, and win 15-30 more games. Those wins have to come against someone, and it ain't gonna be the Yankees. Its gonna be tough for the Royals to go 27-11 against the Tndians again, and even if they go 24-14, thats three games that are gonna have to be made up somewhere else. Granted, the Royals went 19-19 against the Minnesota/CWS tandem, so there is some room to improve. But, there is an easily imaginable scenario in which the Royals go something like 21-17 against the doormats, at which point the season is basically doomed. (See Chicago White Sox 2003, who did just that, going 22-16 against DET/CLE)


As discussed in Part 1, the Royals weren't really an 83 win team last year, performing at a level closer to 79 or 80 wins. Either way, 83 wins wasn't good enough anyway as the Royals finished in third between two teams who spent most of the season underachieving. The roster is somewhat improved, but suffice to say, theres a potential that the Santiago, Stairs and Gonzalez signings won't amount to much. The Twins and White Sox aren't any better than they were before, but the Indians and Tigers probably will be. If the Royals get 1800 plate appearances out of Beltran/Sweeney/Gonzalez/Stairs they really could win 85 or so games. I'll stay upbeat (inspired by today's miracle win over the Sox) and predict 85-77 and a one game playoff victory over the Twins to win the AL Central. The Yankees/Red Sox might score 85 runs against them in the first round of the playoffs though.

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Monday, April 05, 2004
 
2004 Preview Part 1- Looking Backward, Looking Forward
Before discussing the 2004 edition of the Royals, the responsible critic must point out one thing: the 2003 Kansas City Royals were lucky. As was occasionally (thank you Rob Neyer) noted throughout last season, the Royals were getting outscored in aggregate (836 runs scored, 867 allowed), but still managing to win more games than they lost. Even more striking was the teams performance at home: finishing 40-40 despite being outscored 433-512.


Pause for a moment and think about that. Where did all those runs go? Hmm... 40-40 at home, bad guys touched the plate 79 more times than the Boys in Blue... how? Well, you see Will, baseball is a game of strategy, and obviously, you've got to know how to win close games and how to throw in the towel and let the scrubs soak up some playing time when it is out of reach. Tony Pena knew how to win close games, save his pitchers during blowouts and generally was capable of squeezing wins out of a very mediocre lemon. Mix in some 2-8 loses against a backdrop of lots of inspiring 4-3 wins, and you end up with a team that went 83-79 but was outscored 867-836.

Except, that didn't really happen either. The Royals, quite amazingly, don't even appear to be lucky/good/clutch along these lines, managing a to-be-expected .500 record in close games, extra inning games and blowouts (games decided by +5 runs). Overall, the Royals went 18-22 in one-run games, 25-28 in blowouts and 5-4 in extra inning games. In every other kind of game (i.e. "normal" not too-close, not too-tight games) the Royals went 37-27.

To be nice and clean, let's use a table:

1- Run Games: 18-22
+5 Run Games: 25-28
Games decided by 2-5 runs: 40-29

Again, this isn't in and of itself remarkable. What is remarkable is that the Royals a) won more games than they lost AND b) were outscored AND c) didn't exhibit the simplest explanation for A and B --- winning a ton of close games and being badly blown out here and there. Glancing at the game log, the really big blowouts (8+) also largely balance out as well.

Why does this matter?

Returning to the initial issue --- being lucky --- there just isn't any reason to believe that whatever it was that helped the Royals in 2003 is also something that can be counted on as a repeatable entity. Which, in a general sense is a good way of thinking about the concept of "luck". Tony Pena coasted to the 2003 MOY award, but there is not much evidence to suggest that the team's coaching staff did anything to account for their anomalous win total.

This being said, there is a danger in taking this luck theme too far. Looking towards 2004, it is important to remember that the Royals only out-performed their Pythagorean record by 5 games. The fact that this over-performance was made manifest in a certain kind of game (2-5 run games) is definitely curious, but also, really not indicative of anything going forward.

What is a predictor going forward is the run totals, and the Royals are over 100 runs behind the White Sox in that category (-31 to +76) and nearly as far behind the Twins (-31 to +43). Given that the Royals, in a luck-aided "miracle" season, still finished in 3rd place anyway, there is good reason to be cautious about the prospects for a central division title in 2004. Indeed, this is something of the consensus concerning the Royals in the analytical community. Crucially, the team's brass appears to realize this, and has taken significant steps to improve the team, resisting the seductive option of chalking the entire season up to pre-planned genius and "team chemistry" and hoping for a repeat (see Angels, Anaheim 2003).

Of course, in a more general sense, the team experienced lots of luck in 2003 that can be repeated: they still play in a very weak division (now minus Milton Bradley, hurrah for the myth of team chemistry), they got a season of positive development from many young players (Ken Harvey the glaring exception), Carlos Beltran hasn't been traded or injured yet, and they did some good work reviving fan interest in Kansas City.


Tomorrow, while watching the Opening Day games, I'll look at the 2004 roster, and offer my predictions for the season.

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Sunday, April 04, 2004
 
Opening Remarks
Hello world!
I present, with some fear, some embarassment, and some chagrin, Royals Nightly. For the "feel" of the site I'm imagining sorta a 80s, pre-espn era version of the local show on Fox Sports Net, if that makes any sense. Growing up in Texas we had something that was called H-S-E, Home Sports Entertainment, which provided Rangers and Astros games, as well as Southwest Conference football and hoops. (Nothing like a Baylor- Rice donnybrook in Houston on a Saturday morning.) It was cheesy, homerish, had no production values, and was single-minded in its approach, showcasing local teams.

Anyway, this site is about the Kansas City Royals. I've held off creating this blog until the Sunday night before Opening Day. The idea is running commentary about the ROyals, the AL Central and MLB in general. Regrettably (because there are so many these days) I'm a sabermetrically inclined fan. Make of that what you will. In the last few years the extent to which stathead approaches to the game have become more mainstream is pretty amazing. There aren't enough ROyals blogs out there, and in my own small way I hope to join the community of progressive analysis.

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