Archive for May 2010

A look at the Royals inability to find and produce talent

May 26, 2010

The Royals have been so bad for so long, but why is this so? They have not made the playoffs since the mid-80’s when they won the 1985 World Series. Since then, they have had 17 losing seasons and have had 100+ losses in four of those seasons. The Tampa Bay Rays were in a similar struggle after finishing in the AL East cellar in every year except for one leading up to the 2008 season where they made a World Series appearance seemingly out of nowhere. So how can a franchise like Tampa Bay do a complete 180 while the Royals continue to fail? Well, it all starts on draft day. When you are a small market team and your franchise is struggling the only answer is to produce and find great talent through the draft.

Lets look at who the Royals and Rays picked in the first round in each draft from 2000-2008. We won’t use the 2009 draft because many have not reached the majors yet.

2000 Draft:
Royals picked #4 and selected Mike Stodolka, P, HS
Rays picked #6 and selected Rocco Baldelli, OF, HS

Notable players selected after #4: Adam Wainwright, Chase Utley, and Sean Burnett who is a lefty specialist currently in the Nationals pen.

2001 Draft:
Royals picked #9 and selected Colt Griffin, P, HS
Rays picked #3 and selected Dewon Brazelton, P, Middle Tennessee State

Notable players selected after #3: Mark Teixiera, Gavin Floyd, Jeremy Bonderman, Casey Kotchman, and Mike Fontenot, and Aaron Heilman.

2002 Draft:
Royals picked #6 and selected Zach Grienke, P, HS
Rays picked #2 and selected B.J. Upton, OF, HS

Notable players selected after #2: Prince Fielder, Jeff Francis, Denard Span, James Loney, Nick Swisher, Cole Hamels, Scott Kazmir, Joe Saunders, Jeff Francouer, Matt Cain, and Joe Blanton.

2003 Draft:
Royals picked #5 and selected Christopher Lubanski, OF, HS
Rays picked #1 and selected Delmon Young, OF, HS

Notable players selected after #1: Rickie Weeks, Nick Markakis, John Danks, Ian Stewart, Chad Cordero, Carlos Quentin, Aaron Hill, Connor Jackson, Chad Billingsley and Paul Maholm.

2004 Draft:
Royals picked #14 and #29 and selected Billy Butler, 1B, HS and Matthew Campbell, P, HS
Rays picked #4 and selected Jeff Niemann, P, Rice

Notable players selected after #4: Jered Weaver, Stephen Drew and Phil Hughes.

2005 Draft:
Royals picked #2 and selected Alex Gordon, 3B, Nebraska
Rays picked #8 and selected Wade Townsend, P, Dripping

Notable players selected after #2: Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Ricky Romero, Troy Tulowitzki, Mike Pelfrey, Cameron Maybin, Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Colby Rasmus.

2006 Draft:
Royals picked #1 and selected Luke Hochevar, P, Tennessee
Rays picked #3 and selected Evan Longoria, 3B, Long Beach State

Notable players selected after #1: Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum, Max Scherzer, Travis Snider, Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek, and Ian Kennedy.

2007 Draft:
Royals picked #2 and selected Mike Moustakas, 3B, HS
Rays picked #1 and selected David Price, P, Vanderbilt

Notable players selected after #1: Matt Wieters, Madison Bumgarner, Jason Heyward, and Rick Porcello.

2008 Draft:
Royals picked #3 and selected Eric Hosmer, 1B, HS
Rays picked #1 and selected Tim Beckham, SS, HS

Notable players selected after #1: Brian Matusz, Buster Posey, Pedro Alvarez, Gordon Beckham, Ike Davis, and Justin Smoak.

The 2000 draft was a larger swing and miss for the Royals than it was for the Rays. Mike Stodolka is still in the minors and is almost 30 years old. He is not doing poorly there as he has a triple slash line of .287/.394/.444, but he is playing against competition that is much younger and less experienced than he is. The Rays selected Rocco Baldelli who was at least able to give his team some major league service time. The 2000 draft was a fairly shallow one. In 2001, both teams failed but the Royals could have had Gavin Floyd instead of Colt Griffin who is a mediocre player in the minor leagues. The 2002 draft would have been an embarrassing one to miss a nice piece of talent on since this draft was so deep. Both teams were able to get nice talent here. The 2003 draft had some very nice players but no superstar came out of this first round class. Christopher Lubanski is yet another Royals draft pick to not make the major leagues and he is currently playing in AAA Las Vegas in the Blue Jays organization. Meanwhile, the Rays at least got some service time out of Delmon Young. The 2004 class was another shallow one and both teams got good pieces. Billy Butler is probably one of the Royals best hitter and Jeff Niemann has been solid for the Rays this year. I consider the 2005 draft a fail for both teams because Alex Gordon has been one of the biggest busts in this draft but at least he was able to make the majors. Alex Gordon is an example of someone who absolutely dominated the minor leagues but could not put a solid season together in the major leagues. He has struggled with numerous injuries as well. Also, Wade Townsend= complete fail so don’t feel too bad Royals fans, the Rays failed too. However it is a shame because this draft class was almost as deep as the 2002 class and the Royals and Rays were two of the few teams who missed some nice talent here. However, the Rays would make up for it in the 2006-2008 drafts by selecting the best 3B in the game in Evan Longoria, David Price, and Tim Beckham while the Royals selected Luke Hochevar, Mike Moustakas, and Eric Hosmer. The Luke Hochevar selection in 2006 leaves you scratching your head and wondering what Royals scouts saw in him when Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Tim Lincecum were left on the board. David Price is dealing at the major league level while Moustakas is struggling in AA. The Rays made outstanding picks in these three drafts and coincidentally, this is when the Rays got a lot better as a team.

So is there a correlation here? Probably.

I also want you to note where the Royals draft picks were drafted from. Eight out of ten Royals prospects were drafted out of High School. Only four Rays prospects were drafted out of high school. Maybe these players were very misleading because they were playing against competition that was extremely inferior to the major leagues or even the minor leagues. Ironically though, the two Royals picks that did go to college probably turned out the best for the Royals. Even though Hochevar and Gordon haven’t produced much, at least they made it out of the minor leagues. It looks like the Rays suddenly learned how to draft after that horrible Wade Townsend pick.

So maybe the Royals organization should take a lesson from the Rays organization. Try drafting players coming out of college unless the said player is an absolute stud and has extremely high upside from the majority of scouts in high school like Jason Heyward or Justin Upton. Otherwise, don’t take the chance. Until the Royals learn how to draft, they will continue to suck.


The “J-Hey Kid”

May 26, 2010

Per fangraphs:

Mel Ott, 1929: .328/.449/.635, 172 wRC+
Alex Rodriguez, 1996: .358/.414/.631, 169 wRC+
Ted Williams, 1939: .327/.436/.609, 168 wRC+
Al Kaline, 1955: .340/.421/.546, 160 wRC+
Frank Robinson, 1956: .290/.379/.558, 149 wRC+
Mickey Mantle, 1952: .311/.394/.530, 166 wRC+

In the history of baseball, those are the six seasons where a player has posted an OPS over .900 as a 20-year-old. Of those six players, five are in the hall of fame, and the other guy will be when he’s done playing.

To say that Jason Heyward is putting himself in some pretty impressive company might be the understatement of the year. And yet, here he is, a 20-year-old rookie putting up a .290/.409/.580 line for the season (166 wRC+), and showing absolutely no signs of slowing down.

In April, Heyward flashed some greatness but also looked young and inexperienced. He struck out 26 times in 89 trips to the plate, and while the walks and home runs still made him a valuable player, there was a pretty easy path to getting him out.

In May, he has 70 plate appearances and just five strikeouts. He hasn’t lost any aggressiveness, as he’s still drawn 12 walks, and his power is still there, as 10 of his 20 hits have gone for extra bases. In his second month in the big leagues, he’s hitting .357/.471/.661, good for a .481 wOBA.

Seriously, just lock him up. “Evan Longoria” him and sign Heyward to a 10 year deal this week. Two months is a SSS, but I think it’s safe to say the dood is going to be GOLD. Gold Jerry, gold.

Ha, hope you got the last reference. Although I ruined it by pointing it out. Oh well.

PS- How awesome is this photo?

The best player in Florida is…

May 22, 2010

… “Evan Longoria”

“Nah, man, it’s GOTTA be Hanley Ramirez”

“You’re crazy”

“Nah, you’re crazy”

Does the above diaglouge sound like a debate you and your buddy have had? No? Okay, well it a debate some writers and I recently had. So let’s take a deep look at the two and see who is the best baseball player in the Sunshine state.

Now, considering the two play different positions and play in different leagues, it makes a straight up comparison tough. But hopefully we can find an answer in the numbers, so lets see.

Hanley Ramirez: 660 G, 2934 PA, .315/.386/.527/.395wOBA/144wRC+ with 167 SB (77%)

Evan Longoria: 321 G, 1363 PA, .283/.360/.536/.382wOBA/137wRC+ with 23 SB (92%)

Offensively, Hanley has the edge. From 2007-2009 he posted three consecutive seasons of 150+ wRC+. That is insane- especially once you remember he is a shortstop. At this rate, he could go down as the best offensive shortstop in the history of the game.  Longoria is no slouch either though and is having a better 2010 in a harder division and league. In the end,  Hanley tops him in BA, OBP, wOBA, and wRC+. He also poses a threat on the bases. While a SB% of 77% isn’t anything to write home about, Hanley is capable of swiping 30+ bags in a season.

Offensive Edge: Hanley Ramirez

The next facet of the game is defense. Obviously shortstop is a harder position to play, but Hanley is simply average while Longoria is a monster. Going back to 2008, which spans close to 3000 innings, Hanley has had a UZR/150 right around 0. His +/- has been in the same range as well. Meanwhile, Longoria has arguably been the best defensive third baseman in baseball, and has a 16.4 UZR/150 dating back to 2008. Sure shortstop is harder, but Longoria gives you so much more value with his golden leather.

Defensive Edge: Evan Longoria

Now lets put it all together. One way to do this is with WAR. Using fangraphs, Hanley has already compiled 25.6 WAR in his career (164 batting runs, -30.8 defensive runs). His WAR/700 is 6.1. Evan Longoria has a career WAR of 14.5 (62.7 batting runs, 32.3 defensive runs) with a WAR/700 of 7.5.

Longo comes out on top because of his superior defense. But lets look deeper using Rally’s WAR which can be used to see how good a player is at everything.

Hanley Ramirez: 135 Bat Runs, 18 Bsr, 6 GIDP, 5 ROE, -13 TZ, 1 ifDP, 28 Pos Adj, 251 RAR, 25.5 WAR, 6.5 WAR/700

Evan Longoria: 33 Bat Runs, 5 Bsr, -5 GIDP, 2 ROE, 25 TZ, 2 ifDP, 3 Pos Adj, 104 RAR, 10.4 WAR, 6.3 WAR/700

Here Hanley edges Longoria. Offensively, we see his dominance. He is a straight up better hitter who can avoid DP, force errors, and is a better baserunner. But again, we see that Longoria is SOOOOOOOO much better defensively.

Verdict: Evan Longoria

This battle royale was extremely, extremely, extrememly close. Hanley is a better hitter. And is a better hitter at a tougher position. But Longoria is a fantastic hitter as well. What separates them is the glovework. Although Hanley is a decent fielder compared to his first couple seasons, Longoria is the definition of a Gold Glover. Using fangraphs WAR, Longo’s WAR/700 was over a run better than Hanley. When using Rally’s WAR, Han-Ram came out on top, but by the slimment margins. Give me Longoria.

This could go either way, depending on how much weight you put in the fact Hanley is a shortstop. But I’ll take Longoria- especially if outside factors were taken into consideration such as age and salary.

Me gusta beisbol

May 18, 2010

This is why I love baseball.

It’s quite pathetic New York blew a 5 run head start, but it was uber-awesome to walkoff against Papelbon. That was an epic win and an epic celebration by A-Rod who was more interested in winning the helmet toss than anything else.

Using WPA to breakdown the Yankee/Red Sox rivalry

May 17, 2010

Great article by Mark Simon of ESPNNY.

Not to my surprise, A-Rod has been the most valuable Yankee in the rivalry. Unfortunately, it will come as a surprise to many other Yankee fans.

Nationals Promote Drew Storen

May 16, 2010

Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Washington Nationals will call up Drew Storen tomorrow.  For those that don’t know, Drew Storen was Washington’s second first round pick last year behind Stephen Strasburg.  Baseball America rated Storen as Washington’s third best prospect and he was widely believed to be the team’s future closer.  With Matt Capps and Tyler Clippard pitching as well as they have been, there’s no way he’s coming up to claim the job now.  But this move might signify how serious the Nationals are getting about winning now – just not serious enough to sacrifice a couple million dollars to put the best pitcher on the major league roster.

R.I.P. Oliver Perez

May 15, 2010

When Oliver Perez bursted onto the scene in 2004, he looked primed to battle Johan Santana and Randy Johnson for the title of the league’s best lefty.  With a mid-90s fastball and a devastating slider, Perez looked like a young Randy Johnson, as did his stats.  Oli sported a 2.98 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and a remarkable 11 K/9 through 30 starts that season, and he was just 23 years old.

But just as quickly as Perez emerged, he plummeted back into baseball obscurity.  In 2005, he had a 5.85 ERA, 1.67 WHIP and an embarrassing 6.12 BB/9.  Next year’s results weren’t any better with his ERA and WHIP jumping even higher (6.55 and 1.75, respectively.)  It wasn’t just his numbers that were worse.  His fastball was down in the low 90’s and his slider didn’t have nearly the same bite.

However, it was still good enough stuff to get by on, and he would show that in his first full season in New York.  He performed well enough to draw $12 million per year over 3 seasons.  This is the second year of that deal, and we can go ahead and chalk it up as another terrible move by Minaya and the front office.  Perez has walked 3 or more batters in each of his seven starts this year and after tonight’s home run derby, he sports an ERA of almost 6 and a WHIP of almost 2.  You don’t have to watch him long to see that he clearly does not have it.  His fastball can no longer touch 90 and averages 88.

I will be surprised, to say the least, if we ever see Oliver Perez on a big league mound again.