Posted tagged ‘Kansas City Royals’

Royals Making Mistake in Sending Down Yordano Ventura

July 22, 2015

The big news out of Kansas City today is that starting pitcher Yordano Ventura is being sent down to AAA for “struggles”. The same Yordano Ventura who was a revelation last October, christened “the new Pedro”, and was the Royals Opening Day starter this season. While Ventura spots an ugly 5.19, it is a somewhat misleading ERA- something ERA often does. Ventura should not have been sent down, and is in fact, their best pitcher. For a team trying to make it back to the World Series, this move sure does seem like a head scratcher. But if we take a closer look, maybe we can find something that the Royals didn’t like.

To start, here are Ventura’s 2014 numbers.

183 IP, 7.82 K/9, 3.39 BB/9, 0.69 HR/9, 3.60 FIP, 3.74 xFIP, 2.4 fWAR (2.6/200IP)

For a 23 year old rookie, those are some good numbers. Most of those numbers are above average and as mentioned, he was 23 with a FB velocity just over 96MPH.

Now compare that to 2015…

76.1 IP, 7.66 K/9, 2.95 BB/9, 0.83 HR/9, 3.69 FIP, 3.68 xFIP, 1.0 fWAR (2.6/200IP)

His K rate is pretty much the same and he traded less walks for more home runs. His FIP is about the same from 2014 and he is on pace for the same fWAR. So, what’s the problem? Where is the perceived struggle? Let’s dig a little bit deeper.

Last year Ventura had a BABIP of .288 and a LOB% of 73.5%. This year those are .321 and 64.8% respectively. Despite pretty similar peripherals to 2014 (his K% is down just 1% and his BB% is better by just 1%), he has been unlucky on balls in put in play, leading to more runs and thus an ERA that jumped two runs, from 3.20 to 5.19. So that must explain the discrepancy between FIP and ERA, the numbers will normalize, and the Royals are nuts…right?

Well, the story doesn’t end there. There may be a reason for the higher percentage of home runs and balls in play landing for hits. If you look at his soft, medium, and hard hit ball percentage you will see some major differences. Last year 20.2% of balls hit were classified as soft v 25.1% classified as hard. In 2015, only 10.5% of balls hit are considered soft while 33.3% are considered hard. Along with that, his pull percentage went from 40.3% to 49.6%, with that difference coming entirely from balls hit to the opposite field. His contact percentage on balls in the zone has gone up 5.1%. All of the above can explain why his BABIP and HR% have both increased.

What can explain this discrepancy? I am not quite sure. His 4-seam and 2-seam fastballs are each down 1 MPH, but a 1 MPH decrease shouldn’t create such drastic changes. Moreover, even with the slight drop in velocity his FB reaches 95-97 MPH, which is still hard. Looking at his Pitch F/X values, the only pitch that is noticeably worse than 2014 is his 4 seam FB, which he throws more than any other pitch (38.8% of the time, down from 53.9% in 2014). Its value is -7.4 or 7.4 runs below average, a drop of about 13 runs from 6.3 in 2014. You take 13 runs off his season line, and suddenly you have a 3.66 ERA.

As to why his FB is so hittable and leading to harder hit balls that batters can pull, I don’t know. I am not good with Pitch F/X and it would be great if someone were to do the analysis on it.The obvious guess is that he is not locating in the zone, which can explain the fewer walks (more balls in the zone and more balls in play before getting deep in the count), higher contact percentage, more balls in play being pulled, and more balls being hit hard at the expense of soft hits.

Yet in spite of his struggles with the FB, Ventura has still been above average this season and the Royals best starter. Whatever is going on, I am sure it is something he can fix at the ML level. In a perfect world you might want to send him down to work on mechanics or whatever the problem is- release point, tipping pitches, grip, etc- but when you are trying to contend for the division and the pennant, you cannot replace your #1 starting pitcher down the stretch.

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Divisional Preview: AL Central

March 29, 2011

Following a season in which the Minnesota Twins won the division by a comfortable margin the 2011 AL Central should feature a much more competitive race at the top and some exciting young players at the bottom. The Tigers and White Sox spent big in the offseason bringing in power at the DH spot in the form of Adam Dunn and Victor Martinez, but will they be enough to take down the two time defending division champs? As for the remaining teams in the division, fans should be looking past 2011 and into the future. Both the Royals and Indians have young talent at the major league level or on the cusp of making the big club. Without any further discussion here, let’s get to the predictions.

1) Minnesota Twins (91-71)

The two times defending AL Central Champions did not make any big splashes in Free Agency this off season aside from retaining Carl Pavano and Jim Thome, but they brought in Japanese SS, Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Nishioka does not project as a star at the major league level, however he provides the Twins with depth in the middle of the field and some speed at the bottom or top of the lineup. For a more detailed scouting report of Nishioka check out Patrick Newman of Fangraphs here. Pavano provides the Twins with a serviceable #2 pitcher behind Francisco Liriano who trade rumors have been circling around for most of the off-season. Thome is unlikely to see similar results to 2010 when he posted a .437 wOBA, his best since 2002 but as a bat off the bench, part time DH and insurance policy to Justin Morneau, Thome should provide the Twins with excellent value once again.

The Twins winning the division will come down to a few things. First is the health of Justin Morneau. Returning from the highly publicized concussion last summer, Morneau could provide the Twins with a second MVP caliber bat in the middle of lineup to go along with Joe Mauer. If Morneau can stay healthy and even come near his 2010 production the Twins are the one team in the division that has the opportunity to run away from their competitors. Second is the ascension of Francisco Liriano to elite status in the American League. Following a 6.0 WAR season where he never saw his ERA catch up to his peripherals, Liriano could be in the mix at the end of the season for the AL CY Young award. The Final piece to the puzzle is the rest of the rotation and return to health of Joe Nathan. Can Carl Pavano provide another 200+ quality innings, will Brian Duensing provide 160 innings and push 3 WAR, and what about Kyle Gibson who could force his way into the rotation by mid season. The Twins have depth in the rotation, star power in the lineup and the knack for out producing expectations every year and as a result my pick to win a third straight division crown.

Players to watch: Justin Morneau, Tsuyoshi Nishioka

2) Chicago White Sox (88-74)

The always entertaining Chicago White Sox spent big dollars this offseason to add DH Adam Dunn from the Washington Nationals and to retain all-star 1B Paul Konerko. The $56 million spent on Dunn should improve what was a middle of the pack offensive club in 2010. Dunn has posted 38 or more home runs in all of the last seven seasons and never has he had a wOBA below .365 in that time. To go along with Dunn the White Sox have Konerko coming off a career year. Unlikely to repost 39 home runs or a .415 wOBA the White Sox would be pleased with anything close to career norms of .273/.356/.498 from Konerko this season. The biggest question mark in the 2011 White Sox lineup will be at 2B. Which Gordon Beckham should the Sox expect? The one who posted below replacement level numbers in the first 3 months of 2010 or the one who posted wOBA’s of .410 and .388 during the summer months. The answer of course is somewhere in the middle, Beckham has all-star potential at 2B, but likely not in 2011.

The 2011 White Sox season will come down to the rotation though. With a bullpen anchored by Matt Thornton and Chris Sale giving up leads late in games won’t be the teams issue, and scoring runs as discussed won’t be the problem. However with Jake Peavy not ready for opening day and reports from his doctor that 60 pitches might be his maximum at this point the top of the rotation has a really big red flag. Throw in the always inconsistent Edwin Jackson and White Sox fans could be on the edge of their seat all season trying to get through the first six innings. One thing we do know, Mark Buehrle is going to pitch 210 innings have an ERA around 4.00 and give the White Sox 3.5-4.0 WAR. If Gavin Floyd and John Danks could provide similar numbers the White Sox could challenge the Minnesota Twins in 2011, but as of opening day I do not see that happening.

Players to watch: Gordon Beckham, Chris Sale

3) Detroit Tigers (84-78)

Like their AL Central counterpart the Tigers spent big money on a DH this offseason, giving a 4 yr $50 million dollar contract to former Red Sox and Indian Victor Martinez. Although Martinez may see some time at catcher his primary duty will be as protection for AL MVP favorite Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera for all his off the field issues including a much publicized arrest early in Spring Training for DWI is still considered the American League’s best hitter. For the Tigers to be competitive the middle of the lineup Cabrera, Martinez and Maglio Ordonez will have to be excellent. With those three and young CF Austin Jackson at the top of the lineup the Tigers could score in north of 780 runs this season and push for the AL Central title but it seems unlikely at this point with two better teams ahead of them.

There are some very bright spots for the Tigers in the rotation however. Anchored by my pick for AL Cy Young this season, Justin Verlander and up and coming star Max Scherzer the Tigers sport what is the best 1-2 in the AL Central for 2011. Couple these two with Rick Porcello who has shown signs of being a competent to good #3 starter in age 20 and 21 seasons and Detroit Tiger fans have a lot to look forward to in the rotation over the next few years. However the #4 and #5 spots in the Detroit rotation are major question marks. Phil Coke makes the move from the bullpen to the rotation. In his two full years in the bullpen with the Yankees and Tigers, Coke has posted xFIPs of 4.13 and 4.40 of course in limited work where his left handedness could be used to exploit platoon splits. Coke was a starter early in his minor league career and if he can provide the Tigers with anything close to his bullpen numbers in the rotation and 150-160 IP they would be overjoyed. The final spot in the rotation will belong to Brad Penny who has either not been very good or hurt the last few seasons. If Penny has found a time machine and can give the Tigers anything close to what he was pre 2008 then the Tigers may end up with a fairly deep and stable rotation. Too many question marks surround this pitching staff and bullpen and several positions on the field to be overly bullish on the Tigers projections, thus the third place finish.

Players to watch: Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello

4) Cleveland Indians (66-96)

Cleveland barely edges out Kansas City for 4th place in the 2011 AL Central because their current roster construction is just a bit better than the Royals. Indians fans do not have a whole lot to look forward to in 2011 and without a lot if any top end of the rotation starters in the high-minors it may be a few years before the Indians are contenders again. All is not lost in Cleveland though. The Indians have a legitimate star in RF in Shin-Soo Choo who has posted back to back 5.0+ WAR seasons and will likely be the team’s representative on the all-star team. Along with Choo in the OF is Grady Sizemore the once budding super-star is attempting a comeback from major knee surgery and expectations should be kept at a minimum until he shows he is healthy. However the biggest reason to watch an Indians game this season is the young catcher Carlos Santana. Buster Posey got all the hype last season and deservedly so, but the Indians had themselves an offensive machine behind the plate for the 46 games he played before a gruesome knee injury ended Santana’s season. Posting 2 WAR, and a .382 wOBA in only 192 PA, the Indians could be looking at the anchor to their next round of rebuilding. Aside from that the Indians don’t look to have much else, the rotation is lead by Fausto Carmona who teases fans with flashes of brilliance and Justin Masterson whom posted a 3.87 xFIP over 180.0 IP proving some of the doubters wrong in 2010.

Players to watch: Grady Sizemore, Matt Laporta, Carlos Santana

5) Kansas City Royals (62-100)

In an offseason where they traded away their best player in Zack Grienke, and had Gil Meche return over $10 million dollars when he decided to retire, gutting an already weak rotation there is reason to be excited for the first time in years. With a deep farm system (for more information click here and here) the Royals will at some point add to their roster this year at least one if not a handful of high end prospects including Mike Montgomery, John Lamb, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer. However with a current roster that includes a rotation of Luke Hochaver, Jeff Francis, Kyle Davies, Bruce Chen and Vin Mazzaro it is very hard to envision the Royals not losing 100 games in 2011 and if they did not call any of those prospects up this year anywhere from 105-110 losses could be on the table. All is not lost on the current major league roster though. Joakim Soria will continue his dominance in the bullpen, Billy Butler will continue to be a very good hitter, Kila Ka’aihue should hit enough this year before being displaced by Hosmer at some point to build up some trade value during the off season and the Royals can hope that Alex Gordon becomes even a fraction of what they once thought he would be.

Players to watch: Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Any of the Mid-season call ups

Milwaukee Brewers acquire Zack Greinke

December 19, 2010

What a crazy off-season. The next piece of shocking news is that the Kansas City Royals have traded ace pitcher Zack Greinke to the Milwaukee Brewers for Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Odorizzi, and a PTBNL. Wow. I know the Brewers name came up in trade rumors, but this is still shocking. I didn’t think a trade would happen this fast and I didn’t think Milwaukee would actually land him.

This is a real good deal for Milwaukee, imo. Despite having a stud in Yovanni Gallardo, their starting pitching sucked in 2010. But within a matter of weeks they picked up a solid #3 starter in Shaun Marcum and now add Zack Greinke, who is in the running for best pitcher in all of baseball. A trio of Greinke, Gallardo, and Marcum is quite good. Now, the back-end of the rotation still isn’t good, but if they can add a “project” pitcher, they could have a very good overall rotation. They have a lot of pitching depth, but the pitcher’s aren’t very good. So I would take a risk on a Jeremy Bonderman, a Ben Sheets, etc. If they don’t work out, it’s not like you don’t have someone else who can step in. It may not be a good pitcher, but it’s better than no pitcher.

The Brewers, right now, are my favorites to win the NL Central. Their starting pitching matches up with St. Louis, and the Brewers still have a good lineup. Prince Fielder is still at first. Rickie Weeks is at second. Ryan Braun and Corey Hart are still patrolling the corner outfield. Milwaukee has a good team that should compete with St. Louis and Cincinnati.

As for Kansas City, I am underwhelmed with their return. They got some solid players, but it was in return for Zack Greinke. They could have done better. Alcides Escobar could be a solid player for the Royals down the line. He isn’t much of hitter, but he is a defensive star. His glove should make him a capable everyday player and contribute to a solid KC defense. Lorenzo Cain is an athletic center fielder and a good fielder, but is not a star player in the making. I do think he has a small probability of becoming a star, but I don’t think he’ll get there. He’ll just be an okay, everyday player for KC. Now, Jake Odorizzi is a very good prospect. He’s young and has dominated the low levels of the minors so far. He could become one of the Royals best prospects in a very short time.

So yeah, Kansas City did get good players for Zack Greinke, but they could have done better. I mean, from the Yankees they wanted Jesus Montero. None of the players KC got from the Brewers is on Montero’s level as a player/prospect. The Brewers came out really good in this trade, and Kansas City’s return is just “eh”. I mean, they trade two, relatively cheap years of an All-Star pitcher in his prime, for two okay players and one good prospect (plus a PTBNL). But at least they got rid of Yuniesky Betancourt. So I guess it’s a win.

 

Chicago White sign Adam Dunn

December 2, 2010

In baseball’s big news of the day, the White Sox have signed slugger Adam Dunn to a 4/$56mil deal. Dunn will be paid $14mil per yer through his age 31-34 seasons.

Dunn is a fantastic hitter who has lost a lot of value over the years because of atrocious defense. But now it appears that Dunn has accepted the fact he is better suited at first base or DH, rather than the outfield. In the end, that could save him some value, although the DH penalty is still severe enough that he needs to hit no matter where he plays to have any significant value.

The contract will cover Dunn’s early 30s, which could have no impact or a negative impact. Players do get worse as they age, but age 31-34 isn’t so old anymore. He should still be able to mash the ball and the age won’t impact his defense if he is at DH or 1b. However, his body type usually does not age well. Again though, 31-34 isn’t that old anymore, so we might not see his decline just yet.

Dunn will be going into a homer haven, much like the one he played in during his Cincy years. That could possibly boost his numbers, at least at home. In the end though, analyzing Dunn is tricky. He has been a consistent, great hitter over the course of his career. He shows no sign of decline, except for age. But we do know that his body type does decline earlier than most and we don’t know how he will react if he becomes a hit only player in Chicago.

I started Dunn out at 3 WAR and decreased it by 0.5 each season as he gets older. In the end, using my estimates, the White Sox will overpay for Dunn by a total of $10mil, or $2.5mil per season. That’s a fair amount, but it’s not that bad. Moreover, it’s possible Dunn does continue to hit well and outperforms my predictions. I ran this with him producing total WAR’s of 10.5 and 11, each of which brought him closer to the $56mil salary he is being given. Moreover, Chicago has been dying for a power hitting lefty for sometime now. He is a great addition to the lineup, so he could be worth more than his projected $46mil value to Chicago. The White Sox figure to build teams that will contend each season, so Dunn should be worth more to them than to the Kansas City Royals, for example.

This may have been a slight reach for Chicago, but they get the player they want at a decent price and Dunn gets his money.

 

My quick take on what the Royals should do with Zack Greinke

December 2, 2010

Keep him.

Yes, I know trading him now would bring back the ultimate return. The other team would be trading for two years of his services, upping his value since he is not just a rental. Moreover, after Cliff Lee there are no good starters on the market, so a team might overpay in a trade for Greinke. Despite all that, I would not trade Zack Greinke.

Why? Because he is amazing. And the team will be good soon enough.

Sure, Greinke wants to WIN. But the Royals have a LOADED farm system. From Eric Hosmer to Danny Duffy, the Royals only need a handful of their farm system stars to pan out. In a division like the AL Central, a talented, young team could go far. Having Greinke just makes the team even better and will bring about the success at a faster rate. Will it be tough to convince him? Maybe. The Royals have tried rebuilding before and it did not work out. But their current crop of talent is too good to completely bust. If Greinke can just wait another season or two, Kansas City could be the winning team he wants to play for. His deal runs out in 2012, but KC does have the money to extend him.

The only way I trade Greinke is if I get an absolute HAUL in return. I’m talking Jesus Montero and Dellin Betances from the Yankees. Scheppers, Perez, and Holland from Texas. Hicks and Gibson from the Twins. In that case, the return is TOO good to not give him up, and the farm system will become- like- the greatest of all-time.

Well, that’s my quick take so take it for what it’s worth.

If I’m Texas, maybe even New York as well, I go after Lee AND Greinke. Imagine a Texas rotation next season with Lee, Greinke, Wilson, Lewis, Feliz/Hunter?

Oakland A’s trade for David DeJesus

November 11, 2010

One of the bigger baseball stories of the day is the trade that sent David DeJesus from Kansas City to Oakland in exchange for Vin Mazzarro and a minor league pitcher.

I have to say, I like the trade for both teams.

For Oakland, this move makes so much sense. They have a loaded rotation, especially with the recent acquisition of Japanese pitcher Hisashi Iwamura. Along with Iwamura, the rotation boasts Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, and Gio Gonzalez. Mazzarro didn’t have an immediate spot in the rotation, and considering how young that rotation is, it didn’t look like he was going to have a major role on the team barring an injury. So to the A’s, Mazzarro was expendable. In return, they picked up a quality outfielder who fits into their defensive shtick, as well as a quality bat. DeJesus isn’t a feared slugger and will probably regress from his career high .363 wOBA (394 PA) last season, but he instantly becomes one of Oakland’s best hitters, if not their best hitter. For a price tag of $6mil, he should be a bargain for Oakland as he almost definitely will post a 2+ WAR like he has done in all but one full season at the ML level.

I think Oakland will be a decent team again in 2011 and depending on how the off-season goes for other teams in the AL West, the A’s could be contenders again. So adding DeJesus to the roster is an improvement. However, chances are Los Angeles or Texas will run away from Oakland. In that case, there will be plenty of suitors for DeJesus come July, where the A’s will probably get more in return than what they are giving up now in Mazzarro and a minor leaguer. Should DeJesus remain an A all season, he should fetch the team a draft pick or two. Either way, DeJesus is bringing a substantial amount of value to Oakland. Good job Billy Beane.

As for Kansas City, I like the trade, but not totally. DeJesus is not going to be a Royal in 2012, so they figured they should get something for him. In a trade, they would theoretically get more now than in July, because the other team would be trading for a full season of DeJesus. Vin Mazzarro is a young, cost-controlled pitcher who instantly will have a spot in the rotation. He has potential and just needs to be a decent pitcher to be fair value in return for DeJesus. HOWEVER, I am not the biggest fan of Mazzarro. He is one of my favorite players because he is Italian and from New Jersey. But he doesn’t miss bats, walks a fair share of batters, and gives up a lot of hard hit balls- he has a career 1.31 HR/9 pitching in Oakland(!) and a 20.8 LD%. Eeesh. Moreover, a sinker-slider pitcher, he has a poor GB% of 41.2 in his career. If he is not going to miss bats, he needs to generate ground balls, something he has not done thus far. Mazzarro does have the potential though, so if he can become a ground ball pitcher, we will probably also see a decline in the number of hard hit balls against him. If that happens, Kansas City will have a good pitcher on their hands. All at the cost of one season of David DeJesus. I like the chance KC is taking.

Kansas City possibly could have held onto DeJesus and taken a draft pick, but  he might only be a type B FA. KC might have thought about that and figured they liked Mazzarro better than a potential pick in the upcoming draft.

So overall, I give thumbs up to both sides.

Real fast I also just want to again mention the sleeper potential of Oakland. I know Texas will be great again and LA will be revamped after they sign a ton of free agents, but Oakland is just solid. Their outfield will consist of DeJesus, Ryan Sweeney, and Coco Crisp. Average offense, great defense. The DH could be top prospect Chris Carter. The infield, consisting of Daric Barton, Mark Ellis, Cliff Pennington and Kevin Kouzmanoff, will not allow a single ball through the infield. Kurt Suzuki is a good catcher and the pitching will be a major strength again (even with some regression they should get a full year from Brett Anderson). And if shit blows up, DeJesus and Crisp could fetch some decent players in return.

Shout out to David DeJesus, a Rutgers alum (well, he didn’t graduate, but so what?)

I thought the Yankees are bad for baseball?!

August 2, 2010

This season Tampa Bay is 23rd in attendance with an average crowd of 22,733. In other words, they only fill up 51.9% of the stadium on average. That’s a lower mark than Pittsburgh and Kansas City. Yes- arguably the best team in baseball can’t even fill up their stadium as well as shit teams in Pittsburgh and Kansas City.

The Yankees played a series in Tampa this weekend where all three games were sold out. That marks the first time in Tropicana Field history that a weekend series was sold out. I wonder what the reason could be…oh yeah, that’s right, the Yankees.

Had this been another mundane series against Cleveland, you could guarantee half the stadium would be empty. But the big bad Yankees come to town, and the Rays get three sellouts which boosts the Rays revenue from ticket sales, concessions, merchandise, etc. For a team that doesn’t spend much, they need all the revenue they can get.

Sure, half the crowd probably comprised of Tampa Yankee fans. But a sellout is a sellout. The Yankees lead baseball in road attendance and teams with poor attendance probably jump for joy when New York rolls into town.

Are the Yankees bad for baseball? No- not the business aspect anyway.