During their amazing major league baseball careers, Ted Williams and Willie Mays crushed 1,181 home runs between the two of them. Amazingly, they have zero home runs hit in World Series play. In a combined 27 games, neither player ‘went … Continue reading →
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The Royals' 10 consecutive losses at home to start the season matched something that hasn't been done in the Major Leagues for 99 years.
The 1913 Yankees went through their first 18 home games without a victory, longest such stretch in history. They lost the first 10, tied Boston, 3-3, then lost seven more before finally winning at the Polo Grounds. The 1995 Florida Marlins and the 1940 Chicago White Sox each lost their first nine home games.
So, there's a myriad of ways we can say that things have been bad. I woke up this morning ready to write a post sardonically mocking Jeff Francoeur's lack of leadership and his inability to will the team to victory, but decided against it. Instead, let's look at the positives. Or, as far as I can tell, the positive.
The Royal infield of the future is a little more visible. At least right now. We've invested these young players with so much meaning that we're on a constant narrative roller coaster. When Hosmer has a good game, the future is bright, he's going to hit 30 homers this year, we're going to be good someday. When he goes 1-9 over a weekend, we're suddenly worried. And overall, the important thing to remember is that, honestly, we just don't know.
So leaving aside the Yuni-Getz platoon -- which has played better than expected but really is unlikely to be part of the future (right?) -- here's how the infield has hit through sixteen games:
I've been one of the biggest Escobar agnostics around, and I still contend that he's probably over-rated defensively (not so much because of his play, but because this is just what we do with players such as him). He's not going to finish the season with numbers anywhere close to his current line, but is he can hit .270/.310/.390 or so, he probably has some value. His home/road splits last season were very strange, as you'd think he could generate some 2B/3B slugging at the K, when in fact the opposite happened. The illusion of a "streaky player" is one of our dearest observational mistakes, but Alcides certainly fits the bill in his young career. In any case, he's established some hope that he can truly be a net positive player.
As for Moose and Hosmer, they're much more widely discussed. Hosmer has shown the ability to hit home runs, while the rest of his offensive game is still developing. Curiously, that's what was expected of Moose, who has instead been the more well-rounded player. Many seem to like his defense at third base early on as well.
This team, well, it seems like we're getting to know this team. The pitching is a nightmare and the manager is reliably annoying. Billy Butler is Billy Butler. The corner outfielders aren't hitting. It increasingly looks like the Royals aren't going to sniff .500 much less contend. But maybe, just maybe, the infield of the future is coming into place.
There was Josh WIllingham, Carlos Beltran, Michael Cuddyer or a starting pitcher. That was who the Rockies could spend their money on, and after sending Huston Street to San Diego in a salary dump, it seemed clear they would pull the trigger on someone. In the end, the Rockies spent the most money on the player Rockies fans seemed to like the least from potential free agents signees.
As frightened inmate #2 said at the time, that doesn't mean we couldn't grow to love Cuddyer. So far, exactly that has happened.
Cuddyer is 8-for-16 with runners in scoring position, hitting .455 with a men on base, and is 5-for-9 in "late and close" situations. He is second to Todd Helton on the team in WPA. He pulled out the game winning hit in both wins in Milwaukee despite playing with a badly injured toe, bad enough that he had his toenail removed (picture here if you dare). He is hitting .353 at home and .333 on the road, .368 vs RHP and .294 vs LHP. He has been a godsend so far.
While randomness/baseball gods/BABIP etc will normalize a bit, his contract looks mighty fine so far. We'll worry about the other 97% of his contract later.
The Virginian-Pilot profiled the Virginian native this morning, stating that fitting in with the Rockies on the field was never as big of a worry as fitting into Denver. No one likes moving, finding new restaurants, grocery stores and parks. They found a park, and from the relayed anecdote, it sounds like his family has taken to Denver and the Rockies pretty well:
The Cuddyers have moved into a house near a park with a baseball diamond - a perfect spot for his 4-year-old son to take batting practice.
The other day, his son launched a deep shot out of the infield and proclaimed it a grand slam by Troy Tulowitzki, the Rockies' All-Star shortstop.
"No, it was Tulo who hit the grand slam," Cuddyer said, laughing.
Rockies' game vs. Pirates postponed Monday because of weather - The Denver Post That means a double header Wednesday and Jamie Moyer starting tonight, a full week after his last start.
Rockies Mailbag: Don't fear for Tulowitzki and Gonzalez - The Denver Post The best answer in this mailbag by Patrick Saunders is in response to another "Why not start Colvin over Fowler" question. Many are worried about Fowler's tendency to strikeout, but Fowler's strikeout rate (25.9%) is lower than Colvin's (31.3%), and Colvin hit just .150 last year with a much lower K rate.
Matt Belisle's consistent relief work helps build Rockies' bullpen - The Denver Post He has faced 24 batters, struck out 6, and retired 23.
FanGraphs Guts! (wOBA & FIP Constants) | FanGraphs Baseball Those of you that like to tinker with stats just got a present from Fangraphs. All constants for each year for the wOBA and FIP formulas were revealed yesterday.
The Child Field-Stormer At U.S. Cellular, Who Ran Without Fear - Baseball Nation When a fan runs on the field during a game, there is no question what the course of action will be when he is caught. Tackle him, hard. But what if the fan is five years old?
Young's speed helping swing games for Rox | ColoradoRockies.com: News I was skeptical of Eric Young Jr. having an impact on the team. I had visions of weekly starts at second base and center field, but he is being utilized perfectly. He has had 13 plate appearances, reached base six times and scored four times.
And a special surprise after the jump...
So far this season, Josh Johnson has been underwhelming through three starts. His strikeouts are way down compared to his career norms, and the only thing that has kept his peripheral ERA numbers like his FIP down is the fact that he has yet to allow a home run this season. When you investigate his component ERA numbers that regress home runs more towards the mean, his performance has been very un-Johnson-like to start the year.
I know three starts is just not a whole lot, but is there something we can garner from this? What has Johnson been doing wrong on a pitch-by-pitch level that is making his stats appear so sub par? One thing that may be able to help us find out is Pitch f/x, and it may be a good idea to take a look at Johnson's first three starts to see if we can learn anything.
To attempt some form of investigation, I looked at the pitches Johnson threw in his first two starts to right-handed hitters in 2012. So far, it is not a lot, only 76 pitches to right-handers thus far. As a comparison point, I looked at the 341 pitches Johnson threw to righties last season. I compared them in a few different ways to see if there were any changes to be noted.
Here is some of the basic data on what Johnson threw in 2011.
Compare that to his 2012 chart and numbers.
A couple of things stand out in the early going with Johnson's approach versus righties between the two seasons.
- Johnson has clearly eschewed the curveball in favor of his changeup this season. We had heard that he was shelving the curveball early in the season while he continued the road to recuperation from his shoulder problems. From what was said, it was more of an issue with resetting his mechanics to normal after a ten-month layoff and not wanting to continue working on new things rather than an injury issue that would prevent him from throwing the curveball. Nevertheless, he has gone to his changeup in more than a few instances against righties, and to poor results thus far.
- His velocity is clearly down. His four-seam fastball is down almost 1.5 mph in velocity. Ironically, despite that problem, his fastball has actually been a good thing thus far. Right-handers do not have a hit on his fastball, and he has a balls to called strike ratio of 9 to 7 on the pitch. Of the six whiffs he has induced versus righties, four are coming off of the fastball.
- The biggest problem we have seen so far is that his slider is being contacted a lot more often than it should be. He has only induced two whiffs on it thus far, with nine out of 12 of those contacted pitches going for balls in play. None of them have been hit hard, as they have all been singles or outs, but the 17 percent whiff rate on swings is highly underwhelming for a strong weapon In addition, his other problem has been his two-seamer, which he has yet to throw for a strike.
Lefties the Issue
It turns out Johnson has had no issues with right-handers in terms of results. He is posting a 2.42 FIP and 3.38 xFIP against them, in fact. Other than a few extra base hits, many of which can be contributed to weak fly balls that landed during the St. Louis game, for example, he actually has done fine, minus the alarming lack of swings and misses.
The biggest problem so far this season has been against lefties. He has walked five and only struck out four so far this season after facing 39 such hitters. Usually, Johnson handles these sorts of hitters slightly differently, favoring more ground balls and fewer strikeouts with his changeup. However, he has taken a decrease in strikeouts to an extreme, as he has literally induced only two whiffs in 95 pitches in his first two starts. There was improvement in his third start overall, but the point stands that his stuff is not fooling hitters, especially from the left side.
Too Early To Tell
It is clearly a little too early to say much of Johnson's struggles, with only three starts on the table and two starts in this data set. Other than his velocity, nothing seems clearly out of the ordinary in terms of the basics, but the lack of whiffs indicates that something either is not moving well or is not being located properly. If Johnson continues to struggle, we will revisit this with more data 10 starts into the season, but for now, let us hope he recovers well.
When Dontrelle Willis by signed by the Orioles during Spring Training, it was an intriguing option. He was a pitcher who had past glory and could perhaps help the team as a left-handed reliever.
However, there?s been a bump in the road. It looks like Willis, according to several reports has left Triple-A Norfolk.
From the Baltimore Sun: Orioles minor league pitcher Dontrelle Willis has reportedly left the club?s Triple-A affliate in Norfolk without the organization?s permission after being placed on the minor league restricted list, but the Orioles appear to have no plans to release the left-hander.
When the Orioles signed Willis, he said he was willing to do anything for the opportunity to get back to the big leagues, including beginning the season in the minors, something Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said was likely in order to give Willis time to get adjusted to the role.
Willis went on Norfolk?s disabled list with a left forearm strain April 12, but was abruptly placed on the club?s restricted last night.
He left the Tides on Wednesday after a meeting with Duquette, Tides manager Ron Johnson and Tides pitching coach Mike Griffin.
Duquette told CBSSports.com Monday that Willis left the team without permission following a difference of opinion on whether he should be a starter or reliever. Duquette told the website that the organization welcomes Willis' return.Now, according to MASN?s Roch Kubatko, Willis doesn?t want to come back to the team.
I've spent the better part of the last 3 hours looking over stories from Royals Review, from its 2005 inception, to my joining in 2008ish, to now. I'm not sure why. (Actually, I am sure why; I have a 30+ page seminar paper due for my Hate Speech class, and I have absolutely zero desire or motivation to write it.) Regardless, in scouring many of these old stories, I have two main points to note:
Many kudos to Will McDonald.
Early on, many of the stories and gamethreads had single-digit comments, and it often seemed as if he was writing to no one, or to himself. Today, this place is my favorite site on the internet, and although there are now many regular contributors in terms of content, Will deserves a ton of praise. If I didn't have this place for my commiseration, I don't know what I'd do. I'd probably pull a Rany. (kidding Rany, please keep writing!)
This is obviously a pretty thankless job, and I can't even imagine how tiring it has been to write about the 2005-2012 Kansas City Royals. It's hard enough for me just to have watched them. So anyway, thank you Will.
This season, even with this awful streak, is nothing like past years.
These are not, as has been said by some in gamethreads and post-game wrap-ups, the "same old Royals." As recently as July 21, 2009, we were trotting out a lineup that looked like this:
Ouch. That's Willie Bloomquist, Jose Guillen, Mike Jacobs, Ryan Freel, and Yuniesky Betancourt all in the same lineup. Can you believe we even had Betancourt? That guy was awful!
Sean O'Sullivan pitched that game, and we lost 10-2. This would not be a surprising fact until you consider: Sean O'Sullivan was pitching for the other team. That's right, in 2009, Sean O'Sullivan was able to limit us to 6 hits and 2 earned runs over 5.1 innings.
Anyway, once the injury and stupidity storm blows over in 2012, our lineup will look something like this:
OK, so Yuniesky is still on our team (though hopefully on the bench) much to everyone's chagrin. Aside from that, we're still talking about a very exciting team with loads of potential. How much potential did that 2009 team have? It was basically DeJesus at or around his prime, plus Billy Butler. Remember how awful it was slogging through consecutive innings of Guillen-Callaspo-Jacobs and Buck-Freel-Betancourt? I do. The lineup we'll be trotting out there by the middle of the summer is going to be a ton of fun to watch.
If you had told the 2009 RR readers that this would be our lineup in 2012, very few would have believed that Gordon, Butler, Hosmer, Moustakas, Giavotella, and Perez would all be up to the bigs at this point. And we're beyond even that level -- with the exception of Giavotella, all of those guys have demonstrated serious ability at the major league level. And even Johnny G. has demonstrated a ton of ability at AAA. Only the most optimistic of fans would have believed that was a real possibility in 2012.
Now, granted, the first thing the 2009 readers would have seen is Jeff Francoeur in the 6-hole, and BNYS on the 25-man roster. I'm not going to pretend that we wouldn't have been
horrified disappointed to see those guys still on the squad. But really, those are the only two guys in our (very near) future lineup who are probably still going to be extremely frustrating/not exciting to watch.
I know I'm stating the obvious here; everyone knows there is a boatload of talent on this squad, and I'm not attempting to provide any actual analysis about why this team is better than the 2009 Royals. I'm just trying to inject some much-warranted positivity during these early season woes.
Your one-page daily morning overview of Atlanta Braves news:
Atlanta Braves at Los Angeles Dodgers - April 23, 2012 | MLB.com ATL Recap
"We optioned Jair tonight to give him a chance to work through his difficulties at the Triple-A level and hopefully come back ready to help us contend," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "He is not having any health or injury issues, just needs to get back on track pitching wise."
Jurrjens optioned to Triple-A after loss | AJC Braves
"I’m just going to keep going out there and try to do my best," he said immediately after the game. "That’s the only thing I can do right now. I try to keep my team in the game. It’s just for now, I’m not the same guy I used to be. Just going to keep fighting."
Braves quotes after Monday loss to Dodgers | AJC Braves
Fredi Gonzalez: "I tell you what, I’ve never seen … yeah, there were some balls hit hard, but there were some balls that you couldn’t have thrown them [to a spot in the field] any better. I think JJ was a victim of some of that. Not all of it, but some of it. Some of the balls were over the plate again, but it was just one of those days for him. I thought Livan did a terrific job there, picking up some innings and not using the bullpen. And again he gets victimized by ball down the line that’s, I don’t know, may a couple of inches fair, by Uribe and the bases loaded. "Overall I think the good thing was we didn’t get into our bullpen."
Wilson starts over Pastornicky for opener in LA | braves.com: News
"It's all part of the process," Pastornicky said. "I got off to an all-right start and then after some balls did not fall, I think I started to press and doing stuff I don't usually do. You find yourself putting yourself into a slump. It's just one of those things where you have to relax and do what I do best, which is to make good, consistent hard contact."
Knee discomfort keeps Chipper out of lineup | braves.com: News
"I just have days where [my left knee is] just not working," said Jones, who was not in the lineup for the opener against the Dodgers. "I've been having some consistent pain in the joint line. I've been getting some treatment on it for a little bit. Yesterday was about as bad as it's been since I had surgery. As you could tell, I was not moving down the line very good."
At 40 years old, Braves veteran Chipper Jones proud to compete at highest level | braves.com: News
"It's cool for me to know I can still go out and play at a relatively high level," Jones said. "It's not that big of a deal that I'm playing at 40. But when I go out there, I want to be productive. If I didn't feel like I could be productive, I would have hung it up. Being 40 and still playing a kid's game is pretty cool. But this is it. So don't get any inklings about 41."
The play of the night this double-play; Big League Stew relays Vin Scully's call of the 7-6-2-3 DP:
"Hello - the old Dodgers are back! A double play on back-to-back singles."
Too bad it wasn't a decisive play in the game.
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In this episode David Coleman, Preston Petri and myself discuss:
This week we have Preston Petri sitting in for Sean Feist. Preston interned with the Astros last summer in the public relations department. He's been on of my longer Twitter followers and we recently got into a bit of a sacrifice bunt debate on twitter during the Nationals series. I don't think we really accomplished anything significant, but it was fun and he brought a unique insight into the pinstripes question.
If you have any comments or questions in regards to the podcast you can email the show at SBN.firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have a question please be sure to include your name and where you're from. Also big thanks to those of you that have rated us on iTunes we really appreciate the feedback.