In baseball there are two words to describe a ball-club: team and organization. While they are often used interchangeable, they typically refer to different things. The team consists of the players at the Major League level in the span of one season. The organization is every player at every level of baseball under the franchise banner, the front office, the management, the future and everything that goes along with it. The goal of a team is to win as many games as possible this year. The goal of an organization is to put together teams that can win as many games as possible.
Typically the goals of a team and an organization are identical, but often they are at odds. For example, in 2010 the Royals traded Scott Podsednik to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Elisaul Pimentel and Luke May. Podsednik was a productive player for the Royals in 2010. While he made the team better and could have helped them win more games in 2010, his best value to the organization was as trade bait. Adding young, cost-controlled Minor League talent was a boost to the organization in the long-run at the expense of the team in the short run.
The vast majority of baseball fans are fans of the team, not necessarily the organization. They obviously want the organization to do well and to create winning teams, but for them the forest can be lost for the trees. There is nothing inherently wrong with these kinds of fans.
Keeping up with an organization is not easy. It requires knowledge of the Minor League system, the draft, options, waivers, arbitration, salaries and a million other things. I like keeping up and understanding all of that, but I can certainly understand the viewpoint of someone who doesn’t. Most people just want to watch some baseball games and root on the home team. For them, trying to figure out whether Elisaul Pimentel was a decent return for Scott Podsednik is a waste of time and energy. They know that Podsednik was valuable, he’s gone and therefore it’s a bad move. And they are 100% correct in terms of their own baseball perspective.
All of this brings me to Kila Ka’aihue. To say he’s hitting poorly is the understatement of the year. The topic of what to do with him is on everybody’s mind. It’s exacerbated by the fact that the Royals are currently in contention for the American League Central.
Here, we have another situation where the best interest of the team is possibly at odds with the best interest of the organization. If Kila continues to struggle, his lack of offense hurts the team’s chances of winning games. Fans see his lack of production and they see guys like Clint Robinson and Eric Hosmer playing well at AAA. In a simple 1+1=2 scenario, you replace the guy hitting poorly with the guy who is hitting well. It’s a knee-jerk reaction based on trying to win more games this week, and in that context it’s absolutely correct.
I think it’s certainly possible that promoting Clint Robinson or Eric Hosmer has a decent chance of helping this team win more games in the short term. On the flip-side, I think it’s the wrong decision from an organizational standpoint. The fact that the Royals keep running him out there leads me to believe they agree with me.
Kila has nothing to prove at AAA anymore. All that’s left is for him to prove that he belongs at the Major League level, and it’s in the Royals best interest for that to happen. His track record in the Minors shows a guy who has prodigious power and an uncanny ability to get on base. Those are hard skills to come by and if they can surface at the highest level, he will be valuable to the organization. That value can come as depth or in trade, but make no mistake it’s extremely valuable.
Now, the goal of the Organization is to have winning teams. So if this team continues winning and there is a greater chance that they can become division champions, things will change. Then the goals of the team will coincide with the goals of the franchise. It’s at that time where benching a struggling player like KIla and promoting a guy like Eric Hosmer is more likely to happen. In statistical terms, the length of Kila’s leash is inversely proportional to the expectations the team has of winning the division.
As fans, we get to over-react, second-guess and believe that our team is going to the playoffs. It’s exactly what makes being a fan so much fun. However, there are times where the needs of the organization out-weigh the needs of a team. Allowing Kila a few more months to figure things out might be one of those times. The payoff in the end just might be a better team in the future.
As Royals fans, we are not used to watching a team have success. We’re constantly waiting for that other shoe to fall. We’re absolutely sure that the edge of the cliff is just around the corner. A couple of decades of losing baseball has that effect. However, when the team is on a roll, particularly to begin a season we can find ourselves thrilled at the prospect of “important games”.
Yes, we all know that it’s not even May. Yes, we know that the odds that the Royals will actually compete for the Division Title is still small. That shouldn’t stop us from enjoying what we have now for as long as it lasts.
The Cleveland Indians come to town tonight to start a four game series at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals trail those same Indians by 1 game in the American League Central standings. This is by far the most important series the Royals have played this season. It got me wondering when the last time the Royals played a intra division series with this much importance at home.
In 2010, the Royals started losing right out of the gate. The opening series against the Detroit Tigers was likely the most meaningful games played the entire season. This series is already significantly more important than any played last year.
2009 however, was a different story. The Royals got off to a hot start by winning 3 of their first 5 series. On April 24th, they were sitting at 8-7 and in a three-way tie for first place with Detroit and Chicago. They were also beginning a three-game set with Detroit at Kauffman Stadium. That sounds eerily similar to the situation the Royals find themselves in tonight.
The Royals ended up losing that series 2-1 and relinquishing their grip on first place. It wasn’t the end of their run though. They went on to win 9 of their next 11 games and subsequently took a 3 game lead in the division. Unfortunately, that represented the high-water mark for the 2009 team as they ended up with an overall record of 65-97.
There are a lot of things to take away from that series in April of 2009. Success can be fleeting, so enjoy it while it lasts, especially if it’s unlikely to continue. April is very early in the season; things can change dramatically over the course of the months to follow. And while this is the most important home series so far this season, it doesn’t seal the fate one way or the other for 2011. Having so much of the season still to come dampens the importance of this series with the Indians, but with so much still unknown we can still believe.
Enjoy these games; they might be the most important games of the season. I’d love to see a playoff like atmosphere at Kauffman Stadium. Who knows? If things break right, there just might be more of them.
The Royals had a great week this week. They went 4-2, but it wasn’t enough to overtake the scorching hot Cleveland Indians. Something will have to give as the Indians make their way to Kauffman stadium for a four game set starting tonight in a battle for first place in the American League Central. If you’d have told me before the season that I’d write that last sentence at any point this season, I’d have said you were completely crazy. This is going to be one very interesting week.
2 Royals -1.0
3 White Sox -4.0
4 Tigers -4.5
5 Twins -6.0
Game 10: Royals 3 @ Twins 4 - boxscore
The Royals started their season series with the Minnesota Twins by dropping a game in extra innings. Offseason free agent acquisition Jeff Francis put together another fine start, but the Royals offense couldn’t score enough runs on his behalf. Reliever Robinson Tejeda was unable to get anyone out in the bottom of the tenth and gave up the winning run.
Game 11: Royals 10 @ Twins 5 – boxscore
Sitting at an even 2-2, the Royals needed to win the final game with the Twins to come home with a winning road trip. They did just that by scoring 7 runs on Twins starter Francisco Liriano. Mike Aviles busted out of his slump by going 2 for 4 with 2 doubles and 3 RBI. The bullpen kept up their dominance by throwing 4 innings of shutout ball to pick up starter Kyle Davies.
Game 12: Mariners 1 @ Royals 5 - boxscore
Bruce Chen threw 8 scoreless innings in the opening game of the series with the Seattle Mariners. It was all the Royals needed in a rain shortened game. Wilson Betemit hit his first homerun of the season while Alex Gordon collected a double and two RBI in the game.
Game 13: Mariners 5 @ Royals 6 - boxscore
Starter Luke Hochevar threw 7 scoreless innings to earn his title as number 1 starter for the Royals in game 2 of the series with the Mariners. Jeff Francoeur and Billy Butler each collected 3 hits to propel the Royals to a 5 run lead going into the top of the 8th. The Royals bullpen, which had been the strength of the team wobbled as Blake Wood, Tim Collins and Joakim Soria then surrendered 4 runs in 2 innings. However, the Mariners came up a run short as the Royals ended up taking the game.
Game 14: Mariners 0 @ Royals 7 - boxscore
The pitching matchup of Mariners Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez and the Royals Sean O’Sullivan looked like a mismatch, however things turned out a bit different. O’Sullivan threw 5 scoreless while Royals touched up Martinez for 2 runs. The Royals bullpen held the Mariners scoreless for the final four frames and tacked on some insurance runs in the 8th for a series win.
Game 15: Mariners 3 @ Royals 2 - boxscore
Alex Gordon hit in his 11th straight game, but the offense could not quite figure out Mariners pitcher Michel Pineda. Another solid start by Jeff Francis was wasted as the Mariners kept the Royals to only scoring 2 runs. They had opportunities late in the game to win, but couldn’t convert.
Position Player of the Week: Alex Gordon
Alex Gordon hit .381/.381/.524 this week and is riding a career long 11 game hitting streak. He also made a number of great defensive plays and seemed to be the heart of nearly every scoring rally this week.
Starting Pitcher of the Week: Luke Hochevar
The starting pitching was the key this week and there were a number of solid outings put together. Bruce Chen and Jeff Francis would have also been fine choices. However, I'm going with Luke Hochevar. He only allowed a single hit over 7 innings of work in his start this week.
Relief Pitcher of the Week: Jeremy Jeffress
He gave up no earned runs in 4 innings this week and notched his first career save.
On The Farm
Top prospect Mike Montgomery (LHP) threw 10 innings over 2 starts last week for the Storm Chasers (AAA) and didn’t give up a run. He has a 3.00 ERA and has 14 strikeouts to 10 walks this season.
Eric Hosmer (1B) went 10 for 26 last week for the Storm Chasers (AAA). He’s currently hitting .409 on the season with a homerun and 2 doubles.
Jeff Bianchi (SS) has hit in 8 straight games and went 9 for 24 this week for the Naturals (AA).
Rey Navarro (2B) continued his torrid hitting this week for the Blue Rocks (A+). He went 11 for 24 this week and is hitting .500/.526/.806 on the season.
Tim Melville (RHP) started one game this week and he threw a gem. He went 6 innings, struck out 7 and walked only one for the Blue Rocks (A+)
The Week to Come
In the biggest home series in at least two years, the first place Cleveland Indians come to Kansas City and the Division lead is on the line. The Royals will need to take three out of four in order to have sole possession of first place. Then the Royals head to Texas to take on the defending American League Champion Texas Rangers.
4/18-4/21 vs Cleveland Indians
4/22-4/24 @ Texas Rangers
Two weeks are in the books now for the Kansas City Royals and things are still looking good. They split a short two game series with the Chicago White Sox and subsequently won their first road series in Detroit against the Tigers. It wasn’t enough to hold onto first place though, as the Cleveland Indians were just a bit better than the Royals this week.
There's still a long way to go in the 2011 season, but it's ok to go ahead and enjoy the winning now. It's not unfathomable that it can continue. Are you a believer or still skeptical?
2 Royals -1.0
3 White Sox -1.0
4 Tigers -4.0
5 Twins -4.0
Game 5: White Sox 6 @ Royals 7 – boxscore
The White Sox took an early four run lead in the top of the 1st inning, but the Royals tied it with a pair of runs in each of the first two innings. In a common theme for this week, it took extra innings to decide the outcome. A Melky Cabrera single in the bottom of the 12th inning scored Chris Getz to give the Royals their fourth straight walk-off win.
Game 6: White Sox 10 @ Royals 7 – boxscore
Jeff Francis put together another solid start, going 6.2 innings and giving up only 2 earned runs. The Royals had a 5 run lead going into the top of the 7th and the bullpen started coughing it up. Typically steady closer Joakim Soria entered the game in the 9th sporting a three run lead and proceeded to give up four runs. It was going to take another walk-off miracle by the Royals to win. They tied the game in bottom of the 9th on a Kila Ka’aihue double, but eventually lost in the 12th inning.
Game 7: Royals 2 @ Tigers 5 – boxscore
The first road trip of the season didn’t start out so hot as starter Kyle Davies gave up 4 runs in the very first inning against the Tigers. The Royals managed to plate single runs on a Melky Cabrera triple in the 3rd inning and on a 7th inning single by Billy Butler. The Royals never led although they had chances to tie the game on more than one occasion.
Game 8: Royals 3 @ Tigers 1 – boxscore
Royals starter Bruce Chen came back from his first rough outing by throwing an absolute gem against the Tigers. The soft-tossing lefty went 6 innings, struck out 7 and walked only 1. The Royals scratched out 3 runs and closer Joakim Soria stumbled a bit in the 9th, but eventually shut down the Tigers potent lineup.
Game 9: Royals 9 @ Tigers 5 – boxscore
Royals starting pitcher Luke Hochevar had his best start of the season, going 7 innings and giving up 3 earned runs. He struck out 6 and walked none. It was a nice win for the Royals that didn’t require a comeback and featured no late innings drama. Wilson Betemit went 4 for 4 with a walk as he took the place of a struggling Mike Aviles at third base. The Tigers played terrible defense, giving the Royals free bases and runs throughout the game.
Position Player of the Week: Alcides Escobar
Lots of good candidates again this week, but I'm going to go with Alcides Escobar. He didn't hit the ball well this week (.217/.217/.304), but his defense saved the team runs on a number of occasions. The Royals haven't had a shortstop this good in decades.
Starting Pitcher of the Week: Bruce Chen
Chen got one start this week, but he made it worthwhile. He didn't give up a single earned run and struck out 7 while walking only 1. I'm still not convinced he'll be effective the entire season, but I'll be glad to be wrong.
Relief Pitcher of the Week: Aaron Crow
The Topeka native threw 3.1 innings and didn't give up an earned run. I was much more comfortable with him coming into games last week than Joakim Soria.
On the Farm
Clint Robinson (1B/DH) hit 2 homeruns for the Omaha Storm Chasers (AAA). He’s hitting .313/.421/.875 on the season.
Wil Myers (OF) went 6 for 18 with a double for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (AAA). He’s hitting .333/.389/.789 on the season.
Rey Navarro (SS) went 7 for 12 with a double, a triple and a homerun for the Wilmington Blue Rocks (A+). He’s hitting .583/.643/1.083 on the season.
Jake Odorizzi (RHP) who came over from the Brewers in the Zack Greinke trade struck out 6 in 4 innings and gave up only 1 earned run. He’s sporting a 2.25 ERA with the Wilmington Blue Rocks (A+)
Brett Eibner (CF) was 2 for 6 with a homerun for the Kane County Cougars (A-), however he injured his hand and when he will return is uncertain.
Stat of the Week
Billy Butler notched his 600th hit and 3rd stolen base attempt in his career this week.
The Week to Come
The Royals get an off-day today and then play 13 straight games. They will also have to use their 5th pitcher for the first time this season. Vin Mazzaro was scheduled to take that spot, however he had a rough first outing in Omaha (AAA). The Royals also signed Jeff Suppan to a Minor League deal, so he’s a possible although unlikely candidate. Promoting a starter will also require the Royals to send down a relief pitcher. Sean O’Sullivan is the likely candidate for the demotion.
4/12-4/13 @ Minnesota Twins
4/14-4/17 vs Seattle Mariners
Throughout the last couple of weeks here on this blog, I've been doing a brief preview of the 2011 Royals. Over the off-season, I've been working with some fine folks over at Royals Authority and other places to put together a more detailed preview of the 2011 Royals. We've created a 32 page pdf document with essays on the likely starting lineup, rotation and closer. There are also stats and embedded audio clips.
If the previews I've been doing lately don't quite have the depth you're looking for, then this document should be just what you're looking for. This should be the ideal digital companion to Opening Day. I sincerely hope you enjoy it. We've worked hard on putting it together.
Click here to go to Royals Authority, where we've hosted the document. The document is free.
If you’ve been following the Royals at all recently, it shouldn’t surprise you to know that they have a really good farm system. It’s ranked the top system overall by every publication that follows the Minor Leagues. Staring down the barrel of what looks likely to be another rough season at the Major League level, many will shift their focus to the Minors early in the season. I thought I’d put together a small preview of who to keep an eye on in 2011.
I just got back from Surprise where I spent about 20 minutes watching the Major League team and somewhere around 20-30 hours watching the Minor League guys. I’ve laid eyes upon these guys , so my analysis is my own and it's supplemented with things I’ve heard first-hand. I’m not repeating things that I’ve read at other places. I think it’s important to form first-hand opinions on these guys when possible.
Salvador Perez (C) – He’s the hot pick to be the breakout player of 2011. He’s a catcher who gets rave reviews on his defense but can also handle the bat. I saw him hit two balls with bit time power in Spring Training. He’s going to likely start the season at AA Northwest Arkansas and he’s only 20 years old.
Wil Myers (OF) – He converted from catcher this offseason because he’s got a fantastic bat, he wasn’t a great catcher and the Royals have Sal Perez. He has plate discipline beyond his years and can drive the pitch that he eventually selects. I saw him take four walks this spring, which is rare in those games. He’ll also start at AA Northwest Arkansas.
Eric Hosmer (1B) – In my mind, he’s the best prospect in the Royals system. He is a well above average defensive first baseman and he has big time power. I posted a video of his homerun this Sunday on YouTube. He can also hit for average and likes to go opposite field when he can. He’s one of the best prospects in all of baseball. He’s likely going to start the season at AAA Omaha, and could be in a Royals uniform this September.
Mike Moustakas (3B) – He’s not as tall and athletic as Eric Hosmer is, but he has amazing bat speed. He can and will put the bat on the ball nearly anywhere in the strike zone. There are questions about his ability to stay at third base, but for now he’s holding his own. He’ll start at AAA Omaha, but will likely be in a Royals uniform sometime in June.
John Lamb (LHP) – Mike Montgomery (LHP) –Chris Dwyer (LHP) – Danny Duffy (LHP) – These four elite left-handed starting rotation candidates usually get lumped together and I’ll do the same here. Lamb has great control. Montgomery has a power fastball with a good changeup but has some injury concerns. Dwyer might be the most polished and most underrated. Duffy might be the best of the bunch. Any organization in baseball would love to have one of these guys, the Royals have an embarrassment of riches in that they have all four of them.
Jason Adam (RHP) – He was drafted out of high school in Overland Park, KS by the Royals in 2010. He’s been impressing people ever since. He was the buzz around Royals Spring Training and it’s well deserved. I watched him throw 94-96 and toss a curveball that he could command for strikes. At 19, that’s amazing. He’s the player I’d watch closest this season.
Other names to watch: Christian Colon (SS), Jake Odorizzi (RHP), Lorenzo Cain (CF), Cheslor Cuthbert (3B) and Johnny Giavotella (2B).
If you’d like to get a chance to see some of these players in person, then head to Kauffman Stadium on Saturday, April 2nd. The Royals are playing the Angels at 12:10 and following that game the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (AA) will play the Omaha Stormchasers (AAA) in an exhibition game. I've also posted some more detailed scouting reports from my trip at Royals Authority.
This collection of Minor League talent is unprecedented in recent Royals history and they will begin making their way to the Major League team this season. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to see these players in person and add me to the list of believers. The future is coming and it starts now.