Yesterday, the Kansas City Royals placed starting pitcher Bruce Chen on the 15-day disabled list with a strained lat muscle in his back. In his place on the roster and in the rotation will be Vin Mazzaro.
Vin Mazzaro was originally slated to join the season the Royals rotation as soon as they needed a fifth starter, however his first game at AAA Omaha was a complete disaster. He walked 7 batters in 2.1 innings and gave up 5 earned runs and pitched his way out of the rotation and the Royals gave Sean O'Sullivan his spot.
Mazzarro's shot at sticking in the rotation begins tonight at Yankee Stadium, which is no small obstacle to overcome. He's a command pitcher who throws a low 90's fastball and relies heavily on his above average slider. He's been working on adding another off-speed pitch to his arsenal, but it's unclear at this point whether he's done so.
The interesting question is what happens if he pitches well until Bruce Chen gets back from his stint on the disabled list? I honestly don't even have an inkling as to what they would do in that scenario. Let's look at each candidate to see what might take place.
He's clearly earned his spot in the rotation. When he comes back, he's in the rotation. His injury seems minor, so he should be back soon. He is scheduled to come off the DL on May 21.
He started Opening Day and has pitched pretty well though he's still been prone to the big inning. If he's healthy, he's another untouchable guy this season.
Kyle Davies demise has been predicted for a long time by Royals fans. He's become the whipping boy of the fanbase and with an ERA of 7.08 he looks like a prime candidate for replacement. However, he's actually pitching pretty well right now. He has a team-leading and career-high strikeout rate that he's matching with a career low walk rate. He finally seems to have begun trusting his stuff and started pounding the strike zone. I know that people want him gone, but I don't envision a non-injury scenario that pushes him out within the next mont.
He pitched really well in his first four games, then terrible in the next three and did well in his last start. I don't think anyone is quite sure what the Royals have in Jeff Francis right now. He's not likely in the Royals future plans, but they would like to trade him if the season goes south. If he isn't in the rotation, he isn't going to be traded. He's a veteran presence who the Royals like in the locker room and in the rotation. However, I think he is a prime candidate to be replaced by Mazzaro. If Mazzaro pitches well, I can envision a scenario where Francis could use some time to rest and has a small tweak in his arm. He goes to the DL for a short stint and Mazzaro keeps pitching.
The real battle here is O'Sullivan vs Mazzaro. It sounds like a prize-fight from the early 1900's between two New York immigrants, but unfortunately it won't be half as intriguing. O'Sullivan's spot in the rotation belonged to Mazzaro and they will battle it out again for the rights to it. O'Sullivan has been effective, but his numbers indicate that it's all smoke-and-mirrors. His strikeout rate and walk rate are the worst in the rotation and that eventually will catch up to a pitcher. May 21 might not be enough time for Mazzaro to unseat O'Sullivan, but it's looking like round 1 of 15.
The situation is still murky and picking the starting five a month from now is exceedingly difficult. It's possible, though unlikely that the Royals could go with something less traditional like a six man rotation. Ned Yost doesn't seem like a manager who likes to get too far outside of the traditional way of thinking and I don't see him wanting to surrender another bullpen arm. It all starts tonight in Yankee Stadium, and I'm interested to see how it all plays out.
The Kansas City Royals essentially held serve last week. They went 3-3 overall against two non-divisional opponents. They didn’t make up any ground in the American League Central race, however they didn’t lose any either as they remain 4.5 games behind division leading Cleveland. The story of the week was the promotion of top-prospect Eric Hosmer and the demotion of Kila Ka’aihue.
2 Royals -4.5
3 Tigers -6.0
4 Twins -9.5
5 White Sox -10.0
Game 29: Orioles 5 @ Royals 6 – boxscore
Starting pitcher Jeff Francis struggled again, giving up 5 earned runs in 5.2 innings. Fortunately the bullpen did what they do and held the Orioles scoreless for the remainder of the game. Jeff Francoeur continued to hit the ball well as he hit a solo home run to tie the game in the sixth inning. He also hit a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the tenth to score the winning run.
Game 30: Orioles 3 @ Royals 2 – boxscore
Kyle Davies threw his third Quality Start in his last four games as he held the Orioles to three runs in 6.1 innings. It was the extent of the runs the Royals would give up, but it was one too many as the Royals could only plate two runs. One of those runs came on a Jeff Francoeur home run and the other on a Melky Cabrera ground out.
Game 31: Orioles 1 @ Royals 9 – boxscore
The Royals took hold of the game in the first inning by scoring four runs on Orioles starter Chris Tillman. They continued to pile on as they eventually scored nine runs. It was more than enough as starter Bruce Chen continued to pitch extremely well and gave up one earned run in seven innings. Melky Cabrera was the offensive star of the game by going three-for-four with a home run.
Game 32: Athletics 3 @ Royals 2 – boxscore
The Royals took an early lead on an Alex Gordon home run and an RBI triple by Mike Aviles. Starter Sean O’Sullivan went 8 innings and gave up 3 earned runs. It sounds like a recipe for a win, but on this day it wasn’t. The Royals couldn’t put more than the two runs across the board and dropped the first game in the series with the Athletics.
Game 33: Athletics 3 @ Royals 4 – boxscore
Royals starter Luke Hochevar put together his best start of the season by going 7 innings and giving up only on earned run. Reliever Aaron Crow finally showed he was human by giving up his first runs of the season when he surrendered a 3 run home run to Cliff Pennington in the eighth inning. The game was tied going into the bottom of the ninth and a now familiar set of events transpired. Butler single, Dyson pinch run, Francoeur single moves Dyson to third, and then a sac fly by Aviles wins it.
Game 44: Athletics 5 @ Royals 2 – boxscore
Jeff Francis hasn’t pitched well lately, and in this game he wasn’t great but he kept the Royals in the game. Again, the lack of offense was the undoing of the team on this day. Eric Hosmer had his first multi-hit game of his career by going 2-for-4 with a double. The team as a whole only had six hits as the team could only muster two runs
Position player of the week: Jeff Francoeur
Jeff Francoeur hit .273/.320/.591/ last week and collected two home runs. He also seemed to always be in the middle of whatever was going on offensively for the Royals. So far, the off-season acquisition has been a gigantic help to the team. Whether or not he can continue to hit well is the million dollar question.
Starting pitcher of the week: Luke Hochevar
It easily could have been Bruce Chen for this week as well, but Hochevar gave allowed only four base runners in his seven inning stint. Both pitchers are worthy of recognition this week and they will have to continue to pitch well if the Royals have thoughts of staying in contention.
Relief pitcher of the week: Joakim Soria
After some wobbles early in the season, it seems that closer Joakim Soria is back to his old self. He only pitched two innings last week, but he struck out four, walked none and allowed only one hit.
On the farm:
In his last ten games Lorenzo Cain (OF) has hit .395/.489/.553 for the Omaha Storm Chaser s (AAA). Mike Moustakas (3B) has 12 hits and 11 RBI in his last ten games for Omaha. He’s now hitting .250/.333/.420 on the season with five homeruns.
Danny Duffy (SP) has struck out 41 batters and walked only 7 in his six starts this season for Omaha. In his last ten games, Christian Colon (SS) has hit .333/.381/.385 with three stolen bases for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (AA)
Whit Merrifield (OF) is now hitting .311/.390/.406 with six stolen bases on the season for the Wilmington Blue Rocks (A+).
Jake Odorizzi (SP) has walked only five guys in 26 innings while striking out 38 and posting a 2.42 ERA for Wilmington.
The young Cuban defector Noel Arguelles (SP) has 19 strikeouts and one walk in five games started for Wilmington.
Gerard Hall (SS) has hit .333/.400/.487 in his last ten games for the Kane County Cougars (A-).
Stat of the week:
The Royals lead all of baseball with 15 wins at home.
The week to come:
The Royals embark on a difficult road trip this week. They begin with a three game set in Yankee Stadium against the American League East leading Yankees. After that they visit divisional rival Detroit for three games. In order to keep in contention, the Royals will have to take some of their home success and replicate it on the road. It’s too early to say that this week is make-or-break, but it’s going to be extremely important nonetheless.
5/10 - 5/12 @ New York Yankees
5/13 - 5/15 @ Detroit Tigers
The Royals stand at 17-14 and occupy second place in the American League Central. They’ve done that while having a first baseman getting on-base at a .295 clip. To try and fill that void, the Royals have promoted top prospect Eric Hosmer from Omaha and optioned Kila Ka’aihue. The big athletic first baseman has been annihilating triple-A pitching for the first month of the season as he’s currently hitting .439/.525/.582 in his first 98 at bats.
The timing of the move is certainly surprising. Kila Ka’ihue was struggling at the plate, but he hit well in his last few games. He’s only been to the plate 96 times this season, which is hardly enough to tell you anything about a player. I’ve been asked a lot lately what I think the Royals should do with Kila, and I’ve been a staunch proponent of giving him more time to prove himself. Lots of great Major Leaguers including some Hall-of-Famers have had terrible starts to their career. A month just isn’t enough to make a judgment. But then the same logic applies for Hosmer – he’s clearly not going to hit .439 for the entire year.
The interesting thing about the move is what it says about the organization and their philosophy. Nobody is surprised that Eric Hosmer is viewed as the future first baseman. What’s shocking is how little time they committed to Kila. Either the Royals have a much smaller sample of games that they think is necessary to evaluate a player or they just viewed him as filler until Hosmer was ready. Since they’ve given so much time to guys like Kyle Davies and Alex Gordon, the latter seems the most likely scenario.
I don’t believe the Royals were in any way hoping for Kila to fail, nor did they think he was destined to fail. Had Kila been successful in his short stint this season, I am certain that he would still be in Kansas City, regardless of how well Eric Hosmer was hitting.
The situation was compounded by the fact that the Royals are in striking distance of first place. My prediction was that the Royals would wait until the All-Star break to decide they were contenders, but in reality they acted much quicker. This move signals that the organization believes this year’s team can stay in contention.
While what’s going on at the top of the division is important, what’s happening at the bottom of the standings may be the deciding factor. Any great team or athlete knows that when their opponent is staggering, it’s time to step on their throat. The Royals might see the Twins, White Sox and even Tigers, as wobbly boxers and Eric Hosmer as the haymaker that can put them on the canvas.
Eric Hosmer is just 21 years old and has only played a month above the double-A level. He’s not going to be able to play the role of haymaker all by himself and luckily, the way the team is hitting right now, he won’t have to. He’ll face a lot of scrutiny and big expectations that come with playing at the highest level, but from everything I know about Hosmer, he’s ready for it.
Regarding the timing, the move was made late enough that this year won’t count as a full season towards Hosmer’s free agency. However, if he remains with the club for the remainder of the season he will likely be eligible for a 4th year of arbitration under the “super two” rule. Translation -- the Royals will likely be spending roughly $10m more dollars on Hosmer before he is a free agent. It signals an organization willing to part with money if they think it benefits the team.
Even though it’s a little early to promote Hosmer, I’m extremely excited for the promotion. I’ve said all along that he probably makes the team better as soon as he’s called up. As for Kila his next shot at the Big Leagues will likely come in another uniform.
In the end, I’m conflicted. Snap judgments on players after a month are something smart baseball teams shouldn’t make a habit of doing. However, it’s promising to see the team make a move they believe in, regardless of the financial implication. The Royals rightfully believe the young prospects of the future will help this team win pennants, and the future starts now.
Last week was an up and down week for the Kansas City Royals. They went 3-3, but got killed in the first three and won the last three. The first series was against the Indians and it pushed the Royals further away from first place. Fortunately, no other teams in the American League Central could win either so they maintained their 2nd place standing. The final three games were against the Minnesota Twins and the Royals stopped their losing skid and remained in striking distance of 1st place after the month of April.
2 Royals -4.5
3 Tigers -7.5
4 White Sox -10.0
5 Twins -10.0
Game 23: Royals 4 @ Indians 9 – boxscore
Royals starter Luke Hochevar gave up 3 home runs and 6 earned runs over 6.1 innings pitched. The bullpen was no better, giving up 2 home runs themselves to the white-hot Cleveland Indians. The lone bright spot was center fielder Melky Cabrera going 3 for 4 with a home run.
Game 24: Royals 2 @ Indians 7 – boxscore
Jeff Francis has been a steady force in the starting rotation, but on this night he stumbled. He gave up 5 runs in the bottom of the 1st inning to put the Royals in a hole to start. The Royals were able to score a pair of runs solo home runs from Jeff Francoeur and Mile Aviles in the 2nd inning. The Royals bullpen allowed 0 earned runs in 5 innings, but the offense was never able to score again.
Game 25: Royals 2 @ Indians 8 – boxscore
In order to avoid being swept in the series and to stop a 5 game losing streak, the Royals needed to take the final game from the Indians. In order to do that they needed a good start from Kyle Davies. Unfortunately, that did not happen. Davies gave up 8 earned runs in 3.1 innings and gave up 4 home runs. The Royals bats were kept quiet for a second straight game with only Matt Treanor collecting multiple hits.
Game 26: Twins 3 @ Royals 4 – boxscore
After a miserable 0-6 road trip, it seemed as if the season hung in the balance as the Royals returned home. Royals starter Bruce Chen played the role of stopper by throwing 5.1 innings and giving up just 2 earned runs. The play of the game was a sacrifice fly by Alcides Escobar to short left field that allowed speedster Jarrod Dyson to score the go-ahead run in the bottom of the 8th inning. Closer Joakim Soria did his job and the Royals ended their losing skid.
Game 27: Twins 2 @ Royals 11 – boxscore
Royals starter Sean O’Sullivan didn’t seem sharp, but he was effective. The Twins were only able to scratch two runs through 6 innings. The Royals didn’t do much better against Twins starter Brian Duensing as the Royals carried a slim one-run lead into the bottom of the eighth. Suddenly, the offense exploded as the Royals scored 8 runs and put the game away.
Game 28: Twins 3 @ Royals 10 – boxscore
Royals infielder Mike Aviles has been hot and he didn’t stop in the finale against the Twins. He went 3 for 5 with a home run and 4 RBI to help the Royals secure the sweep. It was the first time the Royals had swept the Twins in a series of 3 games or more since May 7-10, 1999.
Position player of the week: Billy Butler
Butler hit .333/.440/.667 last week with 4 doubles and a home run. He’s one of the best pure hitters I’ve ever seen play the game, which combined with his age makes me believe he will get to 3,000 hits in his career.
Starting pitcher of the week: Sean O’Sullivan
There weren’t many decent starting pitching performances this week. The best start of the week was one where O’Sullivan seemed to muddle along and allow the Twins baserunners, but no runs. He went 6.0 innings with 1 earned run, 7 walks and 3 strikeouts. If the Royals plan on continuing to compete, they are going to need a better weeks than this out of the rotation.
Relief pitcher of the week: Nate Adcock
For most of April, it seemed like Rule V pitcher Nate Adcock was going to see very sparse action. However this week, he got into two games. He pitched 4.0 innings, gave up no earned runs, struck out 4 and walked only 1.
On the farm:
Vin Mazzaro (RHP) struck out 10 batters in his last start for Omaha (AAA). He has a 4.86 ERA on the season with 22 strikeouts and 13 walks.
Danny Duffy (LHP) hasn’t allowed an run to score in his last three starts for Omaha (AAA). He sports a minuscule 0.90 ERA with 24 strikeouts and only 4 walks.
Mario Lisson (3B) of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (AA) has caught fire. He’s hitting .310/.453/.786 this season with 6 home runs.
Pitchers Noel Arguelles (LHP) and Michael Mariot (RHP) are piggy backing each other and pitching on the same day in the rotation for the Wilmington Blue Rocks (A+). They’ve presented a formidable duo for opposing hitters. Arguelles has a 1.02 ERA with 15 strikeouts and 1 walk. Mariot has a 0.63 ERA with 15 strikeouts and 4 walks.
In his last 10 games, Brian Fletcher (OF) is hitting .432/.462/.649 for the Kane County Cougars (A-). He’s also stolen 4 based this season.
The week to come:
The Royals homestand continues against the Baltimore Orioles and the Oakland Athletics. If the Royals are going to continue to be contenders, they have to beat teams like these. Neither of them is great, but neither is a pushover either. The schedule in May doesn’t let up either, so grabbing a few wins at home could cushion a rough patch that might be coming.
5/3-5/5 vs Baltimore Orioles
5/6-5/8 vs Oakland Athletics
Batting order is a popular topic in baseball. Who should bat where, what is the role of a player in a certain slot, should x player be moved down or up and so on. In general, I think that the batting order is over-rated and when I asked Ned Yost about it he agreed. However, there is some merit to the idea of looking closely at the lineup and evaluating it.
So far in this young season, there seems to be a very large split amongst the different portions of the Kansas City Royals lineup. The heart of the order has been hitting well with guys like Alex Gordon, and Billy Butler hitting well. The bottom of the order has been hitting poorly with guys like Alcides Escobar, Matt Treanor and now Kila Ka'aihue struggling.
There are no teams in baseball that have a great hitter at every slot in the lineup, so I imagine there are people gnashing their teeth all over the country at the "black holes" in their own lineups. I wanted to see just how the Royals lineup fared when compared with the rest of the American League. I looked up the offensive numbers for the Royals by lineup position and then subtracted the offensive output of what the entire AL did at that lineup spot and came up with this chart:
I was a bit surprised at how poorly the Royals lead-off hitter compared to the rest of the league. This is the guy who theoretically should be getting on base to setup the hitters below him. However the Royals lead-off guy is getting on base less often than major league average.
As expected, the heart of the lineup is out performing their peers and a very good rate and the bottom of the lineup is under-performing. The real hole in the lineup is the 8th slot, which in general is sound managerial practice. Personally, I like the 9th batter being better than the 8th batter because ideally the good hitters are coming up after him in every inning other than the 1st.
All-in-all, the lower part of the order isn't as bad as I thought it was going to be, but there needs to be improvement out of the 8th spot. My takeaway is that the Royals need someone different to lead-off and setup the Alex Gordon and others to drive in more runs.
Last week, the Royals played seven games in seven days. Four of them were against the first place team in the American League Central and the last three were on the road against the defending AL champions. It wasn’t an easy stretch of games and the Royals ended up going 2-5. It started out well with a split versus the Indians, but ended poorly with a sweep at the hands of the Rangers. Even with all of that, the Royals are only a half game further back from 1st place than they were when the week began.
2 Royals -1.5
3 Tigers -1.5
4 Twins -4.0
5 White Sox -5.5
Game 16: Indians 7 @ Royals 3 – boxscore
Kyle Davies put together his first solid start of the season by going 6 innings and giving up 2 earned runs. More impressively, he struck out 7 and walked none. Neither team was able to put together a big inning and the result was another extra-innings affair for the Royals. Unfortunately, everything unraveled in the 10th when reliever Tim Collins surrendered 4 earned runs in the top of the 10th as the Royals ended up with the loss.
Game 17: Indians 4 @ Royals 5 – boxscore
Bruce Chen continued to have the magic touch as he threw 7 innings and gave up only 2 earned runs, both of which came in the 7th inning. He left with the lead as the Royals had scored 5 runs across three middle innings thanks to contributions from a number of Royals including the hot Alex Gordon. The bullpen wobbled again, giving up runs in the 8th and 9th innings, but the lead held as the Royals tied the series with the division leading Indians.
Game 18: Indians 7 @ Royals 5 – boxscore
In one of the more bizarre starts anyone is likely to see, Luke Hochever took a perfect game into the 6th and then gave up 6 earned runs over the next inning plus. He was cruising along at an amazing rate and then just completely and utterly went off the rails. After scoring two runs in the first inning on RBI hits from Gordon and Francoeur, the offense seemed to feel they had enough runs with the way Hochevar was pitching. They finally got back on track by scoring 3 in the 9th, but it was too little, too late.
Game 19: Indians 2 @ Royals 3 – boxscore
The Royals offense wasn’t able to get much going against Indians starter Josh Tomlin, however once they got him out of the game they put a pair across against closer Chris Perez. Melky Cabrera led the walk-off heroics when Mitch Maier and Alcides Escobar scored on his 9th inning single. Starter Sean O’Sullivan put together a really nice start that allowed the team to stay close until they could finally take the lead.
Game 20: Royals 6 @ Rangers 11 – boxscore
Tiny ballpark. Strong winds. Power hitting team. All three make a bad combination for Royals pitcher Jeff Francis. Or at least they did on this night. He surrendered 5 runs in 4 innings in the opening game in Arlington. It looked like a game for a brief moment when the Royals exploded for 5 runs due to homeruns by Brayan Pena and Wilson Betemit in the 4th inning to tie the game. Relief pitchers Nate Adcock and Blake Wood then gave up another 5 runs and it all added up to an insurmountable lead for the Royals.
Game 21: Royals 1 @ Rangers 3 – boxscore
Royals starter Kyle Davies put together his second straight Quality Start by holding the Rangers to 2 earned runs in 6.0 innings. It wasn’t enough to knock off the defending American League champs as the Royals were held to a single run. The lone run came from a KIla Ka’aihue solo homerun. Melky Cabrera collected three hits, but his teammates were unable to get him around to score.
Game 22: Royals 7 @ Rangers 8 – boxscore
Bruce Chen got another start in a windy stadium and this time he was unable to keep the ball in the park. The Rangers hit three homeruns off of the soft-tossing lefty and they flustered him in a 6 run 5th inning. The Royals, as has been their nature this season, refused to give up though. Mike Aviles hit two homeruns including one in the top of the 9th to bring the Royals within 1 run of the Rangers. Ultimately, it was as close as they got and the Royals lost their first series this season by getting swept in Texas.
Position player of the week: Jeff Francoeur
I almost went with Alex Gordon, but Francoeur hit for more power this week. He hit .320/.414/.680 this week to go along with 3 doubles and 2 homeruns.
Starting pitcher of the week: Kyle Davies
This was a no brainer. He had two starts this week and pitched well in both of them. He threw 12.0 innings with an ERA of 3.00. More impressively, he struck out 10 while walking only 1.
Relief pitcher of the week: Louis Coleman
The kid gets called up from Omaha and immediately proved that he belonged. He threw 3.0 innings, struck out 3, walked 1 and gave up no earned runs.
On the farm
Clint Robinson (1B) went 12 for 26 last week with 5 walks and 2 homeruns for the Omaha Storm Chasers (AAA). He’s hitting .397/.486/.778 on the season.
Danny Duffy (LHP) threw 4.1 scoreless in his start this week. He currently has 16 strikeouts to 4 walks on the season to compliment his 1.29 ERA for the Storm Chasers.
The Northwest Arkansas Naturals (AA) only played four games this week due to some inclement weather. However Mario Lisson (3B) went 4 for 10 with 2 homeruns and two walks.
Jake Odorizzi (RHP) who was brought over in the Zack Greinke trade has really turned it on. In his last start, he went 6.0 innings while fanning 10 and walking only 1.
The week to come
The Royals get another shot at the first place Cleveland Indians, but this time it’s on the road. It’s a three game series, so there’s no way that this one ends in a tie. After that, it’s back home to face the suddenly resurgent Minnesota Twins who have won 6 of their last 8 games.
4/26-4/28 @ Cleveland Indians
4/29-5/1 vs Minnesota Twins
The Kansas City Royals have promoted right handed relief pitcher Louis Coleman from the Omaha Storm Chasers (AAA) to the Major League. In order to keep the roster at 25, they optioned right handed reliever Kanekoa Texeira to AAA. The Royals had also been sitting on a 39 man active roster and now Coleman makes in an even 40.
Coleman throws the ball with a low arm-slot somewhere betweeen 3/4 and side-arm. In 2010, he posted a 2.23 ERA for Omaha in 40.1 innings averagining 10.9 strikeouts every 9 innings. He's logged 7.0 innings this year in AAA with a 3.86 ERA anda 4.0 strikeout to walk ratio.
Kanekoa Texeira seemed to be pitching well for the Royals when he was called upon out of the pen. He's pitched 6.1 innings with a 2.84 ERA. However in that time he hadn't struck out a single batter. If he was going to keep that up, it was only a matter of time before he gave up a bunch of runs.
Greg Schaum at Pine Tar Press posted a couple of videos of Louis Coleman to YouTube. I've posted them below for your viewing pleasure. What do you think of the callup?
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