Results tagged ‘ Kansas City Royals ’
By Grant Brisbee @ Baseball Nation
Before the season started, it looked like the AL Central was split into three tiers. The Detroit Tigers were expected to be the class of the division. The White Sox and Indians were likely to be a step behind, but with the potential to make trouble if a few things broke their way. The Twins and Royals were supposed to party like it was 1999.
But the Tigers have looked like a catchable team so far, stumbling a bit with a top-heavy lineup and rotation. If a few things could go right for one of the teams in the second tier, it could make for an interesting pennant race.
Which brings us to the White Sox, who have had a ton of things go right. Two of their 30-something veterans — Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski — are off to their best starts ever. Two of the players the Sox might have figured were sunk costs — Adam Dunn and Alex Rios — are enjoying renaissance seasons so far. The hope was that Jake Peavy could contribute anything at all; he’s been one of the best pitchers in baseball. Chris Sale’s conversion from reliever to starter has been a rousing success.
There is so much going right for the White Sox. With a win over the Red Sox on Sunday, though, they merely reached .500. Because in the middle of all these nice stories and surprising seasons, you have this:
Those are some of the ugliest lines you’ll see in baseball, and they’re all lumped right in the middle of the White Sox‘ Baseball-Reference page. Viciedo is the best of the bunch, thanks to four home runs. The other three are carrying sub-.500 OPS‘s, hitting around what you’d expect from Cliff Lee and Edwin Jackson.
When you have one player struggling this mightily, you keep an eye on him and quietly ready a backup plan. When four players are flailing around like Rey Ordoñez with a sack over his head, what in the world can the White Sox do?
Before you get the idea to call in the minor-league cavalry, remember the White Sox have the worst farm system in baseball. And in that worst farm system, there was only one position player in the top 10 who played above A-ball last year. That player, Ozzie Martinez, is hitting .125/.169/.143 in 56 triple-A at-bats.
That’s pretty close to Randy Johnson’s career line.
You can probably expect Alexei Ramirez to get better. He has over 2400 plate appearances in his (quite consistent) major-league career, and those certainly mean more than the 88 plate appearances this season.
But the other three hitters were already substantial risks. A September surge helped Morel stay away from a historically wretched season. The bizarre decline of Beckham is entering its third year. And Viciedo — still just 23 — made improvements with his plate discipline in his second go-round in the International League, but was still a good bet to be one of the more unpolished hitters in the AL.
The White Sox were right to start them and hope one or two or three of them would figure something out. Even considering how much of a risk all of these players were, no one could have expected them to be this bad. And now the team has no choice but to wear it. The commitment they made to these youngish position players can’t be undone that easily. There isn’t anyone waiting in the wings, even if a change makes sense.
If everything else keeps going as well as it has been, and these four players can improve enough to ape Alex Rios or Juan Pierre’s awful performances last year, the White Sox could jump ahead in the Central race. What’s more likely is some of the surprisingly good starts will regress back to what was expected in the first place, and at least one or two of the hitters featured here will figure something out. When the dust clears, the White Sox still have a chance to contend.
Until then, it’s worth noting the Chicago White Sox have four drunken kazoo players screwing up the entire symphony.
By Jeff Sullivan @ Baseball Nation
During a start against the Twins on Sunday, Royals pitcher Bruce Chen threw over to first ten times in a single at-bat. There’s really only one reason he would do this.
You probably didn’t watch the Kansas City Royals play the Minnesota Twins on Sunday. The starting pitchers were Bruce Chen and Jason Marquis, and the two teams entered with a combined eleven wins. Even if you are a big Royals or Twins fan, you might’ve had other plans. You probably aren’t a big Royals or Twins fan.
The Twins wound up defeating the Royals 7-4, as Josh Willingham and Danny Valencia each chipped in with three hits. But perhaps the most memorable part of the game occurred early in the bottom of the first. Denard Span led off against Chen for the Twins, and he drew a five-pitch walk. That brought Jamey Carroll to the plate, and this image can tell you everything you need to know about the subsequent proceedings:
Bruce Chen threw over to first base ten times while Carroll was batting. If you don’t believe me, you can watch it all unfold right here with your very own eyes, but I implore you to believe me. I didn’t photoshop that image above, because that would be an incredible waste of my time. And I’ve watched the whole sequence four times now. All four times, I didn’t know why I was doing it. You don’t need to watch Bruce Chen throw over to first base ten times to know what it’s like to experience watching Bruce Chen throw over to first base ten times.
Chen threw six pitches to Carroll before Carroll singled. Ordinarily, with a runner on base, we would expect that plate appearance to last just around two minutes. According to MLB.tv, Chen came set prior to his first pick-off attempt at 19:57. Chen threw his sixth and final pitch at 24:50. That was five minutes of Bruce Chen standing on the mound and Jamey Carroll standing beside home plate with Denard Span sometimes on and sometimes just off of first base.
Why would Chen throw over so much, especially so early in the game? Maybe it’s not a complete shock – Chen is the American League leader in pick-off attempts this season. But then, that 31 total includes his ten from Sunday, so that’s clearly inflated. Of note: Josh Johnson is the National League leader in pick-off attempts this season, with 44. Also of note: They record the number of pick-off attempts! I had literally never seen a pick-off attempt leaderboard before in my life.
In theory, Chen would throw over to first base like that because he was threatened and wanted to keep Denard Span close. Denard Span is quick, having stolen 26 bases in 2010. But then Denard Span stole six bases in 2011, and perhaps more significantly, here’s Denard Span’s lead following Chen’s first pick-off attempt:
Here’s Denard Span’s lead following Chen’s last pick-off attempt:
It’s the exact same lead. The exact same lead. Chen looks different in the pictures. The first-base coach looks different in the pictures. Eric Hosmer looks different in the pictures. Denard Span looks the exact same. Same distance off first, same stance. Bruce Chen wasn’t keeping Denard Span closer.
Perhaps the answer is revealed in the ramblings of the Kansas City TV broadcast during the at-bat. Following, a chronological selection of quotes while Span was on first base:
Bruce has a pretty good move over to first base – not an outstanding move, you would call.
Throwing over to first base like that might annoy the fans, but really, Bruce could care less about the fans.
And what he will do at times is convince the runner at first base, okay, he won’t throw over here again and the runner will go on first movement.
I think he gets curious to see how loud the boos will get. “Oh you didn’t like that throw over to first? How about this one?”
Bruce Chen – he chews his gum confidently.
I don’t hold the last one against the broadcast because by that point I had also lost my mind. But consider the penultimate one. Fans boo pick-off moves. Fans hate pick-off moves. They’ll tolerate it when it’s their own pitcher, but they’ll boo visitor pick-off moves like they’d boo Bryce Harper. Every time Bruce Chen threw over to first, the Target Field fans booed a little bit louder. In time the boos started to cascade down from every section of the ballpark. Chen received a Bronx cheer when he threw a pitch to the plate.
The best explanation I’ve got is that Bruce Chen was curious. He knows all about the Minnesota stereotype, so he thought he’d put it to the test, entertainment value of the baseball game be damned. Bruce Chen was experimenting. Which could be an isolated instance, or which could signal the beginning of an uncomfortable era. For years, fans have been going to baseball games to observe baseball players. If baseball players start going to baseball games in part to observe the fans, then shit’s gonna get awful meta, awful quick.
by Craig Calcaterra @ Hardball Talk
You know who I like a lot? Rany Jazayerli. I’ve met him a couple of times and he’s a great dude. I’ve been reading his stuff forever, both at Baseball Prospectus and at his own outlets. Some of my favorite stuff of his, however, came back in the day when he and Rob Neyer used to do a back and forth called “Rob and Rany on the Royals” over at Rob’s personal website.
Rob, by then, had grown pretty cranky about his Royals. Rany, on the other hand, always seemed to look on the bright side. He still does that better than most team-specific bloggers, even though he never ceases to be realistic. His criticism, while often sharp, is never spiteful or dismissive. He wants the Royals to be good and thinks they can be one day.
Which is why his latest missive is so … jarring:
Nearly six years after Dayton Moore was hired, in a year when the Royals were themselves so certain that they were going to take a step forward that they boldly unveiled the “OUR TIME” motto, the team has dumped a steaming pile of crap on the curb. Ten straight losses, and even worse, nine of them have come at home. The Royals have the worst record in baseball. Playoff dreams have been extinguished, and it’s still April.
And I’ll confess: I’m this close to losing it.
Royals: if you’ve lost Rany Jazayerli, you’ve lost everyone. This is just … horrible. And Rany explains why. In total it makes for a pretty good case for the firing of Ned Yost. Or else it would if the front office doesn’t seem to be right on board with Yost’s strategies.
But maybe it’s not all bad. Sports Illustrated has them seventh in their Power Rankings. And no, I’m not making that up.
Sure, there’s a major caveat here: those rankings are based on WAR and what may happen in the future, not on what has gone on so far.
That said, any ranking system that has the Kansas City Royals 7th at this point probably needs to think hard about what its mission in life truly is and whether it’s actually carrying it out.