Sunday, May 17, 2009

Welcome to the next 40 years of Kansas City Baseball

The Royals are celebrating their 40th anniversary and looking to turn to the next chapter in their franchise's history.

Off the field the highlight for the Royals this season is the newly renovated Kauffman Stadium

On the field the highlight for the Royals this season has been Zack Greinke and an above .500 record.
This is not just another season of typical Royals baseball.

Kauffman Stadium

Since 1973 Kauffman Stadium* has been recognized as one of the game's most beautiful ballparks.
*Originally if was named Royals Stadium. It was not until 1993 that it was renamed after owner Ewing M. Kauffman.
The stadium's most prominent attraction is the water spectacular* in the outfield.

*The water spectacular is the largest privately funded fountain in the world.

On Oct. 3, 2007 ground was broken for the $250 million renovation of Kauffman Stadium.
The renovations were completed for the home opener this year.

Zack Greinke

Zack Greike has been the best pitcher in Major League Baseball so far this year.
Greinke is leading the majors in four categories:

  1. Wins - 7

  2. Earned Run Average - 0.60

  3. Complete Games - 4

  4. Shutouts - 2

Greinke has pitched 60 innings, struck out 65 and given up only 4 earned runs.

Greinke only has one loss on the year. He acquired the loss while pitching a complete game and giving up only one run to the Los Angeles Angels.

What Greinke is throwing:

  1. Fastball - low to mid 90s, changes speed of fastball frequently, can be overpowering

  2. Slider - his out pitch, sharp and late break, dives down and in on left-handed batters

  3. Curveball - can be thrown in the mid to high 60s

  4. Change-up - good tail down and in on right-handed batters

From Royally Speaking:

In the text messaging voting, an overwhelming amount of fans voted in favor of Greinke winning at least 20 games (almost 50% of all voters thought he'd win at least 24 games!) and if that's to come true, then the offense needs to give the Royals' pitched more run support.

Whether Greinke will end the year with 12 or 28 wins depends on the support he is given. As stated above Greinke's only loss this year was after pitching a complete game and only giving up one run. If the Royals cannot get their bats going then there will be problems. The pitching staff is good, possibly great but pitching alone cannot win you first place in any division.

Above .500 record

  • The Royals have begun the year with a 19-18 record, good enough for 2nd place in the AL Central

  • The Royals have given up the fewest runs in the American League

  • The Royals have the lowest ERA in the American League.

  • The Royals' team batting average is .260, 11th in the AL

Current Injuries

The Royals have been slowed down this year not by the opponents but by themselves.

  1. Mike Aviles, SS, 5/17, strained right forearm, day-to-day
  2. John Bale, P, 5/15, Thyroid surgery, 15-day DL

  3. Brian Bannister, P, 5/15, Right shoulder stiffness, day-to-day

  4. Alex Gordon, 3B, 5/13, Labral cartilage tear, 15-day DL

  5. Tony Pena, SS, 5/9, Fractured left hand, 15-day DL
  6. Joakim Soria, P, 5/15, Strained right rotator cuff, 15-day DL

  7. Doug Waechter, P, 5/14, Strained left oblique, 15-day DL
  • Mike Aviles batted .325 in 2008
  • Alex Gordon is viewed by many to be the cornerstone of the Royals' future
  • Joakim Soria totaled 42 saves in 2008 establishing himself as an elite closer in the league

Gil Meche is not on the DL but he too has been slowed down by ailments (back pain). In his career as a Royal Meche has failed to make it out of the fifth inning just six times in 76 starts. Two of those have occurred in his last four starts. Clark Fosler of Royals Authority said "Simply put Gil Meche is not right and no matter how dazzling Zack Greinke continues to be, the Royals will not stick in the race in the AL Central without Meche rebounding to form.

Fosler makes a very good point. First of all, on a typical five day rotation with all pitchers healthy the Royals should expect to win three. So without Meche they should only expect to win two. Gil Meche, Zack Greink, and Kyle Davies are/were giving the Royals quality starts most times they took the mound this year. Not only does this take pressure off of the position players it takes pressure off of the bullpen especially when Meche is pitching. Meche is an innings eater for the Royals and they desperately need him. With the fourth and fifth spots of the rotation still be solidified it makes the importance of the first three spots greater. Meche is the older brother of this pitching staff and they need him healthy.

The Royals have had to make many changes in their lineup due to the slew of injuries they have sustained.

The Royals did not start the year with a healthy club. Jose Guillen went on the DL with a partially torn hip flexor April 10. Mark Teahen took over for Guillen in right field. On April 16 Alex Gordon, 3B, went on the DL. Teahen then transitioned to third. Mitch Maier was then called up to split time with Willie Bloomquist in right field.

Joakim Soria was only able to appear 8 times this year before going on the DL. Now the closing role is being handled by a committee.

Besides all of the injuries the Royals have had performance issues which have forced they to make changes as well. The Royals fourth and fifth starters to begin the year were Sidney Ponson and Horacio Ramirez. Ramirez only started one game before Brian Bannister was called up from Triple-A Omaha to replace him. Sidney Ponson started the year 1-4 before giving up his spot in the rotation to Luke Hochevar of Triple-A Omaha.

The positive

  • The Royal's newly acquired center-fielder, Coco Crisp has been playing fabulous defense, been getting a ton of walks (24) and stolen 10 bases.

  • Second-basebaman Alberto Callaspo, who filled in for Teahen when he moved to right field, then third, is batting .344.

  • Newly acquired Mike Jacobs has hit 8 home runs (what the Royals got him for).

  • Billy Butler, 1B, has become solid defensively and is swinging a good stick.

  • The Royals' bullpen is solid.

  • Meche, Greinke, and Davies, the Royal's best starting pitchers typically give the Royals a good shot at a victory.

What to look out for

Just another year of Royals baseball?

No. They Royals have been reborn. They are young, talented, have lots of potential and have veteran leadership. Is there a reason to be overly excited for the Royals? No not yet. As Craig Brown of Royals Authority puts it "If the Royals are out in front in August and September, then I'll really be excited." Good point. It is only May, it is early and most teams are just getting comfortable.

10 reasons not the jump off the bandwagon

By: Lee Warren of Royal Reflections

After the Royals lost their fourth game in a row last night, I began to hear comments like “Same old Royals.” No, not really, but fair-weather fans can’t know the difference. That’s the problem with being fair-weather. So, while in the midst of losing streak, let me offer some reasons not jump off the bandwagon:

1. Jumping off is unbecoming. You are either a fan or not. Choose one.

2. Zack Greinke. Enough said.

3. Losing streaks are part of the game. Just relax.

4. The starting rotation. It’s deep and relatively solid.

5. Depth. The Royals are over .500 without Alex Gordon and with an injured Joakim Soria.

6. David DeJesus will hit. He always does.

7. Alberto Callaspo and Willie Bloomquist. Pleasant surprises; fun to watch.

8. Jamey Wright, Juan Cruz, and Robinson Tejeda. Their ERAs are under 2.00.

9. National attention. Now that the national press is learning how to pronounce our players’ names, it would be good if they saw fans in the stands supporting said players.

10. It’s Major League Baseball. Don’t take it for granted or you might lose it one day.

Lee wrote this in the middle of Royals' six game losing streak. They went on to lose more games but these words still ring true. Just as Craig Brown said, it's early in the season there is no reason to stop supporting the Royals' turn-around.

Comparing to previous years

Not since 2003 have the Royals had a winning record on May 17. In 2003 the Royals ended the year 83-79. 2003 was their first winning season since the year of the players strike in 1994. Also in 2003 the Royals finished in third place, the first time they had done that since 1998. So if the facts hold true then the Royals have a third place in their future.

This April was the best month of April the Royals had since 2003. There is power in getting off to a good start, it builds confidence. The team took that confidence into the month of May winning 6 games in a row, May 2 - May 7.

The down side the Royals follow that 6 games winning streak with a six game losing streak. No need to worry though. Rany on the Royals puts it this way "Let’s take a deep breath, everyone. Good teams lose six games in a row." He could not be more right. He also said "So don’t panic. This is the AL Central, where the Royals can lose six games in a row in mid-May and still hold on to a share of first place."

The AL Central is looking as though any team could win at this point. The team in first place, the Tigers are only two games above .500 and only 1 game ahead of the Royals.

If and when the Royals get healthy, look out

Sam Mellinger talks about the downed Royals players.

"If you're keeping track, that's the opening day starter, All-Star closer, $36 million slugger, and super-prospect third baseman who all are either on the DL now, have been already this season, or have had their performance significantly worsened because of health concerns."

These are key components of any team. Let alone the Royals who are still learning to win again.

Mellinger gives his prediction for this year:

"they could push their win total into the mid-80s, maybe a tick more, and in this very winnable division**, that just might be enough."

I believe that Sam Mellinger and Rany on the Royals would get along just nicely, as long as they were talking about how winnable the AL Central is.

If the Royals can battle through so many injuries and controversies and still be only a game out of first place who is to say they cannot win the division. Every tick of the clock means that more healing has occurred and that the injured are that much closer to getting back to the club and making the second-place Royals even better than they are now.

This season is not just another season of Royals baseball.

How to get to KC from the Twin Cities

Go south, take 35E and you're there. Easy, huh?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Royals can't top Angels

In a three games series against the Angels this weekend the Royals lost every single game.

The Royals completed the hat-trick, losing 1-4, 0-1 and 3-4.

Coming into the series with the Angels the Royals were on a six game winning streak. They were flying high and surely did not think they would lose more than one game.

What made the losses more amazing was, all three games were started by the Royals' top three starters. The game Friday was started by Gil Meche, the game on Saturday by Zack Greinke and the game on Sunday by Kyle Davies.

This may be the only time this year that the Royals lose three consecutive games when these three are pitching at the top of the rotation.

The outing by Meche on Friday was not terrible but was not what the Royals are used to seeing. Meche pitched only 5 2/3 innings and gave up four earned runs but did strike out seven. The four runs given up by Meche were the only of the game. Yet the Royals could not get the bats alive giving Meche only one run of help on four hits.

Saturday was a sure victory. Zack Greinke was on the mound and spirits were surely high. Greinke was not as sharp as we have known him to be this year. He found himself in far too many three-ball counts. Still, Greinke managed to pitch a complete game giving up only one run on four hits.

Sadly the Royals gave Greinke no run support and he was tagged with his first loss of the season in a 0-1 loss.

On Sunday the Royals' bats seemed to come alive once again. They scored three runs on ten hits. Kyle Davies contributed nicely by pitching six innings and giving up only one run.

The Royals took a three-to-one lead into the bottom of the seventh and lost it, giving up three runs.

In the top of the ninth, still down 3-4, all hope was not lost when Miguel Olivo drove a ball to deep left-center field.

It was not meant to be. Torii Hunter made a leaping catch and robbed Butler of a game tying home run that saved the game.

What do the Royals have to do to beat the Angels?

Coming into the series with the Angels the Royals had played 17 straight days. Exhaustion, mental or physical may have played a part in the lack of run production.

To top it all off the Royals closer Joakim Soria has been put on the 15-day disabled list.

Hochevar called up

Luke Hochevar, the 6'5" 210 pound right-hander was recalled from Triple-A Omaha Sunday.

Three factors may be the leading causes as to why Luke Hochevar was called up from Triple-A.

1. Joakim Soria was placed on the 15-day disabled list Sunday. Continuing shoulder soreness forced Joakim to go on the disabled list.

So far this year Soria had one win and no losses. Soria saved seven games in seven opportunities. In 8.2 innings pitched he had 10 strikeouts, gave up eight hits and only two earned runs.

The loss of Soria opens up a slot for Hochevar to move in.

2. Sidney Ponson has struggled so far this season creating a need for a solid starter in the fourth spot in the rotation.

So far this year Ponson had one win and four losses. Ponson has pitched 35 innings and given up 43 hits and 23 earned runs. Opposing batters are hitting .307 against Ponson.

Those numbers scream for a change to be made.

3. Luke Hochevar has pitched fabulously in Triple-A up to date.

So far this year (in Triple-A Omaha) Hochevar has five wins and no losses. He has pitched 40 innings, struck out 30, given up 28 hits and only 4 earned runs. Hochevar's earned run average is an impressive 0.90.

Hochevar has done spectacular thus far and earned his trip back to the big leagues.

Last year Joakim Soria saved 42 games, had only three blown saves, and ERA of 1.60 and opponents hit a mere .170 against him. He established himself as one of the elite closers in the game with those numbers. There were no signs this year of Soria slowing down.

The loss of Soria will deal a blow to the Royals' bullpen. However Trey Hillman and the players on the team are confident they have a strong enough bullpen to weather this storm.

With Luke Hochevar being called up Sidney Ponson will be bumped to the bullpen. Sidney's presense in the bullpen will help to stabilize it for the time being.

In Ponson's last outing against the Mariners he gave up only one run over 7 1/3 innings. The move to the bullpen is not a demotion, with the loss of Soria changes had to be made. Besides Hochevar is coming off one of his best starts of the year in Triple-A Omaha. He threw eight shutout innings with nine strikeouts in a loss against Memphis.

Last year Hochevar made his rookie debut and struggled for the Royals. He ended the year with a record of six wins and thirteen losses. His ERA was 5.21. But this is a different year. Hochevar has obviously done well in Triple-A and caught the attention of Trey Hillman.

Only time will tell how the loss of Soria and the calling up of Hochevar will affect the club. For now optimism for the recovery of Soria and the success of Hochevar must be kept high.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Ideal Royals lineup

The following hypothetical lineup is in the event of all players being in good health.

1. Coco Crisp- CF
2. Alberto Callaspo- SS
3. Mark Teahan- 2B
4. Jose Guillen- RF
5. Mike Jacobs- DH
6. Alex Gordon- 3B
7. Billy Butler- 1B
8. David DeJesus- LF
9. John Buck- C (Olivo if Greinke pitches)