10-22. It's hard to dress that up, no matter how you slice it. I can tell you that the Royals will be better than this in the long run of a long season. I can tell you that down the round, the franchise will turn around. I can tell you that the new administration, led by Moore, really is rebuilding and not just listing in obscurity as Allard Baird's regime did. I can tell that there are some encouraging signs in the organization, as some of the young players are doing well. I can tell you that there's hope for the future. And, I can honestly tell you that I believe all these things, at least to some degree.
The problem is: 10-22. I mean, seriously, it's hard to ignore the fact that the team right now is stinking up the joint, even if you're a farsighted optimist. You can look at that 10 and 22 record from a lot of different ways--the Royals have underachieved their Pythagorean wins, the close games have been unfavorable--and it still does not feel good. That's an understatement: it sucks. What with the "culture of losing" in Kansas City, it's hard to take a new regime seriously when it comes in, puts their stamp on the team immediately, and...the team still loses. I mean, Baird could do this, right? Other than the Gil Meche signing and the faith placed in the suddenly-decent Jorge de la Rosa, it's hard to come up with a lot of definent positives in the early going here. You here "well, just wait this season out" or "just focus on the young players" and it might make sense to you, but that doesn't mean that it feels any better to go 10-22.
Something that looks like a major hole in the argument of "at least we're developing the young guys this year" are the actual results of some of the younger players on the Royals. And I'm not talking about Hochevar's first month; players like him have time to get thing sorted out. I'm talking about the glaring problems that we're seeing on the 2007 Royals Major League squad. This year is supposed to be about Alex Gordon and how he's the hope for the franchise, and he's been bad. Better of recently, but still officially in the "worry" category. It's to the point, now that Gordon is over 110 PA, that even your local stathead is beginning to go "eh, this is kind of scary" and wondering if it's perhaps time to second guess Gordon's jump from AA ball to the major leagues.
If Gordon is concern number one, then there's the case of Zack Greinke. I'm not second-guessing him being in the majors, I'm just brining up how hittable Greinke has looked over his last couple starts. 49 hits in 34.2 innings is enough to overshadow the acceptable peripherals Greinke has put together, and, with many people wondering if he's tipping he pitches, you have to wonder if Greinke's problems aren't really his stuff or his head, but his mechanics. I mean, in the name all that's holy in baseball, can this coaching staff help anybody? What are they paying Bell and McClure to do? Stand there and watch young players struggle and...chew gum?
Another data point on this chart is Ryan Shealy, who mercifully tweaked a hamstring to get his vortex of suckage out of the line-up. Let's not even talk about Ryan's batting average right now, as I'll get to that later. Point is, he's been awful too. John Buck hasn't been awful, actually, but for some unfathomable reason he keeps losing two or three starts a week to Jason LaRue.
At the beginning of the year, many people--even the normally stats-oriented Baseball Prospectus people--approved of the trades of Andy Sisco and Ambiorix Burgos. Fine. I suppose it's a matter of opinion, but what happens next year if Shealy continues to suck, Gordon continues to hack, and Greinke posts a 5.50 ERA? Do they get labeled as "underachievers" are sent packing as well? When do these young players go from being the favored sons of the organization to taking the Sisco-and-Burgos Shuttle out of town? I don't think this will actually happen with Gordon, but I could see Shealy and Greinke going elsewhere next year. I can also see Greinke posting a 3.50 ERA on a National League team with a good pitching coach, and Shealy slugging .500 with, I dunno, the Pirates?
It's fine to get rid of people if their problem really is bad work ethic. What I'm questioning now is if this organization was just bad at grooming guys like Sisco and Burgos, just like right now they're not doing more right to help Gordon, Shealy, or Greinke. Maybe it's the players' faults; they are getting paid to be big league baseball players. Still, it's worth asking if there's a tangible difference between underachieving on this team and just not getting enough coaching help. Are you telling me that it's that frigging hard to take a player like Gordon, who has been a very patient hitter in the minors, and tell him "take a few pitches, Gordo"? I guess what I'm asking here is, are the Royals coaching staff and the organization in general making underachievers and then shunting all the blame on the players? I'd be interested to know what you all think.
Anyhow, that's my feelings on the handling of these young guys so far. Without further adieu or speculation, let's get on with the stats:
C John Buck: .290/.403/.581
This is becoming a personal vendetta, but Bell is absolutely driving me crazy by not giving more starts to this guy. Buck's above line is after a recent 0-for-11 was snapped in his last two games (1-for-2 and 1-for-4). I don't think anyone in his right mind thinks Buck has suddenly become a guy who will post a .400 OBP the whole year and slug higher than the entire team, but let's frigging find out what he can do, please. If fifty points come off that OBP and a hundred and fifty come off the slugging, he's still one of the best offensive catchers in the league.
I acknowledge that some people have pointed out that Buck has been a streaky guy in the past, and usually has one very good month interspersed with a bunch of crappy ones, but the way he's started, and the way he's actually taking walks now, I'd sure like to see if he's really broken out.
3B Alex Gordon: .175/.316/.278
Normally I'd say "hey, well that OBP is a good sign!" Except the fact that it's inflated by the HBPs Gordon has taken, and that's not the kind of skill to assume is repeatable. It's also not enough to make you a good or even useful player when you're hitting .175. Gordon has 13 walks now, which is double digits more than he had when I last talked about him. Yippee. Seriously, Alex, could you please get over .200? Please? Unless you start hitting soon, people are going to wonder if you're going to ever be Joe Randa, much less Scott Rolen.
SS Tony Pena Jr.: .228/.273/.316
The honeymoon is over, Tony. You're an awful hitter and have no business detracting from an already-struggling line-up.
2B Mark Gruzielanek: .282/.330/.400
Mark could probably keeping putting up this line until he's 55. Hopefully some second basemenless contender will come a-callin' at the deadline, because he's proven he's still useful with the bat after a very slow start.
1B Ross Gload: .305/.341/.488
An 829 OPS from Ross Gload means that regression is probably on the way, especially in terms of slugging average. That said, at least he's been useful. He's still not a good solution at 1B, present or future, and should be taking a back seat to Huber if Shealy's on the DL. Fat chance of that.
DH Mike Sweeney: .261/.327/.402
Sweeney Todd may be dead and buried, but Sweeney has rebounded after an extremely bad start to the year. He's not the slugger he once was, but his BA's rise suggests he's not done yet. He's even flashed some pop too. Still not a good overall line, but here's hoping there's more improvement to come.
IF Esteban German: .279/.355/.456
Look, the fact is, I couldn't care less how bad German is supposedly when manning the deuce. There's absolutely no way he can be as bad as people make him out to be. A lot of people seem to think if he were to take over the starting job at second, a black hole would devour the basepath in-between first and second at the K. I mean, come on. I'm still pulling for this guy to grab the starting job after Grudzielanek gets traded. He's patient and he's got pop, and he could actually be one of the better bats at second in the AL if he could get a chance at steady playing time.
"OF" Billy Butler: .304/.304/.348
Please. Dear god. Take a walk, Billy. I don't want to have to worry about you too.
"Menace" Jason Larue: .111/.163/.244
I hate you so much, Jason.
RF Mark Teahen: .271/.366/.393
Everything's not exactly coming up roses for last's year best Royals hitter, either. Teahen hasn't yet showed the power of last year. Encouraging sign: plate discipline remains intact, and he's been streaky thus far. I think it's about time for a hot streak, quite frankly.
CF David DeJesus: .302/.393/.472
David continued to justify my crush on his hitting approach, even as he regressed. Even if he's no longer slugging .700, he's still getting on-base at a great clip and has displayed great pop for a CF. Keep up the good work, DDJ. God knows, there's not many hitters on this team I can say that to.
OF Reggie Sanders (DL): .367/.446/.612
Just when I thought that Reggie Sanders was going to have a great three month Royals' span before being traded to the Giants for Tim Lincecum, he went on the DL. It figures that a guy OPSing over a thousand for KC would get hurt. Hopefully he returns in time to be traded, because he's a nice guy...and his DL stay will freeze his numbers at a pretty good point and he might actually bring the Royals a prospect. Get well soon, Reggie.
LF Emil Brown: .189/.256/.230
If Buddy Bell really was old school, he'd have benched Brown for jogging out of the box in that one game and getting thrown out at second. It would've had the double benefit of keeping Brown away from the line-up. The sad fact is, with this line through May 8th, even if he picks it up, his trade value is still going to be awfully low given how little playing time he's getting. So you're damned if you play him, damned if you don't.
OF Shane Costa: 0-for-4
Welcome back to the majors, Shane. This may be your last chance with this organization. No pressure.
1B Ryan Shealy (DL): .113/.186/.208
Watching Shealy flail this season has been painful, especially after last year's decent cameo. Hopefully he comes back with a vengeance, but I'm not sold on the idea that that's safe to assume.
Gil Meche: 48.1 IP, 2.23 ERA, 35:10 K:BB, 5 HRA
Well, at least this is going well. Actually, "well" might be a bit of an understatement. While Mechey probably can't maintain an ERA this low, it's very encouraging that he's been able to limit walks and homers the way he has. He's had extended stretches of good pitching before and that's never stopped him from being mediocre over the long haul, but if he keeps up those K:BB and HRA numbers there's no reason not to think he's broken out a bit. Given credit where credit is due: this signing looks very good so far.
Jorge da la Rosa: 40 IP, 3.38 ERA, 23:7 K:BB, 5 HRA
Shhhh. Don't say anything. We don't want to jinx him.
Zack Greinke: 34.2 IP, 5.57 ERA, 20:11 K:BB, 5 HRA
As noted in the intro, the hits allowed are actually the issue: he's peripherals, while not very good, aren't actually that bad either. Hopefully Greinke can pulls things back together and stop it with the whole "WHIP near 2" thing that he's got going on. Er...pitching coach? Zack? What's up, guys? Have you met?
Odalis Perez: 34.2 IP, 6.75 ERA, 14:11 K:BB, 2 HRA
I seriously don't know if this guy has major league-caliber stuff anymore. He's actually managed to allowed two more hits than Greinke in just as many innings, and seems to hit a wall in the fifth or sixth inning every start. It has now been over a year since Perez last had a tolerable ERA, and he's making me want my boy Luke to come back ASAP.
Brian Bannister: 15.2 IP, 4.60 ERA, 7:6 K:BB, 0 HRA
He's actually been okay, despite universal reviews of his stuff as subpar. One thing skewing his number was the start where he had a quality outing going through six and then it was blown in the 7th. Good job, Buddy. Bannister has down enough so far for him to still be in the rotation mix as the year goes on. He might not be high-upside, but at least he hasn't gone "splat."
Brandon Duckworth: 19.2 IP, 2.29 ERA, 9:7 K:BB, 1 HRA I'm still not sure how he's getting people out--nine Ks in almost twenty innings ain't good--but I'll take it. Given that his last outing was spoiled by German's defense at third and Soria's lackluster job with preventing inherited runners to score, Duckworth has actually been a little better than the numbers say. He still has us wondering if he can continue to be good in the pen, but that's better than having us wonder if he can get anybody out.
Todd Wellemeyer: 13.0 IP, 9.69 ERA, 6:10 K:BB, 2 HRA
When the best thing you've done so far in the season is outpitch Jason Standridge, you've got issues. Incredibly lucky to do as well as he did last year, Wellemeyer's control hasn't gotten better and his luck his run out. He might as well be DFA'ed now, because that control isn't going to get better. It never has.
Joel Peralta: 18.2 IP, 5.30 ERA, 17:6 K:BB, 2 HRA
Peralta went through a rough stretch that saw his ERA climb as high as 7.94, but he's still King batters at a very good rate and has been better of late. Maybe he's not the ace set-up man that he pretended to be in the first couple games of the season, but he still seems poised to have a good year.
Jimmy Gobble: 10.2, 1.69, 9:2 K:BB, 0 HRA
Has he officially become Buddy Bell's LOOGY? Maybe he's headed in that direction, as he's appeared in 15 games and only pitched 10.2 innings. That seems like a waste, given that one of the good things about Gobble is his durability. Plus, lefties are OPSing .754 against him to the righties' .832. That's better against lefties, but still not really good.
David Riske: 13.1 IP, 5.40 ERA, 8:5 K:BB, 3 HRA
Homer-prone relievers aren't a great match for the K. I've said it before and I'll say it again.
Joakim Soria: 14.2 IP, 3.07. 16:8 K:BB, 0 HRA, 5 saves
Okay, so he blew a save. Big deal. The kid if K-ing more than a batter per inning, keeping the ball in the park, and has shown some ability to head back out on short rest. Soria could be an asset this season and in years to come if the Royals watch his workload carefully this year. No sense in blowing out a promising arm. Let someone who sucks do the mop-up work.
This concludes Spreadsheet Baseball for the week, and, as always, comments are welcome/encouraged. Next week I'll be done with finals and back to full stathead strength. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this week's effort.