Monday, March 22, 2010

Jusssst a bit outside: the Kansas City Royals preview

Duty calls to preview the MLB season. In the spirit of that, we'll have 30 bits of notes and errata very tangentially related to each team, in reverse order of PECOTA projection. At bat: the Kansas City Royals.
  1. Take the under on win total: One small reason for this is their fielding alignment is somewhat less than optimized, especially if they carry through on a plan to entrust shortstop and centrefield to Yuniesky Betancourt and Rick Ankiel.

    A few extra hits and runs will push that win total down.
  2. Tough act to follow: A mental illness is seldom a blessing in disguise, but K.C. ace Zack Greinke's much-publicized bout with social anxiety four years ago did save a lot of miles on his arm and shoulder.

    It's also a misunderstanding to think that just because of what he's been through, he's more likely to regress this season.

  3. Zack Greinke's but: The ace's ERAs broken down by division last season: 3.56 vs. the AL East, 1.99 vs. the AL Central, 1.13 vs. the AL West and 3.00 in interleague.

    The full run and a half figure vs. the East came while pitching a grand total of six innings vs. the Red Sox and none against the Yankees. The day is close when we figure out a good way to get awards voters to account for strength of schedule.

    Greinke's Cy Young was the fourth in a row for an AL Central pitcher. No wonder Roy Halladay is now in the other league.

  4. Young arms! True, TINSTAAPP, but left-hander Mike Montgomery and righty Aaron Crow are ones to watch in Kansas City's improved farm system.

  5. Dark confessions: Pretty much the whole point of this exercise is to see what is out there after a 25-year marriage to the Jays.

    The Toronto baseball concern isn't offering a lot to to the romanticist-masochist type of seamhead who misses J.P. Ricciardi as much as Roy Halladay. What good is following a baseball team if you can't hate the management? Trust Rogers to get this wrong when it put fresh-faced Canadian Alex Anthopolous in charge. Rag on him and you're ragging on yourself.

    Kansas City might not have much going for it, but it does have a great blogosphere. Exhibit A is Royals Review's "D.A.Y.T.O.N. system" post from back in the winter ("O: Overpay for Freely Available Talent").

  6. How bad has it been? The Royals have broken .500 once in the past 15 years. That season, they played .512 ball. It hurt too much to make this No. 5, George Brett's number. Apologies to Al Cowens!

  7. Lucky No. 7: The most productive spot in the Royals lineup (relative to the league) was the seventh hole, which should be no shock since their lineup is basically Billy Butler and seven or eight guys who should be hitting seventh. Or eighth.

  8. What might have been: They took Luke "6.55 ERA" Hochevar with the No. 1 overall draft choice in '06 instead of two-time NL Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum. Of course, eight other teams passed up Lincecum.

  9. Far be it to point this out: If the Royals wanted a catcher so badly, they could have taken Orioles star-in-waiting Matt Wieters with the No. 2 pick in '07. Now there's speculation about K.C.'s best hitting prospect, Mike Moustakas, converting there from third base.

  10. Will Butler do it: First baseman-DH Billy Butler is coming off a .362/.492 season with 73 extra-base hits, pretty good for a 23-year-old player. Keep an eye on how many those move from the doubles column (51 last season) over to home runs (21).

  11. They also mess up the small stuff: Fans are apoplectic over the new design on the back of Kauffman Stadium's scoreboard, which is a blue insignia on a white background instead of a white on blue.

  12. Since this is John Wathan's number, it must be pointed out: All the best to former Ottawa Lynx Dusty Wathan this season managing Clearwater in the Florida State League.

  13. It's the first eight innings that are problematic: Closer Joakim Soria is about the third-best closer in the AL.

  14. One small improvement: They were second-last in the league in drawing bases on balls last season, after finishing last in 2008.

  15. Three-baggers: They led the AL with 51 triples, no mean feat for the losingest team of the aughties (948 losses, or just less than 95 a season).

  16. Oops: They also led the AL in errors, always a good thing for a team which doesn't score many runs.

  17. Silver lining: The Royals are marking the 25th anniversary of their ill-gotten 1985 World Series title. That was the team which had Frank White, who is black, Bud Black, who is white, Jamie Quirk, who was quite normal, and also inspired the immortal bedsheet sign, "Give me a loaf of Brett, a pound of Biancalana and a slice of Balboni."

  18. That's right, they used to matter: Once upon a time, 70 per cent of TVs in the Kansas City area would be tuned to Royals games.

  19. Twenty years since: July 17 marks the 20th anniversary of former Royal Bo Jackson's famous three-homer game at Yankee Stadium. You likely remember that Bo homered his first three times up, injured his shoulder attempting a diving catch on a sinking line drive in the sixth inning. He came back 40 days later and homered in his first at-bat off a guy named Randy Johnson.)

    The real shame of it all, though, isn't that Bo didn't get a chance to hit a fourth (or fifth) home run in that game. It's that no one remembers Bill Pecota hit one of his 22 career homers in that night.

  20. Where there's a Wil: They're starting to invest in young talent instead of low-ceiling college players (i.e.,types). That's a bold strategy.

  21. Have to say it: Powder-blue jerseys and white pants look so much nicer for a home team.

  22. Won't get fooled again, until the next time: The Tao of Stieb admitted to drafting Royals third baseman Alex Gordon (one those prospects fast becoming suspect) in a roto league.

  23. Seriously, how is he still playing? Ladies and gentlemen, 36-year-old catcher Jason Kendall (tabloid furore and all) is still playing. You might remember him from good seasons in 1998 and 2000.

  24. The other good pitcher: Right-hander Robinson Tejeda rates a chance to be the No. 3 starter, although after the first two (Greinke and Gil Meche), there's a real steep drop-off.

  25. Who are Mike Stodolka, Jeff Austin and Kyle Snider? "Three people who have never been in my kitchen" is correct in theory, but more to the point, they're three Royals first-round draft choices from recent years.

    The Royals are what they are because they draft worse than a person who ends up with Vernon Wells on a fantasy team.

  26. Final farewell: The triple-A Omaha Royals are playing their last season at Rosenblatt Stadium, also home of the College World Series. Call it crazy, but there's an argument the CWS is at least the most accessible NCAA event to attend, since attending a Final Four or a BCS title game is so bloody expensive.

  27. Obligatory hockey reference: The Casey Wellman who is now playing for the NHL's Minnesota Wild is son of Brad Wellman, a utility infielder who played for the Royals in the 1980s.

    The elder Wellman was spurred to have his kids learn to skate after being invited on to the ice by the New Jersey Devils before a playoff game in Boston in 1988. He didn't know how, so he was determined that wouldn't happen to his kids.

  28. Shallow, obvious joke: With the Jayhawks losing to Northern Iowa in the NCAA tournament last Saturday, it's the first time in a while the Kansas University basketball team has been eliminated earlier than the Royals.

  29. PECOTA says: 77-85, fifth AL Central, 738 runs scored, 787 runs allowed.

  30. In English, please: They could almost win the Comedy Central.

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