Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Candy Cain

Lately, I have seen a lot of fans and experts griping about the Royals offseason moves, with just about everyone complaining about the free agent signings of Alex Rios and Kendrys Morales and many others criticizing the signing of Edinson Volquez. 

When any of my favorite teams makes a move or signs a player, I usually feel excited or I don’t care. I posted some of my thoughts regarding the Rios and Morales signings here and after the Royals signed Volquez and then added Kris Medlen, my feelings turned to excitement for 2015. The Royals addressed all of their needs this offseason (except for adding a real power bat – but if the current roster plays near their career averages in 2015, power should not be as much of a problem as it was in 2014).  Think about it:

  • Morales replaces Billy Butler, and whether you were a Butler fan or not, maybe a change of scenery will help both players produce better in 2015. Nothing really changes at DH for KC.
  • Rios replaces Nori Aoki. Aoki had a decent year when you consider his on-base percentage, but his power went AWOL (only hit one home run in 2014) and his defense was sometimes questionable. Rios should provide more power, about the same defense, and the same number of steals as Aoki. Hard to think this move will hurt the Royals.
  • Volquez “replaces” James Shields. But not really. I imagine Yordano Ventura will be given every chance to become the Royals #1 starting pitcher, and Volquez or Jason Vargas compete for the #2 spot. Add in Danny Duffy (if he is healthy), and innings-eater Jeremy Guthrie and you have a pretty decent starting 5. 
  • Medlen, who is coming off his second Tommy John surgery, might be ready to pitch again in June or July, which could provide a huge boost and veteran presence if the Royals need to push for the playoffs. And he should be a great pitcher in 2016 if he is still healthy. Great pick up by Dayton Moore.

None of those moves seem bad to me. My only concern is that the rest of the Al Central will be a lot tougher. The Tigers added Yoenis Cespedes and extended Victor Martinez but lost Rick Porcello and might lose Max Scherzer. The White Sox added Melky Cabrera, Jeff Samardija, and Adam LaRoche, the Indians added Brandon Moss and Gavin Floyd, and the Twins signed Torii Hunter and Ervin Santana. 2015 will be a fun year for baseball but the Royals should be competitive.

In other news, the KC Royals announced a contest on twitter: tweet a holiday photo of Lorenzo Cain making his signature outfield catches for a chance to win a glove signed by him. Below are the ones I created. Merry Christmas to all you Royals fans!
Lorenzo helping Santa pull his sleigh over KC, the same way he pulled the Royals through the playoffs
Lorenzo adding a Royals crown to the Christmas tree at Crown Center. Because no one else can reach that high
Lorenzo helping to add some lights to the Plaza. Alex Gordon would not have had any lights to turn on without Cain's help
Lorenzo putting up some Royals stockings on the Nelson Art Gallery. Shuttlecock curse? What shuttlecock curse?!
Lorenzo giving KC his best gift yet - Crown Town Ale.
 Have a great Christmas/Kwanzaa/Hannukah/Holiday season!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Important Royals update

I would like to interrupt your life to provide an important Royals update:

As of December 12, 2014, a deal was forged to send a pair of solid KC performers to Houston in exchange for Christmas presents. This is not a joke. My mother, who resides in KC, came to visit me in Htown and gave me a fantastic pair of Royals socks and in exchange, I gave her a copy of my wedding photo album. Pretty good deal, right? A pic of the socks is below:
In other Royals news, the team signed free agents Kendrys Morales and Alex Rios. Morales signed a 2 year deal and essentially fills the hole left when Billy “Country Breakfast” Butler left for the Oakland A’s. I am not hugely familiar with Morales but it appears that he is a switch-hitting version of Butler. Morales can play first base, which provides some protection if Eric Hosmer gets hurt next season. However, the Royals did not sign him for his defense but rather in hopes that his offense would rebound after slipping in 2014. Last season, he posted his fewest home runs since becoming a full time major leaguer, and his on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS were all the lowest of his career. On the plus side, since 2009, Morales has hit 98 home runs, an average of about 20 home runs per year (baseball-reference.dom projects him to average 25 home runs over a 162 game season. It would be impossible for him to play all 162 games since the Royals signed him to be the full time DH). His RBI totals have been a little less consistent over his career and he does have a tendency to ground into double plays, although not as many as Billy “Ground Into Double Plays” Butler does. Another positive includes that he comes at a slightly cheaper price than Butler, although the Royals are stuck with him for 2 years.

Alex Rios signed a one-year deal for $11 million to play right field, a move that many seem to be uber-critical against. Rios has also suffered an offensive drop-off in the past few seasons, seeing his home run totals decline from 25 in 2012 to only 4 last season.  However, Rios has been fairly consistent over his 11 years in the league, hitting double-digit home runs in all but two seasons of his career. He has also posted at least 11 stolen bases every season he has played, and is known as an excellent hitter against left-handed pitching, which means that he could be in a platoon with Jarrod Dyson in right field.

The signings of Morales and Rios are certainly not the worst thing in the world, and the Royals still earn compensation picks if/when James Shields signs with another team. I feel that the Royals decided not to change too much from a team that competed for a World Series title, partly due to payroll concerns, and partly due to the youth and rising expenses of their current core players. With several players due raises and others expecting to earn more in arbitration this summer, the Royals could not afford to pursue big name free agents, although they certainly tried to get Yasmany Tomas, Melky Cabrera, and Ervin Santana. I would have loved to see the Royals get any of those three, but sadly, Royals fans will only see them at Kauffman on opposing teams. 

I am not an optimist and certainly on this blog I exude pessimism, but this team should have a winnign record in 2015. However, the rest of the AL Central got incredibly tougher and the Royals may struggle to keep up. The Royals coaches and front staff may be banking on Salvy, Hosmer and Gordon all performing better than they did in 2014 (it should not be too tough for Hosmer and Perez to step it up a little bit). If that happens, and the Royals get a decent starting pitcher to replace James Shields, the Royals can contend (again) in 2015.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Royal Thanks

As Thanksgiving swiftly approaches and the wounds of the Royals’ disappointing Game 7 defeat slowly heal, I thought it would be nice to take a moment and reflect on things that I am thankful for regarding the Boys in Blue that just gave Kansas City its greatest October since 1985. So below you will find a list of blessings provided by Alex Gordon and Co.

Blessing #1: A trip to the World Series. Only 2 out of 30 MLB teams make the World Series. Being one of the last two teams left was incredibly unexpected and so amazing. Kansas City has had so much disappointment (Chiefs haven’t won a playoff game in 20 years) and negative attention (Jovan Belcher suicide), and no city was more deserving of a World Series appearance than the Paris of the Plains.  

Blessing #2: The end of the playoff drought. What was a much-publicized point of embarrassment Kansas City’s history became moot on September 26, 2014 when the Royals beat the White Sox in Chicago and clinched a berth in the playoffs. Just remembering that night brings back a gamut of emotions. 9/26/2014: NEVER FORGET. 

Blessing #3: MLB playoff history. The Royals made MLB history by winning their first 8 games of the 2014 postseason, after sweeping the Angels and Orioles and defeating the A’s in their Wild Card matchup. Ned Yost became the first manager in MLB history to win his first 8 postseason games. And the Royals finished the postseason with an 11-4 record, the best possible record you can have and not win the World Series. I LOVE THE ROYALS.

Blessing #4: The emergence of Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura. Rather than re-hash these two pitchers’ season stats, let me just be a fan for once: These guys rock. Duffy was unhittable in 2014 and Ventura literally throws fire. If they stay healthy, OMG they are going to be freaking good. The (potential) impending loss of James Shields is truly softened by these young guns becoming Major League weapons.

Blessing #5: Success in the face of failure. What I mean by this is that several Royals players actually showed regression in 2014 (compared to 2013), yet the team as a whole was able to overcome that regression and prove that the whole is better than the sum of its parts. Billy Butler having the lowest batting average of his career? Alex Gordon slumping in several parts of the season? No problem. Baseball is a team sport and someone else will pick the team up. In fact, the Royals run through the postseason showed how great of a team they truly were, with multiple players having game winning hits or having a huge impact on the outcome of the games (rather than relying SOLELY ON MADISON BUMF***** LIKE THE STUPID GIANTS DID).

Blessing #6: Kansas City is on the map. I spent the most of my life in Blue Springs, a stone’s throw from Kaufmann and Arrowhead Stadiums, and I have immense pride in KC. However, Kansas City is mostly known as a part of flyover country, or a perennially bunch of losers, or just plain not good enough to compete with the Big Market Big Boys. WELL GUESS WHAT NEW YORK AND BOSTON? WE JUST MADE THE WORLD SERIES SO YOU CAN SUCK IT.  One of my favorite things from the past few months is that the World Series garnered a high television rating and is one of the most watched sports events of 2014. No one cares about the crappy Red Sox or Ancient Yankees. The Royals represent new blood and the new old  way to play baseball. I LOVE IT.

Blessing #7: The Chiefs are also good and Sporting KC and the Comets won their Championships in 2013 and K-State could win the Big 12 Title in football this year and OMG IT LOOKS LIKE KC IS THE CENTER OF THE SPORTS UNIVERSE DOESN’T IT? Great stuff.

There are countless other examples of blessings the Royals gave KC, and rather than post them all here, I challenge you to remember them on your own. And when you gather with family tomorrow think about those blessing that the Royals (and Chiefs) have given us, and be thankful that KC should now be a model for other cities and teams. We are WINNERS. WE ARE KANSAS CITY.

Below is a pic of Salvy Perez giving you a turkey for Thanksgiving. Just like Dwayne Bowe and Anthony Sherman did for KC today. What a fantastic city to live in. Happy Thanksgiving y’all.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Bye Bye Billy

It has taken me awhile to process things and get over the World Series, but I think I am finally able to publicly state my complete and utter hatred for Madison Butthead and the San Francisco Giant Lucky Ducks. So here it is, Madison Butthead:
I wrote that in a font called Rockwell Extra Bold to indicate how boldly I hate you. I also wrote it in Royal Blue to indicate that I Royally hate your greasy hair and gi-normous nose. You are a fine pitcher but you did not win the National League MVP or Cy Young award and that is because you come from a gross dirty city and you are a total jerk. Instead of hogging all the World Series innings, maybe let someone else pitch ok?! Gawd I hate you.

I do not feel ready yet to analyze the World Series other than my hatred for the douche above, but I will chime in some thoughts on Billy Butler’s recent departure.

First of all, I think it was time for Billy to go. I loved every single player on the 2014 Royals’ team, but Billy but have been the one I loved the least. He was slow, hit into 21 double plays, had little power and was mostly worthless in the field. At only 28 years old, he was supposed to be in his prime, but as you will see below, his production is currently approaching Raul Ibanez levels.

Second, Billy entered the MLB as a First Round pick in 2004 and debuted in 2007. He had a slow but somewhat steady rise in various hitting categories up until 2010 or 2011 (depending on which categories you examine). For example, his home run totals increased his first 3 years then dropped off in 2010. His RBI totals had the same pattern. His batting average and slugging increased in 2010 despite a drop off in other areas. His generally slid down a bit in 2011 before having his phenomenal 2012, when he was the Royals’ lone All-Star and set career highs for home runs, RBI’s and slugging percentage. Since then? He has fell off the cliff. In 2014, he hit a full 20 fewer home runs than his career high, had the second fewest RBI’s since his second year in the league, had the lowest batting average of his career yet still had the fourth most strikeouts in one season in his 8 years in the MLB. He also hit into 21 double plays, further demonstrating his complete lack of speed and hustle.

Third, and this is a theme that I simply cannot get over, Billy HIT INTO 21 DOUBLE PLAYS in 2014, after hitting into 28 and 20 in the previous two years, respectively. That is 138 outs in just 69 at-bats! You SUCK! What a complete waste of an at-bat and someone getting on base in front of him. The KC Star columnist Lee Judge wrote a (very annoying) column about productive outs in baseball and guess what Billy? Grounding into double plays are basically the second LEAST PRODUCTIVE OUT you can make, besides hitting into a triple play (a feat that is basically so rare that through 2013, only 691 had occurred in the MLB since 1876, an average of only 5 triple plays per year). YOUR GROUNDING INTO DOUBLE PLAYS WILL NOT BE MISSED BILLY.
Lastly, I just want to mention that Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane said that Billy Butler will play first base versus lefthanded pitchers. Ha! The A’s are probably going to suck those days. I do think that Billy’s batting numbers will increase because Kauffman Stadium tends to suppress home runs, but I do not think Billy is worth the $10 million the A’s will be paying him. Based on his salary and numbers last year, each of Billy’s home runs in 2014 was worth $888,888.88 which is a considerable sum to pay for only 9 home runs. Bon Voyage Billy and best of luck in Oakland. Please bring your BBQ sauce with you.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Judgement Day (and superstitions)

Last night’s win was very satisfying. Even though there is still one more game to play, boy did it feel good to lay a smackdown on the Giants. It was a statement game almost, with the Royals boldly stating “We are still here and we are not going down without a fight.”

All nine Royals starters had at least one hit. Moose set a new franchise record with his 5th postseason home run. Eric Hosmer tied the franchise record with his 20th hit of the postseason. Yordano Ventura looked like a seasoned veteran with ice in his veins, refusing to be rattled even after loading the bases. And the best part is that Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland all got the day off, leaving them fresh for tonight. 

And tonight is Judgment Day:
I am nervous, but proud. The Dawn of a New Age in Kansas City begins tonight. Everything rests in the hands of Jeremy Guthrie, Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, and the rest of the Boys In Blue. No matter what superstitions you believe in, no matter the coincidences below, one game decides whether we all rejoice and revel tonight. 

For the Royals, the following coincidences exist:
Bret Saberhagen won game 7 in the 1985 World Series. He will throw out the first pitch tonight. Saberhagen’s son was born during the 1985 World Series, and that son later played on the same college team as Greg Holland. Holland just gave birth to a son during this World Series.

Also, the Royals were down 3 games to 2, then won the final two games at home in the 1985 World Series. They are one game away from repeating that. 

As a control variable to consider, this year marks the end of “Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks being played at Kauffman Stadium during the 7th inning stretch. Do you think that song has any effect on the game? 

For the Giants, the following coincidences exist:
The Giants won the World Series in 2010 and missed the playoffs in 2011. The Giants won it again in 2012 then missed the playoffs in 2013. They are one game away from continuing the trend. 

As a control variable to consider, Taylor Swift released an album in 2010. Then released an album in 2012. Then released an album yesterday. Do you really think that Taylor Swift has any effect on who wins the World Series? This is a completely pointless example of how trends and coincidences have no meaning on tonight’s game. It is up to the Royals to win that championship!

I will admit to having minor superstitions and I have tried to avoid jinxing the Royals this postseason. In reality, what they have accomplished is completely independent of what shirt you are wearing, what you ate for breakfast, and whether you sit in the exact same seat wherever you are watching the game. Superstitions take away from the fact that the team made it this far by playing good baseball, BUT FEEL FREE TO DO EVERYTHING IN YOUR POWER TO HELP THE ROYALS WIN. Wear your lucky shirt or hat or socks, eat THE EXACT SAME FOODS YOU ATE YESTERDAY, sit in the same spot on your couch, and do WHATEVER ELSE YOU CAN to help Dem Roys win this World Series!!!!! Please. I would like to attend the potential victory parade in KC, and I can't do that unless the Royals win. 

The Royals theme song all postseason has been We Ready. So are YOU and your superstitions ready? 

Let's Go Royals!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Respect Dem Roys

This weekend was pretty darn tough for Royals fans. Two straight losses in the World Series put their title hopes in danger. Stupid Hunter Pence has been playing out of his mind like the meth-head that he resembles. James Shields cannot strike anyone out and the Royals’ shutdown bullpen finally showed its human side. 

The Royals’ backs are to the wall and face elimination and a second place finish with a loss tonight. BUT THAT MEANS THE ROYALS ARE THE SECOND BEST TEAM IN BASEBALL. At the absolute worst, the Royals are the best American League team and second best team in all of the MLB. That is amazing. No one predicted this, few of us thought we would make the playoffs, much less beat the Oakland A’s.

But the Royals made it this far and it is time to pay them the respect they deserve.

Currently, Mike Moustakas has the most home runs in the playoffs (4). Who predicted that?!?

Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer have the most RBI’s (10) among all playoff players this postseason. 

Greg Holland tied an MLB record with 7 saves in one postseason (he can still get two more!), and was third overall in the MLB with 46 saves. He also won the inaugural Mariano Rivera award, given to the best American League Relief Pitcher. 

Alex Gordon finished the regular season worth 6.6 Wins Above Replacement, better than all but 6 players in the MLB. 

Rookie Yordano Ventura had the 10th lowest ERA in the American League (3.20), and James Shields was right behind him at 3.21. Jason Vargas was also in the top 25 lowest ERA's.

Ventura also averaged 97 MPH on his fastball this season, highest in the Majors and just insane to think about. 

Four Royals players are finalists for a Gold Glove – Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Salvy Perez, and Alcides Escobar. All but Escobar won Gold Gloves last season, and the Royals best fielder didn’t even make this list. Lorenzo Cain was left off, even though he led AL outfielders in defensive Wins Against Replacement. They had the most players selected as finalists in the American League, tied with the Dodgers for most overall. What an accomplishment. 

They finished 4th best in the league with 40 defensive runs saved.

The Royals as a team had the fewest strikeouts and 4th highest batting average in all of baseball, by far had the most stolen bases of every team, and had the fifth most total hits, including the seventh most doubles. 

And of course, they ended a 29-year playoff drought, set an MLB postseason record by winning their first 8 playoff games, tied the record for most stolen bases in one playoff game, and have endeared themselves to all of America while simultaneously making Kansas City the Greatest City Ever.

No matter what happens tonight (or even tomorrow night), I am immensely proud to call the Royals my favorite team, and I will never forget the 2014 Royals, those Boys in Blue who made October the best month KC has ever experienced. 

Please go to The K tonight, cheer on Dem Roys as loud as you can and be proud of a great season.