Monday, February 29, 2016

A Royal leap

In honor of Leap Day, I thought I would leap back 4 years and take a look at the Kansas City Royals of 2012. Not to dredge up old, crappy memories, but rather to appreciate how far the team has come. I thought it might also be fun to leap 4 years into the future and predict what the 2020 Royals might be like.

Four years ago, the Royals were hot garbage. They finished the season 72-90, which was good for third place in the AL Central, and was only 16 games behind the Tigers. I say only 16 games because the Royals of the seasons prior to 2012 typically finished at least 20 games out of first place. 

The 2012 season was notable for several things:

  • The team started the season in their typical awful fashion, finishing the first month of the season with a 6-15 record. In those days, any hope for the season was usually lost on Opening Day. We now expect to go to the World Series every year. Suck it Father Time!

  • The longest winning streak of the season was 4 games (which the team accomplished 4 times) and the longest losing streak was 12 games. Twelve stinking games!

  • The Royals’ 2012 Opening Day pitcher was Bruce Chen. BRUCE CHEN! What the heck!

  • Speaking of crappy Royals players, Jeff Francouer was the starting right fielder in 2012. Frenchy was a turd and that is all I have to say about him.

  • Since 2012, the Royals’ starting player at first base, third base, short stop, left field and center field have been Hosmer, Moose, Escobar, Gordon and Cain, all of whom will (barring injury) make their 5th straight season-opening start at those positions this year (Salvy did not start opening day in 2012). That is some remarkable consistency!

  • The end of the 2012 will forever be remembered for the Wade Davis Trade in December, which used to be known as the Wil Myers Trade, and also known as What-The-Eff-Is-Dayton-Moore-Doing Trade. Two consecutive World Series appearances now mean that all Dayton Moore haters can go suck it.

Hard to believe those things happened only a short 4 years ago. Thinking about the Royals 4 years in the future is equally interesting. The Royals currently have 7 players on the roster signed through 2020, who are Christian Colon, Cheslor Cuthbert, Alex Gordon, Yordano Ventura, Terrance Gore, Paulo Orlando, and Brian Flynn, and they will likely still have some young players like Bubba Starling, Raul Mondesi,  and Miguel Almonte. I can also see the team re-signing Lorenzo Cain and Salvy Perez through at least 2020, and Ian Kennedy might still be on the roster. Assuming that Starling, Almonte, Mondesi, Colon and Cuthbert are all in the MLB in 2020, the only holes to fill are at first base, starting pitcher and relief pitcher. Those holes could be filled with some current prospects like Kyle Zimmer, Ashe Russell and Nolan Watson. The 2020 team would still be young. 

The Royals will likely have a new TV deal in 2020, which should allow them to afford higher-priced free agents. They might be able to sign someone like Manny Machado, Freddie Freeman or Nolan Arenado in 2020 to provide veteran leadership and a proven bat alongside Alex Gordon. If I was GM Dayton Moore, I would work to re-sign Wade Davis as it seems he could have a long career in the bullpen, similar to Mariano Rivera. I would guess that Ned Yost retires in 2-3 years, which would mean the 2020 Royals would have a new manager. My predicted 2020 Kansas City Royals Opening Day lineup:

Raul Mondesi, SS
Christian Colon, 2B
Lorenzo Cain, RF
Freddie Freeman, 1B
Michael Brantley, DH
Alex Gordon, LF
Sal Perez, C
Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B
Bubba Starling, CF
Yordano Ventura, SP
Fredi Gonzalez, Manager

Monday, February 22, 2016

Coaching vs Playing

With the signing (and re-signing) of multiple free agent pitchers, the Royals now have a nice deep rotation that should enable the best pitchers to make the team and eat up some innings in hopes of giving the vaunted (and overused) bullpen some rest. Some of those pitchers are coming back from injuries and understandably come with a set of question marks, but does anyone really doubt the wizardry of pitching coach Dave Eiland? He has created too many success stories to count. Not to mention, Ned Yost seems to have managed to find a way to bring out the best in many of his players, especially after everyone else has given up on them. 

All of which begs the question: How do the Royals coaches create so much magic? Are they wizards? Did they sell their souls in exchange for special coaching powers? Or, perhaps, were they all superior athletes who have the ability to translate their skills onto their players? I was curious, so I thought I would take a look at the Royals’ coaches playing careers:

Rusty Kuntz, “Mr. Handsome”
Russell Jay Kuntz played parts of 7 years in the MLB as an outfielder, logging a grand total of 5 home runs, 104 hits, and a career batting average of .236, which was worth -0.8 Wins Against Replacement. I’m guessing his career was so short due to Omar Infante-like levels of offensive production. However, one does not simply make it to the Majors with no marketable skills, and it appears that Rusty was a decent fielder, committing only 5 total errors while garnering 8 assists. His career fielding percentage is 98.5% which is acceptable considering he played in over 1100 innings. Rusty has shown a propensity for being a better coach than player, and I am not sure if he is a natural at coaching, or if he is looking for revenge on his former teams, which happen to be the Tigers, White Sox and Twins. 
Rusty, the ridiculously good-looking Royals coach
Dave Eiland, “The Wizard”
David William Eiland was drafted by the New York Yankees in 1987 and pitched in parts of 10 years in the MLB before moving into coaching. His career record as a starter is 12-27 (yikes) with an overall ERA of 5.74. Sounds like he could have pitched for the Royals in the early 2000s! He threw 153 strikeouts in 92 games, which I suppose is pretty good considering he only gave up 46 home runs. He also issued 118 walks and 465 hits, good for a career WHIP of 1.56 and -2.4 WAR, which is pretty awful and reminds me of Luke Hochevar’s early years as a starter. Dave pitched poor enough that he was demoted to the minors for 3 separate seasons during his 10-year stint in the Majors. Interestingly enough, he was the 1990 Pitcher of the Year for the International League (Minors) and he has hit one career home run, which occurred in 1992 while a member of the Padres. It is pretty clear that Dave is a much better coach than player and has helped the Royals develop and rehabilitate pitchers since 2011, including Chris Young, Ryan Madson, Jeremy Guthrie, Jason Vargas, Yordano Ventura, Wade Davis, and Hochevar. 
Dave, the Wizard of Kauffman
Dale Sveum, “The Hitting Savior”
Dale Curtis Sveum was the 25th overall selection in the 1982 amateur draft. He played parts of 12 years in the Majors, logging most of his time at shortstop and third base. Dale smacked 69 home runs with a career batting average of .236, tying him with Rusty Kuntz for the coveted Best Career Batting Average among Royals coaches. Dale was worth -2.3 WAR over his playing career, which was the longest of all Royals’ coaches. He was brought in as the hitting coach in 2014, when the Royals were trotting out a carousel of hitting coaches (6 different ones in an 18 month period!). Considering the Royals just won a World Series with Sveum, he is clearly good at what he does. I think it is safe to say he is a better coach than player. 
Dale, the Royals' Hitting Savior
Ned Yost, "El Capitan"
Edgar Frederick Yost was the 7th pick of the 1974 June secondary amateur draft. Yeah, I did not know that either. Ned played parts of 6 years in the Majors, all as a catcher (and sometimes DH), hitting 16 home runs with a career batting average of .212, which was worth -3.7 WAR. He also committed 16 errors behind the plate, so in an odd coincidence, both Ned and Rusty have a pristine Home Run to Error Ratio (HRTE) of 1.00. I highly doubt that many other pro MLB players have an HRTE of exactly 1.00 so we Royals fans should feel lucky (just to pull out some random names, David Dejesus’ HRTE is 4.13, George Brett’s is 1.09, Alex Gordon’s is 2.35 and Chris Getz’s is a comical 0.13).  

As a manager, Capt. Ned has a career record of 925-971, including 468-469 as the Royals skipper. He also has the most wins in Royals history as a manager and the highest winning percentage in the MLB postseason history. Quite an accomplishment for a guy with an HRTE of 1.00! We see yet again a successful Royals coach who was not a good player. 

Captain Ned
The other Royals coaches do not have much MLB playing experience (Don Wakamatsu played in 18 games in 1991 for the White Sox and produced an OPS+ of 34). Overall, they are worth -9.5 WAR. I wonder how many WAR other teams' coaches are worth. Obviously, being a good player is not a requirement for being a good coach, and it’s pretty clear the Royals coaches are very adept despite playing careers that left much to be desired.    

Friday, February 19, 2016

Royals' Tattoos

Paulo Orlando, the Brazilian Bomber and Triple Master, was recently photographed after getting a tattoo of himself playing for the Royals (see below). The tattoo commemorates his debut with KC, and is seriously awesome. I loved watching Orlando play last season, and will love him even more now that I know that he is willing to permanently etch his own likeness on his skin. I really hope we see him beat the living tar out of the White Sox’s Brett Lawrie in 2016, then tattoo a series of images depicting the beating across his torso. Viva la Paulo!
I thought it would be fun to imagine some other Royals tattoos that would be enjoyable to see: 
  • Salvy's Gatorade showers are now legendary. So why not get a tattoo of Salvy splashing himself?
  • Wade Davis is the best reliever in baseball, partly because his pitches are insanely nasty, and partly because of the Death Stare that he gives each batter. So why not add an EXTRA Death Stare to Wade's forehead, providing an additional set of menacing eyes to scare the batter?
  •  During the 2014 playoffs, Lorenzo Cain became renowned for his ability to catch any ball hit within the same zip code in which he was standing. Why not commemorate his superhuman ability with a tattoo showing his range, which spans across all of North America and into the Atlantic Ocean?
  • Jonny Gomes' mic drop was one of the best events in KC sports history. Jonny should ink that moment into his head so all of Japan will know the Royals beat 'that guy too' when he plays baseball there this season.
  • If I was Ned Yost, I would forever commemorate the Royals' 2015 World Series Championship with a neck tattoo so all the haters could suck it. #Yosted 
Spring Training is now here, so maybe some of the other Royals players will show off some new ink!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Royals Valentines

In honor of this year's celebration of love, I present to you Valentines from the team I love the most. Feel free to distribute them to loved ones and those in need of some cheer:

Thursday, February 11, 2016

AL Central storylines to watch in 2016

With Spring Training just around the corner (pitchers and catchers report one week from today!), there are many questions surrounding the defending World Champion Kansas City Royals. Can they win a 3rd straight AL pennant? Is Ian Kennedy really worth $70 million? Did the team do enough to stay competitive with the rest of the AL Central?

Regarding that last question, I thought it would be worthwhile to check out the rest of the Royals’ division to see what they did this offseason and determine any storylines worth keeping an eye on as the 2016 MLB season draws near:

Minnesota Twins (2015 record: 83-79, 2nd place)
The Twins were surprisingly decent in 2015 behind a few stars (Brian Dozier, Miguel Sano) and despite not really being great at anything. Their closer Phil Hughes saved 32 of 35 games, but their offense was incredibly mediocre, ranking 26 in batting average and 28 in OBP. Their offseason moves were pretty much adding a Korean slugger (Byung Ho Park) and watching veteran Torii Hunter retire. They also have the top rated prospect in all of baseball in Byron Buxton and I would expect him to see extended time in the MLB this season. However, unless one of their pitchers breaks out with a shutdown season, they probably won’t make the playoffs. The real storyline to watch in Minnesota is WILL THE TWINS BEGIN OFFERING KIMCHI FRIES IN THEIR CONCESSION OPTIONS now that they have a Korean player on their team? I would be hugely in favor of Kimchi Helmet Fries:
Cleveland Indians (2015 record: 81-80, 3rd place)
The Cleveland Indians have been the trendy pick to reach the World Series for a few years now, and they grossly underachieved in 2015. I attended the Houston Astros Opening Day in 2015 when they played Cleveland, and that game was a remarkable harbinger of the Indians’ entire season: Great starting pitching, mediocre bullpen, and complete lack of timely hitting. The Indians lost 2-0 that day. Ha! This offseason, the Indians added Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis, hoping to keep their core players intact (Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes). They also added Joba Chamberlain to the delight of Royals fans everywhere, and apparently now offer a hot dog covered in fruitloops. Seriously. A hot dog covered in sugary breakfast cereal. The Cleveland Indians are a prime candidate for why America is so messed up.

The 2016 Indians squad have a formidable trio of starting pitchers in Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco, as well as a young stud in Franciso Lindor. They might be the team that challenges the Royals for the AL Central title, or they might be the team that delivers diabetes to all of northeast Ohio.The storyline to watch in Cleveland this year is CAN JOHNNY MANZIEL BURN THE CITY TO THE GROUND BEFORE ANY CLEVELAND SPORTS TEAM WINS ANOTHER CHAMPIONSHIP?
Chicago White Sox (2015 record: 76-86, 4th place)
The 2015 White Sox were terrible on defense, terrible at pitching, and terrible hitters. The only thing they were good at was fighting the Royals, and since they signed the MLB’s biggest assclown Brett Lawrie, we can expect more fighting in 2016. Chicago made many offseason moves, adding the solid bat of Todd Frazier, catchers Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro, and pitcher Mat Latos. The 2016 Sox will have power potential at 1B (Jose Abreu), DH (Adam Laroche), 3B (Frazier), and if Melky Cabrera can bounce back, the OF. Adam Eaton is a solid leadoff man, and Chris Sale, David Robertson and John Danks make for a solid pitching trio, although Robertson is worthless if the Sox never have a late-inning lead. The south side of Chicago could be a tough team in 2016, but the storyline to watch is WILL THE CUBS MAKE THE WORLD SERIES? Let’s be honest, no one cares about the White Sox and the most entertaining aspect of the team is that Brett Lawrie wears a huge set of bullseyes:
Detroit Tigers (2015 record: 74-87, LAST PLACE HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!)
In 2003, the Detroit Tigers set the American league record for most losses in a season, a fact that I never get tired of repeating. In 2015, the Tigers were one of the worst teams in baseball. They fired their GM, watched Miggy Cabrera sit out due to injury for the first time in his career, cycled through the worst relievers in baseball, traded off Yoenis Cespedes and David Price, saw Justin Verlander pitch in the fewest games since his debut season, and watched the Kansas City Royals run the table on the entire league. Sucks to be you, Detroit! So the Tigers promptly went out and purchased every free agent they could, dropping huge chunks of change on Justin Upton, Jordan Zimmerman, Francisco Rodriguez, Cameron Maybin, and Mike Pelfrey. It would be nice to have their money, but it has been amazing watching them squander their riches since they have won ZERO WORLD SERIES TITLES SINCE 1984. Suck it douche bags. The storyline to watch in Detroit is when will their 86-year old owner Mike Ilitich finally kick the bucket? He already appears to be a corpse straight from The Walking Dead:
(By the way, this photo has not been doctored in any way. Mike Ilitch really does look like a corpse)

So there you have it, the storylines to keep an eye on in the AL Central. I will be posting my predictions, expectations, and thoughts about the 2016 Royals in the coming days and weeks, so be sure to check back in. In the meantime, if you have never had kimchi fries, crawl out from the rock you live under and go have some.