Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Royals Recap

It's been quite a while since I've written much about the Royals, and a lot has happened.

But nothing has changed.

Has it really been over a month since I've talked about my favorite American League baseball team? Yes, it has.

Since June 2nd, the Royals have:
  • Went 14-20.
  • Had a five game winning streak.
  • Had an eight game losing streak.
  • Continued to let Jose Lima occupy a roster spot.
  • Brought up J.P. Howell.
  • Not traded anyone.

So, in other words, nothing really newsworthy except for Howell, who has been underwhelming in his six starts thus far. He's not ready, and won't just magically "get it", either. His remaining time with the team will mirror that of Lima, as both should not be on this team, and the longer they stay, the more embarrassing the situation gets for Royals GM Allard Baird. I like Baird a lot, but despite there really not being any alternatives for the rotation that inspire much hope, my money would be that anyone replacing these two would stand a decent chance of not sporting an ERA of 7.33 or 8.65 (Lima and Howell, respectively). It's PR time, Allard, get Lima out of Kansas City any way you have to, and send Howell down to AAA Omaha to work on...well, everything.

Not trading anyone, I think, will change by the middle of this month. The Royals do have some attractive pieces to some team's puzzle. Tony Graffanino is one, a utility player who is swinging a decent bat -- actually, a very good bat for a utility player. His current line is .309/.387/.409, and while he's no great shakes defensively, he can play every position in the infield...as a matter of fact, he's played every position in the infield already this year. And while he's never been much with the bat, his numbers this year aren't so out of line that he couldn't continue to put out solid production, if he's not relied upon too heavily. Odd thing about his numbers this year? Graffy's OPS against right-handed pitchers is 150 points above his production against left-handed pitchers, something that isn't likely to continue given that he's never done that at any other time in his career (even including this year's number, his OPS against lefties is about 160 points higher than against righties over the last three seasons). So, don't expect his numbers to stay quite this good, but in limited at-bats they may not drop too far. At 1.1 million this season, I'm sure a bunch of teams will inquire about his services.

Another interesting piece is Royals reliever Mike MacDougal, he of the occasional triple-digit fastball and hardly-harnessed breaking ball. Mac's numbers this season are the best in his career, topping his 2003 All-Star (ahem) season in a few different categories: a higher strikeout rate, a better k/bb ratio, a lower WHIP, a slightly better ERA, and a lot less hit batsmen. Does this mean Mac's got his control down, finally, at the age of 28? No, he doesn't really have it down, I think, but this could be as good as it gets -- and it's really not too bad. With that arm and the strikeouts, he's definitely a valuable commodity. And, get this, he makes less than $400,000. If that doesn't get some queries from other GM's, I don't know what will.

Interesting that around the Royals blogosphere I see little mention of Emil Brown in trade rumours/suggestions. Like MacDougal, Brown brings one big factor into the mix: cheap-tivity. His line of .286/.357/.451 isn't spectacular, and isn't all that great for a corner outfielder. But there's plenty of teams who have players who are hurt and/or ineffective, and wouldn't mind seeing Brown's bat in their lineup hitting 6th or 7th -- especially for the mere pittance of less than $400,000. Ahem. His defense, too, leaves a lot to be desired, but to reiterate -- I'm not preaching Brown's overall mediocrity as a selling point, but Brown's mediocrity at that price as a selling point. One small boost in his value is, that his production holds steady vs. left and right-handed pitchers (.802 OPS vs. lefties, .810 OPS vs. righties). As a right-handed batter, I find it extremely interesting that his power drops vs. righties (33 SLG points less than against lefties), but his batting average and plate discipline is better vs. righties (28 points better batting average, 14 points better ISO discipline). Ought to be a few teams interested, I would think.

Other names that are likely to come up are Matt Stairs, Jeremy Affeldt, Terrence Long, and...yes, Mike Sweeney. Stairs' allure is the same as it always has been -- left-handed power bat off the bench. Affeldt's arm and left-handed-ness could be attractive. Long...well, um, I suppose some team's could want a veteran 4th outfielder, but if they ask about Long before they ask about Brown, they're on crack. I'm going to side-step the issue of any potential trade of Sweeney, just because it's been beat-up so much in...oh, the last couple of years among Royals fans.

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