Posts tagged ‘Kansas City Royals’

Saturday: 05.4.2013

Jeremy Guthrie’s New “Success”

Jeremy Guthrie has a 3.06 ERA through five starts which looks like a continuation of his post-trade work with the Royals from last season when he had a 3.16 ERA in 91 innings over 14 starts. All told, he had a 3.14 ERA in 123 2/3 innings with 1.10 WHIP. He is blasting the zone resulting in a minuscule 5.8 percent walk rate – a marked improvement over his 6.9 percent career rate. His strikeout rate is at 16 percent as a Royal, up from a 14.3 career mark. Everything seems to suggest he has found a new level of production in his early-30s with his new club.

That strikes me as odd, though.

You don’t usually see a guy with 1111 innings of a certain level of production become something significantly better in their 30s. At least not without a major change in their pitch mix either by adding a pitch or using what he has differently. There hasn’t been any of that with Guthrie which made his improvement even more suspicious. This split of his innings as a Royal definitely stood out:

Guthrie

IP

ERA

WHIP

K%

BB%

vs. CWS

35.7

0.50

0.81

21%

2%

vs. Rest

87.7

4.21

1.31

14%

7%

Guthrie has owned his Saturday night opponent since becoming a Royal and it is driving his new found success. Against the rest of the league, he’s simply been the solid, if unspectacular Jeremy Guthrie we’ve known for nearly a decade, but he’s a Cy Young frontrunner against the Pale Hose. Let’s see if he continues the dominance tonight in Kauffman Stadium.

For those wondering, two of these five starts have come in Kauffman Stadium and he’s allowed five runs, but only one earned in 13 2/3 innings with nine strikeouts and two walks.

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Tuesday: 02.5.2013

Countdown to Spring Training: 17 Days – Alex Gordon

Only 17 days until live game action…

With 30 days to go, I started profiling a hitter per day highlighting one from each team. I selected my player of note from each team and then randomized them (which was pretty interesting consider who the final two were after the randomization) so that’s the order I’ll be following.

Just under the wire! It’s still Tuesday for me. I went to dinner with my podcast co-host and long-time friend Jason Collette and I was pumping out SP Guide work all afternoon so the Countdown got short shrift until after dinner.

Stupid sidenote: the last four Countdown entrants have first names that start with “A”. Isn’t your life better now?

ALEX GORDON

Drafted with the second overall pick in 2005, Alex Gordon was tabbed as the savior of the franchise almost immediately. He was a mix of George Brett, Ryan Gosling (not yet a mega-star, but he’d done The Notebook so throwing him into the mix was betting on the come back then), and a unicorn. He started his pro career in Double-A and obliterated the league in 2006 vaulting himself to the top of the prospect heap heading into 2007 according to Kevin Goldstein and #2 overall according to Baseball America.

He wasn’t even Gosling circa “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” posting an uninspired .247/.314/.411 line in 601 plate appearances. It got better in 2008, but only because he had set the bar so low. Things actually got worse in 2009-2010 resulting in trips back to the minors in each season where he ended playing 30 and 75 games, respectively, split across a few levels. A hip injury in 2009 cost him three months and that was sandwiched by quadriceps and thumb injuries in 2008 and 2010 that both required time on the disabled list. He was not only failing to live up to the lofty expectations, but through 2010 it was hard not to see him as a bust. He’d had a career 95 OPS+ in 1642 PA.

It all turned around in 2011. He finally stayed healthy again and not only had his best season yet (not a difficult feat given what he’d done to date), but also had a legitimate star-level season. He registered a 7.1 bWAR and 6.9 fWAR in his first full season as a leftfielder, having switched over from third base. He proved to be not only adequate out in left, but exemplary as his 12 kills doubled the next best from a leftfielder (Gerardo Parra, 6) and led all of baseball as he narrowly edged teammate Jeff Francoeur by one.

Finally.

Last year’s follow was a bit off the pace, about a full win at both sites, but still a star level offering. Gordon has hit .298/.372/.478 the past two years in 1411 PA with 37 home runs and 96 doubles, including an MLB-best 51 last year. Are his 37 home runs a disappointment? When he was expected to become Georygos Brettunicornling, I think many were looking at 30 bombs a year. Brett only averaged 17 during his career with a 162-game average of 20, but he never struck out (career 7.8% K rate) so Gordon was supposed to trade those Ks for more homers. It took Brett 9196 PA to strikeout out 634 times; Gordon has fanned 641 times in 3053 PA. Different eras and Gordon isn’t Brett so I’m not holding him to that standard, just showing the incredible gap.

In the midst of his prime at age-29 with back-to-back seasons of 45 and 51 doubles, some are still expecting a home outburst as there is an adage that believes a player with a ton of doubles could start translating some of them into home runs with some added strength and/or a bit of good fortune. The thinking being that with 45+ doubles, several are banging off the wall and just missing their exit from the yard. It’s not a terrible notion, but it’s not a birthright if you are a big doubles hitter, either.

Looking at Gordon’s 2011 with 45 doubles and 23 home runs, there are 79 players with seasons of 45+ and 23 or fewer, but only 12 others including Gordon to have pulled off the feat more than once.

gordon1

Hey, it’s George Brett! Gordon is fulfilling the expectation after all! What does this group of players have in common? They never really translated the doubles into an abundance of home runs. Brett’s 30 in 1985 are highest of anyone in that group and he didn’t do it after either of his 45 double seasons. The second name on that list is the one that rings truest when I think about Gordon.

In fact, when I was making my list of which players I wanted to cover for the countdown, I was thinking about Gordon and trying to come up with who he reminded me of after his two big seasons in a row and I kept coming back to Nick Markakis and Shin-Soo Choo. There is nothing with that as both as high quality MLB players. Markakis had run off six straight full season of well above average play (117 OPS+) before being limited to just 104 games last year.

The bottom is that the home runs aren’t coming, not at the quantity that was expected of him as a prospect. He’s going to live in the 15-20 range and may have another season or two where he pushed 25, but barring a major change in his approach, 30 just isn’t happening. He is the prototypical line drive hitter with gap-to-gap power. His line drive rate hit a career-high at 25 percent last year and has lived at or north of 20 for his entire career save that 2009 washout. His flyball rate is on a four year decline hitting a nadir of 32.7 percent a year ago, a far cry from his career-best 47.6 back in 2008.

After spending 172 of his last 312 games as a leadoff hitter, he is currently slated to hit third again with Lorenzo Cain leading off. Hopefully this switch doesn’t prompt Gordon to unnecessarily change his approach thinking he has to be “the man” and go for power in that spot. His work in the 3-hole has been 101 points worse from an OPS standpoint than his leadoff work (883 to 782) and 64 points worse in slugging percentage (.501 to .437).

He needs to stick with his approach from 2011-2012. The move to third in the batting order puts 100+ RBIs into play even if he only hits 14 home runs again. That would be a career high by 13 RBI (2011). Meanwhile he could still score 100 as he did in 2011 (101) provided he maintains or improves his 10 percent walk rate. I think he still viewed as an overall disappointment by some which depresses his fantasy price. Current NFBC draft data has him as the 94th guy off the board, inexplicably behind teammate Eric Hosmer. Don’t be afraid to pay for Gordon, especially at this current discounted rate, but even for a little more should your league price him higher. What he lacks in home run power, he makes up in batting average and runs scored, the two most underrated categories in standard 5×5 leagues.

Thursday: 03.3.2011

Daily Dose – March 3rd

I feel like days should extend to 26 or 27 hours in late February then into March as there is just so much going on.  I’ve got nearly 30 hours of podcasts to catch up on and the oldest one is about a week old so it’s not like I’ve let it accumulate.  My Read It Later app is bubbling over with content.  My “to do” writing list has plenty to take care of on it.  My book list is growing (and adding another next week when Jonah Keri’s Extra 2% comes out).  The release of MLB 2K11 is next week.  Plus I’ve got a 30 Clubs in 30 Days (Kansas City) on the DVR as well as some Spring Training baseball I’d like to check out.

And all that is before fantasy draft prep which will begin in earnest next week as keeper lists start to roll in.  Jeez.  So much to do and so little time.  Especially when you factor in my regular job and sleeping.  Oh well, no need to complain.  It’s better than being bored out of your mind.   February to Opening Day is one of my favorite times of the year despite the fact that I hate winter weather.  It’s not really that bad in Texas plus it’s usually done by the beginning of March.

Ian Casselberry has a very perceptive post on willful ignorance and how it is oftentimes downright annoying.  I deal with the dismissiveness of Twitter a lot when discussing sports with people.  They always say some derivation of “I don’t care who’s eating a sandwich on their couch” as if that’s all you can find on Twitter.  Yes, it started as essentially a place of Facebook statuses, but it’s become SO MUCH more.

Yet despite how often they dismiss it as useless, they come to me just as often for news on trade deadline action and various other breaking news because they know I’ll read about it on Twitter well before it’s up on ESPN.com.  For some of the dissenters, I’ve watched them morph from Twitter hater to Twitter user.  Instead of rubbing it in, I just nod to myself quietly.  As Ian says, it’s not for everybody, but anyone dismissing it as useless out of hand has no idea what they are talking about and comes across as pretty stupid.

Are you trying to curb your enthusiasm for your baseball team, but struggling to do so as you read countless glowing and optimistic reports about them from Spring Training?  Grey Papke does the dirty work for you with his “Why Your Baseball Team Sucks” piece.  It’s a perfect dose of reality to temper your expectations for the upcoming season.

After reading up more on the Zach Sanders piece I shared yesterday on Fantasy Value Above Replacement, I realized it is essentially an extension of something our friends at FB Junkie threw out earlier last month with “Why Not Fantasy VORP?”.  So if you read FB Junkie’s piece back on February 1st, use Sanders’ as a fleshing out of their notion behind fantasy value.

Justin Bopp of Beyond the Boxscore has put together an easy to use Baseball Stat Acronym Pronunciation Guide.  I disagree with the BABIP as I just say it like a work “Ba-bip”, but otherwise he’s pretty spot on.

Sticking at BtB for a moment, Chris Spurlock has offered a great article covering in detail the changes to the bats in college baseball and making it easily digestible whether you’re a math novice or hardcore mathlete.  As mentioned in the article, this should be good news for MLB, primarily from a scouting angle.  While it would suck if it really hurt the college game which is a niche sport already, I am glad it is an improvement for MLB.  Prospect scouting will still be an inexact science rife with failure even at the high end of the draft, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.  Plus I’ve always been someone who enjoys a 3-2 game, so a lowered offensive output in the college game won’t keep me away from following my Longhorns and watching them live a couple times a year.

Ray Guilfoyle of FakeTeams released his catcher rankings today and there were some surprises to be sure.  Regardless of whether or not you agree with his ranking of the top guys, one thing remains clear to me: catcher has some depth to it.  Sure there are still stars at the top, but if you miss out on the Mauers and Poseys, you’re not toast.

Mike Fast from Baseball Prospectus has a cool piece up (for free) looking at the accuracy of Baseball Info Solutions pitch locations.  If you like second, third and even fourth level baseball analysis, in other words really detailed stuff, then you’ll love Fast’s work.  This particular piece has a stunning revelation about the data and specifically it’s usage at FanGraphs.

The San Diego Padres are going to have a tough time replicating their 2010 success (success being relative here as they fell short of the NL West crown on the last day of the season despite leading for quite some time throughout the season) with the loss of their one great hitter Adrian Gonzalez, but there is reason for optimism in the future.  John Sickels breaks down their top two pitching prospects, Simon Castro and Casey Kelly (acquired in the Gonzalez trade), in his Prospect Smackdown series.

This one is nearly a month old, but it got put on the back-burner once I went into full SP guide mode there in early-to-mid February, so in case you missed Jon Weisman’s look at the upcoming “Moneyball” movie, I suggest you take a read.  I have been in the minority with him in that I have been very excited about the movie from the moment I heard it was being made.  It’s gone through a lot, but I think it can be good.  I hadn’t thought of the links to a very popular 2010 movie that Weisman mentions in the piece.  I’d love to see it emulate the success of that film, but even if it doesn’t I think it can be a success in its own right.

One of the best guys over at CBS as far as I’m concerned is Al Melchior.  He’s definitely a stats-heavy guy which is something I inherently lean toward (though he favors taking pitching relatively early so we disagree heavily there), but also the interactive graphics used in his pieces at CBS are fantastic.  The latest is one on positional scarcity and it has a really fun chart to play with at the bottom.  Al is part of the CBS podcasts, too and they just recently finished their positional previews.  They have moved onto Sleepers and Breakouts.  I’d presume that a Busts episode is next as each of the positional podcasts had a Sleepers, Breakouts and Busts portion within it.

One of my favorite things of the fantasy preseason is articles where industry members participate in a mock and then do a write up on their team with the thought process behind each pick.  I find them more helpful than just seeing a list of where everyone went.  In fact, I find the latter next to useless as the flow of a draft, while not as dynamic as that of an auction, is still dynamic nonetheless and it’s hard to get a feel for why things happened without some commentary.  Cory Schwartz participated in a mock picking from the 9-spot and breaks down his draft for us.

Come Chat Tonight: I am still planning on a hosting a chat here at paulsporer.com soon, but tonight I will be chatting at Rotojunkie at 7 PM Eastern.  It will have a pitcher tilt to it of course, but as with my first chat here at the site, I will answer anything fantasy baseball-related.

Baseball Apps: Need to get your iPhone and iPad baseball ready for the season?  Take a look at these baseball apps that should get you well equipped to enjoy the season on the go.

You’ve No Doubt Seen This: But just in case, the baseball fan flowchart is a funny image floating around the blogosphere and Twitterverse.

Remember When…Lance Johnson was a triples machine?  From 1991-1996, Johnson led the league in triples for five of six seasons and hit 12 in the off year (1995, when he had an absurd power surge with 10 HR after never topping 3 before).  I was upset when he left the AL before the 1996 season (10 team AL-Only league) because he had a career year including 50 stolen bases, 117 runs scored, .333 average and 69 RBIs, all career highs.  His nine homers were close to a career high.

It’s purely coincidental that the first two of these segments happen to be about Chicago White Sox, but “One Dog” was a key cog of my early fantasy teams (probably explains why I didn’t win any titles as a kid) and again because I watched a lot of WGN when the Tigers weren’t on, I was very familiar with Johnson and the Sox.

Despite playing three fewer seasons, Johnson has one more career triple than Kenny Lofton (117 to 116).  I found that pretty surprising, but Lofton only had two double-digit seasons in triples and they were 11 years apart (league-high 13 in ’95 and then 12 in ’06).  Of course Lofton has nearly twice as many stolen bases (622/327), nearly four times as many home runs (130/34) and had a significantly higher success rate on the base paths (80%/76%), though both were really good.

Knowledge Bomb: Here is an absurd statistic from Mike Axisa about Hall of Famer Greg Maddux.  Absurd might even be an understatement.  It’s just unfathomably great.  Are you ready for this?  You may have already seen it, but it resonates even on second and third viewing:

 

As Scott Van Pelt & Ryen Russillo say on their radio show, “let that soak in your mentals for a minute”.  That’s so amazing.  Only another 160 saw a 2-0 count.  Maddux was just not a fan of getting behind.  He only retired in 2008 so he is still a few years from getting on the Hall of Fame ballot and while it’s already a joke, the HoF voters would thoroughly embarrass themselves yet again if they made Maddux sit through another round of voting instead of putting him in on the first ballot.