Starling’s Journey Not Done Yet

Credit: Rob Tringali/Getty Images

It all seemed poetic at the time. When Bubba Starling was drafted by the Kansas City Royals as the 5th pick overall in the 2011 MLB Draft, it felt like a story that writers dream about covering. Here was Starling, a graduate of Gardner Edgerton High School in Gardner, Kansas, just outside of Kansas City. Hometown boy drafted by the team he grew up cheering for, right? It was a narrative we all dream of.

The problem is that sometimes life doesn’t play out the way a novel or a script might. Sometimes reality is a bit of a bitter pill, a splash of cold water on the dreamer’s expectations. The hope was that Starling would roam the spacious outfield at Kauffman Stadium, running down fly balls to the adulation of his family and friends. Reality hasn’t been nearly as glossy.

After seven years of wandering in the Kansas City farm system, Starling was non-tendered a contract at the end of November. The belief at the time was that Starling would re-sign with the Royals, this time to a minor league deal. As expected, Starling returned to the organization earlier this week:

So while reality has been less than ideal, the dream for Starling is still technically alive. But as he gets ready for his age 26 season, we have to wonder if the big leagues is still in the cards for Bubba.

Credit: Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports

Most of us are aware of the issues Starling has dealt with, as injuries and offensive struggles have derailed his arrival to Kansas City. Over seven minor league seasons, he has hit a combined .236/.312/.386 over close to 2500 plate appearances. Starling looked to be finally breaking through over the summer of 2017, as he hit .290/.327/.435 from the beginning of May through July 9th. But then an oblique injury sidelined him until August 11; a week later, the oblique knocked him out for the rest of the season.

With Lorenzo Cain gone, center field seemed attainable for Bubba in 2018 if he could get back on track. Unfortunately, the oblique injury lingered, and was then followed by a dislocated left index finger. When it was all said and done, Starling made only 66 plate appearances last year, hitting .296/.415/.611, playing in the rookie league and AAA.   

So now that he is banished from the 40-man roster and on a minor league deal, is there still some upside in Bubba? The truth is that while things might look bleak, the release might have been just what he needed. Expectations have never been lower and I’m sure some will even forget he is still around.

But…if he stays healthy and continues to hit like he did in 2017, we could see Starling in the big leagues. His glove has been major league ready for years and is the true selling point of his talent. Just ask our friends over at Royals Farm Report: 


 The great thing about him too is that, he doesn’t need to hit .300 to be a productive MLB center fielder. Bubba is so good defensively that all he he’d need to do is be an AVERAGE hitter and his defense will actually give him some decent value in the big leagues.

If Bubba can even produce at a level close to his 2015 season in AA (where he produced a wRC+ of 105 in 367 plate appearances) then he would be worthy of a big league spot.

You might be asking yourself “but isn’t the Royals outfield crowded right now?” and the answer to that is ‘yes’. With Alex Gordon in left field, Jorge Bonifacio and Jorge Soler in right, and Billy Hamilton, Brian Goodwin and Brett Phillips in center field, that is six possible outfielders at a loaded position (think clowns piling into a small car). Throw in Whit Merrifield, Chris Owings, Ryan O’Hearn and Hunter Dozier as players who have played out there before, and you have very little room for Starling. Which is why the issue would need to be pressed.

The deck is stacked against him. While there are players who have blossomed after their age 26 seasons (Hi, Whit), every day makes it less and less likely to happen. An argument could even be made that maybe he would be better served to go to a different organization, one without the pressure of being a 1st round draft pick and a hometown kid.

So there is a scenario where Bubba makes it to the big leagues. If he stays healthy, hits just a little bit and the Royals need help in the outfield, he could get the call. That’s a lot of blocks to fall into place, but it could happen.

Look, the expectations of being a top five draft pick are always lofty and on average those expectations are rarely met. In some ways, Starling was doomed from the moment Kansas City drafted him all those years ago. The pressure of living up to the hype is something I do not wish onto anyone, let alone a kid from the Royals backyard.   

Credit: Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo

So let the dreamers still dream, because as long as he has a contract there is a chance. We can even hope that the stars align and he reaches a few goals that were tossed his way seven years ago. Maybe if the Royals hadn’t felt like they “missed” on Albert Pujols they wouldn’t have felt inclined to draft Bubba.

Maybe that’s the point. Maybe the Royals drafted out of fear. Or maybe he fit what they look for in a baseball player: athletic, toolsy and fast, with good defense. In many ways, Bubba Starling is the blueprint of what the Royals want their players to be. The bad news is that this story has been a disappointment to this point. But the good news is that there is still time for a few more chapters to be written as well.  

From the Bleachers: Notes Around Baseball

kc1

Here at Bleeding Royal Blue,  I spend a lot of time discussing my favorite team, the Kansas City Royals. But being a baseball fan in general means from time to time a little discussion around both leagues can do some good. So with that said, let’s kickoff the debut column, From the Bleachers!

kc2

A Tight Race

Before the season started, most analysts picked the Cleveland Indians to runaway with the American League Central, with the Tigers, Royals, Twins and White Sox either floundering or fighting for a Wild Card spot. I even figured Kansas City and (maybe) Detroit would give them some competition. Instead, Minnesota still sits atop the Central (yes, I noticed, Pete!) with the White Sox holding up the rear, only six games behind. You read that correctly, only six games separate the top and bottom of the division. Minnesota should get some major props for their performance so far, as they improved their two main weaknesses from last year, the defense and bullpen, while getting All-Star contributions from Ervin Santana and Miguel Sano. The Indians sit 2.5 games back, Detroit 3.5 back and the Royals at 5.5 back. Will Cleveland eventually perform closer to their 2016 model and decide they’ve had enough of these silly games? Will Detroit decide if they are contenders or needing to rebuild? Will the Royals wake from their slumber and make one final run with their core group that led them to a championship? If we are basing this off of what has happened to this point, I don’t know if any of that will happen. If I had to use one word to describe this division to this point, the word ‘mediocre’ would seem fair; ‘eh’ would work as well. Maybe this pattern will continue over the next four months and my friends up in Minnesota will be super happy. No matter the result, it’s hard not to feel underwhelmed by the Central over the last couple of months.

kc3

The Machine and 600

This past week, Albert Pujols clubbed his 600th career home run, an achievement only nine players have reached in MLB history. The Pujols we have seen the last five seasons pales in comparison to the one who was probably the best player in baseball in his first decade in the league. Despite that, Pujols is still a productive hitter, one who has averaged an OPS+ of 111 during that span. Injuries have taken its toll on him, and it’s easy to forget just how dominate Pujols was in his prime. According to the website Hall of Stats (which I highly recommend when determining a player’s value, especially when the Hall of Fame voting comes around), Pujols has a Hall rating of 211, which ranks him as the 30th best player (statistically) all-time and the 3rd best first baseman. Yes, we are seeing his regression right now, which should be expected in his late 30’s. But there are still some major goals he could reach before he retires, as he still has four years left on his contract after the current season. Pujols is 122 hits away from 3,000 and 140 RBI’s away from 2,000 for his career. Let’s enjoy the last few years of his career, because we are nearing the end of a Hall of Fame career.

kc4

Have a Day, Scooter

On Tuesday, Scooter Gennett of the Cincinnati Reds joined some elite company, hitting four home runs in one game, going 5-5 while driving in 10 runs. This, from a guy who before the season had hit 38 home runs in five big league seasons. Scooter doesn’t fit the profile of a guy who would club four in a game, not like the last guy to do it, Josh Hamilton. In fact, Gennett is only the 17th career player to reach this feat, a list that includes Hall of Famers like Mike Schmidt, Willie Mays and Lou Gehrig. This list also includes the like of Mark Whiten, Bob Horner and the infamous Bobby Lowe, he of 71 career homers. Safe to say Scooter will never have another night like this ever again, so I hope he soaks in all the adulation and enjoys his moment. His name alone will be a fun trivia question to bring up for many years to come.

kc5

Scherzer Meets Kershaw

As the season is unfolding, an interesting occurrence has developed that few probably saw coming: Max Scherzer is making a run at being the best pitcher in baseball. Clayton Kershaw has held that title for close to five years now and while Scherzer has compiled two Cy Young Award’s in that time-span, he still has not performed close enough to even have that conversation. But so far in 2017, Kershaw has put up an ERA+ (which is adjusted to the pitcher’s ballpark) of 185, which leads the league. Scherzer is right on his tail at 181 while leading the league in strike outs, WHIP and hits per 9. On Tuesday, Scherzer was dominate, striking out 14, walking 2 and allowing 1 run (unearned) in his 7 innings of work. In fact, Scherzer has three straight starts of 10+ strike outs, 7+ innings and 1 run or less. It’s going to be interesting to see if Scherzer can keep this up (which I believe he is capable of) and if he can continue to go toe to toe with Kershaw. I love watching Kershaw pitch, but I am always up for some healthy competition between two elite pitchers at the top of their game.

kc6

McCutchen Has a Pulse

Over the last two seasons, there has been a lot of discussion about the decline of Andrew McCutchen. Hitters normally start seeing a regression when they reach their early 30’s, but McCutchen didn’t turn 30 until last October and while injuries have been popping up for him the last couple seasons, it was hard to fathom that his decline would hit this badly, this early. Myself, like many other analysts, felt that McCutchen would bounce back this year and produce at a pace closer to his best years than his lackluster 2016. Instead, Cutch stumbled out the gate this year and as late as May 23 saw his batting average sitting at .200. But over the last 10 games, he has looked like the Cutch of old:

If McCutchen has finally found his groove, that is great timing for him and the Pirates. I am a big fan of not only McCutchen the player but also McCutchen the person. Baseball is stronger with him locked in.

tjsurgery

The Elbow and the Damage Done

Finally, another alarming Tommy John  Surgery stat came out this week worth noting:

I’ve spoken many times on this blog about the dreaded Tommy John Surgery and it amazes me that there isn’t more pressure to figure out a more worthwhile solution to this problem. While the new surgery that was done on Seth Maness cut his time out of action down considerably (down to 7 1/2 months), I still feel there should be more research done on a solution, not just a quicker remedy. If you are a believer that a pitcher’s arm has only so many bullets in it, it can’t help that many youngsters are throwing more pitches while their arm is still developing than ever before. If you are of the Nolan Ryan school of thought, you believe pitchers need to throw more, not less. An excerpt from a Ryan interview done in 2014:

 

Ryan said that in September of 1988 with Houston, he began experiencing pain in his elbow and paid a visit to Jobe in Los Angeles, who advised him to shut it down for the last couple of weeks of the season and resume throwing in December.

“There was a partial tear there,” he said. “It still hurt in December, but when I got to spring training, the pain began to dissipate until it was gone. Dr. Jobe said it had scarred over and that helped protect the elbow. I pitched with that tear the rest of my career.”

Ryan had two more 200-inning seasons and led the NL in strikeouts with 301 in ‘89 and 232 in ‘90.

While Tommy John agrees with Ryan, he also feels like I do, that kids today are throwing way too much, especially year round:

“First of all, one of the biggest reasons for all the arm injuries in baseball today is the way young kids are handled by their coaches in grade school and high school, pitching them year-round,” said John by phone from his home in Syracuse. “They’re told if they want to make it, they have to play travel ball — and that results in the over-use of their arms when they’re body is not fully developed. Travel ball has taken over the entire country and parents need to be educated about what this does to these kids’ arms.”

“I absolutely agree with Nolan that more is better,” John said. “Years ago, I’d have gone along with the thinking that there’s only so many bullets in your arm. But we’ve ‘dumbed down’ our thinking today to believing that pitch counts and innings limitations are the way to go to preserve arms. Starting in 1975 with the White Sox, when Johnny Sain was my pitching coach, I would throw six days a week out of seven and it was the best my arm ever felt. For the next 13 years, I never missed a start, except once when I had the flu. Sain believed in throwing between starts and it’s no coincidence that one of his disciples, Leo Mazzone, subscribed to that same philosophy, practicing and throwing every day, as pitching coach for the Braves. The Braves had the best pitching staffs in baseball in the ’90s and all guys like (Greg) Maddux and (Tom) Glavine did was pitch and win and never got hurt.”

So is the answer pitching less in your youth and more once your body has developed? And if that is the answer, how long will it take before travel league or high school coaches actually worry less about winning and more about their kid’s future health? I don’t know if this is completely the solution to the problem, but it doesn’t appear to be a bad place to start.

 

Houston, You Have a Problem: Royals Extract Revenge, Beat Astros

kc1

If you think back to about a month ago, the Royals visited the Astros in Houston and that series could very well have been the worst series for Kansas City so far in 2015. Houston swept the Royals with many stating that the Astros were now the best team in the American League. A month later, Houston travels to Kauffman Stadium to play three against the Royals, but the results were not the same. Not only did the Royals take this series two games to one, they also trumped Houston in the pitching acquisition market, picking up Johnny Cueto from Cincinnati for the stretch run while Houston had picked up Scott Kazmir from Oakland earlier in the week. But this series wasn’t just trades, sunshine and lollipops. Oh no, there was also games played with action involved. So what else stood out this past weekend? Read on and hopefully we can delve into all that is Royal.

kc2

Series MVP: Alcides Escobar    

This wasn’t the easiest category for this series, as the offense was shut down on Friday night against Kazmir and didn’t do much more on Saturday. Luckily, Alcides Escobar had another good series and even came away with a game winning hit on Saturday. Escobar went 4 for 13 this series, but the big thing was his single to right on Saturday night scoring Paulo Orlando for the winning run:

This also lead to another postgame dousing:

Escobar didn’t scorch the ball for his big hit but was able to poke it into the outfield, away from the constantly shifting Houston defense. No one hitter stood out this series, but a guy who gets on base once every three times and gets a game winning knock is as good a choice as any for most valuable.

Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura throws in the first inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, July 26, 2015. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
(AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)

Pitching Performance of the Series: Yordano Ventura

On Tuesday, Yordano Ventura was sent down to AAA Omaha to make room for Jason Vargas who was returning from a stint on the disabled list. By the next day Vargas was scheduled for Tommy John surgery and Ventura was told to stay put. Ventura had looked awful on Monday against the Pirates but Sunday against the Astros he looked like the ‘Ace’ we saw most of last year. Ventura went out on a hot and muggy Sunday and threw 7 innings, giving up 6 hits and 1 run while walking none and striking out 5. Ventura ended up with a game score of 66, tied for the third best he has had this year and it was well deserved. Ventura did a good job of locating his fastball away from the middle of the plate and had a good feel on the off-speed pitch. I’m not going to sit here and tell you he is fixed or that he won’t have another bad start this year. No, but what I will tell you is that it appeared he got the message from management that he needed to up his game and he did just that to wrap up a series win for the boys in blue.

kc4

More stuff and things happened in a wild three game set at Kauffman Stadium this weekend. Let’s go diving into the news and notes:

  • Dusty Coleman was sent down before this series and infielder Cheslor Cuthbert was recalled for his second stint with the main team. It seemed a bit of an odd move in the sense that Cuthbert has only played about 3 games in his career at second base and has never played shortstop:

The thought was that if something happened to Escobar, Infante would shift over to shortstop and Cuthbert would roll to second base. That seems like a dicey proposition but everything else seems to be working this season, so why wouldn’t this?

  • Manager Ned Yost gave some of his starters a day off this weekend. Lorenzo Cain had Saturday off while both Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas had Sunday off. This was a smart move by Yost, as we are in the dog days of summer and the Royals need these guys to be as sharp as possible late in the season. I don’t always hand out compliments to Yost, but for this he deserves it.
  • Hold onto your seat: Alex Gordon is already throwing:

Want more good news? He wouldn’t tell Ned about it:

Want even more good news? Gordon plans on taking batting practice later this week. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Gordon will be back sooner than expected, but he seems to be working at a pace that would hint toward that happening. Just saying.

  • The Royals employed an all right-handed lineup on Sunday against their ace, Dallas Keuchel:

Keuchel gave up a season high in hits with 10 against the Royals and was also hit hard early by Kansas City:

This continues the Royals success this year against other team’s aces:

Chalk another one up for the good guys.

  • There has to be a little bit of concern as of late with Salvador Perez’s hitting. Over the last two weeks Perez has a line of .154/.209/.231 and over the last month he is hitting .186/.220/.360. I don’t know which is more impressive in that span; only 18 strikeouts or the 3 walks. Yost has been giving Salvy regular rest, so this just seems more like someone who is not very selective at the plate. Fixing Salvy’s offense could become a major project soon if it doesn’t improve.
  • The Mike Moustakas watch is now over. Moustakas has reached his hit total from 2014:

I am a big fan of Moose’s turnaround. The guy has put in the work and the results are apparent on the field. I know Albert Pujols is having a nice return to form but I would vote Moustakas as the Comeback Player of the Year.

  • Carlos Correa is already really good. Like ridiculously good. I’m afraid of how good he will be with some more maturity.
  • Danny Duffy continues his turnaround since returning from the disabled list. On Saturday Duffy threw 6 innings, giving up 3 hits and 1 run while walking 1 and striking out 3. His game score of 64 was tied for the second best score he has accomplished this season. If Duffy continues to sparkle, and Yordano can pitch more like he did on Sunday, then the Royals rotation is starting to look more formidable than it looked even just a week ago.
  • Oh, and the Royals picked up that Johnny Cueto guy. I wrote a few words about it here. It’s worth your time.

kc5

Tweets of Royalty

kc6

If you noticed a little bit more of a hop in my step, it would be because of all the great things happening right now for the Royals. Kansas City takes another series, have a big lead in the American League Central, have the best record in the American League and now have Johnny Cueto to lead the rotation. Can things get better? I’m not going to sit here and tell you no. The Royals have the Cleveland Indians next, a team that’s pitching scares me but continue to under-perform.  After those three games the Royals will travel to Toronto for four against the Blue Jays and then three in Detroit. It’s not the easiest schedule but as long as the Royals win these series they remain the team to beat in the American League. So bring everyone else on; so far it appears this team can take it.

 

Second City Showdown: Royals Win Series from White Sox

Kansas City Royals' Lorenzo Cain, right, celebrates with teammate Eric Hosmer after hitting a solo home run during the 13th inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox, Saturday, July 18, 2015, in Chicago. The Royals won 7-6. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

With the All-Star break in the rear-view mirror, it was time for the first place Kansas City Royals to return to action on the field. The Royals were the best team in the first half of the season, and it begged the question: would Kansas City continue their winning ways, or would they stumble in the second half? If the opening series was any indication, we should all be preparing to buy tickets for games being played in October. Hey, who’s buying the confetti for the parade? Let’s go ahead and look at the first series of the second half between the Royals and the Chicago White Sox, a series that saw Kansas City win, 3 games to 1.

kc2

Series MVP: Lorenzo Cain

I would like to thank Lorenzo Cain for making this an easy pick that took no thought on my part. There was no bigger offensive force for the Royals in these four games than Mr. Cain. Lorenzo went 7 for 17 in this series, with 2 home runs, 3 RBI’s, 4 total extra base hits, 2 walks and the game winning hit in Saturday’s 13 inning affair:

There has been a lot of talk of late that Cain should be in the conversation for MVP this season and it is hard to argue with that, especially when you look at his numbers:

As much as he is worthy of the talk, it is not what he is focused on at the moment:

Within the last month Cain has raised his average 20 points, his slugging percentage 57 points and overall has elevated his game this year, as I noted on Friday:

He also did this at the All-Star game this past week:

Last year’s playoffs were Cain’s coming out party. 2015 so far has been Cain letting everyone know he is a force to be reckoned with. He is for real, folks, and still has room to grow. There is still a ceiling for Cain to reach. Think about that for a minute.

kc3

Pitching Performance of the Series: Danny Duffy

To this point in the season we have all been waiting for Danny Duffy to ‘step up’. The question has been ‘who is the real Danny Duffy?’ and ‘was last year a fluke?’. Well, it looks like last year’s version of Duffy showed up on Sunday, as he pitched his best game of the year when the Royals needed him the most. Duffy went 8+ innings(he pitched to one batter in the 9th inning), giving up 6 hits and 1 run while while walking 1 and striking out 4. In fact, the best part of Duffy’s performance was his ability to get ahead in the count and let his defense take care of the outs. Duffy produced 16 ground balls and 8 fly balls, helping produce a season best game score of 69. In fact, Duffy had a number of firsts in this game, including the first time he has ever pitched into the 8th inning. I think you can even make the case that it was the best start of his career, rivaling his start last year against Baltimore:

It’s been obvious that the Royals need the rotation to perform better for them to be a force in the playoffs(if they reach them). Having Danny Duffy perform like he has since his return from the disabled list(31 innings in 5 starts, 2.27 ERA and an opponents batting average of .259) would help the Royals in a huge way and make it to where they won’t need to go out and acquire another arm for the stretch drive.

kc4

They Call Him ‘Shortstop Jesus’

A big part of the Royals success these last two seasons has been the stellar defense that Kansas City puts on the field on a daily basis. A big part of that improvement was when the Royals traded Zack Greinke to Milwaukee and got back two top notch defensemen in Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar. I have been a Escobar supporter pretty much since day one and this series was no different, as Escobar showed why he is one of the top defensive shortstops in baseball:

 

 

 

I really hope this is the year Escobar wins a Gold Glove, but I know there is some healthy competition in the likes of JJ Hardy and Erick Aybar. The national recognition can only help his case at this point.

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 17:  Alcides Escobar #2 of the Kansas City Royals yells for throw to second base as Adam Eaton #1 of the Chicago White Sox is safe during the seventh inning on July 17, 2015 at U.S. Cellular Field  in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

There was more that went on in this series. Let’s take a look at some news and notes from a busy three days in Chicago:

  • It was great to see all the Royal love earlier in the week for the All-Star game. Watching Escobar get a hit, Wade Davis pitch a scoreless frame and Lorenzo Cain make his case for game MVP really gave me the warm and fuzzies. I wasn’t even bothered by Mike Moustakas striking out against Aroldis Chapman. Hey, he fouled off a 102 MPH pitch; that almost feels like a moral victory. Hey, it was even great to see Rusty Kuntz get a little bit of camera time. Let’s hope moving forward that the All-Star game is a regular thing for the Royal blue.
  • To start off the second half, the Royals are the Las Vegas favorites to win the World Series:

I can’t even fathom the last time this Kansas City team was the favorite to win it all. They still have to go out and win the games, but right now it is looking good that we could be seeing another ‘Blue October’.

  • John Lamb was called up on Friday to be the 26th man in the doubleheader:

Considering where Lamb was just a year ago, this is a great thing to see. Lamb has had a good year down in AAA and with the way the Royals rotation has been performing as of late, it wouldn’t be a horrible idea to give him a start or two. I’m not saying Lamb is the answer, but he couldn’t be worse than some of the others Kansas City has been trotting out to the mound as of late.

  • There has been a lot of talk of late about what the Royals should do before the trade deadline, and even more talk about big names like Johnny Cueto and David Price. I like both guys, but for two months I’m not for sure they are worth what the organization would be giving up. I would prefer Kansas City go after a lower level starter, like Mike Leake of Cincinnati and also go after another outfielder to make up for the loss of Alex Gordon(and Alex Rios’ sub-par play). Cameron Maybin of Atlanta and Gerardo Parra of Milwaukee are both good fits for the Royals, as they are great defensive outfielders that aren’t horrible hitters. I would really love to get Ben Zobrist, but that seems like a bit of a long shot for this club. What is definite is that it doesn’t always take a true no. 1 starter to get you through the playoffs:

  • Since it has become a regular thing now, Mike Moustakas is just two hits away from reaching his 2014 total for hits. Moose currently sits at 95 and he accumulated 97 hits all of last year. There are a number of good candidates for Comeback Player of the Year (I see you, Albert) but to me Moustakas has improved the most from last year. Look where he was at a year ago and where he is now, and it is literally like night and day.
  • I’ve given Alex Rios a lot of grief this year(and most of it deserved) but he did put together a good series to kick off the second half. For these four games, Rios hit .385/.500/.692 with a home run, a double and 3 walks. With Gordon out, the Royals really need to get some production from Rios and this weekend was a nice re-start for him to show he deserves to have his name written into the lineup every day.

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 17:  Greg Holland #56 of the Kansas City Royals (L) is congratulated by Drew Butera #9 after a win over the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on July 17, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Royals defeated the White Sox 4-2.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Tweets of Royalty

kc7

Another series win for the Royals means they extend their lead in the American League Central as the Pittsburgh Pirates come to town to play three. I’m looking forward to this series, as I am a fan of a number of Pittsburgh players(McCutchen, Marte) and have long considered Pittsburgh to be a lot like the Royals in the way they play. It also is a big week for the Royals, as they play three teams who have a good shot at making the playoffs(Pittsburgh, St. Louis for one game, then Houston). It should be a fun time at ‘The K’ this week and I will be in attendance at one of the games this week. If the offense can keep rolling, we could be seeing a fun weekend in Kansas City. All in all, this series against Chicago kicked off the second half the right way and hopefully this Royals train keeps on rolling.

 

 

 

California Dreamin’

kc1

I guess at some point we all knew this would happen. It was inevitable that the rocky relationship between Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia and former Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto would end up in a standoff. Almost from day one, Scioscia and Dipoto were at odds. The war was won by Scioscia, but there were some casualties and more than anything it doesn’t bode well for the Angels organization as a whole.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia and team general manager Jerry Dipoto stand with Mike Trout as he recieves the 2012 Rookie of the Year honor at Angel Stadium Saturday night. Trout was the second Angel to get the honor since Tim Salmon in 1993. ///ADDITIONAL INFO: hsmaya.0413 - 4/13/13 - ROD VEAL, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER - The Angels take on the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium Saturday night.
ROD VEAL, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Now, this latest scuffle between the manager and the general manager wasn’t their first. Go back to 2013 and you see the initial rift between these two, which was smoothed over by Angels owner Arte Moreno. In fact most of the issues these two had started when Dipoto fired hitting coach Mickey Hatcher, a longtime friend and former teammate of Scioscia’s. Hatcher’s firing did not go over well with Scioscia, despite the positive words Dipoto used to discuss Hatcher:

“Mickey is a terrific guy, well-liked, very energetic and hard-working. This is about providing a different voice for our offensive players,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “It’s a results-oriented business we’re in and we need to find a way to string together something better than what we are right now. It’s a decision to find a different voice.”

It should be no surprise that this “first shot” would be just the beginning of a power struggle that has split this organization. Things looked good throughout most of 2014, as the Angels would roll to the best record in baseball before being swept in the ALDS by the Kansas City Royals. So far in 2015 the Angels have been hovering a bit above .500 while looking up to the Houston Astros while Albert Pujols has looked like the Albert of old, the one the Angels thought they were getting when they signed him. But considering they had the best record in the American League last year, there is a feeling this squad should be doing better than they are. That thinking is what started this whole mess.

kc3

This most recent spat began a few weeks ago. The full story is up here but I will pass along the bullet points. A few weeks ago, Dipoto met with Scioscia and his coaching staff about relaying scouting information to the players. Dipoto has been trying to push for the coaches to use more advanced metrics when game planning and Scioscia and his staff are more old school, preferring to plan the way they always have. Apparently after this most recent meeting, one of the coaches responded angrily and Pujols even offered a “pointed rebuttal”. Dipoto would then go to owner Arte Moreno and things did not go Dipoto’s way. From the LA Times:

“Instead of Moreno realizing the tenuousness of the situation and mediating a truce, the owner simply backed Scioscia as he’s always done in making him arguably the most powerful single uniformed figure in all of baseball.”  

It’s easy to see why Dipoto left. It’s easy to see the power that Mike Scioscia holds.

kc4

I am going to go on record here; I am and have been for a long time a big Scioscia fan. I have always supported his managerial skills(except for some of the bunting) and really feel he is National League guy managing in the American League. He has also long been a players manager, a guy who most of the players enjoy and feel he has their back. But there has been a feeling the last few years that Scioscia has been less player-friendly and the age gap seems to be widening by the day. Jeff Passan of Yahoo.com took a look at that this past week and how Mike has gone from a guy heralded in the clubhouse to one who rules with an iron fist. It’s been very well known for years that Scioscia has more control than any GM that is hired by the Angels and that has caused a number of problems over the years. Just look at Dipoto’s interim replacement: Bill Stoneman, a man who was in the Angels GM seat during their glory years in the early 2000’s. Stoneman is a man who worked with Scioscia for years, so to say he will probably let Mike do whatever he wants is probably a fairly true statement. The problem is that Stoneman has been out of the loop for a very long time and in a lot ways the game has drastically changed during his time away. The Angels will have a hard time finding a young executive to slide into the GM slot as long as Scioscia is around, and since his contract is a big part of the issue(he has 3 years and $18 million left on the initial 10 year deal) it’s hard to see things changing anytime soon. As much as Scioscia is a big part of the problem(and I fully acknowledge he is, as much as it pains me), the bigger issue in Anaheim is owner Arte Moreno.

kc5

Moreno is the one who has given Scioscia this power. He is an owner in the same vein of a Peter Angelos or George Steinbrenner; an owner who pokes his wants ahead of the direction the GM feels the team should go. Moreno is the one who pushed for the Pujols and Josh Hamilton signings .From the New York Post:

“In addition, Moreno is seen as the driving force — without his GM’s blessing — in signing Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $240 million contract and Josh Hamilton to a five-year, $125 million deal. The Hamilton decision, in particular, blew up on the Angels. Hamilton had a substance abuse relapse, and Moreno essentially ran Hamilton out of town by eating most of his contract to trade him within the division to Texas.”   

There are a number of faults in doing this. For one, he has superseded his GM, which has been the big part of this power struggle. It also puts Scioscia in a bad situation. Scioscia is a guy who likes to use speed on his team, like stealing bases and utilizing the hit and run. The last few years the team has added lumbering sluggers like Pujols and Hamilton, which make it a lot harder to use that speed. In some ways, the Angels have gone from an exciting offensive team to one that only moves station to station. To me, the Angels play in a big ballpark and need to use that to their advantage. Instead, with Moreno’s need for power(and obviously chicks aren’t the only one’s who dig the long ball), it has taken two of the main weapons out of the Angels arsenal–speed and Scioscia’s National League brand of baseball. At the end of the day you always need an owner who supports your team and is willing to go the extra mile to help your team win. But that support means very little when you aren’t allowing your manager to have the best team on the field to help them achieve victory.

during Game Three of the American League Division Series at Kauffman Stadium on October 5, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri.

So how should the Angels handle this dilemma? What would seem like an easy answer is to decrease Scioscia’s power and allow whomever is in the GM seat to be able to do his job accordingly. But if Moreno didn’t allow that to happen with Dipoto I doubt he would let anyone else. The best thing would be for someone interviewing for the Angels GM job to flat out tell Moreno they won’t take the job unless they are truly in charge. The likelihood of that happening? Nil to none. There is always the chance that Scioscia could leave after this season, as he does have an out clause in his contract. Once again, I just can’t see that happening. In some ways the best thing that could happen is to officially announce Mike Scioscia as the Angels GM, since in a lot of ways he already holds that position, just not in name. Otherwise, it looks like the Angels will continue to be relevant but fall just short of their true goal, a World Series title. A lot of the pieces on the field are already there; unfortunately management is blocking something greater.

Celebration At 1 Royal Way

kc1

This past Sunday night the Kansas City Royals completed their sweep of the Los Angeles Angels in the American League Divisional Series with a resounding 8-3 victory, advancing the Royals to the American League Championship Series. 29 years of no postseason action makes for many demons, not only with the organization but with the fanbase as well. The good thing is that the Royals have been purging many of these devils this October. For many of us, our mantra became “we just want to get to the playoffs”, as we knew how uplifting it would be for the franchise, the city and the fans. I was lucky enough to be one of the 40,000+ this past weekend to witness the completion of the sweep in person and purge my own demons at ‘The K’.

kc3

A few days before this game I lucked myself into a playoff ticket thanks to a friend. There was no way I could turn down getting to see my favorite team for 30 years break down the walls and be part of the playoff atmosphere. Little did I know when I bought the ticket that the Royals would be in line for a sweep if the cards all fell right. As I made my way to the gates to enter Kauffman Stadium, it felt like any other time I have been there. There was a bit more energy in the crowd than normal, but for the most part it felt like it had most of this season at my home away from home. As I walked around, I noticed little differences. Postseason banners hung from the rafters and there seemed to be more urgency in getting Royals merchandise from the team store. I found my seat(upper deck, right behind home plate) with about 90 minutes before first pitch and got myself settled. From my vantage point I could see everything; I might have lucked into the best tickets for what was about to go down. Before too long pregame would start up, and that was when it really hit me; I was at a playoff a game, a Royals playoff game! I could lie here and say it didn’t affect me, but it did. During the introductions, watching the crowd go nuts for players like Terrance Gore made me just smile from ear to ear. Even while the announcer was trying to get everyone ready for the National Anthem, the crowd loudly(and I mean LOUDLY) started a ‘Let’s Go Royals’ chant, one so loud you couldn’t hear Mike McCartney. You could tell he was talking, but that was it. This rabid fanbase was ready and dying to see their boys in blue finish the sweep. As the flyover occurred at the end of the anthem, I teared up. For 29 years I just wanted my Royals to go out there and reach the playoffs. I was now not only at one of those games, but one with a bunch of crazy bastards who completely understood how I felt. It was hard not to just break down in happiness at what I was about to witness. I was about to fulfill a dream that I had started to believe would never happen.

Royals Divison Postseason 2014 vs Angels Game 3 KC

Once the game started the insanity didn’t stop. I have always said the loudest I have ever heard that stadium was during Robinson Cano’s weak effort at the Home Run Derby in 2012, but Sunday night it was louder. The crowd yelled, stomped and waved their blue and white towels(homer hanky?), cheering on their team and cheering on the fact that the Royals had made the playoffs. The crowd early on hung on every pitch; Mike Trout tried to upset the mood with a 1st inning home run off James Shields, but it only calmed us for a bit. The Royals would retaliate in the bottom of the inning, as team leader Alex Gordon continued his clutch ways with a bases clearing triple, putting the Royals up 3-1. Insanity ensued. At that moment any chance of me being even slightly sane went out the window. Complete strangers started high-fiving each other, as we were almost all of the same mind and soul. If we had to, we were going to will this Royals team to a victory. Luckily, no willing was needed as the Royals continued the onslaught, not bothering to let up on the Angel’s throat. Eric Hosmer would add a two run home run in the bottom of the 3rd and Mike Moustakas added a scorcher of his own the following inning. Not even an Albert Pujols solo job could deter things. By the 4th inning I was texting a friend, asking him if it was too soon to start counting outs. He said too soon; yep, we are a superstitious bunch. The roof about came off the place when Billy Butler stole a base; if there was ever a sign that the Royals were going to win, that was it. Billy Butler???

That’s what speed do! Between this and two amazing catches by Lorenzo Cain, it just seemed to spell doom for the Angels.

kc4

Numerous times during the game I would look around me, look to the left and then to the right. Happiness, all around me. So much suffering was being let go that night and words can’t even describe how glorious that was. More than anything it felt like a giant weight was being lifted off of the collective shoulders of a fanbase that honestly could have just walked away and chose some other team to cheer for. Instead, we all stayed and were being rewarded for our loyalty.

kc5

Before the top of the 9th, a video played on CrownVision. I wish I could remember it verbatim, but instead here was the synopsis; this is what we had waited for. It was almost time to celebrate the Royals advancing to the ALCS. Three outs later, everyone in the stadium lost their collective minds. I have never heard ‘The K’ that loud, and I seriously wonder if I ever will hear it louder than that. Strangers high fived, hugged and grown men openly wept. I have been a huge baseball fan for 30 years, and at that moment I had never been happier in my life. Sure, I remember 1985, but I was younger and thought that the playoffs would come again soon enough for Kansas City. This meant so much more to me, more than I can even try to describe here. We all yelled and cheered, hoping the moment would never leave. I know whenever I am old, and my mind starts to fade, there is a good chance I will remember this moment, as it will be hard to ever replace the emotion I was feeling at that time. To give you an idea of just how jubilant everyone was, as we piled out of the stadium, complete strangers started high-fiving everyone who walked by. There was no way I was not joining in, as I became part of the insanity. I would eventually walk out of there, and the rain would come. I was drenched and couldn’t care less. The Royals were going to the ALCS, and I got to be there to be a part of one of the greatest moments in Royals history.

Eric Hosmer

I’ve had a couple of days to reflect, and to be honest I can’t get the grin off of my face. I have felt over the years that I have been a very fortunate man to have gotten to experience some great baseball moments. Without a doubt in my mind, this was the best baseball experience of my life. It’s hard to really describe to people, especially those that aren’t Royals fans. This let out a lot of venom, a lot of pent up anger that I have held against this franchise for past mistakes. All I feel right now is love, to a team that I have loved since I started collected baseball cards and would try to get all the Royals player’s as soon as possible. The only thing that could have made this experience better would have been if my son, my grandma, my dad or girlfriend had been there(or all). In some ways though, it might have been good to let me have this all to myself. I have loved baseball for so long that I don’t remember not loving it; it has given me so much happiness over the years and I hope much more in the future. For one night 29 years of anger, sadness, stupidity, carelessness, and bad mojo just got swept away. Thank you, Kansas City. Damn that was awesome!

 

Fading Starling

Bubba Starling signing and press conference

It is fairly safe to say that there is no greater crap-shoot in sports than the Major League Baseball Draft. Unlike the other main sports, determining whether a high school or college baseball player will be able to make all the transitions from level to level isn’t as easy as how fast they run or how hard they throw. Guys who look like total locks end up being average players at best and some don’t even make it to the big leagues. With that in mind, former Royals first round pick Bubba Starling has gone from bona-fide prospect to giant question mark, all in just a few years.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS 2012 SPRING TRAINING

Starling was the first round draft pick of the Kansas City Royals(5th overall selection) in the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft. Starling graduated from Gardner-Edgerton High School in Gardner, Kansas, just a shake and a wiggle away from Kansas City. He had been widely considered as one of the most athletic players in the draft and him being in the Royals backyard rated him higher within the Royals organization. Some believed the Royals felt burned when Albert Pujols played nearby at Maple Woods Community College and was passed over. To be fair, so did pretty much every other team, as Pujols wasn’t drafted until the 13th round of the 1999 Amateur Draft. So the Royals didn’t want to let Bubba get away, especially with the story that could be told when he reached the majors. The thought was ‘Local Boy Becomes Star Outfielder for Royals’ seemed like a great story that could be profited from. After a long back and forth for Starling(as he decided between signing with Kansas City or playing football at Nebraska) , he signed with the Royals to a contract with a $7.5 million signing bonus. Now it was time to play ball.

kc8

Bubba would begin his pro career in 2012 at the age of 19. That year Baseball Prospectus would rank Starling as the 27th best prospect in baseball, a huge honor to a kid just beginning his career. Unfortunately 2012 didn’t turn out the way most hoped, and by 2013 he fell to the 49th best prospect in baseball. This year Baseball Prospectus didn’t even rank him. It is still early in his career, but questions are already being asked. He struck out more than 25% of his at bats in 2013 and there is concern about his inability to read breaking pitches. There is a hitch in his swing which could be affecting this. He does seem to be improving his walk ratio, which is good considering his high strikeout rate. His numbers haven’t been glowing either early on this season:

Year              Age    AgeDif         Tm   Lg Lev Aff   G  PA  AB  R   H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS  TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB
2012               19      -1.2 Burlington APPY  Rk KCR  53 232 200 35  55  8  2 10  33 10  1 28  70 .275 .371 .485 .856  97   2   3  0  1   2
2013               20      -1.6  Lexington SALL   A KCR 125 498 435 51 105 21  4 13  63 22  3 53 128 .241 .329 .398 .727 173   8   6  0  4   1
2014               21      -2.0 Wilmington CARL  A+ KCR  17  74  60  8   8  4  0  1   6  1  0  9  24 .133 .284 .250 .534  15   0   4  0  1   0
3 Seasons   3 Seasons 3 Seasons               3 Seasons 195 804 695 94 168 33  6 24 102 33  4 90 222 .242 .337 .410 .747 285  10  13  0  6   3
But there is more. Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus had this to say just the other day about Starling:

https://twitter.com/ProfessorParks/status/458655355166531584

The picture that has been drawn is one of a prospect who has amazing raw skills(power, speed, agility) but hasn’t seemed to start putting them together yet. Royals GM Dayton Moore isn’t too worried, and in a lot of ways he is right. Starling will be 22 in August, so one breakout season this year or next could elevate him in most people’s eyes. Speaking of eyes, Bubba got the famous LASIK surgery almost a year ago, as the feeling was maybe his eyes were part of the problem. So far that doesn’t seem the case, but Eric Hosmer also got that surgery and he didn’t start reaping the benefits until the following season of said surgery.

kc9

So where does this leave Starling and his future with the Royals? As of now they seem content with him taking the slow climb up the minor league ladder. It’s conceivable that if he starts to take off this year he could be advanced to AA Northwest Arkansas. But that seems to be a big ‘if’ considering how Bubba has produced so far in the minors. As much as the Royals and the Kansas City community are rooting for Starling to live up to the hype, it’s possible he won’t reach expectations. It’s unfortunate, considering he would be the second top ten draft pick during the Dayton Moore era to not be a regular for the Royals(Christian Colon would be the other). Luckily for him, this book has many chapters left in it. At this point though, it looks like instead of his abilities being more in line with Amos Otis, Starling might be closer to Mitch Maier. It goes to show you that there are no guarantees when it comes to the MLB Player Draft. Crap-shoot, indeed.

 


			

The Battle Between Heart & Mind Rages On

kc1

I started this evening pondering why the Kansas City Royals offense has been so punchless the last few years and why nothing seems to change. New batting stances, a new spot in the lineup, a new approach; it just always seems like nothing really does the trick for these guys. As I was writing all of this out on the Twitter, the Royals offense exploded for eight runs off the Cleveland Indians. Yes, the superstitious part of me wanted to say it was because they wanted to prove me wrong. But the truth was they were facing a pitcher with great stuff but lots of issues in Danny Salazar. Let’s just call him Cleveland’s Hiram Davies. But while watching the Royals offense show what they are capable of, I realized something. It’s the battle that every fan encounters from time to time. I was letting my heart run the show instead of my brain.

kc2

For example, two of my favorite Royals are Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar. I’m a sucker for the above average defender, and for the most part these two fit the bill. But both struggled mightily(at least offensively) in 2013 and there was no guarantee they would bounce back this year. I kept saying I thought there was a good chance they would, or at least be better than they were last year. I know, neither could have been much worse. But I was saying that just as much because I wanted it to be true as much as I really thought it would happen. Both got off to horrendous starts(they were the last two Royals regulars to get hits this year)and it was hard not to think that we were going to see a repeat of 2013. But then Esky got a hit, and he hasn’t stopped hitting since. Moose would be the last to get a hit, and despite him still hitting .138(and holding an OPS of .531), I held out hope. Part of it was his approach at the plate; Moose already has six walks on the year and has looked way more patient than I can ever remember him. But the other part was my heart wanting him to improve and be a vital cog in the Royals machine. I’ve been rewarded this week with home runs in three straight games for the man we call Moose. Obviously when it comes to some players, your heart as a fan wins out over what your brain tells you to feel.

kc3

But there are times the brain wins out. Take for instance Billy Butler. I’ve been accused of being part of the Billy Butler fan club lately because I tend to stick up for him. To be honest, there are probably five to six Royals that I enjoy watching more than Billy, so he isn’t a top favorite of mine. But Billy has done one thing in the eight years he has been in Kansas City blue: hit. Butler has only had one season where his OPS+ was below 100 and has been the model of consistency for those Royals teams. So when Butler struggled a bit last year, I didn’t worry. When he struggled to start this year, you worry a bit, but your brain keeps telling you “he has always hit. He will hit again.” Your mind tells you to go with the pattern and know that the percentages say he will continue to hit, especially since he is still only 28. Consistency wins out almost every time. There are exceptions to that rule (like regression), but for the most part you should side with the consistent pattern. That is why I will side with Billy, until he proves otherwise.

Seattle Mariners v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Speaking of regression, that is the third part of this tale. Your heart will sometime lead you astray, and so will regression. The thing is regressing happens to every ballplayer whether they like it or not. That 96 MPH fastball you used to be able to catch up to? First you continually foul it off, then gradually it just blows past you. For a pitcher, you once were able to hit 96 on the radar; then you are only hitting the low 90’s. The thing with regression is you can see a player slowly aging, but still assume he can do the things he used to be able to do. Look at Albert Pujols. Pujols is 34 now. Injuries have slowed him down considerably to where he has gone from the best player in baseball three years ago to just a very good player. The thing is, despite his numbers declining, he can still be an elite player. Pujols is still capable(if healthy) of 20-30 homers, 100 RBI’s and a .300 average. Not bad, huh? What most expect from him is his old numbers: 40 homers, 120+ RBI’s and a .340 average. It really puts into perspective just how great of a player Pujols was when he could still put up top notch numbers but because it is so far below his old standard, he looks like a shell of his former self. This is what regression does. It takes longer for your mind to realize that time has taken it’s toll and your expectations should be lower than what the player was capable of in his 20’s.

kc5

So which should you listen to more, your heart or your brain? Honestly, a little of both. Your mind will follow logic and allow you to separate the reality from wants and needs. But your heart…your heart gives you optimism and is more likely to believe in the unbelievable. Your heart will give you hope that otherwise might have been taken out to pasture years ago. Is it sometimes misguided? Obviously. But it also helps you get through a long season and see the good even within losses. Sometimes those of us that follow baseball so religiously forget that being a fan is equal parts optimism and evaluation. Sure, the snark will still be there at times and even hostility toward mistakes. But sometimes following your heart makes the game that we love that much more satisfying when something unbelievable happens. That’s why I still listen to my heart, even if my mind knows better. I want to believe.

C’mon Guys, Quit Picking on Billy

kc1

Let’s take a trip back in time, all the way back to the All-Star break last year. The night of the Home Run Derby at Kauffman Stadium, the fans loudly cheered for one of their own, Billy Butler. Robinson Cano was booed mercifully, and chants of Billy Butler echoed throughout the K because of Cano’s going back on his word about selecting Butler for the derby. The next night at the All-Star Game, Butler received a standing ovation during his introduction, and was wildly cheered every time he stepped up to the dish. For the longest time, Billy Butler has been a fan favorite in Kansas City, in fact he might even be up there as one of the most popular Royals of all time. But for whatever reason, there is a section of the Royals fanbase that has soured on Billy this year, and it is quite troubling. So what has Billy done to deserve this scorn from a number of Royals fans? I think I might just have the answer…

kc2

There could be a number of answers as to why Butler has taken some of the heat from the fans this year. The obvious answer off the top is he is not having the type of year he had in 2012. I had a feeling this would happen, as Billy had his best season last year and put up power numbers that he had never put up before. For years, people have felt like he should hit for more power, and last year they got it. Go ahead, it’s easy to compare the numbers. For a fan who just looks at the base numbers, Butler is under-producing and his numbers appear to be down. But if you take a closer look, a lot of the numbers are actually on par or even better than he has had in the past. His OBP is tied for his career high(heavily helped by his career high in walks. Yes, walks do matter!!), his OPS+ is the third highest of his career, and his total bases isn’t too far off from his career average. Now, with all that being said, this is a down year for Butler, and the numbers show that as well.

kc3

Obviously, with Butler’s power numbers down, his slugging percentage would take a hit. At this point, it would be his lowest since 2008. Butler’s RBI’s are down, but I wonder how much of that is based on a combination of him not seeing the same pitches he saw last year and the batters ahead of him not consistently getting on base. In fact, the hike in Billy’s walks have a direct correlation to him being pitched around. Butler has always had a great eye, and that has never been as evident as it has been this year. The other stat I’m sure the ‘fans with pitchforks’ will use is the one where Billy leads the league in grounding into double plays. This isn’t something new, as fans have always thrown out the fact that Butler grounds into double plays as a major flaw in his game. Sure, it’s not the best stat to lead the league in, but do you know who else is in the top 5? Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez, Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols. Not a bad list, huh? Since we know Butler isn’t going to become a speedster anytime in the near future, I think at this point we should just accept the fact that Billy will be on this list in the future. You don’t have to like it, but it isn’t going anywhere,

kc4

I hate to even bring up the other thing that Butler catches flak for, but it’s true. The fact that Billy isn’t a lean-mean-home run hitting machine gets thrown around quite a bit over the years. I mean, there is a reason he got the nickname “Country Breakfast”. I’m not for sure why people are so worried about his weight and how that plays into things. I could see it if it affected his hitting, but like we’ve pointed out, it’s not like he is at Francoeur-levels. In fact, history has shown that heftier players seem to do fine. Anyone hear of that Babe Ruth guy? He’s just one of the greatest players in baseball history. Boog Powell was a little hefty, and he was a hell of a slugger. Prince Fielder seems to do fine. Bob Horner was quite the power hitter back in his day. Kirby Puckett? Hall of Famer. So history shows that some extra weight isn’t a detriment. But it does play into all of this.

kc6

Billy Butler’s weight I really feel is where some of the anger comes from. For one, it’s easier to pick on the fat kid. Don’t even act like that doesn’t happen, or you have never done it. Second, there is a belief that a guy his size should hit more home runs, or at least that is what most casual fans would tell you. The problem is that what makes Billy a better all around hitter is that he isn’t a power hitter. Billy’s career high in strikeouts was last year, which goes along with the increase in power. Now, I know in 2013 strikeouts aren’t frowned upon as much as they used to be, but they should be. I would take the guy who is a great hitter and doesn’t strike out much over the guy who hits a lot of home runs and strikes out all the time. I actually heard someone last week say they would rather have an Adam Dunn-type over Butler. Seriously? No way is Dunn or a Dunn-type player better than Billy. Ever. I’ve always felt Butler was more of a gap hitter, which holds up if you look at his doubles numbers over the years. Butler is more a John Kruk than a Boog Powell. Kruk was a great hitter, a career .300 hitter, and was a little overweight. He didn’t hit for much power though, and Billy is in that same category. In some ways, Butler will always catch crap from fans unless he goes out there and hits thirty homers every year. It’s not fair, and not the player he actually is, but it’s a fact of life.

Billy Butler

So one last time, I want you to look at Billy’s numbers this year. I fully acknowledge that he isn’t putting up quite the numbers he had last year, but there is a good chance 2012 will end up being his career year. If you go up and down the Royals roster, I’m sure we can all find flaws in all of these guys. None of them are perfect. But there are certain flaws you can live with, and others that end up costing a player his job. Billy has done nothing but hit over his seven year career, and his .295 average this year is just one telltale sign that he hasn’t having as bad a season as some think. Of all the players on this team, I’m pretty sure Butler should be one of the last ones we should be tearing down. The guy wants to end his career in Kansas City, although you wonder why with how some fans have been acting. At the end of the day, Billy Butler is not the problem with the Royals. Maybe he should be appreciated and lauded for being one of their best players instead of treated like he is Jeff Francoeur. Maybe some Royals fans should remember why they were cheering him like crazy just a little over a year ago.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑