By In Stuff

KC and the little things

OK, well, I know what comes next. If you have been around the Kansas City Royals for any extended period of time, you do too. The Royals have lost 14 of their last 18 games. But more, much more, 11 of those 14 losses are by two runs or less. Oh yeah, we know what comes next.

Lots and lots and lots of talk about … the little things.

Get ready for it. There will be closed door meetings. There will be public proclamations. There will be quotes galore. People from the Royals organization will be lining up to tell us how they’ve got to start doing the little things, they can’t keep messing up the little things, they must concentrate on the little things. Those little things will become an obsession, at least for a little while. At some point manager Ned Yost will say he will not put up with players who don’t do the little things. General manager Dayton Moore will say that the team can’t panic, that it’s simply about getting those little things right. Team leaders will emerge to publicly challenge teammates to do those little things.

In a way, I agree with the Royals. Unfortunately, we have very different views of what little things actually matter most. The Royals — and, really, almost every baseball team — think of the little things as getting the bunt down, moving runners over, getting them home from third, hitting the cutoff man, getting the sure out and so on. Don’t get me wrong, I believe these are all good things for a team to do, important in their own way. I tend to think of them like I think of the little twisty air blower above your seat on an airplane. It matters. If the plane is hot, that thing feels like an important device. But, you know, even when it’s hot, that little twisty blower doesn’t really power the plane.

The Royals are always terrible at close games. Always. They have won just 44% of their one- and two-run games since the 1994 strike, by far the worst percentage in the American League.* They have also lost by far the most blowout games of any team since 1994, but let’s focus on one problem at a time. I believe those close games DO often come down to little things, but I just happen to think those little things have little to do with bunting, productive outs or saving/gaining the extra base.

*The Yankees have won 57% of their one- and two-run games sine 1995, by far the best percentage in the AL, which could lead to a long post about about mystique and aura and more hosannas for Mariano. But not right now.

Here’s what I believe are the little things that matter. in no particular order:

1. Construct a sensible lineup. There have been countless studies that show lineup construction in baseball makes very, very little difference … the difference between the best possible lineup and the worst is minuscule. I believe that. But I also believe that when you do something obviously self destructive, you must accept destruction as your fate.

The last three games, the Royals have had Chris Getz and Alcides Escobar at the top of their lineup. You are not trying to win when you put Chris Getz and Alcides Escobar at the top of your lineup. You’re just not. Chris Getz has a .311 career on-base percentage and a lifetime OPS+ of 70. Alcides Escobar has a .304 career on-base percentage and a lifetime OPS+ of 79. You hit those two guys 1-2 when you are trying to lose games for a better draft pick.

The Royals have lost all three of those games … and I’m not saying that the lineup is the reason. Hey, Getz has actually gotten on base (three hits, three walks) which, undoubtedly, will prompt Royals manager Ned Yost to stick with him long after his average and on-base percentage return to normal. Escobar meanwhile has gone two for 12 with one walk, zero runs scored, zero RBIs. But, again, I’m not saying that’s the reason because I don’t believe a smarter lineup would make that much difference. I’m saying that the Royals deserve to lose with a lineup that stupid.

2. Walk! For crying out loud, WALK! I spared you a whole post on just this topic. I overvalue the worth of a walk. I’m preachy and obnoxious about walks, just the way baseball people are about getting the bunt down. I’m know this and am sorry about that. I do know, deep down, that walking more is not a panacea, that there are limitations to the walk as an run-scoring strategy.

But, damn it, I think the walk is STILL the most underrated weapon in baseball.

And the Royals don’t walk. The Royals never walk. They have not finished in the top half of the American League in walks — just the TOP HALF — in 24 years (1989, which, coincidentally or not, was the last time they won 90 games). They have finished dead last in walks five times over that span, and they are dead last in walks so far this year as well. Ever since Dayton Moore took over as Royals GM in 2006, we have had many, many conversations about walks, and in them he always makes it sound like he values the walk. Then he goes out and gets Jose Guillen or Yuni Betancourt or Jeff Francoeur.

This year’s Royals team was supposed to have some players who walk. Alex Gordon looked like the kind of guy who could control the strike zone, who might walk 80 or 90 times in a season once he established himself. This year, his strikeout-to-walk is 39-12 … so, I guess, no. Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain showed signs in the minor leagues that they might develop into disciplined hitters — combined they have struck out 62 times and walked just 29. So, again, so far, no.

Then there are the Royals standbys, like Jeff Francoeur, still out there, still hacking away with his 36-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Mike Moustakas is a free swinger. Alcides Escobar is a free swinger. Young Salvador Perez is a terrific young player but swinging at only strikes will never be his strong suit. He has three walks all year.

It isn’t just the value of walks, though. The Royals swing at a lot of pitches outside the strike zone — and they put more of them in play than any team in baseball. That’s not a good thing. When you put bad pitches in play, you make lots and lots of outs, something the Royals are expert at.

3. A little power? Just a little? The Royals have no power at all. Of course they are dead last in the league in home runs. But, it’s much worse than that. They have hit two home runs since May 15. That’s as a team. TWO HOME RUNS. Only it gets even worse, both of the home runs were by 438-year-old Miguel Tejada. Yes, we chose a bad year to give up smoking. The Royals have not gotten a home run from a left-handed batter in two weeks — which is really, really sad because the Royals came into the year worried they had TOO MUCH left-handed hitting.

Power is not a little thing, of course, but I include it here because it often feels like the Royals are anti-home run. You know in the early 1900s, before Babe Ruth emerged, the home run was looked upon as a cheap thrill, unworthy of the real ballplayer, and this is exactly the sense you get from the Royals. You hear them all the time talking about not pulling the ball, not going for the home run, always hitting to the middle of the field, going the other way, taking what the pitcher gives you. Let’s be clear: All of that is excellent advice based in sound hitting principles.

BUT … the Royals’ team home run record is 36 — and even THAT was set almost 30 years ago. The Royals have not developed a pure power hitter since, well, um, Bo?

Complete list of Royals hitters who have hit more than 30 home runs in a season:

1975: John Mayberry, 34 (acquired from Houston)

1985: Steve Baltboni, 36 (team record — acquired from Yankees)

1987: Danny Tartabull, 34 (acquired from Seattle)

1989: Bo Jackson, 32 (developed!)

1991: Tartabull, 31

1995: Gary Gaetti, 35 (free agent)

1998: Dean Palmer, 34 (free agent)

2000: Jermaine Dye, 33 (acquired from Atlanta

Seriously, have you ever seen a more depressing chart? Not only does it show you that the Royals developed exactly one power hitter for themselves through the years, and it was Bo Freaking Jackson, who really was developed by Greek Gods on Olympus using fire, stone and a Nintendo machine … it also shows you that the Royals have not had ANY PLAYER with more than 30 home runs since the year 2000.

There are complicating factors, of course. The Royals play in a huge ballpark, one of the toughest home run ballparks in baseball. And power, at least on the free agent market, costs money, and the Royals have embarrassed themselves too much through the years chasing after it. Once you’ve signed Juan Gonzalez and Jose Guillen, you are best off just getting out of the power game.

Even so, the Royals have had young players who were supposed to have terrific power potential. It’s not like they haven’t tried. Two players on this year’s team, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, were both supposed to have titanic power.

Moustaksas: “Lightpole power.” — Unnamed scout 2008.

Hosmer: “Outstanding raw power.” — 2010 Baseball America Handbook.

Moustakas: “Exceptional hand speed and a vicious stroke.” — 2009 BA Handbook

Hosmer: “The strength to drive the ball out of the park while going the other way.” – 2011 BA Handbook.

Moustakas: “Plus-plus power.” 2011 BA Handbook.

Moustakas and Hosmer have combined for five home runs this year, four by Moustakas who is hitting .174. They are both still very young (Moustakas is 24, Hosmer 23) and the weather has not even heated up yet, so you can’t say they won’t develop big home run power. Carlos Beltran, for instance, did after he left Kansas City. But with the Royals’ track record in developing young power hitters*, you can’t really bet on good things happening.

*Dee Brown, Juan LeBron, Joe Vitiello, Mark Quinn, Jeremy Giambi, Bob Hamelin among them.

4. Do not give away outs. It seems to me that because the Royals hit with no power and draw no walks, they must be particularly careful about giving away outs. My guess is they will do the opposite. There is a theory out there that teams that don’t hit with power must make up for it with speed, you know, take the extra base, steal a lot of bases, run with abandon. For this people often point to Whitey Herzog’s Cardinals of the 1980s, who scored a lot of runs despite hitting few home runs.

It seems to me people get this very, very wrong. Herzog had three great teams with the Cardinals — 1982, 1985 and 1987. And it is true that none of those teams hit with much power. It is also true that all three of those teams led the league in stolen bases and ran with pretty wild abandon. That’s usually where the examination ends.

But you know what else you can say about all three of those teams? They all — ALL THREE — led the National League in on-base percentage. All three of them got on base more than any other team. So, they could AFFORD to be super aggressive on the bases. They could afford to give away a few outs in order to play at the tempo Herzog loved. When his team didn’t get on base, like in 1986 and 1988, they were lousy offensive teams. They led the league in stolen bases those years too — it didn’t matter one bit. You can’t score runs when you make outs and hit with no power, I don’t care how many bases you steal.

People, it seems to me, learned the wrong lessons from those Cardinals teams. I have a new JoeWord here (one I was sure I introduced earlier but I can’t find it listed anywhere): Belichize, a verb, which means “To take the easy and wrong lesson from a success story.” It is named, of course, for Bill Belichick, whose immense success has inspired countless imitators. Unfortunately, those people imitate the stuff that doesn’t matter at all — they imitate his surliness toward the media, his vapid secrecy, his senseless hoodie look. I think it’s because it’s a lot easier to imitate that nonsense than it is to emulate his intense work ethic, his creativity for game planning, his organizational skills, his clear vision for winning football games.

If I had to predict — and I admit I’m guessing here, but I’m basing this on years of observation — I’d bet on the Royals facing their offensive troubles by getting more aggressive. More stolen bases. More caught stealing. More productive outs. You can begin to see it happening. It seems to be exactly the opposite of the right answer.

5. Do not let small samples guide you. I already mentioned that I would bet on Chris Getz staying in the leadoff spot because he got on base a few times in a three-game sample. Based on, you know, his life, Chris Getz should never have led off a game, never ever, except maybe on Chris Getz Appreciation Day. But he did lead off. He got one hit and drew one walk. Next day, same thing. Now, he might be there in the leadoff spot until 2018.

The Royals do this all the time. They allow themselves to be directed by negligible signs and unlikely trends. In 2008, a pitcher named Kyle Davies had an excellent September — it got him 67 more starts for the Royals, and he posted a 5.55 ERA in those starts. Jeff Francoeur had two good months in 2011, the Royals promptly signed him to a not inexpensive two-year deal, and he has hit .233/.281/.366 with four times as many strikeouts as walks since. The Royals drafted pitcher Aaron Crow in the first round — ahead of, among others, Shelby Miller and Mike Trout — with the hope that he would become a top of the rotation starter. Less than two years later he was pitching middle relief in the big leagues. He was pitching pretty well — he made the All-Star Team — and now he’s just a blah 60-inning a year seventh inning guy. How does this help the ball club?

It isn’t that these moves flopped … it’s that it was fairly obvious they probably would flop. They were short-sighted decisions based on limited and unlikely information. A few days ago, the Royals moved Lorenzo Cain to the leadoff spot because he had been hitting well through the first six weeks of the season. In three games there, he failed to get a hit, so they quickly moved him back to the sixth spot when, I’m sure, they will say he’s “more comfortable.” Does that matter? Probably not. It’s probably just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. But the Royals seem to be putting deck chairs on top of each other, placing them upside down and using them as hat racks.

51 Responses to KC and the little things

  1. mboling says:

    The Royals have proven that they cannot produce #1 – Starting pitchers, and #2 – Power hitters, even when they are given power hitters, they somehow screw them up! They need to clean house on the developmental side of things it would appear.

    • NKCAUmp says:

      The Royals have produced an overwhelming amount of #2. It’s everywhere. On the field. On the walls. In the air. Kauffman Stadium is filled with #2.

  2. R says:

    it’s not just they’re losing close games. It’s that they’re not scoring a lot of runs. They won an unsustainable percentage of games scoring 3 or less to start off, and that has fallen to earth in the last 3 weeks.

    Look at the farm system, they don’t exactly have any 30 HR guys down there either.

    The entire “all-in” nonsense was constructed for one reason, to save DM’s job

    • the truth is right there:
      “The entire “all-in” nonsense was constructed for one reason, to save DM’s job”

      I was telling anybody who would listen the off-season that exact line, but they’d already been hooked. Now they are mad at me for being right.

  3. “Bo Freaking Jackson, who really was developed by Greek Gods on Olympus using fire, stone and a Nintendo machine” –I hope he chooses this for his tombstone. Great line!

    • Tux says:

      Bo has said he just wants his tombstone to read “Here lies a ballplayer,” which will make the legend of Vincent Edward Jackson even more John Henry-esque when he passes away.

  4. Michael says:

    First, as a Dodger fan, ah feel yo pain. Second, I am reminded of one of the many great Casey Stengel stories told by the wonderful Lindsey Nelson. He said one day during the Mets’ first spring, Casey told him, “We gotta work on the little finesses.” Such as? Bunting, hit-and-run, hitting the cutoff man, etc. That day, the Mets lost 19-1. After the game, Casey saw Lindsey and said, “The little finesses ain’t gonna be the problem.”

  5. mckingford says:

    I hate to be that guy, because I have nothing but love for Joe, but…and I’m sure if he sat down to actually write the post he’s proposed about the Royals’ futility in close games and the Yankees’ corresponding success, he’d realize that there’s nothing special about it.

    The Royals record since 1994, in all games, results in a winning percentage of – wait for it – 44%. Which is entirely indistinguishable from their winning percentage in close games of 44%. And, interestingly, at least by my math, the Yankees’ record in all games since 1995 gives them a winning percentage of 59.8%. So if their record in close games is 57% over that time, they are actually a worse team in such games, and so no mythologizing of Mo is necessary.

    I think the larger lesson is that over large periods of time, teams perform in close games or blowouts much as they do over the course of all games.

  6. Joe says:

    The most difficult Belichick trait to emulate is getting lucky at QB w/a guy who was drafted what, 200th? If Todd Haley had managed to pull that off he’d still be in KC.
    Dark Side of the Mood

  7. Kansas City says:

    Any Royals fan should listen to Soren Petro’s 40 minute interview of Yost yesterday.

    Yost sounded like a decent guy, but over 40 minutes, he said nothing that to me sounded smart about baseball. He talked about waiting for guys to get hot and how Moustakis could carry a team for 6 weeks (and had done so last year?). The one interesting thing he said was to admit that he says false things about players to “protect” them — and then proceeded to say false things about how good Hosmer and Moustakis are, how Moustakis is showing improvement, and how the hitting coaches are doing a great job. Petro (whom I like) did a mediocre job on the interview. It was an interesting glimpse into Yost as a guy, but not at all challenging in the questions. Yost compared Moustakis to “all star J.J. Hardy” (career OBP 311 and OPS+ 95) in terms of how Yost stuck with Hardy. He claimed he knew of other players who started well and then slumped and rebounded to become good players — analogy to what he expects from Hosmer — then could only come up with Posedinek.

    I’m curious if others listened to the interview and, if so, what was your view?

    Yost is not the primary reason the Royals are losing. But he sure does not help. And, if his best thoughts are to wait for guys “to get hot,” he is not going to help in the future.

    If I was Glass, and the Royals continue to falter over the next week or so, I would fire Yost and make Brett manager. Take a flier on the magic of Brett coming back. Nothing to really lose at that stage and it would be a burst of enthusiasm for the franchise

    • Thanks for the URL. I went to the site and played the interview and . . . total silence. I downloaded the podcast and ran it with Windows Media Player and . . . total silence.

      But from what you are saying, it sounds like Yost is saying all the right things . . . if the team were actually winning!

      I’m thinking your comment about Yost saying “false things” is right on the money. Sadly, you say those things, and hope that 1) the media buys it; and 2) the fans buy it. Why? To save his job.

      I can’t say as I blame him for that; no one wants to lose his job. And surely, he’s been around the block long enough to realize that at some point, his job is on the line. It happened with Trey; it will likely happen with Ned, if this losing continues, and if this team continues to forget to bring their bats to the game.

      This slide is reminiscent of how last year started. I hope it doesn’t get that bad. Someone has to step up to the plate and actually do something besides strike out, pop up and ground into double plays. Thank God for Tejeda! He seems to be the only one who remembers what a home run is like.

      Also, it would help if the umpires at second base would get an extra set of glasses or something. Two blown calls in the favor of the opposition within a week’s time. It’s bad enough when you lose on your own; we don’t need umpires who can’t see right in front of them making it worse.

    • Oops. I just noticed I had a plug in my earphones outlet, with no earphones attached to them. My bad. Now, I can go back and listen to the interview.

    • After listening to the interview, all I can say is, I hope Ned is right.

      What he says makes sense . . . from his viewpoint as a manager. From a fan’s viewpoint, however, patience is not much of a virtue these days after all the hype of having all these great prospects come up and under perform, as we like to cast judgment.

      Unlike you, I thought the questions that were asked were good. I’m not sure why you didn’t think much of them, but I thought he did a good job. But I’m simple. I’m just an ordinary fan. I don’t deal in statistics and, quite frankly, I don’t even know what a lot of those alphabet soup statistics initials even mean when I read them in blogs.

      Ned has a good grasp of the psychology of his players and players in general, stuff the fans don’t understand or want to understand. All the fans want to understand is results, not psychology of why they’re not doing so well.

      Never underestimate the psychology of the players, especially the younger ones. Every player is psychologically different and can’t all be treated the same way. I fully understand about his saying “false things” about his players.

      Baseball managers are entirely different from, say, football coaches, who yell in the face of their players when they do badly, curse at them, etc. I don’t think that sort of management style would work in baseball.

      The player knows when he sucks. The manager doesn’t need to add to what the player is already feeling. He’s got to be on the positive side with his players. He’s got to say the “false things” to the media. I’m sure his private meetings with the players are somewhat different, but still not negative. You just can’t be negative. That will just make things worse.

      Much is said about sending Moose and Getz and Frenchie and . . . down to the minors until they can learn to hit. The problem with that is that there is very little challenge in the minors compared to the majors in stacking up against pitching. Major League pitching is, for the most part, far better than AAA.

      While Ned is pleased with his hitting coaches, the fans, obviously, are not. Home runs were supposed to be their emphasis, and, right now, the only one hitting them is the part-time player Miguel Tejada. I’d be happy if they could just get on base and score. Home runs would be icing on the cake.

      The one statistic I would be interested in, is how many home runs we’ve given up vs. how many home runs we’ve actually hit. We’ve certainly given up quite a few of them lately and, except for Tejada, the Royals have been absolutely silent.

      In regards to players coming up from the minors (i.e., Hosmer and Moose), I have to agree with Ned that there are very few rookies that come up and take the majors by storm—players like Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and the like. Young players DO take time to develop. Ned pointed out a number of such slow starters.

      We have to remember that Hosmer and Moose are very young in baseball years. We also have to remember that they are the ones out there on the field and we are not.

      The vast majority of fans have no idea what it takes to be a professional baseball player, let alone a major league baseball player. It’s easy to sit back and complain. How many of us could go out there and catch a hundred-foot fly ball day after day, let alone fire a heater from third base to first, all the while you were falling on your ass?

      Sure, I’d like to see them still in first place, or even second. I also have to remember to let them play the game the best they can and remember that I’m just a fan and couldn’t tie any of their shoelaces, talent-wise.

      I hope that answers your question about the interview. I did enjoy it. And I do understand where Ned is coming from.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Ned Yost comes from the Bobby Cox way of doing things. He was Bobby’s third base coach. Bobby almost always had something positive to say about everyone… to the media. All negative stuff was handled in the manager’s office. This helped have a “good clubhouse”, where everyone has everyone’s back & no dirty laundry was aired in public. In a long season, this is important. Bobby Valentine type chaos is not good for a team. So, Yost is doing what he needs to do. But a good clubhouse doesn’t win games all by itself. The players actually have to hit and pitch. Lack of issues in the clubhouse should help, but it’s not worth 10-20 games in the standings. It only helps a team that’s already good.

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  9. Matt Ong says:

    Ned Yost is big part of the problem. If his team can’t hit that is not his fault. It is his fault how-ever if he does’t do anything about it. He has been too patient with his players this year. He should send Getz, Francouer, and Moustakas to AAA for about 1/2 a year to get used to playing baseball again.

    In an interview with Ned a few days ago he said he would not send Mike Moustakas to AAA until he lost his confidence; then in the 7th inning with 2 men on and Mike up, NED PULLED MIKE. WHAT DID THAT DO TO HIS CONFIDENCE?????!!!!!
    (An 11 year old Fan who really wants to be happy again this baseball season)

    • Chris says:

      You want to be happy again? Cheer for the Cardinals…..

    • Rob Smith says:

      Yost has few options. If he had strong bench players, or good prospects in the minors, he could go that direction. But he doesn’t have that, so he has little choice but to stick with his guys and hope they come around. This is a front office problem. The GM picks the players. The manager just puts the players he has in the lineup. No manager can win without good players.

    • Matt Ong says:

      Rob, I see one flaw in your thinking. In the begging of the season we only had Cain and Dision and we were winning. Why are we losing now? We have lost excrement. When we were hitting and when our runners got on base they did air garter or little dances, now we don’t that is my new reason for the Kansas City Royals in a big slump!

  10. Kansas City says:

    Very smart comment by Matt, except Francouer is not going to the minors.

    Yost disqualified himself as a big league manager when he determined his best line up is Getz first and Escobar second.

  11. invitro says:

    I would go insane if my favorite team was the Kansas City Royals.

  12. Dave O'Brien says:

    Ummm… Joe? You can’t ask for “walks” and “power” at the same time. And you can’t have “walks” if the opposing pitchers are throwing strikes that this team stands there and watches cross the plate.

    • Joe says:

      McGwire & Bonds seemed to pull off the walks/power combo pretty well. It’s doable, just maybe not w/the talent the Royals have on hand.

    • Dave O'Brien says:

      McGwire and Bonds had the luxury of being pitched around, so they did not have the majority of their pitches coming right over the plate. You can’t walk if you are receiving strikes, and you can’t hit for power if you are trying to walk.

    • Dave O'Brien says:

      Once pitchers know that we can hit for power, then we can work on being patient at the plate. The Royals are the most predictable hitters in the league (with the exception of Gordon). Just throw a first ball strike.

    • Dave O'Brien says:

      One more thing, Bonds and McGwire were great because they were looking to get on base by swinging the bat. They were in control of the pitchers. If we are going to strive for greatness then we have to earn it by putting fear into the pitchers, and you don’t do that by watching called third strikes hoping you might get a walk.

    • Please tell me you’re being sarcastic. Walks and power go hand in hand. They are tightly correlated to one another.

    • Dave O'Brien says:

      No Daniel, I’m not. Walks happen because a player has respect. You can’t tell guys who have no respect to be “patient at the plate”. That is why the Royals are a mess. That philosophy is backwards.

    • Dave O'Brien says:

      Walks are earned by players who hit the ball.

    • Chris M says:

      Huh? Go look at the all-time BB leader boards. The top 10: Bonds, Rickey Henderson, Ruth, Williams, Joe Morgan, Yaz, Thome, Mantle, Ott, Frank Thomas. Except for Rickey, they were all power hitters, and even Rickey had remarkable power for a leadoff hitter.

      Power and walks generally go hand in hand.

    • Dave O'Brien says:

      Read what I said. Walks are the fruit of power hitters. Do any of you know anything about this game?

    • Ian R. says:

      Okay, walks generally come from power hitters. Not always – Daric Barton led the AL in walks a few years ago despite barely slugging over .400, and there are plenty of power hitters who don’t walk much – but in general, that’s a true statement.

      So… why do you say you can’t have walks and power at the same time? I’m trying to figure out how all your statements make sense together, and the mind veritably boggles.

    • scott148927 says:

      For Dave O’Brien, I have two points/questions:
      You say that, “you can’t hit for power if you are trying to walk.” and “If we are going to strive for greatness then we have to earn it by putting fear into the pitchers, and you don’t do that by watching called third strikes hoping you might get a walk.” I think this is a misconception with respect to what Joe advocates with respect to the walk. It goes to pitch selectivity. If the choice is between walk or homer on any given pitch (a false choice, but please stay with me), everyone would choose homer. It’s a false choice since homering or even getting a hit is not possible on every pitch. The better hitters distinguish between pitches they can do something with and pitches they can’t and if they wind up walking after laying off bad pitches, they take that. The respect comes in when pitchers realize that they will have to throw strikes to get a selective hitter out. They aren’t “rying to walk”so much as willing to accept a walk.
      With respect to your rationale that only established power threats who have garnered “respect” for their power at the major league level will walk a lot, I was thinking that this would be proven true or false by examining rookie walks. I thought it would be interesting to look at all-time rookie leaders in walks. Here’s what Fangraphs’ has for top 10 in rookie walks since 1920 (,d):
      1.Joe Morgan
      2.Ted Williams
      3.Al Rosen
      4.Les Fleming
      5.Lu Blue
      6.Jim Gilliam
      7.Kevin Seitzer
      8.Billy Grabarkewitz
      9.Ben Grieve
      10.Brad Wilkinson
      Two legitimate power hitters in the bunch (Williams, Rosen) plus one with situational power (Morgan) and two more who showed promise as power hitters but fizzled after a few years (Grieve, Willkinson). I really don’t see walks as the fruit of power in this context. I think, as Ted Williams wrote and preached frequently, pitch selectivity is the key to success as a hitter. With that comes higher average and higher power. Without that, comes the Royals.

  13. Dave O'Brien says:

    Someone (either Yost, Maloof, or David) are telling the hitters to lay-off hitting for power. You can see it in how they are swinging the bat (especially Perez, Hoz, & Butler). They need to leave these guys alone and let them swing away at pitches however they feel comfortable in each situation. Someone has got into their heads and screwed them up. They are talented professionals. Let them play.

  14. Mike says:

    “The Royals drafted pitcher Aaron Crow in the first round — ahead of, among others, Shelby Miller and Mike Trout”

    Although to be fair, if the Royals had drafted those guys, they probably would have flopped too. It seems to me that Royals have had a huge problem with promising minor leaguers flopping in the major leagues. Might I suggest there is something wrong with the coaching at the major league level?

  15. Vidor says:

    I’m not a Royals fan, first off. But I’m wondering about Crow v. Trout. What did the Royals know, and when did they know it?

    Look at that list, the 2009 first round draft. So Crow looks like he might be a middle reliever. That’s not nothing; he will probably have a respectable big-league career. Five of the guys ahead of Crow haven’t even made it to the big leagues yet. One of the ones that have, Jacob Turner, hasn’t done much. The second pick in that draft, Dustin Ackley, looks like he might be a bust.

    Going down past Crow (this is all on Baseball Reference, 2009 draft), four of those six guys haven’t made the majors either. The two that have haven’t done much. Then there’s Miller–ok, the Royals wish they had Shelby Miller right now instead of Aaron Crow. After Miller, you have one guy who has played 14 big-league games to date and four other guys who haven’t made the big leagues. Then you have Trout, at #25, thirteen spots after Crow.

    I guess what I’m asking is, was picking Crow a bad decision, or was it bad luck? 24 teams didn’t draft Trout and, if you look at that draft, probably only the Nationals and Cardinals aren’t rueing that decision right now. So the Royals have a lot of company. Unlike, say, the Orioles or Rockies or Astros, their pick from that draft has become a useful player. This doesn’t seem like a screw-up along the lines of the Padres deciding to pinch pennies and drafting Matt Bush over Justin Verlander.

    • Ian R. says:

      Minor nit-picking point: There weren’t 24 teams that passed on Trout. Two teams (the Nationals and the Diamondbacks) had two picks in the top 20, and the #24 pick belonged to… the Angels, who took Trout with the very next selection.

      Having said that, your point is a good one. I won’t be surprised if several other players from that first round wind up having good big-league careers, but it looks like Crow may very well provide value than at least half of those first 25 picks. True, the Royals probably hoped he’d give them more, but he’s at least useful.

  16. KHAZAD says:

    I agree that if you intentionally hit Getz leadoff you deserve to lose. It was very easy for me to construct a sensible lineup with the same guys and the same stats that was worth 40 more runs per year than the one Yost used the other day when he he was hitting all of his most common starters. Those are wins Yost is giving away through sheer stupidity. It would not be enough to make them a contender, they are not performing well enough to do that. But a bad manager just makes it worse, and costs the team more games, and that is what is happening.

    I was not high on the Royals this off season. It is fun to watch decent pitching, but I expected them to win 79 games and still finish with a losing record, and I thought I was being a little too optimistic in going that high. The team had a horrible offense last year and stood pat in their lineup. They had a good hitting coach (a recent BP study on whether hitting coaches affected their team’s performance had Seitzer rated at #1) and fired him for some confusing two hitting coach system.

    It is watching the WAY they do their losing that is so difficult. If the players underperform, that is one thing. Having the manager do things so nonsensical that you think he must be TRYING to lose more games is pretty hard to live with. Having the team make no changes, and DMGM coming out to say that Ned is doing his best managing job this year, and that somehow sending Herrera down (like a relief pitcher going through a little rough patch is the problem) is a sign that things are different this year (He is the first non injury roster change this year)is too much too handle.

    Things are not different. The Royals make up their roster in the winter, they gear up their PR machine in the spring to give hope to the gullible, when the team starts sliding they try to pull the Jedi mind trick on the willing local media and casual fans to put off the inevitable realization that these are the same old Royals. (Dayton-“These are the same guys that were 17-10” Dayton in 2009 after a 65-97 season despite having a Cy Young winner- “I don’t think we played up to our true potential. This is the same team that started off 18-11”) Enough fans still go through the turnstiles that David Glass still makes a profit, despite the fact that they have another losing season. They fire one coach as a sacrificial lamb, gear up the PR machine again (Potential! First trade of the off season! For guy whose name you might know! This year we mean it!) and carry on with business as usual.

  17. Dave O'Brien says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  18. frightwig says:

    “I tend to think of them like I think of the little twisty air blower above your seat on an airplane. It matters. If the plane is hot, that thing feels like an important device. But, you know, even when it’s hot, that little twisty blower doesn’t really power the plane.”

    Love it, Joe. I’d like to send this to Ron Gardenhire and Twins management, too.

  19. EssexBorn says:

    The sad part is that as a long suffering Kansas Citian and self proclaimed semi knowledgable ex BB player, I was buying into Ned Yost and Dayton Moore 100% And in fact I do believe that they are good “baseball”men. But that only works for truely intuitiv situations whaich at most change an outcome of a game 4-5 times a season. But it is like the whole Sabermetrics aspect of the game is just not taken seriously and adopted up and down the organization. These things about walks and power and clearly identifiable trends over eons that seem to be ignored.

    I will say that the one little thing that seems to have improved tremendously isd the Royals pitching and specifically their walks surrendendered to strike out ratio.

    Come back Joe, come back and I’ll renew my KC Star subscription, I promise. (78% of fans agree)

  20. Thanks for telling the truth Joe. Kansas City fans are the luckiest fans in the world to have you still following and writing about our Royals. I have a 5 year old nephew who proclaimed yesterday that he “will always be a Royals fan.” May god have mercy on his soul. I pleaded with him to like the Yankees, I said, “Zac, I’m doomed to like the Royals the rest of my life, but you don’t have to. Like the Yankees. Everyone will hate you but at least your team will win.” He refused and now another generation will know sadness, depression, and pain. Go Royals.

  21. Dinky says:

    I call cherry picking. George Brett thrice led the AL in Slugging Percentage and OPS, but only had 30 homers (in a season with 103 walks, 50% more than his average season) and in the year he won the MVP he only played 117 games (with 24 home runs). I’d happily take Brett over any number of guys who hit more than 30 home runs.

    As for the lineup, makes me wonder why the heck Mike Scioscia is batting Aybar leadoff so much this season? By every metric there is, he’s the worst hitter amongst the starters (and with 1/2 a bad base stealer). Batting him first (instead of, say, Trout, or Shuck) means that except in games that end with the #9 hitter batting last, the extra at bats are going to the worst hitter in the lineup, which ain’t easy considering how bad Josh Hamilton has been this year. I know Aybar’s only leading off because Bourjos is hurt, but really. If Trout leads off, you still have Pujols, Trumbo, Hamilton, Kendrick, to drive him in. Tony LaRussa, who has more rings than Scioscia, famously put Pujols leadoff some of the time, and Trout has the speed to justify leading off, unlike Aybar. Over the course of the season it may only amount to 1-2 predicted wins, but that’s enough.

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