Monday, October 1, 2007

Muneer's 2007 End of the Season Report

2007 is in the books, and it's as good a time as any to recap what happened.

What Went Right:
Gil Meche and Brian Bannister were dependable
Alex Gordon and Billy Butler got their experience
Tony Pena, Jr. was steady at SS
There was a 7 game improvement over last year's record.

What Went Wrong:
Mark Teahen mysteriously lost his power
Mike Sweeney was injured again
The back end of the rotation was horrid
Ryan Shealy was a bust

Looking at their record, one would think this season was more of the same that Royals fans have endured for the last 17 years. But, believe or not, the Royals did make some improvements.

Alex Gordon, Tony Pena, Jr., Billy Butler, and Brian Bannister had decent rookie seasons. For the first half, Gordon was beyond bad. But, he picked it up in the second half and actually hit over .300 for a couple of months. Butler didn't get the consistent playing time he needed to get, but showed the hitting prowess that he is famous for. Buddy Bell inexplicably sat him and played Ross Gload in September. Butler should have the first base job next year, barring injury. Pena was quiet, but that's what the team needed after years of Angel "Criscohands" Berroa botching everything in sight. Bannister turned out to be a wily and tough competitor and should be a good one for years to come.

The first base tandem of Mike Sweeney and Ryan Shealy spent the majority of the season on the DL. This was expected for Sweeney, but troubling in Shealy's case. Shealy had heel problems, the same type of injury that plagued Mark McGwire during the mid-1990s. Here's hoping the Royals' training staff can get it sorted out before spring training. I would be fine with having Shealy and Butler split time at DH and first base. Young players need to be out in the field.

Sweeney deserves his own paragraph. I like Mike Sweeney as a person. He's good with kids and does a lot for the community. That being said, he doesn't deserve to have a starting job in the majors. His body cannot absorb the pounding of a full season. He also seems to have lost bat speed, which was the key to his earlier success. I would be fine with having Sweeney back at under $1 million, but I think it's time for him to move on. Sweeney is the poster boy for the Royals' past mistakes. He needs to go so that the team and the fan base can move forward.

Overall, the Royals' hitting was bad. Emil Brown led the team in RBI's again. Problem is that he played two to three times a week. Mark Teahen lost his power stroke after surgery. Alex Gordon was historically futile in the first half. Overall, the hitters need to work on their games in the offseason for this team to have any shot of competing in 2008.

Gil Meche lived up to his big contract. He was the stabilizing force that the Royals needed in the rotation. Save for a couple of bad stretches, when Gil was pitching, the Royals had a chance to win. That's all you can ask. Brian Bannister was another shrewd pickup for Dayton Moore. He showed the wiliness of a veteran and pitched with no fear. He and Gil will be a nice tandem at the top of the rotation next year.

The bullpen was good, while the rotation beyond Meche and Bannister was shaky. Riske, Soria, and the rest of the relievers were dependable and kept the Royals in games. This unit reminded me of the bullpen from 2005. The starters were another story. Jorge de la Rosa, Odalis Perez and whoever they tried as a fifth starter were inconsistent at best. Help from the minors doesn't appear to be arriving anytime soon. Hochevar and Lumsden were very mediocre and likely need another year in the minors. The Royals need to sign some vets. They can afford them, with Sweeney's contract coming off the books.

Buddy Bell is retiring, which is excellent news. The team needs a manager who doesn't have an allergic reaction to playing rookies and young players. The way Butler was handled in September was inexcusable. Had the Royals been in a pennant race, I would have understood playing Gload. But the team was not contending for anything other than first place. Butler should have been out there every day, getting the seasoning he needs to start strong next April. Here's hoping the next manager can guide this team to the next level.

There was some improvement this season, but not enough for me to be optimistic for 2008.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Hey, at least we're not the Nationals

So, here we are, Royals are not the worst team in baseball and they are winners of three of their last four games. Its nice to see the hitters get on a roll, but the pitching, especially the bullpen has been a (well documented) problem. I am sort of surprised as I felt the bullpen would be solid – however, I must again point to the injuries which have caused a shuffle that has hurt the effectiveness of some of the relievers.

Being second worst is no big consolation.

Looking over the stats though, I am encouraged by the fact that Sanders and DeJesus are hitting well. This bodes well especially for Sanders. He looks like a good fit for the Yankees, given Damon's health troubles early on. The starters seem to be doing decently too. Odalis is putrid, but I didn't expect anything better from him. He'll be Lima 2007. Greinke has had bad luck recently, but I was encouraged by his good start.

I may be a curmudgeon when it comes to KC, but I have hope that they can make my prediction of 70-92 come true. Losing more than 100 is just plain embarrassing and I don't want to see it happen again.

Curmudgeon is a generous word. If we were talking about the Red Sox, or Yankees, we should be angry about what’s going on, but this is a team that’s on the right side of the hill at this point (that is, going up, instead of down or staying level). I will say Gordon has one week to start hitting… he’s done a little better, but he still seems overmatched.

Gordon is actually the one hitter on this team who really doesn't worry me that much. He was able to hit .325 last season in AA, so I think he should be good for around .280 in the majors. I think he just needs to get over any jitters he may still have. I've heard reports that he's still smiling and happy in the dugout. This is good news, since it means that he isn't taking this slow start badly.

I actually agree with you on this one.

Well, I am worried that he strikes out in one out of every three at bats. He has 21 strikeouts in 59 ABs, and his strikeout rate is not improving. I know, you are missing Angel.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Royals at 3-11


Somehow, although the losses are just as frustrating as ever (Buddy Bell, in a post game interview, looked on the verge of going completely loony) – it seems the situation is temporary. I don't remember the Royals bats being as cold as they are this year – and we know that the heart of our line up will NOT continue struggling like it has, its just not possible (although I wonder if Sweeney's done as a major league hitter). Gordon has hit in 4 of his last five games, but he's not drawn a walk all season---and Teahen is really letting us down so far. Maybe we need to move Buck up in the lineup and get Reggie some ABs. One way or another, our hitting will come around ---- and, Dotel and Bale will come back…the injuries have clearly effected the bullpen.


I didn't really expect anything more than this from this team.

While I do think that the hitting will pick up (no team can finish a season hitting .232), the pitching is right where it usually is. As of today, the Royals have a 4.92 team ERA. That number is much more troubling to me. The team has all of its expected contributors out there except Dotel, and this is the result. It is a genuine cause for concern because hitting is nice to have to have, but pitching and defense is what can carry a team to a championship. I don't see anymore pitching help on the horizon with the exception of Elarton. The young guys we have in the minors still need another season of conditioning. This is it, and it's not good enough.

Unlike you, I think the situation is permanent, and this will be another lost season like 13 of the last 15 have been.


Well, you are a little inaccurate as you've forgotten about Bale (who was stellar in his work in Japan and is our second lefty out of the Bullpen). Lets also not forget that Luke Hudson is due to come back as well – we have three players who were expected to be significant parts of this team who are unavailable—two of which are guys picked up for late game situations—it'll help this team a lot to get these guys back (and, by all accounts, Dotel was an important leader for the team during Spring Training). Are you going on the record right now that the Royals will lose 120+ games (which is the pace they are on right now), or are they going to lose 100+ games? My point is they are going to get better, they are a better team and this will not continue.


Check the website, sir. I have gone on record to say that the Royals' record will be 70-92. Speaking of which, perhaps you should go on record with your expectations for this team.

I am still unsure about Bale. He may have been stellar in Japan, but he's no Dice-K. The last guy we got from Japan, Darrell May, was mediocre at best. I'm not anticipating any stellar contributions from Bale.

Dotel can be as much of a leader as he wants. If he isn't pitching, he is not helping the team as much as it needs him to. I think the years of abuse in Houston have caught up to his arm. I'm hoping for a positive contribution, but it's hard to expect anything when there isn't even a timetable for his return.

I'm in agreement with you about Hudson. I had forgotten he was on the shelf. But, he needs to prove that he can make the adjustments needed to continue his success. A pitcher often proves his mettle in his second full year, since that is when the league has scouted him and adjustments must be made to continue the first year's success.


Oh, see, then you and I agree that things are much worse than they will be. In order to go 70-92 they Royals would need to go 67-81 the rest of the way and will have a .452 winning percentage over that stretch….although I think they will win at a slightly higher rate -73-89. I believe Bale will make a stronger bullpen for us, and the return of Hudson will give us a chance to use Duckworth as long reliever (and an upgrade over Wellermeier, at this point). Hudson is well past his second year of course, so I'd say if he's healthy, he'll be a solid contributor to the rotation.


I base my prediction of their record on the fact that this team was close to .450 after that horrific start last year. I do think the hitting will come around a little, and the pitching really can't get much worse. But, this team is still nowhere close to being competitive.

Hudson is past his second year in the majors, but this is only his second year in the American League. And we know that pitching in the AL is a whole tougher to do than in the senior circuit.


Baby Steps… baby steps. Turning a near 10 game improvement is a nice step, and really, I think we will see stretches of very good ball. Once the hitters start hitting and the injury but turns around – we will see some good ball… maybe we'll still lose some close games, but the stuff that we're seeing now is an aberration.

Friday, April 13, 2007

No Tell on Dotel

Kevin: This little nugget from raised my eyebrow:
“Bell still is processing the effects of Dotel's prolonged absence from the Royals' bullpen. Dotel was first expected to return this weekend, then the timetable was pushed back to April 20 after Dotel was sent to Arizona to rehabilitate what was thought to be a minor injury. Now, Bell doesn't know when -- or if -- Dotel will be able to contribute.”
Muneer: Uh oh. Sounds a lot like the Octavio we've come to know. I'm not surprised by this turn of events. He was abused in Houston, and that carried over into his time with Oakland and the Yankees.

I'm unhappy about the fact that he's being paid $5 million and the team may not see a return on its investment.

From what I can gather, Soria's now the man. I wouldn't be surprised to see Riske back in the mix when he begins pitching better.

Kevin: Well, the injury is to his oblique on his non throwing side, so I’m not sure just what or who to blame that on. I hope he can come back as it would really really solidify a bullpen that seems to be on the brink of being pretty solid. The worst part of this, is that I drafted DOTEL for my fantasy team! DOH!

Muneer: You know who else had an oblique injury? Mike Hampton. I hope that nothing is wrong with Dotel's arm. Let's just hope that Dotel is back at some point this season, and doesn't become the Juan Gonzalez of 2007.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Royals Triage

Kevin: You know, the Royals are, no question, a better team this year – they’ve had some bad breaks that literally have cost them a .500 record – but, these things will turn around (I hope). However, I was just sort of thinking we may need to run a little triage on the team if some of the younger players are still struggling. Here is my idea: Gordon and Shealy go to AAA to right the ship and clear their heads. We call up Butler and Huber, move Teahan to 3B (and have him play the outfield a little to keep developing his skills) allow Butler to play the OF and put Huber at 1B. We can then give these other guys a shot to produce, but if we need to, move our young struggling players to AAA to get their confidence back. Again, this is something we do at the end of the month, not time to panic now.

Muneer: From the sound of it, Butler's defense is pretty bad right now. We don't need two Emil Browns in the outfield.

I don't know what Huber's stats are so far this season, but has he earned a spot with the big club? He might be fine as a stopgap, but the object is to win games, and I think Shealy gives the team a better chance to do that. I think the team would be better off making Huber a catcher again, and having him compete for that job next season.

I hope Shealy and Gordon can improve, but I don't believe sending either player down to the minors will help his development. Unlike in the past, these guys have been brought up at the right time and are ready to play. They need to take their lumps and then they will improve. Just look at the Twins and A's back in the late '90s. Their teams were horrible, but the core players were kept at the major league level and allowed to develop together. This fostered a sense of team, and that showed when both franchises became successful in the 2000's. Sending Gordon and Shealy down to AAA will erode each's confidence, rather than improve it. It might also hinder the cohesiveness of the team.

Kevin: I am fine with leaving Butler down (and I know you’ve read about how Brown’s defense is actually underrated) Reggie can give us some quality play in the OF. However, Huber to have value to us (he is going to be traded eventually) needs to perform some at the big league level, and I think the situation with Shealy and Gordon could result in more of a Teahen like wake up call (and maybe Shealy doesn’t even have any options left) – however, Ryan is like 27 so who knows if that’s a good idea. I just think young guys can lose a whole season if they lose their confidence in their ability to hit Major League Pitching early and I fear Gordon and Shealy are treading that ground.

Muneer: I think losing confidence is an issue if the player is not ready to play in the majors. I think Gordon and Shealy have proven all they can in the minors. To send them back at this point would simply hinder them from making the adjustments they need to make to become productive big leaguers.

I agree that Huber needs to be dangled as trade bait, but it's more important that the Royals find a way to get Sanders off the books. Maybe Huber can come up once Reggie is out of town.

Kevin: Gordon has not been in AAA, so he hasn’t proven all he can at this point… I’d be surprised if he doesn’t go down if he’s still hitting below the Mendoza line in early May.

Muneer: I'm convinced the Royals will send Alex down if he's at the Mendoza line, but I don't think that would be the best course of action.

Let's use Torii Hunter as an example. He was a mediocre part timer with the Twins in 1999 and 2000. The important thing is that he was in the majors, learning and making adjustments. Then, when the time came in 2001, he was able to become a productive member of the lineup and has remained as such ever since.

Gordon has way more talent than Hunter, and his college experience puts him ahead of a guy drafted out of high school who may need to climb the minor league ladder slowly, and return for confidence boosters.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Riske Business

Kevin: Did you hear Riske’s excuse for giving up the home run yesterday? He thought I-Rod was going to bunt so he put one right down the middle—no joke!

Well, at least he was thinking. That's more than we can say for guys in the past like Runelvys and Asencio.

It's baffling that Riske would think to groove one simply because he thought a bunt was coming. Isn't it standard to make the batter work when he attempts to bunt?

Kevin: Its definitely the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard an athlete admit to!

Muneer: Agreed. Given the Royals' recent sordid past, it's surprising that this is what trumps them all.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Gload over Shealy

Kevin: I'm very irritated that Ross Gload got the start at First Base tonight. For a team trying to develop young players, why is it that Shealy would already be benched the second game of the season in favor of a "grizzled" veteran? I know that's been the concern that I've seen on other blogs, and the concern came to fruition the second game!

Muneer: Let me begin with an analogy: If you have an alcoholic and you place twenty bottles of vodka in a room and leave him in there, the man will drink. It doesn't matter if it's been 20 years since his last drink. That much temptation at the same time is simply irresistible.

That's how Buddy Bell is with vets. Any rational manager would use Gload to spell Shealy and as an occasional DH. Bell loves those vets like a fat kid loves cake. That's why Emil Brown and Sanders will be playing a lot until they get shipped off. That's why Odalis Perez will trot out there 30 times a year even if he's threatening to repeat Jose Lima's 2005 stat line. Bell was the main reason the Rockies and Tigers stank when he was at the helm. He stayed with washed up players for far too long and didn't allow the youngsters to develop. I daresay that he might be one of the main reasons Colorado has been down for so long. By not allowing homegrown Rockies pitchers time to settle in to MLB, he ensured Colorado's pitching staff would be the worst in the NL until Jason Jennings and Jeff Francis showed up.

I have no idea why Dayton didn't bring in his own guy in the offseason. The only reasonable explanation is that he's waiting for his agreement not to poach Braves' personnel to expire, after which date we'll get a manager with an Atlanta pedigree. Even so, I think Dayton could have promoted someone from within the organization to act as a caretaker while the agreement with Braves keeps tolling.

Instead, we have Ross Gload starting the second game of the season.