Wednesday, July 30, 2008

So much to ponder at first base

So, Kila Kaaihue made his AAA debut, going 1-4 with a homerun, 3 fly ball outs, and a strikeout looking to end the game.

(Also, a note about my links...lately I've been linking to the fanshots at Royals Review instead of directly to the stories at their source. I do this because I <3 the commenters at RR. Hope that's OK!)

I was really looking forward to seeing this patient hitter about whom I've read so much, but he looked very jumpy at the plate tonight.
1st AB: Took first pitch, swung at 2nd (popout)
2nd AB: Fouled off first pitch, popped out on 2nd
3rd AB: This one was much better, and is what I figure is more indicative of what we'll see from Kila - 6 pitches, flied out deeeeep on a 3-2 count
4th AB: his home run. 5 pitches
5th AB: his strikeout looking. 5 pitches.

I don't think I can say too much about him as a player from tonight. I'm guessing his first few at-bats were shortened by nerves. I will keep an extra eye on him (good thing I have three?) during this last month of the season.

Kaaihue's arrival meant Ryan Shealy was bumped to DH. I mentioned yesterday that I thought the time might be right for Shealy to get a chance in KC again, rather than competing with Kila for playing time. Jeffery Flanagan has some more thoughts about that in the KC Star today. I hope tomorrow's trade deadline creates a roster space for Shealy; I really do think he deserves it. He has handled the indignities brought forth by injuries and slumps with an admirable amount of patience and grace. Plus, he has been beating the shit out of the ball. He may not have Ross Gload's GRITTINESS factor that GMDM and Trey Hillman are so in love with, but he's someone I'd happily include on my 40-man* if anyone ever made me GM for a day.

*not an innuendo


Kila Kaaihue has been promoted to Omaha, and I can barely contain my giddiness. I'm not sure what this means for B&OT favorite Ryan Shealy...will he and Kaaihue have to split time at 1B/DH, or is the front office going to be impressed enough with his performance lately (.367/.454/.578 in July) to give him another look in the Bigs?

Either way, I love it when big-name prospects get promoted to Omaha. It's exciting to think about the possibilities a guy like Kaaihue brings. I'm pumped about his plate discipline, having watched Jason Smith hack his way into 125 strikeouts has made me long for someone who can take a work the count AND hit for power.

I've promised the good folks at Royals Review (linked to at the beginning of this post) that I'll report anything worth sharing about Kila's performance at AAA. Hopefully I get to start tonight, but I haven't seen lineups yet for tonight's matchup against Salt Lake.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Dear Bob Dutton, you're breaking my heart

Oh, trade rumors. It's the time of year when I'm simultaneously giddy with anticipation of juicy trades, but nervous that someone I like might get traded away. Behold: Yankees taking a hard look at Bannister as trade deadline nears

By now, y'all have figured out how I feel about Banny. I mean, it says right there in my blog description that he is my favorite Royal. I love the extent to which he's a student of baseball...all pitchers review films and study opposing hitters, but Banny lives, breathes, eats and shits baseball studies. And he still loves baseball. He's the reason I spend more time learning about the game than I ever took the time to learn before; I have always found the game to be interesting, but had never devoted time/money/energy to knowing it until Banny so riveted me last season.

Furthermore, JoePo has the same love affair with the magnificent brain of Brian, so the joys I reap from a Banny day do not end when his start ends - I also get treated to the Banny Log. (Also check out Poz's piece about Bannister in the Star - it's like the B-Log in newspaper form! Heck yeah!)

Anyway, I'm pulling hard for the Yanks to work out some deal with Seattle. Let Jarrod Washburn be a Yankee; I don't want to see Bannister in pinstripes, and besides...what would I do with my Bannister powder blue?

I am intrigued by this trade rumor though. Kind of flattered, even. It's not easy being a fan of someone like Banny sometimes, because not everyone is willing to be patient while he tweaks one thing or re-thinks another, and his ERA hangs out in the neighborhood of five. So people rip him all the time on message boards, other Royals blogs (as I am only one of thousands), and pretty much everywhere. Once he started slumping after that amazing 3-0 start, the negativity about him was everywhere, and while I understand where these people were coming from, I defended him every time because it's Bannister, and that means something to me. So for the Yankees to be courting him makes me feel like JoePo and I are not alone in this; someone else thinks having a Bannister is better than not having one. Like this latest round of adjustments will be the right one, and he'll be able to have more (and not flukey) success for a team scratching its way towards the top of its division.

So if the Yankees see that in him...does that mean the Royals do too? Will they hang on to Banny even if it means losing out on Melky Cabrera, whom they've actively courted before? I'm just selfishly going to sit here and hope the Yanks are successful in their quest to land Jarrod Washburn so I don't have to see my favorite pitcher join the Empire. And I'll probably be wearing that #19 powder blue, just in case.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Six innings gone, and the Royals haven't had a single freaking baserunner.

Has a team ever been the victim of a no-hitter AND a perfect game in the same season? The Royals are the perfect candidate: They've already been no-hit, so we know that can happen, and they're dead last in the league in walks drawn. All Armando Galarraga has to do is avoid plunking anyone, and he should be able to finish what he's started.

This team = yuck. Ergo, my life = yuck.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Mind-blowing pitching.

I had a post all conjured up in my brain about how nice it was to have some balance in my day - one of the best games I've seen all year was being balanced beautifully by one of the worst.

Then Ryan LeFebvre started describing the lineup changes that had been made to prepare for the top of the 9th inning. Mike Aviles had already moved from SS to 2B to accommodate Tony Pena coming in at short, but then moved back to SS. Esteban German then came in to play 2B, and German looked wildly amused because...then I think LeFebvre stopped talking. He didn't need to say anything out loud; the camera slowly panning over to the pitcher's mound said more than an announcer ever could.

Tony Pena Jr.



This solves two major problems with the Royals roster.
1) TPJ no longer has to bat, and
2) Jimmy Gobble never has to come in to face more than one batter at once.


****UPDATE**** Oh looky! I found a video!

The best AAA game I've seen all year

A heck of a ballgame happened in Omaha today. John Bale made his second relief appearance at the AAA level; he threw an inning yesterday and an inning today. He needed exactly 20 pitches, which I believe was his limit anyway, to get through his inning.

After Bale came out, the recently acquired Jose Capellan took the mound to relieve him. I hadn't seen Capellan pitch before today, but I am impressed. I was told that his fastball used to touch 100 mph, but he has dialed it down in order to gain some control. Today he absolutely had control, throwing only 95 pitches through 8 innings and fanning 7 Round Rock players along the way. He walked only one batter.

Capellan's best pitch has always been his fastball, but I saw him throw some pretty nasty sliders in the 8th and 9th innings*. He kept up a quick tempo throughout the whole game, and I'm certain that if Bale had not been in the picture today, Cap would have thrown a beauty of a complete game. But I can settle for a mere eight innings of shutout ball, an outing in which only one Round Rock baserunner even got to 2nd base.

*Those were the only innings I got to watch closely; before that I had been running all over the stadium trying to catch up on things I had missed because I managed to oversleep this morning. But my duties ended after the stretch today, so I relished the opportunity to watch like a regular fan in a great seat directly behind the plate.

On the other side of the ball, Round Rock starter Chad Reineke only allowed four Royals to get to scoring position in his 8 innings. He struck out 8 and walked 3. Can you tell this was a short game? Dang - 2 hours and 17 minutes. Anyway, this definitely qualified as a pitcher's duel and I decided it was the best game I had watched all season.

And that was before the bottom of the 9th.

Reineke had given way to reliever Fernando Nieve, who got Gookie Dawkins to strike out looking, which then brought up Mike Stodolka. Stodolka has finally been getting regular playing time this month and has been on base pretty steadily in his last 10 games. However, none of his hits in that span have been for extra bases - until today when he connected with Nieve's first pitch and blasted it into the right field bleachers for a 1-0 Omaha win.

Monday, July 14, 2008

1st half in review, because I'm BORED already

Ugh, I really hate the All-Star Break. A lot. I hate it even knowing that the guys not involved in stuff in New York have the chance to go home (wherever that may be) for a few days. I suppose that much is cool, but it doesn't change the fact that this is the least interesting three days in the entire sports year. I don't buy into the hype that ESPN has been building around the Derby, or the ASG itself. The Futures Game is a useful tool to see who's who around baseball, but it's over, and the rest of the break has begun.

Yesterday's Royals game put me in a deep funk, and I am having trouble remembering that there have been some great things so far this Royals season. All I can see is John Buck having a weak, inaccurate arm, Mike Aviles making the wrong throw, and Joakim Soria helplessly waving his arms at home, completely undeserving of the 'L' that was assigned to his record.

But I only have to look at the previous night's game to know that good things can happen to Royals fans. I've watched that DeJesus home run and listened to Denny's radio call of it over and over and over and over, and it doesn't get any less awesome. Couldn't have happened to a better guy, y'know?

DeJesus is having such a great season, and I'm not sure if it will serve to cement himself as a cornerstone for the beginning of contention, or if it will just bolster his trade value. Either way, I'm enjoying his '08 production so far. It's only halftime and he's already set a new career high for homers in a season; he's only 7 shy of his career high for RBI, and he's on pace to set new career highs in hits and steals. He's slugging better than he ever has (.474) and is getting on base as well as he usually does. And his OPS+ of 121 leads the team, and is head-and-shoulders above the All-Star That Wasn't, Jose Guillen (who is at 98).

With all that in mind, I invite you to take a moment and treat yourself to that walkoff home run again. Really. Here it is.

For one night, the Royals got to be the heartbreakers instead of having their hearts broken. And it happened in the same night that Mark Grudzielanek collected his 2000th hit. An honorable career milestone and a sweet walkoff victory in the same night? Awesome! Plus, Horacio Ramirez (or Ho-Ram, if you prefer, and I certainly do) picked up a win against the team that cut him. So many stories...this was the kind of game that left me so high on baseball I didn't think I'd ever come down.

And then Sunday happened. What a stupid game. If you didn't see how Seattle scored the winning run, you're lucky. I do not believe I've ever been this blindly pissed off about the Royals finding creative ways to blow a game, certainly not this season. It didn't help that Joakim Soria was on the mound and had to pay for the mistakes of his teammates by taking a loss.

So now I need to breathe, to stop being angry and to enjoy some of the cool things that have happened this season. I need to do something to keep me warm through this long, cold break from meaningful baseball.

Opening Series:
Remember how cool it was to sweep Detroit? At that time, Detroit was the team that was supposed to score 1000. OK, I know nobody intelligent was actually predicting it. ESPN just kept building and building on the hype around the Tigers, and eventually the number just sort of ballooned into 1000. Anyway, it was exciting, to the point where I was an illiterate, blubbering mess. But once I collected my wits about me, I came up with some sweet math to commemorate the sweep.

Two aces:
Zack Greinke and Brian Bannister both got off to those incredible starts, where their ERAs were both under 1.00 and each was 3-0. Greinke has kept it up to some extent, which is exactly what I expected of him. I had hoped that this was his 20-win season, but at this point it would take a near-miracle to get there form his current mark of 7-5. I suppose that's a symptom of playing for a team like Kansas City - lots of no-decisions. But I've got my fingers crossed as tight as they can be crossed that the Royals lock down Greinke to a long-term deal, and soon.

Anyway, the hot start for those two pitchers also included the home opener, in which Bannister struck A-Rod out three times. And I was there. Oh, and there were the back-to-back CG shutouts. Awesome!

Fast forward a little ways, and there was the night Jon Lester no-hit the Royals. I should look at that game as a low for the Royals, but I'm too enamored with no-hitters to have been that upset at the time. The rest of the games in that losing streak. hurt a lot worse.

Yeah, those days were dark. But this roster move was made, and the spark that Michael Anthony Aviles provided to the Royals lineup was undeniable. His hot streak made us all very, very excited, and paved the way for a winning June.

Lots of other cool things have happened to the Royals. Jose Guillen was the world's greatest hitter for about 6 weeks. Joakim Soria's legend has grown and grown, and justifiably so. Did you guys see this video wherein Soria was given a "Mexicutioner" t-shirt? Hat tip to Brad for the video, and there's just so much to love: 1) Jack is so adorably humble about being one of the best closers in the game. 2) I love the way the name "Mexicutioner" has caught on. Dutton uses it regularly in stories in the Star, and it has now been used in FNSKC broadcasts as well.

Do you have a favorite KC moment from the season so far? Which are the moments you can watch and relive and discuss, without loss of their awesomeness?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Some Random ORoyals things

1. Last night in the first inning, Dusty Hughes struck out the side in ELEVEN pitches. Wow. The rest of his outing wasn't as awe-inspiring, but still...just WOW. (Here's the box)The game was a 10-inning thriller with a heck of a crowd. I couldn't ask for more!

2. The Royals have acquired lefty reliever Josh Newman from the Colorado waiver wire.

3. ORoyals players who have facebook groups dedicated to them:
Neal Musser
Brayan Pena
Ryan Shealy has three.
Shane Costa
Chris Lubanski
Mitch Maier

I don't know what made me do this, other than when I realized I'm not in any fan clubs of our own AAA players, but I've joined one for someone from another team. Anyway, totally meaningless, but it helped me pass the time before the Royals play tonight.

4. Here's a pro/con thingie I wrote at Ladies... about day baseball games.

5. This item is not ORoyals related at all, but I wrote a thing about Brett Favre's latest comeback-related shenanigans.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Well that sucks: Volume 984753

- Having four hits but still being That Guy who grounds into a game-ending DP for a loss: Not a good Sunday
Ryan N. Shealy had four hits today, extending his hit streak to seven games. In his last 10 games, Shealy is batting .412 in spite of three hitless games before his hit streak. He's had four multi-hit games in the last week. Yep, Ryan Shealy is hot right now. So there was no reason to feel anything but optimistic when he came up to bat with one on and one out in the bottom of the 9th today.

But then time slowed down. I swear it was a horror movie slow motion thing. In my mind, I was screaming "Ryan NO! Don't swing at that pit--" but it happened anyway. Shealy swung at the first pitch and grounded weakly into a double play. His four hits suddenly didn't seem to matter; instead he became the rally killer. Such is the fickle nature of baseball - she is a cruel mistress, no?

On a completely unrelated note, Leo Nunez was at Rosenblatt today, presumably gearing up for some rehab work. It was good to see him again, and I'll of course report anything I notice about his progress I get to see him pitch.

Oh, one more Shealy thing I've been dying to share:
Yesterday I was at the dugout wall, asking Shealy a question for an upcoming story. My friend Becky was standing next to me, and Shealy was idly swinging a bat around as he talked. Becky said something about how he had better not hit her with it. He said, "Relax, I know what I'm doing with this thing."
[awkward pause and sheepish smile]
"...some of the time."

Gotta love that kind of humility and self-awareness.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Putting the 'perstit' in superstition

After a sweep at the hands of first-place Iowa and a loss to start a new home series with Memphis, it was safe to attach the label of "struggling" to the Omaha Royals. They had won only 3 of their last 10 games, the pitching staff had been giving up almost 6 runs per game in that time, and the offense had only offered 4.5 runs/game in return (an average artificially inflated by one ten-run effort).

I admit I'd been feeling a little defeated when it came to the home team. So when they were down 5-4 in the 7th inning tonight, I did not hold my usual amount of hope that Brian Buchanan would deliver, even with the bases full o' Royals. And then one of my co-workers asked who would sing as the Fat Lady (cuz it ain't over until SHE sings) if the team went on to win. At that point, I was furious at this gal - we do NOT talk openly about the Fat Lady duties, nor about the Victory Pigs we throw after wins. I was sure that was the end for the Royals, because dagnabbit we are a superstitious bunch.

But then, a pitch later, Buchanan smashed the ball, good for his 3rd career grand slam. Just like that, the Royals led. Cool. But we still had Yasuhiko Yabuta on the mound in relief of Dusty Hughes (who had struggled but stayed afloat) and two more innings to protect the newfound lead. I had very few reasons to feel secure in a victory, but Yabuta provided another surprise and only yielded one run in his four full innings of relief and now sports an ERA under five. Woo! Victory pigs and Fat Lady singing for all!

(For the record, I fulfilled the Fat Lady singing duties. With the Mentos jingle.)

On a completely unrelated note, I arranged an interview for what ought to be a cool little story. More details later.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Birthday cake, Royals style

So, it is my birthday.

Last year on my birthday, I was at Rosenblatt to watch Scott Elarton give up 3 2-run homers in the first inning, and a solo shot in the 2nd. I don't think I need to say this, but the O-Royals went on to lose that one. Pretty miserable present, right? But that was also the day that Kansas City exploded for 17 runs and Billy Butler had 6 RBI in the first two innings.

I have always had the thought in my head that Kansas City loses on my birthday, but I'm never actually around to watch the games because my family is really big into fireworks so maybe they've won more July 3 games than I've perceived. Maybe I just remember the losses more, but the wins are actually there. RetroSheet to the rescue*!!

*What in the hell did sportswriters do without RetroSheet, Baseball-Reference, FanGraphs, etc.? Seriously. I can't go an hour without rushing to one or more of these sites to chase down verification on some thought or statistical inquiry. I know a lot of people don't use these amazing resources, because I still hear incredibly unfounded complaints, inane comparisons, and flatout falsehoods about every team and player under the sun.

As I started to go through the boxes from my birthdays each year, I wondered to myself where I got the idea that the team always lost on my birthday. They were right around .500 for a few years, but then went on an incredible stretch from 1995 to 2002 (inclusive) where they lost every birthday game, then won in '03, then lost three straight years. That brings us back to last year's tea party, which sounded like an awesome game but I was too busy watching Omaha get slaughtered. Yikes.

Overall, the Royals are 6-13 on July 3 in my life, with one off day. (Yes, I'm only 20. I don't want to hear it.)

Some random highlights:
1988 and 1990: Bo Jackson homered
1995: Household favorite Matt Stairs homered to contribute to Boston's win
1997: Royals did not play, which was probably for the better
1999: Mike Sweeney and Jermaine Dye both homered, but KC lost anyway
2005: Game called after 5 innings due to rain
2006: My brother Ryan was there, and called me after a few beers to tell how KC was beating up on Johan Santana. Royals lost 6-5.

So basically, uh...The Royals hate me. The end.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Lumsden in relief: a step in the right direction

I was a little surprised to see Tyler Lumsden's name beneath starter Matt Wright's name in tonight's O-Royals box score. The lefty Lumsden was used in relief only once last year, and all his appearances this year (before tonight) have been starts. However, they've pretty much been bad starts.

I'd love to tell you that I'm a saintly, ever-optimistic superfan, but there have been days where I see that Lumsden is the starter and my first thought is "automatic loss." That's horrible, but his numbers this year bear it out:
>12 hits/9 innings
5.83 BB/9 innings
WHIP of nearly TWO (1.95 before tonight)
and of course, the 7.33 ERA.

So to say the very least, it has been a bad season for Tyler Lumsden. I've always wondered where the cutoff is between "just a bad start" and "horrible season, release this guy immediately." I believe the midway point is a pretty good starting point; I have to assume that if Tyler was going to right the ship he would have started doing it by now. Instead, he was tossed in to mop up a mess that Wright made.

I was suprised for a few reasons:
1) I didn't know a move to the 'pen was coming for Lumsden (if tonight's game is an indication of his role for the 2nd half)

2) The Omaha rotation has been very shaken up lately, with Carlos Rosa and sometimes-starter Jeff Fulchino up and back down, and other roster moves, I figured the guys who have always been starters would continue to start until the rotation settled back down a bit. Roman Colon and Brad Salmon, generally relievers, have been making starts lately, but I don't know if that's permanent or just filling holes. But then that creates holes in the bullpen, especially after the release of Roberto Giron (about which I am still scratching my head).

Anyway, I don't like giving up on players but is it maybe time to do something with Lumsden? I guess moving him to the bullpen is OK - he was pretty decent tonight, giving up 2 runs on 6 hits in 5 innings. Ironically, those 5 innings were greater than his average IP for all his starts this season; he averages just 4.88 IP per start.

I continually feel grateful that the Royals got Dan Cortes in addition to Lumsden for MacDougal, so that trade stays on the positive side. (By the way, I really liked Sam Mellinger's evaluation of Dayton Moore's trades and signings. If you missed them, here are Part I and Part II.)

Anyway, I don't know if any of this even means anything. After all, it was only one relief appearance. But I am curious to see how Tyler will be treated for the rest of the season - will he be Starter Tyler Lumsden who sometimes relieves (as many minor league starters are), or Reliever Tyler Lumsden who used to start? And whichever title he gets...will he still be a Royal when he gets it? It is July now.

Moving on:
I have said before that when I get particularly upset, I bake cookies. Tonight's KC game...that's a cookie-baking situation. The bottom of the third was enough to drive a woman to drink, and drink heavily. I don't know whose fault it was that Mike Aviles didn't throw home on the cutoff from Jose Guillen. I don't think it was Aviles' fault, because his back was to the infield while he waited for the throw, and although he has many great qualities, he does not possess eyes in the back of his head. So whose job should it have been to tell him to throw home? Gordon? Olivo? Hochevar? I don't know.

And what was the deal with Guillen pretending to be a statue on that fly ball in the 2nd? Gathright had to run a looooong way over to that ball, and when the camera finally panned that far over, Guillen hadn't moved at all. LeFebvre and Splitt laid into Guillen pretty hard for that, and rightfully so. It was just bewildering. They brought up the point that if he's hurting so badly that he can't even cover his share of the outfield, he should suck it up and DH even though he hates DHing. I agree completely. Or if it wasn't the injuries that made him stand so still, what was it? Good thing Gathright made the play; that play would have made the SportsCenter stupid reel if it had plopped down so near Guillen and resulted in an inside-the-park homer.

Ugh. Such a stupid game, but before I go off to bake my anger-cookies, I have to ask:
Was Mark Teahen's homer hit with his grandmother's ash?