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Entries in Kansas City Royals (17)

Wednesday
Jun262013

The Annual Summer Inner City Classic

This past weekend we held a fundraiser in Chicago, our summer version of Hot Stove, Cool Music that we have in Boston every January. It is for Paul and Theo Epstein’s Foundation to be Named Later, which benefits several non-profits in Boston, and now with the help of the Chicago Cubs works with the Cubs charities.

The concert was held at The Metro, an incredible venue run by Joe Shanahan across from Wrigley. We had our gathering of outstanding Boston musicians put together by Ed Valauskus, and while I appreciate the pictures of me singing and playing my Strat that Julio Borbon tweeted out, I’m sticking to the day job.

One of the highlights was our first annual Summer Inner City Classic. The Boston Astros from the South End Baseball League—the nation’s largest free league, with more than 50 inner city kids now playing college ball—played the Allstars from the Jackie Robinson West program in Chicago. Flawless baseball, no errors, four double plays, Astros won in extra innings, on the University of Chicago Inner Circle field subsidized by Curtis Granderson. The NCAA has made a conscious effort to keep poor urban kids from playing college baseball, but with men like Robert Lewis running programs like the Astros and South End Baseball, the urban dream lives.

One of the spectators was M.C. Johnson, who in the Sixties played for the Kansas City Monarchs. Johnson now works from the City of Chicago, but he once played with and against Satchel Paige, and shared this story.

“In 1961, Satchel was retired but we played a couple of exhibitions with him,” said Johnson. “The first one was in Wichita. They told us to strike out as much as possible. We argued, but they said, ‘look up in the stands. There’s twenty-something thousand fans in the stands. They’re here to see Satchel. So make sure he gives them the show they paid for."

“So we struck out."

“Three days later we played in Kansas City, but this time, they told us to go ahead and hit him. You know what happened? We all still struck out.”

Four years later, the Kansas City Royals brought back Satchel Paige to face the Red Sox in a regular season game. He shut them out on one hit for three innings.

Monday
Apr222013

Why are the Royals, Twins, Red Sox, Orioles, and Rangers above .500?

AL Teams Batting Average and BA w/RISP

I can't help be fascinated with the differential between team batting average and team average with runners in scoring position as an indicator of team success.

AL teams are hitting .251 overall and .251 with runners in scoring position 

 

It stands to reason then that the teams that are succeeding this young season are the ones with the highest positive differential between the two figures.

As you mouse over the teams, you can see that in terms of batting, the team closest to the average is Houston. Remember, this only takes into account batting and clearly the 5-13 Astros have problems that far exceed their ability to hit with runners in scoring position.

When you look at the Kansas City Royals numbers you can see why they are a first place team. Their batting avg. is fifth best in the league, but their abilty to hit with runners in scoring position is the best in the AL and  at +55 points, you can see a reason for their success.

Look at the Twins, and you can see a reason for their surprising early success. They have a +49 point differential. The Red Sox have a +35 which has brought them success when paired with their strong pitching.

Wonder why the Tigers with their great bats are off to a rocky start? How about hitting 42 points lower with runners in scoring position as an answer? 

The Angels have the highest batting average in the league at .280, but are only hitting .223 w/RISP. This puts them in the bottom four in the league.

But no team is exhibiting worse timely hitting than the White Sox

Chicago, like Toronto, is not hitting well overall, both at .232. But as bad as the Jays are hitting with RISP at .200, that is robust compared to the White Sox at .170, a -62 differential.

Unless, and until, those two teams narrow the gap, the liklihood of even reaching .500 this season remains remote.

In the meantime, as the Royals, Twins, Red Sox, Orioles, and Rangers continue to hit well with runners in scoring position, we will see them above .500 and challenging in their respective divisions.

 

 

Monday
Dec102012

Wade Davis: Middling Starter, Star Reliever

It's no secret that pitchers who move from the starting rotation to the bullpen perform better. No longer worried about conserving energy or playing a cat-and-mouse game with hitters multiple times, starters-turned-relievers ramp up the velocity -- and the strikeouts. But even by those standards Wade Davis' transition during the 2012 season was shocking. Davis, who had a mediocre 92 ERA+ and 6.7 strikeouts per nine innings as a starter from 2009-2011, improved to the tune of a 157 ERA+ 11.1 K/9 out of the 'pen in 2012.

We'll soon find out whether Davis can retain some of those gains in as a starter in Kansas City, as the 27-year-old righty acquired in the James Shields-Wil Myers megadeal will return to the rotation in 2013. Unless he can ramp up the radar gun readings while going six innings, the answer might be "no." 

Davis didn't add a new pitch to his repertoire last year, throwing his fastball about two-thirds of the time, mixing in curveballs (20%) and sliders (10%) and throwing a changeup monthly. He didn't fine-tune his control, either, walking more batters (3.7 per nine) than he did as a starter (3.2). Rather, he boosted the velocity of all his pitches in a big way, leading to a major uptick in whiffs.

Here's Davis' velocity and miss rate with his pitches as a starter, compared to the average for right-handers:

Davis as a starter

 Davis as a SP MLB Avg. for RH SP 
Pitch Velocity Miss Pct. Velocity Miss Pct.
Fastball 91.8 14.1 91.5 14.1
Slider 85.6 25.2 83.9 29.6
Curveball 78.8 15.4 76.9 28.3

 

As a starter, Davis had a league-average fastball both in terms of velocity and miss rate. He threw his slider and curve hard, but his miss rates were paltry. In relief, Davis gained a couple of ticks on all of his pitches and posted elite miss rates:

Davis as a reliever

 Davis as a RP MLB Avg. for RH RP 
Pitch Velocity Miss Pct. Velocity Miss Pct.
Fastball 93.4 26.8 92.9 18.2
Slider 89 41.4 84.1 33.5
Curveball 81.1 31.5 78.4 31.6

 

A couple extra ticks of velocity makes a major difference, particularly with fastballs. Righty pitchers throwing 91-92 MPH fastballs surrendered a .465 opponent slugging percentage last season, over 40 points higher than pitchers sitting between 93-94 MPH (.424). Davis also dropped his fastball slugging percentage about 40 points while moving from that 91-92 range as a starter (.439) to 93-94 in relief (.398). Short of keeping the extra velocity while getting stretched out, Davis could return to mediocrity as a starter.