Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Worst of the Worst
By Ben Valentine

There are jokes in the sportsworld that need no set up. These are phrases which are their own punch lines and will automatically illicit laughter from the general sports fan. For example:

“Isiah Thomas, 2006-2007 Executive of the Year”

Or along the same lines:

“Renaldo Balkman”

If we’re talking teams, few things will get as many snickers as this one:

“Arizona Cardinals, 2007 Super Bowl Champions”

Well actually, there is one:

“Kansas City Royals, .500 baseball team.”

There may not be an organization in all of professional sports, here or overseas, that is as miserable as the Kansas City Royals. Yes they are a small market team, but they actually manage to give such markets a bad name. Even in the days where the Montreal Expos were in a perpetual rebuilding mode, they’d still have one or two very good players, sometimes even all stars. I mean they had Pedro Martinez and Vladimir Guerrero, at one point on the same team. The Marlins have their fire sales, but they do end up with some good players. Even this year, after strip mining that whole roster, the Marlins still are loads better than KC. Seriously has anyone bothered to look at what the Royals have?

Their staff ace? “All Star” Mark Redman. Yes he some how has a “winning” record, 5-4, but that’s been by sheer luck. He’s K/BB ratio is 1.00. That’s right, he’s walked as many batters as he’s struck out. Despite that, he’s got an ERA of 5.59. Perhaps the saving grace is his 1.42 GB/FB ratio. Perhaps. But I think he’s just been really fortunate, since his stuff has been poor even for his standards. His K/9 is 3.65 this year, while his career mark is 5.56.

The All Star Redman is actually worse than the normal Mark Redman. I didn’t even think that was possible.

The true “ace” of the Royals going into this season was supposed to be Scott Elarton. Elarton is a busted Astros’ prospect who salvaged his career by turning himself into a borderline fifth starter last year in pitcher’s friendly Jacob’s Field. His record so far this year? 3-9. His WHIP? 1.44. ERA? 5.13. His K/9 is 3.93 while his K/BB is… amazingly enough below 1.00. (.98!!!!) And he rarely ever gets a ground ball out, posting a .56 ratio! His FIP this year is, funny enough, 6.66! So if Redman was lucky to have an ERA of 5.59, Elarton should go and play lotto right now. On the other hand, why does he need to? The Royals are paying him four million this year to pitch worse than half the guys currently at AAA could.

Unfortunately for the Royals, none of those guys exists in their system. Currently their rotation is filled out by: Mike Wood who is striking hitters out at a rate of 4.06 per nine, while walking nearly as many, and Brandon Duckworth, who’s WHIP currently stands at 2.00. Let me repeat that; he’s allowing an average of two base runners per inning. The team just put their only pitcher this year to have an ERA under 4.00, Jimmy Gobble, back in the rotation. Yes, you read that right. The Royals have only one pitcher who’s thrown in more than 10 games who has an ERA under 4.00. Check that, Elmer Dessens managed to get his ERA down to 3.91 today. Break out the bubbly!

That should tell you all you need to know about the pen. Ambroix Burgess, their closer, has an ERA of 6.28. In Burgess’ defense, he is striking out 9.28 batters per nine and almost has a K/BB of 2.00! That being said, it’s a joke he’s closed this long. While Joel Peralta and Dessens haven’t been good, they do have better WHIPs and K/BB ratios. Dessens has a K/BB of 2.82 and a GB/FB of 1.75, so he’s probably the guy who should have the role until Mike MacDougal returns later this month. Then again, it is hard to make an argument for a guy who’s had an ERA where Dessens’ is.

Things don’t look much better when the Royals come to bat. The team’s best offensive player? It’s supposed to be David DeJesus, but with his injuries he’s been much less than a savior, let alone the second coming of Carlos Beltran. Still, I guess since he does have an .900 OPS right now it is a small bright spot, even if it has come in less than half the team’s games.

The Royals’ highest qualifying OPS man is Emil Brown with a mark of .791 (from a corner outfielder!) I guess that’s better than Terrance Long’s .699 mark from 2005. All things considered, their most valuable non pitcher this year has probably been catcher John Buck, who’s OPS is .733. That’s not exactly good, but considering that makes him an average offensive catcher, it’s something. Currently they are actually starting a guy with an OPS below .600! Angel Berroa is fast becoming this season’s Cristian Guzman. But unlike Guzman, he can’t justify his .596 OPS as being the result of playing in the worst hitters pack in baseball. How did this guy win rookie of the year a few years back?

But hey, they’ve got the fastest player in baseball, Joey Gathright. Of course I think I might have more power. He’s slugging .333! At least he has a .375 OBP with KC. I guess with his speed, that makes him a one tool player, which gives him one more than half of the Royals’ hitters.

It can’t all be payroll here people.

There have been teams with cheap owners before. The aforementioned Expos, the current Marlins, the Pirates. None of these teams were nearly the completely pile of garbage this current Royals roster is. It isn’t just that the Royals can’t keep talent, but they’ve become miserable at acquiring it. At least when the Expos and Marlins had to dump players, they got excellent prospects back.

When the Royals dealt Carlos Beltran, they got back Wood, Mark Teahan and Buck. Decent players but no one particularly good. Teahan I suppose could be something down the road and Buck is average. However, as this Hardball Times article points out when the deal came down, none were considered top notch prospects, as one would expect to get for a player of Beltran’s capabilities.

For Johnny Damon, they got back Berroa, AJ Hinch and Roberto Hernandez. Ironically enough, they also gave up Mark Ellis to Oakland, so the A’s ended up the best two players in this three way trade with Tampa. What is it with the Royals and trading for catching prospects? Don’t they know most don’t pan out to be anything offensively?

Let’s not even get started on Zack Greinke’s who they’ve turned into Rick Ankiel. Greinke suddenly needed a leave of absence back in spring training and didn’t start pitching until May. Now he’s back, getting lit up at AA to the tune of a 5.91 ERA in six starts (seven games). After a very solid rookie season, the young righty fell apart. Can this all be blamed entirely on the Royals? Maybe not, but it seems as though this organization botches its young players frequently. Wood, JP Howell and even DeJesus come to mind off this current crop of Royals. (Howell is now departed to Tampa in exchange for Gathright).

The biggest culprit for this mess was Allard Baird, but he’s now been let go. David Glass is partially to blame, but there is no way a team should be this bad unless someone were trying to lose 100 games.

We’ll see if former Braves assistant Dayton Moore can right the ship, but the Gathright deal doesn’t inspire me with much confidence. Parting with a potential middle of the rotation to back end guy may not seem like much, but you need more than a one tool player back.

It’s trades like that which have now netted the Royals the title :

“The worst of the worst”

Sorry Arizona Cardinal fans, you’re just going to have to wait at least a few years before you can get it back.


Blogger Matt Brown said...

No argument here. The Royals are being run so poorly that it makes you wonder if there's some other, more sinister plot at work (a la the owner in the movie "Major League").

I say that it's at least a 50-50 bet that Reggie Sanders becomes a Yankee by the trading deadline. With Sheffield and Matsui hurt, they need another reliable outfielder, and Sanders is just the type of veteran Steinbrenner would pick up for the stretch drive. That is, of course, if the Yankees are still close enough in the race to be buyers as opposed to sellers at the deadline (okay, now I'm just thinking wishfully...)

4:31 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

Not saying the Royals haven't been horrible (believe me, I know) but wouldn't this have been more relevant before they won five of their last six series, 11 of their last 16 games, and swept the Pirates? I mean, pretty clearly the NL Central has a couple of teams that could be worse than KC.

And how could you forget the magical 2003 season where they held on to finish 82-79?

2:59 PM  
Blogger J Rob said...

Yeah, this blog would have made more sense had it been written a month ago. You know, when the Royals were on pace to beat the '62 Mets for worst team ever. After playing a month of about .500 baseball, they have caught up to the Pirates and Cubs in the standings, and would now have to lose 33 straight to be back on that Mets pace. I'm not saying the team isn't bad, but choosing to rip on them now seems, well, pretty lame. You could have easily waited for their next losing streak to post this.

3:32 PM  
Blogger Ben Valentine said...

Some people like to wait to a kick a team when they're down; I don't. I do it when I see fit. The halfway point of the season seemed fine to do it.

One sweep of the Pirates proves nothing. Pittsburgh, as bad as they are, have two pretty good players in Jason Bay and Freddy Sanchez, who are both light years better than anyone on the Royals.

Besides that, the Pirates and Royals might have the same number of actual wins, but the Pirates have a Pwin total of 38, which says they've been horribly unlucky so far this year. The Royals? 29, saying how they've performed this year is how they should.

The next closest team is the Cubs with 32 Pwins (31 actual). And I have ripped the Cubbies before in this space. But they haven't been as miserable for as long.

In any case, good to see Royals fans defending their team. Takes me back to the days of the Jets' 1-15 season when I wore my team jacket to school every day despite the record.

11:34 PM  

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