Friday, February 29, 2008

"We both have trouble answering questions in English"

This won't be a regular thing, since a good tenth of the Internet is filled with Red Sox sites, but we thought it noteworthy that the Sox visited the White House on Wednesday and noticeably lifted the mood of our beleaguered President.

Boston Globe reporting:

But the star of the show quickly became Bush, the former owner of the Texas Rangers and fan-in-chief who was clearly enjoying the opportunity to mingle with ballplayers after more substantive meetings earlier in the day with the prime minister of the Czech Republic and a special envoy from the Organization of the Islamic Conference:

Singling out ace hurler Daisuke Matzuzaka, Bush made reference to the large group of Japanese reporters who were on hand, joking, "His press corps is bigger than mine." He then noted another similarity he said he shares with "Dice K": "We both have trouble answering questions in English."

The story goes on to report that those in attendance did their best to avoid questions about the Justice Department's investigation of possible perjury by former Yankee Roger Clemens. You have to know the Sox players were smiling on the inside, though.

POSTSCRIPT: Quotes like this -- from Don Orsillo of NESN -- vindicates the practice of writing articles about spring training (my bold):
"This is my eighth season coming up," said Orsillo. "I could never imagine that Red Sox Nation and the thirst for all things Red Sox could grow year in and year out, and I think it has. As a kid growing up in New England, there was great Sox loyalty at that point, but it has grown immensely and continues to grow. It's amazing that people want more. One of the new things we did this year was kind of a test run on [airing] the first workouts of spring training. It's the first of its kind in the major leagues, which is pretty amazing. When you think that fans would watch virtually two hours worth of drills . . . they did and they want more. I wouldn't be surprised if, moving forward, we did more of that. The thirst is great and growing as we speak."

POSTSCRIPT 2: Don't hold back now, Hank.

The return of Gilgameche and Nomo the Warrior

First, the score of yesterday's intra-team game: Royals 3, Royals 1. Dick Kaegel has more here.

We turn our attention now to this afternoon's game, which promises to give us our first glimpse of Gil Meche and Hideo Nomo, nicknamed The Warrior by his former Dodgers teammates (and warriory-ly armored to the right).

The lowly Padres are already cowering upon the specter of death and demolition.

POSTSCRIPT: Craig Brown over at Royals Authority has a video up of Billy Butler. Also, he links to a three-part series on Brian Bannister, which we'll discuss in detail in the coming days.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Well, good thing that didn't count

Among the positives from yesterday, both John Bale and Luke Hochevar turned in solid outings, with Bale striking out the side in the 1st (before giving up a run in the 2nd) and Hochevar retiring all six batters he faced without letting the ball out of the infield. He did this, by the way, with the flu, and if you remember the last time the flu hit you, how you laid on the couch and granted entry to the likes of Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Spears with the sound of Mark Steines' voice filling your existence (Entertainment Tonight, anyone? Or is that just me when I get sick?), maybe you can better appreciate Hochevar's effort.

New acquisitions Brian Lawrence, Ron Mahay and Yasuhiko Yabuta didn't do nearly as well. Box score.

Anyway, nearly all recaps I've read have neglected to mention the exploits of 26-year-old Mike Stodolka, but not us. This pitcher-turned-3B/OF pinch-ran for Billy Butler and scored the Royals' only run. The picture of him to the right is courtesy of John Sleezer of the KC Star. Keep up the good work, Mike. Make Fontana, California, proud.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

First game of spring, and this time it counts!

In the Cactus League Standings, that is. From Megan Stock of MLBlogs:

It's still a charity game between the two teams that share Surprise Stadium, but it's also going to count as an official Cactus League game, which means...

Spring Training is here and it's time to play ball!

Your lineup for the 2:05 CST contest vs. Texas:

David DeJesus - CF
Esteban German - 2B
Mark Teahen - LF
Ryan Shealy - DH
Alex Gordon - 3B
Billy Butler - 1B
Shane Costa - RF
John Buck - C
Tony Pena, Jr. - SS

John Bale - SP
Possible Relievers: Luke Hochevar, Brian Lawrence, Ron Mahay, Yasuhiko Yabuta, Carlos Rosa.

Jorge De La Rosa was supposed to start this game, but he came down with the flu and will be pushed back to tomorrow's intrasquad game. Jose Guillen and Mark Grudzielanek aren't expected to play, but new faces Lawrence, Mahay and Yabuta should all see at least an inning of work. It'll be interesting to see what Rosa can do. He's not to be confused with Daniel Cortes, who Rany convincingly compares with a young Jon Garland, but he's No. 6 on the Royals' prospect list, according to Baseball America, and through 25 games in the minors (21 starts) has a 3.60 ERA with 6.38 K/9 and 1.85 K/BB. At 23, he still has time to advance through the system, and today is just another step.

Time to play ball indeed.

POSTSCRIPT: This is a fun video from Nationals camp. You see these players all having a good time and it's hard not to think of impending spring, with sunshine and extended daylight. Baseball: shortening winters since 1903.

POSTSCRIPT 2: Really not sure how this Royals blog flew under the radar, considering its name is Royals Baseball and the URL is Anyway, it's here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Erin Andrews, why hast thou forsaken us... for David Wells???

The credit belongs to Sam Mellinger of Ball Star. He tried burying the following tidbit in his blog post today, but in a cyberworld of 400 million porn sites (that's a real stat, by the way), the presence -- nay, words... nay, idea -- of "Erin Andrews" -- as that innocent, smart, funny, photogenic, approachable girl-next-door who happens to be blond -- gains added appeal: it's acceptable, even dutiful, to ogle her, even in public, because that's our clean and healthy way of expressing male coolness. She's sweet, not like those porn stars (though god bless 'em). And her name, whenever floated on the 'Net, is like sugar water to flies.

Mellinger reporting:

I think Erin Andrews does a fine enough job, and I see what everyone else sees in her, but I gotta say I can't look at her the same or take her as seriously since I saw her exchange cheek kisses with David Wells in the Padres clubhouse last year.

Leave it to the less professionally inclined to play up such scuttlebutt. We normally wouldn't post about this, except...

  1. Ball Star is a Royals blog, so...
  2. We've always held a sinking suspicion that Andrews wasn't as, um, professionally steadfast as the likes of Jim Gray. This confirms it.
  3. We too will never look at her the same. Unless, of course, we're looking at her this way.

Oh, Erin... oh...

Monday, February 25, 2008

Of quizzes and baseball

You enter baseball to avoid taking tests, right? I mean, besides the playing-in-modern-cathedrals and fulfilling-childhood-dreams and taking-your-place-among-folk-heroes and maybe the money-money-money, athletes who enter baseball can reasonably expect to never have to pick up a No. 2 pencil again, isn't that right?

So what's this all about?

When first-base coach Rusty Kuntz asked the Kansas City Royals to take his quiz on outfield play and baserunning fundamentals, there were quite a few "who didn't have a clue."

Quiz? I can hardly imagine how a baseball coach might approach a player for something like this.

Kuntz: Hey guy, would you mind taking this short quiz?
Player: Yeah, sure, where do I sign?
Kuntz: Uh, no... I think you have me confused with a 10-year-old boy asking for an autograph. I need you to take this quiz on baseball fundamentals.
Player: Wait, who are you again?

But it's good to see the Royals are serious about fundamentals, and if you have any doubt that new manager Trey Hillman is serious about winning, read this from Tim Brown of Yahoo. Notice that the operative and formerly oft-used word "believes," which appears early in the article, later turns into "expects," as in, "So, he’ll demand wins, and all that goes into them, and he’ll expect championships."

Anyway, one more point on the quiz: what I want to know -- and I'll throw this over to the guys at Bucs Dugout -- is the possible identity of the player described here:

But that was better than the first player Kuntz quizzed a couple of years ago in Pittsburgh.

"Out of 50 questions, the guy got five correct," Kuntz said. "And this was a starting player in the major leagues, a very well-known guy. I thought, 'Oh, my gosh. Oh, my goodness.'"

Here's the Pirates roster from 2006. Have at it.

Of course, judging by some of the questions -- "...can you have an infield fly rule on a bunt play?" -- I'm not sure any of us are in a position to criticize anybody's performance. I mean, it's not like getting a 4 on the 50-point Wonderlic test, wasting three hours of your workday on Tickle or flunking a personality test.

POSTSCRIPT: Bunting came up again, by the way. This is going to be a recurring theme throughout the season, I just know it.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


"Bunting is one of the easiest things that you can do in baseball," says the guy in this video. I'm pretty sure this is, if not incorrect, a silly thing to say, because the process of rerouting a projectile traveling upwards of 90 mph should never, ever, under any circumstances be described as easy. Saying bunting is "one of the easiest things to do in baseball" is kind of like saying gargling is the easiest part of gargling motor oil: that is, still not easy, and with risk of death (see: Ray Chapman).

Ask Trey Hillman whether bunting is easy. His team, apparently, is still figuring it out:

As rain fell on a cold, dismal Friday at Spring Training, the Royals got in their first work under game conditions with Hillman an intense observer behind the mound.

He found flaws in both the batters' bunts and the way the pitchers and infielders handled them.


He did see improvement in Tony Pena, who had problems bunting at times last season.

Pena also had problems hitting, as evident by his .267/.284/.356 line and OPS+ of 66. Makes you wonder: if you had a team of Tony Penas, would it be better if they did nothing but attempt bunts -- drag bunts, push bunts, sacrifice bunts, suicide squeeze bunts -- in every plate appearance? What would their expected run table look like? Guarantee not like this.

POSTSCRIPT: Interesting read of the day: the story of Tony Gwynn Jr., the Padres and that hit.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Mike Maroth: pitcher, blogger

We were making our daily round of reading tonight when we discovered, via RTC Talk, this gem of a site: Yes, that's the Royals' Mike Maroth, signed to a minor league contract earlier this month (in case you've forgotten or never noticed).

As RTC points out, Maroth isn't the only Royal to have a website, but as far as I can tell he's the only one with a blog. And one producing original content, too:

It has been a busy week. This time last week, we had just agreed to a contract with the Royals. Then on Monday evening, I was on a plane headed to Surprise, AZ for the start of Spring Training.

Looking this thing over, I've come to three conclusions:

1. This Mike will have no problem taking Mike Sweeney's vacated mantle of "That Really, Really Religious Guy." After he got cut by the Cardinals, he posted on Feb. 14:

During this time, God revealed a few things in His word to me. The first was in John 11 when Lazarus was sick, and Mary and Martha begged Jesus to visit him. Lazarus was one of Jesus' best friends. It took 2 more days before Jesus went to see Lazarus, and by that time Jesus saw him he was dead for 4 days. Jesus questioned Martha's faith in Him and after she demonstrated her faith, Jesus raised Lazarus from the grave. I learned that no matter how bad I might need God to answer me and rescue me from my circumstances, it is in His timing. And during the silent period when God doesn't respond, he wants me to show Him my faith in action.

It's tempting to call Maroth Lazarus from here on, but I'll resist. If you want to know the second thing revealed to him, click here and scroll to the bottom post.

2. He's got quite the dry sense of humor -- one might say so dry as to not notice his own ironic funnies. Example (from the Feb. 15 post):

Thursday was the first day of pitchers and catchers workouts. It was time to get working on PFPs (pitchers fielding practice). They are not the best part of being a pitcher, but are very important to do. I take pride in doing them the right way. It could be the difference in winning a game or losing.

My bold, because I'd like to point out that he was, while injured, technically still with the Tigers two years ago when Detroit's pitchers committed five errors in the World Series against the Cardinals. It made all the difference indeed.

3. Maroth's a family man, enjoys rooting for the underdog and is very religious (have we mentioned that?). A-okay to like, in other words. Of course, the degree to which we like him will depend on whether he can return to pre-surgery form -- he went under the knife to have bone chips removed from his elbow in 2006, ending a season in which he made nine starts and posted a 4.19 ERA -- and make the team. And even if he does, will he have enough to challenge Jorge De La Rosa for a job?

We'll find out soon enough, and maybe then get to read about it from the man himself.

POSTSCRIPT: No, we haven't forgotten about Sean Thompson, that pitcher/writer we wrote about last July. Alas, he was with the Royals for less than three weeks before the Rockies claimed him off waivers on July 21 -- damn Rockies! -- who then designated him for assignment just three weeks after that. He's currently a non-roster invitee with the NL champs in Tucson, a short drive south on I-10 from the Royals.

I just gave you more info about Sean Thompson than you could possibly have wanted to know.

UPDATE: Maroth's site: better than Brian Anderson's? Hope that Tommy John surgery went alright.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Two* new Royals blogs, c'mon down

The Kansas City Star's jumped into the game, with junior Royals reporter Sam Mellinger (junior to the senior Bob Dutton, of course, who's one of the best) recently starting a blog called Ball Star. (Royals Review interview here.) It's about time. Whatever happened to that fan in Atlanta?

Also, Undying Royalty looks solid. The writer lives in Minnesota and says he's a "completely-blinded-by-loyalty Kansas City Royals." That can't be a bad thing. The opening post nicely summarizes why now -- after all those down years, or because/despite of them -- is a great time to be a Royals fan.

They've been added to the ever-expanding blogroll to the right. Force be with you.

* Make that three (apologies for not noticing earlier):
Royally Speaking (via Royals Review), whose author wrote in the comments section of the first post, "There are alot of good Royals blogs. No hating allowed in here." True, and so noted.

Well, at least some people are enjoying this

Warm weather. Blue skies. Toss and catch. Light jogs. Green grass. The scent swirling in the breeze redolent of something like childhood and innocence.

I mean, really, what an awful time of year. A wig, Jose? A wig? What is this, dress-up hour?

(Slowly but surely, we're getting into the spirit. There'll be fewer posts like the previous one, in which a senior writer of a venerable establishment was called an "asshat," and more pictures of smiling people who have plenty of reasons to smile.)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Jon Heyman: asshat

Jon Heyman is an old-school baseball reporter. He gets scoops because he works the phones, he has baseball friends who give him access and he gets to write a column for because he constantly produces content.

But we'll end the niceties here. He does fine enough when writing about New York, Boston and traditional baseball powerhouses -- maybe because he lives in New York and used to work at Newsday -- but ask him to say a few things about those west of Pennsylvania and God forbid you find yourself in the path of vomit. I don't want this to sound like a recycled "East coast bias" complaint, but read this craptastic column and judge for yourself:

Making the grades: How did each team do this winter?; news and notes

...Strikeout Division

25. Twins. Don't blame the front office. This is all on tightwad multibillionaire owner Carl Pohlad, who squeezed $400 million out of the taxpayers of Hennepin County, then somehow couldn't find anything close to market value for either Santana or Hunter. New GM Bill Smith did his best to replace Hunter by landing Delmon Young for the offense and speedy, strong-armed Carlos Gomez for center. It's hard to blame him for expecting Hank Steinbrenner to give up the store for Santana, but in retrospect, maybe Smith should have jumped on that Phil Hughes/Melky Cabrera/Jeff Marquez offer. D

26. Giants. The team that couldn't hit last year has lost Bonds and replaced him with Aaron Rowand, who's going to defend well at AT&T Park but miss Citizens Bank as a hitter. D

27. Royals. I really like GM Dayton Moore. And last year, I was the one who whiffed on Gil Meche, not Moore. And maybe I will go 0-for-2 when I say I wouldn't have given Jose Guillen $36, much less $36 million. D

The only teams to be graded worse than the Royals were the Pirates, Marlins and Astros, but what's really amazing about this list -- and I'll use bullet points to illustrate -- is:
  • The Twins got pure crap for the best pitcher in the world, when they could've had Phil Hughes or Jacoby Ellsbury or Jon Lester, and yet they received the same grade as the Royals. Hell, the Orioles got a much better deal for Erik Bedard, but we have Heyman writing, Don't blame the front office. Really? Because I was under the impression the "front office" is the entity in charge of things like "trades" and "talent evaluation" in order to make sure said trades are in the team's best interest. But I'm not the baseball expert here.

  • Meanwhile, a front office that's actually trying to improve its team -- by signing players who are better than those they're replacing and filling holes and needs, etc., you know, the job description -- gets criticized for... well, I'm not really sure. I think Heyman's logic works thusly:

    • I, exalted baseball columnist and resident expert, think little of Jose Guillen.
    • The Royals signed Jose Guillen.
    • The Royals' front office is up to its old tomfoolery.

    Why a national baseball columnist would tie an entire front office to the signing of one player in an offseason where that same front office made numerous acquisitions -- including of a manager who everyone seems to like -- and, above all else, expressed a commitment to its fans and all of baseball that they're ready to be competitve -- read any of the "Royals make splash at Winter Meetings" stories out there, or just this one, Mr. Heyman, from your colleague at -- makes no sense to me. Again, I'm not the baseball expert here, just one of those despicable "stathounds," perhaps.

  • Gil Meche. Despite the apology*, don't think any of us have forgotten Heyman wrote Meche "may be French for 'money flushed down a toilet.'" On the bright side, at least he has a template for the Guillen apology column.

  • No mention of Yasuhiko Yabuta or Ron Mahay or Alberto Callaspo or even the smaller acquisitions of Brian Lawrence and Brett Tomko and the attention-grabbing deal with Hideo Nomo (all part of the plan to open up the Japanese pipeline). Nope... asking way too much from Mr. National Baseball Columnist.

    And you know what: I understand. I understand he has a word count. I understand most of his readers aren't interested in 20-point breakdowns of every team. I understand that probably not a single non-Royals fan in the world gave a second thought to that D grade. But you know what: screw the line of thinking that throwaway lines, especially of the insulting variety, are acceptable. Because, like Carver said in this season of The Wire, "It matters." It matters to me. It matters to the 2 million people in the Kansas City Metro area and the 3 million Dayton Moore wants to draw to the K and the bloggers and the handful who visit this site and the casual fans who might stumble unto and see the Royals low on the list and wonder, "Really? Gee, and I thought they were improving." Because they are, and misrepresentations of reality really get on my nerves. No matter what the Royals front office does -- and they're trying, hard -- their efforts will always get undermined by national columnists like Heyman who are too lazy or apathetic to care about that small team in the Midwest.

    But then again, that's to be expected. I understand this, too: in sports, it's winning that changes attitudes and opinions. I suppose I feel secure -- a little smug, even -- in knowing that so-called experts across the nation will be eating their words in a couple years.

  • The Giants ahead of the Royals? Really? I'll just point you here.

I don't want to belabor the point, so I'm going to stop before I start using words like crotchety (or traveshamockery), clown (among other things), shitpile and dufus or dumbass...

* Quoting from that apology column:
"But mostly, I have to give Moore credit for picking exactly the right guy on which to spend that $55 million. Like most baseball followers, I didn't know too much about Meche. Since he played in Seattle, I rarely saw him play, so I relied on his mediocre statistics and word of mouth that said Meche was your classic underachiever."
Too bad most baseball followers don't have a national column about baseball. That has to be one of the strangest -- cockiest? -- admissions ever, right?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Reporting (not) from Surprise, Arizona

Oh to be here:

There's something unbelievably appealing about pictures of manicured ballfields that are open to the public. Perhaps it connects us with our childhood dreams of one day playing on such surfaces writ large (or, even better, puts us back in that time and place where we'd have such dreams). Perhaps because of its suggestion of calm and a lack of worry. Perhaps because they are imperfect -- splotchy, with visible lawnmower tread marks -- and therefore more real, less Thomas Cole and the depiction of perfection than Homer Winslow and the pursuit of it. We're not sure exactly, but it takes us to a fine place.

Pitchers and catchers reported yesterday to Surprise, Ariz., a city you can learn all about here. (999% growth in the last 15 years: who knew? Well, it's not really a surprise, considering the boomtown success of Phoenix.) Not much news coming out of Arizona -- there usually isn't -- but at least we can begin our official countdown to Opening Day, as we've confirmation that the gears of baseball are warming up.

The Royals' website is churning out stories and reports at breakneck pace, so swing by if you want to read about Neal Musser's two-week-old kid and the players' reaction to the Congressional Mitchell Report hearing.

POSTSCRIPT: One of the more interesting plots of this spring concerns the fate of Hideo Nomo, once such a sensation that even today, at 39 and considered a long shot to make the Royals, he's followed by a small battalion of Japanese media (35 Japanese photographers, according to Dick Kaegel of

The more interesting aspect of this story: it's sparked an intriguing little back-and-forth between this site and Nomo Seesa, which I can only describe as a mini arms race to see who can decipher the other's website first. I'm winning so far, I believe, thanks to Courtney R (pictured in this post), who wrote from Japan:

They don't really understand your article but they wish they could. Don't be too worried about "merciful," [Free Translation spit out that word] Japanese is a really dramatic language compared to English. I think, THINK, that the author of this is apologizing to his readers because he is quoting your blog but doesn't fully understand it and can't finish it.

Ha ha! Victory!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Nomomania lives!

Well, on this site.

That's Nomo Seesaa, and I have no idea what that means. If you know Japanese, maybe you can help translate this:



Concerning the subtitle, the website Free Translation offers: "《主語なし》It is NOMO ブログ that writes impression etc. as a result of the prior departure information, taking the mound of a/the Hideo Nomo pitcher. 《主語なし》I back the activity in the major league of Mr./ Ms. Nomo."

Again, not much of an idea of what that means. It looks like a good site though, so if anyone knows Japanese, please help -- and while you're at it, please translate this post, which links here.

Maybe Yasuhiko Yatuba -- who's fitting in just fine -- can be of assistance.

A new Royals blog

Rony Jazayerli's been writing about the Royals for a long time -- a long, long time, as he explains in the opening paragraph in the welcome post to his new blog:

Hi. I’m Rany Jazayerli. I’ve been a fan of the Kansas City Royals for the past 27 years...

27 years! I haven't lived that long. Well. Ceding the floor to you, good sir...

POSTSCRIPT: This was a comment on that first post:
A fellow baseball fan recently told me how lucky I was to be a Royals fan.

I know what you're thinking: "What?!"

But he's absolutely right. He was reffering to the quality of writers Royals fans enjoy. It is absolutely unmatched by any other team in baseball (Jazayerli, Neyer, Posnanski, James, Dutton, Sickels, it goes on). I feel priveleged and proud to be a Royals fan.
It's true, and it's really quite amazing when one thinks about it.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Sweeney saga

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

"I'm excited to see how (general manager) Billy Beane is developing this team and I'm hoping to be part of the puzzle," Sweeney said. "I've spend the last 17 years with the Royals' organization, so it's definitely going to be different, but I'm looking forward to a fresh start. It's exciting."

There's just one problem -- from the same paper:

Mike Sweeney said he jumped the gun a little Sunday when the five-time All-Star told the Kansas City media that he'd signed a minor-league deal with Oakland.

There was one little problem - no one had told the A's.

"This is news to us," one team official said Sunday evening. "Though we have been talking."

Best wishes to Mike wherever he ends up, but we'll save the formal official goodbye for, you know, when it's formalized.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

These are the stakes these days

What does it take to get a No. 1 lefty starter in the Major Leagues, besides $137.5 million over six years?

How about a No. 1 overall prospect, a minor league organizational pitcher of the year, another "top arm" and two more pitchers.

Five guys -- most notably Adam Jones, whose closest comparisons on Baseball Prospectus include Elijah Dukes, Brandon Phillips and Carlos Beltran -- are going to Baltimore for one Erik Bedard. The folks at U.S.S. Mariner aren't enthused with the trade, though we have a feeling they'll change their minds when they actually see Bedard in Safeco.

Then again, things might change again when Jones and Co. turn into Jermaine Dye, Francisco Liriano and Joe Nathan. So it goes in baseball.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Baseball Prospectus's 2008 PECOTA projections (pitchers)

We return a week early to present what those big-brained fellas at Baseball Prospectus think of our Royals in 2008.

In two words: lotsa upside.

I'm not going to post the entire spreadsheet (that'd go against their very simple and kindly put request, "Please do not distribute"), but a few highlights from the pitching side:

Brian Bannister, SP
  • 2007: 12-9, 165.0 IP, 77 K, 44 BB 15 HR, 3.87 ERA, 1.21 WHIP
  • 2008 projection: 6-8, 116.2 IP, 59 K, 42 BB, 15 HR, 5.19 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 6.3 VORP, 2.1 WARP (break even probability: 4%; improve: 13%; collapse: 55%; attrition: 22%)
I have a big problem with these projections. It may be reasonable to expect a drop-off from a soft-throwing, low-strikeout guy who's average, but the problem is Banny's not average. Far from it. In fact, relative to his colleagues at the position, one might say he's a genius. We've known this for a while at IDWT, but with his recent three-part interview at MLB Trade Rumors, a significantly larger portion of the baseball universe now knows too: the man is a thinker, and thinkers defy conventional wisdom.

Interview excerpt:
One thing that I have have come to accept is that just because I train hard physically, I practice perfectly, I prepare diligently, and execute a pitch exactly as I wanted, it can still result in a home run. In golf, if you analyze all the variables correctly (lie, distance, slope, wind, etc.) and execute your swing perfectly, it will result in a great shot. Not so for a pitcher or a hitter. A hitter can swing the bat perfectly and it will result in an out more than six times out of ten. Therefore, as a pitcher, I study and play to put the percentages in my favor more than anything because I know that I can't control the outcome in a single game or series of games, but over the course of a season or a career I will be better than average.
Consider what Pizza Cutter over at MVN had to say about Bannister's theory (in the MLBTR interview) that getting to an 0-2 count may be as important as what actually happens after that point (strikeout or no):
So, in a two-step process, there is a certain amount of control that a pitcher has over BABIP. A pitcher has somewhat of an individual ability to control what counts he gets into, especially two-strike counts. Then, based on that, there’s a league-wide benefit/penalty for working into specific types of count. It’s not that certain pitchers have a certain ability to leverage a 1-2 count, comparable to other pitchers. It’s just that some pitchers are better than others at getting to a 1-2 count, and everyone pitches better when the count is in his favor. So, a pitcher who is good at getting ahead in the count is likely to have a BABIP that’s particularly low, and that’s not a mistake.
Implicit, I believe, is the idea that Bannister is that type of pitcher who can take hitters to 0-2 and 1-2, and that while he doesn't have a high K rate, the strikeout stat as applied to him is actually beside the point. In other words: he possesses a low BABIP-against not because he gets lucky but because he puts himself in situations to have a low BABIP-against. This means lots of induced double plays, quite a few stranded runners, etc., and little of it attributable to luck.

Gil Meche, SP
  • 2007: 9-13, 216.0 IP, 156 K, 62 BB, 22 HR, 3.67 ERA, 1.30 WHIP
  • 2008 projection: 10-11, 177.3 IP, 130 K, 67 BB, 19 HR, 4.55 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 21.4 VORP, 4.0 WARP (B: 15%, I: 58%, C: 15%, A: 14%)
Gilgameche will have to prove himself all over again. My projection: 20-4, 265 K, 55 BB, 2.55 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, Cy Young.

Zack Greinke, SP/RP

  • 2007: 7-7, 122.0 IP, 106 K, 36 BB, 12 HR, 3.69 ERA, 1.30 WHIP
  • 2008 projection: 6-8, 121.0 IP (44 G, 15 GS), 99 K, 38 BB, 14 HR, 4.27 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 18.9 VORP, 3.3 WARP (B: 23%, I: 57%, C: 17%, A: 13%)
This looks good when you factor in the high upside. We can keep our fingers crossed that Greinke throws more than 122 innings. If he goes for 180 or so, we may be in for something special.

Luke Hochevar, SP
  • 2007: 0-1, 12.7 IP (4 G, 1 GS), 5 K, 4 BB, 1 HR, 2.13 ERA, 1.18 WHIP
  • 2008 projection: 5-9, 124.0 IP (33 G, 18 GS), 80 K, 52 BB, 19 HR, 5.62 ERA, 1.57 ERA, 1.2 VORP, 1.6 WARP (B: 39%, I: 67%, C: 17%, A: 12%)
5.62 ERA: Let's hope not. Even higher upside than Greinke though.

Hideo Nomo, SP/RP

  • 2007: n/a
  • 2008 projection: 2-3, 44.0 IP (21 G, 4 GS), 31 K, 25 BB, 7 HR, 6.63 ERA, 1.76 WHIP, -4.3 VORP, 0.1 WARP (B: 29%, I: 53%, C: 25%, A: 41%)
Ouch. I suppose this isn't too surprising for someone who hasn't pitched in a Major League game since 2005. Good upside though (notice the theme?).

Yasuhiko Yabuta, RP
  • 2007: n/a
  • 2008 projection: 2-3, 2 SV, 49.2 IP (43 G), 32 K, 20 BB, 6 HR, 4.81 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 4.5 VORP, 1.0 WARP (B: 14%, I: 37%, C: 36%, A: 17%)
Don't believe it. I'm seeing Takashi Saito-like numbers for '08: 78/13 K/BB, 1.40 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, etc.

Joakim Soria, RP

  • 2007: 2-3, 17 SV, 69.0 IP (62 G), 75 K, 19 BB, 3 HR, 2.48 ERA, 0.94 WHIP
  • 2008 projection: 4-4, 15 SV, 76.0 IP (68 G, 0 GS), 82 K, 28 BB, 6 HR, 3.26 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 20.3 VORP, 3.6 WARP (B: 19%, I: 49%, C: 28%, A: 19%)
I actually don't think there's any way Soria will duplicate his rookie season numbers, but I've got a problem with BP's saves projection. Fifteen seems awfully low, especially if he makes 68 appearances. Is that a reflection of the Royals' chances in '08 as a team, or a comment on Soria's ability to be the full-time closer? Either way, I'm not buying it. I say he closes 29 games (+/- 5) if he remains in the 'pen the entire season, and on the off chance he surfaces up in the rotation -- a definite possibility -- then we'll see a perfect game.

Pitchers and catchers report in seven days. Seven! That's it!