Friday, August 04, 2006

Sports: Hope Lives at .352

The Royals have been as lowly as lowly can get for the last couple years, but despite a .352 winning percentage so far in 2006, there is new reason for hope.

Earlier this season, the Royals were criticized not only for playing poorly, but also for playing poorly with old players. At one point, the lineup in spots 2 through 6 averaged 35 years old. The promised youth movement was exposed as a myth.

Then, in June, a new GM was hired out of the Atlanta Braves organization. Dayton Moore, a Wichita native, promised to bring some of the “Braves Way” magic back to Kansas City. I say “back,” because Braves GM John Schuerholz came from the Royals back when there was a Royals Way that didn’t involve losing 100 games.

The Braves Way means stockpiling arms, growing talent from within, and capitalizing on a comparative advantage in scouting and development. It’s not really the antithesis of Moneyball, as Schuerholz contends, but it is back to basics. For the Royals, any systematic approach is an improvement.

Moore has been hard at work adding arms via trades, acquiring prospects such as Tyler Lumsden and former Dodger farmhand Blake Johnson. They added a discontented Odalis Perez, whom Moore knew from his days in the Braves organization, and five or six other pitchers. The only position players of consequence added so far are Ryan Shealy, a big, 26-year-old first baseman who had been sitting on the shelf behind Todd Helton in the Rockies organization, and speedy center fielder Joey Gathright, 25. Moore gave up some pitchers (including former closer Mike MacDougal) to get others back, but the team got younger with each trade.

Then, yesterday, the Royals signed the first pick in this year’s draft, a name familiar to Dodger fans, Luke Hochevar. In his last start, former first-rounder Zack Greinke, 22, continued his return from psychological issues by throwing six shutout innings for AA Wichita. His Wrangler teammates 22-year-old Alex Gordon (last year’s first-round pick) and 20-year-old Billy Butler (from 2004) are minor league player of the year candidates. Meanwhile, 24-year-old Mark Teahen was just named AL Player of the Week, and 26-year-old David DeJesus is one of the best leadoff hitters in the AL.

All of a sudden, youth has returned to the youth movement. The Royals may still lose more than 100 games this year, but hope has returned.


Blogger Rene said...

I wonder what was the terms of the deal the Royals have with Luke Hochevar?

From my recollection, the Dodgers tried to sign him on two occasions but the agent (Scott Boras?) drove a hard bargain and it came to naught on both occasions.

How is Odalis Perez doing in KC?

If I recall, the Dodgers gave up two lower level prospects and Perez to obtain Elmer Dessens. Did we also give cash to help pay for Perez's salary too? I don't recall the details of the deal.

Anyway, in sport talk and Dodger talk, fans were happy that the unhappy Perez was finally unloaded even if on paper the trade seems pretty lopsided. Perez showed flashes of brilliance but tended to run out of gas at the end of the season. Dessens is a needed addition for middle relief as the Dodger starting pitching tends to run out gas due to age and high pitch counts by the 5th and 6th inning.

With the addition of Maddux, the Dodgers have 12 pitchers on the roster and Grady Little and the brain trust will have to decide whether they will stay with 12 or go down to 11 in which case someone will have to go down to Las Vegas. It isn't clear who would be sent down. I'd say Sele, Hendrickson and Billingsley would be on the bubble.

In any case, go Dodgers!

1:16 PM  
Blogger Kari said...

The Royals signed Hochevar to a four-year Major League contract that guarantees him $5.25 million with incentives that could boost it to $7 million.

11:30 AM  
Blogger Rene said...

Elmer Dessens, former Royal, went on the DL after spraining an ankle in practice. Oh, well... we give up Perez and two prospects and give cash to help pay for Perez to get Dessens.

Actually, it works out okay because Kent came off the DL and the brain trust had to decide how to open up roster space so Dessens became the obvious choice.

Kent had a good outing Monday night with some RBI.

Next off the DL will be Nomar and hopefully, he will pick up where he left off. I hear Ledee was taken upon waivers so that opens the slot for Nomar.

12:59 PM  

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