Saturday, June 18, 2005

Royal Rethink (6/16)

June 16, 2005
Royal Rethink (6/16)

A look back at the Royals -- through their own words

note: this post originally appeared on

And, that brings me to a little site note before we get to the post...I don't actually know much about the Brown Bullfrog site, though it seems promising. All I know is I've been invited to participate, and that ain't bad. One part of me feels like there should be some kind of exclusive content either here or there...though, at this point, I'm not exactly sure where it would show up. Rest assured that there will be plenty of links between the two – and, uh, why not visit the BrownBullfrog site while you're at it? Go!

In the meantime, here's my first post over there (in case you were wondering why the last post was a little generic...well, that *was* going to be my first post over there, but I decided it wasn't very good, and, uhhh...well, I spent so much time writing it that I felt like it should be posted somewhere, heh..)

on to the Royals quotes:

"I'm throwing strikes, but I'm also not throwing strikes."

Zack Greinke, on his recent pitching struggles.

Perhaps one of the most frustrating things about the Royals this year – aside from a horrific, season-piercing start, an oft-injured superstar, and a painfully low place among baseball's "have-nots" (among other things) – has been the rapid deterioration of the sparkling gloss Zack Greinke came packaged in. Oh, sure, things like an inordinate amount of home runs given up last year, a sub-par spring, and a few shaky outings here and there had caused a couple of rough patches to appear on the exterior, but nothing seemed to prepare Royals fans for the past five starts, in which Greinke has given up 31 runs over 22 2/3 innings, including a Royal Record 11 runs allowed vs. Arizona in his last outing. I gave Zack a lot of credit when he refused to meekly accept Guy Hansen's attempts to seemingly tinker with every single pitchers' every single motion in spring training, but fans are just now being let in on the fact that Greinke has, apparently, been shunning just about all attempts by others to help him correct any potential or perceived errors. While the best judge of what will work for you is always yourself, and change won't happen without a complete commitment from within, it doesn't mean others can't help you in some ways. You just have to digest what they say and then decide whether they're full of shit. Young Zack apparently has a little more maturing to go before that fact truly sets in..

“It’s not that easy to throw it away at the knees and up and in at the corner. Those pitches he’s talking about — 75 percent of the time they’re called balls anyway. Low and away part of the zone — and especially up and in part of the zone. No one swings at any of them.”

Zack Greinke, on the "low and away, high and tight" pitching philosophy

Now, on the other hand, I like hearing things like this out of him. While it's true that "up and in" makes for a tough pitch to hit, it's just not a feasible goal with the current state of MLB umpiring. There is no strike-zone above the belt – in fact, a pitch *at* the belt still runs a high-percentage chance of being called a ball. A breaking curveball is usually judged by its height when caught, instead of the elevation when it's a couple of feet in front of the catcher's mitt where the plate actually sits. It's very tough for pitchers that don't possess consistently overpowering or tricky stuff to succeed for very long, and a lot of it has to do more with the difficultly in getting a called strike on pitches not in the batter's wheelhouse than in their inability to "throw strikes", as is often attributed to their struggles. It seems obvious to me that this is one of the reasons certain batters' (and teams') philosophies consist of fouling off a high number of pitches in order to run up a pitcher's pitch count – because there's an exceedingly small window in which a pitcher is required to throw a strike. Anything else can be ignored. Pitcher's pitches are called balls, and moderate strikes can be wasted until a pitch that can be driven is delivered. But, you know, it does make for great offense..

"He's a strong human being right there."

Luis Silverio, Royals Coach, after Emil Brown launched a home run over the Dodge truck, stationed approximately 470 feet from home plate at Kauffman Stadium, during batting practice

On the opposite end from Greinke this season has been the pleasantly surprising play of Emil "Doc" Brown. Once he was finally handed an opportunity to, you know, play, he's been nothing short of a consistent power and RBI threat. I love watching him in the field – he's not the smoothest outfielder at physically fielding the ball, but he is solid and has a rocket arm, which is my favorite part of seeing him play. And, even though I enjoy a great pitching duel as much as anyone, his ability to hit for power makes him probably the most exciting Royal to watch bat right now. Hey, offense is fun, too..

"It could be a day, it could be four weeks. We don't know."

Mike Sweeney, after injuring his arm fielding a throw against the Dodgers, 6/15/05

Speaking of consistency, Sweeney is hurt again…and the countdown clock for his return is once again showing a large question mark. This time, at least it was obvious. I don't doubt his injuries have been serious in the past, but for Royals fans to see what is far and away the biggest and highest-priced talent on the team watching games from the dugout after mysterious bat-swinging injuries is very frustrating. It's unfortunate to see him go down on a play that didn't need to (and shouldn't) have happened, though I do think there is a slight benefit for fans to have seen the play on which the injury occurred. At least they believe he's hurt. I don't believe Jayson Werth intentionally ran into him, though I do question why, exactly, he consistently chooses (and is allowed) to run on the grass to 1st base. There's an obvious difference between the grass and dirt, so he would be able to tell immediately what he was running on. As I watched the play on replay last night – as well as Werth's next at-bat, in which he was even further onto the grass – I really feel like it's a conscious decision on his part to run on the grass just in case a close play, such as the one on which Sweeney was injured, occurs. As shown on the replays, the home plate umpire was looking directly down the baseline as the play unfolded, but made no call, even though Werth had both feet inside of the baseline. If he happens to run into the fielder on a close play, it's very likely he will be given the benefit of the doubt, which is exactly what happened last night. Pretty cheap way to play if it's true, though for a marginal MLB player, it's somewhat understandable. Not saying anything, just saying..

“I’ve been with this team longer than anybody except (Mike) Sweeney, and I’ll go to battle with any of these guys. So it’s unfair to them if I’m pouting because I’m not in a role that I want to be in. I’m not going to do that to them.”

* * * * *

“When they call down there, it’s not like they ask, ‘Do you want to pitch?’ I can’t say, ‘No, not unless it’s the ninth.’"

* * * * *

"If another team wants me for the same role or another role, and they feel they have to trade me, then they’ve got to trade me."

Jeremy Affeldt, pouting to a KC Star reporter about losing the closer's role to (previous All-Star closer) Mike MacDougal after Affeldt's return from the DL

I seriously can't believe that, in the midst of what has been 2-3 of the most exciting weeks in recent Royals history, Jeremy Affeldt has chosen now to openly complain to the local newspaper about not having a coveted position awaiting his return from his most recent trip to the disabled list. While, in the business of baseball, each man has to look out for his own interests first, it doesn't reflect well to me that Affeldt would choose to passively hint that he should be able to automatically reclaim a job he has never had consistent success in, before he's actually shown a new-found ability to pitch well and stay healthy. It's pretty much supposed to be his simply because he is once again ready to pitch. Remember, Jeremy: the job was MacDougal's before it was yours, and I don't remember him actually bitching that he should have the job, just that he'd like it back. While I have no sympathy for the Royals themselves, they have invested a lot of time and money into Affeldt, a promising talent who has not succeeded in any role aside from "DL member". His trade value was high a while ago – the Royals likely could have landed more for him before they kept allowing him to pitch and fail to impress. Kind of like when Jimmy Gobble first came up, and everyone realized that (once again) our highly touted pitching prospect was a soft-tossing batting cage. If we can get something useful in return for Affeldt, let him go. Who knows, maybe he can room with Darrell May..

Joe Blow

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