Monday

Season in Preview: Middle Infielders

As Opening Day 2006 is right around the corner, it's time to take a look at where the Royals stand heading into this season. With the help of two great player projection systems (Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA and Dan Szymborski's ZiPS), I'll be discussing the state of the organization position-by-position over the next few days. We covered the catchers on Monday and the corner infielders on Wednesday, and continue today with a discussion about the middle infielders:
MARK GRUDZIELANEK  2B  AGE: 35         ANGEL BERROA  SS  AGE: 28  
================================== ==================================
PROJECTION AVG OBP SLG PROJECTION AVG OBP SLG
PECOTA .280 .317 .394 PECOTA .262 .299 .379
ZiPS .290 .330 .394 ZiPS .276 .318 .401
================================== ==================================
AVERAGE .285 .324 .394 AVERAGE .269 .309 .390
-
RUBEN GOTAY 2B AGE: 23 DONNIE MURPHY 2B AGE: 22
================================== ==================================
PROJECTION AVG OBP SLG PROJECTION AVG OBP SLG
PECOTA .260 .327 .404 PECOTA .257 .318 .415
ZiPS .255 .330 .380 ZiPS .231 .285 .354
================================== ===================================
AVERAGE .258 .329 .392 AVERAGE .244 .302 .385
-
ANDRES BLANCO 2B/SS AGE: 21 ESTEBAN GERMAN 2B/SS AGE: 28
================================== ==================================
PROJECTION AVG OBP SLG PROJECTION AVG OBP SLG
PECOTA .244 .286 .309 PECOTA ----UNAVAILABLE----
ZiPS .237 .286 .284 ZiPS .261 .338 .348
================================== ===================================
AVERAGE .241 .286 .297 AVERAGE .261 .338 .348
In a 2005 season preview article, my good friend and longtime Cardinals fan Spencer Hendricks predicted that St. Louis second baseman Mark Grudzielanek and shortstop David Eckstein would "hammer thirty homers apiece and become forever christened ‘The Unstoppable Grudstein.’" Sarcastic as the prediction was, each player fell only 22 home runs short of making Spencer look like a genius. I guess that would make them "The Passable Grudstein."

I’ll make no such prediction in this space, although I do like the idea of new Royals second baseman Grudzielanek and incumbent shortstop Angel Berroa being so much fun to watch defensively, they’re dubbed "The Incredible Acrobats of Berzielanek" by season’s end. That scenario may have to unfold for the Kansas City starting middle infielders to avoid dragging their team’s chances at winning into the muck.

For Grudzielanek, we’ll look at the good news first: Signed for one year and $4 million, the 35-year-old native of Milwaukee has made a name for himself with solid defensive play at second base since he shifted there from shortstop in 2000 while playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The numbers bear it out: in 775 games, Grudzielanek has posted a .984 fielding percentage, a 4.58 Range Factor (with the league average over that time being 4.30), and a Zone Rating of .844, which is approximately equal to three-time Gold Glove winner Luis Castillo’s .843.

Not only does Grudzielanek do a terrific job of getting to a good number of batted balls and making the play afterwards, he also has a cannon for an arm and a willingness to stay in on the double play pivot that Royals GM Allard Baird described as, at times, reckless. By all accounts he’s also a player with fantastic character and leadership skills, but I don’t think I’d blame any young Royals infielder if he doesn’t follow Grudzielanek’s lead and gets out of the way of a runner sliding in spikes up.

The bad news has to do with Grudzielanek’s offensive skills, but while his plate discipline and power are both underwhelming, I’m less concerned with that and more concerned with the way the Royals plan on utilizing him at the plate. Ever since the day he signed, the Royals have made it known that he and his career .330 on-base percentage will enter 2006 as the second hitter in the lineup behind David DeJesus. That’s bad enough as-is, but the reason that’s being given for the decision is even more baffling:

"He's a pretty good No. 2 hitter. He just grinds out at-bats -- I think that's the best way to describe him, offensively."
- Scott Elarton
kcroyals.com

"He's just solid. He's a ballplayer."
"He's [hit second] before, he understands situations. He doesn't freak out."

- Buddy Bell
kcroyals.com

"I'll let Buddy (Bell) make that call but he sure fits nicely as the No. 2 guy."
- Allard Baird
kcroyals.com

I’ve made mention of this before, but I’ll repeat it here: Being a "grinder" or a "ballplayer" are not justifiable reasons for a mediocre offensive player like Grudzielanek to be in a position to accumulate the second-most plate appearances on the team. Craig Biggio has also been dubbed a "grinder" and has hit high in the order for his entire career too, but players like him also have the on-base and power skills that are necessary to rightfully bat leadoff or second.

Grudzielanek is more than capable of doing the things number two hitters are "supposed" to do, like getting a bunt down, moving a runner over, or not striking out, but the Royals’ brass should be entirely too smart to fall for idiotic and archaic baseball adages such as those. Besides, while he was never the type to avoid outs in the first place, his batting average and on-base percentage have steadily declined three years in a row, and a move to the spacious Kauffman Stadium is not going to reverse that trend.

Still, the bottom line is that when everything is taken into consideration, Grudzielanek isn’t a bad baseball player. Given the situation the Royals are in, the decision to sign him wasn’t a bad one either. However, it’s necessary for his team to use him correctly – read: hit lower in the order – so his tendency to make weak contact doesn’t become a hindrance on the offense.

From both offensive and defensive standpoints, the Royals are hopeful that Grudzielanek’s presence will help Berroa elevate his game back to the level he displayed in 2003 when he won the American League Rookie of the Year award by hitting .287 with 17 home runs, all the while showing massive improvement at shortstop. Then 25 years old, Berroa played an integral role in the Royals’ unlikely run to a division title and, aside from Carlos Beltran, was easily the most electric player on the roster. Thinking they had their shortstop for the foreseeable future, the Royals rewarded Berroa with a four-year, $11 million contract in May of 2004.



Unfortunately (but perhaps not unexpectedly), Berroa hasn’t returned the favor in any way, shape, or form since that time. In the past two seasons, Berroa’s posted on-base percentages in the low-.300s, has hit for absolutely no power and, worst of all, doesn't really seem to care about how sub-par his play has been. Or perhaps even worse, he's totally ignorant to the whole situation. It’s probably a combination of both. Last September, Berroa told the Kansas City Star’s Bob Dutton that "You’re never going to see me walk a lot. Because there are times, if I’m trying to get a walk, I’ll get good pitches and not swing. That’s not good."

Spoken like a man who walks up to the plate without a plan of attack or any idea of what a strike zone is, which his low walk totals bear out. Though their patience with Berroa’s lack of patience is odd, the Royals and Baird have at least recognized that he’s never going to be willing to take a walk, and have dumbed down their organizational offensive approach to Berroa’s level, something to the tune of "Stop swinging at sliders that are headed for the backstop." In other words, all they’re asking of him is to only swing at strikes. It’s mind-blowingly simple, stuff kids know when they play in any youth league, but for whatever reason, Berroa just can’t understand anything beyond that.

The tragic part in all of this is that Berroa’s lack of understanding of how to prepare for his at-bats totally undermines his strength at the plate. Despite being listed at just 6-0 and 180 lbs., Berroa can hit a pitched baseball a very long way. Thanks to his poor approach at the plate, moments like his 427-foot bomb off Detroit’s Ugueth Urbina last April 15 are few and far between, happening only when he guesses right and gets a fastball. That physical talent will be enough to boost his numbers closer to his ZiPS projection; PECOTA is far too pessimistic.

Berroa’s defense is just like his offense: very intriguing at times, but also wildly inconsistent. The tools are all there; his arm is well above-average, as is his range to both his right and left. However, it’s been an inability to concentrate and make the routine play – he almost never uses two hands to catch a pop-up – that’s caused him to be charged with 77 errors since 2003. That’s a shame; because of the outstanding percentage of batted balls that Berroa gets to, he and Mark Teahen could legitimately make the left side of Kansas City’s infield golden.

If he’d just apply himself, Berroa is a player who could be as good as he wanted to be. That isn’t likely to happen. Additionally, seeing as he’s already hit the age range (27 to 32) in which most players’ production levels off, I don’t think any kind of a big improvement would be in the cards anyway. Is he the Royals’ biggest problem? No, but he definitely isn’t part of the solution. That player could very well be waiting in the wings in the minor leagues.

When it comes to organizational rebuilds like the Royals started in 2003, there’s typically one component that must be in place for the movement to be successful: depth. In a general sense, having talented depth on a 25-man roster is important to avoiding large productional dropoffs when a key player or two have to spend a month on the disabled list. However, depth is that much more important to youth movements succeeding. The more talented young players a team has, the better a chance one of them will turn into a reliable everyday player.

The Royals are still in the process of accumulating talent at some positions (most notably in starting pitching), but they’ve become very well-stocked with a bevy of pretty talented middle infielders. A trio of homegrown players and one intriguing offseason acquisition each have their own unique set of skills, giving the Royals options if Grudzielanek or Berroa go down because of injury.

Interestingly, the most exciting player of the entire group may be the one who practically gets the bat knocked out of his hands on a regular basis. Soon-to-be 22-year-old Andres Blanco can’t and perhaps never will hit at the Major League level (he’s managed only 50 extra-base hits in 1,298 career minor-league at-bats), but make no mistake: the kid is a freaking witch with a baseball glove on his left hand. Just take a look at this play from a game last September against Minnesota:



Since RC’s own Dave Sanford captured that graphic, I’ll let him describe the play:

It was amazing enough that Blanco was able to catch Teahen's throw while keeping his left foot on the bag long enough to retire Cuddyer, who was quickly bearing down on him to break up the double play. Most second basemen in this position would have no choice but to put the ball in their pocket...but not Blanco. In one smooth motion, Blanco made the acrobatic catch, somehow leaped OVER Cuddyer, and threw a hard strike to Matt Stairs in an attempt to complete the twin-killing. Morneau beat out the throw by a half step, but if he had been a tad slower, this play would have gone down as the double play of the year.

Amen to that. Blanco’s range, arm, and ability to leap over baserunners trying to take him out at second base are all freakishly-good talents, but he may never get a chance to display them every day if he doesn’t improve offensively. The Royals are planning to send him back to Triple-A Omaha to start the year to work on gaining strength in a low-pressure environment, hopefully as a shortstop where he can really show off. I wouldn’t doubt him. Most of Blanco’s walks are a result of his inability to make solid contact, but there was a time that Omar Vizquel was an awful offensive player too, and things worked out for him pretty well. He’s that good, and the shortstop of the future.

Moving over to second base, Ruben Gotay and Donnie Murphy have seemingly been linked together at the center of "Who’s better?" debates between fans and, in all likelihood, front office members as well.

Gotay, 23, has long been considered the better offensive player of the two, while Murphy’s defense has been equally praised. Thus far, Gotay’s performance with Kansas City hasn’t justified his label, although there are positives here: He’s shown decent plate discipline for a very young player, drawing 31 walks in 483 career plate appearances, as well as posting a .407 on-base percentage and a .490 slugging percentage in 145 at-bats during the Puerto Rican League’s recently-concluded regular season.

To me, Gotay’s bat speed leaves something to be desired, and he very well could be a Quadruple-A player. But I’m not about to totally give up on a guy who won’t turn 24 until this December and who’s shown solid knowledge of the strike zone and good power for a middle infielder in the minor leagues. If everything goes according to plan, he’ll go back to Omaha when the Royals break camp, and will probably be the first guy called up if and when Grudzielanek gets hurt.

The 22-year-old Murphy struggled to do much of anything during his 32-game callup, hitting just .156/.241/.260 in 77 at-bats. However, he did hit his first home run, taking Cleveland’s C.C. Sabathia out of the yard to dead center field. It was an impressive homer, something I think Murphy’s capable of doing as an everyday player.

A career .285/.356/.424 hitter in the minor leagues, Murphy’s power took a major step forward in 2005, as he posted an isolated power figure of .210 for Double-A Wichita. That he was playing in the hitter-friendly Texas League is reason for skepticism, but any time a player in his early 20s improves that much is only good news. Long-term, he’ll probably become a poor man’s Marcus Giles, and will come very, very close to nailing his 2006 PECOTA.

Finally, Esteban German lit up the Dominican Winter League with a .443 on-base percentage and 30 steals in 181 regular season at-bats, and he’ll come into camp as the favorite to win Joe McEwing’s job as the jack-of-all-trades infielder.

Acquiring him for Rule 5 draftee Fabio Castro might have been Baird’s best acquisition of the winter. German won’t hit for much power, but his hit frequency, on-base ability, speed, and defense are all assets on a Royals team that could use as much of each as possible.

28 Comments:

At 2/13/2006 12:36 PM, Blogger Dave said...

I'm curious, Kevin. Who would you have batting second instead of Grudzielanek?

I look at the roster, and I don't know that there's a better guy on it to hit in the second spot. His .334 OBP last season would have ranked him high on last year's team, and if you HAVE to hit-and-run with DDJ on base, I guess I'd prefer someone who can consistently put the bat on the ball.

No, he's probably not the ideal 2nd place hitter, but I certainly don't blame the Royals for batting him there.

 
At 2/13/2006 5:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yikes. Look at those PECOTA projections for Berroa and Grudz. We could end up with 1,200 ABs of .310 OBP .385 SLG or roughly .695 OPS.
That's scary bad.

As for the #2 spot, Doug Mientkiewicz might actually be a better fit than Grudz if he can keep his average above .250.

-sumajestad

 
At 2/13/2006 6:40 PM, Blogger Kevin said...

Dave, Grudzielanek's OBP last year doesn't mean much of anything to me. I care much more about what it'll be in 2006. As I pointed out in the commentary, 2005 marked the third straight season it fell; expecting a sudden resurgence is asinine.

If I had it my way, Sweeney would hit second, but that's never going to happen. I think suma's suggestion of Mientkiewicz is a pretty good one, considering he actually draws a walk every now and then.

 
At 2/13/2006 8:35 PM, Anonymous Nate said...

The Royals have basically signed themselves a slightly better fielding version (maybe)of Tony Graffanino -- less some walks.

Living in Cards country, I end up watching a fair number of their games. I'm no scout, but I can't honestly say that Grudz looks much better in the field than what we've had in Relanino the last couple years. Mark's probably got a better turn on the DP; I guess that's something.

If we're making a comparison to Ruben Gotay.... Grudz is a huge upgrade. Those expecting a significant defensive upgrade over Graff --- will probably be disappointed. It's kind of weird how some guys get the label "everyday second baseman," while pretty similar players get "utility infielder" stamped on their foreheads.

 
At 2/13/2006 10:56 PM, Anonymous Eric said...

Come on Kevin and sumaj..., Mientkiewicz hitting second? That is even more asinine than Grudz. I don't even want to speculate on how many double plays he would hit into with his slow feet and knack of slapping at the ball. Plus Grudz is a good clutch hitter (+1.4 Clutch from Hardball Times) and Mientkiewicz is a bad one (-5.2 Clutch). Additionally your point of Grudz's OBP moving down for 3 years, Mientkiewicz's has also and is already in the low .320s. If you predict Grudz will again fall this year then maybe it falls to where Doug already is. If Doug continues to drop in OBP then he is becoming Berroa-like.

I do however agree with you Kevin that one does want his best hitters to get the most plate appearances. Clearly, the Royals best are Sweeney, DeJesus, Sanders and Brown. Taking that into account the obvious choice to blend the tradional, speed/contact ability, with the new, OBP/power potential, is Emil Brown. He posted a .349 OBP last year with NO ONE hitting behind him, he lead the team in SB with 10 and only getting caught once, he had 108 SO in 609 ABs, plus he has the third best power on the team and is clutch (+3.6).

The Royals could go DeJesus, Brown, Sweeney, Sanders, Grudzielanek, Teahen, Berroa, Mientkiewicz, Buck. Top half is very respectable and Grudz lack of on-base skills are muted hitting in an RBI slot. Plus I think it would be highly likely that Emil Brown would have much better numbers with Sweeney behind him in the lineup, he has a very good eye.

 
At 2/14/2006 12:32 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

The Royals best #2 hitter is also their leadoff hitter, but I don't think the umps will let DeJesus bat twice in succession.

I wouldn't mind either Sanders, Sweeney, or Stairs hitting 2nd rather than Grudzielanek -- although the obvious lack of speed, and contact could be a concern, it'd sure be nice to have a guy hitting 2nd who could drive in DeJesus from 1st with some frequency, something that is unlikely to happen often with Grudz.

To people mentioning slow feet and double plays when coming down on a #2 hitter -- let's think, really, at how many double plays Grudz would avoid with his decent, but not blazing, speed. Not very many, and when you think of that number over a whole season, it's probably negligable.

Speed's nice to have in the #2 spot, but it isn't really necessary. It's not like a slow #2 hitter would clog the basepaths in front of Speedy Sweeney hitting 3rd.

 
At 2/14/2006 12:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Come on Kevin and sumaj..., Mientkiewicz hitting second? That is even more asinine than Grudz. I don't even want to speculate on how many double plays he would hit into with his slow feet and knack of slapping at the ball. Plus Grudz is a good clutch hitter (+1.4 Clutch from Hardball Times) and Mientkiewicz is a bad one (-5.2 Clutch). Additionally your point of Grudz's OBP moving down for 3 years, Mientkiewicz's has also and is already in the low .320s. If you predict Grudz will again fall this year then maybe it falls to where Doug already is. If Doug continues to drop in OBP then he is becoming Berroa-like."

There are several differences that contribute, but the most important is that Doug has good plate discipline and Grudz doesn't. Even if Doug were to decline, he would still get on base via the walk; He's not dependant on speed. Another difference is that Doug's decline is more likely connected with injuries... Grudz' with just getting old. Mientkiewicz is 31 years old, whereas grudzielanek is 35. I think Doug has a much better chance to improve next year, although that's certainly not guaranteed.
As far as being "clutch" goes, I'm not too concerned about that, but is a #2 hitter more likely to face run scoring situations than a #6 hitter?

-sumajestad

 
At 2/14/2006 8:38 AM, Anonymous Eric said...

"There are several differences that contribute, but the most important is that Doug has good plate discipline and Grudz doesn't. Even if Doug were to decline, he would still get on base via the walk; He's not dependant on speed. Another difference is that Doug's decline is more likely connected with injuries... Grudz' with just getting old."

I would have to say that there are usually reasons why players get hurt year after year. Do you expect Sweeney to play 150 games? Doug isn't likely to reverse his recent trends offensively just as Grudz isn't. They are both declining players. As for the walk verses a singles hitter, remember he is hitting in the two hole. Walks are less valuable than singles. Walks are great when no one is on base. But walks won't score DeJesus from 2nd or get him to 3rd for a Sweeney sac fly. Plus Doug is not an everyday player. I think he will start in 60-65% of the games with Stairs replacing him the other 35-40%. I know that the Royals don't have many choices for the two spot but I do think that Brown and Grudz are likely the best options right now. Also Grudz's low walk total doesn't mean he has poor plate discipline. He is not Berroa swinging at anything from his helmet to the dirt, he just swings at stike one and two instead of waiting to see if the pitcher fails behind and has to give him something juicy. If Teahen makes a big improvement at the plate I could see him in there and doing well. I just don't want to see one of the worst Royals hitters getting more ABs than Sweeney, Sanders and Brown. I complained about that too much in previous years when Pena insisted to bat Berroa up there.

 
At 2/14/2006 11:43 AM, Anonymous Nate said...

"As for the walk verses a singles hitter, remember he is hitting in the two hole. Walks are less valuable than singles. Walks are great when no one is on base. But walks won't score DeJesus from 2nd or get him to 3rd for a Sweeney sac fly."

I don't think the Royals need to be so focused on merely scoring DeJesus or getting him into scoring position. They ought to be creating opportunities for Sweeney and Sanders to stroke 2-run doubles and 3-run homers. Grudz lacks a speed component to his game, so on base percentage needs to be the name of the game.

Another option is sliding DDJ to the 2-hole and finding a good-OBP guy for the leadoff hole. If Emil tanks in Spring Training, I would love to see Chip Ambres step up and win a job. I really think he could post a .350 OBP.... and that would be good enough for me to slide DDJ down.

 
At 2/14/2006 11:51 AM, Blogger ME said...

Looking at the roster Grudz is the best candidate to bat second. And wouldn't playing in this spacious park help his batting average and obp?

 
At 2/14/2006 6:30 PM, Blogger Kevin said...

Looking at the roster Grudz is the best candidate to bat second.

Again, I can't disagree more. To quote Joe Sheehan, OBP is life, and life is OBP. If you have any interest at all in scoring as many runs as possible, you HAVE to have guys with good on-base skills at the top of the order. Period. Sweeney, Brown, Mientkiewicz, and Ambres are all guys who have shots to post OBPs of at least .350.

And wouldn't playing in this spacious park help his batting average and obp?

Unfortunately it doesn't work that way, especially for a guy like Grudzielanek who's already well into his decline phase. Kauffman Stadium's recent dimensions change has turned it from being Coors Field East to a neutral park that slightly favors pitchers. If anything, the spaciousness will cause Grudzielanek to lose some hits.

 
At 2/14/2006 10:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do we think Ambres could be .350 OBP guy? I like the speed he brings to the table, but I'm not close to being convinced he should be a top of the line-up guy. Besides, I think if Brown tanks, Guiel will be the guy that breaks camp on the team. I think he's more of an everyday guy (maybe I'm just biased). Now Guiel at #2 or even #1 could be interesting. Takes a lot of pitches, walks, and has some power. Don't have the other numbers in front of me, but I would think they would fit the #2 spot okay.

Mientkiewicz should hit no higher than #7. He's terrible and won't play everyday.

The #2 spot in our line-up is the one glaring hole we have. If we put Brown (or Guiel even)there, then who hits 5th? If Sweeney were to hit #2 (and why would we do that again?), who would hit #3? If Mientkiewicz hits #2..oh wait..he shouldn't be playing anyway.

It seems that no matter what we do, there will be a hole in the top 5 batters of our line-up. It's a chicken or the egg argument. We can't score runs if we don't have anybody on base, but those runners on base can't score if we don't have anyone to drive them in.

I do have one question. Have we considered what Grudz OBP is by position in the line-up? Some players change their approach depending on where they are hitting in the line-up. I would think if Grudz has been hitting 8th the most of the last 3 years, he's more likely to swing at strikes (or anything close) and take less walks since the pitcher's behind him. Just a thought.

Matt

 
At 2/15/2006 1:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

FYI, Grud's #'s by line-up position, over the last 3 years (per espn.com; AB's in () after stats):
1 301/355/405/760 (415)
2 286/347/386/733 (290)
3 000/500/000/500 (1)
4 500/556/625/1181 (8)
5 283/314/398/712 (113)
6 300/328/418/746 (220)
7 348/375/488/863 (207)
8 1000/1000/1000/2000 (1)
9 182/250/182/432 (11)

 
At 2/15/2006 2:27 PM, Blogger ME said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 2/15/2006 2:29 PM, Blogger ME said...

Well I think Grudz is gonna get the job done in the 2 spot. And somebody save this but I believe he posts a better obp than Mientkiewicz, Brown, or Ambres. And if I'm wrong I'll deny ever posting this and call you a liar.

 
At 2/15/2006 3:06 PM, Anonymous Brian S. said...

The ONLY alternative as it stands with the current projected lineup IS Emil Brown.

I like what an earlier poster said regarding his "speed/power" combo. This is laughable except he DID lead the team in steals last season. We all know a AL Central Championship Royals team will have a far superior #2 batter to Grudz (and he may wind up being DDJ) but this IS NOT an AL Central Championship Royals team. Let's not quibble for SO long about something that will matter SO LITTLE to the overall creation of the future royals teams that MIGHT win an AL Central Championship in '07 or '08.

In fact, I believe you can find sabermatic studies showing a team scores roughly the same amount of runs no matter what order the hitters are in.

 
At 2/15/2006 3:22 PM, Blogger Dave said...

Better than Mientkiewicz and Ambres, I think it's definitely possible. But I think Brown's a pretty sure bet to eclipse .340 again, and I don't expect that from Grudz.

Nevertheless, I still haven't seen a convincing argument against Grudzielanek batting second. And it's not that I think Grudz will be great in that role -- I certainly don't. It's still mostly a matter of not seeing a truly suitable alternate.

Brown comes closest, but I'd prefer to maximize the use of his slugging abilities by putting him in the 5 hole, when he'll have better hitters in front of him on base.

And if you bat Sweeney second under the premise of getting your best hitters the most at bats without any consideration other than OBP, then why not bat Stairs leadoff?

Fact is, lineups are a lot more complicated than that. Batting Sweeney second rather than third would net him what, 20 extra at bats over the course of the season? It might net the lineup 2 or 3 extra hits over the course of the season. Of course, by batting him second, you've put him one spot closer to the worst player on the team (the #9 hitter), and you've ensured that he'll be coming to the plate with significantly less opportunities to drive in runs over the course of the season. Sorry, but that is just NOT what you want to do with your biggest slugger.

 
At 2/15/2006 4:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is why I don't trust those breakdowns by batting slots:

6 300/328/418/746 (220)
7 348/375/488/863 (207)


Is batting 6th that dramatically different from batting 7th?
There's no frickin' way...

-sumajestad

 
At 2/15/2006 5:57 PM, Blogger South Kansas City Guy said...

"...it'd sure be nice to have a guy hitting 2nd who could drive in DeJesus from 1st with some frequency, something that is unlikely to happen often with Grudz."

The job of the #2 hitter isn't to drive in the lead-off guy. It's to get him into scoring position so the clean-up crew can do some damage. I like Grudz in this spot. He is a good contact hitter that with veteran's presence that won't crumble under pressure. I understand the theory that you want the best hitters to have the most at-bats, but if that's the case, doesn't that leave the "heart of the line-up" vulnerable?

 
At 2/15/2006 11:08 PM, Blogger royalsbeliever said...

"The job of the #2 hitter isn't to drive in the lead-off guy. It's to get him into scoring position so the clean-up crew can do some damage."

I completely agree. It could be nice to have 2 guys on and Sweeney coming up with Sanders on deck and Brown in the hole. As far as I'm concerned we don't need Grudzielanek to be a big time power hitter, the key factor is drawing walks and moving runners and singles are fine.

I wouldn't think that Ambres is completely uncapable of a .350 OBP, but I do think for him to maintain a starting job on any major league baseball team he will need to prove that he is atleast a average defender in left/right field and that he can utilize his speed for value on the basepaths and while batting.

 
At 2/15/2006 11:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you guys are overanalyzing the roles of hitters in the lineup.

All hitters have two goals:

1) get on base
2) hit for power

You want the guys on your team who do those two things best to get most at bats. Yes, guys with more power need to be slightly back in the order to drive in runs, but that should be about the extent of managing the lineup.
Grudzielanek neither hits for power nor gets on base a lot, which is why I don't think he's a good candidate for the top of the order.

 
At 2/15/2006 11:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

-sumajestad

oops.

 
At 2/16/2006 1:35 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

South Kansas City Guy --

Runs are precious. You drive them in whenever possible, period. Setting up for your Murderer's Row is great in theory, but the Royals don't really have a Murderer's row, so you should drive them in whenever you can.

The #2 hitter's job is to do the best he can, just like any other hitter. All that "move the runner over" stuff is situational, and basing your decision on one guy's ability to do a better job in making an out than another guy (which is what "moving the runner over" does), over the course of a season is asinine.

Think of all the times that Gruds would lay that bunt down better than Whoevertheheck over the course of a full season (and still no guarantee of the run being scored) vs., say, how many times more somebody like Matt Stairs would hit a double or home run and drive that run in RIGHT NOW.

There isn't really a comparison -- these are the 85 Royals, folks, let's save all the small ball for teams that are built to take advantage of speed and high on-base percentages, two things the Royals aren't particularly skilled at.

 
At 2/16/2006 6:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If this team cant pitch, which seems very likely with garbage such as Elarton, Redman, Mays staring at 80-90 starts, then the whole lineup question is moot and it will be another 100 loss season.

If they can pitch, the best solution is Minkywinks being traded or released and get Huber up to provide some offense. Minks is an awful offensive player and shouldnt bat any higher than 8th on a decent offensive club.

 
At 2/16/2006 10:13 AM, Anonymous Nate said...

I remember see a quote (can't remember where) from Grudz in which we planned to concentrate on OBP this year. So, we can at least hope:

* Management, coaches have made it clear what they expect from a 2-hole hitter (OBP)
* Grudz is actually capable of taking that kind of approach.
* Bell won't employ too much "small ball" nonsense with the top of the order.

 
At 2/16/2006 5:38 PM, Blogger South Kansas City Guy said...

I am the kind of guy that goes with conventional strategies. Everytime I see a player in the #2 hole, it is usually someone that makes contact. It's great if they have a high OBP or they can muscle up and send it deep, but it's more important that they can put it in play - and Mark does that.

 
At 2/16/2006 7:10 PM, Blogger Kevin said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 2/17/2006 12:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We'll agree to disagree, and I understand your opinion -- many successful ballclubs were built on that idea of a #2 hitter, and I don't deny that. But those teams were built considerably different than our 2006 Royals, and thus I don't think that kind of strategy will work with them.

A "guy that can make contact" makes me think of lots of potential double plays, erasing DDJ off the basepaths before the heart of the lineup even gets to bat.

 

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