Friday, April 15, 2005

A Good Win and Some Random Notes

A manly effort by the boys in blue tonight, after Jose Lima did his...well, his Lima imitation in a 5 run top of the first, Jose really came through and pitched a somewhat amazing 6 innings. Say what you want about Lima Time, but he never quit.

Great games by DeJesus and Berroa at the plate - Angel will never be anything but a free swinger, but when he's hot, Berroa can get the bat on some pretty bad pitches and drive the ball. I really enjoy Terrance Long's defensive ability. He may have too many holes in his offensive game to be anything but a platoon player over the long haul, but he makes play after play in the outfield.

Jaime Cerda came through with a very solid 8th inning of relief work and MacDougal got a ground ball to end the game (bobbled by Gotay, but he got the out - it's never easy with these Royals). In between the two, however, was a troubling outing by Jeremy Affeldt. Facing three batters, Affeldt went to 3-2 on all of them, and eventually walked the third hitter. I was watching the game on TV and actually wondered aloud if the RSTN radar was off as Affeldt never hit anything higher than 90 mph. Apparently the radar was not off as, after a lengthy discussion involving Bob Schaefer, Guy Hansen and Nick Swartz (Pena was tossed in the 1st, as mad as I've seen him get as a manager, it was fun to watch), Affeldt was removed.

Affeldt did not seem too pleased about the decision, but something's not right. Out of the pen, this guy routinely can hit 97mph, if he wants, and always is up around 94 with the fastball. A lot of his fastballs were clocking at 87 or 88. Perhaps it's the groin he tweaked earlier in the week, or something more mechanical, but it needs to be idenified and rectified if he's our closer.

Although KC did a nice job of rallying for a pretty important win, the fact remains that we scored 5 runs in 3 games leading up to tonight, so I thought people might have some interest in what sort of stick work is being done in the minors.

In Omaha, Matt Diaz is hitting at a .345 clip with a .586 slugging percentage. Ken Harvey is at .333/.455 (2 doubles and a triple). Chad Santos is at .320/.800 with 3 homers and Aaron Guiel is at .290/.516 with two homers.
No one has glossy numbers right now in Wichita (Huber is at .250 after a hot start), but pretty much everyone in High Desert has massive offensive numbers. That league is a notorious hitters' league, so you have to discount some of the number, but Billy Butler is whacking away at .387 clip with an .839 slugging percentage and 4 homers. A cautionary note, Butler has FIVE errors already at third base. I think the Royals need about 30 days worth of decent play out of Teahen and then you'll see Butler moved somewhere, my guess is the outfield.

Pitching wise, Byron Embry ran into trouble after 3 perfect outings and gave up 3 runs in one inning for Omaha. Jimmy Gobble also got lit up in his last start, leaving Chris George (yikes!) as Omaha's most consistent starter so far this year.

Burgos down in Wichita now has 8 strikeouts in 4 innings. I had a flash tonight of him being KC's closer in 2006 with a lefty-righty setup combo of Affeldt and MacDougal. Just a dream, probably. Especially considering all three of them were throwing strikes in my mind.

Denny Bautista - What Did You Expect?

Well, somewhere deep in the dark corners of all our minds, we knew this would happen. A young thrower on the road to becoming a good pitcher has a dominating game against a good team only to come out the next time, outthinks himself (if I could throw a four seam fastball 96 mph you'd have to threaten my mother to get me to stop throwing it), gets into trouble, thinks some more, starts throwing - that's ball game. It is, of course, no reason to panic and will no doubt be a pattern repeated throughout the season.

Somewhere in spring training, either on this site or on a discussion board or in my garage, I voiced the opinion that this year's team reminded me a lot of the 1984 squad (minus George Brett, which means about 10 wins minimum). In particular, Greinke reminded me of Saberhagen (a common opinion), Runelvys was a young version of Buddy Black - or a better version of Danny Jackson, and Bautista really caused me to remember one of my favorite Royals: Mark Gubicza.

Royal fans will remember Gubicza as a true 'thrower' and something of a head case, who developed into a really good pitcher before arm woes and age made him mediocre. To this end, I pulled up Gubicza's game log for the 1984 season (by the way, I added a link to Baseball Musings, they have an absolutely sick database wherein you can pull up any players game-by-game stats for any period of time you like - want to know what Willie Wilson did on September 5, 1987, no problem) for comparision purposes. Now, Bautista's 5 starts (plus 2 relief appearances for the Orioles) make this not quite apples to apples as Gubicza had never sniffed the bigs until April 6, 1984, but let's take a look anyway.

Game 1 Gubicza - 6IP, 5H, 1R, 1BB, 4K
Game 1 Bautista - 8IP, 3H, 1R, 0BB, 8K

Game 2 Gubicza - 3IP, 3H, 2R, 1BB, 2K
Game 2 Bautista - 3.1IP, 4H, 6R, 3BB, 1K

I swear I can actually remember Gubicza's 2nd start (why I don't know), but my recollection is that it was cold, maybe even a rain delay, something funky happened to limit him to 3 innings. As you can see, he was not sharp either in his second game and probably had far better bullpen support than Denny did yesterday (hence the 6 runs - thanks for the great spring Mike Wood).

Mark Gubicza went on to do this in his next 5 starts:
Game 3 - 8IP, 1R
Game 4 - 6IP, 5R
Game 5 - 9IP, 0R
Game 6 - 8IP, 2R
Game 7 - 6IP, 5R
and for the 1984 season ended up 10-14 with a 4.05 ERA and 1.48 K/BB ratio.

If one wanted to, you could even through out Gubbie's first 5 starts of 1984 to even up his experience with Bautista, which would match Mark's Game 6 shown about with Denny's Game 1, etc. Same result, really.

The bottom line of Gubicza's 1984 is that, although he had stretches of 3-4 good starts, there were always 2-3 rocky ones in between. He started 29 games that year and managed to have decent to great outings in 18 of them (decent outing in cfos statworld is 4 runs in 7 innings or thereabouts) and that is very likely what we can expect from Bautista.

I will be the first to say, Denny's upside is probably greater than Gubicza's: Denny's stuff is electric, Mark's was simply good. Which is saying something since Gubicza went 20-8 with a 2.97 ERA at one point in his career. Following Mark's 1984 or even 1985 seasons is a good guide to reality into what to expect from Bautista this year. We all knew this would be a trying season with a lot of ups and downs - buckle your seatbelts.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Cleveland Player Contracts - The Blueprint for the Future

Many of you probably noticed this morning that the Cleveland Indians signed Travis Haffner to a 3 year extension with a team option for the 4th year. This deal is incredibly similar to that which the Royals inked Angel Berroa to early last season (insert your 'Man, I'd like to have Haffner instead of Berroa' comment here).

Haffner is slated to make $500,000 this year, $2.5 million in 2006, $3.75 million in 2007 and, at the team's option, $4.75 million in 2008 (with a $250,000 buyout). Travis received this contract after logging 859 major league at-bats.
Berros ia making $500,000 this year, $2.0 million in 06, $3.25 million in 07, $4.75 million in 08, and, at the team's option, $5.5 million in 09 (with a $500,000 buyout). Angel received this contract after logging 730 major league at-bats.

You can question whether the Royals spent wisely on Berroa, I think over the long-term they probably have, but you can see the logic behind signing your young players early. Earlier this season, the Indians also locked up catcher Victor Martinez (after 739 career at-bats) to 5 year 15.5 million dollar deal with a team option 6th year at 6.75 million. As I have mentioned before, the Indians did this in the late 80's/early 90's and were a Central Division force for most of the 90's.

What you have here are three different levels of 'long-term young player' deals, all essentially structured the same. In the end, none of these deals guarantee keeping any of these three players out of free agency for more than an extra year, maybe two in the case of Martinez. What they do accomplish is avoid the Carlos Beltran arbitration debacle, where the Royals could not afford to add quality players or contracts around Carlos while they had him (keep in mind, Beltran pulled won arbitration numbers of $9 mil and $10 mil his last 2 seasons). Now, chances are Scott Boras would not have let Beltran sign a early long term deal anyway, but the point remains valid in principle.

That brings us to the young nucleus of the Royals. DeJesus has 401 career at-bats, Buck 263 and Gotay 174 (personally, I don't think you can talk extension with a player until ESPN has a picture of him on his stats page). Two things: none of these guys are going to be Beltran level players and second, they are all a little young in their careers for GM's to consider signing them to long term deals. However, assuming they all log regular at-bats this season (which is likely), each of them will be at that 600-800 at-bat threshold level by season's end.

If I were just a general manager (instead of playing one on the internet), I would look to lock down DeJesus now. You could probably do it for 'Berroa money', maybe even less and do it through 2010. In the short term you cost yourself a million or two, but assuming David develops into a 295/380/450 sort of leadoff guy, you save three or four times that over 6 years. (NOTE: I also apparently play an econmoics professor on the internet)

By signing DeJesus now, you also graduate your team salary structure and contracts so that Berroa comes up in 2009, DeJesus in 2010 and then, assuming deals over the offseason, Buck and Gotay in 2011. There's risk, all four could turn into career .240 hitters with no power, but I think it's unlikely - and the Royals have to take risks.

And speaking of risks, what do you do with your young pitchers? Greinke, Bautista and Hernandez all have the potential to develop in 'The Big Three' that every team craves, but do you invest long term money on arms. Very few pitchers, and we're talking really really good established pitchers, ever get much more than a 3 year deal simply because of the risk pitchers run of injury and sudden ineffectiveness. I'm torn on this issue, seeing the logic of most GM's position on this, but also seeing some value in giving a youngster like Greinke a 5 or 6 year deal, knowing that one or two of those seasons he probably won't pitch or won't be effective.

If you had to have an answer from me right now (and I'm sure Allard will be calling at any moment), I would sign the position players as mentioned above and bank the money to spend market value to keep our Big Three when the time comes - signing them to the standard 3 year deals all pitchers seem to get.

Now, what to do about signing the relief pitchers.......c'mon you knew I was joking there, right?

Relivers in the Pipleine

I'm going to give Tony Pena a pass on yesterday's game. I could go on and on about his willingness to leave Runelvys Hernandez on the mound to die on Monday and his unwillingness to allow Zack Greinke to even break a sweat, but I will save his handling of pitchers for another day; comfortable in the knowledge that Tony will provide us all more fodder for this discussion.

Just a note before I get started on my actual topic. Cal Pickering is leaving the team after today's game to be with his wife who is now going to have a baby (after a false alarm last week). He supposedly will be back for Monday's game - good luck to Big Pick and let's all make a mental note not to come unglued when he's not in the lineup this weekend. Detorit is throwing two lefties, too, so Pick may not have played much anyway.

Okay, given what is transpiring every time they open the bullpen gate, I thought people might be interested as to how some of the relievers in the minor league system have been faring early on this season.
AMBIORIX BURGOS (Wichita) - 4 IP, O hits, O runs, 1 BB, 8 K
Pena is quoted today as saying he is hitting 100 mph on the radar gun and is 'not far away'. This guy is the rising star in the system and probably the closer of the future. Probably the only question is how hard the organization wants to push him.

BYRON EMBRY (Omaha) - 3 IP, 2 hits, 0 runs, 0 BB, 3 K
This guy is my favorite only because last season he was making $4,000 pitching for the Lincoln Saltdogs (Northern League). He will remind you of a poor man's Lee Smith. He has saves in all 3 appearances for Omaha this year. He won't throw 100 like Burgos, but he will throw 95 - dare I say a good Nate Field?

KYLE SNYDER (Omaha) - 4 2/3 IP, 3 hits , 1 earned run, 2 BB, 5 K 1.93 ERA
The guys on 810 radio are clammering for Snyder to get a call. He probably would help us right now, but I would really much prefer he build arm strength (and confidence) in Omaha and be ready to step into a starting rotation spot later this season or the spring of 2006.

STEVE STEMLE (Omaha) - 4 IP, 1 hits, 1 run, 0 BB, 5 K
The world is full of free agent journeymen relievers, here's another one. Stemle actually pitched decent in the spring and is off to a nice start in AAA. Probably not any different or better than Camp or Field, but certainly on option if we need it.

Also, keep in mind that Scott Sullivan is lurking around out there. I saw where he was with the team yesterday. Royal fans are tainted by his performance last season and he is something of an unknown with the new delivery/injury situation, but for about 10 years Sullivan was a very good middle reliever.

We have options, obviously, each with some degree of risk, but how many bad outings away are Field, Cerda, et.al. from us wanting to/needing to/absolutely having to make a move?

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

More Stats That May Not Mean Anything (Yet)

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, a) thank you and b) you know I have a constant, persistent worry that the Royals will be utterly destroyed by left-handed pitching. At the risk of looking stupid (it happens to everyone once, I suppose), take a look at KC hitting over the first seven games:

AVG OBP SLG OPS
405 450 649 1099 versus Left-handers
251 314 377 691 versus Right-handers

Now, the Royals have only 37 at-bats versus lefties and 207 versus righties, so this is hardly a fair test, but at least for one glimmer in time hitting the southpaw has not been much of an issue. A lot of the left-handed success is contributed to the Royals lighting up Mike Maroth in Game 2 of the season and also to Graffanino being hot that day and DeJesus being able to hit pretty much everyone (one of the big question marks going into the season, for me anyway).

Fun stat of the day:
In the category of 'Close and Late' hitting, the Royals have a TOTAL of 7 at-bats that fit that category. By contrast, Texas has 85 at-bats. Suprisingly, KC does not have the lowest total - that goes to the Twins who have just 2.

Finally, do I have a brain tumor or something or does Tony Pena's lineup today actually make sense? If we lose today, what will a write about tomorrow...well, relief pitching, running into outs...I can surely find something.

After Seven Games

Seven games worth of baseball statistics are worth little more than the paper they are written on. The sample size is just too small and too easily affected by one great game or one horrible game. However, I did find an intersting fact or two in browsing the team stats through seven games.

For purposes of the rest of this article I will be dealing with Batting Average/On-Base Pct/Slugging Pct/OPS in that order. Out of sheer laziness and tiring of the formatting battle with Blogger, I'll just be throwing those numbers out there without a heading.

Overall, here is how the Royals compare with their oppenets so far this season:
Kansas City - 275/335/418/753 31 runs scored
Opposition - 276/323/436/759 41 runs scored

The Royals actually stack up pretty good versus the league (considering this team is not going to be an offensive juggernaut) ranking either 5th or 6th in all of the categories, except runs scored where they are 8th. As you can see the numbers for the opposition are very, very similar - other than runs scored, where our opposite numbers would rank 2nd in the A.L.

The easy answer to this disparity is that the Royals have allowed seven (7) unearned runs. I do not think that tells the entire story, though. Unearned runs are kind of like the college basketball RPI rankings - they feed on themselves. One error can end up being 3 unearned runs (that's you, Ruben Gotay), when in fact a lot happened after that error that had little to do with sloppy fielding (that's you, Jose Lima).

So, given that we did not expect the Royals do be an offensive force, the first place I looked was there. Here's how the Royals fare situationally:
Runners On Base - 269/294/395/689
Runners Scoring Pos - 299/310/448/758
Scoring Pos & 2 outs - 303/324/455/778

Keeping in mind that KC overall ranked 5th or 6th in these categories, with Runners on Base they slip to 8th in average, 13th in OBP and 11th in Slugging and OPS. They get better, however, with Runners in Scoring Position: improving to 6th in average, 12th in OBP, 8th in Slugging and 9th in OPS. With Runners in Scoring Position and Two Outs, Kansas City is actually very respectable: 4th in average, 5th in slugging and 6th in OPS.

That the On-Base Percentage lags considerably, may be an indication that hitters are agressive, perhaps overly so, when runners are in scoring position. They actually improve with runners in scoring position - a good sign for a very average offensive team. Basically these numbers tell me that, while not great at scoring runs, the Royals are not horrible either. If they finished 8th in the league in all these offensive categories this year, that might actually be pretty good for a young group.

HERE IS THE PROBLEM THROUGH SEVEN GAMES. It is not the offense falling down with runners on, it is the pitching not holding the line. Keep in mind the opposition numbers overall and now take a look at our opponets situationally:
Runners on Base - 327/362/533/895
Runners in Scoring Pos - 339/391/536/926
Scoring Pos and 2 outs - 357/438/500/938

Royal opponets suddenly go from middle of the pack overall to pretty much 1st, 2nd or 3rd in the A.L. in every category in every critical situation. Again, just seven games, so these numbers can be somewhat skewed (that's you, Dmitri Young), but this is something of a mini-trend. While the Royals improve 28 average points and 25 OPS points with runners on and a 2 out, our opposition is skyrocketing 91 average points and 179 OPS points.

It takes no statistical analysis, only a decent memory to know, that excluding the Lima starts these numbers are not the fault of our rotation. Indeed, the blame for this goes to the bullpen (yes, the one I was so high on coming out of spring training). Now, relief pitcher statistics are the most inaccurate measure of all, especially early in the year, so I am not saying send four guys down and bring four new ones up (although I've seen the Royals do it before).

I am throwing up the yellow caution flag, however, and putting this possible trend or possible statistical anomaly on the radar for futher consideration.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Around the A.L. Central

Wonder why Chicago is off to such a good start? Look no further than their starting rotation. In 7 games, White Sox starters have allowed a total of just 13 runs. That includes 1 run outings by El Duque and Jose Contreras - two question marks going into the season.

Detroit has four players with an OPS of .900+ and none of them are Ivan Rodriguez or Magglio Ordonez. As the Royals learned close-up, the Tigers are going to hit the ball this year.

Indians rookie shortstop Johnny Peralta has made 4 errors in the 4 games he has played. To his credit, Peralta has gone 3 for 10 with two doubles. He is splitting time at short with Alex Cora. Everyone remember Ron Belliard's hot start at the plate last year? Well, he is hitting at a .350 clip to start 2005. The negative (a familiar one for Tribe fans) is that Bob Wickman, while two for three in save opportunities, is sporting a robust 19.29 ERA.

How bad will the Twins miss Carlos Silva? The pitcher called up to take his spot in the rotation, Dave Gassner, has very good minor league numbers at both AA and AAA, but has never pitched a major league inning. Joe Mays and Kyle Lohse, both enigmatic at best, will have to pick up the slack after the big two of Satana and Radke.

Monday, April 11, 2005

That was discouraging

What a difference this home opener was from last year, huh? Of course, last year's opener was the high point of the season, so perhaps we have better things to look forward to in 2005. I thought for a moment that we were going to have our first close game (actually, 1-0 after 7 is pretty close, but it didn't end up that way). As it stands, the Royals have now played 7 straight games decided by 4 runs or more.

Ryan Franklin became the second stand-in starter in three days to beat the Royals (Gregg from Anaheim was the other). I have no statistical data to support this, other than my years of watching and listening to Royals' games, but KC almost always seems to struggle against a spot starter or last minute call-up, so this should not come as a big suprise.

Kevin's Royal Blog had an insightful column a few days back about the Royals' tendency to be overly agressive at the plate after a big offensive game: the same scenario as we had today. However, Franklin was really good for 8 innings today. In those eight, Franklin faced just 27 batters and threw first pitch strikes to 24 of them. KC helped him out by swinging at 8 first pitches, but still, that is impressive.

I did not hear the pre-game show on the radio and was unable to get the game on our satellite system (games televised on Local channel 38 in KC aren't carried by Dish Network up here in Nebraska), so it is possible that Calvin Pickering was not with the team to be with his wife. HOWEVER, if he was with the team, not playing him is getting ridiculous.

First off, Big Pick has one position, designated hitter. There is absolutely no point in the A.L. to have a DH only type sitting on the bench - he either plays the majority of games or you get someone with more versatility. Second, Matt Stairs is a good guy and a decent bat against righties, but if he's not healthy enough to play in right field he simply should not play - not in front of Pickering. We know what Stairs can and will do. We have no idea what Pick can do over the course of several months of steady play.

Now is the time to find out if the big guy can survive 200 at-bats or if he simply is a AAAA hitter with no position. I rant on this subject even as someone who was not 'all in' when it came to having Pick on the roster - you could say I'm skeptical of his ability to stay above the Mendoza line far enough to justify enough at-bats to get his homers. However, right now, on this team, this early in the season, with a plethora of 1st base types hacking away in the minors, is the time to find out if Pick can play 5 or 6 times a week and be productive.

Minor League Update

Dealing with minor league baseball sites can be a little frustrating as they are geared more for promotion than for research. I know, for example, that tickets specials are available for the High Desert games, but I cannot access the stats page. I can tell you that High Desert is off to a 3-1 start, but can't give you much data on Billy Butler, Chris Lubanski and Mitch Maier. As the season gets going, I imagine we'll have better data. For now, though, here are a few notes from down on the farm.

OMAHA:
Andres Blanco hit his first professional home run the other night (how would you like to be that pitcher?). By all accounts, he has been playing the same spectacular defense as we say in KC last season. Although the folks in Omaha are not all that excited about it, I imagine playing between two veterans (McEwing & Hocking) has to be good for the young shortstop.

Ken Harvey's numbers through 3 games (BA/OBP/SLG): 200/273/200
Chad Santos' numbers through 3 games (BA/OBP/SLG): 333/400/889

Byron Embry has two saves in two appearances. As he played last year for our Northern League franchise here in Lincoln, I am rooting for him to make it to KC sometime this season.

WICHITA:
Justin Huber is 5 for 13 (.385) with 2 doubles and 5 walks. He also has a .538 slugging percentage in the early going for the Wranglers. If he continues like this, can he be the right-handed bad we need in KC?

On the flip-side, Shane Costa is off to an 0-12 start. Given what's playing in High Desert, Costa is a guy who cannot afford to struggle or he'll lose his place in the organization's hiearchy (assuming he hasn't already).

No Pressure Results

Really a very, very good road trip for the Royals to start the year. I will never argue with a .500 road trip, no matter who we play. A curious oddity relating to KC's first six games is that none of these games were close. In fact, other than game 3 in Detroit that was 1-0 in the 7th inning, the games were all pretty much decided early on.

I did some quick and dirty research with regard to the fact that KC has played six straight games all decided by 4 runs or more. In 2004, the Royals had one streak of seven games decided by 4 or more (they went 2-5 leading up to the All-Star Break), but otherwise nothing longer than 5 games by this margin. In 2003, KC also had one streak (just after the All-Star Break) of 7 games in which they went 3-4. This streak of 6 'wide-margin' games is unique but not unpredecented.

Baltimore and Colorado are the only other teams besides the Royals to have not yet played a one-run game this year. Statistically, a team should expect a one-run game every 4 to 5 games (30-45 one run games per season was the range in 2004), so we know we've got some coming. It will be interesting to see how the team reacts when faced with late-inning pressure situations.

Given that KC is not a great, or even good, defensive team right now and has committed it's share of gaffes on the basepaths, it is hard to be too optimistic about this team successfully functioning in a 'one-run' environment. On the plus side of this equation, however, you have to like how the bullpen performed the last two games of the Angels series. They may be getting their legs under them - Affeldt excluded - and may still turn into the above average unit I thought they would be coming out of spring training.

Random Thoughts:
If Andy Sisco continues to pitch well (absolutely fantastic Saturday night in Anaheim), will the Royals pare down to an eleven man staff in favor of bringing up/in a right handed bat? I kind of shudder to think of the myriad of lineups Pena could come up with if he has another position player to toss into the mix. It's giving me bad flashbacks of the Bob Boone era.

You have to like David DeJesus' approach at the plate so far this year. Even his outs have been 'good' at-bats. He is taking walks without sacrificing aggressiveness with the bat. Other than his inability to be an effective base-stealer, David so far has been an ideal lead-off hitter.

Well, at least Ruben Gotay 'has the hot bat' now, so Tony will play him a few games in row. (I think).

Hernandez, Greinke & Bautista this week. You have to be excited about these three going for KC for the next 3 or 4 years. I will hope for a 5-3 homestand, but be happy with a 4-4 mark.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Officially Confused

I give up.

No, unlike the hundreds of pessimists on the chat boards, I haven't given up on the Royals. I have, however, officially stopped trying to figure out what makes Tony Pena write the things he does on a lineup card.

First off, where was Tony when I was playing legion baseball (400 years ago)? Matt Stairs, who can't run well enough to field simply said "I want to play" and whammo he's in the lineup. Of course, every team plays their utility infielder 4 out of 5 games, so of course Graffanino had to play again.

One sure way to get young players to press (which is the last thing you want Gotay & Teahen to do more than they already are - remember David DeJesus during his first callup last season?) is to jerk them in and out fo the lineup based upon a bad play or plate appearance. Gotay has pretty much swung at everything since finally getting back in the lineup - although he executed a nice sacrifice bunt last night, an obvious sign to me that he is trying to hard. Yes, that was an bad error last night, but those things are going to happen with young players. I have no doubt that Graffanino will be a second and Teahen at third today - you know, Graffy had a walk last night so we have to go with the hot bat.

To switch gears for a moment - with the bases loaded and two outs, after the Angels had gifted us the tying run - Mike Sweeney had an asbolutely pathetic at-bat: check swinging for strike two on a ball in the dirt and taking a half hearted swing at the next pitch that was farther in the dirt AND outside. I am trying to like Mike Sweeney, but it's hard sometimes.

On to Jose Lima. He appears to really be fighting himself - pretty much like us on a slow-pitch softball night when we can't field the ball. The madder you get at yourself and the harder you try, the worse it gets. Last night, Jose was yelling, cursing and storming around the mound almost from the first pitch. He may be spending a little too much energy being Lima and not enough just pitching.

Nice article on KCroyals.com about Ambriox Burgos' first outing in Wichita, by the way. Any guesses on Kansas City's lineup today? Or should we just draw names out of a hat like Tony does?