Tagged: Joakim Soria

Royals Hope Old Arms Learn New Tricks

There’s a saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.  If that’s true, then Dayton Moore, Trey Hillman, and the rest of the crew running the Kansas City Royals should be carted off to the nut house.  Last year, the bullpen was the bane of the team’s (and the fans’) existence.  Aside from All-Star caliber closer Joakim Soria, who was hobbled by injuries, the group was a ragtag collection of cast-offs and no-names who combined to cause more heartburn and indigestion than Kansas City’s famed barbecue.

The group included Roman Colon (4.83 ERA in 50.1 IP), Juan Cruz (5.72 ERA in 50.1 IP), Robinson Tejeda (3.54 ERA in 73.2), and Kyle Farnsworth (4.58 ERA in 37.1 IP).  That’s a combined 4.55 ERA over 211.2 innings of relief, a performance that led the Royals to bring all four back to form the core of their bullpen again this year. 

That means the four most frequent offenders from last season’s disaster are back in their usual roles.  Various factors led to them being retained (including Farnsworth’s unforgivable contract given before the 2009 season), but the fact remains that Dayton Moore and his organization addressed their biggest flaw by doing precisely nothing.  They’re still counting on four proven failures to somehow bridge the gap to Soria.

Those four and Soria are joined this year by John Parrish (who missed all of 2009 recovering from arm surgery), Dusty Hughes (a promising youngster who debuted in 2009 with a 5.14 ERA in 14 IP), and  Luis Mendoza (who logged all of 1 IP in 2009 with the Rangers, allowing 4 ER and posted a robust 8.67 ERA in 63.1 IP in 2008). 

This motley crew is tasked with preserving the narrow leads provided by Kansas City’s typically anemic offense and allowing Cy Young winner Zack Greinke to accumulate his deserved share of wins, rather than the all too frequent quality start no decisions of 2009.

After only two games, though, it must be too early to tell how they’ll fair this year, right?  Perhaps several had strong springs to prove they’ve turned a corner.  Well, so far, through two games they’ve blown a two-run lead and cost Greinke a win, and managed to somehow turn a 7+ inning shutout performance by Luke Hochevar into a no decision, 11th inning, come-from-behind win credited to Farnsworth. Old reliable Kyle earned the W by allowing three straight hits to start the top of the 11th before weaseling his way out and letting the offense provide a dramatic walk-off victory in the bottom half of the inning.

In the season opener, Greinke battled his way through six innings against the tough Detroit offense and allowed only 1 ER.  He left with a 4-2 lead, thanks to a surprising offensive outburst against Detroit ace Justin Verlander.  Before he could even find a seat in the dugout, however, Colon, Tejeda, and Cruz teamed up to post a 6-hit, 1 BB, 6 ER performance in the sixth inning to put the game out of reach and leave Zack with nothing to show for his hard work on Opening Day.

Luke Hochevar followed suit the next day throwing an oustanding 7.2 IP, 5 hits, 1 BB, 0 R and leaving with the lead only to see Soria cough it up and Farnsworth allow a run before a miraculous comeback in the bottom of the 11th brought the Royals a win.

As I began this post, that’s all the damage the bullpen had done this year, but during the course of my writing they managed to do it again.  Today Royals starter Brian Bannister tossed a fine outing, going 6 innings and allowing only 1 run, leaving with the lead.  Hughes went 1 inning, allowing the tying run before giving way to Mendoza who posted a 1.2 IP, 5 ER performance. 

It seems there’s a different guy each day, but no matter who Trey Hillman beckons from the pen, it always ends in disaster, and the fact that all of the main pieces were brought back and no attempt at change was made is a fault of those running the organization.  This bullpen should have been completely dismantled and rebuilt, but Dayton Moore did nothing and Hillman allowed it to happen.

Hillman may soon be on his way out, but it won’t matter who’s filling out the lineup card as long as this embarrassment of a bullpen remains intact.  For that reason, perhaps Dayton Moore should be feeling the heat more than Hillman for failing to address the biggest gaping hole on his team.

Don’t get me started on closers…

This started as a rant on how the closer is possibly the most
overvalued position in baseball. The definition of a save and the way
in which current closers are used has become a joke. They are often
saved for only specific situations when the game is not in doubt and
they merely finish off what the starter and middle relievers have
started. The idea that closers can be judged and ranked according to
their ability to accumulate saves is false.

Last year, Frankie Rodriguez racked up a single-season record 62
saves. He was widely considered the best closer in baseball and many
felt it wasn’t close. However, when you compare his stats to those of
fellow AL All-Star closer Joakim Soria of the Kansas City Royals you’ll
find something different. It’s clear that saves are not an accurate
measure of closer effectiveness, but more a measure of his team’s
ability to be leading going into the late innings and his ability to
keep from screwing it up.

The Angels played in a horrible division and won more games than
anyone, while the Royals finished 4th in the AL Central, thus K-Rod had
many more chances to rack up saves. Let’s look at the stats, give me a
minute…


W

L

ERA

G

S

OPPS

IP

H

R

ER

BB

K

K-Rod

2

3

2.24

76

62

69

68.1

54

21

17

34

77

Soria

2

3

1.60

63

42

45

67.1

39

13

12

19

66

Soria had a better ERA by .64 and only one less inning despite 13
fewer games, meaning he pitched longer per game and therefore provided
more value per appearance.

K-ROD AVERAGED 2.70 OUTS PER APPEARANCE. LESS THAN ONE INNING EACH
TIME HE CAME INTO A GAME. Soria averaged 3.2 outs per appearance, not
Gossagian, but substantial over a full season, particularly when
factoring in the other KC relievers who were largely horrible. Every
extra out Soria could get was HUGE in the scope of their overall
record.

Soria also blew only 3 of 45 save chances (OPPS) for a 6.23 BS% (blown saves/save chances) while K-Rod blew 7 of 69 chances for a 10.14 BS%. K-Rod blew 1 of 10 while the Mexecutioner blew only 1 of 15 chances.

Look at hits, and remember K-Rod managed only three more outs than Soria over the year.

K-Rod: 54 in 68.1 IP or 7.11 H/9 IP

Soria: 39 in 67.1 IP or 5.21 H/9 IP

The near-equality of innings means you can throw out any debate over sample sizes. The samples are the same!

BB

K-Rod: 4.48/9 IP

Soria: 2.54/9 IP

Since Soria was better in both H/IP and BB/IP this one’s obvious, but for the record:

WHIP

K-Rod: 1.29, very very tough

Soria: .86, Mexican tough

Batting Average Against

K-Rod: .216

Soria: .169

Slugging Percentage Against

K-Rod: .316

Soria: .255

K-Rod does get one category…

K-Rod: 10.14 K/9 IP

Soria: 8.82 K/ 9 IP

but remember all those walks?

K-Rod: 2.26 K/BB

Soria: 3.47 K/BB

Soria wins all but two major statistical categories, arguably the
two least important. Save is an arbitrary definition of holding a lead
after a certain point in a game, and strikeouts, though important,
aren’t as important as simply recording outs. Hitters were more
successful and had a higher percentage of extra base hits off of K-Rod
than they did off of Soria. The sample sizes are nearly identical, and
they both play in the American League with the DH and similar
opponents.

There is overwhelming statistical evidence that Soria was the more
effective reliever last year. Fewer hiters reached base either by hit
or walk, fewer hitters got extra base hits, fewer runners scored, his
ratio of K/BB was higher, he blew a lower percentage of save chances,
and he recorded more outs per appearance. We have every reason to
believe that had K-Rod and Soria switched places, Soria would be the
saves record holder. The only difference is that the record would
likely be 65 rather than 62.

I knew K-Rod (and his save record and saves in general and closers
overall) were overrated, but I can’t believe the total statistical
dominance of Soria over him. If saves can’t even tell us who’s the more
effective closer within one season, how can they possibly be used as an
indicator of reliever performance between decades or for Hall of Fame
conisderation?