Saturday, January 22, 2011

Johnny Cueto Isn't an Ace...Yet

The Cincinnati Reds have two of the most tantalizing (or frustrating) pitchers in baseball in Johnny Cueto and Edison Volquez. Both have "star" written all over them but the results don't always turn out that way. Volquez was hurt most of last year and thus, will remain out of this discussion for now. But Cueto is a big part of the Cincinnati Reds' hopes to continue to be the team to beat in the NL Central.

The first thing that is easy to forget is that Johnny Cueto will only be 25 years old in February. He's already put in major service time for three straight years. It seems like yesterday when he came to his first Spring Training and blew batters away and forced himself into the rotation at the age of 21. But his rookie season didn't go as well as Spring Training and he went 9-14 with a 4.81 ERA. Yes, the strikeouts were there, but so were the 29 homers allowed in just 174 innings.

Cueto was pretty much the same in 2009 with a few less homers, a few less walks and also less strikeouts. But he became a solid cog in the Reds' division run in 2010 and finished the season at 12-7. His ERA came call the way down to 3.64. His strikeouts were again down, but he finished under three walks per nine innings for the first time in his career and below one homer per nine innings for the first time also.

Now he is entering his fourth full season and the Reds are in the midst of working out a multi-year contract for him. Will Cueto take further steps to stardom or is he not much better than what we've seen so far? There are some troubling peripherals.

One is that Cueto pitches much better in low leverage situations.  When a game is tight or the opponent tough, he tends to crumble. His record against the Brewers and Cardinals last year was terrible.  He was much better in the first half than he was in the second half. If Cueto is to become a big time pitcher, he needs to beat the good teams and win his share of close games. But the flip side is that the same could be said of Robinson Cano in 2009 when he couldn't deliver in a big situation to save himself. But Cano responded in 2010 in those situations. Perhaps Cueto will handled them better too in 2011.

But Cueto's number don't show anything else as drastic. His home/road splits are good as is his left/right splits. He just needs to win the close games. Need an example? Well, Cueto won only two games in eighteen starts when his team scored five runs or less. He needs to be able to win some of those games. Cueto also needs to get deeper into games as his starts averaged only 5.98 innings in 2010.

According to Fangraphs, the value of Cueto's fastball improved in 2010, accounting for a lot of his success. He also developed a cutter that was very effective. His best pitch seems to be a change up that he threw 10% of the time last year. His worst pitch is his slider, a pitch he throws 27% of the time. That's a lot of effort with a pitch that has so little value. He should throw less sliders and more change ups.

The jury is still out on Cueto. At 25 years of age, he still has plenty of time to become a superstar of ace caliber. And each season has shown improvement from the one before. But the bottom line for Cueto, and for the Reds, is that the young pitcher needs to be better in the clutch and he has to win the close games against tough competition.

Are the Angels the New Yankees?

Winning is a powerful drug. It causes teams like the Giants to give Aubrey Huff $22 million over two years and teams like the Red Sox to make a splash this off season after missing the playoffs last season. The formula was laid out by George Steinbrenner who brought in over-the-hill superstars at exorbitant prices when his teams failed to win a championship. Among Steinbrenner's biggest blunders were Robin Ventura, Rondell White and Gary Sheffield. Not that those players played poorly (well White did), but they were so overpriced that it was obscene. The Angels might be the new Yankees.

Friday's news came as a shock and the surprises kept getting bigger as the trade between the Angels and the Blue Jays was announced (Twitter was certainly buzzing!). First, the Angel obtained Vernon Wells, who has long carried the Barry Ztio Award for the worst contract in baseball. Then, we learned that the Blue Jays did not have to subsidize the deal with any money. The Angels were trading for the entire contract. Remarkable!

All this has to be a result of not making the playoffs last year and then failing to improve the team with Carl Crawford, Adrian Beltre, et al. Again, winning is a powerful intoxication and with the Angels out of the running early last year, and things not going well in the off season, the Angels pulled the panic switch. And can this deal be considered anything other than a panic reaction? Granted, if Wells has the same kind of year as last year, the Angels will be better than with Juan Rivera. Wells will be two or three wins better than Rivera, but that only makes the Angels an 85-win team instead of an 81-win team.

The move bloats the Angels' payroll to $141 million or third behind the Yankees and the Red Sox. That's a lot of money for a mediocre team. And will Wells cost Bourjos at bats? The Blue Jays lost a good player who cost the money of a great player. They gained Rivera, who, at his best, is useful and, at his worst, on the disabled list. They also get Mike Napoli, a decent hitting, crappy-catching sort who can also play first (or at least stand there). But more than anything, the Blue Jays did a remarkable job of freeing themselves to have the kind of financial flexibility they need to get back to the top. The Angels, bereft of a farm system, have saddled themselves with a huge payroll with a limited player they won't be able to move.

And for the Angels' troubles and dollars spent? They'll probably still finish behind the Rangers and the Athletics.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Ryan Theriot - The Cardinals' Big Mistake?

Many reports seem to indicate that Tony LaRussa has won some sort of turf war over the front office that had been leaning towards using statistical analysis over LaRussa's tendency to lean on "gamers." The ultimate test of LaRussa's supposed victory will be how Ryan Theriot will perform in 2011. LaRussa has given shortstop to Theriot for better or for worse. Theriot is a huge risk.

Theriot is not a risk concerning his effort or his "games-man-ship." He will play every day and give you maximum effort. But he is sort of like Tom Petty to Bob Dylan. He's a bottom tier player in Major League Baseball. Only three other batters that qualified for the batting title had less batting value than Theriot last year. And sure, Brendan Ryan might have been one of them. But Theriot is not near the same class of defensive player that Ryan is and was for the Cardinals.

And it isn't just the much-maligned fielding stats that show he is a less than adequate fielder. Scouting reports show that he has a much-less than average arm, less than average jump on the ball and instincts and less than average accuracy on his throws. With a double-play tandem of Skip Schumaker and with Freese at third (best case scenario) and Holliday and Berkman in the outfield, you are talking about the potential for an all time brutal defense.

But unlike Berkman, Freese and Holliday, you can't get excited about any offensive possibilities with Ryan Theriot. He has shown patience at the plate in the past, but that evaporated last year. He hits less extra base hits than Ichiro and he is only successful on 68% of his steal attempts. Bill James is optimistic that Theriot will have a better year than last year. Okay, that's a good thing. But even better than last year won't make Theriot an adequate offensive player. Brendan Ryan has much more of an upside, but apparently, he wore out his welcome in St. Louis. Theriot finished at dead zero in WAR last year. And that's pretty tough to do considering the bonus points his fielding position gives him. Ryan had his worst season ever and still finished with a WAR of 0.9. And this Fan would rather have little WAR with great fielding than no WAR with lousy fielding.

The Cardinals live and die with Pujols, Holliday and pitching. The pitchers are great but are not power pitchers. They rely on people catching the weakly hit balls they induce. Weaken your defense and you weaken your pitching. The Cardinals have made a major gamble this year to do things LaRussa's way. 2011 will either show us another genius season from a manager that has pulled it off before, or it will show us a major miscalculation perhaps based on no calculations (if you get the Fan's drift). Ryan Theriot might be the little pepper pot LaRussa likes, but pepper gives a lot of people heartburn.

**UPDATE** Things get better and better! Now the Cardinals have added Nick Punto, who is basically Brendan Ryan but ten years older. Punto is also known as a "gamer."

A New PED? Deer Me!

Read a fascinating article today concerning the latest Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) and was surprised to learn that the product is from deers in New Zealand, which goes to show you that there is more to New Zealand than The Lord of the Rings. There is no sense rehashing the article as all the information is right there in the link. But the text does bring up some interesting arguments that are worth exploring further. But to recap quickly for those of you who don't want to click the link: The velvet on the antlers of deers are scraped, freeze dried, and then converted to liquid or spray form and acts similar to Human Growth Hormone (HGH). It supposedly helps the body recuperate quickly. It can only be detected with blood tests and only in a short period of time during use.

The Fan's first reaction was that it's not a drug if it's natural. But to make sure, a jaunt to to look up the definition of "drug" and found this:

according to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (1) : a substance recognized in an official pharmacopoeia or formulary (2) : a substance intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease (3) : a substance other than food intended to affect the structure or function of the body (4) : a substance intended for use as a component of a medicine but not a device or a component, part, or accessory of a device
There is nothing there about a "drug" having to be "unnatural" or derived from non-natural materials. So we can throw that argument out the window. According to the article, that paragon of sports virtue, the World Doping Agency has classified the compound as a PED. Currently, the substance is banned by sports but MLB does not take blood samples and only tests urine.

Here's what needs to happen. There needs to be a major world symposium on what should be legal or illegal in sports. The symposium should include athletes, leagues, fans, physicians and other experts. Yeah, the Fan knows that there are more important things in the world such as hunger, war and pollution. But sports is such a worldwide phenomenon that we need to figure this out. Why would a natural extract like velvet from deer antlers be illegal and cortisone legal? Why should HGH be illegal and blood transfusions legal? It's a confusing mess. You can take vitamins but not supplements. Shooting B-12 is okay but shooting HGH is not.

The next question is whether there should be different rules for different sports. The NFL is apparently littered with supplements and abusers. Nobody cares. The article itself quotes Roy Williams as saying he uses the antler stuff all the time. But, as the article pointed out, if Albert Pujols was connected with the deer stuff, there would be outrage. Should rules be different in different sports?

The next question is whether taking anything that occurs naturally in nature (is that redundant?) should be illegal. A couple of years ago, the Fan read an excellent book on Babe Ruth. Contrary to what most believe, Ruth was not a slothful athlete that just got by on his talent. He went to an exclusive gym in New York that helped him for over a dozen years. Not many players were doing that at the time. Was that an unfair advantage? Perhaps the gym gave Ruth dietary supplements and suggestions that would give him an edge in his conditioning and strength. Other players wouldn't be able to afford such things. Did that give Ruth an unfair advantage? Some would say yes. If Ruth played today, he would be scrutinized too.

Vitamins are performance enhancers in the basic definition. They aid the body in bone and muscle growth. But those are okay because many in America take vitamins and they are perfectly legal (though not tested by the DEA which is scary). Merrium-Webster defined cortisone as, "a glucocorticoid C21H28O5 of the adrenal cortex used in synthetic form especially as an anti-inflammatory agent. Cortisone has been around since 1949 and we read regularly of players getting shot up with it. Isn't that by definition a performance enhancer?

Players are often shot with Novocaine and other pain killers to allow them to play through pain. Aren't those PEDs? But again, those are allowed. It's all a moralistic and slippery slope. As for the Fan, there is no problem with anyone taking a product that occurs naturally. Cortisone is much scarier because it masks injury and threatens a player's career. If that is okay, then deer antler velvet should be okay. There is a bottom line here. Most fans could care less about what an athlete puts in his body. Half of the people in this country thing marijuana should be legalized. We are all adults here and an amazing amount of resources is spent chasing producers and users of drugs we can't all agree on that they are harmful to us.

Nobody wants to see 80 homers because ball players start looking like Transformers. So there needs to be clear cut rules certainly. But no muscles are ever built without a lot of hard work by those building them, no matter what they take to get there. There are other ways to even the playing field such as deadening the ball and raising the mound. We've got to figure this thing out because athletes are now living in an age of information and science never known in sports before. This science will always be a step ahead of the testers and the moralists.

Deer antler velvet? Geez. The Chinese have been using that for centuries.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

If Jose Bautista Can Get More Than One Hit a Game...

JoBau, as he is known by Toronto bloggers, had a great season in 2010 by anyone's standards. His season was one of the top five stories of the entire season. It was such an astounding season that conspiracy theorists came out of the woodwork to try to tear it down. But Bautista's season was no fluke, and we shall see that in 2011. But as good as 2010 was for Bautista, it could have been better. Here's why.

Jose Bautista was in the top 30 in games in the majors with games where he only got one hit. That happened 65 times. The leaders were Prince Fielder and Alex Gonzalez (also spent time with Toronto in 2010, Vernon Wells was right behind JoBau with 64) with 77. But nobody in baseball had a higher OPS with just one hit than Bautista. In those 65 games, he hit 22 homers, 2 triples, 18 doubles, drove in 45 runs and added 46 walks. That builds up to an OPS of 1.051 when he only got one hit. The only one close is Fielder who had a .954 OPS when only getting only one hit in a game. But he had less homers, walks, doubles, triples and RBIs than JoBau.

To recap, in the 65 games where Bautista only got one hit, 42 of the were for extra bases. That's pretty incredible. Bautista had 29 games where he had two hits. Of all players with two hit games in 2010, only Jim Thome had a higher OPS (2.023 versus 1.933 for Bautista). And Thome had two hits fourteen less times. Bautista got three hits seven times and hit eight homers. He had one four-hit game and hit two homers in that game.

If you do the math (the Fan HATES saying that because criticism always follows), Bautista got at least one hit in 102 games, leaving 59 games where he got no hits. If Bautista can simply get more than one hit just a few more times this season and have a few less games without a hit, he can have an even bigger season if all else remains the same.

One other interesting note, The Brewers and the Blue Jays both posted three players in the top 30 in one-hit games. That speaks a little bit to both teams' all or nothing offense where they can be monsters or teddy bears depending on the game.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Carl Freakin' Pavano

This writer has come full circle with Carl Pavano. A name formerly scorned and lower than scorned, his name itself was a derision. If you grew up in New Jersey, you can hear it in how the heading of this post was spoken. Think of Tony Soprano's voice, now say Pavano's name in that voice and you've got it. He was scum. He was dirt. He was everything hated. And now? After three years of rebuilding his career, his fire for the game, and yes, his leadership with the Twins, this writer actually roots for the guy. Now there is a little smile after enunciating the name. Carl 'Freakin'' Pavano with a little smile at the end.

And so this Fan is happy for the guy on his two year contract. Hopefully, it will work out for both the Twins and for the pitcher. He isn't the greatest pitcher in the universe. His BABIP from 2010 is scary in how low it was. It hardly seems a scenario that can be continued with the same success as he had in 2010. But then again, the guy won seventeen games. He gutted out seven complete games and 221 innings. And he did one other thing better than at any point in his career.

What did he do? He threw more ground balls than fly balls. 46 more in fact. Why is that important? Because it shows that Pavano has adapted and learned from his career and is still remaking himself as he goes along. His 1.13 ground ball to fly ball ratio was the highest of his career. He came close to that ratio in a couple of his short stints with the Yankees, but you can hardly count those years. The rest of his career...the full seasons never featured that kind of ground ball rate. It's not an astounding rate. It's not like Webb or Wang or something. But it's just another sign of a pitcher who has matured and knows what he is doing.

Pavano has come so far since that car accident in Florida with some nameless girl that he forgot to mention to the Yankees. He's come so far since Mike Mussina dissed him in public and in the locker room. Mike Mussina, who never made headlines with his mouth, made them with Pavano. Carl Pavano isn't that guy anymore. He's healthy and his mind and his will is strong. Jim Thome, the ultimate professional ball player personally kept after Pavano to re-sign with the Twins. That shows how far the guy has come.

We are, after all, a society that loves second chances and do-overs. We rag on guys who we think are squandering their careers. But we cheer just as loudly when a life is turned around...when a light bulb goes off inside a person. We don't know the mind of Carl Pavano. Likely none of us know all the facts of his lost Yankee years. But Pavano has proven himself these last three years. He's given the Indians and now the Twins everything they could ask for. He's taken the ball every fifth day and he's kept his team in the game.

He isn't the world's best pitcher. In the end, he's probably just a little better than average. But this Fan hopes he wins another 17 games the next two years. This writer who once said his name with derision, now says it with a wry smile. Go get 'em, Carl Freakin' Pavano!

Galarraga Could Help Somebody

The Detroit Tigers have taken the unusuall step of signing Armando Galarraga to avoid arbitration and shortly after designating him for assignment. Galarraga made 24 starts for the Tigers last year but lost his rotation spot to Brad Penny when the Tigers signed that pitcher to a $3 million deal (plus incentives). The Tigers have indicated that they will try to trade Galarraga and if they can't, he'll go to the minors. Galarraga is 28.

Armando Galarraga is a bit of a mystery. After a strong rookie season in 2008 with 13 wins and a 3.1 WAR, the pitcher fell on hard times in 2009. He rebounded some for the Tigers in 2010 but only finished 4-9. He also had the almost-perfect game, a fluke that should not even enter the conversation. But the mystery? The mystery is that Galarraga has always put up peripherals in the high minors that included eight strikeouts per nine with between two and three walks. But that hasn't translated in the majors. Even last year in Galarraga's brief time in the minors, he struck out eight batters per nine but his major league level fell all the way to 4.6 after topping out over six the previous two seasons. He has also walked more in the majors than in the minors.

Here is the Fan's take on all that: Galarraga has been victimized often to the long ball which makes him more tentative in the strike zone. His three year string of homers to nine innings pitched was 1.4, 1.5 and 1.3. If you look at his career, Galarraga has reached a 3-2 count 274 times out of 2045 plate appearances. That's nearly 13.4 percent of the time, by far the highest of his plate appearances on any other count. If he could be given the confidence to pound the strike zone more effectively, he could become a really good pitcher.

Given the state of starting pitching in baseball, there has to be some interest in Galarraga. The Fan could easily see the Yankees parting with Romine, their third highest catcher in their minors' food chain, and another minor arm for him. The Tigers could use catching help and the Tigers have dealt with the Yankees before. But if not the Yankees, there are plenty of other teams that could use him such as the Mets...well, let's just say any team not being the Phillies or Giants.

The Fan still believes Armando Galarraga can be a valuable starting pitcher for somebody out there. Let's see where he ends up. A change of scenery could really help him.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Still Struggling with Barry Bonds

Three and a half years have gone by since Barry Bonds put on a uniform after it appeared that he was blackballed from baseball. What else could it have been? He was 42 years old but still put up a 1.045 OPS in 2007. You would think somebody would have signed him as a DH. But he was frozen out of baseball from the way it looks. But that three and a half years have not softened the hard edges around this writer's opinion of the man. Why is that? The feelings the man still generate are hardly ones of enlightenment. Why does he generate more negative feelings than Sammy Sosa, for example? It's time to dig deeper and figure out what is going on inside the Fan's head. In the words of a famous writer, "How do I know what I think until I see what I wrote?"

First, the dislike of Barry Bonds started long before he hit 73 homers to break Mark McGwire's record. He was a black man who didn't care what we thought of him. Okay, that's part of the answer there isn't it? Let's be honest about this thing. There have been a lot of unlikeable characters in baseball over the years. This Fan never disliked them with the same fortitude of Bonds'. Race has to be part of the answer. And why is that? Well, part of the answer goes deeper than race. We fans like our ballplayers to have a genuine sense of how fortunate they grateful they are for their abilities. We want them to grasp how silly it is to be able to play a kid's game in front of millions of people and make millions of dollars. Bonds was never one of those guys. Bonds acted as if it was OUR privilege to watch him play and not the other way around. From an ordinary man's perspective, that grates the wrong way. For an ordinary white man, the roots are deeper. And it's only fair to admit that with frankness. It's not right. But unless it is reflected upon, it can't be dealt with.

It also relates to race that we liked Ken Griffey Jr. more than Bonds. Both grew up with the proverbial silver spoon as the sons of ball players. But Junior seemed to be in it for the fun of it. He seemed to be like a kid on a perpetual Disney ride. That was different from Bonds and again, his race made that unacceptable. Of course that's absurd and unfair. But there it is.

And the two were entwined for eternity when that big article came out that stated Bonds talked to Griffey about McGwire and Sosa getting all the glory when he had more talent. Supposedly, that was when Bonds decided to rub on some funky cream and stuff. The image painted is an egocentric one. It hollered out loud, "I want the glory. I want to be the focus. I want all eyes on me." It wasn't enough to be the best all around player in the world. And that ego-stance compromised him in an age when nobody was looking. The stage had been set with half the baseball world already on illegal substances. Bonds became the pinnacle of the era.

And the shame of it is that had he not taken that stance, if he had not wanted to be the top media dog, he would still have wound up in the top five all around players that ever played the game. Before he hit those 73 homers, he already had 494 for his career along with over 400 stolen bases. He was already in the middle of a run with nine straight seasons with an OPS over 1.000. He had already compiled fantastic defensive numbers. He had already scored over 1600 runs and driven in 1400. He had already won three MVP Awards and had a World Series title, Gold Gloves and All Star appearances. He was already the most prodigious accumulator of free passes the game had seen since Mickey Mantle. If not for 73 and for that article that exposed him, he would have joined Willie Mays in the pantheon of best all around players to ever play the game.

If the 73 had never happened. If Bonds hadn't allegedly made those egocentric choices. If he hadn't become the poster boy for everything that was wrong with baseball during those years, we would have in time, embraced him for what he was. Nobody ever liked Ty Cobb either, but he is still hailed as one of the greatest ever. Bonds will be forever hailed as the one of the greatest ever....but. It's the "but" that will define him forever and overshadow what he was before the 73.

The intentional walks also grated us the wrong way. And baseball as a whole, and particularly major league managers are to blame for that. It ruined the game, absolutely wrecked it. Nobody wants to see an intentional walk. You can ask any fan that's ever plunked down money for a ticket what their least favorite event is in baseball and that fan will say the intentional walk. The 120 intentional walks in 2004 was pathetic. It was chicken. It was cowardly. And it wasn't just that year. Combine 2004 with the two previous seasons and Bonds was intentionally walked 249 times. Yet he was only walked intentionally 35 times in the year he hit 73. Ironically, if managers had walked him like in 2004, Bonds might be less reviled because he never would have gotten to 73. Those 120 intentional walks, though, were a low point. They created numbers that were more than mortal. They created numbers only Babe Ruth could even whistle at.

But it all boils down to the 73 homers, doesn't it? He allegedly cheated to get there. He did it out of envy for McGwire and Sosa. Everyone liked McGwire and even now McGwire is not the pariah in the public's eyes that Bonds has become. Part of that is race, part of that is their differing personalities, but a large part of it is 73. The 73 seems to be more of a concern than breaking Hank Aaron's record. Though everyone feels that he cheated to get to both. The Fan isn't sure about the career homer record. Bonds had an outside shot at getting there anyway. If his bulky body hadn't broken down at the end, he would have probably made it on the fair and square.

But the thing about Bonds' numbers is that they can't be undone. You can't erase the 73 and the 762 from the record books. You can't take the ridiculous OPS years of 2001 to 2004 away. They are here to bamboozle us and cause us consternation for many years to come. So, yeah, this writer still hasn't come to terms on Barry Bonds. The Fan isn't even close to working those feelings out. The race question is a start. That is distasteful to this writer and needs to be purged from within. But the Fan isn't sure that Bonds will bring peace even after the race question is worked out inside. The bottom line is that we simply didn't want him to do the things he did, and that goes for his accomplishments as well as for his indiscretions.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Finally! The Royals Seem to Be on Track.

A statement that the Kansas City Royals will not be very good in 2011 is easy to dredge up from this time every year for the past decade. But at last, there seems to be hope on the horizon. No longer are the Royals sodden down with a bevy of dead contracts for unproductive players. Gone are Jose Guillen and Kyle Farnsworth and Yuniesky Betancourt. Instead they have a bunch of cheap placeholders who are equally inept, but not as expensive and certainly not long term burdens. And the great thing about the term "placeholders" is that it means that there is a future in Kansas City.

It had to be painful to part with Zack Greinke. The pitcher and the team had been through so much together. Together they had worked to bring Greinke out from the cold and into one  the elite performers in baseball. But it was the correct move with the way Greinke had been thinking in the last ten months. Time will tell if the prospects they received in return will pan out. But the great thing about the haul is that it simply adds to what is already one of the deepest taken systems out there.

But the divesting of Greinke means that the Royals have moved on from six of their seven most expensive players of last year and instead have talent on the horizon and some already expected to start getting their feet wet in 2011. So yeah, Royals' fans will have to deal with Jason Kendall, Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur for a year of pain, but a slew of talent is on the way and even if half of them make the grade, the Royals should be super competitive perhaps even by 2012.

For pitching prospects, the Royals have Mike Montgomery, Danny Duffy, Chris Dwyer, John Lamb and the newly acquired Jake Odorizzi. Position prospects also abound in Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Will Myers and Christian Colon. And this Fan wouldn't give up on Kila Ka'aihue despite his slow start last year or Alex Gordon who still has time to rein in his talent. It's an exciting time to be following the Royals, which is the first time in ages that there is reason to say that.

As for the upcoming year, Bruce Chen is back (cheaply) and the Royals replaced Brian Bannister with Jeff Francis, which should be worth about five wins alone. Their rotation could be very decent if everything works out. The bullpen got a lot better after Ned Yost took over last year and team seemed to respond positively to him.

Lorenzo Cain should get the starting center field job over Melky Cabrera, who is neither a good hitter or a good center fielder. Cabrera is at best a fourth or fifth outfielder. Both Butler and Ka'aihue are decent first baseman and whichever doesn't play first can DH. If the Fan ran the Royals, dollars wouldn't be wasted on a lumbering DH on the market for what is going to be a year in waiting anyway. Aviles should start at second over Getz, who simply can't hit. Both are pretty unsavory at second, but Aviles showed some bat life last year. Alcides Escobar might benefit from a new scene. He's got talent and perhaps he'll blossom as the Royals shortstop. He can't be any worse than what they have had the last couple of years. Mitch Meier showed promise and can play a corner spot in the outfield. As for Kendall behind the plate? Well, that contract will run out sooner or later.

The Royals could have a decent season and at least put a product on the field that is entertaining. But whatever the outcome of 2011, the real hope in Kansas City is the road ahead. Greinke couldn't wait. But this Fan can't wait either. It's going to be fun to watch.