Making a case for Kansas City’s defense

06/14/2013 7:32 PM

06/14/2013 7:32 PM

Inevitably, at some point after every game, the Royals’ starting pitcher will make an extra effort to praise the club’s defense. Some of this is team-building camaraderie, of course, but only some.

Jeremy Guthrie cited the Royals’ defense as a primary reason last winter in choosing to return as a free agent. James Shields recently praised “some unbelievable plays on defense” for allowing him to get by on “grind day.”

The most traditional of defensive stats reflect little of this.

The Royals entered the weekend ranked 11th among the 15 American League clubs in fielding percentage and, similarly, had committed more errors than all but four clubs.

“You look at that and shake your head,” manager Ned Yost said. “You know what you’re seeing: We’re a really good defensive club.”

The new-wave metrics — and some are terrific — are far kinder to the Royals in their efforts to calculate range factors and make plus/minus assessments.

All that really matters, of course, is what matters in defense in any sport: Do you keep the other team from scoring? And those stats underscore the Royals’ strength. No AL team is better at preventing runs.

There are several such metrics, but all seek to evaluate the number of runs saved or allowed, by position, over average based on plays made or not made. And while none of the metrics are perfect, they are still revealing.

One example:

www.baseball-reference.com

carries a “defensive runs saved above average stat” compiled by Baseball Info Solutions. (There are others, but we’ll use this one because it’s a free site available to everyone.)

It shows the Royals, before Friday, have saved 33 runs more than an average team would be expected to save. Baltimore ranked a distant second in the league at 15 saved runs. The Angels were the worst at minus-52.

Back in the saddle

Ned Yost returned to the bench Friday after missing Thursday’s game to attend the wedding of his only daughter, Jenny, in Georgia.

“I had the phone out on the pew,” Yost admitted. “I was looking at it all of the time. Nothing in the first five innings, and then I got relieved in the sixth inning when the runs started piling in.”

The Royals scored eight runs in the sixth en route to a 10-1 victory.

“So it was a great day overall,” he said. “I got to see my daughter get married. Jenny was beautiful. Just beautiful. And we won. Yeah, great day.”

Three or less

The Royals’ franchise-record streak, entering Friday, of holding opponents to three runs or fewer in 12 straight games matches the longest streak by an American League team in over 20 years.

The last to go 12 in a row was the Angels from Aug. 29-Sept. 10, 2012. (Yes, there is a common element: Ervin Santana made two starts in that Angels’ streak and has made three in the Royals’ current streak.)

The last AL team to go longer than 12 in a row was the 1991 Toronto Blue Jays, who had a 15-game streak from June 26-July 13, 1991.

Dyson update

Outfielder Jarrod Dyson will reach 10 days Saturday in his rehab assignment at Class AAA Omaha to gauge his recovery from a high right ankle sprain suffered May 15 against the Angels in Anaheim, Calif.

That puts Dyson at the midway point of the 20-day maximum allowed under the rules for non-pitchers on rehab assignments. He was six for 28 in seven games before Friday’s game at Iowa.

Yost indicted there are no immediate plans to recall Dyson to active duty, which delays a pending personnel decision. Since Dyson is out of options, he must be activated after 20 days or moved off the roster.

But Yost confirmed Dyson will be coming back — in other words, he won’t be released or designated for assignment. That seems to set up a choice, barring injuries, between David Lough and Jeff Francoeur.

Lough has options remaining and could be sent to Omaha. (He was, after all, recalled when Dyson suffered his ankle injury.) But Lough has played well, batting .273 in 22 games with seven extra-base hits and 10 RBIs.

Francoeur carried a .210 average into Friday’s game with 12 extra-base hits and 12 RBIs in 52 games. He is a pending free agent after the season but still guaranteed roughly $4 million over the remainder of the season.

Looking ahead

Hold on tight: The Royals are scheduled to face right-hander Carlos Carrasco on Tuesday in the middle game of a three-game series in Cleveland.

The last time they saw Carrasco, he was ejected (and subsequently suspended for five games) after head-hunting Billy Butler following a Melky Cabrera grand slam on July 29, 2011 at Progressive Field.

Carrasco blew out his elbow in his next start and required Tommy John surgery. He missed all of last year and didn’t serve his suspension until the start of this season.

In his first appearance this season following the suspension, Carrasco again threw hit a batter, New York’s Kevin Youkilis, after giving up a homer to Robinson Cano.

That resulted in an eight-game suspension, which was later reduced to seven games. Carrasco was also fined $3,000. Before the ruling came down, however, he was optioned to Class AAA Columbus.

The Indians recalled Carrasco in June 8, and he gave up six runs and 10 hits in four innings that day in a 6-4 loss to Detroit. He began serving his seven-game suspension the following day.

And speaking of suspensions

The ruling Friday by Major League Baseball on the recent Dodgers/Diamondbacks brawl included a 10-game ban assesed to Arizona pitcher Ian Kennedy for throwing at Zack Greinke’s head.

The last pitcher to receive a suspension of at least 10 games for an on-field incident was Royals right-hander Runelvys Hernandez.

That ban stemmed from a July 17, 2005 incident when Hernandez beaned Detroit’s Carlos Guillen at Comerica Park. The two had words as Guillen moved toward first base, and Hernandez threw down his glove and charged.

Seven players received suspensions from the brawl that ensued. Reliever Kyle Farnsworth, then with the Tigers, got a six-game ban for tackling Jeremy Affeldt once the incident seemed to have cooled down.

Affeldt was, by all accounts, an innocent bystander. Farnsworth later admitted he believed Affeldt to be someone else but never identified who he was looking for.

Thursday redux

Elliot Johnson went three for four with three RBIs in Thursday’s 10-1 victory. Two hits came in the eight-run sixth inning — a leadoff single and a three-run, rally-capping homer.

He is six for 11 in three games against his former club but batting only .202 (17 for 84) against everybody else.

“He’s jacked up about it, I know,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “He played wall against us in in Kansas City; he’s got two homers — both against the same guy; He’s stolen a couple of bases; He’s played well against us, he really has, and I give him credit.”

Jeremy Hellickson gave up all eight runs in the sixth. The last Rays pitcher to give up eight runs in an inning was James Shields on July 27, 2011 at Oakland.

The Royals have scored 27 runs in three games against the Rays. They are averaging 3.69 runs a game against everyone else.

More signings

The Royals announced agreements with eight more draft picks, including their third- and fourth-round selections: right-hander Carter Hope (The Woodlands, Texas, High School) and catcher Zane Evans (Georgia Tech).

The signings included two other players selected in the first 10 rounds: left-hander Kyle Bartsch (seventh round, South Alabama) and outfielder Alex Newman (10th, Cypress, Calif., College).

Also signed: catcher Xavier Fernandez (11th, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy), right-hander Andrew Edwards (19th, Western Kentucky), left-hander Javier Reynoso (23rd, Middle Georgia College) and left-hander Christian Flecha (27th, Caguas Military Academy)..

The Royals also signed two non-drafted free agents: catcher Logan Davis of San Diego, and left-hander Tripp Davis of the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Logan Davis is the son of former Royals pitcher Mark Davis, who now serves as the pitching coach for Surprise in the Arizona Rookie League.

Looking back

It was 34 years ago Saturday — June 15, 1979 — that the Royals pulled off their comeback victory in franchise history in rallying to win 14-11 at Milwaukee.

The Royals trailed 11-2 after four innings and began pulling their regulars before storming back. They still trailed 11-6 entering the ninth inning, but Willie Wilson’s three-run homer capped an eight-run rally.

That homer was also notable because Wilson became the first player in franchise history to hit homers from both sides of the plate in the same game.

His ninth-inning inning drive was an inside-the-park sprint from the right side against lefty Bill Castro. Wilson hit a standard homer from the left side in the sixth inning against starter Mike Caldwell.

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