Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Brief Chiefs Interlude

OK, I have to say something here about the Chiefs. Obviously, this season has been pretty horrible, and talk is already moving to next April's draft and what direction the Chiefs should take. Of course, the big question is whether the Chiefs should take a quarterback with their almost-certain top five pick, or look at another position.

If you had asked me in October, I would have said PLEASE take a QB. Brodie Croyle was handed the starting job despite last year's abundant evidence that he a) could not stay healthy and b) sucked. When the inevitable happened and he was knocked out for the 2008 season, Damon Huard came on and showed that he was perhaps washed-up. With nowhere else to turn, KC offensive coordinator Chan Gailey tweaked the offense, making it into more of a college-style spread offense. This was a smart move and allowed last-man-standing QB Tyler Thigpen, who looked absolutely horrible early in the season, to be more comfortable in the offense. The transformation of the Chiefs' offense from early September until now has been remarkable.

KC's offense first six games: 75 points, 1,544 yards, 84 first downs, 10 turnovers.
KC's offense next seven games: 137 points (the defense has scored 21), 2,406 yards, 130 first downs, 8 turnovers (five of those were in one game).
Thigpen's stats for the last seven games: 134 completions in 225 attempts (59.5%), 1,534 yards, 12 TDs, 4 INTs, and 224 rushing yards.

Now, the Chiefs still need help on offense. Even if you extrapolate the offense of the last seven games to 13 games, the numbers are still roughly league average:

KC extrapolated: 254 points, 4,468 yards, 241 first downs, 15 turnovers.
League average: 290 points, 4,247 yards, 240 first downs, 21 turnovers.

Of course, with a young QB running it, you would expect the offense to get better over the next few years. Even better, the Chiefs have a collection of young talent on offense to grow with Thigpen--the Thigpen to Dwayne Bowe connection should only get better, given a chance to keep playing together. Still, KC could use a better offensive line, another wide receiver or two, and maybe even another running back.

But the Chiefs real problem is on defense. KC is giving up 397.3 yards per game. That's 32nd, last, worst, whatever you want to say, in the NFL. Worse than the winless Detroit Lions. Worse than the miserable St. Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks. They are next to last in rushing yards allowed and all the way up to 29th in pass yards allowed. Finally, they are 30th in points allowed. And of course, there is the oft-discussed topic that the Chiefs have 6 sacks for the year, when the NFL record low for a 16 game season is 13.

Now, when you're 2-11, you obviously need help everywhere. The Chiefs might be best served to pick whoever they feel is the best player, regardless of position, when their turn comes. But they should definitely emphasize defense over offense in the draft. A pass rusher or a stud linebacker would go a long ways to improving the defense for 2009. Despite the lousy pass defense numbers, I think rookie cornerbacks Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr have played decently this year. Most of the problem is up front and the complete and utter lack of a pass rush. And that is KC's most pressing need.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Tell Me That It Isn't True

(From Nashville Skyline)

Kyle Farnsworth. Two years, $9 million. Really, Dayton?

In general, I think Dayton Moore has done a solid job since he took over as Royals general manager. By all accounts, the farm system is better, especially the pitching, than it was in 2006. The major league product has gotten better, going from 62 to 69 to 75 wins. It certainly looks and feels like the Royals are building something, and there will be some exciting baseball here in Kansas City soon.

But Dayton is human. Humans make mistakes. Mistakes like giving Kyle Farnsworth $9 million over the next two years.

First off, I don't like Farnsworth's personality. He's the sort of guy who, in a rather famous 2005 fight between the Royals and Tigers, ran around the scrum in the middle of the field to pick up and bodyslam Jeremy Affeldt, who had in no way been involved in the fight. He's had a couple of other on-field incidents. Of course, it will be nice for the Royals to have a pitcher who isn't afraid to throw inside once in a while.

Second, I just cannot see how Farnsworth is worth $4.5 million for the next two years. This is a guy whose lifetime ERA is 4.47. As a reliever. Just for comparison, Joel Peralta's lifetime ERA is 4.45. Both of these gentlemen are 32 years old. Both give up about 1.4 homers per 9 innings (1.37 for Farnsworth, 1.45 for Peralta). Even better, Peralta's lifetime strikeout/walk ratio is 2.98 K/BB. Farnsworth's is 2.25. Now, it is true that Farnsworth has a 1.00 K/IP ratio, while Peralta's is .77. But Peralta's lifetime WHIP is 1.267, while Farnsworth's is 1.404. I'm willing to bet a large sum of money you would not find a Royals fan anywhere who would give Joel Peralta $9 million over the next two years. Despite his 95 mph fastball, I'm not sure any Royals fan would give that money to Kyle Farnsworth, either.

My third objection to this deal is that, as always for the Royals, dollars must be spent wisely. If the Royals really intend to sign SS Rafael Furcal this winter, they are going to need to do some major maneuvering to keep their payroll under control. Already, they will be spending $75 million next year, when they have stated they intend to have a $70 million payroll. I'm already sure Farnsworth will not be worth the money; if the Royals miss out on a real chance at an upgrade in Furcal or 2B Orlando Hudson, or if they have to deal a useful player like Mark Teahen, this signing will be terrible.

Now, to be fair, I have to say that so far Dayton has been very good at building a talented, useful bullpen. That is why I did not mind the trades that brought Mike Jacobs and Coco Crisp to KC. But he hasn't been perfect--see Yasuhiko Yabuta and Brett Tomko, essentially a combined waste of $9 million or so. And this move seems destined to be more like those signings.

On a somewhat related note, the Royals added relief pitchers Horacio Ramirez and Doug Waechter at the winter meetings. I like both of these moves better. The Royals say Ramirez will be a starter, but I just don't see it. He was a fine reliever for the Royals last year before they traded him for an outfield prospect, Paulo Orlando. My guess is he starts the year as a long reliever and only sees the rotation if Brian Bannister or Luke Hochevar falter. Waechter is intriguing, a one-time starter for Tampa Bay who had a successful season as a reliever for Florida last year. I'd guess right now that, for $2.4 million, these two will have a more positive impact on the Royals' 2009 season than Kyle Farnsworth.