Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Joakim Soria Drinking Game

If you like to follow along on Twitter during Royals games (and why wouldn't you?), you probably know about the Kyle Davies Drinking Game (hat tip to @fakenedyost). Well, since Kyle is no longer with us, it's time for a new drinking game. And who better to inspire this game then the man who pitches when the game is on the line?

Now, before Soria turned into a mere mortal this season, this wouldn't have been much of a game. But since he has struggled for pretty much the whole 2011 season, we've got to do something to calm the nerves any time he tries to protect a lead.

So, here are the rules:

1. Before Soria comes in, take one drink if the Royals are ahead by three runs, two drinks if they are ahead by two runs, and three drinks if the lead is one run. The tighter the game, the more alcohol is needed.
2. Also, take one drink for each runner the Royals left on base in their previous inning. Insurance runs? Who needs 'em?
3. Leadoff walk. Drink.
4. Bloop hit. Drink.
5. Ground ball through the infield. Drink.
6. Soria gets the first out. One drink of water.
6. Soria's famous rainbow curve misses the strike zone by a foot. Drink one shot. Since Soria is Mexican, I recommend a good tequila.
7. Line drive just foul up the right- or left-field line. Drink.
8. Soria's famous rainbow curve bounces in the dirt. Drink one shot.
9. Fly ball to the warning track. Drink.
10. Tying run reaches scoring position. Two drinks.
11. Winning/go-ahead run reaches scoring position. Three drinks.
12. Soria gets the second out. Two drinks of water.
13. If one run scores: if it is not the tying or winning run, take one drink. If it is the tying run, finish your beer. If it is the winning run, finish your beer and spike the remote control.
14. If a second run scores: if it is not the tying or winning run, take two drinks. If it is the tying run, finish your beer. If it is the winning run, finish your beer and spike the remote control.
15. If a third run scores: finish your beer and spike the remote control. Get on Twitter and wonder why Greg Holland couldn't have just stayed in the damn game.
16. If Soria manages to close out the game: break out the champagne! One glass to celebrate.

Any suggestions for extra rules?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Pick Up Your Money And Pack Up Your Tent

...you ain't going nowhere.
(From "You Ain't Going Nowhere," The Basement Tapes)

"You" in this case being Jeff Francoeur. And he ain't going nowhere for at least two years after signing a contract extension with the Royals.

The move was announced this morning, and although this is an incredibly busy time at work for me, I tried to follow the discussion on Twitter. Frankly, I was taken aback by the hate for this move, especially before we even knew the financial details.

Now that we do know the details--$13.5 million over two years--it's easier to pass judgement on this deal. And my judgement is: this deal is not awful, but I wouldn't call myself a fan.

When the Royals signed Frenchy over the winter, I actually thought it was a decent addition. Now that we're 75% of the way through the season, it's obvious that it was a terrific addition. A 119 OPS+, a gun for a right arm, and yes, leadership--Francoeur has been a valuable player for the Royals this year. Of course, my hope when the Royals signed him was that he would play well and then be traded to fill a position of need.

However, a couple of things have changed since then. First, the Royals have evidently decided they can compete in the AL Central in 2012. Second, some of the bloom has come off the Wil Myers prospect rose.

As I've said before, I do think the Royals can compete next year. Obviously, the starting pitching will have to have considerable improvement, whether through trade, free agent signing, or simply having one of the talented young relievers in the bullpen adapt quickly to starting next year. Or having Mike Montgomery somehow overcome a disappointing 2011 season and contribute. At any rate, if you plan on contending, it's nice to have a right fielder on pace for roughly 20 homers, 45 doubles, 88 RBI, 25 stolen bases and 16 outfield assists.

It's especially nice when you don't have an apparent successor ready in the minor leagues. With all the talent that has come up to the majors this year, Wil Myers is probably the top position player prospect left in the farm system. After he raked at Class A Wilmington last year (in what is normally a terrible hitters' park), it seemed like he would be ready for the majors soon. But now, in a terrific hitters' park in Northwest Arkansas, Myers is...well, not struggling. But not doing outstanding, either. His OPS is .727, which is not bad but not really setting the world on fire. Most concerning is his lack of power; he only has 5 homers in 82 games coming in to tonight's games. That was a good week for Mike Moustakas as a Natural. This isn't meant to say that Myers is a bust. He's still just 20 and having a decent year at Double-A. He just doesn't look like he will be ready for the majors until 2013 now.

Faced with these developments, the Royals are obviously betting that Francoeur will overcome his historical pattern of starting off well for a team and then struggling. There is certainly a chance that this pattern will continue next year. I do think this is about as good a season as he is capable of. And if he falls off a lot, this contract will look terrible. If he falls off a little, it looks underwhelming. If he somehow continues this level of production, then it probably is about right. And there's my concern: I feel like the Royals overpaid slightly for a player who is having a very good season and has a decent chance of never being this good again. Then again, if the total dollars had been in the $11-12 million range, I would think that was fair. That is why I'm not that upset about it.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Catching Up

Even an uneventful trade deadline helped make the last two weeks very eventful for the Royals franchise. If first-round draft pick Bubba Starling signs before tomorrow night's deadline, as is generally expected, we may look back on the past two weeks as the timeframe where the 2012-2018 Royals took shape.

By essentially standing pat at the deadline, the Royals basically committed to having one or both of Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur in the outfield next year. Cabrera will almost certainly be there, and I'd say Frenchy probably will be too. Even if he turns down his part of the mutual option for 2012 in his contract, I bet the Royals will do just about anything to re-sign him.

The Royals did add one potential piece of the puzzle by shipping Mike Aviles to Boston for Yamaico Navarro. I like this trade--Navarro will probably end up as a utility infielder who can hit a little bit. In short, a younger, probably more talented version of Aviles. Heck, if Mike Moustakas can't figure out major league pitching, Navarro might be a stopgap at third base for a while. I still believe Moustakas will learn to hit, but it's getting harder to believe that each day he goes 0-4.

A few days later, the Royals finally called up second baseman Johnny Giavotella. This move was long overdue, but whatever. I'd rather a prospect prove he has conquered the minor leagues than have that prospect called up too soon (like Moustakas almost certainly was). With this move, the Royals appear to have their infield set for the better part of the next decade. This should excite even the most casual Royals fan: the probable 2012 Opening Day infield, with their age next April 1:

1B Eric Hosmer, age 22. Under team control through 2017 season.
2B Johnny Giavotella, age 24. Under team control through 2017 season.
SS Alcides Escobar, age 25. Under team control through 2016 season.
3B Mike Moustakas, age 23. Under team control through 2017 season.
DH/1B Billy Butler, age 25. Under team control through 2015 season (team option for 2o15).
2B/SS/3B Yamaico Navarro, age 24. Under team control through 2016 season.

Throw in the catching duo of Salvador Perez (age 21, under team control through 2017) and Manny Pina (age 24, under team control through 2017) and you have a strong core of players that should learn to play at the major league level together, and hopefully win together.

The next step is getting Bubba Starling in the fold. I would think that he will go ahead and take the Royals' money rather than wait around for his chance to play quarterback at Nebraska. We won't have to wait long to find out--the deadline for him to sign is tomorrow night. There is a decent chance Starling will flame out, but if he is able to harness his considerable ability, the Royals will have a star in the outfield in short time.