Kansas City Royals: Indefensible Defense—with Addendum

Josh DugganCorrespondent IMay 18, 2009

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 12:  Alberto Callaspo #13 of the Kansas City Royals swings at the pitch against the New York Yankees on April 12, 2009 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images)

After worrying prematurely that the Rockets/Lakers game would tear me away from another depressing Royals game, the Rockets find themselves down 20 at the half and the Royals hold a one-run lead, having seized the lead in the bottom of the sixth.

Of course, as soon as I wrote that, Ron Mahay was undermined by the defense behind him (a recurring theme in this dark period of the 2009 season), and swing-and-miss inducer Juan Cruz came in with runners on first and third with no outs.

Through no real fault of Cruz's, the runner on third scored as the combination of Mark Teahen, AlbertoCallaspo*, and Billy Butler failed to turn the double play quickly enough to catch Nolan Reimold.

*The special lady friend of this blogger has taken to calling him Bert Calypso, which is pretty awesome.

Today's win over the Orioles covered up the fact that the Royals had four errors leading to two unearned runs. The seventh inning of the final of two games against the A's saw an error lead to five unearned runs allowed in a 7-2 loss.

In the game prior, a 12-2 rout, Sidney Ponson allowed two unearned runs. With a chance to take a game from Anaheim, Kyle Davies' solid outing was blown as Jamey Wright allowed three runs, two unearned, in a 4-3 loss.

In the midst of the 2-7 stretch they find themselves in, the Royals have allowed 11 unearned runs out of the 21 runs they have given up. Obviously, the offense has been missing in action for much of this time, but the defense has certainly been sketchy as well. With an offense as prone to impotency as this one has been of late, the Royals can't weather a defense that allows more than an unearned run a game.

As could be expected, the Royals pitchers with higher ground ball to fly ball ratios are the ones bearing the brunt of the unearned run damage. Jamey Wright, the most extreme GB/FB hurler, with a 1.54 ratio heading into the Royals win this afternoon, has allowed seven unearned runs to four earned.

Gil Meche (1.28), Ponson (1.11), and Brian Bannister (0.81) have allowed three, two, and three unearned runs respectively, and are the only Royals pitchers, other than the aforementioned Wright and Davies—who have yet to allow an unearned run, despite some subpar defense fielded in their support as well—and sport GB/FB ratios higher than the league average of 0.76.

We all knew coming into this season that the infield defense could be problematic. Callaspo has forced his way into the lineup every day with his bat, meaning his limited range has found its way onto the field every day.

Of the Royals positional starters, only Butler and Mike Aviles find themselves with RF/9s better than league average. Admittedly this is a slightly inadequate stat, but the point remains that the Royals defense is much like RF/9 is as a statistic.

As far as UZR/150 is concerned, Aviles is sporting a -11.6, Callaspo a -5.3, while Butler and Teahen are at least in the positives with a 4.4 and a 2.1, respectively. So judging by both RF/9 and UZR/150, Billy Butler is the only above average defensive infielder. Color me shocked.

Regardless, if the Royals offense continues to rank in the bottom third of the league in runs scored (they were 11th heading into action on Sunday), they can't afford to give away runs at this clip.

Editor's Note—I am officially taking Trey Hillman's bullpen management off of the shit list. Farnsworth is not far behind. We've got a new pair of things on there, though, and one's a personal problem.