Saturday, July 31, 2010

Royals In Monarchs Duds: July 31, 2010

The 2010 Salute to the Negro Leagues turned out to be a whirlwind day for the Royals. Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth were traded to the Atlanta Braves for three young players hours before the game, and it was announced that manager Ned Yost had been given a two year extension to manage the Royals.

Zack Greinke became the first Royals pitcher to start in two Negro Leagues salutes at Kauffman Stadium (having pitched the 2004 game). The Royals faced the Orioles, appearing in their first Negro Leagues salute in KC. The Royals donned a style inspired by the 1949 Monarchs. Dr. Raymond Doswell of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum left a comment on this blog stating "the uniform is inspired by a road gray uniform, but made white/off white for the Royals home game." I don't think a baseball team could look much better than the Royals did this night. (Well, okay, some striped stirrups would help.) The Orioles paid tribute to the Baltimore Elite Giants and their road uniform of the early 1950s.

Greinke pitched eight strong innings with the help of four double plays turned behind him. The Royals trailed 2-3 going into the bottom of the eighth. Jason Kendall singled ahead of Billy Butler, and Butler put the  Royals ahead with a bomb to left-center. Joakim Soria nailed down the ninth to preserve the win. The Royals improved to 8-6 in home games in which they've worn Monarchs throwbacks, dating back to 1994.

Al Wilmore ca. 1946-50

Gene Baker ca. 1949

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Kansas City Athletics Yearly wOBA Leaders

Below is a list of the yearly wOBA leaders for the KC A's. The number in parenthesis is wOBA+, which is wOBA divided by AL average wOBA for that particular season multiplied by 100. A 111 wOBA+ suggests the player was 11% better than the average AL hitter that season. By this measure, Ramon Webster's .321 wOBA in 1967 was more valuable than Ken Harrelson's .330 wOBA in 1965 since there was less offense in the AL in 1967.

Elmer Valo apparently had the best offensive season in KC A's history in 1955. He had a long, solid career as an outfielder, and put up his best numbers in his one full season in Kansas City. He was rewarded by being cut by the A's early on in 1956.

1955 Elmer Valo .419 (133)
1956 Harry Simpson .359 (111)
1957 Hector Lopez .348 (112)
1958 Bob Cerv .406 (131)
1959 Roger Maris .359 (116)
1960 Norm Siebern .363 (115)
1961 Norm Siebern .375 (118)
1962 Norm Siebern .397 (126)
1963 Norm Siebern .341 (112)
1964 Rocky Colavito .376 (123)
1965 Ken Harrelson .330 (110)
1966 Ed Charles .337 (114)
1967 Ramon Webster .321 (111)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Royals In Monarchs Duds: Interview With Curt Nelson

Curt Nelson is now the director of the Royals Hall of Fame at Kauffman Stadium, but for many years his duties with the club included working on the annual Salute to the Negro Leagues (SNL). Many thanks to Curt for taking the time to give us a peek behind the scenes of the annual Monarchs throwbacks.

What is the process of selecting Monarchs throwbacks each year? Who is involved? Are players consulted? Does the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM) have a role?

Our friends at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum have played a big part in the selection of uniforms for many years. Dr. Ray Doswell is a wealth of information and knowledge about the Negro Leagues – he usually has an influence.

Is the road team involved in the decision about what uniforms they will wear?

Not really. However we do have to inform both Major League Baseball and our opposing ballclub about any plans we have to wear these specialty uniforms. In my years working on this project MLB was always supportive of our efforts and each of the teams we worked with were happy to be part of the event.

Do you remember why throwbacks were not worn for the SNL game in 2002?

I’m not sure there was any single factor in that decision. As I remember most other aspects of the ‘salute’ remained in place that season from the promotional caps for fans, the former Negro League player autograph session and the on-field tribute during pre-game. From an amateur historian perspective, I’m glad we returned to the on-field uniforms as a more visible tribute.

What outfitter(s) have the Royals used to produce the uniforms? (I've seen Ebbets Field Flannels credited at least once.) Do they provide the bulk of the research on Negro Leagues uniforms, or is that done more on the Royals end?

Ebbets Field Flannels did work on at least one of our Monarchs replicas, but that was before I was working on the project. Over the eight years or so I was involved we worked with a supplier out of California called AIS. They always did great work recreating some jerseys from a single old photograph. I believe AIS has also done quite a bit of work for the movie industry over the years regarding baseball uniforms.

The research for any particular uniform style was a group effort by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, AIS and the Royals. We worked together to try and develop authentic uniforms to exact detail whenever possible.

2005 game with blank, matching batting helmets

2005 is the only year I've seen where the Royals added matching batting helmets to the throwbacks. To me, it really jars the look when batters have that bright blue Royals helmet on. Is it something the team just doesn't think about, or is it a cost issue?

To be honest I’m not sure what the issues behind that are – as you noticed it was done at least once in recent years. There may be a comfort factor for the players involved. Like gloves and shoes, helmets can over time be broken-in to conform to the individual characteristics of each player. Any sudden one game change might be a bit jarring to their system as well – that is just a guess at one factor on my part.

Any memories from SNL games that stand out?

The game in 2008 against the Giants (Royal Giants) was perhaps the most memorable - twenty-one (21) runs scored in that game and not a single home run. The Giants jumped out to a 6-0 lead after the top of the third and extended their lead to 10-3 in the fifth. Then the Royals stormed back with two in the fifth, five in the sixth and the go ahead run in the seventh to eventually win 11-10. Interestingly enough that game was started by the two-time defending NL Cy Young Award Winner Tim Lincecum, who lasted only five innings despite being given a 6-0 lead.

Many of the great moments for me relate more to the former Negro Leaguers who have joined us over the years. Personally the most memorable was probably
2003 when Theodore Roosevelt Radcliffe, better known as "Double Duty" for his propensity to pitch the first game of a doubleheader and catch the second, was here to throw out the game’s first pitch. "Double Duty" was just a week shy of his 101st birthday that Sunday afternoon (June 29 vs St, Louis Cardinals/Stars) and his catcher was none other than Kansas City’s Buck O’Neil, a spry 91 years old.

I’m just guessing, but I feel sure that was the most senior battery in the history of the game!

Are the uniforms always polyester? If so, what is the reason flannel isn't used?

The Ebbets Field flannels were just that and some teams I believe still use those. In the years I was ordering the uniforms we always used the standard polyester sandknit. Player comfort is certainly a factor along with the cost and probably most importantly the durability the more modern material provides. Even though we used the sandknit the sizing was always done to try and match the larger more baggy type look the uniforms of the era actually had on the field.

I assume most of the bases for recreating these uniforms come from black and white photos - How are colors determined? Is there a lot of guesswork?

There are a few color photos here and there, but not many. This is an area were the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is invaluable to the process. Their extensive knowledge of the different leagues and teams give you the best chance to faithfully match the colors of the original uniforms. Most – though not all – of what you are looking for colorwise has to do with the uniform trim as the body of most were off-white at home and gray for the road. However that is not always the case and there is some educated guesswork that comes into play.  

I know the Royals have been donating the uniforms from SNL games to the NLBM in recent years. Can you talk a little about that program?

This became a tradition several years ago and serves as a fund raiser in some respects for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. The Royals donate the game worn jerseys (primarily the jerseys though sometimes the pants as well) of both teams to the NLBM who can then place them in auctions to raise money or do whatever they see fit with them. Whenever possible we try and get the players (Royals and visitors) to sign their jersey to increase the value even a bit more. Each player is also given the option of outright purchasing their own uniform if they so desire by making a contribution directly to the NLBM here in Kansas City.

Do you ever hear feedback from players? Have any sense if they generally enjoy wearing Monarchs jerseys, don't care, don't like it, etc.? Any specific player reactions you recall?

Most players really like the chance to wear the uniforms and step back in time into the great history of the game. For the Royals, we probably wear more throwbacks then most teams because of the notoriety of the Kansas City Monarchs. Over the years many teams have scheduled their own Negro League Salutes when we are in town – which is a real tribute to the historical significance of the Kansas City Monarchs. I know we have worn Monarchs uniforms in Seattle, Detroit, Chicago and Milwaukee to name just a few in the last several years.

Torii Hunter, 2005

One player that stands out for me was Torii Hunter in his days with the Twins. Torii had made several trips to the NLBM and has been a strong supporter of their work over the years. I know he really liked the 1909 St. Paul Gophers uniforms we had the Twins wearing in
2005 – he bought his to keep in his personal collection. I thought we might have an advantage that day because the Gophers uniforms were dark from head to toe and had really larger collars – all on a hot (though not scorching 91 degrees) July afternoon in Kansas City. But the Twins outlasted us 3-2 in twelve innings.

The 2007 uniforms are a bit of a mystery to me; the Royals claimed they were a 1945 Monarchs style, but that's not a style I've found associated with 1945 anywhere. In fact, I don't think I've seen that jersey in those colors anywhere. It looks like the classic 1942 jersey done in different colors. The only jerseys I've seen associated with 1945 are these. Just curious if you have any info on where the design of the 2007 throwbacks came from.

To be honest I don’t remember what the circumstances were with the 2007 uniforms. Though I do remember the NLBM helping us outline salutes for two legends within those uniforms that season. There was a sleeve patch with ‘42’ to honor Jackie Robinson. As you remember he played for the Monarchs in 1945 and in 2007 we were celebrating the 60th Anniversary of his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The caps also had ‘22 Buck O’Neil’ on the side to remember Buck on this first Salute to the Negro Leagues game at Kauffman Stadium after his passing in 2006. On that day each member of the Royals coaching staff wore #22 in honor of Buck’s being the first-ever African-American Coach in the history of Major League Baseball.

Which years were you in charge of the uniforms? Who is in charge now?

If memory serves me right, I think I was involved in the project from 2000-2008. It was always a lot of work and a lot of coordination with many people both inside and outside the ballclub – but it was also always a lot of fun and an honor to help preserve the history of the Negro Leagues and especially our hometown Kansas City Monarchs. I believe our promotions team headed by Kasey Schweitzer is heading up the project this season.

Thanks for your interest in the topic. I enjoy the colorful history of baseball uniforms and this was always a project I was proud to play a small part in each season.

you Curt!

This year's salute is coming up on Saturday, July 31st. The Royals will wear a 1949 Monarchs look and the Orioles will pay tribute to the early 1950s Baltimore Elite Giants.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Royals In Monarchs Duds: May 30, 2009

For the '09 Salute to the Negro Leagues, the Royals went back yet again to the 1924 Monarchs uniforms, the fifth time they sported the look. Their opponents were the Chicago White Sox, who wore uniforms in the style of the 1926 Chicago American Giants. Gil Meche and Mark Buehrle faced off, and were in a 2-2 deadlock after seven innings. John Bale pitched the eighth for KC, and yielded a run. Buehrle came out for the eighth, but the first batter, Miguel Olivo, hit a bomb to tie the game back up. Juan Cruz got the call to pitch the ninth for KC, but couldn't hold, as theWhite Sox touched him for two and the game ended in a 5-3 White Sox victory.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Royals WPA At The Break

Win Probability Added is kind of a convoluted stat, but an interesting one. Click here for a primer. It attempts to measure how pitchers and hitters effect their team's chance of winning based on the outcome of every plate appearance (defense is not part of the stat). That means it is context specific; as the Fangraphs primer linked above says, a walk-off homer will be worth more than a homer in a blowout.

If Jason Kendall's "bat control," "productive outs," "sacrifices," and OHMYGODHE'SSOGRITTY actually contributed something to the team, this is the stat where it would show up. You can see how that's going for him. Good thing his defense is so incredible.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Royals O-Swing% At The All-Star Break

This graph will give you an idea of how Royals batters have been doing at laying off pitches outside of the strike zone. (Click here to read an introduction to O-Swing%.) Best in the AL so far this year is Bobby Abreu, who is swinging at just 15.9% of pitches out of the zone. Three regular AL batters have a higher O-Swing% than Yuni: Alex Gonzalez (41.0), A.J. Pierzynski (43.7), and--who else?--Vlad Guerrero (48.4).

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Here's a look at all those great outside-the-zone pitches Yuni has hacked at so far:

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Royals Pitchers wOBA Against

Here's a stat I don't think you'll find anywhere else: pitchers wOBA against. I plugged the pitchers' numbers on into this wOBA equation by Tom Tango: (0.72xBB + 0.75xHBP + 0.90x1B + 1.24x2B + 1.56x3B + 1.95xHR) / Batters Faced. Obviously, for pitchers, the lower the better. AL average wOBA this year is .327. Here's how Royals pitchers who have thrown at least 25 innings have fared:

.281 Soria

.283 Farnsworth
.289 Tejeda
.293 Greinke
.302 C'mon Chen
.323 Wood
.327 Hochevar
.334 Hughes
.340 Davies
.353 Bannister
.383 Meche
.398 Lerew's Sideburns

AL Central xFIP At The All-Star Break

Steel yourself, and behold, the xFIP numbers for pitchers in the American League Central Division (easily one of the top six divisions in Major League Baseball):

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AL Central wOBA At The All-Star Break

Presented in chart form for your viewing pleasure, I give you the current wOBA for the 32 qualifying hitters (at least 3.1 plate appearances per team game played) in the glorious Central Division of the spectacular American League of baseballers:

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Friday, July 9, 2010

Royals In Monarchs Duds: June 22, 2008

The 2008 Salute to the Negro Leagues turned into a wild affair against the San Francisco Giants. The Royals donned uniforms based on the 1951 and '52 Monarchs style, seen here (hall-of-famer Willard Brown on left):

The visiting Giants presented a bit of a challenge, as there is little Negro leagues history on the west coast. A design based on a 1927 Royal Giants team was chosen; according to Around The Horn, an official Royals blog, the Royal Giants were an all-star team that toured through California, as well as a 1927 tour through Hawaii, Korea and Japan. That's hall-of-famer Biz Mackey second from right:

The Royals had the daunting task of facing eventual Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum. Kyle Davies started for KC, and had a short nightmare of a day, giving up five runs while only lasting one and a third innings. The Giants were up 6-0 after three innings, and 10-3 after four and a half. The Royals win probability at that point was 3%. The Royals made Lincecum work, and crawled to within 5-10 before knocking him out after just five innings and 109 pitches. The Royals jumped all over the San Francisco bullpen in the sixth, coming all the way back to tie the game at 10 by piling up eight base runners and five runs. In the seventh, Joey Gathright singled Alberto Callaspo home, and the Royals clung to a 11-10 lead for the duration. After a parade of ineffective pitchers from both sides, Ron Mahay came in for KC and breezed through the seventh and eighth, and Joakim Soria nailed down the ninth. The two teams trotted out 11 different pitchers, and the eight and a half inning game dragged out for four hours. According to the Kansas City Star, it was the second biggest comeback in club history.

The Royals did a great job of covering the salute on Around The Horn.