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Moose Gets a Pass

Farewell for now, GIo. (Photo Credit: Peter G. Aiken-US PRESSWIRE)

We don’t know it for sure yet, but it seems that Mike Moustakas is going to get a pass on his Spring Training. After Johnny Giavotella was sent down to “work on his defense” in Omaha, I wondered why Moose gets a pass for his Spring. I understand that Giavotella has more competition, but wasn’t Yuniesky Betancourt also brought in to play a little third base?

These are very different situations. Last season, Moose tallied 365 plate appearances, while Giavotella racked up just 187. For comparison’s sake, Chris Getz was able to squeeze in a tiny sample size of 429 plate appearances. Let’s hope that never happens again.

So, Moose had a rough start and hot finish, while Giavotella had a quick start and slow finish. Gio also walked very little, and that should be a focus this spring. However, in 44 and 47 plate appearances respectively, Gio and Moose have 1 and 2 walks, with Moose striking out three more times than Gio. Moose has also batted worse, finding himself with a worse triple slash line in every stat than Gio. Meanwhile, Getz hit like Getz hits and Yuni played like Yuni.

Moose notoriously has slow starts, so I guess he gets some relief there. And Gio came into camp with more competition, as Moose only had to fight off Kevin Kouzmanoff and the 10 plate appearances he got. I understand that Moose comes in with loftier expectations than Gio, who has scrapped and fought his way to the majors (not that Moose hasn’t worked hard). They want to give Moose the benefit of the doubt. I get that.

However, since I’m sticking with this, I’ve had more problems with Moose’s defense than Gio’s. Since Moose plays at the hot corner, he needs to tighten up the screws a bit. Maybe he needs to go to Omaha to work on his fielding skills. Maybe he needs to get those throws on line and work on fielding grounders.

Whether you look at the bat or the glove, I can’t really separate the two from needing more time in Omaha, if Gio does need that. There’s no sense in rushing Moose if he’s not totally ready, right? So, what’s the deal?

This argument isn’t really about Moose needing to go to Omaha. It’s about the inconsistencies of the Royals’ reports. It’s about their dishonesty in this case, as I’ll never believe that it’s just defense that Gio needs to work on. Moose is just as guilty of a poor spring as Gio is, and since they brought in Yuni to play a little third anyway, why not stick with Yuni and Getz with a utility infielder while Moose and Gio both tighten up their skills to better prepare them for the future?

I hope Gio comes out firing and Moose gets that hot start he’s missed out on. I hope Yuni and Getz are Yuni and Getz, providing just what we expect and no more. And I hope for these things to happen not only because I want to see the young, touted prospects succeed and the Royals win, but because I want to see what the front office says when Gio deserves a May call-up to replace a bumbling Getz. I want to hear their justifications then.

And I bet you anything that it won’t mention how amazing Gio’s defense has become over the following couple months.

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Topics: AL Central, Baseball, Johnny Giavotella, Kansas City Royals, KC, KC Royals, Mike Moustakas, MLB, Royals

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  • jim fetterolf

    The advantages for Moose are that he has long been considered an elite hitter with big time power, that he played a quite solid 3B last year, and he doesn’t have any competition that outperformed him both last year and this spring. Gio earned his ticket to Omaha and all he has to do down there is heal up, work on range and glove, and hit .330 again and he’ll be back up and Getz will go down. If he doesn’t do those things we’ll probably see Christian Colon start getting a lot of reps at 2nd and, if he can hit to original expectations and handle the pivot, pass Gio on the depth chart. I’m hoping Gio is just hobbled, but he didn’t even tell anyone he was hurt last season before his operation, so hard telling. He may just be Mike Aviles v2.0, the one the bloggers were screaming to replace Getz last year.

  • Kevin Scobee

     @jim fetterolf What makes Chris Getz good?

  • jim fetterolf

    @Kevin Scobee Getz isn’t “good”, he’s just better at various moments than Aviles, Betemit, Yuni, and Gio with the glove and so far better than what Gio has produced against soft September and spring training pitching. Getz is an about average 2B and below average bat, basically a replacement player. Gio couldn’t beat him out, so Getz keeps the job by default, just like last year.

  • Kevin Scobee

     @jim fetterolf I guess you’re right that Gia hasn’t really done *much* to prove that he deserves the position, which is fine, but Getz has a much larger body of evidence that he is incapable at batting at the major league level to warrant a starting position.
     
    In the last two seasons and 677 PA’s, Chris Getz has 18 extra-base hits. In one season and 187 PA’s, Giavotella has 15 extra-base hits. There is no level of defense that can make up for that extreme lack of offense.
     
    I’m not a complete “stats guy”. Much of my affinity for players is routed in scouting from watching a whole lot of live baseball. It’s the reason I loved Alex Gordon for so long (you bet on athletes of that caliber) when no one else did. Getz has 18 extra-base hits in two years. That kind of futility should be impossible to come by.

  • jim fetterolf

     @Kevin Scobee You raise an interesting point on comparing the value of offense and defense. I think a hit saved is worth the same as a hit batted. Getzie’s BR RF/9 last year was 4.91, 0.15 better than league average. Gio’s was 4.04. That’s 0.87 chances less per game, 140.94 chances per 162 games. Yuni last year was 4.12 at SS, Alcides was 4.74. Yuni’s range, widely regarded as poor, was closer to Shortstop Jesus’ than Gio’s was to Getz. If some fraction of missed chances are hits, probably a large percentage, then that tells us how much extra bat Gio needs.
     
    Defensive metrics are still weak, but when stats and eyeballs agree, there’s some validity. The worst full-time fielding 2B last year was Dan Uggla, his Rtot/yr was -12, his RF/9 4.61. He hit 36 homers. Gio’s was -19, RF/9 4.04. We now know that Gio was hurt last year. He acts like he’s still hurt.
     
    As for Alex, last year I spent a lot of time defending my prediction that he would have a real good year, as he was healthy and because he had spent the winter with Kevin Seitzer redoing his swing and approach. He spent this past winter again with Seitzer and I expect he’ll walk even more, strike out quite a bit less, and stay the same or a little better with average and power. He’s been working on going the opposite way, like Hosmer, and he’s changing his two-strike approach to try to cut down on his 20.1% K rate. Alex, like Frenchy and Melky, is an example of how a player can adjust and adapt and elevate his game.

  • michael.allen.engel

     @jim fetterolf Mike Aviles has a career 5.17 RF/9 at second base. Maybe we should have kept him? 

  • michael.allen.engel

     @jim fetterolf Kelly Johnson was 5 runs better than average by B-R’s measurements, but his RF/9 was merely 4.4. 
     
    Point is, defense has so many factors – positioning, placement of the ball, speed of ball hit, type of hit ball, base and runner situation, turning double plays, pivoting double plays, speed of runner, etc. – that I don’t think a simple correlation of “range = skill” will fly. Fine, Getz has range, but why isn’t he dramatically better defensively? Why are other players with worse range significantly better defensively (Howie Kendrick 4.59 RF/9, 14 Rtot/yr)?
     
    And if Getz is going to slug just barely better than .300 and barely get on base better than 30% of the time, he’s going to have to be ELITE with the glove to be more than a replacement player. 

  • jim fetterolf

     @michael.allen.engel Had Aviles not thrown his little tantrum about being a back up we would have kept him, then not needed to sign Yuni. Aviles made it quite clear he no longer wanted to be in KC and the team obliged him. Saw today that he won Boston’s starting SS job. That’s good, I liked Aviles, he just couldn’t handle getting moved around.

  • jim fetterolf

     @michael.allen.engel The beauty of advanced metrics is they can be mined to prove any possible thesis.
     
    As for being a replacement player, that is what Getz is. The reason he got the job last year was Aviles forgot how to hit after the first two weeks and played soccer in the field. If Getz has the job this year it will not be because he is good but because Gio was bad.
     
    This thread, like others I’m seeing, is interesting. Those who think Gio should be given the job base the case on Getz rather than Gio. And that’s because all Gio can offer at the moment is that he may still be hobbled and when he gets healed up he may be a better hitter.
     
    As for other players, Getz and Gio are the only two relevant and Gio doesn’t look good on range, Rtot/yr, BA, or anything but a little SLG. Maybe we could put Clint Robinson or Max Ramirez at second?
     
    As for defensive factors, the new FieldFX equipment should go a long way toward quantifying what is currently left to the eyeballs. That will be a big help for the teams in understanding both defenders and pitchers. The bad news is that current information is unlikely to reach the public anytime soon.

  • jim fetterolf

     @michael.allen.engel Since Howie Kendrick was mentioned, I would note that his wOBA his last full year in AAA was .453:)
     
    As  for Getz needing to be elite, all he needs to do at the moment is be significantly better with the glove than the other guy who hits .255. Caught some videos the other day of Yuni at 2nd and he may be winning the job.