Royals Flush Juan Cruz

The Kansas City Royals are somewhat of a sabermetric whipping boy. Anytime they make a move, people expect the tone to be sardonic. I’m not being sarcastic or snarky whatsoever when I question the release of Juan Cruz. I just don’t get it.

When the Royals signed Cruz to a two-year deal worth six million in February 2009, it looked a heck of a lot smarter than their signing of Kyle Farnsworth. Cruz simply didn’t produce. His strikeout rates plummeted from double digits per nine to fewer than one per inning, and his walk rate remained above five. That combination is acceptable when Cruz is striking plenty of batters out, but now when the ratio drops to 1.31. Cruz wound up posting a 4.92 FIP in 50 innings.

So far this season, he’s appeared in five games, pitched five innings, and the strikeouts have been there. The walks have too, mind you, but his FIP to date is 2.66. Heck, even his ERA is a solid 3.38. Cruz’s velocity is slightly down – from 94 MPH to 93.2 – but I don’t see that as an issue. Ditto with his line drive rate is a ridiculously high 37.5% on a total of 16 batted balls.

Maybe he’s unhealthy, or maybe he’s a huge jerk. I don’t really know. It just seems like a very uncommon thing for a team to sour on a player this quickly when the team is known to make rash judgments on small sample sizes. If Cruz had an ERA of 10 I could see the Royals’ logic, even if I disagreed. This just comes across as odd.

On a related note: Bruce Chen and Brad Thompson are the two relievers the Royals chose to call up (Luis Mendoza was also designated for assignment). Carlos Rosa is confused.

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33 Responses to “Royals Flush Juan Cruz”

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  1. Kevin S. says:

    Your move, Omar.

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  2. Mister Delaware says:

    Odds are Anderson put more analytical work into this piece than Moore did into Cruz’s release. Seriously.

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  3. Bannister19 says:

    Though, I agree Cruz is better than Farnsworth, and though thus far Farnsworth has been having a better season, he also deserves to be released.

    The Royals have been trying to get rid of Juan Cruz since prior to the deadline of last year, and it just wasn’t happening. Personally, as a Royals fan, the release of Juan Cruz and DFA of Luis Mendoza was the greatest move of the season.

    I sort-of like Chen, and Brad Thompson not so much. As they’re both on Minor League contracts, unless they both come out successful, Rosa, Marte, Bullington, and LeRew should have their chances as the season moves on.

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  4. JoeyO says:

    Cruz, to put it nicely, sucks.

    He falls apart in pressure situations and was being used for mop-up duty in KC like so many years before. While his K numbers might indicate a semi-nice looking pitcher, he is generally anything but in important situations.

    And just because it should be noted, although he has just a 3.38 ERA, he allowed all 6 of the runners on when he entered the game to come around to score.

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  5. Pat says:

    Wow, their pitching actually makes me feel ok as a Pirate fan. Even though I’d trade the entire staff for Greinke.

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    • Bannister19 says:

      Are you crazy? The pirates have an okay bullpen after signing Brendan, Octavio, and DJ (Who knows why? Matt Capps[Exception of 09] wasn’t all bad of a reliever, neither was Grabow, and they are still no where near competition. When you start talking about their rotation, Zach Duke and Paul Maholm, and Russ Ohlendorf are no different than having Brian, Luke, and Kyle in the back-end.

      The Royals pitching staff is way better than Pittsburgh’s, even with a rigged bullpen.

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  6. Mitchell says:

    Usually when a team makes a move I don’t understand, I give them the benefit of the doubt and say “they probably know more about the player(s) involved than I do.” However, after watching Dayton Moore and co. make questionable move after questionable move, I’m pretty sure they know less… much less.

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  7. Josh says:

    I think that this is the case of giving up hits in big spots. While his numbers don’t warrant this treatment, he has given up hits/runs in important situations (at least in the limited amount of Royals baseball that I have watched).

    Given their desperation, I think he might end up back with the Cubs.

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  8. Dann M. says:

    JoeyO and Josh are in the neighborhood of what I’m thinking. I remember the young Cruz for his amazing movement and tenuous command. And even at his best, in Arizona, he was facing more than 4 batters per inning. He needs people to swing and miss. And it looks like his increased reliance on his cutter and change show that he’s not sure if he can make them miss anymore.

    The USA Today article makes it pretty clear why they did it:
    “‘We felt like we’d been giving guys plenty of opportunities the first couple of weeks in the season,’ Royals manager Trey Hillman said. ‘I think anyone who’s watched us play realizes if we’d have gotten some better performances out of our bullpen our record could be flip-flopped and our record could be above .500 instead of below .500.

    ‘Anytime you make a move, whether it’s guaranteed money or not, it says we prefer to win now instead of giving games away because of lack of performance,’ Royals manager Trey Hillman said. ‘We’ve made adjustments to our bullpen in the first couple of weeks in the season and I think that sends a pretty clear message to everyone.'”

    Hell, you could easily cut “Royals” and “Trey Hillman” out of that article and sub “Cubs” and “Lou Piniella.” It’s the same story. Bridging the gap to Soria and Marmol, respectively. And unlike the Cubs, KC doesn’t have a bottleneck right now at the starting pitcher position. Cruz allows baserunners and pitches for K’s and fly balls. The Cubs already have steaming buckets full of Bad Righty, thanks. The Cubs are in an organizational hurry, but not on-field so long as at least one of Silva and Gorzelanny holds up as a legit 4. No word on who goes down tomorrow to activate Lilly, but I’d have to guess it’s Samardzija. Berg and Gray worry me, though, because in 11 combined appearances and 12 innings, they have 1 K between them.

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  9. Berigan says:

    13 baserunners in 5 1/3 innings I think explains it. That and that he allowed all 6 of the runners on when he entered to score, that Joey mentioned above.

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  10. Aaron says:

    Juan Cruz, third most un-clutchy reliever so far this year at -.65. Whether you believe that Clutch is for real or not that kind of performance is going to grab the attention of managers and GM’s as much as will ERA and strikeouts.

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  11. jirish says:

    I never understand what the Royals are doing. Really, I don’t. What’s the “Alex Gordon’s in the doghouse” about?

    If they don’t want him, they need to get him going, at least a little bit, and trade him. A change of scenery would do Gordon a world of good.

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  12. Kris says:

    Maybe I’m missing something, but aren’t batters hitting .374 against Cruz? Sure, maybe the .500+ BABIP — wait, more line drives than FB or GB (6 to 5) — okay, then.

    Hitters are simply making better contact against Cruz and hitting the dirty-dirty more often, especially out of the zone.

    I think when your WHIP approaches 2.5, there is justification for a release. The Royals got fed up with the kid last year, and gave him a shot to start the year.

    Cruz did it: He managed to pitch so badly that Kansas City let him go. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised if he did it on purpose, signs somewhere else, and posts typical Cruz-numbers across the board for the rest of the season.

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  13. sman says:

    in 315 relief games, he has been brought into just 78 when his team had the lead. Of those 24.7%, it was a Save/Hold opportunity only 39 times (50% of games where team had lead, 12.4% of total games as reliever). In those 12.4% of games, he converted a save or hold just 71.8% of the time. He currently sits with an overall career average LI of .873 and a .867 the last three seasons – bottom ten among qualified relievers.

    Mop up duty pitcher with inability to pitch in pressure situations, a characteristic the Royals are foolish for not recognizing prior to the 2009 season. They are not foolish for releasing him now though, this is merely correcting the huge mistake they made in the first place.

    And the team that signs him next for anything other then a low-leverage bullpen mop-up guy/inning eater is the real foolish team. I just pray that isn’t the Cubs because the absolute last thing we need is another pitcher that can’t pitch when the club has the lead…

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  14. Paul says:

    This is the definition of non-story. Relievers are fungible, etc. etc., they were generally praised for signing him to such a low money deal, and even though it cost them a 2nd round pick, they would have picked Myers and Dwyer in rounds 2 and 3 anyway, instead of 3 and 4. The Royals suck. Juan Cruz sucks. Move on.

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  15. TrueBlue says:

    Thanks for releasing him Dayton. Sman said it all.

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  16. kampfer says:

    it is not a bad move. it may be meaningless, but a roster spot is better than Juan Cruz. He is just bad. What I don’t get is Bruce Chen… how about actually calling up some usable pieces from the minor? The Royals is not in contention anyways…well, I almost forget the GM is DM.

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  17. valuearb says:

    Those leverage numbers appear damning, but they sure seem odd compared to

    Career OPS against .723
    w/RISP .708
    2 outs, RISP, .645

    And going through the 374 innings he’s had as a reliever, and slicing down to just the smattering of games where he a hold or save opportunity, and looking at the results without adjusting for what type of holds/saves they were, is just small sample size masturbation.

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    • sman says:

      Except .708 isnt really good – the average reliever held an overall .729 OPS against last season. Plus, RISP doesnt mean pressure, at all. For all anyone knows, they are “Runner at 2nd in 10-1 game” situations making up 90% of it. Shoot, considering his microscopic LI and extremely limited number of appearances when the team was ahead, we kind of know it is in fact situations like that making up most of it.

      But we also know this; multiple teams have tried him in, but quickly yanked him from, important roles on the club. And if you want to say his blowing 28% of his save/hold situations is small sample size, feel free. But you must also remember why its small sample size in the first place. that is, because 5 teams have deemed him not good enough to do it. Its not unlike the career of Jason Dubois; didnt need more then small sample size for everyone to realize that aint gonna work…

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      • valuearb says:

        So if team 1 gives him a reputation of being a unclutch, and he blows one of 4 saves with team 2 and they never give him another shot, and team 3 does the same, and so on, and so on, is he really unclutch or is he the victim of small sample size.

        I mean it’s statistically guaranteed that some good relievers will be unlucky in their first innings with multiple teams. And that some good relievers will have poor leverage numbers due to poor luck even though they are clutch. It’s because relievers pitch 60 innings per year, and it takes a career for most to build up a large enough body of work to slice it up into small parts for analysis.

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      • sman says:

        So you’re saying that although multiple teams have tried and experienced the same results, teams should keep trying and expecting different results? Isn’t there a saying that has something to do with that?

        It doesn’t really even seem to matter the “sample size” with Cruz anyway. Last year was by far his longest leash in pressure situations, and last season was by far his most disastrous. And when a horrible team releases you because you are not the late inning leverage pitcher they desperately need, well… But look, we now 10 years of people deciding he isnt cut out for pressure situations. If you want to chalk that up to dumb luck, knock yourself out I guess.

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  18. David says:

    I guess it’s OK to use a tiny sample size (28 TBF) if we’re criticizing Dayton Moore, since that’s the “in” thing to do. I think he should be commended for realizing he originally made a mistake in signing the guy (because in a much larger sample size – 219 TBF in 2008 – he posted a 5.52 xFIP, way below replacement level) and release him, having to eat the remainder of his contract.

    We can also agree that Moore made a mistake in signing him in the first place, because he’s just not a good pitcher. 2006 was his best year, when he posted 1.6 WAR, due to 15 good starts (he was replacement level as a reliever). But even then, he had good luck on home runs and his xFIP of 4.52 is nearly a half run worse than his FIP or ERA. As a reliever, his best season was 2007 when he posted a 3.62 xFIP – in comparison, Mark Hendrickson ($1.5 million salary this year) has a career 3.30 FIP as a reliever, and a lot more experience as a starter as an added bonus.

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  19. Judy says:

    I wish the team I root for would go ahead and start clearing out the deadwood in their pen.

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  20. Jason says:

    Cruz’s ERA is lower because he’s giving up hits for runs that are charged to the pitcher he is getting called in to bail out – that’s why. He freaking stinks now!! You idiots should know better. ERA?? lol – the guy blows and I’m glad he’s gone now. Good riddance. COMMON SENSE regarding that artificially low ERA.

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  21. Jason says:

    This article is retarded blabber. RJ I would hate your guts if you were the guy that decided to keep Cruz for no other reason than “it would be odd”. What a fucking retart you are. Yeah I said retart.

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  22. ecp says:

    It’s very strange how the same people who criticized the Royals for signing Cruz in the first place are now criticizing them for admitting their error by releasing him. And no, it’s not a small sample size, RJ. Cruz had been with the Royals for over a year and his performance was not acceptable. Credit Dayton Moore for sinking this already-sunk cost.

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    • SteveP says:

      Some valid points, and it appears that Cruz’s low ERA is smoke and mirrors rather than actual ability. That said, for a team like the Royals, who aren’t going to win any real games anyway why not hold on to him for a little while, see if he can maintain those artificially low ERA and FIP and see if you can then trade him to an RP starved team and get something back for him. You won’t get much, but something is better than nothing and he’s not making much money so why wait it out and see if you can get a low grade prospect for him… Again, understand cutting ties with a sunk cost, but I think that argument would be more forceful if we were talking about a team that had a chance to go somewhere this year.

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  23. rambis says:

    Maybe his release has nothing to do with his pitching. Maybe he was a cancer to the team, or maybe something else that you can only speculate about. Continue speculating. You guys really piss me off. You would have been praising dayton moore had he released jose guillen last year. Completely retarded. I’m not sure why I read these things.

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  24. Eric says:

    Hardly a small sample size. Completely sucked last year, and completely sucks this year. Just because his ERA looks reasonable this year doesn’t mean a thing. You can’t bring him in with runners on, they all score, you can’t bring him in to start an inning if the game is close. So any team that wants him can have him. Every team out there needs someone that can come in with an eight run lead and not blow it.

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  25. ?? says:

    good publish, i definitely love this site, keep it.

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