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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

More on Harvey; notes

There was plenty of ammunition regarding Ken Harvey that I held back because of the usual space considerations. Before I get into that, let me expound on a couple of other issues regarding the Royals enigmatic former Husker.

* I don't think it was a mistake to recall Harvey. In fact, I never felt like he should have been sent down to begin with. All along, I've thought the best thing the Royals could do is to keep both Harvey and Calvin Pickering on the roster in a straight platoon. Consider:

3-year OPS
Player, vsLHP, vsRHP
Harvey, 836, 698
Pickering, 560, 978
Platoon, 836, 978

OK, I realize it's not as clear cut as all that, especially given Pickering sudden inability to hit anything, but you get my point. Also, consider that Mike Sweeney has played in all 26 games. For a player whose games played have diminished each of the last five seasons, this is both good and bad news. It's great that he finally seems to be healthy. But, unless you're planning to trade him, this not the best way to use a durability-challenged player. At some point, Sweeney is going to have to have some days off.

As for the overall roster construction, all you would have had to do is keep 11 pitchers instead of 12. Since the Royals ended up cutting back to 11 pitchers anyway because guys weren't getting enough work, that extra spot would have been much better utilitized by keeping Harvey. As for this stuff about getting Harvey to work on his approach, it didn't happen and it won't.

* All this bunk about Harvey being an 'All-Star' is truly laughable. Every team gets an All-Star, even the 2003 Tigers. Stuffing feathers in your *bleep* does not make you chicken. Nor does being the default All-Star choice from a bad team make you an All-Star.

* Harvey's start in Omaha was truly overblown. Harvey was a 27-year-old, two-year major league vet playing in a hitter's league. Yes, he was putting up some glossy numbers. But Harvey's .375 batting average was not in the league's top ten. His 14 RBI were not in the top 20, nor were his 3 home runs. He was sent to Omaha to work on his approach and if he indeed was doing that, you can't tell by the results.

Here's another way to look at Harvey's recent career:

EAR

AGE

PA

OBIP%

SO%

BB%

HBP%

HR%

1B%

2B%

3B%

XRPA

LEVEL

2002

24

536

49.6%

16.2%

7.8%

1.1%

3.7%

15.7%

5.6%

0.2%

13

MLE

2003

25

519

50.5%

18.1%

5.6%

1.0%

2.5%

16.6%

5.8%

0.0%

11

MLE

2004

26

492

48.0%

18.1%

5.7%

1.6%

2.6%

19.7%

4.1%

0.2%

12

AL

LEAGUE>

---

---

50.0%

16.6%

8.5%

1.0%

3.0%

16.0%

4.8%

0.5%

12

LG

2005

27

77

44.4%

16.8%

4.9%

1.2%

3.6%

24.3%

3.6%

1.2%

17

MLE


He's been pretty darn consistent. But so much of his value is tied up in his ability to hit singles. You don't win with big, lumbering first basemen with poor gloves whose only excel at hitting singles. By the way, the OBIP% in this table refers to outs on balls-in-play. Each outcome is expressed as a perentage of overall plate appearances. XRPA is a shorthand number I utilitze. It's generated by PROFITS. 12 is a league-average hitter, though each integer represents a fairly broad stroke of players.

Here are some other comments I picked up at the ballpark. I couldn't use them for my column, but here they are:

Tony Pena -

- on why the Camp-for-Harvey switch was made
"Shawn Camp lately has not thrown the ball the way he is capable of throwing. Right now, we need some offense and Ken Harvey has been swinging the bat real good in AAA."

- on the timing of the Harvey recall
"We sent Ken Harvey to work on his approach at the plate. He has done real well. Right now, the way our offense is, we need another bat and I think Harvey is the best guy."

- on going with 11 pitchers
"The way our starting pitchers have been throwing, they have been going deep into the ballgames. I have not seen myself giving enough work to everybody in the bullpen."

- on the changes Harvey was asked to make
"Last season, he was chasing alot of pitches out of the strike zone. In spring training, we saw the same thing. We talked about sending him down to work on that, just to get himself in good situations to hit. When the guy hits strikes, he hits the ball a long way."

- look at Harvey's splite when ahead in the count. In baseball, it's not really important how well you do something. Of greater import is how often you do it.

Jeff Pentland -

- How difficult is it to teach a hitter to be more patient at the plate?
"The biggest thing is that, around the big leagues, you have a lot of aggressive players. They don't get to the big leagues by taking (pitches). That progression works, usually, all the way through the minor leagues. In the big leagues and, even now, in the minor leagues, we're trying to create a better approach. We try to shrink the plate in hopes of getting a good pitch to hit."

- What is the technical thing that is hard to get across - the mindset or the ability to read pitches?
"I think it's the recognition of pitches because sometimes it's not that easy. If you look at the best hitters in the game, they see the ball early, they recognize pitches early. A lot of it has to do with technique. Some of it has to do with mindset, a calmness and relaxation at the plate so they realize that they have to see the ball before they swing."

- With some players, at some point, do you just have to accentuate their aggressiveness because that's just who they are?
"No question. Look at Sweeney, he's the most aggressive guy we have. Sometimes, he's a little too anxious, too aggressive and he swings at pitches he shouldn't swing at. But everybody does it. You just try to keep it at a minimum. But the pitchers dictate a lot of that. Some guys will be aggressive in the strike zone and the nibblers will try to get you to chase pitches off the plate."

- Is plate discipline something that is being emphasized from here on down to the minor leagues?
"I think that most organizations are very aware of on-base percentage and the things that go along with seeing pitches, like getting pitch counts up and being able to foul off pitches. All of those things are kind of nuances in the game. The strike zone is certainly part of it."

- Within a game, when you see the team being too aggressive at the plate and the opposing pitcher's pitch count is too low, do you ask the hitters to take more pitches?
"We definitely make some adjustments. A big part of hitting is to adjust to what you're seeing. That could be being more aggressive or less aggressive. Ideally, you want pitch counts up but sometimes the pitchers don't allow you to do that."

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