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How Much Can the Pen Handle?

Apr 14, 2016 -- 10:13am

By Soren Petro

The Royals resurgence has been greatly credited to the strength of their bullpen and Ned Yost’s willingness to ride that strength.  It should come as no surprise that Ned is sitting proudly atop his bullpen horse again this year.  However he’s going to have to consider waiting a little longer to bring his prized stallion out of the stable.  Or will he?

Yost has gone to his pen early and often this season.  The Royals bullpen is currently on pace for 567 innings for the season.  We all remember the gloomy early days of Dayton Moore’s Spring Trainings and his stated goal of 1,000 innings for his starting rotation.  We’ve come a long way from those days and those comments.  The Royals are now defending World Series Champions and right now the starters are on pace for just 891 innings.

Here is a look at the breakdown of innings for the bullpen and starters in 2014 and 2015 compared to what the early pace is for the pen this year.


YearStarters IPBulllpen IP
2016 (Projected)891567

It is important to remember that it is early and the starters are not fully stretched out.  Yost is, or at least should, be more cautious with how far deep into the game he will stay with his staring pitcher.  Normal expectation would have the manager going longer with his starters as the year progresses, but as we all know Ned is not normal.

Here is a look at how the innings breakdown this year compares to the first eight games the last two seasons.


YearStarters IPBullpen IP

Maybe it will change as we move along, but at least right now it looks like Ned is not just moving towards riding the bullpen more, but a lot more.  A LOT MORE!  The 28 innings from the pen is a 45% jump over last year’s usage at this time.

First reaction is that the Royals are going to need the starters to step up, but the first reaction to the Royals approach to things the last couple of seasons has been a bad indicator of future success.  I think Ned and the Royals would love to see the starters walking off the mound after seven strong innings, but it certainly doesn’t look like Ned is going to sit around hoping for it to happen. 

The Royals bullpen is a thoroughbred, but we’ll see how fast they are coming down the stretch after Ned’s been using the whip since the starting gate. 

MLB Predictions: Program

Apr 06, 2016 -- 1:15pm
 Soren Doug Kurtis
AL CentralRoyals Indians Royals
 Tigers Tigers White Sox
 White Sox  Twins Tigers
 Twins White Sox Twins
AL EastBlue Jays Blue Jays Blue Jays
 Yankees Rays  Red Sox
 Orioles Red Sox Yankees
 Red Sox Yankees Rays
 Rays Orioles Orioles
AL WestAstros Astros Astros
 Rangers Mariners Mariners
 Angels Angels Angels
 A's A's A's
Cy  YoungCorey Kluber Corey Kluber Chris Archer
MVPCarlos Correa Carlos Correa Carlos Correa
Rookie of the YearByung Ho Park Joey Gallo Byron Buxton
Royals Record92-70 88-74 94-68
Royals Player of YrEric Hosmer Eric Hosmer Eric Hosmer
Royals Pitcher of YrYordano Ventura Wade Davis Edinson Volquez
SurpriseYordano Ventura Mike Minor Omar Infante
FlopRight Field/Dyson Ian Kennedy Chris Young
NL EastNationals Nationals Mets
 Mets Mets*Nationals
 Marlins Marlins Marlins
 Phillies Phillies Braves
 Braves Braves Phillies
NL CentralCubs Cardinals Cubs
 Pirates Pirates Pirates
 Reds Brewers Brewers
 Brewers Reds Reds
NL WestGiants Giants Giants
 Dodgers*Dodgers Dodgers
 D'Backs D'Backs D'backs
 Padres Rockies Padres
 Rockies Padres Rockies
Cy YoungMax Scherzer Clayton Kerhsaw Clayton Kershaw
MVPBryce Harper Paul Goldschmidt Bryce Harper
Rookie of the YearCorey Seager Corey Seager Steven Matz
World SeriesNats over Astros Nats over Astros Royals over Cubs
FTR Stark
Royals  Royals
White Sox  
Blue Jays Blue Jays
Red Sox  
Rangers Rangers
Chris Archer Chris Sale
Carlos Correa Carlos Correa
Byron Buxton Byung Ho Park
Lorenzo Cain  
Edinson Volquez  
Kris Medlen  
Paulo Orlando  
Nationals Nationals
Cubs Cubs
Cardinals Cardinals
Dodgers Giants
Gerrit Cole Noah Syndergaard
Paul Goldschmidt Paul Goldschmidt
Corey Seager Steven Matz
Giants over Blue Jays Blue Jays over Giants


What's Bill Self Missing?

Mar 28, 2016 -- 11:10am

by Soren Petro

In 13 years at Kansas Bill Self has made it to the Elite Eight, six times.  Basically he’s been one win away from the Final Four almost every other year he’s been the head coach of the Jayhawks.  The problem?  He’s only won two of those Elite Eight games.

Good or bad… right or wrong (and it’s probably wrong)… the Final Four is the ultimate measuring stick of a coach and a program. 

Cody Tapp pointed out last night on Sunday Sound Off (Sundays at 10:30 PM on KSHB, Channel 41) that there are now eight head coaches in college basketball that have been to more Final Fours than Bill Self during his 13 years in Lawrence. 


The eight coaches are…

John Calipari – 5  (2008, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015)

Tom Izzo – 4  (2005, 2009, 2010, 2015)

Roy Williams – 4  (2005, 2008, 2009, 2016)

Mike Kryzewski – 3  (2004, 2010, 2015)

Rick Pitino – 3  (2005, 2012, 2013)

Ben Howland – 3  (2006, 2007, 2008)

Billy Donovan – 3  (2006, 2007, 2014)

Jim Calhoun – 3  (2004, 2009, 2011)


Bill Self’s two trips to the Final Four ties him with…

Jay Wright – 2  (2009, 2016)

Bo Ryan – 2  (2014, 2015)

Thad Motta – 2  (2007, 2012)

Jim Boeheim – 2  (2013, 2016)


So what’s wrong with the Jayhawks in the tournament?  That’s the question most KU fans are asking themselves right now.  Unfortunately the answer is never as easy as fans want it to be. 

Now listen, I’m certainly not going to say that I have the ability to prepare a team for a tournament run any better than Bill Self, but I have watched a lot of tournament basketball over the years.  So I will take a shot at it and offer eight possibilities of what is wrong with KU in the tournament.

1.        Nothing.  That’s right.  The first possibility is that there is nothing wrong at all.  It’s entirely possible that Bill Self is doing nothing wrong and is just experiencing a run where the ball isn’t bouncing his way in close games.  Since Self has been at Kansas, Mike Kryzewski has been knocked out of the NCAA Tournament in the first round three times and the second round another time.  Self’s next championship may be one freshman signing away.

If over the next 13 years Self makes six more Elite 8’s and goes 4-2 in those games winning two National Championships (right now he wins the title 50% of the time he makes the Final Four) he would have six Final Fours and three National Championships in 26 years.  No one would be complaining about those numbers.

2.        Extra Timeouts.  If you watch the tournament you know that the networks jam a 30 second commercial in wherever possible.  This basically gives coaches a number of extra 30-second timeouts.  Theoretically this could give other coaches a chance to adjust to things that KU is doing, where in the regular season they don’t have that opportunity.  It basically allows lesser coaches to catch up to what KU is doing.

3.        Second Game of the Weekend.  Self has lost the second game of a tournament weekend seven times, including the last three seasons.  It’s possible that the Jayhawks need to do a better job of prepping for the second game.  It’s possible they are worn out from the first game. 

4.        Recruit Better Guards.  Don’t take this as a shot at Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham.  Both are quality guards, but neither appears to be a next level talent.  It’s not a coincidence the Jayhawks 2008 Championship team featured a couple (Mario Chalmers and Sherron Collins) of McDonald’s All-Americans in the backcourt.  Guards that can get their own shot or beat their man off the dribble can get teams out of slumps.  It gives them a chance to make more shots.

5.        Loosen Up on Offense.  This one goes along with number 4.  It is possible the reason Self has not been able to land the NBA caliber point/lead guards is because he is too strict in how he runs the offense.  If you have to live with a little more one-on-one game and a few more turnovers to make the program more attractive to big-time shot-making guards, it could be worth it.

6.        Play Freshman Earlier.  Calipari has made a living out of playing freshman early and living with their mistakes.  The biggest example is the 2014 Kentucky Wildcats.  Huge expectations turned into a lackluster season and an eight-seed in the tournament.  Calipari’s team was able to flip the switch in the tournament and advance all the way to the title game.   He lived with the mistakes of his freshman early in the season and ultimately their talent began to shine and carried them to the final game.

7.        Play Faster.  This would serve two purposes.  First, when you are the more talented team more possessions mean more opportunities to take advantage of that talent.  Just as a seven game series favors the better team (they can overcome one bad night because they have seven chances to win four times) in the NBA, extra possessions in college creates more chances for the better team to make shots.

Also, every kid wants to play fast.  They all want to get up and down the court and dunk the ball.  Who doesn’t want to play in the open court.  Speeding up the tempo gives the athletic player a chance to showcase their talent and sell their skills to the next level.

8.        Recruit Athleticism.  You could make a case that Self recruits skill more than athleticism.  Andrew Wiggins would be the obvious exception.  Players that are raw and athletic can get better skill wise.  An unathletic player is not going to practice his way to more athleticism. 

In conclusion, the answer is usually all of the above, and in varying degrees I think that is probably the case here. 

I would say that number one has the highest percentage of truth.  Self does so many things right as a college basketball coach I have to believe a lot of his trouble is simply a tough streak that will turn in his favor in the near future.

I do think he’s got to land more talented guards.  I think the bigger emphasis on the dribble drive in this year’s offense will help make the program more attractive to the elite guards.  Playing a faster brand of basketball will help attract the kind of talent that can get its own shot when the team is struggling to score.

Finally, there’s a great phrase going around today, “first world problems.”  It should be remembered by all KU fans out there that in the world of college basketball, trying to figure out how KU can get deeper in the tournament is certainly a “first world problem.”

Petro's AP Ballot - March 13, 2016

Mar 13, 2016 -- 9:06pm
1. Kansas
2. Michigan St.
3. North Carolina
4. Virginia
5. Oklahoma
6. Kentucky
7. West Virginia
8. Villanova
9. Oregon
10. Purdue
11. Xavier
12. Miami
13. Arizona
14. Duke
15. Louisville
16. Maryland
17. Texas A&M
18. Utah
19. Indiana
20. Seton Hall
21. Connecticut
22. SMU
23. Providence
24. Iowa
25. Iowa St.

26. Notre Dame
27. Cincinnati
28. Baylor
29. Gonzaga
30. Texas
31. California
32. St. Mary’s
33. Wichita St.
34. Wisconsin
35. USC
36. Butler
37. Vanderbilt
38. Texas Tech
39. Dayton
40. San Diego St.

Denzel Valentine - Michigan St.

Bill Self - Kansas


G  Buddy Hield - Oklahoma
G  Tyler Ullis - Kentucky
F  Brice Johnson - North Carolina
F  Denzel Valentine - Michigan St.
C  Jakob Poeltl - Utah


G  Jamal Murray - Kentucky
G  Yogi Ferrell - Indiana
G  Malcolm Brogden - Virginia
F  Ben Simmons - LSU
F  Domantas Sabonis - Gonzaga


G  Kris Dunn - Providence
G  Grayson Allen - Duke
F  Georges Niang - Iowa St.
F  Jarrod Uthoff - Iowa
F  Perry Ellis - Kansas

Petro's AP Ballot - March 6, 2016

Mar 06, 2016 -- 9:23pm
Petro's AP Ballot - March 6, 2016
1. Kansas
2. Michigan St.
3. Virginia
4. North Carolina
5. Villanova
6. Xavier
7. Oklahoma
8. West Virginia
9. Purdue
10. Miami
11. Kentucky
12. Arizona
13. Duke
14. Indiana
15. Oregon
16. Louisville
17. Maryland
18. Texas A&M
19. Utah
20. Iowa
21. Providence
22. SMU
23. Cincinnati
24. Texas
25. Iowa St.

26. Seton Hall
27. Notre Dame
28. Connecticut
29. St. Mary’s
30. Wichita St.
31. Vanderbilt
32. Valparaiso
33. Baylor
34. Dayton
35. Gonzaga
36. California
37. Wisconsin
38. Texas Tech
39. USC
40. Butler

Petro's AP Ballot - Feb. 29, 2016

Feb 29, 2016 -- 10:02am
February 29,2016
1. Kansas
2. Michigan St.
3. Virginia
4. Villanova
5. North Carolina
6. Miami
7. Xavier
8. Oklahoma
9. West Virginia
10. Maryland
11. Purdue
12. Louisville
13. Kentucky
14. Duke
15. Iowa
16. Arizona
17. Texas A&M
18. Oregon
19. Indiana
20. Utah
21. SMU
22. Cincinnati
23. Texas
24. Seton Hall
25. Iowa St.
26. Wichita St.
27. St. Joseph’s
28. Baylor
29. Notre Dame
30. Connecticut
31. Providence
32. Vanderbilt
33. Saint Mary’s
34. Syracuse
35. USC
36. South Carolina
37. Valparaiso
38. Michigan
39. Wisconsin
40. Texas Tech
- Eleven of my top 13 teams lost last week.  Only Kansas and Michigan St. did NOT taste defeat.
- Oklahoma benefitted greatly from the losses around them.  Tough to drop them very far.
- Miami took advantage of the losses above and took down both Virginia and Louisville.
- Utah at #20, Texas at #23 and Seton Hall at #24 are the three new additions.  All three had wins against top 10 teams.
Syracuse vs. North Carolina - Tar Heels need a win to get back to the one-line.  SU needs a marquee win to punch its ticket.
Texas vs. Kansas - KU plays for the outright Big XII title.  A UT win would will have the Horns talking about a high seed.
Oklahoma vs. Baylor - The Sooners have lost 4 of 7 and need to get a win.  
Iowa vs. Indiana - The Hoosiers are climbing the charts while the Hawkeyes have dropped three in a row and four of five.
Notre Dame vs. Miami - The Caines have an outside shot at a one seed… but are very much alive for a two-seed.
West Virginia vs. Texas Tech - A Tech win would give them 9 conference wins and put them firmly in the field of 68.
Arizona vs. Cal - U of A has dropped two straight and doesn’t have to worry about a court storming at home.
SMU vs. Connecticut - The Huskies are on the bubble and could use a win over a top-25 team.
Baylor vs. West Virginia - Second place in the Big XII would lock up a top four seed.
Kentucky vs. LSU - Always fun to watch Ben Simmons and the Kentucky talent.
Kansas vs. Iowa St. - 9 straight wins for KU… would be 10 if they win Monday… looking to lock up the top overall seed in the tournament.
Duke vs. North Carolina - Can Roy get a timeout this time?
Virginia vs. Louisville - The Cavaliers will try to sweep the Cardinals.
Utah vs. Colorado - The Utes could be playing for the Pac 12 Championship.
Indiana vs. Maryland - Two teams going in opposite directions. 
Purdue vs. Wisconsin - The Badgers are on the bubble and need another big win.
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