The Royals bullpen is not good. I know this. You know this. SABR Trey and Dayton Moore know this.
Today, the Royals and their brain trust decided to shake things up by releasing Juan Cruz. Also cut loose was Luis Mendoza. (Mendoza never should have been on the roster in the first place. Therefore, there’s no need to discuss this move.)
The Royals have eight relievers in the pen. By releasing Cruz (and Mendoza) aren’t the Royals essentially saying they are the seventh and eighth best pitchers on the staff? As noted, Mendoza makes sense. He’s awful. End of story. But what about Cruz? The guy the Royals are paying $3.25 million this year?
Here are the raw numbers for 2010:
5.1 IP, 9 H, 4 BB, 7 SO, 3.38 ERA, 2.438 WHIP
Let’s just walk through this… First, we’re dealing with a small sample. It’s about a tenth of his season. Having said that, the ginormous negative is the plethora of base runners he’s allowing. That WHIP is just horrendous. He’s never been a control pitcher, but the walks are high for the low number of innings. The real issue is the base hits. He’s projecting at 15 H/9.
Here’s where the Royals have fallen into the small sample trap. Opponents are hitting .391 against Cruz with a .528 BABIP. Those numbers are obscenely high. If you give Cruz the work, they’ll come down. They have to. It’s simply the law of averages. For his career, Cruz has allowed opponents to hit .238 with a .298 BABIP.
Cruz owns a 2.66 FIP and has whiffed 11.6 batters per nine. This indicates he’s pitched better than his numbers would lead us to believe. Maybe the Royals should have been a little more patient with Cruz. After all, he’s earning some serious coin. Had they kept their finger off the trigger for another month, he may have regressed to the mean, which in this case would have meant improvement.
It just feels like Cruz is being made a scapegoat for the bullpen. I get the feeling they are making moves to appease the fan base. (“See? We’re making changes. Given his salary, no one is safe. Seriously. No… Seriously!”) Unfortunately, when you act in this manner you rarely help the team.
Would Cruz have rebounded and pitched like he did in 2008 with Arizona? Maybe not, but he certainly wasn’t as bad as his raw numbers suggested in 2010.
The Royals are making changes just for the sake of making changes when it comes to Cruz. Except who else are they going to push out? They want two lefties so Parrish and Hughes are safe. Tejeda was dominant in his last outing. Farnsworth makes even more money than Cruz. Rupe just got here and has done well enough he’s seemingly vaulted to the head of SABR Trey’s bullpen.
Someone had to go, so in the Russian Roulette that has become the Royals bullpen it had to be Cruz.
Here’s the nail in his coffin: Cruz inherited six base runners and allowed all six to score. Yeah, that’s not good. But know this… He allowed those inherited runners to score in three of his five appearances. Yet in only one appearance did those runners scoring directly lead to a Royal loss. April 13 when Cruz entered the game with two outs and the bases loaded in that disastrous seventh inning trying to protect a two run lead. A walk and a double cleared the bases and turned that lead into a deficit.
The Royals had been winning that game 5-0 entering the inning. Brian Bannister had pitched well to that point, but a parade of Roman Colon, Dusty Hughes and Cruz couldn’t seal the deal. Colon was the first domino to fall and now Cruz.
Left-handed or not, Hughes had better watch out.