On to the pitchers…
We know the starters have, taken as a whole, been horrible. And we know the bullpen has been one of the strengths of this team. I don’t know how the rotation can improved in the second half. Aside from Danny Duffy, these guys pretty much are who we thought they were. Which is not good.
The bullpen, on the other hand, has overachieved. Many of the relievers have outperformed their xFIP and have incredible batting averages on balls in play and even more incredible strand rates. That points to the volatility of the bullpen. It’s still a strength of this team, but I’m not certain it will be as strong in the second half.
One area where you notice the chasm is in strikeouts. The Royals starters couldn’t pitch their way out of a paper bag. (When I talk about the “starters,” know that I’m excluding Duffy. He’s the Chosen One adrift in a sea of batting practice pitchers.) Meanwhile, the bullpen is full of flame throwers who have made missing bats a habit. There may be some regression to the bullpen mean in the second half, but the strikeouts will cushion the blow.
2.9 BB/9, 4.6 SO/9, 5.46 ERA, 4.22 xFIP
Key Stat: Allowing opponents to hit .300/.379/.461 with runners on base.
I don’t know if it’s fair to call Hochevar “frustrating.” That would imply we have expectations that he could actually be… good.
Instead, we’re teased with a pitcher who retires three or six or nine batters in a row and then implodes in a spectacular fashion. Read that key stat again… there’s something happening when Hochevar pitches from the stretch. Even more frustrating, when runners reach base, Hochevar slows to the game to a speed that resembles Billy Butler running the 100 yard dash… Stand. Still.
I read somewhere that the KC Star’s Sam Mellinger thought Hochevar is a victim of heightened expectations that come with being the team’s Opening Day (read, number one) starter. I just can’t buy into this theory. Mainly because I haven’t thought about Hochevar as the Opening Day starter since… Opening Day. I mean, even Hochevar has to know he was the “number one” starter only because there wasn’t anyone else.
1.7 BB/9, 4.4 SO/9, 4.60 ERA, 4.01 xFIP
Key Stat: His average fastball is 85 mph.
Francis was always one of the softer throwers in the game, but he’s lost a couple mph off his alleged fastball since returning from shoulder surgery. Having said that, he’s compensating by featuring the best control of his career. The issue with Francis – and it will always be an issue – is that when he catches too much of the plate, it’s easy for opposing batters to make solid contact. His line drive rate hovers around 20% and his BABIP is always north of .300, meaning his WHIP will always be elevated, even though his walks are under control.
Despite the warts, he’s having a pretty decent season.
3.0 BB/9, 5.6 SO/9, 3.26 ERA, 4.37 xFIP
Key Stat: Chen has a 76.5% strand rate.
If you’re looking for a reason for Chen’s solid ERA, look no further than his strand rate. It’s about three percentage points better than his career rate. If he regresses to the mean, the second half could be a bit bumpy, but given the way he’s turned his career around, I’m not certain I would bet against him.
Bringing Chen back for 2011 was a good piece of business by Dayton Moore.
4.0 BB/9, 6.3 SO/9, 7.74 ERA, 4.78 xFIP
Key Stat: Has thrown three quality starts in 11 overall starts. The Royals have lost all three of those games.
4.4 BB/9, 3.0 SO/9, 6.92 ERA, 5.59 xFIP
Key Stat: His 0.69 SO/BB ratio is the worst rate among pitchers who have started more than five games this season.
4.3 BB/9, 7.3 SO/9, 4.85 ERA, 4.20 xFIP
Duffy is just a few adjustments away from moving to the front of the rotation. Really. It all comes down to location and an economy of pitches. These are things he can adjust. The successes have been there… there will be more in the near future.
4.2 BB/9, 9.1 SO/9, 2.08 ERA, 3.15 xFIP
Your 2011 All-Star!
There’s going to be a ton of talk over the next couple of months about moving Crow into the rotation. Personally, I’m on the record saying that everyone from the bullpen should be given a shot at starting. Seriously, the rotation is dreadful so something needs to be done.
Now, having said that, I don’t think that Crow will ever transition back to the rotation. Part of my reasoning has to do with his performance this season. He’s walking too many guys to be a middle of the rotation starter. Also, his success this year is built around an unsustainable 90% strand rate. Then, there’s also his track record from the minors. Don’t forget, he was demoted as a starter after getting raked to the tune of a 5.66 ERA in Double-A. He followed that with a 5.93 ERA in Single-A. Yikes.
Crow seems to have found his groove as a reliever and has emerged as a dependable set-up man. Why mess with a formula that’s been successful?
6.6 BB/9, 7.7 SO/9, 3.74 ERA, 4.86 xFIP
Key Stat: Lefties are hitting .215/.381/.354 against Collins. Right handers are batting .193/.316/.301.
Collins is an enigma in more ways than one. To start, there’s his reverse split described above. Then, there’s the fact he’s walking a metric ton of batters. No pitcher who has thrown more than 30 innings has a walk rate higher than Collins.
Sadly, those walks are going to catch up with Collins. And that’s probably going to happen in the second half.
2.7 BB/9, 8.0 SO/9, 2.89 ERA, 3.08 xFIP
Key Stat: Wood is getting a swinging strike in 9.8% of all strikes thrown.
I don’t know how he’s doing it… With a fastball straighter than a piece of dried spaghetti. But Wood has become a dependable reliever out of the bullpen. It helps that his slider is much improved as well. Still, I can’t help but worry… I’m a Royals fan.
4.3 BB/9, 10.9 SO/9, 2.01 ERA, 3.80 xFIP
Key Stat: Opponents are hitting .167/.280/.361 against Coleman.
Coleman is off to a great start and has been a versatile arm out of the pen for the club. He’s pitched multiple innings in 12 of his 27 appearances and has thrown anywhere from the sixth inning on. With the lead, in a tie game, or with the Royals down… Yost is using him in just about any situation.
His BABIP is .200 and his strand rate is a whopping 96%. There’s no way he can keep those numbers for the second half. His xFIP suggests he’s had luck on his side.
2.3 BB/9, 8.9 SO/9, 3.38 ERA, 3.24 xFIP
Interesting story… At the Baseball Prospectus event at the K last week, Jin Wong talked about how one of the things his job entails is to identify potential talent. Basically, looking at fringe players and deciding if there’s some upside there. If there is, and that player becomes available, they pounce. According to Wong, the club identified Paulino early in the year as a potential guy for them because he throws 95 mph (on average), strikes out a fair number of hitters and can keep the ball on the ground. So, when Paulino struggled in 18 appearances out of the pen for the Rockies, and they let him go, the Royals were ready.
Great story… You hope it’s true. Paulino has never had an ERA lower – or even close – to his xFIP, so he was always a guy with upside. Good for the Royals for grabbing him off the scrap heap when the Rockies were ready to let him go.
The Royals will need to find a few more gems in the rough like Paulino. Capable middle of the rotation guy.
3.7 BB/9, 5.9 SO/9, 4.91 ERA, 4.11 xFIP
Key Stat: Only 2 of 12 inherited runners have scored against Adcock.
Adcock was the Rule 5 pick and the Royals have been treating him with kid gloves. He completely disappears for extended stretches. Like right now… He last pitched on July 1.
I’d like for the Royals to use him a little more frequently, especially when their starters spit the bit in the early innings. Adcock isn’t doing exceptional, but when you consider he had never pitched above A-ball prior to this year, the Royals have to be pleased with the results.
2.2 BB/9, 10.8 SO/9, 1.08 ERA, 2.35 xFIP
Key Stat: Only 60% of all plate appearances against Holland end with the ball in play.
Many felt Holland should have been in the bullpen at the start of the season. Many were correct. He’s been lights out. Like Crow and Coleman, his strand rate is north of 90%.
Easily, the best reliever in the Royals pen.
5.5 BB/9, 3.3 SO/9, 9.25 ERA, 5.97 xFIP
Key Stat: The Royals sacrificial lamb.
It is the seminal moment of the 2011 season… Ned Yost leaving Mazzaro to get his brains beat in by the Indians, allowing 14 runs in 2.1 innings.
6.5 BB/9, 7.6 SO/9, 4.70 ERA, 4.40 xFIP
Key Stat: A 1.50 WHIP in 15 innings of work.
Jeffress has the potential, but until he finds his control, it will remain potential. It’s not going so well in Omaha as he’s walking 6.6 per nine.
3.4 BB/9, 4.0 SO/9, 2.30 ERA, 4.56 xFIP
Key Stat: Has a 100% strand rate.
Teaford is pitching out of his mind. A .195 BABIP and that strand rate… That’s why his xFIP is over two runs higher than his ERA.
2.8 BB/9, 7.8 SO/9, 4.03 ERA, 3.57 xFIP
I maintained all along that Soria would be OK… It took a “demotion” for him to find his closer mojo. That, and losing one of his cut fastballs.
Whatever, it was an ugly start. Can’t deny that. He’s already matched his career high for home runs allowed (five) and is still down about two whiffs per inning on his strikeout rate. This serves as a cautionary tale that you should never, ever overvalue your closer. Unless his name is Mariano Riveria. Had the Royals dealt Soria last winter, his value would have been at it’s maximum. According to reports, the GMDM is still asking for everything under the sun when teams call inquiring about Soria.
Hopefully, he can pitch lights out in the second half and restore some of that trade value.
Over the break, Dayton Moore made the proclamation that the Royals were still in the race for the AL Central. I had no idea he was an outpatient at the Menninger Clinic. The bats are in decent shape and the bullpen is strong, but the starting pitching will continue to drag this team to what will be a top three pick in next year’s draft.