The Royals were recently linked, via rumor, to lefty reliever George Sherrill. At first, this seemed a little odd to me given the Royals recently signed Jonathan Broxton to an already crowded bullpen picture. However, we all know that Ned Yost loves to play the match-ups with his relievers. Why use two relievers when four makes it so much more interesting?
In Sherrill, should the Royals actually make a run at him, Dayton Moore will have acquired the true lefty specialist that Yost spent 2011 hoping Tim Collins would become. Last season for Atlanta, yes Atlanta, Sherrill faced 81 left handed batters and struck out 32 of them. By the way, of those 81, George walked exactly ONE of them. Contrast that to his 11 walks and 6 strikeouts against 68 right handers he faced and you can see that the 34 year old has truly morphed into a LOOGY. Sherrill actually had some bad luck last year as left handed hitters managed an astounding .422 BABIP against him. Yet, they still managed a rather weak line of just .256/.273/.333. Imagine what lefthanders would do against Sherrill if they had a more reasonable BABIP number in 2012?
That the Royals are even linked to another free agent reliever indicates to me that Dayton Moore is leaning ever more towards breaking camp next April with eight relievers in the pen. As a quasi-old guy, I can remember the days of ten, even nine, man pitching staffs and so the superficial reaction to EIGHT freaking relievers is one of disdain.
That said, Kansas City will use it’s fifth starter for the fifth game of the 2012 season and really only has the opportunity to skip a start once, maybe twice, in April. Without a true ace, it is hard to imagine Yost and company jerking the rotation around for minimal gain: especially since they will need to come out of Arizona with five starters on the roster anyway.
Not only will the Royals break camp with five starters, they will do so with five starters unlikely to eat major innings. Let’s assume the rotation is Hochevar, Chen, Paulino, Sanchez and Duffy. If I told you that they would go on average seven, six, six, five plus and five innings respectively each time through the rotation would you be surprised. Frankly, that might be a good sign for Kansas City, but it would also require their bullpen to provide 16 innings of work every time through the rotation. If that holds for an entire season, the Royals would need 518 relief innings in 2012: that is a load of work for the guys out in the pen.
If signing a true LOOGY allows Yost the ability to run Tim Collins a couple of innings an appearance instead of one or less or save Everett Teaford, should he not end up starting in either KC or Omaha, for long relief than it will save the more important arms in the bullpen for more critical situations. The last place the Royals want to be in August is somewhere around contention, 450 innings into its bullpen and have to trot out Collins with two on and no out in Detroit because Holland, Coleman and Broxton threw in the three games prior.
An eight man pen seems almost silly, but it may fit for this particular team at this particular time. It’s uncoventional, but that does not make it necessarily wrong. If the sentiment inside and outside of the organization is to hoard the prospects (notably Wil Myers and Mike Montgomery) and not trade for a front-line starter, then this appears to be the best option.
Carrying an eight man pen, of course, requires just a three man bench and that effects who the Royals decide to utilize as their utility infielder. Specifically, it requires someone who can play second, short and third, which might well eliminate a number of names we have already heard linked to the Royals.
So, is the eight man bullpen logic or lunacy?