The Kansas City Royals are coming off their best season since 1989, and are looking to improve on their 86 wins in 2013. Over the next few weeks, we are going to take a look at the players that should play a significant role for the Royals in 2014.
The biggest head scratcher concerning Louis Coleman last season was the fact he did not make the big league ball club right out of the gate. He made his 2013 Royals’ debut on May 23rd, appeared in 4 total games over a week’s time, then was returned to Omaha for the entire month of June, for no apparent reason.
It wasn’t as if he was brutal in his first two seasons with Kansas City. In 110.2 IP over the 2011 and 2012 seasons, Coleman had a 3.25 ERA and a 1.238 WHIP. His K/9 IP was very good at 10.5, but he did walk a few too many batters, 4.2 per 9 Innings.
In his first 4 appearances in May, he performed very well, not allowing a run in 4.1 IP, giving up 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 1. Still, it was back down I-29 he went.
Coleman returned to action for the Royals on July 10th. He did not allow a run, earned or otherwise, until August 23rd, in his 19th appearance. He allowed his second, and only other run, on September 28th. That’s it – 2 runs in 27 appearances and 29.2 innings. That is good for a sparkling .61 ERA and .843 WHIP.
Those numbers are obviously outstanding but was his performance real, or was it based on luck?
For the most part, Coleman’s gains were realistic and not based on luck. He had a slight drop in his K/9 from 2012, but his 2013 9.7 matched his ratio from his rookie year in 2011. His BABiP was pretty low in 2013 at .261, but that matched his career BABiP so it is very likely that is a maintainable number for Coleman.
There are two areas in which Coleman made great strides. First, he quit walking batters. His BB/9 was 3.9 in 2011, and 4.6 in 2012, neither of which is an acceptable number. That ratio plummeted to 1.8 in 2013. He walked just 6 batters in his nearly 30 innings. If this is a newly discovered skill set, and not just a prolonged hot streak, then Coleman’s value as a reliever is going to just go up.
The second area in which Coleman made huge strides was in keeping the ball out of the air, and in the ball park. According to Fangraphs.com, Coleman was a fly ball pitcher in the first 2 years of his career. In 2011, he had a FB% of 56.8, and a GB% of 30.4. In 2012, his FB% was 57.5% and his GB% was just 20%. He turned everything around last season with a 34.3 FB% and a 41.4% GB%. He went from being an extreme fly ball pitcher to moderate ground ball pitcher.
These are good things for Coleman. He only allowed 1 home run in 2013 compared to the 19 he gave up total in his first 2 seasons, in 110.2 innings. That is a huge improvement.
Coleman has done some things in his career very well. With runners in scoring position, opposing batters hit only .156, and that number drops to .114 with 2 outs. With the bases loaded, hitters only bat .091 against him.
That being said, he did allow 6 of the 20 base runners he inherited last year to score. You really want to see this number a little lower, as this was one of the few areas in which his numbers dipped. In his first 2 seasons, he allowed 12 of 68 inherited runners to score, or 17.6%.
He also doesn’t have horrible lefty/righty splits either. He is quite good against right handed batters, who hit just .187 against him, with a .287 OBP. Left handers hit .244 with a higher .327 OBP. There wasn’t any improvement against lefties in 2013, but he still pitches well enough against them that he can be relied upon to face lefties in key situations.
The problem for Coleman will be proving these gains are for real, and not a one year anomaly. It will be nearly impossible for him to match his ERA from a year ago, but if he can maintain the gains he made in his lower walk rate, and continue to evolve into a ground ball pitcher in the major leagues, then he could end up being that 8th inning bridge to closer Greg Holland.
He is just another weapon, and a potent one at that, out of the bullpen. Ned Yost and the organization need to show more faith in Coleman in 2014. His numbers indicate that he has earned it.