Optimism is so last month.
The least pessimistic opinions currently circulating about the Kansas City Royals still involve some nervous hand-wringing. The Royals are being soundly bashed across local and national baseball networks.
Their offensive approach isn’t working. Their best hitters are floundering. ESPN just told fans NOT to expect the Royals to improve. They are playing so badly that it feels like a dereliction of duty not to throw a few cheap jabs while they’re pinned at the bottom of this media dogpile.
One problem for baseball writers is that there are so many legitimate problems to point out, it’s difficult to isolate a target and leave some fresh bruises. However, one area of analysis has been largely ignored: the bullpen. The Royals bullpen has been thrashed in social media circles as ineffective, but Twitter and Facebook’s nature do not lend themselves to the publication of robust statistical research.
We know the bullpen is struggling. At the time of this writing, they’ve allowed an astounding 71% of inherited runners to score. The average is around 30%. Even after the exemplary one-inning performances of Greg Holland and Wade Davis against the Astros, the bullpen still has a bloated 4.76 ERA.
To simplify their woes into a single statement, the bullpen isn’t throwing strikes. They rank 26th in pitches thrown in the strike zone with 44.3%. Only Kelvin Herrera has over a 50% Zone% (53.2). The Royals bullpen also ranks dead last in first-pitch strikes with 47.7%.
Naturally, this has led to hitter’s counts and walks. Out of 130 batters faced, the bullpen has already allowed 17 walks in 28 1/3 innings pitched. By comparison, the starting rotation has walked only 19 of the 309 batters they’ve faced.
Too bad we continue to repeat ourselves by saying that the Royals need to improve [insert one of their many problems here] in order to get back on track, but here we are at the end of another article, record skipping. The Kansas City Royals bullpen needs to start throwing pitches in the zone and stop giving opposing teams an opportunity keep innings alive. It has blown up too many times already.