Since the beginning of the season I have heard several people voice their displeasure with Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Kelvin Herrera. To many people that I talked to, it seemed that they could distinctly remember every time that he let in a run; but couldn’t remember any games that he was good in.
On April 23rd he gave up a run and lost the game to Cleveland. I received 2 messages within 30 seconds.
“I’m over the Herrera experiment.”
“There’s a shocker. Herrera gives up the lead.”
What I found odd, at the time, was that this was the first loss that had been credited to Herrera in 8 appearances. Looking through game logs I found that: not only was this the first loss that he got, but it was also the first time the lead had changed hands because of him. So I kept a mental note and have been checking on his progress every so often.
Since then, he has thrown 28 innings with an ERA of 1.91. Going into yesterday’s game, he had thrown the most innings of any Royals reliever. Not only has Kelvin Herrera succeeded with traditional stats, he now is the best reliever on the team at not allowing inherited runners to score—just 7 of 28 have come home against him.
That 28 inherited runners also leads the team. Aaron Crow is the closest to him with only 15 inherited runners, of which he has allowed 5 to score.
With this in mind, I went back to my 2 friends to see if I could use them as examples of fans out there that aren’t particularly thrilled with Hererra. In order of how they were quoted above, one said: “…I’m not a huge fan of Kelvin “Home Run” Herrera”. The other friend pointed out that Herrera’s biggest issue is when his fastball has no movement—hitters tend to tee off. Also, with only a fastball and change up, not having movement is a bigger deal to Herrera than it might be to another pitcher that can fall back on another pitch.
Of course, Herrera does average 99 mph on his fastball. So without any movement it’s giving a lot of added to power to a hitter. So far this year, the hitters have used that to their advantage to hit exactly 0 home runs. I believe his success at preventing the gopher ball to be mostly because he uses a split finger pitch and a curve ball to offset the fastball and change up. According to Brooks Baseball Herrera has thrown 58% fastballs, 22% change ups, 10% sinker balls, and 10% curve balls.
Guess he throws a few more pitches than my friend seems to think.
Sometimes you will hear an announce talk about the old fireman role in bullpens. Now-a-days, the Closer is typically the best relief pitcher. Before the closer came around, the best relief pitcher would come in when the game was on the line, typically when runners were on base after the start was pulled. The Royals still have a fireman. Kelvin Herrara is not the best reliever on the team, but he is the man you can count on to not fall apart when the game is on the line with runners on base.