KC Royals: 2019 team could be competitive if bullpen improves

It’s still very early in the 2019 season, but one thing is for sure: The KC Royals could be a really fun team to watch, if the bullpen was more effective.

After a three-game sweep of the Cleveland Indians, the Kansas City Royals suddenly don’t look as hopeless. It’s definitely worth noting that the American League Central has been one of the (if not THE) weakest divisions in all of Major League Baseball over the past few seasons, but still… Let’s take sweeps whenever we can get them!

This weekend proved a point that many Royals fans had already picked up on. This team can be fun. They can get on base, steal bags, score runs, and hit dingers. The problem hasn’t been putting up runs or even getting on base. The issue has been the bullpen’s inability to protect leads.

This past weekend, however, the bullpen improved! They did nearly blow Sunday’s game, but on Friday and Saturday, they held the lead and looked good for the first time all season. If only the Royals could get the bullpen we saw on Friday and Saturday more often, the Kansas City Royals could actually be competitive this season.

This time last year, the bullpen was bad, but the Royals also struggled at the plate. Scoring even just one run was an accomplishment and this year’s team has shown that they can put runs on the board.

Out of the usual starters, Alex Gordon leads the team with a .360 batting average, followed by Whit Merrifield with .328 and Adalberto Mondesi with .286. These are the three leadoff men and they’ve done their jobs beautifully to start the season.

Scoring runs hasn’t been a problem for this team and that’s a huge step-up from a season ago. The Royals have yet to be shutout in a game this season and have scored two runs or fewer just one time (that came April 7th at Detroit in a 3-1 loss).

The starting rotation has been serviceable, albeit not great. Brad Keller picked up where he left off in 2018 and is looking like a future ace for the Kansas City Royals with his 2.45 ERA in four starts thus far. Keller threw 118 pitches on Friday and it shows that Ned Yost is trusting his starters to pitch deeper into games (probably helps that the bullpen is so bad, but I digress).

The rest of the rotation has been, as I said earlier, serviceable. Jakob Junis is off to a unique start, as his numbers aren’t great, but he’s still having a decent season two weeks in. He allowed five runs on Sunday, but struck out four batters and threw 106 pitches.

Homer Bailey had himself a gem of a start on Saturday, blanking the Tribe through seven innings. He’s hit or miss, but he was definitely a hit this past weekend. Jorge Lopez is looking good early on as well. Once Danny Duffy gets back, is this rotation one we could see for the duration of the season?

The bullpen has been the biggest eyesore this season, with Ian Kennedy being the shining star out of the pen. Kennedy has a 1.13 ERA in eight innings.

The rest of his fellow relievers have ERAs over three (Scott Barlow has a 3.60 ERA and Jake Diekman sits at 3.86) and most are at a 5.00+ ERA. Even fan favorite Richard Lovelady has an ugly ERA now (16.20, but all of that came from a bad outing on Sunday).

It’s still early in the season, but if this bullpen could figure out their command and get outs, this team could surprise some people.

With the bats putting the ball in play, the base runners swiping bags, and the starting pitchers going deeper into games, this team is a fun one to watch. If only the bullpen could improve just a little bit, the 2019 KC Royals could be somewhat competitive this season and no one would have predicted that.