Starter pitchers are pulled before third time through the lineup
The numbers do not lie, in 2019 when a starting pitcher faced a lineup for a third plate appearance, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS all went up. So far early in the 2020, Matheny has pulled his starting pitchers before they face a lineup for a third time.
He may be taking precautions with his pitching staff, given they did not have the normal preparation time to get ready for a 60-game season this summer. However, the reaction Danny Duffy gave in the first game of the season against Cleveland when he was pulled after cruising through 65 pitches before facing Cleveland gives me the indication Matheny is utilizing this data.
I hope Matheny is fluid is some of his decision making regarding this pattern. Sometimes if a starter is in a groove, they can make it through the lineup for third time.
With every game counting 2.7 times as much, making decisions based on the data is a smart approach if you are managing to win every situation.
Strict adherence to pitch counts in Opener/Bullpen games
Something new to Royals fans in 2020, will be the pitching strategy of utilizing an opener. Bullpen games are nothing new to a baseball fan, but purposefully starting an MLB game with reliever is something relatively new the Tampa Bay Rays used to success the past couple of seasons.
The Tampa Bay Rays would bring out a reliever who had good stuff to start a game. The reliever would work one or two innings before handing the ball off to another pitcher who would pitch one to two times through a batting order.
Utilizing this pitching strategy keeps your opponent from seeing a pitcher a third time at the plate. This strategy also involves a great deal of managing and knowing your pitcher’s mindset. The pitcher needs to be on his game when he enters to get the desired effect.
In game three of the opening series against the Cleveland Indians, we saw Matheny utilize the opener strategy. Matheny kept his pitchers to a strict pitch limit and pulled pitchers when they neared the pitch limit he set.
Unfortunately for the Royals, the game did not go well and they lost. Matheny will need to fine-tune his approach and which pitchers he utilizes.
Moving forward Matheny needs to narrow down his selection of an opener. Kyle Zimmer is a good candidate to fulfill this role for the Royals.
Matheny will need to have at least two options to be followers in this strategy. Ronald Bolanos and Foster Griffin were solid choices to take over this role before Griffin was pulled from Monday’s game with apparent injury.