Utilizing high leverage relievers early in non-traditional roles
Already early in the 2020 season, we have seen Matheny utilize the best arms in the bullpen early in games to get out of high leverage situations without taking more damage. Matheny has used relievers Tyler Zuber, Scott Barlow, Ian Kennedy, Trevor Rosenthal, and Greg Holland in such situations.
Over the past few years, there has been a shift in baseball about which reliever is more important and just how important is the save statistic. I support the position where a manager should use his best reliever when the game is on the line, regardless if that moment is in the fourth inning or the ninth inning.
Getting seasoned veterans in the bullpen to buy into this strategy is delicate. Matheny appears to have gotten his veteran bullpen arms to buy into this strategy. The 2020 Royals roster is set-up for Matheny to successfully use his bullpen in this way.
Having five pitchers capable of handling high leverage situations is a huge advantage in the modern era of baseball. Josh Staumont, Kyle Zimmer, and Richard Lovelady are each capable in their own right to develop into reliable high-leverage relievers as well if they can throw strikes consistently with their nasty stuff.
Jorge Soler moved to second spot in the batting order
The most recent development I have been hoping for took place in Monday night’s game against the Detroit Tigers. Jorge Soler, the Royals most dangerous hitter, was moved into the number two spot in the batting order.
Moving Soler, who has outstanding power and good plate discipline, into the two spot in the order will allow him to get more plate appearances each game. Another side-effect of having Soler so high up in the order, is the effect on the hitters before and after him seeing more fastballs.
On Monday night, Whit Merrifield – who hits number one in the order – had an outstanding game coming a triple shy of the cycle. Adalberto Mondesi, who for the most part struggled in Cleveland, made much better contact against Tigers hitting third in the order.
Moving forward with Soler in the two spot of the order will create more scoring opportunities for the Royals. Soler is adept at getting on base and provides protection for the Royals best hitter Merrifield. If he continues to get pitched around with a steady diet of breaking balls, then the Royals number three hitter will get more fastballs as a result.
For Matheny, this is best way to utilize the players in his batting order. The eight and nine hitters should also see more of an effect as well with pitchers because of the protection Merrifield and Soler provide hitting at the top of the lineup.