Brad Keller

2018 Royals Pitching Statcast Leaders

We looked at the offensive players yesterday, but now we turn to the pitching staff. Cover your eyes. It’s actually not all bad. Some guys were actually pretty good. You’ll see why Brad Keller was as successful as he was last year and why Brandon Maurer, well, wasn’t. Let’s just get to it.

All these stats are from the incomparable Baseball Savant.

Exit Velocity Allowed

Player MPH
Eric Skoglund 90.7 MPH
Jake Newberry 90.5
Brian Flynn 90.5
Brandon Maurer 90.0
Trevor Oaks 90.0
Scott Barlow 89.9
Jerry Vasto 89.1
Jason Hammel 88.8
Ian Kennedy 88.8
Ben Lively 88.7
Burch Smith 88.7
Royals Average 88.6
Glenn Sparkman 88.6
Heath Fillmyer 88.3
Jakob Junis 88.2
Danny Duffy 88.2
Kevin McCarthy 87.9
Jason Adam 87.9
Brad Keller 87.5
MLB Average 87.3
Wily Peralta 87.2
Tim Hill 86.4

So yeah, that’s not great. If you’re getting strikeouts, you can live with getting hit a little harder because you’re getting hit less frequently, but for guys like Skoglund and Hammel and Lively, that’s not great. It’s also not great to have two pitchers below the MLB average. If you’re looking for some optimism, well, look elsewhere.

Hard Hit %

Player %
Jake Newberry 51.3%
Eric Skoglund 45.2
Ben Lively 42.0
Burch Smith 40.9
Brian Flynn 40.6
Wily Peralta 40.0
Brandon Maurer 39.9
Jason Hammel 39.7
Jorge Lopez 37.6
Royals Average 37.1
Glenn Sparkman 36.8
Trevor Oaks 36.7
Danny Duffy 36.7
Ian Kennedy 36.3
Jason Adam 35.6
Jakob Junis 35.6
Kevin McCarthy 34.7
MLB Average 34.1
Heath Fillmyer 34.0
Scott Barlow 34.0
Jerry Vasto 33.3
Brad Keller 31.3
Tim Hill 29.3

So here’s what I’m learning. Tim Hill limits good contact pretty well. I was pretty hard on him because I just didn’t see it and a guy who isn’t good against righties should be better than he is against lefties. But he gets an awful lot of weak contact and he’s capable of getting the strikeout. Maybe I’m underestimating him. Also, Keller had a really nice season.

Barrel %

Player %
Jason Adam 13.8%
Jerry Vasto 13.3
Trevor Oaks 12.2
Scott Barlow 19.6
Jake Newberry 10.3
Wily Peralta 10.0
Burch Smith 9.3
Ian Kennedy 8.9
Jakob Junis 8.6
Jason Hammel 8.5
Eric Skoglund 7.8
Royals Average 7.5
Jorge Lopez 7.5
Danny Duffy 7.3
Kevin McCarthy 7.1
Ben Lively 7.0
Brian Flynn 6.4
MLB Average 6.1
Heath Fillmyer 5.9
Brad Keller 4.6
Tim Hill 3.6
Glenn Sparkman 3.0

I kind of felt like Sparkman never really got squared up, even when he struggled, and he did allow the lowest percentage of barrels of anyone. It’s also no surprise that the top of the list has Adam, who I love and hope he can turn it around, but woof. Again, man, Brad Keller had a really nice season.

Launch Angle

Player Degrees
Jerry Vasto 28.8°
Jason Adam 25.8
Jake Newberry 18.6
Ian Kennedy 17.1
Danny Duffy 16.4
Ben Lively 15.9
Scott Barlow 15.5
Jason Hammel 14.8
Jakob Junis 13.4
Eric Skoglund 13.4
Burch Smith 13.2
Royals Average 11.8
Heath Fillmyer 11.7
Trevor Oaks 11.3
Brandon Maurer 11.2
MLB Average 10.9
Jorge Lopez 9.7
Glenn Sparkman 8.7
Wily Peralta 8.2
Brian Flynn 7.6
Brad Keller 6.6
Kevin McCarthy -1.3
Tim Hill -2.4

So the biggest takeaway here is that Hill is a ground ball monster, which we knew. He’s no Scott Alexander who was at -5.8° this year, but to be negative at all is pretty impressive as he was one of just seven pitchers with 140 batted ball events or more with a negative average launch angle. And, hey, look at that. McCarthy was there too. Oh and there’s another Keller sighting on a positive leaderboard.

Whiff %

Player %
Jake Newberry 26.5%
Jason Adam 26.4
Brandon Maurer 26.2
Trevor Oaks 24.8
Wily Peralta 24.4
Burch Smith 24.2
MLB Average 24.0
Scott Barlow 23.9
Danny Duffy 23.4
Jakob Junis 22.2
Heath Fillmyer 22.0
Glenn Sparkman 22.0
Royals Average 21.5
Brad Keller 21.3
Jason Hammel 20.8
Kevin McCarthy 20.4
Jorge Lopez 20.3
Ben Lively 20.0
Tim Hill 19.4
Brian Flynn 19.4
Ian Kennedy 19.3
Jerry Vasto 17.0
Eric Skoglund 17.0

The Royals offense swings and misses too much and their pitchers don’t get enough swings and misses. You can live with some guys who get a ton of grounders like Keller, Hill and McCarthy, but there are just too many guys on this list who are either too close to or below league average. If the Royals are going to be good again, they need to get their swing and miss bullpen back first and then find a starter or two who can be above average because this just isn’t going to work in this era of baseball.

Weak Contact %

Player %
Wily Peralta 7.8%
Jerry Vasto 6.7
Tim Hill 5.0
MLB Average 4.8
Jason Adam 4.6
Kevin McCarthy 4.4
Jason Hammel 4.2
Trevor Oaks 4.1
Burch Smith 3.8
Danny Duffy 3.6
Jorge Lopez 3.5
Jakob Junis 3.5
Ian Kennedy 3.5
Brad Keller 3.4
Royals Average 3.4
Ben Lively 3.0
Glenn Sparkman 3.0
Eric Skoglund 2.3
Brandon Maurer 1.9
Brian Flynn 1.6
Heath Fillmyer 1.2
Jake Newberry 0.0
Scott Barlow 0.0

They don’t get many swings and misses and didn’t have many pitchers who elicited weak contact either. If you’re not going to do one, you need to do the other. And they didn’t in 2018. It’s probably no surprise to see Peralta at the top with his heavy fastball, but I would have thought Keller would be a little higher on this list. To see Adam near the top tells me he needs to find a middle ground more often, though him toward the top of the list says more about the Royals than him probably.

So yeah, the pitching isn’t what you’d call good. There is some hope for improvement as the team posted a 4.26 ERA from August 1st on and struck out hitters on par with their season average, but walked fewer and gave up way fewer homers per game. And even more optimism comes from a 3.79 September ERA, though that came with a decreased strikeout total, so maybe there shouldn’t be the same optimism there. Either way, expect some new faces in that bullpen and maybe even the rotation to help turn things around in 2019, but it might be a couple years before we see a real change there.

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