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
|Eric Skoglund||90.7 MPH|
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 %
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.
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.
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.
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 %
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.