In a return to the horrible pitching staffs of the early and mid-2000s, Royal pitchers, and Royal starters especially, just aren't striking anyone out. Unlike some of those teams, this year's squad is decent, even good, defensively. Nevertheless, day after day, night after night, the barrage of balls in play is wearing down the team's ability to prevent runs.
Overall, the pitching staff is dead last in the AL in K/9, striking out just 5.67. This is nearly a strikeout a game below the AL average of 6.65. The real damage is being done by the starters, who are collectively looking like early career Jimmy Gobble out there, striking out an amazingly low 4.58 per nine. If an individual pitcher was at that number, you'd be worried that he couldn't survive in the Major Leagues. For an entire rotation? Incredible.
Listed above are the numbers for the top six Royal pitchers in terms of innings pitched, though the problem is near universal. Adcock is next on the list, and sports a 5.5 K/9. While Crow & Soria have good strikeout numbers, Duffy (5.9) is also iffy.
Hochevar's 3.9 K/9 is frankly, a little terrifying. The last two seasons, he was at 6.7 and 6.6, so this is a significant drop. Thankfully, his walks are also a tick down, but pitchers who don't strike out 4 hitters per nine tend to quietly disappear.
The relievers have been ok, posting a 7.48 number, which is good for 8th in the AL. That's not a great number either, but it's also not horrible. It's functional, although also indicative of the fact that the bullpen, after a hot start, is far from a true asset. Still, given the difference in innings, the bullpen isn't the main culprit here.
In the early days of the Moore regime, the biggest change at the Major League level came with the pitching staffs. After years of consistently having the 13th or 14th "best" pitching staffs in the AL, the Royals quickly jumped up into the mediocre range, thanks in part to having more pitchers who could miss bats. In large part, that has been why the team has been able to avoid losing 100 games recently. This year, the Royals have fallen back to their old position as the highest ERA staff in the league.
While defense is always important (though not always necessary, if you have enough hitting and strikeouts) it looks increasingly critical for the Royals headed into 2012. I'm sure the pitching staff will have many new faces appear over the next year, but it remains to be seen where the quality is going to come from. Just look at this season, Duffy hasn't been a disaster, but it isn't like he's turned the staff around either.