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Walks and Inconsistency Preventing the Royal Bullpen From Being Great

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True story: when I set out to write this column, I had a working title of "The Astounding Royal Bullpen." I assumed that the stats for the relief pitchers would be awesome and that the bullpen's success was a major reason why the Royals have been able to start 12-10.

But that isn't quite the case. When you look at the numbers, the Royal bullpen hasn't actually been very good.

Bullpen # MLB Rank
IP 74.1 4th
ERA 4.00 20th
K/9 6.54 25th
K/BB 1.35 28th

 

This table isn't exactly the Bayeau Tapestry, but it can tell us a few things. First of all, the bullpen has been used often this season. Although the Royals are 4th in innings pitched, effectively they are one of the most taxed units in the game, as the most used 'pen, the Reds, is at 75.2 innings. All that work has likely lessened the effectiveness of pitchers like Tim Collins, while also forcing Yost to use lesser pitchers more than he'd like.

The other striking thing is that the strikeout number just isn't that impressive. In fact, it isn't even good. Although Collins and Crow began the season by literally striking out everyone, the unit as a whole has slipped. Coleman may help, but it's going to take awhile before his presence can be felt.

Relatedly, the walk number is high. K/BB is a nice way of looking at how much a pitcher is in control of the pitcher/hitter battle and the Royals are falling behind there.

 

Rk Pos Age W ERA IP H R HR BB SO WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
5 CL Joakim Soria 27 1 5.59 9.2 10 7 1 5 5 1.552 9.3 0.9 4.7 4.7 1.00
6 RP Tim Collins* 21 1 4.50 12.0 12 6 0 12 17 2.000 9.0 0.0 9.0 12.8 1.42
7 RP Aaron Crow 24 2 0.00 11.2 7 0 0 4 12 0.943 5.4 0.0 3.1 9.3 3.00
8 RP Jeremy Jeffress 23 1 4.15 8.2 6 4 1 8 9 1.615 6.2 1.0 8.3 9.3 1.13
9 RP Rob Tejeda 29 0 5.06 5.1 10 3 1 2 1 2.250 16.9 1.7 3.4 1.7 0.50
Rk Pos Age W ERA IP H R HR BB SO WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
11 Nathan Adcock 23 0 3.86 7.0 9 3 2 2 0 1.571 11.6 2.6 2.6 0.0 0.00
12 Blake Wood 25 0 5.40 6.2 10 4 1 2 6 1.800 13.5 1.4 2.7 8.1 3.00
13 Kanekoa Texeira 25 0 2.84 6.1 13 2 0 3 0 2.526 18.5 0.0 4.3 0.0 0.00
14 Louis Coleman 25 0 0.00 3.0 2 0 0 1 3 1.000 6.0 0.0 3.0 9.0 3.00
Rank in 14 AL teams 4 10 4 14 12 11 11 9
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/26/2011.

 

As you can see above, the individual numbers have worsened considerably in the last fortnight. Adcock and Texeira have managed to simulate some effectiveness, despite recording no strikeouts between them. After an amazing start, Collins is now something of a walk machine. Ditto for Jeffress. Soria's struggles are well-documented.

Subjectively, I still feel that this is a plus bullpen. If the Royals have a lead in the 7th, Yost can go with Coleman/Collins/Crow/Soria in some order to close out the game. I think we all more or less like that group, despite the fact that Coleman has only pitched in three innings and everything else going on with Soria and Collins.

Nevertheless, it looks like a volatile group. The Texiera/Wood/Adcock low leverage/early innings gang doesn't appear inspiring, while the more favored pitchers come with their own questions.