clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How has Bubba Starling looked so far this season?

Lots of strikeouts but there are some encouraging signs.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Video is hard to come by in every level below AA really.  Royals fans are fortunate to have camera feeds for almost every affiliate. Both Omaha (AAA) and Northwest Arkansas (AA) have dedicated home presentations (it's pretty standard across the board for those levels). Lexington (A Ball) shows all home games and a few other South Atlantic teams have home broadcasts too that you can watch. Idaho Falls (Advanced Rookie) has a home feed, as does every other club in the Pioneer League other than Ogden/Helena/Billings. Basically on any given night you can catch at least 3 or 4 different Royals affiliates, something that a lot of other fans of different MLB teams can't do.

Maybe you noticed I skipped Wilmington (A+) above? That's because they do not have a home feed. Myrtle Beach, Carolina, and Frederick are the only Carolina League teams with broadcasts, so of course you can only catch the Blue Rocks live when they are visiting those clubs. It just so happened that Wilmington opened their season playing Myrtle Beach, Carolina, and Frederick (unfortunately Frederick was at home) so we have video of those first two series.

While it's just 7 games in, Bubba Starling has been in good those just 7 games (which is more preferable than not being good, no matter the sample size). So far he's hitting .276/.344/.483 with 1 HR and 5 RBI. That's good for a 141 wRC+, but it isn't without its warts. Starling has 15 strikeouts in 32 PA (a 46.9 K%), meanwhile it's being propped up by a .538 BABIP.

His good start also represents a change of pace as he isn't really accustom to good beginnings.

First 7 games

Year Triple Slash BABIP wRC+
2013 .077/.143/.077 0.133 -32
2014 .107/.242/.250 0.111 46
2015 .276/.344/.483 0.538 141

He's been 173% better to start this year than he did in 2013.

In March, Kevin examined Bubba Starling's affinity for striking out and last week Max asked what can you make out of just a few games? These are both relevant thoughts to this early Starling. It's just 7 games. He's been very good for those 7 games, but he's still been Bubba Starling (striking out).

I'm sure I've written more digital ink than anyone about Starling striking out, and I'm going to spill some more today. I mentioned above the video features that allow fans to know their clubs prospects better than they normally can through box scores and rankings. So we can at least get a view of the good start Starling.

This is from his first game of the season and his first at bat. He drives a 1-1 changeup that's left up into left center for a standup double.

In his next at bat he would double again. Here's the whole appearance.

He lays off a first pitch fastball that just reads ball out of Duane Underwood's hand

He follows that up with a big whiff on an 85 MPH slider that's really over the plate.

That's a classic Starling example. It's a hittable pitch in a good spot for a batter, but he gets beat on the slice. You can see the easy bat speed but he takes just a pure hack looking to hit it out of the park rather than make contact.

Underwood then throws him a curveball over the plate and Starling lets the ball travel deeper into the zone and uses his bat speed to catch up to it and skip it down the line. A year ago that's a pitch that Bubba probably swings late on for strike two.

Now how about his first strikeout of the season?

First pitch fastball inside

Another fastball that's in a nice part of the zone, but Starling doesn't attack.

Starling then takes a big missed hack on a looper that he timed right, but the tail break fools him.

Finally Underwood goes back to the same well and throws a curveball that's at his knees before it even breaks, but Starling chases.

Starling has been aggressive his whole career, but this time he lets a hittable fastball go, and two pitches later walks bat to the bench after coming up empty on back-to-back curveballs.

The next day Starling would go down swinging three times.

Like this

And this

And that

There was some positives out of this game though. Starling took a 4-pitch walk and also did this.

The ball bounces off the left fielders glove, but it's still a home run (and would have been regardless of the fielder).

Also he flashed some skill on the other side of the ball.

The next day didn't get any better as he'd bring home a platinum sombrero, striking out in all five of his plate appearances.






Seven of his last eight plate appearances, down via strikeout.

Monday would end better for Starling though. Traveling to Carolina, Bubba would reach base four times, including an intentional walk.

First on this single

Then on this RBI single (beautiful camera angle)

And then this dying quail

It's still early in the year, and that's a good and bad thing. Starling has been good early on, but it's only seven games and there is still another 120+ games to go. Bubba has tweaked his mechanics and Royals brass said they were impressed with his approach in some plate appearances in spring (read that as approach, not the result) so maybe this could be the new look Starling. He's still striking out, but his K% will regress (no, he won't strike out 46% of the time) and some of those strikeouts have been on good called strikes where you'd like to see Starling protect better.

It remains to be seen how long Starling will even stay in Wilmington as he's spent over a full season there already. You'd like Starling to actually be more aggressive at times. He's someone who gets in a lot of 2 strike counts and as witnessed above he's let some solid pitches go by on his way back to the bench. You'd also like to see more power from him given his aptitude to strike out. Wilmington suppresses offense heavily and is one of the worst home run parks in the minors, so a move to NWA may help, but that would also mean he's facing betters pitchers which could offset the park adjustment.