Joakim Soria had a poor season debut last Sunday against the Mets, and again on Tuesday night against Houston, he wobbled, allowing a walk and a hit before escaping the inning scoreless. Through 3 2/3 innings this year he has an ugly ERA of 9.82 with a WHIP of 2.455. The Royals brought Soria back this year on a three-year, $24 million deal, but his shakiness in early games has already brought fans calling for his removal as the eighth inning setup man.
The hottest take on Soria was expressed by afternoon sports talk host Kevin Kietzman of WHB 810 in an interview with Frank Boal.
"Is there a chance Joakim Soria is flat done and they just threw $24 million down the drain?"
This was before his outing against Houston, after he had seen Soria pitch in two games. In fairness, that sentiment is not a completely unusual opinion among Royals fans right now.
5 years later, Soria still sucks.— Tyler Paulson (@Tpaulson1three) April 4, 2016
Too late to release Soria and get our money back?— Coach Jason Catlin (@CoachJCatlin) April 9, 2016
810 caller: "Send Joakim Soria to Omaha, don't play him for a month, and when he comes back up, only use him if the game is over." #Royals— Ryan Landreth (@ryan_landreth) April 11, 2016
It is April, and time for the annual tradition of some (a minority, to be sure) Royals fans freaking out over some wobbly performances. The Royals are not a team that traditionally blows opponents out of the water. They win a lot, to be sure, but the games are usually hard-fought squeakers. The Royals were 23-17 in one-run games last year, the second-best record in the American League, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
So when a reliever has trouble, it is amplified. Royals fans are also accustomed to a dominating bullpen, so anything less than a 1-2-3 inning is cause for concern. The thing it, Royals relievers struggle every April, and by the end of the year, more often than not, everything is fine. Everything is more than fine, everything is fantastic.
Greg Holland had some early struggles in April of 2013. He blew his second outing of the year, allowing three runs against the Phillies, then had to be bailed out after allowing two hits in a one-run game the next night. He escaped unscathed in his next outing, despite walking two and allowing one hit in an inning of work. His ERA was still at 9.00 in mid-April.
Greg Holland sucks. #royals— Chris Elliott (@Chakaman34) April 17, 2013
Greg Holland= worst closer in the league. #smh— Caleb Rothacher (@calebroth7) April 7, 2013
Hey Greg Holland, enjoy your trip to Omaha, #FuckingBum— Josh Storey (@josh_storey) April 7, 2013
In the next five months of the season, Greg Holland would give up five runs - total. He would end the season with a 1.21 ERA and a franchise-record 47 saves. If only the Royals had given up on him in April!
In April of 2014, it was Kelvin Herrera who had a few rough outings. He gave up two runs in a blowout win over the Rays and a run on two walks and a hit in a 10-1 blow out loss against the Twins two nights later. Less than two weeks later, he was tagged by Jason Kipnis for a game-winning double to give Herrera the loss. His ERA at that point stood at 3.38.
Can anyone explain to me why Kelvin "I know I can throw harder coach" Herrera is still on the Royals roster? 2 four pitch walks....UGH!— Brian Reel (@reel_brian) April 30, 2014
@McCulloughStar this is the Kelvin you will grow to dislike. He is good for atleast a one run unless were up by 6— Joe C (@tallguy86) April 24, 2014
Kelvin would give up eight runs....the rest of the season. That covered 62 innings, giving him a minuscule ERA of 1.16 over that stretch and 1.41 overall. I think he figured things out eventually.
Look, the Royals know a little something about putting bullpens together. They have a bit of a track record now.
|Year||AL Bullpen ERA Rank|
Perhaps all this bullpen success has spoiled Royals fans who expect perfection every time out from their bullpen. Wade Davis has set the bar impossibly high. Here is a list of pitchers in Major League history who have thrown back-to-back 1.00 ERA seasons with at least 50 innings pitched - Wade Davis. THAT'S IT. THAT'S THE LIST. He is beyond compare.
Joakim Soria is a very good relief pitcher. He had a 2.53 ERA last year with nearly a strikeout per inning. Opponents hit just .222/.281/.347 against him in 2015. Among relievers with at least 400 games pitched, his 2.64 career ERA ranks ninth - in baseball history. He has a bit of a track record too. And he's not someone pushing retirement age either, at age 31 he is throwing harder than ever.
Relievers can be volatile however, and there is a possibility that Soria has lost it. There is room for concern about Soria at this point, after all, he is a two-time Tommy John surgery survivor and has not pitched particularly well the first week. But a rush to judgment should not come after less than four innings of work. Relievers slump just like any pitcher or hitter slumps, they just have their mistakes magnified.
Chill out, Royals fans. This bullpen is good. Very good. Ned Yost knows what he's doing. He has the ring to prove it. And he didn't win it making rash decisions after one week of play. Let the season play out. Trust the process.