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Royals Ups and Downs: The not-so-early edition

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The Royals have allowed more runs than they’ve scored in May

Kansas City Royals v New York Yankees
Danny Duffy wields the ace number, again
Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

What if I told you that the Royals had a winning record in May? It’s true! They’re 14-11 so far. They’re also the worst team in the AL, still. They followed up the first week of Esky Magic with a lot more ho-hum play. The pitching has predictably declined, but for the most part it’s still keeping them in games.

The offense, unfortunately, can still only score runs via the home run. While they’re on pace to break the team home run record and Moose and Salvy are both trying to do their best McGwire/Sosa impersonation in miniature it just isn’t enough.

Without further ado, your Royals Ups and Downs for the pitchers spanning May 1 - May 27. All stats are courtesy of fangraphs.com.

The Good

SP Danny Duffy - 0.8 fWAR, 2.8 K/BB, 2 HR

The first start Danny made over this stretch was not good, allowing 6 runs in only 5 innings. Since then he hasn’t pitched fewer than 6.2 innings in a start and he’s not allowed more than 2 runs. He’s even struck out 23 over 21 innings in his last 3 starts. Oh yeah, and he stopped giving up home runs again, at least for a while. He’s looking like the ace the Royals extended in the off-season, again. Or at least that’s what we’d say if we knew nothing about his start yesterday in Cleveland. And for our purposes today, we don’t! So he’s great! Go Duffy!

SP Nate Karns - 0.8 fWAR, 12.90 K/9, 5.2 IP/GS

Nate Karns has been worth just as much WAR as Duffy over the last 4 weeks. He’s done it in one fewer starts, too, since he was injured during his last start. He’s still striking out everyone but stopped walking the rest and and is generally making GMDM’s trade for him look really, really good. His only flaw is that he runs up a high pitch count; he hasn’t pitched more than 6.1 innings in a start yet, this year. Here’s hoping the injury is as minor as everyone is saying and he can work on dominating for longer stretches when he returns.

RP Mike Minor - 0.00 ERA, 11.93 K/9, 0.63 WHIP

Mike Minor is starting to remind me of the left-handed, more versatile Wade Davis. Over the last 4 weeks he has made 10 appearances. 6 of those were for more than 1 inning and he never allowed more than a single base runner in an outing. As you can see he has also not allowed a single run and he’s struck out plenty, too. It doesn’t get more dominant than that.

RP Joakim Soria - 0.75 ERA, 11.25 K/9, 1.08 WHIP

Joakim has been nearly as dominant as Minor from the right side. He has allowed 1 run in his last 12 appearances. He’s striking people out, he isn’t walking any, and he’s getting plenty of ground balls.

SP Jason Vargas - 3.12 ERA, 25.9 GB%, 1.77 K/BB

Jason Vargas had one really bad start and two starts that could have gone better. But before those he had 3 very good starts, and so even though his ERA for the last 4 weeks is triple the ERA he had in the first 4, he’s still doing just fine. A couple warning signs are the reduced strike out and ground ball rates, but he’s had moderate success without them before and may yet, again.

The Bad

RP Kelvin Herrera - 7 SD, 2 MD, 12.00 K/9

A lot of people are experiencing angst about Kelvin Herrera and it’s true that his ERA does not look good, right now. But there is good news! Since May began Kelvin has struck our more batters than innings pitched, again. He’s also kept his walk rate to about half what it was in 2013-2015 for the second season in a row. The BABIP against him in the last month has been over .400 and his HR/FB rate is probably due to come down a bit, too. His shutdown/meltdown ratio is pretty promising, too. If he were Wade Davis maybe he wouldn’t have any melt downs but he’s doing better than you think, and he’ll probably be even better soon.

RP Travis Wood - 5.23 ERA, 0.86 K/BB

Wood looks better than he did last time. That’s more a testament to how bad he looked last time because he still looks like he really doesn’t belong on this roster. He’s walked more than he’s struck out and he’s been directly involved with opponents scoring runs in 5 of his 7 appearances

SP Jason Hammel - 2.16 HR/9, 2.16 BB/9

Hammel stopped walking everyone but lost his ability to prevent home runs since he last appeared here. He’s also had kind of a weird stretch: the first start in this group was against Cleveland where he first switched to pitching out of the stretch full time and went 6 innings only allowing 1 run. Problem solved! Only he continued to pitch exclusively from the stretch against Tampa Bay and New York and allowed 12 runs over 13 innings in those two starts. He had his next start pushed back by rain and various roster maneuvers so that his fourth and final start over this period was again against New York. This time he pitched 6 innings and allowed only 3 runs, a quality start. Obviously it would be nice if he’d done better, but he also struck out a season high 7 batters and frequently made them look foolish with well-placed fastballs and nice breaking stuff. It’s possible he and Eiland have it figured out this time - they adjusted the way he comes set to aim him more at the plate - and that could mean a huge improvement in his numbers.

RP Seth Manness - 3.60 HR/9, 4 GP

Much ado was made of Seth Manness return to baseball without getting Tommy John surgery after suffering a UCL injury. The good news is that he is pitching, he even went back to back days when New York came to KC a couple weeks ago. The bad news is that he’s allowed 3 runs in 4 appearances, so far, including a pair of solo home runs. It’s a great step forward for baseball medicine but it would have been nice if he were also performing effectively for the team.

RP Peter Moylan - 12.27 ERA, 6.14 BB/9, 70.8 GB%

The good news is that Moylan’s groundball percentage is back up, the bad news is that he’s now walking everyone and still giving up too many runs. Ned has stopped using him quite so much and 9 of his 10 runs allowed came in 2 different appearances where the game was likely already lost anyway. He does have 6 scoreless appearances in his last 9 - including Saturday when he pitched two-thirds of an inning while facing a single batter - and his .348 BABIP allowed seems absurd for a man who has a 70% groundball rate. Look for him to rebound.

P Chris Young - .354 BABIP, 4.30 BB/9, 7.36 ERA

It’s time to face the music; Chris Young has lost his ability to fool hitters. The invisiball is now clearly visible to everyone. Over the last month Chris Young made 2 starts and 2 relief appearances, allowing 12 runs in 14.1 innings on 7 walks and 4 home runs. The worst part, though, is that his BABIP remains incredibly high at .354. He is no longer a productive pitcher and can expect to be without a job as soon as the Royals find a better use for his roster spot. Potentially as soon as Karns and/or Alexander are prepared to return.

SP Ian Kennedy - 5 HR, 6 BB, 11.1 IP/3 GS

This span includes Kennedy’s last start before he got hurt as well as the two since he returned. He has not pitched more than 5 innings in any of them, he has not allowed fewer than 4 runs in any of them and he’s walked nearly as many as he has struck out. The good news is that he did look better in Friday’s start after he gave up the 4 runs early in the game, but he’s going to need to be significantly better than that if the Royals have any hope of him opting out of his contract at the end of the year.

The Incomplete

P Jake Junis - GS, 9.53 K/9, 7.94 BB/9

Last time Jake had pitched 1 game in relief and didn’t allow a run even though he walked 2. He duplicated that performance in his first appearance in May, earning his first big league win, and then added in a spot start where he went 4.2 innings and allowed only two runs while striking out 4. He also walked 3, though, which means he’s still walked 7 while striking out 6, so far this season

RP Scott Alexander - 87.5 GB%, 0 H, 0.00 ERA

Continued to deliver until injured, doing exactly what was expected of him - get groundballs, don’t allow runs. Alexander is currently rehabbing his injury in Omaha so he should be back soon.

RP Al Alburquerque - 6.75 ERA, 13.50 K/9

Al was basically the exact same guy when the Royals promoted him from the minor leagues as he was in spring training - he struck out more than his fair share while still somehow giving up way too many runs. He’s been outrighted to Omaha but he can choose to reject the assignment so it’s anyone’s guess whether he will be featured in this space again.

P Miguel Almonte - 0 GP

Miguel Almonte has been up for the last week and only finally made it into a game yesterday. It didn’t go well, but that’s after the cutoff. He was scheduled to make his first major league start in New York on Thursday, ala Eduardo Villacis, but the game was rained out. It’s possible he’ll make a start on Tuesday in place of Karns. He may also just get demoted for Karns or Junis to return and start that game, instead. Especially after pitching a long, brutal inning, yesterday.

That’s it for this week. hopefully I degraded the under-performing players on your favorite team enough that you won’t feel the need to say too many cruel things about them in the comments!