The Kansas City Royals have been one of the more flashier teams during this year's trade deadline. After acquiring a trio of pitchers from the Padres and Melky Cabrera, the Royals have sent a strong message that they are going for it. The trade that kicked things off was the six-player deal with the San Diego Padres. The headliner appeared to be Trevor Cahill. But the piece that enticed me the most was Brandon Maurer.
Many look at Maurer's ERA and see a disastrous season at folds for him. Look deeper though and you'll see that it's been inflated by three separate outings in which he combined to allow 11 earned runs in in 0.2 innings.
Maybe I'm sounding a bit arbitrary, but there is more too it. Maurer's peripherals have been pretty solid this year. Take this for example. Among relievers with at least 30 innings pitched, Maurer is one of just eleven pitchers with a strikeout-per-nine innings rate greater than 9.0 and a walks per-nine-innings rate less than 2.0. Maurer has by far the highest ERA among the group, currently standing at 5.49. The next highest is Will Harris at 2.86.
So why is Maurer having a bad year with the ERA? His results could be the product of bad luck. His left-on-base rate is below his career norm of 65%, currently at 58.2%. His opposing line of .405/.447/.619 with RISP should come back down to earth too. He has been a bit BABIP-unlucky as well. Despite his hard contact percentage decreasing 12 percentage points from last year, his BABIP has jumped from .296 to .325.
My point is, the dude has been a bit unlucky.
And it's not just the fact that Maurer is pitching better than his ERA suggests that gets me excited. I love his stuff.
The fastball is tantalizing, using a combo of speed and spin (spin rate on fastball ranks in the top sixth of baseball).
He can straight blow it by hitters sometimes. Here's 100 MPH right by Freddy Galvis.
Maurer isn't having quite the success he had with his slider last year (.224 BA in 2016, .325 in 2017). Nonetheless, his slider does have some snap on it, freezing hitters at times.
He works this hard changeup down low with some fade. Opponents are batting .222 (6 for 27) off of it this year.
What this means
I think the Royals got themselves a guy that is due for some good fortune. I think he's someone that can provide some serious contributions in the bridge to Herrera this year. Another big thing with Maurer is the control and cheap contract he comes with. He's not due to become a free agent until 2019.
Maurer's probably lined to jump into a setup role next year and can take over the closers role at any time, if needed in the future. The Royals grabbed one of the more intriguing relievers in all of baseball, controlling him until 2019. For a team that has traditionally succeeded through a dominant bullpen, this is an encouraging development.