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Ups and Downs: One week left edition

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There are far more pitchers than normal. Too bad there weren’t more good ones.

Houston Astros v Kansas City Royals
For the second straight month, Jake Junis is the best pitcher on the Royals’ staff.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Over the last thirty days the Royals have a 5.52 ERA. The entire pitching staff has a combined 1 fWAR. The starter in the lead art above was worth 0.8 fWAR all on his own, which means every pitcher who pitched for the Royals this month outside of Jake Junis was worth a combined 0.2 fWAR. In other words the Royals’ pitching staff for the last month was the equivalent of AAA pitching.

Still there were some good performers. If the Royals fail to follow through on the miraculous comeback plan that many of us are feverishly writing and re-writing with every loss there is still a tiny glimmer of hope for next season and the years to come. If the Royals do follow through... well, they’ll have about four pitchers they can rely on in the playoffs, barring injury.

The stats, as ever, are courtesy of FanGraphs. The dates being evaluated are August 27 - September 23.

Incomplete

RP Brian Flynn - Key Stats: 0 K, 0 BB, 2.1 IP

I don’t care who you are, it’s really hard to pitching 2.1 innings without striking out or walking anyone. I do believe this is the first time we’ve come across the phenomenon this season where a pitcher has appeared here and recorded neither of those things.

RP Mike Morin - Key Stats: 11.57 K/9, 2.1 IP, 0.00 ERA

Morin has looked pretty good in his extremely small sample size with the Royals. It will be interesting to see if this leads to his return, next season.

RP Joakim Soria - Key Stats: 12 K/9, 3 IP, 0.00 ERA

Remember when everyone wanted to release Soria? Now everyone celebrates his return as if they were Ewoks after the battle of Endor. I told you he wasn’t as bad as you thought.

Bad

P Trevor Cahill - Key Stats: 7.15 ERA, 11 BB, 9 K

None of this is new to any of you. Cahill has been the worst pitcher on the staff since the Royals traded for him in hopes he would stabilize the rotation. What a mess.

SP Ian Kennedy - Key Stats: 5 HR, 6 K, 7.71 ERA

Kennedy has been hurt and bad for approximately 90% of the season. The Royals lack of depth right now means that even though both are still true, he has stayed in the rotation for the last month.

RP Brandon Maurer - Key Stats: 9.39 ERA, 7.20 FIP

I think this might be the first time all season that any split of Brandon’s has resulted in a FIP lower than his ERA. Turns out that wasn’t a good thing.

P Onelki Garcia - Key Stats: 13.50 ERA, 5 BB, 2 HR, 2 K

Only had two appearances, allowed four runs to score before getting his second out in both of them. He did have an above average groundball rate. I doubt that will comfort him when he realizes he will almost certainly never make it to the big leagues again, though.

P Andres Machado - Key Stats: 22.09 ERA, 3 BB, 2 HR, 1 K

Are you seeing a pattern, yet? Far too many Royals pitchers were allowing as many or more home runs than strike outs. To say nothing of the number of walks they were giving up.

P Eric Skoglund - Key Stats: 14.73 ERA, 7 BB, 5 K

These stats actually include Skoglund’s second best start in his major league career; his last appearance was a start on September 13 against the White Sox in which he allowed only 2 earned runs in 3 innings while striking out 2 and walking 2.

RP Kevin McCarthy - Key Stats: 6.00 ERA, 3.00 HR/9, 41.7 GB%

Kevin’s groundball percentage plummeted and so did his ability to prevent runs. He gets even fewer strikeouts than Scott Alexander, so he relies on getting the groundballs even more. The last four weeks he hasn’t gotten them often enough.

RP Kelvin Herrera - Key Stats: 7.27 ERA, 7.27 K/9

Kelvin has been so bad that he was demoted from the closer’s role. He’s also been hurt. I don’t know what 2018 has in store for the flame-thrower but if he didn’t have such a long history of excellence I’d guess he’d be out of the majors based on the way he’s pitched this year. He does have that history, though, so he’ll likely get a chance to bounce back.

SP Jason Hammel - Key Stats: 8.64 ERA, 4.11 FIP

After months and months of pitching consistently well enough to keep the Royals in games for 5-6 innings Hammel has now had 3 straight terrible starts where he has allowed 5+ runs and only once escaped the fourth inning. The odd thing is that his peripherals are all fairly decent, he’s striking out nearly a batter per inning, his walks are down, his home runs are reasonable - especially for this staff. His batted ball profile is very nearly in lock-step with his season numbers but for some reason his BABIP is an astonishing .436. It’s enough to make you think he’s just had terrible luck and any time now he might get a nice stretch of pitching very impressively. Unfortunately there is only a week left in the season so he likely won’t get that chance.

SP Jason Vargas - Key Stats: 5.92 ERA, 42.3 GB%

The first pitcher on the list with more than 3 IP and an ERA under 6! He’s actually had three straight not-entirely-terrible starts in a row leading up to this, including 6.1 shutout innings in his last start against the Blue Jays. But the other two starts in this period he allowed 12 runs in 8 innings with five home runs.

Good

RP Peter Moylan - Key Stats: 0.79 ERA

Peter continues to defy time, peripherals, and all manner of common sense in putting up quality month after quality month. The man wants a guaranteed MLB contract before spring training next season and I hope he gets one.

SP Sam Gaviglio - Key Stats: 2 GS, 2.45 ERA, 3-1 K/BB ratio

Sam was released by the Mariners, who are suffering problems with their own starting rotation, and has pitched fairly well in limited time for the Royals. Since they claimed him off waivers and this is his rookie season it seems likely he’ll be in the mix for a rotation spot or swing-man role with the team, next season. He might even be in the playoff rotation this year if the Royals can pull off Moose’s Miracle.

RP Ryan Buchter - Key Stats: 2.03 ERA, 8-5 K/BB ratio

Ryan Buchter, of the three Padres pitchers, at least managed to figure out how to do what he was doing in San Diego - get good results despite iffy peripherals. For the last month he’s pitched a bit like Jason Frasor did for the 2014 Royals. It’s just too bad the rest of the bullpen has been so bad that he’s been among the best choices down there instead of the worst.

SP Danny Duffy - Key Stats: 8.18 K/9, 2.45 ERA

Danny claims he’s still pitching through pain even after coming off the DL but his results don’t show it. The Royals gave him a huge contract extension last off-season because of how good he was in 2016, but if he can’t figure out how to stay healthy they may have to move him back into the bullpen and see if that helps.

RP Mike Minor - Key Stats: 10.03 K/9, 0.77 ERA, 2 Saves

After demoting Herrera Ned went with a closer-by-committee approach for a bit but he seems to have decided on Mike Minor as his closer for the rest of the year and Minor is pitching well enough to justify it. It will be interesting to see what happens to the flame-throwing lefty in the off-season. The Royals hold a mutual option with him, but he will likely be a free agent.

RP Scott Alexander - Key Stats: 8.31 K/9, 63.9 GB%, 3.46 ERA

He bumped his strikeouts up a bit but lost some groundballs and went from a near-elite fireman to a solid middle reliever for the last month. The biggest flaw for him continues to be the walks, if he can figure out how to bring those down the sky will be the limit for him.

SP Jake Junis - Key Stats: 3-0, 2.79 ERA, 22-4 K/BB ratio

Jake Junis continues to be the biggest bright spot on the team, right now. He is the only starting pitcher on the roster to put up back to back quality months. Watching Junis pitch these last two months has brought a lot of what-if scenarios to mind but we should all remember that his first shot in the rotation did not go nearly so smoothly. Still with a pair of months of success under his belt he seems likely to slide into the number-two starter role next season and any chance of potential playoff success for this year’s attempted miracle will count on him to back up Danny Duffy in the rotation.

As you can see the Royals’ pitching simply did not hold up in the home stretch to give them any kind of realistic shot at the playoffs. They had ten pitchers over the last month with an ERA of 5.92 or higher. ERA may not be the best way to evaluate a pitcher but it can still tell you a lot about the results and the results here were not pretty. It’s hard to imagine any kind of offensive output that could have overcome pitching like the Royals have had this last month of the season.

Since there is only a week left in the season this will be the final article in this format for 2017. I am considering several ideas for a format change next season. If you have any suggestions of your own I’d love to hear them and will absolutely consider any advice I receive from our excellent readers.