It’s early August and the Royals have only played 11 games as of this writing, but seeing as there are only 60 games in this season I feel like 11 games is enough information to make at least some observations, if not necessarily enough to extrapolate meaningful data.
The Royals are 3-8, a dismal record that if they keep up will likely guarantee them a top two pick in next years amateur draft. They aren’t walking, they aren’t scoring runs, they aren’t... well, really good at anything. There feel like, from this extremely limited sample size, little to celebrate. But that feeling is wrong.
The Royals have had nine rookies pitch for them in these 11 games. They have thrown a total of 40 innings, and have a collective ERA of 4.27. This seems relatively unimpressive, but if you dig a bit deeper there is definite cause for hope.
First up, one of these pitchers is not like the others in terms of performance. Ronald Bolaños has been terrible. In 3 2⁄3 innings pitched, he has given up 8 hits and 5 earned runs, for an ERA of 12.27. This is not good, and definitely is causing the collective ERA to go up.
If we look at the eight remaining rookies (Bubic, Singer, Speier, Staumont, Zuber, Griffin, Zimmer and Lovelady) collectively, we can start to see some pretty good numbers across 36 and a third innings.
More strikeouts (37) than innings pitched, almost twice as many strike outs as walks, and a collective ERA that would have been second to only the Dodgers in 2019. Even with Bolaños added in, their ERA would still have been in the top half of all baseball in 2019. And bear in mind the 11 games the Royals have played have largely been against teams expected to contend this season (at least I expect the Indians, White Sox, Astros and Cubs to all contend) so it is not as though they have only seen bad teams.
It’s a ridiculously small sample size of pitchers who largely have not been seen by the opponents, and likely as the league adjusts they will encounter more adversity, but it is reassuring to have a group of rookies who are under team control for the next several seasons actually perform and perform well. It’s not difficult to see a back-end of the bullpen with Zimmer and Staumont, nor is it hard to imagine Singer sticking in the rotation.
Add in the likelihood of at least another one or two pitchers graduating to the majors in the near future from the group of Lynch, Kowar, Tillo, Lacy and others, and it seems possible the Royals might actually have their future pitching situation largely sorted out by young, controllable talent. When you consider the absolute lack of pitching development the Royals have had in the past decade, this is both a welcome and unexpected turn of events. I have written it once before, and I will again.
I am now hopeful that the Royals can turn this around and contend in the coming seasons, say 2022 or 2023 for real contention. Time to get excited, Royals fans!