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Gamethread CIX: Royals at Cardinals

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Brad Keller returns to the mound on schedule

Hanser Alberto celebrates Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

The Royals continue the I-70 series tonight still struggling to get back to only 10 games under .500. Brad Keller, who exited his last start with an injury, will be back in action tonight. Also back in action tonight is Royals catcher Salvador Perez who was held out of the lineup for the first time this season with an unspecified illness last night.

Keller had been on a hot streak of four straight quality starts before leaving the game early Sunday afternoon with lower back problems. Hopefully he’s 100% recovered because it would be nice to see him continue shaping back into the pitcher he was in 2020. Even with the short, ineffective outing on Sunday Keller has a 2.93 ERA since the start of July; over half the balls in play have been on the ground and he’s struck out nearly a batter per inning. That’s the guy the Royals were expecting to show up at the beginning of the season. Hopefully it won’t take until July, next year.

The Cardinals will counter with Korean, left-handed pitcher Kwang-hyun Kim (kwah-ng hyuh-n kim ). This is only Kim’s second Major League season but he is a veteran of the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) where he debuted at age 18 and pitched for 14 seasons, missing all of 2017 after having Tommy John surgery. Our sister site, Viva el Birdos, did a scouting report on Kim when the team signed him.

Kim’s standard fastball ranges from about 90-93, with a tick or two more available here and there. I think those who say he ‘sits’ in the mid-90s are being a bit too generous; he’ll touch 95 here and there, but is solidly about 91-92 for the majority of his work. [...] Complementing the heater, Kim leans heavily on a slider that he’ll add and subtract with, ranging from about 82 all the way up to 88. [...] In addition to the slider, Kim features a softer, loopier curveball mostly in the mid-70s, and a roughly average-looking forkball in the ~83 mph range. I hate to make a comp that seems too easy, but I promise I’m not just making it because they’re both Korean: Kim’s approach and repertoire are somewhat similar to that of Hyun-jin Ryu. Now, Ryu’s changeup is a differentiator here, being much better than Kim’s splitter, but I would argue Kim’s slider is stronger than Ryu’s breaking ball, so you’re trading usage between two offspeed pitches a little bit.

And, at least as far as ERA, Kim has just about matched Ryu since joining the league (2.79 ERA to 3.03, respectively.) However, Kim pitches in the NL while Ryu pitches in the AL so that might account for some of that difference and then some. Ryu strikes out considerably more batters while simultaneously walking fewer.

tl;dr Kim is a soft-tossing lefty who relies on finesse more than power. the Royals are probably in trouble.

Manager Mike Matheny has filled his lineup with right-handers to counter Kim’s effectiveness, and that appears to be a decent strategy; righties have a .733 OPS and all 10 home runs against Kim this year while lefties have managed only a meager .445 OPS.

Lineups

Carlson, Dylan RF Goldschmidt, Paul 1B, Arenado, Noal 3B O’Neill, Tyler LF Molina, Yadier C Bader, Harrison CF Dejong, Paul SS Edman, Tommy 2B Kim, Kwang-hyun P