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Breaking Down The 2018 Kansas City Royals Pt. 2 – Opening Day

Breaking Down The 2018 Kansas City Royals Pt. 2 – Opening Day

Breaking Down The 2018 Kansas City Royals Pt. 2 - Opening Day
Image courtesy of http://kansascity.royals.mlb.com/team/depth_chart/index.jsp?c_id=kc

Opening Day is in the books! As far as books go, the first page is disappointing but shows promise. At least there are 161 more pages for it to get a lot better. As promised from yesterday’s post, we’re going to take a look at the rotation and bullpen today.

The Rotation

For the non-stat junkies:

The BB9 formula is 9*BB/IP.

The SO9 formula is 9*SO/IP

During the first three innings today, we witnessed the dominant Danny Duffy we’ve come to know and love. He recorded 5 K’s while only allowing one walk and one double. Then the fourth inning flashed us back to early Duffy. For those not scoring along at home, it went: double, homer, homer, lineout, lineout, homer, walk, single, double, flyout and a 4-0 deficit turned into a 5-4 lead for the White Sox. In recent years this is the aberrant outing rather than the norm and Duffy’s upside has always outshone his downside. If he can just stay healthy an entire season and keep the ball down, this could be a career year.

Which Ian Kennedy will Royals fans see this year? He was billed as an “innings-eater” with good command. Over his 11 year career, he has had 3 seasons over 200 innings and two over 190 (one with the Royals in 2016). The bad news, though, is he has a propensity to walk batters (127 since joining the Royals; and a BB9 of 3.3) and I shudder to think about the 67 home runs he couldn’t keep inside the yard since joining the club. The upside is his 315 strikeouts and 8.1 SO9 mostly from the two-seamers that fool batters up in the strike zone. Obviously, limiting the walks and HR’s is key this year.

Oh, for the Jason Hammel from his Cubs days. Last year he suffered early from trying to pitch too perfectly so he didn’t have to rely on his defense. Once he got that out of his system, he did extremely well… until the third rotation through a lineup. I’m not exactly sure whether he showed too many pitches early and teams figured that’s all he had or if there was something else occurring. I can’t seem to find the numbers, but Fox Sports Kansas City’s in-game research showed an astonishing split between first, second, and third time through a lineup. Trust me, it was brutal.

There’s one word that scouts and broadcasters have used to describe Jakob Junis: poise. If you didn’t know the score of a game in which he pitched, you couldn’t tell by his facial expressions or body language. Sadly, he only pitched 98.1 innings last year, but he was able to post a 9-3 record and 4.30ERA. His 80 K’s were impressive for a rookie. If he can build on that, he will be the diamond in the rough for this rotation.

Eric Skoglund had one of the most memorable debuts for a Royals rookie pitcher. He tossed 6.1 innings, gave up two hits, one walk, and struck out 5 which led to a 1-0 win over Detroit. He then followed it up with the most forgettable outings. No one seems to know what happened between that first start and the rest. Let’s hope the kid figured it out in the off-season because he deserves better than how he finished last year.

The Bullpen

Once a prominent member of the HDH/HHD cyborg closers, Kelvin Herrera‘s 2017 performance was the worst since his very brief rookie outing. I said it early last year and I’ll reiterate it this year until he proves me wrong (and I hope he does). Kelvin Herrera is not a closer. I don’t know if it’s the pressure of being “The Closer” that got to him last year or something else happened. His ERA, hits, runs, earned runs, home runs, and walks increased but his strikeouts decreased all while pitching 12.9 fewer innings. He also needed to be pulled more often last year from tightness or soreness. Maybe he was actually fighting an injury last year that no one really knew. Only Kelvin and the Royals know for sure.

At first, the trade with the Padres for Brandon Maurer, Trevor Cayhill, and Ryan Buchter seemed beneficial for the Royals. Fast forward to this year and both Buchter and Cayhill are with the Oakland A’s and only Maurer remains. I have no idea what to make of it now. Maurer showed moments of promise last year (21 K’s in 20 IP), but mostly it was middling. I’m curious how a full year here will pan out.

Justin Grimm gave up a run in .1 IP today. There wasn’t much else to draw from it. If he can return to 2014/2015 Cubs form where he posted ERAs of .378/.199, the Royals could rebuild the cyborg relievers.

I have to be honest, while watching today’s game, I thought Blaine Boyer was a rookie. Then I did this research and learned he’s been in “the bigs” for 11 years. Today was not a good representation of his skill – one inning, two hits, three earned runs, one walk, two home runs. Yikes! Let’s hope he settles into his 2015 form.

As bad as Boyer performed today, Brad Keller was his polar opposite. He pitched one inning, got one K, and then it was zeroes across the board. He was a Rule 5 pick-up from the Reds and pitched with assertion. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do with more innings.

Southpaw submariner Tim Hill also had an inauspicious appearance today. He drilled his very first batter, then gave up a run in .1 IP. If memory serves, he was last seen at AA NW Arkansas. He’s raw, but I’m curious to see how he does after the Opening Day jitters are gone.

Today wasn’t a good return for Brian Flynn either. When last we saw Flynn, he was rehabbing after falling through his barn roof. Last year, he appeared in one game, had 2.1 IP, allowed 3 hits and 1 ER with a .386 ERA. Today he had 1.1 IP and gave up 4 hits, 3 ER and 1 HR. His current ERA is 20.25. It’s just one game (repeat as needed).

Arguably, the worst performance today is from Burch Smith who recorded no outs, gave up a hit, an earned run, and walked two. He last pitched in 2013 with the Padres. I don’t know what to make of him.

The Injured

Unless he’s only DH’ing, rumor has it Salvy won’t be ready to be back with the big league club until June 1. Regardless of what that 4-6 week injury estimation says, there’s just too much lateral movement for the catcher position. Think healing thoughts! The other person I’m excited to see back with the club is Nate Karns. He showed so much promise before going down with the thoracic outlet injury last year.

The Summary

There are some pundits (and far more Royals players) who feel this team will surprise everyone this year. It’s possible. If today is any indication, they can definitely produce nice offensive numbers. If management can shore up the pitching (let’s be honest, that’s the biggest question mark), there is a chance this team can surprise. More likely, today’s game will be a microcosm of the season – some promise, some disappointment, a little soul-crushing, a period of redemption, but ultimately a disappointing ending. My prediction: 76-86. I sincerely hope I’m underestimating them.

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