It’s been a tiring week. Normally, I only have to combat annoying comments from people who want to mock the Royals incessantly. They tend to make irrelevant comments that clearly show that they don’t know anything about what the team looks like now. They’re drawing on extensive research like, “well, the Royals always lose a ton of games…they’re terrible.” It’s a mesmerizing argument.
Unfortunately, this past week and a half I’ve also had the joy of dealing with a bunch of so-called “expert” fans of other teams who find it necessary to condescendedly inform me that I shouldn’t get my hopes up. That my team really isn’t as good as their record shows. That they aren’t going to win the world series. I smiled, thanked them, and dreamed of condescendingly kicking them in the face.
Look, I know my team. I know that it’s going to be considered positive if they win between 70-80 games this year. I also know that the future looks pretty bright and I don’t find it too difficult to be patient if I can see good things coming.
Baseball is a long grueling season. 8 games is a paltry fraction of the entire thing, but it’s a great thing to be able to see positives in the first batch of games. One of these positives is our bullpen.
Here’s some basic bullpen stats for the first 8 games of the season in the past 3 years:
2008: 21 IP/2 ER/21 SO/4 BB – Bullpen ERA: 0.86….KC Record: 6-2
2009: 23 IP/6 ER/28 SO/8 BB – Bullpen ERA: 2.35….KC Record: 4-4
2010: 26 IP/23 ER/22 SO/17 BB – Bullpen ERA: 7.96….KC Record: 3-5
Looking back on the last few years, it seems that aside from 2010, our bullpen wasn’t terrible early on. So far this year our bullpen stats look like this through 8 games:
2011: 34.2 IP/13 ER/22 SO/11 BB – Bullpen ERA: 3.42….KC Record: 5-3
These numbers aren’t overly impressive until you dig a little deeper.
Joakim Soria: 6 IP/5 ER/2 SO/2 BB (ERA: 7.50)
Sean O’Sullivan: 4 IP/5 ER/1 SO/1 BB (ERA: 11.25)
With Soria, you can at least bank on the fact that he has had a history of success and is probably capable of turning himself around. O’Sullivan has not looked good as a reliever this year. You hope he can get himself straightened out, but who knows?
Basic Bullpen Stats w/o Soria and O’Sullivan
24.2 IP/3 ER/19 SO/8 BB – Bullpen ERA: 1.12
I sat here trying to think about why I’ve been so ecstatic about the pen and discovered that the answer was really simple. Fresh new faces. And not only fresh and new, but as of April 10, 2011 (8 games in), they are successful faces too. When we’ve gone to the bullpen during games the past few years, the reliever who’d begin his slow trot towards the mound to try his hand at getting batters out would generally elicit a groan from me. There were not a lot of relief pitchers that could get me excited. So far this year there’s several. They’re young and they’re fearless. I love the confidence and the mane-like camraderie.
I especially love the work of the rookies so far. 4 rookies, all under the age of 25.
Royals Rookie 8 Game Bullpen Bare Necessities (Crow, Jeffress, Adcock, and Collins):
18 IP/1 ER/18 SO/5 BB/1.15 WHIP…all this and a tasty 0.50 ERA.
Regardless of how you think these young guys will do over the course of the season. Regardless of whether you believe that they can be both consistent and legitimate. I think it’s safe to say that it sure has been fun watching them come out to the mound late in this first stretch of games and dominate. When your bullpen is good, it gives you a feeling of comfort late in the game that should be sought after fiercely. I’m heading to Kauffman on Friday and Saturday to catch my first two games of the year. We’re playing the Mariners and I’m excited to get to see the Blue Crew play in person for the first time this season. I WILL MOST DEFINITELY be sporting a Fauxhawk to show my support of our relief pitchers. At least I’ll try to get my hair to resemble something like a Fauxhawk. I’m not really a miracle worker. We’ll see what happens.
Can I say with absolute confidence that our young pitchers have now made our bullpen a strength? Of course not. We’re 8 games into the season.
But, boy…. they’ve looked good so far.