In 2013, the Kansas City Royals had one of the best bullpens in baseball, and the best bullpen in the American League. That strength has left the Royals in the enviable position where they may have too many quality bullpen arms and not enough spaces in the bullpen to carry these pitchers. As it stands, barring a trade of either Tim Collins or Aaron Crow, or the successful conversion of either Wade Davis or Luke Hochevar to the starting rotation, there may only be one open spot in the bullpen to be fought over by several worthy candidates.
Looking at how several of the candidates for that final spot in the bullpen performed in 2013, it would seem as though this may be a battle in name only. Based on statistics, it would have appeared as though Louis Coleman did everything possible to ensure that he has a role with the Royals from the start of the 2014 season. In two separate stints with the Royals, Coleman put together a 3-0 record with an incredible 0.61 ERA, striking out over five times as many hitters as he walked. His control, which had been an issue at times, improved to the point where Coleman walked under two batters per nine innings.
Yet, was Coleman really that good? Looking deeper into his numbers, Coleman gave up line drives at an astronomically high 27% rate last season, far above his career norm of 18% and the major league average of 20%. Coleman has also been an extreme fly ball pitcher over his career, yet managed to have five double plays turned behind him last season. All of those numbers indicate that Coleman should not have had the success that he had in 2013.
A look at Louis Coleman’s xFIP bares out that belief. Under normal circumstances, Coleman would have been expected to have a 2.70 ERA. While that is still solid, that is not the type of performance that grabs attention. All in all, Coleman’s impressive 2013 season may have been, at least in large part, due to luck.
Coleman may still be the favorite to grab one of the last two spots in the bullpen, but his role is not a given. The Royals are not just going to hand Coleman a roster spot based on last season alone. As impressive as his statistics may have been in 2013, Louis Coleman is still going to need to earn a role in 2014.