Last season, the Kansas City Royals bullpen was one of the best in baseball. Despite pitching the third fewest innings of any bullpen in baseball last season, the Royals bullpen had the seventh most strikeouts and the third lowest batting average against in 2013. Their 2.55 ERA was the lowest in the American League since 1990. That bullpen, which had been a major strength last year, was expected to continue to perform at the same level this year.
Naturally, in the Royals first game of the season, that stellar bullpen was unable to perform at the same level. Aaron Crow allowed both inherited runners to score in the seventh, then Wade Davis put runners on the corners with one out in the ninth. Even shutdown closer Greg Holland looked mortal, giving up the game winning hit to Alex Gonzalez. It was just a bad day for the Royals bullpen.
And that is really all it was – a bad day all around. Offensively, the Royals had their chances to score more than the three runs they put on the board, making Justin Verlander work hard. Yet, they were unable to take advantage of the Detroit Tigers three errors, leaving eight batters on base and going only 1-9 with runners in scoring position. Had the Royals been able to take advantage of their opportunities offensively, or if the bullpen struggled in the middle or the end of the season, then it would not matter.
The same premise still applies. Perhaps because Crow struggled with inherited runners last season, allowing 32% of them to score, his inability to protect the lead gets magnified. Since Davis, who is seemingly well on his way towards Kyle Davies levels of disdain, took the loss, the vitriol is there. However, it is still just one game.
Wade Davis could still turn around and replicate Luke Hochevar‘s success in the bullpen last year. Aaron Crow could figure out a way to get back to his All-Star ways, performing like he did in the first half of 2011 or through all of 2012. The world is not crashing down, no matter how painful of a loss it may have been.
There will be plenty of time to panic if the Royals bullpen is struggling after the first few weeks. For now, it has just been one game.