Tim Collins and the Search for the Success of 2012


It is easy to root for Tim Collins. The diminutive lefty was undrafted out of high school, and despite being only 5’7″, managed to fight his way to the major leagues. For the past four years, he has been a staple in the Royals bullpen, typically as the Royals primary lefty reliever.

Last season, that magical ride crashed. Ineffectiveness at the start of the season resulted in Collins being sent to Omaha in the middle of June, where he remained until rosters were expanded in September. In the 3.2 innings he pitched that month, Collins was solid, allowing only one run on one hit, walking one while striking out five. This was the Collins that the Royals had hoped for all season.

Is that type of performance something that Tim Collins can get back to? After his breakthrough 2012 season, when he posted a 3.36 ERA and a 1.278 WHiP, striking out 93 batters in 69.2 innings of work, Collins has struggled. Since then, he has posted a combined 3.63 ERA, which is not much different, but has a 1.426 WHiP and has struck out only 67 batters in 74.1 innings of work. Those are not the numbers of someone who is counted on to be a vital part of the bullpen.

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When looking at Collins’ results over the past three seasons, the first part that stands out is how his strikeout to walk rate has plummeted. While Collins is never going to have the control of a Luke Hochevar or a Wade Davis, his career 5.2 walks per nine innings is certainly worthy of pause. Accompanied with a declining strikeout rate, Collins has seen his strikeout to walk rate drop from 2.74 in 2012 down to the 1.36 rate of last season.

That decline in strikeouts also corresponded in an increase in line drive percentage. Since his 2012 season when Tim Collins gave up line drives on only 14% of balls in play, he has seen that mark climb to over 20% each of the past two seasons. While that mark is approximately league average, he has been getting hit harder while striking out fewer batters. This appears to be a recipe for disaster.

So, what has been the biggest difference? Looking at his pitch repertoire, the biggest culprit has been that the opposition has been able to tee off on his fastball. While his curve and change have generally resulted in batting averages below .200, the opposition has feasted on that fastball, with a .296 batting average against being the lowest in the past three years.

Perhaps the key for Tim Collins to be effective is to spot the fastball while mixing in the change and curve more frequently. As his fastball has essentially been used for batting practice over the past three seasons, such a change may give the Royals back the Tim Collins of 2012, instead of the pitcher that needed to be banished to the minors last season.

Depending on what the Royals do with Brandon Finnegan, Tim Collins could be the primary lefty in the bullpen next season. Hopefully, they can get the Collins of 2012, and not the Collins of the past two seasons.

Next: What Should the Royals do with Brandon Finnegan?