Royals New Year’s Resolutions: The Pitchers
Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Did you know that the concept of New Year’s resolutions goes back to the ancient Babylonians? According to Wikipedia, they promised their gods that they would return borrowed goods and pay off any outstanding debts at the start of every new year. The Romans also had a tradition of making promises to the god Janus. Janus is the origin of the name for January, which is obviously the first month of the year. In medieval times, knights would renew their commitments to chivalry at the beginning of each year, which was known as the “peacock vow.”
What does this have to do with the Royals? Literally nothing, but I needed an introduction.
Yesterday, I presented a few resolutions for the team’s position players, so now it’s time for the pitchers. Since the run prevention was so good last season, there isn’t as much room for improvement as there is with the offense, but I tried to come up with a some ideas for them, and sometimes effort matters.
Yordano Ventura – Throw a few more high fastballs. It’s tough to find something Ventura needs to change, since clearly what he was doing worked very well. But, there are more and more good low-ball hitters in the league, and even though his fastball is insanely good, it can still be vulnerable to the long ball. Throwing that kind of heat up in the zone will likely result in more whiffs and more popups.
Jason Vargas – Mix in more curveballs. Vargas has one of the best changeups in baseball, so he throws that pitch more than just about anyone in baseball. Everyone knows it’s coming, but they still can’t do anything with it. However, if he could use his curve just a bit more, he might be able to keep hitters guessing, which could make his change look even better.
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Edinson Volquez – Stay aggressive in the zone. One of the things that helped Volquez cut down on his walks was his new-found ability to throw more balls in the strike zone. Shocking, I know. His best shot at duplicating last year’s results will be to attack the zone once again.
Danny Duffy – Rely on the curve and change a bit more. Duffy’s fastball is electric, and he can induce a ton of weak contact with it, but he also has a great curveball and a pretty solid changeup that flashed above average at times. Mixing up his pitches more frequently might help him miss a few more bats and sustain the success he saw in 2014.
Jeremy Guthrie – Continue to improve the changeup. His pure stuff isn’t great by any means, but last year, Guthrie’s changeup was as good as it’s ever been. He got more swings and misses with it, and held opposing hitters to a .654 OPS with that pitch. If he can lean more on it next year, Guthrie could give himself a slightly larger margin for error.
Greg Holland/Wade Davis/Kelvin Herrera – Keep making hitters look silly. Easy enough.
Luke Hochevar – Challenge hitters early. Hoch saw a lot of success in 2013 because he went right at opponents. He got ahead and forced them to chase his cutter and curveball out of the zone. Because he’s coming back from surgery, Hochevar will need to be aggressive once again, so he doesn’t fall into too many hitters’ counts.
Jason Frasor – Generate more popups. When Frasor’s been at his best, he’s generally had an infield fly ball rate in the double digits. It was about half of that in 2014, although he still had great results. To make sure those results continue, Frasor may want to get a few more of those easy outs. His secondary offerings could really help in that department, as neither of them resulted in a single popup last year.
Tim Collins – Command the fastball. Collins’ changeup is his best pitch, because he gets batters to chase it pretty frequently. The problem is that they are less willing to chase when Collins falls behind in the count due to missing the zone with his fastball. Some improved control should help him rebound next season.
Jandel Gustave – Throw fire and throw strikes. No one should expect too much from Gustave next season, if he even breaks camp with the big league club. But if he’s going to be in the bullpen, he has to be able to contribute something. A triple-digit fastball is great, but it’s not as effective when it’s constantly out of the zone. If Gustave limits his walks, he could have a bright future in the organization.