KC Royals Review: Yordano Ventura’s Eight Strikeout Outing

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Yordano Ventura is arguably the most polarizing figure in baseball thus far in 2015. Whether it be barking at the games best player for no real reason or throwing at Brett Lawrie after giving up a three-run nuke to Josh Reddick. Ventura has given the media plenty of narrative to run with and they haven’t failed.

However, despite the fighting and the narratives, Ventura quietly gave the KC Royals his best performance of the season.

Ventura went seven innings, in what would eventually turn into a 13-inning contest, while giving up two runs on five hits and striking out a season high eight White Sox.

Up until last night, the Royals starting rotation has been all but a complete train wreck, although put on the back burner due to a 12-4 start. The rotation, including Ventura’s start last night, has a combined 4.77 ERA thus far in 2015.

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I don’t have to tell you that this has to change for the Royals to continue their success and play some more October baseball. The Royals are third in baseball with a .326 BABIP, so the offense is going to come back down to earth at some point. That isn’t to say the Royals still won’t be very good offensively. Who knows.

If Lorenzo Cain, Kendrys Morales, and Mike Moustakas continue hurting baseballs, the rotation won’t need to be nearly as good as most people thought coming into the season.

However, for arguments sake, lets just assume Lorenzo Cain doesn’t hit .375 this season and the Royals actually do need some starting pitching. In which case, ignore the extra-curricular activities and last night was a very encouraging night.

Not only was Ventura dominant, but he showed us the dynamic ability of his arsenal, something we didn’t see a lot of in 2014.

Here’s his first strikeout:

96 MPH with movement. Not easy to hit. This is obviously Ventura’s strength. His throws harder than any starting pitcher in baseball and he pitches like it. In 2014, he threw his fastball 65% of the time, more than any starter in baseball. However, despite dominant velocity, Ventura’s wFB didn’t crack the top 20. This showed us what we already knew. To take that next step, Ventura was going to have to establish quality secondary pitches. Which leads us to this:

We saw flashes of this pitch in 2014. When his curveball on, it is about as filthy as it gets. However, Ventura has struggled to throw it for strikes in 2014. His wCB was a -2.5 in 2014 as a result. Early in 2015, it has been Ventura’s best pitch at 0.7. This pitch is still a work in progress but it has the most upside of any of Ventura’s pitches, with Fangraphs listing it as a future 60 grade.

I could be wrong, but I don’t remember seeing anything like this from Ventura in 2015. That’s filthy. And how about him throwing a changeup in the biggest at-bat of the game, knowing he has 98-MPH in his back pocket? Say what you want about his maturity, but that shows a lot of maturity out of him from a pitching standpoint. I am more encouraged by his changeup than anything I’ve seen him from this year. That third pitch is the magic number for starters. A fastball that can be commanded and two secondary pitches that can be thrown for strikes is the recipe for a starting pitcher. Ventura is still wrestling with the command/control aspect, but his pitches are so overpowering, he’ll be able to get away with it enough to develop that skill set.

In review, Ventura struck out eight White Sox: three via fastball, three via changeup, and two via curveball. The idea of a sophomore slump comes from the fact that the league adjusts to the player. Everybody knows Ventura can throw a fastball. The reason why players fall into the slump is because they struggle to adjust. Although he had a bump in the road last week against Oakland, his pitch usage and the effectiveness of those pitches shows that he is adjusting.

He is still throwing a ton of fastballs. They make up about 62% of his pitches thus far. However, he can throw more fastballs when his secondary pitches are effective. The early success of his curveball and changeup are helping him adjust more smoothly to hitters waiting for his fastball For him to be successful in 2015, and beyond, this trend will have to continue. And for the Royals to get back to the postseason, he’s going to have to take the next step and become the legitimate ace scouts think he can be.

Next: How the Royals Could Help Save Baseball

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