The Kansas City Royals bullpen is broken. There’s really no other way to put it.
A little over three weeks month ago, I made that case that the KC Royals bullpen was the most dominating late-inning force in baseball history. Today, they’re an anchor that’s pulling the entire team to the bottom of the ocean.
The Kansas City Royals have lost five consecutive one-run games. They’ve lost three consecutive extra-inning games. The KC Royals have managed to blow two late inning leads, including a humiliating 10-run implosion against Baltimore that turned a two-run eighth-inning lead into a eight-run deficit.
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Then we get to the last two days in Detroit.
First, Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez launched a game-tying two-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to take the game into extra innings. The Royals then scratched out a run in the top of the 12th inning on Paulo Orlando‘s ground out to take a 4-3 lead.
The KC Royals followed a similar formula on Saturday night. This time Eric Hosmer hit the late-inning home run to tie the game in the 8th inning, and then rookie fire-baller Miguel Almonte gave up a solo shot to Ian Kinsler in the 11th to allow the Tigers to walk away with a second straight extra-inning victory over the Royals.
The last three weeks have put a big crimp in the Kansas City Royals playoff hopes.
The KC Royals have fallen from what appeared to be a commanding seven-game lead for the American League’s best record (and home field throughout the playoffs) on August 28, to a one-game margin on Sept. 20. Now the Kansas City Royals find themselves in a dogfight to win home field for the playoffs.
As I have mentioned many times before, the home field edge is particularly critical if the KC Royals play the Toronto Blue Jays in the playoffs, because Toronto’s Rogers Centre punishes low-power, contact-hitting teams. Home field could be the difference between playoff success and failure for the 2015 Kansas City Royals.
And, the team will have to pull out of the tailspin with a bullpen that isn’t getting the job done. The KC Royals bullpen has a 5.18 ERA in September, which is actually an big IMPROVEMENT over the 6.40 ERA they sported four days ago. While it’s tempting to think that shaving more than a full run off their ERA in the last four days is a sign of progress, you have to remember that they lost two extra-inning games and blew a 12th-inning lead.
Closer Greg Holland has been the biggest problem. Holland’s fastball hasn’t averaged more than 92 miles per hour (mph) in a game since August 22 (and even 94 mph is down from his 2014 average of 95.7).
Recently, Greg Holland fastball velocity has been hovering around a mere 90 mph. Friday’s 91.6 mph was actually a step UP, but recall that he failed to nail down a much-need win. Holland has even schlepped up “fastballs” as low as 87 mph to the plate. That’s terrible for a guy that could touch 98 mph and sat around 96 mph less than one full year ago.
Clearly, Greg Holland’s “cranky” arm is no better. If anything, you have to conclude that it’s worse. Unless, of course, you insist on being a quasi-delusional, glass-is-half-full kind of person. Then you’re telling yourself that Holland could be “saving” himself for the playoffs, where he’ll throw with his old velocity.
Don’t you believe it. The Kansas City Royals need to fend off the Blue Jays. I doubt Holland is holding back anything.
Even if Yost makes this common-sense move, the KC Royals will seemingly have to find a new winning formula in October. Unless the Kansas City Royals famed HDH trio reverts to form in the next two weeks, the “dominant bullpen” looks to be a thing of the past.