Sep 26, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals relief pitcherKris Medlen
(39) delivers a pitch against the Cleveland Indians in the first inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Johnny Cueto was acquired to be the ace at the trade deadline, but he hasn’t pitched up to his reputation with a 4.95 ERA in 12 starts for the Kansas City Royals. However, he’s been better ever since he convinced catcher Salvador Perez to provide him with a lower target. In three starts since the adjustment, Cueto has given up eight runs in 20 innings pitched (3.60 ERA). He’s qualified for three quality starts in a row.
While Cueto has not quite been the dominant ace he was in Cincinnati, he seems to be getting comfortable in Kansas City.
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Edinson Volquez has been the KC Royals most consistent starter all season. With a 13-9 record and a 3.83 ERA, Volquez slots in as the no. 2 pitcher.
Yordano Ventura has been the wild card. After a tough middle part of the season in which he struggled with his composure and location, Ventura has settled in during the last couple of months to resemble the overpowering fire-baller Kansas City Royals hoped he could become last winter. Since August 1, Ventura has been an outstanding 7-1 with a 3.45 ERA and a K/9 of 9.2.
The difference has been Ventura’s command and his improved off-speed pitches. While the walk rates have remained pretty much the same as they were during his early season difficulties, he’s been much more consistent in hitting locations. The payoff has been improved strikeout rates and results.
The big question comes with the fourth starter. Should it be Kris Medlen, as Ned Yost announced during September? Or should Yost hand the ball to Chris Young, who has been dominant in short spurts in the rotation? Young seems to get worn down after extended time taking the ball every fifth day. But, with no more than four or five possible starts in the playoffs, Young might be the better short-term option.
Kris Medlen made the case for retaining his rotation spot with a strong performance Thursday night against the White Sox, pitching six innings and allowing only one run in a KC Royals 6-4 victory. However, Medlen got bombed for six runs in three innings in his last start. He’s also posted a mediocre 4.50 ERA in eight starts. Coming off of two Tommy John surgeries, Medlen is likely not all the way back quite yet.
Meanwhile, Chris Young has pitched well both as a starter and reliever. Young has a 3.30 ERA in 17 starts, and a 2.59 ERA as a reliever. He’s been downright dominant at times, especially when he’s well-rested (like he is right now).
My inclination would be to go with Chris Young, especially if his turn comes up in Kauffman Stadium. However, in bandboxes like Toronto’s Rogers Centre or Yankee Stadium, perhaps Medlen might be the better choice than a pitcher that counts on getting hitters out with fly balls.
Next: Relief Pitching