Sep 23, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcherYordano Ventura
(30) delivers a pitch against the Seattle Mariners in the first inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
1. KC Rotation Getting Hot At The Right Time
The KC Royals rotation has been the team’s Achilles Heel during most of the regular season. KC Royals starters posted a less-than-stellar 4.34 ERA, which ranked only 22nd in major-league baseball.
In May, the Kansas City Royals had to patch together a rotation despite losing three guys that opened the season in the starting five. Jason Vargas was lost for the season in July when he tore his ulnar collateral ligament. Both Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura missed time with injuries.
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In desperation, the Ned Yost turned to depth signings Chris Young and Joe Blanton to fill in. Young became the rotation’s savior, making 18 starts and going 8-6 with a 3.18 ERA before running out of gas in August. Young returned to the rotation the last half of September and made two dominant starts after resting in the bullpen. Blanton gave the team two strong starts and some decent relief innings before getting traded to the Pirates when the Royals acquired Johnny Cueto.
Meanwhile, former rotation workhorse Jeremy Guthrie imploded in 2015. Yost pulled Guthrie from the rotation in August 20 after his ERA bloated to an unacceptable 5.65.
However, the rotation that will pitch during the playoffs is quite a bit different than the guys that struggled during the regular season.
First of all, the KC Royals acquired a true ace in Johnny Cueto from the Cincinnati Reds. Though Cueto famously wallowed for the better part of a month after coming to Kansas City, he found his footing in his final four starts going 2-1, with a 3.24 ERA. Apparently, Johnny Cueto found the high targets provided by catcher Salvador Perez distracting until Perez made an adjustment.
Finally, Yordano Ventura overcame his early-season struggles with expectations that he would become the staff ace and his fiery temper that led to multiple bench-clearing brawls. Ventura harnessed his impressive stuff to post an 8-1 record, 3.26 ERA, and 9.7 K/9 the last two months of the season.
Yordano Ventura was so impressive, Yost named him the game 1 starter over the more experienced Johnny Cueto. Ventura’s ability to miss bats figures to make him particularly tough for the free-swinging Astros to handle.
Overall, the rotation posted a cumulative 2.01 ERA in their last turn before the playoffs (including Chris Young who replaced Guthrie). The part of a 95-win KC Royals team that had been its biggest weakness during the season, now appears to be a strength heading into the playoffs.