While Eiland’s intent is for his staff to control the inner half of the plate rather than to hit opposing players, the inevitable result will be more beanball wars like we saw in 2015.
As Eiland addmitted to Judge, if Kansas City Royals pitch inside, like he wants, they will hit more batters than any staff in the league. Presumably, some of those teams will retaliate by hitting KC Royals hitters—leading to bench-clearing brawls like we saw in 2015.
The interesting part of Judge’s column came when he asserted that the reason the Royals lost a mid-season match-up in New York 14-1 was because Yordano Ventura was reluctant to pitch inside after getting a bad reputation early last season. The Yankees crowded the plate and turned the outside corner into the middle of the plate.
Judge, who presumably got his information from his discussion with Eiland, cited this reluctance as the reason for Ventura’s early-season struggles on the mound.
Take a look at Ventura’s month-by-month splits from 2015:
Yordano Ventura’s shouting incident with Mike Trout took place on April 12, and his dust-up with Oakland’s Brett Lawrie happened on April 18. Ventura began the 2015 season strong with a 2.30 ERA in his first two starts, but his numbers tanked after April 18.
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As you can see from the chart above, Ventura didn’t really recover until the last two months of the season when he pitched like the ace KC Royals fans hoped he’d become in 2015.
If Ventura was reluctant to throw inside for fear pundits labeling him as a bad boy pitcher for the rest of his career, it could explain why he disappointed in the first half. As narratives go, this one seems pretty reasonable.
Dave Eiland now says he wants his pitchers to gain the reputation of not being afraid to throw inside. Thus, he’s giving a clear signal to his pitching staff that he’s okay if they hit batters as long as they’re establishing the inner half of the plate and not intentionally headhunting.
While KC Royals fans might be in store for more beanball controversies in 2016, they will probably lack the “no respect” angle of 2015. The Kansas City Royals are the defending World Champions and have won two straight American League pennants.
The KC Royals really don’t have anything left to prove to major-league baseball, or themselves.