KC Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura has long been thought to possess “ace” stuff when he lit up radar guns at over 100 mph as a rookie. His improved off-speed stuff pitches 2016 are why he’s ready to seize that role.
Yordano Ventura appeared to have found himself in his last eleven starts of the 2015 season, going 7-1, with a 2.38 ERA and a 10.7 K/9. However, he struggled in the playoffs with an 0-2 record, and 6.42 ERA in five starts.
That’s not anywhere close to giving the Kansas City Royals a Madison Bumgarner to carry them through the playoffs.
According to Kansas City Star beat writer Rustin Dodd, Ventura retooled his windup during the offseason:
"In the months before the regular season, Yordano Ventura stopped experimenting and sought a return to his past. He says he had developed a unorthodox quirk in his windup, and the process needed to be stripped down. He needed to start over.“We just went back to basics,” Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland said.Specifically, Ventura had added an unusual start to his windup, stepping forward off the rubber with his left foot instead of back. The step was small and the rest of the windup appeared quiet and simple, but Eiland says it led to consistent mechanical issues."
Ventura had wowed fans with his average fastball velocity in his first last two seasons with the KC Royals, but has struck out fewer batters than most would expect with a career 8.2 K/9. Rather than throw harder, Yordano Ventura has eased up on his fastball in 2016 as the following chart from Brooks Baseball shows:
Ventura’s fourseam fastball had has dropped from averaging 100.1 mph when he debuted in 2012, to 98.22 mph in his first full season in 2014, down to 95.69 mph so far in 2016. Yet, Yordano Ventura’s K/9 has jumped to 9.8, and his strikeout rate to 25.5%, which are career highs.
More from KC Royals News
- KC Royals: Let the Ryan O’Hearn Watch begin…again
- KC Royals Roster Moves: 3 players added, 1 re-signed
- KC Royals News: Awards, a new coach, and more
- Why the KC Royals could reunite with this old friend
- 3 outfielders the KC Royals should consider protecting
Ventura’s improved ability to miss bats is due to better command of his breaking pitches, and a vastly improved change-up. According to Brooks Baseball, the whiff rate on Ventura’s change has jumped from 16.60% in 2014, to 22.13% early in 2016.
Yordano Ventura is also using his off-speed pitches more in 2016. As a rookie with the Kansas City Royals in 2014, Ventura threw hard stuff 76.0% of the time. In 2016, Ventura is using his curve and change-up (52% combined) more than his fastball (48%). In short, Ventura is no longer attempting to blow away hitters with pure velocity. Now, he’s making them think at the plate.
As a result, he’s getting more swings-and-misses in 2016 than ever before. Hopefully, Ventura will be able to last deeper into games for the KC Royals now that he’s stepped off the gas.