The KC Royals bullpen had been the envy of baseball. But 33 games into the season, the Kansas City Royals bullpen has been leaky at times and has been struggling to find the third head for the next Three Headed Monster.
A lot of well deserved attention has been given to the Kansas City Royals bullpen over the last two years. The KC Royals bullpen has changed how many teams are now being constructed. A trio of big arms are being acquired by some teams and together they effectively shorten games to 6 innings before the “unhittables” enter the game.
The initial three headed monster label was given to the Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland combo in the 2014 playoff run. With an injury to Holland early in the 2015 season, the new three headed monster featured Ryan Madson as the 7th inning man making a new MHD monster which carried the Royals to a World Series Championship.
However, despite the arrival of the 8.33 million dollar/year Soria, the Royals Bullpen in 33 games has yet to find the reliable 3rd head.
With Holland recovering from Tommy John surgery, and Madson leaving to free agency, the KC Royals bullpen began the 2016 season hoping the newly acquired, former Kansas City Royals closer Joakim Soria could take over as the 7th or 8th inning guy to give the team a new third head.
In a recent post titled “KC Royals: Legendary Bullpen Showing Cracks”, the point was made that two of the former HDH (Herrera, Davis, Holland) combo were still in the pen and doing well. However, despite the arrival of the 8.33 million dollar/year Soria, the Kansas City Royals bullpen in 33 games has yet to find the reliable third head.
I’m going to make the case here that Danny Duffy should be the new 7th inning regular. Duffy has followed a similar path as Wade Davis, former failed starter moved to the pen where his velocity has increased and with a starters arsenal, made him nearly un-hittable.
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Let’s begin with the stats, right now the two lowest ERA’s among relievers is between Herrera at 1.17 and Davis at 0.00. Duffy is currently fourth in ERA among relievers at 3.18 behind Gee who has an ERA of 2.61. However Gee is destined for the starting rotation soon effectively making Duffy third among relievers in ERA.
An even better case for Duffy uses a few SABREmetric numbers. Duffy has the second lowest FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) on the team where FIP is basically interpreted the same as ERA except it assumes the pitcher is throwing in front of a league average defense and it ignores hit sequencing. Duffy’s FIP is 2.39 where the mighty Wade Davis sports a 2.72 FIP.
The next two stats that pop out are Duffy’s K/9 which are second highest on the team at 10.59. Combine that with a BB/9 of 2.65 and a ground ball rate according to fangraphs.com of nearly 40%, and you have a truly effective reliever.
A case could be made for Luke Hochevar to fill the 7th inning role. However the KC Royals bullpen needs a fire hose and Hochevar has shown a panache for that role. Also, Duffy’s ERA, FIP, and K/9 is better right now than Hochevar.
The other factor is that the addition of Brian Flynn to the Royals bullpen. Flynn adds a long or situational lefty, if necessary, freeing up Duffy to have a set role of head number 3 in the pen.
Soria’s role would then be the fourth reliever to spell one of the big three when either Hochever isn’t available, or two of them need the night off. That’s if Soria can somehow figure out how to quit balking and turn soft contact into outs. For now though, it appears the KC Royals bullpen would be best served to fill the 7th inning role with Duffy.