Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura is rather hard to figure out. At times, he’s been outstanding. At others, he struggles. Could he tense up when expected to headline the rotation?
Yordano Ventura’s short career has been rather erratic. He debuted in September of 2013. He excelled in his rookie season in 2014 with a 3.20 ERA in 183.0 innings along with a 7.8 K/9. Ventura ccuffled through the first four months of the 2015 season while posting a disappointing 4.86 ERA, before he turned it on in August and September to go 8-1 with a 3.26 ERA as his K/9 spiked to 9.68. In 2016, Ventura is again failing with a 5.32 ERA in 66.0 innings.
Royals Review’s Kevin Ruprecht wrote an excellent piece detailing how Ventura’s fastball has lost its effectiveness from 2014 through 2016, attributing the problem to losing command of the pitch. Hitters are slugging .620 against Ventura’s bread-and-butter offering, up from .339 in 2014.
However, the fastball story doesn’t explain why Ventura’s strikeouts spiked in the final two months of 2015 then regressed in the post-season.
What Ruprecht failed to mention that Ventura’s good performances have occurred when the KC Royals had a clear ace on the staff besides Ventura.
In 2013-14, James Shields was the unquestioned staff leader and Ventura thrived. When Shields left as a free-agent in 2015, coaches expected Ventura to emerge as staff ace and Ventura struggled. When the Kansas City Royals acquired Johnny Cueto at the 2015 trade deadline, the pressure was once again off Ventura. However, manager Ned Yost tabbed Ventura to start game 1 of the ALDS against Houston due to his strong performance down the stretch and Cueto’s 4.76 ERA with Kansas City. Instead, Ventura dragged the team down during the playoffs rather than carry the KC Royals.
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While correlation does not create causation, the above pattern can’t help but make you wonder. Does having his teammates, and the fans, expecting him to take over as no. 1 get inside Ventura’s head and cause him to blow up?
It’s interesting to note that Ventura’s ERA ballooned to 5.19 on July 20 of 2015, before a strong performance on July 26 (his last in July) in which Ventura went 7.0 innings and struck out five while allowing only one earned run. You know what else happened on July 26? The KC Royals announced they had acquired Johnny Cueto from the Reds.
Could the above reason be the cause behind Ventura’s “hot dog” flourishes in his follow through, that he only does during games? His coaches say he doesn’t perform such antics in his side sessions during the week
Will the KC Royals have to add an unquestioned ace at the trading deadline once again before they can expect Ventura to pitch to his potential?
Good question. I’m sure we’ll see what Ned Yost and Dayton Moore think of such a possibility as the trading deadline draws near.