Royals Starting Pitchers Getting Killed By Gopher Ball
Royals starting pitching has been something of a disaster in the 2016 season. They have the third worst ERA in major league baseball and have given up more home runs than any other team.
The KC Royals starters have been rocked for a collective 5.07 ERA, which is better than only the Twins and Rockies so far this season. The biggest problem has been the 77 home runs surrendered by the rotation, which is six more than baseball’s second worst staff (Angels).
Let’s break down the gopher ball parade by pitcher:
IP HR ERA
Chris Young: 49.2 21 7.07
Ian Kennedy: 88.2 19 3.96
Yordano Ventura: 84.2 11 5.00
Danny Duffy: 48.2 10 3.33
Edinson Volquez: 92.2 10 5.15
Dillon Gee: 19.1 4 6.05
Kris Medlen: 24.1 2 7.77
Uh, yeah. That just ain’t pretty.
A major part of the problem is that the Kansas City Royals are built in direct conflict with the current trend in major-league baseball. Hitters are bashing home runs at a near record pace in 2016. In 2001, Barry Bonds blasted 73 dingers to set the single season record. Forty-one players hit more than 30. Right now, teams are at a pace to surpass the 2001 league total in 2016.
Of course, the KC Royals have loaded their starting pitching staff with fly ball pitchers to exploit the deep expanse of the Kauffman Stadium outfield. The Kansas City Royals landed many of these pitchers looking to maximize their bang for buck in free-agency, because these players wouldn’t have the same kind of value in the smaller parks around MLB.
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While the dimensions of Kauffman Stadium haven’t changed, the numbers of balls flying out of ballparks has spiked this season. Thus, their staff has proved to be easy meat when playing in bandboxes like Yankees Stadium, Jacobs Field, or U.S. Cellular Field.
Chris Young has been a particular victim. Surprisingly effective with a 3.06 ERA in 123.1 innings pitched as both a starter and reliever for the KC Royals in 2015, Young has looked like a batting practice pitcher in 2016. He’s given up more home runs than any pitcher in MLB, with fellow Kansas City Royals starter Ian Kennedy in third place with 19.
Yet, Young’s home run RATE is by far the worst in the league at an outrageous 23.8% of fly balls hit against him landing over the wall.
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The blunt truth is that the Kansas City Royals won’t go anywhere this season unless they can get better production from their starting staff. Either they have to hope that rehabbing players Mike Minor, Kris Medlen, and Jason Vargas will bring some stability to the mound, or general manager Dayton Moore finds help on the trade market before the deadline.