KC Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura’s stuff suggests he should be an ace. His performance has often fallen short. He’s also touched off multiple bench-clearing brawls. Is his strong second half a sign that he’s put those problems behind him?
There’s no doubt about the stuff. Yordano Ventura led the major-leagues in average fastball velocity in his rookie season with the Kansas City Royals in 2014. He ranks second among qualified starters with a 96.1 mph average fastball in 2016, trailing only Noah Syndergaard (98.0 mph).
The problem has always been that Ventura can let his emotions get the best of him. Early in the 2015 season he touched off so many brawls that he was the main reason many pundits tabbed the Kansas City Royals the “Bad Boys Of Baseball“. In mid June, Ventura earned a suspension for his part in a brawl with Baltimore’s Manny Machado.
Not surprisingly, Yordano Ventura struggled in the first half of both seasons. His 4-6, 4.73 ERA beginning to the 2015 season came before a fine 9-2, 3.56 ERA second half. In 2016, an even worse 6-8, 5.15 ERA start preceded his solid 5-4, 3.42 ERA finish with two more scheduled starts to come.
In 2015, Ventura’s strong second half caused Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost to tab him to start the team’s first playoff game against the Houston Astros. However, Ventura failed to live up to the no. 1 starter role in the playoffs. He struggled during the post-season to post a 6.42 ERA in five starts.
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Encouraging Signs From Ventura’s Second Half
However, Ventura has shown signs in this season’s second half surge that we’ve never seen before. In Monday’s start, a very efficient Ventura pitched his first nine-inning complete game in his career, winning 9-3. All three runs came on solo home runs, and he didn’t allow a first inning dinger to shake his focus. Instead, he immediately got back to business after those blasts.
Even more impressive, Ventura clearly was keeping velocity in reserve the entire game. He dialed up a 98 mph fastball followed by a 99 mph bullet to finish off Monday’s complete game with a strikeout. Not only was he managing his endurance to last deep into games, he was able to reach back for more velocity without distorting his mechanics.
Ventura also threw a complete game on July 28, but he only went eight innings in a 3-2 loss to Texas.
Could it be that the 25-year-old Ventura is learning to navigate his way through games? I can’t say for certain given his similar second-half rebound in 2015. However, I can’t help but hope. A mature Yordano Ventura would go a long way toward ensuring a much improved rotation in 2017.
Naysayers would point to Ventura’s declining ERA in each of his first three full season in major-league baseball to refute the idea that he’s maturing. He started off with a strong 3.20 ERA has a rookie, followed up with a 4.08 ERA in 2015, and a 4.35 ERA in 2016. But, this is why you need to watch the games instead of just looking at numbers. Ventura’s been managing himself through games much better than he did in 2015, especially when he doesn’t have his best stuff.