Things were going well for the KC Royals bullpen. Heavy emphasis on ‘were.’
I don’t want to start my tenure here being the proverbial turd in the punch bowl, but just how did things come to this for the KC Royals?
In winning a World Series just 19 short months ago, the Kansas City Royals rode the arms of a trio of bullpen heroes—Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera and yes, Luke Hochevar has to count for what he did that October—to a title. It was the spirit animal to Cleveland’s
It was the spirit animal to Cleveland’s Andrew Miller, only instead of one super-human arm that could go multiple innings at a time, day after day, in big spots, it was two super-human arms (and Luke Hochevar), an inning-plus at a time, day after day in big spots.
Along with Greg Holland, whose right arm was reduced to ribbon and wishes that September, that was a significantly terrifying group to see in the late innings. Get through six with a lead, and that was a quartet that could take it to the barn.
Now, look at the state of things.
Herrera, bless him, is still throwing flames out of the bullpen. Hochevar’s option wasn’t picked up, and in a league where the average bullpen ERA is nearly 4.00, he still hasn’t found a home. Holland missed the whole season and had to sign a prove-it deal with Colorado. And Wade Davis was sent to Chicago for Jorge Soler, despite having a perfectly good Paulo Orlando at hand.
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In their respective steads are Joakim Soria (a former All-Star and semi-beloved Royal who is a shell of his former self), and Matt Strahm (good in 21 appearances a year ago and after Herrera, the most talented pure pitcher of the bunch who may wind up starting before all is said and done).
You also have Mike Minor, Chris Young and Travis Wood (oft-injured/failed/converted starters) and Peter Moylan (good-natured, fun-loving Aussie who was out of baseball as recently as 2014 and was player-coach for the Atlanta Braves rookie-ball affiliate in 2015).
I don’t think the situation is nearly as dire as The Ringer’s Zach Kram does. For one thing, having Herrera and nothing else would make the Kansas City Royals bullpen a C- at worst, and for another some level of reinforcement should be on the way this season in the form of Kyle Zimmer, Miguel Almonte and/or Andrew Edwards. Strahm and
Strahm and Eric Skoglund may have something to say in the rotation before 2017 is said and done. By September—heck, by June—there may well be significant turnover among the Kansas City arms.
But right now? Ye gods. 0-3, two bullpen meltdowns (headlined by Monday’s Chernobyl-esque showing against Minnesota), with a three-game series against George Springer, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and everybody else in one of the American League’s best lineups looming.