What’s Wrong with KC Royals reliever Matt Strahm?
It’s early, to be sure… but what’s up with the KC Royals Matt Strahm?
Each season, you’ll see players get off to torrid starts, and some get off to subpar starts. KC Royals reliever Matt Strahm has been part of the latter. The lanky lefty has given up six earned runs in 1.2 innings to begin the 2017 season. And anyone watching theses early games knows the problem. Control. Strahm has walked three batters and struck out zero in his first two games. If you watched the 7th inning of the opener, you saw that he could not throw a strike.
Strahm has walked three batters and struck out zero in his first two games. If you watched the 7th inning of the opener, you saw that he could not throw a strike.
The concerning thing is that walks have never been an issue for Strahm. Before he was called up to the KC Royals last year, he had the third-lowest walk rate in the Texas League last year among pitchers with 100 innings, only walking batters at a 5.4 percent clip. Above-average control has always been a strength for Strahm.
Recent news suggests that Strahm’s early issues have been due to bad mechanics, with Ned Yost and Matt Strahm backing that up. Let’s take a look at what’s been up with him lately.
Strahm’s struggles date back to Spring Training. After a very dominant start to his spring, he hit a wall. Strahm pitched scoreless outings in his first five appearances, but suddenly something went wrong against the Cincinnati Reds. He gave up 6 runs while only recording one out. That appearance has stuck with him since.
The first thing that caught my eye was this info from Brooks Baseball. To start with that game against Cincinnati, Matt Strahm’s curveball had some major outliers. I found that his curveball had the highest vertical release point and the highest horizontal release point. For some very odd reason too, he threw his curveball four mph harder than he ever had in his career. Even more odd, is with this, his curveball was spinning less. Typically when Strahm throws his curveball harder, it spins more. So in summary, something was very wrong with his curveball against Cincinnati.
But that’s just focusing on one pitch in spring training. Well…, they’re just early results, but Strahm has seen a decline in velocity in every single pitch.
Looking at his heat map of the strike zone, he is clearing leaving a lot of his stuff up and out over the zone. When Strahm was having success last year, he was working his fastball up and inside, then finishing off hitters with his low-twirling curveball.
For example, the home run he gave up to Eduardo Escobar (the first home run allowed of his career), he left out and up. And all the stuff that isn’t getting hit is missing badly.
These struggles for Matt Strahm are very unfamiliar with Royals fans. All in all, ideally it’s not an injury and is just a few mechanical tweaks like the MLB.com report stated today. I think the release point problems can help support that.
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The KC Royals will need Strahm badly for the long run in 2017. Hopefully, with some adjustments, Strahm can get back to his dominance from last year and get the Royals bullpen back on the right track.