Kansas City Royals: Helping the Bullpen Regain their Dominance

KANSAS CITY, MO - JUNE 21: Salvador Perez
KANSAS CITY, MO - JUNE 21: Salvador Perez /

The Kansas City Royals have one real obligation. That is to execute the game of baseball to the best of their ability. I don’t want to talk about if they can or cannot make the playoffs, mostly likely the answer is the later. I want to look at what fulfilling that obligation looks like regardless of what happens by the end of the month.

For the Kansas City Royals there is one spot in particular I would like to give attention to. That is the back end of the bullpen, specifically who closes out games. Kelvin Herrera currently holds the team’s closer title. He inherited the role when Wade Davis was traded to the Cubs during the off-season.

On paper it seemed like the right move. KH had been the set-up man for Davis, a role in which he flourished. He did so well in fact that he was an All-Star in 2015 and 2016. For those two seasons he averaged 70.6 IP, an ERA of 2.73, 75Ks, 19 BBs, and a 1.039 WHIP.

Very easy to see why Ned and Dayton were confident in Herrera shutting down games.

Baseball, like most professions, can be a “what have you done for me lately” game. That being the case let’s look at some numbers so far in 2017:

  •                 Player A: 35.2 IP, 4.29 ERA, 36Ks, 8 BBs, 1.234 WHIP
  •                 Player B: 38.0 IP, 3.55 ERA, 49Ks, 13 BBs, 1.289 WHIP
  •                 Player C: 45.2 IP, 2.36 ERA, 49Ks, 12 BBs, 1.007 WHIP

Which of those players do you want to come in with the game on the line?

Player A is Kelvin Herrera. Player B is Joakim Soria. Player C is Mike Minor. Minor is having a revival season out of the Kansas City Royal bullpen. So much so that KoK’s own Colby Wilson would like to adopt him and call him his own.

While Minor seems like the obvious choice to try out in the closer role there are two factors at play against this. One is that by letting him be the “seventh inning” guy Yost is able to bring him into the game in say …the sixth. Imagine a genuinely good reliever who is able to go more than one inning. Two is the fact that Minor likely is not in KC next season. There is a mutual option in his contract that Mike is likely to turn down to seek a nice pay day.

CLEVELAND, OH – MAY 26: Catcher Salvador Perez
CLEVELAND, OH – MAY 26: Catcher Salvador Perez /

That leads me to my preference.

Let Jack be back! I want the flames lighting up the K! I want the Mexicutioner!

Soria has been a proven closer throughout much of his career. “Oh, but look at how bad he was in 2016…” yeah, well, get over it. Players have down years. Soria has bounced back. Putting him into the closer role would allow KH to return to the setup role where his production has clearly been better. And that brings me to my next point.

It hasn’t really been an issue of losing games in the ninth inning. It has been the innings leading up to it. If Herrera was in a position to revert back to his lights out status it would help eliminate some of the rough innings the team has faced this season.

Yes it would be nice to find a Luke Hochevar to go along with the trio of Minor-Herrera-Soria. Doing so would once again allow the starters to worry about getting through five innings (imagine the relief Jason Hammel would feel). Perhaps Kyle Zimmer or Richard Lovelady could eventually fill that role. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying they would be as dominant as H-D-H. What I am saying is that my gut says they would be very solid.

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For now though Minor shutting it down in the sixth and seventh and Herrera taking care of the eighth would set things up nicely for Jack in the ninth. Sometimes players just fit in certain roles better than others. I’m not saying that KH has done a bad job as the team’s closer. He has been fine.

With the current state of the Kansas City Royals however, fine shouldn’t be the choice if better results can be had. I would rather have KH the All-Star setup man than the good closer. This may not have much of an impact on 2017, but looking toward next season getting the most out of each player is vital.

That brings up the question…who will play the role of Mike Minor in the 2018 production of ‘Kansas City Royals Live’?

Next: Karns' Impacting the Deadline

What do the fans think? Do the Kansas City Royals have the pieces to once again have a dominant bullpen? Does it even matter?