Kansas City Royals: The bullpen desperately needs some change


The Kansas City Royals are in a weird spot. They have gone from one of the best bullpens in baseball to the worst in four short years. Just because they are rebuilding does not mean they need to be this bad though.

For those of you who have followed me, I have been an advocate that the Kansas City Royals are actually rebuilding. I know they did not pick the best option, but it seems to be one they were forced into picking. You also have to take into consideration the bad luck they had before the year even started. With Salvador Perez and Nate Karns being on the DL to start the year and Jorge Bonifacio being suspended, they seemed to be beaten down before the first pitch of the regular season was even thrown.

However, that does not mean they need to keep trotting out the worst bullpen in baseball. They can make some changes so that they are not this bad.

Looking at the numbers

As of right now, the whole pitching staff is ranked 28th in the league with a 5.22 ERA over 139.2 innings. This is deceiving though because the starting pitching has an ERA of 3.67 over 88.2 innings, while the bullpen has a 7.94 ERA over 51 innings.

When you look at the number closer, it is even more clear that the Royals can fix this. According to ESPN, the Royals currently have four bullpen arms with an ERA of 9.0 or higher. Kevin McCarthy, Brandon Maurer, Justin Grimm, and Blaine Boyer are those individuals.

When you exclude their numbers for the total bullpen numbers, the 7.94 ERA drops to an ERA of 2.25 over 32 innings. Brad Keller, Kelvin Herrera, Tim Hill, Burch Smith, and Brian Flynn have had a very productive start to the season.

Now, I am willing to give McCarthy some slack. He was just recently called up when Maurer was optioned back to Triple-A Omaha and two of his three outings he yielded zero runs. Since he has only made three appearances, any time he allows a run his ERA is going to skyrocket. Which is why I am not spending to much time on him. When you add his numbers to the above ERA, the 2.25 ERA jumps to a 3.09 ERA. Still, a number you would gladly take.

When you look at what Grimm, Maurer, and Boyer have contributed, it is a totally different story. Those three combined have posted a 19.13 ERA.

Let that sink in for a second.

One of those three options has already been moved. So what about the other two?

Possible Solution

The Royals should start thinking about possible solutions. Reason for solving this problem is simple. The bullpen has blown more games than they have helped save. However, it has not been the entire bullpen that has struggled.

They have already moved one problem bullpen arm. Meaning the other two are most likely on watch. One should be more so than the other though.

Justin Grimm

Grimm is probably lower on the list than Boyer for one simple reason. He has actually shown that he can be a productive arm. The first five appearances of the year he threw 4.1 innings and only surrendered one run, resulting in a 2.20 ERA.

For whatever reason, his last four appearances have been the exact opposite. He has thrown 2.1 innings and surrendered 13 runs, resulting in a 55.71 ERA. Yes, a 55.71 ERA.

When looking at his season, it is really hard to believe that his last four appearances are going to be his true season results. He will most likely get a bit more time to showcase what he can do and that the last four appearances are just a rough patch.

I also still believe the Royals want to try and flip Grimm, therefore they need him to improve. I think the Royals will give him more opportunities to showcase his abilities to help rebuild his poor draft stock.

Blaine Boyer

Boyer, simply put, has struggled all year. Of his six appearances this year, only one time has he surrendered zero runs in one inning. Otherwise, he has surrendered 14 runs in four innings. Which leads us to his seemingly impossible 25.20 ERA.

Something that really stands out to me is the fact that he on average competes against six batters per appearance and he has never gone more than one inning. Over that time he throws on average 24 pitches per appearance. Which, looking at those numbers, would explain why he has just two strikeouts compared to six walks.

A deeper look at how Boyer is doing is not any better. Boyer’s 4.6% of strikes that were swung at and missed by hitters is awful. This could be in connection with his 50% first pitch strike percentage as well.

Then when you look at the number of pitches hitters are making contact with that are in the strike zone, 90.2% of pitches in the zone are being hit in some way. Which means he is a contact pitcher, which is fine. Unless the contact is resulting in hard hits. 46.4% of pitches hit in play are labeled as “hard hits”. That is not good.

Due to Boyer is struggling to find the strike zone consistently, and simply get batters out, he is not able to give clean innings or finish an inning without surrendering a single run consistently.

Final Thoughts

In my mind, the fix is easy. Find a new way to use Grimm for right now until he figures out why he has become ineffective, and cut ties with Boyer. As of right now, the bullpen as a whole looks bad, but it is just a few “bad apples” that are giving the bullpen that reputation. Instead of holding onto those apples, why not fix the problem?

The Royals could easily release Boyer and give someone like Richard Lovelady, Eric Stout, Scott Barlow, or even Clay Buchholz a chance to showcase what they can do. I know it is not ideal to start a young players service time in a year that is a lost cause, but at some point, you have to make moves you don’t always enjoy. And if they don’t want to do that, then bring Buchholz up. (who by the way has an opt-out on May 1st)

What do you think Royals fans? Do you think the Royals can easily fix the bullpen issues? Would releasing Blaine Boyer solve most of the problems or just create new ones? Let us know below!