Kansas City Royals: The real problem with Glenn Sparkman
Kansas City Royals pitcher Glenn Sparkman has been one of the worst starters in baseball this season and we dove into exactly why that’s the case.
Glenn Sparkman‘s last win came against the Chicago White Sox on July 16 when the Kansas City Royals offense won big 11-0. Sparkman was great that day, tossing a complete game and allowed just 5 hits all day while striking out 8. However, he’s lost his last 9 starts and while I do realize wins and losses might be the most overrated stat for pitchers, Sparkman has by no means been good.
In fact, he’s been one of the worst starting pitchers this year. According to StatCast, Sparkman is allowing an average exit velocity of 90.6 mph to opposing batters, which puts him in the bottom 6 percent of the league. Opponents are knocking him around and getting extra-base hits as well as the expected slugging percentage (XSLG) which factors in launch angle, exit velocity, and batted balls is 0.497 which is also in the bottom 6 percent.
So why exactly has Sparkman struggled so much? The guy with a 4.04 ERA at home but an 8.94 ERA on the road and an 8.18 ERA during day games has a difficult time of regularly completing 5.0 innings. It actually boils down to one simple reason. Sparkman has very little movement on any of his pitches.
StatCast has a neat figure that shows the vertical movement on all four of his pitches compared to the MLB average (0 being average).
Glenn Sparkman’s curveball has 57.0 inches of drop from the release point in his hand. That is 2.4 inches more drop – or just 4 percent more drop – than similar MLB curveballs at his velocity. Likewise, his changeup has 26.4 inches of drop, which is 4.8 inches less drop or 15 percent less than the MLB average.
It can be convoluted to analyze these stats, but essentially it means that Sparkman’s pitches aren’t fooling anyone or are getting far too much of the plate. Look at a pitcher like Dallas Keuchel, who has one of the best changeups in the game. He has 39.8 inches of drop in his that pitch. That is 5.3 inches more drop – or 15 percent more – than similar MLB changeups.
The fact of the matter is that Sparkman likely won’t be in this rotation next year. It looks like right now that only Jakob Junis, Mike Montgomery, and Brad Keller are locks. Danny Duffy is a fringe rotation player in 2020 but could be better served in the bullpen, assuming General Manager Dayton Moore doesn’t try to unload him for prospects in the offseason.