It is no secret that throwing strikes is a big key to success on the mound. The Kansas City Royals have to completely change their approach to achieve this.
In an already frustrating season, the amount of free passes the Kansas City Royals have issued is hindering development. Not only are they giving opponents easy chances to score they are taking the defense (and viewers) out of the game.
One example from Sunday’s series finale against the Twins, Heath Fillmyer entered the 7th inning and promptly retired first two hitters. What followed next was four walks and one hit that gave the Minnesota Twins two more runs to add to their four-run lead. The game had already taken 3 1/2 hours to get to bottom of the 7th. A potential 10 pitch, four-minute frame that took 35 pitches and an additional twenty minutes.
This is not new, unfortunately. Kansas City has walked the fourth most batters this season. It should be no surprise out of the bottom eight teams in this category, only one has a winning record and none will make the playoffs. In contrast, six of the top seven teams in the least free passes issued have over 90 wins and only one outlier has a losing record. To make it to the top seven the Royals would have to reduce their walks by 108.
Seventeen non-position player Royals who have taken the hill this season have a BB/9 rate of at least 3.3 or higher (which is the major league average) including Brad Keller, Scott Barlow, Jake Diekman, Jake Newberry, Brian Flynn, Fillmyer, Richard Lovelady, Josh Staumont and Kyle Zimmer. As you can see this list is dominated by relievers who are brought in to put out fires, not pour gasoline on them.
Until we have pitchers who are not afraid to give the defense an opportunity to make plays or we develop a strategy to not be satisfied with nibbling for strikes it will be tough to produce a winning record. Cal Eldred, or whomever the next pitching coach will be, must set the tone for this in spring training next year.