Richard Lovelady has the talent to be a successful big-league reliever. The Kansas City Royals need to find a way to make that happen.
We recently learned that the Kansas City Royals’ young left-handed reliever, Richard Lovelady, has undergone successful knee surgery and will be out 6-8 weeks. He should be more than ready by the time Spring Training rolls around. And, assuming he is, we need to use him more this year.
I know it may seem counterintuitive to claim we need to pitch a young man more when his WHIP was 1.9 and he gave up enough hits (more than 13 per 9 innings) to make Glenn Sparkman or Jorge Lopez blush. But I believe there are reasons to trust Richard Lovelady to perform at a high level with more of an opportunity.
Last season Lovelady spent his age 23 season traveling back and forth between Omaha and Kansas City. His numbers in Omaha were very good. His numbers in Kansas City were very bad.
Over 26 innings in Omaha, Lovelady struck out 10 per 9 innings. He had 4 strikeouts for every walk issued. And his ERA was right at 3. Very impressive in the Pacific Coast League. In Kansas City, over 20 innings, he walked 3.6 per 9 innings. He barely struck out 2 for every walk he issued.
Lovelady will need to pitch better in the big leagues, but 20 innings is still a very small sample size. And some of his peripheral numbers seem to suggest he will do better. His BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) was .412. That is a huge number when the average is usually closer to .300. Even though his ERA was a miserable 7.65 for the Kansas City Royals, his FIP was 4.16. That is a rather huge gap between the likely outcome and the actual outcome. Again, that seems to suggest some degree of bad luck.
It is hard to remember now, but Greg Holland had a similar introduction to the big leagues. At age 24, Holland was called up and pitched a total of 18.2 innings. His ERA was nearly 7 but his FIP was right at 4. And even though he struck out guys that season he also gave up too many hits and his BABIP was through the roof. Sound familiar?
There will probably need to be some adjustments for Lovelady next year. He must walk fewer guys and he needs a few more strikeouts. He may have to throw even fewer sinkers and work almost exclusively with his fastball and slider. Both of those pitches look big-league ready. With our bullpen issues, he should also merit a longer look than 20 innings.
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Lovelady was near dominant for his first few years as he worked his way through the minors. He may never be that dominant in the big leagues. But his stuff is there. He will still only be 24 this season. These are the kinds of bullpen arms that the Kansas City Royals must be able to develop if we ever want to have a bullpen that can, again, be counted on to close out games.