12 Days of Royals: Wishing for a sub 4.00 ERA starting pitcher

(Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images) /

The Kansas City Royals haven’t housed a sub 4.00 ERA starting pitcher for the last two seasons, and our wish is that we get one (or two) next year.

As we continue our 12 Days of Royals wish-list, we’d like to ask Santa (or our true love) for a sub 4.00 ERA starting pitcher during the 2020 season. We’re keeping it conservative, not trying to imitate one of those kids who asks for a baby elephant. A sub 4.00 ERA is an attainable wish with the current pitching staff.

Brad Keller was the team’s best starter in 2019. Despite having a 7-14 record, he finished with the best ERA and came second in WHIP among starters. He had a stellar July, as he closed the month with a 3-1 record, and 2.12 ERA.

He nearly finished the season with a sub 4.00 ERA, but an inning ruined the feat. Keller had posted a 3.95 ERA as he prepared for his final start of the season versus the Oakland Athletics before being shut down due to a preplanned innings restriction.

The game began perfectly – three up, three down – and then things went haywire. After Matt Olson struck out to begin the second inning, the A’s singled, singled, walked, walked, walked, and tripled in order. Keller’s final ERA: 4.19.

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Keller was essentially the team’s Obi-Wan Kenobi as it pertained to finishing with a sub 4.00 ERA for the 2019 regular season. Therefore, he’s our top candidate in ensuring the feat during the next Royals campaign. He just needs to work on improving his command, and the rest should fall into place.

If Keller doesn’t deliver, then the next candidate is Danny Duffy. Duffy has completed three seasons with an under 4.00 ERA, and even posted a 2.53 ERA for the ensuing ALCS champs in 2014.

However, his numbers have declined substantially during the last two years posting 4.88 and 4.31 ERAs. Nonetheless, Duffy turns only 31 years old this Saturday, and is entering his tenth major league season. He has a sub 4.00 career ERA, so that works for now.

There aren’t many guarantees after Keller and Duffy. Jakob Junis needs to try to perform well enough to remain in the big leagues, so tagging a sub 4.00 ERA expectation on him is neither nice nor realistic.

Glenn Sparkman struggled severely (6.19 ERA), but he had the best single pitching performance last season by tossing a complete game shutout against the Chicago White Sox, but other than that, it was mostly fireworks for opposing teams. Mike Montgomery has produced some decent seasons in the past as a reliever, but he hasn’t been able to translate that success into his starting role.

There is possibility that current minor leaguer Brady Singer will make a premature appearance for the Royals, and if that’s the case, then he automatically enters the sub 4.00 ERA sweepstakes based on how he dominated the minors last year going 12-5 with a 2.85 ERA. However, that may be too high an expectation for a pitcher making the jump a bit too soon.

The Royals’ starting pitching success will also greatly depend on the individuals behind the plate. We’re all hoping Salvador Perez can have an influence on the rotation, but also on the young catchers who’ll likely be doing most of the heavy lifting as Perez continues to recover from his injury.

Next. 2020 is Danny Duffy's most important season. dark

Santa will likely make this happen, as the Royals are overdue for a respectable season from someone in the rotation – hopefully it’ll happen with more than one starting pitcher.