The Kansas City Royals’ fans have quite a few wishes for the 2020 season. A statement season from Brad Keller should be one of them.
Welcome back to Kings of Kauffman’s 12 days of Kansas City Royals Christmas series. Every day leading up to Dec. 25, the team here at KOK will take turns coming up with their wish lists for the hometown squad. Today, let’s focus on starting pitcher Brad Keller.
Although Keller had an acceptable 2019 season, the starting rotation as a whole was bad. Out of the 30 teams in the MLB, the Royals’ rotation ranked 23rd in ERA and 24th in BAA (batting average against). Although those starters were average in the innings department (15th), those innings were of pretty poor quality.
Keller, who burst onto the scene in 2018 as a Rule 5 draft pick by going 9-6 with a 3.08 ERA, came back down to earth a bit this past season. His record was very bad (7-14) but in today’s era of baseball, judging pitchers by their win-loss records isn’t a good means of analysis. Keller’s ERA (4.19) and ERA+ (113) paint a much more accurate picture.
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Additional context provides even more clarity. Per OddsShark’s database, Keller ranked 175th among 178 pitchers to start at least 10 games in 2019 with a measly 3.07 runs a game. The team’s ace was doomed from the start. Despite the Royals scoring an average of 4.27 runs per contest, that offense largely disappeared when Keller took the mound.
The key to improvement in 2019 for Keller may simply be developing his changeup pitch. He threw it a minuscule 1.4 percent of the time in 2019 (38 of 2,711 pitches), surrendering a .250 batting average and a whopping .625 slugging percentage. In order to make the leap to stardom in 2020, he’ll need to throw his changeup with more consistency.
On top of that, cutting down on walks is paramount. Keller isn’t a high-strikeout pitcher, so he thrives when he’s not surrendering free bases to opposing players. Should the changeup come along and the rest of his pitches improve just a bit, the strikeouts should rise (like they did in 2019), but the walks will also decrease.
Here’s to hoping Brad “Stellar Keller” has a great 2020 season!