The KC Royals have struggled to find consistency in the bullpen but 2020 may bring a bounce-back year for some relievers who struggled in 2019.
When the KC Royals started the 2019 season, there seemed to be a lot of unknowns in the bullpen. Pitchers were consistently trying out new roles and pitching in different innings, trying to figure out where they fall best. This was just one of the many issues Royals relievers saw in 2019 though.
As the season progressed it looked as though many of the relievers just weren’t comfortable on the mound. Many were struggling to throw strikes, and even if they did, they’d still manage to walk a batter or two or allow hit after hit.
One pitcher that started the year off incredibly poor is Kevin McCarthy. It was a surprise to many that McCarthy started 2019 with as many problems as he did. McCarthy was giving up hits and walks over very few innings and caused his ERA to jump to 19.64 before being optioned to AAA Omaha on April 9th.
The struggles came as a surprise because McCarthy had been a consistent pitcher for the Royals in past years. McCarthy saw a little time with KC in 2016, but in 2017 he managed 45 innings with an ERA of 3.20 and an FIP of 3.98.
McCarthy showed enough to find even more innings in 2018. He was one of the go-to consistent pitchers for the 2018 Royals bullpen, pitching 72 innings with an ERA of 3.25 and an FIP of 4.06. McCarthy never holds a high strikeout rate, usually sitting in between 5.5-6 per 9, but he has a groundball rate that hovers around 55-60% and he keeps his home runs per 9 under 1.
Unfortunately, the consistency fell off to start in 2019. Once McCarthy was sent back down to Omaha he started to figure things out. He was still giving up some hits, but his strikeout rate shot up, and his walks stayed low.
After appearing in 13 games in the minors, McCarthy earned his call up back to KC. He saw his first innings back on May 22 where he pitched 2 scoreless innings, setting the tone for May. McCarthy ended May with 7 innings of relief, walking only 2 batters and giving up no runs.
He continued to impress in June with a monthly ERA of 2.38. He saw jumps up above 5.00 in July and August but brought it back down again to 2.51 in the month of September over 14.1 relief innings, the most of any month of the 2019 season for him.
McCarthy ended the season with 60.1 innings pitched, an ERA of 4.48, an FIP of 3.96 and a home runs per 9 of 0.6. His strikeout out rate remained consistent, but his walks saw an increase, finishing at 3.1 per 9. Given how poorly McCarthy struggled to begin the season, the numbers could have been a lot worse.
McCarthy knows what he struggled with and was able to turn it around when he was sent back to the minors. Hopefully, he is continuing that mindset over the offseason and working on his control. His ability to keep the ball on the ground is one of his strongest points and if he can keep control from the start of the 2020 season, he will likely be one of the bullpen arms the Royals rely on most in 2020.
The KC Royals will need consistent pitching in 2020 if they want to progress and pitchers like McCarthy will be expected to produce. McCarthy has shown in the past that he can be consistent and if he can continue, he will lead the way for the bullpen in 2020 and for future Royals relievers.