The KC Royals all-time saves leader understands the desire for velocity but sees the greater need for an ability to pitch and command.
The KC Royals have taken a large leap in the opposite direction from their championship days of 2015. One of biggest changes, though, may be seen through the command and production of the bullpen. The era of HDH is no longer, and now the Royals bullpen in riddled with inconsistency and a continuing rotation of pitchers.
When the season and spring training ultimately began, it looked as though the time of a struggling bullpen may finally be coming to a close. There were plenty of pitchers who were showing what they were made of, both young and old. Most notably may be pitchers like Trevor Rosenthal and Josh Staumont.
Rosenthal has a history as a closer, but Staumont is still trying to make his way in baseball. He had an up and down 2019 season, but started hot in spring training and was recently shown throwing 103 mph while training during this off time.
Unfortunately for the Royals, fixing the bullpen won’t be as easy as getting a bunch of hard throwing young arms into the mix. These pitchers also have to prove that they can pitch around bats, switch up their pitches, and manage their velocity.
In a recent interview with MLB.com, Jeff Montgomery talked in a little more detail about this subject. Jeff Montgomery is likely well known as a Royals commentator, helping guide fans through the games on tv, but at one time, he was THE closer.
Montgomery still holds the club record for career saves at 304 and spent the majority of his career with the Royals from 1988 to 1999.
Montgomery told MLB.com that if he were playing today, there is a chance he wouldn’t even make it in the bullpen due to his fastball sitting in the high 80’s instead of the fast high 90’s teams like to see today.
Still, that didn’t stop him. Montgomery understands the want for high velocity pitching and looking through history, there are plenty of relievers and closers who found success in throwing heaters. Though, there are plenty who also found injury as well.
Montgomery believes there a formula that makes for better pitching, and while velocity is a part of it, it does take a little more.
"“If you look at pitching, there are basically three elements to get hitters out,” Montgomery said. “There’s changing or mixing up your velo, there’s getting movement on your pitches, and there’s location. That part hasn’t changed.”"
Montgomery knows what he is talking about, and is likely trusted by many around baseball due to his ability in the bullpen for many years. While his view doesn’t count out pitchers like Josh Staumont who throw heat, it does focus on the importance of these pitchers to ensure they can pitch consistently.
A majority of Royals pitchers have struggled with command over the previous years, especially those who throw at a higher speed. If the Royals want to continue to progress, it will be important for them to continue to develop these players that can throw the heat, but ensure that when they release the ball, the placement is right, and they are fully in command.
There are plenty of high velocity pitchers in the Royals system right now, but continuing to work on the basics will be critical going forward. Hopefully, the season will be on track soon, and fans can see if pitchers like Josh Staumont can keep the ball under control while breaking the radar gun.