KC Royals: Why Brad Keller is the club’s early ace

(Mandatory Credit: Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports) /

The KC Royals are now 11 games into the season and, going into tonight’s game at Seattle, each member of the starting rotation—Zack Greinke, Brad Keller, Daniel Lynch, Carlos Hernández and Kris Bubic—have at least two starts. Greinke, who started Opening Day, has three.

But who’s the ace of this staff?

It’s early, of course, and I’ve banged my drum before about Keller’s good early pitching. And even though it’s based on a small sample size, and he’s at that early point in the season where one bad start could destroy his good numbers, Keller is, at least for now, the Royals’ early ace.

Here’s why.

His two good starts give KC Royals pitcher Brad Keller the early ace edge.

Keller, who gets the start tonight against the M’s, has two starts compared to Greinke’s three, both are 0-1, and Greinke has given up only four runs in 16 innings. But Keller has been better.

He was excellent his first time out against Cleveland, throwing six scoreless innings and striking out five before leaving the game his club eventually won. Then he surrendered only two runs against Detroit a week ago; although he struck out six and the Tigers nicked him for only three hits, Keller came out on the losing end of a 2-1 game.

His 1.38 ERA, almost a run better than Greinke’s 2.25, stems from giving up those two runs over 13 innings. He’s allowed only five hits and one run. He’s struck out 10.

Granted, Greinke had a strong outing in the season opener, but has since struggled slightly by getting into an occasional jam. He’s averaging exactly a hit per inning and fanned only two, although he’s never been much of a strikeout pitcher.

It’s a close call, but Keller is outpitching Greinke so far.

The rest of the KC Royals’ 2022 rotation really isn’t coming close to Brad Keller.

Keller holds a close edge over Greinke, but much more space separates him from the rest of the starting pitchers.

Daniel Lynch, for example, had some pretty good stuff against the Twins Wednesday night—he earned his first win of the year by holding Minnesota scoreless for all of his five innings—but his ERA is 5.40 and he’s allowed six runs, three homers and 13 hits in 10 innings. To his credit, he does have nine strikeouts and has walked one less batter than Keller.

The struggles that plagued Carlos Hernández in spring training (0-2, 14.73 ERA in 7.1 innings) have followed him into the regular campaign. His two-game ERA is 7.27 and, although he’s thrown only 8.2 innings, he’s already given up seven runs and a homer, and has issued three walks.

Kris Bubic has a team-high ERA of 10.80 after giving up six runs in only five innings pitched. His eight walks are concerning. His first start of the season against the Guardians was abysmal—he gave up five of the six runs charged to him thus far this season in the first inning alone. He was much better in his second start against the Tigers (the first major league game this blind writer ever witnessed) but walked six in 4.1 innings.

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The numbers, then, strongly suggest Keller has been the most consistent starting pitcher for the Royals. Let’s hope he continues this trend against Seattle tonight.

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Keller squares off against Seattle’s Chris Flexen tonight. First pitch is scheduled for 8:40 p.m. CDT.