4 other options the KC Royals should use before next Will Smith disaster

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James McArthur

The MLB season is still in prime small sample-size territory, but that is what we have to go off of. Reliever James McArthur's stats are not great at all so far. But fans who have watched all of his performances so far know the righty has been extremely unlucky in 2024. Who knows how different his season would look so far away from Camden Yards or without two Nick Loftin blunders?

This early in the season, I like to look at more of the predictive stats, especially Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP). That metric focuses on what a pitcher can control and converts it to an ERA scale. As of Thursday, McArthur's 12.00 ERA is a massive departure from his 1.31 FIP. One is atrocious, the other elite. That 10.69 difference is the ninth-largest among MLB relievers to boot. That, plus a .538 BABIP, offers hope for McArthur rebounding soon. He should do so in a closer role for Kansas City for one big reason.

This past spring, McArthur spoke with MLB.com's Manny Randhawa about how Kansas City differed from his previous organization, the Philadelphia Phillies. The Royals' change quietly reintroduced McArthur's best pitch last season.

“Right when I came over from the Phillies, they wanted me to start throwing the slider again,” McArthur said. “And I’m glad they did, because it’s helped me a lot and has kind of protected my curveball. … So them helping me with that, I think, was a big part of me turning it around at the end of the year.”

McArthur only threw that pitch 24% of the time last season, and its value was very apparent. The righty is throwing that pitch 29.4% of the time in 2024, with similarly good results. His expected stats are elite, while a lucky bounce on a Byron Buxtun double is skewing that pitch's performance so far this season.

Why hone in so much on one pitch? Every reliever needs a get-out pitch. The weapon in their arsenal they know will get them out of an inning jam, or game entirely. McArthur's slider is his get-out pitch, while a curveball and sinker round out his total arsenal. Royals fans saw what McArthur had to offer as the bullpen's guy last season. Quatraro needs to view Smith's struggles as an opportunity for other players to step in. McArthur needs to be first up.