There is a word in baseball that many fear to say, especially in the dugout. It often brings a curse, prolonging a baseball player's unfixable problem. No one knows the term's origins, adding to the word's mystique. Anyone who uses it should not take the word lightly, so believe me when I say this: KC Royals pitcher Brad Keller has the yips.
Have KC Royals fans seen the last of Brad Keller in Kansas City?
Royals fans haven't seen the pitcher in the major leagues since his May 15 start against the San Diego Padres. It was a terrible start, walking eight batters in 3 2/3 innings and only striking out two. It marked a new low for the 27-year-old Keller, in possibly his last year with the Royals. Things only worsened when he landed on the IL with what the team called right shoulder impingement syndrome.
It is not uncommon for pitchers, or anyone using their arm above their head a lot. But this syndrome kept Keller out of game action for nearly two months and he is still no closer to a return than he was before. In all actuality, Keller rejoining the rotation seems like a long shot after his terrible rehab performances.
Keller has played six games in Triple-A Omaha, totaling only six innings. He has walked 21 batters in that span, giving up 14 earned runs and only striking out four. One bad ballgame snowballed into another, and there are no silver linings for Keller in Omaha. I thought Keller would return after the All-Star break, being what he was in April; a decent starter who walked a lot of prevented runs. That is not the case against even Triple-A competition.
I wish there was an easy solution. Keller's 2018 and 2019 performances were welcome among those abysmal seasons. Even the most cynical fans had to admit that he looked like a good pitcher, a middle-of-the-rotation arm that could be dependable. Now though, in his first season to post negative WAR at the MLB level, he is far from any of that.
Fans will continue to watch Keller in Omaha, where he may make a handful more appearances. I do not know if he will last that long though. There are only so many 40-man roster spots to go around, and there is no put putting him on the 60-day IL if he isn't coming back to Kansas City. Keller was once a decent trade candidate, serving as a budget starting option for a contender somewhere. Now, he would be lucky to get starts for the worst team in baseball. The fall is truly sad, but that is the yips for you. They are unforgiving, unrelenting, and unashamed.