Starting pitching holding Royals back

By Steve Sell
June 29, 2016

Who would ever have thought that Danny Duffy would be the Kansas City Royals’ most reliable starting pitcher?

The Royals are still hanging around for an American League playoff spot as we near the halfway point of the season. Kansas City, 40-36, remains in the hunt despite a starting pitching staff that has been borderline horrendous.

Duffy has an ERA of 3.24 and has drastically reduced his walks. Import Ian Kennedy can’t keep the ball in the park, but still has an ERA of 3.96 after his outstanding performance in his last outing on Sunday against Houston.

From there, it gets ugly.

• Yordano Ventura, 5.00 ERA and little mental toughness.

• Edinson Volquez, 5.15 (in his defense, 12 runs in his last start has mushroomed his ERA, but he’s still been ineffective).

• Chris Young, 6.54 and throwing little more than batting practice.

• Kris Medlen, 7.77  at the time of his injury.

Say one thing for Royals manager Ned Yost, he’s a master of handling his pitching staff. Because of the Royals’ feast-or-famine season, he’s called on Wade Davis just 28 times for 27 1/3 innings. He has an ERA of 0.96, but Yost has resisted putting him in “to get work,” as they like to say. Davis almost always pitches in save situations or not at all. He has pitched only once since June 19 and hopefully he hasn’t gathered a lot of rust.

Kelvin Herrera was getting overworked early in the year, but with a lot of blowouts recently he’s finally getting some rest. Joakim Soria, who had a brutal start, has been better recently and his work load has lessened.

Same for Luke Hochevar. The guys who have really been busy lately have been Dillon Gee, Chin Mieng Wang, Brian Flynn and Peter Moylan, mainly because the starters have struggled so mightily and they’ve been in early. 

The starting pitchers are giving up a lot of homers and walks, something they haven’t done the past two years. Ventura, Volquez, Young and Medlen have all regressed and it’s starting to look like the Royals are a team with a lot of Nos. 3, 4 and 5 starters, no 1s or 2s. There’s no ace to the staff and really there’s not a strong No. 2.

It’s amazing the Royals are staying in the race when you consider they’ve been without Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas for long stretches and they dumped starting second baseman Omar Infante. Now Lorenzo Cain could be out for a while with a bad hammy, a malady that used to plague him earlier in his career but he’s been healthier the last two. If Cain is indeed out (there’s been no prognosis at the time of this posting), that would put Jarrod Dyson back in the lineup on a regular basis. He flunked his right field trial and has been little more than a spectator the last month.

It’s definitely been a wildly inconsistent roller-coaster ride for the Royals, yet if they can just find some steady starting pitching there’s a wild-card spot with their name on it. Cleveland is starting to look like last year’s Royals as it finally has some hitting to go along with that great pitching. Catching Cleveland could be a chore, but the Royals know they can make the World Series as a wild-card team. They’ve done it before.