I want to write a quick post on the day off, especially since I probably won’t be able to on Friday, as I will be in attendance for tomorrow’s game against the Braves at Kauffman on Friday.
Though the Royals are 4-9, they are coming off a strong 10-1 win over the Rangers at Globe Life Field on Wednesday, and have gotten a strong performance from their pitchers as well. The Royals as a pitching staff currently rank 14th in ERA, which is already a promising improvement from where they were a season ago under former pitching coach Cal Eldred and manager Mike Matheny.
With that being said, which Royals pitchers have stood out to begin the 2023 season, and specifically, which pitches from said pitchers have seen some intriguing development at the start of this year?
In this post, I take a look at five pitches from Royals pitchers that have been effective this year, and what Royals fans should look for from said pitches over the course of the coming months.
Amir Garrett’s Four-Seamer
Garrett has increased his four-seam usage from 40.7 percent in 2022 to 61.7 percent this season. And it’s for good reason, as Garrett is producing a whiff rate of 29.2 percent and a 30 percent K rate on the pitch, according to Baseball Savant.
That’s a vast improvement from the 17.4 percent whiff rate and 23.4 K rate he produced on the pitch last, and he has also seen an improvement in his xBA on the pitch, as it has gone from .209 last year to .116 this season.
Zack Greinke’s Slider
The 39-year-old veteran only threw his slider 7.4 percent of the time last year, and it only produced a whiff rate of 24.1 percent and a put-away rate of 13.8 percent. This season, Greinke has increased his slider usage to 19.5 percent, making it his second most-thrown pitch behind his curveball (which he throws 27.2 percent).
Greinke has added more spin to the pitch, and as a result, it is producing a 34.5 percent whiff rate and 22.2 percent put-away rate. The pitch is also producing a .247 xwOBA, which is a 46-point improvement from a year ago.
Kris Bubic’s Curveball
A lot has been made of Bubic’s new slider, but people don’t realize how much his curveball has improved as a result. Last year, his curveball not only sported an xwOBA of .309 but it also only produced a whiff rate of 15.9 percent and a put-away rate of 14.7 percent. This year, Bubic has increased the curveball percentage by 2.1 percent, and he has seen his whiff rate increase to 28.6 percent and put-away rate also jump to an astronomical 36.4 percent.
On the flip side, the batted ball exit velocity on the pitch has increased from 88.3 MPH to 96.4 MPH this year. However, the ability to make batters miss on the pitch could make up for those hard-hit rates…at least for now.
Carlos Hernandez’s Four-Seamer
The Royals moved Hernandez to the bullpen in 2023 and the move has paid off, as he is producing a 1.93 ERA to begin the season. A big reason has been due to his electric four-seamer which is averaging 98.9 MPH, a 2.1 MPH increase from a year ago. In addition to a bump in velocity, he has also seen an increase in the whiff and put-away rates on the pitch as well.
This season, he is producing a 22.2 percent whiff rate and 13.3 put-away rate on the four-seamer. Those are impressive improvements from the 17.8 and 6.3 percentages he posted in those respective categories a year ago. If those trends continue or even get better, Hernandez could find himself in higher leverage situations in the second half.
Brad Keller’s Curveball
Keller’s revitalization under new pitching coach Brian Sweeney is something to behold, and a lot of that improvement can be credited to the introduction of his new curveball, which he throws 24.7 percent of the time, according to Savant. Keller is producing a 37.2 percent whiff rate on the pitch as well as a put-away rate of 29.6 percent, which are both the best marks in those categories of any of the six pitches he has thrown this year.
Hitters also haven’t done much when they have made contact with the pitch, as they are only posting an xwOBA of .242 on the curve. If opposing batters continue to have trouble with Keller’s new breaking offering in 2023, expect Keller to not just keep his rotation spot for the remainder of the season, but perhaps be seen as a long-term option in 2024 and beyond as well.
Photo Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
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