Our MLB handicapper breaks down the Kansas City Royals starting pitching rotation below for the 2015 World Series. Will experience be enough to outduel the Mets superior arms?
Royals Starter Game #1 – Edinson Volquez: 13-9, 3.55 ERA, 155/72 K/BB, 1.31 WHIP, .251 BAA
Veteran pitcher, Edinson Volquez, ate up over 200 innings for the Royals this year en route to posting a 2.6 WAR season. This far exceeded his preseason projections of just 0.9 WAR.
Late in the season Volquez was quite pedestrian, posting a 4.89 ERA in September and October. One of the reasons for this was his .287 BAA in that timeframe. Interestingly enough, Volquez allowed a .286 BAA in July while posting an ERA of 3.31. Neither one of those months is lighting the world on fire, of course.
Volquez throws a pitch classified as a sinker 38.9% of the time, which is a stark difference from his early days with the Reds where he threw his fastball in the high 50% range. You’d think that his ground ball rate would be higher than 46% with all of the sinkers that he throws, but he does keep the ball in the yard. Volquez’s 8% HR/FB rate in 2015 is the lowest he’s posted since his 4.2 WAR campaign with the Reds in 2008.
Royals Starter Game #2 – Johnny Cueto: 11-13, 3.44 ERA, 176/46 K/BB, 1.13 WHIP, .239 BAA
Johnny Cueto has had a hard time adjusting the the American League thus far, posting a 4.76 ERA in 81.1 IP since joining Kansas City mid-year. This includes allowing an awful .307 BAA. It is interesting then, that Cueto is slated to pitch Game #2 in KC, versus a later game in New York.
Lately it has been noted that Cueto had not been beginning games with maximum effort, touching just the high 80’s with his fastball in the opening innings. This is opposed to the low to mid 90’s that he usually sits at. He’s even been quoted as saying that in interviews himself. Maybe it was the fact that the Royals were going to the playoffs and he was saving himself. I mean, Cueto did pitch 212 innings in the regular season this year. Given that Cueto was having issues with effort, it makes more sense now that he is getting a start in front of an amped upped home crowd in Game #2.
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Royals Starter Game #3 – Yordano Ventura: 13-8, 4.08 ERA, 156/58 K/BB, 1.30 WHIP, .248 BAA
Yordano Ventura was predicted to be the most important contributor to the Royals pitching staff this year, with a projected WAR of 2.3. In this case, Ventura was just about as advertised, posting a WAR of 2.7.
Ventura can match any of the Mets starters with his fastball velocity, which averages just under 97 MPH. There is a weird anomaly with Ventura then in that his pitches get pulled at one of the highest rates in all of baseball. They get pulled and hit hard – Ventura has a soft hit ball % of just 14.7% this year. It’s counterintuitive, odd, and suggests that hitters know when to sit on the fastball and where it will be thrown.
With all of the talk about Ventura’s fastball, it is actually his curveball that comes in as his most valuable pitch. Swung and missed at a rate of 44%, it is definitely a weapon when used with the 97 MPH heat that the opposing batters are sitting on.
Royals Starter Game #4 – Chris Young: 11-6, 3.06 ERA, 83/43 K/BB, 1.09 WHIP, .202 BAA
Chris Young was a welcome addition to the Royals rotation in 2015. An extreme fly ball pitcher, Young induces a fly ball on contact in play 57.9% of the time. With Young running a .209 BABIP this year, it is apparent that most of those fly balls found gloves unharmed. That is backed up by his relatively good 7.7% HR/FB rate.
As most of you know, Chris Young is 6’ 10” and has a steep downhill angle at opposing batters. He is especially hard on right handers, allowing a .157 BAA compared to a .239 BAA allowed to left handers. He has also been fantastic on the road, which for him is mostly dependent on park factors, because of the whole fly balls thing. For example, Young has a career ERA of 2.78 ERA at Safeco Field, and a career ERA of 5.31 at Coors Field. He has a 3.61 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in his career at Citi Field, and I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if he put in a solid performance to back those numbers up for at least five innings in Game #4.