The Downside – The Bullpen Reviewed by Momizat on . Everything in RoyalLand is warm and fuzzy, well everything except the Yuniesky Betancourt signing which as DBLesky pointed out isn't nearly as bad as most of u Everything in RoyalLand is warm and fuzzy, well everything except the Yuniesky Betancourt signing which as DBLesky pointed out isn't nearly as bad as most of u Rating:
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The Downside – The Bullpen

Everything in RoyalLand is warm and fuzzy, well everything except the Yuniesky Betancourt signing which as DBLesky pointed out isn’t nearly as bad as most of us bloggers made it out to be.  Even with that though things in KC look good the All Star game is coming for the first time in years, there are young studs all over the 25 and 40 man roster as well as having a rebuilt rotation that has enough upside that if you squint you can see a possible rainbow shining.  All of this could allow KC to possibly challenge .500 for the first time since 2003 which for most of us diehard Royal fans is enough to smile.

With all this positivity what better time for me to toss in some black clouds and wake us all up to what could happen next season.

I’ll start with the bullpen, as some of us bloggers might have an overinflated sense of the talent walking out of the cage as evidenced during a recent Buster Olney question on twitter as to who had the 10 best bullpens in the majors, a few of us tweeted out Soria, Crow, Holland and Broxton’s names as if they were locks to have great seasons but then I got to thinking, is this that good of a pen?  Yes they are long on talent but equally they are long on ifs, here are just a few of those.

5. Kelvin Herrera big arm, big talent – Kelvin Herrera surprised many Royals prospect gawkers last season with his performances but Kelvin has always had the power arm, solid curve and change in a starting role but his small frame just wasn’t able to stand up to the workload.  His intro to the bullpen yielded the type of results one should expect from someone who profiles as a upper level starter with an average to above three pitch mix in one or two inning stints, dominating hitters at three different levels.  Herrera doesn’t carry much weight to the bullpen but his talent could match that of any arm in the pen currently and his addition could push a less talented arm like Blake Wood to the minors or just working less innings.  A Herrera omission while not huge makes for a less talented arm running out as the 6th, 7th or even 8th arm from the cage.

Tim Collins via Minda Haas Flickr

4. Little Timmy’s big control problems – Collins was a fan favorite to start the season as many liked to compare themselves to the slight 5’7 lefty.  Yet fans don’t have a 94 mph fastball, a drop your chin curveball that can buckle a hitters legs while also toating a changeup that makes Aaron Crow jealous.  That’s a decent three pitch mix folks, especially out of the pen where most relievers can get away with just two pitches but Collins with that repertoire struggled due to the fact that he couldn’t hit the broad side of the strikezone at times, finishing only ahead of Aroldis Chapman(7.38/9) in walks per 9 with his 6.45 total.  That means Collins jog from the pen had a 16.3% chance to end in a walk, not that valuable considering he had a 1.49 WHIP which also puts him in the bottom 10% of major league relievers.  Collins has solid pitches and the leftiness to be a good arm out of the pen but if he continues to walk hitters at a Marmolian pace he doesn’t have the stuff to make him valuable.

3. Jonathan Broxton the new Ramon Ramirez or Juan Cruz – If I was to tell you Jonathan Broxton ranks 20th in WAR among relievers over the last 10 years would that surprise you?  Well it shouldn’t, Broxton from ’07 to ’09 was as good as any in the game piling up 7 WAR and ultimately reaching his peak with a 2.8 WAR and a major league best 13.5 K/9 in 2009.  Broxton did most of this with his heavy 96-98 mph fastball and gotcha slider mowing down hitters and piling up the Holds( 32 in 2007) and a few saves making the lineman sized relief pitcher as effective as they come during that time.  Since that ’09 peak his velocity average has dropped from 97.8 to last seasons 94.1 while the effectiveness of both pitches have fallen from being well above average to below last season, earning him a 5.68 ERA as well as career lows in K/9 (7.11) and BB/9 (6.39).  Obviously the front office believes he’s worth the risk a 1 year 4 million dollar rebuilt arm cost but if Broxton’s arm isn’t recovered he could drag down the pen as if they were carrying a 300 lbs weight around its neck much like Juan Cruz and his great looking contract did a couple seasons ago.

2. Aaron Crow All Star, Starter or Overexposed – Many fans were a bit disappointed when the Royals broke out of spring training in 2011 with Aaron Crow in the bullpen.  It wasn’t that they were mad to see a former first rounder on the 25 man roster, no it was seen more as a sign that maybe the 12th overall pick of the 2009 draft wasn’t the starter that some had hoped when he was drafted.  Despite the negativity Crow shined for four months last season earning the Royals lone All Star nod and pitching his way to a 1.76 ERA thru July.  Aaron was embarrassing big league hitters and looking like he would take over the blogger world as the heir to the “reliever” should be a starter blog topic, then August happened and Crow for whatever its worth either hit a wall or got caught up to by big league hitters giving up 29 baserunners (19 hits, 9 walks) in just 11 innings while allowing 9 runs in that time.  It was late in the season so maybe Crow was just worn down by never having to pitch that late into the season at a top level the way a reliever is asked to out of the pen or maybe hitters figured out that they could avoid the slider and sit on the fastball.  For whatever reason Kansas City has the possibility of losing a talented righty setup man either to the rotation if he would surprise all by earning a starting spot or there is a chance that Crow’s late season swoon continues.  In either scenario the Royals face a weakened bullpen.

Fans mouths drop via the Mexicutioner curveball and presence via

1. Joakim Soria can’t bounce back – Soria for four seasons was as good as any closer or member of a bullpen on any team in the majors, so good that many of us were asking for a Top 10 major league prospect in return for him but then the inevitable wall hit last season.  Many closers outside of Mariano Rivera encounter some type of adversity whether it be injury, control problems or just a lack of velocity that makes it difficult for them to close out innings and games.  Some like Trevor Hoffman develop a can’t hit change up and hang around closing games for years but most never find their stuff and fade away.  Soria unlike most doesn’t depend on a top notch fastball but more on pin point command, control, a four pitch mix and a I’ve fallen and can’t get up curveball that totally left him for most of last season which all combined makes him incredible but without all components can make him average.  If Soria can’t become the pitcher that we’ve seen from 2007 to 2010 then Kansas City’s pen gets stretched out further pushing Broxton or Holland to a closer roll something neither has done over the last couple seasons while also pushing a rookie like Kelvin Herrera or a less talented Blake Wood into more innings, more leverage and possibly more deficits.  And that is before we get to the reality of the coaching staff taking multiple blown saves or more bad appearances by Soria leading to losses that could cost a .500 or better record for Kansas City.  Jack as the coaches annoyingly call him carries a big weight ultimately into how good this bullpen could actually be.

The Royals bullpen has plenty of loaded arms to run out many of whom (Holland, Soria, Crow and Broxton) have put up All Star level seasons in the big leagues as well as a few others who have the talent level (Herrera, Louis Coleman and Tim Collins) to be effective relievers but with most there are plenty of heavy ifs and buts.  And we all know if ifs and buts were candy and nuts the Royals would have more than one winning season in 18 years.

Follow me on Twitter @ClintScoles

About The Author

I grew up on the mean gravel roads of Iowa where I started my love for baseball from the age of 2. George Brett and the voice of Denny Matthews deepened my love even more for the Royals as my father and I spent summers listening to the team on our deck or in the car on our way to or from my little league and high school games. Sports was always the common bond that my father and I enjoyed and the Royals were in the center of that.I currently live in La Vista with my wife, two sons, two dogs and a pair of gross cats where we are grinding through until we can move somewhere warm when we retire. I own Casino Cab Company and Bluffs Affordable Auto Repair in Council Bluffs trying to build my 1% empire. If you are in the area you can find me at Omaha Storm Chasers games on most nights or just follow me on twitter @ClintScoles.

Number of Entries : 856

Comments (6)

  • Paul

    Clint: I just don’t see Wood or Mazarro as filler. Not that they are dominant back end guys, but both have the stuff to be able to pitch to both lefties and righties. So there’s a clear distinction there between those two and Collins/Coleman. Re: Herrera…

    Thanks for the comment Greg. The Futures game and at the end of the season are the only times I saw him and as you note, he was not impressive at those times. It’s good to know his stuff is a lot better than that, but my take is that they have enough depth that he doesn’t have to be a savior.

    Re: Soria. We see this from time to time with relievers. Papelbon was one, messing around with his pitches and sequences a lot. Turns out he’s pretty good. Unless Soria is hurt, I expect him to bounce right back.

    Re: Broxton. His FB velo in 2010 when he started his “decline” was better than his first two years in the league when he dominated. He was still at 94 last year when he was clearly hurt.

  • Greg Schaum


    While I understand control and command are different monsters….I don’t think fans saw the real Herrera last year….Both in the futures game and in the final month of the season his pitches lacked the bite I have seen the last few years….He does have a tendency to over throw (Jeffress is more guilty of this) which makes his pitches flatten out…..Yes, even at that velocity pitches can flatten out ( actually probably more so than a finesse guy)

    But, when he is on ( which is most of the time) his breaking stuff slows down his heat so much that when he does get that movement on his fastball it jumps out at you like a 14 year old in the little league world series ….it jut seems to get on the hitter so much quicker than other fastballs….

  • Clint Scoles

    I do agree with most of your thinking that the bullpen will be a strength as there are enough talented arms in the system that even with a little failure KC should be able to get thru it.

    Paul I can’t agree with much of what you wrote unfortunately. Where do you come up with your thoughts on Herrera? He has a 2.1 career BB/9 rate in the minors and only threw 2 innings in KC. I don’t mind Wood much he’s just a basic arm that can eat BP innings although his inability to control the running game can hurt at times. Mazzaro out of the pen could be interesting but I doubt his average FB(91 mph) would play up enough to make him worth it.

    As for the other statements. Soria was more than a head issue, Broxton without a top notch FB has been on the decline the last two seasons and Crow could be out of the bullpen all together as a starter. Holland is the only one I have complete confidence in but even he should see a bit of regression considering his performance was out of this world.

  • Paul

    I’m pretty much with David Lowe.

    Adding, I think the assessment of a lot of locals that their pen is rad because of guys like Collins, Coleman, and Herrera is kind of humorous. I agree that Collins doesn’t make it… not just because of the control problems, but because he’s just not that good. Coleman is essentially a trick pitcher who we saw as the season went on can only pitch to right handers. Those guys get figured out pretty quick in MLB. Herrera’s command is deplorable. He’s not close to ready.

    The reason I think the bullpen is the strength of the team is that the headlines will be the “surprising” results from Blake Wood and Vin Mazzaro. In reality, they’re now seasoned enough for good seasons not to be surprising in the least. And both have very good stuff. Secondly, they have the depth to send the aforementioned three question marks to Omaha and bring them up to be the 7th guy whenever there is an injury.

    Out of the four back end guys, I just don’t see them falling off. Soria’s problems were in his head. If he doesn’t make the rotation, hopefully Eiland will let Crow be a two pitch guy, which will make him the guy he was in the first half, and Broxton’s only question is health. If the FB doesn’t come all the way back, it’s not that big a problem if he commands it and has the slider. I think the bullpen can be quite a bit better than last season, actually, because the rotation is so much better and they will be in more clean innings and get more rest.

  • david.lowe

    Mijares should replace Collins in the pen. I have no more patience for Collins BB rate. If he cannot fix the control problems, he should not make the team out of the spring. That fixes one of the five problems.

    Herrera should be a stud, along with Holland and Coleman. Not sure what to expect from Crow and Soria, like you. Broxton also a wildcard.

    Basically, I agree with your assessment, but Collins I see as not making the team. No more tolerance for BB’s.

  • DownUnderFan

    Excellent analysis, Clint. Agree there are more questions than answers going into next season. Do we see the crafty Dayton Moore pickups of 2011 (Cabrera, Franny, Paulino)or the more common DM errors of the previous years (Davies, Wachter, Cruz, Ramirez, Guillen, Jacobs, Crisp, etc. etc.)?

    It will be a very interesting spring training with way too many pitchers vying for way too few spots (unless the big trade does happen).

    Personally, though, I think the bullpen will again hold its own next year while the starting pitching will be the prime suspects.

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