With Dyson’s return approaching, could the Royals cut back in the bullpen? (poll)

06/20/2013 10:41 AM

06/20/2013 1:25 PM

Do the Royals really need seven relievers?

Their rotation leads the American League in innings per start and possesses the only two starters — James Shields and Ervin Santana — to work at least six innings in every outing.

The question surfaces because outfielder Jarrod Dyson is nearing the end of the 20-day maximum on his minor-league rehab assignment. His return will force a corresponding move.

Could they keep an extra bat and jettison a pitcher?

“Not really,” manager Ned Yost argued. “We’re not scoring enough runs. Even though our starting pitchers are going deep, I still have to use these (back-end) guys every day to protect a one- or a two-run lead.”

Only three of the Royals’ last 35 games have been decided by more than four runs. That means multiple relievers heat up each night, many of whom don’t get into games.

“Look, I just want to score enough runs to win,” Yost said. “But when you’re protecting a one- or two-run lead from the seventh inning on, you’re using your main guys every day to do it.”

Those “main guys” are the bullpen’s back four: closer Greg Holland and set-up relievers Kelvin Herrera, Aaron Crow and Tim Collins.

Yost contends he needs three other arms to cover all other situations, especially because Bruce Chen typically needs two days to recover after pitching.

“Monday night is a perfect example,” Yost said. “We’ve got a tie ballgame (in the eighth). If we had a one- or a two-run lead, I wouldn’t have to take Bruce out when a right-handed hitter who has a chance to hit the ball out of the ballpark is coming up. I wouldn’t have to bring in another reliever.

“Bruce might have been able to get us through the eighth inning or even the rest of the game. Instead, I had to use two more pitchers. I’ve got to do that to maximize my match-ups.

“When you do that, you’re using those relievers more. Now, once we start getting three and four runs ahead, then yeah. But we’re not doing that right now. So we’ve got to keep those options available.”

Herrera concerns

Reliever Kelvin Herrera is generating renewed concerns after two shaky outings against Cleveland.

He surrendered three runs while recording just one out in the eighth inning of Tuesday’s 4-3 loss, and he permitted a run on one hit and one walk in a one-inning appearance in Wednesday’s 6-3 loss.

The Indians also stole two bases Wednesday against Herrera due, primarily, to inattentiveness.

Michael Bourn’s one-out steal of third, after a double, didn’t even draw a throw from catcher Salvy Perez. It resulted in a run when Mike Aviles followed with a sacrifice fly.

“Not a major a concern,” Yost said, “but he’s still working through some things. So a bit of a concern but not a major concern.”

The Royals demoted Herrera to Class AAA Omaha on May 23 after he permitted eight home runs in a span of 15 innings. He returned June 4 and made six scoreless appearances before his troubles in Cleveland.

Left-on-base percentage

Here’s another stat that underscores the effectiveness of the Royals’ pitching staff when combined with their defense: left-on-base percentage.

The Royals lead the majors at 78.6 percent, which is tracking to be one of the top marks in history. Since 1950, only the 1968 Tigers (79.5) and 1972 Indians (78.8) finished the season with a higher mark.

The league average tends to be around 72 percent.

This is a new-wave stat and can be tracked online at

www.fangraphs.com

. Jeff Sullivan has an article on the site regarding the Royals’ current success.

The stat goes beyond the LOB numbers found in box scores. It is, instead, calculated by using a pitcher’s hits, walks and runs allowed. Want the actual formula? OK, here: LOB% = (H+BB+HBP-R)/(H+BB+HBP-(1.4*HR))

The takeaway is this: The Royals are the hardest team to score against even after putting runners on base.

Looking back

It was 27 years ago Friday — June 21, 1986 — that outfielder Bo Jackson shocked the sports world by signing a three-year contract with the Royals for $1.066 million.

The Royals selected Jackson, the Heisman Trophy winner at Auburn, in fourth round with a long-shot hope of persuading him to play baseball instead of football.

Jackson’s feud with the Tampa Bay Bucs, which stemmed from actions on their part that led to him being declare ineligible to play baseball in his final collegiate season, provided the Royals with an unexpected opportunity.

The Royals’ offer was the largest contract at the time for an amateur player. It was also the first contract to place a drafted played on the major-league (40-man) roster.

Jackson rejected an offer of $7.6 million over five years from the Bucs.

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