Judging the Royals

A closer look at the Royals’ newest pitcher, Jason Hammel

New Royals starter Jason Hammel had a 3.83 ERA in 166 2/3 innings for the Cubs last season.
New Royals starter Jason Hammel had a 3.83 ERA in 166 2/3 innings for the Cubs last season. The Associated Press

Let’s start with a couple of statistics: Jason Hammel — the Royals’ new starting pitcher — is 6 feet 6, right handed and 34 years old. His age might have scared off a couple of other teams, and they might have also been worried because Hammel was scratched from his last start of 2016 because of elbow tightness.

At the time Hammel was pitching for the Chicago Cubs and portrayed it as no big deal; he said it was a precautionary move to make sure he was ready for the Cubs’ postseason — but then Hammel did not pitch in the postseason.

Sliders and elbow problems go together like pork and beans and Hammel throws his slider about 35 percent of the time. So this is something I’m sure the Royals — and Royals fans — will keep an eye on.

Get worried if he misses starts.

Royals pitcher Jason Hammel puts on the Royals jersey 

What Hammel throws

OK, as long as we’re talking about pitches, let’s get into it: Hammel throws a fastball, slider, curve and change-up. Over the last three seasons Hammel has thrown his change-up less than five percent of the time, so smart hitters will probably ignore it and spit on it if they see one; why look for a pitch that might get thrown three times a game?

The fastball comes in at about 92 mph, the slider is about 84 mph and the curve is around 77. Watch the radar gun and the velocity will tell you what pitch he threw — unless he throws that change-up, which is about the same speed as the slider.

So if you’re showing off in the stands and see a pitch at about 84 mph, just say it was a slider and you’ll probably be right.

170 innings and 5  2/3 innings per start?

Hammel has been pitching in the big leagues since 2006 and has never thrown 180 innings or more in a single season. But he’s had five seasons in which he pitched 170 innings or more. In four seasons Hammel made 30 starts, and in those seasons averaged about 5  2/3 innings per start.

OK, I’m about to make some assumptions — and we all know what happens when you assume:

Let’s assume the Royals starting rotation is Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, Jason Vargas, Nathan Karns and Hammel. Now let’s assume the closer is Kelvin Herrera and Matt Strahm is in the bullpen and pitches either the seventh or eighth inning. That means in the majority of Hammel’s starts the Royals will need at least one more lights-out reliever to get the ball from Hammel to Herrera.

If you can throw 95 mph and have a killer secondary pitch, I’d encourage you to apply for the job.

Right-hander Jason Hammel agreed to a two-year contract with the Kansas City Royals after a successful stint with the Chicago Cubs.

Hammel’s splits

Hammel’s platoon splits are pretty even; lefties and righties hit him about the same for average, but lefties walk more and show more power.

The first three times through the order opponents’ batting averages are in the .260s, but the fourth time through the order opponents hit .340. Individual matchups will vary, but don’t be surprised if Ned Yost pulls Hammel before the other team gets a fourth look at him.

Over his career Hammel has been better in the first half of the season (3.99 ERA) than the second half (5.06), so the Royals will probably monitor him pretty closely as the season goes along. Over Hammel’s career he’s 8-24 with a 5.37 ERA in July, so you wouldn’t think the leash will be too long once the weather gets hot.

The other stuff

As anyone who has followed this site or blog or whatever it is knows, there’s a lot more to a player than the numbers he puts up. I’ll be going to spring training in the middle of March and when I find out more about Jason Hammel — or any other player — I’ll tell you about it.

Talk to you soon.

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