Judging the Royals

Dayton Moore, Joakim Soria, Kelvin Herrera and the Royals’ bullpen scoreless streak

The Royals bullpen’s scoreless innings streak ended Friday but what Kelvin Herrera (right) and the rest of the relievers have done this season is still remarkable.
The Royals bullpen’s scoreless innings streak ended Friday but what Kelvin Herrera (right) and the rest of the relievers have done this season is still remarkable. AP

According to Rustin Dodd’s story this morning, the Royals bullpen’s scoreless streak ended Friday night at 42  1/3 innings. I bring that up for two reasons:

1. If it’s wrong I get to blame Rustin

2. That’s a lot of scoreless innings

And the Royals bullpen did it with a bunch of guys who aren’t exactly household names. Do you remember where you were when you heard Peter Moylan, Brian Flynn, Chris Young, Chien-Ming Wang and Matt Strahm signed to become Royals?

Yeah — me neither.

How about 2015? Young, Jason Frasor, Joe Blanton, Franklin Morales and Ryan Madson made significant contributions, but for a long time they flew under our collective radar.

I started covering the Royals in 2010 and that year — according to collective ERA — they had the worst bullpen in the league. In 2011 they were eighth, in 2012 it was fourth and in 2013 the Royals had the best bullpen in the American League. They dipped to fifth in 2014, but the Royals were No. 1 in 2015 and are currently tops again.

Even after two American League championships, a World Series title and a plethora of players winning Gold Gloves and becoming All-Stars, there are still Dayton Moore haters out there, ready to pounce at the first sign that the team is faltering. You’d think even those guys would have to give credit to Dayton for knowing how to put a bullpen together, even when he has to build one out of spare parts.

You’d also think the haters would have to give me credit for using the word "plethora" correctly.

“Yeah, but Dayton missed on Soria”

Joakim Soria is certainly not the pitcher he was the first time he was with the Royals. His ERA is currently 3.74 and he’s had some memorable meltdowns. Some of those meltdowns included an accomplice; Salvador Perez and some questionable pitch calling.

(Maybe that’s two accomplices; you decide.)

Earlier this season I asked if Soria should be asked to pitch two consecutive innings and some Internet smart aleck replied that Soria should never be asked to pitch at all. That bothered me because it’s my website and being the smart aleck is my job.

Plus, if you’ve got a healthy Wade Davis clone stowed away in your garage, I’m sure Dayton Moore would love to hear about it. Until then, the Royals will have to make do with what they’ve got.

But to be perfectly honest, Soria makes me nervous, too.

But after getting lit up for his meltdowns it’s only fair to point out that Soria’s now had 10 scoreless outings in a row. This season Soria has pitched in 56 games and if I counted right, 42 of those appearances have been scoreless.

Soria mainly gets the job done, but when he fails, he fails in memorable fashion.

Herrera as a closer: he shows his emotions

One of Dayton’s accomplishments is adding depth to the pen; Greg Holland goes down and Wade Davis steps in, Wade Davis goes down and Kelvin Herrera takes over. When healthy, all three pitchers have incredibly stuff, but there’s a still a difference: Holland and Davis don’t show their emotions, Herrera does — and that can be a weakness.

In Friday night’s game Herrera’s emotions showed up on two plays.

In the ninth inning with runners at first and second base, David Ortiz hit a ball back to the mound. Herrera knocked the ball down, picked it up and then made a bad decision; he threw the ball to third base to get the lead runner.

Go back and watch the video, and stop it when Herrera picks the ball up. Alcides Escobar is at second base signaling for the ball so he can start a double play. The runner on his way to second base is less than halfway there. Throw the ball to Esky and the Royals have an easy 1-6-3.

But Herrera threw the ball to third and that forced Cheslor Cuthbert to go across the diamond to complete a difficult double play. Lucky for the Royals it was David Ortiz running or Cheslor would have never gotten him. Afterwards everyone was talking about how rare a 1-5-3 double play is and no wonder; it’s the wrong play.

Throwing to third appeared to be a decision made in a moment of panic and if Cuthbert hadn’t covered for Herrera’s mental mistake, the game might have ended differently.

The other play that showed Herrera’s mental state was on a bad throw back to the mound by catcher Drew Butera. Drew got sloppy — which should never happen — and threw the ball into center field.

That allowed the runner on second to advance to third base and Herrera threw his hands in the air in frustration. That’s another thing that should never happen; when pitchers do that, they show up a teammate.

When Wade Davis pitches he does it with all the emotion of the Terminator with Sarah Connor at the plate. (And if you don’t get that joke, go rent “The Terminator” immediately.) Herrera has incredible stuff — his changeup is 90 mph — but until he learns to control his emotions he’s not as good as he can be.

And Kelvin Herrera is pretty damn good right now.

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