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June 14, 2013

Thoughts on the Royals, pitching and Brett

Sam Mellinger writes that there are some signs that hitting coach George Brett is having a positive effect on the Royals. But really, he says the Royals are winning again because of their outstanding pitching from the starters and the bullpen.

So the Royals are now a team of mashers, 10 runs and their first blowout win over a team that’s not the Astros since May 13.

Just updating some numbers here, that’s now eight of their last nine and 10-4 overall since the end of their month-long incompetence.

This is the most runs they’ve scored in exactly a month, so The George Brett Watch^ needs updating.

^ Brett is today’s column, which obviously I hope you read. This really is a crucial road trip for Brett and whether he stays on as hitting coach — and probably not for the reason you might suspect.

Before Brett took over, the Royals were hitting .261 with .314 on-base and .375 slugging percentages and scoring four runs a game.

Since he took over, they are hitting .245/.301/.345 and averaging 3.8 runs.

There are some signs that Brett is having a good impact. Elliot Johnson gave Brett a lot of credit after his big game last night. Eric Hosmer also homered, and appears to be pointed in the right direction — he’s hitting .309/.356/.418 with Brett, after going .262/.323/.331 before.

But, really, I think we can all agree that the Royals are winning again because of their pitching. It’s funny that the biggest change in the team since Brett came on is the pitching. Obviously it’s just a coincidence, but can you imagine the stink we’d all be making if the hitting was going this good?

Before Brett, the Royals had a 3.82 ERA. Since Brett, they have a ridiculous 1.93 team ERA and haven’t given up more than three runs in any of their last 12 games.

Brett is like the best pitching coach ever, you guys.

Anyway, this is all a bunch of rambling but when I started this blog post I actually just wanted to make one point. The Royals’ starters are getting a lot of attention, especially during this stretch, and deservedly so. They’ve all been fabulous. James Shields and Ervin Santana are both pitching like legitimate No. 1s. Jeremy Guthrie has been very good. We know all of that.

But the bullpen is back. In spring training, this was the one thing we — or, at least, I — felt most confident would be a strength. They’ve had their rough patches, but look at them now: best in baseball with a 2.73 ERA (starters are eighth in baseball and second in the AL, at 3.66). They’ve given up exactly one earned run since June 2.

In other words, this is starting to look more and more like the team we — or, at least, I — expected out of spring training. Around .500, built on pitching-and-defense, with a very good bullpen that could play better because of a lighter workload, an offense that should improve as the season goes along, and a chance to play meaningful games with the right set of breaks.

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