Goose’s Take – Bubba Starling, Bad Royals Pitching and the Amazing Lorenzo Cain

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The Royals dropped the final game of the series to the Twins, though they did still manage to win the series. The depressing thing is, 3 of their 4 losses have come at the hands of the Twins.  That's how baseball goes sometimes I guess.

    –Bubba Starling is getting the call to head to AA NW Arkansas. His numbers have looked a little funny all year, primarily because of his strikeout rate, which sits at 33.3%. This has been slowly falling since he struck out 9 times in his first 14 at bats. He will be leaving high A ball with a line of .386/.471/.614 with 2 home runs. He has only struck out twice in his last 5 games, and the Royals are maybe hoping to get him into a little bit more friendly hitting environment.

Bubba has disappointed so far, after being the #5 overall pick out of Gardner-Edgerton High School. His greatest upside remains his age, and upside as a five tool player. The most lacking tools of date are seemingly the all important offense tools. Starling has fought swing mechanics changes throughout his 3 years in the Royals organization and began to show some life at the end of last season. Every year has seemed to be an "important" one for him, but now that he has finally moved to AA, it seems he is entering a crossroads. He will most likely always be a high strikeout/power type hitter, which is just fine provided you can make enough contact to make it worth while.

It is interesting when looking at Starlings heat maps just HOW it is he manages to get his hits. As seen in first chart (provided by BrooksBaseball.net) you can see that in his minor league career thus far, Bubba has been pitched primarily low and away.

 

career

High and tight seems to be where pitchers are concentrating this year.

bubba

What does that mean? I don't really know, but I would guess as the level of pitching competition gets tougher and tougher, he will need to find a way to fix some of his holes.It is unclear why there is such a drastic disparity in where he is getting pitched this year, but it is for sure something to keep an eye on.

So far, his batting average for balls in play is also an ASTOUNDING .600. This is completely unsustainable, but maybe shows he is making solid contact even though most of his hits have gone for singles. We will see how he does as the defense and pitching improve. He is still only 22 years old, but with a career .243/.332/.396 batting line, while never advancing past high A ball, he is certainly beginning to run the risk as being labeled an "also ran." This is a big year for him and the organization, lets hope we are breaking down his AAA numbers at the worst come next season.

 

   –Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon both earned the title of hit batsman for the Royals in last nights contest, but I don't really think we can use these as any sort of battle cry. Alex was barely clipped on a ball inside and Cain was hit with a run away split finger pitch. If opposing teams want to hit players like that, we will gladly take the base runners. No need to get worked up over that, the Twins hated to do it even more than Royals fans hated to see it.

  – The Royals begin a 4 game series in Chicago with the White Sox tonight. The battle on the bump for the first contest will feature the aces of both squads in Yordano Venture and Chris Sale. It will be interesting to see how Ventura responds after being tossed in his last start, which was less than stellar. He has been removed from every game either by ejection or injury (cramps) so Royals fans are anxious to see if he can simply last for 6 or 7 in a fairly boring and uneventful outing for once. It would be a welcome change.

  – Omar Infante and Alex Rios are the only Royals starters without at least 1 walk. Eric Hosmer is leading the team with 10, and sits with a .424 on base percentage (also leads the club). He has 8 walks in his last 20 plate appearances, over 5 games.

   -Lorenzo Cain leads the league with a .469 on base percentage and is also slugging .585 to go along with that. He has played gold glove caliber defense in center field, and has already been rated by BaseballReference.com to be worth 1.6 wins above replacement through only 14 games played. Typically, an average major league player will be worth approximately 2 wins above replacement for an entire season. Lorenzo Cain is good.

   -Edinson Volquez still leads the Royals in most categories. By far the best ERA among starters (1.99) at 22.2 innings pitched through 3 games is showing he is the workhorse of the staff so far as well. The rest of the starters have been surprisingly bad, with only Yordano Ventura having an ERA lower than 5.00, and even his is sitting at 4.80. Jason Vargas sits with a 6.75 ERA at the moment. While it is very early and these have all been masked by winning, it could be a problem if the Royals bats fall silent like they have in years past. It is also quite possibly that the starting rotation has pitched to the offense a little, loosening up with big leads. Only time will tell.


Also, MLB has a survey of the Royals Franchise Four…my thoughts on THAT are here.

**Corrected, heat maps are Raw pitches

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