Kelvin Herrera has had a bit of a rough go at his new role as closer for the Royals. He has tiptoed the line between dominance and disaster on multiple nights this season. Last night’s four earned runs was no exception. Royals fans seem eager to take him from this revered position, but is that the right move?
First of all, Royals fans are spoiled rotten. We had years of Holland and Davis dominance to make us forget what an average, human closer looks like. Guess what? Kelvin is still better than average. For instance, we could have the Tigers’ Francisco Rodriguez. Remember him? 5 blown saves this year. Other big name closers like Jim Johnson (4) and Mark Melancon (3) are proving it’s hard out there in the 9th. Herrera currently has only 2 blown saves, though he also has two losses.
The alternative, for now, to Kelvin Herrera closing would be Joakim Soria. Soria boasts a lower ERA at 3.55 in 25.1 IP to Herrera’s 5.55 ERA in 24.1. Joakim Soria has also given up 4 less runs and 3 less hits in that span. He is a proven closer, he has held that role on many teams. He does, however, have 4 blown saves for the Royals this year. Soria is comfortable in the pressure free 8th inning. He’s not the ”mexicutioner” he once was.
Kelvin Herrera has the stuff. The man is a strike machine at a 70% strike rate. While that doesn’t necessarily mean outs as Wade Davis has a .89 ERA and only throws 62% strikes, it does mean command. Command under the pressure of a 9th inning is key.
Herrera’s problems seem to be derived from changing his pitching arsenal. This year he fully added a slider to his fastball-changeup duo from years past. The problem with his slider is that it’s extremely effective when it’s not thrown for a strike and is chased. It’s extremely hittable when he loses control. No, you cannot rely on a fastball alone to get hitters out, even if it is 100 mph. But if the slider isn’t as strong as it needs to be, why rely on it so heavily?
Herrera seems determined to make this pitch work and pitching coach, Dave Eiland, seems content to let that process happen. So, Royals fans, sit tight. Kelvin is growing more comfortable as the season goes on. I expect a few more bumps in the road as we struggle through the long summer months, but after the rest of the All-Star Break, I predict Kelvin comes back a little more of the machine like closer Royals fans are accustomed to. At the very worst, we can always sit back and laugh at the Tigers.
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