The Kansas City Royals relief pitchers have thrown the second-fewest innings of any bullpen in the American League this season. Although they’re not called on often, they’re relievers have helped them to a 20-20 record through the first quarter of the season, behind only the might Detroit Tigers in the AL Central. Perhaps the finest pitcher in their bullpen in the last 3 weeks has been 24 year-old Kelvin Herrera.
Behind only Aaron Crow for the team lead in ERA (an astounding 0.00) and WHIP (an equally impressive 0.82), Herrera has been one of the most reliable relievers in the majors all season. Last night, with his team down one run in the eighth inning, Herrera was called upon to get the Royals out of jam. The Baltimore Oriole had just led off the inning with two singles off of Louis Coleman and, with their power hitters coming up, were threatening to break the game open. With Chris Davis, a lefty, striding to the plate, Ned Yost decided to put in his young, right-handed stud, Herrera. Herrera rewarded him by sticking out Davis and Nelson Cruz in quick succession and then inducing an inning-ending groundout from Steve Clevenger to keep his team down by just one. Although the Royals couldn’t come back to win the game, Herrera’s outing continued a string of brilliant pitching performances for the once-coveted prospect.
Dating back to May 5, Herrera hasn’t allowed a single hit in six straight appearances, a streak that has stretched 6.1 innings and included just one walk. Herrera hasn’t allowed a run in 11 straight appearances, lowering his ERA from 3.38 on April 23 to the 1.40 it sits at now.
After posting a sparkling 2.35 ERA in 84.1 innings in 2012, the then-22 year-old Herrera appeared to be the next great reliever in Major Leagues. However, after his ERA swelled to 3.86 and he threw just 58.1 innings last season, the Royals seemed to tamper expectations. This season, Herrera has looked every bit as good as he did in 2012, if not better. He has struck out nearly a batter per inning and owns a minuscule 1.03 WHIP, both of which would surpass his 2012 totals.
If the Royals want to continue to keep pace with the American League favorite Detroit Tigers, their bullpen will need to remain a consistent part of their game. Led by Greg Holland, Aaron Crow, and, of course, Kelvin Herrera, this bullpen is doing their part to help the Kansas City Royals end their 28-year playoff drought.