The Royals have a bunch of flamethrowers. Yordano Ventura's starts are prefaced with "Let's throw fire"; Kelvin Herrera, Brandon Finnegan, Wade Davis, Danny Duffy, and Greg Holland can all bring the heat as well. It's fair to say that the Royals are reliant on their fastballs in order to achieve success.
FanGraphs has a way to measure this using pitch type linear weights, AKA pitch values. Essentially, these are the number of runs above or below average for a given pitch type. In that manner it's a bit like UZR or DRS. The Royals ranked 10th in baseball with 21.2 runs above average on the fastball. Now, teams might throw different pitches at different frequencies, so FanGraphs has a different value that adjusts the runs number per 100 pitches to get a rate. The Royals again ranked 10th in baseball. So we have some evidence that the Royals have relied on the fastball for their great success.
Well, hey, if we can do this for pitchers, we can do it for hitters, right? Sure we can. The Giants' non-pitcher hitters ranked 9th in the total run value against the fastball (55.9); on a rate basis, they ranked 7th. The Giants are a pretty good fastball-hitting team. Below are statistics for the top 5 Giants hitters by fastball pitch value against the "Hard" category from Brooks Baseball.
So far this postseason, the Royals have done a pretty good job of figuring out their opponents' weaknesses and avoiding their strengths at the plate. They certainly seemed to do this with Mike Trout in the ALDS. Now, as it seems like hitting fastballs would be a strength of the Giants, perhaps the Royals should throw other pitches more often if they want to win the championship.
Here is how those same players fared against the breaking ball.
And against offspeed stuff.
For the most part, these are good hitters who don't see a huge decline from the fastball to other pitch types (except Brandon Crawford). If the Royals want to increase their chances of winning, though, throwing other pitches could help.
The relievers will throw their heat — there isn't much of a way around that. But James Shields, Yordano Ventura, Jason Vargas, and Jeremy Guthrie should all consider featuring their signature secondary pitches (changeups for Shields and Vargas, curveballs for Ventura, and whatever Guthrie throws). Otherwise, the Giants might tee off.
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Kevin Ruprecht is an Editor of Beyond the Box Score. He also writes at Royals Review. You can follow him on Twitter at @KevinRuprecht.