By Soren Petro
The Royals resurgence has been greatly credited to the strength of their bullpen and Ned Yost’s willingness to ride that strength. It should come as no surprise that Ned is sitting proudly atop his bullpen horse again this year. However he’s going to have to consider waiting a little longer to bring his prized stallion out of the stable. Or will he?
Yost has gone to his pen early and often this season. The Royals bullpen is currently on pace for 567 innings for the season. We all remember the gloomy early days of Dayton Moore’s Spring Trainings and his stated goal of 1,000 innings for his starting rotation. We’ve come a long way from those days and those comments. The Royals are now defending World Series Champions and right now the starters are on pace for just 891 innings.
Here is a look at the breakdown of innings for the bullpen and starters in 2014 and 2015 compared to what the early pace is for the pen this year.
|Year||Starters IP||Bulllpen IP|
It is important to remember that it is early and the starters are not fully stretched out. Yost is, or at least should, be more cautious with how far deep into the game he will stay with his staring pitcher. Normal expectation would have the manager going longer with his starters as the year progresses, but as we all know Ned is not normal.
Here is a look at how the innings breakdown this year compares to the first eight games the last two seasons.
|Year||Starters IP||Bullpen IP|
Maybe it will change as we move along, but at least right now it looks like Ned is not just moving towards riding the bullpen more, but a lot more. A LOT MORE! The 28 innings from the pen is a 45% jump over last year’s usage at this time.
First reaction is that the Royals are going to need the starters to step up, but the first reaction to the Royals approach to things the last couple of seasons has been a bad indicator of future success. I think Ned and the Royals would love to see the starters walking off the mound after seven strong innings, but it certainly doesn’t look like Ned is going to sit around hoping for it to happen.
The Royals bullpen is a thoroughbred, but we’ll see how fast they are coming down the stretch after Ned’s been using the whip since the starting gate.
|AL East||Blue Jays||Blue Jays||Blue Jays|
|Cy Young||Corey Kluber||Corey Kluber||Chris Archer|
|MVP||Carlos Correa||Carlos Correa||Carlos Correa|
|Rookie of the Year||Byung Ho Park||Joey Gallo||Byron Buxton|
|Royals Player of Yr||Eric Hosmer||Eric Hosmer||Eric Hosmer|
|Royals Pitcher of Yr||Yordano Ventura||Wade Davis||Edinson Volquez|
|Surprise||Yordano Ventura||Mike Minor||Omar Infante|
|Flop||Right Field/Dyson||Ian Kennedy||Chris Young|
|Cy Young||Max Scherzer||Clayton Kerhsaw||Clayton Kershaw|
|MVP||Bryce Harper||Paul Goldschmidt||Bryce Harper|
|Rookie of the Year||Corey Seager||Corey Seager||Steven Matz|
|World Series||Nats over Astros||Nats over Astros||Royals over Cubs|
|Blue Jays||Blue Jays|
|Chris Archer||Chris Sale|
|Carlos Correa||Carlos Correa|
|Byron Buxton||Byung Ho Park|
|Gerrit Cole||Noah Syndergaard|
|Paul Goldschmidt||Paul Goldschmidt|
|Corey Seager||Steven Matz|
|Giants over Blue Jays||Blue Jays over Giants|
by Soren Petro
In 13 years at Kansas Bill Self has made it to the Elite Eight, six times. Basically he’s been one win away from the Final Four almost every other year he’s been the head coach of the Jayhawks. The problem? He’s only won two of those Elite Eight games.
Good or bad… right or wrong (and it’s probably wrong)… the Final Four is the ultimate measuring stick of a coach and a program.
Cody Tapp pointed out last night on Sunday Sound Off (Sundays at 10:30 PM on KSHB, Channel 41) that there are now eight head coaches in college basketball that have been to more Final Fours than Bill Self during his 13 years in Lawrence.
The eight coaches are…
John Calipari – 5 (2008, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015)
Tom Izzo – 4 (2005, 2009, 2010, 2015)
Roy Williams – 4 (2005, 2008, 2009, 2016)
Mike Kryzewski – 3 (2004, 2010, 2015)
Rick Pitino – 3 (2005, 2012, 2013)
Ben Howland – 3 (2006, 2007, 2008)
Billy Donovan – 3 (2006, 2007, 2014)
Jim Calhoun – 3 (2004, 2009, 2011)
Bill Self’s two trips to the Final Four ties him with…
Jay Wright – 2 (2009, 2016)
Bo Ryan – 2 (2014, 2015)
Thad Motta – 2 (2007, 2012)
Jim Boeheim – 2 (2013, 2016)
So what’s wrong with the Jayhawks in the tournament? That’s the question most KU fans are asking themselves right now. Unfortunately the answer is never as easy as fans want it to be.
Now listen, I’m certainly not going to say that I have the ability to prepare a team for a tournament run any better than Bill Self, but I have watched a lot of tournament basketball over the years. So I will take a shot at it and offer eight possibilities of what is wrong with KU in the tournament.
1. Nothing. That’s right. The first possibility is that there is nothing wrong at all. It’s entirely possible that Bill Self is doing nothing wrong and is just experiencing a run where the ball isn’t bouncing his way in close games. Since Self has been at Kansas, Mike Kryzewski has been knocked out of the NCAA Tournament in the first round three times and the second round another time. Self’s next championship may be one freshman signing away.
If over the next 13 years Self makes six more Elite 8’s and goes 4-2 in those games winning two National Championships (right now he wins the title 50% of the time he makes the Final Four) he would have six Final Fours and three National Championships in 26 years. No one would be complaining about those numbers.
2. Extra Timeouts. If you watch the tournament you know that the networks jam a 30 second commercial in wherever possible. This basically gives coaches a number of extra 30-second timeouts. Theoretically this could give other coaches a chance to adjust to things that KU is doing, where in the regular season they don’t have that opportunity. It basically allows lesser coaches to catch up to what KU is doing.
3. Second Game of the Weekend. Self has lost the second game of a tournament weekend seven times, including the last three seasons. It’s possible that the Jayhawks need to do a better job of prepping for the second game. It’s possible they are worn out from the first game.
4. Recruit Better Guards. Don’t take this as a shot at Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham. Both are quality guards, but neither appears to be a next level talent. It’s not a coincidence the Jayhawks 2008 Championship team featured a couple (Mario Chalmers and Sherron Collins) of McDonald’s All-Americans in the backcourt. Guards that can get their own shot or beat their man off the dribble can get teams out of slumps. It gives them a chance to make more shots.
5. Loosen Up on Offense. This one goes along with number 4. It is possible the reason Self has not been able to land the NBA caliber point/lead guards is because he is too strict in how he runs the offense. If you have to live with a little more one-on-one game and a few more turnovers to make the program more attractive to big-time shot-making guards, it could be worth it.
6. Play Freshman Earlier. Calipari has made a living out of playing freshman early and living with their mistakes. The biggest example is the 2014 Kentucky Wildcats. Huge expectations turned into a lackluster season and an eight-seed in the tournament. Calipari’s team was able to flip the switch in the tournament and advance all the way to the title game. He lived with the mistakes of his freshman early in the season and ultimately their talent began to shine and carried them to the final game.
7. Play Faster. This would serve two purposes. First, when you are the more talented team more possessions mean more opportunities to take advantage of that talent. Just as a seven game series favors the better team (they can overcome one bad night because they have seven chances to win four times) in the NBA, extra possessions in college creates more chances for the better team to make shots.
Also, every kid wants to play fast. They all want to get up and down the court and dunk the ball. Who doesn’t want to play in the open court. Speeding up the tempo gives the athletic player a chance to showcase their talent and sell their skills to the next level.
8. Recruit Athleticism. You could make a case that Self recruits skill more than athleticism. Andrew Wiggins would be the obvious exception. Players that are raw and athletic can get better skill wise. An unathletic player is not going to practice his way to more athleticism.
In conclusion, the answer is usually all of the above, and in varying degrees I think that is probably the case here.
I would say that number one has the highest percentage of truth. Self does so many things right as a college basketball coach I have to believe a lot of his trouble is simply a tough streak that will turn in his favor in the near future.
I do think he’s got to land more talented guards. I think the bigger emphasis on the dribble drive in this year’s offense will help make the program more attractive to the elite guards. Playing a faster brand of basketball will help attract the kind of talent that can get its own shot when the team is struggling to score.
Finally, there’s a great phrase going around today, “first world problems.” It should be remembered by all KU fans out there that in the world of college basketball, trying to figure out how KU can get deeper in the tournament is certainly a “first world problem.”