Johnny Cueto, in case you haven’t noticed, has struggled lately – for about, oh, two months.
Yes, after going 7-6 with a 2.62 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in Cincinnati, Cueto has gone 3-6 with a 4.99 ERA and 1.39 WHIP in Kansas City.
The Royals, however, might have more pressing concerns. Greg Holland has torn his UCL and is out for the season.
Not exactly a good omen for Kansas City (89-63), which has the best record in the American League.
“The Royals, while everyone’s been watching Johnny Cueto and his struggles, they’ve had more issues suddenly pop up at the back end of their bullpen,” Bleacher Report MLB columnist Scott Miller said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “Remember a year ago – in October, especially – all they needed was to have the lead after six innings and then they brought in that three-headed monster: Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and then Greg Holland to close it out. Well, Holland this year, in the last month-and-a-half, he’s really struggled and his velocity has been noticeably down. His fastball has gone from like 95 miles per hour down to about 90. He’s lost four or five miles an hour off his fastball in the last month.”
The Royals remained loyal to Holland as long as they could, but eventually, Ned Yost had to make a change. So he did.
“It finally reached a point where earlier this week he said, ‘I can’t leave him as my closer,’” Miller explained. “So you’re exactly right. Ned Yost said the other day that Wade Davis, who had been the eighth-inning guy, will be the closer for the rest of year. That was yesterday or the day before. And the next thing you know, Greg Holland has a torn ligament and he’s done for the year.”
That’s a major concern. For the last year-and-a-half, the Royals’ formula was simple: get to the sixth inning with a lead, and let Herrera, Davis and Holland take it from there. With Holland demoted – and then lost for the season – can the Royals actually change their formula at the eleventh hour and still be successful in the postseason?
“Yeah, it’s not going to be easy and odds are probably against it – but it can be done,” Miller said. “And the reason I think it can be done is because they have those other arms in Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis. And what they’re going to do – Wade Davis, I have no doubts he can handle the closer’s job. I think Wade Davis is going to be just fine in the ninth inning. Now probably you move Kelvin Herrera back to the eighth inning and keep him as Wade Davis’ set-up guy. But there’s no question they’re going to be an arm short. So Ned Yost, his job is going to be to figure out or rifle through his bullpen pieces and see who can handle the seventh inning and then hope that his starters can at least go six, if not seven.”
That brings us back to Cueto.
“If Johnny Cueto can be the ace he was in Cincinnati where he can give them seven or eight innings,” Miller said, “that’s going to take a lot of pressure off this decision that Ned Yost has to make.”