Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Kansas City Royals - Looking at the Rotation

The Kansas City Royals have been putting together underwhelming seasons for quite a few  years now, and aren’t really looking to set the league on fire so far. To their credit, their Pythagorean Win Loss record indicates they’re a bit better than actual record. They don’t have an overly young staff, but they do only have one pitcher over 30 years old (Bruce Chen). Their staff has not been overwhelmingly good, but has also been able to put together enough consistent value to probably have a better record than they have now.

Bruce Chen’s ERA fluctuates pretty intensely from year to year or from team to team, but last year was a very strong year for him as a starter, and this year he’s started off pretty well, though his ERA is about ½ a run higher. Chen is a flyball pitcher, who has bounced around quite a bit since joining Atlanta in ‘98, but seems to have found a pretty steady home now in his mid-thirties. and has done a pretty good job overall of getting batters to pop out. His strikeout numbers aren’t overwhelming (he hasn’t recorded over 100 strikeouts since 2005 with the Orioles) but  he limits damage pretty well as a rule. Chen is by no means the ace that the Royals had in Zack Greinke but he is a contributing member of their rotation and right now is pretty much giving KC what they’ll see from him all year, and that’s all they really should be expecting.

Luke Hochevar preceding a rough outing last night against the Tigers, looked pretty good, but over 4 innings yesterday he just didn’t have his stuff and has a very ugly stat line now because of it. Such is the volatility of the early season. Hochevar needs to reduce his walk rate and keep the ball down to continue seeing the growth he has seen over the last 2 years. Hochevar hasn’t looked like an ace yet, and by this point, I think it would be unfair to expect that of him going forward. Hochevar has shown that he’s able to perform at a near league average line, and if he can limit the fly balls, and once his BABIP adjusts back down from the unsightly .376 it currently sits at, he’ll probably look slightly below league average.

Luis Mendoza hasn’t managed to keep himself around in the majors for any extended period since a fairly ugly 2008 campaign with the Rangers and has so far has been up and down, having a fairly good start in his first outing against Oakland, and an unfortunately short (70 pitches) start on April 26th against the Indians, but unfortunately for the inconsistent Mendoza despite coming off a relatively strong outing, he’s being replaced in the rotation by Felipe Paulino before his next start.

Paulino has been rough in the National League, and after a ½ season with KC last year, is looking to find success in the american league. Not particularly a flyball pitcher, but also not a ground ball pitcher either, Paulino was able to keep the ball in the yard pretty well last year, and struck out a fair number of batters. Paulino may have finally hit his stride with the Royals, and is certainly looking to build on last year’s relative success. Paulino posted his best season so far last year, predominantly after coming to KC from the Rockies, but it is yet to be seen if that was more about the unfamiliarity the league had with him, or if he’s made some adjustments since leaving the National League. Certainly the Royals are looking for Paulino to come in and start giving them innings, but he doesn’t look to be the kind of pitcher who will help turn their season around.

Danny Duffy is a very young pitcher for KC, and with that comes very little room for statistical analysis. So far Duffy has made 23 starts at the major league level, and almost looks like two different pitchers from last year to this year. Duffy went 6 scoreless against Oakland to start his season, but has looked progressively worse over the next two starts. Duffy hasn’t been inducing ground balls, but he has been striking batters out at a fairly high clip so far. Maybe it was a hiccup but the 5 walks against Toronto on the 22nd haven’t prettied up his stat line any, but they could help explain his overall worst start of the season. Duffy needs to get the ball down, and concentrate on controlling his pitches more to maintain his nice 3.63 ERA. His WHIP and BABIP are both lower than last year, but not out of the realm of possibilities for a good young pitcher, doubly so if he can start to locate his pitches a bit better. I’d look for Duffy to continue experiencing some growing pains, but he certainly has the potential to be a bright spot for the Royals this year.

Jonathan Sanchez so far looks to be some very poor return for what was a fairly productive Melky Cabrera. Sanchez had a very good year in 2010 with the Giants, but has otherwise been a league average pitcher in a very pitcher friendly park/division. So far the AL looks to have already solved Sanchez, he’s walked just about 1 batter for every inning he’s pitched, and he’s struck out only 13 over his 17 & ⅓ innings of work. None of his other stats ahve really changed so far, but it is worth noting that over his 4 starts he’s avoided actually giving up a home run, but with a 2.019 WHIP that doesn’t much matter. Sanchez’s command hasn’t shown up so far this year, and it certainly won’t be a bright spot for most Royals fans if the team continues to parade him out every 5th day.

The Royals have not gotten much as far as length goes out of their starters, and while their bullpen has done a fair job of damage control, for a team that’s not going to be leading the league in runs scored, there might not be too many games worth watching past the 5th inning this season. Overall the rotation’s not quite as terrible as they’ve looked, but with very little reason to believe that anyone’s going to step up and be a real no. 1 or no. 2 starter this year (though Duffy may show flashes of that kind of dominance), the Royals don’t look to have a pleasant season ahead of them.

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