Earlier today, KC Star reporter Sam Mellinger reporter sent out this Tweet.
@mellinger: "Hoch could be a perfectly OK No. 4 or 5 starter. He's got lots of probs on his own, but #Royals aren't helping by having him as their No. 1"
In a response to which I openly pondered: KCRissler: "@mellinger isn't evidence piling up that Hochevar should be used as Crow is being used & vice versa?"
Well, Mellinger didn't respond, so I figured I'd take a look to see what the numbers bear...let's find out together shall we?
First, the obvious...
ERA: 4.96 .OPS: .785 FIP: 4.75
ERA: 1.36 .OPS: .575 FIP: 3.24
Crow's ERA might be the benefit of some luck, as his FIP is considerably higher, but you can see that Hochevar's FIP is equally as bad as his ERA. Crow is also holding opposing batters to an .OPS of .210 LOWER than what is given up by Hochevar
Where the numbers really start to stack up is when you look at Hochevar's numbers as his pitch count rises.
Pitches 1-15: 108 AB 21 H 3 HR 4 BB 15 K .194 BA .577 .OPS
Pitches 16-30: 99 AB 20 H 3 HR 11 BB 14 K .202 BA .689 .OPS
Pitches 31-45: 107 AB 33 H 7 HR 9 BB 5 K .308 BA .970 .OPS
Pitches 46-60: 101 AB 33 H 2 HR 1 6 BB 17 K .327 BA .869 .OPS
Hochevar seemingly turns into a different pitcher after the opening innings of his starts. Several of his starts he has gotten through the first two inning flawlessly, only to seemingly fall apart once the first runner gets on base. FakeNedYost has started a cult on Twitter of Tweeps trying to figure out when the melt down inning will come from Hochevar. His demeanor on the mound completely changes once he gets in the first jam. It's almost like he thinks he is playing that Baseball video game, where if he throws a perfect game, he wins $1,000,000, so as soon as he gives up a hit or a walk, he starts looking for the reset button. BUT, his 1st - 15th pitch is eerily similar to a certain All-Star set-up man...
Pitches 1-15: 127 AB 23 H 3 HR 16 BB 36 K .181 BA .572 .OPS
Crow has walked 4x as many batters, but he clearly isn't getting hit as hard since the .OPS #'s are nearly identical.He also has much higher strikeout numbers than Hochevar, so he can afford more walks.
The main rebuttals to this proposal will be as follows.
1) Crow failed at starting in the Minors, why should he succeed in KC!
This is only half true. Yes, he certainly struggled in A & AA in 2010 to the tune of a 5.73 ERA in 163+ innings. What has seemingly been overlooked by those that make this argument though is that this was after basically a full season off when he only pitched 17 innings in 2009 for the Forth Worth Cats in the Independent League (Personally I think the Royals are lucky to have not injured Crow last year by pitching him in as many MILB innings as they did coming off of a year w/ only 17 IP!). If i may stretch for a moment, I'd like to draw a parallel to the NFL, where a QB can come back 1 year after a torn ACL, but really isn't as productive until year 2. We see the same thing with pitchers coming back after Tommy John... Personally, I think that has a much to do with the actual injury as it does the year + taken away from perfecting your craft.
2) Crow is doing good where he is, don't mess with him.
It's the "Soria" argument, all over again (but I'm on the opposite side of this argument this time). It is true, that Crow has completely exceeded expectations in his current bullpen role, this cannot be refuted. It can also not be refuted that it would be MUCH more valuable to get 6-7 innings of Crow every 5 nights as opposed to 1-2 innings of crow every other night. I used to be completely opposed to bringing up a pitcher that you viewed as a starter as a reliever, but with the success we've seen with Crow, I'm changing my tune a little bit on that, to the point that I'd like to see Mike Montgomery used in a role in 2012 similar in to the way Crow has been used in 2011 (with an eye on the starting rotation in 2013).
3) Hochevar throws 4 pitches, Crow only throws 2 so Crow can't start.
Well, I'll concede point #1...Hochevar clearly throws 4 different pitches (5 according to Fangraphs - FB, CB, SL, CUT CH). BFD. I can go out in the yard & throw 6 or 7 different pitches...that don't make me a Major League SP (maybe if I was Left handed though). I do agree that Crow needs to add a 3rd pitch to his arsenal. He is basically FB, SL with Fangraphs giving him credit for the occasional Curve - which I think are probably poorly thrown sliders. The fact that he's made it this far in baseball without a serviceable change-up is amazing to me, but learning how to throw one consistently should be his #1 off-season priority.
I'm not suggesting that this move be made now, or anytime this season. But (as I suggested here: DVD Contest Post) I think KC should start stretching out Crow over the winter and head into ST with the plan of him sliding into the rotation. There is ever growing doubt in Hochevar's ability to ever be anything more than (as Mellinger put it) a #4/5 starter. Personally, I think Hoch would have more value if he could come out of the 'pen for 20 pitches every couple of nights as a shut down reliever, as opposed to a Replacement Level starter. If we KNOW that he is 'just' a replacement level starter, isn't it time to find out if he can add value to the bullpen in a different role?