The Royals starting pitching is decidedly meh. Which is horrid to think about, when the general consensus is that the Royals' staff is somehow better than what it was during the first month of the season.
On top of that, there is a somewhat believed-to-be-true-barring-sturdy-resistance belief that the rest of the 25-man roster is good enough to contend, particularly in the AL Central, for the post-season. With that in mind, I decided to take a look, comparing the Royals current staff production compared to some of the teams that are going to (or are contending to) make the playoffs, to see what the breadth of this chasm may actually be. For the purposes of this analysis, I have simply gone through each team's roster to use the five pitchers who have made the most starts for a given team. I did not think for the purpose of this study that the data would be A) easily available and B) worth it to obtain the five most current starters for each given team. The five players who have started the most games more often than not have thrown the most innings, and therefore have had the greatest impact on a team's season overall. I realize that this is somewhat inaccurate, given the variables of number of starts, innings pitched, etc. It is meant to be more of a snapshot than an in-depth purveyance.
First off, the Royals' staff:
*Paulino's fWAR is for his total accumulation on the season, not just his time with the Royals (although he has accumulated all of it with KC. His fWAR in COL was -0.1)
- Jeff Francis is our most valuable starter this year
- Hochevar has been better than his traditionals indicate
- in four more starts, Duffy has gone just 2.2 more innings than Paulino
And here are the other teams for comparison:
|Boston Red Sox||ERA||FIP||xFIP||fWAR|
|New York Yankees||ERA||FIP||xFIP||fWAR|
|LA Angels of Anaheim||ERA||FIP||xFIP||fWAR|
So what are some things to take away from this analysis?
- A good foundation for contention would be a team whose Top 3 starters produce ~11 fWAR per 110 games
- They can afford to get by on slightly-worse pitching if they field an offense like the Red Sox(they won't)
- Detroit's pitching is wafer thin. Sub out Verlander for some Jeff Francis-type guy and the Tigers could easily have the Royals' W-L record.
This may seem a little overly-simplistic, but I just wanted to illustrate a couple of points:
- The Royals aren't that far away from contending
- They're further than you think
Two players doesn't seem like much for a 25-man roster, but it becomes a monumental task when you those two players would essentially be the #1 and #2 starting pitchers on your staff.
Adding 8-10 fWAR in starting pitching is much more difficult than it sounds. For argument's sake, If the Royals signed FA C.J. Wilson, generally considered to be one of (if not the best) starting pitchers available this off-season, they would still be about 4 fWAR away from being legitimate contenders. Paulino for a full season, assuming he can stay healthy, may get you another 1-2 fWAR. If Hochevar can continue this second-half swoon for a full season, that would probably get you another 1-1.5 fWAR. Improvement from Duffy would be a boon. Everything else (Montgomery starting, Crow starting, Holland starting, etc.) would be a push to possibly a regression over what they have gotten over Francis and Chen this season. And short of all of those things coming together, there seems to be too much of a disparity between how good the Royals' starting pitching is going to be, and how good it needs to be in order for them to contend for the division, let alone getting out of the ALDS.
There is a possibility that the division could continue to regress, but I doubt it. Detroit and Chicago always spend money. Cleveland is preparing to contend for the next several years. Minnesota is MINNESOTA.
So short of some big Front Office push to bring in two 3-5 fWAR arms this off-season, we may see improvement in the overall club next year, but I think the results may be more of the same.