Catching the Royals' current starting rotation can be a real pain for Salvador Perez.
Dayton Moore's first official day as General Manager of the Royals was June 8, 2006. He inherited a starting rotation that day of Mark Redman, Scott Elarton, Mike Wood, Bobby Keppel and Kyle Snyder. The disabled list held Runelvys Hernandez and Denny Bautista. Zack Greinke had just reported to AA Wichita after leaving the game for the first part of 2006. It's a wonder Moore ever took the job.
Just prior, supposedly without input from Moore, Kansas City had drafted Luke Hochevar with the number one overall pick in the draft. We'll never know if Moore actually had some input in the 2006 draft, but for now we'll just take the public story as true and call Luke Hochevar one of the pitchers he inherited.
If pitching is the currency of baseball, Dayton Moore had pocket change.
As we all remember, the Royals went into an acquisition frenzy that summer. Brandon Duckworth was purchased on June 11th, Luke Hudson was recalled in early July. Jorge de la Rosa and Odalis Perez were brought aboard as well.
The rotation as season's end consisted of Redman, Hernandez, de la Rosa, Perez and Hudson. By then, Kansas City had used 17 different pitchers in a starting role and combined, they had yielded just 4.3 fWAR. That was last in the AL....by 5.5 WAR!
Only one pitcher managed to throw more than 150 innings (Redman) and Luke Hudson was fWAR leader with just 1.7. You think the Royals have a bad rotation this season? How's the mess of 2006 make you feel?
Considering how much Moore preaches pitching and defense, let's take a look at the rotations since then.2007 Beginning of Year - Gil Meche, Odalis Perez, Zack Greinke, Jorge de la Rosa and Brandon Duckworth
2007 End of Year - Meche, Greinke, Brian Bannister, Billy Buckner and Kyle Davies
The Royals utilized 13 pitchers as starters and they provided the team with 10.6 fWAR, good for 12th in the American League. Meche led the way with 216 innings and 4.4 fWAR, while Moore's trade of the truly bad Ambiriox Burgos for Brian Bannister seemed to be genuis as Bannister provided 2.7 fWAR. Greinke, who started just 14 games and pitched out of the pen in 38 more, provided 1.1 fWAR as a starter.
If we are viewing this discussion strictly from the perspective of improving the starting rotation, the signing of Meche looked to be a very good one. I think we also have to give some credit to Moore for nurturing the reinvention of Greinke. Heck, even Odalis Perez and de la Rosa provided some bang for the buck that year. Of course, this was also the beginning of the Kyle Davies' Experience.
2008 Beginning of Year - Gil Meche, Brian Bannister, Zack Greinke, John Bale, Brett Tomko
2008 End of Year - Meche, Bannister, Greinke, Kyle Davies and Luke Hochevar
Only nine pitchers were used in a starting role in 2008 and they combined for a very good 17.3 fWAR. Meche led the way with 5.0 fWAR with Greinke right behind at 4.9. Three pitchers topped 150 innings pitched. Hochevar and Davies started 22 and 21 games respectively and each provided 1.9 fWAR.
2009 Beginning of Year - Gil Meche, Zack Greinke, Kyle Davies, Sidney Ponson, Brian Bannister
2009 End of Year - Greinke, Davies, Luke Hochevar, Robinson Tejeda and a cast of thousands
This was the year the Royals destroyed Gil Meche, who was the same old Gil until Trey Hillman ground him into dust one hot afternoon in June. Of course, this was also Zack's Cy Young campaign when he provided 9.3 fWAR all on his own.
Twelve pitchers started (including Horacio Ramirez and Anthony Lerew) and combined for 16.8 fWAR, which tied for second in the American League. Only Greinke and Bannister managed to top 150 innings. The primary five of those two, Meche, Hochevar and Bannister started 21 games or more for the second straight season.
2010 Beginning of Year - Zack Greinke, Luke Hochevar, Brian Bannister, Kyle Davies and Gil Meche
2010 End of Year - Greinke, Hochevar, Davies, Bruce Chen, Sean O'Sullivan
A marginally disinterested Greinke still provided 5.1 fWAR , but the other nine pitchers who started games that year only added another 4.2 WAR. Overall, the rotation plummeted to 12th in the American League in fWAR and only Greinke and Davies (ugh) managed to top 150 innings.
2011 Beginning of Year - Luke Hochevar, Jeff Francis, Kyle Davies, Bruce Chen and Sean O'Sullivan
2011 End of Year - Hochevar, Francis, Chen, Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy
Francis provided 2.6 fWAR, Paulino 2.4, Hochevar 2.3, Chen 1.7 and Duffy 0.6. How important is it to have a healthy rotation? The other six pitchers who started in 2011 combined for just 0.9 fWAR as the rotation was once again 12th in the American League with 10.5 fWAR.
As of Thursday afternoon, the 2012 Royals' starting rotation has amassed 4.5 fWAR, good for 10th in the American League, but nowhere close to getting to ninth and periously close to being twelfth. The injuries to Paulino and Duffy have crippled their effectiveness (we think, anyway), but the organization has also admitted that they knew both were highly likely to be injured.
The Cabrera for Jonathan Sanchez deal is making Dotel for Davies look good and while Chen has been a very good find and sign, he too, has never made it through a full season for the Royals uninjured. Right now, Luis Mendoza is serviceable, but like Dayton Moore, I remain afraid he will be the next Philip Humber. You know, the Philip Humber with the 6.01 ERA.
Truthfully, the 2012 starting rotation has actually been better than most of us probably expected. That's not to imply it has been good, but it has at least not been 2006ish. Still, a year and one-half removed from the Greinke trade and basically two and half years from the end of the Meche era, Dayton Moore finds himself with a rotation in a greater state of flux than since his first year at the helm.
Mike Montgomery is a good year overdue, John Lamb has just started pitching again and, of all the talented arms that were bubbling up through the system two years back (yes, best system ever), only Jake Odorizzi seems to have any hope of helping the big club before the summer of 2013.
Has Dayton Moore and the Royals failed to get the right arms in their rotation when they needed them? They have certainly failed to this point in time, but they cannot be labeled a total failure just yet. This Royals' team is not really a contender offensively either, but they might well be by the end of 2012. If Kansas City reaches July 1 of next year with a potent young offense and still strong bullpen trying to hold things together around a once again pieced together starting rotation, Dayton Moore should truly be asked to explain himself.