And so another happy season in Royals Land draws to a close. A magical land in which all the infielders are good-looking, all the outfielders are strong, and all the pitchers are above average. A land where the team is coached by a man that time forgot, whom years cannot improve. A land where we acquired James Shields for some bum who obviously can't produce in the playoffs, vindicating the process for the eight hundredth time since we all realized there was one.
This time around the up, down, and "meh" arrows are applied based on the entire season's worth of performance, otherwise this is business as usual. Yadda yadda, subjective. On to the Pitcher Ups and Downs!
James Shields - SP -
Had another very good season despite a declining strikeout rate and a Devil Rays mentality. Shields was worth 4.5 WAR as per Fangraphs, and anchored the Royals rotation as the greater part of the one of the best pitching Royals teams in recent memory. Shields's underlying numbers betray some concerns, as he sported a strand rate of 79% to his career rate of 73%, had a somewhat weirdly low HR/FB, and his GB% dropped down to 41%. The Royals got more than their money's worth, salary wise, this year. They probably will next season too. With the mileage on his arm and some worrisome trends, it's a legitimate question if he's worth extending.
Ervin Santana - SP -
I feel like I could type the exact same blurb for Santana as a I did for Shields, except Santana isn't under contract for next year and I don't have any snarky Evan Longoria quote to throw in. Santana was worth just shy of three wins, having a very nice bounceback season. So credit where credit is due, Dayton Moore got this one right. The problems are 1. whether he'll re-sign 2. whether Santana's performance next year will actually be worth said re-signing
Wade Davis - RP -
Surprising only the Royals Front Office, Davis was terrible as a starter and quite good as a reliever. It'd be super unfair, in my opinion, to give him a down arrow for a season where he was told to play a role that we already knew he couldn't play, and then succeeded at the role that he should be playing.
Jeremy Guthrie - SP -
While Guthrie absolutely should not be counted on to maintain even this level of performance, at least we're talking about a level of performance somewhat better than allowing six runs a game. Yes, he managed only a slightly below average ERA, but he also had one of the worst strikeout rates in the major leagues over his thoroughly mediocre 211 innings. There's some value in what Guthrie brings to the table, for sure, it's just not anywhere near as much as an actual league average pitcher would bring.
Luis Mendoza - SP -
Cratered from his 2012 "heights," with a walk rate that creeped up on his still-better-than-Guthrie's-but-not-good-either strikeout rate. Mendoza might recover next year, but there's also a pretty fair chance that he just ends up another good example of the truism that cheap back of the rotation guys with some ability are neat, but they generally don't last very long.
Bruce Chen - RP -
The laws of Bruce Chen:
1. When you expect anything from him, he will fail.
2. When you expect nothing from him, he will succeed.
3. See laws 1 & 2.
4. If you're the Royals, proceed to extend him three more years and give him his own BBQ restaurant.
Luke Hochevar - RP -
Lukey took better to the relief role than I would've predicted, even given the fact that most relief pitchers were starters at one point in their baseball lives. Yes, he makes too much money for a reliever, particularly one where there's no guarantee he'll actually duplicate this performance. But at least he showed some small ability to deilver on the promise that caused the Royals to draft him over Tim Lincecum (but Lincecum flamed out so I guess we were right all along).
Danny Duffy - SP -
Duffy's 2013 has to get an "incomplete," as he made a triumphant return from injury, had a couple good starts, but will need to continue getting results like the ones we saw late in the year over a much larger sample size. Duffy has the stuff to succeed, but it's still a question worth asking if he has the command/control to optimize that stuff.
Louis Coleman - RP -
I still don't know why J.C. Gutierrez was on the roster, and the biggest reason for that was the existence of Coleman. The Royals bullpen was deep this year, so deep that a guy who only allowed four runs in 30 IP was kept in AAA in favor of a generic mop-up man. Coleman's FIP around 2 is a better indicator of his ability, and he (most likely) will continue to display a significant platoon split, but he's a major league quality reliever if I've ever seen one.
Tim Collins - RP -
I'm not suggesting that Collins must must must go, but he did have a fairly typical dropoff for a reliever that's moving into the "fungible" category last season. His k-rate was down, walk rate up, and his strand rate dropped (subjectively one wonders if that has to do with a generally lower level of effectiveness). He compensate by not giving up many home runs, but he still led the team in "oh wow, so THAT'S why this game is now 8-3 Twins" appearances.
Gets the down arrow for the year mainly because of the ridiculous standard he set last year, and a fluky-high HR/FB ratio. While Herrera didn't outperform some of the other set-up men, I would not at all be surprised to see him bounce back to his dominant ways next season. Or at least not give up three home runs in two batters anymore.
Will Smith - RP -
There's no truth to the rumor that after answering questions about Mike Moustakas that led to the now-infamous "third basemen tree" comments, Ned Yost responded to the question, "is there a reliever tree?" by eating a mouthful of leaves and cackling madly. In terms of actual "things about the above player," Will Smith had a nice year as the lefty out of the pen that actually has a platoon split, and the Royals bullpen was quite good.
Greg Holland - RP -
I'm going to have the only house in Massachusetts with a "Holland '16" sign on my lawn. Charlie Brown's All-Stars owe their fantasy championship to your strong right arm, Greg. We salute you.
Oh, and I admit I was wrong about one thing related to Kansas City this year: the Chiefs don't suck.