Injuries, especially pitching injuries, happen. It is just a part of baseball. Over the past couple of seasons, the Royals didn't seem to have a plan in place once a starter was done. This season, the Royals are in better shape when, not if, a starter goes on the DL or struggles.
Currently, the Royals have 8 good to below average major league starters ready to go at the beginning of the season.
- James Shields
- Wade Davis
- Jeremy Guthrie
- Ervin Santana
- Luis Mendoza
- Luke Hochevar
- Bruce Chen
- Will Smith
Also, the Royals should get Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino back around the All-Star break. In the minors, Ventura and Zimmer may be ready to contribute towards the end of the season. Twelve OK starters may be in position to pitch this season.
On average, 40% of all starting pitchers will go on the DL at some point during the season. I have stressed having at least 8 decent starters in the past (linked article is really depressing to go back and read it). With a team having 5 starters, 3 will likely make in through the season without going on the DL. To be safe, a team needs to know who their top 8-9 starters will be to start the season. With eight starters, 3.2 will, on average, end up on the DL. With nine, it is 3.6. Sometimes more will go on the DL or the team may have a little luck with less going on the DL. They can't assume it won't happen to them.
Looking back at 2012, the Royals started with basically 6 starters: Chen, Hochevar, Sanchez, Duffy, Paulino and Medoza was the long reliever/spot starter. Mendoza and Teaford were immediately pushed into the starting role with Paulino on the DL to start the season. In early May, Sanchez went down and Mazzaro gets a start. Then Duffy and Paulino are out with Adcock and Smith are filling in. It was probably not in the Royals plans to have Mazzaro (6 starts), Smith (16 starts), Teaford (5 starts), Adcock (2 starts) and Verdugo (1 start) make a total of 30 starts.
The lack of starting pitching depth showed with 5.01 average ERA. Some of this high number can definitely be attributed to the other starters no producing (Chen 5.07 ERA, Hochevar 5.73 ERA). This issue, having to consistently start below average pitchers, is another problem of a shallow starting pitching staff, the inability to replace struggling pitchers.
All pitchers are going to struggle at some point and may need to be removed from the rotation to the bullpen, minors or come down with a phantom injury. Without any kind of competent starters to replace them, they will just get thrown back into the fire every fifth day (see Jonathan Sanchez). Personally, I don't think Wade Davis will cut it as a starter, but at least one of Mendoza, Smith, Chen or Hochevar can step in (my order of preference). One of the pitchers may catch lighting in a bottle and become a decent/good pitcher like Mendoza did in 2012. The more options which are available, the better flexibility Yost and Dayton will have when the unexpected happens, good or bad.
In the past, the Royals pitching depth was fairly shallow. This season, the depth is much better. It came at a pretty steep price, but at least a plan was put into place to solve the problem.