Royal Ups and Downs - Frustrated Pitchers Edition

USA TODAY Sports

The latest installment in the series chronicling the highs and lows of the Royals roster.

I'm not about to suddenly start saying that the Royals pitching staff are all pitching at a sustainable level. I also won't hazard a guess at much regression we should suspect because this season appears to be a year of weird stat lines in regard to Royals pitchers. But if there's one thing that I'm a hundred percent sure on when it comes to Kansas City's pitching staff, it's that I'd be incredible annoyed if I was one of them right now, because it's damn hard to buy a "W" next to your name in the papers if you make a living starting for this team.

While, of course, it's silly to put any value whatsoever on pitcher wins when it comes to evaluating the performance of players, there's no doubt that most, if not all, of the players look at the numbers that appear next to their names in the box score after a decision. Since I already mentioned the run support issues two weeks ago, and every else has mentioned them all year, let's look at something funny (dark comedy). The Royals starters this season, by the hilariously antiquated pitcher record numbers:

  • James Shields - 2-6
  • Ervin Santana - 5-5
  • Jeremy Guthrie - 7-4
  • Wade Davis - 4-5
  • Luis Mendoza - 2-4

That's just wack. Tossing out the inevitable regression of some of these guys, and just looking at the stellar results presented so far, this is fairly freaking ridiculous, is it not? The only pitcher with a Jack Morris-esque ability to pitch to the score and inspire his teammates appears to be Jeremy Guthrie. Even Santana, who sports an ERA of 2.64 (more than a run under his FIP), has only managed a .500. Guess these guys just have the wrong mentality or something. Blecch, I can't even write facetiously about pitcher wins without getting queasy.

Of course, we know that's the real culprit is the offense. Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy, two players that the Baltimore Orioles acquired for what amounts to nothing in the long run, have more home runs than the entire Royals roster, 40-37. The only real surprise to me, when looking up the ugly numbers on our offense, is that coming into tonight's game, there was a team with less home runs than the Royals. Giancarlo Stanton is sorely missed by the Miami Marlins offense, in other words.

I'm not one to laud players for being "professional" or "leaders" or whatnot, as that's always seemed to be part of what's expected anyway as a professional athlete (nevermind the dubious value of such qualities when compared to actual, on-field production), but I've got to say that what with Shields, Santana, and Guthrie all posting above average ERAs, and Mendoza arguably overachieving as well, I think it'd be pretty understandable if one of these guys did something like throw the water cooler out onto the field after being removed from another close game with no run support. Or was found to be sitting in the locker room with a Chris Getz voodoo doll. You know, normal behavior for a pitching staff that's been so clearly let down by their offense this year.

Bottom line is that whatever else I may say about our starters, and however much a few of them might regress later this season, I'll hand them mad props for being professional about the lack of support this season. That said, which of the Royals Pitchers gets a happy arrow? Which of them wouldn't have a leg to stand on if they broke every bat owned by the Royal, and subsequently burned said bats after laying them out in the pattern of a cross? Read on!

James Shields - SP - Nope_medium

As good as Shields has been this season, his last two starts weren't his best. While he maintained his stellar ERA by giving up only three runs in thirteen innings, he also sported an uncharacteristically mediocre 11:6 K:BB ratio, and spent most of his Cleveland start dancing in and out of trouble. If Shields is the type who cares about those Ws, he's probably ready to throw Billy Butler through the clubhouse window, as the last time he was credited with a win was April 30th.

Ervin Santana - SP - Up_medium

He just keeps waving his obnoxiously high strand rate in the faces of everyone who's been thinking "he's got to come back to earth at some point." At 84.6% versus a career rate of 72%, Santana's currently over the moon. There's been some debate as to whether or not Santana's worth the money, or whether his acquisition for a single year is smart. Mike Wilbon doesn't understand why we're making such a big deal of this, though.

I mean, c'mon guys! He's a .500 pitcher!

Wade Davis - SP - Up_medium

Really, Davis had to get an up arrow whenever he actually managed a run of competence. His two starts since the last pitching staff Ups and Downs were a 6.2, 5 K, 2 R effort against Detroit and one for the win column against Tampa where he also looked like a major league pitcher. Also, this is the first time in roughly a month that I haven't just replaced his written comment with a funny video, so I apologize for that.

Jeremy Guthrie - SP - Kablooey_medium

"Embrace the luck" should be Guthrie's official tagline, though credit for the phrase goes to Rany, I believe. In his two most recent starts, Guthrie has struck out zero batters, walked five, and given up fourteen hits through 13.1 innings. Somehow that resulted in a quality start and six runs allowed over that span. Guthrie must give extremely inspirational speeches in the locker room before games ("once more, onto the field, my brothers!") because he's won four times since James Shields, a superior pitcher in every way possible, has last won a start.

Luis Mendoza - SP - Nope_medium

Yes, Wednesday's start was bad, especially at the dramatic conclusion, but he kept the Astros off the board, and held Tampa to two runs over six innings. Why no Up Arrow? the Mendozan peripheral numbers of 9 Ks and 6 BBs in those three starts indicates some BABIP luck. For these couple weeks, Mendoza was pretty much par for course - doesn't look that great on the mound, but does his job well enough to be fine as a back of the rotation starter.

Bruce Chen - RP - Nope_medium

Appeared once against Cleveland. Walked two, allowed no runs. Bruce Chen, Ladies and Gents.

Luke Hochevar - RP - Nope_medium

One run in three appearances. Continues to draw pretty low leverage situations. He did get into Wednesday's game with the Royals still close, and promptly allowed a run. I really couldn't tell you if Hochevar deserves anything more than the appearances he's getting. Thoughs?

Greg Holland - RP - Up_medium

Undeniably the best relief pitcher in the history of the world. Holland now sports 41 Ks and 11 BBs in 26 innings. Dude is absolutely on fire this season. And this is a totally positive comment, so, unfortunately, after writing this I had to go into the basement and snarl for a good half hour.

Kelvin Herrera - RP - Kablooey_medium

Kelvin Goes Boom. He looked like some version of his old self until the Cleveland series, then promptly tumbled fully back into 2013 form by allowing four runs while recording only four outs.

Aaron Crow - RP - Nope_medium

Croooooow is on a kind of strange usage pattern run of being used for less than an inning in his last three appearances, and four out of his last six. That'd make a little more sense if the Royals employed a lefty who had a bigger platon split. He's been moderately effective, regardless.

J. C. Gutierrez - RP - Up_medium

Four scoreless innings and two Ks without issuing any free passes will usually get you an up arrow, even if this humble blogger remains very confused as to the role of Gutierrez on this roster.

Tim Collins - RP - Nope_medium

Looking more like the Collins of 2011 than the Collins of 2012, as his strikeout rate is in the eights/9 rather than the twelves. He also ties with Crow as the guy that Ned's least likely let pitch a full inning, as he's recorded two or fewer outs in four of his seven appearances in the past two weeks.

~

No real new questions for this week, but there's still the seemingly-eternal "how do we get an offense?" one. To put in it different words, how about this: can this roster be fixed for the Royals to contend next year, without emptying the farm system? If yes, how?

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