Royal Aces

Leon Halip

They are not really 'Aces', but James Shields and Ervin Santana have been more than good enough.

The Trade is still a hot button issue among Royals fans:  six plus years of Wil Myers versus two years of James Shields.  Oh yeah, plus that Wade Davis guy and some others.  When the deal went down, the obvious way for Dayton Moore to say he ‘won’ the trade was for Wade Davis to blossom into a real life number two/number three major league starting pitcher. 

That did not happen.

What has happened, however, is a best case scenario for Moore in which we find ourselves with just ten days of regular season baseball left and the Royals actually still in contention for a playoff berth. 

There was a time when I thought the trade might have been worth it IF the Royals were in contention in 2013, made the playoffs in 2014 AND Davis developed into a good starter.  Now, with Davis appearing to be a high priced bullpen arm, what will justify the trade for me (or at least let me let it go) would be making the playoffs this year, winning the one game wild card playoff, making the playoffs in 2014 and advancing to the ALCS.  You could easily say a World Series has to be in there this year or next to make the pain of losing six years of Wil Myers go away and I would not say you are wrong.

Perhaps, there is nothing that will make The Trade palatable to you.  Without question I can see and understand the arguments supporting that point of view.  That said, disliking The Trade can have very little to do with the performance of James Shields in 2013.   Nor can your view of Dayton Moore’s off-season be negatively skewed by what Ervin Santana has done on the mound in 2013.

I am lumping Santana in with The Trade because it is all part of Dayton Moore’s ‘go for it’ winter.   Acquiring Shields cost the Royals the likely Rookie of the Year, and acquiring Santana cost the Royals the payroll flexibility to pursue a longer term option for the rotation, a better right-fielder or a better second baseman.  I would wager that $12 million might have gotten you a second baseman with both grit and talent.

However, James Shields has been very good and so has Ervin Santana.   They might not get the Royals to the playoffs, but they certainly got them a winning record. 

Neither is what one might call an ‘Ace’, but both have been borderline number one starters (assuming you subscribe to the idea that Ace and Number One are two different animals) or without question very good number two starters.

In the era of quality starts, FIP, peripherals and Pitch f/X, where the starting pitcher’s job has devolved into ‘just keeping their team in the game’, I place a high value on a starting pitcher that actually gives his team a real chance to win.  In my mind, that is a seven innings or more, allowing three runs or less.

James Shields has accomplished that feat 19 times in 2013, while Ervin Santana has done it 15 times.  When you keep in mind that an outing of 6 2/3 innings doesn’t count, no matter the runs allowed, those are impressive totals.  That is 34 games where two guys have given their team an incredibly good chance to win.

In the Dayton Moore era, here are the season highs for starters who went 7 innings or more while allowing 3 earned runs or less:

Zack Greinke 2009 – 19

James Shields 2013 – 19

Zack Greinke 2010 – 16

Ervin Santana 2013 – 15

Zack Greinke 2008 – 14

Gil Meche 2007 – 12

Gil Meche 2008 – 11

Luke Hochevar 2011 – 11

Freaking Luke Hochevar.  In that 2011 season in which he was outstanding 11 times, he also gave up five runs or more in 10 other starts.   Oh, Luke, you are one puzzling son of a bitch.

Shields has given up five runs or more four times this season, while Santana has done so just three times.  That the Royals are only a combined 34-28 in Shields/Santana starts might be the most glaring negative of the season.   The team is 18-11 since July 1st in starts by its top two starting pitchers…and yes, I had to do some work to find out a way to work ’18-11’ into this column!

You can hate The Trade and the ‘All In’ attitude, but you cannot hate James Shields and Ervin Santana.  They have done their job, whether it was right to give them those jobs in the first place, now there is the question.

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