Royal Ups And Downs -- .500 Edition

Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

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

.500 at this time of year can mean different things for different teams. For the White Sox and Orioles, it's probably a positive thing, given that one team's generally thought to be in for another miserable year, and the other's without its two best position players. For the Royals, it's a positive trend after the first week or so of the year, but it serves to further accentuate the difference in quality between the pitching staff and the line-up.

Are the pitchers the problem children (no, they aren't, but this is how catchy lead-ins work)? Read on to be educated by the Pitching Staff Ups and Downs for the last two weeks. And please, let me know if I forget a reliever again. It's honestly damn hard to remember all of them, what with Yost squirreling away so many of them.

James Shields - Up_medium

The annoying thing about Shields is that even when he's pitching well, which is frequent, it's hard far me to avoid thinking about how, years from now, his Royals tenure might just be a blip on his overall career. "Oh wait, Shields spent two years on the Royals, forgot about that," baseball fans will say, looking at the righthander's fine career after it wraps up--he'll have a World Series ring with some team you despise by then, of course.

That all being said, he's started off this year like gangbusters, with his worst start being the 3 ER start on opening day. He second worst start, by runs allowed, was his seven inning win versus Baltimore. In-between, he's had four starts where he surrendered only a single earned run, including his 12-K performance versus the Cleveland Spiders-er, Houston Astros. Personally, I can't wait for the next time he strikes out Evan Longoria. Shields is fun to watch.

Jason Vargas - Up_medium

Vargas has pitched perfectly fine for Jason Vargas, it's just that his 1.54 ERA so dramatically overstates his pitching so far that it's just silly. He's stranded an absurd 91.2% of runners, has allowed only a .229 BABIP (career .279), and is striking out less than five batters per nine. You can't argue with the good results, and he has limited walks to to the point where FIP expects him to be better than league average, but there's a couple ugly starts in his future once he stops tapdancing with the LOB% minotaur. The cracks began to show a little bit with the Cleveland start, when he actually allowed a runner that he put on base to score.

Yordano Ventura - Up_medium

Yeah, no more skipping this guy's starts, please. Rough outing against Minnesota aside--he still K'd 6 batters in four innings in that start--Yordano's looked like he belongs. He's currently got 27 Ks in 25 innings, and hurled a great game in Baltimore despite dancing in and out of trouble for a couple innings. At this point in the year, everything comes with a caveat that it probably can't continue at this pace, but Ventura's looking like an early ROY candidate. The onus is on the Royals to get the most value out of him that they can without damaging his golden right arm.

Bruce Chen - Kablooey_medium

He's been pretty regularly pounded since his first start of the year. To be completely fair to Bruce, though, it's not like he's suddenly forgotten how to pitch -- his superbad results are mainly tied up in a 59 LOB%, a 22 LD%, and a corresponding .406 BABIP against. His peripherals are actually stronger than where you expect them to be. And no, none of this negates the fact that he gave up 10 runs in two starts versus Minnesota, and five runs to Cleveland without getting out of the 5th. But it does seem to indicate that he'll bounce back to his usual mediocrity if given a chance. And yes, it is well worth wondering if he should be afforded that chance.

Jeremy Guthrie - Kablooey_medium

He last start, where he managed to get through seven after an extremely rough start against his former team, gets a passing grade. Giving ten hits in six-plus to Cleveland, and four runs to Houston earn him extra homework. Sorry, Jeremy. He's yet another Royals starter who, currently, is sitting above his career strand rate and below his current K/9 and BABIP, but it's not as obviously due to come back to earth as Vargas. Still, good defensive team or no, the rotation can't really keep up this level of awesome, even if it's still shaping up to be a good one again.

Aaron Crow - Kablooey_mediumUp_medium

Crow earns himself the rare double arrow for his bad debut, his pretty decent pitching since then, and because I somehow forgot about him in the first Ups and Downs post. I'm hoping that doesn't make him this year's J.C. Gutierrez, who won the award last year for "generic righty who some idiot blogger named Gus kept forgetting existed for fairly sensible reasons."

Greg Holland - Up_medium

He actually gave up another run against Baltimore, spoiling his five appearance streak of 0 RA. He's K'd 16 batters in 9 innings this year. I think it might be okay to bring him in tie games. And wow, if he keeps up his current peripherals...could Holland actually be as good this year as he was last year?

By the way, yes, I do still give my friend who dropped him after five appearances last year an immense amount of crap over that. Charlie Brown's All-Stars are looking to repeat, in part thanks to Greg. I'll shut up about fantasy baseball now.

Kelvin Herrera - Up_medium

Last five appearances: 5.1 IP, 6 K, one RA. More of this, please. Herrera had an uneven season last year, so it's good to see him put things together a bit over the last couple weeks. Seeing that he's yet to give up a home run this season has me crossing my fingers and hoping that this year is more of 2012 and less of 2013 in that regard.

Danny Duffy - Up_medium

Took the loss in Baltimore by allowing an inherited runner to come home in extras, but he's whiffed 11 batters in 8.1 innings so far while issuing just two free passes (and a hit batter). It's not like he's been used as a LOOGY, either, as the other four of his outings have been two innings each, and 8 of those K's have been against the guys who swing bats like normal people. I'm not saying "pls start him nao," but I am saying he's been effective.

Michael Mariot - Up_medium

It's not like he's had much to do, other than chat in the bullpen, but he's done perfectly fine in his two long relief appearances since his crappy debut against the Twins. It's not Mariot's fault that his usage is an example of the silliness of larger bullpens and most MLB managers, as he's K'd more than a batter per inning now.

Wade Davis - Nope_medium

He sort of detonated against Cleveland, giving up a run and four baserunners while recording three outs, but we shouldn't ignore the rest of his generally effective outings just because that one was about as painful as listening to stoned people offering up theories on how the universe works ("all human interaction comes down to four things, maaaaan!"), right? Right?

Louis Coleman - Nope_medium

Returned from the DL after jamming the middle finger on his pitching hand (insert your own joke about the Royals starting him in AAA last season...), and has made three appearances, surrendering one run. Not much else to say on Coleman thus far.

Others: RP Justin Marks was up briefly, gave up three runs in one appearance, and was reassigned. Luke Hochevar is still mostly dead. J.C. Gutierrez probably lives in Dayton Moore's house.

~

Royal Ups and Downs returns next week with the bad half of the roster! Kansas City faces the resurgent still crappy Toronto Blue Jays, starting tomorrow. Go Royals!

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