As he headed to the showers after his first start, Bruce Chen had an ERA of 9.00. Thanks to three home runs allowed on a blustery day, Chen couldn't survive past the fifth inning and generally looked like the journeyman thirtysomething that any skeptical fan assumed he might be.
Since then, he's become Cliff Lee.
OK, not really Cliff Lee, but maybe Cliff Lee lite. Cliff Lee in the he-used-to-be-bad-and-now-he's-awesome sense. Forget that he's 3-0, which means little. In his last three starts, Chen has allowed just two runs total, pulling his ERA all the way down to 2.42.
His strikeout numbers aren't great, but they aren't terrible either. Chen has 16 Ks in 26 innings thus far, against just 7 walks. From a K/BB ratio, that's about average for a starter. As a flyball pitcher, he's always going to live and die with the HR and since his first start he's kept the ball in the park. Is he benefiting from an improved OF defense as well? Possibly. Has he also been getting a little hit lucky? Yes. Can I keep asking myself questions because I'm a terrible writer? Sure.
Chen's had a fascinating career. He made his Major League debut in... 1998. 1998! He's pitched for ten teams and is one of the few remaining players to have worn the proud Expos uniform. He started out kinda sorta ok, then got really bad for awhile in his mid twenties, then was ok again, then he cratered again, then he became ok again as a Royal. His list of similar players on Baseball Reference is a motley bunch of ex closers, ex swingmen, and just generally fellow dudes who had odd and disparate careers.
Nobody leaves the minors saying, "i'm going to be the next Rheal Cormier or John Halama" but inevitably, players like that fill our lives.
So do you believe in Chen in 2011? Do you believe in the Royals?