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A Glance at Royal Starting Pitching After 19 Games

A gathering of the Luis Mendoza Fan Club. (Mandatory Credit: David Richard-US PRESSWIRE)
A gathering of the Luis Mendoza Fan Club. (Mandatory Credit: David Richard-US PRESSWIRE)

Everyone knew that the starting rotation was going to be a sore spot for the Royals in 2012, and so far the season has played out in such a way that has confirmed that everyone was right.

Here are some composite numbers for the staff as a whole:

5.2 4.05 4.62 4.68 6.52 1.44
14th 1st 11th 10th 9th 13th

What you get overall is a sense of laboring and struggle. The staff isn't a complete dumpster fire, but they work extremely hard to just scratch the surface of mediocrity. They throw more pitches per plate appearance than any staff in the American League, and conversely (but relatedly) they've thrown the fewest innings. The bullpen -- which has been far from perfect itself and is dealing with injuries to Soria and Holland -- has been asked to carry a very heavy burden. It is doubtful they can thrive over the long season at this rate.

But lo, it could be worse. Our starters are only 11th in ERA and 10th in RA, which I suppose is something to build on. Although it is also a reminder that things could get worse.

After six years as GM, Dayton Moore has assembled a rotation with the 10th best runs allowed figure in the American League. As a former Atlanta staffer, you know that he truly knows pitching!!!!

Individually, Bruce Chen is carrying the staff, with four starts under his belt and a 2.52 ERA. Danny Duffy -- who misses a start tonight -- has been a tick above league average, at least in terms of results generated (116 ERA+). As we may have expected, Luis Mendoza and the Sanchize have been decidedly below average. The hinge here, I suppose, between definitively "bad" and something more like "just below average" is Luke Hochevar, who perhaps has been a little bit unlucky. Consider the following:

Hochevar 21.2 20 0 16 8
Chen 25.0 19 3 17 4

Hochevar's ERA (4.98) is nearly twice that of Chen's (2.52) and while Chen has been better, the gap between the two isn't actually that large. Granted, Chen has thrown 16% more innings, but that's a positive and a negative when you consider both his hits and homers allowed, but also his only slightly higher strikeout total. So on balance, as a duo, perhaps Chen & Hochevar are about where they'll be all season. Chen maybe a tick worse, Hochevar perhaps a tick better.

What isn't really apparent is room for major improvement, then, beyond sustained Chen-cellence and Hoch Improvement (starring Tim Allen). Sanchez likely isn't this bad, but even if he and Mendoza improve a little, they're dragging down the staff as a group by leaving games so early. Having the Sanchize slog through 5 innings and then handing a 3-2 lead off to variations on Tim Collins isn't a tremendous asset, and that's the good scenario.

The only way the rotation can become an asset for the team in 2013 is to add many additional pieces, both from the Best Farm System Ever and likely from an outside source via a trade or free agency.