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Grading The Royals - The Starting Pitchers

Crafty. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Crafty. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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After a brief beach hiatus, I return with the first half grade cards.

Today, we look at the starters. And it's not going to be pretty. But you already knew that.

By all accounts, this team twice lost their best starter to season ending injury. Not that this team was ever in contention, but it's damn near impossible for any team to overcome what happened to the Royals rotation.

What happened this season was the exposure of Dayton Moore's flawed plan to hold steady with the rotation. No one starter wouldn't have made a difference between first and fourth place. But for a man who has stated that pitching is the currency of baseball, his failure to build rotation depth has doomed this team to another second division finish. He should look at this portion of the report card and hang his head in shame. The hitters are ahead at this point of The Process and the rotation is in shambles.

One note: While this is a week or so late, the stats used are for the first half. The grades are based entirely on first half performances. Not that anything has changed.

The carnage following the jump...

Luke Hochevar
5.14 ERA, 6.5 SO/9, 2.8 BB/9

I have tried to figure Hochevar. Mightily. As in spilled far too much internet bandwidth. I give up.

His ERA+ is in the 80s. His xFIP is a little above 4. These marks are right in line with his career rates. In other words, he is what he is... A highly inconsistent starting pitcher who averages out to a back of the rotation starter. Every teams can use someone like Hochevar, but when he's you're best option, you're up the proverbial creek and should be looking for a better paddle.

Grade: C-

Bruce Chen
5.22 ERA, 6.6 SO/9, 2.0 BB/9

Chen has been a servicable starter for the Royals. Servicable. And the whole time, we've been waiting for it to come to an end. A left-hander can only be so crafty. At some point, skill has to come into play.

It looks like we've come to that point. In his nine starts before the break, he was touched for six runs four times. He also coughed up eight home runs in that stretch covering 44 innings. Although this truly covers performance up to the break, it should be noted that he's been dreadful in his two post-break starts, allowing five home runs.

You know who Chen is pitching like this summer? Luke Hochevar.

Grade: D+

Luis Mendoza
5.21 ERA, 5.4 SO/9, 3.8 BB/9

Mendoza closed the first half in fine fashion, with a 3.26 ERA over his five starts ahead of the break. Most importantly, he struck out 25 batters in his last 30 innings. Talk about a development coming from out of nowhere. Also, he's getting a ton of ground balls and as a result, has a microscopic 0.5 HR/9 rate.

His "hot" stretch is the smallest of sample sizes and helps bump his grade. Can he continue? All I know is the Royals need him to if they're going to avoid 90 losses. Even in his good starts, he has a certain amount of hittability that leads to far too many base runners. I'm not optimistic.

Grade: D

Jonathan Sanchez
6.75 ERA, 5.9 SO/9, 7.4 BB/9

Hahahahaha... Seriously... He's not our problem anymore.

Grade: F-

Felipe Paulino
1.67 ERA, 9.3 SO/9, 3.6 BB/9

Paulino made six starts for the Royals (OK, really seven, but that last start doesn't count.) and allowed runs in only two of them. He was a strikeout artiste, and was at times, flat out dominant. The warning sign that something was wrong came in his start at the end of May against Baltimore when he walked five batters. He made just two more starts.

He is a max effort type of pitcher who looks just like an injury waiting to happen. Sadly, he filled out the Royals team punch card with Dr. Jobe. His loss on the heels of the Duffy injury was just a killer. Absolutely horrible. And it probably doomed this team to a 90 loss season.

Grade: A-

Vin Mazzaro
5.70 ERA, 6.0 SO/9, 3.3 BB/9

He's the kind of guy you should call up to fill the fifth starter role from time to time. When he moves into the middle of your rotation, you've a problem.

Mazzaro's xFIP of just over 4 suggests he's been a bit unlucky and his .368 BABIP would seem to back this up. However, the guy is just one of those hittable pitchers. He doesn't possess swing and miss stuff, doesn't give up a ton of home runs, but lives around the plate just enough he gets singled and doubled to death.

Grade: D

Danny Duffy
3.90 ERA, 9.1 SO/9, 5.9 BB/9

Duffy struggled with his control so much, I doubt he was right at all this season. This punch on the Dr. Jobe Frequent Surgery Card really hurt. It just felt like Duffy was on the verge of taking a giant step forward. I'm not going to say "breakout," but the guy was on the right path. Had he remained healthy... Sigh.

Grade: B-

Will Smith
9.00 ERA, 5.8 SO/9, 3.2 BB/9

His first start was at Yankee Stadium against the twin strippers named Mystique and Aura. He coughed up three home runs. In his third start - and first at The K - he surrendered three bombs to the Twins. The lesson... Mediocre pitchers give up home runs.

Grade: D-