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Season in review: The starters

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The starting rotation gets graded.

No need to look at the plate.
No need to look at the plate.
Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Putting aside present and future gripes about Edinson Volquez being paid millions of dollars to pitch for the AL champions, it's time to take another look back at the season that was. The starting rotation finds itself under the dimly-lit microscope.

James Shields

At this point, you know, there's been so much written about him. Is he still good? Is he going to be bad next year? What about his declining strikeout rate? His past durability is both a plus and a minus! I can't keep it all straight in my head. It was rumored that Shields took so long to sign because teams didn't know how to value him. Who knows. Shields' pluses are viewed as minuses and his minuses are viewed as big, fat red minuses. He has plus leadership and plus emotion!

At any rate, yes, Shields did experience a strikeout rate decline. Something that gets mentioned but often ignored (how does that happen?) is that his walk rate decreased as well. It decreased by 2.5 percentage points, which was a 35% decrease from 2013. Shields also induced more ground balls and popups last year. Despite the decreased K%, Shields made up for it in other ways. He still threw a bunch of quality innings for 3.7 fWAR.

Unfortunately, Shields didn't really bring it during the postseason. He gave up bunches of runs and generally didn't last long into games. His best outing was probably Game 5 of the World Series, in which he went 6 innings and gave up only 2 runs while inducing a ton of grounders. His other decent outing was a 6 inning affair against the Angels in Game 3 of the ALDS, but he gave up 2 home runs.

Grade: B+

Jason Vargas

I figured a full, healthy season from Vargas with Kauffman and the defense would be pretty good. It wasn't quite a full, healthy season, but it was close. Vargas performed admirably. Like Shields, he also cut his walk rate. I guess Royals pitchers aren't afraid of "going after" hitters with the Best Defense in the History of Whenever out there.

Vargas' regular season performance amounted to 2.6 fWAR, which was almost his best season ever. He'll probably be a bit worse in 2015, but he should be acceptable.

Vargas made only three starts in the postseason, and they were decent. Aside from that stupid not-walk, which was kind of a pivotal moment of Game 4 of the World Series, we were at least treated to this gem of a photo:

jason vargas photo

Grade: B+

I know it's the same grade as Shields, and Shields technically had the better season, but the grades are given based on expectations of the player prior to the season as well as performance.

Yordano Ventura

Let's throw fire. A high-ish ground ball rate combined with a low home run rate was good for a kid who had difficulty finding the strike zone. I would also have difficulty finding the strike zone if my hand were on fire every 21 seconds. Ventura was fantastic in his first full season. Sure, he gave up that nasty homer in the Wild Card game, but the guy threw 7 innings of shutout ball in Game 6 of the World Series and 7 innings of 1 run ball in Game 2 of the ALDS.

Grade: A

Jeremy Guthrie

I really like Jeremy Guthrie. He is a fun Twitter follow. He has quite the obsession with shoes. He rides segways around and takes pictures with the segway that he actually lets other people see. I'm not sure what drives him to share segway photos, but all of that is irrelevant to the baseball on the mound.

He had an OK-ish playoff series; he was good in Game 3 of the World Series, but he had some issues in Game 7. I'm not sure if we should blame him or Yost for leaving him in or Canada or Obama or whoever it is that we're blaming for things these days.

His regular season performance was about what you would expect. I think it can be encapsulated in one word. Cromulent is a word floated around here a lot. I think that's the word I'm looking for. Guthrie's season was cromulent. This review of him is cromulent.

Grade: Cromulent. C, I guess.

Danny Duffy

Shaun Newkirk has written here about Duffy quite a bit, so I won't say too much about him. I know that there was a big discrepancy between his ERA and FIP, but when evaluating past performance without the intent to predict future performance, I think ERA is acceptable. His ERA was more than acceptable. It was downright desirable. In 141 innings and 25 starts, Duffy's ERA was 2.55. Driving this ERA was a .235 BABIP. Duffy limited line drives and gave generous popups. You can do OK with this stadium and defense and lots of popups. Duffy doesn't necessarily have to improve his K% and BB% if his contact management skills are for real.

Duffy was basically absent during the playoffs for injury reasons. He threw 1 inning in that extra-inning affair in Game 1 of the ALDS and made two appearances in mop-up duty during the World Series.

Grade: B+

Bruce Chen

Wow. It seems like an eternity since Bruce Chen was a member of the Royals, but he was in fact a starter at the beginning of the year. He started 7 games total and spent some time relieving as well. Chen's 2014 performance was similar to his 2012 performance, except the BABIP fairy and LOB minotaur were on vacation. His first start was a 6.1 inning gem of 1 run ball with 7 strikeouts. However, whatever he had, he lost it later. Overall ERA: 7.45. There's not really much more you need to know.

Grade: F, sadly.

Liam Hendriks

I got all excited about Hendriks after his first start for the team. He threw 7 innings and gave up only 1 run against the Twins in late August. I thought he could be a decent 6th or 7th option. Hendriks was not as awesome for the rest of the season, choosing to give up runs instead of getting outs. He didn't give up a home run, though. He had a very nice FIP and xFIP, if you care.

Grade: C

Aaron Brooks

Hmm...who is the main character in Parks and Recreation again?

Leslie KNOPE?!

...Sorry.

Grade: NOPE