Monday, October 1, 2012

Luke Hochevar's Place In Royals History

I was previously convinced that Luke Hochevar was coming back for the 2013 but now I'm not so sure. He finished the season with a 9.56 ERA in 6 September starts (32 innings) and much of that was done after the team famously gave him a vote of confidence. He ended the year with a 72 ERA+ and if you're wondering where that ranks in team history, let me show you. Of the 119 times a Royals pitcher has thrown 162+ innings our Luke is sitting at #2.

Rk Player ERA+ IP Year Age
1 Jose Lima 63 168.2 2005 32
2 Luke Hochevar 72 185.1 2012 28
3 Brian Bannister 75 182.2 2008 27
4 Rich Gale 76 181.2 1979 25
5 Zack Greinke 76 183.0 2005 21
If you're an rWAR kind of guy it's more of the same:

Rk Player WAR IP Year
1 Jose Lima -1.8 168.2 2005
2 Rich Gale -1.7 181.2 1979
3 Luke Hochevar -1.6 185.1 2012
4 Larry Gura -1.0 168.2 1984
5 Brian Anderson -0.6 166.0 2004
Depending on what floats your boat he had the second or third worst season by a pitcher who lasted the entire season in the rotation. It gets worse. Did you know that in Royals history 18 pitchers have tossed 750 career innings? You probably already know that Hochevar has the lowest ERA+ in that group but did you also know that he's the only one below 100? It's true. There have been worse pitchers to suit up in Royals blue but they weren't allowed to pitch that many innings. Because they were terrible.

Rk Player ERA+ IP
1 Luke Hochevar 79 771.0
2 Paul Splittorff 101 2554.2
3 Dick Drago 101 1134.0
4 Steve Busby 105 1060.2
5 Jeff Suppan 105 864.2
6 Al Fitzmorris 106 1098.0
7 Dennis Leonard 107 2187.0
8 Larry Gura 107 1701.1
9 Tom Gordon 108 1149.2
10 Mark Gubicza 110 2218.2
11 Buddy Black 111 977.2
12 Marty Pattin 112 825.2
13 Charlie Leibrandt 116 1257.0
14 Zack Greinke 116 1108.0
15 Bret Saberhagen 128 1660.1
16 Kevin Appier 130 1843.2
17 Jeff Montgomery 138 849.1
18 Dan Quisenberry 160 920.1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used

I get that they've stuck with him this long because they are still trying to justify his draft status. But that's hilarious to me because they've not attempted to do the same with Aaron Crow. Hochevar is who he is at this point and it would be the height of silliness to not only bring him back but to give him a raise in the process. The 5 million dollars he may make next year could and should be used elsewhere in a rotation upgrade. I hope Dayton Moore is on board with this thinking. It was easy to spin the "new Luke" last winter after he finished 2011 on a positive note but this time such a claim would be a tougher sell.

I'm probably the last Royals blogger to weigh in on David Glass' comments about spending money to fix the rotation. That's great, if he means it, but I wonder if Moore is willing to spend, because I have my doubts. His earlier comments to first look internally didn't inspire me with confidence. Bringing back Jeremy Guthrie is only a rotation upgrade if you ignore the fact that he's in the current rotation. Sure a whole season would be nice but there are still four big question marks that must be addressed. If more than one of Hochevar/Chen/Smith/Mendoza open 2013 as a starting pitcher then I think you can kiss contention goodbye. Don't even waste your breath saying hello.

Here's how I'd like the 2013 rotation to look:
1. Newcomer via trade or free agency
2. Newcomer via trade or free agency
3. Guthrie
4. Jake Odorizzi
5. Chen/Mendoza/Smith/Crow

There's also the significant difference between spending and spending wisely. If Moore does decide to dabble in the free agent market let's not forget that he once gave Brett Tomko 3 million dollars. I hated that signing immediately and it's one that I feel hasn't drawn enough criticism. Tomko was coming off a 2007 season in which he put a 77 ERA+, and was about to turn 35 years old. He was predictably terrible and was released in June after posting a 62 ERA+ in 60.2 innings. A year later Moore gave Horacio Ramirez 1.8 million to compete for a rotation spot. Luckily he only made 1 start but was so bad overall (75 ERA+, 1.67 WHIP) that he too was released in June (He only made 1 start because Moore later brought in Sidney '60 ERA+' Ponson. Yeah, that actually happened). And of course there's the 2 year, 9 million deal he gave Chen last winter that has worked out so wonderfully.

It's great that Glass is willing to spend but if Moore plans on perusing the clearance rack again then I fail to see the point. It's not an upgrade if the pitchers you bring are just as terrible as the ones they're replacing. If Moore interpreted Glass' comments as a warning shot that his time is short then he may go hard after an Edwin Jackson, Anibal Sanchez or Dan Haren (if he is indeed available). I think it's more likely, though, that we suffer through another winter of Jair Jurrjens and John Lannan rumors before Moore overpays for a pitcher that is statistically underwhelming.

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