A Look at the Royals Pitching Options

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We have officially entered the part of baseball season where everything starts to slow down. With 27 games in the book, sample sizes are starting to become a better picture of what a player is, and isn't. It is still small, far too small to judge a players true value but enough to notice a trend.

The Royals are currently sitting 17-10 and are in first place in the AL Central with a half game lead over the Detroit Tigers.

That's pretty good.

They have gotten to this point by having a red hot 7-0 start and then playing .500 ball since. There is nothing wrong with that formula provided it is something they can continue to do. Minimize the "low times" and they can do fine. Long losing streaks are the killers. At some point this year, we will all have to suffer through one but luckily it has not happened yet.

The interesting part about how the Royals have managed to win 17 of 27?

It has come in spite of the Royals pitching instead of because of it. Even aided by the exceptional and historic Royals defense, only one starter manages to have an ERA+ over 93. That would be Edinson Volquez who has been nothing short of fantastic in his short stint with Kansas City so far. He leads the staff in innings pitched (34.1), ERA (2.10), WHIP (.932) and well…pretty much everything else as well. Walks per 9, strikeouts per 9, FIP, strikeouts….all of them. And its pretty easy to see why….

The rest of the starting staff has been horrible. Not like "ohh that's not so bad" horrible…more like "how on earth did we win 17 games" horrible. The next best starting pitcher for the Royals has been  Danny Duffy with a 4.55 ERA. However, the caveat to that is that Duffy is the one who went out and threw the 1 inning, 4 run stink bomb for the Royals against Cleveland in Wednesdays game. In that contest, he allowed 6 hits, 4 runs and hit 2 batters all the while collected a grand total of 3 outs. Even Duffy is looking scary these days.

Jeremy Guthrie is currently sitting the worst with a 6.52 ERA, and is only managing to strike out 3.4 batters per 9 innings. He isn't fooling anyone. Guthrie is currently in the last year of a 3 year contract he signed with the Royals. At the time, the general consensus was the Royals over paid in years in order to bring him back after he looked fantastic after they acquired him from the Rockies in 2012.

Guthrie was part of one of the greatest trades General Manager Dayton Moore has ever pulled off when the absolute train wreck of a pitcher that was Jonathan Sanchez was traded straight up for Jeremy Guthrie. The Royals went on to re-sign Guthrie and do a few things with him in their rotation (the guy did pitch in game 7 of the World Series, so hard to argue is value), so even if the team overpaid in years, it was well worth it. The downside is, now we have to suffer for it a little. Guthrie has had rough patches before, but being 36 years old, it is also possible father time has caught up to a pitcher who seemed to almost always walk the tight rope even in his good games.

Lets hope he rights the ship, but if he does not, there are at least a few options on the table for viable replacements.

Chris Young has done an outstanding job for the Royals so far this year, even spot starting on May 1st and going 5 innings. In those 5 innings, he struck out an eye opening 9 batters and didn't allow a hit or run (though he did walk 3). On the season he has 17 innings pitched and has only given up 2 runs for an ERA of 1.06. Chris Young, at the moment, seems to be the odds on early favorite to land an open starting gig and for good reason.

Another of the Royals long relief corps, Yohan Pino, was recently rewarded for his 10.2 scoreless innings pitched by being demoted in order to clear room on the roster. Pino started 11 games last year for the Twins, though they were less than stellar, and he finished with a 5.07 ERA. At 31 years old, he is too old to be much of a project, but being as this is only his second MLB season, it is possible he may yet find some magic and could be a candidate to fill a roll in the rotation if the need arises.

Some of the pre-season favorites included guys like Kris Medlen, who Jeffrey Flanagan reports is heading to extended spring training to throw against live batters. Dayton was hailed in the offseason for picking up Medlen, who is coming off of his second Tommy John surgery. He provided a cheap lottery ticket with a tremendous upside, and though it would be much later in the year, could be a fill in during the late season push for the playoffs.

Joe Blanton provides a long shot for making the starting rotation, but he has not yet given up hope he can make it. The 34 year old has decent numbers so far in AAA Omaha with a 3.74 ERA in 33.2 innings pitched. He is striking out 7.2 batters per 9 and is making a case for a comeback after posting a 6.04 ERA for the Angels last season. He has a May 15th opt out, and in a pitching starved league, it is entirely possible he finds another team desperate for someone to eat innings.

While these 3 may be viable options, the only reason they would be used is if something went wrong. So far, it is going wrong, though it is still plenty early enough to correct that. Also, the Royals are winning, and winning cures all things. It doesn't matter if the pitching allows 8 runs so long as we score 9 right?

The problem with that will be when the offense goes through a funk where it doesn't score runs. There could be some ugly times ahead and lets hope the pitchers get back to being dominant. Yordano Ventura was tabbed as the pre-season Ace to the staff, but has yet to look the part. He has contended with an early season onslaught of problems but maybe with a few weeks of normalcy can begin focusing on what matters, pitching.

This certainly isn't a time to panic, but it never hurts to have good options available. Dayton Moore's off-season may have seemed somewhat under whelming, but what he DID do was provide an excellent level of depth to a squad that sorely needed it. Lets just hope we don't have to use it.

Also of note, Luke Hochevar will be activated today, providing another long shot option. He does have starting clauses in his new contract, so it is something that has been discussed. Brandon Finnegan will be sent down.






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Author: lukegoosen

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