The Clock is Ticking: The Royals need for Starting Pitching

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Jason Vargas is done for the year, Yordano Ventura is struggling, and Chris Young is wearing down.  What will Dayton Moore and Ned Yost do?


I was sitting in the left field bleachers of Busch Stadium watching Chris Young and Salvador Perez do long toss prior to Thursday’s make-up game against the St. Louis Cardinals. 

I noticed, on more than one occasion, that the 6’10” Chris Young made the 6’3” Salvador Perez have to leave his feet to catch a toss.  Granted, it was just long toss, yet if Young was missing that far up I knew it could be a short night for the mostly fly ball pitcher.  Sure enough, in the top of the 4th inning, Ned Yost went to the bench for Kendrys Morales to pinch hit for Young.  Morales promptly flew out to center.  This would prove to be huge, because, in the 9th, with the tying run on 3rd and no out, Yost had to use Dusty Coleman to pinch hit for the pitchers spot.  Coleman struck out and the Royals stranded the tying run on 3rd in a 4-3 loss to the Cardinals.

This leads to huge concerns regarding the rotation.  Right now the rotation includes the following pitchers:  Edison Volquez (9-5, 3.15 ERA), Chris Young (8-6, 3.32 ERA), Jeremy Guthrie (7-5, 5.36 ERA), Danny Duffy (4-4, 4.24 ERA), and Yordano Ventura (4-7, 5.19 ERA).

Volquez has been consistent all year and currently is Kansas City’s best pitcher.  Both of Duffy’s and Guthrie numbers are misleading.  Both struggled early, but, both have been good recently.  Guthrie is 3-2 with a 4.69 ERA in his last 7 starts with 4 quality starts in that span.  Duffy is 2-1 since coming off the DL with a 2.27 ERA.  Those are encouraging signs.  Ventura has been a huge struggle all season, having lost confidence in his stuff and seemingly trying to overpower hitters with his fastball.  It led to his demotion to Omaha on Tuesday. 

He was brought back up the following night out of necessity after Vargas tore his UCL that Tuesday night.  Young is also a huge concern.  Last season he won AL Comeback Player of the Year and, overall, he pitched very, very well.  He finished 12-9 with a 3.65 ERA, however, over the final two months, Young was 3-3 with a 5.35 ERA.  In September alone, Young was 0-3 with an 8.59 ERA for a Seattle team that finished one game out of the 2nd Wild Card spot.  He would later admit that he just got worn out over the course of the season.

Ned Yost has confidence that Yordano Ventura will be a huge part of the Royals success heading into October.  Ventura has the stuff.  In an at-bat facing the Pirates Andrew McCutchen, Ventura went 100, 84 (curveball), 99, 85 (curveball) for a strikeout that got Royals fans excited.  Then Ventura imploded the next inning, giving up 4 runs.  Ventura’s struggles seem to be more mental than physical, according to coaches, so it’s not unreasonable to believe Yost on this one.

Chris Young is another story.  Young is 35 years old and has suffered many shoulder problems in his career.  He has been a huge addition for Dayton Moore and the Royals given all the injuries and suspensions the Royals have suffered this season.  However, he’s starting to show signs of wearing down.  Young’s role on the team is more suited for long relief and spot starting, not starting every 5 days.

This leaves Dayton Moore with a big decision to make.  Does he stick with his confidence in his players or does he give up part of the future for a chance of winning right now?  History has shown that he will stick with his confidence in his players.  The biggest name the Royals have traded for at the deadline is Jeremy Guthrie, and that was more a move to get rid of Jonathan Sanchez than out of necessity. 

Dayton Moore really doesn’t want to give up the future to obtain a rent-a-player.  Also, a lot of times, these trades don’t work out.  Case in point, the 2014 Oakland A’s.  They traded huge chunks of their farm system and future for guys who would help them “win now”.  Their reward for trading for Jeff Samardzjia, Jason Hammel, and Jon Lester?  Settling for the 2nd Wild Card spot after blowing a huge division lead.  Everything was supposed to even out in the postseason.  However, Jon Lester gave up 6 runs and Jason Hammel gave up a walk-off hit to Salvador Perez as the Royals ended the A’s season in the Wild Card Game, 9-8. 

This situation, however, is different.  When the A’s traded for Samardzjia and Lester, they already had Sonny Gray, who is an ace in his own right.  The Royals have nobody who is considered an ace.  The sexy deals would be to go out and get a Johnny Cueto, Matt Leake, or Cole Hamels.  However, the Royals necessarily need to have somebody who will go out and give you 7 or 8 innings with the bullpen the Royals have (though, it would be a huge bonus).  The Royals could settle for a guy like Yovani Gallardo or even a guy like Oakland’s Jesse Chavez. 

Yes, Chavez isn’t a sexy pick and his 5-9 record is less than inspiring.  However, he has rediscovered himself in Oakland’s starting rotation in the last two years.  He currently has a 3.21 ERA with a 3.11 FIP.  He also averages 6.3 innings pitched per games started, which sets up perfectly with the bullpen.  It might not be a “splash” move, but, it’s a move that can give you stability without mortgaging the future in Kansas City.  In this right, it makes sense.

Jeffrey Flanagan reported that Dayton Moore felt that “We don’t feel like it’s a must that we go out and add to this team we have right now”.  If he believes he’s got something with Kris Medlan, than he may be right.  However, the Royals have played Medlan conservatively to this point and I don’t feel like they’re going to put him in a situation he can’t handle right now.  John Lamb also could play a role in the Royals rotation.  He is 9-1 with a 2.67 ERA in 17 starts with Omaha.  Unless another starter goes down, I feel as though Lamb will most likely be a September call-up.

The Royals have a hole to fill and options.  Dayton Moore is right in the fact that they don’t have to make a splashy trade.  I would contend that the Royals could actually do just fine trading for a guy like Jesse Chavez from Oakland.  You just can’t be content with your starting pitchers giving you fewer than 5 IP and wearing out your long relievers.  Having said all this, the Royals are 57-37 and own the best record in the American League.  Do they need a flashy move?  No.  Is it important that they make a move, either via trade or internally?  With Ventura needing to find his confidence and Young wearing down, yes.  Will Dayton make a move?  At this time next week, we’ll know.

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Christopher Till

Author: Christopher Till

Christopher is a lifelong Royals fan who loves long walks on the beach, sunsets, and trips to #DongTown. He also loves writing about the Royals (pants optional). Ian Kennedy once ruined a perfect game Chris had going (though, to be fair, Chris' pitch came before the game with nobody in the batter's box). His favorite Royals' memory is sitting in Section 401 with his daughter when Salvador Perez laced a line drive past Josh Donaldson to win the 2014 American League Wild Card Game.

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