The first-place Kansas City Royals are 8-4. They’re 0-3 in Chris Young’s starts.
Is there any reasons for concern with Young? Or, is the sample size simply too small?
Over the last few seasons, the Royals have changed the way pitching staffs are being used. Now, other teams are trying to follow their lead. Even the Yankees are attempting to duplicate a powerhouse back end of the bullpen. It is smart baseball. In the past, teams seemed to want to maximize the mileage out of their pitchers. The Royals want to maximize the potential from their arms. It is obviously working.
Four good innings from Chris Young is better than six lesser innings of him trying to stretch himself out. I think the Royals will continue to revolutionize how pitching staffs are used and managed. Barring injury, we think we know that Edinson Volquez (2-0, 2.14 ERA, 17 K, 1.19 WHIP in 17.2 IP with a .215 batting average against in 3 starts), Ian Kennedy (2-0, league-leading 0.66 ERA, 14 K, 0.73 WHIP in 14 IP with a .156 BAA in 2 starts) and tonight’s starter in the opening-game of a three-game series with Detroit, Yordano Ventura (0-0, 2.45 ERA, 12 K, 1.36 WHIP in 11 IP with a .158 BAA in 2 starts) are going to start every fifth day.
They have proven that they are more than capable. As for the rest of the rotation, we could see a number of arms, intentionally. Young, who has been named the No. 4 starter initially and then moved to second in the pecking order when Kennedy had a nagging hamstring injury, as we all know, cannot throw 200+ innings and make 30+ starts anymore. It’ll probably be smart to continue to limit Kris Medlen’s innings. A third Tommy John surgery would likely be career-ending. Like the four good innings of Young vs. six mediocre comparison, 15-20 good starts is better than 25-30 bad ones.
I think we’ll also see Danny Duffy, currently 60-Day DL’d Mike Minor and maybe even prospect Kyle Zimmer, who, of course is on the DL, again, and possibly even Dillon Gee and Chien-Ming Wang making starts. Not so much due to performance, but to maximize what each of these limited, or young and inexperienced arms, can do. A pitching platoon so to speak.
Sometimes, you need pitchers to eat innings for the pitching staff. In Chris Young’s case, as mentioned earlier, four good innings are better than six lesser innings. But, what about when the four innings are BAD innings? I think Minor, who touched 96 mph with his fastball and sat at 93 mph in his first extended spring outing last Tuesday, would take over for Young when he was ready to return – most likely late May or June.
But, what if Young, the 37-year-old veteran, can’t make it that long? He is coming off a solid 2015 campaign in which he posted an 11-6 record with a 3.06 ERA over 123.3 innings. He had a 5.94 ERA this spring, but with a strong 17:6 K:BB ratio (for him) in 16.2 innings – well ahead of his 6.1 K/9 last season. In his three starts, the righty has struggled mightily, allowing a homer in all three starts, two 3-run first innings, going five innings just once, posting a NOT good 1.98 WHIP and 7.90 ERA in those three starts, spanning 13.2 innings, with a .333 batting average against. Like I said, NOT GOOD.
It’s simply too early and too small of a sample size to panic? Is it just a rough stretch for Chris Young, or is it the beginning of the end for him as a starter? Let’s not forger how fast Jeremy Guthrie lost ‘it.’ Did the Royals catch lightning in a bottle last year, where he posted a 1.86 ERA in April and 1.45 in May before regressing all the way into the bullpen, returning again for a successful stint as a starter at the end of last season, including the postseason.
Can Young be the effective pitcher that can give the Royals five "good" innings, handing the ball off to the bullpen, or will we continue to see more of bad Chris Young? And, if so, how long can Ned stick with him?
Here's to hoping he hasn't taken the plunge off the Jeremy Guthrie cliff, or worse – the Bruce Chen cliff, to an eternal death.