All Eyes on the Kansas City Royals

All Eyes on the Kansas City Royals

Posted Monday December 10, 2012 at 2:23:14 pm in Real Sports

The Kansas City Royals have a pitching rotation. Let that settle in for a second. Ok? No? I'll say it again: The Kansas City Royals* have a pitching rotation...

The 2012 Kansas City Royals scored 676 runs last year but allowed 746 runs. Good for a -70 run differential and ending with a 72-90 record while underperforming their Pythagorean W-L by 2 losses [74-88].

The 2012 campaign wasn't headlined by being an offensive juggernaut or having a  phenomenal pitching staff. If one would some up the 2012 season for the Royals it would be one of disappointment and promise. They finished 3rd in the AL Central, but that's roughly akin to making out with your sister. 

Playing the AL Central is essentially playing in the weakest division in the AL. The AL East and AL West are widely regarded as being the juggernauts of the American League and the Central being a pushover with the Twins, Indians, and Royals being the bastard childs for the Tigers and White Sox to beat up on. Pundits were picking the Royals to be the surprise team of 2012. Turns out the surprise team[s] ended up being the Orioles and the Athletics. Yay for my Orioles. Time for a shameless Did The Orioles Win? plug.

But to understand why pundits picked the Royals to be a surprise team, it's important to note their tremendous positional talent on their roster:

Eric Hosmer, Alcides Escobar, Salvador Perez, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, and Billy Butler. But if you look back on the 2012, two key players' final offensive numbers were woefully disappointing:

Eric Hosmer - 232/304/359 - 663 OPS

Mike Moustakas - 242/296/412 - 708 OPS

Hosmer is particularly disappointing given the 293/334/465 - 799 OPS that he put up in his rookie campaign in 2011. If the Royals are to be a force in 2012, they're going to need Hosmer and Moustakas to put up much better numbers. Guys like Butler, Gordon, and Perez are offensive forces that will be around the team for some  time. It's a very young core with very high upside. However, the Royals will never be an offensive juggernaut. Chances are their offensive upside is that of a league average or slightly above average offense. For the Royals to contend they'll need pitching.

And that brings us to the main point of this post: The Kansas City Royals have a pitching rotation (in 2013). Last year the Royals allowed 746 runs: good for 5th worst in the AL (and 33 runs below league average). 

Their most productive pitcher was Jeremy Guthrie, who was acquired from the Rockies towards the end of the season. He made 14 starts going 5-3 with a 3.16 ERA. He added stabilization to a rotation whose second best starter was Luis Mendoza (4.23 ERA, 8-10 W-L record). The rest of the rotation was just terrible:

Bruce Chen: 11-14, 5.07 ERA, 81 ERA+

Luke Hochevar: 8-16, 5.73 ERA, 71 ERA+

Will Smith (not THAT Will Smith): 6-9, 5.32 ERA, 77 ERA+

Jonathan Sanchez: 1-6, 7.76 ERA, 53 ERA+

Yeah, their rotation was terrible. Even the Blue Jays have an excuse for their rotation being so poor (they were all mostly hurt), but do the Royals? Like my beloved Orioles, their rotation has always been a laughing stock. Their runs allowed reads like other-worldly credit ratings:

2011: 762

2010: 845

2009: 842

2008: 781

2007: 778

2006: 971

2005: 905

Hey, at least they didn't allow 1,000 at any point! You know, like the 1899 Cleveland Spiders National League team (they allowed 1,252). BTW, they only scored 529 runs. You know...a 723 point differential. They only won 12 games that year (12-104). Maybe there's something to the Pythagorean W-L. Or maybe it's just common sense.

But back to my original point: The Kansas City Royals have a pitching rotation (in 2013).

The Royals just completed a trade with the Rays that will give the Rays top hitting prospect Wil Myers (along with Patrick Leonard, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery, and the always wonderful PTBNL). What do the Royals get?

James Shield and Wade Davis. These two pitchers will immediately slot into the Royals starting rotation alongside of newly acquired Ervin Santana and the recently resigned Jeremy Guthrie.

Shields over the last 3 years averaged a 3.76 ERA, 102 ERA+, and 227 IP. In the AL East. 

Ervin Santana over the last 3 years averaged a 4.08 ERA, 94 ERA+, and 210 IP. He had a down year in 2012 sporting a 5.16 ERA and a 9-13 record (and a 73 ERA+). The Royals are hoping Santana will pitch better against a weaker division and in a change of scenery. 

As for Wade Davis, he was used primarily as a relief pitcher in 2012 for the Rays (as they're ridiculously stacked with starting pitchers). But in 2010 and 2011 he averaged a 4.27 ERA, 90 ERA+, and a 23-20 record (as well as 176 IP).

Do Shields, Santana, and Davis make the Royals an instant contender? Well, being that the AL Central was won by the Tigers with an 88-74 record and the White Sox not far behind them with an 85-77 record...I'd say yes. If the hitters mature. I think Shields will pitch very well and Santana and Davis will stabilize the rotation. Guthrie will bounce back with a full season playing in Kansas City as opposed to TPWPGTD (The Place Where Pitchers Go To Die) in Colorado. 

That leaves Chen, Mendoza, Hochevar, etc. there to duke it out for the #5 spot. Which is the way it should be. 

So, the Royals are my surprise pick for 2013.

*finally

The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer’s view