The Kansas City Royals have made one big decision thus far. According to Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star, Luke Hochevar is out of the competition for the fifth spot in the rotation. Bruce Chen and Luis Mendoza will now duel it out for that last starter’s slot.
Hochevar was drafted by the Royals with their first overall pick in 2006. He has appeared in 132 games for the Royals, 128 as a starter. His lifetime ERA and WHIP are awful – 5.39 and 1.403. He has always underperformed his skills, which is why the Royals have always gushed about how good his stuff is. His poor stats are driven primarily by one significant number. – his strand percentage. The Strand Percentage is the percentage of base runners he allows on base that do not score. The league average is right around 75%. Hochevar’s Strand Percentages starting in 2008 were 64%, 65%, 67%, 65%, and in 2012, 61% (Strand % provided by Ron Shandler’s 2013 Baseball Forecaster and Encyclopedia of Fanalytics). This basically means that Hochevar struggles with guys on base. Anyone who watches the Royals on a regular basis already knew this.
So, into the bullpen he goes, where he will more than likely pitch with runners on. Doesn’t seem like the smartest move. At this point, the Royals are just trying to find a spot where Luke can get comfortable and be effective. Royals management made a huge mistake when they didn’t non-tender him this off season. Some other pitching coach should be trying to fix him. Hochevar DOES have the stuff to be an outstanding relief pitcher (and starter, for that matter) but will he ever realize his potential? The odds have to be against it. The Royals don’t need Hochevar in the bullpen. They should just release him and get it over with. It is inevitable and the Royals should have that figured out by now. But they don’t.
Now, we must live with another Luke Hochevar experiment. The Royals are going to try to fix his issues while pitching him out of the bullpen full time. Only time will tell, but count on it. The Royals are spending a lot of money on an improved starting rotation this season. It will be a waste if Hochevar blows leads for them on a regular basis. Let’s hope Hochevar finally figures things out. Just don’t hold your breath.