Remember our beloved major pitching acquisition Jonathan Sanchez from just a season ago? Well guess what, they still allow him to pitch in the major leagues. Let’s catchup with Mr. Sanchez and see how things are going.
Sanchez season line: 8.1 IP, 12 ER, 14 H, 5 BB, 6 K, 3 HR, 0-2 record
There are going to be a lot of stats thrown around in the next few days about the Royals pitching staff and trying to figure out if they are for real or not. Kevin Scobee (@scobes15) of Kings of Kauffman went on a pretty good run of tweets explaining how some of the Royals success is due to a high BAbip for the offense and a high percentage of runners left on base by the pitching staff. All of the numbers point out how the Royals have won six of their first nine more than it explains who the Royals are going to be, but it does show clearly the Royals are unlikely to maintain their 108-win pace. Shocking, I know.
What may be more important, as the numbers try to progress past the “small sample size” stage, is what we are seeing on the field. Specifically, what were are seeing on the mound. James Shields has shown he can be the stabilizing force at the top of the rotation – both on the mound and in the clubhouse – that the Royals really haven’t had since Kevin Appier. Ervin Santana has shown he hasn’t lost the ability to be 2011 Ervin Santana after his Royals Opening Day start on Monday. Jeremy Guthrie hasn’t been spectacular but has been very solid, which is what the Royals were asking of him. These are the three the Royals need to produce, and so far they are.
Through six starts Shields, Santana, and Guthrie are 4-1 with a 3.49 ERA. They’ve combined to go 38.2 innings, struck out 40 and walked just four – a clean 10-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio. This a threesome of pitchers that it wouldn’t be surprising if they combined to maintain something close to this level of success. This isn’t Luke Hochevar, Bruce Chen, and Sanchez having a random two weeks of success, these are three pitchers who have all had histories of success in the recent past and are doing things they’ve done before.
This isn’t like last year when the Royals were asking Sanchez to be something he wasn’t, or Chen to be an ace, or Hochevar to be Shields. Instead they are asking a number one starter – if not an ace – to be a number one starter; asking a guy who had a sub-4 ERA in three of the last five seasons; and asking a guy who has a career 4.27 ERA and has thrown 200 innings in three of the last four years to throw 200 innings and have a 4 ERA. For the first time in years the Royals are asking players to do what is within their skill level to do. No more Sanchez’s or Mike Jacobs’ or Yuniesky Betancourt’s, and no more asking rookies to be veterans.
No, the Royals are not the best team in baseball or should they be considered the front runner of anything except for most improved team of the year. But flirting with a high-80’s win total and maybe putting pressure on Detroit for a division title in September isn’t as far out of the question as it appeared to some two weeks ago. Asking players to be who there are will go a long way towards making this a season worth following.