Kansas City Royals reliever Luke Hochevar (44) Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Royals Player Profile: Luke Hochevar


 

Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Luke Hochevar (44) Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

 

The Kansas City Royals are coming off their best season since 1989, and are looking to improve on their 86 wins in 2013. Going forward, we are going to take a closer look at the players that should play significant roles for the Royals in 2014, as they try to make their first post season appearance since winning the World Series in 1985.

If you want read the other completed profiles, just click here. This link will be updated as we add more profiles over the upcoming weeks.

Up next is right-handed relief pitcher Luke Hochevar.

Did you know the Kansas City Royals just decided to pay a 30-year old relief pitcher $5.21 million for the 2014 baseball season. Based on last year’s workload, that is nearly $75,000 an inning, or $25,000 per recorded out. It doesn’t seem very frugal, does it?

Everyone knows that Luke Hochevar failed miserably as a starter in the major leagues. From 2008 thought 2012, Hochevar made an amazing 127 starts (and one relief appearance). It is amazing because in those five seasons, Hochevar had one of the ugliest ERAs of all time – 5.45 – and a WHIP to match – 1.407.

The fact the Royals could not move on from Hochevar as a starter for so long doesn’t say much for the organization. His best season, 2011, was mediocre at best with a 4.68 ERA and 1.283. His worst season, 2009, didn’t deserve him ever getting another look as a starter – 6.55 ERA and 1.490 WHIP.

Finally, in 2013, the Royals gave up on their number one overall pick being a successful starting pitcher. They moved him to the bullpen, where he quite frankly dominated at times. His number improved across the board, and in some categories, drastically so.

In 70.1 innings, he has a 1.92 ERA and a sparkling .825 WHIP. His Strikeouts per 9 innings jumped from a career high of 7.0 in 2012, to 10.5 in 2013. He also produced a career low Walk Rate of 2.2 per 9 innings. Going into last season, he allowed an astronomical 9.6 hits per 9 innings, but that number dropped to 5.2 in relief.

The only stat that held steady for Hochevar was Home Runs per 9 innings. His career ratio is 1.1, and it was 1.0 last season. In fact, Hochevar allowed 15 runs in 2013, and 8 home runs. If he could only have just kept the ball in the park a little better, his numbers would have been absolutely phenomenal.

The big question is if Hochevar can repeat his numbers from 2013. There is one glaring  stat that stands out that would indicate he was rather lucky. Coming into last season, Hochevar had a relatively average Batting Average on Balls in Play Against for his career at .304. Even this is a bit misleading because he was extremely, and uncharacteristically, lucky in 2011 (.276).

His BABiP in 2013 was .217! Even for a reliever, this is extremely fortunate. In comparison, the great Mariano Rivera had a career BABiP of .265, and only had three seasons where his BABiP was lower than .238, and only once was he lower than Hochevar’s .217 in 2013 (.212 in 1999). As a reliever, Hochevar’s BABiP will be lower than as a starter, even significantly lower, but the mark he set last season is in all likely hood going to be an anomaly. He would be hard pressed to match it ever again.

His career Batting Average Against was .273 before last season. In 2013, batters only hit .169 against him! Again, Rivera only had one season with a better mark – .165 in 2008.

Most of Hochevar’s stats from last season should be repeatable. The Royals should not be counting on him to be that lucky again. If more batted balls fall for hits, his ERA and WHIP will naturally go up.  More realistic expectations would be an ERA around 2.50, and a WHIP of 1.10 with less luck.

Of course, there is always the outside chance Kansas City will give him another shot at the rotation. Why? Because they are the Royals. It doesn’t seem likely though, that he will beat out the other candidates the Royals have for the 5th spot in the rotation.

Which brings us back to the point that Kansas City is paying a relief pitcher $5.21 million in 2014, based on a season that is most likely unrepeatable. Maybe the Royals are hoping he will have trade value but whatever value he had went out the window with that contract. The Royals are going to be stuck with him all season.

Hopefully for the Royals, he can perform as a top notch reliever again, even if matching his 2013 numbers is unlikely. If he regresses horribly, the Royals will have wasted a boatload of cash on Luke Hochevar.

Let’s hope that he has turned his career around as a reliever, and he makes a solid, positive contribution this season.

 

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  • jimfetterolf

    Any idea what he did differently last season to get so effective?

    • Royals_Fan

      He was able to pitch harder because he wasn’t expected to go deep into the game. All his pitches got faster and had more movement because he was able to go harder every pitch. Telling a pitcher to go 2-3 innings instead of 6-7 is huge.

      • jimfetterolf

        That’s one factor. Another is reducing the number of types of pitches, a third is fixing his stretch problem with runners on base, and a fourth was returning to his old training routine that had made him a 98mph, #1:1 draft pick out of college as a starter. Those changes won’t show up in history for a few years, but the coaching staff will be able to see if they stuck starting in a few weeks. Those adjustments are why he’s in the conversation for the last rotation spot.

        • Royals_Fan

          I just don’t see him being a SP. He has never had an ERA under 4.68 in his carrer (and he only pitched 18 games the year he did have an ERA of 4.68), he has only gotten over 145 IP in 2 years in his carrer and he has given up 20 or more HRs in his 5 years of being a SP. He just isn’t that good of a starting pitcher. He is a stud when he only has to come out and pitch 20-30 pitches if that. I don’t think having 1 good year in the BP makes him a better SP either. Look at Wade Davis. He is a stud coming out of the BP, but a terrible SP. He got kicked to the BP because he was a liability and almost a for sure loss every game he pitched. Neither are SP material, leave them alone in the BP and find another SP. If Santana doesn’t come back, the Royals could sign another SP who is still out there. Bronson Arroyo and Maholm are still quality SP we could sign. But the Garza signing has helped the Royals out a lot, but it also helped other teams out a lot as well.

          My whole point, don’t fix what isn’t broken. Leave Hoch and Davis alone in the BP.

          • jimfetterolf

            Royals were 10-14 in games Davis started. Royals were 16-16 in games Santana started. Royals were 21-13 in games Shields started. Royals were 19-14 with Guthrie.

          • Royals_Fan

            Shields had a 3.15 ERA, Guthrie had a 4.04 ERA, Santana had a 3.24 REA, Davis had a 5.32 ERA. Hoch’s last season as a starter he had a 5.73 ERA.

          • jimfetterolf

            So? The kewl kidz I know only use ERA for Royals pitchers that they don’t like. My above post was for whoever claimed “almost a for sure loss…”

          • Royals_Fan

            HAHA, seriously? Looking at the records they all had a .500 or higher winning turn out and Davis had a below .500.

            So when Felix Hernandez won the Cy Young in 2010 and went 13-12, thats all they looked at and were like “Yes, he’s the winner!”. They look at ERA too. He had a 2.27 ERA. So all those “kewl kidz” that only use ERAs actually helped a pitcher win a Cy Young.

            At least you’re a good sport when it comes to having a debate!

          • jimfetterolf

            I wasn’t looking at pitcher wins and losses, I showed team wins and losses for the pitchers’ starts, in answer to a specific statement. Davis was not a for sure loss when starting.

            The kewl kidz use stuff like FIP and SIERA and others, unless they need to trash Davies, Hoch, and Davis, then they use ERA. All have their uses, but none recognize reasons for problems nor can see them when fixed for about three years. In the cases of Hoch and Davis the problems are as well known as the talent and ceiling. Through spring training the coaching staff will decide whether the problems have been addressed well enough to warrant a rotation spot. Should Santana be re-signed that will make the decision easier, if he’s not re-signed I expect them to approach it like last year with Mendoza and Chen, start with the better chance with the second choice as swingman and Ventura in Omaha for service time considerations.

            I would note that “kewl kidz” don’t have a vote for CYA.

          • Royals_Fan

            Please tell me you didn’t bring Kyle Davies into this.

            You really are telling me that out of all the FA SP out there, you believe Hoch and Davis are the best options if we don’t sign Santana? Not AJ Barnett, Bronsen Arroyo, Maholm from ATL? I don’t see how Hoch will give us the wins to make the playoffs and I don’t see Davis as that either. Hoch has had 7 years to prove he can start and he never has. He wasn’t even in the running for the #5 spot last year. Davis had almost a full year and never proved he could start. You know the reason Hoch is able to throw harder is because he doesn’t have as many innings to worry about. Not because he has 3 pitches. His fastball increased from low to mid 90′s to mid to high 90′s. That doesn’t happen just because you go from 4 pitches to 3. Both succeed in the bullpen. Neither succeeded starting. Are you going to make Holland, Crow or Collins starting pitchers because they have 3-4 pitches and succeed a lot in the pen? No. Taking Hoch and Davis out of the pen and making them SP doesn’t help our SP and won’t help push us to playoffs.

          • jimfetterolf

            I’m saying exactly that, based on money, length of contract, consistency, durability, and willingness to come to KC.

            Holland was considered for the rotation when Broxton was signed. Crow and Collins will have a hard time keeping their bullpen slots this year.

            For the rest, opinions vary. Royals don’t care as much about history as some, but if they were they’ld look at Arroyo’s last year and see he was below Vargas on fangraphs’ leader boards. Maholm looks to have nothing left and never had much ceiling. Burnett will cost $20m and leans toward Pittsburg or Baltimore, now that he’s decided to play. He’ll be a feeding frenzy.

          • Royals_Fan

            Collins already has his arbitration signed and Crow will get his here soon too.

            Burnett said he is open to going anywhere. He would do great in KC. One year in, next year he’s done. No question marks are there. He would have a better defensive team, better catcher and a pitcher friendly ball park. I’m not sure, but I don’t think Baltimore is a pitcher friendly ball park. If he comes to KC then Venture has more time to get prepared and will take his spot next year. If Shields leaves after next year, Zimmer has the look of being ready by next year. Santana hasn’t had any communication with the Royals since Winter Meetings. That looks more than finished to me.

            If you were to ask fans, Burnett or Hoch/Davis I have a strong feeling people are going to say Burnett (even if we sign him for nearly $15-$20M for 1 year)

            You can’t tell me we have been down this path with Hoch…the idea that he looks better than before and he looks like he can turn it around, and then he posts a 5+ ERA and requires the team to put up 4-5+ runs a game while he’s pitching.

          • jimfetterolf

            You’re obsessed with Hochevar. He doesn’t enter into Burnett. What does is 4.0fW at about $6m per fW, which brings him in as a $20+m pitcher, maybe on the high side with no draft loss and a one year contract. And he lives in Baltimore. And KC isn’t an attractive FA destination.

          • Royals_Fan

            I’m simply stating, over and over again, that he is not a SP. Trying to convince KC fans that one year in the BP fixed him and now he’s ready to start is an absolute joke. Barnett has had his best years in a big ball park. Royals have a big park. This is a 1 year rental. Not a long term deal.

            All go this is irrelevant if Santana comes back. Do I believe he’s coming back? No. Would I like for him to come back? Yes, absolutely.

            The Royals have options. Glass has money to help the team out, but he is known for not wanting to do that. I understand that when it’s all said and done and we give Holland and Crow money we will be around $95M, which is the highest in franchise history. But we are in a win now mind set. You’re telling fans we are in a win now mind set. We have a chance to spend money and get a #2 starter. And you say Hoch/Davis are looking like they are going to take the #5 spot and Guthrie or Vargas are your #2 starters? They don’t scream success. When your fans, George Brett and commentators make comments about how unsure this starting rotation is and how they don’t think it works, how can you sit back and say, it will?

          • jimfetterolf

            We have a couple of chances for buying a #2 starter, Guthrie and Vargas not among our in-house options for the slot. And I’m saying Hochevar and Davis are in the mix for the #5 slot, or maybe #3.

            What I’m actually saying is that Burnett will go high and be influenced by factors other than the last couple of million dollars. Royals can afford him but can’t force him to sign unless they offer a ridiculous contract like Tanaka or Cano got, something like a 3/75.

          • Royals_Fan

            So who out there still that the Royals could sign or maybe trade for that has some value. We right now don’t have anyone that will be of value to finish our rotation.

          • jimfetterolf

            We currently have five plus arms competing for two rotation spots, so that’s a good thing. I consider Santana to be very much in play as Garza’s contract set an apparent upper limit within range and as AJ Burnett looks on the market, so will be top priority for some bigger market teams, Yankees an obvious one on money, Baltimore due to that being where Burnett lives, Pittsburg due to familiarity and previous success. I don’t think he signs for the highest bid and do think he wants a chance to win a championship close to his home. Yankees have a good, not great team and have the money. Baltimore has a meh team but is home. Pittsburg should make the playoffs again but doesn’t have the money, which is why they didn’t make a qualifying offer. Blue Jays want and need a #1 starter and have the money, but no idea of Burnett’s thoughts on them.

            Royals have an advantage with Santana simply because the Jays, Yankees, and Orioles know that Santana would be a disaster in their little parks, so won’t pursue him hard. A one year deal might be best for both, Royals could overpay him a little, he could try to prove ’13 wasn’t a fluke, and next off-season might be better for FAs without Tanaka muddying things up. I could even see a 3/? deal if some of the money was in incentives and if it didn’t contain a no-trade clause. Dutton suggested 3/40, which might be reasonable, 3/45 with the right incentives and structure, maybe even an opt-out after one year. Royals have the money and Santana makes them a win or two better, which may be crucial this year.

            As for trades, only ones I would make are Billy or Alex for prospects. Royals’ top five or so prospects would be untouchable. Sustainable contention is built from the inside in a small market team with a bad local TV contract, which we’re stuck with through 2019.

          • Royals_Fan

            I think we finally agree on something! If Burnett goes anywhere I would rather it be TOR because they are really the only team interested in Santana from what I’ve read. I would like to have Burnett over anyone else if Santana goes somewhere else though.

            The one thing I don’t agree with is trading Gordon. By far KCs pride and joy. Voted face of the Royals this year, Hosmer will be the face next year if he plays like he did the second half of the year. Total side note there but you get the point. I want to see Butler get traded. I’d take prospects and eat some of his contract if that’s what it takes. (Not a Butler fan at all)

            The only prospects that are untouchable are Ventura, Zimmer, Lane, Dwyer, and our stud IF that’s 18. Otherwise, I say it’s open market.

            How I see the money problems and being a small market team problem comes back to David Glass. We all know they guy has money. He’s shown a little of it this year, which surprised me. If he really wants to endear himself to KC he should open his pocket book one more time and get Santana or Bernett. Trade Butler/Hoch/Davis, someone to get some payroll back if you have too. But throw money at a player, fans will love that.

          • jimfetterolf

            Always depends on return. Next winter is better, assuming Alex is healed up. I like Alex just as Butler, but for the business model they get traded for the next Wil Myers, just the nature of the business, and two years of control gets a good return, which is why Shields was traded and Price is being dangled. It’s all about reloading with young guys who become the next expensive FAs to trade for the next prospects. Tampa is the good model for us.

            As for Glass, he’s got flexibility but he won’t treat the Royals as a personal charity. That’s just a given. Royals have banked enough money the last several years that Santana is in reach, Burnett possible on a one year deal, but only if management thinks that puts them over the top and assumes that either wants to play in KC.

  • Royals_Fan

    I don’t like him as a starter but I loved him in the middle reliever role. His fastball was faster, his slider was more effective and he was a more reliable pitcher when he was only required to pitch a max of 2-3 innings. Leave him where he’s been successful and don’t mess with it anymore. He’s a bullpen arm, not a starting pitcher.

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