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.