The Kansas City Royals had one of the best starting pitching staffs in the American League last year. If they want to make the playoffs, they are going to have to find a way to replicate a 3.70 ERA over 986 innings pitched. This may seem like a big task but, so long as James Shields stays healthy, I think they can do it.
James Shields is a lock for 200 innings and should post a sub 3.50 ERA. Jeremy Guthrie should get between 180 and 200 innings with a league average, 4.00 ERA.
Losing Ervin Santana and his 3.24 ERA over 211 innings is a huge hit that needs to be made up for. Luckily(?) they had Wade Davis and Luis Mendoza dragging them down. If you put those 3 together and add Bruce Chen’s 15 starts they combined for an ERA of 4.19 over 502 innings. 500 innings of better than average ERA?
That can be replaced without much trouble at all.
We can argue about whether the contracts are worth the production, but signing Chen again and adding Jason Vargas are big steps towards keeping this becoming a great rotation. Vargas has averaged 189 innings with a 4.04 ERA, 94 ERA+, over the last 3 years.
His peripheral numbers make him look like a clone of Guthrie. With the great defense behind him I expect his ERA to drop just a bit.
Over the last 3 years Chen has had a 4.14 ERA with an average of 156 innings per year. He’s also 37 years old. One hundred innings with a 4.5 ERA should be expected. By the All Star Break, he should be back in the bullpen unless he’s filling in for an injury in the rotation.
The last spot is either going to Danny Duffy or Yordano Ventura. The Royals say Luke Hochevar and Wade Davis are competing for a starting spot. If either of them gets a chance to start then something has gone terribly wrong.
So, Duffy or Ventura. As much as I would like to see both starting off in the rotation, I understand the hesitation of having 2 unproven starters. The Kansas City Royals need to go with the hot hand out of Spring Training and keep the other starting in AAA on the same day.
I think they’re going to keep Duffy up and ride him as long as they can. I don’t believe that the Royals think that he can stay healthy all season, with the added benefit of not starting the clock on Ventura. If Duffy is able to stay away from injuries, I fully expect Ventura to replace Chen in the rotation by June.
There is no reason that this rotation cannot be as good as last year’s. If they can keep everyone healthy, this could very well be the year that GMDM gets his 1,000 innings pitched from the starters.