Kansas City Royals Success May Depend On Luke Hochevar

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

From 2008 to 2012, the only thing consistent about him was that he was wildly inconsistent, sometimes rattling off a series of dominating performances only to come crashing back to earth for extended stints of sub-par pitching.

Year     W    L     ERA     WHIP     K/BB
2008    6    12     5.51         1.47        72/47
2009    7     13    6.55*      1.49        106/46
2010    6      6     4.81        1.43        76/37
2011     11    11    4.68       1.28       128/62
2012     8     16     5.73      1.42        144/61
* denotes a league-high

By the time 2013 rolled around, Royals manager Ned Yost had seen enough and moved Hochevar to the bullpen. For the first time in his Royals career, Hochevar was not going to be part of the starting rotation and was instead assigned a middle-relief role.

By mid-season, Hochevar had locked down the setup role for Royals closer Greg Holland and established himself as a key component of arguably baseball’s best bullpen. So now it’s 2014, Spring Training is underway and the Royals are in search of help in the rotation.

Although the Royals signed Jason Vargas, ostensibly to replace Ervin Santana, they failed to acquire another front-line starting pitcher. All indications are that the team will look to within to fill out at least the 5-hole in the rotation and based on his numbers last season, Hochevar is likely to figure prominently in that discussion. So for those willing to keep an open mind, I present the following for your consideration.

Hochevar is entering the point in his career where we often see pitchers start to figure things out. While it may be easy to think that he’s too old or that he’s entering the downward arc on an already flatlined career, consider that Hochevar really was rushed to the big leagues as a consequence of both his draft position and some epically bad pitching at the major league level.

He only got 237 innings of minor league experience. One could argue that since he was drafted out of college and since college competition is often equated with AA-level minor league competition he actually got much more seasoning and should have been better prepared.

The truth however is that it is a dramatic change to go from college ball to professional baseball.

The season is much longer, the travel is dramatically different, and the sheer volume of knowledge and information one needs to successfully compete, particularly in the big leagues, is significantly more than in college where one could rely predominantly on sheer talent.

We also often forget or overlook the fact that as a result of his failed negotiations with the Dodgers after the 2005 season, Hochevar basically missed a whole season between his senior year at UT and when he ultimately ended up pitching in an organized, semi-competitive league late in the 2006 season.

That may not be such a big issue assuming that player is already entrenched in a league and has established himself, but for someone trying to progress through the minor league ranks, it’s a decidedly different circumstance.

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