For argument’s sake, let’s say the Royals are at a guys’ night, enjoying some cold beverages, and playing the classic game, Texas Hold ‘Em. Using this same metaphor, here’s how I see a few key members of the current pitching staff as the two-card starting hands. Should the Royals hold ‘em or fold ‘em? Find out below.
For those of you not familiar with the rules of Texas Hold ‘Em, check out this Wikipedia article and come back to read the rest of this article.
Shuffle up and deal:
Luke Hochevar 7, 8 off suit
Hochevar was probably a King, Jack off suit directly after the 2006 draft, but the former first overall pick has yet to reach first round prowess. The de-facto ace of the pitching staff in 2011, Hochevar still has some potential to be a great hand. If the Royals can get a few cards falling its way, they could have a straight – a great betting hand in Texas Hold ‘Em. There are still many variables with Hochevar, he’ll have to stay healthy throughout the year and pitch at a consistently high level to be considered a true ace. His flashes of brilliance in 2009 and last year when he threw 7 and 2/3 scoreless innings against the Rangers are reasons to hold on to this hand. Result: Hold ‘Em… For now.
Kyle Davies 10, 2 off suit
A slice of history first – Doyle Brunson, arguably the best poker player ever, won two Texas Hold ‘Em World Series of Poker events in back-to-back years with this 10, 2 off suit hand. Brunson undoubtedly needed luck to complete the full houses that ensued when playing this hand to win the championship. The Royals need that same kind of luck with Kyle Davies. Last year, he finished with a 5.34 ERA and an 8-12 record. He will start the season as the Royals’ number two starting pitcher, but similar to Hochevar, the Royals will need a stroke of luck to win this hand. It’s a far-fetched proposition to expect brilliance on this shaky starting position. Result: Fold ‘Em.
Vin Mazzaro Queen, 10 suited
To preface, this could be a wishful starting hand for the 24-year-old righty from New Jersey. Mazzaro and minor leaguer, Justin Marks, were acquired for David DeJesus in November and Royals fans will learn quickly if they received an immediate return for the trade. This starting hand has great potential, but could also come back to bite the Royals if he falls flat on his face. Similar to flopping a pair, Mazzaro will need to perform at a high level early in the season to win over the fans. A Queen, 10 suited is a decent starting hand with a lot of potential and the Royals should play this hand. Result: Hold ‘Em.
Sean O’Sullivan pocket 3’s
This hand isn’t very sexy in the game of Texas Hold ‘Em, but it has the potential to take down big hands given the right conditions. O’Sullivan’s stats, on the surface, aren’t that sexy either. That being said, he is very young and will be very cheap for a long time and possesses mountains of potential. He’s got a chance to take down some of the bigger hands around the league given the right opportunities. The jury is still out on O’Sullivan, but he could mature to pocket 7’s if he continues to improve his command and presence on the mound. It should also be mentioned, O’Sullivan was good enough to pitch in the majors at age 21. He could be a good hand for the Royals for years to come. Result: Hold ‘Em.
Gil Meche 7, 2 off suit
From 2006 through 2008, Meche’s hand would’ve included an Ace because he had all the makings of an Ace pitcher. However, two years, several injuries, and $22.8 million dollars earned in those two seasons, his playing hand has reached the basement. A 7, 2 off suit is considered to be the worst hand in Texas Hold ‘Em, and Meche’s current role with the team as over-paid relief pitcher merits this starting position. The Royals will have to bluff their way out of this hand for any hope. Result: Fold ‘Em
Joakim Soria Pocket Kings
This hand is also known as “cowboys,” and is one of the strongest starting hands you can have in poker. Soria has many things going for him: he’s young (26), extremely talented (career 2.01 ERA), and will remain cheap and in club control until 2014. Aptly nicknamed, “The Mexicutioner,” Soria has already notched 132 career saves. The former Rule 5 pick out of the Padres’ organization, Soria has been and will continue to be a gem for the Royals. Result: Hold ‘Em as long as you can.
There are many variables involved with Texas Hold ‘Em, like a lot of luck, reading body language, playing your opponent and not the cards, and so on. This isn’t designed to be a perfect metaphor, but a cheeky look at some of the integral pieces of the Royals’ pitching staff in 2011. Would you give some members of the pitching staff different starting hands, or agree with my assessments? Feel free to comment below.