As evidenced by the 2011 playoffs, the Royals need a true ace to make a run in 2012.
It’s pretty clear what the Kansas City Royals’ biggest need is for 2012.
They have to get better in the Earned Runs department before they are a competitive ball club. The Royals ended 2011 27th in the Majors with a 4.44 ERA, only ahead of Houston (4.51), Minnesota (4.58)and Baltimore (4.89). That’s bad.
After watching the MLB playoffs so far this year, it’s pretty evident that the Royals need a true ace to make any kind of a playoff run. First, let’s take a look at the ERA’s of the teams that made the playoffs this year:
Philadelphia: 3.02 (1st)
Tampa Bay: 3.58 (8th)
Milwaukee: 3.63 (9th)
New York: 3.73 (11th)
St. Louis: 3.74 (12th)
Texas: 3.79 (13th)
Arizona: 3.80 (14th)
Detroit: 4.04 (18th)
These numbers are a little surprising, to say the least. Outside of Philadelphia’s amazing (regular season) rotation, no team in the playoffs this year cracked the top seven in ERA. Of the four remaining teams (Milwaukee, St. Louis, Texas, and Detroit) only one team is in the top 10 (Milwaukee).
The formula for the pitching staffs of these four teams looks a little like this:
2) 2-3 above average-to-decent starters
3) Consistent bullpen
This winter is one of the most important offseason for the Royals in the past 5 to 10 years because they are possibly only one or two pieces away from making a run towards the postseason. The lineup is pretty much set for Opening Day 2012, but the rotation really needs a guy who can put up an ERA under 3.00.
There has been a lot of talk about acquiring James Shields of the Tampa Bay Rays via trade this offseason. If the Royals could pull it off (which is very possible) it would give the starting rotation a clear number one starter and assure a better ERA throughout next season.
For example, if the starting rotation for the 2011 season had Shields instead of Jeff Francis, their ERA would have been at 4.12 instead of 4.55. That’s not to say that simply plugging Shields into the rotation next year guarantees that type of jump in stats, but it will have some type of similar effect.
Hopefully, the returning starters (Luke Hochevar, Danny Duffy, and Felipe Paulino) and the young arms out of the bullpen continue to improve and build on their successes from 2011. Then, one of these things has to happen:
1) Bruce Chen is re-signed
2) Another decent veteran starter is signed
3) A starter from the farm system (Mike Montgomery?) makes the rotation out of Spring Training
If all of these things occur, the Royals could very well be in the top 15 in ERA in the MLB next year. They were 10th in the majors in runs scored this year, and it’s hard to see them go anywhere but up from there.
The pieces are falling in place now, so it’s time to bring in an ace. It could be Shields or it could be someone who hasn’t entered any trade rumors yet. Either way, the Royals need to make it happen.