It’s pretty easy to point out all the bad decisions the Royals organization made over the years. But they’ve made some right decisions and one of them was to make Luke Hochevar a reliever.
With all the improvements the Royals made to the starting rotation, moving Hochevar to the bullpen was a no-brainier. In his 127 games as a starter, Hochevar had a 5.45 ERA, giving up 94 home runs and a 2.08 SS/BB ratio. Last year, he lead the American League with 118 earned runs, which isn’t a good stat. His inconsistency as a starter frustrated the Royals fan base and I’m sure if frustrated Hochevar too. Sure, a lot of fans wanted the Royals to release Hochevar earlier this year. Despite his issues, it would be foolish to release Hochevar without giving him a chance in the bullpen.
And so far Hochevar’s move to the bullpen has worked out. In six games over 8.2 innings, he has a 1.04 ERA with only one earned run (a solo home run) and a 3.67 SO/BB ratio. One of the knocks on Hochevar as a starter was his tendency to lose focus, which allowed him to give up big innings. But pitching an inning or two and being on call to pitch every day appears to give Hochevar the focus he needs to get batters out and be an asset to the team.
But paying 4.56MM a year for a middle reliever is a high price to pay. Hochevar will be a free agent after the 2014 season. If Hochevar continues his success as a reliever, perhaps the Royals can offer Hochevar a contract for a few years and a lower per year salary. Now that’s something Hochevar might have a problem with, seeing his agent is Scott Boras. And if Hochevar is successful as a reliever, he might think he can be successful as a starter again. But unless the Royals put him back in the rotation (which I don’t think is a good idea), Luke Hochevar’s future is being a reliever, which is best for the team and for Hochevar.