While throwing to rookie Salvador Perez in the second half of 2011, Kansas City Royals pitcher Luke Hochevar had his most consistent run of success in his career.
Luke Hochevar has been an enigma for most of his career. Early on, he was mostly bad with a few starts here and there that showed the ability that the Royals saw when they drafted him 1st overall in the 2006 amateur draft. Over the years, the good starts became a little more frequent, with a few outstanding performances thrown in. But when he was bad, he was really bad. It wasn’t until the second half of last season that Hochevar began to show some consistency. He still had some great starts, but his off-days were average instead of horrendous. They say that a pitcher should be judged on how he performs on his worst day, rather than on his best day. Hochevar’s worst days became much better in the 2nd half of 2011, which gave Royals fans much hope for him to continue this trend in 2012. Unfortunately, it was not to be. On April 13 for the Royals home opener, Hochevar gave up 7 runs in the top of the 1st inning which would be the beginning of one of the most horrific stretches of pitching for a starting pitcher in recent American history. His ERA currently sits at 7.02 for the season while pitching to Humberto Quintero in all 8 of his starts this season.
Salvador Perez was called up by the Royals last August and started his first game at Catcher on August 10. He caught each of Hochevar’s last 7 starts of the season. During this stretch he threw 45 2/3 innings and gave up 22 runs for a 4.34 ERA. In the first start he gave up 5 runs, so if you take out that one, assuming he was getting acclimated to having a new catcher behind the plate, the ERA is lowered to 4.17. Now, while an ERA over 4.00 will not win Hochevar any Cy Young awards, Royals fans would undoubtedly be pleased if he could provide numbers like this on a consistent basis.
While it may be a stretch to try and make this correlation, it cannot be discounted that if Hochevar can experience some success once Salvador Perez returns, that he will be the one common denominator. It cannot be understated how important consistency at the Catcher position is to the success of a pitching staff. And while Royals fans have seen pitching coaches come and go, and starting pitchers displaying maddening levels of inconsistency, perhaps it is the game of musical chairs that the Royals have played at the Catcher position over the last several years that is most responsible for this. Time will tell. Perez is due back in a couple weeks. Hopefully he can help Hochevar “turn the corner” one more time.