Tag Archive | "Luke Hochevar"

Kansas City Royals’ Rotation Finalized: What About Danny Duffy?

The Kansas City Royals have put the final touches on their starting rotation.  Throughout the spring, a competition was formed between Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura for the final spot in the rotation.  On Monday, that competition officially came to a close.

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Manager Ned Yost announced on Monday to a group of reporters, including Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com, that there was no reason to hold back the announcement of the decision for the fifth starter.  With Duffy struggling this spring and Ventura being downright dominant, the time had come to make the decision official.

Ventura had thrown six shutout innings, striking out six Texas Rangers, on Monday night to solidify the decision.  That performance lowered Ventura’s spring ERA to 1.76 while elevating his strikeout total to 15 in just over 15 innings pitched.  The hard-throwing youngster did everything to prove that he was ready for this opportunity.

Competitions have winners and losers, however, and Duffy now finds himself on the outside looking in.  Early indications of the competition were that the loser would likely find himself in the starting rotation at Triple-A Omaha.  Due to the injury sustained by Luke Hochevar, now Duffy will be given the opportunity to claim the last bullpen spot.

The subject at hand is now which role better benefits Duffy in the long term?  He may be capable of claiming the final bullpen role but, despite his oddly weak spring performance, he has traditionally been a more than capable starter.

Ultimately, Duffy could see time as a starter this year and likely stands as the first player to receive a start should any of the current staff falter or become injured.  While sending him to Omaha may not be the best choice for his confidence, it may be the best option the team has for utilizing him efficiently later. Should someone find themselves hurt, it may be harder to slide Duffy out of the bullpen and into the rotation than it would to simply call him up from the minors.

Ventura pitched well enough to prove that he was ready.  He is likely the right man for the job.  Duffy carries the confidence of past success.  He has proven he can win at this level.

Both men will likely be in the rotation before the end of the season.  Until then, the question remains, what should be done with Duffy?

 

Bill Ivie is the founder of i70baseball.com
Follow him on Twitter to discuss all things baseball throughout the season

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The Royals hang on in playoff hunt

When a team like the Royals are in a Wild Card chase, every game is like a playoff game. And when they play six games against two teams ahead of them in the division, it’s important to win those games. In last Friday’s game against the A. L. Central leading Detroit Tigers, the Royals didn’t play well and lost 6-3. They rebounded in Saturday’s game and won 1-0, evening the series. In Sunday’s series finale, the Royals were tied 2-2 through seven and a half innings. Manager Ned Yost made the decision to have Jeremy Guthrie pitch the bottom half of the eighth, who at the time kept the Royals in the game.  But it was a costly decision, with Guthrie giving up a home run to Alex Avila, handing the Royals a 3-2 loss. In a crucial series, the  Royals lost two out of three games to the Tigers. It was a series the Royals really needed to win, but they didn’t.

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Next up, the Cleveland Indians. With their two losses to Detroit, the Royals needed to sweep the Indians to move up in the Wild Card standings. And after their 7-1 victory Monday night, a sweep looked possible. Royals top pitching prospect Yordano Ventura was on the hill for Tuesday’s game and for six innings, Ventura kept the Indians to one run, striking out three and walking two before handing a 3-1 lead the the Royals reliable bullpen.

But the bullpen wasn’t reliable that night. A shaky outing from Kelvin Herrera tied the game at 3-3 and Wade Davis and Luke Hochevar each gave up a run, giving the Royals a 5-3 loss. In a 162 game season, one loss isn’t a big deal. But in a tight Wild Card race, a loss could mean missing the playoffs. Had the Royals won, they would be two games back of the second wild card spot with 11 games to go. Instead, they ended up 3.5 games back. It was a game the Royals needed to win, but they didn’t.

But if there’s a theme for the 2013 Royals, it’s resiliency. With their playoff chances on the line, the Royals came back Wednesday night with a 7-2 victory. While the win keeps their playoff hopes alive, the Royals still have three teams ahead of them in the Wild Card chase, and they’re 2.5 games back of a Wild Card spot. With ten games remaining and an 80-72 record, time and games are running out. But the next three games at Kauffman Stadium are against the struggling Texas Rangers, one of the Wild Card hopefuls. From there, the Royals finish the season on the road against the Seattle Mariners and Chicago White Sox.

With ten games to go and 8.5 games back of the Tigers, the only chance for the Royals to make the playoffs is a Wild Card berth. To do that, they need to win seven or eight games and have key losses from other teams in the Wild Card hunt to make the playoffs. It’s a long shot, but it’s up to the Royals to win their games and make it happen.

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The Kansas City Royals aren’t ready for the playoffs yet

If there was any hope the Kansas City Royals would make the playoffs, they were damaged by a seven-game losing streak August 17-24. After sweeping the Friday August 16 doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers, the Royals went on to lose two games to the Tigers, three games to the Chicago White Sox and two games to the Washington Nationals. The Royals fell back to .500 and hurt their chances to win a Wild Card spot, much less win the American League Central. But just as the Royals appeared to slip into below .500 oblivion, they won their next four games and as of August 28, they’re four game above .500.

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The Royals aren’t a bad team, but they’re not good enough to be a playoff team either. To sum it up, the team is like Luke Hochevar as a starter: They have spurts of brilliance, then they go on a momentum killing losing streak. If you count winning and losing streaks of four or more games, the Royals have three four-game winning streaks, one six-game winning streak and one nine-game winning streak. Conversely, the Royals have three four-game losing streaks, one eight -game losing streak and one seven-game losing streak. The team is 26-27 in winning and losing streaks of four or more games. And it’s a big reason why they’re just a few games above .500.

The Royals are 8.5 games back of Detroit and seven games back in the Wild Card. The only way the Royals will make the playoffs is to keep winning. And they haven’t showed enough consistency to do that. Yes, they just won four games in a row, but they can just as easily lose four games in a row. And there’s too many A.L. teams who are better than the Royals in the Wild Card race, like the Tampa Rays, the Oakland A’s, and the Baltimore Orioles. The Royals have an easy schedule, but time is running out. They can keep winning games, but if the teams ahead of them in the playoff hunt keep winning games, it won’t matter.

It’s frustrating, but the Royals are playing better than they have in years. And they’re playing well enough to finish above .500. But they’re not playing well enough to make the playoffs.

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What Went Wrong In Kansas City Royals Sweep?

A hot start after the All Star break had Royals fans dreaming of the postseason. The problem was that the Tigers and Indians matched the Royals’ early success after the midway point. Now, the luster of that hot streak has faded and the Royals have dropped five straight games, including a sweep at the hands of the lowly White Sox. So what happened in the three-game series against the Chicago south-siders? Here is a look at what went wrong:

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John Danks continues mastery of Royals
Danks shut out Kansas City over eight innings in the series opener (a 2-0 White Sox win). He scattered seven hits and struck out two Royals. Danks has really struggled this year, with a 2-10 record entering his start against the Royals. But the blue and white of the Royals was a welcome sight for the veteran left-hander. Danks improved to 6-0 in his career against Kansas City over 13 starts. His ERA in those 13 starts is 2.47 and his WHIP is 1.17.

The Royals bats went silent
In the three game series, the Royals scored a total of five runs, with a high of three runs in the series finale. Justin Maxwell‘s double in the opener was the only extra base hit in the series for the Royals, who posted an OPS of .465. Kansas City had a three-game total of 20 hits and hit for a terrible .198 average with 23 strikeouts. They also squandered scoring opportunities, leaving 18 on base.

Good starts were wasted
The Royals starters were solid in the series, but ended up recording a loss in two of the three games. Ervin Santana opened the three-game set with a good performance. He scattered four hits over six impressive innings of two-run ball. Jeremy Guthrie had one bad inning in game two, when he allowed a Dayan Viciedo grand slam as part of a five-run frame. Shields allowed three earned runs over seven innings, with eight strikeouts in a no-decision, before Luke Hochevar gave up a game-winning home run to Conor Gillaspie in the 12th inning.

Addison Reed notches a tri-fecta
In three tight wins, Reed slammed the door on the Royals, with three saves in three games. The talented young closer allowed one hit and one walk over his three flawless innings and struck out three Royals. The three straight saves give Reed 34 on the season on a team with only 52 wins.

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The Red Hot Royals

The Kansas City Royals have caught fire after the All-Star break, winning 11 of 13 games and nine in a row after a 7-2 victory over the Twins on Thursday afternoon. The only problem is that their AL Central foes, the Tigers and Indians, are also red hot. The Indians have won eight straight games and sit 2 games behind the division-leading Tigers. Kansas City is now 6.5 games back.

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Royals fans now have a sense of excitement after the way the team has opened the second half. Keys to the Royals’ second half surge have included:

Stellar starting pitching

Jeremy Guthrie leads the Kansas City rotation with a 3-0 record in the second half. James Shields and Ervin Santana each have two wins. Wade Davis and Bruce Chen both have one win in two starts. Santana has a sparkling 1.21 ERA while Davis isn’t far behind at 1.80. Chen and Shields both have a 2.25 ERA and Jeremy Guthrie’s is the highest of the starters at 4.00. Chen has solidified his spot in the rotation for now and Davis has improved on what was a rough first half of the year.

A lights out bullpen

Four Royals’ relievers have yet to give up an earned run after appearing in at least four games. Luke Hochevar leads the group with 8.1 innings of scoreless relief. Tim Collins and Aaron Crow have 4+ innings without allowing a run and Louis Coleman has 3.2 innings without a run to his name. Not only has the bullpen been great, but they have also excelled in pressure situations, protecting six one-run wins for the Royals. When you combine the starters and the bullpen, Royals’ pitching sports an incredible 2.25 ERA since the break, good for second in the majors, ahead of the Tigers and behind only the Indians.

Mike Moustakas is heating up

Moustakas has struggled for most of the season, but he has recently found his swing. He has a team-leading three home runs and eight RBI in 12 games played in the second half. He even has a .325 batting average, bringing his season average up to .229. Moustakas had the big two-homer game against the Twins on July 30.

Royals batters are hitting for average

Jarrod Dyson is setting the pace for the Royals with a .389 average in 18 at-bats. Four other players are hitting above .300. Billy Butler is at .327, Moustakas and David Lough are in at .325 and Miguel Tejada owns a .313 average. As a team, the Royals are hitting .266, tied for fifth in the American League (up from .256 pre-All Star break).

Greg Holland is shutting the door

Holland has been great all year and has only continued his dominance after the break. He has converted all six of his save opportunities and has allowed only one earned run. Opponents are hitting .280 against the hard-throwing right-hander. If the Royals continue their amazing run, Holland should only have more opportunities to close out tight ball games.

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The Royals stand pat by the trade deadline. Sort of.

The non-waiver trade deadline came and went and the Kansas City Royals still have everyone on their Major League roster. Ervin Santana is still in the starting rotation and make funny Twitter videos. Luke Hochevar is still in the bullpen and not with Boston. Chris Getz is still at second base, to the dismay of Royals fans.

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Despite an eight-game winning streak and being two games above .500, General Manager Dayton Moore didn’t make any bold moves to buy or sell. But he did make a trade: Reserve outfielder Justin Maxwell from the Houston Astros for minor-league pitcher Kyle Smith.

So the Royals “big” move was to trade off a High A starting pitcher who was the 12th ranked Royals prospect by Baseball America for a 29-year old right-handed career .222 outfielder. This year, Maxwell suffered a broken hand and concussion (he did recover by the All-Star break) and so far has played 40 games. His role seems to be a platoon outfielder against left-handed pitching.

Maxwell does pretty well against left-handed pitching with a .253/.370/.455 average, while the Royals as a team are .233/.283/.328 against left-handed starters.

The best case for Maxwell is to platoon him with David Lough, but if you look at Lough’s splits, he’s hitting .278/.302/.401 against righties and .283/.316/.415 against lefties, which is pretty even. It’s not like Lough struggles against left-handed pitching.

Some argue Lough might not have the endurance to go a full season, but he’s 27 years old and played the last four seasons in AAA Omaha, playing over 100 games in three of those four seasons. And Maxwell’s high game mark in the Majors was 124 games in 2012. In other seasons, he played 15, 40, 67 and 40 games. Perhaps a platoon situation would rest both players and help them improve, but that’s not a sure thing.

And there’s the roster spot the Royals need to clear before they put Maxwell on the roster. The team plans to add Maxwell by Thursday’s game against the Twins, but they haven’t made a decision who will be sent down. Lorenzo Cain and Chris Getz are nursing injuries, but they’re not going on the DL. And the Royals aren’t planning to send a bullpen arm down either.

So who will it be? Knowing the Royals, it will be David Lough. Never mind he’s hitting .291/.308/.432 and is a defensive asset in right field. And never mind the Royals drafted him in 2007 and he’s been with the Royals organization his whole career. The Royals didn’t make this trade to send Maxwell to Omaha, so they will put him on the Major League roster. When the Royals got Elliot Johnson, they sent longtime farmhand Irving Falu to Omaha and it wouldn’t surprise me if they do the same thing with Lough.

I’m not saying Lough is the caliber of Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer or Salvador Perez. But Lough is a good role player who’s making a positive contribution to the team. And if Lough was right-handed, the Royals wouldn’t make this trade.

Maybe the Royals will prove me wrong and send someone else down besides Lough and this article will be moot. I hope they do, but I’ve hoped for a long time when it comes to the Royals.

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Kansas City Royals Power Rankings

It’s week two of the I70 Baseball Royals Power Rankings, and to say this week didn’t go well would be an understatement.  The Royals defense was atrocious and their hitting and pitching weren’t too far behind. Let’s take a look at the power rankings through May 12.

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#5 Ervin Santana- (Previously: #2) Santana saw his ERA “balloon” to 2.79 with a couple of mediocre starts this week. The right hander gave up seven runs on 15 hits in 12 1/3 innings of work against the Orioles and Yankees. On the positive side he only walked one in the two starts and now sports a 39-6 K-BB ratio.

#4 Lorenzo Cain- (Previously: #1) Cain was due for a cold streak, and boy did he find one. He was just 4/20 on the week with two walks and five strikeouts. Cain is still amongst the team leaders in most every offensive category, but he only has one RBI in his last seven games.

#3 James Shields- (Previously: #5) Shields moves up in the rankings after allowing two runs over 16 innings in two fantastic starts. The week started off in controversy for Shields when he was pulled after 8 shutout innings against the White Sox. Of course, the bullpen lost that game and set the tone for a treacherous week. Shields now sits at 2-3 with a 2.48 ERA and 53 Ks in 58 innings.

#2 Jeremy Guthrie- (Previously: #3) Guthrie didn’t have his best stuff against his former team, but still managed six innings with only one run allowed. He’s now gone 18 starts without a loss and leads the team with a 2.28 ERA. One concern for Guthrie moving forward is his recent control issues. He’s averaged nearly three walks per outing in his last four starts.

#1 Alex Gordon- (Previously: #4) Alex Gordon responded to being moved to the three-hole with a bang and a hot week rose his average from .306 to .320. The 29 year-old right fielder now leads the team in doubles (8), home runs (6), RBI (28), average (.320), and slugging % (.548). Gordon has been the lone bright spot in an increasingly bad offense.

Honorable mention: Luke Hochevar- Before you throw anything at me, yes Hochevar has been terrible at letting inherited runners score BUT he’s been outstanding outside of that. In 12 1/3 innings, Hochevar has allowed 10 baserunners and struck out 13 batters. He has an ERA of 0.73 and a WHIP of 0.81. If we could simply convince Ned Yost not to bring him in with runners on, Hochevar may actually be an asset.

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The month of May could decide the Kansas City Royals 2013 season

After a good April and keeping up with A.L. Central leading Detroit Tigers, the Kansas City Royals are 3-3 so far this May. But for the rest of the month, they have a tough schedule. They have a game against the Baltimore Orioles, then they play the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics, Houston Astros, the Angels again, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Texas Rangers. Except for the lowly Astros and struggling Angels, the other teams are above .500 and possible playoff contenders.

May 2013

Despite this month’s 3-3 record, there’s reasons for concern. So far this month, the Royals have six errors, with four of them committed in their two losses against the Orioles. The usually strong Royals bullpen lost a 2-1 decision to the White Sox Monday night and Luke Hochevar‘s errant pickoff throw to first in Tuesday night’s game against the Orioles led to a 4-3 loss. And in four of the six games played this month, the Royals offense scored three or less runs.

But it’s not all bad. It took until May 8 and 30 games into the season for the Royals to lose three games in a row. Last year, they lost three games in a row by April 14, eight games into the 2012 season. The starting rotation is pitching well, especially Jeremy Guthrie and Ervin Santana. Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Salvador Perez and Alcides Escobar are playing well. If Tim Collins, Kelvin Herrera and Greg Holland cut down their walks and settle into their roles, the defense quits making errors and the offense scores more runs, the Royals could get through May with a .500 or above record. Or they could implode and have losing record. Either way, we’ll know by June 1.

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Kansas City Royals – Contenders Or Pretenders?

As a baseball fan watching Kansas City suffer for years, I have to wonder if they are actually a good contender this season for the playoffs, or if this is just their 15 minutes of fame.

Kauffman Cover Photo

There is certainly something for Royals’ fans to get excited about right now. At this point in the year, Kansas City is 17-10, when last season at this time they were only 10-20. A dramatic difference. Pitching, in particular, seems to be carrying most of the team, but their offense is not far behind.

Royal Pitching

Veterans like Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie are having stellar seasons. They have combined for 7 Wins to date, both with having an ERA under 2.50 and WHIP just above 1.00. According to ESPN, while Santana is owned in 97% of fantasy leagues, Guthrie is only owned in 50%. Guthrie brings a commendable work ethic to the team and I think would be a valuable pick-up if he is still available in your league. The right-hander excels at mixing all of his pitches to keep hitters off balance, and he recently threw his first major league shut-out.

The Royals’ starting rotation has been rounded out with the new additions of Wade Davis and James Shields. While Davis is has been struggling since joining Kansas City with a 4.75 ERA, he hopefully can get back down to that 2.43 ERA he finished with in 2012. And Shields may soon become the ace of the team, filling the void that Zack Greinke left. Both Davis and Shields are 2-2 this season.

The Royals’ bullpen has been strengthened with former-starting-pitchers-now-relievers, Bruce Chen and Luke Hochevar. Chen has not allowed an earned run yet this year in 5 appearances, and Hochevar has only given up 1 earned run in 7 appearances. Greg Holland is settling in nicely as a solid anchor for the bullpen. He has 7 saves so far this year and only 1 blown.

Royal Batting

Kansas City’s pitching has started off hot, but the fans are still waiting to see the promise the line-up showed during Spring Training this year. There are only three batters with an average above .300 right now, Jarrod Dyson is one of them and he only has 20 plate appearances so far.

The power is not quite there yet from their top hitters. It somehow got lost in the transition between Spring Training and the regular season. If this team can get their bats going and keep the pitching consistent, they can be a force for the entire summer.

Fantasy owners might want to watch players like Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez, and Mike Moustakas. They have all been showing signs of improving in their last 15 games, and might just break out of their slumps soon. Moustakas is only 39% owned in fantasy leagues which is obviously due to his struggle at the plate. If he can start making solid contact again, he will prove he deserves a position on your fantasy roster.

Even though the Kansas City line-up is not producing the way they are capable of, they can still be tough to beat in the American League Central. But if history is any indication, this poor team does not have a chance. If someone were to walk into the baseball world right now and not know anything about the Royals’ past, they would never know that they are usually toward the bottom of the AL Central division.

First place Detroit Tigers better take notice that Kansas City is only a half game back. Can they keep this up? Is this just a flash in the pan? If the starting pitching can continue eating up innings, their bullpen will be able to stay fresh for the long season. And if their bats start producing, then I would say that the Royals can shed the pretender branding and will be a contender in 2013.

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Luke Hochevar finding his niche as a reliever

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.

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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.

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