Luke Hochevar is no longer being considered for the no. 5 slot in the Royals’ rotation.
In just three outings this spring totaling all of 8.0 innings, Hoch has surrendered 6 runs (all earned), 9 hits (including 2 HR), and had a WHIP of 1.88.
Mercifully, Hochevar’s time in the Royals’ rotation appears to be over. Manager Ned Yost has decided move the long-time starter to the bullpen, leaving the fifth rotation spot up for grabs between Bruce Chen and Luis Mendoza. Yost said that, while they’re long shots, Will Smith and Yordano Ventura are still in the mix for the job as well.
Given his history as a starter and his ability to throw a mid-90′s fastball that’s coupled with a decent sinker/slider combo, Luke could serve as both a long-man in the bullpen (if need be) or a late-inning guy – depending on the situation. As of right now, I would envision Luke’s role in the ‘pen as either a 6th or 7th inning guy. The fact that he’s only pitched out of the bullpen three times in his career makes me wary of the thought of him pitching late in meaningful games.
It was time for a change. Actually, it is well past the time for a change. The Royals have been trying to move Hochevar all winter long, talking the most with the Colorado Rockies (Hoch is from Denver, by the way). It has been reported that the asking price for Hochevar is “quite a bit”, which is understandable given that this organization seems to be enamored with a pitcher who has a career 5.39 ERA, -0.3 WAR, and is still going through salary arbitration (he’s scheduled to make $4.56 million in 2013). But, as Ned and GMDM have beaten into the ground, Hoch has the “stuff” to be a quality starting pitcher.
He really does, though.
We’ve all seen him dominate. We’ve all also see him have a perfect game going into the 5th, 6th, or 7th inning before imploding and costing the team the game.
It’s time to ask Luke for just one good inning.
This move is similar to what the Rays did with Wade Davis last season. They’re both big-bodied pitchers who are capable of dialing it up if asked to go one inning at a time. Davis thrived in the bullpen last season (54 appearances, 70.1 IP, 2.43 ERA, 11.1 K/9, 1.4 WAR) before being traded to Kansas City with the intention of sliding him back into the rotation. If the Royals can get anything even remotely close to that from Hoch, they’ll be ecstatic.
“I think it makes us a better team. I think it makes us a stronger team. It gives us a better chance to win every day. With three weeks left, I want to get him acclimated to that role.” - Ned Yost on moving Hochevar to the bullpen (Kansas City Star)
Luke appears to be taking the move in stride and is willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win.
“I’m willing to take the ball in any position that I can to help the club. That’s the bottom line. Whether it’s starting or in relief, whatever it is, my role is not important. What’s important is that when I take the ball, I’m helping the club.” - Hochevar on moving to the bullpen (Kansas City Star)
Royals utility man Yuniseky Betancourt is headed to the DL thanks to a sprained right ankle. He’ll hopefully just be spending 15 days on the disabled list. The move is retroactive to Wednesday.
Career minor league switch-hitting utility-man Irving Falu will take Yuni’s spot on the Royals roster. Falu, at 28 years old, has never seen a pitch at the big league level. But he has been a reliable bat throughout his minor league career. Before the start of the 2012 season, Falu had a career .275 AVG, .342 OBP, and 170 SB in nine pro seasons. He’s also logged significant time at 2B, SS, and 3B, and has even spent some time in the outfield. He was batting .306 in Omaha before his promotion.
Through 15 games this season, Yuni has been fairly good, hitting .280/.333/.420, including 5 XBH (1 HR), 3 RBI, and *4 BBs to 3 Ks. He’s also played respectable defense thus far.
*Hard to believe, isn’t it?
The Royals 40-man roster was full at the time of his promotion, so to make room on the roster, Joakim Soria was shifted from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL.
So why not call up Johnny Giavotella?
It’s simple. If Gio is going to get called back up to Kansas City, he’ll have to be the full-time second basemen. And while he is doing well in Omaha, the tandem of Yuni and Getz has been working on both sides of the ball.
Getz is hitting .326/.356/.488 through 15 games with 5 XBH (2 triples), 4 RBI, 5 K, 2 BB, and 4 SB. On top of that, he’s been spotless with the glove.
Yuni will only be on the DL for 15 days, so calling Gio up for part-time duty, to put it simply, just wouldn’t be fair. It wouldn’t be fair to Gio, Getz, Yuni, Falu, or the Royals in general.
Gio needs to keep doing what he’s doing in Omaha because, for right now at least, Yuni and Getz have been taking care of business in KC.
Now, like a lot of fans these days, let me go on the record: I am not a coaching basher – especially when it comes to baseball. Managers and their respective staff really effect only a handful of games a season. The rest is up to the team that they put on the field.
The Royals played hard last night, but once again came up just one run short in a 4-3 loss to the dreaded Cleveland Indians.
Mitch Maier was the player of the game, going 3-for-4 and driving in the Royals’ first 2 runs of the game. He also made a terrific running catch in the bottom of the 8th to rob Travis Hafner of an extra-base hit with the bases juiced.
The goat of the game?
Was it Jonathan Sanchez? He lasted all of 4.2 innings, giving up 4 ER while throwing 115 pitches (59 balls to 56 strikes). Now he did manage 5 Ks, but he also tied a career high by walking 7. And on top of that, all 4 of the Indians runs were the products of a Sanchez walk: He hit Jason Kipnis in the 1st, who came around to score on a sac fly. He walked three straight in the 5th, all of whom scored on a Jack Hannahan double. But no, he wasn’t the goat.
Was it Alex Gordon? Alex had another 0-fer night, but he did manage one walk and zero strikeouts. But in the top of the 4th, with the one run already across the plate and the bases loaded, Alex grounded out to first basemen Casey Kotchman to end the threat. That out was definitely a rally-killer in what could have been a potentially huge inning for the Royals. A base hit would have scored two and put KC ahead 3-1 at the time. But, with all that said, Alex, too, was not the goat.
The goat, or should I say goats, of the game are…. (insert drumroll here)
Manager Ned Yost and Third Base Coach Eddie Rodriguez!
Ned Yost has begun to make me wonder exactly what his vision for this bullpen is. As he stated to begin the year, he expects this team to win. He won’t manage like he did last season when he let players like Escobar, Moustakas, Giavotella, Hochevar and Duffy take their lumps in order to build this team for the future. So, in essence, if a player is struggling (especially a pitcher), he needs to be removed from the game in order to give your team the best chance to win.
Well, Ned blew it. It’s no secret that Jonathan Sanchez is “effectively wild” – meaning that he will strike out his fair share of hitters, but he’ll also walk way more hitters than the average pitcher. This effective wildness will also drive up the pitcher’s pitch count in a hurry. Through his first 4 innings last night, Sanchez had hit a batter (which came around to score), struck out 4, walked 4, and given up 3 hits. He walked the bases loaded in the bottom of the 2nd before getting an infield fly and a 6-4-3 double-play to get himself out of the jam.
Yost had to know after that inning that Sanchez likely wasn’t going to be that lucky if he puts the team in that position again.
Sanchez started off the 5th by walking Asdrubal Cabrera on four straight pitches before getting his nemesis Shin-Soo Choo to strike out. He followed that up by walking Carlos Santana on a full count. The same went for Cleveland DH Travis Hafner. So there he stands with one out, bases loaded, and a tie ball game.
At this time, Sanchez was already right sround or over 100 pitches.
The next hitter, Shelley Duncan, skied a sac fly deep enough to center where Mitch’s only throw could have been to the cut-off man. Run scores, lead gone.
Now, it makes sense to me that if you have a pitcher who is clearly struggling with his command and has thrown 100+ pitches through 4.2 innings a change has to be made if you have any hope of walking away from the inning with just the one run given up.
But Ned decided against logic here by leaving Sanchez in the fire. And what happened? Jack “All-Up-In-Your-Face” Hannahan hit pitch no. 115 into center field for a two-run double. 4-1 Cleveland.
So then, after all the bad that could have happened did, Yost sauntered out to the mound to bring in Tim Collins.
The bullpen combined for 3.1 IP, 2 BB, 2 K, and 0 ER.
There are no ways of knowing if the runs would have scored if Ned had pulled Sanchez earlier – and hindsight is 20/10.
The other goat is third base coach Eddie Rodriguez.
For the recod, I’ve always been a fan of Easy Eddie. But last night, he made a very poor judgment call that cost the Royals a run – and perhaps the game.
In the top of the 8th, with one out, Hosmer on third and Moustakas on first, Mitch Maier roped a double down the right field line. Of course, Hosmer scored easily. Indians right fielder Shin-Soo Choo didn’t really seem to be hustling to the ball, which took a bounce of the concrete base of the wall. Moose was running hard and got to third just as Choo was in making his throw to the cut-off man.
Between the how hard the ball was hit, the lack of giddy-up by Choo, and the fact that Moustakas got a great read on contact, one could make the case that Moose could have made it home safely.
Keep in mind this team had lost 11 in a row at this point in time.
Eddie decided to play it safe, stopping Moose at third base. It definitely would have been a close play at the plate, but wih a team that has lost 11 straight games and has struggled immensely to score runs, you have to send the runner home in this situation. Have to.
With the score 4-2, and two-outs, Alcides Escobar hit a one-hopper back to the pitcher to end the inning – stranding Moustakas at third.
The Royals did manage to score a run in the 9th, but couldn’t muster anything more than the one run.
I’m not here calling for Eddie and Ned’s heads. And I know they take every loss just as personal as the players do, and Ned usually places the blame on his shoulders anyway (warranted or not).
But this loss truly belongs to the both of them. With a team riding a skid like this, they have to be making better team decisions than that.
This loss really hurt.
A few notes before we begin…
- The Royals’ 10 consecutive home losses to start the season matched something that hasn’t been done in the Major Leagues for 99 years.
- During the 10-game homestand, the Royals were outscored 64-37.
- If you take out that dreadful Cleveland series, the the differential is much smaller: 32-18. Not awful… But still nowhere close to what this team is capable of.
- Kansas City has had the lead at one point in exactly 4 of those games.
- In 13 double-play situations, Billy Butler has grounded int0 4 (31%) thus far. The league average is 11%.
- As a team, the Royals have grounded into 19 double-plays, good for 18% of their opportunities. Again, the league average is 11%.
- 12 of the double-plays came in the seven games against Detroit and Toronto.
- As a team, the Royals have grounded into 19 double-plays, good for 18% of their opportunities. Again, the league average is 11%.
- The team was a meager 5-for-40 (.125) with runners in scoring position in the Tornto series.
- For the series, Escobar had 7 hits (including a 4-for-4 night) while Moustakas collected 6. Billy Butler, who was riding an 8-game hitting streak coming into the series, went 0-fer.
- The Royals haven’t won a game since Lorenzo Cain was placed on the DL. Coincidence? Not that Cain was a world-beater in his 5 games, but his defense has been sorely missed in center field.
- The team’s Pythagorean W-L is 6-10, suggesting that the Royals have been a bit more unlucky than not. The guys over at FanGraphs even think that the Royals are better than what their record shows.
It’s been extremely hard to listen to the guys at 610 Sports radio talk about the Royals for the past week and a half - let alone think, read, watch, and write about them on a daily basis. I’ll be the first to admit it’s tough to write about a team that’s losing games in every which way imagineable – from hitting to pitching to base running (the team’s defense has been it’s lone bright-spot throughout this whole skid. Just watch Mike Moustakas).
Let’s just forget about the Cleveland series for right now and focus on the series’ against Detroit and Toronto.
In the three losses to Detroit, the scores were 3-2, 3-1, 4-3. In each game of the series, the Royals had chances to score the tying/winning runs late in the game, but failed to do so thanks to a bases-loaded, full-count, 3-2 100 MPH fastball by Justin Verlander in game one and a dumb-luck, game-ending double-play by Miguel Cabrera that would have otherwise been a game-winning extra base hit in game three. In game two, the Tigers broke a 1-1 tie by getting two base knocks against the shift in the top of the 8th by Miggy and Prince. The Cats also scored on a wild pitch by Jose Mijares.
In the four-game sweep by the Jays, the finals were 4-3, 9-5, 5-3, 4-1. Greg Holland imploded in game one (and was placed on the DL directly after), just got plain beat in game two, Danny Duffy reverted back to his old ways in game three by surrendering 5 BB and a 4-run inning, and the offense couldn’t sole Brandon Morrow in the finale.
Now in both series’, the Royals got good enough starting pitching to win four of the seven games. And the offense was great at starting rallies when the games were on the line, but were awful at “getting them on, getting them over, and getting them in”. The Royals have a wOBA of .333 with the bases empty (4th in the league). But with runners in scoring position, the team has a wOBA of just .275, ahead of only Oakland. And to make matters worse, they’re hitting .242 with runners in scoring position and two outs.
So the Royals really haven’t had many problems getting men on, even in clutch situations. They just have not been able to get that clutch hit to fall, that sac fly to leave the infield, or that sac bunt to roll down the correct line.
Now it may be as simple as “these guys are still young” or “they’re trying too hard”. They’re definitely pressing – no doubt about it. The Royals aren’t losing because of a lack of effort – Hosmer is hitting homers and laying down bunts for base hits, Gordon is still going hard for every fly ball, Moustakas and Escobar continue to wow with both the stick the leather, Billy has been Billy, Yuni has been maybe the most consistent hitter, Chen has given nothing but quality starts, Hochevar took a groundball off the ankle and didn’t miss a start, Duffy has shown he can go more than five innings, and Crow and Collins have been solid from the ‘pen.
But, regardless of all of what I just said, the Royals had a winless homestand, sit at 3-13, and are sitting at the bottom of baseball’s barrel. This team is capable of winning – and they’ll get off the schneid at some point.
Maybe this is all because the Royals started their homestand on Friday the 13th…?
Maybe “Our Time” has gotten to their heads.
Or maybe this team just needs a change of scenery.
Nobody should expect this team to go out and win eleven in a row and just forget this losing streak ever happened. It’s going to take winning series’ and a few short winning streaks to come out of this hole.
This team is young, but they’re capable.
Here’s to the optimist in us all. Cheers!
Four Royals minor leaguers were named by Jonathan Mayo in MLB.com’s list of the top 100 prospects for 2012. Actually, the Royals four named were in the top 50 of the list, including two in the top 20.
17. Bubba Starling OF (age 19)
19. Wil Myers OF (age 21)
31. Mike Montgomery LHP (age 22)
47. Jake Odorizzi RHP (age 21)
Oakland, Tampa Bay, and San Diego lead the way in this seasons’ rankings, as they each had six prospects each included, while the Yankees and Braves placed five of their own. The Royals are tied with seven other teams at four.