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Blog Entry

Despite struggles, Hochevar named K.C. 'ace'

Posted on: March 21, 2011 3:18 pm
Edited on: March 21, 2011 7:57 pm

By Evan Brunell

HochevarThe Royals have announced their rotation, and it has Luke Hochevar at the top, slated for the opening day assignment as the Kansas City Star reveals. Following Hochevar is Jeff Francis, Kyle Davies, Bruce Chen and Vin Mazzaro, although Mazzaro will be held back as the club does not need a fifth starter until April 16. That will allow an extra relief pitcher to be carried and for K.C. to continue evaluating some bullpen pitchers on the bubble.

Hochevar has a career 5.60 ERA, so he's hardly worthy of the billing. It just goes to show you how dire the rotation is as they await arrivals of pitchers like Mike Montgomery, John Lamb and Jake Odorizzi, among others. 

While Hochevar did improve greatly on his career ERA by posting a 4.81 mark in 2010, that came in just 103 innings as he struggled with injury and posted a 3.2 BB/9 and 6.6 K/9. His advanced pitching metrics, such as FIP, are far more kind to Hochevar, with FIP giving Hochevar a 3.93 mark. The issue that plagues Hochevar the most comes with stranding baserunners, as league average hovers around 71 percent each year. Given that strand rate is influenced by factors largely out of the pitcher's control, it's been argued that a poor (or good) strand rate shouldn't be used to evaluate a pitcher's effectiveness.

However, Hochevar's strand rate hasn't cracked 65 percent in the three years of extended playing time he's had in the majors. In fact, that 65 percent happened in 2010, also the year he's posted his best ERA, FIP and xFIP numbers. That speaks to something particularly damaging Hochevar's ERA, such as a porous bullpen that constantly gives up inherited baserunners. That can't be the entire cause of it, however. 

Other factors that could come into play is the defense. As a groundball pitcher, Hochevar induces a ton of grounders which is good from a BABIP perspective, but bad when you have a poor defense behind you. That was certainly the case in Kansas City the last few years, especially when the disastrous Yuniesky Betancourt played short.

Another reason could be that Hochevar simply doesn't function well with baserunners on, whether mentally or from the stretch. Hochevar's K/9 rate dips from 7.02 pitching with no one on to 6.15 with men on base. His walk rate also spikes to 4.37 from 2.34, so it appears Hochevar struggles to pitch from the stretch.

There doesn't appear to be one specific smoking gun for Hochevar's problems with stranded runners, although one should point to his struggles pitching out of the stretch as a primary cause. If he can somehow arrest that issue, Hochevar could evolve into a solid back of the rotation starter. As it is, however, Hochevar would struggle to crack the rotation in a lot of cities, but in K.C. he happens to be the ace.

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Since: Apr 10, 2010
Posted on: March 22, 2011 12:11 pm

Despite struggles, Hochevar named K.C. 'ace'

so the question is will the Royals win 40 or 50 games this year.why not just make the Royals play in triple A until they decide to put a MLB team on the field

Since: Aug 18, 2006
Posted on: March 22, 2011 11:58 am

Despite struggles, Hochevar named K.C. 'ace'

While in theory I like your idea of using the young talent now and just sucking it up letting them get knocked around, I would be concerned about those young talented players getting frustrated getting beat around day after day at the majors.  Give them one more year (or at least half a year) at Omaha to mature and probably take a few beatings there too......then begin to turn over the new leaf with 2012 and hopefully begin to make KC baseball relevant again like it was the first 12 to 15 years of my life.  It would be nice to see the Royals get back to winning.....give Missouri two relevant franchises.

Since: Nov 22, 2007
Posted on: March 21, 2011 10:19 pm

Despite struggles, Hochevar named K.C. 'ace'

This is Hochevar's last chance to stay at the top of any major league pitching staff. Same with Alex Gordon. This year, these two young players will either take steps forward and prove their worth as top of the draft talent or become the team's hit and miss contributors while spending the rest of their time in Kansas City riding a pine bench. The young talent in the Royals organization is on the way and it should push Hochevar back where he obviously belongs, fourth or fifth starter.

As stated, Hoch wouldn't crack most starting rotations. It's time for him to just live up to half the hype. Same with Gordon. Just contribute something before you're replaced.

Since: May 24, 2010
Posted on: March 21, 2011 4:18 pm

Despite struggles, Hochevar named K.C. 'ace'

I know it was last year and all but the guys that had the 2 lowest ERA's among the 5 (Chen and Mazzaro) are the 4th and 5th starters.  This is actually a good strategy because now KC just concedes the first three games against better pitching and has a chance to actually win when Chen or Vin take the mound as long as they match-up with the other teams 4 or 5 starter, genius!  Since they are going to stink anyway why not give all their young talent experience, wouldn’t you rather lose with Lamb, Montgomery, etc than Kyle F’n Davies and Hochevar?

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