This is more of an exercise in calming myself. See, back in 2007, I treated myself to a nine-game Royals ticket package (maybe treated isn’t the right word, but anyway). Of those nine games, I’m pretty sure five were started by Jorge de la Rosa, three by Odalis Perez and maybe one by Gil Meche.
That’s a rough year.
So as I browsed through MLB Trade Rumors, I groaned reading their list of the top 50 free agents and their predicted destinations.
Number twelve? Jorge de la Rosa to the Royals.
What I remember of de la Rosa as a Royal is a lefty who gave up a lot of hits, a good number of homers and didn’t have any control. He walked 118 batters in 178.2 innings with Kansas City and compiled a 5.64 ERA. The Royals selected him as the player to be named later to complete the Ramon Ramirez trade with the Rockies.
Since joining Colorado, de la Rosa has turned things around, putting up an ERA+ of 104 as a Rockie in three seasons. In brief, he’s just above average.
His turnaround has developed from an increase in strikeout rates. From 2004 to 2007 with the Brewers and Royals, de la Rosa had a 6.4 K/9 rate. As a Rockie, he’s increased that to 8.9 K/9. He’s still walked 4.1 batters per nine innings during that span, so he hasn’t turned a corner completely, and he probably won’t get under that rate in a season again, so his performance will always suffer with those additional baserunners, of which many will end up scoring and hurting his ERA.
The main component I can see to de la Rosa’s improvement in strikeout rates is that he’s missing more bats. His swinging strike percentage was 15% through 2007. Since, he’s increased it to 19%. That 4% increase doesn’t seem like much, but in theory, if he threw 100 pitches in 35 starts in a season, he’d miss four more bats per start. Even that doesn’t seem that large, but that’s a total of 140 more swinging strikes in a season.
It’s true he’s been a much better pitcher since the Royals shipped him off, but I can’t help but feel uneasy bringing him into the rotation. Yes, the Royals will need someone behind Zack Greinke and Luke Hochevar, and if it was a reasonable deal, I’d be resigned to accept de la Rosa as that guy. However, I’ve heard rumblings of $8-10 million dollars a year, which is just way too much for a pitcher of de la Rosa’s caliber. In 2010, he made $5.6 million. Now, after missing two months of 2010 with a finger injury and turning 30 in April, he’s not that attractive of an option.
Is he the same junk pitcher I remember from those brutal days in 2007? Not at all. But is he someone the Royals need to be throwing money at? I don’t think so, not unless he’s going for two years and say $6 million per year at most.