Versatility and the Pain of Starting Pitching

I watched the all-star game on Tuesday. Well, in all honesty, I only made it to the seventh inning before calling it quits. All-star games in any sports have always been perpetually awful at holding my interest. The players don’t care about playing and the games typically end up being a big waste of time. This year, however, I watched because of Aaron Crow.

Don’t get me wrong, I figured Aaron Crow had about as much of a chance to pitch for the National League as he did for the American League that night, but I found myself wanting to see him get announced on the field. I tried imagining what it would be like to get an All-Star spot as a rookie. Lots of people didn’t think he deserved the invite, but I was happy that he made the team out of spring training and have been rooting for him ever since. But as we delve into the second half of the season, I think it’s going to be interesting to see what management decides to do with Crow.

The success of the bullpen has been a surprisingly pleasant highlight for the Royals this season and Crow has been a big part of that. After a lackluster 2010 season in the minors, there wasn’t necessarily a lot of expectations for Aaron coming into spring training. With that lack of pressure, he posted a 2.03 ERA in 13.2 innings. He also ended up with 11 strikeouts in contrast to only 3 walks. This was enough to get him on the big league team and give him a chance out in the bullpen. He continued to pitch well in the regular season as well and was recognized with an all-star selection. Here are some of Crow’s season numbers to date:

45 IP/2.00 ERA/1.13 WHIP/45 SO

The Royals are 39-58. They’re 12.5 games out of a first place. At this point in the season, trying not to lose 100 games has become a more reasonable goal than the ludicrous assumption that many had early on this year that this team had a chance of making the playoffs*.

*I’ll admit that even I was hoping/thinking/praying that maybe this team was for real at the beginning of the season. Another year and another gun jumped.

I think it’s obvious that the Royals should and definitely will be sellers at the trade deadline, but it seems pretty unlikely that Crow will be going anywhere unless Dayton Moore received some obscenely ridiculous offer that you’d have to be a fool not go through with.* But what will the Royals do with him?

*Crow for Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, and Hamels…..straight up.

I’ve loved the work the guy has done in the bullpen, but is the title of 7th or 8th inning reliever really this guy’s ceiling? We picked him 12th in the draft in 2009 where he was projected as either a starter or closer. He is currently neither of these things. In my opinion we have to start giving him a couple of shots at starting as we draw nearer and nearer to the end of the season.

It all comes down to the fact that if we’re really going to compete in 2012 as Dayton has promised us, we’re going to have to overhaul the starting pitching. That is clearly the biggest issue with this team. There are several ways to do this:

1. Bring up the guys that are in your farm system – The Royals did bring up Danny Duffy during the first half and he’s started to settle down and pitch pretty well. That being said, there really is only one other guy who could be on track to gain a spot in the rotation by next season, and that guy is Mike Montgomery. If he can get his control back and finish this season strong, it’s a possibility that he could earn that spot. However, that still will still leave us with half of a rotation that has little to no starting experience.

*Though we all know of HIS struggles.

2. Bring a guy like Aaron Crow into the rotation – Granted, he has been great in the bullpen….so why spoil a good thing?

Because our starting pitching stinks…that’s why.

Aaron Crow has a whole lot more value as a starter and I don’t think it would be as huge of a transition as some people may think. He has shown that he can pitch at a major league level. Why not give the guy a chance to stretch it out in a few games and see how he handles it? It’s not like there would be a lot of pressure there. We watch Kyle Davies pitch every six games. You’re telling me that Crow couldn’t have even a slightly better ERA than Davies?* I think he could, and I think that Dayton Moore and Ned Yost should start giving him a chance to make that adjustment during this season as it’s a little unlikely that we’ll be making the postseason anyways….at least for this year.

*Who has a 7.32 ERA.

3. Make trades for established starters or pursue them in free agency - This is what I really think needs to happen. We’ve gone on and on about how many great prospects the Royals have. The sad truth is that they’re not all going to be stars. Why not send out some feelers and see how interested other teams are in your prospects? I think that it could be a necessary sacrifice to see some of the young guns go for ONE OR TWO ESTABLISHED ARMS.

I’m just sick of having bad starters.

The reason I point to Crow is because I feel that he has a couple of possible opportunities where he could be a huge help for our team. However, I don’t think that being a middle reliever is one of said opportunities. I’m not trying to downplay his success in the bullpen. I just think he would he be have much more worth at the either the start of a game or the end. As the trade deadline approaches, I don’t see why we can’t seriously shop Soria because I believe that Crow could even step into that role  as well and be more than acceptable as a closer if management decided he couldn’t cut it as a starter.

Use ‘em right or ship ‘em for something we need. How’s that for a mantra?

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Tags: Aaron Crow Baseball Joakim Soria KC Royals Kyle Davies

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