Earning a Raise

As a working man, there is one thing that comes around every single year that makes me anxious. Sure, daily obstacles come up like bottles on an assembly line, but they’re all leading up to one event.

The Annual Review.

It’s the one time every year where you need to make a case for yourself, using your most recent body of work, and prove that you are worthy of a raise in pay. You have to compile it all together, brag a little, exaggerate a lot, and hope that your employer recognizes your value.

This week, Luke Hochevar had his annual review – and came away with a pretty nice raise.

Did he deserve it? It’s hard to look at a stat line as a regular guy and say yes. Last year, Luke made a cool $1.75 million. After sitting down with the Royals top brass and avoiding arbitration hearings on Tuesday, Luke earned a 99.43% raise and will make $3.51 million in 2012.

Not bad for a guy who had a very average season in 2011.

I know this logic is flawed, but it’s fun – so just go with it. Could you imagine a year in which you worked just hard enough to get by and had mediocre results to show for it? Some days, you show up at your job and everything goes right. Your customers are happy to talk to you & are buying whatever you are selling. You get along with your co-workers. All is good. Other days though, you’re like the Five-Hour energy guy & “don’t want to go to work today”. Your car doesn’t run very well on the way to work, your chair breaks, your computer is on the fritz. When it comes time for your annual review, you wish that you had done more to be able to state your case. Next year, you tell yourself, you’ll do a better job. But then your boss gives you a 99.43% raise. You now make double what you made an hour ago.

Not likely.

That’s pro sports though, so like I said, it’s impossible to look at things in a logical way. It would be fun to be able to mirror sports to regular life though, wouldn’t it? I’ve always thought that it would be awesome to have performance-based salaries for professional athletes. Have a good year? Get rewarded. Have an awful year? Get punished. It seems so simple, especially when you hear about how some of these contracts are structured.

Rookies would have to earn that first big payday. It only seems fair, doesn’t it? I’ve always wanted to spend time coming up with what I feel like would be a good way to do this, but it kind of seems like the tax code in this country – it will always just be more complicated than it needs to be.

Looking back at Luke’s 2011, one could make the case both for and against the Royals giving him a 99.43% raise. He was the team’s #1 starter & took the mound on Opening Day last year. He led the team in Innings Pitched (198), Strikeouts (128) and tied for the lead in Starts (31-with Jeff Francis). These were all personal bests for Luke as well. He had his best year as a professional. He did not miss a start all year, and was the workhorse of the Kansas City pitching staff. At times, he flashed signs of brilliance, exciting fans and showing signs of improvement. In the 31 games he started in 2011, he had 9 No Decisions. The Royals won 6 of those games, often times because Luke put them in a position to win. He is poised to continue his improvement and have a stellar 2012.

Raise-worthy, right?

But, if you look at the other side of the coin, you’d be insane to say he deserved to double his earnings. The Royals won just 36% of the games that Hochevar started in 2011. His 11-11 record was the second year in a row that he had a .500 record, going 6-6 in 2010. In 5 Major League seasons, he is 30-43 in 100 total appearances. That’s a 30% win percentage. His ERA last year was his lowest since he pitched in just 4 games in 2007, but it was still a balmy 4.68. His career ERA is 5.29. Some outings, he gets treated like the slab of meat that Rocky boxes in the freezer. Bruce Chen is better. Jonathan Sanchez is even better & will be the Ace of this staff in 2012. As a 27 year-old, his body is aging, his arm is tiring, and there really aren’t signs that he’s going to be any better than an inconsistent pitcher who is going to win about half of the time, but pitch a lot of innings.

Yikes.

Right now, I believe that the Royals did not have any choice other than to pay the man his money and keep him in uniform. Sure, he’s not the league’s elite pitchers, but he may be the best the Royals have heading into Spring Training. It’s OK to kiss your #5 starter goodbye over a couple million dollars, but not your #1. The Royals are so thin at starting pitching right now that they HAD to pay Luke this kind of money. He had to be retained and kept happy. They’re paying Sanchez like a #1 and paying Chen like a #2, so money-wise, Hochevar is slotted right where he belongs at #3.

Plus, you never know, maybe this will be the year that Luke puts it all together and pitches like the guy the Royals thought they were getting when they picked him first overall in 2006.

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Tags: AL Central Baseball Kansas City Royals KC Luke Hochevar MLB Royals

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