There's a lot of pain associated with a Luke Hochevar start lately. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE

Luke Hochevar and Losing Patience


The headline on the front page of Royals.com right now says “Hochevar’s Progress Stalls in Loss to Yanks” and I’m afraid to say that it’s not quite accurate.

Hochevar had a great second half in 2011. In 79.1 innings, he had a 3.52 ERA and 1.134 WHIP while striking out 7.7 batters per nine innings. The hope was that he would realize the potential he had that made him a first round selection twice in his lifetime.

I think it’s time to stop holding our breath. Hochevar has erased any progress he’d made last season and, worse, he’s not even performing to the level that he had been up to the midway point last year. He’s falling behind.

The legend of Hochevar goes way back. The Royals first #1 overall selection. The 80 pitch complete game. The 13 strikeout performance. The 31 straight batters retired. Along with those, though, are the blowup innings. And they’re coming with greater frequency, it seems.

The rough road started at the Royals home opener. Before many fans hit their seats to start an exciting 2012 season – Our Time! – Hochevar had given up seven runs. He hung in there and ate up a few more innings but was lifted after taking a liner off the ankle. He had two solid starts after that, but his last two have been awful. Against Detroit last week, he gave up five runs before he got an out, locating the ball so poorly that the Tigers pounced on everything early in the count as Hochevar left the ball over the heart of the plate. In 22 pitches, he gave up five runs and retired the side. That’s difficult.

What’s worse, to that point, Hochevar hadn’t given up a homer yet. In both of the first inning meltdowns, he didn’t give up a walk. Instead, he gave up 12 total runs on 14 hits. He didn’t walk anybody on Sunday in the big inning either, but did hit a batter. The homer drought ended though, and in the end, he’d given up seven runs.

From here, I don’t know where to go. I couldn’t trust him to be anything more than an inning eater in the rotation (assuming he can make it into the fifth, which he’s done in just half of his six starts). He’s always had that hint of “well maybe if something goes right” to him that could propel him into a breakout, but now, I don’t see that it’s coming. In the past, he could buy some time from the skeptics by having a good start or stringing a few good ones together, but the meltdowns have been so bad that the same faith can’t be carried forward anymore. He’s developing into Kyle Davies 2.0 which is not a good fate.

Maybe it’s a matter of adjustment. Maybe his ankle is still bothering him. Maybe he’s hurt in some other way but not telling anybody. Maybe he’s just in a slump like Ned Yost suggested after the game. I guess I’m hoping for any kind of sign that would allow me to keep from outright saying that Luke Hochevar stinks.

I’m running out of patience. At some point, I can’t give him the benefit of a doubt.

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

  • the5allens

    good article, Michael.  at this point, i would give him a try in the bullpen and hope he can turn into the next Aaron Crow.  And if not, it is definitely time to trade him if that is even possible, and release him if not.  I would much rather give Teaford these starts and see what we have there, or Crow.  Or maybe the timing is perfect for Montgomery – what better way to ease into the majors than replace an ERA of 9.00 ?  hard not to improve on that

  • eric.akers

    I agree with putting him in the pen. Either Adcock or Medoza could trade places with him right now.  I am hoping for something similar to that of Grienke. Grienke went back to basics, started throwing hard again, and had success.  Maybe if Hoch could get some success in the pen, he will figure out not to throw waist high, middle of the plate meatballs anymore.

  • ArrowFan

    Give him a few more starts, I’m also getting tired of the “I had one bad inning”.

  • jim fetterolf

    Go ahead and think that he stinks, is Kyle Davies v2.0, and that he should be DFA’ed, those are the talking points I’ve been seeing all day from the usual suspects. I’m sticking with the idea that his ankle is still bothering him and that he’s screwed up his mechanics trying to adjust to the pain and that even after the pain is gone the mechanics can stay bad. Most noticeable to me is he’s living up in the ‘zone and getting drilled. That suggests that he’s not finishing pitches, something hard to do on a gimpy landing foot. He is looking a lot like Greg Holland did before going to the DL, pitches up and flat, no bite on the breaking stuff. His game yesterday 28 of 51 pitches were above the centerline of the ‘zone.

  • jim fetterolf

     @the5allens Montgomery’s not impressing many people in Omaha yet. Adcock and Mendoza are the best bets at the moment.

  • michael.allen.engel

     @jim fetterolf That’s good info and I won’t try to refute that, but even if that’s the case, even if his ankle still hurts, what of the first half of last year? Or the year before? Or heck, the 7 runs at home vs. Cleveland before he got hit on the ankle? 
     
    If he’s hurt, he’s hurt, but someone needs to know that and he needs to be off the ankle. If he tried to tough it out and could have been even league average after two weeks on the DL, he’s done more damage than the physical pain could have done. Nobody’s going to trade for him at this point but the Royals don’t have real options yet to take his place and they can’t release him. 
     
    I get it and I have been hoping and waiting for him to get things right and I think I’ve been among the more patient and more apologetic, but I don’t have the energy to do it, ankle or not. I just don’t. I don’t think he should be DFA’d and I think he has more talent to turn it around (that Davies didn’t) but talking points? Usual suspects? It’s not like we have “let’s crap on Hochevar” meetings at Blog University… I just want to know why he’s never been better than average and if he can get better than that, but I can’t muster the energy to buy that it’s going to happen. I wish I did.
     
    I wish I did. 

  • michael.allen.engel

     @jim fetterolf  @the5allens I’d be just fine with a short bullpen stint. Maybe get him back to throwing full effort, build some confidence. Everett Teaford or Adcock could spot start for two turns or so if it came to it. 
     
    I’ll never buy Crow as a starter until he shows he can get his changeup or curve to be effective repeatedly. So far he’s just a two pitch pitcher, and going all out with both make him most valuable right now. 

  • jim fetterolf

     @michael.allen.engel Luke also was hurt part of ’10. Some suggested his slow start last year was caused by that by coming back from that and his FB picked up speed as the year went on. 
     
    As for a few bad games this year, pitchers do do that, Jon Sanchez had a real stinker last night, Justin Verlander got spanked in NY a couple of weeks ago. It happens. Luke is three for six this year, an average pitcher about three of five.  We’re still in small sample size range, but “DFA Hochevar” was the fad yesterday. Haven’t had a chance to see what the new talking point is today, maybe Rany will have something new to launch the next crusade. I’m wondering why  “Send Hosmer to Omaha” hasn’t launched yet.
     
     

  • michael.allen.engel

     @jim fetterolf someone tried that. didn’t take. 
     
    Look, I’m fine with you wanting to be patient, but What of 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010? When was Hochevar EVER good? That’s not all injuries. He has to take some as a bad pitcher. And his three bad starts have been epically bad. These aren’t 5 inning, 4 run bad starts. I’m tired of waiting on him to be anything more than a #5 and every time I start to believe he can be more than that (I’ve been tricked multiple times) he has a stretch like this. He won’t be DFA’d, but I think a couple weeks in the pen may be in order to get him into something that isn’t the liability he is now. 
     
     

  • jim fetterolf

     @michael.allen.engel Hochevar was a high #3 starter last season and started this season well, before the home opener melt and then the injury. In ’10 he had shoulder problems and we did discuss over the off-season that the Royals had changed his training from the long-toss that made him a 98mph thrower with a killer slider in college to the cookie-cutter approach that also seemed to affect Montgomery and Odorizzi. Bob McClure is gone, Greg Schaum thinks Dave Eiland has a better approach, but changes, as well as rehabbing, can take time.

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