Pitching is still the focus of the conversation. (Photo Credit: Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE)

The Lack of SP Additions


We’re at the point in the season where questions are starting to come out, especially with the Royals doing poorly out of the gate. What’s up with Eric Hosmer? Can Mike Moustakas keep this up? Will we be scared every time Jonathan Broxton closes a game? Where is the god of injuries and how do we kill him?

The biggest questions have swirled around the rotation and its lack of ability to inspire any confidence. Just like throughout the offseason, we’re all wondering how in the world the Royals will make it through this season. Luke Hochevar is worse than ever. Jonathan Sanchez is, too. Bruce Chen looks like his luck is finally catching up with him (at least in his last couple games). Luis Mendoza has already exited stage right. At this point, we can lean on Danny Duffy and potentially Felipe Paulino to drag the team through the season, though Duffy has been showing his ability to pile up a high pitch count quickly and Paulino has pitched just one game since returning.

I hate second-guessing or debating decisions in hindsight, but it’s hard to not think about the Royals’ inability to land a solid starting pitcher this offseason. Now, we don’t know for sure how involved they were in any discussions besides the obvious ones before trading for Sanchez. We can’t say they did or did not do anything for certain. All I’ve seen for sure is that Dayton Moore never was that interested in adding much from a starting pitching perspective.

I, for one, applauded that point.

28 games into the season, it’s harder to make that distinct argument. There wasn’t a reason to spend money if the starting pitchers could be at least adequate. They’ve just been less than acceptable. We didn’t need to add another one because we had seven or eight true candidates to start. Now it looks like that number might be closer to two or three desirables. And we didn’t need to add more starting pitchers from outside the organization because, well, we’re trying to build up from within. Filling spots that prospects could take doesn’t make much sense. At this point, no one seems to be knocking on that door (though Mike Montgomery could be getting closer).

So, does that mean we go back and drag Dayton through the mud for not doing anything? Honestly, I can’t say that I can. I didn’t want to add much. I would’ve preferred one more guy, but getting a solid pitcher without giving up a ton, whether in contract length, overall value, or traded prospects, left extremely limited options, if there were truly any. And the Royals were confident that their multitude of in-house options, whether real or just a mirage, would provide more than enough possibilities should injury or poor pitching bring anyone down.

I just can’t go back on that decision and I can’t blame Dayton for not making a move. Hoch has never had such a poor stretch of games, so why would you expect him to? Sanchez has never pitched quite this bad, so you don’t think he will. It’s not something you can easily project or predict. If someone out there thought that Hoch would have a ERA of 9.00 six starts into the season, I’d be happy to hear of your Nostradamus-like ways. If you thought Sanchez would have more walks than strikeouts, I’d be impressed.

It comes down to whether you thought this team really needed that extra starter going into the season or whether you thought it was better to wait for a year when they’d be closer to contention. If you’re in the former group, you can be frustrated by what’s happening, though, again, you wouldn’t have even predicted this. If you’re in the second group, there’s no place to complain about Dayton not making a move.

This whole thing is representative of the season as a whole. We never expected to lose two catchers to the same injury. We never thought we’d lose two of our best relievers, and we never expected to lose our center fielder right off the bat. It was never supposed to be this way.

Well, things happen. Just ask the visiting Red Sox about the starts to their last couple seasons. Injuries happen. Bad starts happen. Unforeseeable things happen. Just like this historically bad pitching. You don’t expect it to happen to this degree, but there it goes.

So, let’s not go tossing around blame just yet. It’s May 8. It’s not August. If Hoch has an ERA of 9.00 in August and is still pitching, I expect us all to complain. At this point, there’s not much to do. Just have to ride it out and root for the guys, just like always. Just like being a fan. And if anything, start talking about Hosmer. If you’re going to blame Dayton, you might as well blame Hosmer, too, for all the runs he’s left on the bases (not that I ever want to have to do that).

I don’t like this span any more than any other fan. But it happens. It’s unexpected and it happens. If it keeps happening, there’ll be a change. They’ll deal with it in some way. Until then, we just have to find a way to make it through that doesn’t involve the blame game.

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  • the5allens

    nice article Gage, but I have to disagree with your premise.  This rotation has had the potential for disaster all along.  There was never any legitimate reason for hope from this crew.  you write that we had 7 candidates for the rotation – really ?  just because there are 7 names written on a list, doesn’t make them candidates for a legit MLB rotation.  What serious franchise would have included this cast of characters in their MLB rotation ?
     
    you say that nobody could have expected the pitching to be this bad.  I disagree, and I have expected (feared) this all along.  The better point to make is, nobody should have expected the pitching to be good.  We, as fans, all have to get past the whole “trying really hard to convince ourselves that there is some reason for hope, based on some small strained sampling of decent outings”.
     
    in terms of our “youth movement”, the pitchers are way waay waaay behind the hitters.  Montgomery appears to be close (fingers crossed), but he is the only one.  Odo is still working his way through the mid-minors, and Lamb has yet to resume pitching, and once he does he is still in the low minors.  It seems the organization is uncertain what they have in Adccock and Teaford.  And even if any of these guys make the jump, we can’t expect them to be solid right away – it will take a year or two at least.
     
    In short, this team had / has room to add a pair of frontline starters to long term contracts and still not block their “youth movement”.  In my humble opinion, Duffy is the only starter on the roster worth saving a spot for.  If we could find 4 starters to add to this team right now, I would do it in a heartbeat.
     
    Competitive teams simply don’t carry questionable pitchers, and we have 4.  The Braves demoted their prized prospect, Julio Teheran, because he simply wasn’t better right now than their other options.  The Nationals demoted John Lannan, their opening day starter of the past 2 years, because he was the 6th best pitcher they had.  Either one of these guys would be an improvement over what we have in our rotation right now.  we have 4 guys in our rotation who would be lucky to be a #5 starter on a competitive team.
     
    if we look at the big historical picture, what happened to this once proud franchise?   economics have hurt us, sure.  But we have hurt ourselves also, with a period of poor talent evaluation and poor talent development.  We had a black hole in our development process, at a point in time where we couldn’t afford to overcome it.  We appear to be on our way to recovery, within the organization.  But that same problem remains in the fans today.  We have to expect better, and we have to stop buying magic beans.  Trusting that Mendoza had become a late bloomer based on some minor league appearances and 2 MLB starts in 2011, that Hochever finally figured out how to be a first-round pitcher based on the second half of 2011, that Chen will continue to defy the odds late into his career, that Paolino is ready to be a strong starting pitcher, that Sanchez could be on the right side of his control problems – its all magic beans.
     
    Baseball is a funny game, where one lucky break can make a huge difference.  One, just one, good starting pitcher can make a cascading difference on a team.  Maybe the bullpen stays fresher, maybe losing streaks don’t reach 5 games, maybe he leads the team to fight a little harder.  It is difficult to overestimate the impact that could be had if we had added just one legit starting pitcher, to match with Duffy and form something to build around.  Instead, we all have to keep believing in a sack of magic beans.