The collective streams of consciousness of Royals fans seem to run in two parallel tangents. There are those who are perpetually over-optimistic about every thing that happens.* Hochevar throws a shut-out inning? BOOM! He’s found his groove. Royals fans, get ready to finally cash in on that 2006 number one overall pick! Jeff Franceour takes a walk? BOOM! He’s found that plate discipline. Won’t be long until he again graces the cover of Sports Illustrated…but this time in a Royals uniform!
*A perfect example of this came in an online argument I witnessed during the offseason. An argument in which an entirely over-optimistic Royals fan told his Yankee-loving buddy that Eric Hosmer was better than Mark Teixeira. Right then. At that moment. Hosmer’s season has proven that even if your fanhood tends to sway toward the above, you’re probably better off keeping that type of thing to yourself.
Then there are the fans that sleep on the other side of the pillow. These are the fans who can and will find something wrong with everything. Hochevar gives up two runs and pitches a complete game? BOOM! Remember that curve that he left hanging in the zone in the third inning that would have totally lost us the game if the batter hadn’t missed his spot and hit it foul? Don’t be a sucker. Oh, Sal Perez hurt his knee? BOOM! Another example of a player the Royals threw money at who ended up being a huge waste. Way to go GMDM! We loathe you. (Thankfully, this doesn’t seem the case at all)
I think the people who genuinely follow the Royals try to balance between these worldviews. Sometimes it’s easy to trend toward one or the other depending on what’s happening with the team. I definitely move back and forth between the two. “The guys are going to be/doing great! We’ve figured it out!” sways to “I cannot handle losing like this. We are terrible and we will always be terrible” and back again.
I think I’m getting better about keeping a happy medium, though. And that’s why I ask this question with a grain of salt. Could Jeremy Guthrie be more than a quick fix?
In his last six starts he’s given up a total of ten runs while averaging just over 6 and 1/3 innings of work a game. That’s an ERA of 2.37. That string of starts includes one where he only lasted 2 and 2/3 innings before getting the boot after giving up six earned runs. If we tossed that game out the window, he’d have a line of 36 innings pitched and 4 earned runs for an ERA of 1.00.
Look…..small sample size. I get it. Also, Kauffman is significantly less of a hitter’s park than Coors. But the guy has brought his season ERA down almost an entire run since he got here and has looked fierce his last six starts aside from that shellacking in Boston.
Now before you start maligning my good name, let me state that I’m not arguing that Jeremy Guthrie is a cheap alternative to pursuing starting pitching in free agency this off-season. Far from it. I am hopefully optimistic* that David Glass will give GMDM some money to throw at some hurlers** over the winter. Unfortunately, I think Guthrie’s improvement has a high possibility of being used as an excuse not to pursue free agent talent. (As many other Royals writers have discussed.) I do not want Guthrie to be that excuse.
*But we know what happens when you’re too optimistic.
**“Hurler(s)” is one example of the many beautiful terms baseball has given us. I love national pastime slang.
I hope Guthrie continues to do well. If he does, he will be the second pitcher we’ve snagged for cheap from the Rockies in the past two years. You may not agree with this, but Paulino has been very good….when he’s not hurt.
If Guthrie proves that this isn’t merely small sample size, than our pitching staff could be better. But we’ve been burned by plenty of unjustified pitching contracts before and Guthrie will be a free agent after this season. Will we see enough of him to convince us that he’s worth another contract? We need to make a formal assessment at the end of the season. It’s going to be a tough decision, especially if he pitches as well as he has throughout this last month.
But my heart has been hurt by hurlers before.