September 7, 2012; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Ervin Santana (54) pitches in the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

Only The Names Have Changed

Before this past season the rotation was plagued with question marks. The potential to be awful was certainly there but also there was a chance – a slim one, mind you – that the unit as a whole could have been league average to even slightly above. If things broke just right. Of course you know that didn’t happen thanks in part to regressions, injuries and a few pitchers that just weren’t any good. Here are the some of the questions people were asking back in March:

The bottom two questions never got answered thanks to injuries but the answers to the first three were no, no and no. But you know all this and really don’t care to be reminded of the 2012 rotation’s historical mediocrity. I don’t blame you, but moving forward, we see not a lot has changed.

The 2013 rotation, barring a trade, is basically set and the question marks that existed before 2012 are still there.

  • Can Ervin Santana discover his pre-2012 form?
  • Can Jeremy Guthrie carry over a great second half into 2013?
  • Can Bruce Chen be a league average starting pitcher?
  • Can Luis Mendoza prove that his 2012 season was legit?

Eerie, isn’t it.

I haven’t really declared one way or another my opinions on the Santana and Guthrie deals. That’s because I keep flip flopping on whether I like them or not. There are reasons to like and dislike both of these moves. Santana and Guthrie will be paid  a combined 37 million dollars over the next three seasons and I just can’t help but wondering if that money should have gone to a more elite starting pitcher.

Once again Dayton Moore jumped in with both feet before the market had a chance to set itself. Craig Brown is spot on when he discusses why this is “ultimately a flawed strategy“. Criticize Craig’s negativity if you must but he predicted that Sanchez would be train wreck when a lot of people (myself included) were cautiously optimistic.

The flip side, of course, is that you can throw all the money you want at free agents but you can’t make them pick it up. If Moore waits too long then he could miss out altogether and we’d be forced to watch a rotation that contained both Hochevar and Chris Volstad. I don’t know about you but I had nightmares about such a scenario.

Again, there are reasons to like and dislike the two deals. Santana and Guthrie have decent track records so it wouldn’t come as a great shock if both put up 200 inning, 110 ERA+ seasons. If that happens I expect the Royals to flirt with contention. Of course that’s contingent on the offense remembering how to hit, which I believe they will.

As for the last two questions above, I’m more optimistic that Chen will approach league average than Mendoza, and I base that solely on their respective SO/BB numbers. I like what Mendoza accomplished when he re-entered the rotation (122.1 IP, 3.83 ERA) but I’m not sure he can do that over the course of a full season. As of right now though, I have no problem with him occupying the rotation’s fourth or fifth spot.

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Tags: Bruce Chen Ervin Santana Jeremy Guthrie Kansas City Royals

  • jimfetterolf

    Luis Mendoza was PCL pitcher of the year in 2011 and put up a couple of pretty good starts for the Royals. He also finished 2012 fairly strongly, so I think he’s better than a coin-flip, being injury free and having become vested in the coaching ideas that turned his career around.

    Chen is a coin-flip, probably won’t be any worse than ’12, could be better, may end up in the ‘pen after some young guys come back or move up. He’ll do as a #5 who will occasionally ambush another team’s ace with a brilliant game.

    Santana had two bad months last year and four good ones, and a mechanical adjustment seemed to help. My big worry is the decaying velocity, which too often suggests an injury onset. Again, a coin-flip. His decay isn’t as marked as Jon Sanchez’ was and Santana did manage to be effective after a rough few months, while Sanchez deteriorated.

    Guthrie looks solid enough, his Colorado experience a combination of being a fly-ball pitcher in a launching-pad ballpark and having a shoulder injury from a bike accident that may have impacted him longer than 15 days on the DL. The main difference between Guthrie and Hochevar is that Guthrie is a proven, average starter, which Hoch has only shown hints of becoming. Hoch has ace stuff, but can’t maintain an even average level.

    If you read comments on other KoK posts, you’ll already know that I think Sanchez is signable for 6/90, what I hear he wants, and the Royals can do it by non-tendering or trading Hoch and by trading Alex Gordon for prospect arms, Seattle a possible partner. That puts Master Chen in the ‘pen and makes a pretty good rotation with Odorizzi and Ventura close and Paulino, Duffy, and Lamb getting closer. Even without Sanchez, Royals look improved and, with a little good health, should be a factor.