Aug 9, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Luke Hochevar (44) before the game against the Boston Red Sox at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Finally Glad To Have Hochevar


Luke Hochevar has been awesome this year.  You can throw some qualifiers in there about being a middle reliever and mostly low leverage innings, but after last night where he may have won the game by ending an 8th inning rally I feel like he deserves some love.  This is the first time in at least a couple of years that I am truly glad we have Hochevar, and his exorbitant price tag for this year may have been worth it.

Quantifying the differences in bullpen Hoch Vs. starter Hoch takes a little time.  You should be better as a reliever, so the new career highs are to be expected, but the magnitude of the changes is larger than I would have ever guessed.  His 9.65 K/9IP rate is more than 2.5 better than any other year as a Royal.  Similarly, his walk rate is almost half a walk better per 9 than any other season.  Average fastball velocity has jumped to 95.5 MPH from 92.6 last year allowing him to throw fewer strikes and allow less contact than ever before.

Before I throw Luke a parade though, I would like to discuss how lucky he has been.  Hochevar has used the fantastic Royals defense and Kauffman stadium well this year.  His ground ball rate of 34% is very low and almost 10% below his lowest mark set lest year.  This increase in fly balls has led to a BABIP of .210, a HR/FB of 7.6%, and a strand rate of 88.6%, which are all unsustainable.  His xFIP, a stat that tries to account for those regressing to normal, says his ERA should be 3.26 rather than the spectacular 1.81 that it is.

There is something unusual about these luck signs.  Typically Hochevar has always had an ERA worse than his FIP and xFIP that made it seem that he was unlucky.  This year he has finally been good with runners on base, unsustainably good, but good nonetheless at something that Rany Jayzayerli especially has talked about as his fatal flaw.  Luck aside, this looks like progress to me.

Now the big question comes.  Is Luke Hochevar built for the bullpen, or does he deserve another

Aug 12, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Luke Hochevar (44) is congratulated by catcher Salvador Perez (13) after the game against the Miami Marlins at Kauffman Stadium. Kansas City won 6-2. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

shot at starting during spring training next year?

Next year’s rotation is going to be discussed a lot over the coming months.  Everyone is waiting for the seemingly inevitable departure of Ervin Santana.  If he costs anywhere near what I expect him to, 4 years and $60+ million, then I for one will be glad the Royals didn’t sign him.  That does not change the fact that he is a very good pitcher and likely not replaceable without David Glass pulling out the check book and taking at a run at Matt Garza (please do this Mr. Glass), or Dayton Moore finding a trade for a slightly below ace level pitcher.

This will lead to only two pitchers that we really know what to expect, James Shields and Jeremy Guthrie.  Some of the other names are sexy, but do expect young guys like Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura, or Kyle Zimmer to pitch a full season?  If they do will they have anything left for the playoffs should all of our hopes come true?  This all makes me think that Hoch might deserve one last chance to start.  I will be nervous when he takes the mound, similar to how I feel when Wade Davis does now, but he may have figured some things out and the bullpen does not need him.

I hated that the Royals paid you a lot of money this year Luke, and thought you should have been dropped like a sack of potatoes.  Please accept my apology for thinking these things.  You have justified your $4.65 million salary as far as I am concerned.  Now can you do the same thing again next year as a starter?  I sincerely hope you get the chance.

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Tags: Kansas City Royals Luke Hochevar MLB

  • jimfetterolf

    4/60 won’t be an issue for the Royals with a $100-$110m payroll range, should be able to afford Choo too. Probably wouldn’t keep Hoch unless looking to make him the closer after trading Holland for good prospects. Hoch’s current salary plus Santana’s current salary keeps Santana next year and Santana is worth more than a set up man.

    • Brian Henry

      I would rather spend the money to get Garza than put a lot of money on Santana being this again. Santana’s career has been too volatile for me to want to guarantee him that much money.

      • jimfetterolf

        I’ld rather have Santana, eats a lot of innings and has been solid except for last year with a shoulder tweak.

  • kibo

    Come on Brian. Hoch as a starter is like Getz as an everyday player. We have had plenty of time to see what he is and is not. Hoch is not a starter, like many other starters who have failed he is good as a reliever. Lets leave well enough alone.

    As you said next year you have Shields and Guthrie as the only locks. As you suggested you pick up another free agent or sign Santana leaving you two slots. I think between Ventura, Duffy, and Will Smith and maybe even Chen on a 1 yr deal you fill the remaining two slots. Hoping that by mid-season Zimmer is ready to take a spot if needed.

    • Brian Henry

      I love Will Smith and hope he is in there, and Duffy’s stuff harnessed would be a solid back end. Chen should be resigned as long as the contract is reasonable. The problem with Duffy, Ventura, Zimmer is that they are not going to throw 200 innings.

  • Satnam Singh

    Remember…He was picked 1st overall….ahead of Lincecum and some High school kid named Kershaw…yeah, Luke will always have that to live up too