Aug 14, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Luke Hochevar (44) delivers a pitch in the ninth inning of the game against the Miami Marlins at Kauffman Stadium. Miami won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Curious Case of Luke Hochevar

What should the Royals do with Luke Hochevar?

If you are reading the Kings of Kauffman, you likely know his story.

2006’s first overall draft pick always had “All Star Stuff”, but disastrous results.  I mean, hot garbage results.  Check these numbers from 2012, and try not to throw up in your mouth.

185.1 innings/ 202 hit / 61 walks/ 144  Ks / 5.73 ERA / 1.42 WHIP / 16 losses

Some people, myself included, thought he shouldn’t make the team this year.

He broke camp with the team as a long, middle reliever.  Let’s just say, expectations were tempered.

They called on him in low risk, low pressure situations. He performed.

He was than used in tighter spots.  He performed.

He performed so well, he eventually became the Royals set up guy.  That was huge.  Huge when you remember that Kelvin Herrera was sent to Omaha twice, and Aaron Crow and Tim Collins underperformed in the second half.  By God, Luke Hochevar was a big reason the Royals contended for their first play off spot in decades.  Who saw that coming?

Take a quick look at the 29 year old’s stats in 2013

70 innings / 41 hits / 17 walks / 82 Ks / 1.92 ERA / .82 WHIP

The stats below jump off the screen when compared to league average:

He struck out 10.49 batters per 9 innings vs 6.33 Ks.

His ERA was 1.92 vs 4.13

His WHIP was a remarkable .82 vs 1.36

Now, Hoch is up for arbitration.

What are the options with Mr. Hochevar?

He could be used as a piece of a trade.  Maybe bundle him with a prospect, or a no home run hitting DH?

He could be the closer. Throw Hoch the keys to the pen, and get another bat by trading Greg Holland.   Read more on that plan here.

Status quo.  Pay his raise, and he stays the set up guy for Holland.  As we witnessed, this set up worked very well this August and September.

He could get another shot at the starting rotation.

Lots of interesting choices.  Choices that need to consider the following.

Hochevar avoided arbitration, and made 1.76M in 2011, and a bump up to 3.51M in 2012.  Then, even after that amazingly bad 2012 performance, his 2013 salary  jumped to 4.56M.  Being he actually played well last year, he is likely going to want and get around 6.5 M in 2014.

Should they pay roughly 6 million, and keep him as the set up guy?  No.  That’s just too much money.  The Royals also have a surplus of bullpen arms, 3 gaping holes in the line up, and, assuming Ervin Santana is gone, a weakened rotation. A 6 million dollar set up guy?  That’s a fancy boat for a guy who has to rent a crappy apartment.  This may play well on the Missouri side of the fan base, but it doesn’t make it right.

Closer?  No.  Hochevar’s problems have always been in between his ears.  Not good for closing out games.

Let him start again? Hochevar’s progress spiked when he dedicated himself to throwing only two pitches.  That, along with his abysmal track record as a starter, scares me.  I would give that plan, a temped maybe.

It’s not a no brainer, but the best solution is to trade the guy.  Takes two to tango, so even if they want to trade him, they may not be able to get appropriate value.  Like I threw out earlier, he probably needs to be bundled with another player or prospect.  Easier said than done.

As we have seen from time to time, Dayton Moore gets attached to certain players.  Stubborn about certain players.  It wouldn’t surprise me if he clung onto his first over all pick from 2006.

No matter what Moore decides, he has my sympathy on this one.  Hochevar has not made this easy at all.

Good for you, Mr. Hochevar.

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