It is hard to envision that a pitcher who will be 35 years old just after the start of the regular season, and has had one winning season since 2007 could be the key to a major league rotation, especially on a team with designs on competing for a playoff berth. For the Royals, that may well be the case this season, with Jeremy Guthrie slated to open the season as the second starter.
Guthrie has been a completely different pitcher since being acquired from the Colorado Rockies for the remains of Jonathan Sanchez, putting together a 20-15 record with a 3.78 ERA as a member of the Royals. However, before that trade, Guthrie was 50-74 with a 4.36 ERA in his career. Is Guthrie really a different pitcher now than he had been before?
In short, Jeremy Guthrie is exactly what he had been before. He goes out every fifth day, eats up innings and gives up fly balls. His ground ball to fly ball ratio of 0.71:1 throughout his career proves that he has been an extreme fly ball pitcher. Guthrie also spent his time pitching in Camden Yards and Coors Field, which have been offensive havens. Being a fly ball pitcher in those ballparks is certainly not the best way to attempt to earn a living. However, Kauffman Stadium is where fly balls go to die. Fly ball pitchers, like Guthrie, can thrive in that environment.
While Guthrie may not be the prototypical second starter, that may be the role he is asked to fill in 2014. He may not strike out a lot of batters, averaging just over five strikeouts per nine innings and he may give up more baserunners than one would want from a second starter, but he has been able to minimize the damage since leaving the launching pads in Baltimore and Colorado.
Chances are, Guthrie is just going to be the placeholder in the rotation until Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy or Kyle Zimmer are ready to seize that role. In fact, if Duffy and/or Ventura appear ready to take that role on during the season, Guthrie’s time as the second starter could end sooner than expected.
Jeremy Guthrie may not be the ideal second starter, but based off how he has pitched for the Royals, he may actually perform well in that role. The Royals season may depend on how well he does.