Sep 21, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie (11) delivers a pitch against the Texas Rangers during the first inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Jeremy Guthrie - the Royals Other Rotation Concern

Apr 28, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie (11) delivers a pitch against the Cleveland Indians during the first inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Right now, the biggest anticipated concern facing the Kansas City Royals may be the identity of their fifth starter. Right now, that opening is expected to be a battle between Wade Davis, Luke Hochevar and Yordano Ventura, with Kyle Zimmer and Brad Penny as long shots for that role. Yet, it may be fair to wonder if the Royals should be concerned about more than that spot in the rotation. Jeremy Guthrie, who is likely the Royals third starter at this point in the season, may also be a source of trepidation as well.

On the surface, Guthrie had a relatively solid season for the Royals last year. Overall, he was 15-12 with a 4.04 ERA, seemingly a league average pitcher who was a solid fit for the Royals and the dimensions of Kauffman Stadium. Yet, there were concerns. Guthrie gave up the most hits in the American League and, despite pitching half of his games in Kansas City, managed to give up 30 home runs, the fourth most in the league. While he has never been much of a strikeout pitcher, Guthrie struck out under five batters per nine innings last season, the lowest full season rate of his career.

Where Jeremy Guthrie was able excel was in his ability to strand those runners he let on base. Despite giving up baserunners at a 6.5% higher rate than average, he managed to 78.2% of the baserunners he allowed, exceeding the league average by over 5%. Both those marks factor in to his xFIP for last season, which was at 4.55.

Guthrie has certainly fared well since coming over to the Kansas City Royals for the complete disaster that was Jonathan Sanchez. His time with the Royals has been the best of his career, as he has produced a 20-15 record with an ERA of 3.78. The cavernous outfield and the improved defense behind him certainly lends hope that 2014 will once again be a solid year for Guthrie. However, Guthrie will be 35 shortly after the season begins, and his 2013 performance may have been the start of a decline in performance. It is very rare for a player, as they approach their mid to late thirties, to get better as they age. With the present construction of the rotation, the Royals may well need him to be an exception to the rule.

The competition for the Royals fifth starter spot may be getting most of the attention, but there may well be other areas of concern in the rotation. With his expected performance last season, Jeremy Guthrie may well be one of those concerns heading into 2014.

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  • jimfetterolf

    Guthrie is a small worry, but he reminds me of a right handed Bruce Chen, lot of craftiness as he matures and he knuckles down with men on base. Guys like that will give up hits because they pitch to contact to keep pitch count down and go deeper, unlike a Duffy for instance. When someone gets on they tighten up and get out of it.

    With the Royals bullpen and apparently improved offense, a consistent 3 runs-6 innings guy is all they need. That’s what Guthrie would be even with a 4.50 ERA. In the 4 or 5 slot that’s all the team needs from him, will be good enough to win at least half of his starts and probably a little more. Get through this year and it’s a one year contract and there’s no such thing as a bad one year contract, put him in the bullpen or release him if the wheels fall off.

    Went to BR, lots of stats, but simply:

    High leverage: .246/.264/.368 SO/BB 5.0
    Med leverage: .283/.336/.446 SO/BB 1.94
    Low leverage: .302/.363/.482 SO/BB 1.26

    For what it’s worth.

  • John Cate

    Except for his disastrous stint in Coors Field, where his junk just didn’t work like it does in a real ballpark, Guthrie has always out-performed the metrics Fangraphs uses, sometimes by a bigger margin than he did in 2013. There’s a concern there, as there is with any pitcher in his mid-30s, but as far as the peripherals go, he is what he is. Even if he regresses some and posts a 4.50 ERA in 2014, he’s got one of the best bullpens in baseball to back him up. He and the other junkballers just need for the manager to realize that, and get them out at the first sign of trouble.