Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Luke Hochevar, Wade Davis, & Misusing Sound Logic

Have you ever had a friend say he or she didn’t like a movie? You’re a human person living in the 21st century, so of course you have. Maybe you know a guy who just can’t stand the movie Legally Blonde. He says the dialogue isn’t all that funny, the premise is absurd, and the main character is annoying. None of those statements are that out of line. Your friend has a perfectly fine opinion, backed up with valid arguments. Then, your friend says he wishes more movies were like Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde, because that’s a high-quality film.

All of his complaints about Legally Blonde should equally apply to Legally Blonde 2, but your friend praises the latter, while putting down the former. How much sense does that make? Don’t you hate it when people do that?

For instance, this quote from Jeffrey Flanagan of FOX Sports Kansas City, on one of the candidates for the Royals’ fifth starter spot:

“…the gap between his effectiveness as a reliever and his ineffectiveness as a starter is simply too vast to ignore.”

Let’s play a quick game of Name That Royal! Can you figure out which Royals’ pitcher Flanagan is referring to? If you guessed Luke Hochevar, I’m sorry, but that’s incorrect. The answer is: Wade Davis.

Flanagan is correct in saying Davis has proven himself to be much better out of the bullpen than in the rotation. However, just two sentences earlier, Flanagan – who seems to have a direct line to Dayton Moore’s office – suggests the final rotation spot will be a battle between Yordano Ventura and the aforementioned Hochevar. If you’re like me, and that is to say, you have access to the internet and can find your way to each player’s statistical profiles, Flanagan’s statement probably strikes you as very odd. Why would he single out Davis’ shortcomings as a starter, while simultaneously saying Hochevar could return to the rotation? Couldn’t that very logical argument apply to both Davis and Hochevar, especially considering each guy’s history? Both pitchers have been below average starters, and above average relievers. They’re actually quite similar, statistically speaking.

Hochevar as a starter: 6.22 K/9, 3.01 BB/9, 4.44 FIP, 4.26 xFIP
Davis as a starter: 6.33 K/9, 3.36 BB/9, 4.49 FIP, 4.50 xFIP

Hochevar as a reliever: 9.65 K/9, 2.17 BB/9, 3.40 FIP, 3.27 xFIP
Davis as a reliever: 10.53 K/9, 3.70 BB/9, 2.79 FIP, 3.32 xFIP

From a peripherals-based standpoint, there isn’t much to distinguish between the two pitchers, which, again, makes the above quote seem even more strange. When we look at each player’s results as a starter, however, there is a noticeable difference.

Hochevar as a starter: 758.1 IP, 5.44 ERA
Davis as a starter: 513.2 IP, 4.57 ERA

We all remember how poorly Davis pitched as a starter in Kansas City last year. His 5.67 ERA was awful, to put it kindly. But it seems like some have forgotten that in the year before last, Hochevar had an ERA even higher than that, at 5.73. If you don’t have your calculator handy, I’ll go ahead and tell you that means Hochevar was worse than Davis, from a run-preventing angle. Normally, I am not a fan of putting more faith in a pitcher’s results, since only so much is under a pitcher’s control. However, when a pitcher consistently underperforms his peripherals year after year, like Hochevar does, we have to re-evaluate our method of evaluation. Stats like FIP and xFIP aren’t all that useful in analyzing Jeremy Guthrie, and they don’t tell us much about a guy like Hochevar, though Guthrie is obviously on the other end of the spectrum.

Prior to last season, Davis had actually overperformed his peripherals as a starting pitcher, which suggests he could be due to bounce back some in 2014, if given the opportunity. Now, before you get all riled up, I’m not saying Davis should be the Royals’ number five starter this season. He’s far from the best candidate for that role, and even if I would expect better results, he’s still more effective as a reliever. What I am saying is that saying Hochevar is a good candidate to return to the rotation, while saying Davis isn’t cut out to start, is a hypocritical stance. They’re similar pitchers, and if anything, Davis is a better candidate than Hochevar, if only due to the latter’s longer track record of ineptness.

I realize Hochevar’s raw stuff grades out better than Davis’. But despite his superior stuff, Hochevar has seen inferior results. It seems that the Royals’ front office, through Flanagan, is allowing recency bias to creep in and cloud their judgment. Don’t get me wrong, the increased velocity and sharper breaking balls from Hochevar, the reliever, were incredibly impressive. But he has proven time and time again, that he is a bad starting pitcher. Davis may not be a good option, but Hochevar certainly is no better an option. As Flanagan put it:

“…the gap between his effectiveness as a reliever and his ineffectiveness as a starter is simply too vast to ignore.”

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Tags: Kansas City Royals Luke Hochevar Wade Davis

  • unclejesse40

    I have often wondered what it would look like if the Royals created a two headed monster known as Hochavis! Why couldn’t Hoch pitch 3-4 innings to have Davis come out and pitch 3-4 innings immediately after Hoch. Basically you would be playing to the strength of both guys (long relief with plenty of higher than average pitch speeds) while hiding the weakness of both (seeing the same batter for a third time). If every time Hochavis was scheduled to pitch he went roughly 7-8 innings I don’t think it would tax the bullpen to much to have a guy missing. Just a crazy thought but one that I don’t see mentioned any place else. And if it only kinda works we have Ventura that should be ready shortly!

    • Eric Akers

      I did (or was going to and never hit submit) post the same thing, except I was going to call the pitcher Hovis. I also thought about pairing each one of Hovis with Ventura and Duffy as well since they tend to only want to go 5 innings at a time.

    • jessanders

      Two problems with this. First, it’s clogging the roster, essentially putting Davis and Hoch both as only every 5 day pitchers. You run the risk of giving them way too many innings to continue their efficacy later into the year by pitching like that.

      Second, this is WAY to modern of an idea for Yost et al. No way does piggybacking starters happen.

  • jimfetterolf

    Recency bias is useful when the player has identifiable issues that can be fixed. In Luke’s case he had a major problem pitching with men on base. A year in the BP seems to have helped that. Along with a half dozen other names you should be familiar with is that the Royals limited his training after he was drafted as a 1:1 starter throwing 98mph in college. The training limit has since ended and he was back at 98 last year and said he could hit a hundred easy enough. Then you get into a statistical distortion with both Luke and Wade in that Ned Yost publicly admitted to letting both wear bad starts to try to work through problems and save the bullpen, which led to 8 runs in 2 innings, real hard on ERA.

    Davis has a problem with opening up and overthrowing due to getting overamped. That, and getting out of his mechanics, sometimes leads to not even knowing where his fastball is going when he throws it. Those are fixable. He addressed those issues with KC’s lone baseball journalist last year.

    Spring training will sort things out. Fortunately, neither guy needs to dominate this season and last the whole season. Just need a month or two out of some two of Hochevar, Davis, and Chen, preferably Luke to start as it’s his walk year and Royals would like to establish trade value while seeing if he is actually fixed and worth keeping.

    • jessanders

      “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

      – Albert Einstein

      What you’re suggesting is that, once again. Hochevar has turned a corner. Somehow, this 9th or 10th corner turned will be different than the last 8 or 9.

      I don’t buy it. I’d LOVE for Hoch to figure it out and become the #2 starter that he could be. But it’s too late in the game to even remotely count on it.

      The Royals have too much upside potential in Duffy and Ventura with too much riding on this season to try Hoch as a starter again.

      • jimfetterolf

        Then by all means give up on Luke. Management won’t do that, instead will start him in spring training, along with Davis, and see if they are fixed well enough to take one or two rotation spots such that Duffy and Ventura can start at Omaha and keep their innings down and so that Chen can stay in the ‘pen as a swingman. Obvious advantages of that are to control the kids’ innings so that when they do come up they can stay through the playoffs, as well as enhance Luke’s trade value in his walk year, as well as see if Davis can live up to the contract Tampa gave him.

        Luke’s ’13 season demonstrated that he can now pitch from the stretch, his major issue. Some would see that as evidence that he had, in fact, turned a corner, so Einstein’s quote doesn’t really apply now, does it? Davis needs to show that he can repeat his mechanics, stay closed and command the baseball. Spring training will give everyone a better idea of whether both the two pitchers, as well as Hosmer, have truly internalized the fixes.

        Have you given up on Moose? We’re depending on him making adjustments and he’s never shown the ceiling of either Hoch or Davis in the major leagues, where both have sometimes dominated. Baseball is a game of adjustments and 20-something millionaires have been known to be stubborn. In the case of Moose, Hosmer, Escobar, Hochevar, and Davis the problems have been pretty onbvious, but that doesn’t mean that individuals will be willing or able to fix them.

        • unclejesse40

          The last year of a contract tends to do a lot to a person’s motivation to succeed! I think everyone is forgetting that Jim is saying that Hoch and Davis will get their chance in Spring Training. If they get lit up, back to the pen they will go. But if they dominate in Spring like they did in the pen last year aren’t the Royals better for it? Unless you care more about winning the cactus league trophy, I don’t see the harm in letting the two guys show us if they learned anything.

          • cardsfanatik

            I don’t want them to earn a spot, by “dominating” everyone’s ST invites. They don’t face REAL MLB lineups til the last few weeks of ST. I think that is when the determining factors should be looked at. I still don’t think that Hochevar OR Davis have what it takes to be MLB starters. Luke did pitch better last year, but only because he could just air it out. He didn’t have to save anything in reserve for future innings. Unless he learned how to be effective through seven innings, which I doubt he did, he is just another in a long line of DM pitchers who never do anything but come up and go to the pen. At some point in time, this organization is going to have to develop some ACTUAL starters, and I hope that time is coming.

  • moretrouble

    Hunter, no offense intended toward you, but please recognize that Jeff Flanagan is an excellent baseball writer; one of the best around. He’s had years of experience writing for the Star, co-authoring a book with Charlie Lau’s son, writing his own blog, etc. Jeff is one of the most knowledgeable baseball sources in the area.

    Yes, it’s true that Jeff has access, but the front office definitely does NOT speak through Jeff Flanagan. Whatever access Jeff does have has been nurtured by years of knowledgeable reporting.

    Jeff’s points are usually based on talking with people in the organization. Your points are usually based on statistics. Neither is better than the other. However, Jeff’s points — right or wrong — usually reflect the club’s thinking because he has access.

    You may think the club is right or wrong, but that’s a different opinion than saying Jeff is wrong. There is a distinction there, which I believe you’re missing.

    • Hunter Samuels

      No offense taken, of course. Flanagan does very good work, and that is helped by the relationship he has with the organization. He was one of the first people suggesting Bonifacio would likely be traded because he wouldn’t accept a bench role. Regardless of whether this is the club’s viewpoint or his, though, my overall point still stands. Applying the “he’s best used as a reliever because he’s been a bad starter” line to Davis and not to Hoch is flawed because they have very similar numbers. It’s inconsistent, and things like that bug me. That’s why I wrote this.

      • moretrouble

        Perhaps I was a little to sensitive to your comment because Jeff is a friend. Your point is a good one, if you base it solely on statistics. Maybe, that’s the best way to look at it. I do not believe the club makes judgments solely on statistics, though.

        And, I suppose that’s really my point. The club needs no logic based on math to make decisions. For better or worse, they can use any criteria they deem relevant to make decisions. I doubt Jeff can be assigned any blame for that.

    • cardsfanatik

      I don’t think he was intending on “bashing” Flanagan More, but Hunter did make a valid point. I also feel that Flanagan does tremendous work, but IF this is the Royal’s viewpoint, they are dumber than I am giving them credit for. :/

      • moretrouble

        Perhaps I just read it that way — in the same way that people often criticized Bob Dutton for his reporting, I don’t understand the “shoot the messenger” approach that some fans have on occasion. Regarding the front office, they’re not going to get any respect until they win something and I think they know that. But, I do think those guys over there are very talented.

        • cardsfanatik

          I’m with you on the don’t shoot the messenger thing also. I hope that the Royal’s FO knows they need to win. I honestly believe that most within the organization know what to do, I just wish I knew where the breakdown actually was. Is it that Glass just simply won’t give the money necessary, etc. It is almost unheard of for an organization to go as long as the Royal’s have without sniffing the post season.

          • moretrouble

            You’re right about that. I’m not a fan of how David Glass has run the team. He’s left a lot of revenue on the table, he’s cried poverty to take revenue sharing money and put it in his pocket, he’s done everything possible to sell tickets for a losing team. It’s not the fault of the front office that David Glass has packed the board with his children. All those folks are looking for is a check. I wish he’d sell.

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  • dremus

    It seems that many people do not want Hochehaver to succeed because he has already failed many times. I, too, in the past have been very vocal about not wanting to see Hochehaver anywhere near a pitchers mound while in a Royals uniform. After watching his performance last year, I believe that he can do whatever he sets his mind to doing. It might just be his time, let’s get him a shot IF that is what the Royals front office believes. If he fails again, and for some reason i don’t believe he will, the Royals will know what to do with him. Go Royals. Get ‘em Luke.