The headline on the front page of Royals.com right now says “Hochevar’s Progress Stalls in Loss to Yanks” and I’m afraid to say that it’s not quite accurate.
Hochevar had a great second half in 2011. In 79.1 innings, he had a 3.52 ERA and 1.134 WHIP while striking out 7.7 batters per nine innings. The hope was that he would realize the potential he had that made him a first round selection twice in his lifetime.
I think it’s time to stop holding our breath. Hochevar has erased any progress he’d made last season and, worse, he’s not even performing to the level that he had been up to the midway point last year. He’s falling behind.
The legend of Hochevar goes way back. The Royals first #1 overall selection. The 80 pitch complete game. The 13 strikeout performance. The 31 straight batters retired. Along with those, though, are the blowup innings. And they’re coming with greater frequency, it seems.
The rough road started at the Royals home opener. Before many fans hit their seats to start an exciting 2012 season – Our Time! – Hochevar had given up seven runs. He hung in there and ate up a few more innings but was lifted after taking a liner off the ankle. He had two solid starts after that, but his last two have been awful. Against Detroit last week, he gave up five runs before he got an out, locating the ball so poorly that the Tigers pounced on everything early in the count as Hochevar left the ball over the heart of the plate. In 22 pitches, he gave up five runs and retired the side. That’s difficult.
What’s worse, to that point, Hochevar hadn’t given up a homer yet. In both of the first inning meltdowns, he didn’t give up a walk. Instead, he gave up 12 total runs on 14 hits. He didn’t walk anybody on Sunday in the big inning either, but did hit a batter. The homer drought ended though, and in the end, he’d given up seven runs.
From here, I don’t know where to go. I couldn’t trust him to be anything more than an inning eater in the rotation (assuming he can make it into the fifth, which he’s done in just half of his six starts). He’s always had that hint of “well maybe if something goes right” to him that could propel him into a breakout, but now, I don’t see that it’s coming. In the past, he could buy some time from the skeptics by having a good start or stringing a few good ones together, but the meltdowns have been so bad that the same faith can’t be carried forward anymore. He’s developing into Kyle Davies 2.0 which is not a good fate.
Maybe it’s a matter of adjustment. Maybe his ankle is still bothering him. Maybe he’s hurt in some other way but not telling anybody. Maybe he’s just in a slump like Ned Yost suggested after the game. I guess I’m hoping for any kind of sign that would allow me to keep from outright saying that Luke Hochevar stinks.
I’m running out of patience. At some point, I can’t give him the benefit of a doubt.
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