When Spring Training began Luis Mendoza wasn’t the favorite to win the final spot in the rotation, but for the second straight year, he did just that. Last year the various members of the Pop Tart Guild argued that Mendoza’s SO/BB numbers would prevent him from being successful in that role. Anybody who thinks the PTG were wrong didn’t pay real close attention to the season’s first month. His second turn in the rotation went much better as he outperformed both Luke Hochevar and Bruce Chen. For that reason one would expect the fifth spot would have been his to lose but that doesn’t appear to have been the case. Yost mentioned more than once that Mendoza would be a perfect fit for the long relief role.
Chen bombed in Spring Training, though, leaving Yost no choice but to name Mendoza a starter. If Yost made that decision based on Spring stats then he made the right move for the wrong reason, because really, it wasn’t that tough a decision when you think about it.
- Mendoza is almost six years younger than Chen. Yes, Chen has a more established track record but the older a player gets the less reliable his track record becomes. I read once that careers don’t take the field. I don’t believe that’s true of players in their prime, but of those on the down slope of their career, it’s absolutely spot on.
- Chen is in the final of year his contract while Mendoza can still help future Royals’ teams. Mendoza shouldn’t be penalized because Dayton Moore mistakenly gave Chen a two year after the 2011 season. He makes the Royals better now, and if he can perform as well as he did last year, that’s one less question mark going forward.
April 15, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals pitcher Luis Mendoza (39) delivers a pitch against the Cleveland Indians during the first inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
Mendoza still has to prove the 3.83 ERA he put up over his final 20 starts wasn’t a fluke. I think even something in the 4.00-4.25 neighborhood would be acceptable. In years past, a guy coming off a 97 ERA+ would start the season opener. Now, he barely makes the rotation. If that’s not a sign of an improved rotation then I don’t know what is.