One pitcher would have ranked fifth in the American League in ERA if he qualified, the other ranked 31st. Those same pitchers would have ranked eighth in WHiP, if qualified, while the other was 29th. Only 39 pitchers in the American League qualified for the ERA title. Yet, it is that latter pitcher that is starting tonight for the Kansas City Royals in Game Three, as Jeremy Guthrie will toe the rubber while Danny Duffy is not a part of the playoff rotation.
We all know that Ned Yost has a bit of a fascination with Guthrie, as he did adjust rotation at the start of the season to allow Guthrie to start the home opener this season, as he had promised. Yet, there may be a reason for this move, aside from it being yet another head shaking Ned Yost decision.
While Jeremy Guthrie has been solid for a fifth starter this season, he has been fairly tough against right handed hitting. During the 2014 season, righties have only produced a .241/.291/.310 batting line with four home runs against Guthrie, compared to the .230/.301/.369 batting line with 12 home runs that Danny Duffy has allowed this season. As the Orioles power bats, Adam Jones and Nelson Cruz, are both right handed hitters, having Guthrie pitch may be a way to limit their impact.
Despite his reputation as being a pitcher that gives up quite a few home runs, Guthrie’s success against right handed hitters is more than just a one year trend. Over his career, Guthrie has allowed home runs to right handed batters on only 3% of their at bats, giving up 89 long balls in 2962 at bats. Duffy, meanwhile, although he has a similar percentage in home runs allowed to righties, has been more hittable than Guthrie from that side of the plate.
Danny Duffy also serves two different roles in the bullpen for the Royals. First, given his dominance over left handed hitting, both this season and throughout his career, he could serve as the Royals lefty specialist, brought in to get someone like Nick Markakis or Alejandro De Aza out with runners on in a close game. Likewise, Duffy would serve as a valuable long reliever in the event that Jeremy Guthrie implodes in his outing.
Yet, Guthrie has done an excellent job of keeping the Royals in the game. Seemingly regardless of the opponent, he has kept the Royals within a run or two, giving them the chance to come back. It may not always look pretty, but Guthrie has, more often than not, stepped up in those moments when the Royals have truly needed him to. Tonight would be another one of those nights.
Looking at the numbers, it makes sense to give Jeremy Guthrie the start tonight. It may fly in the face of conventional wisdom, but so has much of how the Royals have gotten to the point. Why stop taking those chances now? Guthrie is certainly a chance that it makes sense to take.