KC Royals: The Truth About Jeremy Guthrie


Jeremy Guthrie is an extremely likeable guy. He collects shoes, speaks multiple languages, is all over social media, etc. I have no doubt that he is well-liked by his teammates, and that he plays a positive role in the clubhouse.  There is just one problem, though: as a pitcher, he has been awful.

A lot of KC Royals fans, and members of the Kansas City media, like to make excuses for Jeremy Guthrie. “He eats innings” is a common one. “He always keeps the Royals in games,” and “he rebounds after bad outings with good ones” are two others. Most of these are straight-up falsehoods, not to mention irrelevant. And it doesn’t stop there. Manager Ned Yost, and even Guthrie himself,  like to conjure up reasons as to why he isn’t as bad as the numbers suggest. When asked about Guthrie’s most recent outing, a 12-1 beatdown by the Cleveland Indians, Yost told Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star it was “classic Guthrie.”

"“[He] had a lot of traffic in the first two innings, but made big pitches and limited the damage really well. Gave up two runs there, then really settled third, fourth and fifth. Then, it just kind of came apart there in the sixth.”"

Classic Guthrie, Indeed. The fact is, Guthrie hasn’t just been bad in 2015, he’s been one of the very worst pitchers in all of Major League Baseball. Don’t believe me? Check the numbers. His K/9 rate (4.70), ERA (5.65) and FIP (5.05) all rank 92nd out of the 94 active pitchers.

Guthrie told Andy McCullough that the source of his ugly ERA is his one-inning, 11-run disaster against the Yankees on Memorial Day at Yankee Stadium–a game I had the misfortune of  witnessing in person. Again, this is nonsense. Even if we were to remove that outing from the equation, Guthrie’s ERA would still sit at 4.82.  

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The KC Royals were recently presented with a golden opportunity to remove Jeremy Guthrie from the starting rotation, something they probably should have done weeks ago. By acquiring Johnny Cueto, KC had a surplus of six starting pitchers, and Ned Yost had a decision to make. The two most obvious candidates for removal were Jeremy Guthrie and Chris Young. Inexplicably, Yost chose Chris Young.

Like a lot of Yost’s managerial decisions, this makes absolutely no sense. Young is 8-6 with a 3.25 ERA. He’s clearly shown some signs of regression lately, but even during the two-month stretch where he’s posted a 4.42 ERA, he’s still out-performed Guthrie, who has a 4.87 ERA over that span. There are almost no statistical measures in which Guthrie has out-performed Young! He’s shown a slight ability to last longer in games–his average start being about 5 2/3 innings vs. Young’s 5 1/3–but that’s mostly a result of Yost pulling Young often much earlier than necessary, like in the game against St. Louis on July 23, when he pulled Young after 3 innings so that Morales could pinch-hit.

The idea that Guthrie “eats innings” is antithetical to what the Royals are trying to accomplish this year. Sure, 200 innings are nice, but if he has a 5+ FIP and gives up 4-5 runs almost every time he starts, isn’t he someone the Royals would want to allocate less innings to?

Jeremy Guthrie has been with the Royals since July of 2012. In the winter of 2013, the organization signed him to a 3-year deal worth $25.2M and a 2016 option with a $3.2M buyout. For 2 years, he was a perfectly decent number 5 starter. Grossly overpaid, but serviceable nonetheless. That time is over. At 36 years of age, he’s clearly ineffective.

Next: The Good and Bad News About Greg Holland