KC Royals reliever Luke Hochevar has come a long way in four years. From a failed starter that choked with runners on base, Cool Hand Luke is now the team’s fireman—the go to reliever to defuse the most dangerous situations.
Indeed, four years ago on my personal blog, I wrote that Luke Hochevar was the WORST PITCHER IN BASEBALL with runners on base:
"If, however, you extend the search parameter back five seasons to 2008 (Luke’s first full season in the rotation), Hochevar has accumulated -5.7 LOB-wins: the worst mark in the major leagues. Luke’s primary downfall is his tendency to allow base-runners to score. Of course, our eyes have told us that Hochevar’s nemesis is”the big inning”; but it’s interesting to see that the new metric asserts Luke is worse than any pitcher in baseball in this area. Now we can understand Luke’s wildly gyrating results: if he can prevent base-runners he can be dominant—but, if opponents catch some lucky bloop hits or his defense fails him, Luke is likely to implode."
When I wrote that article in 2012, Luke Hochevar had a horrendous 64% strand rate over the previous five season, which was the second worst mark in MLB.
Since moving to the bullpen in 2013, Hochevar has an excellent 83.8% strand rate. More importantly, he’s become a useful pitcher with a 2.68 ERA despite suffering a torn ulnar collateral ligament in 2014 and missing the entire season recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Rather than use Hochevar in a defined inning like KC Royals manager Ned Yost employed the famous HDH trio (Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland) in 2014, Luke Hochevar has become the go to guy to clean up late-inning messes in 2016.
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Hochevar has sort of fallen into the role with former closer Joakim Soria‘s recent struggles as the eighth-inning set-up man. He’s bailed Soria out of a number of sticky situations, going back to striking out Mets shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera with runners on first after Soria had already allowed the Mets to turn a 4-0 lead into a 4-3 nail-biter.
Luke Hochevar worked his escape artist routine in Wednesday’s game against the Tigers, when Hochevar escaped a bases-loaded with one out situation to preserve a 2-0 deficit in the seventh inning. Despite suffering a 3-2 loss when Chien-Ming Wang gave up an insurance run in the ninth before Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez hit solo home runs in the bottom of the ninth, Hochevar kept the KC Royals in the game.
As of 2016, the former no. 1 overall draft who many called a bust, is now excelling as the go-to guy in the stickiest situations.