The KC Royals rotation has been a mixed bag of mostly average and awful performances. While the re-emergence of Danny Duffy has been a bright spot this season, the concerns for the starting rotation in 2016 appear to be well founded. The question moving forward is, do the 2016 KC Royals have a rotation that will carry them into October?
Yesterday I wrote a piece on some options for improving the rotation, and John Viril wrote recently about the job Danny Duffy is doing. However, I have seen multiple fans and analysts stating their case for staying put. In other words, there are camps out there who think the KC Royals should do nothing this year and just let the chips fall.
The difference between each camp I believe is that, on the one hand, you have some who are willing to endure some poor seasons in the future for the opportunity to win another championship now. The other camp seems to want to avoid another painful rebuild if the return is merely a “chance” at another World Series.
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To solve this dilemma, the first question that needs to be answered is: are the KC Royals good enough right now to win it all? I believe the short answer to this is NO and here is why.
The KC Royals starting rotation, as of 28 June, is tied for the 3rd worst ERA in baseball at 4.98. Only the Twins and Rockies have a worse ERA. In 2014, the KC Royals starting rotation ERA was 3.6 and tied for 10th in all of baseball. In 2015 the KC Royals ERA was 4.34 for the starting staff but, the Royals were tied for 7th in runs scored in 2015 making up for the elevated ERA.
So far in 2016, the higher ERA is coupled with a run production in the bottom 5 of MLB. Then there is the fact that the KC Royals starting rotation is averaging only 5.1 innings per outing! In 2014 KC Royals starters were going almost 6 innings on average and then handing the ball to Herrera, Davis, then Holland.
Now in 2016, the KC Royals almost need a 4 headed monster because the quality of KC’s rotation has dipped to the point that they are barely capable of going twice through the lineup.
Now in 2016, the KC Royals almost need a 4 headed monster because the quality of KC’s rotation has dipped to the point that they are barely capable of going twice through the lineup. One of the qualities that separates a starter from a reliever is that a good starter can get the same guy out three times or more.
Indeed, one of the ways the Royals have overcome the quality of their rotation was by going to the pen early and not allowing a guy to face a lineup more than thrice. It is now getting to the point though that Royals starters like Volquez can barely handle that without blowing up. Not to mention Chris Young who should pitch the HR Derby in July.
Sure Mike Minor and Kris Medlen will be returning soon. But Medlen was awful in most of his early starts with an ERA nearing 8 in six appearances, and Minor hasn’t thrown a big league pitch since late in 2014. That is not something to hang your playoff hopes on.
Several core player contracts are up at the end of 2017. It is unlikely that the KC Royals can sign them all. Also, if KC wants to make another playoff run in 2016, they are going to need another starting pitcher. Preferably one who is consistent and won’t completely empty the farm system. That would leave 2017 as the year KC trades off some rentals that they can’t sign for prospects to re-stock the farm.
The time is now to win, and if Dayton Moore leverages things smartly, the 2017 Royals reload can mostly make up for the 2015 and 2016 trade deadline moves. World Championships are hard to come by, so teams with a shot need to take full advantage when the opportunity arises.