In the first three parts of this series, I made the case that the offense, the defense and the relief pitching are all at least close to being contention level. While they are not perfect, they have young players who could show improvement and are at a level where they can compete in the American League Central. The one major component remaining is the starting pitching. Surprise! Look, I know that this isn’t a revelation to anyone, but it’s helpful to go step-by-step in these breakdowns. So let’s take a look at the starting pitching.

First here are some stats from 2011 indicating where the team stands this season in starting pitching:

Stat AL Rank
ERA 4.91 13
fWAR 10.1 11
xFIP 4.39 13

On the bright side, they are clearly not the worst pitching rotation in the American League. Yeah, that’s about the end of the bright side of these numbers. The pitching staff today is clearly different than the one that started the season, so let’s look at month-by-month information to see if there’s any changes in time.

Month ERA
Mar/Aprl 5.14
May 5.31
June 4.63
July 4.96
August 4.76
Sept/Oct 4.53

It seems that things have improved somewhat, but not to the level to be considered a contending rotation. An American League rotation needs to be sub 4.25 or thereabouts to be considered a contending rotation. I know there  are a number of issues relating to using ERA for an analysis of this type, but we’re going rough and dirty here and it provides a good enough guide for our purposes. It seems the Royals must shed 0.5 to 0.75 from their starting ERA (or score a hell of a lot more runs).

So, what’s our starting base here? Who is a potential candidate for the 2012 rotation who the Royals already have control over? Here they are with their respective ERA in starts for 2011.

Luke Hochevar – 4.68

Felipe Paulino – 4.12

Danny Duffy – 5.64

Mike Montgomery – 5.32 (AAA)

Everett Teaford – 0.82 (2 starts)

Aaron Crow – no MLB starts

Luis Mendoza – 2.18 (AAA)

Vin Mazzaro – 4.50 (4 starts)

It’s not exactly a list that inspires fear in the opposing batters, but it’s certainly a better group than we’ve seen as Royals fans in the past. Barring a major improvement from nearly every single player on this list, something has to happen from the outside to improve the rotation. However, I don’t think the situation is as dire as some of the more vocal members of the fanbase and media make it out to be.  This isn’t a situation where the Royals need to go out and find five new starters because they are completely bankrupt. They have a below average stable of pitching, but actually have a bit of depth.

Make no mistake, this is the single biggest obstacle to bringing a pennant back to Kansas City. Hell, it’s the biggest obstacle to getting back to .500. In the next part we’ll investigate exactly how the Royals can and should try to upgrade this starting rotation now that we’ve defined it as the problem.

 

 

Nick Scott hosts the Broken Bat Single Podcast and writes a blog for the Lawrence Journal World. You can follow him on Facebook or email him at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.