It was just one week ago when I wrote that the Royals might well have to consider making a serious move to upgrade the starting rotation. That was written on the heels of Yordano Ventura giving up five runs the day after Edinson Volquez gave up four runs in five innings, which came right after Danny Duffy gave up six in less than four innings. There were three more turns through the rotation before the end of May, I said, if things don’t improve by then something will have to be done.
Well, so far, so good. Maybe not a rebound, but certainly a nice bounce.
It started last Thursday night as Jeremy Guthrie allowed two runs over five innings. That is not a great start, but given what the rotation had been providing, it was a nudge in the right direction. That was followed by 5.2 innings of one run work by Chris Young in a game in which the Royals scored twelve and Aaron Brooks got to pitch. The next night was Danny Duffy night. Some saw progress out of Duffy by wallowing through five innings. Well, let me tell you, I have seen Progress and Saturday night was no Progress.
Then things got real interesting.
Edinson Volquez pitched seven shutout innings, allowing just three hits. Wade Davis and Jason Frasor combined to allow five baserunners in two innings (I think they were bored), but managed to complete the shutout. After an off-day, we finally got to see THE Yordano Ventura: seven more shutout innings on just four hits and zero walks. Those two were followed by six MORE shutout innings from Jeremy Guthrie.
The Royals were a two-out double of Ryan Madson away from three consecutive shutouts and, by the way, scored 16 runs while it was happening. Baseball is an easy game when things are rolling like this. With their bullpen, things are real easy for the Royals when their starters give them six or seven good innings. It is easy even if Kansas City was playing with last year’s offense.
Certainly, twenty innings of shutout ball from your rotation is not going to happen very often, but it is a positive trend. Volquez has been a delight this year, showing more pitch efficiency than his track record suggested we could expect and, frankly, being the Royals best starter. Ventura, at least for one night, was the guy we expected to be at the front of the Royals’ rotation in 2015. Was he too hyped up to start the season, then two laid-back after all the commotion? Mental stuff, man, you never know.
Guthrie? We all know who Jeremy Guthrie is. He will give you all he has and sometimes that won’t be good enough, but sometimes it is and he is prone to hot streaks. Ignoring the money, there is nothing wrong with Guthrie at the end of your starting rotation. That is, nothing wrong with it, if Ventura and Volquez pitch well.
In the middle is Chris Young, who has a track record when healthy and especially in the early parts of season, to be quite good. Now, if you send me your address, I will mail you a dollar bill if Young throws more than 150 innings this year. When we talk of track records, staying healthy and effective long enough to log major innings does not show up on Young’s. For now, he has been truly outstanding and the Royals would be wise to ride him as long as he stays hot.
Then there’s is Danny Duffy. Oh Danny, Danny, Danny, Danny….
With two off days sandwiched around a two game series, I would have skipped Duffy in the rotation this time through and opted to go with Young tomorrow (on 6 days rest), Volquez on Saturday (on 5 days rest) and Ventura on Sunday (on regular rest). That said, it is early in the season, and I believe the Royals may be worried about a skipped start digging Duffy into a deeper hole and also he may need to pitch more than he need to think.
With Jason Vargas seemingly on the verge of being ready to return (the Royals’ karma has changed so much that now when they put a guy on the 15 day disabled list, it really is just for 15 days – not a year and a half!), this could well by Duffy’s last start for a while. Another short outing with lots of runs and shotgun control and I could see Duffy in Omaha. I mean, really, we have Stormchaser season tickets, I could SEE him. I would prefer not to, however.
The Royals, long term, need Danny Duffy to be an effective starting pitcher and probably that is the primary reason he will make his next scheduled start even though there is ample opportunity to juggle the rotation this time through. Frankly, the way the rotation has pitched since last Thursday, who is going to put money against Duffy going a strong six against the Cardinals this weekend?