It might have been easier if Luis Mendoza had imploded in his two starts this September or if the same had happened to Everett Teaford.
Rightly or wrongly, we are more likely to believe a bad September is more indictative of a player’s future performance than a good September. If Mendoza had looked like the guy we saw early in 2010, then the Royals likely would have been ready to move on: freeing up a valuable 40 man roster spot this winter. As it is, Kansas City is virtually assured of keeping Mendoza over the winter and getting a look at him next spring. Same for Teaford.
That is a good thing, frankly, but it certainly does not make the job of Dayton Moore and Ned Yost any easier.
As good as Mendoza has looked in his two September starts, and as outstanding as he was all summer in AAA, one has to be somewhat skeptical of a major league pitcher who struck out just 4.3 batters per 9 innings in his two starts and walked 3.1 per 9 innings. It is possible to make a living doing that for a full season, but rare. As a frame of reference, Bruce Chen struck out 5.7 per 9 innings while walking at a slightly lower rate than Mendoza (2.9). Interestingly, Everett Teaford had the exact same strikeout and walk rates as Chen.
No one knows right now what Mendoza’s two starts mean. Both the Tigers and the White Sox trotted out a major league line-up to face Mendoza, but you wonder about their level of interest. Still, they are professionals and no one likes to look bad, so we’ll give Mendoza credit for mowing down two decent offensive lineups. Probably that is enough to put him in the mix for the 5th starter spot next season.
If Dayton Moore determines that a 2012 rotation of Hochevar, Paulino, Duffy, Chen and either Teaford, Mendoza or even Mike Montgomery is better than going ‘all in’ on a free agent or, more likely, blockbuster trade, I might not disagree with him. He has options and might look pretty smart should the second half Hochevar be the real Luke, Duffy makes a step forward in year two and Paulino remains a horse in the middle of the rotation. Moore might look pretty stupid if he stands pat and all those guys post plus five ERAs in April and Mendoza gets lit up as well.
Here is something to remember when we start projecting Mendoza into the 2012 rotation. In 2006, Bobby Keppel allowed just 3 runs over 14.2 innings in his first two starts for the Royals. He struck out six and walked three and I remember thinking that maybe the Royals had found a hidden gem.
Keppel proceeded to give up 16 runs over 11 innings in his next 4 starts.