It is September and the Royals are out of it. The Chiefs have long since taken center stage in Kansas City (if they ever left it) and in other parts of Royaland (notably here in Lincoln), college football is the primary focus.
Even among the Royal faithful, interest in waning. Following Twitter yesterday, there was much more discussion of Eric Hosmer and Northwest Arkansas’ playoff run than of the Royals versus Sox. Frankly, who can blame them/us?
At any rate, Ned Yost had an interesting comment over the weekend when addressing the Royals jumping to a six run lead on Sunday only to see Sean O’Sullivan and crew blow it:
“It’s been my experience that it’s real nice when you have a guy like Greinke or Hoch on the mound.”
Really? Zack Greinke and Luke Hochevar in the same sentence?
Like many, I was of the mind that Hochevar was showing real improvement this season before going down with injury. Was he, however, showing enough to basically be penciled in as the Royals’ number two starter next year? I cannot interpret Yost’s comment in any other way.
Last season, Hochevar went 7-13 in 25 starts with an earned run average of 6.55. To be fair, Luke had an xFIP of 4.34 that season, so he pitched better than his basic numbers might show. Along the way, Hochevar struck out 6.7 batters per nine innings and allowed 2.9 walks every nine.
This season, over 13 starts, Luke posted a 4.96 ERA with an xFIP of 4.27. He had the exact same strike out rate as in 2009, was walking 3.2 batters per nine innings, but had cut his home run rate from 1.45 per nine innings in 2009 to 0.78 in 2010. That is improvement, but only incrementally – not exactly breakout material.
Perhaps, Hochevar was about to ‘take the next step’ only to be derailed by injury, but can the Royals really count on it? Prior to the June 11th start that sent Luke to the disabled list, he had allowed 11 earned runs over his previous 31 innings – going seven frames or more in those four starts. THAT’s the guy Ned Yost knows, not the up and down ‘big inning waiting to happen’ pitcher that most of us have endured since 2008.
From the moment Yost took over as manager, he has been a ‘Hochevar guy’. He left him in games so that Luke could learn to get out of his own jams. I agree with the strategy and perhaps, if Hochevar is and stays healthy, it will all pay off for Yost and the Royals.
On the other hand, we have seen Hochevar in the past string together good starts only to spend the next month taking the mound with gas can in hand. Did the injury derail a leap forward in performance or just forestall another bad stretch of ineffectiveness?
I do not know the answer. Ned Yost thinks he does or otherwise comments like that above would not be coming out of his mouth.