Yesterday was Kyle Davies’ 89th start as a Kansas City Royal and it marked the twenty-first time in that span that Kyle has surrendered five runs or more.   His career earned run average with the team now stands at 5.27 and is trending in the wrong direction.

Davies’ three starts this season have yielded a run per inning, 23 hits allowed in 14 innings, and just one more strikeout than walk issued.   Perhaps this is just a slump accentuated by the fact it comes at the very start of the season.   After all, in 11 of his last 15 starts in 2010, Kyle provided a level of performance that all of us would likely accept at this point.   (The were not all ‘quality starts’, but if they were decent enough to give his team a chance to win).    Stop me if you have heard this all before.

Kyle Davies is something of a conundrum.   He truly has ‘stuff’ and, at times can be remarkably effective.   As referenced above, Davies at times can string together six and seven inning starts where he allows three runs or less and, you know, generally looks like a bonafide major league starting pitcher.  

Last season, Davies posted the second worst earned run average in baseball among qualifying pitchers (only Jeremy Bonderman was worse).   Davies’ walk rate was 88th out of the 92 qualifying pitchers, his strikeout rate was 70th and his percentage of runners left on base 87th.   In a weird twist of fate, Zack Greinke’s LOB% was 90th, by the way.  Kyle was 80th in FIP, second to last in xFIP, but manged to get up to 72nd in WAR (2.0).   That WAR number is telling in that it points out the best thing about Kyle Davies’ 2010 season:  he took the ball every fifth day and managed to pile up 183 innings of work.

Nick wrote this column last August in quasi-support of Davies and it makes a lot of sense, or at least it should, but the problem is I have run out of patience.

Kyle Davies has 134 major league starts under his belt, totalling 721 innings of work (300 more than Luke Hochevar).   His Baseball Reference career page reveals remarkably similar peripheral numbers from year to year.    While Chris Carpenter appears in his Top Ten comp list on that page, said list is topped by Jamey Wright and Brian Meadows.     Anybody want to replay those former Royals?   How about Jeff Suppan, who comes in as Davies’ number four comp?

How about Jeff Suppan?

See, therein lies the current issue with the Kansas City Royals.    If, like me, you would rather spend your days selling American flags in downtown Tripoli than watch Kyle Davies nibble his way through another start, your most likely option to replace him is Jeff Suppan.

After being signed to a minor league deal recently, Suppan was torched for seven runs in his first AAA start, but did rally last night to allow just one run over five plus innings, albeit with just two strikeouts.    Starting in 1999, Jeff started thirty or more games for eleven straight years.     He had a nice little run in the National League for a time, but over the last three seasons Suppan’s hits per 9 innings have soared over the 10.5 mark, his walk rate is creeping up and his always modes strikeout totals are not getting any better.    While Suppan had a decent run at the end of last season with the Cardinals, a lot of that was due to a good September.   Hey, if I’m going to fill the Royals rotations based upon good Septembers, then Kyle Davies is my man…oh, wait.

Truthfully, the allure of Jeff Suppan right now is simply that he is NOT Kyle Davies…or Sean O’Sullivan.   Therein lies the real Royals’ rotation issue:  the guy that won the fifth starter job, Vin Mazarro, was so bad in his AAA tuneup that Kansas City is going with the guy Mazarro beat and who was pretty awful last season.    The Royals have two problems in their starting rotation right now (being charitable saying that) and they at least know that Kyle Davies, once in a while gets some guys out.

Now, if O’Sullivan, who is still just twenty-three, comes out of nowhere and starts giving the Royals five solid innings out of the number five spot or Mazarro, who is just twenty-four, rallies in Omaha and forces his way into the majors, then Kansas City will start looking at Kyle Davies.   

As pointed out by commenters and tweeters alike, Kyle Davies has been given more chances by this organization than anyone, I have a hard time believing Dayton Moore is going to stop giving him chances now in favor of an aging Jeff Suppan.   

Face it, the Royals are stuck with Kyle Davies for now.    The options are simply not there.   

Aaron Crow is likely the primary set-up man in the bullpen and excelling in this early phase of the season.  Draft status and what ‘Crow should be’ aside, I like Crow in that role and, quite frankly, without a third pitch HE is going to resemble Kyle Davies more than Zack Greinke if the Royals were to push him into the rotation.

Mike Montgomery and Danny Duffy are probably a couple of months away yet from getting serious consideration for a major league call, not to mention they are both a little shy on innings.   Montgomery threw just 93 regular season innings in 2010, while Duffy threw only 62.     Everett Teaford was blasted bad enough in spring training that I imagine it will take the organization a good half season to have any faith in him and, after all, it is Everett Teaford we are talking about.

I am open to suggestions and, my guess is, Ned Yost and Dayton Moore are at least thinking about options when it comes to Kyle Davies.   As much as Davies may be ‘their guy’, they cannot enjoy watching starts like yesterday very much, either.

For now, I do not see a scenario that does not involve simply gritting our collective teeth and enduring more Kyle Davies’ starts.  He could, as he has in the past, string together three or four decent starts, which would buy the entire organization some time before Kyle’s next string of inevitable implosions.   That is really the best case scenario – coupled, of course, with continued good outings from Jeff Francis and Bruce Chen.

The saving grace of this patched together rotation is that is sits in front of the organziation’s greatest strength:  young starting pitching.   Help is on the way, it is just a little further away than we would like it.   That would not be a big deal if this team had not lept out to a nice 7-4 start.   Since they have, however, we find ourselves agonizing over the not so new ineffectiveness of Kyle Davies and dreading the Saturday start of Sean O’Sullivan. 

Truthfully, that is a good thing.   It will be a much better thing when Mike Montgomery is starting some Saturday in July.