There has been a ton of discussion about the offense at this point in the season. With the team jettisoning dead weight like Rick Ankiel, Scotty Pods and Jose Guillen, this club has experienced a pretty thorough lineup makeover.
But what about the rotation?
I ask because on Tuesday in Anaheim, Bryan Bullington went six innings in his first major league start since 2008 and pitched well. His final line:
6 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO
He threw 91 pitches and finished with a Game Score of 53. Solid, if unspectacular. In other words, just what the Royals needed from Brian Bannister’s spot in the rotation.
Bullington pitched well as a starter for Omaha this season. Appearing in 20 games (15 starts) he posted a 2.82 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP – strong numbers for your PCL fantasy team. In 105 innings, he had a 4.06 FIP and whiffed 6.2 batters per nine innings. He gets a ground ball 49% of all balls put in play and was probably a little lucky as his BABIP in Omaha was a tidy .268. However, he walked just 2.4 batters per nine.
Command has always been Bullington’s strong point. He’s never had a walk rate higher than 3.0 BB/9 in the minors. The issue with him has always been his hittability. Bullington works around the plate so much, his mistakes are over the heart of the plate. However, because he’s a ground ball pitcher, he doesn’t give up an extreme number of home runs, rather his mistakes seem to be big innings where opposing hitters string together a series of singles and doubles.
Bullington turns 30 at the end of the season. I don’t think I’m understating it when I say he’s no longer a prospect. However, with the maturity he’s gained and with the proper coaching (to continue to make the right adjustments) there’s no reason to think (hope?) he can’t be a contributor to the back of the rotation.
The same could be said for Philip Humber, who came on in relief of Bullington and threw two scoreless innings on Tuesday.
While Humber has never possessed Bullington’s command, he flashed excellent control in Omaha this year, walking just 20 batters in 118 innings. That works out to a 1.5 BB/9. Nice. The other numbers weren’t so great, though. His strikeouts are down, from 7.8 K/9 in 25 Triple-A starts in 2007 to 6.1 K/9 in 20 starts this year. He’s also prone to the home run, allowing 17 this year. Over the last four years (all time spent in Triple-A, mostly as a starter) he’s coughing up a 1.3 HR/9. That’s a bit much.
This year for Omaha, Humber posted a 4.47 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. He had a .302 BABIP, so it would seem his numbers haven’t been touched by luck – either good or bad – and that’s reflected in his 4.62 FIP.
So while the Royals lineup has been overhauled, I advocate slotting these two in the rotation for a couple of turns. Let’s kick the tires, so to speak.
Bannister has moved to the bullpen, ostensibly to work on his mechanics. Or maybe he’s just working on not sucking. That would be nice. Whatever he’s doing, it’s time he stays out there.
Because Bannister has pretty much been an outright disaster this season. Next year, he will be eligible for his third year of arbitration and will land a contract in the neighborhood of $2.5 million. That’s not a horrible amount to pay – if you’re paying that to a serviceable fifth starter. Bannister seems to be more in the mold of a sixth or seventh starter. (No, I don’t know what that means. Except that he’s really not good enough to be in the rotation.)
Davies needs to take a trip to the pen as well. Whatever it is he thinks he’s doing, it’s not working. Not working at all. His control is just miserable. Then, when he falls behind hitters he just grooves one because he doesn’t want to give up another walk.
He has made 76 starts for the Royals covering parts of the last four seasons. It’s not working. It’s not going to work. He’s going to make around $2 million next year, while giving you nothing. Seriously, Dayton… Time to punt.
A rotation of Greinke, Chen, O’Sullivan, Bullington and Humber? Sure, that puts a knot in my stomach, but why not? It makes as much sense as hitting Kendall second or playing Bloomquist in right.
I know Bullington and Humber really don’t have a future for the Royals. Still, why sit through another Davies five walk epic or another Bannister night start where he coughs up six runs? We’ve seen Davies and Bannister and we know what they can’t do. There is really no reason to start them over the last month and a half of the season and there’s no reason to offer them a contract this winter. Put the new guys in and see how they fare. See if they can give us a fifth starter at a quarter of the cost for the 2011 season. We’re really talking placeholders here. Guys who can slot into the rotation until the young arms in Double-A and Single-A are ready. Isn’t that what Bannister and Davies are?
The revolving door needs to keep revolving.