Eight different pitchers have started a game for the Kansas City Royals thus far in 2012. That’s eight different starters in just 37 games…..in a schedule that has included five off-days (that includes rainouts). Along the way, the Royals have employed thirteen different relievers: fourteen if you want to include Mitch Maier.
While those numbers are really quite shocking given we are not quite a quarter of the way through the season, they are not unexpected to most Royals’ fans. Going in, we knew the starting pitching was problematical and the bullpen would be relied upon heavily. We also knew that there was considerable bullpen depth, even after Joakim Soria went down and Blake Wood and Greg Holland.
Of the many criticisms that can be leveled at Ned Yost and Dayton Moore, one has to compliment them on the ability to manage the merry-go-round between Kansas City and Omaha. They have maneuvered the roster admirably. We may have laughed at the idea of two, sometimes three, long men in the pen, but damn if they weren’t needed…often less than 24 hours after being called up.
The problem, and Ned Yost has already said as much, is that the bullpen simply cannot keep up this pace. Even as the Royals, with the recall of Everett Teaford and Louis Coleman, cycle through the second time around the bullpen ride they still have Tim Collins, Aaron Crow, Kelvin Herrera and Jose Mijares all on a pace to pitch almost 80 innings. The return of a hopefully healthy and effective Greg Holland will ease that burden some, but it is still going to be a grind for the relief corp.
The problem, obviously, is the rotation. The Royals can pretty much count on Bruce Chen to get them innings (that’s right, I believe in Chen) and it looks highly likely that Felipe Paulino is going to be a guy that gets the Royals six innings, maybe into the seventh, on a regular basis. After that…
Well, are you going to buy back in on Luke Hochevar after one excellent start and one good start? I’m not. I’m done, remember? Hochevar’s problem, as we are all keenly aware, is that when he is bad, he is a bullpen destructor. You get a start, and believe me there’s one coming, where Luke gets blown up in the third inning, followed by a short start by Luis Mendoza or Jonathan Sanchez (when he comes back..and he will, like it or not) and the bullpen merry-go-round has to shift gears into a higher range.
What’s the solution? Well, better planning by Dayton Moore leading up to this point is a warranted criticism. Still, two years ago you just know the organization was certain that the group of Mike Montgomery, Danny Duffy, John Lamb, Aaron Crow and even Chris Dwyer would have produced at least two quality big league starters for the 2012 rotation. Well, now Duffy and Lamb have both had or about to have Tommy John surgery. The club has turned Aaron Crow into a reliever: a very good reliever, but a reliever nonetheless and Mike Montgomery has spent his AAA career struggling.
Out of that entire group, the guy who might well emerge as a solution to one spot is Jake Odorizzi, who was not even in the organization back then. In Odorizzi, Royals’ fans have to hope that this, finally, at long last is a rookie pitcher who is going to come up and be very good right away. It happens sometimes…to other organizations, but maybe the Royals are due for some good luck.
I have pondered what the Royals should do in the short-term. They are not playing particulary well, especially at home, but yet they are not buried in the standings and not resigned to going 70-92. This team is not a contender in the truest definition of the word, but they are good enough to not be blown up.
The rotation was not good before the season started and now it is a mess. Quick, can you even name the rotation right now? Can you tell me what it will be past Sunday afternoon?
So, what do the Royals do right now?
That may well make you right some bad things to me in response. Go ahead, you might be right, but doing nothing is my response.
First off, are you really willing to trade Wil Myers or Mike Moustakas or, quite frankly, one of those two and a couple of other guys not named Clint Robinson or Johnny Giavotella (or Irving Falu) to get a starting pitcher that another team is willing to part with?
Secondly, while the merry-go-round is starting to spin pretty fast, the bullpen actually can survive at this pace for at least another month. Maybe with a little luck and a hot streak by Teaford or Mendoza or Adcock or Mazzaro (okay, I threw that last one in for comedy relief), the pen might make it intact and effective to the All-Star Break.
By then, you hope Salvador Perez is back (sounds doable according the latest), Eric Hosmer is hitting, Lorenzo Cain is back (my sanity craves a centerfielder who can, you know, field the position), Eric Hosmer is hitting, Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar continue to perform as they have, Eric Hosmer is hitting and, oh yeah, Eric Hosmer is hitting.
One good way to milk an extra inning out of a borderline starter is to score six runs instead of four. The above will certainly, hopefully, go a long ways towards accomplishing that.
In the interim, you can hope that either Odorizzi or Montgomery begins to blow AAA hitters away with consistency. Heck, you want to dream, go ahead and hope BOTH of them do. The baseball world does not have to be all sunshine and roses for the Royals to have a dramatically better roster by mid-July than they do right now. It will not be a roster that will truly contend, but it should be better.
Doing nothing, other than spinning the roulette wheel of relievers every other day, is the kind of thing that rankles the fans of a 15-22 team. I get that and, listen, I am right there with all of you on the frustration train, but I do not see the ‘big move’ to be made right now. Roy Oswalt is not coming to Kansas City and may not be a big help even if he did. The Phillies are not trading Cole Hamels (not right now anyway) and the Royals sure as heck don’t need to trade for Josh Beckett and his contract.
Doing nothing sucks for a fanbase that has sniffed contention once since the 1994 strike. Doing nothing for the next six weeks or so, is exactly what the Royals should do.