You read that headline right. Although to be fair, it should continue to include ‘and his Tommy John surgery’.
Despite some rumblings to the contrary in the early stages of spring training, the Royals had pretty firmly decided to make Luke Hochevar their eighth inning guy. While using a former number one overall pick as a set-up reliever is not the ideal end result, many/most of us were expecting good things from Luke in his new role.
I strongly doubt, however, that anyone would have willing to predict that Hochevar would strike out over 13 batters per nine innings or only allow a hit every other inning or allow ONE extra base hit (only a double at that) in his first 51 innings of work. That would have been crazy talk. No one does that.
No one except Wade Davis.
Within a day of the Royals discovering that Hochevar was lost for the season, they abandoned all thought of Wade Davis as a starter. What happened and is happening since that point in time has been a spectacular success. You can apply and debate the value of a pitcher who only pitches the eighth inning when his team has a lead, but I do not know that you can debate that Wade Davis is better in that role than anyone else in baseball this year.
Now, I’ve been jaded by years of organizational stubbornness when it comes to ‘their’ players. It took the Royals five years to allow themselves to use Hochevar out of the pen. It took them just this side of forever to give up on Kyle Davies. You do the math: if Luke Hochevar is healthy in 2014, does Wade Davis take up space in the starting rotation?
In 2013, the Royals were 10-13 in games started by Davis. In 2014, Kansas City is 12-10 in games started by Yordano Ventura and 9-9 in those started by Danny Duffy. We don’t know and they don’t know, either, what the Royals would have done with regard to Davis with a healthy Hochevar in the picture, but I have a sense that he’s in the rotation to at least start the year.
Assuming Davis was, he might well have taken Bruce Chen’s spot and quite possibly have been roughly equal in effectiveness. Does that really sound like something Dayton Moore and Ned Yost would have done in April? After their team has surged back into first place, maybe we should give them the benefit of the doubt, but you almost have to believe that there was a better than even shot that Chen would stick in the rotation with Davis taking the spot of Yordano Ventura.
Anybody want to trade Ventura’s five April starts (the Royals went 3-2 in those) for five Wade Davis starts? Anyone? Bueller?
Carry it a bit further. When Bruce Chen went on the disabled list in late April, that might well have triggered a Ventura promotion, but then when would Danny Duffy have been granted his first start? Instead of May 3rd, where would Kansas City be if Duffy did not get the nod until mid-June?
Complete and total speculation on my part with regard to 97.3% of everything above. It is quite possible that the Royals would have broken camp with the exact rotation they did, called up Duffy exactly when they did, and done so even with Hochevar AND Davis in the pen. It might have happened that way.
I wish no ill will on Luke Hochevar. I was looking forward to him being an effective, if overpriced, weapon out of the bullpen this season. However, I am not sure a healthy Hochevar would have equaled a better team record for the reasons listed above.
It is August 12th and the Kansas City Royals are in first place. Tough break, Luke, but I’m digging this reality.