There's Something About The Pitching
A couple of weeks ago, WTP provided a breakdown in the improvement of the offense since Tony Pena quit the team. Numbers were up almost across the board. That got me wondering, what about the pitching, particularly the starters?
Overall, the starters aren’t any better today than they were at the beginning of the season. Here are the numbers from the first six weeks:
We remember this because we lived through it. Lima got rocked opening day and continued to be brutal. Greinke was 0-4 at this point, but could have easily been 4-0. Hernandez, coming off of Tommy John surgery, was inconsistent. The starters were keeping the team in games, but the losses were piling up due to the lack of hitting and a bullpen that at times couldn’t get an out.
The Royals lost Bautista and Anderson about the time Pena left. So, plugging in Carrasco and Howell into their spots, here’s a look at the rotation since May 11th:
The first thing that jumps out is there hasn’t been really any improvement from the starters. Lima and Greinke have regressed, and Lima’s stats include his stellar performance against the Dodgers. Otherwise his numbers would be off the charts. The only area of improvement comes from the number four spot in the rotation where Carrasco has taken over for the injured Bautista.
If you want to be freaked out, look at Greinke’s numbers side-by-side:
|4/4 – 5/10||40||36||15||8||21||3.38||1.80||4.72|
|5/11 – 6/22||40.2||66||40||13||33||8.85||2.88||7.30|
That, my friends, is a train wreck. He’s pitched roughly the same number of innings, but he’s given up 30 more hits?!? 25 more runs?!? I knew he had struggled over the last month and a half, but was shocked as to actually how bad he really has been. The organization has to be worried. If they’re not, we’re in some serious trouble.
What do these splits tell us?
First of all, the good times aren’t going to last. Without any kind of tangible improvement from their starters, the Royals hot streak to begin the month of June is just that, a streak. When the bats begin to cool off like they are doing right now and the pitching maintains the status quo, the losses will once again begin to pile up. Hopefully they will be able to delay things this weekend in Colorado, but I’m thinking that by the end of June, the Royals will be sub .500 for the month.
Secondly, these stats kind of make you wonder about Guy Hansen, doesn’t it? Guy was brought in for his second stint with the Royals as some sort of genius pitching coach who was finding flaws in deliveries, new arm slots, and a injecting a positive outlook on his staff.
"I thought three years ago in Atlanta was the best group of arms I'd ever seen, but this is the best group I've personally ever witnessed.”
-Guy Hansen 2/27/05
So what has Guy done with all of this talent?
Judging from the chart above, it sure doesn’t look like much.
Now to be fair, despite his spring training proclamations, Guy hasn’t had a ton of talent to work with. His staff is stocked with pitchers who should be in AA and AAA, not the big leagues. The bullpen has been some sort of revolving door nightmare with injuries, demotions and undetermined roles. There’s going to be some growing pains, so it’s probably too early to ask for across the board improvement.
But there already is some improvement, relative to the league. In 2004, the Royals finished dead last in each of the categories listed above except for BB/9 (they were fifth.) This year, mainly thanks to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Royals aren’t in the basement in any of the above categories.
So how long does Guy Hansen get? At least the rest of the year, for sure. Here are some things to look for as the Royals prepare for the second half of the season:
• Dump Lima. The numbers don’t lie, he doesn’t have it anymore. I don’t care where you put him, just get him out of the rotation.
• A rebound from Greinke. This is Guy’s biggest challenge to date. He has to figure out how to reach Greinke and connect with him on some level to get him back on track. The excuse that he marches to a different drummer doesn’t cut it anymore. We are in crisis mode. Zack must regain the form he showed in the first month of the season. Like Allard Baird says, at this level it’s all about the adjustments.
• Continue to get solid performances from Hernandez/Carrasco/Bautista. These guys all have talent and ability to be solid number three starters in the league. They’ve all made some progress of some sort this season. These guys can’t pull a Zack Greinke and have a bad month, they must continue to move forward. Consistency is what we will be looking for from these guys.
Here’s a rotation WTP would like to see over the final half of the season:
Send Howell back to AAA where he can continue to refine his craft. There’s no doubt he can be a good pitcher, but I fear he’s come too far, too fast.
The second half of the season will be a great opportunity to evaluate where the Royals are regarding the progress of their rotation under the guidance of Guy Hansen. The key to all of this will be the young prodigy, Zack Greinke. Can the Royals get him back to where he needs to be? If they can, there is some reason to be optimistic about the future of the Royals rotation.