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Bruce Chen, 12 wins

Show of hands, who expected Bruce Chen to lead the team in wins? Yes, Mrs. Chen, I counted you already. Ok…now who expected Bruce Chen to have the same ERA as Zack Greinke? Mrs. Chen, you don’t want to raise your hand for this one? Ok, well that settles it.

I’m not sure what to make of Bruce Chen’s season. I liked it. I’d like it more if he was the #4 starter instead of the #2. Now that he’s made his last start of the year, we need to look at a couple factors. One is that he is now a free agent. A lefty with 12 wins, a 4.17 ERA and a strikeout rate over 6 is a pretty precious commodity. Let’s assume for the purposes of this exercise that Bruce Chen resigns with the Royals after he determines that they were the one team who gave him a chance.

The big question following the free agent question being answered is whether or not this performance is sustainable. A great way to determine the future for a pitcher is to look at a few different numbers. ERA isn’t one of them. The ones I like to look at can all be found on Baseball Reference. I look at K/9, BB/9 and in turn K/BB, H/9 and HR/9. Then, once I’ve seated myself in my mom’s basement with a bowl of mac and cheese, I go to work and begin to look at how they compare with his career numbers.

Statistic 2010 Career
K/9             6.2         7.0
BB/9          3.8         3.5
K/BB         1.65       1.97
H/9            9.2         9.1
HR/9         1.2         1.6

So we’ve now learned a few things here. One, I don’t know how to make a chart on WordPress. Before we go on, I feel it’s my duty to inform you that…I’ll wait until you get over that I said duty…there’s way more that goes into predicting future performance. So let’s break it down now.

The K/9 is a decent amount lower than his career, but over his last few seasons he’s been roughly in the mid six range, so we’ll say that’s a wash and can be counted on for next year. The BB/9 is a little higher than his career ratio, but within a standard deviation away, so that can probably be expected to be anywhere between 3.2 and 3.8 next season. Hits and K/BB are pretty similar to the career numbers, but the outlier is the HR/9 which is 25% better than his career averages.

This was quick and dirty, but I’d say Bruce Chen can be counted on to pitch some innings next year until the kids are ready and will put up an ERA of around 4.75. He’ll be below league average, but definitely worth having around for his bullpen work as well as his ability to spot start once he’s lost his job to one or more of the uber prospects.

Regardless of what the future brings, Bruce Chen’s season was one of the few bright spots in watching the Royals in 2010.

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