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Royals Progress Report – The Pitchers

And now we move on to the bipolar unit of the Royals where the starters are terrible, but the relievers are fantastic. It’s been a pretty strange season so far, but it’s been odd all season for the pitching to be both a strength and a weakness at times.

Let’s not waste any more time…

Starting Pitchers
Felipe Paulino – A; I’m not sure if Paulino entirely deserves an A or not, but he’s been pretty darn good since the Royals acquired him and put him into the rotation. On a team so desperate for starting pitching, a run of starts like this has been nothing short of fantastic for the team. As a starter, he has 33 strikeouts and just ten walks. My guess is that he hits at least one rough patch between now and the end of the season, but to this point he’s been as good as the Royals have.

Bruce Chen – B; Chen was re-signed for a modest amount in the off-season and has done exactly what he was asked to do. Well, almost exactly. He missed time with an injury, which was not helpful, but he’s been good when he’s been on the mound. Chen is doing it a little bit with smoke and mirrors right now, but it’s better than nothing and it’s among the best the Royals have in the rotation. I wouldn’t count on him maintaining a 3.46 ERA, but he does have decent enough peripherals to maintain something in the 4’s.

Jeff Francis – C-; The Royals starters as a whole don’t strike out enough batters, and Jeff Francis is the poster boy for that. He’s also the poster boy for allowing very few walks. In spite of striking out just four per nine innings, he still has more than twice as many strikeouts as bases on balls. He’s given the Royals some innings and some really nice performances this season. He’s also given the Royals some real stinker performances, but all in all, he’s been decent for the Royals.

Danny Duffy – C-; Duffy gets the same grade as Francis, but I rank him a little lower because he’s just got so much more talent than Francis. I’m not upset at all by the growing pains we’ve seen from Duffy because they are to be expected, and it’s part of why the Royals were so eager to bring people up. Get the growing pains out of the way now so they’ll be ready to be good next year and beyond. Duffy works maddeningly slow at times, but we’ve seen flashes that he’s going to be very good. The next step is turning those flashes into consistent results.

Luke Hochevar – D; This D might be a bit of an emotional reaction to a guy who I thought would break out this year with a much better defense behind him. Early in the season, his high ERA was a bit of bad luck because he wasn’t walking hitters, but that has changed recently and he’s been getting back to his old ways on the mound. Hochevar is one of the most frustrating pitchers I’ve ever watched pitch in my life. He can be perfect – literally perfect – for five innings and then just absolutely implode. He’s providing value in the way of innings this season, which really is worth something. It’s not the number one overall pick, that’s for sure.

Sean O’Sullivan – F; O’Sullivan is a terrible pitcher. He doesn’t strike anybody out, he walks too many and he gives up too many hits. He was providing a little value to the Royals before his arm injury came out and the fact that he’d had it for three or four starts, which is why he’s not dead last among the starters. O’Sullivan is the type of guy bad teams trot out there regularly, which makes total sense considering the Royals are, in fact, a bad team.

Vin Mazzaro – F; Mazzaro as a starter actually hasn’t been that terrible, but his grade has to include the debacle against the Indians. He’s had a 4.50 ERA as a starter, but he’s yet another pitcher who strikes out too few, walks too many and gets hit too hard. I think Mazzaro has the ability to become a good back of the rotation starter, but he’s definitely not there yet.

Kyle Davies – F; I suppose since this is my blog that I could have created a grade lower than an F for Davies, but I decided to spare him a little bit since his peripherals haven’t been nearly as bad as his actual numbers. Still, the fact that the Royals felt the need to actually make room for him is pretty troubling. The funny thing is that the big thing people tout about him is his ability to give you innings, and even taking away his last start where he left after one batter, he’s giving about five innings per start this year. It’s not enough. It makes it worse when in those five innings, he’s giving up ten or 11 base runners. It’s definitely time to end the Kyle Davies experiment.

Aaron Crow – A; What is there to say about Aaron Crow that hasn’t been said? He’s been an absolute revelation out of the bullpen for the Royals this season. I remember when we all found out he was making the team and pretty much everybody was floored. I still think the Royals need to try him in the rotation next year, but I’m becoming more and more convinced that his home is out of the pen. Hopefully he can develop that changeup and become as good a starter as he is a reliever and give the Royals that right handed arm at the top of the rotation that they’ll need during a playoff run.

Greg Holland – A; Holland may actually have been even a little bit better than Crow during his first half, but there just isn’t as much there to judge him on, so I gave Crow the slightly higher grade. Holland has done nothing wrong, though, as he’s striking batters out at a fantastic rate and limiting both walks and hits. A lot of people assume that if the Royals trade Soria that Crow will be the closer, but I’m not convinced that job wouldn’t go to Holland. He’s fun to watch out of the pen.

Louis Coleman – B+; Coleman should have made the team out of spring training. He’s been great since coming to the big league club. My only complaint is that he walks a few too many guys and seems to be pretty susceptible to the home run ball. He’s another one who is fun to watch out of the bullpen as he strikes guys out and limits hits. When a guy has a 2.59 ERA and it’s actually pretty sustainable and he’s still the fourth best guy in the bullpen, you know that the bullpen is a strength of the club.

Blake Wood – B+; I’ve never been a fan of Blake Wood, but he’s been quite good for the Royals since he was called up early in the season. He’s figured out how to limit his walks, which is obviously one of the most important things you can do as a pitcher. I love his ability to get a ground ball when needed. I wish he’d strike out a few more batters, but it’s hard to complain with three strikeouts for every walk.

Everett Teaford – B; I think this grade might be a little too high for Teaford because he didn’t strike many guys out in his innings at the big league level, but he did a pretty good job of limiting base runners. I like his future in the big leagues, but I’d like to see him tried again as a starter. Lefties who can hit the mid-90s are rare commodities.

Nathan Adcock – C; I like what Adcock has brought to the Royals, but I’m just not sure any of it’s sustainable until he starts to get some more strikeouts. Every so often it looks like he’s figured it out and he’ll strike out two guys in an inning, but then he reverts to not missing bats. I think he has a future at the big league level, and I don’t blame the Royals for keeping him on the roster, but he definitely needs some work in the minors.

Joakim Soria – D+; Wow. I never thought I’d give Soria that low of a grade, but he was horrendous at times during the first half of the season. He appears to be putting things back together and his numbers are slowly coming back to respectability, but you can’t discount those blown saves and tough outings. The real Soria appears to have returned, so that’s something that can allow fans to rest easy.

Tim Collins – D; I love Tim Collins. I really do. It’s scary to see him running out of that bullpen, though, because you never know what you’re going to get. I think he’s going to be a huge asset out of the bullpen on the next good Royals team, but he’s the guy I least want on the mound right now with runners on base because he just has so much trouble with his control. I love the strikeouts, but even those have decreased in recent weeks. The league appears to have adjusted to him, so his move is next. The good ones figure it out, and I’m confident that Collins will figure it out.

And a special two grades for the General Manager and Owner:

Dayton Moore – D; While everything at the minor league level went right for Dayton Moore last year, he’s not having that sort of luck this year. When you combine that with a big league club on its way to 90 losses yet again, it’s hard to give DM a good grade for the first half of this season. Some will say that his grade should be incomplete considering he hasn’t had the opportunity to see all his guys make it to the big leagues, but that’s ridiculous. Someone in his position is judged constantly, and does not get a free pass to see what the 18 year old kids he drafted three years ago can do. I remain skeptical that Moore can be the architect of a winning big league team, and this year has not changed that at all. His roster management is shaky at best, and his eye for big league talent has to be in question.

David Glass – C; The fact that the Royals payroll is so low is not the fault of David Glass being cheap, but I have a hard time giving him any higher grade than this due to his lack of presence within the organization. I saw him at Kauffman Stadium during the Cardinals series, but that’s it. Keep in mind that the Cardinals are his boyhood team. I don’t think David Glass is the terrible owner that some do, but I do think that he needs to be more visible than he has been throughout his tenure as owner. The fact that the Royals spend more in the draft than any other team is just one of the reasons we can put his cheapness to bed. Trust me, though. If the Royals are in a pennant race with a $75 million payroll and badly need a starter and one becomes available who will cost the Royals $10 million over the rest of the season and he nixes the deal because of money, I’ll be the loudest person screaming for his head.

So those are your Royals mid-season grades for 2011. The offense has been okay. The starters are terrible. The bullpen is great. Hopefully the next 81 are much better than the first.


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