It's been no secret that for the last couple of seasons, the consistently best pitcher on the Kansas City Royals' staff has been Bruce Chen. When the other pitchers were inconsistent (Luke Hochevar), inexperienced (Danny Duffy) or just downright awful (Kyle Davies), Chen has been the steady rock that has given the pitching staff some respectability.
That's exactly why he is crucial to the 2012 campaign.
There are a lot of unknowns coming into the 2012 season for the Royals, the most belonging to the pitching staff. Will Luke Hochevar continue his momentum he gained in the second half of 2011, or will he regress back to his marginal play? Will Jonathan Sanchez return to his brilliant 2010 form, or flounder in his 2011 style of play? Will Danny Duffy become the pitcher he has the potential to be, or will he level out?
With so many questions about the pitchers coming into 2012, it's apparent as to why Bruce Chen cannot be a question.
Say that Hochevar, Paulino, Sanchez and Duffy all excel. That's a tall order to ask for, though not impossible. The key component to having a playoff-caliber staff will be the rock that the Royals built their staff on. Chen has been the most consistent pitcher the past couple of seasons, and for him to struggle now—when the Royals are on the cusp of greatness—would be extremely detrimental to the team.
Especially if the pitchers do not excel, Chen needs to continue what he is doing, and that is being consistent. As stated many, many times, consistency is the key to the Royals making a run at the playoffs this year, and, while important for him, Chen is not the only player who needs to be consistent.
It seems like an obvious point to make, that consistency is the key. In this case, that's all that needs to happen. It is my belief that the Royals right now have all the pieces to make the playoffs. They have a fantastic young infield, a great outfield and a decent pitching staff. The hitting is mixed with both power and contact hitters, with speed demons and home run crushers. The key, really, is consistency.
We've all seen how the Royals players are at their best. When people are on, they're on. If, this year, we can see Butler hit doubles consistently, Soria coming in and getting the save consistently, Gordon "dominating" consistently and the entire Royals team being consistent then we will see a playoff appearance, it's as simple as that.
It's been a long time since the Royals really haven't needed a player to be good, as much as the team. This team right now is good, there's no denying that. It's easier said than done to say that a bunch of mid-to-late 20-year-old guys need to be consistent, but that's all they need, in my opinion.
Every player will hit slumps, it's a fact of baseball. The key is not have everyone hit the slump at the same time. I've been consistent with my insistence that consistency is the key, the Royals need to play good baseball consistently.
The question is: "Can they?"
Oh April, where are you?