Simply put, the starting rotation of the Kansas City Royals is dreadful. After 55 games, their ERA sits at a robust 5.06 while only averaging 5.04 innings per start.
When the ERA of the pitchers in games started is higher than the average number of innings that particular pitcher is on the bump, something is fundamentally wrong—all the while sparing you of the methods that these results are gathered by the opposition.
Why is it that a team that has spent a myriad of premium draft picks on pitchers in the past and has had names like Zack Greinke, Luke Hochevar, Danny Duffy, Mike Montgomery and John Lamb (all considered top prospects at one point) in its system, can’t start to yield better results at the front end of ballgames?
Greinke aside, the Royals haven’t been able to turn such talent and promise into even a serviceable starting pitcher due to either injury or a severe lack of development at the higher levels.
Even when that talent does finally start to come together—in Greinke’s case—the expected results hastily catch up with the Royals, and in turn they aren’t able to retain the players due to lack of team success, or the fact that there is zero willingness to open the checkbook to keep budding stars in Kansas City.
The Royals have a solid corps of talented youth to build the team around. However, all of them are either position players or relief pitchers. The missing piece is, and always has been, starting pitching for the organization.
For the three facets to come together—resulting in contending for AL Central titles and ultimately a World Series—the only solution is to spend money on proven free-agent starting pitchers that other teams have developed.
Whether it is just bad luck in missing on a higher-than-usual number of prospects or with health issues, the Royals organization simply lacks the competence to develop starting pitchers.
Have the Royals had a number of solid contributors? Sure, but most of the home-grown arms have stalled in their progression or are on the mend. They also rely too heavily on others to be able to flip the switch someday and become what the peripherals say they should be.
Luke Hochevar has never shown, over a long stretch, that he can be what Dayton Moore and Ned Yost think he can be. The bright spots in the rotation over the last couple of years have been guys brought in from other organizations.
Bruce Chen and Felipe Paulino have been two of the steadier arms for the Royals the last few seasons. But Chen can’t be relied on to shoulder the load of a No. 1 starter and Paulino, who has electric stuff, can’t seem to stay healthy. However, they have yielded better results than any other starting pitcher with any experience at the big league level.
Short of blowing the entire process up and starting over from the top down—including selling the team to an owner that actually cares about baseball—if Moore does indeed feel that the offense and bullpen are where they need to be to contend, he should demand the resources to spend on frontline starting pitching in free agency.
Doing so will express a dedication to winning to the current players and the fans. It will give those expected to be in the rotation (Duffy and Lamb) more time to heal and alleviate the pressure to come back so quickly. And the new faces will be able to mentor and help develop the younger pitchers (such as Montgomery and Jake Odorizzi), something that the Royals have lacked over the years.
Asking Moore, Yost and owner David Glass to set aside their egos is a mammoth task. But if they have any interest in winning in Kansas City, it is time for them to change course on how they view spending money and let other organizations do the dirty work for them.