With the new year upon us, there is a lot to look forward to in 2012. Of course in the sports world, a new year means a soon to come National Championship college Football game, the NFL playoffs, and countless NBA games. But one thing we are excited for this year is the Royals. Although finishing the season 71-91, this year the young Royals look like they might just be able to compete… For once. We’ll give you the breakdown of why. Today we’re going to look at the Starting Rotation, one of the major weaknesses of last year’s team.
When we take a look back at the Royals 2011 season, the major struggle was with the starting rotation. Numerous analysts called the rotation the worst in baseball. The Royals managed to have a terrible ERA with a 4.44 which slotted at the 27th worst in the league. They are also ranked 27th in quality starts with only 75 (A quality start is at least 6 innings pitched and under a 3.0 ERA). The all important WHIP stat is not much better. They come in at 26th with a 1.41. The rotation looked like this, Luke Hochevar as the ace followed by Jeff Francis then Bruce Chen. The back end of the rotation consisted of Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy. As the ace, Hochevar had a horrendous 4.68 ERA. While Duffy showed bright signs, most of his season consisted of rookie troubles.
Although the future may look bright, I still feel the Royals do not have a strong enough starting five. After losing Francis, Dayton Moore decided to trade Melky Cabrera for Jonathan Sanchez who adds a new dimension to the rotation. The thing Sanchez does best is striking out hitters.
I plan on seeing a great deal of improvement from Danny Duffy in his second year. Last years experience will pay huge dividends when Duffy is pitching against the same players he saw last year. On paper the starting five still may seem under par but in my opinion, they may just be good enough. Luke Hochevar, Bruce Chen, and Jonathan Sanchez currently look like the only locks. Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino would serve as the early front runners, and in this hypothetically, Aaron Crow and Mike Montgomery would be auditioning right along with them. The great thing about having so many young options is competition. These young guys will all be battling for most likely one spot.
I expect the spring training to have a huge effect on how the rotation shakes up. Last year Mike Montgomery almost pushed himself into the number five position, but he went down to AAA and struggled a great deal. I personally hope Danny Duffy or Mike Montgomery get the notch for the starting rotation mainly to keep Aaron Crow in the bullpen. In the minor leagues Crow struggled as a starter. Crow utilized his role in the rotation so well he was named an All Star. The look of the starting rotation will have a huge effect on who battles for a seat in the bullpen.
I would like Dayton Moore to sign either Edwin Jackson or Brandon Webb. By signing either player the Royals will get experience and quality pitching. Because Brandon Webb has had a history of being injured, he should go for cheap. I see this as a perfect chance Dayton Moore can take. By signing another pitcher, it creates more competition and if one of the young prospects are not ready they can mature in the minors. I expect the Royals to compete for some part of the year because of the weak division but not because of the starting rotation.