Royals making suspect choices in rotation

March, 31, 2009
Bradford Doolittle isn't real thrilled with how the back end of the Royals' rotation is shaping up:

    This morning, the Royals optioned starter Luke Hochevar to Class AAA Omaha, which reduces the battle for the final two spots in KC's rotation to three: Sidney Ponson, Horacio Ramirez and Brian Bannister. File this in the category of posts that I hope turn out to be 180 degrees wrong, but the recent developments regarding Dayton Moore/Trey Hillman's selection of pitchers have me really concerned. As a jumping off point, let's start with a chart.

    WORST PITCHERS 2006-08
    1. Mark Redman (73)
    2. Jeff Weaver (74)
    3. Casey Fossum (74)
    4. Kip Wells (75)
    5. Kyle Davies (75)
    6. Jae Weong Seo (75)
    7. Jason Hammel (76)
    8. Adam Eaton (77)
    9. Horacio Ramirez (77)
    10. Sidney Ponson (77)

    The numbers in parenthesis are ERA+, the stat from, that compares a pitcher's ERA to the league average and adjusts for the player's home ballpark. So Mark Redman's ERA for the last three years was only 73% as good as the league average. I sorted all players that have thrown at least 200 innings over the last three seasons.

    It's pretty startling that the Royals could potentially open the season with three of the 10-worst pitchers in recent baseball history. Davies, I understand. He's got a lot of ability, he's young and he's shown enough signs that he's turned a corner that you have to give him a shot. I've no qualms with that one, even though the track record is a red flag.

    You can't say the same for Ramirez and Ponson. Neither is particularly young. Neither can strike out a batter to save their lives. Neither has shown any sign of being capable of a mid-career surge. Once again, the Royals have ignored a definitive set of objective data staring them right in the proverbial face. Ramirez and Ponson aren't pitchers capable of holding down rotation spots on a contending team. Every start given this pair is a wasted opportunity.

    Bannister deserves a shot at rebounding from a season which wasn't nearly as bad as commonly perceived. And Hochevar … he's ready. The difference between he and either Ramirez or Ponson is at least a run, probably more, in each and every start. I just don't get it.

    Contention is within the realm of [possibility] for the Royals this season, but that is as much due to the weakness of the division as it is the strength of the ballclub. KC can't afford to make faulty personnel decisions and keeping Ramirez and Ponson on the big-league staff is about as faulty as it gets.

I'm not going to argue with Doolittle. Not really. Except to suggest that the picture would be little different if Bannister and Hochevar got spots instead of Ramirez and Ponson.

Hochevar's career ERA+ is 83 (in 142 innings, and he wasn't so hot in the minors, either).

Bannister's career ERA+ is 93 (in 386 innings), but it was 77 in 2008 and we know how lucky he was in 2007.

Yeah. If it were up to me, Ramirez wouldn't ever pitch before the fifth inning and Ponson wouldn't ever pitch at all. But either way, the Royals have two No. 1 starters and five No. 5 starters. And for all the talk about the Royals being this year's Rays (or something close), I can't figure how you win 85 games with three No. 5 starters in your rotation.



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