Post Break Rotation - What Do I Know?
Just a few days after a speculated with certainty that the Royals would start of the post all-star break schedule with Runelyvs Hernandez and then D.J. Carrasco, we learned earlier today that Zack Greinke will get the nod on Thursday, follwed by Carrasco, then Lima and THEN Hernandez. The reasoning is that Runelvys' 109 innings so far may be putting him on a pace for a larger workload than the Royals think is wise having just come off arm surgery.
I am not sure, I buy that logic - particularly given that Runelvys' 1,752 pitches thrown so far this year is already three hundred more than he has ever thrown in a season. One could reason that if Hernandez was going to have arm trouble crop up again, it would have already happened. You could also, however, reason that somewhere on the road to 200 innings and 3300 pitches the Royals would be pushing their luck. I have no reason to doubt Kansas City's intentions - after all Runelvys has been their only season long consistent starter - but one might wonder why the organization did not start worry about that sometime earlier instead of routinely letting Hernandez top 100 pitches in his starts for three plus months.
Anyway, how about that post break rotation? Let's look at what opposing batters do against our five starters as they stand now, using my favorit string of 4 batting stats (BA,OBP,SLG,OPS):
Hernandez - 266/347/409/756
Carrasco - 270/344/365/706
Greinke - 309/364/476/834
Lima - 311/371/545/913
Howell - 330/444/534/974
D.J. & Runelvys numbers are fine...for your number 3 and 4 starters - the problem is that our perceived number one guy (Greinke) is pretty much turning opposing lineups into Mike Sweeney and our number two guy (Bautista) is hurt, young and enigmatic. That said, I am puzzled that we are sending Greinke out to start on Thursday - as if all he needs is a boost of confidence and off he goes. That could not be farther from the truth.
Zack, for all his talent, spent the early season getting guys out be being cute - exactly how many slow curves can you throw major league hitters? Apparently about two months worth. In relying more and more on his breaking, dare we say trick, pitches, Greinke managed to so screw up his mechanics that sitting at home watching on TV, this blogger (and his career .200 high school batting average) could call fastball or offspeed before the ball left Zack's hands. He has since gone more and more with the harder fastballs (a good thing), but Greinke's control in and out of the zone has paid the price. Would there really be any harm in sending him to Omaha for two weeks? Essentially missing one start for the big club and getting two in AAA to get 'right' again? Look, it was not just that horrible night in Arizona: for June, Greinke had an ERA of 10.08 in five starts, with opponets hitting .383 against him. July, so far, has been little better: 8.44 ERA and .400 opponet average in two starts. Maybe a few days off and a quasi-installation as staff ace really is all it will take, I hope so, but I am skeptical as to what we will see on Thursday.
A few other disturbing mini-trends to digest over the break. After a June in which Hernandez allowed opponets to hit just .185 in five starts (2.37 ERA), opponets have jumped him for a .347 average in his two July starts. You have to give Runelvys credit, though, despite that high average his ERA for those two starts is still just 3.65. You wonder if that is just a blip or a trend.
D.J. Carrasco has fared similarly in July, allowing 20 hits in 12 innings of work. Like Hernandez, D.J. too manages to allow far less runs than his periphals would indicate. Those two July starts came after a June in which his ERA was 2.84 and opponets hit only .245 against him. Again, both Hernandez and Carrasco fight you tooth and nail and they may just be guys who are better than their numbers would indicate, it is important that they continue to perform in the second half.
As for Lima (who instead of making all opposing batters Sweeney, instead makes them Vlad Guererro), the reasoning behind his start is simple. One, he has a 4.26 ERA over his last two starts and probably is two more average starts from at least becoming somewhat marketable. Second, J.P. Howell, he of 25 runs allowed in 26 innings, has pretty much done everything but drive himself to Omaha. I have no doubt that J.P. will someday be a valuable member of the KC rotation - maybe even as early as September 1 - but right now he needs to go somewhere and get his stuff under control. No one, especially lefties throwing less than 90 mph, survive walking more runners than they strike out.
The worst kept secret in KC is that Kyle Snyder will join the rotation after the break. No doubt in Howell's spot, although I would not be suprised is Snyder starts the Saturday or Sunday game in Detroit - bumping Hernandez and/or Lima back a day. I am excited about having Kyle back in the rotation, but we also need to temper our enthusiasm (we did not just call up Randy Johnson) and know that Snyder will be giving us 5 maybe 6 innings at best for most of the season as I am sure he will operate under a very tight pitch count.
Here's hoping this somewhat grim post on the starters spurs a string of good starts after the break. Hey, it has happened before.