Tuesday, April 28, 2009

GMDM...it's time

OK, so all you guys have heard me do lately is gripe and moan that Luke Hochevar needs to be called up from Triple-A Omaha. I'm sure you're probably tired of hearing me speak on the subject, but I can't help myself. He is off to a scorching start for the O'Royals, and the big league club is missing out.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the Royals are one transaction away from having the best rotation in baseball. They may not have all the "names" that teams like the Yankees and Red Sox have, but they are quickly going to become household names if they continue to tear through lineups at this pace.

I never thought I'd hear myself say it this soon, but Dayton Moore has put this team on a fast track to a championship. They can easily win the division this year if the starting rotation can stay intact. Yes, I say that despite the fact that the offense hasn't been particularly stunning thus far. Add a couple more bats* next season and this team could contend for a crown.

*Jose Guillen stepped up with two monster homers last night - his first two of the season - and history has shown that when he gets on a tear the rest of the lineup follows. It was no surprise they won 7-1. Miguel Olivo homered as well. Maybe nights like that can jump-start the offense.

Hochevar tossed six innings, struck out seven, allowed four hits and walked two as Omaha drilled Oklahoma City 8-1 yesterday. He improved his record to 4-0 with a 1.44 ERA in 25 innings on the hill. Clearly, he's figured something out working with Bob McClure this offseason, and appears to have worked out the kinks in his delivery.

We all know he has outstanding ability on the hill. We have already witnessed flashes of dominance from the kid in the big leagues. There were times he would stifle hitters, then get his brains bashed in the next inning. That's what many young pitchers do. Greinke did it his first three years in the bigs. Hochevar figured some things out during his time in the big leagues last year, and he was very good this spring. He seems to have proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he is ready for the call.

Scouts project Hoch to be a darn good No. 2 or 3 starter in the bigs. This year he won't have the pressure of living up to those expectations because of the outstanding performances of the top three in the rotation (Meche, Greinke and Davies). That is fantastic for Luke. Two years ago he would have been expected to be one of the top three. Kyle Davies has taken that pressure off of him. This is the perfect situation for his growth in the big leagues.

Another factor is the emergence of Brian Bannister. Since being recalled from Omaha he has turned in two solid performances. He is showing signs of returning to his 2007 form, when he nearly won AL Rookie of the Year. Banny knows he won't always get away with allowing one run when he walks six batters like he did in his last start, but when your pitch to your spots and miss bats (to the tune of allowing one hit through six innings) you are going to have success.

Also, Sidney Ponson has been a serviceable guy thus far in the rotation. I understand he probably hasn't done anything to rile Royals fans yet - he's turned in two "quality" starts so far - which is a pleasant surprise for the club. But realistic baseball people know what Ponson is. He's been mediocre throughout his career, and that's exactly what his stats have shown thus far.

To be fair, Ponson hasn't received much run support at all in his starts, and he should have a couple more wins already. Regardless, his ERA is over 5.00 and is going to hover in that range all year. A lot of teams would be happy with that. Any other year and the Royals would have been ecstatic if their No. 1 guy could give them that, but not in 2009. These Royals pitchers are a new breed.

Look, I am not naive enough to think that Hochevar will post a sub-2.00 ERA in the big leagues. But you would be naive to think that he wouldn't be an upgrade over Ponson. Ponson could move to the pen and give this team a shot in the arm, in that respect. As far as I'm concerned Banny could move to the 'pen. That might be the better move. It would limit his exposure every fifth day, and keep Ponson in the rotation at No. 5. That would also work. Anything to keep Horacio Ramirez in the 'pen would be great.

But to leave Hochevar in the minors when he's pitching this good is a waste. If they wanted to let him dominate and boost his confidence, fine. It's been accomplished. I'll admit it has been a luxury for the big league rotation to be solid, because has kept the organization from rushing Hochevar. They don't REALLY need him right now, but any team would be foolish not to find a way to fit a guy like him in somewhere.

So, GMDM ... it's time. He's ready. Reward the kid. Let's get to the playoffs.


Nick said...

I say leave Luke in Omaha until the first week in May and retain control of him for an extra year. I know DM has said that the Royals don't operate that way, but that's BS and DM knows it. Leaving Luke in AAA for another week or so only costs us him missing a couple of starts in KC, at the most.

Anonymous said...

One more week in Omaha = one more year on his contract.

What part of that dont you understand? People have been talking about this for a month now. Where have you been?

It only makes sense for a club to take advantage of a contract under these circumstances. Trust me they will, WILL bring him up immediately after the month has been execised.

Levi "Tug" Payton said...

Anonymous, you need to take a deep breath and settle down. There's no reason in getting all rattled up.

Trust me, I understand and I've heard all the hoopla about keeping him in the minors until May to gain an extra year on his contract.

But to be quite frank with you, that theory is just that - a theory. Dayton Moore has repeatedly said that he would never keep a player in the minors for the sole purpose of not allowing him to earn service time in the bigs. Plus, the Royals arent' going to have any problem signing him to a new deal if his current one runs out. He hasn't done enough in the bigs to warrant much money from ANYONE.

You want to know something else? This has been talked about for more than the past month. In fact, this theory has been discussed for more than a year now, and Moore had to shoot it down last season as well. So where have YOU been?

This is the big leagues and it doesn't do a team any good to hold a player back. Maybe the OLD Royals would have done it, but money certainly hasn't been an issue with this regime. ESPECIALLY, when a team like the Royals are so heavily in the mix to win their division this year. They are more interested in winning, NOW.

You're entitled to your opinion and I respect it. It would be nice if you don't try blasting me for mine.

cinco8 said...

I want Luke up as much as the next guy...but...keeping him in AAA gives us an arrow in our quiver. Something the Royals have not had for more than a decade. What worries me is the lack of offensive "arrows". If we lose one more player to the DL what do we do? We have nothing other than 1b men, esp. with Maier in the bigs. Heres hoping for good health!

Nick said...

Tug, while I agree that the Royals are spending more money to compete now, I still believe that DM would hold Hoch back for a few weeks to save however many million he might cost us for an extra year. I don't think it's being cheapo, just being business smart, and I'll bet there are a lot of other teams that do the same.

Also, it's been pointed out that if DM admitted holding him back the Players Union would undoubtedly file a grievance, and Scott Boras would be on DM like stink on poo. My guess (and hope), especially after Pontoon's outing last night, is that Hoch will be here May 5th or very shortly thereafter.

Levi "Tug" Payton said...

Maybe so, but Hoch isn't making milions right now. In fact, he makes less than a million per. Money isn't really the issue. I hope you guys are right on this one, meanwhile "Pontoon" just finally took on too much water and sank. I just know it's a shame Luke isn't here yet.

Nick said...

Yup, I know Luke isn't making much right now. It's that extra year down the road that we would keep control of him, before he's eligible for free agency that I was referring to. In other words, we get one extra year of "cheap" Luke before he signs a big contract.

Of course, this all assumes that he tears it up from now until that point, doesn't blow out his arm, etc.

Anonymous said...

"You're entitled to your opinion and I respect it. It would be nice if you don't try blasting me for mine."

Me blasting you? Take it easy Tug. I just thought you as a blogger of the Royals its pretty obvious what DM is doing here.

Yeah, DM can say that a million times but you really didnt think this was their intentions the whole time??

Nick seems to agree.

I respect your opinion too, I mean I read your blog. Let me ask you this. Which is more valuable to our team? One month of Hoch now or an extra cheap YEAR of Hoch later. He is a devoping young arm that has really improved and should continue to improve.

Levi "Tug" Payton said...

Guys there are more than $4 million reasons why that theory isn't setting with me.

Do you really think that this team would ever allow itself to lose out on a young guy that they've invested that much money in already? Hochevar, if he came in and went 14-0 with a 1.20 ERA the rest of the season, wouldn't make more than a few hundred thousand bucks in each of the next couple years. That's pretty much what he's making now!

Do you know what Ryan Howard made up until this year? Do you know how much money Prince Fielder is making? Those guys have way more big league service time and have done LOTS more in their careers than Hochevar has done. Ryan Braun (the Milwaukee Ryan Braun)? Evan Longoria isn't making jack compared to his numbers. He hasn't been in the league long enough.

What you are inferring wouldn't come to fruition until five-maybe-six years down the road at best. And even then the difference is only going to be a few hundred thousand bucks in that year.

They've already sank millions into this kid. You think they are going to sweat a few hundred thousand more? It' a nice thought guys, but don't read so much into it.

By the way, I appreciate you guys reading and coming back so loyaly. You're awesome.

Also, I'm not trying to infer that I'm right about everything. Dayton could be duping us media. And we do get duped a lot. So if I'm rubbing off that way I'm sorry. I really enjoy these banters. You guys are headsey baseball people. That's refreshing.