Dayton obviously knows at this point the team is more than one starting pitcher away from winning the division.Â It recently became a little more clear that it would be an even tougher task this season with Prince Fielder going to the Tigers.Â He also said that the teams next step was to get some of our young starting pitching to the major leagues.Â I like the approach of waiting to see what young talent we have sitting in our farm system before dumping it all off.Â Losing a prospect or two this year for one arm like Latos or Gio Gonzo would have satisfied many fans for sure.Â I can write this and say without a doubt I think the right decisions were made this off-season in holding strong.Â Our starting rotation for this season looks strikingly close to the same rotation that produced the 2nd highest American leagueÂ ERA last season (4.82).
So you think we got a few games with Albert Pujols off the schedule with him moving to the Angels?Â Think again and add some more pain as a new signing makes it even worse.Â With the signing of Fielder to Detroit and Albert Pujols to the Angels Royals pitchers will face the two sluggers in 27 games this year.Â Detroit took the division by 15 games last year and have now cemented themselves as the big favorite to repeat as the AL Central champs.Â Making a push against the Tigers this year means that Royals starting pitching will really need to perform above expectations.Â That starts with Luke Hochevar and his 5.29 career ERA.Â Luke has only gotten 3 wins in a month 3 times in his career and always seems to fall off the wagon after a decent game.Â In my mind this is his year and I’ll tell you why I think this, and why you might think I’m crazy.Â Or it might not be his year it all depends on a few key stats.Â These will hold true to the success of both Luke and Felipe Paulino.Â Last season Luke had his lowest WHIP in the last 4 years by a long shot at 1.28 and his ground out % rose considerably.Â Along with the most important stat of all the FIRST PITCH STRIKE.Â I believe based on his pitching tendencies from last season and the increased numbers and percentages in these categories he has finally arrived.Â It also doesn’t hurt that Hoch had the 2nd best rated slider per 100 pitches in baseball right behind Cliff Lee and in front of Clayton Kershaw.Â He doesn’t really have another option but to perform at this point. This is going to be the final year for him to secure a spot as the Royals will surely move forward without him if he falters this season.
Who else can the Royals count on this year in the pitching department?Â Bruce Chen is a consistent guy and has amazing composure and mound presence.Â He simply gets the job done over and over by making hitters put the ball in the dirt.Â His ground ball to fly ball out percentage is amazing.Â He works his strengths and is a master of knowing the batter he is facing.Â He has given the Royals twelve win seasons the past 2 years and I look for him to do that plus one more this year if he stays healthy.Â Moving on through the heart of the rotation could be the pivotal point in the success of staff.Â Newly acquired Jonathan Sanchez and Felipe Paulino make up the most intriguing part of the pitching staff.Â They can punch em out with top-notch pitchers but also like to give up the free passes.Â Paulino has seen his ERA decrease every year in the league and if he can get it into just the high 4’s this year we could see some big success.Â Last season with the Giants Sanchez gave up just under 6 walks per 9 innings pitched.Â I see Dave Eiland getting the walks down and the these two guys in line for a successful season.Â It is particularly important for Paulino to keep runners off the bases to earn wins because the 6th inning seems to be his breaking point.Â This is because of the high pitch count attributed to a corresponding number of walks.Â Keep the three key statistical categories in line and rack up the wins.
So I guess I’ll just go ahead and tell you what kind of production we will get out of our top 4 starters in 2012.Â I can’t believe I’m going to put wins and losses to pitchers before February 1st but here it goes.
-Luke Hochevar 13-10
-Bruce Chen 13-7
-Jonathan SanchezÂ 9-9
-Felipe Paulino 7-11
Much like the wizard of Oz I think Hoch will discover he has a slider of a different color and there’s no place like home this year.Â Paulino and Sanchez will still issue walks at a team high but I think at a slower clip than they have come accustomed to.Â Finally Bruce will be Bruce and get the job done.Â Final prediction because I seem to be into those tonight the Royals behind their great young position players and newly retooled pitching staff will scrape, battle, and manufacture 82 wins this season just above .500 on the season.
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