While the Royals offense remains so-so, starting pitching has been excellent; A closer look at the rotation

Thru 12 games, the Royals (7-5) starters have allowed four runs or less in 11 of them. This is the main reason they had a winning homestand and are atop the American League Central Standings.


And yes, the bats have produced a 13-run, a 9-run and a 7-run game, but have scored just 23 runs in the other nine games. In all, the The Royals – who averaged 7.9 runs per game and hit .300 in the spring – are amazingly sixth in scoring with just 4.3 runs per game, are tied for dead last in HR’s with 4, but are second in doubles (27) and triples (4) and sixth in batting average (.266). So, maybe the offense has not been as bad as it seems, minus the power numbers. But, the four spot in the order has produced just two RBI and Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are hitting a combined 26-110 (.236) with 0 HR and 7 RBI, offering Billy Butler NO protection in the lineup. None. I would consider putting Alex Gordon (.375 AVG, 8 RBI, 9-16 with RISP) there, as he is the only Royals hitter that can protect Butler, but he has flourished in the leadoff spot, so why move him?

Run support hasn’t always been there. Just ask Big Game James Shields, who has lost a game 1-0 and Saturday Night’s home debut despite throwing a 2-hitter. Another loss was Greg Holland’s blew a stellar pitching effort from Luis Mendoza with a walk-the-bases-loaded blown save and the other two losses were flat out losses (5-2 at Chicago in Ervin Santana’s first start and 8-4 Friday night in Mendoza’s second start). In all, the Royals have outscored opponents 11-8 in his three starts, but nine of the runs came in one start. The offense has come through for Santana, at least enough, in his two home starts, where the Royals are 2-0. More on that in a minute.

Starting pitching has kept the Royals in every game, but one. That is why GM Dayton Moore traded away top prospect (No. 4 in MLB) Wil Myers to Tampa Bay. Sure, he may be an All Star, but will it really matter if we don’t have any pitching? No. We all knew the rotation would be improved this year with last year’s No. 1 and 2 Bruce Chen and Luke Hochevar in the pen and No. 3 Jonathan Sanchez gone and their replacements are Shields, Santana and Jeremy Guthrie + No. 4 starter Wade Davis who came into 2013 with a career 4.21 ERA as a starter. Based on Hoch being in the pen was an improvement, but with everything else A LOT of things had to go wrong for the starting pitching to not be significantly better this season.

It is nice going into everygame knowing your pitching is good enough to give you a chance to.

Lets take a closer look:

James Shields  (1-2 3.43 ERA; 1.10 WHIP)

Big Game James Shields made his first home start as a Royal Saturday night and did just what the Royals traded for him to do – dominate like a REAL ACE. He tossed a complete-game 2-hitter, but sadly lost, surrendering a sacrifice fly in the third and a two-run home run to Jose Bautista in the sixth (following a walk). But, the Royals did very little offensively – or should I say did little with a lot (stranded eight runners) while the Jays did a lot with a little – making Shields a tough-luck loser for the second time this season. Shields (1-2) has now lost games 3-2 on a 2-hitter and 1-0 on Opening Day on the South Side at Chicago. His “worst” start – four runs (all in the first inning) in six innings – was a win, as the offense exploded for nine runs. Tonight, he struck out six in throwing 115 pitches – 68 for strikes in becoming the just the third Royals pitcher to throw a complete game two-hitter and lose (David Cone and Kevin Appier both did it in 1993 against the Rangers).

Ervin Santana (1-1 2.45 ERA; 1.14 WHIP)

Santana was awesome this week in two home starts – the home opener and the homestand finale (both Royals wins): 16 IP (8 innings in both starts), 15 hits, two earned runs (3 runs), 11 strikeouts and five walks. In both starts, Santana allowed a run in the first, but recovered allowing just one run (an Edwin Encarnacion HR today) the rest of the way combined. In Monday’s home-opener after a shaky first inning (one run on four hits and it could have been worse if not for a Ryan Doumit base running blunder), he settled down and mowed the Twins down for the rest of the game (four hits, no runs) and earned the victory after the Royals scored three runs in the eighth inning. He allowed only one run on eight hits and a walk while striking out seven batters in the eight-inning gem in lowering his ERA from 6.00 to 3.21. He showed a major improvement from his first start after allowing four earned runs (three HR) over six innings in his season debut. He took the mound today and had another strong eight innings pitched. He only stuck out four and walked three and did allow another HR (his fourth of the year), but after the first inning when an unearned run score, he pitched fine.

Santana, who had a MLB-high 39 HR’s allowed last season is continuing that trend this year, but at least they have all been solo shots. But, he also continued a trend of what happens when he does not give up a HR in the home opener. During the seven starts in which he didn’t allow a home run last year, he had a 1.60 ERA. Sadly, it was only seven starts but that was not a career norm. What if he has 13 or 14 homerless starts? In 2011, that number was 15, in 2010, it was 13. Santana’s 2012 was so exceptionally bad that he about doubled his career home run rate, allowing the fifth-most homers per nine innings of any pitcher with at least 150 innings in any season since 1900. That won’t happen again. With a more normal rate, I’m expecting Santana to be as good as he was Monday about half the time. I think Royals fans will take that.

The offense did not muster enough to get Santana the win today, but a walk-off Gordon single in the ninth did get the Royals the 3-2 win.

Jeremy Guthrie (2-0 3.55 ERA; 1.05 WHIP)

Guthrie continued where he left off since he came to Kansas City last July, where the Royals are 12-4 in his 16 starts and his is 7-3 3.21 ERA and has not lost in 10 starts – three shy on the Royals record.

On Tuesday, Guthrie was given five runs in the first and seven in the first three in the 7-4 win over the Twins. He did serve up three round-trippers, but the right-hander permitted just six hits in 6 2/3 innings. He had just two strikeouts, but walked just one. He was not nearly as effective as he was in the Royals first win of the season in Chicago, where he allowed just one run.

He is scheduled to take the mound Tuesday at Atlanta, where he is 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA in his career against the Braves in his one career start against them in 2011 when he was a member of the Orioles.

Wade Davis (1-0, 4.00 ERA)

Davis did not have a stellar Royals debut in Philly, where he allowed four runs on 10 hits in just four innings (no decision as the Royals scored 13 unanswered), but he was much better in his home debut, where he pitched the first five innings of a three pitcher combined shutout. He elevated his pitch count with 96 pitches in just five innings as he loaded the bases twice, but looked much better, striking out six with three walks. If the Royals can get close to a 4.00 ERA out of him this season, that would be wonderful. He takes the mound again Wednesday at Atlanta. Lets hope he can improve on his 1.78 WHIP and his .342 AVG against.

Luis Mendoza (0-1, 6.17 ERA)

The “Mexican Mullet” is the only Royals starter without a win the first two times through the rotation, and he will not get another chance for a while as his spot will be skipped as the Royals have three days off in eight days. That (four of the five starters with a win the first two times though) is an accomplishment in its own right here in Kansas City.

Don’t let the stats fool you. Mendoza dazzled in his first start at Philly last Saturday, where he allowed one run on two hits in six innings. The two-hitter was carried into the eighth ninth where Holland blew the 3-1 lead and the Royals lost 4-3. As sharp as he was in his first start, he was that much off the mark Friday against the Blue Jays, where he was tagged for five runs in the first three innings on his way to eight runs – seven earned – allowed in five-plus innings of work. Mendoza allowed seven hits and three walks while striking out just two in 5 2/3 innings. He was chased from the game in the sixth inning after a pair of walks, a double and a wild pitch. His last two runs came around to score when Hochevar allowed a two-run, two out hit.

Despite this set back, I’ll take Mendoza every fifth day. His career numbers as a Royal are 10-12 with a 4.49 ERA. I’ll be thrilled if he could spot that ERA this year. Those numbers also include a 22.50 ERA in a brief stint as relief pitcher in 2010.


  • With help of the bullpen, which has been dominant, the Royals have the third most strikeouts per game (8.9) and the least amount of walks (2.6) in the American League.
  • The Royals 3.32 team ERA is second best in the AL and fifth best in the majors.
  • The Royals five saves are best in the AL. I guess you don’t have to have a definite guy when you have three guys that can get the job? On that note, who is the closer? Yost says it is still Holland, but Herrera has been DOMINANT (5 1/3 IP, 11 K, 1 BB, 0.00 ERA, .133 AVG against, 0.56 WHIP, 2 saves, 1-0 record.)
  • The Royals have been out-homered 13-4.
  • The 1.15 team WHIP is second best in the AL, as is the 1.07 bullpen WHIP.
  • The bullpen did not allow a single run during the homestand, after allowing eight on the roadtrip (thanks to seven runs in two days in Philly).
  • The pen’s 29 1/3 IP, 18 hits allowed, eight runs allowed, .176 batting average against are best in the AL.
  • The starters average outing is 6 1/3 IP – the best in the AL.

The most important stat? 7-5 and first place in the AL Central.


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