Thursday, July 16, 2009

First Half Report Cards: The Pitchers

The first half of the season is in the books. Thank God. Let's see where we stand as the second half of the season starts. These grades are based on my expectation for each player at the start of the season. The number in parentheses after the player name is where I ranked their importance to the Royals at the start of the season (pitchers and position players were ranked separately). If a player was not on the Opening Day roster, they were not ranked.
Today, the pitchers; tomorrow, position players.

Zack Greinke (1): A
The Royals' star pupil tailed off slightly in May and June, but by then he had set the bar almost impossibly high. Zack is easily the ace of the staff and might be the most exciting Royal since, I don't know, Bo Jackson? The difference is that Zack is harnessing his incredible talent, while Bo only showed us some flashes of his. Zack has to be the favorite for the AL Cy Young award, an amazing feat on a team that still has a chance to lose 100 games.

Brian Bannister (N/A): A-
Perhaps he was due for a bounceback after a tough year last year. The Royals must hope that Banny has figured out how to pitch effectively despite not having outstanding stuff. Still, a rotation that has Bannister at the back end is a pretty good rotation.

Luke Hochevar (N/A): B
His first two outings were horrible, but since then he's been pretty good (52 IP, 4.15 ERA, 24 K, 15 BB). Needs to cut down on the homers he allows (9 so far this season). Will probably never be the star you'd hope to get with an #1 overall draft pick, but he has shown the ability to be a decent major league starter, which is still valuable.

Jamey Wright (10): C
Had some good outings, especially early in the year. After that, Hillman decided perhaps Wright was a setup guy. That didn't work, so it was back to middle relief. Hasn't done much to get on my bad side, but I wouldn't be signing him to a long-term contract, either. Like most middle relievers, he's just a guy.

John Bale (N/A): C-
Nothing much to report here.

Roman Colon (N/A): C-
Hasn't done much to impress me either way.

Kyle Farnsworth (9): C-
See Sidney Ponson's entry. Sure, the Opening Day homer to Jim Thome was horrible, but he never should have been placed in that situation by Hillman to begin with. Professor Farnsworth compiled some decent numbers, but they were mainly in mop-up situations. If I were to grade the fact the Royals signed him to begin with, I would be giving an "F." But he hasn't been horrible, just not worth the $4.25 million he's getting this year. It would have been nice to spend that money somewhere else.

Gil Meche (2): C-
An odd season for the Royals' highest-paid pitcher. He started out well, then had some rough starts, possibly because of a bad back. Then he had another stretch of solid starts and is now scuffling a little bit again. It doesn't help that his manager seems willing to pitch him until his arm falls off.

Sidney Ponson (N/A): C-
As the great Al Bundy once said, "I haven't expected much, and Lord knows I've gotten it." When you sign a mediocre major leaguer at the end of spring training because he had a good showing in the World Baseball Classic, you don't expect Cy Young. He had a couple of decent starts early before being moved to the bullpen. Ponson has allowed at least one run in each of his 11 appearances this year.

Joakim Soria (3): C-
Remember, these grades aren't based on just performance, but performance measured against expectations. Now, it's not Soria's fault he got hurt, just as it's not his fault Trey Hillman seemingly picked the worst times to use him before he got hurt. But Soria just hasn't had much impact on this season, which speaks to the Royals' inability to score runs and get leads as well as to the stupidity of using your best pitcher to protect 3-run leads in the 9th (or, more often in Soria's case, to "get some work" in a 12-3 game). On the bright side, Soria did look much better in his last few outings before the break.

Bruce Chen (N/A): D+
Meh. Two OK starts, two bad ones. Organizational depth at its finest!

Ron Mahay (7): D+
Inexplicably was not traded last year when his value was highest. Now he's a moderately effective reliever who could be dealt at the trade deadline, but probably won't bring much in trade since he's a free agent after the season.

Kyle Davies (4): D
Coming off that great September last season, Davies has made a case as Most Disappointing Royal (non-injured division). A 5.76 ERA, 14 homers allowed in 14 games, and 41 walks against 54 strikeouts all make me wonder if Davies will ever amount to anything at the major league level. To be fair, he has done well at Omaha since being demoted in June. And he is still only 25, so there is still a little hope.

Robinson Tejeda (6): D
Showed some potential last year, but has regressed this year, especially in the control department. Already has more walks than he did all last season.

Juan Cruz (5): D-
Another entry in the Most Disappointing Royal contest. This is the one move Dayton Moore made in the offseason that was widely viewed as a positive, which just goes to show that Joaquin Andujar was right ("youneverknow"). I don't know if he's lost velocity, control or just had a long slump, but his strikeout rate is way down from where it has been in his career.

Horacio Ramirez (11): F
An "F" signing, and an "F" performance. At least it only took the Royals 19 appearances to figure it out (/eyeroll).

Doug Waechter (8): Incomplete
Only pitched in 3 games before getting hurt.

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