Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Luke Hochevar had a roller coaster ride of a season in 2012. The organization, including manager Ned Yost, are hoping Hochevar can keep the good and get rid of the bad in order to help the team prevail in the competitive American League Central in 2013.
Hochevar showed signs of greatness last year in which he could easily not only have been the team’s top pitcher in the rotation but one of the best starters in the AL. However, this is the game of baseball, where it is incredibly difficult to sustain a high level of play throughout the 162-game season. That is why some players get paid the big bucks while many others are demoted to the minors.
The 29-year-old posted an 8-0 record with an outstanding 2.38 earned run average in 13 starts that the Royals won when he took the mound. Unfortunately, those numbers dive bombed when the team did not do so hot. Hochevar was 0-16 with an 8.47 ERA in the 19 starts that Kansas City lost.
“You break down Luke’s starts last season, half of them were at the top of the league,” Yost said. “The other half were at the bottom of the league. So it’s just inconsistency.”
Inconsistency is the No. 1 killer of Major League careers as players can be off the charts and on top of the world one season while the next year people forget they were ever in the big leagues in the first place.
Ubaldo Jimenez anyone?
The problem that Hochevar faces is that he has had high expectations ever since he stepped foot in the majors. After several bitter years with failed drafts with the Los Angeles Dodgers in which Hochevar kept deciding he was not sure about playing Major League Baseball, the Royals selected him No. 1 overall in the 2006 Draft.
Unfortunately, the right-hander has yet to live up to the hype as he has posted a career 38-59 record with a 5.39 ERA in 132 appearances, including 128 starts. He looked to finally get things on track in 2011 when he reached a .500 record on the season (11-11) and had the best ERA of his career (4.68). However, he obviously did not build off of that and instead went the opposite direction this past year with an 8-16 record and 5.73 ERA.
The most frustrating part about it for Hochevar as well as Royals fans is that there appears to be no major difference in how he approaches each start.
“I’d have a really good game and the next game would be terrible,” Hochevar said. “I’m thinking what the heck is the difference? I feel like mentally it’s the exact same, my approach is the exact same, my focus is the exact same. And something was happening. It was feast or famine last year.”
Regardless of what the problem is he must get it fixed as soon as possible because another down year and he could see himself dropped from the rotation completely. Hochevar will have to compete for the No. 5 spot against four other pitchers, which does not bode well for him especially since he will be going up against Bruce Chen, the team’s win leader from a season ago.
The good news for Hochevar is that he has plenty of potential and the organization still believes he is capable of great things. The better news for Royals fans is that the starting rotation should be incredible this season and pitchers such as Hochevar and Chen should not cause too much trouble if they have another down year.