It's time. To write a post about Luke Hochevar, that is.
I've spent too much of the offseason focused on filling the Royals' void in right field, a result of the fact its current occupant fills the void in Dayton Moore's heart. I've dwelled for too long on Moore's hastily and poorly assembled starting rotation. The fact Hochevar is still a member of the Royals, albeit hidden in a bullpen role, is an atrocity of it's own that I haven't given enough attention.
I've said from the moment Moore traded Wil Myers for James Shields in hopes of passing the Royals off as a contender that they're a third place team in the American League Central, at best, and they will finish below .500 this season. ESPN the Magazine's 2013 MLB season preview issue came in the mail this week and backed me up, projecting the Royals to finish fourth behind the Tigers, Indians and White Sox.
I bring this up because, when the Royals prove me right and Moore wrong, fans will probably still turn to their usual goat: David Glass. However, according to Baseball-Reference.com, Glass has committed $79.8 million to this year's edition of the Royals. More than enough to challenge for a Wild Card, if not a pennant. If it had been spent wisely, that is.
Of that $79.8 million, $4.56 million is devoted to Hochevar. To be a middle reliever. Maybe a closer in the wildest of imaginations. The only possible scenario that would be worse is if Hochevar were earning $4.56 million to fill a rotation spot.
So, the same franchise that probably has only one starting pitcher who will post a WAR above 2.0 in 2013 (James Shields) will have a No. 1 overall draft pick and a No. 12 overall draft pick (Aaron Crow) serving in relief roles. Had Dayton Moore not blown those two draft picks, the Royals would be legitimate contenders this season.
OK, time for me to get sidetracked. Everyone (including me), focuses on the 2006 MLB Draft. That's the year the Royals could have drafted Evan Longoria, Brandon Morrow, Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum or Max Scherzer. But instead Moore* elected to go with a pitcher who felt spending a year in Independent League baseball would advance his career.
*I've said it before, I'll say it again: Either the Royals were generous enough to let Moore unofficially run the 2006 MLB draft so he couldn't be blamed if it went bad and he foolishly used that freedom to draft Hochevar or he was foolish enough to work for a team that wouldn't let him have a say in what was ostensibly his first draft and they took Hochevar against his wishes. Either way, Moore looks like a fool.
Now let's look at the 2009 MLB Draft. That's the year the Royals could have drafted Shelby Miller, Kyle Gibson or some outfielder named Mike Trout. You could even glance at the supplemental round and notice gems like James Paxton and Tyler Skaggs. But instead Moore elected to go with a pitcher who felt spending a year in Independent League baseball would advance his career.
There's no debating Moore was in charge of drafting Crow and seeing to it years later that he would be reduced to a reliever. Every time I think I've run out of reasons for Moore to be fired, I find a new one.
Back to Hochevar. On Friday's episode of the Effectively Wild Podcast, Hochevar was a topic of discussion. I don't even remember how he came up, but the hosts began to discuss why he was brought back for the sum of $4.56 when he's clearly shown in six season to be nothing more than a sub-replacement level arm.
One of their thoughts was perhaps Moore was paralyzed by the fear of Hochevar (a former No. 1 overall pick) having success with another organization and couldn't risk letting him go. That sounded reasonable enough. You never want to give up on a relationship too soon in case she (or he) could be "the one."
However, it makes no sense to me the same GM that would cling to a failed No. 1 pick (one he isn't officially responsible for drafting, at that) would also cast off his Minor League Player of the Year in the same offseason. That's like going back to the girl who continuously cheats on you while snubbing the girl who has done nothing but try to earn your affection. And is younger with more years of control and fills a bigger position of need. I'm so good with analogies.
It's one thing to question Moore's ability to think analytically in a day and age when analytics are everything in baseball outside of Arizona and Philadelphia. It's another to question Moore's ability to simply think logically, yet I think it's a question that deserves to be asked.
Had Moore earmarked that $4.56 along with the $13 million he's paying Ervin Santana or the $5 million he's paying Jeremy Guthrie, maybe he could have gotten a Kyle Lohse or Edwin Jackson or Shaun Marcum instead. Maybe that would have given Glass enough wiggle room, even with Santana and Guthrie, to commit to a Giancarlo Stanton or Justin Upton if Moore could find the right package of prospects to land one of those stud right fielders. Instead, Moore carried that $4.56 million into the bullpen, dumped gasoline on it and set fire to it.
What did he possibly think the Royals had to gain by retaining Hochevar's services? Going back to Baseball-Reference.com, if you're unaware, on a player's page the website lists a group of players he is most similar to. On Hochevar's page, his professional doppelgangers are (to name a few): Kyle Davies, Brian Bannister, Tim Redding, Casey Fossum, Chris Volstad, Scott Elarton, Brian Meadows, Ian Snell, Shawn Chacon and Joe Mays. Fitting that Moore acquired three of these (Davies, Bannister, Volstad) and allowed a fourth one overstay his welcome (Elarton).
Ties to Moore aside, what else do these pitcher have in common? None of them resurrected their careers after years of performing at Hochevar's level. As Ben Lindbergh (I believe) pointed out on the Effectively Wild Podcast, only Phil Nevin was drafted first overall, changed teams and wound up having some modicum of success in recent memory (if it wasn't Lindbergh, it was co-host Sam Miller).
It's as if Moore lives in this magical universe where neither age nor past performance factor into decision making. That or he lives in a galaxy far, far away where he can't use the force of analytics for good but he can't do what is asked of him and eliminate Luke, either. In this case, though, if he could do the former it would lead to the latter.
Fire Dayton Moore