Luke Hochevar has made $3.1 million while going 7-13 with a 5.36 ERA in 28 starts this season. One would think that increasing salary combined with his worst performance since 2009 would finally result in his departure at season’s end. However, GM Dayton Moore said the Royals have no intention of non-tendering Hochevar this winter.
The Royals still seem convinced that there’s a good pitcher lurking somewhere inside Hochevar’s body just waiting to bust out. Sure, he turns 29 this week and he has a career record of 37-56 with a 5.30 ERA, but he still throws pretty hard.
“His numbers are not spectacular by any stretch of the imagination,” manager Ned Yost told the Kansas City Star, “but I’ve seen many pitchers go through what he’s gone through. Actually, he’s better than most of those guys.”
Better than what guys? Yost listed Jorge De La Rosa, Jason Schmidt and Kevin Millwood as starters who struggled for a long time before figuring it out. However, Hochevar has nothing on that trio.
Hochevar: 80 ERA+ in 124 career starts
De La Rosa: 83 ERA+ in first 59 starts, now 95 ERA+ in 126 career starts
Schmidt: 97 ERA+ in first 128 career starts
Millwood: 114 ERA+ in first 126 career starts
No, Hochevar has very little common in those guys. I can only find one guy in the last 50 years who had a six-year start similar to Hochevar’s and went on to to become a really good pitcher. That’s Mike Scott, who found a splitter and won a Cy Young Award with the Astros in 1986. He had a 78 ERA+ through six years.
Ryan Dempster is also worth mentioning; he had an 85 ERA+ in his first six seasons before hurting his arm, turning to relief and eventually becoming a quality starter. Dempster, though, had already had one big season at age 23. Hochevar has never had a year in which he’s been an average starter.
There’s also Jamie Moyer with an 87+ ERA through six years, but I don’t see Hochevar going that route.
The point is that the odds are very much against Hochevar at this point, and though I don’t necessarily disagree that he still has some upside remaining, the Royals would likely be better off on spending their $4 million on someone else next year.