Luke Hochevar

Royals to give Hochevar, Davis second… mmm, sixth chances as SPs

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After two seasons as a below average starter, Wade Davis broke through as a reliever for the Rays in 2012, amassing a 2.43 ERA and striking out 87 in 70 1/3 innings.

The Royals plan after picking him up in the James Shields-Wil Myers trade? Move him back to the rotation.

Luke Hochevar was a below average starter for five years before his move to the pen last year. However, he was an immediate success as a reliever, posting a 1.92 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 70 1/3 innings. This after he entered the season with a career ERA of 5.39.

So what are the Royals going to do now? Try him again as a starter, of course.

And they’re going to do the same with Davis, again, even though he was terrible as a starter last season and, again, an immediate success after losing his rotation spot and shifting back to the pen (one run in 10 innings in September).

The Royals will probably include one of the two in their 2014 rotation along with Shields, the newly acquired Jason Vargas, Jeremy Guthrie and Danny Duffy. It’s possible both could be starters if Duffy struggles in spring training.

On the one hand, the Royals do have the bullpen depth to pull off such a plan. Even though Hochevar and Davis have both looked like elite setup men when given the chance, the Royals will still be just fine with Kelvin Herrera, Aaron Crow, Tim Collins, Louis Coleman and Donnie Joseph working in front of closer Greg Holland.

But it still seems like a pretty awful idea. Davis and Hochevar have combined to spend eight seasons in a major league rotation. The only year in which either managed even a 90 ERA+ was Davis’s rookie campaign in 2010 (he came in at 96). Hochevar’s career-best ERA is 4.68 and ERA+ is 87.

At least in Hochevar’s case, one could argue that he figured something out as a reliever that he could carry back into the rotation with him. Of course, that was the argument for Davis a year ago and it didn’t work. Hochevar essentially ditched his slider and changeup as a reliever, becoming a fastball-cutter guy. He can rely more on that cutter going forward than he did before, but he’s still going to need to reincorporate the changeup as a starter and that’s always been a liability for him.

Ideally, the Royals would be able to trade two guys from the Davis-Hochevar-Herrera-Crow-Collins quintet for one quality starter. It really shouldn’t be that much of a reach, given the value all five of those guys possess. But if they can’t go that route, they’re probably better off just keeping all of those guys in the pen and signing re-signing Bruce Chen to round out the rotation.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: