Luke Hochevar is out for 2014, and I’m…Disappointed?

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We learned this morning that Luke Hochevar, former #1 overall pick and the guy who was supposed to serve as the set up man for Greg Holland this season, will undergo Tommy John surgery to have his elbow repaired and will be out the entire 2014 season. 

Of all the players Royals fans have criticized and grumbled about in recent years, Hochevar is likely at the top of the list. He was supposed to be the piece our entire pitching staff was constructed around when we drafted him in 2006. And at first, things seemed peachy.

Hochevar made his MLB debut in September of 2007 appearing in 4 games. The first three were relief appearances, and he was awesome: 9.2 total innings, 8 hits, and only 1 run allowed over those three games.

Then his first start came on Mike Sweeney’s last day as a Royal on the final game of the season against the Indians. Hochevar was looking good into the 3rd, but then he made his first mistake of his career: Travis Hafner knocked him for a 2 run double.

Which, unfortunately, is how Hochevar starts go.

He has always had flashes of brilliance where we remember why he may have been worthy of the top draft pick. But overall, he’s always disappointed us. There are moments, but when you zoom out and look at the career, it looks the same way that first start did: 2 runs, 3 innings…6.00 ERA.

Which is a microcosm of Hochevar’s career over the next five years. Between 2008-2012: 38-58, 5.45 ERA. Woof.

And then, to make matters worse, we make the mistake of glancing at the other names out of that same draft class…

3. Evan Longoria
7. Clayton Kershaw
10. Tim Lincecum
11. Max Scherzer

…and it just gets depressing.

In 2011, the Royals decided to just trust that Hochevar was going to live up to his potential as long as he was given the opportunity. So they gave him the nod to be their Opening Day starter. And yet again, he started out great. He’d surrendered only 1 hit through 3 innings.

But in the 4th with no outs…HR, 2B, 2B.
Then in the 6th, after getting two quick outs…HR, E1, 1B.

More of the same.

Then 2012 came and his polarized performances became even more dramatic. First, he got beat out for the Opening Day job by Bruce Chen, which his hilarious in itself, but then Hochevar had shutouts in 4 different games in 2012.

5/12 @ CWW: 7 innings, 3 hits, 0 runs
6/19 @ HOU: 7.2 innings, 5 hits, 0 runs
6/ 25 vs TB: 9 innings, 7 hits, 0 runs*
8/21 @ TB: 8 innings, 1 hit, 0 runs*

* – Interesting side note: the Rays bat just .196 against Hochevar throughout his career. By comparison, the Tigers hit .346 off him and the AL Central is a combined .277. Isn’t it funny how a guy is just comfortable against certain teams?

But his overall ERA in 2012: 5.73.

Get this: in 2012, Luke Hochevar gave up more earned runs than any other pitcher in baseball. 118 runs. Miserable.

If this guy wasn’t a #1 pick, he would’ve been ditched long long ago. Which is why, after the 2012 season, as Hochevar’s contract was expiring and we’d had enough of his lackluster performances, we were all thrilled when the Royals finally got him out of their hair.

Oh wait. Nevermind.

They decided to resign him for $4.5M for 2013 instead.

What!?

Why in the world would the Royals ever pay a guy with a lifetime ERA over FIVE that much money?! It was infuriating. Just let it go, Royals. He’s a bust. We need to move on and get over it already.

But here’s something interesting: Today, as we learned the seriousness of Luke Hochevar’s injury, and when we learned that he would need Tommy John surgery*, and that he’d be out for the whole season…we’re disappointed. Sad. Concerned even.

It’s amazing how much difference a year makes, isn’t it?

* – By the way, I’m pretty sure Hochevar will be the first MLB player to be given Tommy John surgery after the death of its inventor, Frank Jobe, who passed away yesterday at 88 years old. Somebody somewhere will turn that into a trivia question.

In 2013, coming out of the bullpen for the entire season, Hochevar posted a 1.92 ERA, .825 WHIP, 4.82 K/BB ratio, and a grizzly beard that makes us completely forget his old disappointing self.

For the first time since…well, maybe since his debut back in 2007, I actually believed that Luke Hochevar was going to be great. By the end of last season, I wanted him in the game. There was no groaning or rolling the eyes. There was suddenly a trust in his ability. He had proven himself as a stud reliever, and it really is a bummer that he won’t be around in 2014.

The Royals bullpen were the best in the AL last year, and it’s going to be really tough to match that mark again. This injury to Hochevar just made it even more difficult.

-apc.

One comment

  1. so many of his relief appearances last year were in non-pressure situations. given the history of his career, i tend to think that last year was more of an aberration, and given the chance to be an eighth-inning setup guy would have provided ample disappointment and frustration. in a way, his injury may help us view him better once he is gone (provided the royals don’t spend 6+ million for him next year, please no), as what could have been, rather than what could have been and never was and only kept disappointing.

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