I know we shouldn't often look solely at a pitcher's record in terms of their capabilities, but for this I am going to make myself an exception. In 126 career games for the Kansas City Royals, Luke Hochevar has a career record of 37-55. That is a win-loss percentage just a shade over 40%.
For as bad as the Royals have been in the last decade (and even further), Kansas City has a team winning percentage even higher than that. So in terms of actual wins and losses, Hochevar is a below average pitcher, even on the Royals.
Tied in with the fact that Hochevar was once the first overall pick, and it just leaves fans shaking their collective heads.
Hochevar is arbitration eligible this offseason, after having earned $3.51 million this season. That number has been estimated to nearly double next season. If the Royals were to offer arbitration to Hochevar next year, they must offer at least $2,808,000 or 80% of his contract value for next season. While I wouldn't be opposed to bringing him back for that, I realize he'll earn much more than that in 2013.
As I was browsing Hochevar's page on BaseballReference.com recently, I noticed that is most compares Hochevar to former major league pitcher Jose Mesa at this point in their careers.
My initial thought was, how? Mesa was a decent closer for a few years in the major leagues who actually compiled 321 saves in 19 big league seasons. However I had forgotten that Mesa was actually a former starting pitcher who didn't find success until he moved to the bullpen. Actually Mesa only has two career saves up until he was 29. Hochevar turns 29 next month.
In 95 career starts, Mesa was 27-40 with a 5.07 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 4.5 SO/9, and 1.23 SO/BB. Opponents batted .283/.353/.416. In 121 careers starts before Monday afternoon's game, Hochevar was 37-54 with a 5.26 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 6.1 SO/9, and 2.05 SO/BB. Opponents hit .270/.334/.441.
Of course Mesa never had the pressure of being a number one overall pick, as he was a 15-year old kid signed by the Toronto Blue Jays out of the Dominican Republic in 1981. However Mesa did make two All-Star game appearances and finished his career currently sitting 14th on the all-time career saves list.
Not bad for someone who was arguably a worse starting pitcher than Luke Hochevar.
The best scenario for Hochevar is to find a role in the bullpen as a potential set-up guy, who could even be a closer down the road. He has the stuff for it, however that will likely never take place as a member of the Royals.
With the money he is set to soon earn, the price is too rich to make him a reliever in the Royals bullpen. In other words, he would be too overpriced. Of course Mesa didn't find his way into a bullpen until he reached his third organization.
It would be an interesting look for Kansas City to have Hochevar in the 'pen, but alas the ship has already sailed and it's nothing more than something to look upon as what could have been.