Hochevar coming into his own

By Ted Cahill

It took a little bit of time, but Luke Hochevar has finally caught the attention of baseball.

The former no. one overall pick has been a quality pitcher for Kansas City this season, but struggled to gain notoriety in the black hole of last place. That started to change Saturday when, Hochevar beat Texas, striking out 13 and walking none in seven innings.

The Royals have been criticized for taking him at the top of the 2006 draft, passing on Tim Lincecum and Evan Longoria. But if his past six starts are any indication, Hochevar may just make Kansas City proud.

In that run, Hochevar is 4-0 with a 3.43 ERA. He has struck out 36 batters, walking only eight. Hochevar has thrown at least six innings in all of the starts and opponents are hitting only .238 off him.

The biggest problem for right-hander has been the long ball. Hochevar has allowed six home runs in 39 1/3 innings. But overall, he has been one of the better, under-the-radar pitchers during July.

This season, Hochevar is 6-3 with a 4.84 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. But if you eliminate his first two starts of the year, his numbers improve to 6-2 with a 3.86 ERA and 1.12 WHIP, numbers very similar to his past six starts.

Making Hochevar’s numbers even more impressive is his very high BABIP of .379 in the last month. When that stat reaches a more typical level in the .270s, Hochevar should see an even greater level of success.

Hochevar is on track to become a good pitcher in years to come. He certainly isn’t going to be getting dropped from Kansas City’s rotation anytime soon. This 25-year old definitely has the talent to be included on fantasy rosters and should receive consideration as the season continues.

Just Perfect:
It’s a pitcher’s dream to retire 27 straight batters, never allowing a batter to reach base. Mark Buehrle became just the 18th pitcher in Major League history to perform this feat, beating Tampa Bay last Thursday.

For fantasy owners Buehrle’s gem was especially sweet, after all who wouldn’t want nine innings of no runs, no hits, no walks and a win? But Buehrle was started in only 75 percent of Yahoo! Leagues that day, meaning that quite a few fantasy owners were kicking themselves. It’s a pretty good bet that when he takes the hill Tuesday in Minnesota, many more fantasy owners will have him in their starting lineups.

But how do pitchers typically fare after their perfect game?

Of the last 10 pitchers that pitched again in the same season after the best performance of their life, only four have won. Overall the 10 pitchers, including Jim Bunning, Sandy Koufax, Catfish Hunter and Randy Johnson, are 4-3 with a 5.18 ERA and 49 strikeouts. Some have responded quite well to their perfect game, but others have bombed out in the next start.

Buehrle seems to have the mentality necessary to respond well to his success, but we’ll see how he performs Tuesday in Minnesota. Even still, you have to start him.

As the Mill Turns:
With the trading deadline Friday rumors are flying about which ace will get traded this season. Roy Halladay remains the favorite to get dealt, but Cliff Lee and Jarrod Washburn are increasingly being mentioned as alternatives.

The Phillies seem determined to land one of those three starters, somewhat bad news for their owners. All three are good enough to not be seriously affected by pitching in more of a hitter’s park, but there will likely be some ill effects. The Dodgers are also rumored to be interested in acquiring another starter, but may have to give up Clayton Kershaw to get Lee or Halladay.

No matter which ace finds themselves suiting up in a new clubhouse by the end of the week, you can expect fantasy analysis right here at Not Just a Game.

Pitcher Pickup of the Week: Jeff Niemann, Rays

Niemann wasn’t supposed to be Tampa Bay’s rotation this year. That spot was reserved for left-hander David Price, who has been something of a disappointment so far. However, Niemann, a former first-round selection himself, has finally arrived on the big stage.

Niemann is 9-5 with a 3.81 ERA this year and has thrown two shutouts. In his past three starts, Niemann is pitching even better, sporting a 2.86 ERA.

This week, the right-hander gets to face Kansas City at home. The last time Niemann got the good fortune of facing the Royals on June 3, he threw a two-hit shutout. That game was also at Tropicana Field, where Niemann is 3-2 with a 3.26 ERA this year.