Sunday, January 16, 2011

Royals Re-Sign Bruce Chen

Break up the Royals!  Dayton Moore has been pretty busy the last couple of days.  Yesterday, the Royals signed Jeff Francis.  Today, they re-signed LHP Bruce Chen to a one year $2M contract. 

After toiling as a replacement level player for four seasons, Chen, 33, made a surprising comeback in 2010 going 12-7 with a 4.17 ERA.  Despite having an ERA below 5.00, Chen did nothing differently in 2010 than he did in the previous four seasons.  Chen remained the same mediocre pitcher exhibiting extreme fly ball tendencies, and posting a below average strikeout and walk rates.  The only thing that changed was his luck with regards to his HR/FB rate.  Prior to the start of last season, Chen had posted an HR/FB rate of 14.8%, while never posting a rate below 11.1% in a given season.*  In 2010, Chen's HR/FB rate dropped to 8.1%.   That unexpected drop in home run frequency just screams outlier season.  Considering Chen's age, fly ball tendencies, and consistent HR/FB rate track record, it's my belief that his 2010 performance is unsustainable.  It would be of no surprise to this writer to see Chen revert back to his replacement pitcher ways come the start of the 2011 season.

* HR/FB rates have been tracked since 2002.  While data with regards to batted ball types exist prior to 2002, it's not considered to be accurate enough to measure for the purposes of calculating xFIP.

This looks like a pretty bad move by the Royals all around.  Considering his status as a replacement level player in four out of the last five seasons, it would've made more sense to allow a pitcher making the league minimum (like Sean O'Sullivan or Kevin Pucetas) to take Chen's spot in the rotation.  In all likelihood, the replacement level pitcher would've provided the same level of production.  Instead, they seem content to throw $2M down the drain.  Royals fans shouldn't be too worried.  Mega-pitching prospects Mike Montgomery, Danny Duffy, and Mike Lamb are just around the corner.

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