Jeremy Guthrie takes the bump for the Royals today in game two of the I-70 series. Which Guthrie shows up, however, is another story.
Scheduled to start Saturday in St. Louis, a lot of eyes will be on will be on Kansas City Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie with the I-70 rivals and teams owning the best records in the American and National Leagues meeting for a weekend series.
Though really, when it comes down to it, just about any Guthrie start is worth checking out for curious onlookers, because you never know whether his next start will be a train wreck or exactly what the Royals need. All we do know is, it will likely be one or the other.
Guthrie is the model of inconsistency. But he’s also consistently inconsistent enough to be somewhat predictable. A terrible start tends to be sandwiched between pretty good ones. A rough season or two signals he’s ready for a comeback year.
Guthrie emerged as a reliable starter for the Orioles back in 2007 and posted ERAs of 3.70 and 3.63 and WHIP’s of 1.209 and 1.227 in 2007 and 2008.
But 2009 was rough. Guthrie’s ERA and WHIP ballooned to 5.04 and 1.420, and he gave up an American League-high 35 home runs. Of course, he rebounded with one of the best seasons of his career in 2010, boasting a 3.83 ERA and a magnificent 1.161 WHIP.
His career has gone on like that. Serviceable the next year, then awful in Colorado in the first half of 2012 before having the best stretch of his career after a trade to Kansas City in the second half of the season.
The “Guthrie in Colorado” experiment resulted in a 6.35 ERA, but the change of scenery and, more importantly, altitude worked wonders as he had a 3.16 ERA and 1.132 WHIP in his return to the American League.
The move to the Rockies was predictably terrible, because if there’s one thing easy to figure out about Guthrie it’s that he’s pretty dang good when he can keep it in the ballpark, but home runs have always been an issue.
He’s given up at least 23 homers in each of his eight full seasons in the majors and allowed 30 or more balls to clear the fence three times, and is on about that pace this year.
In 2012, he gave up 21 homers in just 19 games with Colorado. Yes, the long ball has often made Guthrie look bad and has a tendency to skew his stats for the worse. But while the four-homer, 11-run inning of work he turned in against the Yankees last month will kill your ERA, the end result was just one loss in the standings.
In true Guthrie fashio,n he was able to follow that debacle with two quality starts – 5.2 innings with one earned run against Cleveland and 6.1 with two earned against Texas.
It was the same way in early May, when he gave up six earned in six innings against the Tigers, then faced Detroit again a week later and allowed just two runs in seven and a third, the first of three good starts before he was rocked in New York.
So the Royals will grit their teeth through the ugly starts and ignore it when his ERA climbs above 4.00, because when he avoids serving up multiple home runs, Guthrie is an awfully good fit for the middle or back half of the Kansas City rotation.
While the extreme highs and lows might suggest an injury-prone arm, that isn’t Guthrie, who can be counted on to pitch at least 180 innings a year and usually can give you more than 200.
And while he’s not an overpowering pitcher, he doesn’t walk a lot of hitters and lets the ridiculously good Kansas City defense do its job. Basically, Guthrie gives you enough innings to get to the nearly infallible bullpen.
If he keeps it in the yard, that is. Because not even Alex Gordon or Lorenzo Cain can do much to help you if ball is landing four rows into the right field bleachers.
So Royals manager Ned Yost will hand Guthrie the ball Saturday for the second game of the Cardinals series. It’s not a crucial game, not like the seven innings of shutout ball against the White Sox last fall as Kansas City worked to clinch a playoff spot. Nor is it like the seventh game of the World Series when the Giants scored three early runs and chased him in the fourth.
But it’s a game the Royals sure would like to win, and they hope the good Guthrie shows up.