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Has Luke Hochevar Figured It Out?

It's been an up-and-down season for 25 year-old Royals pitcher and former #1 draft pick Luke Hochevar.  He lost the team's fifth starter battle out of spring training to Sidney Ponson, of all people.  He was very good in eight Triple A starts, posting a 1.50 ERA and quality peripherals outside of a less impressive 6.8 K/9.  Hochevar posted a strong groundball rate in the minors, in keeping with his 51.8% mark in the Majors in '08.

Many fantasy leaguers targeted Hochevar when he inevitably replaced Ponson for a May 12th start against a weak-hitting Oakland club.  The A's, of course, annihilated Hochevar.  After another demotion and call-up he seemed to have things going in early June, shutting out the Reds mid-month.  Those who picked him up at that juncture saw him get bombed by the D'Backs in his next start.  The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hochevar trend continued in July, with a 22 K/0 BB two-start run followed by another stinker.

So here we are.  Through it all, Hochevar has nice peripherals with a 6.7 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9.  HRs and hits have been a problem, with these underlying stats: a 16.7% HR/flyball rate and .294 BABIP.  The BABIP is fortunate, given the Royals .326 mark.  As for the 14 HR allowed in 88.6 innings, that rate figures to come down.  Hochevar's 4.44 xFIP seems appropriate, as compared to his 5.38 ERA. 

More information to muddy the picture: Hochevar is "tinkering with a split-finger fastball," according to Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star.  The split could potentially replace his changeup as he refines it.  I am also intrigued by that 13 K, 0 BB effort against the Rangers, as was Joe Posnanski.  I think Hochevar is worth a mixed league pickup, and I wouldn't worry about playing the matchups (he's due to get the Tigers, Twins, and Indians next I believe).  Just throw him out there - aside from Jonathan Sanchez, he might be your best bet for Ks on the waiver wire.


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