Jason Hammel Gives the Royals Needed Stability in the Rotation

The Royals went out and signed a stable veteran pitcher to bolster their rotation, which could turn out to be an underrated signing.

My guess is that Jason Hammel would be among the first to tell you that he's not the sexiest pitcher in the world.

I mean, don't get me wrong, he's a fine looking human being. I'm not casting aspersions on his physical appearance, which is perfectly lovely.

So when I say he's "not the sexiest" pitcher, I mean his stuff isn't anything that blows your hair back. He doesn't have Jake Arrieta's slider/cutter, Jon Lester's cutter, or Kyle Hendricks' -- well -- I guess Hendricks' "stuff" isn't all that sexy either, but the results sure are.

Nevertheless, since 2012, Hammel has been among the most consistent pitchers in baseball.

He's been a stabilizing presence in the middle-to-back of a rotation for the last half-decade, which is why the Kansas City Royals signed the 34-year-old to a two-year, $16 million deal over the weekend.

A Model Of Consistency

During his first six seasons in the Majors, three with the Tampa Bay Rays and three with the Colorado Rockies, Hammel was pretty good. But he got a bit better over his next five seasons, starting with the Baltimore Orioles and then with the Chicago Cubs.

Hammel's Career Starts ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 W L ERA+ rWAR
First Six Seasons 115 4.99 4.38 6.2 3.1 34 45 92 3.9
Past Five Seasons 133 3.88 4.07 8.0 2.6 50 42 102 9.0

Some of that improvement comes from not pitching in Colorado, but it's clear that, as he got older, Hammel got a little better.

And over the last five years, you could pretty much set your watch to the numbers Hammel would give you.

Year Starts ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 W L ERA+ rWAR
2012 20 3.43 3.29 8.6 3.2 8 6 123 3.0
2013 23 4.97 4.93 6.2 3.1 7 8 82 0
2014 29 3.47 3.92 8.1 2.2 10 11 108 3.1
2015 31 3.74 3.68 9.1 2.1 10 7 102 1.8
2016 30 3.83 4.48 7.8 2.9 15 10 105 1.1

Look at those ERAs and FIPs. Like a metronome, except for 2013, which was just straight-up bad.

Area of Concern

Hammel's strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate dropped quite a bit last season, from a career-high 9.1 in 2015 to 7.8. His walks per nine also ticked up a notch but not egregiously.

As a result, his FIP shot up.

The good news is that his batted ball data looks solid. Opponents hit just .235 against him last year, following seasons of .238 and .232. His soft-hit and hard-hit rates were basically the same as the previous two seasons as well, which means hitters weren't making better contact off of him.

So while the strikeouts per nine innings rate is a bit of a concern, the other numbers should offer Royals fans some comfort.

Replacing Ventura

The death of Yordano Ventura two weeks ago left a gaping hole at the top of Kansas City's rotation, to be sure. And Hammel doesn't have the pure stuff that Ventura did. But if you judge the pitchers strictly by the results, Hammel could be just as good as the late Mr. Ventura.

Here are their stats over the last three seasons.

Name Starts ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 W L ERA+ rWAR
Yordano Ventura 90 3.91 3.94 7.8 3.5 38 30 107 7
Jason Hammel 90 3.68 4.02 8.3 2.4 35 28 105 6

Their pitching styles couldn't be more different, but it's surprising to see just how similar their results have been since the 2015 season.

In Hammel, the Royals are getting a reliable starter who will almost certainly give them 25 to 30 starts this season with an ERA in the mid-threes. He's not going to pile up the shutouts or the 10-strikeout games, and he's probably not going to have much of a fantasy impact in season-long leagues.

But he is a good pitcher, something the Royals suddenly found themselves very much in need of.